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slashdot tackles art

Post #573 • July 6, 2005, 7:28 AM • 93 Comments

Via Davee, John Littler asks whether programming is art...

What the heck is art anyway, at least as most people understand it? What do people mean when they say 'art'? A straw poll showed a fair degree of consensus--art is craft plus a special degree of inspiration. This pretty much explains immediately why only art students and art critics at a certain sort of paper favor conceptual art. Conceptual art, of course, often lacks a craft component as people usually understand the term.

...thereby opening the What Is Art can of worms at Slashdot.

Mozart considered composition a craft. So did Bach, who regularly turned out a new cantata most weeks for his job at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. The notion that artists have special access to some emotional content not available to ordinary craftsmen is a nineteenth-century idea. But everyone agrees that both Mozart and Bach had access to some pretty unusual stuff- we hear it and respond to it. The content of programming is perhaps too instrumental (i.e., interesting for its usefulness more than its inherent qualities) to rise to the level of art. But this may be changing with the state-of-the-art games. In a hundred years, people may look back at today's game developers as the inventors of a new art form!

I already know where this question leads - into a black hole. It's a philosophical inquiry that is interesting but not useful. You're never going to be able to create clear boundaries around a class of objects that, strictly speaking, have no function. Even if you could, you still run directly into the good art/bad art problem, leaving you on no more certain ground than if you skipped the first problem entirely. My own definition is biased by design: art is that which is designed to achieve aesthetic quality above all other concerns, except for things that aren't, but they don't matter as much.

The boundaries around art have to be like the US-Mexico border: present, but highly permeable.

Comment

1.

alesh

July 6, 2005, 7:54 AM

The debates that emerge between artists about "what is art" are interesting enough (ie 'This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so'). It really gets complicated when you talk about "the arts."

Is a dancer an artist? What about a pianist who only plays works by classical composers? Of course they are, but what they actually do, and the training required to do it, is very different from that of what you might call visual artists.

Sometimes I like to kick around a meta-definition of 'art' where you categorize all other human activity, and everything that falls through the cracks gets labeled 'art.'

2.

catfish

July 6, 2005, 8:36 AM

"Art" is what the scholastics (and others) called an analagous term. That is, it can be associated with a number of objects, processes, and ideas, but not exactly in the same fashion. Each time we make an association, the term changes meaning somewhat, though other aspects of what it means remain the same or similar.

Thus we can talk about "programming as art", "the art of medicine", "conversational art", "poetic arts", and the heavy duty, beauty clicker clicking stuff we love: "ART".

Most words are analgous. There is no need to fret, therefore, about whether something is art or not. If it clicks your clicker, that's wonderful. If it does not, what difference does that make? Most stuff I see does not click my clicker very much, if at all. I've grown accustomed to that. Besides, if everything was a big click, then big clicks would not be big clicks.

The heaviest duty art is "rare" and difficulat to find, but curiously it is also "universal" and designed to be had by "everyone", not just us nit-picking art types.

3.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 9:42 AM

The implicit context of the question is usually valuative: art is valuable to us in many ways, so there is a lot claiming to be art, so one must make choices, and this prompts the question, which can only really be answered finally by catfish's clicker.

The post above seems to want to claim that video games, like comics before them, can be 'art". This is OK, but nothing I have seem of video games (if you have sons you see them, like it or not) amount to much as art, despite the fabulous technical wizardry, and very few comics even get close - maybe "Krazy Kat".

it's a little more interesting to ask "how does art work" or "why do we value it so hightly", insofar as this may prompt a little higher level discussion, but no one has done a very good job of settling this kind of question either. The minute you impose a condition something puts the lie to it.

Art happens when genius and circumstance make it happen. Mozart was hired to write dinner music for rich people. These pieces are called "divertimentos", meaning that they are meant to be pleasant background and you could eat and talk and not really listen if you don't want to. He would toss one off on demand in an hour or so. Some of them are as good as any music ever written.

4.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 10:01 AM

I'm sorry, the post was referring to programming, not video games. Oh well, it's a lazy day.

5.

Jack

July 6, 2005, 10:24 AM

The issue is not worth pursuing except as a personal, individual matter. What really counts is whether something is good enough to bother with as art. If it isn't, it makes no real difference what it's called.

6.

catfish

July 6, 2005, 10:53 AM

Interesting that Mozart's "dinner music" was not that highly valued by those who commissioned it. They must have paid him well enough, but essentially it was to produce something to sooth the nerves and form a backdrop for their (probably, but not according to them) trivial conversation. Not exactly "to change culture". Now we treasure the stuff. Also interesting that it did not require a huge effort on his part, nor did he provide a labored "rationale" for what he did.

7.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 11:04 AM

No, it was just a job. The people who hired him knew he was the best, but that was only what they expected anyway.

8.

x

July 6, 2005, 11:40 AM

Do your research... Mozart was good at what he did, but that does not mean his work was not laborious. Which points to other questions regarding art... And craft.

9.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 11:50 AM

Do your own research, X. Of course he worked at his music, but he was well known for his ability to write very good, very complex musuc very quickly. Nothing I wrote was wrong.

10.

Anna L. Conti

July 6, 2005, 11:56 AM

What about Ellen Dissanayake's theory that the purpose of art is to "make special?" she means this to include the cave painters, the Hudson River School, Barbara Kruger and Dan Flavin. Which means, I guess, that intention counts (i.e. "found" art doesn't count.)

If an artist practices, and reaches a skill level that enables her to produce a work more quickly than most people (as Mozart was able) does this devalue the work?

11.

Kate

July 6, 2005, 12:05 PM

Whether the work was produced quickly or over the course of ten years does not give value to a work of art.
If someone had attained a skill level that allowed them to produce art "quickly", I would ask if they were pushing themselves to grow to the next level (i.e., taking risks) or doing assembly-line paintings, however "good".

