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Post #345 • August 13, 2004, 8:13 AM • 214 Comments

Elisa Turner for the Miami Herald: Light's fantastic, imagination, too: Moments more notable than the Kodak kind shine within the group show Light and Atmosphere at the Miami Art Museum.

Elisa Turner for the Miami Herald: Picasso's Visual Diary: Exhibit at the Bass Museum combines sex and art.

Gigi Lehman for the Miami Herald: Helping patients draw on their inner strength.

Alexandra Alter for the Miami Herald: Colorful greetings for a man of peace.

Omar Sommereyns for Street Weekly: First impressions: Chris Culver makes a good showing at the Chelsea Galleria's Young Talent exhibit.

Omar Sommereyns for Street Weekly: Strange brew: In The Visions of Alfredo Ceibal, native sensibilities meet magical realism.

Alfredo Triff for the Miami New Times: She Loves Bugs: Montse Guillén's experiments with insects and art.

Michael Mills for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times: More at MoA: Irvin Lippman has helped change the landmark museum.

Jason Budjinski for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times: Artbeat.

Judith Malveaux for the Sun-Sentinel: Art from the heart.

I'm really reluctant to link to stories that have morphing URLs, but here goes nothing - in Citilink, Daniel Fiorda, Party in the name of art, and Revenge of the nerds.

For those who have e-mailed regarding the storm, it looks like Miami is going to get some wind and not much more. Thanks for checking - please send your thoughts out to the people on the Gulf Coast.




August 13, 2004, 5:08 PM

I read around in ALL this stuff. I did not find any reason to regret that I don't live in Miami.



August 13, 2004, 7:26 PM

If I did not know you better, Franklin, I would hereby accuse you of deliberately finding and choosing the some of the most grotesque and inappropriate items possible for the Roundup. But then, of course, I would have to take notice that in fact here is our media, in all its glory, and this is what they report as art.

The bug-eating thing is a little far-fetched, however. I see that Triff is writing about, so I guess that makes it art, it but was not sure whether the all-purpose ART label had been hung on it. Might as well. I guess. We wouldn't want to have any thing or event have to limp through life without the ennobling designation of ART. Have any of our diligent conceptualists ever had the idea to just go around with labels that say "ART" and stick them on everything in sight? I can't believe that hasn't been done. I mean done as an "art piece", on purpose. It has already been done, figuratively.



August 13, 2004, 9:06 PM

I was just saying to a friend last night - "Art" isn't a term of honor. It's a job.



August 13, 2004, 11:03 PM

does anyone have any comments about the Griffith show at Dorsch, I'm goin to check it out tomorrow. Also is there anythong else I should check out while I'm in wynwood for second sat.



August 13, 2004, 11:04 PM

woops, i meant *anything not any thong. although i'll take those suggestions also.



August 14, 2004, 12:55 AM

Eddie, try this.


Michael Betancourt

August 14, 2004, 4:35 PM

Somehow, not surprisingly, you missed this:

IMHO article



August 14, 2004, 7:33 PM

Dr. B: As you might guess, I have several kinds of serious objection to the essay to which you posted the above link. Unfortunately this is a difficult weekend for me timewise & it is hard for me to get into it right now.

You say (not in so many words - sorry for any inaccuracy) that the "values" of pluralism have replaced the "values" of modernism. Maybe it might start something going if you would state as briefly as possible what those values are, how they operate, etc. I am not sure myself, frankly. It would be interesting to see it in more specific form, and maybe I can reply later.


Michael Betancourt

August 14, 2004, 8:43 PM

You say (not in so many words - sorry for any inaccuracy) that the "values" of pluralism have replaced the "values" of modernism. Maybe it might start something going if you would state as briefly as possible what those values are, how they operate, etc. I am not sure myself, frankly

This question may have been asked in "bad faith" but I'm going to proceed as if it was asked in all sincerity.

The answer is remedial art history reading. If you're not certain of the values of Modernism, that's fine. I'm not being paid to teach you (which is something I do get paid to do), but I'll give you a book list.

There are lots of places you can start, from the very simple to the more specifically argued and academic. You might want to start with something basic, say a survey textbook like Arnason's History of Modern Art. It doesn't do a very good job in the post-1970s period, but given its scope, it is a useful introductory text and covers the development and end game of Modernism quite well.
Then you might consider reading *all* of the following. These are sometimes difficult academic art history studies. They will give you some sense of things if you read them. These are largely concerned with the avant-garde/modernist dialectic, a concept much more familiar to Europeans than Americans.

I'm sticking to books that are (a) in English, (b) readily available and (c) reasonably inexpensive. Let me stress these are just an introduction, and each of them will point you towards much more:

Berger, The Theory of the Avant-garde
Calinescu, The Five Faces of Modernity
Crow, Modern Art in the Common Culture
Greenberg, The Collected Writings, vols. 1-4
Poggioli, Theory of the Avant-Garde
*all this is historically-oriented reading*

And these are just off the top of my head without going to get anything off the shelves. They'll start to give you some sense of what Modernism was, so when you're looking to start reading things in/about the presentyou can at least begin to see the dialogue.

Sorry I'm not being more helpful in the way you wanted, but there's a problem with your asking me to tell you what the valies of Modernism were: anything I would write, even if directly related to established, uncontrovesial historical understanding of Modernism would then be subject to attack rather than discussion, so I'm not playing that game. You need to get a basic knowledge of art history if you want to talk about art and art history. I also think this should be basic for anyone who wants to be a critic.
If you just want to say "I like x artist, and not y artist" you don't need this knowledge, but expressing preferences is not what you and others posters on this blog do, so having the basic knowledge is therefore your responsibility, not mine.

BTW: Your question (if sincere) actually is a pretty good "proof" (in the geometric sense) that art and artists in Miami are out of touch with the present.


Michael Betancourt

August 14, 2004, 8:54 PM

I was so busy answering your question I missed something significant about your comment. It is a misrepresentation of my argument: the values of Modernism lead to and evolve into pluralism even though the present is antithetical to Modernism. This is the nature of paradign shift underway in contemporary art.



August 14, 2004, 9:53 PM

I should have known I would get something belittling and insulting from you, assuming bad faith, instructing me to learn my art history and giving me a list of books.

Please do not respond witrh something hostile. it is a waste of everyone's time. If you can't or won't answer the question, just say so.


Jerome du Bois

August 14, 2004, 11:41 PM


Though we're not exaclty buddies, I feel for you here, man.

Michael "Don't Make Me Go To The Shelf" Betancourt:

I remember you; you're the one who had remind everyone of the "Dr." before your name, after routinely omitting it from your signature. And now we're buried in your erudition. Oh, I believe, Doctor Mikey -- you do have a Ph.D. -- and it shows.

Whoever pays you to teach is wasting their money.


Jerome du Bois


Michael Betancourt

August 14, 2004, 11:50 PM

This message is only for "oldpro" so please ignore if you don't hide behind that monicker. It is a measured response to the game playing I see going on here.

oldpro: clearly you need new glasses, to get your ability to read ckecked or something of that nature. It's already been shown that the emphasis is on "old." Senility setting in??? Please, actually read what I wrote for a change. If you notice, I did not assume bad faith; quite the opposite, but you do seem to need to prove your verbal prowless by telling me not to post if I won't do what you want.

You would have received silence if I had assumed bad faith, since I am busy with doing things that really matter to me. Instructing those who ask for it, then get angry when it's given are unworthy of any time at all. You clearly belong to this category. Plus, you are very quick to throw insults at people who give you what you ask for, so, whatever. you're not worth the trouble.



August 14, 2004, 11:56 PM

Dr. Mike: In the third paragraph of your MAEX essay you write:

"The meaning of the art work is more important that it form ..."

Is that a typo or does it mean something?



August 14, 2004, 11:56 PM

I didn't get angry. I insulted no one. You put your essay into play. Why won't you, for the sake ot a discussion on the blog, try to answer a straightforward question relating to it? This is the kind of thing we do here.


Jerome du Bois

August 14, 2004, 11:58 PM

Dr. Mikey:

Ignore me, please. But not oldpro, please.


Hey, oldpro, is his apoplexy causing his arthritic fingers to misspell? I'm just "ckecking." And what is "prowless?" Sounds wild.

Very much sincerely,
Jerome du Bois



August 15, 2004, 12:08 AM

Why no, Jerome, his spelling makes as much sense as the rest of it.
"ckekcing" is what they do to your bags at the airport in Ckekoslovakia.
"Prowless" is what happens to an old lion.


Michael Betancourt

August 15, 2004, 12:09 AM

oldpro: you answered it for me. You and the rest are so out of touch that you can't even participate in a real discussion, so I'm not wasting my time. You don't like the answer you got, tough. Grow up. You said you had a response, let's see that response, then maybe there'll be something to say.

I don't really expect a response, BTW, that would require more than knee-jerk baiting and then playing martyr to the choir.

(I have seen no discussion here, ever only a mutual agreement festival where anyone who disagrees gets kicked around. )

until then, whatever

catfirsh: thank you for catching the typo. I will ask Jide to correct it when he has a chance, since the MAEX is essentially community service, mistakes do get "printed."



August 15, 2004, 12:16 AM

and there is wonder why there is no discussion in the blogosphere


because art is religion! kill those who oppose you, dominate their views

you act like a fascist, you are one

the first way to silence the opposition is to be unwilling to listen to their reasons for disagreement, be unwilling to allow them to disagree, instead attacking them and accusing them of the dreaded "relativity"

that is the first sign of absolutism, of oldism

this blog reeks of the bad faith it accuses others of having

end of line



August 15, 2004, 12:17 AM

Well, Dr. B, you're the one with all the books and degrees and erudition. Scared of a little argument?



August 15, 2004, 12:20 AM

More name-calling. which one of us is the fascist, newpro?


Jerome du Bois

August 15, 2004, 1:04 AM

Dr. Mikey:

May I quote you?

until then, whatever

I was wrong. You are capable of making sense.



Jerome du Bois


Phil Isteen

August 15, 2004, 1:23 AM

One must conclude that the concepts within "remedial art history" are extremely difficult & complex, akin to "ordinary differential equations."



August 15, 2004, 4:59 AM

Jerome, I have not heard the term "dingleberry" in years. It is a marvelously specific deprecation, like "douche-bag", both of which I thought had gone out of use, and either quite applicable here.

Phil, I can't wait to start to remedy art history with Dr. B. (I assume that's what "remedial art history" is, isn't it? I'll be disappointed if it means "Art History to Make You Feel Better"). I think we will start with a remake of "Lust for Life". We will get Mel Gibson to be the "hands on" for the ear slicing scene.

What happened to newpro? I wanted to add "fascist" to my personal collection of oldpro blog epithets, and he left me in the lurch.



August 15, 2004, 6:48 AM

I was stuck at home and thought I'd look up art around town, and this site came up. I like the run-down of stories around town, but is this how you act with everyone? It makes me happy I'm in FTL and not Miami. I don't know any of you, and I don't think I want to either. I'm glad none of my artist friends act like this.



August 15, 2004, 7:21 AM

You're right, Jacki. Gets a little nasty sometimes. But we do better sometimes, too.

Glad to have your comment. Tell us what it is you don't like. It's good to have a fresh voice.



August 15, 2004, 8:02 AM

Man, I leave the room for a few hours...

Dr. Mike: Neurolinguistic Programming has as one of its assumptions that the meaning of any given communication is its response. Just something to think about. And maybe no bolds would be a good idea. And you don't really think that Oldpro was asking for 3000 pages of reading material, do you?

I think I agree with some parts of your essay, but I want to give it another read first.

People disagree on this blog often and do not receive kickings - Denise, Hovig, Phil, etc. I've noticed that the feet start flying once one commenter kicks, but other options are available to all concerned. We would all probably do better to remember that. However...

Newpro: My grandparents fled fascists. By which I mean armed bigots, not just folks whose opinions you don't like. You start pulling that term around here and I'm going to take you even less seriously than I already do, which is saying something, since you're repeating words you learned from me last week in the course of your free-verse prattling. Smarten up.

Jerome: That really wasn't nice. But I admit it. I laughed.

Oldpro: "Prowless" is what happens to an old lion. As I've noted before, modernists make better jokes.

Jacki: Franklin, here; this is my blog. This was perhaps not the best post to introduce you to Oldpro, Dr. Mike, and Jerome du Bois are some of our tougher customers around here. Normally we wait a little while before we go for eye gouges and groin strikes.

Seriously, I'm not telling anyone to do anything here, but I'd like to point out that once the rhetoric reaches a certain temperature people like Jacki become disinclined to chime in, and I'd like to hear what she has to say.


Michael Betancourt

August 15, 2004, 3:24 PM

Franklin: Anyone who wonders why I think oldpro's question was in bad faith should have their answer now.



August 15, 2004, 4:04 PM

Dr. B: If we are going to lock horns, let's do it in terms of ideas. I brought up the subject of the values held by the attitudes of Modernism and what you call Pluralism because I think values are all-important in art and because your essay brought values up. It is an interesting topic despite what you may think about my motivations. I would prefer to draw visitors like Jacki into the discussion rather than rebuff them because of its invidious tone.


Phil Isteen

August 15, 2004, 8:38 PM

Hopefully Jacki will return. This blog is always challenging and informative. At its best, it opens doors to undertanding & appreciating art - raising the bar in a community that like countless (all?) others has room to grow & learn.

At its worst, we get name calling & personal attacks. It does not have to be that way, but it will inevitably happen. It is easy to get riled up and insulted, when one is dismissed out of hand for seeming not to know enough to have an 'intelligent' conversation (that begins to get to the source of some of the animosities, more than any true dissention of ideas).

There in no substitute for logical, rational and comprehesible discussion and argument; there should be little tolerance for gobbleygook when were are confronted with it.



August 15, 2004, 9:37 PM

Well said, Phil. There are so many more readers than bloggers we should do our best to get people posting rather than just reading. Some may be intimidated because it gets rough sometimes, but I have never observed anyone with a sincere, straightforward question or opinion, no matter how eccentric, getting any kind of bad treatment here. It is the Establishment which has been getting beaten up. I enjoy a difference of opinion that can proceed within the bounds of reason and civility. I hope we can get more of that.

Besides, it was observed here before that any discussion is essentially over when the N word (if I say it we will be through; think little man with mustache) comes up, and when the F word (fascist) appeared I thought we were getting dangerously close.


Michael Betancourt

August 15, 2004, 10:09 PM

I carefully explained why the answer I posted was posted; instead of discussion, I got personal attacks, name calling, etc. I even get slandered by Jerome du Bois. And yet those calling the names expect to be taken seriously and their questions be taken in good faith.

This is a joke, right?




August 15, 2004, 10:15 PM

Dr B: Jerome was kicking me all over the lot a week or two ago. I got over it. You get over it.

Let's talk about art and ideas and put the personal stuff aside.


Jerome du Bois

August 16, 2004, 12:53 AM


Come quick, they're calling me a tough guy!


You're right; I been jumpin' salty quick lately (lately?!). I never wish to abuse your hospitality; as I've said before, I admire your patience and generosity (and your bite). I shall take deep breaths, deeeep breaths while visiting artblog . . .

Dr. Betancourt:

What bothered me about your book-list comment was the reeking academic condescension toward oldpro. Whether you read thisblog's comments regularly or irregularly, you know that oldpro, a frequent commenter, is knowledgeable, articulate, committed, and passionate about art -- not art words, but the actual physical stuff that ends up in the world. And you come along with your harrumphing hoo-hah, which Franklin has addressed: go ye and read 3,000 pages before you return to ask for any more of my well-paid wisdom. You don't get away with that when I can speak. Come on, step away from the lectern and reread your post; would you carry out your instructions, or tell the writer to put it where the sun don't shine?

Art critics should never forget that without artists, their words would be attached to nothing, signifying nothing.


This doesn't mean we're engaged or anything . . .


Jerome du Bois



August 16, 2004, 1:03 AM

aw, shucks!


Michael Betancourt

August 16, 2004, 1:58 AM

You just made my argument for oldpro acting in bad faith, yet again.



August 16, 2004, 2:49 AM

Geez, Michael, leave it alone!


Jerome du Bois

August 16, 2004, 3:12 AM


Since you don't have the courtesy to address me directly, after I saluted you with the now-obviously-undeserved honorific "Dr.," and since you try to dismiss everythng I say with one sentence, the gloves come off, you pretentious twit.

(Yeah, that was a short peace, Franklin, but this tinkerbell harshed my mellow. You know what I'm talking about, Tex.)

Shit, B, you hanging from the wrong tree. Except for Greenberg, who could write the ass off a thing even if he was an insensitive and thin-skinned jerk, your list is from hunger. (Pass that Toasted Head Cabernet, darling, will you? I've yet to reach its trademark state -- relax, B, you prolly got tenure somwheres. Me, I got freedom.)

I'll give you a relevant, specific, aesthetic argument, but, like your list, it requires some reading, and your lips might get tired. But here goes . . .

The basic argument is that any aesthetic theory -- and so, of course, any theory of human behavior -- must have its deep roots in The Modern Synthesis -- that is, evolution by natural selection, first articulated by Charles Darwin and then solidified by the serendipity of Gregor Mendel's parallel research with his peas, then the refinements by William Hamilton, John Maynard Smith, and others.

Any of this familiar to you? I didn't think so. Me neither, for so long, until I got hip to the real postmodern trip. (More Toasted Head!)

Anything else is just hand-waving or somebody's ticket to ride. Evolution by natural selection is real. Whatever else may exist -- and I myself don't deny some really strange phenomena -- this shit is fundamental. It is amazing and disheartening that still only about twenty percent of Americans, the most progressive people on the planet, believe that. But it's a fact.

They asked the Buddha who he was -- a reincarnated ancestor, an avatar, a god? -- and He answered: "I am awake." We're still catching up with him.

Here's a short list, Mista B:

Darwin's Dangerous Idea, by Daniel C. Dennett -- and then the rest of Dennett, beginning with Kinds of Minds.
A History of the Mind, by Nicholas Humphrey.
Patterns in the Mind, by Ray Jackendoff.
The Object Stares Back, by James Elkins.
The Blank Slate, by Steven Pinker, especially Chapter 20, but read it all to get up to speed.
And, just to widen the hell out of anybody's mind, George Dyson's Darwin Among The Machines, one of the greatest books of the 20th Century.

My argument is simple: any aesthetic theory which doesn't take evolution by natural selection into account is, to use Daniel Dennett's memorable word, "forlorn:" that is, alone, and without a friend.


Jerome du Bois



August 16, 2004, 4:05 AM

Jerome - I can think of a few ways to work evolution into esthetics, and it is an interesting idea, but it was not clear to me just how you were making the connection, making the bridge.



August 16, 2004, 4:37 AM

Looks like we got a case of natural selection going on right here.


Michael Betancourt

August 16, 2004, 4:58 AM

Finally, something interesting.

