Thursday, June 14, 2007

Demanding Little Bastards, Aren't We?

I had the exact same thought in response to Paul Potts' performance of Nessun Dorma on "Britain's Got Talent" that Franklin did:

Those goosebumps, the beauty that makes your eyes tear up, the sublimity that arises from the individual and yet transcends him, is something we used to ask of visual art.
Yes, yes, yes. Where is that in the visual arts these days? I'll admit it; I felt a bit cheated overall, because that heartbreaking experience in the art world is so rare.

"What's wrong with the art out there?" I thought. "Why can a mobile phone salesman from Wales tap into my heart like that, but out of a hundred visits to galleries or museums, I'm lucky to feel that way a few times." (I have a few artists who have work that does indeed make me tear up if I spend enough time contemplating it, rather than trying to sell it, but ...)


I had drinks and a chat with, IMO, one of the greatest minds of the New York art world last night, and he and I eventually came around to this very question, agreeing that the world has been lucky to have 10 truly great artists per century, if that, and yet, well, I'll let this New York Times article by
Carol Vogel tell you. Reporting from Art Basel, she writes:

Collectors are grumbling about the scarcity of top-quality art.

“There are some good things, but not as many as there used to be here,” said Donald L. Bryant, a Manhattan collector and trustee of the Museum of Modern Art. “The market is so hot, and the demand is so great, it’s getting harder to find great art.”
There are of course many factors contributing to this assessment of things. The proliferation of art fairs and bienniales folks attend, the fact that folks are paying more attention to what's available than ever before (because if they don't move quickly they won't get the prized pieces), and with that the comes the increased refinement of their tastes (they're becoming better judges of quality through all this exposure). But also contributing to the reality of the situation is that there never was as much great art to go around as the market is demanding right now. Masterpieces can't be produced on demand. They take a course of their own, and we're simply lucky when the stars align just so that some mortal can see their way to create one.

That doesn't stop me from wanting to experience more great art. In fact, as I've noted repeatedly on the blog, that's my mantra: Make Better Art. Easy for me to say, I know.

Now to be fair, there were certain advantages Potts had in this situation. Nessun Dorma is a crowd-pleasing aria. The emotional pull of the music alone would have carried along the audience to some response for anyone who could do the song a reasonable degree of justice. And his story was brilliantly set up in that clip. (In other words, it was very good television.) None of which is meant to take away from his heart-felt and very moving performance, but add a score like that behind the viewing of a painting in a contemporary gallery and measure the response vs. the response without that music and I suspect the former will be more positive.

And I wonder if that's not a bit of what's happening here. With the advent of television, movies, and other media that involve more of our senses than sight alone, perhaps we've been emotionally dumbed down a bit, visually I mean. Perhaps an early 20th century viewer of a van Gogh had a much more emotional response to the work than we do today because our senses are stunted. Perhaps it takes the careful editing of scenes, the roar of the crowd, the professional lighting and pacing to stir all that up in us now. I don't know.

Or perhaps Potts is simply a very gifted singer and phenomenal human being as well. I don't want to take anything away from him. In fact, I can't wait to see the next round of that competition.

Labels:

53 Comments:

Blogger Molly Stevens said...

To a great extent, I blame the cult of irony. It has made it basically impossible to touch on deep emotion without coming off as sentimental.

Then, there's also this fear of feeling, of having emotions. We can thank prozac for this.

6/14/2007 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger achristian said...

Is it possible the quality of the art has not changed but perceptions have changed? Has extreme consumerism, along with cheap goods from struggling countries, cheapened our response to the physical world? I don't think emotional responses are inherent to objects but are created almost entirely by the individual.

6/14/2007 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Is it possible the quality of the art has not changed but perceptions have changed?

That would answer why it's not just contemporary art, but also old masters etc. that can leave me colder than Potts' performance, yes.

6/14/2007 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous steve said...

art is nourishment for your soul, that video is just a manipulation of your heart strings;potts is a good singer, but that performance wasnt terribly amazing on technical qualities;you were seduced by the setup, audience reaction, etc;.If you look at his wiki file, potts is a trained, somewhat accomplished singer, not an anon shlub out of the blue. Art is something that you keep going back to in order to search for an expression of humanity attempting to recreate/mimic an act of divinity: pure unfettered creation., and i dont mean that in a specifically religous way. This post is absurd.