12.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 12:24 PM

Anna, Kate is right. There is no sweat equity in art. Art is art by its effect, not by anything that accompanies its making.

Kate: When it gets "too" easy and fast that is precisely when the higher level has been reached. This is true from students to the highest professional level. Students are suspicious of it; the pros recognize when they are on a roill. Don't give too much credence to "risk taking" or comdemn "assemply-line" too readily, or any other value-laden characteristics. The only thing that counts is results.

13.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 12:24 PM

Anna, Kate is right. There is no sweat equity in art. Art is art by its effect, not by anything that accompanies its making.

Kate: When it gets "too" easy and fast that is precisely when the higher level has been reached. This is true from students to the highest professional level. Students are suspicious of it; the pros recognize when they are on a roill. Don't give too much credence to "risk taking" or comdemn "assemply-line" too readily, or any other value-laden characteristics. The only thing that counts is results.

14.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 12:25 PM

Franklin, that post doubled because i got a window saying that my first attempt failed.

15.

Anna L. Conti

July 6, 2005, 12:43 PM

OldPro, I agree that effect holds more weight than sweat equity, but I still admire sweat equity. "The only thing that counts is results" sounds a lot like "the ends justify the means." For instance, have you seen the paintings of Gottfried Helnwein? Some (not all) of his paintings are actually photos printed on canvas and then overpainted with glazes. They look fantastic. Robert Bechtel uses projected photos, and Vermeer used (maybe) a camera obscura. The paintings all look great, and I like the work of all of these artists. But my knowlege of the sweat equity involved in each of those cases, does have an impact on my appreciation of their work.

16.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 1:05 PM

Anna, in art the ends do justify the means, or the lack of means, which is more what we were talking about.

Inspried craft thrills me too, not just in art. When I had an old-timer in to plaster a hole in my ceiling when I lived up north I asked if I could could just sit and watch him make a smooth white surface where there had been a ragged, ugly hole. It was magical, enhanced all the more by my own clumsy tries at smooth plastering. When I worked with glass out in Pilchuk I was so lost in admiration watching the people who actually knew how to do it that I fell behind in my instructions to them, which you just can't do with hot glass.

But art doesn't care, really. It will show up wherever it wants to, and it doesn't want you to be thinking about other things when it comes across.

17.

Mike

July 6, 2005, 1:47 PM

My definition of visual Art has rather practial approach than theoretical.It allows me to protect myself from "sounded good and itellectually convincing talk but leading to sitting on my butt and doing nothing" and on the another level it influance my gut response to art which tells me of someone's false claims about the art.. The life in general can be very muddy, confusing with no direction to pursue, the same with art. Therefore, particularly in art, I have this drive to simplify every issue I face and to peel it off to its core and act on it. It give me focus and sense of progress .

1.The visual quality of work needs to meet standards developed through the history of art (standards before post modernism). It ensures recognizable continuity of art.
2.Aesthetic gratification of the viewer. This emphasizes artist's communication skills through the visual representation. Are we talking the same language?
3.The art objet has intellectual/emotional weight which expresses problem of humanity in general (fear, death, love, purpose of life etc.)

Those are my axioms. They are kind of simple and won't work for everybody, but it won't make me stuck somewhere in the artistic mud and indecisions. Making art is extremely complex pshychological undertaking and trying to simplify would help some people.

18.

Anna L. Conti

July 6, 2005, 2:04 PM

OldPro: So, Art doesn't want me to be thinking of other things when it comes across? That works for a lot of art. Printmaking, most sculpture, glasswork, photography, video... when I look at this work, I like it or not, based almost entirely on aesthetic qualities & gut reaction. I've had these kinds of conversations with photographers: Photographer says, "Do you have any idea how hard it is to get this kind of shadow detail?" My reply, "No, and I don't really care, I like/don't like this photo anyway."

But in the case of painting, it has to be the rare, stupendously, unbelievably great painting to have that effect on me. Which doesn't mean that I don't enjoy looking at most paintings - quite the contrary. I just enjoy them in a different way. Some painters are good at color, some at composition, some at drawing, etc. It's almost impossible for me to look at a painting and not think about the process. Which could be seen as a curse, but I prefer to think of it as a path... maybe something like what Mike is talking about:

Mike: I think I hear you saying that Art is a kind of life discipline for you?

(sorry to have to bow out now, but I have to get back to work - will check back in a few hours)

19.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 2:11 PM

That is a fairly solid list, Mike, but it probably could be boiled down some.

#1 there is a problem with "standards", because a standard by its nature is explicit,and there are no explicit standards in art. I would say that the new art has to be "as good as" the art of the past. That is not very specific but is maybe all that needs to be said, because is runs right into #2, which is "esthetic gratification". What you really have here in #1 and #2 is "The esthetic gratification has to be as great for new art and for old art", which may be about all you can elgitimately say.

#3 I would eliminate because there never has been any clear way to demonstrate that better art will better express "The Great issues of Mankind", or that it does so at all. Postulating that art does this is really just a way to make art "important", heavy duty, serious, and such like. I don't think art wants to be burdened with this kind of thing, frankly.

20.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 2:22 PM

Anna, when you look at art, or when you do any activity of estimating value, your mind works around and around and thinks of all kinds of things, Most of us don't realize how fantastically complex our everyday reactions to the world are because we are so accustomed to them.

Looking at art as art is acquired (I think it is; I know of some seeming exceptions). it is something we learn how to do and to look for and continue with because we enjoy it. You say the acknowledgeble characteristics are a "path", which is a way of putting it. I would guess that art would say "take it all in and then decide what you think". Putting a finer poiint on it than that is a job for a psychologist or neurologist or whoever it is that studies the way the brain works.

