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do-it-yourself roundup

Post #433 • December 17, 2004, 6:32 AM • 88 Comments

Artblog.net is taking a little rest for the weekend and will return Tuesday. Here are the links for the roundup.

Miami Herald visual art stories

Street

Miami New Times culture

Broward/Palm Beach New Times culture

Palm Beach Post Arts & Entertainment

Shiitake Risotto

Porcini Risotto

Comment

1.

alesh

December 17, 2004, 4:15 PM

Does any one know how Elisa Turner is doing?

They're re-running an old story of hers in the herald, right along with her e-mail . . . pretty strange.

2.

carlos de villasante

December 17, 2004, 7:33 PM

I am a little late in reading this comment but it is worth a response:

"markador"wrote on
Friday 3 December 2004 7:21 pm

enough already with the self portraits villasante
we get it painted it
its like the psychology of you is not even present so how am i to sense any sympathy or apathy with your image
its just too predictable with many of your paintings
where is change
is this about marketing?

Markador, If what you are saying is that you will model for me I will gladly accept!

3.

oldpro

December 17, 2004, 7:33 PM

The Herald's "Indie" spot maintains its rep by highlighting "Cuban artist Carlos Navarro". There is a soulful pic of Mr. Navarro together with a couple of his paintings, kind of like calmed-down Britto run through a bleach bath. Ouch! Who chooses this stuff?

There is a notice about a show of Tapies prints in West Palm beach. Tapies is an interesting artist but the show is described as "small" and apparently does not include paintings.

The recipes are simple and nice. When adding garlic to mushrooms I prefer to reduce the amount of garlic (it has to be fresh garlic) and add right after the cooking is over so the peppery "sting" of the garlic doesn't get cooked away. it is a delicioius contrast to the soft earthiness of the "shrooms". But I love garlic in any form.

4.

onajide

December 17, 2004, 9:50 PM

oldpro: Don't you just love a guy that gets a little splash and the possibilities for people to see his work and he's got this on the Herald site: ...although it will soon be under construction, my website, CarlosANavarro.com. Personally, I think with so many artists taking advantage of the Herald's online exposure, any artist that really might be worth looking at would be afraid of the association with mediocracy.

5.

oldpro

December 17, 2004, 10:00 PM

Maybe, Onajide. Artblog posters, possibly? Some of them, anyway. I don't think there is very much independent judgement at work out there.

I am waiting for all those who like to see "both sides" of everything take me to task for my "elitist attitude" here.
Or they might think this stuff is pretty awful, too. Who knows?

6.

Jack

December 17, 2004, 10:55 PM

What I got when I clicked on the Herald link was a story about a so-called balloon artist, and the photo shown indicated balloon "art" very similar to what Steve Martin used to do on Saturday Night Live years ago. Why would anybody take the Herald's art coverage seriously?

7.

oldpro

December 17, 2004, 11:05 PM

Yes, they changed to a (very attractive!) lady who twists baloons into all kinds of shapes and things. For a minute I thought you were referring to the girl with the avant-garde handbag that looks like a device at a UFO convention.

I think it would be a good idea for the Herald to stop calling this "visual arts" and make it some kind of human interest "look what they're doing now!" feature. Then Franklin would not be tempted to torture us wth it as he slips out the side door.

8.

J.T. Kirkland

December 18, 2004, 12:18 AM

Oldpro -

I'm still not sure if you are elitist or not... But, please allow me to be elitist this afternoon. The balloon chick, in response to the question, "Where are you going?" said the following:

"I want to make it big. Not because I have an affinity for money. It is the power game that attracts me."

What true artist would ever say such a thing? I actually gasped when I read that.

It looks like you guys in Miami have some of the same problems we have here in DC with press coverage of the "arts."

I'll say one thing though, she is extremely attractive!!

9.

catfish

December 18, 2004, 1:19 AM

I wonder how good at medicine Irinia was. Don't think I'd want her to treat me for anything. I've been saying for a while that Miami is the lightest of the lightweight art scenes I know of. Now I want to downgrade it another notch, but can't think of a word that is lighter weight than the lightest.

10.

oldpro

December 18, 2004, 1:50 AM

Catfish, how about "like a twisted baloon filled with hot air"?

JT: Of course I am an elitist. I am only interested in good art, and that is elitist. On the other hand, I would never deny it to anyone. That, I suppose, is not elitist. So, whatever.

Balloon Chick came up with a few other hummers, like how she wants to make a fortune selling her husband's manuscripts at auction. Now, wouldn't he be likely to be dead and gone when that happens?

How about "if you belong to elitist intellectual circles, try reading his stuff. Otherwise, don't even try". She's way ahead of me there, elitistwise.

And at the same time she is "working the streets around the clock, personifying the fun spirit of Miami". Hmmm.

Busy lady.

11.

Hovig

December 18, 2004, 3:42 AM

Stephen Greenblatt is a literary reviewer credited with inspiring "New Historicism," a movement which states a work of literature cannot be divorced from its historical context. He's accused by some of minimizing the literary aspects of great works, treating them almost like footnotes, but credited by others with making older works more accessible and enjoyable.

Greenblatt has also written about art, in particular an essay called "Resonance and Wonder" (1990). According to him, wonder is what Franklin saw in Matisse the other day: "By wonder I mean the power of the object displayed to stop the viewer in his tracks, to convey an arresting sense of uniqueness, to evoke an exalted attention."

On the other hand, resonance is what oldpro touched on when he mentioned religious objects recently. In Greenblatt's words, "A resonant exhibition often pulls the viewer away from the celebration of isolated objects and toward a series of implied, only half-visible relationships and questions."

It seems the struggle at this blog is whether "resonance" is sufficient for, necessary for, or even desirable in art. Catfish's example of "throne v. chair" is apropos. But I wonder if for ancient Egyptians, Tut's throne had just as much resonance as wonder. Among people today, who see fancy shiny Ferraris stalking the streets of Miami; who see magical mass-produced cellphones, digital cameras, and satellite GPS receivers everywhere; who see knock-offs virtually indistinguishable from the luxuries they copy; who wear rare metals and precious jewels on every finger; and who are constantly engaged in a game of materialistic one-upsmanship with neighbors; perhaps even the most finely crafted individual object is just not that wondrous any more.

Perhaps low-cost high-quality manufacturing has helped humanity achieve a kind of material equality, yet had a detrimental effect on art. Perhaps cheap air travel and public museums in every city make it less unusual to see thousands of masterpieces in a lifetime. What's left after visiting MoMA, the Met, the Tate, or the Louvre, even just once?

Or perhaps we've done all we can in the making of objects. After Matisse and Faberge, we've run out of directions. Perhaps the only place left to explore is making them resonant

I'm not sayin'. I'm just askin'.

12.

denise

December 18, 2004, 4:50 AM

my favorite Irina-isms:

"As any American man, he carries a big load of responsibilities."

"I particularly enjoy walking around wearing a serious business suit and a balloon crown, just to make people gasp and laugh. I am an instant star in any place I go. Any present photographers clamor to take my pictures."

"Sometimes, I have to twist balloons for three hours straight." what a woman! how does she do it all?!?

(i appreciate hovig's thoughtful post, but i'm working on something and only had time for a quickie silly comment.)

