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panel report

Post #307 • June 25, 2004, 9:45 AM • 125 Comments

I have to confess that last night's panel discussion is difficult for me to recall in detail - I think being on the spot like that took me out of the observer mode that I use to remember art shows. It was well-attended. I remember making a lot of points that I've already made on this blog. I'm hoping that readers can fill in some details for me. (Frankly, it's a little weird. Sorry.)

I do wish that we had gotten into some tougher issues earlier. Conflict of interest was brought up as a closing point right at the end of 90 minutes - I had some thoughts all ready to go, but moderator Alfredo Triff wanted to end on time. He suggested that we go read Michael Betancourt's recent piece on the matter.

Anyone who attended may have noticed that Frederic Snitzer and I were talking afterwards in a manner that seemed like he was laying into me. I guess he was, but he had some good points - he accused me of trying to evince a clever personality in my writing, sort of like Dave Barry does. He said that he would bet that when I'm critiquing a student I'm not as interesting of a voice, but I deal with the work, good or bad, understand it, say what needs to be said about it to make it better, and leave it at that; he says that serious criticism should be the same way. It's worth considering.

Update: Jide weighs in.




June 25, 2004, 5:27 PM

Bad boy! Trying to "evince a clever personality like Dave Barry does"? How could you! Please keep it as boring as possible. Who would ever want to read anything clever? MUCH LESS clever like Dave Barry! I know there are some misguided souls out there who wish Dave Barry was trhe Herald art critic, but they are as bad as the people who think art should be enjoyed. This kind of thing must be mercilessly stomped out. Please, no more cleverness!


mary agnes

June 25, 2004, 5:44 PM

I am with old pro on this one. i think you do like to incite. you are keeping me from falling asleep and i am grateful! Keep up the good work. I thought last night was bland in the extreme. you were wonderfully articulate but were way too respectful of Tiff and the direction he wanted things to go in. Sorry but the discussion seemed more provincial that the panels i have organized in the small town in north carolina that i just moved from. like a summer preperation course for art criticism 101 for those not quite ready to handle the intro. what is up with that?



June 25, 2004, 5:54 PM

Snitzer wasn't opposed to cleverness per se; he objected to my writing about his air conditioning in my review of his current show and what he perceived as the striking of poses in the course of covering the work. (Okay, I just reread it and I don't think it's so bad in the poseur department. But the editors cut out 40 words and left in the bit about the air conditioning. That's not right.)

Harold Rosenberg once said that the best criticism is the best description, and I think about that. I take it to mean a complete description, which includes judgment on observable facts about the work.

I notice too that heated tone of my writing often results in vices like adverbs, exclamation points, tangents, and other problems, the removal of which makes my writing more clear and true.



June 25, 2004, 5:57 PM

Music to my ears, Mary Agnes! You hear that, guys? " more provincial that the panels i have organized in the small town in north carolina that i just moved from". Do we need to get on the stick, or what?



June 25, 2004, 6:04 PM

Franklin: Can i believe my eyes? You are apologising for mentioning that Snitzer's gallery had good AC? Did it occur AT ALL to you to tell Snitzer that you are an independent critic and you will say what you want and that he should damn well leave you alone?? This is not just provincial, this is incestuous!


mary agnes

June 25, 2004, 6:17 PM

clear and true i count on Franklin for. it gives your drama a firm ground to play out on. But please not bland!



June 25, 2004, 6:20 PM

No apologies. I'm saying that if I knew that 40 words were going to leave the article, I would have saved the ones about the art and let the ones about the a/c go.

Since I'm self-critical, I don't feel the need to tell Snitzer off. I listened. I'm going to do what I do anyway.



June 25, 2004, 6:58 PM

I found this event largely a waste of time, not to say half-assed. It should have been organized by and held at MAM or MoCA. The moderator should not have been a critic or, if a critic was deemed indispensable in that position, it should have been someone not connected to the Miami art scene, preferably a critic of some repute (whom MAM or MoCA presumably could have gotten based on their connections and position). It was unfortunate and disappointing that only 3 of the 5 originally slated panelists wound up participating. Snitzer's AC, however, was very nice.

For me, the only real positive note was my heightened conviction that Artblog has more potential and greater possibilities than the local print media as it now stands--so I really hope Franklin seizes the opportunity and runs with it, and that he gets as much supportive input as possible.


mary agnes

June 25, 2004, 7:20 PM

I agree with Jack regarding the blog and its potential and the role of participants in supporting Franklin's efforts.


Alfredo Triff

June 25, 2004, 8:04 PM

Mary Agnes: My last name is Triff not Tiff. Other than a self-congratulatory conversation between you and the others, I dont think I get it. If my intervention last night sounded so provincial, you shouldve made a point right there. Believe me, it would have helped me and the others. That's the right forum. Other than that, I'm sorry the panel's experience disappointed you. In the future, Id be more than willing to go to a panel organized by you --however-- and learn from your art expertise. Im glad you moved down from North Carolina. Miami needs people like you.



June 25, 2004, 8:19 PM

I disagree. I think a blog such as this is the "right forum". No one is sitting up on a dais here. No one is directing things. No one is an "expert". You can be anonymous of you want to. You can say your piece - anything you like, however idiotic or wrongheaded - with forethought and with no risk of embarrassment. And I hope Mary Agnes, now that she has been so warmly stroked, does not give up her objectivity or her prediliction to criticise where she sees fit.


mary agnes

June 25, 2004, 9:03 PM

Alfredo: of course I apologize for misspelling your name. The way you mentioned it - as an opening "salvo" - set a tone that indicates to me you might feel i was critical and/or disrespectful of you or your behavior last night. I thought that you were elegant and lovely to the audience. Thank you. I know that your questions were not probing and you allowed the conversation to remain abstract. The panel discussed their general philosophies on writing art criticism in a manner that seemed introductory for the entire time. That was disappointing to me. No one talked about art in Miami I noticed. The Pieta as an example. Please! I want to know what the critics think is going on in the art scene in miami that is interesting. Talk about that. Or about the art exhibits at local venues like museums and other public places (not necessarily contemporary by the way). But why talk about talking about art - in a way that to me seemed extremely simplistic and seemed to ask permission to do what they are doing as critics. I am with Franklin. Write what you are going to write. You certainly don't need my permission. And your suggestion, Alfredo, for me to stand up and say what i would have said -- "is anyone going to talk about art here" -- or identify my other needs and expectations would have been rude ...and the rudeness would have made a nice companion to my ignorance of the scene as it stands. Since i am just barely learning the situation. Thus the misspelling. If i made that error and got my hand slapped immediately that tells me my instincts are correct in not participating publicly when i know so little of the situation. Besides which i am extremely shy and sensitive and need time to collect thoughts and words. So i like to write. And thank you old pro for defending my right to speak in a forum where i am comfortable - though not entirely anonymous. With all of that said i do think Alfredo's welcome to participate is sincere at heart and i thank him for it.


a good start

June 25, 2004, 9:40 PM

I was slightly disappointed that art criticism as it concretely relates to the local art scene wasnt addressed all that much. However, I attended the event under the assumption that it was to be an introduction to our local critics who they are and what premises inform their criticism, etc., so I didnt leave with the feeling of being cheated out of an evening. I do hope that more forums like this follow, if for no other reason than to address more meaty topics. Discussion has to start somewhere, and not everyone has the time during the day to post on blogs. I think last evening could be a nice start to something very productive for our local art scene.



June 25, 2004, 9:41 PM

if I may take the liberty, I think Mary Agnes's very frank statement about being shy and sensitive (though obviously not inarticulate, nor without opinions) and needing time to collect her thoughts is a clear instance of why we need a forum like this. A lot of people feel this way, and this kind of blog is exactly how we can bring them in.



June 25, 2004, 9:53 PM

Testing. Don't mind me.



June 25, 2004, 10:03 PM

Oldpro, I agree. People occasionally compliment me on my courage for stating my views, which tells me that for whatever reason they feel uncomfortable stating theirs. I'm glad to be in a position that I can include them in the big conversation.


Rene Barge

June 25, 2004, 10:39 PM

ref: panel report,
I am greatful that the panel discussion occured, my only wish is that we all arrived to the guts of all matter, including myself, but non the less we did tap into what will hopefully resume at a later date. My response last night, was a question to the critics, and I really wished that all had been present. How much, or far, are the critics willing to "dig" as observers with possible voices for a public? As an artist, I belive that my work only has a tinge of what it tries to represent and to what will hopefully be a responsive observer. And, I hope that for the observer it is as much an adventure as it is for me when executing a work of art, (whether in a gallery, mueseum, studio, or field) going into unknown territory. It seems as though the criticism, I've often read and received is merely a grace (positive or negative) to the works of Art. I am wondering if Miami is to really get into the rings as a place for serious consideration with active artists, making works that can be of considerable relevance in its choice of forms and possible historical importance, and I mean this across the board and not just through the powers that be, shouldn't critics go forward beyond mere grace. Shouldn't editors be critical of what I believe is part of a much bigger picture. It is dangerous for the whole of Miami to accept statements such as "Snitzer's Miami artists doing their usual thing, which often is a version of some more famous artist's usual thing" or "Disappointingly, Goerge Bethea's Colorful Vision is nauseatingly imbued in radiant color. He renders exotic landscapes in tacky, often slapdash oil compositions that reek of self-indulgent fantasy and are tawdry enough for an apartment in a Bal Harbour high-rise." Prior to reading this and other statements within articles (in the hopes to find something to go and view), I was contemplating an MFA, the statements sent me scurrying to my applications. It is a waste of critical space, to essentially read that the works in two of Miami's most important spaces are being treated mediocre, when both statements express a horrible sense towards the works, towards the critics, and towards the editors. If you are a critic, how far are you willing to "dig" into works of art for a
response that is worthy (positive or negative), and even for some of todays chosen forms, fit to be in between.


that guy in the back row

June 26, 2004, 1:21 AM

Franklin, I think you should tell Snitzer to kiss your bright red rosy and publish anything you damn well please. Obviously the air conditioning was the thing in his gallery most worthy of criticism. Therefore, you wrote about it. He has some nerve to tell a critic at large how to write. Shame on him.



June 26, 2004, 2:59 AM

Right on, Back Row Guy.



June 26, 2004, 3:40 AM

Well, if the panel seemed "half-assed", as Jack so articulately stated, I think it's because issues of objectivity vs. subjectivity as well as the other topics that were touched on were tired and futile. It's right to say that the critics went little beyond introduction and personal vantage points, but the idea was to introduce them to the reading public. Yes, it would have been nice to discuss the local scene as well as ways to develop a better dynamic between critics, artists, curators, etc , but this could be approached at other panels. I don't see why the MAM and MoCA should have organized the event and brought down "more reputable" critics from another town -- the whole damn point is to build this ourselves, grassroots, gain credibility as a creative and intellectual hotbed hungry for a respected position amid the greater art community. Moreover, it seemed as though the speakers and the audience often weren't on the same page. This is an intrinsic human problem: everybody wants to be right or, at least, rightly heard, that they stop listening to each other. A better sense of communication should be worked on in the future, but this event still was a step in the right direction -- even if Snitzer could care less about it.