6/14/2007 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

It's so silly to think there is a lack of great are out there. It's just not all in NYC or the art fairs.

6/14/2007 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

This post is absurd.

don't hold back, Steve.

6/14/2007 11:39:00 AM  
Anonymous steve said...

just to clarify, I admit that i cried when i saw the potts performance, even as i saw how i was being manipulated by the show;however i could care less if i ever saw him sing again, (and this is coming from somewhat of an opera fan). HOwever, if i was faced with the prospect of never seeing contemporary art again i would die inside and consider suicide. There is a nourishment, a communication within the zeitgeist of contemporary expression that it provides ;once you get hooked on it i dont think the desire to see and commune with this act of manifestation ever leaves.

6/14/2007 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

speaking of the difference between art and entertainment: a Charles Dickens theme park. No need to read the book, you can ride the ride.

6/14/2007 11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Molly.

"Irony dissolves sentiment, but occasionally a sentiment is strong enough to dissolve irony." - Mason Cooley

I have been told people cry in front of my work.

Last week, I was told by a curator from the Getty museum, "I know this is absurd, but you are going to have a hard time finding a gallery because your work is too good. They will tell you, 'make us ten more of these', and that would be impossible. And there is no way for people to see what is in these paintings without seeing them in person. So you have to get a show in a major city before you get a gallery in major city".

I am not trying to blow my own horn (though I am frustrated and it feels good to share), I am pointing out that there is an absurdity inherent in the system.

Making a "masterpiece" takes time and energy, and can just about kill you. Amazing work cannot be made on a timetable suitable for art fair product-producing.

6/14/2007 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and many people are afraid of strong emotions.

6/14/2007 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

"What's wrong with the art out there?" I thought.

This is the right question.

Art can be made to do just about anything, but the only thing it does inherently, and the only thing it does especially well, is serve as a repository for visual quality. We respond to form with feeling, and to extraordinary form with intense feeling. Once visual quality becomes a subordinate concern, it's impossible to produce an object that will move the heart like well-sung, well-written music.

But for several reasons the current milieu of contemporary art is predicated on visual quality as a subordinate concern. There is heavy philosophical investment against the primacy of visual quality; people actually become angry if you suggest it. The market has to justify a lot of inferior work in order to function in the grandiose way that it does. This climate pushes superior work into the background. It doesn't celebrate greatness - it flatters inferior taste in a manner that lets it think of itself as superior taste. Taste and talent, particularly in high concentrations, remain rare.

This will remain the case until individuals, in whatever way they interact with art, insist on greatness, and don't settle for cleverness, irony, contrived awkwardness, and all the other other false marks of sophistication.

6/14/2007 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you make it sound like van gogh's contemporaries were in thrall to his work, which was not the case. he was just another artist in the sticks, making stuff nobody gave a shit about, except for his family and a few other artists. same song new century.

maybe you have become a bit jaded looking at art, and are naive about music.

6/14/2007 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Daniel Sroka said...

Why doesn't art hit you the same way as music? Visual art is different from music, and our brains react to it in different ways. Unlike music, I rarely get emotional when looking at visual art. But unlike music, visual art will often infect me with an idea, that grows slowly over time, influencing how I see the world.

6/14/2007 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

you make it sound like van gogh's contemporaries were in thrall to his work, which was not the case. he was just another artist in the sticks, making stuff nobody gave a shit about, except for his family and a few other artists.

Fair enough, historically speaking. I used van Gogh because one of his paintings (in the Hermitage) was the first time art made me tear up. Perhaps it was a combination of romance and other things, but it was none the less an uncontrollable emotional response.

Visual art is different from music, and our brains react to it in different ways.

In general I'll agree with that, but there are those works of visual art that take your breath away, and I'm sorry, but they set the standards in this regard.

6/14/2007 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

forgot -

plus, you are comparing art with a carefully edited television program, the single concern of which is to get the biggest audience possible, to attract the most advertisers.

the GOAL of the television program is to manipulate the viewer, to pander to the lowest common denominator.

is that what you want from art? to have your heart strings pulled?

no thanks.