21.

jake

July 6, 2005, 2:40 PM

frankly

i think that there is a hole can of words here that need to be agreed upon. the point made by kat of anything can be done artistically , it just needs to be done, and the inspiration and content or concept are also crucial and neccessay to this "definition".

so i can think of a few artistic things that can be done as programming-language schemes, functions, generators-and what not concept stuff. Do i?-sure, to different degrees-ill map a logic sequence or lay down a BASIC rendering of a system. are they artistic, well some people think so and others dont. But the definition stands. wether or not someone is inspired by the thing is really a very individual question, and there are increments of evident universality, but the individual reception of these at different levels is varied and common.

I think it is all in the vision-to see artistically. in a sense to find it, seek it, take it as a principle, assume it, and discover it. this is an active process in the individual for the individual. Everybody does something. to look at what others are doing and assume that they do it even remotely close to identical is paradoxically inaccurate. people are different and do things differently, regardless of a statictical consensus of what is better. This is what we look for, the things that shift this consensus, to map and charter our path. The things that cause an impression on us, this is art to us individually. We can explain part of the impresion but the other part IS the impression and can only be communicated if expressed again. if expressed, it is labeled inspiration.

We all write here expressing our writting art form. as we read others, we may agree, disagree, like/dislike the wording, like the length or brevity, the visual breaks, the thought coherence, the relevancy, grammar, etc...and on and on-just to list some of my personal look-fors. Now as for which is the best----they are all different and best in other ways. but i dont even like the best label becasue it has a sense of termination in its determination, it feels like it excludes the future finds and settles. I prefer the elusiveness of the utopian drive (while at the same time assume the atopian state)

so if you dont think programming is art, it really doesn't matter to programming. it is here telling you so, attesting to its effectiveness by displaying these characters and thoughts (and perhaps sooner than later, it might understand them and contribute to them)

22.

Franklin

July 6, 2005, 5:34 PM

I like Mike's attitude, and he's absolutely right in that art may not have any clear boundaries but you have to make some up anyway or you will never get any work done in the studio. That list is pretty good, and I too could do without #3. I recognize it as one of those things you impose on yourself to keep yourself interested. I believe that if you work with a sincere attitude and skillful methods, your particular humanity has a chance to come through in a universal way, and that if it doesn't come through for some reason, something has likely gone wrong with the work.

Jake in #21 brings up an interesting point:

We all write here expressing our writting art form. as we read others, we may agree, disagree, like/dislike the wording, like the length or brevity.... Now as for which is the best----they are all different and best in other ways. but i dont even like the best label becasue it has a sense of termination in its determination...

Another thing, though, is that not all mediums allow for greatness. "That comment on Artblog.net changed my life!" I hear no one saying. "Everyone should read this comment!" No matter how good things get around here, nothing ever matches Jean Giono's The Joy of Man's Desiring, which everybody should read. So it's not all about how we feel about this or that - something about the medium itself seems to play into the problem.

23.

eddie

July 6, 2005, 5:58 PM

pacman is a masterpiece.

24.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 6:12 PM

Well, i suppose something about the medium certainly must play into it, because the art is made out of the medium. The medium is a full partner, and we must adapt & yield to it to be able to coax in whatever inspiration we can muster.

Intracttible mediums which have not evolved through time are often taken up by artists in the name of "newness" amd "originality". but seldom allow the psychic identity with material that long familiarity will, and usually stand in the way of working out, which is where art comes from.

25.

Mike

July 6, 2005, 7:01 PM

I posted earlier comment to Oldpro #19. Clarifying some issues. It didn't get through for some reason and got lost. Oh well, another time. I can't participate now.

26.

McCourt

July 6, 2005, 8:40 PM

Interesting discussion.
I think that the term 'art' has too many connotations to come up with one definition. When we speak of "the art of motorcycle maintenance, wok cookery, etc" and when we speak of "con-artists" and "sandwich-artists", we're talking about doing something, any thing, to a high standard.
When we speak of "the arts", we mean literature, dance, music, film, sculpture, etc. Yet, 'art' is usually taken to mean visual art. But when we speak of "the arts", visual or otherwise, what we mean is "that stuff that is supposed to give us the ART feeling" Shakespeare's plays give it, Vermeer's painting give it, a really good meal gives it too. That art feeling is called aesthetic experience. I don't care if Shakespeare had a thesaurus, if Vermeer had a camera, or if the chef made my meal from a can. The experience is what counts. Intention doesn't affect my experience.
That being said, the only definition for 'art' that can stand, as was illustrated so famously by silly ol' M. Duchamp, is "art is what we choose to consider as art", which, as St. Greenberg has suggested, only shows us how un-honorific the title of 'art' has been all this time.

27.

oldpro

July 6, 2005, 8:59 PM

"that stuff that is supposed to give us the ART feeling". Yeah, that's pretty good. The "supposed to" allows us to include bad stuff which is presented as art, which is convenient. That way we don't get into continuous "what is art" hassles when we say "that isn't art' when every one thinks it is.

the definition is sharpened somewhat if we include the observation that art is judged entirely without criteria. (the judgement and the degree of esthetic pleasure are identical, I would say)

I might argue with you about the meal, though.

28.

beWare

July 6, 2005, 9:27 PM

Gottfried Helnwein? What is it that you like about this stuff Anna?

29.

Anna L. Conti

July 6, 2005, 11:09 PM

Gottfried Helnwein?

Well, first of all, many of his paintings are simply beautiful (like the "Sleep" series, or the formaldehyde fetuses.) His use of multiple-colored glazes over the monochrome images gives the images a thick atmospheric, otherworldly quality (better appreciated in person than in repro.)

In his more complex compositions (like the "Madonna" series) I like the combination of beauty, subversive humor, and classic themes.

I avoid spending too much time with the disfigured children stuff, but many of these are watercolors and I admire his skill in that medium.

I'm not too fond of the straight-ahead color portraits... just don't find them interesting.

30.

oldpro

July 7, 2005, 12:41 AM

I'm with you Ware. I have a hard time with pictures of horrrible disfiguration that is supposed to be "art" because of some technical exoticism, the "sure it's awful, but I am a damn clever painter" mannerism. The Irish landscapes are very moody and intriguing, but even those strain too much after a kind of latent nightmare effect . It is chilly stuff.