June 26, 2004, 5:23 AM

The only way we are going to "gain credibility as an intellectial and creative hotbed" is to be one, and the only way to be one is to stop all the backscratching, speak out strongly and promote better art. Day in, day out, week in week out, our "critics" wander around to these exhibitions and mutter cautious pleasantries about the most horrendous dreck you can imagine. It would be one thing if they actually thought there was something to the stuff, but when I read what they write I can't help thinking that at best they are merely confused and afraid. Then Art Basel comes to town and instead of a few galleries full of lousy art we have 50 miles of it under one roof and everyone goes nuts and starts thinking yes, we are ART CITY. We are not. And who cares? Why must our aim be a "respected position amid the greater art community" ? We are artists, not civic promoters. Are aim is better art and better talk about art. Let's take that step first. Build it and they will come, as the saying goes.


Devil\'s Advocate

June 26, 2004, 5:34 AM

Define "better art".

Also, please, define: "better talk about art"

It is always in short supply, but I want to know what you mean by "better"
please provide examples and links if possible! (you did ask for this after all)



that guy in the back row

June 26, 2004, 6:11 AM

Ash Rivers: It isn't that Snitzer doesn't care about the state of Art Criticism in Miami. Its more likely the case that he would like to micromanage it. Hence offering his space for the "forum". The truth is Snitzer has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. i.e. week criticism = exploitable "collectors".

oldpro: I saw this great little Matisse at Basal. It was as if the entire convention hall was revolving around this little "Nice" period work. The joke was hardly anybody noticed it. As the audience was lapping up the Botero this little humble thing couldn't get the time of day.

DA: If you don't know... I'm not going to tell you.



June 26, 2004, 7:13 AM

Thanks for the help, Back Row. I can't define "better art". Nobody can. Art is the only thing we have which is judged purely for its value but has no criteria for that value. That may be the defining condition of art. If you believe there is no such thing as better art, as some people do, then it really doesn't matter what you think. If you do believe there is such a thing, then you have to decide. If you don't want to do that and talk about it, then go do something else.

Same goes for better art talk, although here I think we can come to agreement a little easier. I think what has been going on here in this blog for the last couple weeks is pretty clearly "better talk" that what you get in the critic's columns, and, I assume from what I heard, a lot better than what went on in the panel discussion. If you can't figure out what is lively, articulate, intellingent, honest and interesting and what isn't, I can't tell you and I won't try.

And, although there is no "proof" (thank God), anyone who wants to get to know art soon sees what is better. Sorting it out has been going on for hundreds of years and my experience tells me that the generations have done a good job of it. But it is always new. Everyone has to decide for themselves, and you do that by going and looking and seeing, not by accepting. You don't identify great art, you recognize it. I wasn't born liking Velasquez or Matisse, but keeping enough company with them certainly did it for me. And in the long run the only thing that matters is whether it can give you that unalloyed joy that great art offers. If it doesn't work for you, leave it alone.



June 26, 2004, 7:24 AM

Back Row, I got into answering DAs eternal "define good art" question and trying to answer it differently than I have a thousand times before, so I forgot to mention I had exactly the same experience at Art Basel, a couple of times, actually, and so did a couple others I have talked to. You walk and walk, like a hungry hunter, searching for something, anything, and then, just as you are about to given to weariness and ennui, BOOM (as Pual Madden would say) - there is a damn sweetheart of a painting - and you perk up and give it another go. They were few enough, however, and I will admit that as I got closer to the back end of the place things got consistently bad enough, and I got tired enough, that we just beat it and went home.



June 26, 2004, 7:30 AM

Sorry - that's John Madden, of course. I don't know where "pual" came from. It's late.



June 26, 2004, 4:44 PM

Ash, you need not agree with me in any case, but I'll elaborate on what I wrote, especially since you evidently misread at least part of it.

The state of art criticism in Miami is a significant issue which should concern and be addressed by the highest levels of the local art establishment, presumably MAM and MoCA (assuming, of course, they actually care). This event should have had no connection with a commercial space; Snitzer's inappropriate and very ill-timed onslaught on Franklin speaks to that rather eloquently.

My call for an outside moderator, not necessarily a critic, did not refer to the people on the panel, who were obviously supposed to be local. I did not say "more reputable than X" but "of some repute," meaning a recognized figure that would provide more objectivity and possibly a fresher viewpoint than someone very much part of the local scene, as well as lend weight to the proceedings. I had in mind someone like the people Dahlia Morgan has periodically brought down to speak at FIU.

As for "half-assed," it's hardly an elegant term, except in conveying what I meant unambiguously and concisely. I stand by it.



June 26, 2004, 6:24 PM

Back Row, I egged Snitzer on. He wasn't going to say anything, but when I went up to him after the talk, he seemed like he had something on his mind and I asked him about it. I will continue to write whatever I please.

Snitzer expressed an interest in stronger criticism, not weaker. I likened his comment about my writing about the a/c to the ones I used to hear about Damarys Oca's writing about what the artists were wearing. Sometimes those kinds of non-art observations lend to the atmosphere of the review and convey what it was like to be on the scene; sometimes they're annoying, distracting and irrelavent. A writer must use them with care. People who are familiar with Dorsch Gallery and Locust Projects know what it's like to go to a climate-uncontrolled space and see an art show, and appreciated what I was talking about. I'm sure the observation was lost on everyone else.



June 26, 2004, 6:57 PM

Testing again.

Actually, I'm working on a script that sends me an e-mail when someone posts a new comment. Once I'm happy with it I may make it available to everyone.



June 26, 2004, 7:43 PM

Good grief, Franklin. The damn AC comment was completely innocuous and hardly "annoying, distracting and irrelavent." If you start double thinking every little thing you say and on top of that worry about "evincing a clever personality like Dave Barry" you are going to become catatonic. The point here is to write strong, critical writing. Everything else is completely beside the point. As far as I am concerned the most trenchant and honest art writing anyone has done in theis town for a long time has been Dave Barry's 2 or 3 satircal columns on art.Try some of that on some of the ghastly stuff Snitzer shows and see how much he likes it.



June 26, 2004, 8:29 PM

Sorry to burst your bubble Oldpro, the fact is, among the local commercial galleries, Snitzer shows the least amount of ghastly work.


Michael Betancourt

June 26, 2004, 9:18 PM

(By the way, I'm the one who posted these questions.)

DA: If you don't know... I'm not going to tell you.

Back Row: You are an intellectually dishonest coward if you refuse to define your terms. Period. This is why I say Miami has no arts criticism, only advocacy.

Oldpro: I can't define "better art". Nobody can.

Then don't talk about it. Period.

The question wasn't "what is better art" but what do YOU mean by "better art." Obviously none of you can tell the difference. So, either you're so deluded that you think your ideas are universally accepted and so can't even consider that your idea of "better" is relative and likely is contextually dependent on who, when and where you are, or you won't discuss the concept since it would allow a critique of said position.

However, if you can't (or more corrently, refuse to define what you mean) define "better art", you are also intellectually dishonest.

Nothing you have to say can therefore be considered valuable at all: you hide your ideas behind claims that things can't be defined, but presumably you "know it when you see it," right? Sorry but I'm too busy laughing to listen to any more from any of you.



June 26, 2004, 9:25 PM

I think my bubble's OK, Ajax. I never implied he showed more ghastly art than anyone else. So everyone else shows more? Great! Lets have a contest. The winning gallery owner gets to be pickled for posterity by Damien Hirst.



June 26, 2004, 9:42 PM

Good! Now we are stirring up some heat!

Ok, Mr. Betancourt, when you get through lauging, maybe you can define good art for us. Or tell us what you mean by better art, or point out anyone anywhere who has provided an adequate definition of good art. Please keep it as short as possible. I look forward to it.

And while you are at it, can you please also explain this sentence, if it is one: > I think it is the "contextually dependent" part that puzzles me most.

Also, please don't call names, like "intellectually dishonest coward". That's not necessary, no matter how pissed you are.



June 26, 2004, 9:45 PM

Sorry, for some reason the sentence I meant to quote was not included above. it is: "So, either you're so deluded that you think your ideas are universally accepted and so can't even consider that your idea of "better" is relative and likely is contextually dependent on who, when and where you are, or you won't discuss the concept since it would allow a critique of said position"


that guy in the back row

June 26, 2004, 10:30 PM

Oldpro: Must have hit him pretty close to the mark to get him all riled up like that? I second the keep it short part. These types will stop at nothing if your criticism of art doesn't include incoherence, he will distrust anything that makes sense.

"Then don't talk about it. Period." It would be a pretty lame blog if everybody who can't define art was chastised for writing about it. The whole notion of not talking about something I can't define, seems to me, the last thing I would want to do with something I can't define, besides being a recipe for oppression and dogma. It's akin to telling a priest not to talk about God. We feel noble and powerful when we do it, but it is not very productive.

Ajax: My bubble is fine to.

Franklin: I hope Snitzer wants stronger criticism.



June 26, 2004, 10:59 PM

You're right, Back Row. Not being allowed to talk about what you can't define is pretty silly. Last time I looked no one had defined "life" very well, so I guess we should all just die, right? But then, you are an "intellectually dishonest coward", so you obviously can't be trusted.

I wonder what happened to Mr. Betancourt and his (I hope) forthcoming definition of good art? I certainly hope he doesn't turn out to be an intellectualy dishonest coward too.



June 26, 2004, 11:58 PM

No, oldpro. Your analogy doesn't work.

Just because we can't define life, you're right, it doesn't mean we should die, of course not, but it does mean we can't go around killing people.

I hope you see the distinction.


that guy in the back row

June 27, 2004, 12:13 AM

I prefer straight-talken, shoot from the hip, coward but hay, an intellectually dishonest one is pretty good too.



June 27, 2004, 12:55 AM

You are right, Hovig. My analogy doesn't work. Neither does yours. The analogy should be that just because we can't define life doesn't mean we can't talk about it. More rhetorical excess on my part. Sorry.

What happened to Betancourt? We're waiting.


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 1:47 AM

I have never talked about "better art," what makes or doesn't make it in this blog or anyplace else, so I feel no need to define it. I'm not the one making claims here: you are, "oldpro."

