Sunday, July 16, 2006

Flattery Gets You Nowhere

Preface: I should be very careful here to point out that my interest in endorsing most of this view is to encourage an atmosphere in which better art can/will be created, not to insult anyone or hammer any harder on the wedge dividing us in the so-called Culture Wars. Yes, I'm a snob when it comes to fine art (and I know these ideas are seen by many as being poisoned with that most dreaded of toxicities, elitism), but that doesn't de facto mean I don't appreciate popular culture...I actually love it and have the receipts to prove it. I simply don't agree that better art emerges without concerted efforts or the highest of standards. And I believe that better art is a goal so worthy of mankind's efforts that it trumps the evergrowing demand for comfort (which is another way of saying the advocacy of laziness IMO). You'll see where this preemptive caveat is coming from below.


An anonymous commenter in the
Un/Re/De-Categorizing Art thread pointed to the transcript of a speech given by Frank Furedi, the controversial professor of sociology at the University of Kent (published in the UK's Telegraph), that sharply pulls into focus ideas I've been struggling to put into words in that post and others recently. It represents what I consider one of the most important issues of our day with regards to promoting the arts. In re-reading it carefully, I've found there are portions of it I strongly disagree with, but none of that neutralizes the core idea. It centers on music, but touches on all the arts.

The central argument, summarized below, is at the heart of why the alarm bells I mentioned in the previous post are ringing so loudly:

Cultural politics today is driven by the imperative of an insipid conformism that demands that art serve a purpose that is external to itself.
This article has shown me the vocabulary to say what I only felt when I wrote the previous post. In a nutshell: Exhibitions geared toward access as an end unto itself are not benign. Furedi explains why (all emphasis is mine):

As the Scottish composer James MacMillan observed, when we are "imaginatively challenged as listeners", we are "required to give something up, something of our humanity, something of our precious time". And we need to educate ourselves to appreciate it. [...]

According to current wisdom, listening to music, reading poetry or contemplating a painting should not be thought of as work, least of all as hard work. Works of art that demand serious attention, time and effort are treated with suspicion because they might not appeal to a significant section of the population.

The official politics of culture of our time stigmatises such art for not being inclusive. Inclusive art is that which is readily accessible since it does not require much effort or understanding on the part of the public. From this standpoint, the engagement with art is not seen as a challenge but as an easily digestible act of consumption. [...]

The main merit of inclusive art is that it is, in principle, accessible to anyone. This emphasis on accessibility indicates that the priority of the politics of culture is engagement with the public rather than with the content of artistic and intellectual life.

What is distinct about the access movement today is that it is entirely focused on the opening up of educational opportunities while being indifferent to the intellectual content of the experience. The access movement makes no pretence of aspiring to an intellectual ideal. Its pedagogy self-consciously eschews cultivating people's appreciation of humanity's cultural achievements. [...]

Today, the policy of inclusion makes no attempt to cultivate and elevate the public taste. On the contrary, it regards the taste of the public as something to flatter and celebrate. Official cultural politics is not merely populist, it is also philistine.

From here Furedi ventures into territory I'm not sure he's prepared his listeners/readers for carefully enough (which is my nice way of saying I'm not sure this isn't morally deficient), but I'll point it out, with a few qualifiers of my own, all the same:
This approach is systematically conveyed through the current policy of cultural diversity - a principle that explicitly avoids any attempt to discriminate, value and set standards in the domain of art.

Guidelines that touch on the teaching of music promote the principle of diversity as a way of bypassing the crucial question of just what cultural value is worth celebrating. For example, the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance's GCSE specification for music states that the curriculum will enhance students' "ability to appreciate music" in a way that "reflects knowledge of cultural and spiritual contexts and sensitivity to the values and conventions of others".

Gaining sensitivity to the "values and conventions and others" is an admirable objective. But what about the values of the students and of their community? While this guideline makes constant references to the "values of others", it is silent about "our" values.
OK, so he notes that cultural sensitivity is admirable, but he could have (IMO should have) not resorted to this creepy sense of "our" values as if those were somehow universally held even within a small population. That's a regretable tangent, IMO, that also sends off alarm bells (i.e., it smacks of bigotry in a way I don't like at all and hope I'm misreading). Besides, isn't it implied that if there are such things as "our values," we will have learned them outside the educational system and although reinforcement is a role the educational system can/should play, that undoubtedly happens so constantly throughout each day that overtly forcing it into any/every discussion of the values of others is offensive?

He also veers off a bit from my beliefs with the follow-up idea:

By adopting the attitude that everything is of value, our cultural mandarins are spared the hassle of explaining what it is that we espouse as our own. And when there is nothing important to value, upholding standards in art becomes a matter of individual preference.
As an individualist, I wish he had worked a bit harder on that idea. I strongly believe individual preference is highly valuable in art appreciation, it's simply not the only measure of merit.

None of these points of disagreements, though, seem central at all to his thesis about access, nor change my support for those ideas. He gets firmly back on course, I feel, with this idea:

The endorsement of cultural philistinism by officialdom has meant that the political agenda of access, inclusion and diversity becomes the arbiter of educational and cultural life. Music and art are judged not according to an aesthetic standard but a political one.

That is why grown-up music enjoys little official affirmation. Certain forms of cultural practices cannot be simplified and made totally inclusive. It is difficult to turn a complex musical symphony, for instance, into family-friendly entertainment. So instead of a populist makeover, it needs to disappear or to be treated with contempt.
And noting nearly identically what I see as the largest threat looming via this trend, he adds:
Something important has been lost when music is reassembled according to the social-engineering agenda. This is an agenda that begins by breaking down the distinction between art and practical skills.

It then moves on to erode the distinction between artist and audience - after all, we can all make music. And it concludes by collapsing the distinction between the great and the mundane.
Now I understand the resistance to canon-promoting efforts (it's been built to date with horrific prejudices). But the canon is an expanding vessel...what is added today or tomorrow can reflect a more enlightened, more inclusive body of work without a) watering down the quality within or b) tossing out the baby with the bath water. I believe there's a way to counter those prejudices without dumbing down the art viewing experience to the point that we're no longer able to recognize great works. That's important to me, and doing so demands education. None of this means there won't still be camps debating over which work represents the highest achievements, but hopefully those camps will be well-equipped to have those debates.

The answer lies not, in my opinion, in accepting any object as equal to any other or any idea as equal to any other, but rather in accepting any artist as equal to any other and then judging their artworks based on the highest of standards. I know that will strike many as naive, because the current "standards" quite often represent their own cultural biases, but I can't see where treating any object as equal corrects that. At the very least that path leads through a wilderness from which I'm not sure there's any way out of.

But I've rambled enough here. There's plenty to chew on/disagree with/rant against in there...have at it!

51 Comments:

Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

The ghost of Greenberg is back with a vengeance! This neo-con aesthetic philosophy seems to be popping up everywhere these days. You'll love Eric Larsen too Edward.

"The answer lies not, in my opinion, in accepting any object as equal to any other or any idea as equal to any other,"

As we tried to point out before, your statement is misleading. The populist position, at least the version we hold, is NOT that all objects are equal, but that they are worthy of equal consideration. We realize you have a financial interest in maintaining a strict high/low distinction and in perpetuating the mythos of artmaking as a grand cultural enterprise, but you seem like a pretty reasonable person, one who should see "our" values exactly for what it is - the baggage you bring with you in adopting Furedi's cause.

