Previous: Friday roundup, Monday edition (24)

Next: Rauschenberg dissenters (24)

New modernism

Post #1177 • May 13, 2008, 3:04 PM • 348 Comments

As noted on last week's Nihilism as mannersim thread, we might find it useful to declare a new modernism (caps are still being debated) that takes the important points of modernism forward and leaves the historical modernism with its trappings behind. Walter Darby Bannard has already written that modernism, above all, is a working attitude, first in 1984:

If Modernism and Postmodernism are unitary enough to characterize, I would suggest that it will he useful to see them as working attitudes. Modernism uses self-criticism to aim at and maintain high standards. Postmodernism asserts that these things are unnecessary for art. In spirit, Modernism is aspiring, authoritarian, hierarchical, self-critical, exclusive, vertically structured, and aims for the best. Postmodernism is aimless, anarchic, amorphous, self-indulgent, inclusive, horizontally structured and aims for the popular. Modernism is idealistic; Postmodernism is political. Each proceeds from and represents a side of human nature.

Then in 1989:

The word "Modernism" makes one think of recent art. But Modernism is an attitude, not a time. Western art has been "modernist" for hundreds of years, since the Renaissance, at least. Modernism is the attitude of the modern, any modern, of learning from any art of the past to bring what is new and fresh into present art. The emergence of sophisticated modelling, the invention of perspective, the development of tube paints and stretched canvas- all this is modernist evolution. Modernism is less something new than a way to recombine something old to make something better.

Modernism took a long time to become explicit.

And since then, including this from 2000:

Modernism, as a working attitude over the past century and a half, has insisted that a work of art be valued for itself rather than for it's usefulness toward another end. This is more-or-less what is meant by "Art for art's sake." It is characterized by a spirit of high aspiration for art value or "goodness" and is driven by an engine of internal self-criticism.

It's important to understand that art made now with a modernist attitude, a new modernist attitude, may or may not look like the art we associate with the historical Modern period. Modernism as we might use it today has five markers:

Visual quality. Modernists make visual art for visual reasons. Only the outcome is important; process is important only to the outcome. Things that look better are better than things that look worse. Visual quality is the only inherent function of art. Everything else is either a subsidiary function or a trait. Art needs no subsidiary functions, but it needs traits.

Self-criticism. As stated above, this drives the whole project. Self-criticism presupposes that ever-higher levels of visual quality are attainable and desirable.

Selective indifference to traits. Modernists reuse the helpful traits of past art and discard its unhelpful traits. This means all past art, from one's own most recent sketchbook doodle to ancient cave paintings. Whether something helps or not depends completely on circumstances at any given moment in the studio, according to the artist's being. Modernism presupposes that one can and ought to discard any given trait in one's work if it stands in the way of greater quality, or embrace it and use it if it clears the way to greater quality. It does not say that one need not make anything, or that any thing might be as good as any other thing, or that some kinds of things are better than other kinds. It is a concerted effort towards greater visual quality at the potential expense or to the possible glorification of any single trait.

Sincerity. The above activities done in an ironic way do not constitute a modernist attitude.

Practice trumps theory. Outcome is more important than principle. Product is more important than intentions. 75% purity is enough.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

Comment

1.

MC

May 13, 2008, 3:24 PM

The Venus of Willendorf's got 10,000 years on your precious French horsie cave paintings...

I'm just saying...

2.

Franklin

May 13, 2008, 3:26 PM

Drawing wins!

3.

opie

May 13, 2008, 4:00 PM

I heard they just discovered that the Venus of Willendorf is a calcified potato(e)

4.

opie

May 13, 2008, 4:01 PM

Where's Clem from Nihilism? We need some serious comment after all that work by Franklin.

5.

Clem

May 13, 2008, 4:05 PM

Apparently my comments weren't fit to be shown.

6.

Franklin

May 13, 2008, 4:14 PM

On the contrary. I didn't remove anything of Clem's. Did you get a timed out connection? The server has been doing that off and on today.

Oh sure they don't that's why there's near universal agreement on what writing is clear and what writing is "obfuscated".

Are you saying this sarcastically? Because there is amazing agreement about what constitutes clear writing.

Because you haven't learned a particular language-game doesn't mean that it doesn't operate according to a set of rules that might be clear to its own participants.

Language interests me. For language games, I play Scrabble.

Some people read Adorno or Lyotard in their sleep, for others it takes getting accustomed to. Much like learning their mother-tongue isn't seemless, or taking up a technical manual for your broken down car for that matter.

There are two kinds of jargon: technical jargon and stylistic jargon. Technical jargon expands when you clarify it. I'm learning PostgreSQL at the moment. I can't explain to you what a Left Outer Join is except as a database query that unions queries of unequal size into a single reply according to the left-hand portion of the request, and can handle NULLs on the right. Stylistic jargon shrinks when you clarify it. Give me a paragraph of Adorno and I'll make it say the same thing with half of the words.

No concepts of judgment, hey? So Greenberg's "seeing" isn't a particular aesthetic theory?

Right! It's something you do.

And "a reaction of some kind" continues your vague assertions. What kind of a reaction denotes the "correct" judgment, how is this distinguished from incorrect judgment?

Judgments are correct to the extent that they correlate to the perceived object.

You've got to have thought through what makes for taste before you can begin to assume you have it.

Taste is the ability to detect quality.

7.

catfish

May 13, 2008, 4:32 PM

Clem, take heart. This guy Flatboy that used to haunt this blog was by no means in agreement with "the regulars". His style was very different too, in that he could deliver a respectable body blow at unexpected times, like when he "bobbed and weaved" with opie over some forgettable artists Greenberg gave high praise to in some admittedly minor essays that Flatboy dug up. It was like a right cross coming from left field, but it hit its mark. When I looked up those artists (can't remember their names now), I realized Flatboy had scored. Yet he never called anyone a nasty name that I can remember. And the regulars liked him and looked forward to what he had to say, with exception perhaps of his formal analysis of the urinal.

Maybe someone better with the archives than me could ferret out some of those conversations so Clem could see that dissension is more than welcome here. The place is at its best when the heat is turned up and the sweat is flying.

8.

catfish

May 13, 2008, 4:37 PM

Franklin, I can't agree that "ever-higher levels of visual quality are attainable", no matter how desirable they may be. The "French horsie cave paintings" are as good as it ever gets, for instance. The Venus of Willendorf may be older, but it comes up a little short.

9.

beware

May 13, 2008, 5:06 PM

Brueghel is as good as it gets1

10.

MC

May 13, 2008, 5:19 PM

Hey Franklin, I clicked your Drawing link, but all that came up was a crude stone relief sculpture....

11.

Clem

May 13, 2008, 5:25 PM

I'm not disheartened, and maybe it's even a blessing that some of the frustration of my long post is lost to the internet. What's difficult about this conversation is how different our bearings are even before specific arguments come up. Funnily enough, it becomes a question of taste!

The role you've assigned criticism, as ancillary to the art itself, is a big stumbling block to talking about this with you. This is of course related to your overall perspective on language, which seems equally reductive.

I really question the notion of purity that you keep using. How can you talk about visuality without bringing in cognition and socialization? How do you even begin to talk about value or judgment without either of these? I don't see how you can insist that there is one primary function for art? Art's many functions are produced and changed according to individual perception and social context.

Your criteria for texts are also very different from mine. You keep using "clarity", but it seems like you just want a text to be clean. Syntax is only part of language. Meaning, tone, and situatedness are quite another. I'm not trying to equalize all texts, but you need to be open to different kinds of functions and audiences. Texts and language shift according to needs and settings. To borrow a reoccurring phrase from MC, I think it's "in bad faith" to reject even more technical theoretical writing as unclear. Readership has responsibilities, just as authorship does.

If you're unclear about any of this let me know, and I'd be glad to draw it out in some of what you've written.

12.

catfish

May 13, 2008, 5:25 PM

... decorated with doodles.

13.

Clem

May 13, 2008, 5:35 PM

I'd also be really interested to get a sense of which "pomo" thinkers or critics you feel have abandoned the notions of quality or self-criticism regarding art. Certainly not Adorno, however much you might try to paraphrase him!

14.

Franklin

May 13, 2008, 6:42 PM

I really question the notion of purity that you keep using. What notion of purity? Seriously. I think the first time I mentioned purity was above and I said 75% was enough.

How can you talk about visuality without bringing in cognition and socialization? I don't split internal and external processes. It's all external as far as I can tell. We would experience it as such if we could feel our brains operating. Of course "external" becomes the wrong word at that point. I tried panjective but it didn't go over very well.

How do you even begin to talk about value or judgment without either of these? I don't remember getting into value at all. As for judgment, I think the above answers your question at least provisionally.

I don't see how you can insist that there is one primary function for art? Art's many functions are produced and changed according to individual perception and social context. But all art objects have been specially marked for a particular kind of perception. Take that away, and you're talking about some other kind of object.

You keep using "clarity", but it seems like you just want a text to be clean. Clear, clean - I won't split hairs on this.

Syntax is only part of language. Meaning, tone, and situatedness are quite another. I'm not trying to equalize all texts, but you need to be open to different kinds of functions and audiences. Texts and language shift according to needs and settings. To borrow a reoccurring phrase from MC, I think it's "in bad faith" to reject even more technical theoretical writing as unclear. Readership has responsibilities, just as authorship does.

You asked me on the earlier thread to elaborate what good writing about art entails. I answered: "Good writing adds to knowledge. Well-written writing makes you want to keep reading. That's all there is to it." On a gross level, you're correct - you wouldn't use the same style to write a modern children's book and an analysis of aesthetics for an 18th C. German audience. Within like examples, there are optimal and sub-optimal ways of presenting information. Assuming that we're talking about non-fiction, clarity is typically a virtue. If the reader doesn't know what the words mean, it's his responsibility to look them up. If the reader can't know what the words mean, the writer is jerking him around and shirking his responsibility to add to knowledge. My problem isn't with hard words, but with empty words.

15.

roy

May 13, 2008, 7:29 PM

'Product is more important than intentions.'

That's why intent is so important, save for us mumbling about it.

I'm not sure what is exactly meant by 'goodness' here, but when I aim for quality in my work, I aim for goodness too. Bannard's goodness might not include it, but I mean to imply a grounded basic human goodness. The kind that makes it obvious that life is not art. The kind that makes you laugh cause we've figured this much out and we're all just a bunch of monkeys anyhow.

I like the word and I think Bannard makes an important appendage to the discussion of quality with it. As much as new moderns hate words having any sort of lever on the visual, these terms, which can sound rather esoteric, need all the humanizing they can get. The danger lies in them being dumbed down and rendered useless.

For myself, my address to quality excepts me from using irony and cynicism as a base for anything I should want to put out in the world.

As an aside, Catfish, you've mentioned sex a few times in other threads as having a role in the impulse to make or appreciate or understand art...
Could you say a bit more about this? I've been meaning to ask about it for a while. If there's an old thread that you can recall where you've gone into some detail that'd be fine.

16.

opie

May 13, 2008, 8:03 PM

Franklin, I'm glad that you re answering Clem point for point. I'm afraid I wouldn't have the patience for it.

Clem, this may just be my nature and perhaps a fault, but when I read what you write and try to think about an aswer I begin to feel as if I am grabbing air. For example, I can't understand the criticism ancilliary to art statement. Can it be anything else, by its nature? That our language is "reductive" - why, because we insist on precision and clear meaning? I am not trying to be snide; I just don't understand. And "purity" - did anyone bring up purity? You speak of "Art's many functions". Could you mention a few? I'm sorry but I just can't deal with the non-specific.

Catfish that wrangle with flatboy was indeed him throwing curve. He was entirely correct in the facts of his allegation but the allegation itself was specious, and I think I was able to point that out to him.

17.

opie

May 13, 2008, 8:10 PM

Roy, we both know what "goodness" is. We just cannot say what goodness is. Most knowledge is non-verbal. If we both talk about goodness (about art, anyway) we can each refer to our own notion and be fairly sure we are on common ground. It is very important to be able to regularly separate kinds of knowledge when discussing any difficult subject..

Of course intention is important, but it is imperfectly represented in the work, so it is usually futile to talk about it. And, frankly, I find it difficult to tke seriously even when artists talk about their own intentions. I think we just had an example of this with Mr. Sturgis's work.

18.

catfish

May 13, 2008, 8:21 PM

Sure Roy, it's not very high falutin' sounding, but sex seems to be at the bottom of how we go about doing many things. The impulse can go over the top, as in Jock Sturges, but most of the time it behaves itself, more or less.

I think it is more than "motive" (which we don't know much about anyway), it is just a rock bottom foundation for our energy to do anything, but especially art, because sex and beauty are so connected. I don't mean this grossly, as in having sex with art works as part of the process of making them. But categorically, if it were not for our sex drives, I don't think much art would get made. Even as we age and the urgency fades a bit (a relief, sometimes I think), it is still foundational.

I don't see how sex can help understand art, but it is also foundational to our being drawn to art, its "appreciation" as you put it.

Saint Augustine wrote of how his heart would not rest until he reached the beatific vision. Made sense to me at one time, maybe still does. It makes great sense that uniting with God is uniting with beauty. Having sex with someone makes them seem more beautiful than ever. Getting off on an art work is a union between our intuition and the work's perfection (or beauty). Maybe all these aspects come together when we reach the other side.

I am a congenital lumper. What artists try to do and what lovers try to do seem more alike than different, though they are not exactly the same thing. There is nothing I like to do more in my studio than show my work to my bombshell soul-mate.

I meander. This stuff is more felt than understood by me. Perhaps in a previous life my first name was Sigmund ... He had sloppy theories but I think he got the fundamentals right.

19.

opie

May 13, 2008, 8:28 PM

addendum to catfish: in taxonomy - the science of classification - there are "lumpers", who want to make one species out of two, and "splitters", who want to make two species out of one.

20.

roy

May 13, 2008, 8:35 PM

'Of course intention is important, but it is imperfectly represented in the work, so it is usually futile to talk about it.'

I really like this sentence opie. It says something about self-criticism as it applies to intent or even a useful discussion of it.

As for "intent" I didn't mean to imply the idiocy of an artist statement or a description of process. I guess what I meant runs mostly parallel to the spirit in which the thing is made.

21.

catfish

May 13, 2008, 8:41 PM

Well, opie brings me back to earth. When I looked at those pictures I just saw that Flatboy was correct in his facts - the artists so highly praised were not so hot (can't remember who they were). Specious means plausible but false. He had it right as far as what he asserted ... right is right (I think-it was several years ago).

His successful curve ball drove home the fact that great critics are remembered for what they get right, not what they get wrong, and especially what they get right about the best artists of their time. It seems like the subject of the time had something to do with why don't people read what Greenberg actually wrote, and Flatboy did just that. Didn't he also praise Greenberg for his Marxism in "Avant-garde and Kitsch"?

When a writer publishes something they are responsible for it. Flatboy made that crystal clear.

He also did a good job advising a grad student on how to get through her review, much better than anything the rest of us suggested. His view of the urinal was downright strange, though. And so on.

My point is that someone with a very contrary/unusual point of view can get along nicely here at artblog. "We are large and contain many things." (What Chesterton said in response to a statement that he had contradicted himself.)

22.

catfish

May 13, 2008, 8:43 PM

Smart artists don't discuss their intentions.

23.

roy

May 13, 2008, 8:54 PM

I'm not even clear yet. Thank you catfish. And your comment affirms me as well...i trust no words put to the intent i mean to describe here. I make no claims for it outside of my own awareness.

24.

roy

May 13, 2008, 9:03 PM

Catfish, thanks for the reply btw. i can totally identify.

25.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 4:58 AM

clem you should be happy. You got a MUCH warmer welcome than I did when I first appeared here.

26.

MC

May 14, 2008, 5:36 AM

Nominees for the $50,000 Sobey Art Prize (a Canadian thing)were just announced, and it looks like friend-of-artblog craigfrancis is one of the potential recipients...

Congratulations, cf...

27.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 6:08 AM

Bannard says,

"If Modernism and Postmodernism are unitary enough to characterize, I would suggest that it will he useful to see them as working attitudes"

What does that mean, that they can be characterized as singular units, or as distinct from one another? Or unitary as a unit conjoined by the word and?

"Modernism uses self-criticism to aim at and maintain high standards."

A specific instance could be helpful, ie. to describe the nature of the self criticism and the nature of the standards at which it aims and maintains

"Postmodernism asserts that these things are unnecessary for art."

Specifically?

"In spirit, Modernism is aspiring, authoritarian, hierarchical, self-critical, exclusive, vertically structured, and aims for the best."

Pure generalization.

"Postmodernism is aimless, anarchic, amorphous, self-indulgent, inclusive, horizontally structured and aims for the popular."

More generalities, nothing specific.

"Modernism is idealistic; Postmodernism is political. Each proceeds from and represents a side of human nature."

Glad we go that out of the way, whatever it means.Is idealism ever political?

"The word "Modernism" makes one think of recent art."

OK.

"But Modernism is an attitude, not a time." Western art has been "modernist" for hundreds of years, since the Renaissance, at least."

Modern - [French moderne, from Old French, from Late Latin modernus, from Latin modo, in a certain manner, just now, from mod, ablative of modus, manner; see med- in Indo-European roots.]


"Modernism is the attitude of the modern, any modern, of learning from any art of the past to bring what is new and fresh into present art. The emergence of sophisticated modelling, the invention of perspective, the development of tube paints and stretched canvas- all this is modernist evolution. Modernism is less something new than a way to recombine something old to make something better."



Not exactly a vertically structured or hierarchical thinking going on here. "The attitude of the modern, any modern"?

"Modernism took a long time to become explicit."

And it's still pretty vague at this point in these bites of writing. And the bullet points below take whatever you're trying to say to a whole new level of discombobulation.

"Practice trumps theory....75% is enough"?

28.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 6:23 AM

J@S, this person calling himself Clem actually disagrees with things being said here, which is why I'm willing to go back and forth with him. Your determination to misunderstand is a different sort of thing - akin to a three-year-old asking "why?" until her parents give her a toy to play with. I'm pretty sure that you can answer the questions you ask for yourself, and the challenges you offer are inconsequential. Sorry, but #27 doesn't merit further interaction.

29.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 6:32 AM

My questions are perfectly valid.

30.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 6:36 AM

So is "Why?" when asked by a child of three. But I have to get something out of the conversation too.

31.

ahab

May 14, 2008, 6:37 AM

29:

Only your questions are perfectly valid?
Only your questions are perfectly valid?
Your questions are perfectly valid?
What do you mean, valid?

32.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 6:38 AM

So it's below you to answer?

33.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 6:41 AM

I mean legitimate, Ahab.

34.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 6:44 AM

Look at this pretty toy, J!

35.

MC

May 14, 2008, 6:45 AM

I wonder how one would begin to "answer" for the criticism that their discussion of artistic genera uses "generalities"... as if that amounted to an intelligible criticism.

36.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 6:47 AM

Bannard's argument proceeds from the idea modernism and post modernism are unitary. Is that true?

37.

MC

May 14, 2008, 6:48 AM

Whheee! Dolphins!

38.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 6:49 AM

Me likey dolphins!

39.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 6:54 AM

Is that really what Bannard is saying, J?

40.

MC

May 14, 2008, 6:55 AM

I think Bannard sees them as unitary enough to describe them as distinct working attitudes... but, I can't be sure, I haven't asked him personally.... I'm just going by the obvious meaning of the sentence, as written...

41.

modernism is failing

May 14, 2008, 6:57 AM

What bannard is trying to say simplistically is that good is good,bad is bad, and to question why is bad,but to accept is good. And he prefers particulars,nothing vague.
Don't you get it?
I think the man is a bit misdirected,though.pomo as y'all call it doesn't value lack of quality . It embraces failure as a method for arriving at better at more thorough conclusions. Iwas talking to 'ol darby about this the other day.and he confessed a secret love for late stella and rauschenberg (rip),but I digress...

42.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 6:58 AM

I asked you first Dad. I sounded it out and it looks like he wrote

"If Modernism and Postmodernism are unitary enough to characterize, I would suggest that it will he useful to see them as working attitudes."


What does he mean when he suggests they might be unitary enough to characterize?

43.

opie

May 14, 2008, 6:58 AM

Posie - Although I agree with Franklin #28 I may be able to answer some of your questions. Please understand that these are excerpts that franklin took for the purposes of the tone of the thread



"If Modernism and Postmodernism are unitary enough to characterize, I would suggest that it will he useful to see them as working attitudes"

What does that mean, that they can be characterized as singular units, or as distinct from one another? Or unitary as a unit conjoined by the word and?

It means singular, coherent. identifiale as a unit.



"Modernism uses self-criticism to aim at and maintain high standards."

The classic case, usually given in the literature its Manet who decided to make his art better - as art - by emulating Goya and Velasquez.

A specific instance could be helpful, ie. to describe the nature of the self criticism and the nature of the standards at which it aims and maintains



"Postmodernism asserts that these things are unnecessary for art."

You would have to search through postmodernist litereature to dind an example. I think there is general agreement about this.



"In spirit, Modernism is aspiring, authoritarian, hierarchical, self-critical, exclusive, vertically structured, and aims for the best."