Rereading the sentence in question, I don't know what you want clarified, but I will attempt an expansion: The issue of not defining something allows the person making the claim to continually apply their values without ever having to explain what the criteria for those values are; this prevents disagreement and protects those "values" from scrutiny since nobody knows, really, what they are. And since you don't provide any examples of better than ___, it is impossible to evaluate your claims. Thus, you are assuming that your value "better" is universal. Since very little is universal in terms of values, it is safe to say that your "better" is contextually dependent: ie. that it is a product of who you are, where you live, etc. Your "better" is very likely different than the "better" someone else--clearly even within your own culture--but since you provide no examples nor criteria for what this "better" actually is, we can make no statments about it.

Hiding ones arguments/logic/belieffs in this way is the definition of "intellectually dishinest." It is an attempt to demand to be taken seriously as an intellectual, but refusing the transparency, and disclosure that goes with it. Responding as the denizens of this blog do to anyone who challenges them is cowardice: i don't see you (or anyone else) actually answering the question.

As for a defintion of "art" to ask the question when you're being asked about values is an obvious ploy in an attempt to redirect the discussion. See above.

The claim that saying don't talk about a value, not art, not something else, but a value claim that you can't/won't define is akin to "It's akin to telling a priest not to talk about God." is a nonsequitur: these examples are not parallel. Have you actually read what was written, or is this going off on tangents another ploy to avoid the issue: define what you mean when you say "better art."

As for what happened to me, I have a life and can't spend all my time thinking and working on reponses for a blog, nor sitting around in front of a computer in case someone should say something I need to answer. My posting stuff here falls into the category of "public penance" for not writing enough criticism of what happens in Miami. But I got tired of dumb responses from people who should know better.

(BTW, It's Dr., not Mr. as anyone who reads my writing elsewhere can tell you, and it's in aesthetics and contemporary art, not that any of that will do anything but count against me here.)



June 27, 2004, 2:55 AM

1. As far as I can remember I never made any claim except that no one can say what better art is. So far, no one has.

2. It is not a part of civil discourse to call someone an "intellectually dishonest coward". It is also not right or civil to give people motives. Please take what I say at face value. I did not "demand to be taken seriously as an intellectual". Don't tell me what I want, please. Please also do not tell me that I am engaging in an "obvious ploy" - this is just more name-calling. I have hidden nothing, certainly no "arguments, opinions, beliefs". These things have have obviously beem painfully evident or you would not have reacted as you did. If I am hiding something please be specific about what it is I am hiding, and then please tell me how in the world hiding something is "the definition of intellectual dishonesty" in the first place - get your definitions in order. please. And please do not damn people in terms which are apparently current in whatever world it is you live in. None of this has anything to do with me.

3. Some of what you write I could not understand so I can't answer it. Some of it, such as the first sentence in the 5th paragraph, is incomprehensible - I don't even think it is a sentence. I do understand, however that you infer that I made the analogy about the priest and God (I didn't) and that you accuse me of another "ploy". Good grief!

3. It is good that you are a busy guy and have a life. Me too. It's too bad that you have so little time to write on this blog and that you regard it as "penance". I think we are making a pretty good case that this is a good forum for everyone - not just PhDs and professional critics - to get involved and have a free and open discussion. I hope you will come to share this opinion.

3. That said, let's go to your statement that you have "never talked about better art". I gather you are an art critic of some sort (sorry, I was not aware of your "doctor" status). Are you impling that there is no such thng as "better art"? Aside from physical characteristics, is all art the same, just, basically, stuff, and there are no value distinctions to be made and none that should be made? Are we all suffering from a mass delusion, down through history, by bringing some small part of the "best" art down to succeeding generations? Are those of us who are grateful that this sorting out has ben done so that we can more easily experience the joy of great art just unwitting fools? Is this kind of thinking what it takes to be an art critic in Miami?



June 27, 2004, 2:57 AM

Oh, I changed the paragraphs around and got the numbers screwed up. Sorry.


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 3:28 AM

Since we're numbering things now:

1.A "free and open discussion" where everyone spends their time agreeing and when pressed to explain themselves they become defensive and instead of answering the question asked proceed to attack the questioner. Interesting concept.

2. If you don't like being told you're acting in an intellectually dishonest fashion, even after it has been explained to you, then don't act that way.

3. I asked for a combination of any of the following to explain what you not I, not a community, mean by "better art": (a) a definition of better; (b) examples of "better"'; (c) links to "better"; or (d) any combination of them. I'm the one asking, so I don't need to defend what I may think or mean by "better": I'm not the one who brought it up.

4. The comments in my previous post were addressed to a number of different comments, many of which belong to "oldpro" but others are direct quotes from posts by others. This should be clear, but I guess it wasn't. My mistake.

5. "Civil discourse"? The response to the question when it was originally asked was "DA: If you don't know... I'm not going to tell you." This must belong to some other definition of "civil discourse", one that is unfamiliar to me. The second answer to this question was "nobody knows."

Neither of these answer the question posed: an explanation of what the people writing on this blog regard as "better art" -- not a disertation on aesthetic in general, not a patronizing explanation of how we don't know what it is, but we know it when we see it, but an explanation with examples.

No such explanation has been forthcoming. Therefore, everyone who has talked about "better art" in this discussion has refused to provide even an example of what would be "better art" than the work they apparently dislike. This behavior is "intellectually dishonest." I have explained why several times now.

6. The term "intellectually dishonest" has never been a fashionable term in any circle I have been or am a part of -- it is a specific description to be applied only under when certain necessary and sufficient conditions have been met, and the non-reponsive attacks meet those conditions. Period. If you don't like it, stop meeting the conditions. They are explained elsewhere for your education. If a similar discussion of "better art" had happened, those conditions would not have been met.

7. As for "cowardice" I have several things to say, all from the pov of someone who is not a coward and does not act like one. Behaviors different from these may not constitute cowardice, but taken as a whole certainlly suggest it, especially when the persons in question refuse to answer a simple question about what they are claiming: (a) I posted the original query under a pseudonym in order to avoid biasing the response, but when I responded, I did (and do) so under my real name and provide a link to help people too lazy to google me (95% of what come up under "Michael Betancourt" on google is either myself, a paper written 25 years ago by my father, or books by my brother) so I am not hiding my identity in these discussions; (b) when questioned I attempt to answer the query; (c) I do not hide any part of what I am claiming.

8. The continuous attempts to shift the focus of this discussion away from what has become its central issue -- "better art" -- only serves to show the narrowness of the Miami art scene (at least in my experience of that scene) and its unwillingness to actually engage in this "discussion" everyone always seems to be saying Miami needs. Here was a great opportunity to show off critical acumen and provide a starting point for a discussion of what is "better art" at least within this forum; instead what we see, yet again, is how unwilling those making claims and demands really are when anyone comes to question them. This "discussion" has been nothing more than a parade of ignorance in the face of a "hard question" -- no wonder, to quote Jack, criticism and discussion in Miami is "half-assed": that's (I guess) what you all really want. I submit this thread as my evidence. My laughter is well deserved.


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 3:51 AM

9. Here is a reminder of what started this discussion. I meant to include this in my earlier post, but did not. An oversight. "oldpro" stated this: We are artists, not civic promoters. Are aim is better art and better talk about art. Let's take that step first. Build it and they will come, as the saying goes. after denouncing all art, most especially Art Baset as being equivalent to "the most horrendous dreck you can imagine" (which is the status quo in Miami).
A question of what is "better art" is therefore justified. We have two options when approaching "oldpro"'s claim about all this art: first, should we put our emphasis on the "old" part of the monicker--apparently "oldpro" is either completely out of step with what is happening today (thus the emphasis on "old") or, second, "oldpro" knows something we don't.
I offered "oldpro" the opportunity to disprove the first of these possibilities. The response I have received makes me think that there will be no real response. Here's why: because to actually repond would allow all of us to evaluate "oldpro" in light of these potentials, thus offering the possibility to decide that the first (emphasis on "old") rather than second is the correct position.
Yet, not to respond only lends credence to the first since i cannot imaging another reason why there would be such a great need not to answer the question about what "oldpro" means by "better art."

10. "oldpro" did say Build it and they will come, as the saying goes. but doesn't appear very willing to actually do this. If we accept that the kind of discussion posted in this thread is typical of Miami (and for the sake of argument I suggest that it is) then better discourse, if not "better art" is self-evident: (a)full explanation; (b) actually attemtping to answer questions asked; (c) avoiding intellectual dishonesty; (d) encouraging dissent; (e) examples of what is meant, or if failing that, clear, explained logic. In short, the opposite of what I have experience here.



June 27, 2004, 4:01 AM

I'm sorry. This has just become an exercise in trading accusations at great length. It is getting us nowhere and must not be at all interesting to blog readers. If w can keep all the invidious stuff out of it and just talk about one of two very basic questions - such as the "better art" matter - one at a time, in a calm and straightforward way, and without doing I-said-you-said, I will be happy to do so.


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 4:32 AM

Then do it.

What do you mean by "better art"?

Can you provide examples, preferably contemporary, but anything would be a start.


that guy in the back row

June 27, 2004, 4:57 AM

Dr. Betancourt: I'm not sure your Ph.D. discussed this work (and it may only be contemporary in geologic time), but I would say that this:


is better than this:




June 27, 2004, 5:05 AM

Here's what I believe, Art is something we clearly value very highly and keep very busy with. I think the reason for this, supported by my experience, which I cannot bring in as evidence, and to some degree by what our species does with art, which can be used as evidence but certainly not proof, is that art is a vehicle for us to represent the best of ourselves to outselves in a "pure" form, that is, a form that is stable and directly presented to our senses wilth minimal complications, and that some art does this "better" than other art. However, the single distinguishing characteristic of art is that it asks us to comprehend this "value" completely intuitively and with no recourse to criteria. That is why "what is 'better art'" cannot be answered in words. Basically I think art is a simple distillation of the best in the human spirit, and as such, has everything to do with value. As I said, this is my belief, supported by my experience and by the way our species treats art, and this belief and experience is strong enough for me to devote my life to art.
This is brief and off the top of my head. I have used a few quotes instinctively because the terms I know are sensitive ones.
Let's keep this simple and get to examples later.


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 5:46 AM

BR: interesting pairing. Although I need some more info, before saying anything. Is the first better because it is the model for the second, because the second is a print, or because the second is almost a parody of the first, being presented as its likeness (i.e. a work of Kitsch)?
These differences may seem to be splitting hairs, but they have enormous consequences for other work. Do you have another example?

oldpro: I am confused by the "best in art" defined as the "best in the human spirit" (not least because it seems circular to me) depending on how you view the human spirit (my own feelings tend to be Hobbsian, very negative) then it is possible to argue (as Paul Virilio does) that NAZI concentration camps demand to be viewed within the framework of avant-garde art, but this view is something I have a problem with, not least because it seems to misunderstand the role of violence in the avant-garde. But if we view the human spirit as violent, agressive and negative, then we have to consider what Virilio says in Art and Fear to be (potentially) valid. Thus, we still have the same problem. Examples help a lot.