When there's something real, I can ignore personal insults since they only come from ignorance about who I am and what I do as an artist/theorist. Sorry, but no offense taken. :)

I agree with you that the evolution of memes via natural selection is an important and on-going process, and there is much to say about it. However, it is not equivalent to a natural environment, nor is it clear what the determining factors would be for inheritable characteristics would be, unless you really want to start with a cognitative-biological foundation instead of a materialist one (as we find in Greenberg and fellow marxist critics). But since you bring it up, what else would you suggest beyond neurological function and the issue of available physical materials/apparatus (i.e. we do not expect video in a Renaissance culture, even if we can discuss the effect of painterly motion in the same terms as contemporary movies).

In fact, I would extend your idea and suggest that there are "devices" in complex adaptive theory (John Holland's version) that slide really beautifully into cognitative models that employ quantum mechanical descriptors for brain function, i. e. the decision making process as a result of superposition decay (Hammeroff and Penrose). What is really fascinating is how these theories mirror developments in esoteric mathematics, psychology and philosophy in the twentieth century, with the pluralism of contemporary aesthetics simply being a weak version of what's been happening in the sciences for more than a century.

Some more books that I think might be of use here, too: John Holland, Hidden Order; Stuart Hammeroff and Roger Penrose, The Emporer's new Mind, and many of the articles on the Quantum Consciousness website, esp. those on optical illusions have a direct relevance to this discussion.

My own research in art historical matters works within the overlap between these physical science theoretical frameworks and the ways we can see the early avant-garde anticipating cultural developments elsewhere. All the really interesting things have been happening in empircal science for a long time and art seriously needs to catch up.


Michael Betancourt

August 16, 2004, 5:11 AM

By "cultural developments elsewhere" I mean in the physical sciences. Should have clarified that before posting.




August 16, 2004, 5:45 AM

Can anyone out there translate this? I got lost somewhere in the Land of the Screamin' Memes. How about you, Jerome? You got yourself into it. Can you dig yourself out?



August 16, 2004, 8:23 AM

And now for something completely different, though still related to one of the reviews linked above.

I finally went to see the Chuck Close show at MAM today. The work is impressive from the standpoint of craft, use of materials and technical experimentation, and it's admirable that Close is still so active despite his serious physical impairment, but I think he's overrated. I found the pieces fairly monotonous and rather inert. The more colorful ones are livelier, but it seems an artificial or synthetic liveliness. Basically, the whole thing struck me as an obsessive-compulsive technical exercise. It's earnest and committed, but it's not enough, at least not for me. I know Franklin, and no doubt others, feel very differently, but so it goes.

My trip was redeemed, however, by an unexpected bonus: a large recent ('03) painting by Sean Scully, part of another show called "Light and Atmosphere." The show was internally generated and better than what I would have expected from MAM, and the Scully was the best thing in the whole museum. It was just a grid of horizontal and vertical bands of various shades of gray, a little black, and some grayish pink, but it was luscious and alive. Far-fetched though it may sound, it made me think of Boucher. Must have been that pink.

In her Herald review of this show (see above), Elisa Turner did not mention the Scully. At around 7 x 8 feet, she could hardly have missed it, but maybe it was lost on her. Go figure.



August 16, 2004, 2:33 PM

As Jack said, echoing the old Monty Python intro, something completely different, indeed. However, it is exactly what we need more of: an informed personal take on actual art being shown in and around Miami. We probably spend more time than we should hashing over esoteric topics (me as much as anyone) and nursing our delicate egos and it is refreshing to have someone like Jack, a confessed artaholic, come in and say "here's what I saw and here's what I think".



August 16, 2004, 2:54 PM

Thanks for bringing us back to the begining Jack. There was a Scully like the one in MAM at last years Art basel Miami Beach and it was one of my personal favorites of the whole show. The one in MAM is fantastic and worth a trip back.



August 16, 2004, 3:07 PM

oldpro: I translate Mike's comments into "art itself is boring unless it gives me a reason to bring up 'philosophy'". Ancient philosphers experienced wonder as they experienced the world; today that feeling is reserved for the philosopher experiencing philosophy. It remnds me of when a cow chews its cud. It benefits only the cow.


that guy in the back row

August 16, 2004, 4:08 PM

just got back online. Seems the tender spots can still be made more tender in some of our bloggers. Good job all around. Jack, I agree the Close show which I recently saw is on the weak side. The best pieces were the chiseled out wood blocks from which he prints. That they were intended to show us his process didn't stop me from enjoying the look of them. Its funny that the best work the guy's got is not the finished product but his printing blocks. Some one should be looking over his shoulder and taking this stuff away from him when he gets somewhere. He just needs a manager with an eye.


Michael Betancourt

August 16, 2004, 4:13 PM

Thank you catfish for proving my point about this blog attempting to silence anything other than what its posters approve of of already know all about. I'm not talking philosophy btw, but hard science involved in the study of aesthetic choices. But I didn't expect anything less than your comments, so thank you.

For those who need some explanation:

a meme is in a general sense an idea that spreads; I prefer to consider memes only those ideas that can spread virally, that is, without the person who has caught this idea necessaraily knowing where its from

these ideas do evolve over time.

what I aked Jerome was simply this: beyond the physical constraints of the media employed for art and the physical constraints of our existence as biological beings, what else would he suggest as a force driving the evolution of these memes?

Evolution (in the strict sense) means inhertied characteristics carried by genes: Jerome suggests we consider applying evolution to art concepts. I asked him to suggest some inheritance-carrying aspects of these art memes, or suggest some way for adaptation to happen (the essence of evolution). And then went on to discuss the ways the physicists studying neuron function may be related to this discussion.

This is not philosophy, but an argument that links aesthetics to evolution. There are enough parallels between the punctuated equiblibrium model of evolution and Thomas Kuhn's paradigm theory to warrant some discussion.

Or will you just continue your personal attacks?

catfish: Everyone has been very busy "screaming" that I'm patronizing all of you, and then when I don't, you go on with the personal attacks simply because you don't understand (because you're not being patronized). This seems like a double standard to me, so unless you actually want to have a converstaion, (you obvioulsy can't, but Jerome seemed to want one, or was it all bluster?)...



Jerome du Bois

August 16, 2004, 8:47 PM

Dr. B:

No, no bluster here; not from me, anyway: it was the weather! I know, I know -- the gall of a Phoenician complaining about a little thunderstorm while you guys are hunkered down under hurricanes; but the lights flickered, so I shut down. I hope everybody there is okay.

I'm not arguing for applying evolution to art concepts. (I'm arguing for getting art students hip to the science.) Obviously, since evolution is valid, every artifact ever made was made under its constraints. This is the real world, even our minds.

My main point is that we are inevitably time-bound and myopic creatures, and we have to choose what to study if we want to study. I like your examples. Thomas Kuhn may be interesting to you, but he was discredited long ago. Same with Marxism; it's forlorn, so why bother basing an aesthetic theory on it? As theories they may be supple or beautiful, but they're wrong, so I set them aside. Punctuated equilibrium is part of the story; Gould wanted it to be most of the story, and he was wrong. I think Dennett demolished Penrose in Chapter 15 of Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Don't get me wrong: I like beautiful theories. I think Frank Tipler's Omega Point Theory is the most elegant I've encountered; and even though it's probably wrong, he began with first principles, real things, not just notions, and I learned a hell of a lot of basic physics by reading his book. Put another way, I'd rather wait for the Higgs boson than read any more about string / M theory.

Evolution by natural selection is now being reliably applied to the universe (Life of the Cosmos, by Lee Smolin) and also to machines, amazingly (Darwin Among the Machines, by George Dyson). It simple works at all scales.

Two more examples and then I'm done. Frank R. Wilson's sadly overlooked classic The Hand (talk about your basic artist's tool!) should be required reading for art students. And for prospective theorists: Leo Steinberg's peerless book on the sexuality of Christ, because, as he emphasized, he did not begin with any axe to grind; he was simply confronted with hundreds, and then thousands, of these images. He started from what was there, in the world, not in him.

I lied: one more example. The targeted-MRI experiments being conducted by Joshua Greene and others at Princeton, when applied to art, should literally illuminate our brains about aesthetics. (You can read about them at the end of another wonderful book, Carl Zimmer's Soul Made Flesh.)

I sound like such a nerd, but so be it.


Jerome du Bois



August 16, 2004, 10:06 PM

Mike wrote: "I'm not talking philosophy btw, but hard science involved in the study of aesthetic choices."

How does a hard scientist measure aesthetic choice? By the inch? By the pound? By the erg? (Measuring is what differentiates hard science from the rest, now that we are no longer talking philosophy, or even "soft" science.)


Michael Betancourt

August 16, 2004, 10:49 PM

catfish: Jerome answered your question with his last example.

Jerome, you're no more of a nerd than I am I guess, since I agree with you 100% that artists need to know science, but , conversely, scientists need to know art too. Some of my best experiences have been talking art with quantum physicists since they're often open to things in ways that arts-people aren't and don't seem to have the same preconceptions, (and generally ask much more interesting questions IMHO).

But it is useful to remember that even discredited ideas won't entirely go away. After all Bohm was very interested in alchemy, and there are strange parallels between some superficial aspects of both; so, the past never entirely goes away (that's evolution).



aesthetics teach

August 16, 2004, 10:54 PM

After all this discussion around aesthetics can the question of beauty be dissected or validated in any other way than by the religion of science? Can it be validated based on an internal model, intuition?

Is it is easier to speak of symbols for things than of the things themselves?



August 16, 2004, 11:50 PM

Thanks for asking, Asthetics Teach. Art is not validated. It is experienced by each of us, and we each decide what we think of the experience.



August 17, 2004, 12:08 AM

Old pro,

Sorry, I may have phrased that akwardly, I was asking about beauty (not art per se)
our opinion,(what we each decide what we think of the experience) i posit is the true validation. Sophistication of that validation, or a subsequent questioning of what initially moved us can serve to enrich our experience, It should not be seen however as a way to make our original sentiment acquiesce to "validated" or accepted academic paradigms, (this is more akin to tribalism).



August 17, 2004, 12:29 AM

Teach: Basically I agree, whether it is art or beauty, with the obvious qualification that if it is art it is a specifiable entity we are looking at, and if it is "beauty" it is a secondary characteristic which depends on prior experience.

I dislike the word "valid" in connection to art because it has cultural overtones of "official" acceptance, or, as I said once before on these pages, it sounds like a ticket with a stamp on it.

You cannot "sophisticate" a "validation", but, unfortunately, you can certainly question your "original sentiment" according to "academic paradigms" and any number of other feeling killers. People do that all the time. it could be said to be "tribalism", I suppose. It is the greatest enemy of art.


Jerome du Bois

August 17, 2004, 12:51 AM


This is the charm and wisdom of Franklin's blog. His light touch is like a master governor, in the ancient sense of the rudderman. He gave you and me room, and I find out we have a lot more in common than I originally thought. And I did jump salty. And I apologize. And I take back what I said about your teaching: it was precipitious and ignorant of me. Evolution works at all levels, even in irascible fiftysomethings.

Oh, and another good book -- I'm sure you know it, this is for the overhearers, if there be any -- even though it's a little pop, Art & Physics by Leonard Shlain has some amazing aesthetic anticipations of scientific discoveries.

Moving on,

Jerome du Bois



August 17, 2004, 1:12 AM

Mike: I asked a question about something specific, "aesthetic choice", a phrase taken directly from you. Jerome referred to MRI experiments without any specific reference, except "when" they are applied to art (have they been applied?) will "illuminate our brains". He didn't address the issue of measurement, nor should he, since I had not raised it yet.

Can you shed ANY light on how aesthetic choice can be measured as a "hard sceintist" measures things? Or Jerome, for that matter. I'm simply interested in how such a thing could be done. Or at least, how someone might think it could be done. So far, you have not been forthcoming.


Michael Betancourt

August 17, 2004, 1:33 AM

Questions of beauty

Catfish, this may help answer your question.

Empirical models for modern science require questions that can be specifically answered through the double blind experiment--tests where neither experimentor nor subject know which examples are "control" and which are tests. Usually this kind of research falls into one of two categories: large-scale statistical analysis of stated prefereneces by test subjects, and quantifiable response tests. A. Michael Noll did a perference study of Mondrian and computer-generated mondrian-like images, with the results acting to guide teh computer to make "better" images. This was in the 1960s, but it has relevance that you'll see in a moment.

Psychology has been doing these tests since the MRI became available in the 70s, initially through examinations of epileptics who have undergone the split brain procedure that severs the nerve connections between left and right hemispheres. All of these studies fall into categories of perception and cognition, but when you look at what they're testing, it is often more properly call aesthetic observations.

That's all old research at this point.

The contemporary studies of beauty that I'm most familiar with (and there are lots of others) work with the statistical approach tied to computer imaging technology originally developed by artist Nancy Burson in the late 1970s. What these studies do is try to produce an "ideal" human face (for example) and then extrapolate from that that to arrive at some constraints for what we believe to be beautiful, at least in faces (and these are true for both male and female). The book The Evolution of Allure details some of these studies. But they periodically get some press coverage, usually when something hits print in Nature of one of the other journals. Since the rise of the internet, these studies have improved their sample dramatically, with only minor variations between different cultures.
Mostly the determining factors for physical human beauty, according to the studies I'm most familiar with, relate to reproductive fitness: the ways the body displays itself as being healthy and in good physical condition (lack of accidnets, etc.). It makes looking at fashion models, for example, a really strange experience since they exaggerate some of these characteristics, often at the expense of others.

There's also an art historian (whose name escapes me at the moment) who argues that the canonical ideal body has actually shaped human evolution over the past 3-4,000 years, and he has statistical data to back up his claims based on comparing the physical bodies in the archaeological record over this period of time; i.e. whether we like it or not we're engaged ina long-term eugenic project that actually spans several civilizations' rise and fall.

I know this doesn't help answer the question of what makes a painting beautiful, but the research into that and other issues like creativity is happening. Largely this is a matter of finding a way to reduce the issue to a set of criteria that can then be isolated and tested. Somewhere I have some bookmarks pointing to this research, so I'll post them later if I haven't erased those files.




August 17, 2004, 1:56 AM

In other words catfish, a scientist measures esthetic choice by asking people what they like. This is not a measure of good or bad, of esthetic value, it is a measure of what people like. It does not need a 500 word answer, and I have a feeling it is not what you were looking for,



August 17, 2004, 2:08 AM

MIke: interesting stuff, for sure. What I have read about this sort of "beauty" is that the measurement scale is based upon what very young children prefer to look at and/or respond positively to. And the evidence supports what they like to look at in another person's face is "averageness". That is, when a compouter is used to composite 16 faces into one, that is preferred over any of those so composited. And, to a certain extent, a composite of 32 faces is preferred to a composite of 16. It suggests that when it comes to looking at faces, it is not a result of cultural training, but somehow "hard wired".

I've also read about the fit for reproduction bit, but it always strikes me as an intrepretation. Ultimately, I can't see why someone with "strong" features is any more able to reproduce than someone without them. Nor can I buy, for instance, that full lips are a sign of high estrogen/testosterone levels, inasmuch as I have known lots of people with intense sex drives and thin lips. And they were damn successful breeders to.

But that aside, these studies make it clear that "looking behavior" is influenced by intrinsic factors as much as or more than learned ones.

But I don't think they demonstrate that the beauty I find in art is objective in a like manner, much less that it proceeds in "such and such a pattern". That goes back to my original question for you: How do you measure, how do you model, "aesthetic choice" ... presuming we are talking about what goes on in museums and similar experiences. As you say, the "ideal face" stuff does not help much with paintings because science is always specific. Saying that research is going on does not establish that the research will succeed, either.

I'm inclined to think that the looking behavior of three month old infants would not reveal much about the difference between Rembrandt and Warhol. I also can't place much hope in studies of epileptics who have had brain surgery. Almost by definition, they are a separate class - not inhuman, but not the right class to use if you are trying to establish something about typical humans with the hope of establishing a physical basis in the brain.

In any case you are quite right that this is "a matter of finding a way to reduce the issue to a set of criteria than can then be isolated and tested." What are they?


Jerome du Bois

August 17, 2004, 2:14 AM


I suppose we have strayed far from the roundup, but this is better than talking about eating bugs -- not that there's anything wrong with that! Or is there? That's the kind of question that Joshua Greene and his colleagues are asking MRI-hooked-up people. Long lists of creepy questions that Stanley Milgram explored back in the Sixties, but without all the Hollywood trappings and dials and fake screams. They simply ask people questions that have to do with morality, and see what parts of the brain light up. Then they compile these images. They're mapping the brain.

They're not showing people art yet, but that's what I was referring to above. And I don't expect big answers. There is no once-for-all definition of beauty, and who the hell would want it anyway? Such a search for absolute, definite answers has been the bane of humanity. We're still working all of it out.


Jerome du Bois

Oh, and M, how about an acknowledgement of my apology? I buried the hatchet, sure, but I never bury it deep, because I always need it again.



August 17, 2004, 2:36 AM

oldpro: You have basically got me right. Scientists (not really rigorous enough to be labeled "hard") measured looking behaviors to acquire the most objective data, and asked questions for even less rigorous data.

But, I am willing to entertain the idea that humans are no more "spiritiual" than a lump of coal, just more complex. So, what is the model, what is the method of measuring, of our more complex functioning? If dropped from a helicopter a human will fall with approximately the same rate of acceleration as that of a cow, and can be so measured. But perhaps all this aesthetic stuff is subject to those same measurement techniques. I'm simply asking: What are they?

A hard nosed philosopher could chime in and and say, if you make the materialistic assumptions science always makes (and must make), then your conclusion will be limited by those assumptions and thus frame whatever reality it describes as a materialistic phenomenon that can be measured and quantified.

But I'm willing to set such criticism aside and let Mike just show how this great study, biased or otherwise, can be undertaken. It would be interesting.

That willingly taken exception aside, experience tells me that the more you subject values to such studies, the less you confront value per se, and the more you simply start putting statistics on categories of human behavior, detached from whatever value the behavior is about. Such studies are hardly in the same category of rigor as the ones that, for example, showed light rays are affected by strong gravitational fields. But they are still called science in the vulgar sense so what the heck.

Take the coming election. It is much easier to study voter behavior than it is to explain the values that are supposedly at stake, or even establish that any values whatsoever are at stake.

I'm wordy tonight. I'm happy to have Mike respond with something more than a reading list. Let's see what he has to say.



August 17, 2004, 2:49 AM

Jerome wrote: "There is no once-for-all definition of beauty, and who the hell would want it anyway?"

Great statement, Jerome. But the researchers need to come up with something more definitive than what you describe if we are to believe such studies will yield anything about morality. Of special interest to me is the fact morality is generally more evocative of emotion than art. Many introduce moral issues artifically into art in order to pump its emotional interest among those without much aesthetic response, I think.

So, let them start showing Warhol and Rembrandt and we shall see if the brains lite up differently, if at all. More interesting would be to show a lesser artist than Rembrandt who used the same subject matter.


