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art values against fashion values

Post #341 • August 9, 2004, 6:36 AM • 42 Comments

A large segment of the contemporary art world values its product according to the same criteria as the world of fashion: sexiness, edginess, and currency. Those values aren't a problem for fashion because hardly anyone expects the greatest fashion ever made to deliver the same intensity of experience as the greatest art ever made.

Those values correlate to more demanding values in stronger art: beauty, rigor, and innovation. But the fashion values are far more accessible. In fact, you can throw a party around them. Not so for the latter values, which require the artist to make hundreds of tiny, quiet decisions in the private act of working, and for the looker to expose himself to and reflect upon countless works of art. They require an intersection of sensitivity and work ethic that is rare in people. They require self-criticism. They require talent (for making or looking) and labor.

Because the fashion values resemble art values, one can fake talent and labor by throwing around enough jargon, attitude, or cash. It is possible to fake it to yourself. In fact, the art world involves large communities of people who have faked it to themselves and each other. They are having a lot of fun. Self-criticism is rewarding but not all that fun. It is an upright mindset that relatively few people embrace, and those who do are not able to apply it at all times or to the rest of their lives. It can be overdone, and it can be done errantly. David Park once wrote,

For more than twenty years I had preferred other qualities to those of representation. During that time I was concerned with the big abstract ideals like vitality, evergy, profundity, warmth. They became my gods. They still are. I disciplined myself rigidly to work in ways I hoped might symbolize those ideals. I still hold to those ideals today, but I realize that those paintings practically never, even vaguely, approximated any achievement of my aims. Quite the opposite: what the paintings told me was that I was a hard-working guy who was trying to be important.

Self-criticism isn't just a Greenbergian invention.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. And God said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

I feel that Clement Greenberg's religion was more than incidental to his outlook; the god of the Jews evaluated his first act in the newly formed universe. One gets the sense from Genesis that if God didn't think light was cutting the dots ("This just isn't, like, bright enough for Me, you know?") He would have let the earth sit under a dark heaven until He worked out the bugs.

But even the goyim are in on it, like the proverbial Balinese woman who said of her people, "we have no art; we just do everything as well as possible." When the disciples of the Buddha inquired how they could do everything he asked of him, he replied, "Just do your best." Only they could know what their best was. Likely not even they knew until they went to go find out. It seems that the deep thinkers of all times identified self-criticism as the method for living a good life.

Self-criticism can only be exercised in the act of something that can be done skillfully or not, and skill has been slipping out of the definition of art. "Art, n., 1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature," says the dictionary (which means that I make art when I sweep my walkway, and I'd like a grant for it, please). But definitions Number 2 through 8 have skill, quality, and beauty written all over them.

Nevertheless skill is not sufficient in itself for the exercise of self-criticism. It happens sometimes that the anonymous author of The Minor Fall, the Major Lift posts something about art and I find myself on the opposite side of an argument from Ingrid Sischy, editor of Interview Magazine, assuming it's really her, which it may very well not be. She had this this to say regarding a recent post:

...all artists are extremely influenced by that which surrounds them. In a, dare I say, postmodern or new millennium culture, were surrounded by a lot of vapid shit. Practitioners such as [Damien] Hirst or Tracy Emin do a pretty good job of harnessing such external stimuli and extracting how they are affected by it personally or how the culture as a whole is moved or changed.

This is arguable at best, but I concede that these artists have skill: at sexiness, edginess, and currency.

I used to think that time would test the legitimacy of art embraced by the market or dialogue - that the really bad stuff would be revealed as trendy or zeitgeist. But the wealthy are able to make what they value valuable, and that goes as well for the Medicis as for Charles Saatchi.

She ignores the fact that Michelangelo expressed the highest aspirations of Florentine culture, not its basest, and that culture believed in eternal values that transcended the activities of the world (including the egos of patrons). Michelangelo was recognized as divine, not just cutting-edge. He hooked into something greater than skill and fashion and pursued the superlative. Michelangelo's environment was hardly free of ugliness and vapidness and deceit. But one can choose one's ideals to favor their opposites, even today.