(Personally, I am more interested in what the work means and what kind of relationship it has to our culture than in judging something good or bad in terms of aesthetics, but then I tend to be political. This doesn't invalidate aesthetic concerns, but it does mediate them. Historically, too many times I have seen aesthetics used to justify oppression to accept regard it as independent of other issues.)



June 27, 2004, 6:24 AM

I am not defining the best in art as being the best in the human spirit, I am saying that the best of art brings, represents, transfers, offers, or what have you, the best of the human spirit to us in concrete form. Believe me, I am not comfortable with these vague terms and I am not prepared to particularize further, but at this level of "guesswork" I can only report on my experience and what I see us doing with art. Personally, I don't think the academic references you cite are pertinent or interesting or have much to do with art, but if that is how you like to think, so be it. For me it is simple, direct and unmediated. Finally, I have always been puzzled by the idea of "meaning" in art; for me art is all experience and it is all nonverbal; "meaning", as I understand it, is verbal, it must be specifiable.


offerer of friendly suggestions during heated art debates

June 27, 2004, 6:45 AM

For those who haven't read it yet, I was thinking that you shoud definitely check out Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction . It has some relevance to this discussion.

And it starts with the following quote:

"Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art." *

--Paul Valery, PIECES SUR L 'ART, "La Conquete de l'ubiquite," Paris.


Michael Betancort

June 27, 2004, 6:45 AM

What is your opinion of Marcel Duchamp's work?



June 27, 2004, 6:48 AM

and I forgot to include the following source information for that quote--the date is important.

*Quoted from Paul Valery, *Aesthetics*, "The Conquest of Ubiquity," translated by Ralph Manheim, p. 225. Pantheon Books, Bollingen Series, New York, 1964.


that guy in the back row

June 27, 2004, 7:09 AM

dr: more help for you is always readily available at:

seeing eye dogs r us



June 27, 2004, 7:30 AM

Duchamp? There's not much of it, and I haven't see the glass in Philadelphia, which some have recommended to me, but what I have seen seems quite inert and ununteresting. Kind of clunky. Some of the painting isn't bad but also mediocre, I think.


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 7:51 AM

You should see the glass. also his last work, Etant Donnes, which is entirely about encounter and the experience of looking (as much of his work really is too)

BTW, the Benjamin article was written in (I think) 1939 originally.

(As for "civil discourse" it appears, keeping such up for more than a post or two is very difficult for some artblog denizens. I refer back row to (1) my art posted on my sites and (2) my reviews readable in the archives of because he's just being rude and ignorant now. I guess actually having a conversation *is* much too stressful for some.... thus proving my points from earlier once again. pathetic, really.)



June 27, 2004, 8:59 AM

Art being "about encounter and the experience of looking" has nothing to do with art as I experience it. I think we are just on a different wave length

I didn't understanbd the "civil discourse" paragraph at the end of of your note.

I'm going to hit the sack.


that guy in the back row

June 27, 2004, 4:28 PM

No, I'm dead serious. Besides you having lost all credibility in this town with your comments above. You are really just making my case for me. This is the real crux of the issue. If you can't answer a simple question, asking others to read your other writing is kind of inconsiderate. Why would anybody read what you write about any other types of art, film or otherwise. The reason nobody reads your other writing is because you probably lost that credibility a long time ago and nobody clued you in. I think calling your writing readable is using the term loosely. I offered the link because I thought you really might be blind and was just trying to help. As for Duchamp, I've seen both the pieces you cited and its pretty light stuff.



June 27, 2004, 5:02 PM

OK, I guess that paragraph I didn't understand was directed at BR Guy, and the above is BR Guy's rejoinder. Sequencing in these blogs get confusing sometimes.

Offerer, the changes which have taken place in art and our attitudes toward art, particularly over the last several hundred years, are certainly interesting and worthy of study, preferably by someone skilled in pyschology and social history rather than an art historian, but I find the quote from Valery somewhat breathless and overstated.


that guy in the back row

June 27, 2004, 5:09 PM

sorry for the confusion, my last comment was directed at the dr.


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 5:25 PM

BR: I have lost "all credibility" ?


If actually living in the present and recognizing that there has been a basic shift in how art is made and approached and being willing to talk about that means that I lose credibility with people such as yourself, then fine with me. I would say you're living in a fantasy world and hiding behind a pseudonym to avoid taking responsibility for what you say. (There is a reason you're in the back row rather than on stage.)

Apparently some people do read my writing, even if you don't. That's your loss and my gain since clearly you aren't part of the actual audience for contemporary art, but are instead one of the marginalized for whom it is meaninless and irrlelvant. If what you see at Basel and elsewhere is so bad, don't go. Nobody is forcing you to do so, just as nobody is forcing you to attempt to discuss art.

If you were engaged in contemporary art, you would actually have understood what I was asking you in reponse to what you posted: there is a large history of artists attacking the "masterpieces", in particular the Mona Lisa, because of their iconic position in culture. Since you refuse to recognize that history as valid, there can be no conversation about what's happening in the present because you don't you are not a part of it. Thus, you will always feel marginalized because your only means to engage is to be combative.

If you had read anything of my writing elsewhere you would realize that I am also very critical of the contemporary art situation, but not in a simplistic we need to return to "traditional" values kind of way. Your choice of examples and subsequent response suggests that this "traditional values" pov is what you espouse, even though you have not come out and said it as such.

BR, you remain a coward in capable of civil discourse, intellectual discussion or honesty. Apparently you believe you can intimidate others who disagree with you into shutting up and going away. These are the tactics of a bully rather than a legitimate civil member of society. I would like to know your name so we can all recognize you for who you are. Or are you too much of a coward to reveal it?


Denise (formerly \"offerer\")

June 27, 2004, 5:49 PM

(OK, I'm outing myself.)

Re: the date of the quote and the Walter Benjamin essay--the quote is from 1964; the essay is from 1937.

And actually, oldpro--and I apologize in advance if this sounds a little snotty and academically elitist--Benjamin's piece is widely considered required reading in degree programs for artists, art historians, media artists, art theorists, etc. And not for psychologists or social historians. Also, these realms are not mutually exclusive, ya know? It all interrelates.

I see this debate as a familiar argument between the two following viewpoints:

1. Art is about universal truth and beauty, and broad value judgements are possible and easily defined. There is a clear definition of what constitutes beauty and "value" in art.

2. It must be acknowledged that definitions of universal truth and beauty in art are often limited by perceptions influenced by culture, education, nationality, politics, economics, family background, etc. There are multiple ways of making and seeing art, and art serves multiple functions. Therefore, it's a lot more difficult to assume that when you're talking about "good art" and "bad art," everyone will agree with you or know what you're talking about.

I posted the essay to provide something of a solid theoretical/historical background for some of this more complicated (and not necessary complex--it just means that simple value judgements are harder to make) discourse around art for oldpro and a couple of other posters who are coming from the "truth and beauty" camp.

Take it or leave it--it seems like y'all or enjoying your debate, and no one's about to change their long-held perceptions and views anytime soon, which is OK.

I just wanted to point out that this less black-and-white approach to making, looking at, and evaluating art has been around for quite awhile, and relates to other impossible-to-ignore factors like changes in production methods, technology, education, economics, yadda yadda yadda. Whether we like it or even acknowledge it or not, these things deeply influence all of us as people who make and look at art. So defining "the best of the human spirit" in regards to artmaking is a little less simple than it might seem.

Either way, it's cool to see people heatedly (or warmly, I don't know) discussing art stuff in a public, Miami-centered forum.



June 27, 2004, 5:51 PM

Just wanted to clarify--Michael et al, I am NOT Back Row Guy!

(Unfortunate timing, huh?) :)


that guy in the back row

June 27, 2004, 6:07 PM

Whose going away? Dr. You seem upset. It's really quite simple. Of-course I choose a "masterpiece" to bait you. Your response to the pairing was:

"Is the first better because it is the model for the second, because the second is a print, or because the second is almost a parody of the first, being presented as its likeness (i.e. a work of Kitsch)?
These differences may seem to be splitting hairs, but they have enormous consequences for other work."

The only enormous consequences your statement has proved to me is that you have about as much credibility in a discussion about art as an autistic child has in a Ph.D. program. Your comments that came today: that I must be "one of the marginalized..., that I don't understand contemporary art, that I am a coward, et al. are largely non-sequiturs as you call them. I just call them not pertinent. That you opened yourself up publicly with full discloser isn't my problem now that we have your name. Wanting to change the rules of the game now isn't something that is possible. Maybe you could ask Franklin to retract your comments? Before everyone knows.



June 27, 2004, 6:40 PM

Because of the format, I suppose, this blog is a little hard to keep track of.

Denise: The Valery quote was published in 1964, as I understand it, but I don't think it could have been made then - didn't he die in the 1940s? This is confusing.

I know that Walter Benjamnin is required reading everywhere - I don't happen to share that enthusiasm - but I was not saying social historians should be reading Walter Benjamin but that they should be more capable (in my opinion) of tracking changes in attitudes towards art than art historians. I think it is very important in this blogging enterprise to keep things as short as possible and to try to literally understand what the other person is saying.

And now you have weighed in on the definition question by stating "there is a clear definition of what constitutes beauty and "value" in art". I think we would all be grateful if you would provide that definition, or point to where it can be found.



June 27, 2004, 6:56 PM

Dr. Betancourt: much as BR Guy seems to irritate you it is not appropriate to be gratuitously insulting, using words like bully and coward and the like. This just looks like a hissy fit and undermines the reception of the points you are making. And one of the perquisites of blogging - and a very valuable one - is anonymity. It should not be compromised, no matter how nutty people are.


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 7:15 PM

hi Denise, thanks for the info, and I agree with what you're saying.

oldpro: the definition she's talking about can be found in several places:

geroge dickie, The Institutional Theory of Art
arthur danto, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace
and some of his other, more recent books too

now I'm not saying you need to run out and read these (that would be rude)
But I can give you this link to a brief and (as a result fragmentary) summary of some varied definitions for art. I think yours may also be in this listing. And I'm going to warn everyone that it (like all summaries) travesties all of these arguments. Much of what makes art exciting right now is the amount of play with what art is available to artists. A double edged sword to be sure, but a very real part of the contemporary moment.

all of these argue that "value" is relative; that status of being "art" is dependent upon being placed in an art context by someone allowed to do so (artist/curator/etc)
while these ideas were controversial when they were introduced in the early 1960s, they now lack the edginess they had then and have become part of the intellectual landscape of art, making the need for context and additional information about any but the most established iconic works/artists a necessaru part of talking about art and evaluating works

the idea of "I know it when I see it" and that it is self-evident what the difference between any two works is, is no longer something that can be assumed or relied upon by anyone seriously thinking about art.

thus the problematic aspects of any discussion about art.

we don't have a nice clear situation, but a really murky one that requires very careful thinking and calm discussing.