Michael Betancourt

August 17, 2004, 6:36 AM

This discussion is starting to resemble the two cultures debate about art and science, an argument that has always seemed to me to come from misunderstanding of what parties on both sides of the debate are doing as they go about their activities.


I didn't realize we were talking morality; I thought we were talking about art and aesthetic preference. I have never been willing to equate the two.

Everyone will call their perference the "good." But good aesthetics=/=good morality, just as being rich does not demonstrate moral supeiority, even though both these equations have been used at various times to justify the oppression of others who have differing beliefs.

The study with children you mention happened at the very beginning of this kind of research, back in the 1960s and 70s. Much more complex, better studies have been done since then, (and I've already told you where you can go look them up in detail if you so desire.) What's happening with contemporary science shows that these things are not entirely "hard wired" but some complex interaction between innate tendency (like the ability to see faces, even when they aren't there such as pioneered in gestalt research) interacting with experience and learned behaviors.

The averaging faces is also old science. New studies allow people to choose betwen a series of possible faces, with their selections gradually altering the results. To add some experimental validity to this (to compensate for the averaging issue) randomly altered characteristics are also thrown in. The software resembles artificial life programs more than what you describe.

As for your question about how do we model this, that's something for further research, in the future. There are many much more basic issues to explore before those issues can be approached. I told you where some of the research is at the moment, Jerome told you about some of the other work. Since I am not personally doing this research, but simply an informed on-looker, all I can say is these questions are clearly on the horizon, but we're not there yet.


I take issue with this claim: "a scientist measures esthetic choice by asking people what they like. This is not a measure of good or bad, of esthetic value, it is a measure of what people like." Issues of good and bad are issues of what people like, and how they respond to those likes. I would say that the claim of aesthetic value is nothing more than what people like, and have liked for a variety of reasons over a period of time. This means it can be quantified and tested.

If I read you correctly, you consistently want there to be some kind of "higher power" determining (I guess for all time, although I'm not positive you'd say it) what is good and what is not, since anything that suggests otherwise you derisively call relativist.


Michael Betancourt

August 17, 2004, 6:39 AM


I got so busy answering catfish that I didn't say how much I do appreciate the appology. They don't happen often and when they do, they deserve to be noticed.
Sorry about that, it was really unintentional.



August 17, 2004, 1:36 PM

What people like and esthetic value are not necessarily the same thing.



August 17, 2004, 3:26 PM

Dr B: Way back in the beginning of this blog I asked you, based on a reading of your essay, if you would say what were the "values" of Pluralism which had, in your estimation, replaced the "values" of Modernism. Subsequestly things went haywire and the question was lost in the shuffle.

It now appears, from what you just wrote, although it is by no means clear, that you believe that value in art is equivalent to "what people like", and can be so measured. Is this the case?

I don't mind having this discussion with you, but the kind of reaction I have gotten before has made it impossible.


that guy in the back row

August 17, 2004, 3:26 PM

agreed beWare, they are not the same thing. Who ever proposed this and is trying in vain to prove it is wasting their time. What people like plays out over time in grocery/department stores, what has aesthetic value can only be recognized by someone with taste. Taste unfortunately can't be purchased as a Ph.D. or other sanctioned diploma can, but can only be acquired by looking at good art.


Michael Betancourt

August 17, 2004, 3:45 PM

back row: That's a circular argument. They tend to roll away. If you don't see it, your logical skills are so weak as to make discussion impossible: recognizing good art requires that it have already been recognized.

oldpro: I guess my answer to this was lost in the shuffle too, your statement "This discussion is starting to resemble the two cultures debate about art and science, an argument that has always seemed to me to come from misunderstanding of what parties on both sides of the debate are doing as they go about their activities." is an incorrect description of what I said. The avant-garde (and to a lesser extent Modernism), from the very beginning, contains the seed of the pluralist present. It's one of evolution where the pluralist views grow from the modernist ones, but end up denying them because the modernist ones (views, like your views, that) require an asbolute set of values and a clear definition of art. Because art history does show that what is good and bad in art and the criteria for them do change over time, whether you like it or not, these values are not absolutes.

I personally can't speak for people generally, only for myself, but I do tend to like those things I value in art. Agreement with my personal taste is neither required nor important to me.
Are you saying you don't like the things you value in art?



August 17, 2004, 4:21 PM

Mike: Jerome wrote "They simply ask people questions that have to do with morality, and see what parts of the brain light up", bringing morality into the discussion, not you.

This interests me because morality triggers emotions which, I suspect, are what is lighting up these pictures. I have noted that many people feel left cold when the art they look at does not have an obvious, easy to get, ordinary emotional component, often sentimental, or avant-garde sentimental. The bug eater in the beginning of this thread is doing what I call avant-garde sentimental.

So if Jerome's referenced MRI group ever moves into art, presenting the same subject matter by artists of different accomplishment would be an interesting study.

Myself, I've noticed that very good art that presents an emotional subject often gets a more intense emotional reaction from most viewers, than not so hot art presenting the same thing.

But, in agreement with those who distinguish between what the majority "likes" and what's good, as young art emerges those who can't get its point as art ignore it unless it provides a quick emotional hit. I'm not talking about the feeling I associate with the aesthetic here, I'm talking about tear jerking, whether vulgar or sophisticated. This is not a put down of tear jerking, either. I like a few jerked from me every once in a while. But when I'm onto something very real, the burn I get is so detached it feels cool. That can be a source of tears too, but not the jerked variety.



August 17, 2004, 4:41 PM

Mike: when you quote oldpro you appear to be quoting yourself, one of those I-forgot-what-I-had-on-the-clipboard episodes?

About what art history proves: the vast majority of art regarded as important by art history remains so. Interpretations of it change, which suggests that interpretations (call them criteria if you like) are not what is durable about our experience of art. Only judgments endure.

True, a few judgments change, El Greco, for instance. Even then, once he was put back into the fold, the regard for him has remained stable.

The point is some things are objectively good. There is no good reason to trump this assertion up include "the absolute", "a higher power", or "perfection". None of us know much, if anything, about such things. This ignorance does not make a case for anything, including relativism.



August 17, 2004, 5:24 PM

Dr B: I don't know where that quote came from. I didn't make it.

As I said before, you are under no obligation to answer my question, but it seemed from your essay that this is a question you would be particularly interested in. You made a number of statements relating to the question in your recent reply, but you made no attempt to answer the question, simply saying that you had answered it before and that pluralist views grew from modernist views, which would also be interesting to hear explained. Also it would be interesting to know what you mean by good and bad "changing over time" and what, in art, "criteria" are. These are all big questions in esthetics and it is bewildering to have them tossed about without some idea if what you mean by them.

As for your final question - do I like the things I value in art - well, of course I do.


Michael Betancourt

August 17, 2004, 5:55 PM

This is bizarre, because that's not the quote I posted. That is a quote of something I said, but it's not the text I posted originally. So I'm as confused as anyone what it's doing there.

What I quoted was: "Way back in the beginning of this blog I asked you, based on a reading of your essay, if you would say what were the "values" of Pluralism which had, in your estimation, replaced the "values" of Modernism." When i checked my post, it was there, I come back now, it's changed. ???? I don't know, but hopefully my "correction" will stay in place.

Change in time: the art regarded as good in say, 1890 does not resemble what we now regard as the good art from that year. The values for what was good changed in the interim with a consequent revaluing of the work. At one time, any art that didn't venerate God as considered not only bad, but could get you in serious trouble, we no longer think that way either.

Catfish says: "True, a few judgments change, El Greco, for instance. Even then, once he was put back into the fold, the regard for him has remained stable."

The stability of El Greco comes not from eternal values, but from a consistent, dominant view of art values that has been in place for a while now. It dominance does not make it universally always true.
For example, Newton's model of the universe was considered true and was dominant for a long time, but it was not any more true than Einstein's (for example) since both are regarded as being wrong in basic ways today, and the current models will change too. Art is no different, even if people believe it is.

"Criteria" doesn't mean anything different in this context than it ususally does. I'm not stating the criteria, only that they exist. Much of aesthetics is spent arguing what the criteria are, with different philosophies presenting different sets. (Only a few theories claim there are none, but that claim is easily disproven logically.) Interpretations are not equivalent to criteria, they are the application of them.

oldpro: If I like the things I value in art, and you do to, then it is likely that other people will, too. This means that the scientific statistical method for study may not be as far off the mark as you suggest, quite the contrary. catfish makes a good observation about the objects of study in the MRI experiments, but like most science, the important things are in the actual details of the experiment and since none of us are familiar with this study in the ways those conducting it are, we're not qualified to criticize or defend it.



August 17, 2004, 7:30 PM

It is true to say that what was valued in 1890 is different from what is valued today, if we are considering the consensus of opinion. This is by way of being quantifiable. However, it does not necessarily mean that "values changed", only that in time more people valued certain work more or less over time. To borrow from your science example, for example, Einstein's is regarded as "more true", more advanced, than Newton's not because the aims and values of science changed but because they were applied continuously and newer and "truer" explanations were made. This is how science proceeds. (This is not a comparison of science and art, only one of change through the application of constant values vs. "changing values")

As a practical matter, although art has changed, and ways to make art have changed, the way we evaluate art has not changed very much, if at all. the kinds of changes we see in the estimation of art between 1890, the changes in 'the consensus", have come about through an accumulation of opinion based on choices made in the absence of specific criteria, because art, uniquely, is evaluated in the absence of criteria. This is how the consensus is formed. You say that the claim that there are no criteria (I'm talking about criteria that work for the evaluation of art) is easily disproved. I disagree. Would you be kind enough to easily disprove it for me?



August 17, 2004, 7:33 PM

Sorry, I meant "from" 1890, not "between" 1890


that guy in the back row

August 17, 2004, 11:52 PM

Dr. B says: " recognizing good art requires that it have already been recognized."

not necessarily so. As a photographer I know a good photo when I plug in my camera and upload the shots. I differentiate these from the not so hot shots which end up being deleted. In other words I recognize good art by looking at it. Not because someone recognized what was in my camera as great art. How do you recognize art?


Michael Betancourt

August 18, 2004, 4:25 AM

This is much longer than I'd like, but its also a really compelx issue and I'm trying to be clear and careful in my answer.

It's funny how things converge. There are now two questions in front of me that I think need to be addressed in the same way, since they are really, underneath it all, the same question: criteria for art, yes or not?

It's easy to make the claim that there are no criteria, but I will use backrow's example to try and show a disproof for this claim. Here's one way of looking at this, and there are others, but the generally lead to the same point: there are criteria, they are learned (consciously or not), they can be quantified with enough effort, and they change over time, often depending on context and issues independent of "pure" aesthetics (raising the question if such a thing can exist outside of theory). This situation leads to the conclusion that value judgements and questions of the definition of art are linked at a very basic level.

That's it in a nutshell, the rest is expansion and commentary.

Ok, here's the argument in schematic form, and it's not original to me:

First the assumptions, that we learn continuously, even when we don't realize we're doing this. Backrow's claim that looking at "good art" makes separating other examples of "good art" from bad possible. (This is circular, the explanation of that follows.) What happens is the viewer making this determination learns to identify the criteria for "good" by becoming familiar with established examples of "good." The kinds of psychological tests that employ sequences of geometric shapes and the testee must select from an array of possibles the next element of the series tests for this kind of visual ability. The criteria for these selections may be non-verbal, but they do exist; in the case of art they are complex rather than simple, but human intelligence is generally complex and some people are better at making these relationships explicit than others, those people in the arts have a "good eye."

That's one criteria argument. Here's another, based in historiography:

Now then, the problem posed by avant-garde work and how that problem leads logically to the contemporary pluralism I described in my column. (Again, this is not a controversial account of the past 150s years.)

It works like this: one of the effects of the avant-garde is its disruption of established norms through the presentation of anamalous objects that directly address our preconceptions about art (this is not the only thing avant-garde work does, but it is a common characteristic). These objects, if they are assimilated into our conception of art open up wider and wider definitions for art as a cultural practice aside any questions of quality (in fact much avant-garde art demands new definitions for quality) the cumulative effects of this process is a rejection of the values of Modernism and the avant-garde as well since both require a stable frame of reference for their actions to happen.
[The modernist demand of "art into life" closely approximates this dispersal of reference point; this is a political position fostered (initially rhetorically) as a distinction between the Modernist's position, and the Salon's autonomous aesthetics that happened in a sphere distinct from life. The Flaneur and Dandy are the initial figures of this action.]

The question of values is implicit in this history: the exclusion of early Modernism and avant-garde work from the Salon (and thus from being considered art) was because the work in question challenged the status quo. The Salon de Refusees was created not as recognition of aesthetic merit, but as a method for the Emp. Napoleon to break the political dominance of Ecole that controlled the Salon (well documented fact, not well known) the rejected artists provided him a tool to do that. The conflict was over the issue of quality of the work rejected (the Salon said it was bad; for complex reasons we now believe the Salon was incorrect).

The Salon had very specific criteria for making their selections and rejections, which were only partially political. The alternative set(s) that formalized as the Salon de Refusees, and ultimately as the other salons and later as movements also all had specific criteria for their inclusions and exclusions. Whether they are formally announced or not is irrelevant since they can be deduced from a sampling of any group of works in question. Oldprd's claim that "art, uniquely, is evaluated in the absence of criteria" is the modernist position that emerged from this historical reality and it is what leads to the contemporary pluralism.

Is this making sense? I know its history you already know, but my point is the development that this historical position authorized and fostered.

A logical consequence of this claim (however false as I've tried to show in summary form) is the abandonment of the concept of "good" because "good" requires criteria independent of the immanent object., derived from previous encounters with objects of like class that have already been declared to be "good," thus paradoxing this value.

The "solution" adopted by aesthetics in response to this situation is not relativist, but contingent on context: shifting context shifts the meaning of the worh, forcing a shift in its evaluation as "good or bad." A shift in context means a shift in criteria, with a resulting shift in value.

I know this all shounds like splitting hairs, but that is the central problematic of contemporary art; this is why "good and bad" have fallen out of favor among many people now.

Now the cirularity: the decision of "good art" in your example requires that "good art" have already come into existence; for someone taking a picture this may not be a problem, but within the framework of logical argument it is: at some point there must be a prior example to all others, and if that example is "good" then it too requires a prior case to identify this "good"-making quality.
In traditional aesthetics, the ultimate reference for this "good"-making quality is God (and the light was good). Thus you get the reference to higher power, even if you don't want it, just as mentioning the N-word ends the discussion even if inappropriately.

This is the distinction between practice, the making of the photo, and theory, the decisions about why certain choices get made--i.e. the meaning and relationship between the present and the past.

Couple of notes to all this: I have outlined one possible version of how the contemporary could arise, and there are other possible narratives. Understanding this situation is a different issue than considering it "good" or "bad." I have not been passing judgement on it, nor arguing that you should accept it as one or the other. I am trying to suggest that looking at the contemporary with Modernist (or modernist) eyes means a rejection of the paradox that has produced the contemporary, rather than an attempt to resolve it, which is one way of understanding the contingent aesthetics of the present.



Michael Betancourt

August 18, 2004, 4:40 AM

How do I recognize art?
Speaking as an artist I try not to, because making things that look like art is really easy, but making something that is art, but challenges that recognition is much harder and more interesting to me mostly because its so easy to follow established forms rather than trying to invent alternatives. But that's me, and my interests are deeply experimental instead of traditional.
Does this mean I make "good art"? I don't worry about that, and instead focus on making my next one better than the previous, which is a different kind of "good" than what I mean by "good" art (and I think most other people too).


(The URL above links my portfolio instead of my blog if you're at all curious)



August 18, 2004, 5:26 AM

First: You have only proven that people learn how to make differentiations of value and make them, not that there are criteria. A criterial is a standard or test. To say there are criteria for determining value that is nonspeciafiable is contradictory. if they are non specifiable they are not criteria. In fact, "they" do not exist in any form whatsoever.

Second: Inasmuch as criteria can change according to circumstances, as you have stated often, and said here with the "shift in context, shift in value" etc., criteria themselves are useless anyway. It is just a matter of conditioned preference, or, as was discussed before, fashion. However this is not borne out by historical evidence.

Third: does art do anything for you emotionally? Do you get any sharge from it?

Modernism created Pluralism because of its insistence on invention, which led naturally to many forms. This was abetted by the growth of the post-war art market which needed to rationalize the process in order to have something to sell, and by the growth in post-war art academia in order to have something to talk about.

I would like to carry this on but I wish your answers could be more succinct.



August 18, 2004, 5:37 AM

oldpro said: "... the growth in post-war art academia in order to have something to talk about" - an original, provoking, to the point statement if I've ever read one.


that guy in the back row

August 18, 2004, 5:56 AM

My old philosophy of science teacher at Yale always said to us when he lectured: "Beware of the ad-hoc theory that is more complex than it needs to be. Always seek the eloquent answers." That was thirty odd years ago but it couldn't be more true today.



August 18, 2004, 6:09 AM

Michael, thank you for all of that. It's not much different than what I've been saying about the self-criticism of modernism turning to the wider culture of art-making and generating what we call postmodernism.

Let me suggest another possibility - that the good eye is not acquired, but hard-wired into human consciousness. I believe that pattern-recognition abilities - the ability to percieve analogous but different pitches at frequencies of n and 2n, for example - provided massive evolutionary advantage for us. We have trouble picking apart the art experience because we have trouble picking apart the experience of consciousness. The biologists are probably onto something, and if consciousness is purely a biological event (which I doubt) they may finally be able to describe what happens when we look at art once and for all.

The notion that our ability to percieve harmony and beauty is innate to human function has been explored in a fascinating book by Frederick Turner entitled Beauty: The Value of Values. (Not just human function; he claims that flowers reflect the aesthetic preferences of bees.)

That brings up the question of whether the repudiation of beauty is a worthwhile project. What you're describing (...making something that is art, but challenges that recognition is much harder and more interesting to me mostly because its so easy to follow established forms rather than trying to invent alternatives) is a consummately postmodernist exercise, and more power to you. I find it lacking because if art is a category of objects, your claim for it as art could in theory be applied to any old thing. I can't see how you might fail.

In fact, artists less interesting than yourself have come to rely on this ploy as a surefire mechanism to generate success, if you can call it that. Insisting that art and harmony ought to have some connection smashes up against pomo, but it only smashes up against pomo. Those evaluations about good and bad shift exactly as you describe, I think, but if the implied conclusion is that those values are infinitely shift-able, then I disagree, not with your narrative, but with the rationale for generating a lot of the art we have today. (We don't make that claim for any other sensual pursuit - cooking, for instance.) Some component of that experience is stable. This is why it's possible - rude, but possible - for me to say that people who don't have access to the stable component of that experience don't see art. (I'm not saying that you're one of them.)

More to the point, that's why it's possible for me to claim that art that doesn't try to or cannot access that stable component may be bad, even if that violates the philosophical presuppositions of the work. I'm not going to try to get on the same page as such work because the page has a big hole in it, insofar as I can't make it match up with my experience of not just art, but just about everything.