Pure generalization.

"Postmodernism is aimless, anarchic, amorphous, self-indulgent, inclusive, horizontally structured and aims for the popular."

More generalities, nothing specific.

The characterization is very specific. There has to be some latitude for this. Otherwise any comment would have to be encyclopedic.



"Modernism is idealistic; Postmodernism is political. Each proceeds from and represents a side of human nature."

Glad we go that out of the way, whatever it means. Is idealism ever political?

Idealism is always political.



"The word "Modernism" makes one think of recent art."

OK.

This is not a question



"But Modernism is an attitude, not a time." Western art has been "modernist" for hundreds of years, since the Renaissance, at least."

Modern - [French moderne, from Old French, from Late Latin modernus, from Latin modo, in a certain manner, just now, from mod, ablative of modus, manner; see med- in Indo-European roots.]

Neither is this.



"Modernism is the attitude of the modern, any modern, of learning from any art of the past to bring what is new and fresh into present art. The emergence of sophisticated modelling, the invention of perspective, the development of tube paints and stretched canvas- all this is modernist evolution. Modernism is less something new than a way to recombine something old to make something better."

Not exactly a vertically structured or hierarchical thinking going on here. "The attitude of the modern, any modern"?

"better" is hierarchical, of course.



"Modernism took a long time to become explicit."

That was clipped off and does look a bit odd. It means thatt modernism took a long time to become recognized and examine as such.

44.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 6:59 AM

What do you think he means, J?

45.

MC

May 14, 2008, 7:00 AM

"...pomo as y'all call it doesn't value lack of quality ..."

No, it lacks a value of quality...

46.

opie

May 14, 2008, 7:00 AM

Sorry for the spacing, franklin. I don;t know how to do italics etc

47.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 7:04 AM

how to do italics

48.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 7:04 AM

Opie,

You would have to search through postmodernist litereature to dind an example. I think there is general agreement about this.


That is not an annswer. That anyone here would accept.

49.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 7:11 AM

So you fault Bannard for not citing specific examples, but general agreement about the postmodernist literature is good enough for you.

Go away, J.

50.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 7:14 AM

Can you read?

51.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 7:15 AM

Those were OP's words not mine.

52.

MC

May 14, 2008, 7:15 AM

I find it very common that, although many young art-types (think they) know the "tenets of Modernism", they are blithely unaware of the founding anti-modernist "tenets of Post-Modernism". Today's generation is convinced that art made today simply IS postmodern (or, even, post-postmodern, I guess) by virtue of chronology, the fact that it is made now, and we are "living in postmodern times", they like to say.

I had an art history grad student interview me not too long ago, and she was bewildered at the idea that my work wasn't "postmodern", since she just couldn't imagine it was possible for current art to be anything else. I asked her what features of my sculpture she thought was evidently postmodern, and she cited my use of color... not how I used it, just the fact that my sculpture was colored. Yes, that's right, and Art History grad student, unaware of the existence of non-postmodernist colored sculpture.

It's staggering, really, and all the more so for its ubiquity.

53.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 7:16 AM

Can you read? I said "go away."

54.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 7:18 AM

"If Modernism and Postmodernism are unitary enough to characterize, I would suggest that it will he useful to see them as working attitudes"

This is straightforward to me. If Modernism and Postmodernism are unitary concepts, meaning if each concept is unitary, it would be useful to see them as working attitudes. What is the problem here? Bannard is not joining the two separate concepts together in that sentence. He is saying that the two concepts, Modernism and Postmodernism might individually be unitary concepts. Also, it is not uncommon for postmodernism to be seen as the bastard child of modernism because of its very name. Is this news to anyone?

55.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 7:19 AM

You can't answer the question.

56.

MC

May 14, 2008, 7:21 AM

Hey Franklin, that HTML link gives a method for strikeout text that doesn't seem to work... I've tried "strike", I've tried "del" (in pointy brackets, of course), but nothing works for me...

57.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 7:21 AM

Thank you Eric. Why only conditionally are they unitary?

58.

MC

May 14, 2008, 7:23 AM

"... the question."

Anyone else seen Goya's Ghosts?

59.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 7:24 AM

Who can't answer what question, J?

del won't work. Strike does though.

60.

MC

May 14, 2008, 7:25 AM

Thanks. I guess it must just be on blogger that "strike" doesn't work.

61.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 7:27 AM

Well, can you?

62.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 7:28 AM

That does it, J. After this post I'm deleting your comments.

63.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 7:28 AM

Is Goya's Ghost good? I will get it from Netflix if it is.

64.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 7:30 AM

Good thing Franklin. Otherwise this blog will turn into the home of nonsensical non-sequitors like paintersnyc has.

Daddy will stop cleaning up all the messy poo-poo now.

65.

J@simpleposie

May 14, 2008, 7:31 AM

My Bad.

66.

MC

May 14, 2008, 7:32 AM

It's definitely worth watching, Eric.

67.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 7:36 AM

Good to hear mc. Thanks. I love Forman's earlier work and Goya is in my top ten.

68.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 7:36 AM

How does it compare to Goya in Bordeaux?

69.

opie

May 14, 2008, 7:40 AM

The down side is that it gives rise to the "if they don't like what you say they will censor you" idea. I don't want to inhibit criticism. Maybe JP can go with the flow a little better.

70.

MC

May 14, 2008, 7:42 AM

I haven't seen GiB, but GG isn't really so much about Goya as the time in which he lived, and the characters that populated the world around him. I didn't expect it to deal so much with the Spanish Inquisition, but, you know what they say...

71.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 7:49 AM

For the record, I love disagreement. But I'm not going to let threads bloat pointlessly with the inconsequential challenges of people who disagree but can't form a counterargument. Again, I have to get something out of the conversation too.

72.

redneckrailroad

May 14, 2008, 7:59 AM

I think you are stuck ib. An 8os & 90s definition of pomo. Today it is regarded more as a time in which ideals and tenants of modernism were questioned.

73.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 8:02 AM

We really do need a term that distinguishes postmodernism at its heights in the '80s and '90s from what we have now, which relates only tangentially. Peter Halley used to go around with a copy of Baudrillard on him, so the story goes. I don't think anyone is aligning themselves with theory with quite that much vigor anymore.

74.

MC

May 14, 2008, 8:04 AM

Wait a second... are suggesting that "postmodernism" is only conditionally unitary?!?

75.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 8:07 AM

OMG conditional unitariness!!1

I think there's a case for calling the current work "late postmodernism."

76.

MC

May 14, 2008, 8:08 AM

... or maybe, not late, so much as tardy.

77.

catfish

May 14, 2008, 8:14 AM

Opie (#69) and Franklin (#71): J@S was badgering. Something maybe to address in the guidelines. Myself, I wonder what would have transpired if no one had taken the bait, that is, no one responded.

78.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 8:14 AM

Using theory to back you up, such as the intentionally impenentrable writings of Baudrillard, requires too much reading. The classic PoMo texts are unreadable. The writing style they exemplify is pseudo-technical and analytical, and just plain grueling to read. It is easier to invoke key names, Lyotard, etc., and then move on. People might say their work is PoMo, but that just means they don't really know what they are doing. At least they can consider themselves contemporary and hip if they say their art is PoMo. Has the art world decided that PoMo is the very last movement in art? Besides watered down and lazy PoMo, what is next? That is what I wonder about. Nitpicking over the definitions of Modernism and Postmodernism is not fruitful. We know that something different came along after classic European Modernism and its American counterparts. We know that whatever came after it fully embraced commercial culture, industrialism, the manufacturing sector, the entertainment industry. Modernism still included high ideals and the concept of self improvement, as if art meant something besides being yet another cultural product. Postmodernism does not imply a hierarchy of values and meaning. Modernism does.

79.

MC

May 14, 2008, 8:21 AM

Naming an art movement requires an art-thinker to look at the attributes of the art and discern a trait in common. But, as any respected art-thinker will tell you, art isn't for looking at any more, so naming a new movement becomes impossible. It is current academic orthodoxy to state that post-modernism ended at some vague point in the past, and we're in some new period now that has no traits to speak of, so they just call it all "contemporary", and pretend that they can still consider themselves "experts"...

80.

Chris Rywalt

May 14, 2008, 8:21 AM

Anyone want to buy my Postmodern Conditioned Unitard? I only wore it once!

I think it's unfortunate that this thread, which is supposed to be a continuation of the previous and very fertile thread, turned out to be a name-calling session. We were doing so well.

Probably part of the problem is that Franklin's original post is so perfectly self-contained. I'd sign on for his definition of modernism.

Although I'm a little hazy on the concept of "traits." When you talk about the traits of a work, Franklin, what do you mean? Are traits the things we use to categorize a work, like "uses construction debris" or "abstract pastel on paper"? So you're saying a modernist is willing to jump categories if it'll make the work better?

81.

opie

May 14, 2008, 8:33 AM

So apparently academia is 100% blindly postmodernist to the point that the kids know nothing else (I have had experiences like MC's above) while at the same time the great majority of people still think art is painting and sculpture and that is still what sells in the auctions, and we (us embattled, disgruntled modernists) are muttering about "comes the revolution...".

Weird times.

82.

catfish

May 14, 2008, 8:40 AM

Franklin's #73: Po-mo theory is tedious to read. Now that po-mo is rather universally accepted, the necessity to bone up on its theory fades. The easier the path is made to travel, the more people there are who will join the crowd.

So what I'm thinking about is the difference between the 80s when the po-mos had to work at their project, and now when they are cruising along comfortably with the wind at their backs. They and their variants (po-po-mo) are rather complacent.

So I come back to the subject of this thread and the vulnerability that anything fresh seems to have when it first approaches the vast monolith that has drawn so many into itself. What thing can penetrate the perimeter? What the new-modernist wants is that his or her work be seen, not necessarily that the monolith be destroyed. Unlike the Trojans, all we really want to do is get past the gate without compromising ourselves.

We don't need a theory. We need a strategy.

83.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 8:41 AM

opie where do you live and can you share images of your work?

84.

opie

May 14, 2008, 8:43 AM

Eric I think the problem is we are all tangled up in words and we have to look at what people are doing, which people are doing it and what are the characteristcs, and maybe leave modern and postmodern behind.

The change seems to boil down to one's attitude toward the visual and in particular toward the values we feel are inherent in art, and how these things work themselves out.

85.

opie

May 14, 2008, 8:50 AM

Eric I sent you an email 2 days ago at

ericgelber@earthlink.net

86.

opie

May 14, 2008, 8:53 AM

"We don't need a theory. We need a strategy."

Agree 100%. Theories are easy and ineffective.

In the past the "strategy" has been the power of better art. I don't know if that will still work.

87.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 9:06 AM

opeie sorry but I did not receive anything from you. I checked my spam folder carefully. Could you please send the info again. I would appreciate it and sorry for the inconvenience.

ericgelber@earthlink.net

How about these disturbing gems from current examples of art writing:

“Art that makes people think should not be such a novel idea! Art that just hangs pretty on a wall doesn't work in this century like it did in the last. It's just another facet of the elusive and changing definition of art.”

“[E]very artwork, of course, needs some kind of narrative to make sense of where it fits in with the world.”

“------ piece is all the more powerful because it exists as artwork solely in our perception of it…”

88.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 9:06 AM

Are traits the things we use to categorize a work, like "uses construction debris" or "abstract pastel on paper"? So you're saying a modernist is willing to jump categories if it'll make the work better?

Yes. Traits are anything recognizable about the work, from the materials to the content. A modernist will do whatever it takes, including jump categories, if it will make his work better - visually better.

89.

opie

May 14, 2008, 9:09 AM

That's puzzling Eric because I didnt get a return.

Let me know if you get nothing in the next hour.

90.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 9:12 AM

Okay opie. I am going to teach until 2:35 and I will let you know either way.

91.

Clem

May 14, 2008, 9:45 AM

"Visual quality is the only inherent function of art"

The theme of purity that I mention involves absolute statements like this. Your version of "quality" reads exactly like an abstraction, as if art had a teleology. One of our key differences revolves precisely around this-- art's ontological status. Where you want to define it as something with essential or inherent properties—by which you contend we can straightforwardly judge it--I see this as limiting its potential, and am more open to the concept of multiplicity.

I’m not all that familiar with Bannard’s writing, but the opening quotations that you chose led me to suggest this notion of purity. The fact that his definition revolves around so many simplistic binaries (good/bad, mo / pomo, quality / anarchy, idealist / political) imply absolutes. That you settled for 75% purity seemed like some good natured reflexivity to me : )

I’m not going to project Bannard’s entire position on you, but look at a quote like this and maybe you’ll get what I’m saying:

“It all seems like anarchy, but it isn't. The forms are new but the dynamics are old. As always, there is only one real difference, the difference of quality, the difference between good and bad. That is the way it always has been, is now and always will be. There is no way around. Quality in visual art has belonged to painting and sculpture for hundreds of years. Despite a thousand new materials and methods it still does, because painting on a rectangular canvas and the organizing of a static, three-dimensional object still keep our best talent busy”

Could this come across any more elitist or limiting? These designations of purity are what irritate me.

“How can you talk about visuality without bringing in cognition and socialization? I don't split internal and external processes. It's all external as far as I can tell. We would experience it as such if we could feel our brains operating. Of course "external" becomes the wrong word at that point. I tried panjective but it didn't go over very well”

I’m not sure why you took that as a splitting of internal / external. I’m saying that visuality doesn’t take place in a vacuum. If we go back to your earlier comments about how art makes us feel something / is the source of pleasure, all I’m saying is that these processes aren’t inherently determined, When you write “Things that look better are better than things that look worse” I object to the notion that goodness/badness in of visuality have some essential property. These are defined and constantly shifting according to individual cognition and socialization. When you continue that “Visual quality is the only inherent function of art” I would respond that art doesn’t have an inherent function but only ones which are socially assigned. If we want to limit our discussion to visual art, then you might say that it has an overwhelmingly visual aspect or dimension, but this isn’t the same thing as a function.

“But all art objects have been specially marked for a particular kind of perception. Take that away, and you're talking about some other kind of object”

I’m troubled by what seems to be an unsupported generalization. What “particular kind of perception” are you talking about here—visuality for its own sake? It’s interesting that you say that it is “specially marked” do you mean socially, through language? Doesn’t this compromise a position in which visuality exists for itself? This last sentence gets to the heart of your argument’s purity, as if there was a fixed definition for art that can’t be challenged or modified in the slightest or it’s danger of collapsing. I may be making this a little more dramatic than you intended, but you need only look to history to see how conceptions of art have altered dramatically. When I read someone like Bannard’s objections to new forms of art, I tend to think of their more conservative outlooks as stemming from an inability or unwillingness to understand or integrate recent social and technological developments. Even Adorno hated film for its spectrality! Basing arguments against them on the basis of quality seems like an easy way to avoid exploring new mediums and forms. Visuality itself is something which isn’t fixed and has been changing rapidly over the last 50 years. This isn’t to avoid the issue of quality, but realize that new conditions for visual work require a new mapping of criteria for possible judgment. Getting back to your quote, I just don’t see how we can limit ourselves to either a “particular kind of perception” or even a particular kind of “object” that we qualify as artistic.

“Within like examples, there are optimal and sub-optimal ways of presenting information. Assuming that we're talking about non-fiction, clarity is typically a virtue. If the reader doesn't know what the words mean, it's his responsibility to look them up. If the reader can't know what the words mean, the writer is jerking him around and shirking his responsibility to add to knowledge. My problem isn't with hard words, but with empty words”

Again, the good / bad writing is simplistic. Personally, I find a lot of theoretical writing to be “sub-optimal” but I could say the same thing for a lot of writing which qualifies as highly readable. That a text is tidy doesn’t mean it’s going to be meaningful. I’m not arguing against your claim that good writing should increase knowledge, but rather your conditions for this exchange. I object to your generalization that academic and philosophical text’s intentionally jerk their readers around. Even if certain terms aren’t immediately apparent to your average reader (here I go with my own elitism, I guess!) this doesn’t mean that they’re meaningless or meant to confuse. Just because I’d have a lot of trouble even starting to talk about “Dasein” doesn’t mean that its empty, poorly developed, or used inconsistently.

92.

MC

May 14, 2008, 10:02 AM

I've had enough conversation with "Clem" on my own blog to come to the conclusion that productive dialogue is near futile (Clem's more restrained tack here points to the possibility I might be wrong), but I will make this one observation:
Incredibly long comments that are peppered with numerous questions are very hard to address completely (no offense intended, Clem, just an observation, one that perhaps you might agree with).
Nevertheless, knowing Franklin, Opie, et al, I'm sure someone here will have the patience to respond to Clem's last comment, and I only hope Clem will read and think carefully on that eventual response...

93.

Clem

May 14, 2008, 10:40 AM

Agreed MC, dealing with an onslaught of comments can be difficult. Though it's funny that my post brings you to that point, while someone like J has had to deal with it all morning! I also think it's difficult to discuss some of these issues with a number of you when the constant charge of "that's not an argument", "give us a real counterargument" is being leveled. Not that the threat of removing posts and mutual un-civility helps things either.

There's too much for me to respond to also, so the last post tried to stick to Franklin's reply. But I'd like to touch on something that Eric wrote and that many here seem to agree with:

"Postmodernism does not imply a hierarchy of values and meaning. Modernism does"

I agree, most of thinkers that you've mentioned don't imply A hierarchy. But as a couple of us have mentioned, this doesn't imply that the question of quality has been abandoned. Just because some of Modernism's claims of objectivity have been critiqued or abandoned (the same as modernism's emergence critiqued other traditional criteria of judgment) doesn't mean that things have become a literal free for all. This often heard charge of relativism is more of a knee-jerk reaction than a thoughtful consideration of many of these writer's positions. I think that you'd find an overarching concern for specificity here which actually enables judgment and the designation of value. While this sometimes might seem like a reigning in of quality, I find that it actually emerges from the desire to clarify rather than abstract the way in which we make judgments and create art.

If it seems like this unnecessarily complicates things, then you need to see that it arises from the argument that modernism takes things too straightforwardly (and that these limitations are intentionally political). This is admittedly simplistic, but I think that many of these arguments extend what is required for, and deserving of, judgment.

94.

opie

May 14, 2008, 10:42 AM

Clem, instead of stating that we are invoking "pure" and being "simplistic", "absolute", "elitist, and "limiting" (many of which I would be happy to admit to) and assuming those words are negative, and writing very long statements which as MC says are very awkward to deal with, can you present one at a time and state very clearly what your objection is?

Otherwise I'm afraid we will get nowhere.

95.

catfish

May 14, 2008, 10:46 AM

Opie (#86): "the power of better art" has to be one of the cornerstones of any strategy that would work. It is the integrity that binds us together. But in and of just itself, it does not seem sufficient to the task. After all, artists who hold that looks aren't important are the ones getting looked at, while those who do think looks are important, are not being looked at.

So. The "wedge" has to feature a certain kind of better art in order to break through. Other kinds can follow later. What I'm thinking about borders on pandering, but what the hell, here it is: When I say a new-modernist is an artist who has added something to modernism since 1960, that's too broad. The focus should be narrowed down to artists who have developed something that is clearly different than what modernism was before it sunk from public regard, yet that is also just as clearly an extension of modernism, not involving any revolt against it. The innovations developed by these artists should be clearly perceivable as being something that was not seen in the old modernism, but has modernism as its root.

And there ought to be the capacity to create gushing pleasure, immediate and hard to deny on a physical basis, so that the only objection can be "pleasure isn't what art is about". In 1987 Robert Hughes panned the Morris Louis retrospective at MOMA on exactly those grounds, saying something like "beauty is not enough". But now his objection is 20 years old and though it would undoubtedly be repeated, it certainly has become long-in-the-tooth.

It isn't necessary to convince everyone this is the good stuff. Certain parts of the audience for art should be written off, cynical as that seems for one, such as I, who believes art is for everybody. But for now the wedge must be aimed at those who are not just open to being visually wowed, but actually hunger for it.

Thus, Laurie Anderson whom I would include in the broad understanding of new-modernism, would not work in this narrowed strategy. Neither would Ed Ruscha, despite his interest and success in keeping the look of his work in the forefront. Susan Roth, whose work I admire a lot, would not work either, because you must work through her toughness before you can get the pleasure. (And, as I worked out this post below, Anderson and Ruscha are far too well known to be cast as "new".)

"Color Field" and "Lyrical Abstraction" are problem categories. They clearly extended modernism, but are associated with its fall from grace, not its renewal. The rhetoric of new-modernism must avoid those categories initially, though they might and should come later. Those who made a "name" for themselves during the acceptance phase of those movements would be a liability. (Poons, Frankenthaler, for instance.) "New" means "new to the art scene" on certain practical levels. I keep thinking of Pearlstein and how he remained in the background until he was taken up by the revival of realism that followed AbEx - he was not new in any sense except new to the limelight - but that trumped every other fact. Anyone who has been in the limelight cannot be put across as new. Thus, the "New New" doesn't work either. Though they have not gotten much limelight, they have been visible for too long.