6/14/2007 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Personally, I want art to outperform the sentimental pull of a well-crafted television segment. Most of it can't manage even that.

6/14/2007 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

you are comparing art with a carefully edited television program

I acknowledged that.

is that what you want from art? to have your heart strings pulled?

False choice. Manipulation is not the only way to produce the emotion we're discussing. As Franklin called it, "sublimity that arises from the individual and yet transcends him" need not be sourced in carefully edited entertainment. We can also find it in art. The assumption always was / is we would do so more frequently than we seem to be.

6/14/2007 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Franklin,
Please publish a book of your essays soon. The art world needs you.
Kate

6/14/2007 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger prettylady said...

There is heavy philosophical investment against the primacy of visual quality; people actually become angry if you suggest it. The market has to justify a lot of inferior work in order to function in the grandiose way that it does.

Franklin, thank you, thank you, thank you.

I have an almost infinite number of rants I can produce at a moment's notice on this subject, but since the fact of the rants is getting in the way of me focusing on what's really important, just thank you.

6/14/2007 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger prettylady said...

Okay, just to add, in as non-ranting a way as possible--there seems to be an extreme prejudice in the art world today against the concept of 'mastery.' Someone who insists that mastery of a medium, plus depth and richness of conceptual consideration and experience, are important is automatically decried as an 'elitist.'

The way I see it, mastery of a medium is the beginning of the process required to create transcendent art, and most artists these days don't ever get that far. They equate novelty of concept with creativity, full stop. On the other hand we have amateurs who believe that merely repeating a formulaic style from the past is 'art' when it can more properly be termed 'craft'; this is not it, either.

This singer mastered his medium; that allowed the spine-tingling quality of the emotion full play. Divinity doesn't shine clearly through a dirty channel.

6/14/2007 02:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, please, stop it! You are making a fool of yourself...

Tell me,

was the guy such a good opera singer?

Are you sure?

The people and the jury/Simon et al...are experts in/of Opera? You?

Understand?

Out of context, dear.

6/14/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous -j. said...

Divinity doesn't shine clearly through a dirty channel.

God made dirt, yo!

The people and the jury/Simon et al...are experts in/of Opera? You?

And who would you put money on in this dog fight? This guy? Or this one?

6/14/2007 03:53:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...

Anonymous said...
Ed, please, stop it! You are making a fool of yourself...


I am sick of people leaving comments without leaving their names or nicknames.

Have an idea or believing in something, so stand up and say so.

You dont have to agree with anyone, whatever they say, but you have to honest and open to everyone with your believes, and stand up, fight for it.

6/14/2007 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm not entirely sure, bambino, but that last comment by anonymous suggests the previous statements were made to make a point, not necessarily to criticize in the way it initially seems.

Having said that, anonymous, what context are you referencing here...this has gone way over my head.

And, for the record, making a fool of myself is not something I've ever lost any sleep over. I do it all the time.

6/14/2007 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger Joerg Colberg said...

I have the feeling that if Van Gogh had had a blog or website there would have been plenty of people who would have commented (probably anonymously) about his "flawed technique" - just like in the case of that aspiring opera singer.

Btw, does one have to be an expert in opera to enjoy opera? What kind of thinking is that?

I guess I could probably go on and on about the discussion of art here, but I guess I won't. The idea that there just isn't so much great art now as there was in the past, in my opinion is of the same quality as the complaint that today's youth simply isn't holding up to the ideals of yesterday - a complaint we can already see in the writing of some Greek philosophers from a few thousand years back.

Yes, Ed, we are demanding little bastards, or actually spoiled ones. I just remember how a little while ago everybody was slamming Andreas Gursky for not coming up with something entirely different - treating his art work essentially like entertainment. Maybe that's where the problem with art lies - we just don't treat it like art any longer?

And as a comment to what Steve said, there's a lot of "nourishment" to be found in contemporary classical music, too. It's not just art (if we want to separate visual art from music).

6/14/2007 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Ed -- I think the difference is that you're experiencing two separate "artists" when you watch that video. One is the singer, the other is Puccini. That particular aria is overwhelming, no matter who's singing. (Ditto Puccini's Madame Butterfly, which I only go to alone because I always sob like an idiot through act two.) So while Potts tugged at our heartstrings, we were also hearing one of the greatest arias of the 20th century.