Just as skill is slipping out of the idea of art, cultivation is slipping out of the idea of culture. Culture is a farming term, from Latin cultus, meaning "tilled." Culture has long implied an activity that is civilized, nourishing, slow, attentive, laborious, skillful, and a product of human, earthly, and heavenly energies working in synchrony. "Culture," as the term is used in the Arts & Culture section of the paper, means something like "entertainment with tonic properties." Watching a cultivar grow is not entertaining, but it is pleasurable and tonic, like any meaningful work can be.

If the original senses of art and culture and the values associated with them - beauty, rigor, and innovation - are dear to us, we must resist the values of fashion, recognizing that the former can be hard to tell from the latter and they all sometimes mingle without harm. The latter values dominate, and resisting them demands vigilance, but I want art, and I cannot stand the idea of settling for counterfeits.




August 9, 2004, 4:23 PM

Awesome post! Thoughtful, provocative, ...getting to some real substance in terms of the meaning and value of what art is! Very very cool. Thank you Franklin!


Phil Isteen

August 9, 2004, 5:08 PM

When tillage begins the other arts follow...
Yes - another thoughtful & thought provoking post.
But you attempt to elevate "art" by putting down "fashion."
If by this you mean the fickle, perhaps questionable
tastes of the masses maybe you're on to something.

But I think your finding "the world of fashion," a whole
industry of designers (many artists in their own right)
& laborers, guilty as charged is just not right - I could
go on and on - but it seems as you are saying that
anyone involved with "fashion" need not posess the
gift of self-criticism, skill and talent, and the drive, desire
& obsession to make "hundreds of tiny, quiet decisions
in the private act of working."

Great artists exists in many realms- some paint & some
work in fabric . . .then there are the shitty artists, some
who work with shit. When the world of "fashion" starts to
sell shit - LITERALLY - and gets away with it - then you
can get up on that hight horse again. In the mean time,
I think your indictment belongs right at home in the world
of "art" we so love to discuss here...


Phil Isteen

August 9, 2004, 5:20 PM

Maybe your next post can be
"art values against music values"

It would make just as much sense.



August 9, 2004, 7:23 PM

Phil, you are saying, by implication, at least, that what Franklin is saying does not make sense.
I don't think this is accurate. At the same time, for the sake of argument, if I were Franklin I would emphasize the difference between art and fashion rather than the relative value of the two, simply because once you put something down relative to art someone like you will come along and defend whatever has been put down, which is really not the point. The point is that serious artists put a lot of time and energy and love and care into making and comprehending art. It means a lot to them, and we have ample evidence that it means a lot to the world. It is very precious. Many artists, Franklin being one, me being another, feel that other things in the world have an ongoing pernicious effect on art and the appreciation of art. Franklin came up with fashion; any of us could come up with something else and make an equal argument.

Much of the discussion on these pages has to do with the feeling many of us have that perhaps the present threats to art, as we see it, are a lot more dangerous that ever before. I don't want to burn up space making a case for this (looks like I did anyway!), but everyone should keep in mind that the social forces that surround art are no longer purely Philistinism (you chose the alias, Phil), the straight up opposition to what was newer and better that the Modernists always faced, but something much more clever and insidious. The name we give it is Postmodernism, but the attitude that Postmodernism embodies is much more widespread and pervasive than some academic theory. Now, instead of angrily opposing the best new art, the Philistine has learned that "far out" is "in", that it is good and proper to eagerly embrace whatever looks new or different or offensive or "OK", and, conversely, to dismiss and reject what seems conventional and specific and clearcut. Everybody does it. They put up some anonymous vehicle on one of the endless, mindless car ads on TV and call it "revolutionary". This is the contemporary mindset, and just about everyone marches to that drummer.

The destructive part is that this attitude embodies a fundamental relativism of values. All you have to do is say "wow - far out!" and you are cool. People are sheep; for most of us being cool, being "with it", being "in", is ever so much more important than just about anything else. Having very strong opinions about basic values in something as subject to the whims of the world as art is, is about as "uncool" as you can get. Anyone who has been reading this blog over the summer has witnessed the abject, slathering rage which arose when several people started expressing some of these "uncool" opinions. Of course the "uncool" opinions were also the strong, passionate. logical opinions, and the "cool" people gave up and slunk away. They are not about to defend their opinions because their opinions are the opinions of the herd, and the herd is always out of its mind. Nevertheless, they are the herd, and you oppose them at your own risk.