31.

Gigi

July 7, 2005, 2:45 AM

Art is a grand mystery, and like love, incomprehensible. Eros,
the god of love, enters a room, and suddenly, out of nowhere, we’re
struck, then blinded by the mad power of the god. Art has that kind
of power. The more we define it, the more elusive it becomes, only
we know it when we experience it, and when we do, it can change our lives.


Art is not so mysterious, however, when it becomes a matter of labeling good art versus bad art. Pretty much everyone knows a badly repaired ceiling from a beautiflly
repaired ceiling: it's not just a matter of taste. Why is everyone so
offended when we speak of "good art" versus "bad art?"
In other words, if you saw a rendering of Elvis Presley, painted on black velvet at a roadside stand, would you feel the need to gift it to a museum?

32.

oldpro

July 7, 2005, 8:27 AM

I have found love, and its ramifications, a lot more trying than art, Gigi. I'm not sure either is really incomprensible, just difficult to deal with and hard to put into words.

Elvis on velvet is the quintessentail archetype of bad art these days,so anyone making a point of valuing one would probably be doing it with heavily ironic intentions. But there is plenty of perfectly serious art in galleries and museums which isn't much better.

33.

Kandinsky

July 7, 2005, 10:02 AM

An Egyptian carving speaks to us today more subtly than it did to its chronological contemporaries; for they judged it with the hampering knowledge of period and personality. But we can judge purely as an expression of the eternal artistry.

34.

oldpro

July 7, 2005, 1:07 PM

I'm not sure this is quite true, Wassily, but I like the idea.

35.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 1:22 PM

Oldpro, are you objecting to the notion of cuisine as art, or the idea that 'intention' and 'hard work' are not necessary for delivering "the art feeling"?
Or do you just not like canned foods?

36.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 1:29 PM

People usually don't have to ask whether something is 'music' or not, because musicians have better understood that the purpose of music is to give aesthetic experience (ie. be enjoyed), and that if people don't enjoy it, they won't go to the concert and buy the album. Musicians who choose to ignore the aesthetic requirement still exist though... we just call them 'sound installation artists" and play their noise in an art gallery instead of a concert hall.

37.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 1:32 PM

The visual arts have become the refuse bin for all the other arts. What in a theatre would be a bad play or a bad film, in an art gallery become 'performance art' and 'new media'.

38.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 1:43 PM

Gigi, everything is a great mystery... until we figure it out. Some things are just harder to figure out than others.
Love, being a low-level brain function, can probably be shown to exist in some form throughout the animal kingdom.
Art, aesthetics, whatever, is a function on a different level, and is only found in humankind.

39.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 1:50 PM

When we hear a bad song, and say "That's not music!", or see an awful movie and say "You call that a film?", we of course know perfectly well that no matter how bad the piece is, it IS music, it IS film.

40.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 1:55 PM

Now we just have to start destroying the myth of post-modernism (I mean, we all know that so called po-mo is contemporaneous with Modernism, and that the former is more clearly understood to be simply an offshoot of and reaction against the latter.
Anti-modernism sounds like a much better label to me, since it is basically just the Academy trying to reasert itself over the avant-garde that rose in the late 1800's.

ok, I'll quit blathering on now.

Just so pleased to have come across this site. Thanks Franklin.

41.

oldpro

July 7, 2005, 2:05 PM

Keep on blathering, McC

42.

oldpro

July 7, 2005, 2:15 PM

Oh, Sorry, McCourt, I missed your question above.

If you are referring to my comment #27, I feel that considering food as art in the strictly esthetic sense is problematic. I do think it is an interesting idea, however, that it is worth discussing.

As for "intention" and "hard work", these, in whatever form, particularly some kind of intention, of course, may indeed be necessary for art. The point is not whether they are necessary for the art but whether they are useful measures for how good the art is. In my opinion, they are irrelevant.

43.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 2:31 PM

Anything that can be experiences sensually, can be enjoyed for its own sake, and therefore can be said to be enjoyed aesthetically, or in other words, 'enjoyed as art'.
Food is a practical requirement for life, to be sure, but it can certainly be enjoyed for its own sake. I don't think anyone would have trouble thinking about something they ate that, aside from sustaining thier corporeal existence, they thought of as 'good', 'bad', or otherwise. This surely is not a description of the quality and quantity of vitamins and nutrients gained, but rather in their excersise of 'taste". In fact, the excersise of "Taste" in the appreciation of art is probably seen most clearly in the example of Food as Art.
Some people love McDonald's, and some people find it revolting. Some people have very little experience in enjoying a wide variety of foods, some people have very developed and discerning tastes for food from a variety of cultures. Some people are horrible cooks, make lousy food that looks awful, while some people spend years developing their skills as chefs, and make amazing, memorable, beautiful meals.
This all seems analagous to the art experience in other mediums, so why exclude food from the category of things called 'art'?

44.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 2:44 PM

Intention and hard work are undoubtedly useful in art production, but if we are speaking of 'art' as the experience of a thing, as opposed to the thing or art object itself, then these become irrelevant, because one cannot know with certainty what the intention or work ethic of the art-object-maker is/was, or whether or not there was a maker at all, for that matter. If I enjoy a sunset or a tree aesthetically (ie. as art), intention and hard-work don't enter into the equation on any level. If I enjoy Donald Judd's Untitled, but I hate his Untitled, and really hate his other Untitled, and really really hate all the other Untitleds, I obviously do not assume that he worked any harder, or had better intentions for the one I do like.
In this way , I agree that we can not only certainly eliminate intention and hard-work as criteria of good art, but also eliminate them as necessary at all, at least theoretically. I still intend to make good art, and work hard at it, because I feel that my work is better when I do.