13.

catfish

December 18, 2004, 5:36 AM

Hovig: The "resonance" you talk about is a natural companion to good art. Good art always "means" something, at least in my experience. And it is always created in a context that is larger than itself, just like every other human endeavor. We can examine that context and profit from such a consideration. When we appreciate physics, for example, the culture in which the theories were produced is worth talking about, for sure, but not the core of what makes physics physics. That Morris Louis painted in his dining room in a suburban Baltimore home and all that implies culturally is worth knowing too, but not what makes his pictures so wonderful.

I taught the students who did the writing project that interpretation of art is enjoyable and part of the experience of art, but that when the art is great, interpretation is more worthwhile than when the art is bad. When the art is bad enough, as in the case of McMilliam's chair, its interpretation becomes trivial, even though valid if it remains connected to what we see when we see the chair.

Apparently many of them don't agree with me, or have the process backasswards. That is, for this group, interpretation is what makes the art worthwhile, not vice versa. I have to admit they are in tune with the art system that I see all around us, even as I am confident they are wrong.

14.

catfish

December 18, 2004, 6:01 AM

oldpro: "twisted balloon filled with hot air" just doesn't quite communicate how impotent the balloon work looks. It is utterly lacking in muscle; it makes cotton candy seem as heavy as a brick. Hollywood may be a celluloid escape hatch, but compared to what happens in Miami, it is more like a burning bush of durable truth. "La la land" is too strong a term for this laughable black hole of credibility. To call this woman an "air head" is waaay too positive.

If I don't stop writing, I'm going to create the contrary to the curse they put on Baruch Spinoza - and it is the most negative thing I've ever read. This "art scene" just is not worth it.

But wait, I'm getting a new idea for a writing assignment! I'll have them compare the balloon work with Tut's head dress. With the proper amount of wordsmithing, the balloons will surely trump Tut's gold in someone's mind aka eye.

15.

alesh

December 18, 2004, 7:45 AM

The balloon lady is amazing. I love her gumption, and . . . i dunno; look at that balloon tiger she's holding - it's pretty damned impressive!

I agree with oldpro - whatever's wrong with that article comes from the Herald's editors not understanding the difference between "art" and "the arts" or maybe between "art" and "artsy."

The wonder/resonence dicotomy sounds interesting . . . i'm not sure Hovig is giving us enough to fully grasp the concept (not that that's his job); I'm heading over to FIU tomorrow, maybe i'll try to dig up the Greenblatt essay.

16.

Dan

December 18, 2004, 11:21 AM

I don't know that I should be, but I'm absolutely stunned by that article.

(Granted, hers is a more advanced balloon art: check out Santa.)

17.

Jack

December 18, 2004, 5:13 PM

Well, Dan, she's cute, she's good with balloons, she's an operator but in an endearingly open and straightforward sort of way, and it's the type of story a small-time "major" paper like the Miami Herald can't be expected to pass up. The fact it was put forth as arts coverage is sad, but the Herald has firmly established that it either doesn't know what serious art coverage is or, more likely, that it doesn't care because there's not enough financial reward in it. What we need here is for local sports stars to take up art somehow--then we might get somewhere.

18.

Dan

December 18, 2004, 6:58 PM

What we need here is for local sports stars to take up art somehow--then we might get somewhere.

I hear Ricky Williams is looking for a hobby.

19.

oldpro

December 18, 2004, 8:41 PM

Hovig brought up a nice talking point which goes to the "inner vs outer" theme of much of what we have been hassling about here.

Greenblatt is the progenitor and primary spokesman of the "new historicism", one of the new breed of star academics who gets invited all over and fought over by our prestige universities. He gets his rep from insisting that we cannot "understand" works of art without seeing them within the cultures from which they arose. He thereby takes his place alongside other academic postmodernists by taking a thesis which is unremarkably obvious (it has long been a high school staple to explain to students the background of works or art) and catapulting it into wide favor by riding the postmodernist wave which denigrates esthetic value and the status of the "freestanding", or isolated, work of art in favor of making it more or less an illustration of some historical context.

The problem with these ambitious academics is that in order to enhance their own status they are forced to take positions which are both illogically extreme and in conformity with current thinking. Greenblatt's position not only suffers from its tendency to pander to all those students and professors who "just don't get it" by telling them "that's OK; just talk about where it came from and throw in a little Marxism" and is further compromised by the way he ties into the current fashion for trashing anything and everything brought to us by western culture. As Roger Kimball has noted, it is not criticism, it is sociology.

For example, Prospero's speech to Ferdinand after the masque in the Tempest ("...our revels have ended") is deservedly noted as one of the most beautiful short speeches in any play in the language. I can't read it without getting chills. By the time you have gotten to it in that utter fantasy of a play you know what all these kings and cripples and sprites and magicians and other assorted weirdos are up to. They all have very human characteristics and they are all up to understandable human doings, good and bad. You don't need professor Greenblatt to know what is going on (though you might want to check out that "racke" means "bit of cloud"), and you certainly do not need Professor Greenblatt to get chills up your spine, and those chills, and only those chills, are why we read Shakespeare in the first place.

However, as George Will noted in Newsweek, Greenblatt suggests that "Shakespeare's Tempest reflects the imperialist rape of the third world."

I don't even care if that is true or not. I don't want to know it, not when I am reading Shakespeare, anyway. As far as I am concerned it is simply pissing on the fires of the imagination and pissing in the faces of all those students and professors who might, just possibly, get a few chills themselves. This, in a nutshell, is why I have no patience for Professor Greenblatt and his ilk. If he wants to bitch about how bad we are he should get into politics and do something about it. And leave poor Will alone.

20.

alesh

December 18, 2004, 10:04 PM

um . . . okay.

Hovig just cited this resonance/wonder idea, which I still think is kind of interesting. For all I know, Greenblatt might get off on killing babies in his spare time; that doesn't mean this idea is uninteresting.

But thanks for the context.

21.

oldpro

December 18, 2004, 10:29 PM

Good grief, Alesh, what does "killing babies" have to do with anything? This is not exactly contributing to the discussion. If you think his idea is "interesting", then say something about it. Do you even know what he means by "resonance" and "wonder", how they are differentiated? Get with it, man!

22.

Jack

December 18, 2004, 10:38 PM

The academic who will go to whatever lengths necessary, however outlandish or preposterous, to get star status is not much different from the artist who has the same philosophy. In both cases, we're essentially talking about ambitious frauds, people who use scholarship and/or art as a pretext, a means to an ulterior end which is neither about learning nor about art. Such people deserve nothing better than rejection, but unfortunately they get what they want all too often. Those who take them seriously and reward their posturing are hardly less objectionable.

23.

oldpro

December 18, 2004, 11:42 PM

Catfish:

I like the science analogy. Maybe the pomo version of relativity could go something like this:

Pomo 1: E = MC2

Pomo 2: But how do I know what that means?

Pomo 1: Well, first you read up on the oppression of third world countries by Europeans and the treatment of the Jews in late 19th Germanic culture, then you check out Einstein's abusive behavior towards women, then you find out that "scientific truth" is merely a cultural fiction designed to continue white male dominated hegemony. By then you will realize it doesn't matter one way or the other.

Pomo 2: Gee, thanks. That makes it easy!

24.

Homeless

December 19, 2004, 2:10 AM

only that the opression of third world countries is not relative, it is a fact and it still goes on. the destitution of women laasted well into the 20th century in the west and it's rampant in today's world. stop speaking like a paternalistic old white man and look around.