7/16/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

This neo-con aesthetic philosophy seems to be popping up everywhere these days.

The essence of the neo-con argument, as I understand it, is quite at odds with the notion that we can (and should) first and foremost strive to do better here ourselves, no? Doesn't it imply that we're presently somehow as good as mankind needs to get and our way is worthy of spreading throughout the world? And isn't it that complacency that Furedi's arguing against?

Asking sincerely...I don't understand your use "neo-con aesthetic philosophy" otherwise.

I want better art. Art made after looking at everything that came before and saying "ok, but that's still not good enough...let's try harder."

And please help me see the difference in your distinction of all objects being "worthy of equal consideration." How does that facilitate achievement? More importantly, how doesn't it just make us all more lazy?

7/16/2006 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

DV,

Thanks for the link to the Larsen stuff, by the way.

There is quite an extensive dialog about similar ideas centered via Deborah Fisher's excellent blog. (sorry for not having kept up with that...it's clearly gonna take me a while, but I'll make the effort)

7/16/2006 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Dingdangit, I came here to escape this topic.

Furedi sounds a little more right-wing than Larsen at this distance, and I like the way Larsen deals with the diversity or "victimology" thang much better so far. That said, I haven't read his work and am going on two reviews of Opinion and Politics, courtesy Differance Engine.

But DV, seriously... neocon? Edward nailed the neocon argument and Furedi's relationship to it nicely. And Larsen considers himself a radical, fighting against the corporate/government complex. I do not accept Larsen's entire argument without serious kicking and screaming, but I do not question his relationship to power.

I am curious about your arugment. What is artmaking if not a "grand cultural enterprise"? And why should Aaron Spelling's work be subjected to the same questions and be expected to provide the same salves as Bach's work? Eleanor Antin's work?

Because while I absolutely buy your assertion that "abstractions like identity or pop culture" are a large part of the world we inhabit, and while I definitely fault Larsen's desire (game plan?) to pole-vault over years of thinking, artmaking and history, not to mention whole categories of cultural production... I do not understand how television's existance alongside art makes it worthy of equal consideration as art. This reminds me of the Interdisciplinarianism Wars that raged a few months ago... I don't see the value in making television or advertising "art" by intellectual fiat. I don't get the usefulness of that gesture. It doesn't make popular culture any less important to look at it with different questions in mind, or to poke at it with different tools. It makes sense to do so, IMO, because the goals of television/pop culture differ from the goals of "high art" or "fine art".

BTW, good on you, Edward, for wanting better art. Me too.

7/16/2006 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Oh, geez, and thanks for the plug. Much obliged.

7/16/2006 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Taking a tiny point undiscussed so far and expanding on it:

When Furedi mentions "our" values, I don't take it as meaning, at least in the context quoted, as "your and my values right here and now." It seems to me he's saying that in any place where "diversity" is stated as a goal, the local culture is ignored as irrelevant. And I think he thinks that's wrong.

There is an unwillingness at this moment in time to make judgements about different cultures, probably because it sounds too much like Victorian England bemoaning the behavior of the savages they've come to civilize.

I call this general intellectual trend the Jazz Effect. The idea is this: When jazz was first invented, the culturati thought it was crap. At some later date it became clear that jazz was not crap, and the culturati felt like they'd missed the bus so badly, they vowed never to miss the bus again. So since then, anything which shows up, no matter how dreadful, awful, stupid, ignorant, or just plain bad, is treated as the next coming of jazz, just in case.

But not everything is jazz. Sometimes your reaction is that something is lousy because it is lousy. So many people are trying so hard to be Andy Warhol they've failed to notice that the creators of pop culture are now expecting them to try to be Andy Warhol and are selling accordingly.

I think it's possible to make judgements about other cultures and say, yes, we are superior in this one way. Or inferior in this one way. The trick is staying balanced: We can say that Beethoven is a great composer without that having to mean that all women composers, for example, are terrible.

I tend to think a lot of things are relative, but most of us can agree on some things some of the time, so at least we have a starting point for discussion.

As long as everyone agrees with me, of course.

7/16/2006 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

EW and DF-

Neo-con was a poor choice - we meant it in a literal sense - of or like a conservative position, NOT in its current usage, which given our current cultural climate, was pretty dumb of us.

"More importantly, how doesn't it just make us all more lazy?"

Ahh it makes us infinitely less lazy! Without a special category (art) reserved for complicated, critical, and impassioned engagement, we are constantly bringing our intellectual faculties to bear on our world. The gift of cultural studies was precisely this. Far from making us lazy, it's exhausting.

Larsen's use of "victimology" to describe women's studies and various forms of ethnic studies is disgusting. And that view goes hand in hand with this reactionary call to return to 'art for art's sake.'

"What is artmaking if not a "grand cultural enterprise"?"

To us, it is merely a cultural enterprise, one among any number of others, worthy of no "special" consideration.

"I do not understand how television's existance alongside art makes it worthy of equal consideration as art."

We would never want tv to be considered as art (how dull), but to be considered with the same critical generosity. We have zero interest in declaring everything art or everyone artists. The problem here is the notion that somehow what artists do is better or more thoughtful than what non-artists do. Why else use the word "worthy?" Pop culture is not really the right comparison, although we're happy to defend it. We're really more concerned with vernacular/folk practices of "ordinary" people. As we have discussed many times over on our blog, we believe that everyday practices of creativity from cooking the family meal, to collecting rare books, or singing karaoke can be as compelling, sincere, thoughtful, informed, and inspired as any so-called high art.

7/16/2006 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Without a special category (art) reserved for complicated, critical, and impassioned engagement, we are constantly bringing our intellectual faculties to bear on our world.

Or we end not bringing them to bear at all, which strikes me as more likely in a world without the special category.

Art provides a context in which we expect to be challenged intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually...day-to-day life may do so from time to time, but I personally find the idea that I would have to constantly approach my entire life that way exhausting...I'm not a priest or a poet. Being challenged is important to me, but that's where the categories of Culture / Art serve me well. What you're advocating seems too utopian and consuming to be practical IMO. Beautiful in concept perhaps, but, again, more likely to encourage less engagement, not more.

The problem here is the notion that somehow what artists do is better or more thoughtful than what non-artists do. Why else use the word "worthy?"

When the conversation gets to this point, I like to dust off my sports analogy. Art, as a daily pursuit or point of interest, is really no different from sports in that the more one devotes to both, the more one gets out of them. Both reflect our desire to be all that we can be (or something less trite...it's late). Both inspire people. Both can give us a glimpse of the sublime. Extrapolating that parallel to any host of things, I'd agree...Art is no better or more important than other pursuits. On a day-to-day basis, it's simply the pursuit that interests me most.

However, nothing serves to encapsulate our history, essence, hopes, dreams, etc., better than art, providing a link that fascinates and encourages me. Why is art a better vehicle for this than domestic artifacts (or videos of sporting events or whatever)? I'd say two reasons: 1) that value we place on it, the very category you dislike, serves to encourage conservation of it (unlike more mundane objects) and 2) there is no actual use for art, so it represents the exact effort of communicating, the desire to create a vehicle...in other words it represents an effort to pass along our history, essence, hopes, dreams, etc. That conscious effort deserves special consideration, no?