Damn, this has gone on long enough!


John Link

August 9, 2004, 8:36 PM

oldpro: just to add a comment about your reference to threat.

R. N. Elliott, who studied the stock market as a social (not financial)phenomemon, postulated what he called the "guideline of alternation". It corresponds to "everything is the same only different". Each advance or decline contrasts in some significant way from the one that preceeded it, often confusing the participants to the point where they do not recognize that history is repeating itself (only differently).

In the case of threats to art, the Philistines you talk about were an external threat, analagous to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. The new threat, which confoms to Elliot's alternation idea, is from within, that is, those "closest" to the art system have become the agent of its decline. Thus many participants in the art business are convinced there is no threat because the Philistines have been defeated. (Though they stomp on any vestige of Philistinism they can find, much like Don Quixote kept the world safe from rogue windmills.)

We could call this group the "new Philistines" but that does not really do justice to what they are - over educated, under cultivated, well organized, ersatz art lovers. I'd call them the art bureaucrats. As you suggest, they are a bigger threat to art than the Philisitines ever were. They have escaped detection because they so closely resemble the forces of Apollo and have multiplied until they now control the system. The success of the post WWII movement to bring art to the public has "succeeded". But its "success" has been to put across fashion, not art, as Franklin laments here today.


Phil Isteen

August 9, 2004, 8:52 PM

Oldpro: I do not generally disagree with you - other than your assertion that
"other things in the world have an ongoing pernicious effect
on art and the appreciation of art. Franklin came up with fashion..."

Why would one blame the problems with art today [postmodernism?]
with forces outside the art world - the institutions, museums,
academics, & press and collectors that shape the art world clearly
should be taken to task BEFORE blaming Todd Oldham or Donna
Karan or Giogio Armani.

I think this is what JL was just trying to get across:
"those "closest" to the art system have become the agent of its decline"



August 9, 2004, 9:06 PM

No problem there, Phil. Just a matter of phrasing, I guess. Link's comments on the "inside" nature of the threat are very well taken. I am not about to blame fashion designers for the problems in the art world. I don't think Franklin was implying anything like that either.



August 9, 2004, 9:32 PM

Right. I don't mean to put down fashion as a pursuit in itself, and I think fashion's values are appropriate for them. Fashion would be boring without sexiness, edginess, and currency, not that I'm any great expert. Specifically, I oppose importing those values into art and substituting them for greater virtues. Sorry if that wasn't clear.


Phil Isteen

August 9, 2004, 9:46 PM

I infer from what you're writing that you
think fashion is devoid of "greater virtues."

I say you are wrong. I don't know how much
experience you have with fashion; perhaps
a sweatshop stint has shaped your judgement?

Nevertheless, it would be unfair for a fashion
designer to claim that the "shit-machines"
promoted by the art world are the cause
for the new popularity of Members Only jackets.



August 9, 2004, 10:02 PM

The fashion world has those greater virtues, but they are not the point of fashion. The art world has those lesser virtues, but they are not the point of art.


Mary Agnes

August 9, 2004, 11:36 PM

The hardest thing is to sense the direction and weight of current cultual efforts. It takes so much effort to be creating culture; acting within it and be subject to all the mundanities and vagaries of life; be sway to current thought with its romantic notions (I thought platform shoes were cool) and still make yourself see what we are a doing that has any deeper meaning. I appreciate the assistance in that effort available here!


Phil Isteen

August 10, 2004, 12:19 AM

Franklin: you mention the "more demanding values in stronger art:
beauty, rigor, and innovation"

By "stronger art" do you mean better art?

Also - give me an example of 'rigor' in art.
I'm not trying to be sarcastic - I'd really like to
get a better handle on what you mean....



August 10, 2004, 1:17 AM

I shouldn't answer for Franklin, but the idea of "rigor" in art would seem to imply pretty simple, basic things like skill, hard work, not accepting second best, working things through, not being satisfied until you have done everything you can to solve a problem and make your work better - the "hundreds of tiny, quiet decisions" Franklin spoke of. It is extremely difficult to do, but not very difficult to comprehend.