Michael Betancourt

August 18, 2004, 4:01 PM

Franklin: Your comments about biology are related to my earlier (and apparenly not well-understood) comments about neuron fucntion, quantum models for consciousness, etc.

Infinite regression, except in mathematic objects like fractals for example, tend to make me suspicious there is some deep-seated flaw in the claim, or some hidden variable that is making the appearance of the infinite happen. I've looked at the Turner book, although I don't know it very well. But I would say that if this is actually the case, the "hard-wired perceptions" mean it is a reason to discount it as an epiphenomenon of no more consequence than the appearance of motion in a motion picture: an innate potential of working that is common to many pieces, but not a requirement (as Le Jetee by Chris Marker, a movie composed of still images, demonstrates eloquently).

oldpro: First, I'm not going to argue semantics of "criteria" with you, since that is essentially what your claim seems to have become.

Second, which historical evidence? I do not know what history you're talking about, so please tell me because I would like to know it. Feel free to just point me to a book or books with it, since I read fluidly, I have no problem with 3,000 pages of reading (sounds like a nice weekend actually).

Third, of course. What would have made you think otherwise?

Fourth, As I said before, that is a complex issue that's been argued by people at great length and my response was, at best, a rude summary of their thoughts. Discussing this in this way is probably not the best method, but it is the one in use. I'm not any happier with that long piece than anyone else, and I think I said so before.

If what you say about pluralism were a correct history of pluralism, I would expect it to emerge in the 1950s, not the mid-to-late-1970s, 25-30 years later. A (better alternative argument than marketing might connect it to early Feminism, at least it would fit the chronology.) This fact implies there is some error here.




August 18, 2004, 5:32 PM

Dr. B: You said there were criteria, I said there were no criteria, so you say you are not going to argue semantics. This is not an answer; it is an evasion. I have very specifically, several times on this blog, stated that my position is that art is the one thing we have (although I am not positive about its complete singularity) where judgments - ultimate judgments, judgments of intuition which form the basis for the "consensus", judgments which are coincidental to the pleasure derived from art - are made without criteria. You stated that this position is easily disproved. I invited you to disprove it. You gave me examples that showed that people learn to make judgments and, apparently, "internalize criteria", and other examples that show that people have actually used criteria to judge art in the past, none of which anyone could disagree with and all of which avoid the point. (Predilections are not criteria; in fact, one of the more delightful qualities of esthetic apprehension is surprise). None of this disproved my position that criteria do not operate in the apprehension of art, art as such. This is hardly "semantics". If you cannot characterize the criteria in any way you cede the argument.

The historical evidence I refer to which seems to contradict the position that the estimation of art is completely fluid and dependent on the winds of opinion is the consensus, not some book. I think in some ways the consensus is a cop-out, but there it is. We all know about it. I do not spend my weekend reading 3000 pages of esthetics, and for the sake of the readers of the blog I think it is better if we put our evidence down right here, in black and white, keep it simple and do not refer to any other authority but our own words. If authorities are to be used, let's summarize the argument for the reader. The best argument is short and clear and stands right there on the page.

You say you would have expected Pluralism to have emerged in the 50s; I would say that it was in full force in the 50s, one example being the stylistic disparity of the Abstract Expressionists, which had never happened in any art movement before. Pluralism seems to have been pretty well along by the time Dada and Surrealism came along, for that matter. My very succinct statement about the development of Pluralism from Modernism can be easily traced simply by examining what happened.

Finally (this is getting lengthy; sorry) you say you get a charge out of art, that you enjoy it, get an emotional reaction. Do you get more of this out of some art than other art?


Michael Betancourt

August 18, 2004, 8:57 PM

Sorry, I've said before I'm not interesting in talking about my (or anyone else's) personal preferences.

As to disproving it, I provided an argument to which you responded that I wasn't talking about criteria. At this point I don't know what you mean by "criteria." I defined my use earlier, if you agree with that use, then your claim is incorrect. If you disagree with that use, you're arguing semantics; so which is it?

I think it is a matter of semantics since you apparently want some definition of criteria that I'm unaware of anyone using before. Why don't you tell me what you mean by it instead of being rude.?

So far, the historical evidence you've provided supports what I've said (in fact, its the evidence I brought into this discussion). The only evasion I'm seeing here is yours. But whatever, I didn't expect a real answer anyway since you have never provided one before. The "consensus" you mention has changed dramatically in just the past century, not to even mention that past fifty years, so pointing to "it" doesn't work with your claim.

As for the plurality of styles in Abstract Expressionism, it is no different than the Eurpoean movements it borrows from what about any of the following: Surrealism, Futurism, Constructivism, or even Post-Impressionism to name only a few?

And as for this: " The best argument is short and clear and stands right there on the page." I did this and people complained about how long it too. You need some of the evidence too, or else an argument means nothing.




August 18, 2004, 10:20 PM

Dr. B:

We are starting to go around in circles again. I will try to reorganize:

1. I don't know what you mean by "talking about personal preferences", but let's keep it simple; don't answer unless it is germane to the discussion.

2. I don't remember you defining criteria. If you did, why not make it easy on everyone by restating it? My definition, which you are "unaware of anyone using before", comes from the dictionary. I say there are no criteria for evaluating art as such or for anticipating what art will affect you. Such criteria do not exist. Art is not judged by criteria, it is, in fact, judged in the absence of criteria. We judge art entirely intuitively. This is what we do with it, every day, all the time. Is this specific enough for you? You say this is easily disproved. Please do it. Give me an example, anything specific and pertinent at all. Tell me your criteria, if necessary.

3. The "consensus" always changes on the leading edge because there is always new art. Once it is settled it changes very little. This is common knowledge. It is quantifiable. The fact that there is this stability is evidence that there is stability in the process of evaluating art, nothing more or less. It does not prove anything.

4. As for pluralism, you said it came up in the 70s, and I said in fact it goes way back before that, and you replied by writing:

"As for the plurality of styles in Abstract Expressionism, it is no different than the Eurpoean movements it borrows from what about any of the following: Surrealism, Futurism, Constructivism, or even Post-Impressionism to name only a few?"

Wasn't this exactly my point?



August 19, 2004, 12:30 AM

Just for the sake of clarity, here is my definition of criteria, editied from the dictionary definition:

A standard, rule, or test on which a judgment or decision can be based.

Using criteria at its simplest would be to say "this painting is good because..."


Michael Betancourt

August 19, 2004, 3:06 AM

Here are two arguments, take them or leave them. It clear that nothing I'm writing is getting through, so I'm calling it quits after this simply because I have more important things that need my time than trying to explain this yet again.
In relation to your numbers in order:

(1) not germane

(2) I stated my definitino was identical to that found in a common dictionary; we seem agree about this; there is a contadiction in your use. See below.

(3) If you accept this stability, the you need to accept, if not contempoary art, then all of post-modernism as being good since that is the consensus you claim is so stable. Your disagreement suggests otherwise, contradicting your own arguments, and is precisely my point about this "consensus" beign subject to revision and re-judgement.

(4) Your claim was it, pluralism, was a response to post-war market conditions. You said that specifically, and when I said this doesn't make sense chronologically, your reply was the plurality of Abstract Expressionism as an example of pluralism. I said this is ahistorical and the divergence of styles is common to avant-garde movements generally. That does not make a variety of styles in, say, Surrealism, and example of pluralism. You can't have it both ways; your confused use demonstrates a confusion about what the contemproary pluralism is: all these movements are exclusionary; pluralism is not (except in specific ways that are fundamentally different than any avant-garde movement, and I discussed this in the IMHO column).

(5--the following post) If you actually use this definition, there is a second contradiction in your use, agruing against your own claims: "judged in the absence of criteria. We judge art entirely intuitively." These two statements are not equivalent; they are contradictory. In fact, your "intuitive" judgement comes from past experiences with objects of like class (as backrow proposed), [even though this is a paradox in itself discussed elsewhere]. You cannot articulate your criteria, but you do have them, even if for rhetorical reasons you will not admit this: your criteria are intuitive. This means you can't consicously explain them, not that they don't exist. In other words, you are an unconscious judge of art, which makes your claims very suspect since you admit to being unaware of how you arrive at your proclamations, and you will not allow anyone to demonstrate to you that you have biases, prior restraints, etc. (criteria) even though they are apparent to an observer reading your words.

Moving on. I have other things to do,



August 19, 2004, 4:51 AM

You keep saying, at great length and in complex, roundabout, obfuscatory sentences, what you said and what I said, and it is all wrong, simply wrong. When you do this, instead of dealing with the subject head on, I either have to present the subject again or spend a lot of time pointing out the things you said that were either wrong or did not make sense, and then you respond with more of the same, escaping further into a protective smog of obscurity. In this way you preserve the appearance of having successfully conducted a discussion while actually running it into the ground. It is like flailing about with a blindfold on in an endless maze with no outlet.

Is there any subject you would be willing to discuss clearly, specifically and directly, in short, clear declarative sentences, where we each make claims and short arguments to support them, and actually answer each other, point by point? It is interesting stuff, after all. I thought we had finally got there with criteria but that is now once again tied up in a Gordian Knot of befuddlement, and the Pluralism discussion is literally inside out. Is there any solution? Anyone else out there reading this (if anyone still is) have any ideas? Maybe its hopeless.


that guy in the back row

August 19, 2004, 6:44 AM

still reading.... But it is one confused mess at this point. We need Tim to bring us back on board. When the Dr. says he has better things to do it means he lost the argument and is pouting, but in actuality he is still reading this. He is just sweating it out and waiting for more verbose streaming to seep onto his keyboard. I think they call it stream of consciousness, but in his case it's more like stream of pomo-babblely-gook.



August 19, 2004, 3:23 PM

oldpro says "Maybe its hopeless". That's probably right. But the long discussion emanates light about the process that dominates the art sytsem now. "Chewing of the cud" I said a while back, then I decided to give it a chance anyway, thinking SOMETHING could come of it, even if the "something" had no direct bearing on art. All that came forth was more chewing. Mike's statements go nowhere BUT they sound intelligent because they are written by someone who reeks of education. They are marinated in academicism, grilled in academicism, and served day after day at the academic table. If that is where you eat you will probably like his stuff.

Now, this is not a "reasoned" analysis of Mike's position. It is intuitive. I am an animal standing at the edge of a clearing. I do not care if I can "prove" there is a hunter scanning the clearing hoping I will emerge for a shot. My life depends upon whether my perception of the menance is true, not whether I can prove it.

What Mike does is a menace to enjoying art and to making art. I cannot take his stuff seriously without compromising my relationship to art. Judging casually from his web site, and I say this with a certain sadness, his own art appears to be one of its victims.


that guy in the back row

August 19, 2004, 3:41 PM

good point catfish. art won't save his ass.



August 19, 2004, 4:35 PM

Wow, just stopped by after a long time and found a little goldmine! Wish I had had more time to participate.

Anyhow, I am wondering if you all are actually reading what Michael Betancourt is saying. Its actually very clear - especially his point about criteria.

Oldpro, you said your response to art is intuitive and, as a result, does not use criteria. So, according to you, intuitive responses to art dont have criteria. It seems like catfish and guy agree. However, MB has been pointing out, since the beginning of this thread, that there is significant scientific evidence to support that our perceptions (which include our intuitive experiences) are - at least in some part - written into our biology and our culture and can - at least to some extent - be explained. You feel it as intuitive, but there is actually something more going on there, something has to some degrees been measured.

This attempt to understand how we operate as human beings should not take away the magic we experience when we actually interact with a work of art, it just helps us understand what is going on behind the scenes. Understanding what goes on behind the scenes (in our conscious and our culture) is useful because it can help us identify harmful prejudices that we could have been unaware of most of our lives. I don't see why anyone (oldpro, catfish, guy) wouldn't want to understand themselves, their world, and subsequently, their art, better.

Understanding that intuition in itself produces all kinds of criteria for judging art, however unaware we may be of that criteria at any given point, helps us avoid uniformed and potentially dangerous assumptions about art works and the art system.

It seems that some fear that MBs rationalization of the artistic experience robs one of the really beautiful emotional encounter that one can have with art. I can understand that fear, but I dont think that understanding and feeling have to exist so dichotomously. In fact, I would argue that they are in many ways dependent on one another.

Of course, the concepts discussed here arent the kind you are introduced to in elementary school as MB and Jerome pointed out, there are books and books and books written on this stuff. If it could be explained in one short sentence, someone would have already done it. It also seems like to go into the actual scientific evidence here on a blog would be a waste of time. It would be more productive to read a book. And if you are reading this blog, you are capable of reading a book.

I, too, understand why one would be extremely leery of academic types. A great deal of scholarly banter is mostly hot air, and it often used politically/socially in ways that contradict what the actual ideas are trying to support. But we shouldnt let what is a justified disdain for academic snobbery turn into a distrust of anything intellectual. The good stuff that can be found in academic thinking is really, really, really, really good. Id hate to see anyone miss out on that.



August 19, 2004, 4:47 PM

Whether reasoned or intuitive, catfish, your observations certainly seem right. The position is indeed anti-art, and I would like to have made that clear in the discussion. You and Jerome were the ones who finally drew him out into the open (uh oh...that must be an unconscious reference to your description above!) and got him to start talking in a conprehendable way instead of whining and name-calling. I thought that was an opportunity to really get into a profitible exchange with an educated, involved person who has very different views - something I have been wishing for all along - and it seemed promising at first. But as soon as the heat turned up it turned into a pursuit of a fleeing octopus through a cloud of black ink. He should have been a lawyer, or maybe a presidential advisor.

Maybe if we are lucky we will flush out another defender of mainstream pomo, one more willing to offer direct engagement. If they are so numerous and so much in control and in the academic business of discursive, reasoned presentation, why is it so difficult to find one to argue with?



August 19, 2004, 5:33 PM

"If they are so numerous and so much in control and in the academic business of discursive, reasoned presentation, why is it so difficult to find one to argue with?"

Because they have jobs. Jobs that prevent them from sitting in front of a computer all day.

I see MB spent a lot of time trying to lay things out for you, Oldpro, and you quickly dismiss his very clear argument as 'befuddled.' His arguement is not befuddled at all, but very clear, and has been restated a million times over in this thread alone. Which means that either you really can't understand these concepts -- which I don't believe; I think you are smarter than that -- or that you refuse to admit you understand them, as doing so would force you to swallow some pride and admit that you are, just like everyone else, guilty of faulty and indeed very circular logic at times. He spelled it out for you and you still call it befuddled?! It's like you use someone else's apparent obtuseness as an excuse for your own inability to understand the argument. Now why would anyone want to waste their very precious time in an argument that isn't going to go anywhere? I'm surprised MB stayed as long as he did.

When people say they have better things to do, that's usually true. I for one, would post more, but I have a job, as do countless others. And when I do post, sometimes, it feels like a waste of time.



August 19, 2004, 5:41 PM

Hello N; I had not read your post when I submitted mine just above.

I am with you all the way on your general point that it is advantageous and interesting to reserve both the "magic" of intuitional experience and the reasoned effort to understand it (this may be my slight bending of what you said). Scott Fitzgerald wrote "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function" This is what I try to do, and I find the interaction fascinating. I also have no trouble keeping them separate. I assumed that Dr B might like to proceed with such a discussion, but, as I said, I find it impossible to discuss anything with him.

I certainly do not think that the effort to understand anything robs it of its "beautiful emotional experience". All I ever said, and it is painfully simple and, to my mind, unchallenging, is that they are separate processes. When we examine the human relationship to art we do one thing and when we experience art we do another. We make alterations of this kind in everyday life, constantly, every day, all day long. In a previous blog I gave the example of an art dealer esthetically appreciating a painting, evaluating a painting monetarily and putting the painting in a safe place - 3 different evaluations, 3 different operations, all in 5 minutes. This is how we do things.

When we appreciate a painting intuitively we do not use criteria, unless we are in fact demanding something other than esthetic appreciation, such as will it fit over the couch. We do not go to museums with a checklist. Saying that the criteria are somehow invisible and buried and transformed and all that is saying that they are not criteria, in fact, it is saying that there is no "they" there, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein. Intuitive evaluation excludes criteria by definition. In fact, most life evaluation excludes criteria at the decisive moment, but except for art, virtually all life decisions, except for the apprehension of art, are made within the context of purpose, as Kant pointed out over 200 years ago. The reason I obsess about the concept of criteria is that it blocks the examination of what really goes on by positing some kind of set of "inner categories" that guide us on our quest for better art. This does not exist, and saying, as Dr. B does, that they must exist because humans internalize lessons from the past, is an illegitimate conclusion. For me to try to examine the nature of the esthetic response, as I do, it is necessary to exclude factors which get in the way, which not only do not pertain but in fact are nonexistent within the response.



August 19, 2004, 5:53 PM

N: we crossed posts again.

Now you are getting testy, which is a shame. Most of the people I look for to answer my questions have academic jobs, which allows a lot of time. The few people I know who contribute to this blog have jobs, and they post. Franklin has a job, and he runs the blog. I have a job. That was an unnescessary comment and exactly the kind of thing which makes it so hard to carry on a direct intelligent discussion.

The rest of your second post (so different from the first) is just another run of non-specific personal accusations. If there is something Dr B said which I did not answer directly, or if I am "guilty of faulty and circular logic", please point out the specifics and I will answer.



August 19, 2004, 5:55 PM

But don't you think that sometimes we can feel something, interpret it as intuitive, and really there are parts of that 'intuition' that are ideas that were conditioned into us? Like, isn't that what racism and sexism boils down to in a lot of ways -- a feeling about other people that people have accepted as normal, or truth, because they 'intuit' it, but it's really there's a lot more going on there that's more than intuition?

I suppose I think of intuition as something that is both biologically and socially wired in us, so to think of it as separate of those forces doesn't make sense to me.

However, I do respect what you are going for, Oldpro. One question: how can you tell the difference between intuition and cultured responses? It seems that we as human beings are too slippery to be able to discern the difference between the two in ourselves if we just take them as feelings, but when we analyze social conditions and biological responses, we can perhaps get somewhere? And that's not to say science is any less slippery. But it perhaps more stable than trusting someone else's 'feeling' about something.



August 19, 2004, 6:06 PM

Well, isn't cross-posting fun!

I did get testy. I apologize.

But it seems like the amount of time expected to explain something to you is infinite, sometimes. MB already pointed out how your logic is faulty. And so it seems to me that you are asking me to do something that would be a waste of time for me; i would just repeat what MB said, and if you didn't get it the first time, then what's the point?

I was a bit uneccesarily rude. But dude, you all are far, far worse at the rudeness here! The condenscension that pervades the recent posts of catfish, guy and you rivals any put out by some academic. But for you, if you agree with the rudeness, then it's acceptable, or even funny. In my own rudeness, I was responding to your rude and arrogant assumption that people aren't posting or something because they don't have an argument that would hold against yours, when actually it's that most people would not want to waste the time arguing against your faulty, circular points. You can't be rude and then expect people to always be civil in return. If you dish it out, buddy, you gotta expect to take it, too. It's only fair.