7/16/2006 10:37:00 PM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

I'm reading the entry and the comments, and I think it is a little above my head, but something about the UN/RE/DE-Categ. entry by Bnonymous, you and dilettante in that blog entry set a small alarm bell off for me.
Maybe off the wall, in which case disregard and delete.
The issue that comes up for me in all this high art and elitism conversation is that we are mostly talking about the art and peripherally the curatorial aspects. Even when we talk about the curatorial stuff directly, it seems to get off the hook pretty easily.
Is it possible that we have half these conversations in the wrong direction by not pursuing the curatorial inadequacies as partner to the art inadequacies and the curatorial gems as independent of the art as well.
It looks to me as if the bottleneck is equally laid at the door of the curator in terms of cultural progress. And the bottleneck allows the dumbing down to proliferate.
I respect Edward's committment to curation and fine art but I wonder if the bar isn't lowered greatly for the curator to get off scott free and allow the art to get the hit instead of vice versa or 50/50.

7/16/2006 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

EW -

"I personally find the idea that I would have to constantly approach my entire life that way exhausting...I'm not a priest or a poet...Beautiful in concept perhaps, but, again, more likely to encourage less engagement, not more."

Maybe not. When you look at art do you look at every show with equal consideration? Every piece? Do you even see every show? Of course not. We should have been clearer - to give "non-art" equal consideration as "art" needs an important caveat. Such consideration only occurs when you pause for said consideration. That is, just as you don't go through the Met or Casey Kaplan and pause and ponder every single piece, so you would not do so with "non-art" either, but it would at least be afforded the chance. Has that made it clearer? Or muddied things even more?

Your sports analogy is good, one we usee all the time, but doesn't really address the snobbery implied by "worthy of consoderation." And sports are a keen competitor in our view at attempting to encapsulate hopes and dreams.

"That conscious effort deserves special consideration, no?"

Consideration yes, special no. In fact an unintentional communicator might be MORE deserving of contemplation (the ocean and sunsets come to mind).

7/16/2006 11:25:00 PM  
Blogger aurix said...

While I agree with some of the points made by the author, especially that there needs to be standards and distinction, the article just really smacks of elitism.

7/16/2006 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

'Special,' in this context, doesn't mean 'elite' or even 'better'. It means a specific set of considerations. This set of considerations came about through an organic process over centuries. Almost everyone understands what it means to say something is 'art' or 'music.'

If the idea of art involves communication, to say we should look at everything as art becomes meaningless. Of course, any artist looks for accidental art all the time. It is a big source of inspiration, but then the artist has to present it (in some way) for it to be actual art. Hence the bottle rack and snow shovel, etcetra. If you point at something and say, "That is art." then you are investing it with your intention, and I interpret it in that light.

Art is a special set of considerations, but that only means a particular set. You might point out that those considerations are always shifting. What is actually happening is the superficial aspects shift in order that we might gain a clearer picture of the deeper aspects. Art is about trying to figure out what art is about by constantly pushing the boundaries to see what it tells us about what is going on at a deeper level.

The insistence that a sunset is more deserving of contemplation is just uncooperative.

7/17/2006 01:48:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Aurix,

What is wrong with elitism, and isn't it inevitable? I mean, right now, in a cultural landscape where everyone is obsessed with not being an elitist, visual art is much less penetratable, useful and understandable to the nonartist than ever. Why? My frame of reference is limited. My art appreciation students go looking for all those elitist characterisitics like distinctions between high and low culture and high standards, and are disappointed when they don't find them.

If the future police officers, bank tellers and accountants of America (and I am not being "elitist" or cute, we took a poll and these were the three most popular jobs my students wanted to go and get) are not getting the level of elitism they want out of their art, then what are we doing?

DV wrote:

Larsen's use of "victimology" to describe women's studies and various forms of ethnic studies is disgusting. And that view goes hand in hand with this reactionary call to return to 'art for art's sake.'

I can't disagree more strongly, and can't explain why I disagree except with a story about my own educational experience (sorry, it's the nature of the beast--I don't want to be flattened into a sexist racist asshole).

As an undergraduate, I took maybe five women's studies classes, too many queer theory classes, two latin-american studies classes, and one african-american studies class. Except for one of the LAS classes, this coursework was indoctrination, not education. I learned how to fear race/class/gender/sexuality, how to speak in code, and how to toe the party line. Students who disagreed with the teacher, students or the reading were punished. Rational thought and questioning was not priviledged. I found the coursework in groups that I belong to frustratingly therapy-like and ghettoizing. And found coursework in groups I don't belong to distressingly opaque and silencing. I have never talked less, been more afraid to talk, than I was in my african-american studies class. I had a lot of questions, and I didn't want to ask them, and as some of you know, that's not my style and never has been. I didn't want to "say it wrong". Who on earth does this serve?

I think this educational experience is disgusting. I think people who are not white straight upper-middle-class men deserve the same critical, rational approach to solving problems and the same rigor and questioning as the white guys do. It disgusted me that the purpose of these classes was to police the same old boundaries that have existed forever, when really interesting scholarship could be done that actually breaks apart those boundaries.

These classes did not serve me well as a thinking person in adult society. They especially did not serve me well as a white woman who works with more black folks than white, who deals with more intense poverty in her day-to-day life than average, who works with men and does a masculine thing... as someone who actually needs scholarship that helps class/race/sex divides, I have had to actively unlearn years of college in order to do my jobs well.

I am not Larsen's apologist, but I do think he has a finger on the uselessness of policing existing boundaries in a nonacademic way in an academic setting. And I think this is critically important, because these are more than issues or abstractions, these are real experiences with real people. I see my co-workers getting handled as an abstraction every day and it's ugly. I get handled as an abstraction by my male colleagues, and it sucks.

7/17/2006 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

Holy freaking cow! We're really wondering if people are even reading what we're writing. Tim, your comments are a mess.

"to say we should look at everything as art becomes meaningless"

Where was this position advocated? In fact, we'll quote ourselves: "We have zero interest in declaring everything art or everyone artists."

"but then the artist has to present it (in some way) for it to be actual art."

This belies a complete misunderstanding of the distinction being made. As we pointed out above, we don't want everything to be considered art (actual or otherwise). The crucial emphasis is that any number of things may be considered as art is considered NOT as art itself.

"The insistence that a sunset is more deserving of contemplation is just uncooperative."

Aside from having no clue what we're supposed to be "cooperating" with, this comment is further evidence that you don't seem to read what is being written. What we wrote:"In fact an unintentional communicator might be MORE deserving of contemplation (the ocean and sunsets come to mind)." So how exactly is using "might" as a modifier interpreted as "insistence?"

All that aside, your notion of special as distinct makes perfect sense. And when you use the term we'll interpret it as such, but we'll wait to see if the others share your usage.

7/17/2006 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

DV,

I understand this touches a central point in your area of interest, but do me a favor please and bring it down a bit. Tim's comments struck me as sound and valid (hardly "a mess" at all). By all means, disagree with him, but let's keep the tone here as civil as possible. I can understand where his last comment may have seemed provocative, but let's call it a draw and move forward now, ok?

For the record, I consider "special consideration" to connote "particular consideration." I've gone to great lengths to say again and again that art is only art...it's not life.

7/17/2006 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

too many queer theory classes

How can one take too many queer theory classes? Personally, I find the topic endlessly fascinating. ;-)

Nice rant, btw, DF.

7/17/2006 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

EW -

"let's keep the tone here as civil as possible."