Phil Isteen

August 10, 2004, 1:37 AM

Yes - I think the implication you
describe is pretty simple - but
you know the saying about a
picture's worth...

How about an example..?



August 10, 2004, 2:10 AM

What Oldpro said.

When I need an infusion of rigor, I go look at Lucian Freud. That's just me, though.


Phil Isteen

August 10, 2004, 2:55 AM




August 10, 2004, 3:21 AM

From "Art and Money" by Robert Hughes, first published in 1984:

"The art world now looks more like the fashion industry than like its former self. That is, its anxieties, which are real enough, are corporate; they tend to stem from the overriding need for a smooth flow of product ... the mass audience has to buy something. Despite [the] 35,000 [new graduates from American art schools per year], the amount of good art being produced doesn't change much. The market must therefore figure out ways of selling mediocre-to-bad art at prices that are high enough to stifle aesthetic dissent."


John Link

August 10, 2004, 4:00 AM


I am starting to sound like R. N. Elliott, Jr. The problem many have in understanding the art system is that, on a small scale, it looks like this causes that. But from a larger view, it operates like a school of fish. It just does what it does because it is a tightly organized group each member of which contributes to the playing out of a certain pattern.

Contrary to what Hughes suggests, there is a ton of unsold art produced every day and no one cares. Aesthetic dissent is stifled because the school of fish is swimming in a different direction, one that excludes aesthetics. Aesthetics gets in the way of their downward trajectory and so they squelch it. I have little confidence Hughes knows the difference between the good and the bad in art, inasmuch as he dismissed the Louis retrospective held a couple of years after "Art and Money". And so he is part of the herd he wants to piss on.

On the other hand, the "mass audience" certainly is a reality. And because the tide has turned low, it fits in perfectly with the decline now underway, inasmuch as its natural tendency is to reduce the level downward, which is where the group wants to go. They don't "have to buy something" but what they buy, if they buy, has to be bad.



August 10, 2004, 4:08 AM

Franklin's answer was appropriate but not very revelatory. You can't get a pictorial example of "rigor" in art, because the rigor is part of a process which is not in evidence.

If I were to try to answer the question by example, I might contrast two large, post-Cubist paintings, "Picasso's "Guernica" and Pollocks "Autumn Rhythm". "Guernica", for all its iconic fame, is a failed painting, because Picasso was not "rigorous" enough to realize, in paint, that the small-scale, quick-touch flickering dazzle of the Cubist painting could not be pumped up to gigantic size, given the constant scale of Picasso himself and his hand and arm. The result is a picture which looks like a huge stage set, clumsy, wooden, contrived and pseudo-dramatic. Pollock, on the other hand, "understood" that to go to large size you have to got expand the process itself, to find a way to broadcast the paint and enlarge the hand and arm beyond its limits. By doing this he applied "rigor", because he payed attention to the requirements of the circumstances, as Picasso did not.



August 10, 2004, 5:14 AM

let's consider an idea appropo to this discussion: oldism vs newism

In oldism, we find the idea that the old is inherently better than the new because we can look back at what has already been picked-through, fought over and those battles mostly settled by the course of time. The moldering masterpiece, flaking away and collected on the floor is of more value than anything new. So we find the idea that Greenberg and his assumptions about the world and how to approach it are now part of oldism.

In newism, we have the opposite, the assumption that anything new, even if it is simply a rehash of the past, is valuable simply for its newness. And the immediate, instantly gratifying is the ideal. Much of the post-modern''s lack of history can be understood in terms of newism.

oldism and newism are opposites, but with some points of agreement. Like two sides to the same coin, they share much of the space in between.

the artworld is a center of newism; this blog (for example) is an example of oldism. because newism is currently in vogue, it can afford to ignore oldism just as oldism ignored newism when it was on top.

the problem is oldism and newism, not the artworld, nor anything else. the problem is internal. change how you think and things look different.

oldpro: earlier this week you asked what happened to the debate? well, I for one don't think there's anything worth debating here. this is all old hat as far as I'm concerned. once you realize this discussion is meaningless, you can move on

end of line



August 10, 2004, 6:54 AM

Newpro, I'm a sucker for symmetrical arguments, but I'm not sure this one holds up. I agree with John Brunner: "There are two kinds of fool. One says, "This is old, and therefore good." And one says, "This is new, and therefore better." And again, the issue isn't old vs. new, but good vs. bad. I'm not attracted to the old, but to the perennial. I think a lot of people make that mistake about this blog. Putting my outlook into a category called The Old saves having to deal with it, and you wouldn't be the first to do so.

