Thursday, February 12, 2009

"That's not art"

Under the "Dotty" post, Joe commented:

"Eolake's definition of art is so ridiculously broad as to encompass anything"

I agreed.

Often when people talk about what's art and what's not, they use it as a value judgement, not a functional judgement. When you look at two paintings and say one is art and the other is not, what you're really saying is you like the one and not the other. I don't see much value of that, since it'll keep us arguing till the end of time because the terms used keep us from recognizing that we are merely discussing taste.

Even the feeblest child's drawing or the cheesiest souvenir figurine are art. When we recognize that, we then can have meaning talks about it's function, and discussions about if we like it or not, or whether it's effective art or not. Then we are going places, if we're lucky.

Pascal argued:
You mean, if someone doesn't even TRY to be creative or any other effort, if someone just lazily botches a job -and often a poor imitation job of someone else's creative effort- you STILL consider it art?
Geez, Joe was right : you really have a broad definition!

Eolake said:
If a car is so sloppily built it falls apart half a mile off the dealer's lot, it's still a car.

A sadistic, murderous nazi is still a human being.

We might in anger say "that's not a car" or "he's not human", but if we wish to discuss things rationally, let's try to at least not let our emotions move around the basic definitions of the things we talk about.

23 comments:

Aniko said...

Bali is a place where what we call art is part of everyday culture. They make beautiful temples, offerings using flowers and finely chiseled palm-leaves. For the ceremonies, every normal man of the village plays music there, and in many places nearly every woman dance at a certain period of her life.

They have a rich terminology for kinds of dance, music, painting, ritual decoration.

In Balinese language, as far as what I read is true, until the Indonesian and English language came in, there was not such a word as "art".

No separation.

eolake said...

That's interesting.

Pat McGee said...

Years ago I saw a newspaper story about a woman who said she was doing art when she picked up litter around her neighborhood. She did it at the same time each day; she always wore the same clothes; she always walked the same route.

I said, "That's not art."

After thinking for a while, I drew a distinction that I find useful. Doing something to attempt to affect my own emotions is "ritual". Doing something to attempt to affect someone else's emotions is "art".

Works for me.


Pat McGee

Aniko said...

Really interesting, Pat !

Interesting path...

I wonder: can I affect other people's emotions without affecting mine ?

Can I affect my emotions intentionally being sure that I will not be affecting other people's ?

I think these are interwoven... But I guess there may be a difference in the intention... Not simple...

Sukiho said...

I dont remember why but I define art as a creative thing as opposed to a craft whhich is reproduction, so a visual art is like extending the visual vocabulary, so its not immediately understood or is perhaps disturbing, and it always belongs to a period, because after that it becomes a craft or repetition. The artist break the new ground and the craftspeople follow, then again if the time isnt right the artist may end up in an asylum.

Joe Dick said...

When you look at two paintings and say one is art and the other is not, what you're really saying is you like the one and not the other.

Simplistic and inaccurate, but it's pretty clear you're not the least bit interested in re-examining your views on anything. You simply repeat them over and over. That's cool I guess. I've seen too many times how these discussions go on and on and go nowhere, so why bother?

Joe Dick said...

Under the "Dotty" post, Joe "The" Dick commented:

Ah, Subtlety! Thy name is Eolake Stobblehouse!

You'd think I'd have learned by now to only parrot the ideas already expressed. Otherwise you're simply labelled...well, a dick, or an asshole. Have the balls to at least call me a cunt. ;-)

Monsieur Beep said...

The German word for art is "Kunst", and Kunst derives from "können" = to be able to / capable of.
So the meaning is, if you're capable of doing a difficult thing, you are a "Künstler", a capable wo/man.
Mainly this has been related to aristocratic leisures like painting, sculpture and, nowadays, photography, street paintings, etc.

The English term seems to have different roots. In this case I need to say I agree with Eo when he says
When you look at two paintings and say one is art and the other is not, what you're really saying is you like the one and not the other.

Sorry for repeating the whole long sentence.
So what I find, too, is the Anglo emphasis on what one likes or not. Whereas some other cultures may put more emphasis on the capabitity aspect.

eolake said...

Joe,
Yes, my joke was rude, but when you call yourself "Joe Dick", you've got to expect it comes back atcha.

