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collapsed

Post #327 • July 21, 2004, 6:22 AM • 51 Comments

From the Guardian (via ArtsJournal): Philip Dodd, director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, will step down in October after seven years of service.

"What I have done is accept that the walls between art and science, culture and economics, art and politics have collapsed," said Mr. Dodd. "I have tried to work in the rubble of those walls and accept that the distinctions between those things don't exist any more."

My dad likes to say that you don't have to know exactly where to draw the line to see what's on the other side of it. Dodd's statement proves that the contemporary art world needs an infusion of common sense.

I have said before that I favor a wide, vague, open definition of art, but not so wide, vague, and open that it becomes synonymous with stuff. I'll add here that I oppose characterizing art as some kind of everything-ology that can't be distinguished from any other pursuit. Let's call the science, economics, politics in art science, economics, and politics, and deal with the art as art. (Scientists, economists, and political experts, by training, do the converse.) In all fields, the ability to make finer and finer distinctions characterizes increasing knowledge. Let's not give our brains away in the name of contemporaneity.

Comment

1.

alesh

July 21, 2004, 2:38 PM

Argh! What's the problem, Franklin?

There is science, the study of how things work. Science involves tons of real stuff - mathematical equations, strange apparatus large and small, sketches and diagrams of all sorts, and beautiful ideas of all kinds.

Drawing on this immense body of work, which seems analogous to drawing on the visual world (the way you do), or drawing on the spiritual world, enriches art, and often results in beautiful work.

This kind of art does to science what poetry does to language - it takes material intended for very purpose-oriented goals, and slants the focus-oriented aspect of it. As all great art, it allows us to see ourselves anew.

I'm going to compile a list of examples. Meantime, the ICA's web site appears to have numerous good ones. Marjetica Potrc, who had a show recently at PBICA, is an excellent example of that approach applied to social science.

2.

mary agnes

July 21, 2004, 4:04 PM

The comments from Alesh are always a little above my head. To my mind what Franklin is appealing for is meaning. If art is not something somewhat definite it does not hold onto meaning. If it does not mean something then why put ourselves into it. The museum director who is finding it hard to define his field of endeavor is to my mind suffering from the pressure i too have felt in museum work to be all things to all people. A waste of time you might say. Clarify your goals and your audience so that you might achieve something. That would involve setting limits. And if you are an art museum one of those limits might naturally be to face that your focus is art. So then you have to define art.

3.

oldpro

July 21, 2004, 4:41 PM

Amen, Mary Agnes! This "no boundries" malarky is one of the all-pervading contemporary mythologies of the art world. It is just palpably not true. Try telling a high-level scientist, businessman, musician, writer, economist - anybody with a serious specialized life interest - that what there are "no distinctions between these things" and they will laugh in your face. Wby do we perpetuate these fantasies?

4.

Franklin

July 21, 2004, 5:36 PM

Alesh, science, economics, politics, and art have been mutually informing fields since Egyptian times, at least, and people have always been able to exchange information between disciplines without saying that the boundaries between them have collapsed. To say that they have in art, and to imply that this is a contemporary development, is thinking at its most mushy.

5.

mary agnes

July 21, 2004, 5:52 PM

I'm sorry - the museum director is telling us from the front lines of his work at this museum in Lodon that he sees the boundaries have collapsed. How is that mushy thinking?

6.

oldpro

July 21, 2004, 6:21 PM

Mary Agnes: it is mushy thinking because it is mushy thinking. No boundries have collapsed. This is one of the relativistic romantic fantasies of post-modernism. The fact that the man is telling us something from the front lines of a London museum does not protect him from mushy thinking nor does it prevent us from recognizing that it is mushy thinking. Besides, he has left. Probably just as well.

7.

Jack

July 21, 2004, 6:27 PM

Franklin, you need only consider the source. Do you think Dodd would have gotten anywhere near his ICA post if he didn't dutifully adhere to the currently politically correct position? Do you think he can continue operating at the same level without maintaining such adherence? It's called the establishment, and it makes no difference how "progressive" it presumes to be. The basic mechanics are always essentially the same.