We're more than happy to behave with civility, after all, we're guests here, but "mess?" Is that really uncivil? It's not like calling something an idiotic or being personally derogatory. His response to our comments seemed to be based on a strange (non)reading of them, as we demonstrated in our follow-up. Moving on as per your request...

DF -

Your description of your educational experience leaves you sounding an awful lot like the "victim" mentality that Larsen describes. I [breaking out of the collective identity for a moment] took plenty of so-called victimology courses myself. I had a women's studies professor on both of my grad committees. I have to say that in the course of my undergraduate work at 5 institutions and earning grad degrees at two others, I never experienced this fear. There were militants in classes to be sure, but they were (pardon the pun) in the minority. Maybe I was treated differently because I was a novelty (a white male), but you'd think if anyone was going to be attacked it would be me. There was plenty of rigor in those course, I would argue MORE rigor because the fundamental assumptions, and historic construction of various forms of inquiry and knowledge were always in play - something not present in my western civ. based coursework for the most part, and certainly not in play in the stodgy art history departments.

7/17/2006 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous ml said...

The problem for me is one of balance. High/low doesn't have to be an either/or situation. I think what Edward is lamenting is that entertainment has taken on vastly too much importance and eludication has been shifted to back rooms. Some great artists, great curators can construct work/shows which appeal to both sides of the spectrum. But this really has been the tendency of the US - in art and politics. One extreme or the other. The Puritan version of right and wrong writ large.

7/17/2006 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

insipid conformism that demands that art serve a purpose that is external to itself.

e_: This logic sounds similar to your previous posts opposing any art having a purpose other than to be art. The problem with this position is that it not only would invalidate the entire history of pre-modernist narrative and allegorical art, but also most art that has come along after modernism -- notably: feminist art, art that examines issues of race, AIDS-activist art, etc. This is what I, like DV, find truly repulsive with this argument.

The only art that "fails to serve a purpose that is external to itself" is formalism, which someday will be synonymous with modernism (if it isn't already). It's in line with a Kantian, Greenbergian theory of aesthetics that most of us find not only elitist, but useless and outdated.

What's most confusing is that, while you repeatedly call for an 'art for art's sake' and the separation between 'art and life' on your blog here, the art that you show in your gallery is in direct contradiction to these ideas. One need only consider your most current exhibition, Into the Future. Your press release discribes it as "exploring the ramifications of political upheaval and modernization." This is the very definition of art with a purpose, art that engages with life outside itself, art not for art's sake.

Why the contradiction? Are you in opposition to the artwork that you show in your gallery? Or, is your call for an 'art without purpose' misplaced?

7/17/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think you're misreading that statement, Art Solider.

conformism that demands that art serve a purpose that is external to itself

The problem is with conformism demanding that art serve some purpose external to itself (i.e., someone's agenda other than the artist's), not with an artist communicating an observation about some situation that is less than ideal to them. Artists are entitled to their points of view. Furedi's objecting to a political culture in which their artwork is conscripted for other purposes.

And another distinction is critical to why I don't believe there is a contradiction between my belief that "Art" serves no purpose and what we exhibit. Art can explore any issue in the world and still not "serve a purpose" (that's simply a matter of subject choice). Once that "art" is created with a purpose in mind, though (i.e., once it emphasizes one version of truth over another to promote a specific action), it becomes propaganda. "Art" reveals the whole truth, without spin, as best as an artist can. The conscious inclusion of spin makes the work propaganda.

I'll point to another part of that press release to hopefully make this more clear (and then I'll ask that we generalize the discussion...I'll close down the comments on the blog before I'll let it turn into open season on any of the artists we exhibit [which isn't your purpose here, I believe, but things can spiral out of control that way]...I'm continuing here only because I write the press release and it's not the work itself):

Through the juxtaposition of slowly changing images of industrial wastelands and the matter-of-fact recording of people boarding a ferry, they offer a complex, non-ironic look into that ambiguous point at which the future becomes the present and how we cope with that.

They are simply presenting what they've found/seen about upheaval. They're not prescribing any solutions, so I strongly disagree that "'exploring the ramifications of political upheaval and modernization.' ...is the very definition of art with a purpose," (but then that's because I disagree mostly with your next statement, that art "with a purpose [is] art that engages with life outside itself." Art with a purpose, to me, is art that demands a particular reading and, more to the point, a particular response, rather than simply presenting an observation. Engaging with life outsides itself is simply choosing a subject matter, dealing with narrative, employing metaphor or symbolizism or a whole range of choices that don't include a specific desired political reaction.

7/17/2006 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

We've been through all of this before; have I taught you nothing? ;)

But I think I understand you now: Guernica is moralizing anti-war propaganda, not art. Surely his desired political reaction was specific enough to fall within your limited definition of purpose.

7/17/2006 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

OK, I'll try one more time before I give up. Quoting the Spaniard himself:

In the panel on which I am working, which I shall call Guernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death.

The important definition here is that this work is an attempt to "express my abhorrence." ... a personal expression. NOT A CALL FOR A SPECIFIC ACTION, even though many folks have later projected many such calls on onto it. Picasso is only expressing his response to the horror.

And more to my point, a discussion about how Guernica came to be noted:

Picasso generally avoids politics -and disdains overtly political art.

The painting is a great work of art because it's powerful and well made. It is not evidence of a "purpose" or political agenda to depict horror. That is an expression of what one sees/feels.

I think you're also projecting far too much upon Art that deals with political subject matter, Art Soldier. A well-expressed reaction to a situation doesn't mean the work has a purpose. You as the viewer can bring one to it (i.e., work to stop war), but if the artist attempts to imbue it with one for its own sake, it will be propaganda, regardless of how honorable anyone sees the effort.

Picasso responded to the horrific deeds done in Guernica in his painting, revealing as much truth about what happened there as he was able to...that is all. If you take purpose away after viewing it, that's your choice.

7/17/2006 03:12:00 PM  
Anonymous priit said...

NYT online has a nice photo on the topic. Gallery visitors there seem to try really hard to "get it" (appreciating a painting that somebody paid $135 million recently).

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/14/arts/design/14klim.html

7/17/2006 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

DF, that WAS a nice rant, and I concur wholeheartedly. If any discipline, intellectual or otherwise, has as its core tenet the refusal to allow or address rigorous examination, that discipline descends into buffoonery. Translation: P.C. makes you stupid.

I am reminded of my own brief experience, attempting to teach art in the inner-city schools. I found that the whole process of 'building self-esteem through art' in the alleged 'curriculum' was both antithetical to their actually acquiring information, skills, or developing their individual creativity, but that the kids themselves knew it was bullshit. Lots of them just checked out and stopped trying, or handed in carbon copies of what the teacher (me) had done.

One kid handed me a project that was beyond lame, and asked me what I thought. I said, "It's terrible." One of the other checked-out kids suddenly woke up out of her trance, looked at me with the dawning of actual respect, and said, "That's the first time I've heard a teacher tell the truth."

7/17/2006 04:41:00 PM  
Anonymous priit said...

serena,

Very good story. It shows how art allows one say truth.

7/17/2006 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

EW--queer theory classes are a poor substitute for good, old-fashioned brunch. ; )

DV--It is entirely possible that you went to a great school and I went to a crappy state school. I think it's great that you found your education stimulating.

I have a lot to say about politics and art, but can't put words together... I spent the day in a poorly air-conditioned bus touring the private collections of westchester county... talk about elitism, rubber--meet road. Road, this is rubber.