August 19, 2004, 6:21 PM

N: I guess this would be called "blog tag"!

The precise meaning and application of the terms "intuition" and "conditioned response", which I suppose has been worked out by behavioral scientists, would be helpful, but this kind of expertise is not part of my bag of tricks. Obviously anything that gets into our heads mixes in with what is already there and has some effect on our reactions, but these are things the scientists have entire conventions about, and I don't think we (I at least) can deal with them in depth. It may be that we are hard-wired or conditioned or both or something else as we go about evaluating art. I think the question you pose is a fascinating one, and it is frustrating to me that I don't have the equipment to get further into it. The best I can do is refer to my own experience with art and with words, both of which I do have a lot of experience with, and try to be very clear with both.

I do know that I have what seems to me to be an instinctive reaction to art and music, which is reinforced by the fact that I responded very strongly to both at a very early age. I also know that repeated exposure to art and music allowed me to refine, to "clean up", my responses, so that now I know that my responses are stronger and am convinced that my appreciations are more on target (which may be the same thing).

Now, it just occurred to me that this is exactly what I meant by the problem of criteria. We have not mentioned criteria in the last exchange, and I think the reason is because we are poking at something much deeper, something which simply makes the whole idea of criteria in evaluating art seem a little foolish. Of course this means that we are in confusing and unfamiliar territory, but, after all, that's the fun part.



August 19, 2004, 6:30 PM

I think we have two separate discussions going here.

You have every right to say that I am rude, but I would appreciate some confirmation of my rudeness other than "pervading condescension". If I am condescending, then take me down a notch, and with reason and logic, not unspecific accusations.

And, again, I will be happy to respond to any "faulty circular points", but I can't if I don't know what they are. As for not adequately responding to Dr B, I answered everything he said, everything comprehendable, anyway, and I answered him as clearly and as succinctly as I could. He did not respond in kind. That is in evidence; if you don't agree, fine.



August 19, 2004, 6:40 PM

So, um, you're 'it'?

Anyway, how does a person know if they are on target? Wouldn't people who are off target believe they are on target? So how can a person tell if they are an 'on target' person or if they are an 'off target' person who simply believes they are on target? how can someone, then, make that same judgement about someone else? doesn't an answer to these questions presuppose someone outside of the whole mess -- hence a 'higher power' -- who can know the difference and apply such a judgement accordingly? And if you can't ever really know, how can you ever, ever say that something is definitively good? How do you know that you are not an 'off-target' person looking at bad art but thinking it's good, putting other people down who think otherwise? shouldn't this just make us all really very humble people since we never really know for sure which category we fall into?

And so, to me, the whole pluralist idea seems more palpable: that maybe we should not think of things as on or off target, as good or bad, because we simply can't be the absolute judge of that. Maybe we should think of things as many different kind of targets out there that work for different people, and embrace and nuture what we like and leave other people to do the same for themselves, even if what they do doesn't connect with us.



August 19, 2004, 6:47 PM

BTW, Oldpro, I really appreciate your interaction with and love of art. You clearly engage with the work, and you learn from repeated exposure to it. So whenever or however I may either disagree with you or be confused by some of your claims, it's very cool to see that art is something that really means something to you, that you don't take it lightly. It's so important to me to know that there are people out there who actually do care about art. It's mushy of me to say, but it's beautiful.



August 19, 2004, 6:59 PM

Well, damn it N, you have now brought up a whole gang of fascinating things, including a "higher power", the idea of what I call "internal and external good" and that you think my attitude is "beautiful" (I love that one, obviously!) and I have to go to an "official" lunch! Aarghh! This is what you meant by the job problem, I guess (although I willingly neglect my job to argue about art). I will answer when I get back and if you are not around reply when you can.



August 19, 2004, 8:46 PM

N: This is the "goodness" conundrum, which I answer by positing "interior good" and "exterior good", which in a way evades the question by posing a different question, and I can only speak with authority from my own experience, which I am reasonable sure matches up with the experience of others who love art and have it in their lives.

When I see some art it gives me a pure thrill which is temporary but can be revisited with the same art. From what I understand others have had this thrill (it is actually indisputable) and it is similar to mine. We call this "esthetic experience". What I think is good art is art that gives me this thrill. This is the "interior good".

Over time, many art lovers experience a similar thrill with similar art. In practice there is a drastic culling process that preserves a very small percentage of the "best" - the art which, to very much oversimplify, persisted in giving this thrill to art lovers. This is the "consensus" of what we call "good art". This is the "exterior good"

The problems arise from the interaction between exterior and interior. To my mind, listening to Phillip Glass or Elton John when one can listen to Mozart or Louis Armstrong is a form of masochistic depravity, Andy Warhol to Jackson Pollock a form of functional blindness and Danielle Steele to FS Fitzgerald a form of defective mentality. But people will like what they like, and whatever I may think or feel there is no way I can compel them to change their minds, outside of a long course of exposure and education, nor should there be, because we should like what we like. (There is nothing more pernicious in art than pretending to like what you don't like because you think you are supposed to). There is not way to "prove" what is good because, as I have said a dozen times here, there are and can be no "criteria", and criteria are how one objectively demonstrates value.

This interaction is where we are in these blog discussions.

In your last paragraph above you say:

In essence, you are "on target", so to speak, (even though I do not completely agree; Kant said that when we say something is "good" we speak for everyone, and I agree, but that is another whole exchange). In fact this is how we do things in a free society. People like what they like.

However art is very important to us, to our species, and we pay big money for it, store in in huge vaults called museums and talk about it all the time. Art talk can be interesting, and it can be godawful deadly. My main problem is that I like art and I like to talk about it. You can like whatever you like, but, perhaps unlike "good" art, "good" and civil and comprehendible expository written exchange of any kind is quite well established and accepted. I will not put up with reckless nonsense, gobbledygook and arrogant obfuscation and bullshit, and i do not expect anyone to put up with mine. It is fun when done right. That's all I am aiming for.



August 19, 2004, 8:49 PM

Fior some reason N's quote got left off, after "In your last paragraph above you say"



August 19, 2004, 8:51 PM

This is weird. N's quote will not load. I will try again:

And so, to me, the whole pluralist idea seems more palpable: that maybe we should not think of things as on or off target, as good or bad, because we simply can't be the absolute judge of that. Maybe we should think of things as many different kind of targets out there that work for different people, and embrace and nuture what we like and leave other people to do the same for themselves, even if what they do doesn't connect with us.



August 19, 2004, 10:22 PM

One more thing, about "the whole pluralist thing": the "whole thing" has some problems.

Pluralism of the sort we have in free democratic political systems is freedom of choice, freedom of expression, equal treatment before the law, freedom to see or make any kind of art you want to - all this is a political ideal. This is pluralism that allows, and I would not stand for anything else myself.

But there is another kind of pluralism, a proscriptive pluralism, one that tells us that one thing is no different from another and everything is of equal value, a pluralism that derides and ridicules values and aspirations and the very idea of better and worse, whether or not it can be "proven". This kind of pluralism has seeped into the discourse of art like a toxin and robs it of vitality, purpose, intensity, clarity and enthusiasm. It is the art world's way of exhibiting bad (and I mean "bad") character. To a true art lover it is intolerable.



August 19, 2004, 10:37 PM

From Merriam Webster:

1 : a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based
2 : a characterizing mark or trait

How is criteria, then, how one objectively demonstrates value, especially since the nature of a judgment call is typically subjective? Standards, to my knowledge, can also be so ingrained in ones way of thinking that they can be unaware that they are applying them. For instance, I look at a chair, and I give it meaning as a piece of furniture used to support myself because my experience says this is true. This function does not describe some innate essence of the chair; it only describes the cultural significance that we humans ascribe to that piece of wood. There are standards that I apply to my definition of a chair that are specific to the society I live in. Those standards make me look at the object and say chair! without really having to think about it. This doesnt mean that the chair has no meaning as a chair, but that the meaning is human-generated. How we generate meaning, too, is significant to our cultural situation. if we lived in a society where chairs looked completely different, we might not recognize what we now call a chair as a chair. now, what art does for me is certainly a far cry from what a chair does for me, but I think that the significance we apply to art works, just as to a chair, is human-generated. It comes from inside ourselves, our beings that are biological and cultural and spiritual, all of that. So as our culture changes, our perceptions change, and what does things for people and why can vary across cultures and across time periods. Like why the bulk of society in the late-1800s could look at a Van Gogh and say Ugh! unskilled and archaic! sloppy and ugly! while the consensus in the late 20th century was otherwise. At the same, a lot doesnt change across time periods, and many cultures have a lot more in common than may be superficially obvious, so tastes accordingly follow similar threads as well. While it doesnt account for all of what art is celebrated at a given time and place. I think cultural conditioning certain plays a role..its a big part of who we are as thinking beings, creating culture at the same time the culture creates us..

Am I getting you that you do believe that there is good art, and you can know it is good, because you feel it is so, but you cant prove that it is good? if thats true, dont you see how you are using your own feeling to set the standard (criteria) of goodness? Thats criteria number one right there: it makes you feel something. You say you validate your feeling as being right because other people have the same feeling about the same art. Criteria number two: must be in agreement with other peoples opinion. (which coincides with the culture agreement above we are all a part of a larger society, so on some level we will all have something in common with one another, even if it is as simple as identifying a chair as a chair or good art as good art).

And re: pluralism: its one thing to say that good/bad exists, its another thing to say that you can know it. Lets, for the sake of argument, say that there is a hierarchy of value among aesthetics. We still agree that the hierarchy cant be proven. If you cant know exactly how things fall within that hierarchy, if you can never prove it or be sure, you have no right to ever claim that your point of view is flawless. You have to still account for the possibility that other peoples opinions/perceptions might be the correct ones. There is always the possibility that you are wrong. Hence you have to allow for a plurality of ideas, otherwise you risk shutting out the right ones, correct?



August 19, 2004, 11:23 PM

Oldpro - I think I know what you mean about "interior and exterior good." Forgive my lengthy comment, but I want to be as precise and comprehensive as possible, given the nature of the debate here. I hope it's worth your time to read it (and I hope you'll digest it a little bit before reacting to it).

I think I can come up with an example of "interior good." When I first saw Twombly, I despised it. I was stunned anyone could take that garbage seriously. But now I love it. I had an epiphany after a couple of years agonizing about how much I hated it. If I were a multi-millionaire, I'd put Twombly in my top-five list to acquire, I love it that much. I hated Koons at first too, but while I don't love it at all now, I do understand it, and I'm happy to leave it be.

I'll come back to Koons in a moment, but now let's come to "exterior good." Just because someone can't explain their preferences in terms of clear criteria, it doesn't mean the criteria don't exist. In the old days, criteria were well defined: compositional balance, narrative theme, use of color or chiarosciuro, and so on. Today it's harder to name our criteria, but it doesn't mean we never will. In computer science, there are algorithms which can be proven Yes or No, and those which can only be proven Yes or Not Yet. I think this is one of the latter. Just because we've "broken open the box" during the last century or so, and we can't name our criteria concisely today, it doesn't mean we won't be able to explain the techniques we use now someday. All we can say is Not Yet.

For example, I think Koons basically sells "shine." People who like shiny things probably like Koons. I think the Koons Criterion is just that simple. I don't value shine qua shine, but I'm sure others do, and I allow them to place whatever value on Koons they wish. I don't think there's anything inherently bad or good about "shine," so the only thing I'm willing to say is, some value it more than others.

(Which is my first-pass answer to the question of pluralism. The real question of pluralism comes not when we ask the value of a piece of art, but when we go the second step, and ask whose opinion do I value? [And so on down the line of other people.] It's therefore not enough to value Koons as such, but rather to say, "Koons is valued by people who are smarter [better, wiser, more educated, etc] than the people who value Normal Rockwell." This is where the fighting begins, and precisely the point at which my interest in the discussion ends.)

But back to the topic of criteria, I also think I can name my own, if imperfectly. But take it with a grain of salt. I'm untrained in art history, I don't know my Greenberg from my Rosenberg, and I've only been visiting museums in earnest for a few years, so don't assume I really know the meaning of all the terms I'm using, or the standings of the artists I'm naming. I'm just a programmer who enjoys art, and find myself drawn in certain artistic directions, regardless of what anyone else tells me to like or hate. I love astonishingly proficient works like Leonardo's cartoon in London's National Gallery, Richter's painted candles, or George De La Tours's for that matter, Close's various prints, and Ingres's stunning perfection, but I also enjoy much more than art's technical or classical aspects (which is also true for me in other fields beside art), and I'm just trying my best to figure this all out in as rigorous yet enjoyable a fashion as possible.

So here goes.

I think one of my key criteria is a sense of complexity which embellishes yet supports a strong theme, in both an aesthetic and intellectual sense. (This preference also applies to music, which is why I love Handel, Bela Fleck, and even the exuberant "Pepe and the Bottle Blondes," since all are simultaneously complex yet melodic). Visually, I prefer compositions which suggest activity beyond the work itself, either through odd balance (Serra, Gogh), lack of balance (Franz Kline), atypical use of the picture plane (Rauschenberg), cultural devices (Johns), narrative devices (Richter's Baader-Meinhof), or pure piquing of curiosity (Bontecou, Cornell).

I also enjoy a sense of color and chiarosciuro or contrast which excites the eye, whether in bright colors (Fischl, Hockney) or muted ones (Kiefer [whose Thousand Flowers is also conceptually brilliant]), or at least a sense of texture which engages the eye (Hirst's Armageddon). I'm also drawn to energetic work (Basquiat, Boccioni, Pollock), and work that piques my curiosity (Bontecou, even some Hirst vitrines), or makes me laugh with joy (Boetti). I also enjoy some conceptual or pseudo-conceptual work too (Ono, Duchamp, Gonzalez-Torres), but that's much harder for me to characterize as yet, except in terms of "intellectual curiosity."

Or something.



August 19, 2004, 11:32 PM

N: With all due respect, you are overcomplicating the matter. We generate art and we generate chairs. When we look for a good chair we probably mean one that is comfortable, or stacks, or matches the living room. These are all criteria. however if we look at the chair AS ART we have no criteria for evaluation. Of course chairs and art and so forth come out of complex biological, emotional, cultural etc etc but I dont understand what difference that makes. I am just talking about what we do with things.

I hope that answers your first paragraph, because I admit I got a little lost reading it.

As for your second paragraph, I thought I had clarified this with the "inside/outside" example above. If I listen to Mozart I know it is good and I declare it is good for everyone because of what it does for me. However I cannot prove it is good, and no one has to agree with me, and should not until they undergo the same experience I did. My reaction does not submit a "standard on which a judgement can be made" it is a conclusion I draw from direct nonverbal intuituve experience and is coincidental with that experience. If everyone was compelled to assume that what I liked was good, then it would be a criterion.

No, I don't validate my feeling by what other people say is good. Not at all. it is the other way around: my feelings validate what other people say is good. The consensus is not a criterion, it is a convenience. If it were not for the consensus I might stull be fishing around in art history for Rembrandt, along with everyone else

I found the pluralism example hard to follow. For my opinion to be "flawless" there would have to be some of those everlovin' old criteria again, and, as I said, they ain't there, they don't exist. I am not concerned about "flawless", it is beside the point. I just want to see, hear and read things that give me that charge. I am just an art junky, a hedonist. I think it is a shame if others get themselves all bottled up with dumb ideas and miss out on this stuff, but that is not my problem. Besides, I thought I just went all out for "pluralism" - least one kind of "pluralism" - in my last post.



August 19, 2004, 11:57 PM

oldpro, how can you seriously say when you look at a chair as art you have no criteria for judging it? You can say 'this chair is good art because it has x, y z characteristics and it makes me feel x, y, z' or 'this chair is bad art because it does nothing for me -- it is a stupid chair and i feel like i'm looking at any old thing.' Criteria are, as I quoted directly form Merriam Webster, standards by which we judge things or come to decisions about them. Criteria doesn't have to prove anything. Sheez, now I find myself repeating again. Hovig said some interesting things about criteria, too; I'm right with him there. Maybe you'll understand him better than me. I don't know how I could word what i've already said in any other way that would be more comprehensible for you.

another thing; How can you say that because you had a good experience with Mozart, Mozart is good for everyone? That is a good example of faulty logic. Because peanut butter is full of protein and good for me doesn't mean it is good for everyone. some people are allergic to it. I'm not complicating things; I'm simplifying them to basic trains of logical thought. (In fact, i think I'm simplifying things too much.)

I'm starting to think that the real problem here is that you don't want to admit even the slightest possibility that you could be wrong about art. The possibility that you could be wrong, by the way, is not an attack on you personally, and it is not to say that you are wrong; it just saying that you could be. And it's problematic that you refuse to question your own feelings and your own intuition. It closes discussion. All arguments can end with 'oldpro is right because his inuition says so and for all of you whose intuition says otherwise, get the heck away from art.'

That leaves no room for discussion. Your answer to all opposition is that you are right because you are right (circular logic). I like a lot of the art that you have claimed to like, and I like that you are passionate about art. I just can't function on the idea, however, that how I think about things couldn't be on some levels completely bogus, and it's hard for me to have a good discussion with someone who also can't admit the same possibility about themselves.



August 20, 2004, 12:11 AM

Hovig: I am so glad to hear that you are a programmer who likes art, not another art maven. Your list of likes and reasons for your likes is refreshingly broad and enthusiastic, and your process for looking and looking until you decide is just right (although Twombly is not on my top 5 list, for sure). And please do not apologize for lack of experience; in many ways it is an advantage when looking at art because your preconceptions are not in the way. In many ways your post, long as it is, is very heartening, because you are not an art professional but seem so completely into it. This is what we need. I wish you were a multimillionaire; you would have a ball.

Criteria again. There seems to be a basic human need for the idea of criteria, as if we would be cast into the wilderness without it. It is almost religious. I am not saying that one cannot apply criteria to art. Obviously one can choose to like art for all kinds of reasons, like the Koons "shine". You say that there were clear criteria in the old days, but if you examine these criteria they all devolve into judgments. A thousand people can say what "good balance" is (shades of the Famous Artists School - "You too can be a professional artist"), but there is no test that says anyone's "good balance" is a necessity for "good art". Your own criteria, which are nicely articulated, sound like specific characteristics which impressed you. I am also impressed, by, say, "Ingre's stunning perfection", very impressed, in fact, but Ingres is wonderful in spite of it, not because of it. Wait until you come across something which embodies some of these characteristics, but, well, for some reason you just don't like it...

If criteria are said to exist they must be shown to exist, and of course I mean consistent acceptable standards for good art, not good because it shines. We cannot assume there are criteria because we want them. Fundamentally, art is judged intuitively without criteria, always has been, always will be. If someone can give me the answer to "XXX art is good because..." I will immediately and gratefully change my mind. But please tell me first in private so we can patent it!



August 20, 2004, 12:19 AM

Talking about art to someone who claims to have no criteria for judging art would be a boring experience, because the response would always be the same. "I like it because I get a charge out of it." There would be no discussion about the real meat of dialogue -- WHY the art gives a charge, what attributes it has that tangibly causes the charge -- because to do that would be to admit and discuss criteria, and how the piece in questions stands up to it.