Yes, I think "new to the system" is important as I type through this. So:

1. Visibly connected to modernism before 1960;
2. Having adding something that is a clear innovation and hopelessly pleasurable;
3. Not well known to the current art system.

Then what? I'm not sure.

96.

craigfrancis

May 14, 2008, 10:47 AM

Yo. Thanks for the props, MC. Though I don't know about "friend" of artblog. More like drunken, obnoxious party guest.

97.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 10:49 AM

Hey, just don't pee in the fish tank. Congratulations, CF!

98.

opie

May 14, 2008, 11:11 AM

No, Catfish, I'm not sure either, but it is fun to structure the idea.

I thought your point #1 was something you rejected. Do you mean that it must look like earlier modernism? I think whatever we might find might well look that way but I don't think it should be limited, except perhaps by medium. Even then, it might not have to be limited to earlier forms; I have a graduate student who conceives his videos in purely "formalist" terms. He is also doing modernist work which doesn't look much like pre-1960 modernism. And we have "nonconforming" modernists like Annie Walsh and Clay Ellis in Edmonton (althopugh I have not seen any of his work lately).

We can't be too categorical up front. The best procedure would be (if at all possble) to survey as much as possible being done out there and try to assess what is best, and keep it appealing, as you say, although I have found that i am a bad judge of what might appeal to other people. And then just stick the "new modernism" label on it.

Another factor is timing; people have to be at least "subclinically" sick of all the junk and all the excuses for it.

99.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 11:13 AM

Clem, a lot of thought went into your comment, and I appreciate the time it must have taken. We may not have enough common understanding to proceed here, but I'll try, despite that you're rehashing a lot of postmodernist bromides against supposed modernist bromides.

First of all, we should distinguish what I said on behalf of new modernism in the mini-manifesto above and what I'm willing to say about art in general. That no one who identifies with modernism had any problem with my list (save a minor objection from Catfish in #8, which I'm still thinking about) indicates that I've done justice to the effort pretty well. I would not necessarily make those five points above about all art. In fact, the point was to distinguish new modernism from other approaches.

You claim these markers:
"more open to the concept of multiplicity"
"irritated" by "designations of purity"

As opposed to these:
"absolute"
"limiting [arts] potential"
"simplistic binaries"
"elitist"
"an inability or unwillingness to understand or integrate recent social and technological developments"

But if you look at "selective indifference to traits," you will find permission to include or exclude anything as suits your being at any given moment in the studio. By anything, I mean anything. That includes technology and any content you can put together (including the address of "social developments," whatever those might be). The only constraints here come from the conequences of deciding for and against certain traits in the effort to produce work of greater visual quality. This is not so much an elitist enterprise as an elite one, as befits any difficult human effort with a potentially impressive outcome. And like in any pursuit in which only the outcome matters, it is open to any participant who can cut the dots.

You, personally, do not have to work towards greater visual quality if you don't want to. Art permits you to do so. All I'm saying is that if you don't, you're not a modernist.

Another postmodernist bromide says that all knowledge is arbitrary framing, enforced by language, politics, and the relativity of perception. This assumption sanctions patently false statements like this: "Visuality itself is something which isn’t fixed and has been changing rapidly over the last 50 years." Things are visual or not because of mechanisms in the biological world that are so constant that we share some of the germane structure with trout. Even cognition and learning have a biological basis, and a theory that can't account for this, or even admit it, is a fantasy.

Even though your basis for doing so is wrong, art permits you to judge things according to other criteria than visual superiority. All I'm saying is that if you do, you're not a modernist.

Excellence, in the most general sense, is by nature a small target. Your self-described openness to multiplicity (excuse me, openness to the concept of multiplicity) only means that you're trading off excellence for inclusion. Art permits you to do this. I, in turn, get to point out where you have included things that are not excellent. Or, depending on the breadth of your inclusiveness, not even good.

Your comments about writing at the end do not contradict my statement that I am not against hard words, but empty words. I don't know what you mean by "conditions for this exchange."

100.

opie

May 14, 2008, 11:40 AM

Excellent response. You are not incorrect when you repeat that "Art allows it", but we must understand that it is only Art's stand-in, "Art as we understand it these days", who is doing the allowing, so Art can go off in peace and sit in Matisse's armchair and listent to Mozart tickle the ivories.

101.

Clem

May 14, 2008, 11:57 AM

I'm off for a bit, and have plenty to reply to as is, but wanted to throw a quick question in.

"A modernist will do whatever it takes, including jump categories, if it will make his work better - visually better"

I'd appreciate you trying to describe what you mean by "visually better", particularly trying to distinguish this from other concepts of artistic "goodness" with which you object.

102.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 11:59 AM

Sorry for interrupting but...opie I have not received your email. It is 3pm Eastern time. Maybe earthlink is screwy. I don't know. If you wouldn't mind resending the email to my aol address (eageageag@aol.com) maybe that would work better. Thanks.

103.

catfish

May 14, 2008, 12:03 PM

Opie (#98), yes I rejected #1 - in the broad understanding. But for purpose of developing a wedge for getting past the gate, there must be some credibility to the "modernism" side of "new-modernism". So the relationship must be clear. "Non-conforming" modernists won't work.

The wedge stuff must be "modern" and it must also add something new to "modern", without losing the identity of either one. It can't get its innovation by leaving its roots. The video idea is intriguing. It might work. I've got a video by J R Hughto documenting Clement Greenberg and upstate NY painting that has passages that are more formalist than some formalist painting. Yet transferring formalism into video seems sufficient to qualify as an innovation in itself.

Pop went over in part because it was so clear - Brillo boxes, Spam cans, comic books, and so on left no doubt - this is POP. Pop broke the back of AbEx by being more clear than its competition. Mumbo-jumbo like "action painting broke down every distinction between art and life" could not compete with "Lichtenstein uses images from the comics". New-modernism may never be that clear, but its wedge ought to try. It must at least be perceivable as coherent and distinctive.

Yes, stick the label on it. But it must more or less fit, lest it detach. This is not going to be an easy project if, indeed, it ever gets off the ground in the first place.

I think a portion of the audience for art is "sick of all the junk". It is also sick of the muddiness of it all. As someone said above, po-mo designates a certain time period but beyond that it means whatever manages to get attention. It is duck soup that has been boiled for months, but the audience is pressured to believe it is truly distinctive.

104.

opie

May 14, 2008, 12:04 PM

It means the "better" comes through the experience of looking at and experiencing the visual characteristics of the work.

In music you do it with sound.

I think this is pretty basic.

Eric, I will try the other email.

105.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 12:09 PM

I think the crux of the issue with regards to visual quality is this: A true PoMo artist would not frame a question like this: "This doesn't look good (meaning, this isn't formally appealing) and I need to work on making it look better (improving the formal aspects of the work), so that the final form (whatever that is and whatever it is made from) looks new and looks good. Both the PoMo artist and the Modernist artist take things from past art, but the PoMo artist does not do this in order to come up with something new (remember they think originality is an impossibility) and something worth looking at from an aesthtic point of view, they do it in order to assert an ironic perspective that communicates their belief that nothing is new under the sun and there are no such things as scales of value (this looks better than this, etc.). A Modernist takes things from past art because they have decided that they are worth using in the present, and this decision is based on a value judgement. They might think, "These formal qualities or materials are still powerful and capable of conveying meaning and emotion (two things that are highly suspect to a PoMo artist)", so I need to use them in the present. The PoMo artist has a more rigid world view in my mind, more conservative. Relativism is the new Conservatism as far as I am concerned.

106.

opie

May 14, 2008, 12:21 PM

Catfish,
"Non-conforming" modernists won't work? I think we need to judge that after we do the survey. The exhibit might need some shocks. It won't hurt if some of the work looks unexpected as long as it either stands out or is very good, or both.

Not just the muddiness but the sheer dullness of it. I think the only thing that sustains it is the implicit pressure to believe that it is "new" and "innovative", which it really is anything but at this point.

Look at the modern art auctions this week; despite all the dreary photography, some of the looney supername art and a few cutesy pomo items most of the art at least has pretentions to "modernist excellence". That's where the money goes. The collectors do idiotic things sometimes but I think they are smarter about art than the academics. It's their walls these things hang on.

107.

opie

May 14, 2008, 12:24 PM

Clem, I think Eric's comment above is a perfectly adequate "plain talk" explication of pomo vs. modernist.

Eric, I sent an email to the other address.

108.

Chris Rywalt

May 14, 2008, 1:17 PM

Franklin, quoting Clem, sez:
This assumption sanctions patently false statements like this: "Visuality itself is something which isn’t fixed and has been changing rapidly over the last 50 years." Things are visual or not because of mechanisms in the biological world that are so constant that we share some of the germane structure with trout.

This, to me, is exactly what's powerful about visual art versus other forms of art like writing or poetry. The only requirement is that you have eyes to see. We have the same eyes as the people who painted on those cave walls and so we can see those paintings the same way as the artist who drew them. That's the magic of visual art: It's a time machine. I can stand in front of a Picasso exactly as Picasso did, I can stand in front of a Rembrandt exactly as Rembrandt did. I can see their vision without translation, without distortion.

Postmodernists have this idea that seeing is a social construct. It isn't. Which is not to say it's as simple as a sheet of film being hit with photons -- human vision is much more complex than that -- but it's not something based on language. It's based on physical neural structures common to all people in all times. And I'd say the pleasure of visual art arises from those structures, not from some linguistic framework which varies from place to place.

109.

opie

May 14, 2008, 3:02 PM

And what is "visuality" anyway? Pertaining to sight? As you point out, that has not changed a whit in millenia.

This idea that "everything is different now" is a fashion idea and a common one among all Brave New Worlders...

110.

Clem

May 14, 2008, 3:05 PM

Franklin,

I'd still like you to work out what you mean by "better" for me. But will move on to some of what's recently been written.

I know how much you guys seem to hate moving back to definitions, but I find your take on what I'm saying about visuality completely off-base.

You're right that I see a social aspect to seeing. Bodies are socialized, I hope we can agree on that. How would seeing not be mediated by this? Treating sight like it somehow has autonomy from this is ridiculous. Visual conditioning is something that increasingly present and powerful. To suggest that we can completely negate or remove ourselves from these influences while looking at art might be a nice thought, but it hardly realistic (sorry, it's a word i hate using myself!).

Regarding the biology/physics of seeing, you've no arguments from me that this is a large part of visual experience. But again, it's not the only part and can't be isolated. Consider too that technology is changing the conditions and possibilities of our "natural" capacities to see. Pretending that we can SEEmlessly (sorry!) share the same visual experiences as other communities, individuals, or periods is just not the case. No experience escapes its context-- whether we want to argue about how conscious we are of particular circumstances or not. Not to keep harping, but contending that seeing consists primarily of "physical neural structures common to all people in all times" IS an argument that aims for a certain purity of experience. And even the biology isn't homogenized if we consider individual, racial, gender, age, and geographic differences.
It's not that there aren't "family resemblances" to borrow from old Ludwig, but that this is far cry from absolutes.

I'm interested to know why having biological sight tied up with other factors is so frightening or nonsensical to you? And I'd prefer an argument that expands on your statements that this just makes a muddle of things, please and thanks! : )

111.

opie

May 14, 2008, 3:15 PM

We "hate to move back to definitions"?? What in the world are you talking about? We are busting our butts trying to do just that!

And what does "seemlessly"mean? You used it once before.

Whoever even implied that they were "frightened" of having "biological sight (as distinct from what??) tied up with other factors", or thought it "nonsensical"? I haven't seen that here. Obviously what one sees is sublect to interpretation, and some people have bad eyes, and some see mirages, and so forth. Is this what you mean?

I can't deal with this. Would it be possible for you to just make a simple, clear proposition in opposition to something that is clearly, distinctly on the record here?

112.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 3:38 PM

I'm not arguing what you think I'm arguing. Seeing is biological. Socialization is biological. Language, learning, conditioning, and consciousness are biological. Not only is biological sight tied up with other factors - the other factors don't have an existence outside the human body and its interactions with the material world and other bodies.

That doesn't mean that we have to discuss them in terms of biology, but we neither can we contradict biological realities, and one of the main realities is homologous structure. We resemble each other quite a bit more than we differ. (Race, for instance, accounts for such a small portion of genetic difference between humans that it's hard to prove that it exists.) This results in individual variations on universal responses. No one questions the universality of grief or laughter, but put visual pleasure in the same category and people get their underwear into a topology problem. It's amazing.

I regard knowledge as something that correlates to the world. You keep bringing up "absolutes" and "purity" as some kind of implicit critique from a viewpoint that regards knowledge as arbitrary framing, but I don't accept that premise, and thus you're going to have a hard time convincing me that either characterization applies to what I've written.

I could counter your last paragraph by saying that you seem afraid of admitting to universality of experience, but I would prefer instead to refrain from attributing mental states to you and trust you to do likewise.

113.

ahab

May 14, 2008, 3:51 PM

We were just saying the other day, MC and myself, that Franklin doesn't comment on his own blog enough. I'm glad that's changed, if only for the moment.

114.

Clem

May 14, 2008, 3:52 PM

Well I'll take you at your word that you are genuinely working, but I'm still waiting on an elaboration of "goodness" or "visually better" or "quality"-- the criteria that makeup "New Modernism's" ability for artistic judgement.


"It means the "better" comes through the experience of looking at and experiencing the visual characteristics of the work.

In music you do it with sound.

I think this is pretty basic."

- so you "do better" music with sound

- so you "do better" visual art visually

but presumably you can also

- "do piss-poor" music with sound

- "do admittedly shoddy" visual art visually

I was just reacting to post that this question of "betterness" was "pretty basic". In any event, I was awaiting Franklin's response.

Seemlessly was a bad play on words relating to seamlessness-- as if seeing could be effortlessly detached from socialization and cognition.

What's I'm saying about seeing is that it necessarily involves much more than the faculty of sight, and that even these faculties aren't entirely universal either.

Hope you can "deal" with this!

115.

Clem

May 14, 2008, 3:54 PM

That last was responding to Opie, if it wasn't clear enough. I will have to get back to your reply later, Franklin.

116.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 3:56 PM

I can't clarify "better" because it means "having more quality" and no one can define "quality." You don't define quality; you experience it.

117.

MC

May 14, 2008, 4:02 PM

This all seems a bit obtuse to me. Anybody who has ever made an artwork of any kind knows there are things to do to make it "better" (or, things that would make it worse), but that doesn't mean you can just come up with a laundry-list of "things you do to make art better".

A cook adds salt, or sugar, to taste, to make it better. Yes, in music, you do it with sound... you decide whether the sound of honking geese, or electric guitar, or cowbell make your song sound BETTER... This is so obvious as to never need such explicit stating, and yet, for some reason, the same obviousness of visual experience needs to be spelled out.

118.

opie

May 14, 2008, 4:11 PM

I think this has only happened once before, Clem, with ol' George the date maven, who has escaped to greener pastures over at Ed Winkleman's blog, but I am on the verge of saying "I give up".

Franklin seems to have a better knack for responding to you. I tried my best, but the last two comments have pretty much exhausted my patience.

119.

ahab

May 14, 2008, 4:44 PM

Just like listening to music for how good it can sound and eating food for how good it can taste, it really is as simple as viewing a piece of visual art and paying attention to how good it looks.

120.

ahab

May 14, 2008, 4:49 PM

this question of "betterness" was "pretty basic"

'Basic' doesn't quite say it. One thing looks better than another, or one thing looks better with a certain modification than some other. To me. Now.

121.

Clem

May 14, 2008, 5:02 PM

MC, you've stepped up with a perfect illustration of how impotent this inability to describe quality (or even the experience of quality) is. I'm pretty sure that many of us disagree on how much salt (or in my case, tabasco) is needed to "better" a dish. How do you adjudicate such a dispute-- which is what you need to do to clearly establish A hierarchy?

If you're saying that you can simply see/experience it (a la Greenberg) then maybe you can start defining "quality" by explaining why individuals see so differently. What makes your "seeing" better than another's? Or is there the possibility that our different visions/tastes might be of equal "quality" according to our particularity?

Getting back to your replies Franklin, a couple of comments/questions:

I'm definitely not banishing biological aspects or similarities to seeing, but you do really think that seeing doesn't continue to transform itself throughout history? I'm chuckling at the thought of looking if someone's already penned The History/Archeology of Seeing, but maybe we can discuss this in more detail if you want.

And this hardly seems the place to start up a question about if and where you would find a nature/culture divide, but do you really think that our social development hasn't come to influence and change even our biology? All the same, I'm in no disagreement with you that bodies are central to what we're talking about, i just don't think its adequate to universalize them!

Speaking of which, part of language's flexibility is that it works to contain the similarities and differences of words and concepts. But from an ontological standpoint, my newly heartbroken friend is annoyingly correct when he whimpers that no one has ever felt his pain (or apparently Opie's after reading my dashed off comments!). This doesn't mean that these states are completely arbitrary or relative, but relational. To get back to the focus here, I would tend to say we share a concept of visuality (or happiness, grief, etc) rather than participate in a uniform experience . I feel strongly that this is the only way with which to account for such a diversity of experiences, while the similarities which result not only from shared aspects of biology, but of socialization as well.

I tend to write and think fast, but I am trying quite genuinely talk about this!

122.

Eric

May 14, 2008, 5:09 PM

Aieeee!

123.

MC

May 14, 2008, 5:12 PM

"MC, you've stepped up with a perfect illustration of how impotent this inability to describe quality (or even the experience of quality) is. I'm pretty sure that many of us disagree on how much salt (or in my case, tabasco) is needed to "better" a dish. How do you adjudicate such a dispute-- which is what you need to do to clearly establish A hierarchy?"

You've managed to miss the point entirely. Yes, we have individual tastes for how much salt, but at bottom, we all know that salt, to some degree, can make something taste BETTER, but we know that too much salt will make it go over from better, to worse. MOreover, we know to use salt, and not dirt, because salt, no matter what your own preference, generally tastes better than dirt. You may disagree, if you like...

Besides, you don't "clearly establish a hierarchy" (we're you kidding?). You experience something, and the judgment comes whether you want it to or not, intuitively. You have preferences. We all do. And in general, we agree, salt is better than dirt, guitar is better than cowbell, etc...

This isn't exactly crossbows and catapults rocket science...

124.

Clem

May 14, 2008, 5:16 PM

Too much salt? : )

125.

MC

May 14, 2008, 5:17 PM

Is a pound too much?

126.

Clem

May 14, 2008, 5:25 PM

This is my point MC,

New Modernism founds itself on the pursuit, better yet, achievement of "quality".

There are a lot of different achievements out there, and yet NO GENERAL AGREEMENT on which ones are, or are not, of said "quality".

I'm asking (thought my tone probably seems demanding) for a description of this quality, or at second best, the experience of this quality.

Why? I think it only polite that our disagreement of what constitutes valid and "quality" art and artistic practice deserves an accompanying explanation.

127.

opie

May 14, 2008, 5:28 PM

Tell us what salt tastes like, Clem.

25 words or less.

128.

ahab

May 14, 2008, 5:29 PM

How do you adjudicate such a dispute-- which is what you need to do to clearly establish A hierarchy? If you're saying that you can simply see/experience it (a la Greenberg) then maybe you can start defining "quality" by explaining why individuals see so differently. What makes your "seeing" better than another's? Or is there the possibility that our different visions/tastes might be of equal "quality" according to our particularity?

This seems to me to be the core of clem's complaint: WHO'S RIGHT? We use reason and logic and accumulated knowledge and gamesmanship and compromise for a (necessarily relational) discussion about our experiences of some good thing, but actually experiencing the thing is an individual activity that requires no mediation or referee except that individual's own better judgment. Talking about art is a political activity. Seeing art, and making it, is a self-governed one.

129.

MC

May 14, 2008, 5:33 PM

Most of the art that has ever been made has be in the "pursuit, better yet, achievement of [visual] "quality"." New Modernism seeks to measure up with the greatest artworks of the past in this regard.

"There are a lot of different achievements out there, and yet NO GENERAL AGREEMENT on which ones are, or are not, of said "quality"."

Have you ever been to the Prado? The Met? The Louvre? Etc... There is SUBSTANTIAL general agreement, obviously.

"I think it only polite that our disagreement of what constitutes valid and "quality" art and artistic practice deserves an accompanying explanation."

The Tao that can be named is not the Eternal Tao.

130.

Franklin

May 14, 2008, 5:39 PM

If you're saying that you can simply see/experience it (a la Greenberg) then maybe you can start defining "quality" by explaining why individuals see so differently. What makes your "seeing" better than another's? Or is there the possibility that our different visions/tastes might be of equal "quality" according to our particularity?

Quality exists in the arrangment of forms. People have differing abilities to detect quality. That's what makes one's ability to see quality better than another's.

...but you do really think that seeing doesn't continue to transform itself throughout history?

About as much as our bodies transform.

...do you really think that our social development hasn't come to influence and change even our biology?

In a slow Darwinian way, not in a quick Lamarckian way. Social development is fundamentally biological.

All the same, I'm in no disagreement with you that bodies are central to what we're talking about, i just don't think its adequate to universalize them!

How many stomachs do you have? Me too.