I re-examine my views every time they are challenged, but this also means I've usually examined them many times before, so they're not likely to change now. Though it does happen.

I can see why you'd want to limit the use of the term "art" to accomplished fine art. But don't you see what a mess that gets us into? Nobody agrees what art is then.

eolake said...

Joe, do you often see writers being challenged on their views, and them then immediately and in public changing those views? I don't recall seeing it even once.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Ah. Another issue which constantly gets overlooked in such discussions is finally confronted: "is this talented?" Did the "creator" actually give it any serious thought and effort, or was it just like Uncle Scrooge in Paris, throwing a few rotten tomatoes on a piece of cardboard to pay for his free world tour, courtesy of some rich ignorant snob?
When I see very cheap and sloppy made in China junk, I'm hard-pressed to call it art, even with A LOT of understanding open-mindedness. Not when it's obvious that the person simply botched a sloppy job.
And I have some very uncostly Chinese-made items which, by contrast, were clearly made with quite some meriting effort and attention. Not a couple of black paint blots vaguely close to the eyes as an excuse for pupils, to mention but the most typical example of cheap junk.

Junk CAN be made into art, sure. Provided one bothers to try. Or, failing that, provided one's official name is Mother Nature, achieving impressive results through very mysterious means.
What one calls turd in Nature, another can consider fertilizer. Great for roses if it comes from the anus of a goat. And what about grey amber?

If there's no effort put in it, at least let it be pretty in some way!

The famous "art in a can" called mierda di artista, the artist's shit, WAS in fact brilliant, with hindsight. Not just because people ACTUALLY bought these cans and paid a lot of money for them. But because the man didn't even put true ca-ca in them!
Now THAT, my friends (and my flamers too), is worthy of the great Dali himself. Making an absurd "artistic" statement, and realizing it by absurdifying the absurd itself!

Pat,
I agree that a routine can seldom be considered art. If it is not distinct from all the rest, then there's no CREATION in it... I concur with Suhiko here. (BTW, interesting blog there, Suhiko. Has potential.)

For instance, that lighter-hued pink flamingo in Fantasia 2000, who played the yo-yo while dancing with the others the same dance they always did every day, well, he was the artistic element in a time-frozen background. The others strictly did the same thing every day, no matter how pretty their dancing was. Mechanical, I'd say.

Which reminds me of the famous tale, The Nightingale and the Emperor of China. The competition between the bird and the mechanical automaton who "sang better" but was just a heartless machine, not a friend.

Can anyone point me to a web link with a sound of a nightingale SINGING? I have an MP3 of its chirping, but it's meaningless.
I've never heard the song of the nightingale. :-(

"and it always belongs to a period, because after that it becomes a craft or repetition."
I'm not sure this could apply to the Taj Mahal. :-)
Especially since Shah Jahan made sure there would be no possible repetition. Not many people know that after the masterpiece was completed, he apparently ordered all those exceptional craftsmen executed so nobody else could have a rival masterpiece executed. Ironically fitting horror, for an architectural masterpiece that's a mausoleum!
Arthur C. Clarke clearly hinted to that fearful symmetry between art and possessiveness with his Emperor Kalidassa in The Fountains of Paradise.

"then again if the time isnt right the artist may end up in an asylum."

To quote the man himself, the only difference between Salvador Dali and a madman, is that he wasn't mad. ;-)

"Have the balls to at least call me a cunt."
Ya hafta admit, "Joe Cunt" just wouldn't have the same cool ring to it. ;-)

Monsieur Beep translated...
The German word for art is "Kunst"

Ah, so "Joe Kunst" WOULD sound cool. In German! :-D

"what you're really saying is you like the one and not the other."
Aah, how many times have I heard prudes decree about a nude representation: "This is not art. Just obscenity. Yatta-yatta, snorta-farta, spew venom, Bible bile..."
And this is why we have judges in the USA imbued with the bizarre responsibility of deciding what is artistic... precisely that way, depending on whether they resent nudity or are okay with it.
I know, this is another debate. Or is it?...