25.

shaolin soccer mom

December 19, 2004, 3:09 AM

Maybe you guys are right. Maybe the social context really is more important then the theory of ralativity.

After all, it IS just a theory!

26.

oldpro

December 19, 2004, 3:27 AM

Homeless:

"the destitution of women laasted well into the 20th century in the west"?

Destitution means impoverished, completely without resources. Look it up.

In the west? Not in the north, east, south?

And who or what said that oppression in the third world is "relative"? The theory of relativity?

Franklin needs to install a dork filter on this blog.

27.

friendly neighbor

December 19, 2004, 4:55 AM

in that case oldpro, you would be banned.

28.

oldpro

December 19, 2004, 5:05 AM

This is pathetic. Anyone want to get back to some kind of discussion?

29.

that guy in the back row

December 19, 2004, 5:09 AM

yeah, how do you remove two apache servers running on the same mac os? or anybody watch the Giants lose to the Stealers?

30.

catfish

December 19, 2004, 5:40 AM

oldpro: You are right, the historians of science don't go into nearly the hyperbole about cultural conditions that art historians do, and practically zip about contemporary science, whereas art critics make the most of every possible interpretation, etc. of current art, no matter how lightweight.

That said, the sheer accomplishment of Einstein as a physicist is what drives the interestingness of his personal life, not vice versa. Even then, the history of science is more interested in how demonstrated sceince is or is not accepted by other banches of knowledge, such as the opposition to Copernicus, and so on. That is, they look for relevant cultural contexts. Art types just look for any context, especially ones that are not really much of a context, because their irrelevance passes for "originality". I mean, if something irrelevant is discussed as if it is relevant, that is original in the sense that it is less likely anybody attempted to connect the thing up before.

Your detail on Greenblatt was illuminating. Strange how someone can take something that is true enough and tilt it so severly that it no longer is.

In the end, what I see is that a herd of herd thinkers loves those who think like themselves. A herd is a herd is a herd. God help anyone who gets in its way.

31.

alesh

December 19, 2004, 5:51 AM

a herd is a herd, except when it's woody herman's second herd. then it's da bomb.

oldpro~ clearly you have a major problem with this Greenblatt fella. It copes across pretty strongly in #19. What i was trying to say in #20 is that you're attacking everything about him but the idea that Hovig brought up (and i wouldn't have even mentioned it if you didn't have a history of straw-man and ad-hominem attacks). I'm still trying to wrap my head around the whole issue, but i wouldn't mind hearing what you think of it.

Anyway, sorry for my admitted lack of intellignent contribution to this conversation... Here's hoping that dork filter doesn't get implemented anytime soon.

32.

that guy in the back row

December 19, 2004, 5:53 AM

Catfish, I can only assume by your less than herd like approach that you'll need assistance in this endeavor. If the artcrowd is a herd, lets kick on our spurs and round um up! This is the do-it-yourself roundup after all.

33.

catfish

December 19, 2004, 6:35 AM

Guy: Yes indeed I can use help. Thanks.

34.

catfish

December 19, 2004, 6:39 AM

about oldpro's ad hominems: I'm sure someone can find a vailid example of an ad hominem launched by just about everyone who posts here. But in the case of oldpro, his most frequent "personal" statement is a self defense.

35.

oldpro

December 19, 2004, 6:45 AM

Catfish: a herd is a herd is a herd, except when it is a herd of lemmings. Then it is a hurtle. Crash. So long.

If it is Woody Herman, Alesh, then it is also "heard". And so much the better.

Greenblatt is just a symptom of the general academic campaign against the life in art and literature. I don't care for the "Resonance and wonder" locution; "resonance" is a contemporary cliche right up there wil "impact" and "all about", and "wonder" is not, for me anyway, what happens when I come across great art. Wonder is more what happens when I try to figure out how the artist came up with something so "wonderful".

But you are right. I haven't really dealt with the matter directly in the terms Hovig brought up. Nor do I feel any obligation to. I guess my simplest response is that all the resonance isn't worth a hill of beans if the wonder isn't there. As Catfish might say, Einstein is pretty much a bore without E = MC2.

36.

alesh

December 19, 2004, 10:48 AM

we were having a discussion revolving around thought vs. non-thought . . .

if greenblatt has a similar but different theory about wonder vs. resonance . . .

where A=thought, B=non-thought, C=wonder, D=resonance

if A~C (that is ~ is approximately equivalent to C) and B~D

and since we've had a long and interesting conversation regarding A vs. B,

therefore it follows that we ought to examine how A/B relates to C/D, specifically, whether our pervious debates can shed any light on C vs. D.

yes?

37.

ajax

December 19, 2004, 4:41 PM

oldpro

E = MC2 is pretty much a bore without : the bomb, Hiroshima, the end of WW2, the cold war, James Bond, and weapons of mass destruction. That is its resonance.

alesh

yes

38.

oldpro

December 19, 2004, 8:20 PM

Ajax: Relativity is the basic foundation for current physics, astronomy and so on. Trying to reduce it to some politically correct nasty-weapon status is just juvenile.

Alesh: We were not having a discussion about thought and non-thought, not exactly. We were discussing how thought is set aside when we experience art. That is a subtle difference but an important one.

I think your effort to tie the threads together is a good one, but believe you have Greenblatt's distinction backward.

Here is what Hovig wrote about Greenblatt's position (I believe these are Greenblatt quotes):

wonder is what Franklin saw in Matisse the other day: "By wonder I mean the power of the object displayed to stop the viewer in his tracks, to convey an arresting sense of uniqueness, to evoke an exalted attention."

On the other hand, resonance is what oldpro touched on when he mentioned religious objects recently. In Greenblatt's words, "A resonant exhibition often pulls the viewer away from the celebration of isolated objects and toward a series of implied, only half-visible relationships and questions."

To follow this we would have to put wonder with non-thought and resonance with thought. (I would not say "approximately equivalent to" but more like "comes in company with"). I think these relationships and their relevence to what we were talking about are why Hovig brought up Greenblatt in the first place, and that they strike at a basic confusion which permeates many of the discussions we have here and is therefore valuable.

My position is that the "wonder/nonthought" quality of art is why it is important to us, and that the "resonance/thought" question would never even come up without it. For example, If Shakespeare did not write that gorgeous prose and poetry no ambitious prof would even bother linking his work to the "rape of the third world".

39.

alesh

December 19, 2004, 11:18 PM

you're right - i had them flipped. It should be A=non-thought, B=thought, C=wonder, D=resonance. Then A~C and B~D. If we more or less agree on that, (or if it's self-evident), then it would be interesting to see what Greenblatt actually says on wonder/resonance (which are some pretty darned poetic terms). I'm having trouble locating the original essay online, but there are lots of references to it. His views seem pretty reasonable - that wonder and resonance should be in balance.

I think I agree that without wonder the resonance is irrelevant. But I'm throwing as many examples as I can think of at this, and they all seem to rate pretty high on both scales - Hirst's shark, the freaking urinal, even, in some way, Kosuth's three chairs. Two more points:

1. Regarding the marcaccio piece that brought on this whole discussion, it is almost impossible to imagine being confronted with it without experiencing an initial sense of wonder. The thing is initially extremely impressive, both in its physical presence and in its surface appearance (the coexistence of photorealistic imagery and thick goop). Franklin accused the piece of needing "viewers like Kitty to make it happen - viewers that parse the sensory data into meaningful chunks even if the work doesn't function aesthetically." Even speaking as someone who ultimately ended up thinking the piece failed, I don't think the piece needs any such thing - in fact, for me it was actually the thinking about the piece that made me come to dislike it.