This doesn't mean that these states are completely arbitrary or relative, but relational. ... I would tend to say we share a concept of visuality (or happiness, grief, etc) rather than participate in a uniform experience.

We don't share a concept of visuality. We see things in a generally similar fashion because our eyes are built similarly. We don't operate off of concepts of grief and happiness - we feel grief and happiness. We go back over the world's stories and find grief and happiness, over and over again, about pretty much the same stuff, with varying details. The details make the stories interesting. The constancy makes them familiar.

I feel strongly that this is the only way with which to account for such a diversity of experiences, while the similarities which result not only from shared aspects of biology, but of socialization as well.

I'm going to respond to the gist of this sentence rather than the grammar. Similar socialization results in similar details in similarly socialized people. The generalities are biological and universal.

131.

MC

May 14, 2008, 6:24 PM

At the risk of repeating myself:

About a year ago, I picked up “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature”, by Steven Pinker. Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Until 2003, he taught in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. Here’s Dr. Pinker weighing in on the question of the human response to art:

“Regardless of what lies behind our instincts for art, those instincts bestow it with a transcendence of time, place, and culture. Hume noted that “the general principles of taste are uniform in human nature… the same Homer who pleased at Athens and Rome two thousand years ago, is still admired at Paris and London.” Though people can argue about whether the glass is half full or half empty, a universal human aesthetic can be discerned beneath the variation across cultures.”


This perspective, from the leading edge in current cognitive psychology, backs-up precisely what Greenberg was on about all along... go figure.

132.

catfish

May 14, 2008, 6:58 PM

MC, it also backs-up the fact that no one person sets the standard nor decides who meets it. In the end, it is the consistency of the collective response drug out over time.

It seems that, as more and more art has been produced, year over year, and now saturates the world with more than it can work its way through, that the time it takes to form a consistent response has extended itself geometrically.

133.

MC

May 14, 2008, 7:05 PM

True dat, catfish... there's a lot of noise in the signal.

134.

Clem

May 14, 2008, 7:14 PM

I want to turn back to this question of salt.

I wonder if the dynamics of this conversation would be the same if we switched our discussion literally to taste. The tongue (and parts of the throat-- it's been a while!?) are what enable taste. Let's agree provisionally that the way in which a tongue functions is generalizable given a sufficient margin for particularity.

Now when we start to talk about the experience of tasting, is this faculty the predominant thing at play? Certainly it wouldn't be possible without this physical basis (though once I had the misfortune of watching a hypnotist...), but it certainly wouldn't be the end of it.

Sure I say "this tastes great" or "this tastes off", but a reasonable explanation probably doesn't end there. I can start to talk about certainly qualities that I like or dislike. But even unpacking those probably leads me some more complicated explanations, my culinary history, food associations, my mood that day... I'm not saying that these things are simple to comprehend, let alone articulate, but they are there to explore. How would I generalize them? Probably somewhere between my experiences and socialization. A good number of my friends would even insist on the politics, but those organic cashews don't taste worth a damn in my book! Taste just doesn't seem to primal and essentialist to me. It's not completely open wide (I take your point on this MC) but what we consider "edible" is broad enough for plenty of different recipes and tastes--even with the very same ingredients.

Which gets us back to this question of which dishes are tastefully "better". Again, the similar mechanics of taste just can't account for a justification of one's judgment of one thing over another. Personally, I actually find that all the talk around food probably influences my taste more than anything! But maybe my tongue is just defective or I've simply forgotten how to taste for taste's sake...

135.

Clem

May 14, 2008, 7:18 PM

And I should have begun by asking each of you to recall your culinary travels to a strikingly different land... Which is much "better" than the backroom anecdote about babies happily eating shit...

136.

opie

May 14, 2008, 7:58 PM

That's fine. Clem. But tell us what salt tastes like.

25 words or less.

137.

ahab

May 14, 2008, 8:10 PM

All the reasonable talk around what makes a certain flavour has its place (and is, euphemistically, something to chew on) but the discussion is not itself the flavour.

This is exactly the distinction newmo-dernists are making between visual art and peripheral issues.

138.

ahab

May 14, 2008, 9:01 PM

Tell us what salt tastes like (25 words or less).

I doubt clem's gonna take up your challenge, opie. But with a pebble of sea salt on my tongue, and appreciating how many possible strategies might be employed, I'll give it a shot.

Salt makes my mouth feel like it is, in an instant and for a moment, the centre of the most profound developments in human civilization.

139.

opie

May 15, 2008, 5:30 AM

"...and a journey to a 'strikingly different land'"

But that would be an extra 8 words, I guess.

140.

MC

May 15, 2008, 6:31 AM

"I want to turn back to this question of salt.

I wonder if the dynamics of this conversation would be the same if we switched our discussion literally to taste. The tongue (and parts of the throat-- it's been a while!?) are what enable taste. Let's agree provisionally that the way in which a tongue functions is generalizable given a sufficient margin for particularity."


OK...

"Now when we start to talk about the experience of tasting, is this faculty the predominant thing at play? Certainly it wouldn't be possible without this physical basis (though once I had the misfortune of watching a hypnotist...), but it certainly wouldn't be the end of it."

When we talk about tasting salt, yes, the function of our tongues (in connection with our brains) is the "predominant thing at play". Obviously.

"Sure I say "this tastes great"... but what we consider "edible" is broad enough for plenty of different recipes and tastes--even with the very same ingredients."

Indeed. And as for art? Same thing. There are an infinite number of art "recipes" that will prove "tasty", using the exact same ingredients, like paint and canvas, for instance. Of course, you can combine these same ingredients, but screw up the preparation, the cooking, etc, and come up with art that you wouldn't give to your dog, to continue this mixed metaphor.

Nevertheless, we know obviously that there are good cooks, and bad ones, good hamburgers, and bad ones. Who decides? You do. We all do. And in the main, we agree... this is what we mean by the universal human faculty of taste. We have differences, of course, but we are not different, as someone once put it, I think...

141.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 6:53 AM

We can discuss this in terms of actual taste. (Which is olfactory; the tongue and throat are involved, but it's mostly the nose. The nose is a different sense from the others, though (even if you realize we have more than five senses, which few people seem to), because it's wired nearly directly to the amygdala, rather than to higher processing areas of the brain.)

Anyway. I feel qualified to discuss taste because I'm a fairly good amateur home cook and my best friend is an executive chef. I have therefore eaten some weird things (goat cheese and rosemary gelato comes to mind).

I would say that gustation -- I looked it up because we need another term for now -- is fairly universal, also. The types of foods we're willing to try, and what time of day we're willing to try them, may be socially mediated -- Americans don't usually want to try bugs, unless the critters live in the ocean; but then observant Jews won't eat them anyway; and even ocean bugs aren't good for breakfast -- but gustation, the experience of flavor, is very broadly the same from one culture to the next, because the biology of humans is the same. When one considers the vast array of plants and animals across the world, humans consume a minuscule percentage of them. And while one person might like more salt than another, the range of saltiness considered acceptable by humans is incredibly narrow.

The fact is any human can try and like any other human's food. A person's original culture may cause them to avoid a food, or dislike a food "on principle," but that socialization can and often is completely disregarded by people interested in trying new things. To state that someone from one culture cannot decide to appreciate something from another culture belittles the breadth of human experience and commonality.

Within the range of what humans eat, yes, there are differences of opinion. But at the higher levels of gustation -- at the executive chef three-star-restaurant level -- there's remarkable consensus. A Burger King-style eater might not be able to pronounce a French menu and may find some of the items baffling -- my wife and I were deeply confused when first confronted by soft-shell crab -- but still can enjoy the meal and will most likely admit that the food is significantly better than their usual fare. I'm not a big fan of wine, but tasting a good wine, I can see why someone might enjoy it the way a Coke just can't be enjoyed. A Coke is a drink, but a glass of wine is very complex. Even an untutored drinker like myself can tell that.

So I think the comparison is apt, but I don't think it proves what you think it does, Clem.

142.

opie

May 15, 2008, 6:54 AM

MC, I find that very smart people more often than not deal with immediate things, things that can be located. Scientists, for example. Mathematicians deal with abstractions, but they are very specific and clear abstractions. Greenberg was a virtually unique example of this in art and he got kicked in the teeth for it. And so forth.

Other people, to varying degrees, tend to use things as surrogates for states of mind, inner urges, rationalizations, and the like. I think "Clem" is a reflection of the current widespread public ideology of the "uniqueness of the individual" position, a usually unspecified but deeply felt bias toward the idea that "each of us is different but special in ourselves" which, in turn, radiates outward and is applied to things around us, including, and often in particular, to art, because art is a perfect place to exercise unreasonable biases.

I have run across this time and time again, expecially recently. Applying reason to it, point for point, is like walking up and down escalator. It's hopeless because you are never talking to reason.

143.

opie

May 15, 2008, 6:56 AM

...up A down escalator, Sorry.

144.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 7:01 AM

It occurs to me that Postmodernists take a truism -- "different people have different preferences" -- and extrapolate from that into unsupportable assertions. It's as if they're saying that, since it's a known fact that one horse can run faster than another, we can stop holding horse races.

145.

MC

May 15, 2008, 7:15 AM

Meanwhile, the zeitgeist continues to shift away from the postmodern, towards the new modern.

Check out these pieces on Rauschenberg's work, from The New Republic, and from Slate...

146.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 7:16 AM

Beat you to it, MC.

147.

MC

May 15, 2008, 7:38 AM

This arguments always bring to mind the somewhat similar debate between evolutionists and Intelligent Designers, so I thought I'd offer a relevant quote by Richard Dawkins:

"The adversarial approach to truth isn't necessarily always the best one. On the contrary, when two people disagree strongly, a great deal of time may be wasted. It's been well said that when two opposite points of view are advocated with equal vigor, the truth does not necessarily lie mid-way between them. And in the same way, when two people agree about something, it's just possible that the reason they agree is that they're both right."

148.

opie

May 15, 2008, 8:42 AM

Chris #144 - and start denying that there us such a thing as speed in the first place.

149.

Clem

May 15, 2008, 9:04 AM

Obviously there's a lot to respond to here, and gosh if life doesn't get in the way of posting on blogs sometimes!

Opie,

I wish you'd asked me to define the taste of madeleine's so I could have gotten some help from a certain friend!

I'm not arguing that defining a particular quality can be difficult, but you're actually sidestepping the question that I asked in regards to how salt can "better" a dish. We're talking about our ability to judge taste-- this is the fundamental aspect of of aesthetics which separates it from a mere study of the biology involved. Our judgments, tasteful or not, are so much more than this. We are at a standstill if you're not willing to admit that, conscious or not, our experiences of taste are informed by socialization and individual conditions.

It's funny that someone mentioned a consensus around five star dining. Are you really trying to say that their stature is purely the universal experience of "gustation" that they offer? I think it's pretty obvious that much of their "authority" derives from how people are socialized to view and experience their fare. I mean do we have to get into the food guide industry, marketing, or class-issues to understand something like that? Bad example, plain and simple.

I also find it interesting that a number of people are rallying around this idea that there is general agreement around standards for culinary and artistic taste! Correct me if I'm wrong, but you guys are here precisely because you feel that there needs to be a greater emphasis on quality, and you don't see that in a lot of contemporary art. Are you now saying that there is enough of a general consensus on what "better" means in the art world to get by on? I read what you're saying as opposite to this, what the tenets of "new modernism" aim for more precisely discriminating taste. So it seems reasonable to ask how you would adjudicate this.

Now I feel that my position has been shit-talked with a couple of unfounded remarks, so let me complain about a couple of them.

"I think "Clem" is a reflection of the current widespread public ideology of the "uniqueness of the individual" position, a usually unspecified but deeply felt bias toward the idea that "each of us is different but special in ourselves""

First off, it's interesting that you use the word ideology. It makes me interested to know if you don't think that ideology seeps into what's been said about "New Modernism"-- and in turn your basis for how we experience "better" visual art. Now this whole bit about "uniqueness" and being "special" needs to be qualified. I DO think that experiences are necessarily historical-- as opposed to fixed and essential, or even cyclical. But that doesn't mean that I think individual experiences and consciousness are completely relative. I'm loathe to start talking about "subject formation" with you guys, but I just want to make clear that I'm not about "do anything, be anyone, I AM A SOVEREIGN INDIVIDUAL" agency.

This whole bit about me calling of the horse-race is off-putting to. Since when did asking for grounds for taste and adjudication mean abandoning the search for knowledge or common ground? This is kind of like how the common charge of relativism to critical and post-modern thinkers gets leveled , as if discussing things just comes to an end, and the continued exploration that takes place in their own work is completely ignored. I sanction this particular race, though I'm not betting on your particular horse!

MC, this is a bit below the belt, but I was literally waiting for you to mention Dawkins. Your pop(or populist)-culture-academia bias is understandable, but your previous mentions of Frankfurt, and even Pinker, make me think you need to hang out someplace other than Chapters! But admittedly, this probably says more about my biases than yours... I'd love to hear (though understandably have my suspicions) as to who, and why, you think he'd pigeonhole as the evolved vs. the IDers! : )

150.

Clem

May 15, 2008, 9:07 AM

speaking of typos!

151.

MC

May 15, 2008, 9:16 AM

Your typos should be the least of your concerns here, "clem"...

152.

opie

May 15, 2008, 9:20 AM

If you did try to tell us what salt tastes like in 25 words or less we would be right back on the subject real quick, but it would begin to be comprehendable.

I think you know this perfectly well.

153.

MC

May 15, 2008, 9:26 AM

There's not much question about what side of the MOdernist/Postmodernist debate Dawkins would side with...

But, here's a question? What is a "pop(or populist)-culture-academia bias", anyway? And how does a Harvard, or Oxford scientist, or a Princeton philosopher, discredit themselves in your opinion, by writing popular books on their subjects? I'm sure if you had an area of expertise, and were able to write intelligibly, you'd be glad to have a best-seller, and be glad to have people quote you with respect... but there's no danger of that ever happening, I suspect...

Seriously, Clem, the desperation you were showing on my blog is rising its ugly head here, too...

154.

Clem

May 15, 2008, 9:33 AM

I'm trying to be playful boys, but maybe you'd understand why I didn't if I claimed "Selective indifference to traits"?

I think that your common refrain that opponents just don't make sense demonstrates "bad faith". If you haven't the patience to read and reply, then maybe you're best leaving this alone-- or coming out with it and asking me to leave.

155.

Eric

May 15, 2008, 9:34 AM

Hey MC what is the URL for your blog?

156.

Eric

May 15, 2008, 9:35 AM

Thank you for sending me links to images of your work opie and catfish. I am really blown away. Wow!

157.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 9:38 AM

I'm not arguing that defining a particular quality can be difficult, but you're actually sidestepping the question that I asked in regards to how salt can "better" a dish.

You've sidestepped a few requests to define "salty."

We're talking about our ability to judge taste-- this is the fundamental aspect of of aesthetics which separates it from a mere study of the biology involved. Our judgments, tasteful or not, are so much more than this. We are at a standstill if you're not willing to admit that, conscious or not, our experiences of taste are informed by socialization and individual conditions.

Universal in general, individual in the specifics. As I've said.

It's funny that someone mentioned a consensus around five star dining. Are you really trying to say that their stature is purely the universal experience of "gustation" that they offer? I think it's pretty obvious that much of their "authority" derives from how people are socialized to view and experience their fare.

You're switching cause and effect. Fine dining forms around the consensus, not the other way around. When you do it the other way around, you end up with fashion, not taste.

Are you now saying that there is enough of a general consensus on what "better" means in the art world to get by on? I read what you're saying as opposite to this, what the tenets of "new modernism" aim for more precisely discriminating taste.

It only matters that people who have taste exercise it. The art world has grown to the size it has grown because it figured out how to include people who have less taste. Only the consensus of the former means anything.

I DO think that experiences are necessarily historical...

What does this mean?

Since when did asking for grounds for taste and adjudication mean abandoning the search for knowledge or common ground? This is kind of like how the common charge of relativism to critical and post-modern thinkers gets leveled , as if discussing things just comes to an end, and the continued exploration that takes place in their own work is completely ignored.

They brought this upon themselves by accusing the modernists of absolutism and some kind of totalitarian notion of purity. Postmodernists undermined certainty, which is worth doing to a certain extent. But it matters more what you are for than what you are against. By failing to form any sense of the latter - save for some incredibly pathetic and ill-defended political sympathies - much of their continued exploration deserves to be completely ignored.

Your pop(or populist)-culture-academia bias is understandable, but your previous mentions of Frankfurt, and even Pinker, make me think you need to hang out someplace other than Chapters!

Weren't you just accusing us of elitism? Does Dawkins and Frankfurt somehow fail your intellectual standards? Please explain.

158.

MC

May 15, 2008, 9:39 AM

Better yet, Clem, since we're in the same city, why don't you come on over to the NESW, and we can talk this over in person...

Eric, our blog is HERE. "Clem" started out as "Anonymous" there, but once I disabled the anonymous commenting option, they changed their handle to "For the Love of Clem"... You'll see what I mean about Clem's somewhat more restrained effort here, as over on Studiosavant, Clem was raving like a adolescent lunatic...

I trust, of course, that Clem would comport themself in a more civilized manner in person, so the invitation to come by stands, Clem.

159.

opie

May 15, 2008, 9:48 AM

"If you haven't the patience to read and reply, then maybe you're best leaving this alone"

Yes, I am now getting steamed, Clem. Franklin (and others) have wasted considerable time answering these overlong, soupy, illogical, tangled screeds of yours and you can take that statement and shove it.

160.

Clem

May 15, 2008, 10:11 AM

Maybe this works "better"...

Opie,

Salty:

A tingly, pointed, taste on my tongue. Generally pleasurably. Can recall memories of eating play-doh as a kid.

Now I've given you a straight answer so indulge me in answering my question:

Does ideology enter one's experience and judgment of taste?

161.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 10:15 AM

It enters yours. You can't even give an obvious definition for "salty."

162.

Clem

May 15, 2008, 10:24 AM

MC,

It's true, I did take pains and bad jokes to call you an asshole. And point out attacks that I found to be unsubstantiated and boorish. And I took on the tone that you often use, so I don't quite see what the problem was...

My reasons for anonymity are purely selfish, there's no question. But that's the internet and as is stated right here, it's about the writing. I quibble with your constant suggestion that other's don't "make sense". When you're in disagreement like we are, it obviously is hard to understand their different styles and lines of thought.

If I throw in a jab about Chapters, I expect you can see it as playful. I am a book snob, and myself am suspect of fashion. I'm not going to get started on a critique of any of those writers, because it would be distracting, and seems better than calling old Benjamin (whose mention is stereotypical for someone like me!) a hopeless "windbag". In all honesty, I'd probably be more open to talking about Eagleton's critique of theoretical writing, anyhow.

But you're still an asshole, just to remind you!

163.

catfish

May 15, 2008, 10:28 AM

MC (#158) and Clem: I hope you guys do get together face to face. There is something about "dots on a screen" that leads to "conversations" that one would never have with a real person in front of you. Even before blogs, when it was the BBS, this dots on the screen thing had its influence, most often for the worst.

Interestingly, email seems to avoid it for the most part.

164.

catfish

May 15, 2008, 10:31 AM

I dunno Clem, maybe I'm overly optimistic.

165.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 10:34 AM

Re: #162 - If you had a robust position of your own, it wouldn't be necessary for you to resort to any of those behaviors, least of all the name-calling.

166.

MC

May 15, 2008, 10:37 AM

Yes, I agree, Clem, you did make a fool of yourself, and it was all very personal for you... Aw.

167.

MC

May 15, 2008, 10:41 AM

I'm amused (repeatedly) at the double-standard for "attacks" and "criticisms". I suppose "Asshole" is a' criticism', right? Unless it were directed at you, I suppose. That would obviously be an 'attack'...

Criticism, attack, whatever. I'm more than willing to deliver mine in person, and you, well, not so much...

168.

opie

May 15, 2008, 10:54 AM

"A tingly, pointed, taste on my tongue. Generally pleasurably. Can recall memories of eating play-doh as a kid".

OK. Saying what salt tastes like by mentioning something else that tastes like salt is cheating, but OK.

Now tell me this:

1. Does your description taste like salt?

2. If I give your description to another person, would they either taste salt or know it was salt you were talking about? Honestly, now.

3. And supposing they didn't. if I said "tastes like salt" to that person would they immediately know the experience I referred to?


Does ideology enter one's experience and judgment of taste?

Answer: Experience, no. Judgement, possibly; judgement ON, not judgement OF.

Hey, you Canadian are supposed to be the civil ones around here.

169.

MC

May 15, 2008, 10:55 AM

... Or, even better, the self-described "book snob" charges others with, heaven forbid, "elitism"!

Giggles, all around...

There is a very good reason why nobody would sign their real name to this, um... well, let's just say Harry Frankfurt wrote a book on it...

170.

Clem

May 15, 2008, 11:02 AM

Franklin,

Let's deal with that last quip first. So there isn't an ideology to dictionaries, to science? I mean come on sir, even Wikipedia (i mix my highbrow with my low, but then you probably guessed that...) knows that "the full breadth of reasoning on this subject is not yet accounted for as the understanding of taste and flavor are two very different and complicated fields".....