Eolake introspected...
"I re-examine my views every time they are challenged, but this also means I've usually examined them many times before"

Sometimes, forasmuch as I'm sure of my own personal conclusions, I find myself forced to consider that other people's very different views can in no way be dismissed as invalid. And that's not mere PC ass-talk.
The thing is, many ideas can in no way claim to be timeless and absolute. For instance, that the proper age for marriage is at least 18. For centuries, nay, milleniae, women married at 16 or 15 and managed to be happy (sometimes).
Everybody marries later in the West nowadays. Studies to finish. Economic insertion to accomplish. And more growing up and maturing to do, now that the standards of the community are no more a rigid and systematic cast and literally God's Law.
I seem to recall that under French law, people as young as 16 can be allowed to get married, under exceptional circumstances. Mainly, when they're officially considered as precocious enough to have the maturity. Emancipated, for instance.
One thing that tends to change all that, is IMMATURITY, in the case of thirld-world immigrants bent on force-marrying their daughters way too early. Brought the necessity to tighten the standards. But still, I know that my feeling of marriage being more adequate after 18 can't be universal. Like, in societies where you are a man at 15, and know everything there is to learn.
In the Amazon, a boy becomes a man at 10. And yet he doesn't marry immediately. It's more an acknowledgement of his reaching the official age of reason.

"Relativity, mein freunds, ist alles about perspective, ya?" -- (Professor Alfred Weinstein)

eolake said...

"When I see very cheap and sloppy made in China junk, I'm hard-pressed to call it art"

See, that's where the value judgement comes in. You'll only call it art if it's *good*. I'm saying that whether it's good or not is a different discussion than whether it's art. Defining exactly what's art is quite difficult enough without entering taste into it.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

You mean, if someone doesn't even TRY to be creative or any other effort, if someone just lazily botches a job -and often a poor imitation job of someone else's creative effort- you STILL consider it art?

Geez, Joe was right : you really have a broad definition!

Then again, maybe that's your way of being artistically creative with concepts and the meaning of words. ;-)
Ah, you artist types!

See? That's precisely what I meant. I may be positive about something, but it remains possible for someone to think very differently, sometimes so differently that it feels absurd, and those people aren't necessarily butt-heads.
As long as this absurdity (absurdness? absurdism? absurdage? absurding? absurdifying? absurdification?) doesn't harm me, heck, why not?
Diversity is the essence of life.

And that one's NOT a Zoolanderish obviousism. :-)

P.S.: If someone like Microsoft sells you an expensive piece of crap claiming they put a lot of creative effort into it, will you say it's still art, but you just don't like it? Or "that's not art, that's a brazen scam"?
What about if somebody meticulously smashes your car because they "have an inspired vision"? (Maybe the vision of a dumped girlfriend of how to make your life miserable, Jerry Springer style?...)
Or, for that matter, those french neighborhood hooligans who burn cars claiming they're "expressing themselves"? Does expression imply art?
What about a creative serial killer? Can savagery and sophisticated torture be justified as art, like Caligula's atrocities?
Heck, while at it with the extremes, maybe I should ask if the piles of emaciated corpses in the Death Camps can be considered art. And I don't mean a representation, Guernica style, but the real thing.

P.S.2: So, basically, I'm challenging your absurdoisticism to go jump off a mediatic lynching cliff.
}:-)
"Art is alive! ALIVE!
- Kill the monster!"

eolake said...

If a car is so sloppily built it falls apart half a mile off the dealer's lot, it's still a car.

A sadistic, murderous nazi is still a human being.

We might in anger say "that's not a car" or "he's not human", but if we wish to discuss things rationally, let's try to at least not let our emotions move around the basic definitions of the things we talk about.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Unfortunately, yes, the actions of nazis were all done by near-ordinary human beings. "Ordinary monsters."

Sorry if I sounded like I meant it "to the bitter end", I just meant: "Can anything made by someone, no matter how ugly, be considered potentially as art by your broad definition?"
I'm sure there were nazis who considered their neat piles as fine sorting work. And I *know* that some serial killers consider murder to be a form of art, shunned by the morality-bound philistines.

Did I bristle you up? Didn't really mean to.
Or did you mean that part about emotions in general, still defending your initial argument? Not clear there.

BTW: this might be a koan, but... "If a car is so sloppily built it falls apart half a mile off the dealer's lot, is it still a car once it's fallen apart, or just a pile of scrap?"
Eventually an artistic pile of scrap, but that'd be beating around the George W. Bush!

tc said...