2. It is entirely possible to see the Matisse that stunned Franklin so (I regret not seeing it myself - it's very difficult to FIND anything specific basel), and see nothing more then an interesting post-impressionist painting depicting typical late-19/early-20th century still-life subject matter, etc. Perhaps be impressed that it's a real Matisse. But look - it's some flowers and a mirror (we assume it's a mirror . . . who knows), painted kind of crudely, not really even creating a sense of space - a flat looking (and lazy - check the large black area where the artist didn't bother to render the reflection in the mirror) painting of a subject matter that is pretty much precious, bland, and trite.

I jest, of course. The painting is impressive, and had I seen it i'm sure i'd have loved it. My point is that the sense of wonder is located inside the viewer, not in the piece of art.

40.

oldpro

December 20, 2004, 12:27 AM

Alesh:

I would tend to disagree that the wonder and the resonance are in balance or should be, based on my assertion and (I believe your acknowledgement) that the wonder is primary.

But as for your points:

1. Here's where I would contend that Greenblatt's word choice is misleading. One can wonder at all kinds of things, especially at those which are physically impressive. The Grand Canyon inspires awe and wonder but it isn't art and we do not take it as art. This kind of difference is very hard to explain, but if you have had (and I hope all bloggers have had) any sense of esthetic "shock" - those "chills" I allude to for want of a better term, you know intuitively and emotionally what I mean by "wonder" here, and what I am sure Franklin means and I think what Greenblatt means. Because the experience is so hard to describe we are using "wonder" as a kind of code word. Kitty just walked into the propellor as a very convenient and very appropriate exemplar of the "resonance" side of things and Franklin called her on it. I don't know how in the world to make this clearer unless we just say stupid stuff like "the chill thing" and "the Kitty thing". We will just have to do our best.

2. The Matisse is another tough one. What you say about it, the nominally "bad" qualities, are all there: crude, no "space", lazy. But even though its dramatic standout qualitity for some of us bounced a lot off the dreck surrounding it, it is still a nice little picture. Several people, including myself (it was in Basel last year also) had the experience of having it "catch the eye" and draw us to it long before we had any idea who painted it; it is, as you say, just another painting of its type. But there we were, drawn like the proverbial moths to the flame. I have often wondered how Matisse can so often get away with cruddy parts which go to make up a wonderful picture. It bothers me, but i can't explain it. For me, this kind of irksome conundrum is one of the peasures of art. You got to go with the "chills" and try to make sense of it later.

As for wonder being "located inside the viewer", well, of course. Anything else would be inputing human qualities to inanimate things. (I have receive some pretty funny email jokes that do just that, but still...)

41.

Denise

December 20, 2004, 2:39 AM

"For example, If Shakespeare did not write that gorgeous prose and poetry no ambitious prof would even bother linking his work to the "rape of the third world"."

not true, at least in terms of the work being "gorgeous" or inspiring wonder/resonance. cultural theorists use works of art as a starting point for unpacking cultural, social, and political phenomena (like colonialism) because visual art, film, literature, music, etc. play a significant role in manifesting, shaping, and reinforcing our attitudes and beliefs. this is true of crappy art (i.e. artistically horrible yet commercially successful blockbuster films) as well as canonical work like that of shakespeare. there is plenty of cultural critique out there written about sitcoms, bad action movies, and more obscure stuff--it's not just "ambitious profs" looking to take down the cultural giants of the west.

42.

oldpro

December 20, 2004, 3:22 AM

Denise: sometimes I wonder just how fine one must split hairs here while some of the the most far-fetched and idiotic statements ever uttered go blithely unchallenged.

Everything we do or say is "culture", and "cultural theorists" do indeed weave their tangled webs out of anything that suits them. I knew this. Honest I did.

Please allow me to sand down the edges of my statement to suit your exacting needs.

"It would be unlikely that we would read and perform Shakespeare now, and regard him as one of the creators of the language itself, were it not for his gorgeous prose and poetry, and, by the same token, it would therefore be unlikely that any ambitious professor would have much stake in saying that "Shakespeare's Tempest reflects the imperialist rape of the third world."

Does that suit you better?

43.

alesh

December 20, 2004, 5:47 AM

Oldpro~

Now see there? How come you'll gladly sand down your arguments for Denise, but never for me? What gives? Seriously, though, I think we're pretty close to agreement. I would agree that without "wonder", a work of art is pretty much beside the point. I also think that wonder at the natural world is not that different from wonder at great art. Actually . . . didn't I bring up my drive on Macarthur causeway? I get a sense of wonder from time to time from a combination of made and natural worlds (really I don't believe there is a distinction between man-made and natural).

Let's say I'm filled with wonder looking at Biscayne bay and the Miami skyline. I don't think the architects of the downtown buildings really get credit. It's sort of wonder at the world we get to live in. The only difference between that and wonder at a piece of art is that a person, conscious of the end result, is behind the artwork. (Actually, knowledge of said is also a factor . . . )

Is the wonder created by the best piece of art greater then the wonder of looking at a lily? I think not - the most that either of them can do is to get you to that place, where you "stop thinking about yourself" as someone once put it (maybe Nicholson Baker?).

Denise~

My brain is doing somersaults thinking about Shakespeare's responsibility for Great Brittan's conquests and colonizations. Do you really think he deserves blame? Personally, I think influence flows from society to art much more then vice versa, but I have to admit I can't dismiss the idea entirely. By the way, what's going on with firstpersonprojects? the site is down?

44.

catfish

December 20, 2004, 6:58 PM

alesh wrote: "I think influence flows from society to art much more then vice versa" and then went on to qualify somewhat. Myself, I think the flow is almost always one-way. Why did Michaelangelo do the Last Jugement? Because that's what society wanted him to do. Even the air head balloon twister work looks like an effect, not a cause. The only possible claim for being "new" is that no one heretofore has been beside the point enough to consider something like this as sufficient for the demands of art.

The "independence" that many hot shot artists display can be understood as pervasive following behavior, with nothing resulting that is even fresh, much less new.

Does following make the art bad? Not at all. Just as independence does not make it good.

45.

oldpro

December 20, 2004, 8:57 PM

Well, forgive me, Alesh. I don't think I sanded down an argument as much as qualified a statement to make it more precisely accurate, and you may have noticed that I injected a clear (if rhetorical) note of impatience with the hair-splitting.

Interesting that you mention the effect of driving over the Macarthur causeway. Some years ago I had occasion to come back from the Beach in the early evening fairly often and I never failed to be struck by the sparkling water, glowing buildings and crazy colors off in the western sky and the peculiar sense of exhilaration it elicited in me. This is a sense of wonder, I suppose.

But we must be cautious when comparing "wonders". We have a similar type of reaction to esthetic beauty and natural beauty, but they are fundamentally different, and not to be compared qualitatively. You don't ask the scenic drive to function as art any more than you would ask a painting of it to generate the same sense of broad spectacle. The scenery, as art, is ordinary; the art, as scenery, it unsatisfying. In the 19th Century, before movies and TV, artists like Church and Bierstadt created huge paintings and dioramas of grand vistas and charged admission to look at them, to "wonder" at them as scenery as much as art, but these were the exceptions that demonstrate the rule, I think, as were the "trompe l'oeil" paintings of Harnett and Peto and the neo-realists of the 1970s.