I'm still waiting on "better" though, something more than the circular "more quality", please and thanks!


Now,

"Universal in general, individual in the specifics"

"I DO think that experiences are necessarily historical..."

I hate to go all Bill & Ted on you, but if you were suddenly gnawing on a woolly mammoth rib, and let's get even more cartoonish, your ancient friend had some
futuristic food
thrust down his gullet, what would the shared "universals" of these experiences be? Are you saying that the fundamental part of these experiences would be a common biology? Taste goes much further than than, and it's not only in terms of "individual specifics". Both taste itself, and the pleasure we take in tasting, are subject to socialization and learning. Hence they are historical, and subject to change. I think it's getting to the point where the biological aspect of taste is itself undergoing change as a result of our culture. If there ever was a "natural" reason for taste (nourishment, survival, avoiding poisons), culture has drastically changed that in a lot of cases. As I've said, this is the same thing with our visuality. Not only the possibilities, but the basis, and reasons for seeing are shifting.


"You're switching cause and effect. Fine dining forms around the consensus, not the other way around. When you do it the other way around, you end up with fashion, not taste"

Real "taste" vs. False. But you still haven't begun to explain the reasons for any such judgment, other than labeling them right or wrong. I'm asking for a clear differentiation of right and wrong consensus.

"It only matters that people who have taste exercise it. The art world has grown to the size it has grown because it figured out how to include people who have less taste. Only the consensus of the former means anything"

This is precisely the puritanical and undefined part of your argument that I'm harping on. Who has taste? Why? Not everyone has it, but why don't they if seeing is something that's universal? It's almost like a doctrine of the elected. Except instead of heaven, you're just smug in your assuredness of taste.

171.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 11:29 AM

Just for the record, as it were, I want to say that I haven't found Clem to be especially obtuse, insulting, or annoying on this blog. I didn't go read anything over at MC's because I feel like I have enough to keep up with right now.

I'm not sure why we're continuing the discussion, though; it seems clear to me that we aren't going to change Clem's mind, and Clem isn't going to change ours. I usually say that I keep arguing to clarify my own thoughts, but so far this hasn't been helping much, because it seems we basically disagree: Clem, you think taste (of various kinds, from visual preferences to gustation (what a great new word!)) is at least partly "subject to socialization and learning" and therefore "historical, and subject to change." I think this is absurd on its face. I think -- and I believe both science and nutritional anthropology (a field basically conjured into existence by Alton Brown, but never mind) agree with me -- that a caveman would find the same food pleasurable that we do, and to the same extent. In fact there are people whose hobby it is to reconstruct ancient recipes and make them; and by Jove, modern people like them just fine! Sure, there are fads and fashions -- more fat, less fat, more meat, less meat, whatever -- but in the end, it's all food and it's all good. Music is similar, and poetry, too (to the extent that we can translate it).

Clem even says, "I think it's getting to the point where the biological aspect of taste is itself undergoing change as a result of our culture." Which is patently insane! E.O. Wilson wrote that perhaps human culture is evolution's way of speeding itself up, of being able to react more quickly to environmental changes; but I doubt even he'd say that culture feeds back into biology that quickly. Biological evolution occurs over millennia and humans haven't been around nearly long enough for anything to change noticeably. Hell, if a Cro-Magnon appeared among us we'd be hard pressed to tell the difference.

If you think that taste -- gustation, let's say, or visual taste, or any sense for that matter -- is historical, Clem, the onus is on you to present supporting evidence.

172.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 11:34 AM

Let's deal with that last quip first. ...I'm still waiting on "better" though, something more than the circular "more quality", please and thanks!

It wasn't merely a quip - is was an observation that your ideology prevents you from offering a simple definition of "salty." If you admit the obvious answer - "tasting of salt" - it undercuts this worthless postmodernist strategy you keep coming back to, namely, asking me to define "better" in a non-tautological manner. Unfortunately for your ideology, some things can't be defined except tautologically, and people share an understanding about them anyway because of certain universal generalities in human experience.

I DO think that experiences are necessarily historical...

What does this mean? Second request.

Both taste itself, and the pleasure we take in tasting, are subject to socialization and learning.

Sure, the specifics are subject to socialization and learning, which are biological processes at their core, which is why they can effect biology, again, in a slow, Darwinian way. The generalities of taste are not subject to them. I'm sure the first caveman to rub rosemary on mammoth meat got seriously laid. Actually, we can verify this, because his descendents covered the earth and opened expensive restaurants.

But you still haven't begun to explain the reasons for any such judgment, other than labeling them right or wrong. I'm asking for a clear differentiation of right and wrong consensus.

Quality exists in the arrangement of forms. Taste is the ability to detect quality. Right consensus forms around the association of people with taste.

Not everyone has [taste], but why don't they if seeing is something that's universal? It's almost like a doctrine of the elected. Except instead of heaven, you're just smug in your assuredness of taste.

Physics is universal but not everyone can juggle. Quality is universal but not everyone has taste.

173.

MC

May 15, 2008, 11:37 AM

I can juggle...

174.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 11:39 AM

...and you have taste! Most excellent.

175.

J@simpleposie

May 15, 2008, 11:40 AM

But no cowbell, tant pis.

176.

craigfrancis

May 15, 2008, 11:47 AM

I like the music analogy. And while, a long time ago, I used this example in a discussion here about quality, I think it bears repeating...

If we are agreed that music is at its best as a repository for aural quality, then for people with good taste, there is simply no comparison between say Dvorak and Public Enemy. One aspires to the very heights of universal human emotion and skill, while the other is political, specific to a particular context, and doesn't even use real instruments. Why, Chuck D doesn't seem to care for beauty at all!

My point is that quality in any art cannot simply be defined as the "good" arrangement of form, but exists in an incredibly various number of ways that goes beyond any particular artistic movement or "attitude", as Bannard would say.

177.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 11:48 AM

Clem sez:
Who has taste? Why? Not everyone has it, but why don't they if seeing is something that's universal?

Everyone has taste. Some people have better taste than others. Just like every horse can run, but some run faster than others. Everything that can be done can be done well or poorly, including sense quality.

The problem with the current art world, as most of us on this blog see it, is that it's no longer based on visual quality, but on a much easier standard which is based on postmodern philosophy. What this has done is expand the number of players in the art game while alienating the vast majority of the game's potential audience. The number of players has gone up because the barriers for entry are lower, since they have nothing to do with actual visual quality. The audience has dwindled (or been forcibly removed) because the lack of quality is evident even to the ones with the sensibility of a termite.

What the New Modernists would like to see is a contraction of the number of players and an expansion of the audience which a return to quality would engender. By focusing on art that actually is visually stimulating -- that is, at its best, sublime -- more people will be able to appreciate it and gain from it.

What it comes down to is this: humans have been making art for over 10,000 years for a reason. And that's because art can be good. We want to spread the goodness around. To do that, first there must be goodness.

178.

opie

May 15, 2008, 12:01 PM

Yes, Clem. Good comes in all different forms. But it is all good.

Maybe I better give up on salt. What is the problem with "better"?

Please keep it short.

179.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 12:04 PM

Comparison between Public Enemy and Dvorak doesn't make a lot of sense. (For the record, my expertise relates to the former.) But comparison of Public Enemy to other rap acts makes a lot of sense, as does comparison of individual PE songs to one another. And our basis for comparison is a universal sense of rhythm, rhyme, and vocal tone. I think my dog could tell that Chuck D sounds pissed. That's part of what makes PE so good, what justifies Flav as a dramatic foil, and on and on. Oh, and a huge amount of skill goes into rap. Rap has whole songs about who has better skills, excuse me, skillz. We're still talking about the arrangement of form - old school has to rhyme, beats have to come down on the one, and if you don't have that, you don't have old school.

And if there's an argument for universality here, it's my lily white ass.

180.

craigfrancis

May 15, 2008, 12:24 PM

Granted, I was being a bit facetious with my comparison above. But you've almost made my point for me here, Franklin. If it doesn't make sense to compare PE to Dvorak (and I love them both), how does it make sense to qualitatively compare Noland to Hirst? Or Manet to Pollock?
What I'm struggling to say is that artists from various historical periods and genres have goals that are fundementally different. It's fair to compare Chuck D and Dvorak in the sense that they both are composers. But, obviously, the criteria upon which we judge them has to take into account the contexts in which these artist were working. Know what I mean?

181.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 12:25 PM

I was going to say something to the effect of Public Enemy versus Dvorak being a weird comparison -- I couldn't figure out if we're supposed to like PE or not -- but then I thought that maybe it's not just weird, but impossible. Comparing apples to underwire bras, maybe. Because the sphere of good encompassing Dvorak isn't the same as PE's. And one may be higher than the other -- I like PE but I'm not an expert, and I'm even worse with Dvorak -- but, um, they do seem to be wildly different, even if they're both "music."

Thinking some more, though, and being fair, I'd have to say Dvorak is more universal and more likely to last longer. Public Enemy's recordings are enjoyable, but is "Fight the Power" going to become a repertoire staple? I dunno. Maybe we're just too close to it.

182.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 12:29 PM

You don't compare Noland to Hirst. You react to Noland, you react to Hirst, and for extra credit you try to understand what's going on in regards to those reactions. This is how you ended up liking both PE and Dvorak, right?

183.

opie

May 15, 2008, 12:30 PM

comparisons are hard to make sometimes, make sensibly, and they are kind of painful. I love some classical and I love some jazz and they both give me a thrill. I find it best to leave it at that.

Comparing something good to something shitty is broader. I get a thrill out of Olitski and Elton John makes be gag. No problem with that kind of multimedia comparison.

184.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 12:42 PM

Thinking about it some more, I'd say that Public Enemy's "music" is not the same as Dvorak's "music." That is, if music is defined as a repository for aural quality, then Public Enemy doesn't make music. They do something else. Because -- and this is sticky -- PE doesn't use pure sound. They also use language. And that necessarily has a meaning aside from aural quality. That meaning changes how we perceive the mere noise coming from the speakers.

So we can say that you can't compare Noland to Hirst because they're making different kinds of art. Which may be accurate. But what we're saying here is we want to make music without lyrics. We want aural quality only. We're tired of the language making a mess of the art.

The metaphor breaks down here because music and language are primarily transmitted by the same sense -- hearing -- while visual art and language are not. (The language center of the brain is also involved in music (particularly in people with absolute pitch).) So mixing music and language is more natural than the mixing of art and language, and thus more of a problem.

185.

craigfrancis

May 15, 2008, 12:44 PM

Dvorak is a modernist. PE are post-modern.
Noland is a modernist. Hirst is a post-modernist.

It seems to me that the main thrust of much of your writing actively compares Modern and Postmodern attitudes toward artmaking. If it's difficult to ascribe a higher value between modern and postmodern musical artists, how is it so easy for you to ascribe value to the apples and under-wire bras of visual artists?

I think "Fight The Power" will live forever.

186.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 12:44 PM

I mean less of a problem. Er.

187.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 12:45 PM

How are Public Enemy postmodern?

188.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 12:47 PM

And, actually, if you'd used a composer other than Dvorak, it would've been really easy for me to ascribe a higher value over Public Enemy. Stravinsky versus PE? Stravinsky, hands down, pencils down, papers in.

189.

ahab

May 15, 2008, 12:53 PM

For days now clem has been asking new-modernists to justify how one person can be more right than another: "There is a tension between two people who disagree about how much salt to add to their potatoes - which of us is right? Whose taste is better? How; and why?"

On the heels of an explanation comes clem's real contention: "Since each person is equal to each other, and since saying one person is right and another wrong creates an inequality, it must be the assertion of right and wrong that is faulty." By which logic clem then brings out the nebulous claims of individualized socialization.

The problem with clem's assertions and ascriptions, as I see them, is that they conflate personhood with human ability/skill/taste. General is confused with specific. The zoom-out button has been mistaken for zoom-in.

New-modernists, even when it comes to "judging taste", demand comparison of like things. Clem's comments have not demonstrated a clear sense of which things deserve comparison, and thence does the discussion sink into the mire.

190.

craigfrancis

May 15, 2008, 12:55 PM

"How are PE postmodern?"

You're kidding, right?

Your use of Stravinsky doesn't change my arguement. You just said yourself that comparing rap to classical was an impossible task. What your love of Stravinsky shows is merely your personal taste and not any kind of accurate measure of quality.

Anyway, I'm done for now. I'll check back in later. Thanks for the debate.

191.

opie

May 15, 2008, 1:00 PM

re Franklin #179 - rap and grafitti artists are totally modernist. Just go see 8 MILE, or the way grafitti artists compare books of mock-up projects and compete like mad to be the best and KNOW who is best. Non-traditional but modernist to the core.

192.

craigfrancis

May 15, 2008, 1:07 PM

Opie: I don't think wanting to be the best artist one can be is strictly a Modernist preoccupation. Every artist in the world wants to be recognized as a Great. We all want to make into the history books. If that weren't the case, we'd have a lot more anonymous artists out there.

OK. Really, now. Taking a break...

193.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 1:37 PM

If it's difficult to ascribe a higher value between modern and postmodern musical artists, how is it so easy for you to ascribe value to the apples and under-wire bras of visual artists?

This is an eminently fair question. A big part of it is that I have a lot more talent for looking at art than for listening to music. Secondly, we talk about "ascribing value" and it's not completely wrong, but really I'm reacting to specific objects one at a time. I'm getting value (or not), not giving it. The language makes it sound like there are contradictions that aren't really there. My problem with Hirst and my problem with, say, Nancy Spero don't have much to do with each other. Too, when "Clem" comes in here armed with Adorno I'm writing against a different problem than when I'm dressing down art I don't like. Again, stuff gets lumped together that shouldn't, but language wants to do that.

194.

Clem

May 15, 2008, 1:38 PM

Ahab (et al),

"For days now clem has been asking new-modernists to justify how one person can be more right than another: "There is a tension between two people who disagree about how much salt to add to their potatoes - which of us is right? Whose taste is better? How; and why?"

Yes.

"On the heels of an explanation comes clem's real contention: "Since each person is equal to each other, and since saying one person is right and another wrong creates an inequality, it must be the assertion of right and wrong that is faulty." By which logic clem then brings out the nebulous claims of individualized socialization."

The clearest attempt at an explanation that I seem to have gotten from Franklin when he writes:

"Quality exists in the arrangement of forms. People have differing abilities to detect quality. That's what makes one's ability to see quality better than another's"

The trouble is of course that what makes for "better" taste is still not touched upon. It's still missing a particular quality or conceptualization that would give these statements their bearings. It describes a mechanism for adjudicating taste, but one without any defined orientation. Now this is obviously tough to do, because Franklin has specified that such judgment is open to any form or medium of work, but it's not like this is an original problem for aesthetic thinkers.

I recognize why you might be hesitant to define it, 1) Because it's abstracted without taking up the judgment of a particular work, 2) Because of this distinction you're making about what is strictly visual and what is language. But it leaves us with different groups claiming that their taste is right. This seems like it wants to define itself as an objective claim, but doesn't bother to establish it's own bearings.


"The problem with clem's assertions and ascriptions, as I see them, is that they conflate personhood with human ability/skill/taste. General is confused with specific. The zoom-out button has been mistaken for zoom-in."

Could you clarify what you mean by this Ahab?

New-modernists, even when it comes to "judging taste", demand comparison of like things. Clem's comments have not demonstrated a clear sense of which things deserve comparison, and thence does the discussion sink into the mire.

I'm not quite sure about what you're saying here either. Are you saying that I haven't brought up specific examples on which to test our judgment? Or inappropriately comparing apples to whatever?

195.

Clem

May 15, 2008, 1:51 PM

Franklin,

I am genuinely interested in your attitude (and i don't mean 'tude!) about language and visual art. What do you think is at stake when the two mix (or am i mischaracterizing your position)? It seems like it's only by separating these experiences that you reach what seems like an purer (yes, it's my choice of words) kind of seeing.


Confessions:

1) I personally have a lot of trouble trying isolate most of my conscious experiences from language. It's an admittedly broad definition for language, but I can't really imagine its "silence"-- though maybe you could already tell that by my ramblings!

2) As someone who skirts the arts/design community, but tries to recognize elements of their distinctness, i have a really tough time imagining how visuality might be separated from meaning, and thus outside the scope of ideologically informed experience. The closest I come might be buying Simone Weil's distinction between Attention and Will, but I don't think that gazing at landscapes is the same as taking in man-made art. Anyhow...

196.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 1:58 PM

Clem sez:
The trouble is of course that what makes for "better" taste is still not touched upon.

Taste is the ability to detect quality.

Quality is that which gives us pleasure.

Some people are more sensitive. They can detect gradations of sensation others cannot. (For example: Some people can hear very small values of clock jitter. Some people can feel polyester in their shirts. Some people can smell asparagus pee.)

Good taste is the ability to detect quality in fine gradations.

That which gives visual pleasure to humans is quite consistent across many years and cultures. Therefore good taste of today is synonymous with good taste of the Incas, the French, the Mongolians, and so on.

197.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 2:04 PM

It's still missing a particular quality or conceptualization that would give these statements their bearings.

What quality or conceptualization would give those statements their bearings?

I am genuinely interested in your attitude (and i don't mean 'tude!) about language and visual art. What do you think is at stake when the two mix (or am i mischaracterizing your position)? It seems like it's only by separating these experiences that you reach what seems like an purer (yes, it's my choice of words) kind of seeing.

You're mischaracterizing my position. The two can and do mix freely. I'm not arguing for some kind of pure form of seeing, separate from language. I'm including language into biological processes.

i have a really tough time imagining how visuality might be separated from meaning, and thus outside the scope of ideologically informed experience.

Content is just recognizable form.

198.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 2:08 PM

Clem sez:
...i have a really tough time imagining how visuality might be separated from meaning, and thus outside the scope of ideologically informed experience.

Well, Clem, you confirm something I've thought about postmodernists for some time, which is that they simply haven't had the experience of purely visual pleasure.

When you're having sex -- I assume you've had sex -- you don't sit there and think, "I am enjoying what my partner is doing to my sex organs." You just enjoy yourself. It feels good. The end. The experience of receiving head isn't mediated by socialization. Orgasms are not historical.

Someone who's never had an orgasm, however, is probably going to sit there when an orgasm is described to them and think, You know, I've shaken hands with people. How can they say their orgasms aren't social constructs when shaking hands is a social construct? Shaking hands isn't all that great. I just do it because I was brought up to think it's important. They must have sex because they think it's important.

There have been times -- very few admittedly -- when I've stood in front of a painting or sculpture and just felt it wash over me. It feels heady, like being drunk, or dizzying, like being spun around. It feels -- well, it can't really be described. It just feels good. It isn't verbal. I'm not thinking to myself, I feel good! (Who am I, James Brown?) I'm just feeling.

Later, maybe I can intellectualize it. I felt good because.... But ultimately, I just felt good.

That's what you're missing, apparently. Because if you felt it, you'd know. Or, as Satchmo said about jazz, some folks, if they don't know, you can't tell 'em.

199.

ahab

May 15, 2008, 2:21 PM

This was my rewording of what I feel your contention is (and I think you've agreed): "Since each person is equal to each other, and since saying one person is right and another wrong creates an inequality, it must be the assertion of right and wrong that is faulty."

What I was trying to get at was that the problem is contrived, not actual. Two individuals disagreeing about what (painting) looks good constitutes no crisis of societal equality.

New-modernists, even when it comes to "judging taste", demand comparison of like things.

We could compare a painting you'd choose with a painting I'd choose. Or we could compare your overall taste in paintings with mine. Or we could possibly compare your sense of what constitutes good taste in paintings with mine. Each of the three arguments belongs to its own set, and to mix them all together makes for a cross-purposed conversation.

Like we've been having.

200.

craigfrancis

May 15, 2008, 2:48 PM

Ugh. I'm in the artblog grip. I said I was done and since then I've been sitting glued to the page.

Franklin, I understand and appreciate your comment, but I still think there's a contradiction at work in your aesthetic stance. That said, I'm not interested in belabouring the point to death. I don't have an axe to grind here. Thanks for your response.

Chris, I'm glad that you have such an intuitive experience with art. So do I. It's very similar, for me, to listening to some music and reading good poetry. I think the problem comes from your implication that your reaction is somehow truer to the nature of art than others'. I mean, I could make the arguement that your dislike of "postmodern" art is due to a lack in development of your taste and sensitivity. Or, put another way, that you just can't see. But I don't think that's a fair statement to make.

Peace out.

201.

opie

May 15, 2008, 3:05 PM

OK Clem. You have overlooked my question about "better". Let me try something else.

Do you think there is such a thing as good art, or is it all merely a matter of preference?

202.

opie

May 15, 2008, 3:11 PM

Please, yes or no will do. Dont talk a thousands words about "ideologically informed experience" and such like". I can't deal with that.

203.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 5:00 PM

CF sez:
I think the problem comes from your implication that your reaction is somehow truer to the nature of art than others'. I mean, I could make the arguement that your dislike of "postmodern" art is due to a lack in development of your taste and sensitivity. Or, put another way, that you just can't see. But I don't think that's a fair statement to make.