BR: no, you haven't hurt my feelings or even made me angry. You have simply prooved what you are to me, and I will waste no further time on you. As for how I write, I use bold for emphasis so a quick glance doesn't miss something imporant the way italics can get lost in a paragraph of text.
until you grow up I see no reason to engage your comments. the hypocracy of people in this scene is stunning: one minute there are demands for transparency and that conflicts of interst be avoided through full disclosure, the next there is childish taunting that full disclosure is a bad thing. You continue to prove your cowardice, and I will always remember what I realized at age ten: bullies bully to cover up thier own inadequacies and cowardice. So whatever. I would be happy to discuss something with you were you capable of doing it.


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 7:24 PM

oldpro: busy looking up things, so I missed your last post appearing.
you are correct about anonymity being a blessing and a curse, and I agree with you about it helping with blogging. I've been on-line a long time, and agree with your observation, however, there are always moments where it is necessary to call a spade a spade and not a mechanism for moving earth around manually. If it is acceptable decorum to act as Backrow does, then this forum isn't much better than a junior high school yard, and unless that situation changes, it cannot achieve any real changes to the very poor level of Miami's art scene.

I have been watching Franklin's laudable efforts for a long while now, and there is a very real tendency of denizens of this blog to bully, verbally abuse or cajole dissenters into leaving.

the person hding behind the name of BR is attempting to do this with me in this disucssion because he can't actually participate in the way the rest of us have been trying to participate.

but you know all this; perhaps I'm just saying I know it too



June 27, 2004, 7:48 PM

Well, you can be sure, as you say, I am not going to run out and buy these books, nor look at a web site with all sorts of "varied definitions", nor let Denise off the hook. She said there was a clear definition of what constitutes value and beauty in art. This whole thing started off because I said there was no such thing. Now that we are discussing this matter in a reasonable way, I would like to see people either back up their claims or say thay can't. I have never seen such a definition and I challenge anyone to provide one, one that is short, succinct and clear. If it cannot be done, then let's accept it and go on from there.



June 27, 2004, 7:59 PM

I scanned the writing on the link you mentioned, which on my computer is very mixed up with computer hieroglyphs, making it hard to read, and it seems like a farily straightforward summary of the history of the definition of art. I did not see any definition of value, beauty etc., however.


that guy in the back row

June 27, 2004, 8:00 PM

Dr. B: I'm not trying to bully you. I'm just pointing out again that you said: "Is the first better because it is the model for the second, because the second is a print, or because the second is almost a parody of the first, being presented as its likeness (i.e. a work of Kitsch)?
These differences may seem to be splitting hairs, but they have enormous consequences for other work."

About:mona1 and lisa2

Either you are:
1) blind, you seem to refute this, I'm still not convinced
2) a bully yourself, hence the name calling
3) someone whose opinion of art isn't worthy of noting. hence nobody reads your blog. You should admit that you can't tell which is better. so I can refer any one who appears to take you seriously to your confession.


Elisabeth Condon

June 27, 2004, 8:37 PM

Good morning. What a great discussion, with so many tangents.
Denise is distinguishing between two points of view rather than stating one definition of art. She is not saying art is truth and beauty, she's saying that's one of two definitions broached in this discussion.
Michael is not qualifying the difference betweeen Mona 1 and 2, he wants to know how Back Row defines the difference between them.
Is Lisa Yuskavage a crappy painter? What do you think about Bill Jensen, or Thomas Noskowksi.
Regarding the Valery quote, my memory of a trip to NY with painting students from a fancy liberal arts college to New York applies. First we went to the Frick and talked about the Chardin there (lady w/ birdcage). Then we went to two shows across the street from each other: Terry Winters and Karen Kliminick. The students were really bored by Winters, who I think is a wonderful painter. They got excited about Kliminick right away. At the time, I thought it was because she was learning to paint and so were they, so there was parity between work and viewer, all was understood. I've come to understand though that subsequent generations see things differently: growing up with Flinstones and Kandinsky is different from growing up with MTV and Peter Halley.
Finally, Benjamin's discussion focuses on film as a portable, reproducible, fragmented medium that dissolves the traditional hierarchal relationship between maker, work and viewer. As media proliferates, and its dissemination becomes more democratic, dispensing w/ the 'specialization' of craft, Benjamin draws the chilling conclusion that war becomes the ultimate spectacle for an increasingly saturated yet starved audience. What does this have to do with how we analyze or define art? I believe this is a backdrop against which we make art. To say these conditions should be left to social critics is to abandon the particular circumstances in which we work. Whether we address these conditions within our work or not, is not as important as we acknowledge they exist and work with or against them, consciously.


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 8:42 PM

Whether we address these conditions within our work or not, is not as important as we acknowledge they exist and work with or against them, consciously.

I have been saying variations on this for a long time, though maybe not here.

Thank you Elizabeth!


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 8:47 PM

sorry, meant to type "Elisabeth"
I don't see the olther page when I'm typing so mistakes happen. appologies



June 27, 2004, 9:16 PM

More confusion.

1, Denise, said, and I quote: "There is a clear definition of what constitutes 'value' and beauty in art". I would like to ask her and anyone else who cares to defiine it directly and simply, to define it directly and simply, and not have it squished it back down into the cozy swamp of relativity.

2. Saying different art is different and we have different reactions to it is just joining the crowd. We all know this. It adds nothing to the discussion. Our problem here, as I see it, is to find out what makes art special, not what makes it ordinary.

3. I never stated that "conditions" (whatever that means or refers to) should be "left to social critics". I said that It is my belief that Ipsychologists and social historians and such like, if they are competant and use a solid scientific approach, could tell us a lot more about what we do with art than art historians can.


Elisabeth Condon

June 27, 2004, 9:24 PM

One more thing regarding context, which I forgot to say earlier:
At the Frick, the students did not know how to see the Chardin. They walked right by what they perceived as a boring, brown painting from long ago. They had to be told to see Chardin's gentle touch, subtle color, compositional devices that drew us into the room with the lady and the birdcage, the way those two were visually linked so we knew they shared the same situation. Even a painter as eloquent and passionate as Chardin is not universally recognized. This was Duchamp's point.
On a personal level, I sometimes chafe at Duchamp as the great 'standard-lowerer,' but see in my desire to damn him an infantile disappointment that, as a painter the risks I take in the studio or in my life will not be appreciated, even noticed. Also, his strategies can pay off, as in the Large Glass or the outstanding 'Tu 'm' at Yale. (The late Etant Donnee, is stagey to me, a clever chess move but not visually resonant. It does speak to the spectator, but so did the dropped rope pieces. It is some weird precursor to minimalism, in a way). Duchamp, Warhol, Koons, Kruger, Fred Wilson, Sherry Levine counter-weight painting that conveys the mechanisms of visual thought through touch, color, a pictorial world...they offer an analytical cool, for better or for worse, that offsets the heat of investment. Both approaches and many more than these apply.
Time to go out.
Michael, thanks for your considerate S and response.



June 27, 2004, 9:33 PM

Also, one more bit of confusion, that final sentence of yours, which Dr Betancourt likes so much, makes no sense: "whether we address these conditions within our work or not is as important as we acknowledge they exist and work with or against them, consciously". If you don't "address" them in your work you obviously cannot "work with or against them, consciously".

I am sorry to be such a noodge but we are not going to get anywhere unless we can read accurately, write (and think; it's the same thing) clearly, take other people's statements at face value, bring in anyone who has a real interest in art and engage in a mutual effort to improve the state of art writng in this town.


old pro

June 27, 2004, 9:43 PM

Good grief, Elisabeth, how does the fact that school kids think Chardin is nothing more than an old brown painting have anything at all to do with his art not being "universally recognized". Of couse they think that way. They are school kids! As they grow older they may see more art and some of them may start to see what is there to see. The larger problem is that there are grown-up professional art critic types who still see only an old brown painting.

Oh, man, I gotta get off this thing and go paint.


Elisabeth Condon

June 27, 2004, 9:44 PM

This could get hypnotic.
Just read Oldpro's post after I posted and want to respond.
Denise's preface to the comment you quote is,
"I see this debate as a familiar argument between the two following viewpoints:" before she states the point you reiterate then OFFSETS it with her second point, thus raising a dialectic. Ensuing emails offer direct sources for point 1 so this ground is covered.
Diff'rnt strokes for diff'rnt folks, but: the differences in those strokes are in fact the discussion, since a universal definition for art (art? which--painting, drawing, video, conceptual, war?) does not, cannot, apply. What is special for me--Terry Winters' skeins of paint and computerized space--or Chardin's delicacy is NOT special to those who prefer Karen Kliminick. Why? That's the fun in all of this. Maybe not of interest to you, but in fact I am interested in whom artists deem special and why...the exchange broadens all viewpoints, turns people on to new artists or reconsider old ones, so even if a final definition is not possible, a re-examination of one's definition is.
One venture: I measure painting on its transformational capacity. This changes on any given day, since I may see a work as great one day and not the next, which is why going back is important if the work speaks at all. When work shows me the possibility of something ("content is a glimpse"), gives me visual insight, punctures my expectations and changes them, that is the special function of art, that happens through the eyes, pre-cognitively, perceptually--and powerfully.
Point taken; I did not note the distinction carefully enough. Interestingly, Peter Steinhardt, a naturalist, has just published a book about drawing. It is about the perspective of people who draw in groups, he also interviews models, deans of art schools, writers. It's light but pretty dang interesting, though because he is not coming out of an artist's pov isn't always accurate (for example he thinks the current interest in optical devices used in Ingres, etc. comes from an abstract artist, when in fact it's David Hockney).


Elisabeth Condon

June 27, 2004, 9:54 PM

I'm with you Oldpro. This is cutting into studio time. So I'll make it fast: The schoolkids were in their early 20s, extremely sophisticated, world-traveled, etc. and their exposure to the world was far greater than mine. Still, they could not value Chardin without explication. If Chardin is universally recognized, why couldn't they? Is universal recognition then taught? If so, is it taught the same way everywhere? Know what I'm sayin'?
"Whether we address these conditions within our work or not is as important as we acknowledge they exist and work with or against them, consciously". If you don't "address" them in your work you obviously cannot "work with or against them, consciously".
I must disagree. That's where my metaphysical aspirations for painting come in. But to stay on Earth, when I paint a landscape I cannot do so without thinking of the obvious: mediated images of Iraq, 9/11, and less obvious associations: relationship between LA and FL, or Rackstraw Downe's essay on British landscape, etc. I believe this seeps into the painting somehow, deepens it. But it will certainly come out in the slide talk or the statement.
Enjoy the studio.