45.

oldpro

July 7, 2005, 2:45 PM

I don't think i have a reason. It may be that much as I enjoy food of all kinds, along with plenty of other sensual delights, I have never experienced food esthetically, that is, apart from admiring it in the way one admires a pretty face or a sunset or birdsong.

In fact the only times I have experienced anything but art esthetically was when I somehow "made" art out of it, like those rare times when elements come together in some environment to make something that comes across as an esthetic whole.

The sources of esthetic experience seem to be limited, but I can't say why, and you can't apply any "shoulds" here because esthetic experience is involuntary. This is why it is an interesting topic.

46.

Franklin

July 7, 2005, 2:49 PM

McCourt, it's good to have you here. BTW, I like what I see on your site.

A while ago we tried to hash out whether extremely bad art and non-art were distinguishable; I don't think we settled anything but I remember thinking that in any case, the differences were negligible. While not strictly about food as art, you might have a look at this post, which characterized art as food.

47.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 2:50 PM

If you experience something aesthetically, you experience it "as art". They mean the same thing. It doesn't matter if it has been 'called' art, only that it is considered 'as art'.

48.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 2:52 PM

Thanks Franklin,
I'll read it now.

49.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 2:59 PM

Just because an artist satisfies his intentions, that doesn't mean that I'm going to value his achievement.

Reminds me of Andy Warhol, saying that he likes boring, that boring is good, or some such thing. You may like boredom, Andy, but I find it, um, boring.

50.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 3:05 PM

Sorry for the goofed italics.

51.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 3:21 PM

I'm new to the blog-thing, and it's been a while since I've used html tags, so I probably seem kind of retarded now.

52.

McCourt

July 7, 2005, 3:22 PM

Whew! That's better. Gotta run now.

53.

oldpro

July 7, 2005, 4:20 PM

I had not noticed McCourt's URL Franklin. Yes that is some good work. Some of it is a little corny (which I don't mind) but some of it is very good indeed.

You know, we were recently talking about "regional art". Edmonton, Alberta. where McCourt hails from, is a large Canadian city halfway up to the Artic Circle, and they have what amounts to exactly what I was trying to define as a real "regional art center", not in the sense that they have completely invented what they do - it is welded sculpture in the Picasso-Gonzalez-Smith-Caro tradition - but that they have evolved and sustained it through innovation by a number of very talented artists.

McCourt, who I did not know about, is apparently one of the latest. They seem to simply not give a damn about the way the rest of the art world is going. it is a very refreshing phenomenon, and doubly so to see a young person like McCourt coming along to keep it going.

54.

Jack

July 7, 2005, 4:48 PM

Franklin, McCourt reminds me to tell you to get that Serra post going.

55.

oldpro

July 7, 2005, 4:54 PM

Which prompts me to say that McCourt's sculpture is way more interesting than Serra's.

56.

Jack

July 7, 2005, 6:51 PM

Ah, Oldpro, but Serra's work is so...BIG, you know, and those steel plates are so, well, so HEAVY...I mean, really, the industrial strength of it all...what is one to do but join the bandwagon? Think of it as Christo brut...

57.

Rob

July 7, 2005, 7:04 PM

This goes back a ways in the comments (#31) where art is likened to love. Yes, both are unpredictable and inexplicable, but these alone are not convincing correlatives. Later (#26-43), food is said to be on a par with art on the basis of both providing an aesthetic experience. Both suggestions seem to be the same sort of backwards logic. As a simple, overly-simple, example: one cannot say that because a thing has wheels it is a bike. Food and love might possibly be argued more effectively to be analogous to art. Same with programming.

Nevertheless, the discussion so far has been fascinating. And surprisingly on topic most of the time. Have the po-mo conceptualists been locked out, or do they not know that some modernists are still alive and kicking. I'd like to hear a clear-headed response from someone who doesn't buy the aesthetic nature of art, and who hates the idea of great art.

Your blog makes me happy Franklin. These issues aren't dead, and the discussion is obviously not closed. Someone recently posted the following Kierkegaard quote on a theology blog:

"...no generation has learned from another to love, no generation begins at any other point than at the beginning, no generation has a shorter task assigned to it than had the preceding generation, and if here one is not willing like the previous generations to stop with love but would go further, this is but idle and foolish talk.

But the highest passion in a man is faith, and here no generation begins at any other point than did the preceding generation, every generation begins all over again, the subsequent generation gets no further than the foregoing -- in so far as this remained faithful to its task and did not leave it in the lurch."

Substitute 'art' for 'faith' and you've got our present task, left in the lurch as we seem to be. But I won't therefore claim that religion is art.

58.

oldpro

July 7, 2005, 8:33 PM

"Have the po-mo conceptualists been locked out, or do they not know that some modernists are still alive and kicking. I'd like to hear a clear-headed response from someone who doesn't buy the aesthetic nature of art, and who hates the idea of great art."

We beg, cajole, plead and otherwise invite the pomos to come in and debate, but everytime we get going they just seem to get blown out of the water. Some of them hang around and call names and get nasty, but they all eventually just fade away. We had some knockdown dragouts a year or so, which were a lot of fun, but they just couldn;t seem to hack it. They are not much when it comes to basic logic and conceptualization, which is ironic, of course. Most of them seem taken aback that someone even has a different opinion from the prevailing one.

The Kierkegaard quote is dead on and applies to art and many things.

59.

oldpro

July 7, 2005, 8:56 PM

Jack, "Christo brut" sounds like the sort of way-too-expensive Champagne the rich art suckers would buy at the latest fashionable watering hole.

60.

flatboy

July 8, 2005, 10:34 AM

Rob asks about locking out the pomo conceptualists from this site. I am a pomo conceptualist when it serves me, usually in connection with an art class, where it often serves me well. The apparent essence of pomo, in its "pure" form, is that you can make like you believe anything you want or need to believe, then truss it up with the standardized constructions that you fabricate with the proper jargon. I think I could make a case for "classical beauty" that would go over as long as the buzz words were done well.