7/17/2006 10:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the snobby art dealers are the ones who make Art world so sick and corrupt!

7/18/2006 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Unfortunately the snobby art dealers are the ones who make Art world so sick and corrupt!

Gauntlet picked back up. I realize that's a bit of a throw-away line (otherwise you would have explained your definition of "sick and corrupt" a bit, rather than assuming the readers here understand what you mean or agree), but it's worth defending myself in my forum, for the record.

I have no idea who you are, but assuming you're an artist, would you prefer an art dealer who had a more casual attitude about art? One that perhaps would be just as happy selling Ferraris because they saw no difference between one luxury item and another?

Or would you want one whose snobbery comes, not from any priveleged background or sense of entitlement, but rather a protective attitude toward your art? An attitude dedicated toward creating an atmosphere in which you, as the artist, will feel safe putting your heart and soul out there for the world to see?

7/18/2006 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Serena,

Your story about the kid who woke up from her daze because she witnessed actual respect and not pandering warms my slogging-through-Brooklyn-with-bags-of-teaching-supplies heart. Kids are screwed over when they are told that bad is good (or okay or good enough!), this does nothing for their self esteem.

Politics and Art:

Larsen's theory, which seems to mirror Fuerdi's thinking, is that you don't want to make art into an illustration of a straightforward, easy-to-understand issue, because when you do that, you aren't capitalizing on what art is good for--you're making art stupider when you turn it into an illustration. I buy this.

Visual art is powerful because it is...well, visual. Non-hierarchical, non-linear, capable of letting disparate elements/ideas co-exist and play off one another. This complexity allows for the exploration of a basic problem of existence: we do not perceive the world in a hierarchical way, there is no such thing as ultimate right or wrong, and paradox pervades everything we do. Visual art is very good at harnessing that paradox and making it meaningful without resolving it. This is a very specific (special?) kind of salve for the problem of being.

Making art political means taking a side, or resolving the paradox, and that truncates the basic power of art--its ability to manage paradox without forcing a resolution. Larsen (Fuerdi?) argues that this means that art is completely not attached to morality, or to "doing good". I think this is awfully precious and that it is an attempt to pole-vault over years and years of educational attempts to get college students to "do good".

I think it's completely possible, even necessary in these shockingly awful times, to go ahead and make art that is about the outside world, that takes on all the scary stuff that's happening. But there's a difference between addressing the world around you and making political art.

Or to put it another way, I think it is powerful and necessary for artists to take on what is happening out there without submitting it to political flattening. I think that is what Picasso is doing in Guernica, to take an example from the thread.

7/18/2006 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

So E_ (and now F6, it would seem) is saying that Guernica has no moral message. The most famous anti-war painting in history was not intended to act as a protest against war. Or, maybe Picasso was so politically naive that he failed to realize the political implications of his painting.

Riiiiigghhhht.

Art with a purpose, to me, is art that demands ... a particular response, rather than simply presenting an observation.

First, your attempts to limit the meaning of the word 'purpose' is a bizarre (and admittedly unexpected) move, but I'll go along with you for the sake of discussion. Observations present information. Information is power (as is the restriction/censorship of it). Every artist worth her salt realizes the power of images. This is the politics of art -- how it participates in the distribution of power.

If you want to oppose art that CALL(s) FOR A SPECIFIC ACTION then fine, we can argue about that on some other post -- although I'm not sure what this kind of art would look like that calls for specific political action more blatantly than does Guernica. But conflating whatever this kind of art is that you dislike and purposeful art is probably not helpful for discussion as it distracts from your intended meaning. Also, how does it make it not art? Does this get us back to an argument about the modernist ideal of an autonomous art?

complexity allows for the exploration of a basic problem of existence

Sounds like existentialism. A useful strategy, perhaps, but why would you want art to be limited to just this one purpose? (and yes, even existentialist art is a political position -- it takes sides, just maybe not the one you think it does)

7/18/2006 08:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fisher6000, well done. Art is--in my view, should be--insistently, completely visual. How politics enter that might be structural, representational, but always pictorial. Guernica: black and white, flattened out like a newspaper photo--but NOT a newspaper photo.
How can art be defined without boundaries?! The troubling of boundaries compels it forward, but without boundaries nothing specific exists...it seems like 'troubling the boundaries' has led to the impasse that propels this discussion.
Even in cultures that don't embrace binaries in discrete steps, such as thesis, antithesis, synthesis, i.e. yin and yang, or emptiness as a repository (as in China), a fundamental artistic foundation exists in calligraphy, which everyone knows.
In the early 1990s, Hickey proposed the market as the arbitrer of taste to work against the aesthetics of care he felt art received from protective institutions. It seems to me the dealer straddles both sides.
What an artist wants is a dealer who sees it, can support it, and place it. Without critical dialogue aesthetics aren't grounded in anything concrete.

7/18/2006 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

So E_ (and now F6, it would seem) is saying that Guernica has no moral message. The most famous anti-war painting in history was not intended to act as a protest against war. Or, maybe Picasso was so politically naive that he failed to realize the political implications of his painting.

Oy Vey.

Art Soldier, it's a subtle philosophical view point about Art. You see the response to a work as its purpose. I don't. I see "Art" as honest expression. The response is separate. Once the artist stops focusing on making the expression as honest as possible and begins focusing on the response, the work ceases being Art and becomes (as I've noted) propaganda or, increasingly, entertainment. We've been over this before, but to summarize my positon as succinctly as I can, I'll borrow from Wilde: "Art" is neither moral nor amoral. It is well made or poorly made. The subject matter can be a/moral, the response to the expression can be a/moral, but the art itself is either an honest expression, well created, or it's not. Projecting morality onto it is a response to it. There is no command emanating from it, not if it's "Art."

I'm not sure what this kind of art would look like that calls for specific political action more blatantly than does Guernica.

Really? What "specific" political action? Kill Franco? Kill Hitler? Bomb Berlin? March in protest? Call for a general strike? Appeal to the United States for intervention? We're already beyond "specific" here...what exactly is Guernica telling you to do? Be better to other people? What? It's not telling you to do any of those things. It's portraying human suffering in a powerful, gut-wrenching way. What you choose to do to prevent such atrocities from happening again, if you choose to respond that way at all, is left up to you. There's no specific command in that painting.

7/18/2006 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous a.s. said...

You see the response to a work as its purpose.

No, that's not accurate. I'm saying that Guernica looks the way it looks because Picasso made a choice to depict war as horror. He made the choice (and for the sake of your argument, let's pretend that he completely disregards how his audience might react) to depict war as a completely negative experience -- this is a moral decision, regardless of how anyone might respond. Perhaps you don't see it as such because you agree with its sentiment, but it's a position that has hardly gone undisputed.

Further, Guernica is no less moral or more "honest an expression" than an artist who chooses to depict Bush as a tyrant or a war battle as heroic. Is not Washington Crossing the Delaware political propaganda, even though it may accurately reflect the "honest expression" of how the artist felt about Washington, all without considering his audience's reaction?

I seriously doubt that Wilde would have considered Guernica exemplary of 'l'art pour l'art', had he lived to see it.

7/18/2006 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm saying that Guernica looks the way it looks because Picasso made a choice to depict war as horror.

I disagree. I think it looks the way it looks because Picasso made a choice to depict horror. Full stop.

Further, Guernica is no less moral or more "honest an expression" than an artist who chooses to depict Bush as a tyrant or a war battle as heroic.