Also: something doesn't exist unless it is shown to exist? So, the earth really WAS the center of the universe until it was proven otherwise?

Just because the criteria we use to judge art can be fluid -- the same criteria can do it for us in some works and sometimes not in others -- doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It just means we have a lot more we have to get to the bottom of in order to understand it all.



August 20, 2004, 12:23 AM

Arg. Oldpro, I feel like you are purposefully ignoring the definition of criteria! of course it delves into judgments! BY DEFINITION, THAT IS WHAT CRITERIA DOES!!!! What's going on here that you won't accept the dictionary definition of criteria? Are you afraid that you'll have to admit you are wrong? Because this is getting ridiculous.

(I'm not angry, just flabbergasted)



August 20, 2004, 12:32 AM

N, you are going to wear me down, but at least it is not like chasing phantoms like Dr B.

First paragraph: I am sincerely sorry, but I don't know what it is that I said that you don't agree with. i am not being evasive, I just dont know. Maybe I just getting brain dead at this point.

Second paragraph: I think that my Mozart experience is "good" so that it must be good for everyone, and I declare that it is. I can be wrong, of course. I am not imposing anything on anyone, and if Mozart turns out to be a dud I will change my mind, but in the meantime I want to run out and shout "listen to Mozart!" This is just the way I prefer to think. I don't see why it is a problem.

Third & fourth paragraph: When did I say or imply that I could not be wrong? I am wrong all the time. I learned about art by being wrong. I am a connoisseur of my mistakes. Mistakes are how I learn to get better. Of course I question my feelings and intuition. I only take them for what they are at the time I have them. Next time might be different, a little different at least. You should hear me cursing myself, out loud, in the studio. people who overhear me think I am bawling someone out. I think you are confusing clarity and articulateness and a modicum of self-confidence with an attitude of some kind of high state of personal perfection. I have no such attitude, not at all!



August 20, 2004, 12:38 AM

N: we are creating a traffic jam of posts here; I answer one and there are two more up. I am getting tired and a little confused. Can you tell me exactly what it is about the word criteria that is creating the problem? Maybe I should have prefaced "judgements" with judgements without criteria" in the old days question?



August 20, 2004, 12:44 AM

oldpro's statement "I am a connoisseur of my mistakes" is a good characterization of an art lover. It is also wonderfully short, a lesson this thread could take some benefit from.



August 20, 2004, 12:54 AM

Hey guys, if I don't get to the studio I will get no work done before dinner (jobs again, N)

N: it may be that the idea of criteria should be customized for this discussion. Post what it is that bothers you as clearly as possible and let''s work on it later.



August 20, 2004, 1:00 AM

catfish, if you don't like the length of the posts, don't read them.

suggesting that anyone should shorten their argument to suit you is the kind of rudeness I alluded to earlier. Not enough of a post -- then the argument lacks 'evidence' and should point to 'particular instances'. post too long -- that's bad too. Why don't you instead contribute something to the thread that isn't petty?

Oldpro: the criteria argument:

you say judging art uses no criteria
I have shown that judging by it's nature is about using criteria, whether we are aware of the criteria or not
you say that what I say is criteria must not be criteria, yet you don't define criteria (though you said to MB earlier that you use the dictionary definition)
so that is evasive.
It also lacks logic.

How many times has this been said?!!

This has proven to me that posting here really is useless.

I like you, Olpro, but it is impossible to have a discussion with you because you do go in circles and force the people you are arguing with to repeat themselves and waste their time because you refuse to admit they have a point. In the end everything comes down to you, a discussion of you. it's the Oldpro Show. I appreciate that you post your opinions, however, without getting petty, and I like to hear what you have to say, but there's no discussion that really comes out of it. It's the same as if we were to simply stage an Oldpro Solo Show. I'd watch, but it would be monologue, not dialogue.

Anyhow, the other folks who are just outright rude make it very unwelcoming to post opinions. so I'm off to search for other, more productive venues to talk about art.



August 20, 2004, 1:12 AM

N: Oh I'm rude alright. And a son of a bitch besides. But shortening your post is good advice, if you want to persuade people that you know how to organize your thinking.


catfish (the rude)

August 20, 2004, 1:36 AM

N says "Olpro ... it is impossible to have a discussion with you because you do go in circles and force the people you are arguing with to repeat themselves".

oldpro FORCES people to repeat themselves? This seems pretty childish to me. Take responsibility for your own shit, N, as oldpro does for his.

This sets a new irrelevance in pinning the "nasty" tail on oldpro. I hope it satisfies those who feel compelled to savage the poor guy. (He seems more like a cream puff to me.)



August 20, 2004, 1:48 AM

I did a face plant in the studio so I'm ready to jump in here.

I'd like to point out that the following assertions made above:

1. artistic judgments use no criteria
2. artistic judgments use intuitive criteria
3. artistic judgments use unknown criteria
4. artistic judgments use fluid criteria

are different in spirit but functionally identical. As I said earlier, we can pick this apart about as well as we can pick consciousness apart, which is not well at all.

What we have here in art is a community of enthusiasms. Many of them overlap between people; many of them don't. When I write criticism, I express my enthusiasm or lack thereof regarding art. Whether my criticism worth reading or believing is a judgment - a judgment about a judgment. Either or both could be wrong. But judgments have to be made as if they were true and as if they could be universally shared (that's could be, not were) because that's how enthusiasms are communicated. There's no other way that I'm aware of.

So what's going on under the hood of judgment doesn't make much difference to how it drives, although it would be cool to know. If I disagree with someone's judgments about art, it won't mean much to me that they can prove every aspect of them. Conversely, if I agree with them, it won't mean much to me that they can't. What I can do, in the face of either kind of judgment, is consider that I may be mistaken, which I ought to be doing anyway. That's self-criticism. It works for me.



August 20, 2004, 2:07 AM

N: I sense that your problem may be that apparently my experience becomes my criteria for my statement. I agree with that, of course. My statement is based on the "criteria" of my experience. That point I gladly yield.

But my experience, my judgement of the art, my appreciation of the art, etc. was acheived without using criteria, and I hoped that is what we were digging at. otheriwse this whole discussion is uninteresting.



August 20, 2004, 2:11 AM

Franklin: In this time of the Olympics are we setting a new record for comments?



August 20, 2004, 2:35 AM


I'm interested in discussing criteria for precisely the reasons N states so well: To communicate with others in a precise yet non-aesthetic fashion (spoken, written), and understand others' judgments likewise.

If you tell me Morandi is "good," you've told me nothing, but if you say you like him because his pieces are sedate, calm, neutral of palette, low of contrast, still of compostion, and don't delve into cultural issues, then I can tell you, even having never seen one, there's a low probability I'll like it. Not zero probability, but low.

On the other hand, if I dislike Morandi, it's entirely frivolous of me to say "it's bad," or "Morandi isn't art," or generate some similar epithet, but instead say I prefer more visual contrast, compositional energy, cultural complexity, intellectual arousal, and this sort of thing.

That's it, oldpro. That's all it is.

It's just a common language, so we can talk about art, and bounce preferences off each other, without drawing pictures or saying "look at this," or "go read Greenberg." It also lets us say, "since you like neutral palettes and quiet compositions, do you also like the work of Xxxx Yyyyy?" If I go around saying "Morandi sucks," then someone who respects Morandi's work has every right to kick me in the shins. (Apropos of the Chuck Close story, I'm pretty sympathetic to the Japanese on this point.)

So it's no longer an issue of "Koons is better than Morandi," but that "Koons is shinier, and Morandi is calmer." There's no more use of the word "better," unless you want to say, specifically, "Murakami's work is better than Koons inasmuch as they seem to be pursuing the same goal [e.g., 'shininess'], and his achieves some quality better than the other."

We can dispute this review, we can agree with it, or we can dismiss it out of hand, but at least now we have a common language with which to discuss art with others. If we keep the discussion to these naturally occuring and hopefully neutral criteria, we can get further in discussion than saying "it's crap" or "it's great."

And note, oldpro, the reason this is such an important discussion (and unfair to dismiss so casually with the word "religion") is that so many among us are so fond of discriminating "good" art from "bad," but we have yet to demonstrate a way to communicate beyond these two simple umbrella notions. I propose moving toward terms like "more of this criterion," or "less of that criterion," allowing us rank even works of art like "chair" in as objective a manner as possible, thus stemming any imprecise arguments that may arise about them. Not objective, but as objective as possible.

I also propose claiming no more than what the writer themself believes, rather than trying to attribute a particular taste or preference to all of Society or History. Whether there's a social consensus out there is no one's place to say but a demographer or a historian.



August 20, 2004, 3:29 AM


One can judge art entirely intuitively, without criteria, and still have very interesting discussions about it. I have been doing it all my life.

The adjectives you used for Morandi can be criteria for liking the art if you want them to be but there are no acceptable criteria for evaluating a Morandi painting esthetically. Do you know any? If "visual contrast" is what you like in art, then you will like all art with visual contrast, right? I wouldn't go along with that. Would anyone else? Do you prowl around galleries looking for "visual contrast" or some other, any other, specifiable characteristic? Of course you don't. You go to see what you like and then you talk about the characteristics. This is called intuitive appreciation. This is how we look at art.

I didn't dismiss anything with the word "religion". I said that clinging to a concept like criteria which cannot be shown to operate in art, except trivially, by imposition, is like religion. It was a description.

The consensus is real, obvious and easy to measure. Look in museums and look at auction prices, then look at (if you can find it) the 99.99% that has been rejected.

I cannot claim "only what the writer believes", and neither can anyone else, not should they. It is nothing but hypocrisy, and it is boring and unenthusuiastic and phony. Mozart is great. I am an advocate of Mozart. You should listen to Mozart. I am not going to apologize for this. Why is everyone so terrified of saying "this is great"?

Cling to the idea of criteria if you want to. I'm a skeptic. I want to see some.



August 20, 2004, 4:36 AM


Visual contrast was not my only criterion, and it would be simplistic to base my expected response to a piece of art on only that one.

That criterion was one of many in a collection. I purposely described Morandi and other artists as a collection of multiple criteria in order to make exactly this point. You would never describe your physical attributes to someone else by using only one criterion (blue eyes), nor would you describe the physical attributes of people you enjoyed looking at with a single criterion (tall), so it's not fair to do the same with art.

To answer your question: Do you prowl around galleries looking for "visual contrast" or some other, any other, specifiable characteristic?

Of course I do!

I might do it implicitly, but of course I do. You said it yourself, some time ago, the art you enjoy hits you immediately. I don't go around thinking, in my brain, "Gosh, I wonder where they keep all the pieces with the visual contrast," but I certainly do recognize, ex post facto, that the pieces I respond to are those which have the criteria I mentioned above, and I am able to communicate that fact to others.

And this is not the more important point, so I'll say it again. When you don't like an artist, it doesn't suffice to say "it's not art," or "it's not good," but rather, to give some tangible idea of why you don't like it.

I don't know why you refuse to see this. You act like I'm arguing for walking around a museum with a checklist. You're setting up my argument as a strawman you can knock over, and you're purposely trying to find things you disagree with, rather than trying to maybe find some common ground. All I'm saying is, I'm trying to describe those pieces of art I enjoy, in a language others can appreciate.

Also, "the writer," oldpro, means you. You're the writer. Right? When you write something, you're the one writing it, yes? What I'm saying is, you can really only claim what you believe. I'm not interested in your analysis of the auction market, because unless I'm severely mistaken, major Ingres or Seurat paintings don't exactly pass through Sotheby's hands all that often, yet this fact does not seem to diminish their value. There are those who feel La Grande-Jatte would be worth a billion dollars (literally, one billion) if such a sale could be arranged.

Finally, it's a severe oversimplification to say Mozart is "great." Some of his work is great, and some isn't. Most of what he wrote before the age of about 28 is actually quite bad (with the exception of some early operas). I've been playing classical music since the age of 4, so I think I need more than "great" to recommend a piece or a composer. What if I said that for the most part, Mozart was little more than a miniature Haydn or an underdeveloped Beethoven? I don't happen to hold that view (at least not entirely), but would you accept it if it were offered? And besides, Mozart's being "great" doesn't do anything for me. I happen to prefer Handel, especially his concerti grossi or his operas.

But again, this is all beside the point. The point is, how do we engage in discussion when I make an argument like "I prefer Handel," or "Mozart's not so great"? The assertion that Mozart is "great" or "not great" sheds no light on whether I prefer to hear Mozart when there are other choices available, or what it is about Mozart I like or dislike, and so on. You might be surprised to learn that not everyone who has an educated opinion about classical music loves Mozart as much as you seem to do.

For example, you may not be aware, but many composers are rated by how many imitators they engender. They call the band of followers a "school," much like artistic followers are called an "academy." Mozart engendered few or no followers. There's no "school" of Mozart as such. Early Beethoven sounds a lot like Mozart, but only inasmuch as both of them sound like Haydn, who instructed them. Per those criteria, some musicologist might argue Mozart isn't "great" at all.

Ultimately, I'd imagine we all agree Mozart deserves the highest levels of consideration, but we just want to be able to talk about art comparatively, because when a new composer comes up -- and this is important -- we need to be able to describe why we like that composer to people who might read our words, but never have heard that composer before.



August 20, 2004, 5:07 AM

Hovig, if I'm not mistaken, the words with which you described Morandi - sedate, calm, neutral of palette, low of contrast, still of compostion - are qualities, not criteria. The same traits could be vices in other work. Ditto for visual contrast.

Great is a judgment. The problem with great is that it's not very informative; it implies that you'll go over the moon for some reason once you experience so-and-so work of art, and that's about it. But some works are great. Michelangelo's Pieta? Wow. You should see it some day it if you haven't yet.

The words we use to describe qualities are the shared language. One of the things I had to get over about writing criticism is that nothing I can say proves that my judgment is correct. I can talk a piece up or down using the same descriptions, depending on my feeling about it. If I feel good about it, the traits appear as qualities. If not, they appear as vices. The intuitive response seems to come first for me, and it seems to operate by percieving that something has been done well or poorly with whatever traits are in play.



August 20, 2004, 5:30 AM

":ex post facto" what, Hovig? What is it that comes before those characteristics you describe?



August 20, 2004, 6:13 AM

Just reread your post, Hovig,and spotted a couple hummers.

Most of what Mozart write up to the age of 28 (to ca. K450) is bad? Wow! Find me a musicologist somewhere to back you up on that one! And rating composers by the number of imitators? Are you serious?

Is every artist indeed a "collection of multiple criteria"? Makes me feel a little weird to find that out.

And did I say that major Seurat and Ingres paintings get auctioned a lot? No. That's because they are in museums. What's your point? Or are you trying to make my point for me?

I have nothing against describing pieces I enjpy. Do it all the time. It's fun. But the descriptions are not criteria, they are descriptions.

Once again, for the zillionth time, you can describe characteruistic of art until you are blue in the face, but they are not criteria, they are characteristics. If you make them criteria you are stuck with a describable characteristic for good art which is obliged to compel assent. I am still waiting to see one.


that guy in the back row

August 20, 2004, 6:39 AM

So characteristics aren't criteria? Why didn't you just say so.... (had to add something, gave up half the night reading you jokers. Yeah, btw that big bad oldpro seems more like a normal approachable guy than some black shirt tot-en convoluted art yuppie)



August 20, 2004, 3:33 PM

Not all characteristics, of course, are criteria.

But criteria ARE characteristics (how could you define them any other way?), they are characteristics used to arrive at a judgement.... and a judgement does not have to be absolute, or final, or speak for all of humanity and all of art for all time. Nor should it.

To say your judgement about anything speaks absolute truth would be to assume the position of some kind of god.

If you go around pretending that when you look at a work of art, you are doing so as some kind of blank slate, without any kind of preconceived ideas or without emotional baggage, without some degree of both biological and cultural wiring that shapes in some way your perceptions of things, you are deceiving yourself.

Of course, there are ways to control - to some extent - how much we let our baggage 'get in the way' of viewing art. That is, however, done only by educating ourselves on the sources of our baggage, especially the ones that we are not frequently aware of on a conscious level. But to say you can get rid of it completely, that's just arrogant.

And it's an insult to the whole practice of making and viewing art as a human-generated, human understood form of creative expression, something that comes from us at a particular time and place and speaks to us in a particular time and place. So as an art lover myself, I can't let that go.



August 20, 2004, 3:37 PM

You can say 'the visual contrast in this work does wonders for me' and you can say 'the same visual contrast in this other work does not because of the x.y.z'

it doesn't mean you are not still using 'visual contrast' as some kind of criteria, it just means there are nuances to the specific definition of how visual contrast works and when



August 20, 2004, 4:09 PM

N: A characteristic of a work of art is a describable element. A criteria is a characteristic which is chosen to be a dermining factor in making a judgement. All characteristics are part of the judgement of the work, but no characteristics are criteria unless they are made criteris.Red is a characteristic. Red is only a criteria if one decides to make it a criteria. We evaluate a painting with red in it intuitively unless we decide that a painting with red in it is a good painting. Then red is a criteria.

I never, ever, said anything about being a "blank slate", being "without emotional baggage", "without biological and cultural wiring", that art was not "human-generated", "human understood" and so forth. You keep saying I have said these things and I have never said them or anything like them.

I also never said my judgement "speaks absolute truth". I said that when my experience tells me that a work of art is good I assume it must be good for everyone and I declare that it is good for everyone. I also said I might be wrong and that I might change my mind. This is nothing more than preference for being openly enthusiastic about art I love. I think any normal art lover would do this. Anyone who wants to tell me I am full of shit can freely do so. What is the big problem?

It is interesting to have these discussions, but, as I have said so often before on these pages, it is important to pay attention to what is actually being written, not what your inclinations lead you to conclude about what is being written.



August 20, 2004, 4:14 PM

This is basically a nature-nurture argument. What proportions of each exist in the experience of cultivated intuition is presently impossible to determine and I'm willing to be agnostic about how judgment functions for that reason.

If To say your judgement about anything speaks absolute truth would be to assume the position of some kind of god was directed at me, let me point out that I said that judgments are expressed as if they could be universally shared, not are, or must be. One of the products of enthusiasm is the idea that other folks might get in on it with you. That presupposes some universality. (Is that a word? Can you qualify it with "some"? What I'm thinking is that the enthusiasm could be very widely shared, if not by everyone.) Statements about that experience take an absolute form: "That was awesome!" is an enthusiastic statement; "I think other people of similar mindset and cultural background may enjoy this as much as I did" is much less so. No one is under any obligation to believe absolute statements literally. In fact, mostly we don't, except in art, for some reason.

Re: it doesn't mean you are not still using 'visual contrast' as some kind of criteria, it just means there are nuances to the specific definition of how visual contrast works and when, if how it works and when is so nuanced that judgments about it can only be made one work at a time, then I think we're still talking about qualities or traits.