8.

mary agnes

July 21, 2004, 6:58 PM

I think that museum director is describing something very real. It may have gotten real by a lot of people having mushy thinking.

9.

oldpro

July 21, 2004, 7:04 PM

He may be referring to something real, but if he is, then he should describe it so that it makes sense.

10.

alesh

July 21, 2004, 7:11 PM

I think the "no boundaries" comment is not intended quite literally. Scientists know what science is; it has very clearly defined boundaries. What I'm talking about is artists to operate wherever they like in relationship to those artists. The end result is art which Franklin, Oldpro, and some of the rest of you would probably dismiss.

Incidentally, try defining art. It can't be done, unless you're prepared to admit that you exclude stuff you don't happen to like. It's one of those "I know it when I see it" things. The reason for that has to do with the very nature of how we (some of us, anyway) think about art.

11.

alesh

July 21, 2004, 7:36 PM

ok, i replied in haste before, and now I'm committing the serial-post sin . . two problems in one day.

I am in agreement with Dodd's position, but I agree that he has worded it poorly. What I think he means, and what he should have said, is: "Some of the most interesting art of recent times has been strongly influenced by science, politics, etc. The ICA's mission should be to explore this sort of art."

I agree that the boundaries are very much in place, BUT there is also a lot of grey area. The thing is that the gray area, for me, falls into the realm of art. That is why I think 'art' is very difficult to define precisely.

12.

oldpro

July 21, 2004, 7:47 PM

Read the quote, Alesh: "... the walls between art and science, culture and economics, art and politics have collapsed". That is pretty literal. it includes science, which, as you stated, has "clear boundries". It certainly does not mean, as you said it did, that "artists...operate wherever they like in relationship to those artists." And whatever the result I would appreciate it if you would not make assumptions about what art I am going to like before I say so.

Defining art may be a matter of contention but it can be done, and it needn't exclude anything that is accepted as art whether one likes the art or likes the definition. There's a definition in the dictionary. What cannot be specified is what makes art good or bad.

13.

alesh

July 21, 2004, 8:49 PM

sure, there's a definition of ART in the dictionary:

archaic present second singular of 'be'

what there isnt is a definition for art that is complete and not-circular. And this is very important. Books have been written (i.e. The Art Question,
by Nigel Warburton) about the difficulty of defining the word.

From the perspective of Science, there are clear boundaries. From the perspective of art, you can have art that has nothing to do with science, a little to do with science, a lot to do with science, or almost everything to do with science. So from that perspective, I think it's legetimate to say that the walls have collapsed. Art has extended a lot farther into these other realms then it had before, say, the 1960's.

14.

mary agnes

July 21, 2004, 9:50 PM

Thank you Alesh and Oldpro for some nicely written comments. I am enjoying it! I wanted to re-emphasize a point I was trying to make earlier. The comments from the museum director are reports of what he is seeing in the world in which he operates. Apparently he is a heroic type who wanted to rescue meaning. He too believed that art had a definition and that its value was attached to that. Then came newer forms of art that challenged meaning to the point that limits were smashed (wrecked). As he stepped into the director position he hoped to rescue some of the old clarity while negotiating the territory that latter day art practitioners have claimed. I sympathize not on an abstract level but on a practical one. The guy tried to create some cohesion in the world of contemporary art museums - to find clarity in the role of that museum - negotiate a consensus while providing leadership... this is what a person of character does in that situation I think. But then he got burned out...lost hope or lost the source of his vision. So he is bowing out.

15.

oldpro

July 21, 2004, 10:11 PM

Thanks, Mary Agnes. I did not read the material thoroughly enough to understand this, but I wiil try to go back and do so. Apparently I had the wrong take on it

Thou art too cute, Alesh. There is an extensive definition in my dictionary which is kind of old-fashioned but adequate. You musn't make the classic logical mistake of assuming that because a definition does not describe or predict all particular instances of the thing defined that therefore the definition is useless or wrong. Obviously if that were the case we would have no definitions.