Catfish is right, of course, when he says the "flow" is one-way. it is part of the huge conceit of "issue" artists who busy themselves with PC themes that they can have even the minutest effect on public opinion and policy, especially because the issues they choose have long since been well hashed out in public by people who actually do something about them. In any event, even Greenblatt said that "The Tempest" merely reflected the imperialist rape of the third world.

46.

Kathleen

December 20, 2004, 10:03 PM

Hm. By the time I got down to comment number 45, I forgot what it was I wanted to say. I'm going to have to start taking notes around here.

I don't know about the dork filter, but I think that the rest of us need some kind of compensatory handicap, the way they do in golf, in order to keep up with the amount of posting that you seem to be able to manage, Oldpro. It is clear that you have a lot more time than I do, and perhaps more than other commentors. The volume of your text and points muscles out other voices. I don't know how one could take the time to address all of your arguments/opinions; if I had the time to write essays, I would be doing it.

Perhaps you should start your own blog, OP. It is very easy! Try blogger for a quickie; they even will let you post photos for free.

Please do not confuse my terseness with disrespect concerning the above statements.

I found Hovig's comment very useful, as usual, though I do not have much else to add to that line of discussion which I feel would be fruitful; the basic arguments and positions have already been outlined and discussed, and I'm more aligned with the urinal camp. [Interesting aside: a conservative uncle of mine sent me the link to the article citing the urinal as the most important artwork with "LOL!" as a comment--I guess he thought it would cut me to the quick!] I do think I am more of a Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even type as far as Duchamp goes. But I probably would have voted for Kurt Schwitters Merzbau, if I were offered the choice.

Finally, what is with the comments regarding the ballon woman's appearance? I find that totally out of line. If one is going to critique her, just do it without the "well, at least she's pretty" [paraphrased] BS. Sexist crap. It's absolutely irrelevant to the issue, and it calls one's comments into question.

Her balloon work is pretty freaking good, but her attitude is a little commercial and seems both pompous and like she's spending too much time reading Business School marketing materials (we all know that CEO's are the new creative elite), but what the hey; if it can work for Brito . . . . I think it's funny/interesting to read profiles of more commercial (read: less "fine art") artists--profiles, for example, of those listed in the phone book under "artist" could be edifying in some fashion. Anyway, as we've seen profusely here at artblog, it's quite satisfying (and fun?) for us humans to define ourselves in contrast to one another.

47.

catfish

December 20, 2004, 10:16 PM

Kathleen, Irina Paterson's take on a woman's place:

"How did we get on the subject of my husband? Ahh, Russian women, they always put their man first."

48.

oldpro

December 20, 2004, 10:53 PM

Kathleen: With all due respect, I write fast and don't correct. That's why I leave a lot of typos. (which Jack gets on my case for, rightly). I wrote the above - probably - in less time than you took to write your post, and I think I managed to say something thoughtful and reactive to Alesh rather than comment on other people's apparent sufficiency of time.

I also have a very busy life ("if you need something done, take it to a busy man") but I try to organize it so I can get a lot done efficiently. You can do everything you want to do if you just do it; things work out. I enjoy doing this so I do it. Most of the people I know who "have no time" just don't handle it very well.

Saying the Balloon lady is attractive is not sexist, it is a compliment. Saying "she can't do art because she is a woman" would be sexist. Get your sexism straight, OK? And if you are with the urinal I am sure you dig the balloons. Fine.

49.

oldpro

December 20, 2004, 11:37 PM

And, by the way, when I look over the posts here it does not seem that Hovig, Alesh and Catfish have been "muscled out". We have been having a prettty good time mulling over Hovigs original subject. And it ihas been going on for 2+ days, don't forget. Are you really that busy?

50.

Homeless

December 21, 2004, 12:02 AM

Tooting his own horn so frequently that he can seldom hear others...

51.

mon ami miami

December 21, 2004, 12:14 AM

I agree, the balloon artist is pretty good.
Old Pro should have his own blog for unemployed critics and writers.

52.

oldpro

December 21, 2004, 12:18 AM

Gee, homeless. I'm mortally wounded by your rapier wit.

Try contributing saomething, why don't you.

53.

oldpro

December 21, 2004, 12:20 AM

I am fully employed, Mon Ami.

Let's not start a pissing contest.

54.

mon ami miami

December 21, 2004, 12:53 AM

old pro: I never said YOU were unemployed, I merely suggested a blog of your own would be ideal for people who have all the time in the world to read your thoughts, word after word after word.....
(preferably unemployed ones with internet access)
pissing contest? you must be a true "old pro".

55.

catfish

December 21, 2004, 1:41 AM

Homeless and mon ami: Why not leave a good thing alone if you don't want to address the subject? Lurkers are always welcome.

56.

Franklin

December 21, 2004, 7:53 AM

I'm not going to do anything about it, but it's kind of a shame how the threads don't so much end as wither...

I know we were kidding about the dork filter, but there is such a thing, after a fashion: comments ratings. You see it on Amazon: "4 out of 19 people found this review helpful," implying that 15 people thought the reviewer was a dork. Daily Kos has a troll rating system that I have not yet fully understood. Of course, all this requires comment registration. Pth.

Yeah, I'm back. See you tomorrow morning.

57.

Hovig

December 21, 2004, 5:57 PM

Alesh & Kathleen - Thanks for the kind words and the deep thoughts. I know where each of you is coming from.

Catfish - I take your point that "resonance" is meaningless without "wonder" -- as seconded by oldpro -- and while I don't think we see art the same way, I do accept your view, but we might all be discussing two separate questions here: Can art exist without the physical manifestation at all; and can art be Great without it.

To be honest, I don't care about the second question. Whether art is Great or not is not meaningful to me. I'm not protecting or advocating anything, just enjoying what I see. But it's still kind of an interesting question, and I'm undecided what balance of "resonance and wonder" is required to call something Great Art. If anyone has an opinion on why it's important to discuss what Great Art is, it might be an illuminating talk.

As to the first question, all I can say is, I enjoy being spurred into thought by visual experiences. Ban these things from museums, and I'll go where they're displayed. Remove them from the definition of "art," and I'll simply say I enjoy whatever you call them.

As to my motives, my childhood memories may be faulty, but I don't recall any shady-looking raincoat-clad post-modernist types lurking about my schoolyard, handing out short deconstructionist essays in the hopes of hooking me on gallery press releases and ArtForum subscriptions later. I don't think it's necessary to draw lines between Shakespeare, Matisse, Einstein, Freud, Edison, Kant and/or Mozart. If a piece of "art" wants to be cross-disciplinary, so be it. All the better for me.

I'm not arguing. I'm just explaining.

(BTW, I hold no brief for Greenblatt, oldpro. Thanks for the insight and the background you gave. I only just heard of him last Thursday or Friday, by total coincidence, and thought his terms encapsulated what was being discussed here, as well as what I've previously [perhaps naively] called the struggle between "esthetics" and "narative." Since we've been struggling with these concepts for as long as this blog has existed, I figured the terminology might be helpful.)