It's neither moral nor amoral. It communicates horror well or it doesn't. How well it communicates it is determined by how honest it is.

You're letting subject matter stand in for art in your thinking here, IMO.

7/18/2006 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

AS-

Looks like we're delving into art as journalism - just the facts...Looks like the New York Times of old was the ultimate expression of artistic integrity (minus the editorial pages and the reviews)...Funny how fine they have to split the hair to divorce purpose from perspective/ideology...

Maybe this will help illustrate Edward's position:

Non-artist: There's a child being beaten by and adult! Help!

Artist: There's a child being beaten by and adult! Whether you choose to intervene and how you intervene is completely up to you, I'm just pointing it out.

Of course, since the "non-artist" isn't specifying how to help, they might as well be artists too.

7/18/2006 01:51:00 PM  
Anonymous a.s. said...

me: I'm saying that Guernica looks the way it looks because Picasso made a choice to depict war as horror.
e_: I disagree. I think it looks the way it looks because Picasso made a choice to depict horror. Full stop.


If he did not intend to associate horror with a specific act of Nazi aggression, then certainly he would have chosen a different title! Let's now return to your quote of Picasso himself:

In the panel on which I am working, which I shall call Guernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death.

Yes, he said: EXPRESS MY ABHORRENCE OF THE MILITARY CASTE

How is this not an intent to express a moral position? How is this not social commentary? How is this not an expressed political stance?

But since you clearly believe that Guernica was not intended as a depiction of the horror of war (unbelievable, are you sure?), and since you have determined it to be sufficiently "without purpose," then please give me some examples of "art with a purpose" (that you consider to be art disguising itself as art) so that I may distinguish them from your notion of pure "honest expression." I'm being serious.

7/18/2006 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Art Solider,

If he did not intend to associate horror with a specific act of Nazi aggression, then certainly he would have chosen a different title!

Let me try this from another angle.

An artist sees or hears about something horrific. She decides she must make work that deals with this feeling. She can't escape it...it haunts her.

Of course, being a decent human being, she would prefer a world in which such atrocities don't happen. To accomplish this, she might vote differently, march, sign petitions, protest, etc. etc. etc. She can appear on talk shows and describe the horror she saw as a cautionary tale. As a human being, she can respond in a host of ways to stop such actions.

In her studio, however, to make "art" from this inspiration, she is tasked with doing something harder than just railing against it. She is tasked with doing the hard work of making sense of it. She is tasked with putting it into a context within the human experience. Then it transcends documentary and become Art.

DV's point, as offensively made as it was, bears response. I don't feel I've ever implied artists are journalists. Art transcends the gathering and objective presentation of facts (which are not synonymous with the truth). The truth is not unemotional or unfelt, but it is arrived at after careful consideration via perception and wisdom and a connecting of dots.

Going back to Guernica. Picasso was using his abhorrence of the military caste as inspiration, and the atrocities at Guernica as subject matter for that particular painting. The truth he was expressing through these dealt with an inhumane situation. Yes, I imagine he had a moral opinion about the situation, but it does not mean the painting is moral or amoral just because it depicts the horror in a way that makes sense to us...in a way that makes us feel it. The painting is effective (in expressing that horror) because it was well made by something with great skills, both technical and perceptual.

But since you clearly believe that Guernica was not intended as a depiction of the horror of war (unbelievable, are you sure?),

You're twisting my words here. I said I felt it looks the way it does because it was intended to express horror. The subject was clearly an act of war. But "war" is not the horror he's expressing, "war" is defined by includes logistics, politics, funding, rationales, and a host of other factors, in addition to death and destruction. IMO Guernica is about horror.

But even that's beside the point.

How is this not an intent to express a moral position? How is this not social commentary? How is this not an expressed political stance?

Well, you're editing as you go along (but I do that too I supposed). But recall, if you will that what started this debate was that you suggested that Picasso's purpose was to call for a specific action. Yet, you have not clarified what that specific action was.

7/18/2006 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous a.s. said...

she would prefer a world in which such atrocities don't happen. To accomplish this, she might

EXPRESS HER ABHORRENCE OF THE MILITARY CASTE by voting differently, marching, signing petitions, protesting, etc. etc. etc. or by making a painting that EXPRESSES HER ABHORRENCE OF THE MILITARY CASTE.

Let me make this simple:

1. "Abhorrence of the Military" = moral position.
2. Expressing "Abhorrence of the Military" = Expressing a moral position.

In denying this you're disagreeing with Picasso's own expressed intentions for the work. HE SAID THAT HIS INTENDED PURPOSE WAS TO EXPRESS HIS ABHORRENCE OF THE MILITARY CASTE. Further, 99.9% of everyone who is familiar with the painting would agree that it is an anti-war statement -- perhaps the most famous ever made.

Either art can have a purpose outside of itself and still be art, or Guernica is not art.

Wilde would have distanced himself from this type of work, as did Rosenberg and Greenberg. Will you?

7/18/2006 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

AS:

"So E_ (and now F6, it would seem) is saying that Guernica has no moral message. The most famous anti-war painting in history was not intended to act as a protest against war. Or, maybe Picasso was so politically naive that he failed to realize the political implications of his painting."

I said nothing of the kind, please do not be silly. It certainly was a response to war, and it was certainly a response to the Nazis, and this bickering about, basically, whether or not Picasso was living under a rock is completely missing the point.

What is the point is that Guernica was Picasso's visual, visceral, existential response to his knowledge and experience of a very specific atrocity, and it transcends that specific atrocity. It makes use of a visual language that stood apart from the atrocity for him, and it used a specific atrocity to speak to larger themes. Of course it's about war, but it's not issue-based, and that's where its power as a work of art lies.

I have looked at Guernica and thought about (sadly) relationships I've had, bad days at work, other wars that were not started by Nazis, and so on. In this way, Guernica opens more doors than it closes. It is inclusive, not exclusive. It's art that has its eyes turned toward the world, but it is not political because it allows for more than one reading. It is not political because it embraces the paradox of violence, its logic and its senselessness. It is not political because it is too fat to be political, too complex. Nowhere does it tell you what to think of war. You, the viewer, are presented with an image of war and you are left to decide what it means.

A sociopath could look at Guernica and derive from it that war is very beautiful, and it is this openness and allowing, this space for a viewer to reside that makes the work apolitical. That does not mean that Picasso had no political thoughts, or that he felt amorally about the war, or that he was "just pointing out what he saw" to use DV's beaten child (puh-leeze!). It means that art is different from propaganda, that it serves a different purpose.

Barbara Kruger's work, on the other hand, is political. It tells you, using the language of advertising, exactly what to think, that is its whole point. It is propaganda, and yes, there is a cleverness in the message being the opposite of what an advertiser would say to you, but it's all there, the viewer brings what? There is noplace for the viewer in her work--you agree or you disagree. One door. Political. Flattened.

That is the axis of political v. apolitical work that I would like to discuss. To make it so black and white, to say that either art is political or it is devoid of social content is asinine.

7/18/2006 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

DF-

You've got to be kidding! You've placed Guernica in PRECISELY the frame we illustrated with our journalist example - "Nowhere does it tell you what to think of war. You, the viewer, are presented with an image of war and you are left to decide what it means." Just like a reporter...