A visual artist, on the other hand, has to stand alone -- he/she can't just execute a design that Picasso already created.

P.S. There are hundreds of singers in New York who are as good as Potts, and who perform in hole-in-the-wall venues with low ticket prices. Buy tickets and go. Fledgling opera companies need the support, and there's great potential for another "wow" moment.

6/14/2007 05:09:00 PM  
Anonymous edith rey (in montreal) said...

"What's wrong with art out there?" What's wrong with gallerists/curators out there? I'm painting with a big brush here, but where's the curiousity? Where's the interest in visiting 'no names'" studios? Is it JUST business for your guys? I dunno but it seems there are plenty of artists painting their l'il irony free hearts out but the stables are always too "full" for even a peek.

6/14/2007 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Is it JUST business for your guys?

Well that makes me want to jump on the next plane to Montreal. :-)

I think I do understand how frustrating it is, Edith, but understand that your average gallery is inundated with requests for just a peek. Also, a stable can indeed be too full. So full in fact that you'd be a fool to join it.

I've offered my very best advice on how to deal with this situation here.

Worth every penny you've paid for, I'm sure.

I think the difference is that you're experiencing two separate "artists" when you watch that video.

Thanks for pointing that out, Lisa. It was among the mental notes I was making while conceiving the post, but I forgot it. I agree that no matter who's singing Nessun Dorma, it's a powerful piece of music (unless of course I'm singing it, in which case dogs three blocks away start howling).

6/14/2007 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger ec said...

A bit of avant garde and kitsch discussion going on--the enveloping quality of kitsch (sensation)and the opposing demand of 'high' art to slow down and engage with a taut formal language that may or may not deal with image but ALWAYS with, and through, materials.
The marketing of work provides a direct connection with people and the work (the solitary, contemplative experience of making or viewing it) are two different things. Live music encompasses both, through full immersion of the senses. For art to have that power requires intense focus on the artist's part.
Marketing fulfills the need for archetypes while art fulfills what Daniel said about seeing something new and what Franklin said about outperforming mass media, I think. Those are my goals, anyway, and well stated by the writers.
But the business runs on archetypes and marketing, so choices have to be made by those behind as well as in front of the desk.
Seen any art that moves you to tears lately, anyone? I guess that's another conversation, but that, and why it moves you, is one I'd love to have.

6/14/2007 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes-let us discuss that! Art that moves you and why... reading this post made me realize how few times I have been moved by contemporary art.

Also, I tend to mentally reduce and crush work that has any passing affinity with mine whatsoever, so it is extra hard for other artists work to rise above my competitive instinct and let me just appreciate it without mentally reducing it.

Sometimes I think it would be more fun to view art if I was not an artist too. And don't flame me just because I admit it!

Great post Ed, your mind is always quick and alive, and you always care, such a treat!

-hlta

6/14/2007 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

There will be moving, great art on display this June 28 when I open my studio at SVA to the public. Visit me and be overwhelmed.

6/14/2007 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Personally I fall asleep at Operas - after five minutes (keep it short people!) i space out and start worrying about rent and sex and stuff. I think I need prozac or ritalin or oxycontin or all three.

Appolonian vs Dyonysian - thats what Kant or Neitzche or the Nazis were all about.

May i reference my well known work, Sublime mountain top awareness pose #2 - depicting a luminous gauze swaddled nubile woman giving birth to a mountain of brown poo. Positively thrilling.

Franklin says: This will remain the case until individuals, in whatever way they interact with art, insist on greatness, and don't settle for cleverness, irony, contrived awkwardness, and all the other other false marks of sophistication.

Woah dude, what are people gonna paint when your rockefeller art act is passed?

greek tragedies? Skid row drunks? half eaten pomegranites? Well oiled athletic javelin tossers?

I mean unironic ones, not sly eliptical nods to meta narrative kitsch or camp or whatever.

Also, will there be gene therapy for this or can we use yeast bullet zip guns to kill all the jaded motherfuckers?

6/14/2007 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous eleventh hour said...

this is a pretty moving story about an artist. his name is Brody Morales, but i like to think of him as "the anti-hirst"

http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070613/VIDEO/306130002/1229/NEWS0303

6/14/2007 09:01:00 PM  
Anonymous J@simpleposie said...