August 20, 2004, 4:35 PM

Now this is a gem: it is important to pay attention to what is actually being written, not what your inclinations lead you to conclude about what is being written. having arrived late and just read what was written, I find this quote to be incredibly funny. Oldpro hasn't been doing this at all except when he already agrees with the poster. When he doesn't agree, its nit picking at the example instead of what it means, saying it makes no sense, or like dear old Nancy Reagan, he just says "NO"!

Thanks, oldpro, I needed some comedy today.



August 20, 2004, 4:38 PM

I'm pleased that I wcould amuse you catbird, but, once again, it is an accusation with no specific example to back it up.



August 20, 2004, 4:48 PM

Thus far I have not interpreted this as a nature-nuture argument. It's been more a 'nature and nuture being applicable to qualifying art viewing' vs. 'my intuition is not composed of either nature or nurture and therefore has no criteria for judging art' argument.

In early posts, there seemed to be a resistance to admiting that there are some ways to measure both how culture acts and how biology influences our 'intuition.' It is as though intuition somehow stands outside of the physical and social forces to which we as humans are bound.

Your last post, franklin, illustrates nicely the difference between enthusiasm for a work and an intellectual understanding of it. However, I fear that it also sets up the notion that enthusiasm and intellectualism could somehow be means to different ends in art, and I don't want that assumption to go undetected.

we can (and should, in my opinion) intellectually understand our enthusiasm, but that does not make our enthusiasm any less felt or real. In fact, it makes it more so felt and real. So I don't unerstand Oldpro's resistance to understand the cultural/biological sources of what creates his intuitive responses.

It is not that the way visual contrast works is so nuanced as to become completely ineffective; it just means that you have to balance and qualify it with the million other criteria that's going on in a work of art. Like Hovig said earlier, a work of art is not judge by one criteria alone, but by many. and it's not just how those criteria function individually, it's how they function and balance off of one another to create a whole. You can have a bunch of beautiful criteria in one work, where each one taken individually are executed well, but where there are so many that it becomes an overload, and therefore doesn't work as a whole. see what I mean? It's not that the criteria aren't there, it's just that it's they function in more complicated ways. But to say they don't exist, that just seems ridiculous to me. Can you at least see where I'm coming from on that?



August 20, 2004, 4:51 PM

well, oldpro, if you would actually go back and read was has been written on the page since the beginning of the thread, you would have all the evidence in the world.

The only time you ever claim MB was 'obtuse' was when he would actually make a very clear, very logical point that you wouldn't be able to otherwise dispute. But instead of saying 'you have a point, MB, My logic was off' you blamed him for an imagined obtuseness.


Michael Betancourt

August 20, 2004, 5:12 PM

N: I fear you are not going to have any more luck with getting any kind of agreement on even the most simple basic issues like what "criteria" means than I had. But I do want to personally say thanks for your comments earlier.

Now, this isn't an attack, but I'm sure it'll be treated as one. These are observations anyone who has read this thread could make.

Your discussion revealed one very interesting (to me at least) fact about the responses posted here: they are like a "reflex system"--automatic responses made without coherent logic (I offer as evidence the fact that oldpro's logic contradicts itself considtently, something noted several times), but being presented as if they are. Here's how it's been working: you (or Hovig, or I) post something thought-out, argued with evidence and using an example, and the response is, essentially, "I don't think so." And when the argument starts to "close"--a clear demonstration, logical, with evidence, and support elsewhere in the real world--the response is a complete rejection of everything, oldpro's "judgments of intuition" made "without criteria," and a revisioning of the definitions (through contextual use) when it suits oldpro.

I suspect you were right, N, when you called oldpro on this: "you refuse to admit you understand them, as doing so would force you to swallow some pride and admit that you are, just like everyone else, guilty of faulty and indeed very circular logic at times."

If oldpro is indeed in Miami, something I think is the case, this explains a lot about the situation "on the ground" here.

I knew better than to click on that link.....I hope I learned my lesson.....




August 20, 2004, 5:16 PM

oldpro: where did you say this, prior to 9:09 am today? I said that when my experience tells me that a work of art is good I assume it must be good for everyone and I declare that it is good for everyone. I also said I might be wrong and that I might change my mind.

I don't see it anyplace.



August 20, 2004, 5:41 PM

Dr B & N: Telling me to go back and read the evidence is like Dr B a few pages ago telling me read a bunch of books. If you can't give specific, clear examples for your accusations the accusations are pointless. I am sorry I make you guys unhappy, but simply getting pissed at me doesn't help much.



August 20, 2004, 5:41 PM

Looky that. Numbered comments. I rock.

Cite at will.



August 20, 2004, 5:44 PM

Catbird: I don't blame you for not findling it. I think we have an olympic record blog page here.

5:32 PM Thus. the 19, yesterday.



August 20, 2004, 5:48 PM

Or, ahem, Comment #117. I so rock.



August 20, 2004, 5:57 PM

Not only numbered comments, Franklin, but a huge number. This must be a record page, I don't think even the Panel Discussion page got this many.



August 20, 2004, 6:04 PM

anyone who reads this thread can see that MB, and many others, did a hell of a lot more than just list off books, even though thats how it may have started. having to go back and outline every point of yours that was faulty is pointless and a waste of time, because we already have done that during the course of conversation! When you made a faulty point, it was pointed out and then supported with evidence. then you would dismiss the evidence, or get nitpicky and evasive of the point at hand. now to go back and rewrite the whole thread for you as evidence would be to treat you like some kind of invalid who cant go back and read it for yourself. it is an enormous waste of time, as the evidence is ALREADY there. its also a waste of time because its not like you are going to listen to evidence anyway, seeing how you havent up to this point. why dont YOU provide some evidence for your actual ARGUMENTS, evidence other than because I know so, rather than spending all this energy defending your ego (something you seem to do only when you dont have a good way of defending your argument)



August 20, 2004, 6:08 PM

Franklin, the numbered coments are neat. Thank you.



August 20, 2004, 6:10 PM

N: In the words of the late Ron Reagan: there you go again.

How about just one tiny little example? I would love to be proven wriong or mistaken. That's how we learn. But broadsides of angry
deninciation are unanswerable.



August 20, 2004, 6:25 PM

Here's an example for you. I could say Dr B is terrible and swful and carry on about him but I don't. I don't even want to, not at all. It is not interesting to do that. At most I merely expressed frustration about how difficult it is to argue with him. I could say "he makes all kinds of mistakes, just go back and read them all" but I don't, because it is just picky and does not move the discussion.

But right above, in this blog, he said:

"N: I am afraid that you are not going to get any more agreement on even the most simple basic issues like what "criteria" means than I had"

You and I know that we accepted a very clear dictionary definition and used it in our discussion quite extensively. So, Dr. B is clearly wrong. But so what? I don't care. All I want is for the discussion (argument, if you will) to proceed and be interesting. Sitting on your computers flailing at me with broad disapprobation does nothing of the kind.



August 20, 2004, 6:32 PM

Right you are about the thread length, Oldpro, the difference being that unlike the panel discussion page, I'm not bored yet.

N: I don't think anyone's saying that their judgments contain neither nature nor nurture. I experience the influences of nature and nurture as conditioning, not as criteria. Conditioning is what causes judgment to err. Going back to an earlier example, the Salon couldn't deal with Impressionist work at first. One could say that the work failed the Salon's criteria, but I think it's more to the point to say that the Salon had a long spell of conditioning to view art a certain way and Impressionism violated it. Seeing beyond one's own conditioning is a difficult, necessary responsibility.

I actually do think that enthusiasm and intellectualism go to different ends in art, although they are mutually reinforcing. I characterize it this way: Art with a lot of aesthetic value is good; art with a lot of historical value is interesting. The latter heightens the former. I talk about this at length here.

I see where you're coming from regarding your last graph in #140, I just don't think that you're talking about criteria. "You can have a bunch of beautiful criteria in one work, where each one taken individually are executed well..." Beautiful criteria? Beautiful qualities, dear N.



August 20, 2004, 6:43 PM

And there is another example. Franklin may disagree with me all over the place. We have had differences before, on our estimation of Chuck Close, for example. But they remain just that: differences of opinion, clearly stated.
Now Franklin has put up a set of opinions, some of which I may disagree with, but they are clearly stated, pertinent and offer a point of view. If I disagree with him I have a feeling I am not going to be personally disparaged. This, in my opinion at least, is the way to carry on a blog discussion.



August 20, 2004, 6:47 PM

oldpro, you have already shown that you cant be proven wrong, and your evidence that you are right is simply that you believe that you are. (evidence: by admitting that catbird wont find you saying that you ever admit you are wrong and change your mind, you prove this). It seems that, while you learn from your own personal experiences with art, you dont really use this kind of discussion as a way of learning. The blog is more your opportunity to show off what you think and already know, not to question or challenge yourself. And of course you wont admit this, which is sad, because if youd let go of that pride you wouldnt illicit so much frustration from other people, and we could actually have a conversation about ideas and not about you.

Franklin: you actually admit that one can see beyond ones own conditioning, that it is necessary. I say that it is impossible, because a lot of our conditioning is unconscious, a lot of it we dont know anything about, so cannot yet control. That was my whole point. There have been tests that measure brain waves and others that show how culture influences people on a biological level, so my opinion on this wasnt formed from thin air. it shocks me that you actually think one can see beyond ones own conditioning. So on that point, we disagree. I can agree to disagree.

so, how would you define criteria if my (dictionary-defined) use is bogus? Criteria are characteristics, they are qualities. As long as a judgment is derived from those qualities, it is criteria. In order to convince me that judging art doesnt take into account criteria, perhaps it would be useful for me to understand what the heck you mean by the word.


Michael Betancourt

August 20, 2004, 7:03 PM

Franklin: numbered comments. very cool. useful too I see. But it does give discussion a Futurological Congress feeling. But it does make footnoting the previous discussion much easier :)

oldpro: you are correct about this: How about just one tiny little example? I would love to be proven wriong or mistaken. That's how we learn.

You have been proved wrong, several times over. (96)
. . . look at the following comments for (some) examples:

59, 65, 70, 74, 78, 83, 84, 86, 89, 94, 103, 110 . . .etc.

As for definitions of "criteria" they have been posted three times, but your use doesn't always match the definition you proclaim because criteria are what we use to make judgements. (89)

Whatever gets used to make a judgement is a criteria. "Beautiful" or "Beauty" is a judgement arrived at by using criteria for beauty. Very simple. Intuitive criteria are still criteria, they just aren't consciously identified by the person using them (the same is also true for innate biological tendencies like schizophrenia and all-or-nothing thinking). (89, 110)

oldpro's comment We do not go to museums with a checklist. (95) contradicts what 150s years of behaviorial research shows about all kinds of intelligence. The internal models we use to encounter, interpret and engage the world may not be a "checklist" in the sense of going to the grocery store, but there is lots of research that suggests it may not be as far off as oldpro wants to claim. (38 41, 49, 50)

This discussion goes no where mostly because there's no "memory" of what has been said, discussed earlier having any impact. Thus I agree with N that it is circular. Now I know I can resist the temptation to click on the link. This post has proved to me (at least) that I have wasted my time.




August 20, 2004, 7:10 PM

MB, Right on. Here's to the intelligent and sane people in Miami. Not that I don't love all the crazy guys just as much.



August 20, 2004, 7:13 PM

N: More disparaging remarks No examples in sight yet. I couldn't make sense of the catbord example; all I did was tell him what he wanted to know. But, as Dr B likes to say, whatever.

Franklin did not say that your dictionary definition of criteria is wrong. Neither did I.

The issue of conditioning vs. "looking beyond it" is an interesting one. I happen to agree with Franklin, although I would phrase it differently. (That ought to stiffen the opposition, Franklin; Sorry!) But I think I better drop out for a while (I have said that before and did no such thing) because I am getting nothing but "hate mail", and I think it gets the discussion nowhere.



August 20, 2004, 7:23 PM

oldpro: I see lots right there in #156, but N did already observe in #141 that "The only time you ever claim MB was 'obtuse' was when he would actually make a very clear, very logical point that you wouldn't be able to otherwise dispute. But instead of saying 'you have a point, MB, My logic was off' you blamed him for an imagined obtuseness." and your "No examples in sight yet." must mean you are completely unwilling to admit you can make any mistakes.



August 20, 2004, 7:25 PM

N: What you just said to Oldpro is unfair. Catbird asked him to point out where he said he might be wrong and change his mind, and he did so.

Your right in that it would be impossible to see beyond all of one's conditioning in a giant leap, but one can see past pieces of it: aversion to certain colors, for instance. You do that by prolonged exposure. By spending time in front of a work of art, some of those initial impulses fade out and other ones come to the forefront. To a certain extent you can do it manually: "You know, I just hate that shade of green; let me try looking at this as if that weren't a pressing issue."

Re: how would you define criteria if my (dictionary-defined) use is bogus? Criteria are characteristics, they are qualities, The dictionary-defined usage of criteria does not equate them to characteristics or qualities.



August 20, 2004, 7:28 PM

Dr B: This does get tiresome.What have done is refer back to some of yours & Ns postings where you both go on at great length, and which have been extensively answered, and then you follow with the same arguments which have been disputed with the same broad reference to authotirities and years of ereasearch and all that. This is not specific. I found a specific mistake you made just recently, pointed it out clearly and then said I didn care because it does no good. Find something specific, if you are driven to proven me wrong, somehow, somewhere. A specific example of something I said that is wrong. Better yet, 2 or 3. Or else let's just drop the whole lugubrious exercise.



August 20, 2004, 7:59 PM

Franklin, I totally see where you are coming from with the 'green' example. I do think it is important to be aware of such biases and try to see beyond them.....

my point is that we have biases and ways of seeing and thinking that aren't so obvious, some that lie in our subconscious even, they are how we think of things and how we define them and how we understand them based on a whole mess of cultural, social, biological, you name it sources and influences. And while we are able to identify some of them and work past some of them, we can't work past, or even identify ALL of them. That's all.

I just don't believe one could ever assume that they could actually see beyond their own conditioning. You conditioning, after all, it what makes you decide to try to see the work differently in spite of the green anyway. And to at least try to understand more completely what parts of conditioning (as well as other influences) shape how we see helps us understand art and enjoy the experience better.



August 20, 2004, 8:02 PM

oh, and I thought I posted something that I guess didn't go through: I figured that 'standards' (when looking at visual art especially) includes (though is not limited to) the characteristics and qualities we note in the work of art. Franklin, you think this is not true? How else would you determine those standards if they can not encompass both qualities and characteristics of a work of art?



August 20, 2004, 8:04 PM

Read this:

It explains how much our supposedly innate abilites may be a result of the language we use. Refusing to understand means maybe you're not capable of understanding. Neat, huh?



August 20, 2004, 8:19 PM

Catbird: dear god, that's cool. I think it's neat, too, to note how when we understand better ourselves, how our language functions, how our brains work -- all that science stuff that on the surface appears to have little to with art -- we actually can rework ways of how we look at art, how we think about looking at art, and how we talk about art. It's cool to see how it's all connected.



August 20, 2004, 9:55 PM

N: I think Franklin answered your question by referring to the definitions of the words.

An example of "going beyond your conditioning" would be when you are surprised that you like something because you "shouldn't" like it, because it is not a discernable part of your conditioning. This should happen often to any art lover. it is one of the great pleasures of looking at art.

A specific example: I was brought up in the most clearcut Brady Bunch (though not as much fun) Anglo/WASP environment you can imaging. My father was musical, but I thought his music was stale and old-fashioned, though I did not dislike it. I had a little Hallicrafters SW radio I listened to late at night, when I wasn't supposed to (I was about 10 at the time) and one day I heard a black R&B station from Newark NJ playing some severely funky stuff and I was instantly taken, grabbed, hooked. (this was pre-Elvis). I became a blues & soul addict. I couldn't keep away from it. Later, in college, I had a room to myself because my numerous roommates couldn't stomach what I listened to. I still love the stuff. If there was anything in the world I was not "conditioned" to it was that kind of "negro" music, as it was called back then. But I instantly, within seconds, knew there was something magical there when I heard it. That is what might be called "going beyond your conditioning". As an artist and art lover it is not just a happenstance, it is an obligation.



August 20, 2004, 10:07 PM

But Oldpro, your cultural conditioning isn't just the family in which you were raised, it's a ton of other factors, too. Your society. How your brain in particular biologically responds to different stimuli. Maybe you shouldn't say you that you 'shouldn't' have liked non-anglo music... perhaps there are very good reasons for why you did like that music, they are just not obviously identifiable?



August 20, 2004, 10:12 PM

Catbird, that is really cool. Just - how do they know it's not the other way around, that they don't have words for high numbers because they can't conceptualize them?

N: If that's all you're asserting in #162, I agree with you. I think it's possible to get in front of something and stop thinking for a moment, but it's hard to keep it up for prolonged periods. Oldpro describes another good instance. It happens. It's one of the nicer things about human beings - our fog isn't so thick that the light can't come through.

Re: #163, standards could include qualities of art. They could also include things that were extrinsic to the art. The problem here is that in art, one will encounter something that violates one's standards but one will still think it's good. Too, let's take that contrast example again. I say, this piece has good contrast. I'm describing a quality intrinsic to the work. I know about contrast as a parameter because of all of my edumacation. But why do I perceive it as "good"? That remains an intuited, felt event. We could know if we could look under the hood of judgment, as I was saying earlier. But since we can't, it falls into one of the four states I listed above: no criteria, intuited criteria, unknown criteria, or fluid criteria, which again are functionally identical. I'm going with no criteria because that matches my experience the best, at least in spirit.



August 20, 2004, 10:25 PM

Franklin: not so minor point. "functionally identical" defies your definition of criteria.

"no criteria" cannot be functionally identical to "fluid criteria" or "unknown," or even "intuitive."

Maybe you could argue the other three work the same, but not "no criteria". Bad logic.

You raise a good question about, but I think the article answered it. There's no reason they shouldn't be able to conceptualize.... they just can't. :)



August 20, 2004, 10:30 PM

I'm probably going to get nowhere with this, but i'm going to try.

When the 'light' does come through, I don't think that you can KNOW that this is a light of knowledge or beauty, or if it is just some part of your social conditioning/biological wiring that you INTERPRET as this 'light'. It could be the former, but I think at least sometimes it is the latter, and for me it is interesting to find out when and why.

There are also, I think, ways to find out why and how you do percieve something as good. You may not know immediately as it happens in that felt moment, but there are ways. Again, understanding how we come to that conclusion may not change our reactions to what we are viewing, but it helps us understand why we have that reaction so as not to belittle other people's reaction or assume some position of authority ourselves without informed evidence to back that assumed authority up, (if we bother doing it all).



August 20, 2004, 10:32 PM

N: Something made me go for that music like a ton of bricks, but trying to spread my "conditioning" infinitely backwards and inwards to make it plausible is begging the question. That music was about as outside of my environment and upbringing as the rings of Saturn. Saying it is "biological" is self-evident because I am "biological", so it is no help. I have absolutely no idea why it hit me like it did, and I have had numerous similar experiences since, particularly with visual art, and I relish each and every one. This is why I mistrust all attempts to posit a specifiable standard, whether overt, hidden, cultural, biological, buried, obscure, sworn to by experts, proven by research or whatever.