June 27, 2004, 10:09 PM

You are right about the Denise sattement. I think I wnated to dispute the statement that these were the two primary viewpoints (which I still do, but will mercifully desist) and then looked at what I had written and took off on that. I wish someone had caught it sooner!


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 10:41 PM

The fascinating thing about talking about "value" in art is at some point the discussion turns into a talk about definitions. This is, I think, because definitions dictate the terms for what constitutes "value."

Here is a totally nonart example that may help explain what I mean: What makes a good dog? If we base "good dog" on properly doggie behavior like being able to sit, stay, etc. any dog that doesn't know how to do these things will be regarded as a "bad dog" for not sitting, staying, etc. on command. However, if the dog doesn't know those tricks, or learned them in a different language than the person speaking (say, Spanish or French instead of English) the one making the judgement will declare "bad dog" in error.

Value judgements in art, I think, work in much the same way. This is why its important to know stuff about the art in question in order to evaluate it. This doesn't necessarily make these values relative since do say that they are would, in extremis, mean that it is impossible to reach any agreements at all, but that value judgements require specific framing contexts, and these determine the validity of these judgements. The question then is, when confronted by a pair of images that are being presented for consideration and the presenter claims one is better then the other, what context does the presenter use for making these comparisons? It is easy to imagine a pair where one is obvious better in one category than the other, but from a different pov, these values could be reversed--in the case of a parody making a treasured icon into a joke, the success of the parody would depend upon both being able to identify the original and to recognize the ways that original is being travestied. Under such circumstances, the parody would be successful and therefore of "high quality," while considered under a different set of conditions, it might be quite terrible. Our ability to communicate this contradiction does not resolve it. Neither does it invalidate either value judgement, both are valid within their respective framing contexts. It is in the setting of these contextual constraints that we can make determinations of quality, but only through this agreement--something that is not self-evident, nor is it immediately apparent in the works themselves.

This is not simply a kind of critical smoke-and-mirrors: our approach to the art object determines how we are going to view it, our ability to make these adjustments determines, in part, how sensitive we are as viewers. Looking at everything in the same way may have been the norm in the distant past, but it is no longer an accepted norm for encountering anything in the world (not simply art).



June 27, 2004, 10:56 PM

On the one hand we are supposed to be ready to look at everything every which way, and on the other we are told what is not the "accepted norm" for looking at things.



June 27, 2004, 11:05 PM

Thank you, everyone, for creating the longest comment thread I've ever seen on any art blog. I appreciate your energy and thinking.

What we've been witnessing between Oldpro and Michael (Dr. Betancourt) is the old battle between Apollo and Dionysus - between analysis and intuition. Michael has been trying to elicit the logical underpinnings of Oldpro's experience with art, which don't exist because his experience is intuitive. Because those logical underpinnings don't exist, Michael is concluding that Oldpro's position is essentially false ("intellectually dishonest," etc.).

We don't have these problems when we're talking about things that aren't art. Let's say I tell you that Uma Thurman is beautiful. You ask me why. I say because she has full lips, blonde hair, big eyes, and a perfect nose. You can understand that, even though I've listed three facts that do nothing to prove that she's beautiful (full lips, blonde hair, and big eyes exist on women who are not beautiful) and an opinion (what makes her nose "perfect"?). You don't think I'm contradicting myself if I say later that I also find Zhang Ziyi beautiful. I can say that a consensus exists about Uma Thurman's beauty, and you probably don't feel inclined to accuse me of universalism or force me to admit that not everybody on the earth would agree with me based on their background and upbringing. I could even say to you, "What, you don't think Uma Thurman is beautiful? What're you, blind?" And you might reply, at most, "Eh! She's not my type."

We apply a buffer of reasonableness around these assertions because they can be true without being logically provable. A similar buffer exists in Buddhist epistomology: provisional or relative truth, which are called so not to disparage them, but to recognize them as functional (as opposed to absolute truth, which isn't). Absolute truth says that you don't exist as an independent entity. Relative truth says that it's time to get out of bed, take a shower, and get dressed.

I observe that good art is a successful alignment between material, technique, composition, and feeling. My first blog post about it is way back here. What makes that alignment successful? That success has to be felt. (Either Uma does it for you, or she doesn't.) But in aggregate and over time, my experience of that success may overlap with many others', making the success true. Provisionally true, but true all the same.


Michael Betancourt

June 27, 2004, 11:45 PM

Wait a second. There seems to be some (more) misreading going on here.

oldpro: your comment "On the one hand we are supposed to be ready to look at everything every which way, and on the other we are told what is not the "accepted norm" for looking at things." is accurate, and there is no contradiction to this: there has been a demand made that essentially there is only one way to look, a very specific one, and my response was to say that is not the accepted norm any longer. I don't see why this should be a problem unless you have a vested interest in there being only one option.

Franklin: Actually, a listing like you provided in your example was what I was asking for (thus the request for an example, or better a reasonable pair). In fact, the description did not happen the way you imply it did in the course of the posts. A pair was presented, I asked some questions and was told "you are blind" in reponse to my questions, all the while being subjected to vicious, personal insults and attacks.

As stated earlier, there is a tendency for some people on this blog to attempt to silence disagreement (suggesting that I have you cancel my comments is precisely this -- anyone who can explain to me how it is otherwise, I would like to hear it).

And no, I have not concluded that "Oldpro's position is essentially false" and therefore "intellectually dishonest." I was stating that a refusal to discuss while claiming an alternative was false was an example of "intellectual dishonesty". These are not the same thing at all.

Nor did I say that oldpro's position was false. (In fact, I think it is included in the link posted earlier as one of the definitions for art)

"We apply a buffer of reasonableness around these assertions because they can be true without being logically provable" But you do provide examples and by doing so point to characteristics that you believe are beautiful-making. This is a presentational method of discussion.

To get to the heart of the matter:

Your description (material, technique, composition, and feeling) works fine for painting in some cases. But, Roxy Paine's machine paintings negate all of this, as does the work of monochrome painters, and minimalists just to name what immediately jumps to mind. Unless you want to summarily declare all that work to be "bad." Work that does not "fit" your criteria, then, is bad art? You say as much: "What about ideas? Ideas are only valuable insofar as they have feeling attached to them." [You mean the artist's feelings I guess? rather than how the viewer feels about the ideas. What you have written elsewhere suggests as much] "Interesting ideas may make art interesting, but they cannot by themselves make art good." i.e. art must express feeling in some fashion. But there is enormous amounts of art made specifically to question and/or eliminate that issue. This framework runs afoul of the Intentional Fallacy almost immediately (if it gets out the gate at all) without being tripped by it.

Do you really believe this, or is it just presented for discussion?



June 28, 2004, 12:13 AM

Thanks for the nice try, Franklin. Yes my approach is intuituve, and it will probably stay that way, accepted norm or not. This discussion has gotten too long-winded, heavy-handed and clogged with academic dithering for me, and I don't like being called nasty names for no good reason. I am signing off.



June 28, 2004, 12:18 AM

If the Nazi concentration camps are art does that mean killing Nicole and her white trash cracker fits withen the relm of postmodernism



June 28, 2004, 12:34 AM

...I asked some questions and was told "you are blind" in reponse to my questions, all the while being subjected to vicious, personal insults and attacks. You gave as good as you got, Michael. Let's leave it at that.

I have not concluded that "Oldpro's position is essentially false" and therefore "intellectually dishonest." I was stating that a refusal to discuss while claiming an alternative was false was an example of "intellectual dishonesty". If you apply your idea of shifting frameworks to this discussion, it might have been possible to accomodate the intuitive basis of Oldpro's standpoint without characterizing it as dishonest, which I don't think it was. There's value in these different frameworks beating on each other - I don't think Apollo or Dionysus should die. But if you're not saying that is position is essentially false, you are saying that his response doesn't fit into a logical framework and is therefore unprovable in a not-so-good way.

But you do provide examples and by doing so point to characteristics that you believe are beautiful-making. This is a presentational method of discussion. But it still doesn't prove anything absolutely, only provisionally.

I haven't seen the machine paintings. The monochrome painters and minimalists align simple materials, self-negating technique, reductive compositions, and quiet feeling. Some of it is good. There's no contradiction. As for the other art that's trying to question or negate the issue of conveying feeling, if that questioning or negation is done with no feeling behind it, the result is often dry. Too bad about the artist's intentions. And yes, I really believe it.



June 28, 2004, 12:42 AM

Would you look at that! "OJ" just triggered Godwin's Law. Everybody have a nice evening!



June 28, 2004, 1:33 AM

I know you were trying to end this gracefully, Franklin, but I can't help noting thet Dr Betancourt invoked the Nazi concentration camps in this discussion already, at 10:46 PM last night, thereby demonstrating the accuracy of Godwin's law before any of us realized it.



June 28, 2004, 1:40 AM

But he cited it as something he had a problem with, reasonably enough, so the ref didn't call it.



June 28, 2004, 1:48 AM

Yes, Dr. Betancourt had previously drew an analogy between nazi's and art, absurd isn't it.



June 28, 2004, 1:51 AM

Well, you just couldn't leave it alone, so here is chapter and verse, straight from the prophet himself:

One common objection to Godwin's law is that sometimes using Hitler or the Nazis is a perfectly apt way of making a point. For instance, if one is debating the relative merits of a particular leader, and someone says something like, "He's a good leader, look at the way he's improved the economy", one could reply, "Just because he improved the economy doesn't make him a good leader. Even Hitler improved the economy." This is a perfectly acceptable comparison. One uses Hitler because he is a universally known leader and the example requires no explanation. Pretty much everyone would know exactly what you were talking about in the above example.

Godwin's standard answer to this objection is to note that Godwin's Law does not dispute whether, in a particular instance, a reference or comparison to Hitler or the Nazis might be apt. It is precisely because such a reference or comparison may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued, that hyperbolic overuse of the Hitler/Nazi comparison should be avoided. Avoiding such hyperbole, he argues, is a way of ensuring that when valid comparisons to Hitler or Nazis are made, such comparisons have the appropriate semantic impact.



June 28, 2004, 2:05 AM

Hi guys. I used to paint on LIncoln Road or Ave. or whatever it's called. Back when it was a ghost town of empty buildings. What a good scene. Across from the bank building, marble floors, where I had my studio: rice and beans place, little joint with ice cold cans of beer a dollar a piece, walking home every night at 2a.m. the tall neon temperature numbers glowing: 73.

Before I left hooked up with the sister of Miss Venezuela, I'm not kidding. She was beautiful. Beautiful. Had a white convertible and this little white dog she spanked when I farted.