Art is a phenomenon with characteristic attributes and therefore it can be and has been defined. That does not mean that the definition cannot get better; most definitions can. Saying art cannot be defined tends to be a surrogate for the implication that art as we now know includes a lot more than it did before, and also feeds into the romantic notion that art is somehow so grand and elevated that forcing definitions on it somehow abases it. This is more mushy thinking, of course.

Art "that has to do" with science is still art. If it is science it is science. Art is one thing, science is another. If the art has scientific characteristics it is art as long as it is used or taken as art. If an object can be either science or art (I can't think of anything offhand; most art I know of that uses science does not amount to much as science - correct me if i am wrong) that does not affect the definition, it only shifts the definition according to curcumstances. A sculpture used to hold a door open is a doorstop. A beer can on a pedestal in a museum is art. The use changes, the definitions do not.

16.

mary agnes

July 21, 2004, 10:17 PM

Food for thought Oldpro. Thanks!

17.

alesh

July 22, 2004, 2:02 AM

oldpro~ if you think you can define art, i would encourage you to give it a shot. a definition, for me, would be something that would include anything that IS art, and exclude anything that is NOT art. Granted there may be some grey area, but I think that if you're going to exclude art that you don't like (like Duchamp's Fountain) then you've failed.

My favorite example of something that stands in the space between art and science is Paul Vanouse's Relative Velocity Inscription Device.
I said before that stuff in the grey area usually will fall in the 'art' category, and I think this piece does. Actually I can imagine something being art AND science.

I think the distinction is that for something to be science, a number of scientists have to agree that it is. For something to be art, only the artist has to say so.

18.

shaolin soccer mom

July 22, 2004, 2:21 AM

Well, I declare this post a piece of art, then.

A piece of Neo-Conceptual art, that is!!

19.

Franklin

July 22, 2004, 3:03 AM

Vanouse's piece employed digital technology. Monet's work drew on 19th C. color theory and industrially manufactured materials. Vermeer used optics. Mantegna employed orthogonal perspective. Bosch drew on alchemy. And yet it's easy to distinguish what the artists were doing from what the technology-providers were doing in each case: the former involves an expressive element that is absent in the latter. To say that some kind of walls existed and recently came down - Dodd states the first point and implies the second - is a muddling of categories and nothing more.

Categories like art and science are useful conveniences of thinking even if they have soft edges. They allow for increasingly fine distinctions, which, again, characterizes increasing knowledge. A maximalist tendency in postmodernism values the destruction of categories: arguing against the removal of art from "lived experience," and other absurdities too numerous to mention. Dodd's statement fits in this tradition. It is anti-knowledge, and cannot be reconciled to common sense. I can't imagine it's even a useful or interesting attitude to have about art, which explains, perhaps, why he's leaving the ICA.

20.

oldpro

July 22, 2004, 3:19 AM

Sometimes it seems more like pre-conceptual, soccermom.

Obviously I am not getting through to you, Alesh, and I am not sure how to do it. Definitions are how we categorize and describe phenomena in terms of language. They are never perfect, nor need they be; they only need to be useful, to help us talk about things.

You persistently confuse the "definition" of art with opinions or judgements about the worthiness of one type of art or another. Definitions are neutral. Good art is art, bad art is art. All anything needs to be called art is that someone puts it into an art context and calls it art. Once again, you are trying to tell me what art I don't like, which I asked you not to, but you are right in this case - as far as I am concerned Duchamp's "Fountain" is bad art. But of course it is art, clearly, precisely for the reason I just gave. As art, it sucks. As a thing to piss in, it is beautifully designed. As a centerpiece of art talk since 1917, and especially in the last 50 years, it is superlative. As an object of monetary value, it is right up there. As an instrument of death, dropped on someone's head from a 10-story building, it would be ideal.

Do you see what I mean? A thing is defined by what we do with it, not how "good" it is. Usage is fluid, definitions are less so, value judgements are a separate issue. Let's keep them separate. It really will clarify things if you do.

21.