P.S. As far as historical context, I think there are plenty of examples of art requiring resonance. The Marriage of Figaro is simply not as meaningful as Da Ponte intended it unless you understand concepts like servitude (being "employee" is hardly the same), or droit du seigneur, which is unimaginable today. Yes, I agree, the work itself does stand alone, because the libretto works on many levels, and because the music is universally good (and I'd agree if you said music can't really be thought-provoking in and of itself) but an audience of the time would have gotten a thrill or a chill at certain points that an audience of today would not.

If you're looking for a visual example, I might refer to a work like They Did Not Expect him (1883), by Ilya Repin. It works visually, but works better if you know the context. Is this work to be considered -- in your words -- merely an "illustration"?

58.

Hovig

December 21, 2004, 6:12 PM

Franklin - It's interesting that you mentioned the Amazon rating system. Try using it some time, i.e., posting reviews and seeing how they're rated. I believe you'll find your "helpful" rating is based on exactly two criteria: how informative it is, and how sympathetic it is.

The more you complain about a work, the less "helpful" your review will be rated. The more you accept the work on its own terms, and restrict yourself to pointing out shortcomings as objectively (or vaguely) as possible, the higher the "helpful" rating will be. The more you lay into a work -- unless it's a controversial, political, anti-social, or objectively bad work to begin with -- the lower your "helpful" rating will be.

Don't take my word for it. Try it. Then keep this result in mind, the next time you review something. This doesn't mean you can't criticize a work on Amazon, it just means that you will be graded on what people perceive as your "fairness." There's a subtle way to criticize a work, and there's an "unhelpful" way (to use Amazon's term).

In the Amazon review system, a tepid review is a bad review. I mention this because there's a crowd of review-readers who believe reviews need to be as scathing and "opinionated" as possible. What I've learned from reading Amazon, as well as two decades of the NY Times, is that any review not explicitly good is bad. "Damning with faint praise," as it were.

If the Amazon reader is the typical consumer, you may draw your own parallels between Amazon.com and real life.

59.

catfish

December 21, 2004, 8:39 PM

Hovig: Rather than discuss "what great art is" it is much more practical to discuss what great art does. I'm not a stickler for one term over another. If it clicks your clicker, inspires wonder, or just sticks to your ribs, it's all about the same to me. Nor is it important for artists to delve into speculation about the difference or probity of a clicker versus wonder versus rib sticking. What is important for us is to get our clickers clicked by the stuff that is truly good, and for us to recognize when it happens.

Art critics/writers/historians have made this subject into a swamp of terminology, distinctions, and plain crazy stupid machinations. It usually starts out "in order to understand blah-blah you must first understand blooey-blooey". What I don't understand is why artists cow-tow to that kind of baloney. But I'll venture in where I probably should not and say, "physical manisfestation" is necessary for good and bad art alike because if the art isn't available to the senses, it is not available to aesthetic sensibility. Aesthetic responses start with the senses, not the intellect. Technically it difficult to say certain extreme works of "conceptualism" are good or bad. They are simply unavailable. And example would be an article many years ago in Artfourm that procliamed the author's art to be the thought of the reader when reading the article. Was it good? Was it bad? What does it matter?

Other "conceptually-oriented" works, such as the balloons do have a physical presence and come across as trivial and unexciting. Others, such as the urinal many here admire, are what I call "walk bys"; works that are so light weight that I do not slow down when walking by them. There was a piece by Joseph Bueys in MOMA many years ago that I walked by just this way. It was a vitrine containing dried sausage with a rolled up rub stuck between it and the wall. My "thought" was the movers forgot to clear the room before they opened it to the public. Profound, eh? About as profound as the piece. Finally, Duchamp's bicylce wheel on a stool was on display in another room, and after I walked by it, I remembered "that's a famous piece." No clicker got clicked, no sense of wonder, nothing stuck to my ribs except the memory of how little I saw in these two works. The "littleness" was so extreme, that it is what keeps them in my memory to this day.

But if you would call Ed Ruscha a "conceptualist" there are some things he has done that click the ole clicker and qualify as rib stickers. Twenty-six Gasoline Stations, for instance. Not because it helped start the "artist book" thing, but because it is a knockout object. Like the "walk bys", Twenty-six Gasoline Stations has a physical presence, only it is not a walk by. The latest mountain pictures with superimposed words do a number on my eye too, irrespective of what the words mean, and irrespective of any speculation about the significance of using words in art. Nor does it have anything to do with the fact he seldom paints the mountains himself.

I don't know of anyone who has successfully talked about what great art is (and I sense you are not particularly interested anyway), except to point it out, if that is a discussion of what is is. Pointing out (outing art?) is all I can offer, that's for sure.

At its core, successfully relating to art is a hedonistic act.

60.

catfish

December 21, 2004, 8:43 PM

Make that "rolled up rub" into "rolled up rug" andit will make much better sense with respect to my remarks about the Bueys work at MOMA.

61.

oldpro

December 21, 2004, 8:50 PM

Hovig: By asking the question "Iwhy it's important to discuss what Great Art is", you are bringing up another one of those "big questions" which could engender some heated discussion on the blog. This session is over; maybe we can take it up later.

For me it boils down to the fact that we are always measuring what we each like individually against what we "should" like - that is the fundamental issue that drives most art talk - and there is some sort of winnowing process that narrows the "shoulds" down to a very few. Most of the controversy arises from projecting personal preference into the "should" category.

However, the winnowing process does seem to do a good job, so we are left with the fact (or illusion) that there is such a thing as "great art", and , furthermore, we make our choices in conformaty with this belief.

It could be an interesting discussion.

62.

oldpro

December 21, 2004, 8:56 PM

OK, apparently as I was writing the above Catfish started it off.

Also, Hovig, I have observed the same thing on Amazon. People often seem to react to how "nice" the reviewer is rather than the aptness of the content. Happens here, too.

63.

Hovig

December 21, 2004, 10:42 PM

Catfish - I enjoyed your comment. I agree, there's something to be said about art that catches the eye -- at least when your mind is grazing in a mind-numbingly huge museum, anyway -- and also engages the mind thereafter. (You say Ruscha, I add Kiefer.) And I actually am interested in discussing Great Art, but only in the sense that I enjoy trading stories about stimulating works, not in fighting over it, denying anyone their pleasure, or prescribing What Makes For Great Art. Which leads me to...

Oldpro - If you think the "winnowing process does seem to do a good job," why do you not give the benefit of the doubt to those pieces which the current art establishment produce, i.e., in the assumption that they are the product of the "winnowing process." I don't ask in order to argue, I ask in order to nail down.

Duchamp's works have been displayed in galleries for a century. At what point will they be "winnowed out," and conversely, at what point would you be willing to accept they won't be? Again, I'm not asking to be argumentative. I'm in fact agreeing with you that we can safely say there is a roughly empirical measurement for "greatness," which you called the "winnowing process."

So given (1) the waterfall -- uh, I mean -- So given this process, and accepting its overall validity despite its imperfections, what does it say about a body of work that's survived a century's worth of such scrutiny?

P.S. It's when the "shoulds" come out, or when the "what art is not" talk begins, that I start getting a bit antsy.