Frankly, if what you'd be calling newist art couldn't get a fair shake in this world, I'd be talking about it constantly. I'm like that.

But putting all that aside, you say that the problem is internal. change how you think and things look different. No argument there. But you have to change it to something. What, then? What viewpoint do you embrace that transcends the dichotomy you set up?



August 10, 2004, 2:27 PM

Newpro: If by meaningless you are referring to the old/new dichotomy you have presented I might tend to agree with you. Oldness and newness have neither been subjects under discussion, nor are they particularly germane to our discussion.

If you mean that everything we have been discussing is meaningless, you are entitled to your opinion. But one of the customs here is that those who post at least try to justify an opinion, rather than merely state it.



August 10, 2004, 4:36 PM

newpro: in your attempt to rise above the fray and settle it for all time, you have said, essentially, nothing. At least, I can discern little if any content, other than telling us to go to hell. You don't need to do that; we are already there, as far as the art system is concerned.



August 10, 2004, 4:43 PM

Franklin, I was initially won over with your latest post; a few of your ideas do inspire, as a coach. But let's not knock one art to bolster another. I think you are confusing fashion for fashionable. I can't believe that one disciple of the arts makes more "tiny, quiet decisions in the decisions in the private act of working" than another.
The arts are interdependant upon one another, just as the old speaks to the new. We can't all be dungeon painters, living in our garrets, and working alone. Let's step away from our keyboards, stop our whining ways stop singing the chorus to The Way We Were.


Phil Isteen

August 10, 2004, 5:12 PM

Oldpro: "You can't get a pictorial example of "rigor" in art, because the rigor is part of a process which is not in evidence." This is exactly what I wanted someone else to say.
(Thanks for the examples & explanation, too.)

The only way one can evaluate rigor is with some context - a litle information can go a long way to improve understanding...and the same time, one must resist being taken in by pseudo-intellectual gobbleygook. Just about any intelligent person can try to explain away good or bad art - I think we begin to get in trouble if we [literally] lose sight of the work & pay too much attention to explanations....



August 10, 2004, 5:16 PM

Babs, I think the old/new thing is some kind of convenient fantasy, and so, to a large extent, is the notion of "interdependence" in the arts. We are not sitting around wishing for the old days. Most of what we are "whining" about is something we perceive to be a very real threat to art itself not because it is new (it goes back nearly a hundred years, and has been in force for at least 30) but because it rejects values which we think are essential to art. The best new art always retrieves the values held and exemplified by the older art; it builds on the older art, it doesn't reject it.



August 10, 2004, 5:33 PM

Thanks, Phil. I appreciate your comments. We are, of course, a talking species. We talk about everything constantly and art certainly generates its share. It is essential to be on the lookout for gobbledygook and stomp on it hard. We had an excellent example of it a few days ago when Hovig gave us the link to the "critical analysis" of the chair we were talking about. And you are certainly 100% correct when you say that we get in trouble when we get away from the art. I would almost say that, like gravity, the strength decreases in proportion to the square of the distance of separation. (I hope that comparison is accurate. I took physics an awfully long time ago).



August 10, 2004, 9:34 PM

this is the essence of oldism, thanks oldpro:
"the values held and exemplified by the older art; it builds on the older art, it doesn't reject it"

and thank you too franklin for this:
"the perennial" which is another name for moldering masterpiece
"Frankly, if what you'd be calling newist art couldn't get a fair shake in this world, I'd be talking about it constantly. I'm like that."
in other words you promote the underdog. always commendable

however, the brunner example isn't really correct, since it misses the point about both oldism and newism and isn't what he means by it too

thinking in terms of us/them is the problem.
there is nothing wrong with art, only with your perceptions of the present.

but being caught up in the newism/oldism opposition means you don't see that your assumptions are the problem.