Jack

July 22, 2004, 3:27 AM

My bottom line, Franklin, is that it doesn't matter what Dodd or any other presumed authority declares, writes or preaches. Either I buy it or I don't, based purely on my own judgment, and if I don't, the supposed authority is irrelevant to me and may as well not exist. That doesn't prevent such a person from influencing others, perhaps many or even most others, which may affect the art world. However, since art for me is a personal matter that's between me and the work, the art world as such, while certainly of interest, ultimately makes little real difference.

22.

Franklin

July 22, 2004, 4:07 AM

Jack, I respect your independence of judgement. I feel the same way about other people's thinking that I don't respect, but I take pleasure in poking holes in weak arguments about art. I feel that I'm doing a service by challenging absurd assertions made in seriousness by art potentates. When someone like Dodd makes a statement like the above I like to put my ideas up against it, because I think that eventually good ideas will destroy bad ones.

23.

Denise

July 22, 2004, 4:27 AM

To be honest, I'm inclined to agree a bit more with Alesh on this one. At the same time, I think Dodd's choice of words (whether it was his intention or not) is melodramatic; they definitely imply/invoke a kind of a defeated, destructive finality with regards to the blurring of categories. I think that it's maybe words like collapse, rubble, and proclaiming that "those things don't exist anymore" that are, in part, producing the reaction that some folks are having to the quote. Obviously art, science, economics, politics, etc. still exist as discrete practices and disciplines, but I think that now there are more cross-pollenization (not sure if I spelled that right) and exchange between them. One of the best things about being an artist is the possibility of taking on multiple functions and identities in the process of making and working with art--teacher, amateur scientist, web designer, community organizer, etc.

Franklin, your mention of some postmodernists (which I think tends to get used as a very broad catchall term during many of these discussions) "arguing against the removal of art from "lived experience," and other absurdities too numerous to mention...." makes me curious about what you and others around here think about folks like Allan Kaprow, Suzanne Lacy, and Merle Laderman Ukeles? I have a hunch, but as oldpro has already pointed out, assumptions are frequently incorrect, or at least presumptuous.

24.

oldpro

July 22, 2004, 4:32 AM

Assumptions are often correct and usually presumptious

25.

Denise

July 22, 2004, 4:34 AM

Well, OK. :)

26.

beWare

July 22, 2004, 4:56 AM

"Art is what an artist does"

27.

beWare

July 22, 2004, 4:56 AM

"Art is what an artist does"

28.

beWare

July 22, 2004, 4:57 AM

"Art is what an artist does"

29.

beWare

July 22, 2004, 4:58 AM

OOPS!

30.

beWare

July 22, 2004, 4:58 AM

OOPS!

31.

Franklin

July 22, 2004, 5:17 AM

Denise - I'm not convinced that there is more cross-pollenization now than there used to be. According to David Hockney, painters and lensgrinders used to be in the same guild. Art has expressed political sentiments since the Egyptians, at least. As an example of the artist-scientist we have Leonardo; of the artist-politician, Rubens; of the artist-mystic, Fra Angelica. And yet, as you put it, "Obviously art, science, economics, politics, etc. still exist as discrete practices and disciplines." It takes an expert like Dodd to become confused about any of this.

"Postmodernism" is a catch-all term, and there's no other way to use it. My disagreement is with a maximalist application of postmodernism. (I disagree with maximalist applications of anything.) My feelings about the work of Kaprow et al. are beside the point here - the lived-experience argument concludes that art enters the realm of death and oblivion as soon as you put it in a room with white walls.

32.

alesh

July 22, 2004, 3:15 PM

I think that to the extent that we use words to communicate, our communication becomes clearer as the definitions of those words become clear. The definition of "art" is particularly interesting.

Consider that a lot of what accepted as art today would not have been 50 years ago. This means that the de facto definition of art, in the mind of both experts and people at large, has changed.

The definition Oldpro proposes, "someone puts it into an art context and calls it art" is not bad. I bet it's not what's in his dictionary. It still leaves vagueness about what "art context" means. Is it a physical space, or a mental space?

I understand Franklin's concerns about extreme postmodernism. Yet, on the other hand, those problems were pretty well addressed and put to bed sometime in the 70s or 80s. I see Dodd's comments in the context of a lot of those issues having already been settled. I bet a more nuanced version of his comments would have been more palatable.