Actually, it might be. I mean, I'm pretty ignorant, and I mean that without sarcasm or irony. I'm a smart guy, but I'm an idiot often enough that I don't believe my hype.

When it comes to postmodernism -- not just as applied to art but the philosophy in general -- I've tried and tried to understand it. I was willing to imagine the fault was mine -- that I just wasn't bright enough to get it -- until I read Noam Chomsky's essay on postmodernism where he said he didn't get it, either. And I decided, if Noam Chomsky, easily one of the most intelligent men of all time, can't understand it, postmodernism simply cannot be understood. Or, rather, it can be understood, but it all boils down to truisms or pointless circumlocutions.

But back in the art world, yeah, it could be I'm just an idiot. But what I'm saying is, from what I've seen, supported by my opponents: Art today isn't primarily visual. My reaction is a visceral, unmediated reaction to the visual of a piece of work. It doesn't come from reading the gallery verbiage or being told what the piece is about or having heard a review. It comes from looking. But that's precisely wrong according to the standards of the art world. How many times have we heard the words "retinal" or "decorative" used as pejoratives? Art is about the concept, not the object itself. But what we're all talking about here is bringing art back to the object.

I don't think I'm saying my reaction is "truer" -- I'm simply saying my reaction is real, and it's a reaction I'd like to have more of, and it's a reaction a lot of people would like to have; but it's a reaction we're not getting from contemporary art on display in, for example, Chelsea, because the art world no longer considers that reaction important. And we're saying it should.

At least, that's what I think we're saying. I could be wrong.

204.

Clem

May 15, 2008, 6:20 PM

Opie,

Of course I think that there's good art! But how is that somehow opposed to preference?!

Art is never unto itself-- it's always about seeing.

And how do we see? I've never run away from the physical circumstances of it. But I'm not going to relegate the politics, social, and psychic dimensions of it either. Arguing about how these socially constructed aspects of seeing are clumsily subsumed under the banner of our biological nature, doesn't get you away from their import.

When a particular piece of art "pricks" me--to borrow a reoccurring term that Barthes uses for aesthetic experiences--there's a very particular association and feeling that's hard to articulate or explain. This IS bodily, but specific A body. What I don't think you can do is emptily claim that this sensation is quality, and that's all there is to say about it. Admittedly, unpacking it is one of the toughest things to do. And I agree that it can actually cloud the experience itself and lead to wild associations. But that doesn't mean that it can't be related through language. The friction in doing so is precisely because it is a personal experience and necessarily to complicated aspects of our history and being.

Opie, I think it was you who complained about Klee's interpretation of Angelus Novus. As if his description somehow violated the work's visuality because it assumed a political and philosophical meaning. You just can't say that. This may not have been Klee's intention (something you guys don't think much of any old how) but you can't presume that Benjamin's aesthetic experiences with the painting he owned and cherished above all else aren't valid. You don't share the context of his experience or his relationship to the work. But to avoid the charge of relativism, I would suggest that if you shared his history (...abilities is a tough one to touch on) then you'd have a much better chance of appreciating and approximating a similar type of aesthetic judgment.

MC, I really don't want this to sound personal, but I have little to no aesthetic reaction to your work. But funnily enough, I don't feel comfortable claiming that it's bad. I don't even know where to begin in the genre. I just don't share your influences and history. Even if our vision (in a narrow sense)is pretty much the same, we're hardly seeing the same thing. Maybe if I worked in the medium, was inspired by Hide and others (yeah, yeah, I'm assuming), shared these general influences then I'd have a fair sense of where your taste comes from.

Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like some of you are arguing that there is a science of taste, or at least it's possibility. So that "better" and "worse" could be straigtforwardly defined, and easily understood as "hot" and "cold". But there simply isn't this consistency. And that's not really what I think any of us want when it comes down to it.

So,

Yes, I think that's there's good art! But that is largely a social not objective validation.

205.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 6:25 PM

What I don't think you can do is emptily claim that this sensation is quality, and that's all there is to say about it.

The sensation is not quality. Quality exists in the arrangement of forms. The sensation is your reaction to quality.

I asked you a question in #197. Please answer it.

206.

Chris Rywalt

May 15, 2008, 6:37 PM

Why am I the only one who isn't annoyed by Clem? He seems so sprightly and pleasant. A little dense, maybe, but aren't we all?

(Again, no sarcasm or irony.)

207.

J@simpleposie

May 15, 2008, 6:51 PM

I'm not annoyed with Clem. But then, I am persona non grata.

208.

J@simpleposie

May 15, 2008, 6:56 PM

The fifty thousand pound elephant in the room is still the idea that you can somehow separate clearly, delineate or distinctly show this great chasm between postmodern and modern as per the visual arts. Which I doubt.

209.

craigfrancis

May 15, 2008, 6:59 PM

Clem doesn't annoy me either.

210.

J@simpleposie

May 15, 2008, 7:01 PM

Hello Craig Francis.

211.

ahab

May 15, 2008, 7:07 PM

I don't think you can... claim that this [pricking] sensation is quality

Liking something is a very good feeling - called pleasure. But feeling pleasure is not synonymous with appreciating quality. They often coincide in the best artworks, but not necessarily: there are instances where you can like something that you can tell isn't any good; or recognize that a thing you don't like is pretty good. There are some garbage movies that I rather enjoy watching, and other damn good movies that I really don't like.

{(I see upon preview that Franklin has addressed this already.})

212.

J@simpleposie

May 15, 2008, 7:15 PM

You are operating with two different meanings for the word quality , one which means trait, ie pleasure - the pleasure of being pricked and the other referring to goodness, ie quality of work. It renders the word quality completely ambiguous. Taste or no taste.

213.

MC

May 15, 2008, 7:16 PM

"MC, I really don't want this to sound personal, but I have little to no aesthetic reaction to your work."

That's ok, Clem... it is personal, but just for you, not me.
I like my work. That's personal to me.
People whose taste I respect like my work: that's personal to them.

But yes, I generally put more faith in the opinion of experts, so not to worry, Clem.

214.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 7:20 PM

Clem doesn't annoy me, but the fact that I've answered his questions and he won't answer mine has gotten my attention.

J, no one was claiming to do what you describe in #208. If you read over the list of points in the original post, those are clear enough distinctions for our purposes.

I'm going to contradict Ahab in #211. If it had absolutely no quality at all, you wouldn't react. There are things that give you a cheap kick - they have enough quality for a cheap kick. Cheap kicks wear off after awhile, so the problem becomes how to make something with lasting high quality.

215.

Hovig

May 15, 2008, 7:20 PM

I'm enjoying Clem's contributions here. BTW, I assume comment #204 should read "Benjamin's interpretation of Klee's Angelus Novus."

216.

MC

May 15, 2008, 7:23 PM

I think "Brickhouse" by the Commodores is of lasting quality...

217.

J@simpleposie

May 15, 2008, 7:23 PM

You can call logic my a cheap kick if you want.

218.

J@simpleposie

May 15, 2008, 7:26 PM

I should have specified, I was referring to Ahab's use of quality in 211. But you have also gone on about it plenty in other posts.

219.

MC

May 15, 2008, 7:27 PM

"I have little to no aesthetic reaction to your work. But funnily enough, I don't feel comfortable claiming that it's bad. I don't even know where to begin in the genre."

For everyone following along at home, by the way, my "genre" is sculpture, and believe me, I'm all too aware that alot of people "don't even know where to begin" with sculpture...

220.

ahab

May 15, 2008, 7:32 PM

212: Your assumption is incorrect - as in 'wrong'.

214: I enjoy watching "Space Balls" over and over again but it is a spaceship-wreck of a movie. "Eastern Promises" was impressive moviemaking with premium acting and cinematography but I highly disliked it and will never watch it again. (My art examples would be too obscure to stand as public examples.)

221.

Franklin

May 15, 2008, 7:41 PM

Space Balls is good enough for a laugh and Eastern Promises may be arty and tiresome. Or your taste in movies may not be all that great in some respects. Either is a possibility. Taste doesn't just lapse by failing to detect quality, but also by detecting quality where there is none, which happens when you experience traits as quality.

222.

Clem

May 15, 2008, 7:44 PM

"Quality exists in the arrangement of forms. People have differing abilities to detect quality. That's what makes one's ability to see quality better than another's"

Let me try to give this statement some bearings.

Quality exists in the arrangement of forms according to nature

Now I don't want to argue about this particular set of bearings, but simply insist that "arrangement of forms" is now geared towards a particular criteria for judgment. It's not that "arrangement of forms" doesn't already limit the field to some extent, but I doesn't have the heft to impose a schema of adjudication. Of course we can argue about what "according to nature" might mean, but we're moving towards something that's a little clearer, something which might let you imagine the possibility of a scale.

Maybe you can explain how "arrangement of forms" already does enough in this regard, but I think that your line of argumentation about seeing as a predominantly biological activity points to a sense of what "better" means to you. And by nature, I'm not saying that you don't think this "attitude" can be applied to an open-ended number of techniques, mediums, or what you call "traits", but at the heart of what you're saying is a kind of naturalism. I'll try to explain why I say this if you disagree.

How would I try to add my own personal, preferred, bearings? Maybe something like this (remember that this isn't my manifesto!)

Quality exists in the arrangement of forms which creates possibilities for knowledge

Now even I'm feeling sheepish about this first attempt. I'm not really comfortable with "arrangement of forms" anyhow. And it definitely begs the question of what I mean by "knowledge" and a valuation of types of knowledge. I guess what I think is BOTH general and specific enough about this is the concept of exchange-- this is the "product" of art that moves us past the fixedness of the object. It is these moments, not anything "essential" about the work, which make aesthetic experience and judgments concrete and historical rather than fixed and idealistic.

But anyhow, like Franklin said, putting my humble opinion out there probably just means, "Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines"!

223.

Clem

May 15, 2008, 7:46 PM

Spot on about the Klee/Benjamin mess-up-- I really seem to be having trouble proof-reading!

224.

catfish

May 15, 2008, 7:51 PM

No one annoys me here. "Quality", however, seems like a topic to put behind us.

Having said that, it is very clear to me that a couple of hundred years from now those who look at whatever art that has been preserved from our time, will not be interested in the vast majority of the "issues" that seem so important to the mainstream these days. If the mainstream artists had broader concerns, it might be different. But when you tie an issue too closely to its time, it fades when its time fades.

Notice I am not saying a thing about "quality" here. Just observing that themes like the evils of gender bias won't survive as long as the myths of sexist behavior and abject objectification of physical beauty amongst the Greek gods and goddesses already have. Tight moralizing does not compete well with having fun and making mischief on a grand scale. And that's just one example.

So, what I would like to see in the conceptual/pomo/preformative/whatever group would be themes that are more interesting. Does anyone think that is asking too much?

225.

opi

May 15, 2008, 8:02 PM

Clem you write

"Of course I think that there's good art! But how is that somehow opposed to preference?!"

So you do think there is such a thing as good art and that it is separate from preference, right?

I am only asking for a yes or no.

226.

ahab

May 15, 2008, 8:15 PM

Taste doesn't just lapse by failing to detect quality, but also by detecting quality where there is none, which happens when you experience traits as quality.

Pleasure felt is necessarily the detection of one of either traits or quality, while taste is being able to tell the difference?

I was going to type that you hadn't convinced me, but I may just have talked myself into it.

227.

craigfrancis

May 15, 2008, 9:40 PM

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by new themes, catfish, and I certainly don't know enough about pre-Modern art to get into it very deeply. However, I think there is a very clear common thematic thread that runs from the proto Modernists like Courbet and Manet through to much contemporary work. Further, I find that the "issues" and the context of the paintings of those early modernists to be extremely interesting and relevant to us today, 150 or so years after they happened. My point being, if the themes of Courbet and Manet (industrialization, class-struggle, alienation, sex, the artist's role in society etc.,) can still have meaning for us so much later, why then can't these same themes, taken on by a contemporary artist, be relevant to viewers 200 years from now?

228.

craigfrancis

May 15, 2008, 9:48 PM

And p.s.: Hi J!

229.

catfish

May 16, 2008, 5:03 AM

I guess you got me, craigfrancis. Manet's presemiotic sensitivity to the importance of feminine dignity is a clear precursor to postcapitalist feminism. And who can deny Courbet's deep insights into the sociology of sisterhood and the fictionality of sexual identity, his androgenous study of asymmetrical breasts, not to mention his subsemantic deconstruction of the origin of existence?

I give up. I was asking too much. Both these artists were masters of neostructuralist dialectic theory, even before it became a theory. Their semantic discourse forms an underlying narrativity that bridges the chasm between language and class. It doesn't get any better than that.

230.

opie

May 16, 2008, 6:15 AM

That's classic, Catfish. Pre-postmodernism!

231.

MC

May 16, 2008, 6:52 AM

Yes, that was very good, Catfish. Now, do Monet's haystacks...

232.

Chris Rywalt

May 16, 2008, 6:58 AM

Spaceballs was and is a terrible, terrible film. I just finished reading 1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1209593361&sr=8-1">Harlan Ellison's Watching, a great collection of essays, the main selling point of which, to my mind, is that now I can easily find -- without searching through my back issues of Fantasy & Science Fiction -- Ellison's review of Spaceballs, which is absolutely one of the funniest, cruelest, most fantastic and most scathing reviews of anything I've ever read.

Sample:

Mel Brooks. Since The Producers we have watched a Brobdingnagian wit shrink in on itself as if suffering from some hideous malaise, with only one period of remission -- Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (1973-74) -- until it has become dwarfish. And if "dwarfish," the sensibility that has given us Spaceballs goes by the name Dopey. And its confreres are certainly Sleazy, Farty, Mockie, Shallow, Sleepy and Tyro.

233.

roy

May 16, 2008, 7:09 AM

Obviously Mr. Ellison rolls on the dark side of the Schwartz.

Re 226

Franklin's comment perked my interest as well. Maybe ahab isn't really asking for a reply but for I would like to hear this one fleshed out a bit. Maybe with examples.

234.

roy

May 16, 2008, 7:11 AM

Maybe...sheesh. And where's Jack been through all of this?

235.

Eric

May 16, 2008, 7:20 AM

Do you think George is trying to goad us over at Winkleman's blog with this comment:

"Greenberg killed painting by formalizing Modernism and using the power of his ego to promote both his ideas and the painters who followed them. None of the painters he supported after Pollock and de Kooning were up to the pressure. If you think I am being extreme, the Jewish Museum has a great exhibition up right now. Titled Action/Abstraction it covers NYC painting in the period between 1944 and 1976 as promoted by Greenberg and Rosenberg."

236.

ahab

May 16, 2008, 7:30 AM

Catfish's NEWpostmodernism is so far ahead I fear I'll never catch up.

237.

Eric

May 16, 2008, 7:31 AM

I for one am not going to take the bait. I could give a shit at this point. Making a choice between doing a drawing this morning or becoming a target for the status quo is easy.

238.

Clem

May 16, 2008, 7:35 AM

Catfish,

Even I got a chuckle out of that, but it doesn't mean that it's much of an argument, it merely exaggerates a certain style...

Kind of like this(MC, you'll have to forgive me for the repeat!):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUOXLdKYcpM

I am assuming that you're were being equally playful when you wrote: "the myths of sexist behavior and abject objectification of physical beauty amongst the Greek gods and goddesses already have" but you should flush out what you're saying about how "Tight moralizing does not compete well with having fun and making mischief on a grand scale".

This charge, an untenable and unempirical one (i couldn't think of another appropriate un, other than unstately), that this direction in art leads to "uninteresting" themes is ridiculous! Is this something that I should level at my good friend who studies the jaw structure of rodents, because his specialization is of no interest to the general public? Are you just saying that it's uninteresting to you? Does this likely have something to do with the fact that you can't see how this themes affect you, or that the political motivations for them just aren't ones that you're sympathetic to? You said that our discussion of "quality" should be wrapped up, but you've merely a means of evaluating art to an equally ambiguous "interesting".

239.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 7:50 AM

George's comment will look a lot crazier if everyone just politely ignores it.

240.

catfish

May 16, 2008, 8:06 AM

MC, the haystack has been an eternal verity ever since the hunter-gatherers learned to put a hoe to the ground and grow stuff instead of killing it.

Clem: I wasn't kidding when I said the Greek myths were more durable than "issues" such as gender bias. The Greek stuff wins hands down, and one of the reasons is that they did not engage in tight-ass moralizing. But having fun ... always, me and them. Why not you too? You say you got a chuckle. Great.

Now I have not "charged" that conceptual/pomo/popomo/performative/whatever art "leads to 'uninteresting' themes". Quite the opposite, I see no reason it has to be as dull as it is and wish it would stoke itself up a bit ... quite a bit.

Yes, gender bias is uninteresting to me. Let the courts deal with it and give me subject matter that is less tied to the conceits of our particular moment in time.

"Interesting" applies to subject matter which is not ambiguous at all, not "quality". You are pretty good at wrangling words, but not good enough to make subject matter equate to quality.

My politics are so weird that there is no use in going into them here. This is artblog, not politicsblog.

241.

opie

May 16, 2008, 8:11 AM

Well, I guess I really got to give up. I have floated 3 lures past Clam's nose and he has barely nibbled. I think he knows better than to bite, unfortunately, because it would take him inexoribly down the path of logic to a bitter (for him) end. Too bad...

242.

catfish

May 16, 2008, 8:11 AM

OK, one political statement: my choice for US president is Ron Paul. And that is one of my more conventional views.

243.

MC

May 16, 2008, 8:27 AM

Shhh... Opie... don't use the "L" word... Clem's allergic, I think.

244.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 8:29 AM

Clem, you say that nature would sanction my statements about taste and quality for you, and that's exactly what I think. We have had huge evolutionary payoffs from our pleasurable responses to good form and our ability to imagine potential new forms based on extant ones. Art is a specialization of those innate abilities.

245.

Chris Rywalt

May 16, 2008, 8:40 AM

You have a friend who studies the jaw structure of rodents?

246.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 9:04 AM

Doesn't everyone?

247.

opie

May 16, 2008, 9:06 AM

I tried being sneaky, MC. This is a stab at challenge.

Probably won't work either. Clem knows better than to open up any chinks in the verbal armor. He's sharper than George that way - George used to stick hs neck out all the time and take a beating and then go lick his wounds or skulk off to more temperate climes. Clem fences off places where a direct hit could take place. Places like logic, reason, clarity, common sense, and the like.

Hey, Franklin, I just noticed you've installed little correction indications, like WORD has. That's a big help for a typomeister like me. I just caught 3 in the paragraph above. Thanks.

248.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 9:07 AM

That wasn't me. You must have updated your browser, or it updated itself.

249.

Clem

May 16, 2008, 9:31 AM

Opie, Opie, Opie,

I think you can admit that's there's a lot to nibble/quibble with here. But if you want me entirely take you off of my "rounds", I will. Unfortunately, my omnipotence(particularly grammatical), seems to be wearing a bit thin...

Of course I'm not going to nicely jump through your yes / no hoop. But that doesn't mean I'm unnecessarily hedging with my answer. Is there any such thing as art, let alone good art, unto itself. No. It only becomes art because of our judgment and the particular function we assign it. What's more "common-sense" than that? It's like what you want to term "logic". When you want to talk about something a "logical" it is because an activity embodies or performs (you probably won't like that term...) something. Aesthetic judgment And creation consists of "rule-following". And try to consider how different a dynamic that is that any essentialist conception of art or its' appreciation.

Franklin,

Not that I think you were trying to give me credit, but I'm glad that maybe my addition of "nature" as a basis for judgment made some sense. That definitely doesn't mean I think that it a legitimate criteria. I could have put "God" or "beauty" or "class-politics" there and it would have fulfilled the same function, though very different results.

I am genuinely try to have some perspective on whether this is indeed the forum to continue debating this "naturalism". Let me just say that similar positions, take for example Chomsky's linguistic naturalism, which likewise takes up a position of "innate abilities" is by no means uncontroversial in either the fields of linguistics or cognition, let alone before it's implications reach broader fields (none of us need, or at least want to take up the Chomsky / Foucault right here and now, I hope!). Let me just say that there's a strong critique of his work that pinpoints his idealism. If he finds a "universal" key to explain language, then by all means let's listen up. But he hasn't, and keeps doing what I see as hedging (his whole FLB vs. FLN shtick reads like a perfect moment to start talking about a nature/culture split or clear distinction). I'm not going to keep making this a more technical or referential argument right now--but maybe I 'm interested to ask what we have to lose by considering that there is more to what we do than simply our nature?

Catfish, I've run out of time but will get back to your reply in a bit.

250.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 9:37 AM

...I would like to hear this one fleshed out a bit.

Taste fails either by failing to detect quality that is there or detecting quality that isn't there. The latter case typically happens when you experience traits as quality. Quality has no traits. But everyone has their sympathies for particular traits. An egregious example of this are the people who really like Dali because the imagery is so mind-blowing. He's a terrible painter, though, a fact that becomes obvious when you put him next to a surrealist who can paint, like Ernst. There's nothing wrong with liking a class of work, of course, and we class things by traits. But if you experience the traits as quality itself, you end up unable to make the distinctions of quality that good taste requires. Instead you just get excited about those melting watches because they're cool.