"the perrennial" is an oldism assumption. nothing to the work inherently makes it perrennial

end of line



August 10, 2004, 10:54 PM

Babs: Oldpro anticipated your comment above and he's right in saying that fashion's status relative to art is not my point. Nevertheless I'm going to dig my hole even deeper. Here goes: more creative possibilities exist for sonneteers than limerick writers, for dancers than figure-skaters, for jugglers than tightrope-walkers, for comic book artists than single-panel cartoonists, and for visual artists than fashion designers. Greater things can be achieved in the former in each case, but each of the latter remains a viable form with its own valid conventions. Those conventions don't necessarily import well, though, particularly not as substitutes, and this is my argument above.

Newpro: You're not answering my question.

Regarding thinking in terms of us/them is the problem. there is nothing wrong with art, only with your perceptions of the present, you might have a look at this.

Regarding ...being caught up in the newism/oldism opposition means you don't see that your assumptions are the problem - actually, you're the one who brought up this whole newism/oldism thing. I don't see things that way. And while I'm interested in hearing what you're thinking, I am not interested in being told what I'm thinking.

Regarding "the perrennial" is an oldism assumption - speaking of assumptions, you make one regarding what I'm calling perennial, which is not always older (as you put it, "moldering") work. Contemporary work exists that adheres to durable values.

Again, I await an answer to this: What viewpoint do you embrace that transcends the dichotomy you set up?



August 10, 2004, 11:28 PM

I'm sorry, newpro, but I don't get your drift. "There is nothing wrong with art, only your perceptions of the present", doesn't make sense, and laying some newly minted dichotomy out and blaming people for being "caught up in it" is just circular, sort of like "you have blue hair and blue-haired people don't know what's wrong with them." And it is not "us/them" it is good art and bad art. Can you leave your isms behind and talk about art? (I am beginning to suspect you are an art critic).



August 11, 2004, 12:18 AM

I want to hear Franklin speak while OldPro drinks a glass of water. You two make going to the studio so much fun.



August 11, 2004, 1:09 AM

glug glug



August 11, 2004, 1:16 AM

"I just flew in from Chicago, and boy, are my arms tired (rim shot)... but seriously, folks... (etc.)"


Phil Isteen

August 11, 2004, 1:21 AM

Franklin: The discussion got you out of your hole because ultimately it ended up sparking a great exchange. But you go and, by your own admission dig yourself a deeper hole, by claiming "more creative possibilities exist...for visual artists than fashion designers."

We could argue the point forever: lets just end it by saying that's how things look from your perspective & I don't mind, but I don't agree.

But you CONTINUE to suggest that "visual art" is the only art form that can acheive the higher values to which "art" should aspire. You are biased.

Why don't you replace "dancers" or "figure-skaters" with painter, sculptor, or photographer & keep your finger pointing in the family.

Think about this: when one fails at film one can make art films; If you fail at theater you can be a performance artist; if you fail at poetry you can paint your words & call 'em art. The other disciplines won't tolerate the crap; but the art world seems to love it. So again - where does the problem really lie?



August 11, 2004, 2:07 AM

Babs, if I make it fun to go to the studio, then I do more good than I know. Buon lavoro.

Phil: the problem, of course, lies with tolerating crap. I wouldn't replace "dancers," etc., as you suggest because those aren't reasonable comparisons.

Let me offer you this: it is equally difficult to master any complex creative activity, for the same reason in each case - namely that it is hard to align material, technique, composition, and feeling at a superlative level. In return, I wonder if you'd agree that the greatest fashion ever made does not deliver as intense of an experience as the greatest art ever made.



August 11, 2004, 2:27 AM

Phil: And if you fail in TV you can be a video artist. I have said things just like you said in your last paragraph until I am blue in the face and no one seems to get it. Most art these days is just simple-minded, dull, rip-offs of something done properly in another discipline. It has always bewildered me.