I think that to fully asses the validity of his comment would require separating out the relationships between art and science, art and politics, etc., and looking at how those relationships have changed over time. The fact that he includes economics (a branch of science as far as I know) and culture (which overlaps 'art' in many cases) suggests that he was shooting from the hip. I would attack his sloppiness of language before the sentiment.

33.

Phil Isteen

July 22, 2004, 5:18 PM

I agree with Franklin - the distinctions between the disciplines
mentioned and art have never been clear. Never.

Picking up a rock and scratching a representation of
a deer on the cave wall was a great discovery and quite
a technological achievement for the time. It was the
state of the art...

Perhaps Dodd was just trying to say, in a very "mushy"
way, that there is a lot of crap out there ending up in
show & museums, but most can't or won't point it out.

34.

oldpro

July 22, 2004, 6:15 PM

Alesh: I like "fully asses". Maybe you can define that for us.

I'm going to give the definition thing one more shot and then quit. This is just basic semantics and common sense and if it is not going to be comprehended there is no need to go any further.

No definition is comprehensive. No definition particularlzes all instances of the thing defined. We do not even have to understand the basic substance of something to have a word for it with a definition ("God" for example). Things can change without changing the definition of the thing. 50 years ago we did not have boom boxes, but a boom box is still a radio. Cars, shoes, food, science, economics, culture, thousands of things have changed, but they retain their definitions. That art now comprehends a greater variety of objects does not change it's definition because the definitions in use never excluded those objects in the first place. Saying there are no distinctions betweem art, science, culture, economics and politics is unsupportable. If you can't recognize that, you are a sucker for mushy thinking.

My "definition" above - if you call it art it is art - is just a sloppy acceptance of realtiy. It is not a definition because it is circular. If I were to redefine art I would say that it is a class of objects and phenomena put forward for a judgement of value which exclude all criteria for judgement of value. Any decent lexicographer would go after that with hammer and tongs, but it would be interesting.

35.

Jerome du Bois

July 22, 2004, 6:47 PM

oldpro:

What you said, man. Those last two paragraphs are damn near perfect. Kudos.

JdB

36.

Oldpro

July 22, 2004, 6:50 PM

Thanks, Jerome.

37.

Jack

July 22, 2004, 6:55 PM

I agree there's little to be gained by belaboring the "what is art?" issue, since that's ultimately up to individuals to decide, and obviously there will be significant disagreement between individuals. Saying that "Art is whatever an artist makes" only raises the question of "What makes an artist?" or "Who qualifies as an artist?" and that's a circular situation. I prefer to focus on what does or does not work as art, meaning for me personally (it's my relationship, so it's my decision). If something doesn't work, I don't care who calls it what, how much it sells for, what museum it winds up in, or how many academics or other "experts" swear by it--if it doesn't work, it doesn't matter. It's really very simple.

38.

oldpro

July 22, 2004, 7:27 PM

Jack: you are right, of course, that what matters in the end is whether it works, but it is not really "up to the individual" to decide what "is" art, only what works as art. As was brough up before, I may think Duchamps "Fountain" is a piece of crap as art, but if I maintain that it is not art I will appear merely eccentric, because it has been accepted as art. This may seeem trivial, but I persist in it hoping that fellow bloggers can more clearly see the difference between definitions as established and facts as observed, and understand that calling something "art" does not confer value. It is just a name.

39.

Jack

July 22, 2004, 8:27 PM

Oldpro, we're basically in agreement, but while calling something "art" does not automatically confer value or merit, neither does it make that something art. If something can be eaten and processed somehow by the digestive system, but has no nutritional value, it is not food, and it doesn't matter who calls it so. The fact that something has been accepted as art does not, in any way, obligate me or anyone else to follow suit. Yes, that could entail appearing eccentric, or worse, but frankly, I don't care. If people paid less attention to "expert" opinion and more to their own eyes and minds, we'd be in much better shape. If nothing else, there'd be a lot less posturing, pretense, and nervous looking over one's shoulder to make sure one's not out of line.