64.

catfish

December 21, 2004, 11:08 PM

Hovig: You know, not many Duchamps have survived as being interesting/great/whatever. Most of his paintings, for instance, are hardly noticed even though they were not that bad. It is just a few of his peculiar works that have generated all the discussion. Only those that have a track record of being "discussion provoking" are still taken seriously. That I am aware of, anyway.

65.

oldpro

December 22, 2004, 12:15 AM

Hovig:

My approach to all art, old or new, winnowed or not, is that it has to prove itself to me. If I am not convinced that's it. The "benefit of the doubt" comes in when either the consensus or people whose eye i trust keep telling me I am not getting something. Then I go look again, but, once again, I have to be convinced, I have to get that 'charge" or "wonder" as we have been calling it.

I could probably summon up quite a few examples. El Greco, for example, has always been an artist who has little appeal for me. Everyone is awed by El Greco. Picasso was awed by El Greco. OK, so maybe I just don't get El Greco, in which case I have missed out on something. And maybe I have.

On the other hand, everyone is also awed by "Guernica". I will certainly allow that the painting is iconic and represents an atrocity that should not have taken place and all that, but, purely as a painting, I think it fails. I think that this failure can be reasoned out somewhat (I don't want to do it here) but just purely as a work that gives me that charge or thrill, it just doesn't do it. Here I feel that I am not "wrong", as I may be with El Greco.

Then, take Morandi. Most art savvy people thing Morandi is pretty good but not great. I am a sucker for Morandi, have been ever since I can remember, the way he paints and those pale, weird colors. Maybe he isn't great, but I love him all the same.

As for Duchamp, I think he is third-rate. Nothing he has ever done has thrilled me. For me it is just cutesy, anti-art shennanigans. I think his stature has a lot more to do with the art world than with art. And, don't forget, there is a very strong & substantial body of opinion which thinks the same.

The consensus is not perfect, then; more specifically it is not perfect for me, or for you. It is not there to say "you got to like this and not that", it is there as a guide and a help and as a way for us to get to the good stuff on the buffet table of art more quickly and easily.

66.

J.T. Kirkland

December 22, 2004, 2:23 AM

Wow... this latest post by OldPro is roughly a week overdue. Regardless, I just want to pull out a few quotes, and thank OldPro for writing it.

"The "benefit of the doubt" comes in when either the consensus or people whose eye i trust keep telling me I am not getting something. Then I go look again, but, once again, I have to be convinced, I have to get that 'charge" or "wonder" as we have been calling it."

Agreed.

"OK, so maybe I just don't get El Greco, in which case I have missed out on something. And maybe I have."

Bold admission.

"On the other hand, everyone is also awed by "Guernica". I will certainly allow that the painting is iconic and represents an atrocity that should not have taken place and all that, but, purely as a painting, I think it fails. I think that this failure can be reasoned out somewhat (I don't want to do it here) but just purely as a work that gives me that charge or thrill, it just doesn't do it. Here I feel that I am not "wrong", as I may be with El Greco."

Though the concensus says Guernica is great, you don't like it. That's acceptable. The consensus for greatness is much more substantial for Guernica than for the Matisse we were discussing last week. If you can feel fine for not liking Guernica, I will do the same for not liking the Matisse.

Re: Morandi: "Maybe he isn't great, but I love him all the same."

And isn't that all that really matters? Maybe Duchamp's urinal isn't better than the Matisse still-life, but I love the urinal just the same.

Re: Duchamp: "And, don't forget, there is a very strong & substantial body of opinion which thinks the same."

Just as you disagree with the consensus on Guernica, I hope you'll allow others to disagree with the "very strong & substantial body opinion" described here about Duchamp. I'd venture a guess that the body of opinion is stronger and more substantial for Guernica being great than Duchamp being weak. Out of genuine curiosity, how are you defining a "very strong" body of opinion?

"The consensus is not perfect, then; more specifically it is not perfect for me, or for you. It is not there to say "you got to like this and not that", it is there as a guide and a help and as a way for us to get to the good stuff on the buffet table of art more quickly and easily."

Bravo!!

OldPro, like I said last week, you piss me off at times but I keep coming back and reading what you have to say. I think this is the best post you've made in a long time (though I wish you wrote this in the other discussion - I almost don't believe this is the real OldPro). No ego here and you seem to be open to other ideas. Thanks for sharing.

67.

oldpor

December 22, 2004, 7:49 PM

JT: I am always open to ideas (and ready to disagree with them and back it up) and I always try to keep my ego in line. These are necessities when writing about art.

I think the problem before this was that you mistook strong opinion and definite, precise expression of that opinion for ego and close-mindedness. If you have learned that these are not the same thing, then perhaps I have accomplished something.

68.

oldpro

December 22, 2004, 8:00 PM

PS - the "strong body of opinion" was phrased that way deliberately, because it is not the generally accepted opinion but it a very strong (and substantial) minority. Because I feel this way I am in contact with many others, artists and art professionals who also feel that way.

Please keep in mind that it is usually the minority that rebels against majority opinion from strength of feeling and belief that prevails. The urinal, As Greenberg put it, is an episode in the history of taste, not art. In my opinion, and that of the others in my "strong minority", anyone who honestly prefers the urinal - as a work or art - over a Matisse of any variety, lacks all comprehension of what art is all about.

69.

Hovig

December 23, 2004, 8:15 AM

Oldpro - Thanks for the insight into your tastes. I enjoyed that a lot. And I agree, Guernica is more popular(ist) than skillful. (A veritable compositional soup, poorly scaled to size.)

Catfish - Great debate. I also agree that Duchamp's less (in)famous works are more interesting (tho I admit I have soft spots for Given the Waterfall, Nude Descending, and Big Glass. And OK, Stoppage and Network of Stoppages too. OK! OK! You're forcing it out of me! With Hidden Noise as well! I confess!).

And sure, the "discussion provoking works" (Fountain, Bicycle Wheel, LHOOQ) have little or no aesthetic value (Bicycle Wheel maybe), but I think they're the contemporary equivalents of Lascaux's scrawls. Even if they don't stand on their own (tho I think some do), I'm sure many worthy painters, sculptors and performers owe a lot to his brickbats, even indirectly.

70.

oldpro

December 23, 2004, 6:44 PM

Those Lascaux artists were hardly scrawlers, Hovig.

71.

Kathleen

December 23, 2004, 11:45 PM

Hovig, the painting you linked to is very beautiful! It seems that some of the family is excited (the younger ones), while others, including the servants, are anxious. There is great tension in the dark masses of the two main figures, and the fact that the moment painted is in the middle of action makes it even more so; the woman is rising, an action not yet completed, but more than just begun. The feet of the young woman under the table betray an insecurity. The room seems simple, but the chair half-depicted on the right side was rather modern for the era, suggesting that the family is aesthetically progressive, and bourgeois at least. I am curious about the context and narrative.

Your reference to the Marriage of Figaro is a good one, I think, for approaching one of the issues concerning resonance in artworks. Even Monteverdi was revolutionary in terms of the organization of sound, was he not? But today, lacking context, were we to hear it in say, a mall, we might think "hey, this department store is swank!", instead of thinking "holy smoke! Those lyrics sure are prominent! What the heck is going on??". If resonance denotes something which is only historically contextual, then it suffers as time passes. Conversly, though, the works which push conceptual boundaries often gain success over time as the culture transforms. This is why the works Satie and Moondog now provide awesome sountracks for car commercials, instead of the mass continuing to think that they were wacko lunatics!