One way to get out from the "higher value" problem is to back off and look at categories. (We got into this a week or two ago but it never was resolved). Art is not "things" as much as it is a stance toward things. It is not art until we call it art and put it into an art place, like a gallery. Once we call it art we expect it to satisfy our expectations for art.

Because there is so much interest in and demand for art, and because very little satisfying art gets made, and because anything can be called art these days, lots of other stuff gets pushed into the art category and starts wearing the ART label, and art gets mixed up and confused with all sorts of other things. Fashion, in whatever form, may be one of those things, and the dumb rip-off stuff you just listed may be another, and so forth. All this junk gets called art and put in front of us as art, and it is very tempting to start thinking that the whole kit and caboodle is going to Hell. (Very tempting, indeed!)

It becomes a lot more clear if we avoid the comparisons and the "higher value" considerations, and just say, OK, if you call it art it better measure up. If it doesn't it is either bad art or it is something else. So Franklin, I don't think it is so much of a matter of how "intense" (etc) the experience is, as: does it do what art is supposed to do for me. Otherwise we're turning "intense" (etc) into a value term.


Phil Isteen

August 11, 2004, 5:05 AM



August 11, 2004, 5:16 AM

Like I said, sometimes the values mingle without harm. This particular Beuys is not my favorite though.



August 11, 2004, 7:17 AM

talk about art will happen when there is art being talked about.
what is said here is about ideas. this is all the value good or bad really is.

the direction of art is an invention of the moment serving to elevate the self above others. the us/them enters through the separation of those who agree with an idea from those who disagree with it. the belief that one person is right about an idea and another person is wrong can make the one is believes in their own rightness attempt to impose that rightness on others instead of allowing them to think and decide for themselves. this imposition is dictatorial and can only lead to conflict

what can replace this? go, do something and stop talking. the appearance of values is an illusion. pretending that they appear in art work is more of an illusion. the values you belive you see or follow or think you know exist only in your head, and it is an act of imagination to see them anywhere else

end of line



August 11, 2004, 1:45 PM

Newpro: What you're saying here - that values are illusory and the mere existence of them is dictatorial - is garden-variety relativism. Two big probs with relativism: one, it's even less functional than the corresponding level of absolutism; two, people have to make choices about everything in life and those choices are made according to values. I have always thought the idea that you could or should turn off that choosing mechanism when looking at art to be very strange.

Instead of imposing ideas on people, relativism negates their basis for choosing between competing ideas and ends up being just as much of an imposition, so it's not a very good trade-off.

The idea of a realm of pure action is an attractive one, but it's a cop-out. In the end you have to evaluate your action - was it effective? worthwhile? Should I repeat it or alter it? If you skip this step, you're an automaton, and if you don't, you're making a value judgment.



August 11, 2004, 3:20 PM

It also has the flavor of the kind of watered-down Marxism that has been so current in academia for a generation, the idea that power and domination is the only reality, and it is being said with a pseudohip twist that sounds snappy but often says nothing, like "talk about art will happen when there is art being talked about", "enters through the separation of" or "the direction of art is an invention of the moment". This is followed up by telling us to stop talking and go do something, which is just a thoughtless put-down. We all do things all the time and this is our way of exchanging ideas about what we do. And the idea that "values" are illusory, or simple vehicles of control, is not only one-dimensional but belied by simple everyday human experience. Our species lives by values.

It is not easy to discuss things with someone who is addicted to self-serving pronouncements like this. Any response automatically is disqualified because it has been precondemned: "Oh, do that's what you think? Well, you are just trying to dominate me". A kind of catch-22, if you will. This is not free discussion, it is putting into practice exactly what you are saying is wrong.


Michael Betancourt

August 11, 2004, 8:45 PM

Long mess of comments, since it looks over, this is just my 2 cents worth:

I've said things about Miami being dominated by Fashion for years now, so you get no disagreement with me on that score, but I'm not sure I agree with some of your comparisons: I think you're comparing apples and automobiles, since the entire frame of reference between the Italian renaissance and modern London, for example, are really incompatible in almost every way.

But this posting and the threat that follows does show the extent to which Miami is a provincial outpost rather than a center. So much of what I've been saying applies here, it's clear that little has changed in the last several years. Oh well.




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