Seen any art that moves you to tears lately, anyone? I guess that's another conversation, but that, and why it moves you, is one I'd love to have.

lovely.

6/14/2007 09:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

zip sez:
greek tragedies? Skid row drunks? half eaten pomegranites? Well oiled athletic javelin tossers?

ha that's funny, but why does olde academic skill become equated with fusty grumpiness?

Shall never the two worlds meet
? (contemporary art and skillz)

Must we always have the nods to outsider art or comix for it to feel juicy and new?

-hlta

6/14/2007 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

As long as there is art that is a "nod" and not "the thing" it will simply be colonizing low to feed high. And high is such an bloodless beast.

Talk about irony.

Today is the first second of the rest of your life.

Enjoy.

6/14/2007 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Marc Snyder said...

It may be that connoisseurship can, if we're not careful, get in the way of the kind of emotional response that many are getting from the Potts performance. In both this thread and the previous one, it seems like folks with opera expertise disparage his performance - they only seem to hear the flaws. Many non-experts are quite moved. Maybe a similar thing is going on with the visual arts.

Perhaps expertise is a double-edged sword - while it allows us to be more discriminating, and really appreciate work that rises high above the average, it also may create a viewer who reflexively views any new work as a catalog of failings - this is cliche, that is trite, I've seen that, that is a technical failure, where in the world did that person go to school . . . It may take an act of will to turn off the critical sensibility we use to judge our own artwork (both as artists and as curators, I'm guessing) and actually allow it to affect us for what it is.

Seeing (or hearing) something that way is probably a lot easier to do if you're unfamiliar with that family of things. I think this happens not only in broad categories like visual art vs. music, but also when we encounter artwork from another culture that we're less familiar with - we don't have a built in encyclopedia of "the best" from that culture to compare with the thing in front of us, and so we're more likely to admire it for what it is, and not see it as a failed attempt to be something it isn't.

6/14/2007 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

RE: "It may be that connoisseurship can, if we're not careful, get in the way of the kind of emotional response that many are getting from the Potts performance."

I dunno. I can hear that Potts strains in places, but the performance still moved me to tears. I've seen technically better performances that BORED me to tears. Opera demands a high level of skill, but what makes it magical is intangible.

The most moving opera performance I've ever seen was a rehearsal of La Boheme with Jose Carreras right after he'd battled leukemia (and everyone had been whispering, falsely, that he was about to die.) He probably wasn't in top form that day, but when he got to Rodolpho's line [translated] "And how do I live? I LIVE!" everyone watching started to cry. He was amazingly defiant and full of the joy of life -- exactly right for the character. I still get choked up thinking about it, 20 years later.

6/14/2007 10:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to remove those examples from the context, what if you were just shown Potts performing, that;s it, no background story.

Or what if you saw Jose perform, but had no idea about his illness previous to that. Would it still have the same effect?

Everyone loves the little engine that could.

The embodiment of the struggling everyman.

But a painting...just hangs there.

-hlta

6/14/2007 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Well, certainly there are a lot of critics who'll jump down your throat if you respond to an artwork in the context of the artist's life.

But performing arts are different, because the singer/actor is supposed to embody the character.

6/14/2007 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger ec said...

The connossieur point is a good one. So often--always!--context, history, media, etc. intervene in the experience. Which makes a work that can cut through all that so amazing: knocking vision back in some way, refreshening and renewing it. It takes a decision on the viewer's part, a dedication to look for it--which happens, in the case of the gallery or musuem, when s/he walks through the door and makes the call to stay or depart.
Performing artists seem to bring in the archetypical aspects more. I wonder if it's built in to the idea of 'live' performance, like sports or music: Individual derring-do under pressure. So while the performer is the character, the performer is also performing, and our awareness of that fact is a measure of the success of the performance.
A painting doesn't hang there, because it is always in some kind of situation that connossieurs, especially, will easily decipher.
Non-specialists do have a free engagement with art. Innocent viewing yields as much and as litle as innocence will, in my experience. It is all necessary!

6/14/2007 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

But Edward, Franklin's quote doesn't apply to kitsch. Potts's performance was kitsch. It had no redeeming formal qualities. Franklin yearns for formal art to provide that same feeling. Is it possible without getting maudlin?