The only way resonance is effective as a measure of goodness (which is a dubious premise to start with, I think--the ability to objectively measure aesthetic goodness), is if resonance is linked to the viewer's reaction to the work rather than the circumstances surrounding the productionof the work. So yes, a there is more resonance between a viewer and a work if the work prompts more thoughts (makes the viewer think about more things). Works which do not click, works which are a walk-by, obviously are not resonant, and obviously do not cause a viewer to think about much at all.

Historical reference and context is edifying, and can add more resonance, giving viewers a new approach for percieving and comprehending works which they previously were somewhat immune to.

So, perhaps those viewers who are experiencing a sense of wonder when encountering something "good" are experiencing a subjective resonance?
And those viewers who argue that context should not be necessary in order to understand or appreciate a work are simply closed to interpretations which interfere with subjective resonance, preferring their own measuring stick to any other?

For folks who find thought intrusive in the art appreciation process I would suggest that the experience they are after is a spiritual/transcendental one, and that objective goodness has no place in the spiritual response to art. I think that such an experience is quite personal, therefore subjective. How absurd would it be to say "I find this to be spriritually powerful, and therefore good; if you do not, you are uninitiated, and your opinion/perception/belief is wrong".

Haha, what was I thinking?! I just checked human history!

Now, let's consider something really interesting, instead of always trying to figure out what makes a work good. Where is the bad work? If we are so keen to always determine what is good, shouldn't we, if the quality "good" is in fact objective, be able to determine what is objectively "bad"? Does the one need the other? For example, if I were to say that the work of Guston is bad, it clearly does not make it so, it simply means that Guston's work is not subjectively resonant/spritually transformative for me, i.e., I don't like it. Culture affords many examples of Guston's work being valued or prized, and I'm sure that those individuals who are keen on Guston would not hesitate to describe my classification as bunk. Would those same individuals allow that thier own classifications might be bunk? In order for my classification to be in alignment with an objective polarity, one would have to accept that my estimation of badness is, in fact, its inverse: the estimation of gooness. I would have to be living in a perpetual opposite day. So if I say that Matisse is good, and Guston is bad, then what happens?

Also, are the objective categories of good and bad immune to time? That is, once something is good, is it always so?

72.

Kathleen

December 23, 2004, 11:49 PM

Haha! The estimation of gooness!! That is my best typo yet.

73.

oldpro

December 24, 2004, 1:05 AM

Kathleen:

You are getting way too complicated.

If we are art lovers and make a point of seeing as much as possible we go look at it and decide whether is gives us the "click", as you phrase it. The is what we are calling "wonder". Then we talk about it and that is "resonance", along with lots of other stuff.

These are aids for discussion, not catgories writ in stone, just a way of dividing what we do with art so that we can talk about it a little more clearly. There is nothing to be gained by working up complex subcategories because we are merely denoting simple experience on the one hand and ramifications of the experience on the other. The only assertive point that has been made in relation to this division, as far as I can tell, is that the "click" has priority to the "resonance". This is arguable, perhaps, and qualifiable, but most of the bloggers seem to think it is OK.

74.

Franklin

December 24, 2004, 1:24 AM

Kathleen, Satie's work becoming viable as a car commercial soundtrack exemplifies the decay of resonance over time, not its increase. It gains acceptance but not resonance. You might call that co-opting.

As someone who lived in Italy for a year, I witnessed spiritual responses to art and had a few of my own. They may share some neurological space with intense aesthetic responses, but they differ markedly.

Also, you refer to "objective goodness" - I don't think such a thing exists. Goodness has objective and subjective components operating simultaneously.

75.

oldpro

December 24, 2004, 1:39 AM

Franklin: I am not disagreeing with you, and I am not trying to start something (not now anyway) but a good debate about "objective goodness" would be a lot of fun. I am a Kantian, as a concession to reality, but in some part of my soul a closet neo-Platonist.

My only defense is to quote good old Scott Fitz: "The test of a first-class mind is the ability to hold two opposing views at the same time and still retain the ability to function,"

76.

catfish

December 24, 2004, 4:39 AM

oldpro: Or, as Chesterton put it one day when an opponent pointed out he had contradicted himself, "I am large, and contain many things."

77.

Kathleen

December 24, 2004, 4:39 AM

Franklin, it was my point that Moondog or Satie in a car commercial was a decay of resonance.

78.

Franklin

December 24, 2004, 4:46 AM

Sorry.

79.

Franklin

December 24, 2004, 4:49 AM

Catfish, you must be thinking of Whitman.

80.

catfish

December 24, 2004, 5:28 PM

No Franklin, I was thinking Chesterton. Either I got my source wrong or Chesterton said it too.

I love Whitman's "An artist is a man among men" too - says a lot to those who want to make artists into prohpets.

81.

oldpro

December 24, 2004, 7:05 PM

Chesterton - a much neglected literary genius, who was physically very large - said something to the effect that God is large enough to contain the devil, but I don't recall anything that personalizes that.

However, for those of us who like to "see all sides" of every question, there is this one:

"Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance."

82.

catfish

December 26, 2004, 2:49 AM

oldpro: "I am a Kantian, as a concession to reality, but in some part of my soul a closet neo-Platonist."

Does this mean you don't kick large rocks with your bare feet, but kinda wish you could?

83.

catfish

December 26, 2004, 2:53 AM

Thanks oldpro for the Chesterton quote. I agree he was a genius. He wasn't neglected by the Catholic education system, not in the 50s anyway. (So who's old?)

84.

catfish

December 26, 2004, 3:32 AM

I've been nursing along my Fresca this xmas evening and speculating.

We could get a long way toward resolving some of these heady aesthetic issues (objectivity of goodness, relevance of "beauty", politics and art, and so on) if everybody would just take a position on rock-kicking.

For instance. Do you kick rocks? If you do, in public or just in private? And how do you feel afterwards? Does it simply just hurt or is there more to it? Does the pain stand for something "beyond" itself? Even if the pain does not stand for anything in your case, would it mean something if you were better at kicking rocks than you are? Or does it not "hurt" at all? Is "hurting" just something the government invented to make us believe in illusions?

If you don't kick rocks, why not? Do you wish you could? Do you feel limited or empowered, thanks to not kicking rocks? Would you kick a rock in exchange for a show at the Guggenheim? Would you kick a rock and deny that it hurts even though it does in exchange for a show at the Guggenheim? Do you refuse to kick rocks because you know you are not very good at it and secretly envy those who are? Do you want to learn how to make others think you are kicking rocks without actually kicking them?

85.

oldpro

December 27, 2004, 1:14 AM

He was negelected by any school I went to, several of them very good but none of them Catholic, if that makes a difference.

No it means I don't kick rocks just because, well, how would you like it if someone went around kicking you all the time? I, for one, do not discriminate against rocks just because they are different from me. And I'd like everyone out there to know this.

86.

catfish

December 27, 2004, 4:21 AM

See, oldpro is astutely sensitive to the perdicament of rocks. He feels their pain, so to speak. It is good to know this.

87.

Kathleen

December 27, 2004, 7:55 PM

I don't kick rocks; I throw them. If I don't throw them, I just hold them in my hand.

88.

catfish

December 27, 2004, 8:06 PM

Between oldpro, Kathleen, and myself, it looks like we are building a case for the extra-mental existence of rocks.

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