I admit, though, that pomo gets to be unbearable when its people forget that theory does not matter for artists. I would count most of the academically fed, housed, and cuddled pomos who are employed by my school as "unbearable", though I bear up under them just fine. They pay me to go to their school and I'm cool with that. Grateful at times, too. That does not stop me from looking down on therm, though. Arrogance is essential to my studio life.

61.

jake

July 8, 2005, 11:09 AM

food as art-

rikrit tiravanija

(not sure if i got the spelling right)
and i know there are more, but this a contemporary i know

62.

oldpro

July 8, 2005, 11:11 AM

Flatboy, unfortunately you don't sound much like a deeply dedicated pomo conceptualist. I think Rob is looking for one with passionate conviction.

Wait a minute. "Pomo conceptualist with passionate conviction"? is that one of those oxymoron things?

63.

Franklin

July 8, 2005, 11:29 AM

I'm gratified to make anyone happy with this exercise, Rob.

I haven't locked anyone out on the basis of ideology, but Olpro is right that we tend to eat certain ideologies for breakfast when their representatives come here and express themselves poorly. Modernism and traditionalism support two useful ideas for writing: striving for quality is good, and the tradition of English is worth preserving and exercising. Meanwhile, the pomos think Derrida's linguistic car wrecks are okay. For some reason they tend not to like capitalization, feel uncomfortable with punctuation, use words that don't exist, and seem to think that words used harshly enough prove themselves. I would welcome a few more counterexamples around here.

64.

jake

July 8, 2005, 11:43 AM

just had an argument with the "poster" and it did not let me expand on the previous point. (i did but it erased it)(oh well)

as for the linguistic tactics of "pomo". Yes they extend beyond formality. yes beyond, in the sense that they take the rules and add. Not unlike the automatism exercises of the surrealists. It is a tapping into the subconsciuos(or unconsciuos). Now, what you do with it from there is the trick. And try to remember that the subconscious and conscious work with nearly exact opposite type rules. I think the biggest mistake is to try to make sense of one from the point of the other. Not something impossible, but difficult. More of a personal exercise than an two or more person arguement.

so back to topic-programming can be seen as another aspect of this human phenomenon. It is in fact a modelling of the mind in function, and whether it is a conscious effort or not, ai is the goal. But we would dont do it because we just dont like ourselves(think ourselves noble and good enough) to make more advanced versions.....yet.

visually-the matrix on screen data flow is a beautiful thing. And no not fiction. Some event generators tally the info in very similar way, but the matrix look is much more aesthetic.

65.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 4:59 PM

#53 "They seem to simply not give a damn about the way the rest of the art world is going."
I like the sound of that, oldpro, and I'm glad that's how we come across to outside viewers. My only minor disagreement with that is that we actually give a very big damn, but feel it's our duty to work as if we don't.

And since it's undoubtedly fair to say that we are not following the current 'international' trend, that makes us 'Edmonton School' sculptors 'regionalists' be default. I know I can't escape the label, but it does make me cringe a bit. I can't shake the feeling that if Edmonton were not a landlocked Northern Canadian city, but instead was somewhere on the East coast of the USA, that would make the art less 'regional', more 'international'.

Really, the suggestion that a school of artmaking in the tradition of Gonzales-Picasso-Smith-Caro could be considered in some way 'not-international' seems almost to defy logic. Edmonton could not have developed the sculptors that we have if it wasn't for the high regard for international modernism, and connections with international artists and critics.

Of course, I may just be expressing a sensitivity to terms like 'regional', 'modernist', or that big F-word, 'formalist' that, while neutralor even positive in their true meanings, are generally used by po-mo commentators as curse-words. Maybe we just have to 'reclaim' the terms, and use them proudly.

66.

Rob

July 8, 2005, 5:15 PM

Thanks, McCourt. I wasn't sure how to respond.

67.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 5:17 PM

Re: Richard Serra

I have read Robert Hughes' "effusive praise" on Serra's work in Bilbao, and usually consider Hughes to be reasonably on the mark, although our opinions certainly diverge on some work. I haven't seen the installation there. I have been to Bilbao though (the Gugg itself is good as art, from the outside, but I don't think much of it as a gallery from within), and I have seen Serra's Torqued Ellipses years back at DIA in NYC...

I didn't think I would be, but I was impressed. So there.

I hear the conter-arguments about size automatically lending 'presence' (which to some extent is true), about hugeness being akin to 'special effects' (but somehow other art techniques aren't? Perspective is a special effect, so is shading, so is pigment...). I'd encourage anyone to not take my word for it, and see them for yourself, if at all possible. If Serra's works ever travelled to a show here in Edmonton, I'd definitely go see them again (who knows, maybe I'll change my mind the second time around).

68.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 5:18 PM

Yo Rob!

69.

catfish

July 8, 2005, 5:22 PM

McCourt,

If "international" art were not going so badly, then "regional" would be a pejorative term. But the failure of international art does not mean regionalism is high praise either.

I don't agree, however, that should Edmonton be relocated "somewhere on the East coast of the USA" anything would change. Gonzales-Picasso-Smith-Caro is not in vogue; it is the past as far as the USA is concerned and any scene indulging in it would be put down one way or another.

Whatever and however we analyze it, Gonzales-Picasso-Smith-Caro as a modality for emerging work is not acceptable to those who are in charge of the so called "international" scene.

"International" has come to be equated with "important". That would be a concession that I would never make. But I can't fill in the blank when someone asks "what is important then?"

Dispersion, isolation, and the state of being scattered, disconnected, and without validation are the modalities under which art must be made today. The other choices are to make bad international art or to not make art at all.

70.

Jack

July 8, 2005, 5:28 PM

My use of the term "special effects" did not refer to the size so much as to the manipulation of space and, by extension, the spatial perception of someone interacting (moving through) the structure(s).