On the other hand, I will immediately accept any standard that compels assent. I have yet to see it.



August 20, 2004, 10:38 PM

N: What you feel in that "felt moment" when the "light goes on" - that's it, thats the grasping, the joy, the pleasure, the realization - that's everything, right there. That what "good" art does. When that happens I want to go out and tell everyone about it so they can experience it. "Good" is nothing more than a term we use to talk about it. Use "zowie" or "wow". Who cares.



August 20, 2004, 10:42 PM

Oldpro: you really think that the culture of black people is really as far removed from you, or other non-blacks, as the rings of saturn? you know that black people are human beings, too, and that the walk on the same planet that you do, and that there are indeed cross-cultural commonalities, not the least of which is that all races interact, though sometimes in manners of oppression, with one another. It seems like when you don't understand something, Oldpro, like the origins of your emotional charges, or another culture, you assume immediately that they just don't exist, or that it is somehow 100% magical. that's bad logic.

(please note that what I have just now pointed out is EVIDENCE of your logic so as not to have to go back later and point out what comment number this is)



August 20, 2004, 10:43 PM

An example of "going beyond your conditioning" would be when you are surprised that you like something because you "shouldn't" like it, because it is not a discernable part of your conditioning.

This is not necessarily true: what you have said about this music being "negro" music suggests that disliking it was part of your conditioning, so your embrace is little more than a reversal of that conditioning. Not really going very far beyond yourself in that case.

A psychologist might suggest your liking of it had more to do with your rejection of (all or some) the values you were raised with--and that this is partly the source of your instant "love." Add to this the illicit nature of your encounter, the "distant" sound the radio signal had, your breaking the rules by listening, etc. may all be part of it.

But I'm sure you won't admit it. Too logical. Too clear and simple. Not intuitive at all...



August 20, 2004, 10:48 PM

some would argue intuition can be understood rationally.

though the experience of intuiting something and rationalizing it are different, both are equally mysterious yet dissectable human processes.

That's what I think.



August 20, 2004, 10:49 PM

So now oldpro is a closet racist who does not recognize the humanity of blacks but likes their music anyway because he is drawn to that which is illicit but he won't admit it.

What else are you going to hang on this guy?



August 20, 2004, 10:52 PM

Oh, I don't think Oldpro is necessarily a closet racist. He could be, but he as easily could not be. His statement did have racist implications. I don't think, however, that he understood that when he wrote it, which is why I pointed it out. Words and statements have assumptions embedded in them that may go against how we believe and feel, which is exactly why we need to question what we think and why, and what we say and why, to avoid exactly those kind of dangerous assumptions.



August 20, 2004, 10:54 PM

Catbird: I didn't say they were identical, I said they were functionally identical. That is, in practice, one could get the same results off of any of them; that unless you could look under the hood of judgment there's no telling which one of them is true.

I would like to point out to Catbird and N that they are no longer discussing the question of criteria and have moved on to accusing Oldpro of denying the effects of conditioning, which he has not done, and seem to be looking for any peg at all to hang him on.



August 20, 2004, 10:59 PM

Franklin, i do believe we are allowed to move on to other subjects?

Oldpro and I do seem to have different ideas on how conditioning affects how we view a work of art. He has implied that conditioning doesn't affect the intuitive charge he gets from a work of art. I would disagree.
What don't you like about that discussion?



August 20, 2004, 11:02 PM

Besides, I take offense that it is assumed that I am trying to hang Oldpro up on some peg. It is his IDEAS that I am currently taking issue with. I don't think they stand up. If he can provide a good enough argument to make them stand up, then maybe I could better understand his point of view and agree to disagree. That's why i keep probing. and he's giving it back with just as much vigor, so I really don't see what the problem is here, Franklin.



August 20, 2004, 11:02 PM

Franklin: not my intention, so I'm sorry if it appears that way.

oldpro claims to make judgements intuitively, and intuition is without conditioning. The example of what's being called "going beyond his conditioning" brings conditioning into this.

This discussion is connected to the criteria one very clearly and simply: oldpro claims his intution is not a result of conditioned criteria (no criteria at all actually), so if he has even one conditioned criterion, then he is wrong. Nice and simple logic.

If it's going in unfortunate directions, it's a result of his example and what he claimed about it, not a desire to "hang him" for it.

Why do you need this spelled out?



August 20, 2004, 11:05 PM

Geez, N, don't wheel out the PC wagon on me! I am stating a simple fact, which was a fact of life when I was a kid, not my attitude toward it! You are turning it inside out. The music was completely unfamiliar to me because of life conditions when I was a 10 year old and because I had a sheltered childhood (not my fault, right?) and the minute I heard the music I knew it was wonderful. Don't give me any chest-thumping soapbox about "we are all human beings" "cultural commonalities" and "we all walk on the same planet"; that is just disingenuous and Jesuitical. The music was completely unfamiliar to me, period, and when I heard it I loved it. I am just trying to give a helpful example about "going beyond cultural conditioning". i thought maybe we had a fresh start here. Take it for what it is and please don't turn this into yet another set of long, random, disparaging comments vilifying everything I say, OK?



August 20, 2004, 11:08 PM

Olpro, really, I would never actually assume that you are a racist. Your statement did have racist assumptions. And what we take to be 'facts' are indisputable. they can always, with new information, be proven wrong. it was a fact that the earth was flat until evidence suggested otherwise.



August 20, 2004, 11:08 PM

I meant to say that what we take to be facts are NOT indisputable.



August 20, 2004, 11:15 PM

Catbird: I don't need it spelled out, but I'm glad you did, because it brings up a problem with what you're saying: you're conflating conditioning and criteria in a manner that doesn't match anything that Oldpro said. I'm the one who brought up the difference between conditioning and criteria, so take it up with me if you like.

N: no problem with moving on to new topics, but I don't read that Oldpro "implied that conditioning doesn't affect the intuitive charge he gets from a work of art." He seems to have an agnostic attitude about it that is commensurate with its unprovability. Anyway, as you were.



August 20, 2004, 11:23 PM

I have visited upon myself a mass of misunderstanding, and unfortunately I know damn well it is all my fault. But I am learning a lot about how people think, so it is worth it, I guess.

Catbird: "negro music" it what it was called, which I discovered after I started spreading my enthusiasm for it. Those are the words people used. I did not "dislike" because it was called that; it because I did not know about it then. The psychological suggestions are beyond me; i am not a pshychologist. And is it possible for you make a comment without being snotty?

N: My statement did not have "racist implications". It gave facts about a racist time and my reaction to part of it. You guys are a nasty bunch.

I never implied that "conditioning does not affect intuitive reactions" Can't either of you read? What in the world is "conditioned criteria"? Whoever brought that up? What is my "one conditioned criterion"?



August 20, 2004, 11:31 PM

Franklin #168 - It doesn't matter (to me) why you enjoy sharper contrast, only that you articulate as much when you say "this is good art or bad." It's the only way values can be transmitted or compared between people, or that art can be discussed qualitatively.

I'm arguing here for the rejection of umbrella terms (good, bad, art, not-art) in favor of personal preferences, communicated as precisely and consistently as possible. One piece of art can't be proven "better" than another, (not even proven "not art," as far as I'm concerned) but certain pieces of art can be defended better. (I'm defending defense!)

Maybe I'm arguing the wrong thing, but here's my understanding of "qualities" and "criteria": A work of art embodies certain qualities. A viewer prefers or admires certain qualities. (This is either by nature or by training, and either in agreement with society, or not. It doesn't matter). When that viewer becomes an advocate, critic, curator, judge, or art professor, those "admired qualities" turn into criteria.

Furthermore, schools of thought may form which treasure certain criteria above others. No one school is "better" than another, but one school can stand for certain qualities more strongly than another, and, in defending its preferences, can establish rules or criteria based on the qualities they admire. (Finally, those schools can be held in esteem or contempt by members of the rest of society, but let's not go there.)

Do I use the terms incorrectly? Am I arguing the wrong thing? Do I misunderstand the question?

Back to my larger argument, when someone says Pollock is better than de Kooning, I need know what they admire, and how Pollock meets their expectations better than de Kooning, or else it's not a verbal argument, it's just an interior feeling that the advocate is wasting their time trying to express, and could be better expressed as "I like Pollock more than I like de Kooning, for some reasons I can't explain"

Let me try an example, based on the pickled shark I saw last month. Let's pretend it's "art," arguendo, and let's rate it as such, according to the preferences of the writer, i.e., me.

First off, the piece provides no context other than its own minimalism. If Ellsworth Kelly can paint a blue square and be praised, or Richard Serra install a big sheet of steel with success, then there should be nothing wrong with a shark in a box. On the other hand, taking it as minimalism, then a stuffed sharkskin might have been just as effective as this. So on the scale of minimalism, it's an interesting enough piece, especially with the white vitrine frame and green water surround, but it doesn't answer the major question it begs, i.e., why bother with a real shark at all?

As to its "narrative," its title seems to have something to do with death, but I'd get more of a feeling of death if it were a live shark swimming menacingly in a tank, or even a photo or video of an shark in the middle of a hunt. So on the conceptual scale I think it fails dramatically. It provides no more context for exploring death than being a dead pickled shark. Maybe Hirst thought it would be shocking to put a pickled shark in a gallery, but it's a shock easily overcome, and the work provides little of interest beyond the initial frisson (if any).

And oh, by the way, here's the punchline: the Saatchi is in the same building as the London Aquarium, which contains a live shark tank. So all in all, it's still little more than a piece of minimalism that should have used sharkskin, and maybe mounted it more interestingly.

This comment was not intended to be a critique of Hirst or his shark, but to demonstrate that one can rate a work without saying "it's not art," dismissively, but rather give it an objective hearing, in a fair but rigorous fashion. I'm using an overall theme of, "Hirst is trying to shoot for this goal, and not reaching it." I find more people sympathize with this form of put-down than with simpler shootings. If I failed to demonstrate this, then okay, I failed. But that's what I'm shooting for.

In the ultimate analysis, the person saying "pickled sharks aren't art" will not convince anyone that Hirst doesn't deserve his success, but perhaps the way I stated it above (which are my true feelings about the work), it just might.



August 20, 2004, 11:36 PM

N: You have no succeded in equating everything I experienced as a kid and growing up during the civil rights era, together with the experiences of everyone involved in any way with that era who could also testify and cite from written history that it all might amount to no more factually than an earlier idea that the earth is flat.



August 20, 2004, 11:39 PM

I meant "now succeeded", of course. This stuff is enervating!



August 20, 2004, 11:43 PM

For heaven's sake, oldpro, you said that black culture was as far removed from you as the rings of saturn. Now we know that this is just not true. The implication is that black culture is not as close to you as it truly is. And the implication from this is that THERE COULD ACTUALLY BE A PROVABLE, CULTURAL, TANGIBLE REASON WHY YOU LIKED THE MUSIC. Your point by making that statement was to say that what I just wrote in caps wasn't true, and by pointing out the fallacies in your statement, I am beating your argument down, that's all.

I don't think you are a bad person for making this comment; i just want you to be aware of what it is you really, actually SAID. Even if it is not what you meant, what you SAY becomes the evidence you use to base your argument. so if it is what you meant, it is racist; if it is not what you meant your argument doesn't stand.



August 20, 2004, 11:46 PM

Any peg at all...



August 20, 2004, 11:48 PM

Oldpro, I don't want to prove that what you experienced as a kid was not factual at all. I just want to point out the POSSIBILITY that what you assume to be facts may not be, that's all. to prove that there are greater things that are going on would have to be done by you; by an honest reassessment of your experience coupled with an understanding of history, etc. and you could choose to do this or not. But you would have to at least admit that the possibility that what you assume to be facts don't necessarily tell the whole story, that's all.

I'm not trying to invalidate your experiences, Oldpro. I'm just saying that there is more to it than what you give credit for.



August 20, 2004, 11:50 PM

Seriously, Franklin. You are being ridiculous. You are reducing my opinions and beliefs to some sort of vindicative agenda. Please reread what I wrote, and if something doesn't make sense, ask questions. but don't be a petty asshole. you are above that.



August 20, 2004, 11:55 PM

I just want to see this thread reach the 200 post. And I am having fun.

Really, Oldpro, I don't mean to pick on you as a person. I really think your ideas though about viewing art don't hold up a good argument, and I'm not trying to disprove you or anything for the sake of disproving you, but because in the course of such discussion I learn more about what it is you really mean. I think that the basic things we are arguing about affect how we talk about art. it affects how we view art. It would be hard to move on to talk about art if some of these issues weren't cleared up for me, that's all. It's seriously all about the issues at hand. Otherwise, it really would be a waste of time. But as long as it's about the issues, it's not. As long as it's about the issues, it's fun. As long as it's about the issues, I learn.

I think we can all agree on that.



August 20, 2004, 11:55 PM

OK N, Please forgive me. Perhaps "rings of Saturn" was a wee bit exaggerated, an unfortunate rhetorical device. No, black culture was not as unfamiliar as the rings of Saturn. Not at all. I humbly bow to your powers of perception.

But perhaps you do not realize that when I was 10 years old, which was a long time ago, black culture was very, very remote, because it was a racist society, and blacks and whites were very very separate. I do believe that this is a well established fact, or is it equivalent to "the earth is flat"? Am I a racist for stating this fact? Am I a racist because I was brought up this way? Is that what you are saying? Because if it is I am through talking to you.



August 20, 2004, 11:57 PM

Oldpro, you made that statement today, not when you were ten.

Rhetorical devices have a heck of lot power. It is not at all insignificant.



August 21, 2004, 12:00 AM

Oldpro, you can not be a racist but still say things that have racist implications. It just means you aren't listening to what you are really saying, that's all. I do it all the time. If you are unaware of the racist implications in your words, then I would say it would be pretty hard for you to actually be a racist. But it's good to be aware that we all do things like that from time to time, and that those implication say something about how we may act in the world, whether or not we intend to.

so please, i've said it already before so don't ask me to say it again: no, oldpro, i don't think you are necessarily a racist.

(I can't say definitively cause i don't know you that well, but i certainly can't deduce that you are from what you said).



August 21, 2004, 12:01 AM

Ok I'm outa here.



August 21, 2004, 12:02 AM

Rhetoric is great--when you're grandstanding, but not when you're trying to talk about something that really matters. I think this is a good lesson for all of us.



August 21, 2004, 12:03 AM

Also: just because people believed at that time that blacks and whites were completely different creatures doesn't meant that they were. so i guess i don't understand what you are trying to prove from your argument.



August 21, 2004, 12:03 AM


not that the observation means much, but wow.



August 21, 2004, 12:04 AM

You are not leaving because you are angry, are you, Oldpro? Does this mean that everything you have ever said about all the people who have left this blog in the past now applies to you? Like, that they couldn't hold their own, etc. etc.?



August 21, 2004, 12:07 AM

So, to get back on track: when you do get an emotional charge from art, Oldpro, where does that come from? is that something that matters to you, the possibility that maybe that charge could be biologically or culturally explained?



August 21, 2004, 12:11 AM

N: Vindictive agenda? Naah, more like a lost temper. But I'm rereading, I'm rereading. I'm rereading #190.

For heaven's sake, oldpro, you said that black culture was as far removed from you as the rings of saturn. Now we know that this is just not true. It's a metaphor. Not something to be taken literally.

The implication is that black culture is not as close to you as it truly is. No, this is your inference.

And the implication from this is that THERE COULD ACTUALLY BE A PROVABLE, CULTURAL, TANGIBLE REASON WHY YOU LIKED THE MUSIC. There could be, and Oldpro isn't saying otherwise.

...if it is what you meant, it is racist; if it is not what you meant your argument doesn't stand. That's a lot of responsibility to put on a metaphor. Your statement is false.

And here comes #197: ...i don't think you are necessarily a racist. It's okay, N., I don't think you're necessarily a pedophile. I think you need to clean up your own statements before you go after Oldpro's.



August 21, 2004, 12:14 AM

Franklin, the thing is, you don't know me. I easily could be a pedophile.



August 21, 2004, 12:14 AM

I repeat what I said in 199:

Rhetoric is great--when you're grandstanding, but not when you're trying to talk about something that really matters. I think this is a good lesson for all of us.

And I do mean *all of us.



August 21, 2004, 12:22 AM

I'm also not angry...... so, um, your inference about lost temper is not valid (I use caps cuz I don't know how to bold; i've tried before, disaster).

There is, however, validity to metaphor, especially when one uses it to prove a point. That's why I put so much responsibility on it. Again, IT WAS NOT TO PROVE OLDPRO IS A RACIST but to prove how he couldn't use that metaphor to prove his point, so i wanted him to find another way to prove his point, which he never did because we stayed on this stupid rhetoric thing for so long (thanks for the dose of reality Catbird).

And franklin, your statement about 'my inference' is right on the money, however. Point taken and swallowed.



August 21, 2004, 12:24 AM

If we stayed up all night, we could get to post 300. Wouldn't that be tedious?

Or we could just label it 'performance art'




August 21, 2004, 12:50 AM

For the record, Oldpro, I do appreciate enormously your beautiful explanations of your experiences. I didn't say that earlier because I was busy pointing out what I saw to be the voids in the arguments, but I didn't want my appreciation for your conversation and your comments to go unnoted.



August 21, 2004, 12:59 AM

here's how you bold:

You write some text. Then to make it bold, you pick a section and enclose it in an HTML tag like this:

< B > text < / B >

looks like


Don't use the spaces. The slash in the tag turns off the bolding.


that guy in the back row

August 21, 2004, 8:49 AM

I miss oldpro. You guys can't see past your own skulls. Out


Jerome du Bois

August 21, 2004, 9:40 AM


About the numbers . . . I am not a number, I am a free man!

About the rest: I read everything, but I got stuck on your mention of Michaelangelo's Pieta way up there somewhere, and this gives me the opportunity to pass on a story that anyone reaching #212 should be rewarded with, because I think it relates:

Back in the day, this Franciscan monk I knew went on his first-ever pilgrimage to Rome. As both a cultured and religious man, he made the rounds of the shrines to both. And so it was that one day he drifted up to a tour group that was assembled before the Pieta.

The tour guide had just stopped speaking, gesturing to the figures, and in the echoing silence all the heads turned to that image of immeasurable suffering and acceptance, to the flowing folds, the inconsolable tears of marble, and as my friend's heart began to swell and lift, he heard a male voice behind him say to its companion:

"I wonder how much it weighs?"


Jerome du Bois



August 21, 2004, 4:45 PM

If the Peyton Place follow up to the current "Round Up" is Franklin's Word Purgatory, this mega thread became oldpro's Word Hell.

It demonstrates why, in the showdown, art must resist words.



August 21, 2004, 4:49 PM

I meant to add: "The Tower of Babel" is an insufficient reference for describing what happened here.



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