Anyway Miami Beach was great. Put up my paintings, D.A. in attendance. It was great Back then next to my no hot water room in the Royal Palm they climbed the abandoned skyscraper to rip away at the wiring to get the copper, at the window trim for the aluminum, piles of chicken bones on the sidewalk outside Kentucky Fried chicken, the yellow barber shirt I got at some thrift shot beautiful, a real bargain before I noticed the blood and probable knife tear in the back. A very small slit. A stiletto?

Maybe like all art scenes it was better when it was rougher. As Soho once radical is boutiques and Euro-trash, New Jersey attornies in the lofts the painters had been in. Cush equals cush.

I have a definition of art for you all but certainly not one of better art. When I refer to art I mean painting.

Art is the creation of an object that transcends its materiality.

If you know what you're looking at is a painting its not art.

When we see beauty sometimes we grimace. That's the pain of having gotten completely 'gone' free of the literal, then being pulled back into conciousness of the literal. Owch.

Obviously different people get 'gone' over different things, different paintings.This doesn't mean there's not a universal goodness, beautiful power Art has. Like Greenberg used to say, "You don't have to be a Cro Magnon to appreciate thepaintings at Lasceaux

The long train of the best art has shared all the same things, the two things that make art art, and sound so dopey simple people have a hard time with them: relations and proportions. All the best art, the lasting art, that transcends hundreds of generations all have the right amount of the right stuff in the right place. This comes from the artist being tuned in to themselves, Nature and the scale of things, which can at times become cosmic but must be reined down in order to become a painting.

One last quote froma pal of mine now dead, Roy Lichtenstein, an artist Greenberg gave credence to.."The audience for advvanced art is the same as for advanced science."

Good things aren't easy. Those who work the hardest, concentrate the hardest, love painting the most usually come to 'see' good from bad, and even 'better'. Of course this wavers with the flux of our temperament and time.. but in the long scheme of things the best rises to the top. We can't see the best other than individually because we're in our own time, not way down the line, with the requisite perspective. All we can do it seems is lay out what we think is good, encourage it and see what happens.

Onward, Tim



June 28, 2004, 3:55 AM

Franklin - Thanks (sincerely) for your perfect comparison of art to young ladies. "Not my type" is exactly the right response.

Dr Betancourt - Allow me to disagree with your opinion of Roxy Paine's machines, in a way that hopefully makes this discussion even more interesting. I'm privileged to have seen them in action (the molten-plastic drop machine, the latex spray-painting machine, and the ink-drawing machine), and I do not believe they negate the idea of material, composition, technique or feeling whatsoever.

Frankly, I thought the machines were completely hilarious, which I mean as a compliment: utterly insane, and joyfully dramatic (as I'm sure was intended). As a tinkerer, programmer, and art lover, I was delighted and impressed. I'm so happy I was reminded of it here.

As to composition or feeling, it's a bit generous to say Paine's machines are fully "random," or completely mechanistic. They're very tightly constrained in what they can do, more like an imperfect assembly line machine than a random-number generator. They are preprogrammed to strict parameters, and while the output is not exactly predictable, it's little different than if, for example, Piet Mondrian were a programmer (view the page and keep refreshing it). Acorns may scatter randomly, but none are too far from the tree. Lava lamps are as random as they come, but the differences between them are subtle, even during operation.

As to material and technique, putting aside the "craft" of having these machines assembled to his specifications, it's clear that a great deal of testing and experimentation would be required in order to produce what they do. This is not by any means to suggest that Paine's craft is equal or equivalent to anyone else's, merely to suggest that his efforts can be seen in roughly the same light as the efforts of others. I believe every art has its own type of "craft," and every art has its own requirements for "creativity," even (and perhaps especially) conceptual art.

Anyway, I see little difference between Paine's work and that of something like a photomontage creator. The "artist's hand" is not literally evident, but it still guides the work from inception to realization. Even though Paine was not present to guide his machines, it's clear they did his bidding. I have a hard time assessing the "value" of each produced object, but I think the endeavor itself was very interesting, and arguably demonstrated Franklin's criteria in non-traditional but interesting ways. For that reason, I could justify giving "value" to each token object, in the name of supporting the overall project.

P.S. - I wonder if people fight these crusades so strenuously because we believe careers and reputations are at stake upon the "answer."


Michael Betancourt

June 28, 2004, 6:35 AM

I was quite willing to let Franklin off the hook, oh well.

oldpro: Paul Virilio, Art and Fear spends a lengthy time setting up a discussion on a problematic aspect of the avant-garde in the 20th, namely its obsession with violence, a violence he connects to concentration camps. Go read the post and you'll see what I have to say about it.: I specifically stated I had a problem with Virilio's connection.
If you read Virilio's argument, (I don't expect you to, so take my word on it) it isn't hyperbolie. In fact he's being taken very seriously on this issue.
He is simply asking "contemporary with what" about contemporary art, and his answer is far from satisfactory. Thus Godwin's law is inappropriate.
Whatever. When did this blog turn into usenet? :)

Hovig: As for Roxy Paine, I've seen them too, (in fact written about them) and I would say they negate the issue of feeling in the sense that Franklin wants to use it. The fungus, on the other hand, doesn't. But I agree with your assessment of the mechanistic aspects of them, just not what this means in terms of their "feeling." [self-serving link to review]

You hit the problem between them and what Franklin proposes right here: "I have a hard time assessing the "value" of each produced object, but I think the endeavor itself was very interesting, and arguably demonstrated Franklin's criteria in non-traditional but interesting ways." Because Franklin seems to be pretty clear that his criteria specifically apply to the objects, not the process that produes them. But Franklin should say something here since he knows his ideas better than I do.

I just have significant doubts about the whole structure of what Franklin suggests since it relies so heavily (or appears to me to) on the intentions of the creator in determining the issue of "feeling" that he places centrally. Monroe Beardsley's Intenional Fallacy gets in the way of this point in this theory, thus making it dubious for me.

Back in the 1960s a computer programmer (who helped invent computer art BTW) named A. Michael Noll did a series of Mondrian experiments that remind me somewhat of this link.

P.S. - I wonder if people fight these crusades so strenuously because we believe careers and reputations are at stake upon the "answer."

At least egos seem to be, but that is the problem with debates -- we don't have enough real ones in our culture to make clear to everyone how they work.

Tim: "but in the long scheme of things the best rises to the top." Well, one hopes so, but it can be hard to tell since fashion can also determine what survives and what gets lost. but it doesn't always work out that way.


Michael Betancourt

June 28, 2004, 6:43 AM

Tim: somehow I missed this before: "relations and proportions"
you're talking about what used to be called the "Canon" or "Western Canon" or whatever you like (there are several versions, the most common one in Euroamerican art is based around the system created by Praxitiles when he designed the Parthenon)
This is one of those things that has actually fallen out of favor over the past 150 years, along with a number of other painterly technologies like "painterly motion" so its continued existence as a criterion is somewhat questionable. Certainally it (or one of its relatives) was the base for art in centuries past. I would be interested in seeing an argument that restored it to a central place, though since it is pretty much neutral on all issues we normally connect to art, even media.



June 28, 2004, 6:55 AM

Hovig: Thanks for the Mondrian URL. Not one of the 25 or so I tried was any good. Proves not just anybody can do a Mondrian.



June 28, 2004, 7:05 AM

Dr. Mike: What if art has not really changed for the past 20,000 years? If that were a fact, would there be anything about its "factness" that would or could prevent you from meandering on and on and on, off target, off base, and so on? I mean, does art really care enough about you to want you see the light? I don't think so. But I think it's sad.



June 28, 2004, 7:10 AM

There! I posted the 100th comment, misteak and all.



June 28, 2004, 3:02 PM

The intentional fallacy is the mistake of using the author's intentions to determine the meaning of his work. What I'm describing as "feeling" is a little different - it's the desire to arrange the materials in certain ways, as opposed to an infinite number of other ways. We're not looking for the meaning of the work. I'm saying that good art aligns those desires with appropriate materials, technique, and composition.

Process is the handling of materials - what I'm calling technique.

That seems like a knee-jerk response to ascribe Tim's "relations and proportions" to the Western Canon. Types of relations are infinite, and possibilities of proportions are infinite as well.



June 28, 2004, 3:16 PM

Feeling is everything in art.I hope we are not driving those people away/



June 28, 2004, 3:43 PM

Michael - wait, you're not really saying that. Sorry.

Oldpro - Yes, feeling is an indespensable component. One of four that I can name.



June 28, 2004, 4:13 PM

I had a busy day yesterday and checked in on the expand-o-comment-thread extravaganza, but didn't have time to post.

Anyway, Elisabeth responded for me/clarified way back about the issue of the two opposing viewpoints more articulately and concisely than I could have.

Franklin--have you thought about putting up a discussion board (i.e. maybe have comments AND an option for "discuss this post on the boards...") so folks could duke things out more at length and in an easier-to-follow format? Although it was really interesting seeing readers (and participating a bit in) reappropriating the comment function for an extensive debate.



June 28, 2004, 4:17 PM

With all due respect, Franklin, feeling is everything, not an "indespensible component, one of four" or anything quite so quantifiable. I will not go into a lengthy academic defense of this because this is where the blog is heading and I think it is the wrong direction. A day or so ago I had some quite lengthy exchanges with a couple of bloggers who really loved art but were curious and intimidated by the environment in which they found it. It was late, and I don't think anyone else was on the blog, but it was very engaging to exchange ideas with them and tell them my experiences with art and the art world.

Now we have a wonderful, fresh, entertaining anecdotal contribution from "Tim" - obviously a free spirit of the highest order, and a breath of fresh air - and we are starting to carve it up. No thanks. The twin enemies of art - and feeling in art,which I take to be the same thing - are commercialism and academicism, and in recent years they have joined - as the trite phrase has it -in an "unholy alliance". The virtue of a blog is its complete freedom and anonymity; I have no say in what happens here, and rightly so. But I think we want those fresh and curious voices here, and I think heavy-handed academic nit-picking and one-up arcane references are going to chase them away.



June 28, 2004, 4:36 PM

Denise: this is unprecedented use of the comments on an post, and I apologize to everyone for the difficulty in following the discussion past comment #40 or so. But I don't really like the message board format. I'm thinking about scripting the comments so they come out numbered and anchored, and that ought to help.

Oldpro: I hope my Four Element Theory isn't so academic as to carve anything up. And while I agree with the feeling of the statement "feeling is everything in art," I also think, no, you need some art supplies too.

Your point about the academic tone is well-taken. I like to keep the tone on mixed, hence the choice of the following post as a balance to this one.


Standard Gerbil

June 28, 2004, 7:41 PM

Funny, but I distinctly smell the Technological Hamster all over this thread. How very curious. Who could it possibly be? I have a theory (doesn't everybody) but it seems too far-fetched. After all, who ever heard of a rodent with a PhD?