40.

nab

July 22, 2004, 8:49 PM

Cloaca

41.

oldpro

July 22, 2004, 9:23 PM

Jack, a big AMEN to your tough approach to art. It needs it. However, I think there is food out there that satisfies your non-nutrional criteria.

Nab, appropriate comment, but its satirical intent is blunted by the fact that long ago an artist canned his shit and labelled it "artist's shit". The Tate gallery (who else?) recently paid a whole lot of money for one of thise cans (unopened, i assume - you wouldn't want to spoil the contents). And Gilbert and George recently had a very popular feces exhibit in London. The Brits, inveterate second-raters that they are, always have a slick way of taking anything to a weak but sensationalist conclusion. The Bisected Mr. Clean was a nice touch, though. Mr. Hirst should work on that idea.

42.

alesh

July 22, 2004, 9:48 PM

"If people paid less attention to 'expert' opinion and more to their own eyes and minds, we'd be in much better shape," is an old saw which I hope nobody actually believes. You are free to agree or disagree with experts, but to think that people should pay less attention to them is absurd.

People are born clean slates, and they decide what they like and dislike based on their experiences and what they have LEARNED. If you think you can assess something without having to hear what anyone else has to say about it, maybe you've decided you know everything you need to know about the world.

I, personally, want to keep learning, and I now appreciate works of art I hadn't previously, thanks to expert insight. Then again, when faced with art I don't like, my first instinct is to try to understand it, not to intelectually knock it down.

43.

oldpro

July 22, 2004, 11:41 PM

Alesh: Born a clean slate? Maybe Adam was! No one is born a clean slate. That is functionally inpossible and, if you want to invoke experts, would be contradicted by just about anyone who knows anything about genetics.

Some people have an inborn talent for art, some have an inborn talent for seeing art, some have both and others are as fullly lacking in these attributes as one who is tone deaf for music. These are not major personal deficiencies. No one has to like art or music, or literature, or baseball or red wine or have any aptitude for practicing or experiencing them.

Of course we listen to experts. But in art we cannot take the expert at face value. We listen, we look, and we see if the art works for us. If it doesn't, we either leave alone or comeback and look again. If it keeps on not working there is something lacking in us or in the expert. I have usually found it to be the latter.

44.

Jack

July 23, 2004, 2:21 AM

Oldpro:
I assume you refer to things like fast food and junk food, but there are any number of substances without any nutrient value whatsoever which can still be eaten and processed, after a fashion, by the alimentary tract AS IF they were food, even though they are NOT food--and treating them or using them as if they were does not make them so. If someone likes or chooses to eat shoe leather, shredded paper or powdered chalk, so be it, but I am not about to accept any of those things as food.

Alesh:
I put the word experts between quotation marks for a reason which I thought would be obvious, but apparently it was lost on you. We're talking about art here, not medicine or nuclear plant design. If, for instance, you feel that having an art-related PhD or being a museum director, curator or art critic automatically makes someone a bona fide authority who must be heeded, be my guest, but leave me out of it. I insist on judging for myself, and that includes judging the judges. In matters of opinion and/or taste, I have my own, thank you, and I don't need or care to use anyone else's unless I deem it reasonable, justified and beneficial to my interaction with art. The final decision or final say is always mine. As I've said already, art for me is a personal relationship between myself and the work, and no one else, expert or not, is allowed to participate in that unless I choose to allow it. If that bothers you, that's your issue, which is not my concern. How you choose to operate is entirely your business.

45.

oldpro

July 23, 2004, 2:34 AM

I dunno, Jack. I found those things very sustaining in my starving artist days.

46.

Jack

July 23, 2004, 3:07 AM

Yes, Oldpro, in the unheated garret with the broken windows and no furniture, crawling with rats and roaches, between the tuberculous old prostitute and the opium-addicted failed poet, with no hot water or electricity, always evading the landlord, and sharing a coat with three other people. Am I close?

47.

oldpro

July 23, 2004, 5:31 AM

My God, you must have been there!

48.

Hovig

July 25, 2004, 1:01 AM

Sorry I'm late to this thread. I was visiting the Saatchi Gallery.