71.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 5:34 PM

As for programming being art, I'll refer to my previous post #43
(with typos corrected ...)
"Anything that can be experience sensually can be enjoyed for its own sake, and therefore can be said to be enjoyed aesthetically, or in other words, 'enjoyed as art'. "

Which brings us tback up to Franklin's post #46:
"A while ago we tried to hash out whether extremely bad art and non-art were distinguishable; I don't think we settled anything but I remember thinking that in any case, the differences were negligible."

Allow me to settle it then.The moment you begin to consider not-art aesthetically (ie. as art), it becomes art because, quite logically, you just considered it as art. It is up to you and your consideration to then decide if this thing, experience, whatever it is that is now art, is good, bad, or otherwise. This should be clear especially to artists, since they take things that are non-art (paint and canvas, marble and chisels, twigs and feathers and motion detectors) and decide to consider them as art. Usually, this consideration leads the artist to two main conclusions:
1. Right now, as art, this is no good.
2. Maybe if I do something with these things, rearrange them somehow, it will get better as art

72.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 5:37 PM

I wasn't specifically referring to your comments, Jack, as it is a common refrain, but my reasoning stands. Art is made up of special effects of all kinds, and manipulating space and spacial perception seem to be valid strategies for art making, and integral to basically all sculpture in one way or another.

73.

catfish

July 8, 2005, 5:44 PM

Right on, McCourt. Special effects are neutral. Perspective is found in good and bad painting, as is huge size found in both panting and sculpture. None of it matters absolutely, it is only relevant if your clicker has or has not been clicked. If it has you say "that is hugely good" and if not you say "the size is a coverup for the lack of merit" or some such.

74.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 5:49 PM

catfish,

"I don't want to be Mr. Brown. It sounds too much like Mr. Shit"
-Reservoir Dogs

Regional sounds a little like Provincial, which are both polite ways of saying 'out of touch'.

"I don't agree, however, that should Edmonton be relocated "somewhere on the East coast of the USA" anything would change."
You're free to disagree of course, but if you do, I somehow doubt you're from Edmonton. I find it hard to imagine living in NYC, making the same work I am now, and not automatically being considered more 'international', or somehow less 'regional'.

I'm not suggesting that the gonzo-pica-smi-caro line is one that the establishment wants to highlight, I'm only suggesting that to suggest that an art tradition that spans Spain, France, USA, England, and Canada is not being treated honestly when it is described as non-international.

75.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 5:51 PM

oops.. a little disjointed at the end there... distracted midway through the sentence.. hope you get the gist of my meaning.

76.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 5:58 PM

oldpro post #45

I don't think i have a reason. It may be that much as I enjoy food of all kinds, along with plenty of other sensual delights, I have never experienced food esthetically, that is, apart from admiring it in the way one admires a pretty face or a sunset or birdsong."

I don't think you have a reason either. How do you 'enjoy' food then. For purely personal, practical reasons?
You say you've never experienced food aesthetically, except for the times when you have, like a bunch of other natural things, that you discount as being somehow not-really-aesthetic. Isn't it all the same feeling? That intuitive knowledge of "THIS IS RIGHT", without knowing exactly why it's right?

77.

catfish

July 8, 2005, 5:59 PM

McCourt, I understand what you are saying. Rest assured that Picasso-etc. are all considered blue chips, but of the past. If you were doing what you are doing now in NYC you would be considered out of touch with what's happening now and compared, unfavorably, to the blue chip precedents for your work, or completely ignored. Most likely the latter. Which is the worst of the two possiblities.

78.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 6:10 PM

cat,
Sure I'd be considered out of touch, sure I'd be compared unfavorably to Picasso, sure I'd be ignored by all the cool art mags... that's the case now. But if I was in New York as opposed to Jerk Water, I'd be considered LESS-provincial/regional. That's all I've said.

79.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 6:26 PM

Re: Have the po-mo conceptualists been locked out?

What the pathetic commonplace heads with which the world is crammed really lack are two closely related faculties: that of forming judgements and that of producing ideas of their own. But these are lacking to a degree which he who is not one of them cannot easily conceive, so that he cannot easily conceive to dolefulness of their existence. It is this deficiency, however, which explains on one hand the poverty of the scribbling which in all nations passes itself off to its contemporaries as their literature, and on the other the fate that overtakes true and genuine men who appear among such people. All genuine thought and art is to a certain extent an attempt to put big heads on small people: so it is no wonder the attempts does not always come off.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

80.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 6:31 PM

... and if you liked that Schopenhauer quote, here's a real gem...

If you want to earn the gratitude of your own age you must keep in step with it. But if you do that you will produce nothing great. If you have something great in view you must address yourself to posterity: only then, to be sure, you will probably remain unknown to your contemporaries; you will be like a man compelled to spend his life on a desert island and there toiling to erect a memorial so that future seafarers shall know he once existed.

81.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 6:39 PM

Re: Rob's post #57
Substitute 'art' for 'faith' and you've got our present task, left in the lurch as we seem to be. But I won't therefore claim that religion is art."

I wouldn't say that religion IS art...I would say that religion CAN BE art (to us nonbelievers, religion/mythology is at its best a form of highly philosophical literature).
But I would also contend that aesthetics and morality are more closely related than most people commonly accept. Both are based in jusdgements that are inherently human in origin and usefulness. This topic might be better served in a separate discussion.

82.

McCourt

July 8, 2005, 6:41 PM

Oops, there I go blathering again... well enough of this monotonous-monopolized-monologue.
Later.

83.

ahab

July 8, 2005, 6:55 PM

Re: food is aesthetically appreciated ergo is food art.

One possible reason I shrink from allowing food into my own loosely-defined spectrum of art is that eating and drinking are so commonplace, a thrice daily experience. In contrast, there seems to be so little visual art around me that often when I come upon a new piece I marvel at it and usually have to wait for the sense of spectacle to fade before I can appreciate (judge) it. Like oldpro I'm not sure I can describe why they are different.