June 28, 2004, 8:37 PM

Catfish, do you see humans as being markedly different based on their point in time, and the technologies they use?
When I read Homer, 800bc then the novels of successful writers of the present it seems things were cooking at a pretty sensationally high level back then. And the phenomenal Egyptian torso sculptures at the Brooklyn Museum. Holy cow.. the heads knocked off, arms blown off, and still this perfectly pure power. They were really cooking. Then Rembrandt's self portraits with all that black brown space around them. Yowza, those are all out.
I'm not sure I get the same pounding in my heart/brain/soul when I gaze upon Marcel Duchamp's urinal. I get what he was doing but where does it take you but to an ennui'd sort of benighnennervation.
What I'm suggesting is that all humans over all time have shared the essentials that act as keys to the fullest, richest, deepest, finest, most refreshingly strong experience of being alive.
It seems to me and my pals that techno society and art is just another facet of the revolving gem, not a break from the gem, not a new and different gem. Relations and proportions willnever go out of fashion because.. its not fashion. Its the eternally lasting renewable matrix most friendly to bringing into one place the coexistance of thought and feeling, underscoring the timeless nature of feeling, the sense the sensation of being alive.
I mean if relations and proportionsare passe would you if it were possible sit with Mozart and tell him his work is passe?
There's no need to fight relations and proportions because we can't elude them no matter how we try. We use them every moment of every day deciding on what words to say, how much of what food to put on our fork. Its what allows us to operate, to create things, to enjoy 'play' There's no way to hide from the tap root of things. And if a person does succeed in breaking away, from relations and proportions they would I think be either catatonic or in mental chaos.
Its fun to challenge classical parameters, but its just an exercize to play with ideas so as to refresh them for our own revitalization. In the end the raw most vital essentials have been, and always will be: the same.


Michael Betancourt

June 28, 2004, 11:15 PM

Earlier today I got an e-mail from Franklin asking "Are you the Technological Hamster?" This came as a surprise since I respect Franklin's work even though I have problems with aspects of his ideas (like the "feeling" issue). I am reposting my reponse to him here, since it may help clarify things for people:

No, I'm not. I wish I knew who she was because it sounded like someone in Miami I could talk with about the kind of theory things that interest me. Maybe whoever the Hamster was will show up somewhere.(I would say the Technological Hamster is a coward for the same reasons I feel backrow and oldpro are -- it allows an amount of mudslinging without taking responsibility.)

If you're asking because I brought up the issue of silencing dissenters, it was the Hamster's commentary that made me start watching for that in the first place, and it is a real problem since it discourages people from posting. Me, I'm a tough bastard who can take care of himself and doesn't use pseudonyms for discussion and don't respond well to intimidation tactics, but there are clearly others, like Maryagnes (sp?) who have problems with feeling intimidated and have said as much. Go back and reread what I was saying and you'll see my responses were always demanding that the intimidators actually participate rather than being rude.

The response went something like this:

Miami art sucks!
>Can you give me an example of something better?
I refuse to discuss this.
We can't define better.
>Then don't talk about better.

Here's the actual posts. These are not encouraging discussion, but rather attempting to silence a very important question:

DA: If you don't know... I'm not going to tell you.

You are an intellectually dishonest coward if you refuse to define your terms. Period. This is why I say Miami has no arts criticism, only advocacy.

Oldpro: I can't define "better art". Nobody can.

Then don't talk about it. Period.

The question wasn't "what is better art" but what do YOU mean by "better art."

We did eventually get the the point where oldpro and I were able to have a discussion, but Backrow proved incapable of doing it, going so far as to claim (falsely) that I was refusing to answer his question about the two versions of the mona lisa (original and kitsch), and attempting to use my arguments against me. It wasn't working for him, and Elisabeth finally pointed out what was going on and that was largely the end of his ranting against me. This is the response that asking the most basic of questions gets: a definition of terms. I explained what both "intellectually dishonest" and "coward" mean in a context like the one on your blog and even though the two who needed the explanation apparently didn't get it, others did.

I have no doubt that both oldpro and backrow have very specific ideas about what is good and bad, but they won't provide examples because to do so presents the possibility that the rest of us will see through what they are demanding we do: accept them as the arbitrators of our tastes, otherwise they would not be rejecting everything in Miami as dreck (presumable both your paintings and my movies are included since theirs is an umbrella claim and we have no criteria for knowing we aren't included in it--and so I have a problem with this kind of claim).

In discussions of this type, I want specifics, and if those involved won't provide them, it is intellectually dishonest because they want me to take their position on their word, and don't provide any backing. I have a problem with this kind of thinking anyplace I see it since it demands obedient faith, but offers nothing in return. To question it though, brings out the bully in those demanding faith. I will stand up for myself and refuse to take it on faith, so if that is equivalent to bullying, then fine, but I don't think it is.

This is probably a lot longer than you expected. Sorry, but I'm trying to be clear about what I think of the Technological Hamster, oldpro and backrow and anyone else who acts like that. I have always been willing to stand up and be counted for what I think and believe, even (and especially) when everybody else feels the need to hide behind masks. I dislike secret societies and would quite willingly live in a surveillance society -- provided that everyone in it is subjected to the same scrutiny and everyone has equal access to the surveillance. Secrets are the problem, not full disclosure.


As a final note, I must also wonder why it is that someone posting things who knows theory (I am a theorist after all) should be assumed to be a coward like the Technological Hamster, a person who at best was able to quote theory at others, but not really explain any of it, at least not in the posts I saw. I find the suggestion insulting to say the least since it is diametrically opposite to everything I believe.. Sorry, "Standard Gerbil" I'm not. And if you go and look in the archives, I was one of the people telling this Hamster person to act appropriately.



June 28, 2004, 11:26 PM

Posts older than last November or December do not have comments on them - I never figured out how to import them from the old blog. Sorry. I'm learning MySQL and I think there may be a solution forthcoming.



June 28, 2004, 11:27 PM

If you cannot stop this juvenile self-justification and name-calling and ego-preening would you please just give everyone a break and get the hell off the blog? I don't know about everyone else but i am sick and tired of it.



June 29, 2004, 12:01 AM

Tim: Cro Mangons probably would have gotten into "technology" if it had been available to them. By "tech" I mean computers and stuff. Cro Mangons certainly were into tools, including paint tools - the tech of their time. The more things change the more they stay the same. I'm not absolutely sure that it's all about "relations and proportions" but you ring a bell, that's for sure. ("Doubt" is my middle name.)

oldpro: This is still fun. Sit back and enjoy the fight. Myself, being Irish, it is almost as good as a bar brawl. The too-charitable response you find in other MIami art discussions isn't present here (anymore).

Franklin: This is an exceptional blog. Where else can we gather around the campfire of our communal CRT and throw bones at each other in the name of art?



June 29, 2004, 12:15 AM

Tim: maybe the best way to answer your question is that, from some perspective, we still ARE Cro Mangons. And that's not a put down of anyone.

From a very long perspective, this fight is about sex. (Art is one of the subdivisions of sex, BTW. So are Dr. MIke's footnotes.) I believe the Cro Mangons understood sex. Why can't we?



June 29, 2004, 12:26 AM

Michael: With all due respect, you seem to be unaware of the tone of your own writing, and the above distallation of this conversation is an unfair one.

Everybody: Responsibility is going to fall on the insulted not to rejoin with more barbs. Failing to do so is going to result in thread bloat, like we're witnessing above. It's been a hard lesson for me - my entry into blogging saw me picking fights left and right, and that tendency is still hanging around - but experience shows me that I'm more likely to change someone's mind if I critique them with respect, and they're more likely to leave if I ignore them. Please consider taking the high road, maintaining your sense of humor, and letting the other guy have the last word. Also, thank you for not pointing it out when I fail to do this myself. ;o)

Catfish: On the other hand, the nastiness is kind of fun, isn't it? But it's not in itself productive, and the distinction is worth keeping in mind. Glad you're having a good time here.


Michael Betancourt

June 29, 2004, 12:47 AM

Franklin, you're right. sorry 'bout that

And I thin catfish is onto something about the sex thing. maybe we should think about "art" in the same ways we think about "flash" with other animals



June 29, 2004, 1:07 AM

Hey catfish, I like to brawl too. I thought thats what I was doing. And some of your comments are making a real turn in this conversation. Keep it up.



June 29, 2004, 1:18 AM

Hi, "OJ"! What you just did is called libel per se, and Mr. Betancourt can sue you for it. You think about that real hard before you do it again. Yes, I can find you.



June 29, 2004, 1:24 AM

Franklin, you are not going to leave your loyal bloggers in the dark, are you?



June 29, 2004, 1:26 AM

Oh, and that's DR Betancourt, if you don't mind.



June 29, 2004, 1:40 AM

Um, right. Dr. Betancourt is entitled to sue the britches off of anyone impersonating him in a public forum, as it just happened at 5:47.



June 29, 2004, 1:48 AM

Tim: ah yes, the Illiad and the Oddessey, real pot-boilers if there ever were such things. Wars and journeys are just vehicles for having unbelievable sex.

oldpro: yes yes you were fighting. But you seemed ready to quit.

Franklin: I once had a pair of large Texas chiclids in a 10 gallon tank. Before they bred they would damn near kill each other, then make 10,000 babies that tenderly hovered around these suddenly calm parents, feeding off their body slime. But one day the pair actually did kill each other trying to get it on. Simultaneously too. Until that final trip up their mountain of desire, I would say they were very productive.

Dr. Mike: Keep banging your head against the wall. Surely you will break through. I can say that becaue I've been in your spot. When it hurts enough, then you will be ready to see.


that guy in the back row

June 29, 2004, 3:51 AM

Catfish. Its funny, last night I punished myself for being so jovial towards Dr. Beaten at court's by reading his definitions of art. After concluding that nothing he rambled on about made any sense. I realized that by substituting the word "art" with the word "sex" not only did it make more sense, it was also a much more interesting read. Cheers.


John Link

June 29, 2004, 5:40 AM

Surely this has not ended?



June 29, 2004, 9:57 AM

I am really, seriously riveted to how this thing has moved from ultra-lame to real fun. If anyone read this thread or whatever you call it, from top to bottom they'd see light politics and sheepishness turn slowly, steadilly into a rocking site where people are winging it, some good stuff flying about.
Catfish, you're cool. I try not to think about sex as the main driver, Freud being such a nut, but the sex thing might actually be the thing. Thinking reductively sex is pretty close to the tap root. And taking those relations and proportions all the way down... down down down, you arrive at zero and one, positive negative, like in atoms and everything else that holds all things together. But Right along with these plus protons and negative electrons is indeed the basic basic basic attraction of sex. I like it. Will look at my paintings afresh tomorrow. Keep it up dude. I'm hungry for other people's core take on stuff.
All hail the blog that came to life.



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