I've never heard anyone ask "What is art?" in order that they might define art, but rather that they might restrict it. The question would be more properly phrased, "What is not art?"

As far as "lines" are concerned, they are ever-changing and personally arbitrary. (What was "science" two or three thousand years ago is almost child's play today). It helps me understand the world better when I stop trying to draw lines between complex concepts, and instead merely observe that one thing is "more" or "less" of one fundamental quality than another, e.g., more aesthetically pleasing, less scientifically rigorous, more philosophically meaningful, less socially relevant, more fashionable, less culturally universal, and so on. I prefer to see the world in terms of gradations than in binary or Manichean terms. The more fundamental the axis, the better the judgment.

This does not mean life to me is a swamp of confusion. On the contrary, I think I've become very clear about my personal beliefs. I think it's only with mental clarity that one sees the world's gradations in the first place. I too encountered the phrase "if you're too open-minded your brain will fall out" back in my exploratory college days, but now with a few more years of life under my belt, I realize it's possible to be extremely open-minded, yet still retain a strong enough sense of your self that every crazy thing that comes along doesn't cause internal confusion or self-doubt. One can still be open-minded and not jump at everything they see.

In this sense, a pickled shark is nothing more to me than a complex series of "grades" on multiple axes. At the end of the day, I can boil all these fundamental comparisons down, and decide whether the final summation puts that work into the top tiers of my respect, or not. By restraining myself from the temptation of deciding whether or not it's "art," and focusing instead on whether it's more or less of one fundamental thing or another, the decision actually becomes easier. In the case of that work, my conclusion is that it's most effective when taken as a kind of carnival poster. Some of us find that sort of thing valuable (such as, say, wealthy advertising executives), and others don't. Good. Life's better when it's complex.

49.

oldpro

July 25, 2004, 4:14 AM

Here is yet another paean to the great smug, self-satisfied, relativistic mantra of our time: down with boundries, smash the borders, out with those nasty rules, break the mold, unloose restrictions, life is too complex and interesting to pin down, everything is gradations, things are ever-changing, lines are personally arbitrary and I for one, being liberal and openminded, and able to see the deep complexity of the world, refuse to pin things down, be narrow, be elitist, be... (you fill it in; I gag on it) ...and so on and so on and so on and so on.

Doesn't anyone out there realize that this is just a massive madness-of-crowds fantasy trip? Doesn't anyone understand the difference between FACTS and DEFINITIONS? Is the world one big gray area to you people? The world is not relativistic, guys! It is chock full of real hardball defiinite stuff and if you don't "pin it down" pretty fast it will turn around and bite you on the butt!

Hovig, if you look at the shark as art, then it is ART! It is not a "complex series of grades on multiple axes" What kind of bullshit is that?

What was science 3000 years ago is STILL SCIENCE! "Child's play" or not, it is SCIENCE! Good grief!

and so on and so on and so on ....

I give up.

50.

alesh

July 26, 2004, 9:48 PM

easy there, big fella!

Clearly you feel more strongly about this then me, Oldpro, which I do not take lightly. But I wonder what you actually mean, that it will "bite [us] in the butt"?

51.

oldpro

July 26, 2004, 11:17 PM

I am just so fed up with smug PC relativism I think I lost it a little with that post. I suppose it came across a bit extreme.

I don't want to belabor particulars here but "bite us in the butt" means that instead of rationalizing reality we better recognize it or we will be punished for our dereliction. A general instance everyone now knows about and talks about is the whole terrorist problem, and I think it will take another incident like 9/11 for us to stop wallowing and commemorating and get serious with real direct action. A very narrow instance would be an example I have before here, of paying 5 million bucks for a Koons whisky bottle - the butt bite here is flushing so much money down the tubes.

I think we (I hate that "we" when it means "society". but what the hell) are spoiled rotten and waste our time yakking about stuff like gay marriage and whether one can sue for getting fat on fast food, and this is exemplified, or even symbolized, by the dreamy, woozy, inane, unworldly-academic, naked-emperor world of Postmodernist art. Art is something I know about, so I get on the blog and rant.

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