Pascal said...
"Can anyone point me to a web link with a sound of a nightingale SINGING? I have an MP3 of its chirping, but it's meaningless.
I've never heard the song of the nightingale. :-("

Here you go, Pascal. Hope there's something among these that puts a *shit-eating* grin on your face! lol! (just trying to stay w/the theme, silly man!) ;-)

eolake said...

Pascal, the definition of art itself is another argument, and a big one. I'm just trying to keep quality arguments out of it.

Art is something done for creative value over utilitarian value. Whether it's good is irrelevant to that.

Monsieur Beep said...

Art - To Be Able
to express
Weird Thoughts??

???

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Well, if it's deliberately BAD (not to be mistaken with "ugly"), is there any creative value?

Let me give you a personal example:
In my last (and crummiest) internship, I started with enthusiasm, and every time I did a patient's examination, I wrote an impeccable report. Basically doing my usual best. Then, not only did the workload pile up insanely, but I found out nobody gave a damn about my reports, even when there were important things mentioned in them, no doctor bothered to read a word of them. They just wanted the damn paper present in the medical file so they could bill it to the patients. So I quit trying. I did like everybody else: while still making an impeccable questioning and examination, I just scribbled a brief something, making it correct solely for my own self-respect, and then moving on to the next administrative chore. Most of my colleagues didn't even bother that much.
Would you consider that completely unmotivated routine meaningless work, these reports, as possible art? That's what I meant about utter chinese junk.
Not for bickering, but I actually want to understand what it is you're telling us exactly.

Okay, so I have to confess, I picked up some pretty hilarious unintended humour in such reports.
For instance, in the ER register:
"Patient arrives at the ER in a state of death."
Or: "This is the story of a 39 y/o gentleman who told me this about his past symptoms..."
"Patient is a 47 y/o woman, gender female..."
"Complaint is migraine with pain in the head"
"Patient admitted for intestinal bleeding. Physical examination: lung auscultation is normal..."
(Nice to see they know their priorities!)
"A case of appendicitis with abdominal pain." [That's it. No other symptoms mentioned in the whole report!]
"Woman admitted for delivery. Physical examination shows the patient is pregnant."

Um... yes, I'm beginning to see your point. Like those senseless words in some spam emails.

This internship would've been totally disheartening, but I'm the kind of Daliesque nut who can manage to find a smile anywhere.
:-)

BTW, they fired me for "poor spirit". No fib. Sombody hinted that my writing down bits of reports in my notebook was a likely symptom of paranoia...
They also criticized "the excess time I spent with the patients".
Now WHO's paranoid? :-P

Sukiho said...

' "and it always belongs to a period, because after that it becomes a craft or repetition."
I'm not sure this could apply to the Taj Mahal. :-)
Especially since Shah Jahan made sure there would be no possible repetition.'

what I mean is that the Taj Mahal may be art, but if someone were to make an exact copy of it that wouldnt be art, its art because it was a new idea at the time it was created rather then because of what the idea was, altho thats important too

eolake said...

"Would you consider that completely unmotivated routine meaningless work, these reports, as possible art?"

Why would you consider medical reports as art at all? I don't see the connection.

eolake said...

Art is something done for creative value more than utilitarian value.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Sukiho,
From a detailed article I read, an identical remake of the Taj Mahal might not be art, but it sure would demand huge talent and craftsmanship. It's one of those ancient masterpieces that would still be a major challenge to make today.
Even if now we have a model. ;-)

Eo,
If you don't see the connection, then you haven't seen some of the reports I came across! Definitely creative.
When we started that internship, the hospital had been without interns for a good week. So we were sent to the Archives to "complete some files". More truthfully, to scribble that report which had already been generously billed to the patients as "medical consultation". (Even though no intern had ever examined them in the first place...)
One of my buddies, working on the table next to me, complained that he couldn't even find enough data in the damn file to know what to write: "I should make it plausible, add some details. Let's see... a slight weezing on the auscultation of the top right lung, yes, that sounds good. Aaaand... yes, a deviated nasal septum... A heart murmur, why not, he's a man over 60... Marked obesity, that's a classic... Now, for something amusing... ah, yes, I've got it: Hemorrhoids! Next! Now, what will I afflict that poor woman with, I wonder?"

Does this sound like I'm making it up? Well I'm not.
If the health insurance guy makes some double-checking, he's in for a few raised eyebrows!