251.

Clem

May 16, 2008, 9:43 AM

I hadn't noticed it until now, but it seems I'm a pretty big proponent of "automatic writing", if you couldn't already tell from my "style"...

252.

MC

May 16, 2008, 9:49 AM

Yes, Clem, as you've said before, you write like you think... FAST!

"Is there any such thing as art, let alone good art, unto itself. No. It only becomes art because of our judgment and the particular function we assign it."

OK, then here's the question for you: what is "the particular function" that we assign to an object that makes that object "art"?

253.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 9:49 AM

That definitely doesn't mean I think that it a legitimate criteria. I could have put "God" or "beauty" or "class-politics" there and it would have fulfilled the same function, though very different results.

I kicked it clean into the net and now you're trying to move the goal. You're the one who was asking for some kind of basis of justification for my statements about taste and quality, which I think correlate well enough to experience to obviate the need for such justifications. I gave you one anyway, and now you're saying that any such justification is going to lack sufficient value for your purposes, which means you were lying when you said that you wanted to see a justification in the first place.

I'm not going to keep making this a more technical or referential argument right now--but maybe I 'm interested to ask what we have to lose by considering that there is more to what we do than simply our nature?

We're going to lose the basis for three or four decades of writing that tried to marginalize materials, nature, biology, and universals. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm a pretty big proponent of "automatic writing", if you couldn't already tell from my "style"...

It has its place. An intellectual debate with non-surrealists isn't one of them.

254.

Chris Rywalt

May 16, 2008, 9:59 AM

What do you mean, Franklin dear, when you say Dali is a terrible painter? Not that I agree or disagree.

Clem: I used to think there was a balance on nature versus nurture. Then I had kids. Now I think it's mostly nature. So I agree with Chomsky that a great deal of language -- of most everything -- is nature. If not strictly nature, then let's say metanature, where it's a natural process to take an imprint at a given time from one's environment. Like the gosling seeing a ping pong ball and imprinting on that as its idea of Mother. Goslings are pre-programmed by biology to take an imprint defining Mother at a precise moment in their development, and that's nature. If it happens to be a female goose or a ping pong ball, that's nurture.

I understand that Chomsky is still being debated, but I have to admit, his work is debated at a level so far beyond me at this point I can't say much about it. My understanding of Chomsky is basic and flawed as it is. I have a basic faith in him, though, because what I've read a) makes sense and b) fits in with other things I do understand. This is in direct opposition to what I've read of Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, Lacan -- which is admittedly little.

Just so you know where I, at least, stand.

255.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 10:14 AM

I went to his museum in St. Petersberg and saw how bad he is at handling paint. I'd go as far as calling him a poor craftsman. In person you see the same anemia in his work that you see in Normal Rockwell.

256.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 10:15 AM

Norman. I swear that was an accident.

257.

opie

May 16, 2008, 10:15 AM

You are not debating, Clem. There are rules in debating.

258.

opie

May 16, 2008, 10:18 AM

Accident or not. "Normal" is a lot better painter than Salvador.

259.

craigfrancis

May 16, 2008, 10:23 AM

Catfish, you're hilarious.

260.

Chris Rywalt

May 16, 2008, 10:23 AM

Wow. I make a pilgrimage to his museum in St. Petersberg every time I'm in Florida. I love it there. I'll admit that I don't love Dali as much as I once did, but I still consider his technical facility unparalleled. (Although I do sometimes wonder if his assistants did a lot of the work, especially on his later paintings.)

You seem to have a thing about flatness. That is, you don't like flatness. You mentioned when you were here at my house that you consider it a problem that, for example, figure outlines end up, because of mechanical restrictions, too flat. And now you're dissin' on Dali, and he paints really flat, too. And illustrators like Rockwell, of course, always work as flat as possible for reproduction.

Do you just think paintings need to be lumpy?

261.

opie

May 16, 2008, 10:23 AM

Thanks MC #252. That;s about the same thing I would have asked, but I am getting exhausted running circles. If you get a straight answer there may be some hope from he who writes faster than he thinks.

Don't hold your breath, as they say.

262.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 10:27 AM

It's not his flatness, its the dispirited touch, and it comes from relying too hard your reference, which is why Rockwell (who, I agree, can't paint circles around him) suffers from it too. Some flat things are great. I actually wish that certain works by Stuart Davis were flatter.

263.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 10:28 AM

"can paint circles"... oy...

264.

opie

May 16, 2008, 10:37 AM

One of the secret tests of a realist painter is look at the flat parts: walls, sidewalks, uniform receding landscape, skies. Do they hum along with the rest of the painting or turn sour. Dali's are among the sourest in art. Wyeth's go dry. Estes does great detailed reflections on glass but the street and the puddles next to it struggle. And so forth.

265.

Chris Rywalt

May 16, 2008, 10:43 AM

Hm. Dispirited touch. I can honestly say I've never gotten that from Dali's paintings. Maybe I see that as a coldness, a distance, a lack of passion -- my feeling is that Dali was just so technically awesome a painter that he neglected to give a crap about what he was painting. And that's why my love for his work has faded over the years: I've come to see that he really was just an advanced illustrator and didn't really feel a whole lot. It's the kind of thing I might never have noticed if I hadn't stood in front of Rousseau or Van Gogh or even Ofili, who clearly are communicating some kind of feeling.

So maybe you pick up on that as being dispirited. I guess I still like Dali the same way that I like bridges or cathedrals or Boeing 777s -- I'm impressed that humans are capable of such marvels of engineering and craft.

266.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 11:01 AM

Which probably works as long as you don't compare him to Rogier Van Der Wyden or someone like that.

267.

Chris Rywalt

May 16, 2008, 11:09 AM

Um, right. What he said.

Well, curing myself of my ignorance and looking up Rogier van der Weyden -- it always works better when you spell it right! -- I find, okay, maybe Dali wasn't as awesome as those old Dutch guys. I've seen very little of that kind of work in person, though. So I can't compare. Looks pretty groovy, though, especially since they couldn't trace photos back then.

268.

Clem

May 16, 2008, 11:11 AM

I was just thinking a little more about what I said about "rule-following" in terms of aesthetic judgment. I'm taking this from Wittgenstein whom I've touched on a before. I just wanted to put out something that he wrote about the way grammar (or rules) function in a particular "language-game" and their relationship to nature. And goddammit if he doesn't touch on painting to boot! His writing and lectures on aesthetics and colour(s) really interest me, but let's stick to this:

"If the formation of concepts can be explained by facts of naure, should we not be interested, not in grammar, but rather in that in nature which is the basis of grammar?-- Our interest certainly includes the correspondence between concepts and very general facts of nature. (Such fact as mostly do not strike us because of their generality.) But our interest does not fall back upon these possible causes of the formation of concepts; we are not doing natural science; nor natural history--since we can also invent fictitious natural history for our purposes.

I am not saying; if such-and-such facts of nature were different , people would have different concepts (in the sense of a hypothesis). But: If anyone believes believes that certain concepts are absolutely the correct ones, and that having different ones would mean not realizing something that we realize--then let him imagine certain very general facts of nature to be different from what we are used to, and the formation of concepts different from the usual ones will become intelligible to him.

Compare a concept with a style of painting. For is even our style of painting arbitrary? Can we choose one at pleasure? (The Egyptian, for instance). Is it a mere question of pleasing and ugly?".

I'd be interested in your responses to this, as an objection to a kind of "naturalism".

Now quickly/fastly,

catfish,

I understand how "unplayful" a lot of the work (and texts) you're grouping together can seem. I sigh plenty when someone seems to throw out talk of "identity" and "ambiguity" in ways that I think are empty. But as someone who doesn't really have a taste for performance, I have been deeply moved by particular work and seen communities who respond vibrantly to these kinds of work. Maybe you could give some examples of work in these fields that you DO find interesting. I also really think that your basis for judgment is a lot different from Franklin's. (Aside: Franklin would you relegate "issues" to what you're calling traits?). And just to touch on your point about the lasting relevance of classical art. Do you think that this lasting relevance is based on an essential character of the work or myths? For myself, it is the continued associations (which can significantly shift the meaning and function) of the work which ensures this. Just as a throw-away example, what does "Oedipal" signify for most people today? I agree that it IS rich material, but I'm not willing to grant it what seems like a kind of "sacredness".

Even faster: MC, I was saying you didn't have a net. That's not the same as accepting you have the right one!

Hastily Onwards, Chris I don't even entirely trust old Witty in all matters, let alone that careerist Derrida (though Zizek is giving him a run for his money for that title)!


Opie, MC, you just wait. You'll eat your words, you will. I just hadn't name-dropped enough, apparently!

269.

Clem

May 16, 2008, 11:17 AM

Would you guys say that your blog posts have gotten clearer/cleaner with time? I'm so much more of a reader these days, I believe believe!

270.

opie

May 16, 2008, 11:21 AM

There's your answer, MC. In court it would be termed "unresponsive".

I think it's time to truly give up. It's hopeless.

Clem would do well over at Winkleman's - he should try there.

271.

MC

May 16, 2008, 11:45 AM

Opie's objection is sustained. MC Court holds Clem in contempt.

272.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 11:58 AM

Clem would do well over at Winkleman's - he should try there.

Especially today. They're on some insane crap down at EW today.

"Clem," I've already said that just because these processes are biological doesn't mean that we have to talk about them biologically. What it means is that a theory that contradicts biology, nature, and physics is broken. And so:

If the formation of concepts can be explained by facts of naure... Our interest certainly includes the correspondence between concepts... But our interest does not fall back upon these possible causes of the formation of concepts... we can also invent fictitious natural history for our purposes...[!!!] people would have different concepts... If anyone believes believes that certain concepts are absolutely the correct ones... the formation of concepts different from the usual ones will become intelligible to him. .. Compare a concept with a style of painting.

This is monomania. What we think has a short-term impact on what we do and a long-term impact on what we become. But the world is not made out of concepts and can't be dealt with in a purely or even primarily conceptual way. You can deal with art in a primarily conceptual way - art will let you commit any sort of failure on its behalf - but those of us interested in artistic success have learned to stay away from that approach.

273.

Clem

May 16, 2008, 12:31 PM

Quality is a concept. It can't be otherwise. That doesn't mean we have to talk all around it (which is what most of you seem to object about), seeing itself IS conceptual, and by that I mean a language-act. And because I was listening to you back there Chris, so are other forms of bodily pleasure and/or pain. Now we might even be able to start talking about how concepts are "Natural"... but I'm not going to stop arguing that what we've done with them has gone past any "inherent ability" and has an observable history that can't be reduced to an idealistic "evolution".

274.

roy

May 16, 2008, 1:17 PM

Clem, I'm not up on all the theory but I'm gonna throw my hat in here. Opie and MC and Franklin have engaged you repeatedly and you have avoided answering all the big questions that pertain to the key parameters of a new modernist stance.

I feel that your inability to understand (more like acknowledge) what 'unitary' means here, and what the notion of a 'unity' is, is holding this discussion back. Breathing is breathing. Shitting is shitting. Chris has said sex is sex. You can't say more about these things, the actual doing of these things. Breathing is breathing, finally. Salt tastes like salt.

You probably don't like unities, they stick in yer craw a bit cause you can only run them down so far before they turn on you. The thing of the thing is the thing of the thing. It's an empirical stance. You work with the way things really are as they present themselves to your awareness. One aspect of art which can't be pushed past its IS-ness is the visual. But you don't want to engage in a 'better or worse' visual. Well, I would ask where you've learned to be so selective in your suspicions about the world. You get by a million times a day cuz we all agree on things and act accordingly. Hierarchy, specialization, elitism...we'd be nowhere without it.

Quality is undeniable, yet I can't say more about it. It's just there. I can do lots to better my attention for it, but I can no more say what it is than tell you what salt tastes like. Unless, I choose to talk solely and eggheadedly about the 'concept' of salt. Then I can run at the mouth all night long. Hell, I'll even write a song or two.

275.

roy

May 16, 2008, 1:24 PM

...and we can agree with eachother all night long too, or disagree. It doesn't matter. It's all conceptual.

Concept has nothing to do with visual. A concept is a concept. No matter how 'mediated' you try to prove my awareness is, it doesn't change the facts. Visual is still visual. The new modern starts there. I like facts. I like them a lot. I can use them to get things done.

276.

MC

May 16, 2008, 1:29 PM

Shhh... Roy... don't use the "F" word...

277.

roy

May 16, 2008, 1:33 PM

The interelatedness of causality is a fact too. This is a big bad pomo tenet. Careful reading will reveal that the new modern does not ignore this. Nor does he let it lead to the paralysis of his senses or his judgement.

278.

opie

May 16, 2008, 1:52 PM

"Language is conceptual and a languge -art"?

Stuff it, willya.

You know Roy, I love facts. Facts are like, well, food or fresh air or something. I think smart people like facts. They like real stuff. They get their kicks from real stuff. It doesn't matter what it is as long as they can mess around with it and try to figure it out.

My graduate students have a hard time with this sometimes. I try to tell them learn the facts and dates and the subjects and predicates and the techniques because otherwise you will never get it. But they want to dispense with these lowly mundane things and get up to the lofty levels of arcane horshshit they have been convinced is intellectual nirvana. They want to learn how to talk like Clem, because that's what professors do, doncha know.

It's sad.

279.

roy

May 16, 2008, 1:54 PM

The new mod takes the visual as his language, all forms, anything he can get his greedy hands(eyes) on. Hence, a tendency towards medium specificity and directness - all the better to communicate with. But finally, maybe 'Clem's' problem is actually with new mod content.

I am not going to write in Dutch for an English audience. That just wouldn't make common sense, would it. Unless I was trying to make a point about something else, besides the visual.

The establishment is suspect of the visual, but this does not make it any less valid a language.

280.

roy

May 16, 2008, 2:04 PM

'I am not going to write in Dutch for an English audience. That just wouldn't make common sense, would it. Unless I was trying to make a point about something else, besides the visual.'

er, ya. You know what I mean.

Ya opie, I've been thinking too that the new mod, at least the ones i know here and elsewhere all take having fun pretty damn seriously. It has to be fun. I need to play dammit!

Also, I am a sports fan and I think there are parallels btwn the pleasure of watching or playing a game and the pleasure to be had from art. But I never question the validity of the medium of hockey or soccer...(baseball maybe, lol). I shut up and watch or play, otherwise I'm gonna miss the specific thrill that cannot be found elsewhere.

281.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 2:32 PM

Quality is a concept. It can't be otherwise.

Sure it can. It exists in the arrangement of forms. Certain forms please us just like certain flavors please us.

seeing itself IS conceptual...

Do you think the all-caps IS proves your point somehow? Seeing has a physical basis. If you doubt this, close your eyes.

...and by that I mean a language-act.

Empty jargon.

...I'm not going to stop arguing that what we've done with them has gone past any "inherent ability" and has an observable history that can't be reduced to an idealistic "evolution".

Right, I noticed the dig on Dawkins above. You know what's nutty here - evolution is observable and even reproduciable. Ascribing material facts about the world to a conceptual basis couldn't be more idealistic, priveleging ideas as the ultimate arbiters of reality. (I'm no expert, but isn't that Platonism?) And yet for some reason I'm supposed to entertain scare-quoted evolution as idealistic and field criticisms of absolutism and purity.

Well, this is easy enough to hit back. Hey "Clem" - what would happen if you approched this in a more open-minded way and stopped trying to make all experience conform to your absolutist model of pure concept?

282.

Eric

May 16, 2008, 2:35 PM

I gave up on Clem at #122.

283.

Clem

May 16, 2008, 2:37 PM

Roy (et al),

Breathing is not the same as what I'm getting at with my description of seeing. You can be aware/conscious of your body's breathing, but that doesn't constitute the act of breathing. Sensory experience requires this awareness. Funnily enough it doesn't require a description of the physical process involved. Do you need any understanding or articulation of how your tongue is reacting to sodium ions in order to understand saltiness? It's language that gets to the experience much more quickly than that, we learn and make use of the concept of saltiness. It is the same with seeing. I really hope that we can follow to this point. Where our main disagreement seems to be is if our experience of the visual necessarily brings with it associations. When I keep harping on the issue of "purity" I'm saying that it isn't realistic to eliminate or (maybe more accurately) subordinate these associations.

Some plain examples. I see to navigate the world. I see to understand or evaluate something. I see for pleasure. None of these experiences lack a context/concept. Is the physicality of each of these roughly the same? I don't know how many times I can say that it largely is! But that isn't the end of it of course! How is seeing Art any different?! It is another use for our visual faculty-- IT ISN'T THE EXPERIENCE IN A VACUUM!

I mean you guys have been a little more aggressive taking jabs at me, so give me a chance to say this. You guy's are the one's claiming it's possible to reach some kind of visual Nirvana (look up it's meaning, would you), sounding like a bunch of hippies or mystics (if hard-nosed ones) rediscovering unadultered aesthetic experience and judgement.

Catfish (though I'm not saying that we're agreeing on anything) is the only one who really seems to have a realistic takes on what results from art-- issues, not physics. And it precisely issues and ideology that frame your argument for a return to this pure visuality. All I've been saying this whole time is that it is politics which determine your schema for judgment. That's not "anarchic" or "relativist", it is reality.

How's that for some absolutes!









This is my dumbed-down common-sense take on why

284.

Clem

May 16, 2008, 2:45 PM

Ok, Ok,

I'll stop it with the YELLING.

285.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 2:51 PM

Roy: Ya opie, I've been thinking too that the new mod, at least the ones i know here and elsewhere all take having fun pretty damn seriously. It has to be fun. I need to play dammit!

I'm going to print this out and frame it.

Modernists have a better sense of humor than just about any group of people I know.

Opie - what you said above about smart people liking facts gives me the opportunity to share a theory I formed recently to account for why people are clueless. Certain folks are just educated as all get-out and you wouldn't trust them to tie their shoes - how did they gather all that erudition and bypass basic comprehension of reality? I've decided that cluefulness has three factors:

1. Intelligence

2. The ability to switch psychological position (which is what psychologists call the ability to put yourself in the other guy's shoes)

3. The tendency to humble yourself to data (you regard facts more reverently than your opinions about them)

I'm pretty sure this is where the sense of humor comes from.

286.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 2:56 PM

...we learn and make use of the concept of saltiness.

Saltiness isn't a concept. It's a flavor.

You guy's are the one's claiming it's possible to reach some kind of visual Nirvana (look up it's meaning, would you), sounding like a bunch of hippies or mystics (if hard-nosed ones) rediscovering unadultered aesthetic experience and judgement.

No, you're claiming it on our behalf. I'll happily defend anything I actually wrote. Your caricature of what I wrote doesn't interest me. Humble yourself to the data. If you can.

287.

Clem

May 16, 2008, 2:58 PM

Just to show that I am trying to respond and follow some of the many things that you're saying....


Franklin,

"Seeing has a physical basis. If you doubt this, close your eyes".

So are you saying that visuality ends when I close my eyes?

Opie,

1. What do you do with visual "facts"?
2. What might distinguish said "facts" as they pertain to quality, from what Franklin has termed "traits"?

Roy,

"The new mod takes the visual as his language"

"Concept has nothing to do with visual. A concept is a concept. No matter how 'mediated' you try to prove my awareness is, it doesn't change the facts. Visual is still visual"

How would a visual language not function on the basis of visual concepts? I'd love to hear this one. And Franklin, would you even agree with this first statement?

288.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 3:07 PM

So are you saying that visuality ends when I close my eyes?

No. Does "seeing is conceptual" mean that blind people are suffering from a conceptual problem?

"The new mod takes the visual as his language" ... would you even agree with this first statement?

I understand what he means but I wouldn't put it that way. It's a literary metaphor for what we do in the studio and within that constraint it's okay. He doesn't mean that art acts in a linguistic way.

289.

roy

May 16, 2008, 3:10 PM

Clem, no one is arguing for purity. And what seems so mystical and esoteric to you, well might you deploy that keen noggin' enough to try to come to terms with why you really have issue with what we're on about here. New modernism is not trying to displace anything. For me, that runs counter to what new mod is.

You sure seem hell bent on defining for me what this that or the other is. Why can't an emphasis on the visual in art, just be something that has been neglected for 50 years or so, not for any good reason, but to make room for a lot of bipsquackin' about the elsuive spectre of meaning in concept driven art (notice no mention of an enabling and ignoble marketplace just yet). Art is huge. It'll let any ol' knumbskull do what he likes with it. But doing any one thing, doesn't make it good. New mods aim to make the visual good and better. I don't need anyone to confirm my experience for me.


Your silly statement about bliss states is just plain argumentative. You seem to have to draw on the worst stereotypes to keep the ball rolling. How did looking at a piece of art, a picture or a sculpture that aspires to beauty get so debunked?! Your assumption is that the new modern holds art in some rarified realm, but this is truly the furthest from the truth. The new modern does not mistake art for life as lived, but chooses to evaluate both using his intuition and his judgement, ever careful not to conflate the two, lest either one become watered down to the point of indistinguishability...(not sure if that's a word)

290.

opie

May 16, 2008, 3:22 PM

Clem

1. I see them
2. I'm not sure I understand exactly what Franklin means by traits but I suspect it has to do with evaluating art on the basis of characteristics, such as "I like red so I like that red painting.", where the modernist (and only for God's sake sensible) view is to take all the facts, like red, into account and evaluate the whole. That's what you do with art. If you do something else then the object you are looking at is something else.