Granted there are great dining experiences, but somehow they are not the same feeling. My taste and olfactory senses usually inform me instantly to relish the flavours. Maybe it's the table that sets the taster up differently from the viewer. Maybe it's that eating is a mix of senses in the way that the opera might be said to be. Maybe it's that the meal seems to taste better in company, but I prefer to enjoy my visual art alone.

The aesthetically moving sensation of visual art that occurs is, for me, significantly differentiated from the experience of food.

84.

Jack

July 8, 2005, 7:05 PM

Regarding #72, McCourt, you are, strictly speaking, correct. However, I personally perceive certain "effects" as more manipulative and/or potentially gimmicky than others, or more prone to abuse, or more deserving of suspicion or skepticism. That's me, and you need not concur, nor do I expect you will. To avoid repetition, I refer you to my #13 in the current Serra thread, which may make my position somewhat clearer. Again, your agreement is neither assumed nor necessary.

85.

Jack

July 8, 2005, 7:34 PM

Catfish (#73), I trust you agree that something can be "hugely good," just as something can be made huge for the sake of covering up lack of merit. True, such judgments will not be universally shared, but that in no way makes them inappropriate, invalid or irrelevant. It depends on the specific case in question, certainly. The point is that just because a particular effect can be used legitimately and/or successfully does not mean it cannot be used dubiously. Either way, that issue is clearly within the realm of criticism or assessment, and I will continue to incorporate it into mine.

86.

ahab

July 8, 2005, 7:56 PM

I say, that was a good casserole. Very good, indeed. Not a word of a lie.

McCourt, would you say that I have now raised the casserole to art? Is the casserole from now forwards an art form? Can I now consider it to be my medium? If I devoted my creative energies to the kitchen, would it be my studio? Could I claim to be a casserolist?

Sorry for the dripping tone, but I am wondering about the implications.

87.

oldpro

July 8, 2005, 8:00 PM

McCourt: I understand all the sensitivities you talk about in #65, but screw it. It is all just words and power play stuff. You guys are doing good work. As Yeats said, "Be secret, and exult"

As for #76, if "esthetic" enjoyment is any enjoyment then the enjoyment of food is esthetic. So is the enjoyment of anything, I suppose. I was not "discounting" the enjoyment of food when isaid it was not esthetic, just distinguishing between different kinds of enjoyment. My reaction to art and my reaction to good food is measurably different experientially, not in terms of value but in terms of character. Yours may not be, but I suspect, like Ahab's, it is also.

Of the Schopenhauer quotes #79 & #80, the second is certainly has a ring of truth to it. I don't quite understand the first, especially the phrase "he cannot easily conceive to dolefulness of their existence. " This sounds like bad 19th C translation to me.

88.

oldpro

July 8, 2005, 8:01 PM

McCourt: I understand all the sensitivities you talk about in #65, but screw it. It is all just words and power play stuff. You guys are doing good work. As Yeats said, "Be secret, and exult"

As for #76, if "esthetic" enjoyment is any enjoyment then the enjoyment of food is esthetic. So is the enjoyment of anything, I suppose. I was not "discounting" the enjoyment of food when isaid it was not esthetic, just distinguishing between different kinds of enjoyment. My reaction to art and my reaction to good food is measurably different experientially, not in terms of value but in terms of character. Yours may not be, but I suspect, like Ahab's, it is also.

Of the Schopenhauer quotes #79 & #80, the second is certainly has a ring of truth to it. I don't quite understand the first, especially the phrase "he cannot easily conceive to dolefulness of their existence. " This sounds like bad 19th C translation to me.

89.

oldpro

July 8, 2005, 8:02 PM

Franklin, it did it again.,

90.

McCourt

July 14, 2005, 3:05 PM

Of the Schopenhauer quotes #79 & #80, the second is certainly has a ring of truth to it. I don't quite understand the first, especially the phrase "he cannot easily conceive to dolefulness of their existence. " This sounds like bad 19th C translation to me.

Actually, just a bad 21st century transcription (I mis-typed it out of the book I was reading... it should have read "conceive the dolefulness", I think... I need a bigger keyboard)

91.

McCourt

July 14, 2005, 3:16 PM

Ahab writes: One possible reason I shrink from allowing food into my own loosely-defined spectrum of art is that eating and drinking are so commonplace, a thrice daily experience

How about listening to music? For some, it's more commonplace than eating, yet we don't have any problem thinking of it as art.

Oldpro writes: if "esthetic" enjoyment is any enjoyment then the enjoyment of food is esthetic. So is the enjoyment of anything, I suppose. I was not "discounting" the enjoyment of food when isaid it was not esthetic, just distinguishing between different kinds of enjoyment. My reaction to art and my reaction to good food is measurably different experientially, not in terms of value but in terms of character.

I would qualify that, the enjoyment of anything "as an end in itself" is aesthetic. If one enjoys their casserole because of the company in which they eat it, they are clearly enjoying the complany, not the casserole... if you enjoy the casserole because you were fucking starving, then you're enjoying its nutritional effect... if you're enjoying it based simply on your faculty of taste, then sorry, but to me this sounds pretty much like how we enjoy music and sculpture, regardless of the fact that we experience them through different senses.

92.

McCourt

July 14, 2005, 3:19 PM

Re oldpro post #88

po-mo conceptualists = pathetic commonplace heads

93.

ahab

July 15, 2005, 3:05 AM

Re: #91(following precedent set by Que Serra post #83)

McCourt you think like Sam I am!
I do not like green eggs and ham.

"Just try them, taste them, you will see.
You like them baked in casserole?
Would you prefer them aerosol?"

What if I eat them and I fart?
If I like them then they're art?
Okay I'll try them, let me be.

"I knew you'd think they're copasetic.
Green eggs and ham are so aesthetic."

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