And your summation of Kruger could be argued along similar lines to your position. Her "Your body is a battleground" is merely making a claim, where does the piece tell you what to do with this "battleground?" Or her "Your gaze hits..." Where is the call for SPECIFIC action? "I shop therefore I am" is this an embrace, a condemnation or a mere statement of fact? Her work is way more ambiguous than Guernica.

EW-

We're completely mystified as to what was "offensive" about our example. We apologize, but every comment seems to confirm the validity of the example - artists are merely to report (in a complex or heartfelt way) that a condition exists. You have split the hair so fine that unless an artwork literally says "pass such and such bill in congress" as opposed to saying "war is horrible" which logically calls for action, that purpose is not present.

Seriously, can you answer AS's question? What work of (not real)art is sooo specific in its call to action that it fits your incredibly narrow standard?

7/18/2006 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

DV-

Oy, gevalt! There is a huge difference between merely pointing out the beating of a child and what Picasso is doing!

Picasso is witnessing a complex and important event, digesting it throughly, and delivering us an image that is of that event and that transcends that event and becomes more than that event.

What on earth about that is journalistic, or has anything to do with your (hyperbolic) description of the beaten child? If journalists did this, we would never get any freaking news!

7/18/2006 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

DF -

We're agree that Picasso is doing more than merely pointing something out. We've made the hyperbolic claim based on what logically follows from EW's ultra-thin interpretation of Picasso's "purpose."

However, you did gloss over the reading of Kruger. We could just as easily argue that in her "I Shop Therfore I Am" - "Kruger is witnessing a complex and important event (the rise of corporate consumerism), digesting it throughly, and delivering us an image that is of that event (using its logic of image as desire) and that transcends that event (by complicating our understanding of identity and consumption) and becomes more than that event. (by putting the image and assertion in play within the very logic it is speaking to)"

7/18/2006 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

DV,

You're mystified as to what's offensive about your example? Really? Mystified?

Maybe this will help illustrate Edward's position:

Non-artist: There's a child being beaten by and adult! Help!

Artist: There's a child being beaten by and adult! Whether you choose to intervene and how you intervene is completely up to you, I'm just pointing it out.


It's offensive because it uses an example of someone letting a child be beaten through inaction to misrepresent my point. Nowhere have I suggested artists, or anyone else, would do so in the face of such an atrocity (I assumed we were discussing the actions of an artist in his/her studio with the goal of making "Art" not someone right there when an atrocity was happening). Your example is a total non sequitur only thinly disgusing an insinuation that my position is morally bankrupt. If that's not, clear, let me demonstrate in language I assume you'll understand:

Maybe this will help illustrate DV's position:

Non-artist: There's a child being beaten by an adult! Help!

Artist: There's a child being beaten by an adult! Oooh, let me rush to my studio and make a painting telling you how I feel about that, so you know 1) I feel it's wrong, and 2) you should stop it.


Get it now?

What work of (not real)art is sooo specific in its call to action that it fits your incredibly narrow standard?

I reject that my standard is narrow (incredibly, ultra-thin or otherwise [really, you're not trying to be offensive here? because it surely reads that way]), but this piece by Serra is a perfect example. It's not art.

7/18/2006 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

EW -

You - re:Guernica: "What you choose to do to prevent such atrocities from happening again, if you choose to respond that way at all, is left up to you."

What you choose to do to "Stop Bush," if you choose to respond that way at all, is left up to you...

And as far as offending goes, it was a rhetorical device. We never meant to imply that you would actually advocate someone merely observing such an event. We NEVER meant to imply you were morally bankrupt, but did mean to demonstrate what looked like an absurd line of thinking (we realize that the "absurd" comment might be offensive, but it is at least fair).

You are, for the record, in our opinion, fair, smart, gracious, quite patient, and based on your political posts, quite humane and moral. Our disagreement in this discussion and heated rhetoric should never imply otherwise and we apologize if it does/did.

7/18/2006 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I appreciate your clarification of the previous example, DV. Seriously, thanks.

I feel this is a comparison of apples and oranges though:

You - re:Guernica: "What you choose to do to prevent such atrocities from happening again, if you choose to respond that way at all, is left up to you."

What you choose to do to "Stop Bush," if you choose to respond that way at all, is left up to you...


In the first instance, a person is standing before a painting with no clear directive. Because there's no direct call to action, the range of emotional/personal response (what the viewer might do) is wide open. Some might cry, some might get angry, some might change their opinions about this or that segment of mankind, and some might scratch their head...not understanding what all the fuss is about. If they "get it" then too the range of response is wide open for their interpretation. They might choose to join the military, they might choose to join the church, they might choose to become a hermit, or they might choose to become a terrorist. Picasso does not dictate any direct action. None.

In the second instance, a person is standing before a painting with a clear directive. A command, actually.
Now you can suggest it's wide open as to how the artist intends the viewer to "stop Bush" (although I find that stretching, quite frankly) but unlike in the first instance, where there are layers of response (first seeing it, then feeling it, then getting it, then perhaps choosing to change something because of it, or simply to carry on despite it), in the second instance, there's only one layer. Agree or disagree. It's one-dimensional, it hasn't challenged me to "get it" in any way whatsoever, and it's not at all unclear about what its purpose is.

7/18/2006 09:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When PC giants walked the earth, artists got sent to the gulag:

http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,1819763,00.html

7/19/2006 07:26:00 AM  
Anonymous a.s. said...

e_:

If your only "purpose" disqualification for a work of art is that it can't have a direct textual command for action, then I guess I can live with that for now (although idealistic restrictions on what does and does not constitute 'fine art' is soooo 20th century). I doubt Furedi's (remember the original post?) notion of "acceptable" art would be as open-minded.

But it sounds like you're open to being manipulated by an artwork's purpose as long as you're unaware that it exists. In other words, you don't mind being told how to think, as long as you don't know you're being told how to think. It would seem that in your case, Guernica's purpose is more subversive than Serra's -- the former being a more effective form of propaganda than the latter.

7/19/2006 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Replies:

Edward:
>>>I want better art.

That's why you need to face it with the mundane.
You need to re-evaluate its failures.


Fisher:
>>>I do not understand how television's existance alongside
>>>>art makes it worthy of equal consideration as art.

Video art keeps parodizing tv ads but is rarely ever as sharp as tv ads.



Dilettante:
>>>> we're happy to defend it.

ok you can drop the "we".
Im in the bathroom now, saying "hello, hi, what's your name".



Edward:
>>>>Art provides a context in which we expect to be challenged intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually


Ok that was sooo pre-1913.
So you all thought Duchamps was just a big lame joke?

I think he was saying "hey..fuck art...Look around you"



Tim:
>>> then the artist has to present it (in some way) for it >>>>to be actual art.

Ok, now is the 21st Century. From now on I declare
anyone able to evaluate any artistic aspect from everyday
objects without needing the help of any artist and without
needing to extrapolate or dissect that object from reality.

The most preferred objects will gain rights to be exhibited
among works of art (be them Duchamps or others).



fisher
>>>>>What is wrong with elitism, and isn't it inevitable?

It's wrong when elitists keep knowledge to the initiated.

I don't believe in elitism anymore. I think it's impossible.
You only get people who master language. The game is to dumbfind someone who
consider themselves elitist by confronting them with stuff they never heard about.
It's actually getting easier each day.



dilettante:
>>>>>The crucial emphasis is that any number of things may be considered as art is considered NOT as art itself.

Everything can be art therefore everything is art ?