Now can you answer some of the many, many questions I have asked you insted of fudging and jargonizing And beating around the damn bush?

The question you asked Roy is a typical can of worms mishmash of nonsense. It is unansweable. You must know this, and this means that you are just playing games, games that are no fun.

I am sick of it. Did you have an older brother who picked on you or something?

Franklin, your point #3 I had not considered. It's Interesting.

291.

Clem

May 16, 2008, 4:00 PM

A sincere request:

Judge this, boys.

http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf4f59n6fh/

292.

catfish

May 16, 2008, 4:07 PM

Clem, despite the obvious frustration that you are creating here, I congratulate you for drawing out little tidbits from our comrades, such as Roy's comments on facts and humor.

Now, your #268 has some good ideas - how unplayful the subject matter of some highly touted current can be, for instance. On the other hand, I never commented on the "lasting relevance" of classical art as art, only that its subject matter has proven durable. The subject matter for both good and bad art can easily be the same. How many bad crucifixions have been painted? But they are still crucifixions.

Your praise for me in #283 is not deserved. My only "realistic" take on what results from art is that art results from art. Issues are subject matter, and only for some art, at that. Thus they are one of art's means, not its result.

I can boil down my comment to this: if we are going to have issues as subject matter let's use issues that go beyond the conceit of the day, let's use subject matter that has some life in it. Too much of what is used today is dull if not dead. Have you read any of the"miracle and morality" plays from the middle ages? Would you rather live your life as Bacchus or as one of the "virtues" portrayed in those plays? The academics that opie cites in #278 are today's version of the medieval "virtue" characters. Better educated, of course, but just as stiff, as in rigor mortis.

293.

catfish

May 16, 2008, 4:10 PM

OK Clem, I judged it. What next?

294.

Chris Rywalt

May 16, 2008, 4:20 PM

Clem, what I was trying to say above -- and maybe this is where we disagree -- is that seeing is not conceptual, and neither are other forms of bodily pleasure. To discuss them, yes, we have to discuss the concepts. But the sensations themselves are not concepts.

I think I'm feeling the edges of what you're trying to say, though. You're trying to say, I think, that anything we talk about, we're talking about concepts. They have to be concepts because if they weren't, we wouldn't be able to talk about them. I cannot transmit the sensation of saltiness directly to another human. I have to translate it into a concept -- "that which I feel when I taste salt" -- in order to discuss it. And not just to literally discuss it with another human, but to consider it in my own mind -- to discuss it with myself, as it were -- I have to convert the sensation of saltiness into the concept, the word "saltiness." And that conversion is governed by socialization.

And I think this is where I part ways from postmodern philosophy. Postmodernists would have us believe that there is, effectively, nothing besides concepts. Or that there may be, but we can't access any of it -- all we can grasp are constructs of language. And we can play with those constructs all we want -- put them together, take them apart, like Hesse's Magister Ludi -- according to whatever rules we choose (or are chosen for us by our culture).

Have I got you now?

I disagree strongly. I refute it thus! I have had the experience of sensations, of states of being, that cannot be converted into language. They are non-verbal. They aren't concepts.

Further, Franklin came up with the idea of the panjective, instead of objective/subjective. The panjective, if I've read Franklin right, states that any seemingly subjective state is, in fact, an objective arrangement of matter. That is, whatever I may feel at any given moment arises out of the full interaction of the parts of my being and the environment around me. Included in that are concepts I may hold in my mind. They're not something in here with no connection to everything out there. There is no in here. Concepts are just another arrangement.

Uh oh. I think I just explained how Conceptual Artworks are actually just as much physical art objects as paintings.

I'm going to go sit in the corner and think about this for a bit.

295.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 5:05 PM

Chris just explained panjective better than I did.

Of course conceptual art objects have existence as objects. That's not a problem. The problem is that ideas don't have any quality as art.

296.

opie

May 16, 2008, 5:17 PM

You have said it pretty well Chris.

Yes, conceptual art, or virtually any art, is a physical object, at least in the sense that you do something pysical with it to create it. Conceptual art is just physical art that you are supposed to have ideas about, although the "ideas" never really get stated beyond "this is a comment on (fill in blank)" and such.

When considered as art, as physical art, esthetically, for their evident attributes, they are almost always dull and unevolved. Actually when considered as "conceptual art" on their own terms, they are almost always dull and unevolved. It is a mass easing, a dumbing down, and the dummies love it.

297.

MC

May 16, 2008, 6:10 PM

Here's an article, written in 1999, that some of you might find amusingly tangental to Clem's more squid-like comments. A brief excerpt:

"Academic writing in our own time, however, exhibits a disregard, not merely for style, but for truth. Once upon a time, no matter how badly they wrote, scholars imagined that they were contributing to knowledge. But no longer. Much of the scholarship now published in the humanities—primarily in English and comparative literature, but increasingly in history, musicology, art history, and religious studies—has no other purpose than to confirm the scholar’s own status and authority. It is not a contribution to knowledge, but to political power.

Consider, for example, Judith Butler. Every year since 1994 the journal Philosophy and Literature has held a Bad Writing Contest, asking its readers to submit "the ugliest, most stylistically awful" sentences they’ve found. And this year’s winning entry comes from Judith Butler, a full professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of five books including her widely quoted Gender Trouble (1990).

Best known for this book’s idea that gender is a performance rather than the expression of a prior reality, Butler is on practically everybody’s short list of the most influential "theorists" now writing. She is routinely placed in the company of Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. Here is her award-winning sentence:

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."


Award-winning, indeed!

298.

catfish

May 16, 2008, 6:43 PM

Thanks MC. I needed that.

299.

roy

May 16, 2008, 6:44 PM

'3. The tendency to humble yourself to data (you regard facts more reverently than your opinions about them)'

The only obvious mysticism I see in this thread so far. And that would be a problem anyhow...because...oh right you don't like hippies.

300.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 6:47 PM

On the contrary. It's anti-mystical.

Wow. 300.

301.

roy

May 16, 2008, 6:49 PM

"unadultered aesthetic experience and judgement."

Clem, is this a concept?

302.

George

May 16, 2008, 6:53 PM

Where's the beef?

I'm not interested in a conversation but I would be interested in seeing reproductions of work, made by artists in the last ten years, which exemplify what you are trying to promote.

Let's see what you've got.

303.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 7:04 PM

A great request, but I'm due for dinner. I'll work on it later. Monday's post will feature some rather extraordinary abstract paintings by a Midwestern artist you may not have heard of.

One guy on my mind these days is Thorton Willis.

304.

Chris Rywalt

May 16, 2008, 7:28 PM

Franklin sez:
Chris just explained panjective better than I did.

No. Do you really think so?

Of course conceptual art objects have existence as objects. That's not a problem. The problem is that ideas don't have any quality as art.

What I meant was not that Conceptual Artwork objects have existence as objects, but that, in the theory of the panjective, the concepts themselves exist as objects. In a sense. In other words, an idea, since it's a state of mind, and mind is made of matter, an idea is itself matter. An arrangement of forms. Not that an arrangement of forms can be an expression of an idea -- that an idea is itself an arrangement of forms.

Er. This sounds weird to me. Kind of reductionist. But I'd rather think it's not a reduction at all, but an expansion, to expand reality -- concrete reality -- to include things formerly considered spiritual or mental or otherwise intangible.

Um. As usually happens, I've reached a point where I feel sure philosophers have already done work, and reached conclusions, at least a hundred years before me, only I don't know enough to know about it. I used to have someone I could talk to about this stuff, but we don't talk any more. Damn.

305.

roy

May 16, 2008, 7:57 PM

re: 299/300

Franklin, maybe I'm using 'mysticism' wrong in some purer sense, but your point (#3) reads just like basic mindfulness.

306.

opie

May 16, 2008, 8:02 PM

Did we ever reach 300 in the old days, Franklin? I think we just fell short once or twice.

You would grab the ring, egotripper!

Chris, don't pollute an excellent comment. What's real is real.

307.

opie

May 16, 2008, 8:09 PM

MC That is what parents spend $40,000 a year to expose their unfortunate kids to. It reads very much like the one-sentence paragraph I give my writing class at the end of the semester to illustrate how NOT to write a thesis document.

308.

catfish

May 16, 2008, 8:30 PM

Actually, this is more like a 550 post thread, considering that it continues what began a little over a week ago. It's been very productive too. Congratulations to all for a great conversation.

309.

catfish

May 16, 2008, 8:38 PM

There are some real zingers in his early work. (Thorton Willis.)

310.

MC

May 16, 2008, 8:38 PM

Wow, over 300 posts, and nobody has resorted to calling anyone an asshole!

Oh, wait. I forgot. Nevermind...

311.

catfish

May 16, 2008, 8:54 PM

Yeah, MC, I didn't want to bring that up either.

312.

Franklin

May 16, 2008, 9:13 PM

Nope - 300+ is a first.

Plus, dinner was excellent. I am fucking flying on sake right now.

313.

Clem

May 16, 2008, 9:41 PM

"The problem is that ideas don't have any quality as art"

At this point, I really can't tell if this is a way of saying that ideas have no place in art or that they should just always be secondary to what you're calling "visual quality". I don't want to keep pushing my assumptions (and if you're honest a lot of you are doing the same with what I've written), but it's statements like these that make me feel like you're trying to limit art's power of expression and what individuals take away from their aesthetic experiences. Even the ones that aren't any damn fun.

As a final side-note, I also think it's pretty naive to pinpoint more contemporary theoretical writings and their influence on the world of art as some kind of new and sinister development-- as if the conceptual was remotely new, or this was the only time had gained prominence. I'd be interested in knowing of a time when philosophy and art didn't interact passionately, or when the first wasn't oft-accused of complicated language, extended argumentation, or some kind of sedition against everyday experience and reality...

I'd like to think that I'm good, err, natured enough to see this conversation winding down--and anyhow, it is the long-weekend around these parts. I definitely don't resent that this seems to be ending in a group-hug for the regulars. Besides, it's the (Canadian) long weekend! : )

314.

ahab

May 16, 2008, 9:49 PM

Wow, y'all've been some busy.

315.

catfish

May 16, 2008, 10:37 PM

Clem, don't belittle yourself. You are part of the group hug too because you provoked a hell of a lot of conversation.

316.

MC

May 17, 2008, 12:14 AM

""The problem is that ideas don't have any quality as art"

At this point, I really can't tell if this is a way of saying that ideas have no place in art or that they should just always be secondary to what you're calling "visual quality"."


Clem, you cannot derive an "ought" from an "is".

"As a final side-note, I also think it's pretty naive to pinpoint more contemporary theoretical writings and their influence on the world of art as some kind of new and sinister development-- as if the conceptual was remotely new, or this was the only time had gained prominence."

Clem, I know it stings, but read the linked article from #297. The first sentence reads, "Bad academic writing is nothing new."

Not new. But certainly sinister, and spreading. That's why Frankfurt wrote that lovely little essay/book on the subject. Read that, too. I'm sure you can find a copy at a more elite bookseller than Chapters...

317.

opie

May 17, 2008, 5:14 AM

"The problem is that ideas don't have any quality as art"

It says what it says, Clem. Why can't you deal with it? We could have a much more interesting exchange if you would simply take people at their word and not give them motives.

As Franklin said earlier we keep hoping that somewhere there are articulate voices that think differently and can present a coherent difference of opinion. As Catfish says, you have helped stimulate an excellent discussion. But too much of it was spent chasing a puddle of mercury, pleading with you to stand up and present a case and argue it out in a coherent, straightforward way. After all these hundreds of comments I still have no idea what your concept of "the conceptual" is in the first place. This is insubstantial, interesting enough but unproductive, a challenge more to my patience than to my ideas and opinions.
.

318.

Franklin

May 17, 2008, 7:24 AM

Roy #305: Basic mindfulness is the biggest part of it, true.

Catfish #309: I like these recent Willis piles of triangles quite a lot. He has a website.

"Clem" #313: Like Opie said, the sentence says what it says. It occurs to me that you have likely been trained to do exactly the opposite - to read meanings into things rather than simply read them. Why would I want to try to "limit art's power of expression and what individuals take away from their aesthetic experiences," as if such a thing were in my power? Meanwhile, you seem driven to deny people the privilege of deciding for themselves what is important to them about art because it contradicts your model of a world mediated by concepts.

MC #316: I tend to think that it has stopped spreading, actually. The convoluted catalogue copy that came out of this year's WhiBi drew fire from the art critic at Time and at least one writer for Art in America, and the dressing-down it got on the blogs made the Wall Street Journal. It looks like this kind of thing is going out of fashion, and now we just have to wait for 30 years' worth of people trained on the pomo model to either die or change their minds, either of which will take some time. The good news as demonstrated by the activity on this blog is that people who want more feeling than the pomo model will provide are prepared to demand it.

Opie #317: I'm pretty sure at this point that asking for someone to clearly articulate why everything is undefinable is just not going to happen. If you believe the latter you avoid the former.

319.

ahab

May 17, 2008, 8:16 AM

Took a lot of flipping through the triangles to find a Willis I like.

320.

opie

May 17, 2008, 8:43 AM

The earlier ones are better

321.

MC

May 17, 2008, 8:52 AM

As I re-read my comment this morning, Franklin, I too wish I hadn't used the word "spreading". What I should have said was "wide-spread". You are correct, I think, that the tide is turning, that the zeitgeist is changing. The signs are everywhere...

322.

Hovig

May 17, 2008, 9:28 AM

Chris [304]: Or maybe an arrangement of forms is a concept. It's all just shadows in the cave anyway. Let me sing you a popular Armenian song.

Falsehood, falsehood
Everything is false
In this world of ours
Everything is false

323.

Franklin

May 17, 2008, 9:30 AM

If it's all just shadows in the cave, what's the cave?

324.

ahab

May 17, 2008, 9:30 AM

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs.
Blocking out the scenery.
Changing my mind.
Do this. Don't do that.
Can't you read the signs?

325.

MC

May 17, 2008, 9:42 AM

Speaking of signs, I just finished the hand-painted digital sign outside our gallery...

326.

ahab

May 17, 2008, 9:46 AM

Aw, but you left the hanging planters inside for the photo. I'll go put them out right now.

327.

roy

May 17, 2008, 10:12 AM

Willis kinda paints in the Marden/Scully serious oil painter (sloppy cubism) vein...but better colour and way less programmatic and even. I agree about the early stuff. I like some of the later stuff that shows a Leger influence.

328.

opie

May 17, 2008, 10:29 AM

I guess he is talking Plato, Mr. Concept himself.

You know, everything is just a shadow of the ideal form...

329.

MC

May 17, 2008, 10:43 AM

If you liked the article from #297, this one, Tomas Nagel's review of Sokal and Bircmont's Impostures Intellectuelles, titled "The Sleep of Reason":

" The chapters dealing in more detail with individual thinkers reveal that they are beyond parody. Sokal could not create anything as ridiculous as this, from Luce Irigaray:

Is E=Mc2 a sexed equation? Perhaps it is. Let us make the hypothesis that it is insofar as it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us. What seems to me to indicate the possibly sexed nature of the equation is not directly its uses by nuclear weapons, rather it is having privileged what goes the fastest ...

We are offered reams of this stuff, from Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Bruno Latour, Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Régis Debray, and others, together with comments so patient as to be involuntarily comic. In response to Irigaray, for example, Sokal and Bricmont observe:

Whatever one may think about the "other speeds that are vitally necessary to us", the fact remains that the relationship E=Mc2 between energy (E) and mass (M) is experimentally verified to a high degree of precision, and it would obviously not be valid if the speed of light (c) were replaced by another speed.

The writers arraigned by Sokal and Bricmont use technical terms without knowing what they mean, refer to theories and formulas that they do not understand in the slightest, and invoke modern physics and mathematics in support of psychological, sociological, political, and philosophical claims to which they have no relevance. It is not always easy to tell how much is due to invincible stupidity and how much to the desire to cow the audience with fraudulent displays of theoretical sophistication. Lacan and Baudrillard come across as complete charlatans, Irigaray as an idiot, Kristeva and Deleuze as a mixture of the two. But these are delicate judgments.

...

Sokal and Bricmont are playing it close to the vest here. They could no doubt find passages in these same works having nothing to do with science that are nonsensical, irresponsible, and indifferent to the meanings of words. Yet there is no direct way to refute a fogbank, and so they have adopted the safer strategy of focusing on the occasions when these writers rashly try to invoke the authority of science and mathematics by using a vocabulary that does have a clear meaning, and which could not serve their purposes, literal or metaphorical, unless it were being used more or less correctly. That also allows them to explain why the scientific material introduced, even if it were not completely garbled, would be irrelevant to the literary, psychological, or social topics being discussed.

..."

330.

MC

May 17, 2008, 10:44 AM

Sorry.. THOMAS Nagel... Damn aitch key...

331.

MC

May 17, 2008, 10:45 AM

Ugh... BRICMONT! Damn fingers...

332.

Franklin

May 17, 2008, 11:03 AM

And the tradition lives. Note this at David Thompson.

333.

MC

May 17, 2008, 11:33 AM

Hey Opie, when are you heading down to Texas?

I mean, I just assume you'll be participating...

334.

opie

May 17, 2008, 11:51 AM

MC I never knew there was such a fun pest... I mean...

335.

MC

May 17, 2008, 12:01 PM

I notice the event's in Austin... I guess for Texans, that's what capital pun-ish meant...

336.

db

May 17, 2008, 1:18 PM

thanks to all. I finally got to go through all the posts today. Duchamp beats Picasso is to me a welcome statement. The beginning of the end! though I agree it may take thirty years. (Insert Prof Fendrich's argument against tenure here).

Thornton's had some good series-- I liked the wedges and love the 60's slat paintings.

337.

opie

May 17, 2008, 3:34 PM

It's for Texastentialists, MC

338.

MC

May 17, 2008, 4:14 PM

"It's for Texastentialists, MC"

You mean, like this guy?

339.

opie

May 17, 2008, 4:33 PM

Exactly. He's Texan, and he is reading Camus. And he a postmodernist because he's reading it upside down through a comic book.

340.

ahab

May 18, 2008, 11:37 PM

re: New modernism

I read this wall text at an impressive photography exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery a couple months ago:

"This is an agitation by a small circle of men, who, having beheld drowsing in the frozen clasp of science the beautiful spirit of art, strove to awaken it from its icy slumber to add new beauty to the world."

Joseph T. Keiley, 1869-1914, American, photographer

341.

MC

May 19, 2008, 7:53 AM

You mean the 'Vancouver Artgallery'...

342.

Chris Rywalt

May 19, 2008, 7:54 AM

MC: I haven't read Thomas Nagel in 20 years since I had to read What Is It Like to Be a Bat? for a freshman philosophy course. Good to see he's on my side!

I love that "digital" sign. You know the first thing I did was hover my mouse over it to check if it was resized in the browser -- which usually causes the jaggies -- before I realized you'd painted it that way on purpose. Bravo!

343.

ahab

May 19, 2008, 7:57 AM

I hadn't noticed that, MC. They must not've been happy with VAG as their acronym.

344.

MC

May 19, 2008, 9:17 AM

You might be right, Ahab. I've been telling people for years that the Vag looked nice on the outside, but usually stinks on the inside...

345.

Chris Rywalt

May 19, 2008, 10:52 AM

Oh, man, that's just...so...wrong.

346.

MC

May 19, 2008, 7:50 PM

I take that as high praise from you, Chris...

Both the Nagel and Myers essays are collected, among others, in this book...

347.

Clem

May 20, 2008, 2:37 PM

"People with trained awareness and a rich template can bring back descriptors of a high-quality configuration in a manner that escapes people with low-wattage awareness and a poor template".

Jeesh guys, I tried to give credit to your positions by going back to things that you'd already talked about, but it's statements like these that just make you sound politically scarier than I'd thought-- to say nothing about your hypocritically obtuse language. Better stick to just repeating that you "see" better than most people...

I also really enjoy the numerous assertions that historical works have survived because of their "quality". It's a good think that history is "charged" for that kind of "sensativity"!

348.

Franklin

May 20, 2008, 2:42 PM

Jeesh guys, I tried to give credit to your positions by going back to things that you'd already talked about...

No you didn't.

...but it's statements like these that just make you sound politically scarier than I'd thought...

Not only is this ascribing motives, it's ascribing motives that support a standpoint that you can't defend through honest arguments.

..to say nothing about your hypocritically obtuse language.

I'll happily clarify that passage if you'd like me to.

I also really enjoy the numerous assertions that historical works have survived because of their "quality".

If they're numerous, you should be able to find one for me as an example. Go ahead.

Subscribe

Twitter @franklin_e

Instagram franklin.e

Offers

Other Projects

Legal

Design and content ©2003-2017 Franklin Einspruch except where otherwise noted