Edward:
>>>>How can one take too many queer theory classes?

When the teacher starts to say you're not really gay and that you should try sex with a woman
just to see how.



Edward:
>>>>Once that "art" is created with a purpose in mind, though, it becomes propaganda.

Cedric the teacher again: Ben Vautier from Fluxus clearly demonstrated that any art
is most always a propaganda that says "look at this art (and please if you can, think it is great)"


Edward:
>>>>express my abhorrence." ... a personal expression. NOT A CALL FOR A SPECIFIC ACTION

I dont see why a work of propaganda wouldn't merit attention and evaluation.
In Film Form studies we analyse exactly how a film manage to manipulate its audience.



Edward:
>>>>One that perhaps would be just as happy selling Ferraris because they saw no difference between one luxury item and

>>>another?


I'm not interested in the fact that a work of art or a Ferrari is rare and luxurious. I am interested in why they would be so

interesting and frankly I'm not sure Ferrari is the right car to exhibit and sell in a gallery but I could spot you some that would

be.



Fisher:
>>>>>its (art's) ability to manage paradox without forcing a resolution.

Great art doesn't mean it has to be a puzzle and great artist doesn't mean it has to take distances
with everything. I review propaganda works as opiniated. I don't need to be convinced to appreciate
the attempts.


Edward:
>>>>she (the artist) is tasked with doing something harder than just railing against it (bad social situation).

Ok I know Joseph Beuys is not a big art guru in this side of the Atlantic ocean,
but he firmly declared the superficilality of art and the superiority of ideas commanding actions.
Why make art for a museum when we can plant trees, so to speak. I know that was utopian
but I find the rhetoric more courageous than sitting inside your attic all day painting while stupid tears
are falling on your cheeks. Picasso didn't command action, right, but he did an action
and that action was Guernica, something preventing him from doing more direct political
actions which I guess here are interpreted as a lame way to respond to the world.

I'm just here to remind that all our actions speak for ourselves. Sorry if that sounds biblical.




Art Soldier
>>>>everyone who is familiar with the painting would agree that it is an anti-war statement

It's a political action. It just doesn't command political action.
This is the misunderstanding as I see it. The political action
of Picasso is to both refer to a precise event and make it
sort of mythologic.

But I'm saying that propaganda art, though they command actions,
are also nothing more than political actions. I don't need to apply
to evaluate my response to an opinion that I should be doing this or that.
I mean, it can be moving to have someone beg you for something.


The "Stop Bush" example is interesting.
I wonder what is left of the work if we retrieved
the words "stop" and "bush", because the image
is such a political logo of recent years event.
It's also shadowing american history as it reminds
the shape of kkk. That is my whole problem
with the topics on lower arts is that something must
be rejected when we are not wholly satisfied by it.
"Stop Bush" is lower art bercause it is a poster.
It is unapologetically propagandish and therefore,
apart from commanding action, is itself
a political action that moves a little further the studio
than Picasso (it takes guts to pause a very austere career and publish this).
This said let's say we all agree it sucks for being too blunt, does
that means the image itself was inappropriate or is its treatment deceiving?
Is it a bad or a good work of propaganda, finally? You see I'm saying that a
good work of overt propaganda would be worthy of appreciation. Walt
Disney World is a masterpiece of propaganda.



If I may return to the main article:
>>>Guidelines that touch on the teaching of music promote the principle of diversity as a way of bypassing the crucial

>>>>question of just what cultural value is worth celebrating.


People sometimes are surprised when I tell them that I listen to any kinds of music (from classical to club to indonesian to hip

hop to metal to country to...etc). My point is simple: not everything is great but there is something great in any fields of

aesthetics. I seek these great things all the time.

I find a problem occur when an elitist is unable to prefer a great piece of hip hop against a bad piece of contemporary

classical. I know hip hop that samples Ligeti. There is no excuse to narrowness.





Ok enough I'm tired,

Cedric

7/20/2006 04:43:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Edward:
>>>I want better art.

That's why you need to face it with the mundane.
You need to re-evaluate its failures.


For how long? I shudder at the thought that art won't progress past this transitional phase in my lifetime.

Edward:
>>>>Art provides a context in which we expect to be challenged intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually


Ok that was sooo pre-1913.


Yes, it was pre-1913, and then it was pre-mid 1950's (when Johns sounded the death knell for Abstract Expressionism) and then it was pre-1972 (when the destruction of the modernist Pruitt-Igoe housing project sounded the death knell for Modernism in general), and ad infinitum...the point being that it's cyclical...I'd like to see Art reach as far as it can during this current cycle of believing.

Ok I know Joseph Beuys is not a big art guru in this side of the Atlantic ocean, but he firmly declared the superficilality of art and the superiority of ideas commanding actions.

And yet, when we discuss him, the first thing we call him is an "artist."

That's been one of my subpoints all along here...none of what I'm saying precludes an artist from working for change in every way that any other citizen can/should. In the studio, where the context is that "art" is being created though, I'd rather the artist leave the limitations and blatant contradictions of politics behind and dig a bit deeper. What happens on the street must, by definition, be watered down for mass consumption. What happens in the studio shouldn't be IMO.

7/20/2006 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

Cedric -

You: "My point is simple: not everything is great but there is something great in any fields of aesthetics."

"Us": "The crucial emphasis is that any number of things may be considered as art is considered NOT as art itself."

"We" think that is pretty much arguing the same point no? By the way, thanks for chiming in - you did an excellent job sorting through this morass...

P.S. "We" use "we" as "we" are a collective. Maybe "we" should use the third person and say "LeisureArts thinks that..."

7/20/2006 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

I + Ew:
>>>That's why you need to face it >>>with the mundane.

>>>For how long? I shudder at the >>>thought that art won't progress >>>past this transitional phase in >>>my lifetime.


Until art, if ever, is able to gain back its place as the superior fields of research in aesthetics.

Some artists are getting there.

If we are more critical with contemporary arts (and as I repeat, face it with everything else), it will go there faster. Trust Baudrillard "art is not where it thinks it is." That is the key phrase for these times.


>>>I'd like to see Art reach as >>>far as it can during this >>>current cycle of believing.


We're trying (I use we because I consider myself an hypothetical artist). It's just very hard. We are very late and there is so much lessons yet we need to learn.


>>>And yet, when we discuss him, >>>the first thing we call him is >>>an "artist."


Yes that is sort of the failure of his project. He loved the word art so much that he had to refer of society as a "social sculpture".

Beuys is extremely important to contemporary arts but merely rhetorically. Because he was the
first able to reply to Duchamps.
Since he perceived any objects in a museum as a piece of anthropology with its own history than to him what prevailed was the idea and action that predicated these objects over the objects themselves. Why need the objects when it is the actions that are meaningful? If your first intent is to be meaningful is there any way to be any more meaningful through your actions than through making traditional arts? Beuys sort of criticized the very ethic of artmaking so that is where it becomes interesting to admire a work because it is distantiating itself from the present social issues at stake over admiring something that is more direct
and affecting: nevertheless I liked his idea that we are always responsible, because this is exactly what people tell you each day making art or horror films, is
that they are not responsible. That they are not taking position. For Beuys that was an impossibility and I just felt like this vision needed to be shared in context of this discussion.


Dilettante:

Ok maybe. The notion "art itself" gets me confused. I think that notion will be getting more fluid than rigid for a while.


Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com

7/21/2006 12:36:00 AM  

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