6/14/2007 11:46:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

On my computer, the sound system is of the string and tin can variety, so I can’t say anything one way or the other about his singing. I do think, as Ed mentioned, the visual set up, the audience reaction etc may affect a viewers response.

I totally agree with Lisa’s comment, it was my first thought as well. This particular aria by Puccini is a sublime piece of music.

Ed, re I used van Gogh because one of his paintings (in the Hermitage) was the first time art made me tear up.

I’m impressed! Seriously, it makes me see you in a new light. I believe that understanding, no experiencing that an artwork has the power to ‘move you to tears’ is very important. It is a response which lies outside rational understanding, not the same as, but akin to falling in love. It is a pure emotional moment.

I would also not second guess this response, regardless of what you know or don’t know, if it happens it happens. It doesn’t really matter why because each time the reason may seem different.

To get even more esoteric on the subject. I think I disagree where you suggest we've been emotionally dumbed down a bit, I think what occurs is that we are too familiar with the artworks of the moment. That while we may like them a lot, we are too close to them emotionally and this affects our emotional response.

Also, I now think there is another form of the MYTT response which I think occurs more frequently and is characterized by the feelings of elation.

6/15/2007 12:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf singing Richard Strauss' four last songs.

6/15/2007 01:29:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Connoisseurship doesn't negate emotional response and pleasure.

Have 10 sopranos sing a particular aria. Then hear Jessye Norman sing it. You'll fall off your chair, she's so great. That's why she has such a devoted fanbase of connoisseurs, BUT you don't have to know the Wagner repertoire by heart to appreciate her voice. A great voice -- like a great Van Gogh -- is great on many levels.

6/15/2007 07:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

In theory, expertise makes you more aware, and usually does in practice too. But expertise may diminish possibilities in the expert's mind, to paraphrase Shunryu Suzuki. I have seen many examples of art experts who have trained against their awareness, and so doubt and smother their innate responses rather than cultivate them. I suspect that they didn't have much of an eye to begin with, but after gaining this kind of expertise, they have even less.

You need skill to get to art, but skill isn't art, and art can appear even in an uneven or incomplete display of skill. There are two germane mistakes: to think that art can only appear in a complete display of skill (this includes people who only like realism), and to think that art can only appear in an incomplete display of skill (this includes the majority of the art world right now). But art appears of its own accord in the process of using a skill in a heartfelt way. How great art appears is mysterious.

Potts's performance has excellent formal qualities. I know I couldn't get that sound out of my throat. He may be wanting as an opera singer (I defer to everyone else's judgment on that) but he can sing a credible Puccini aria, which means he can put form together in a skillful manner. We respond to good form with strong feeling. The underdog story is gravy. If he had coughed out a poor rendition, no one would have wiped their eyes afterwards, even with the same underdog story.

In writing, it is hard to say something consummately true. Good writers ask themselves: Is this right, or is it a cliche, or a stylistic flourish that sounds zippy but doesn't really say much, or a windy rant, or an exaggeration? Good writers strike out these falsities in revision. Looking at art is similar. People who are good at it don't talk themselves out of what they're seeing and feeling. They let seeing and feeling destroy what they've already decided. People who are not good at it talk themselves into and out of their feelings, based on decisions that largely derive from other people. With enough expertise, you can talk yourself into seeing things that aren't there. Inevitably you miss seeing what is there in the process. But such people have become standard. The market needs such experts. The big art glossies would shut down without them.

6/15/2007 07:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Chambliss Giobbi said...

I was a classical composer for 17 years before turning to visual art. After performances, recordings and a Guggenheim, letting it go was the hardest thing I've ever done.

The sublime feeling you get from the Potts aria can't really be felt when looking at a painting: it's specific to it's medium.

Musical ideas develop over time. When we hear Potts sing, the notes create an expectation, dissapointment,expectation and ultimately a wonderful relief. This is music's language.

To me, art has a different thrill. As an artist, while the sweeping, passionate moments aren't as physical and satisfying in art as in music, it sure is better to have pictures on your wall than scores on your shelf.

6/15/2007 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger Henry said...

Potts's performance has excellent formal qualities.

Franklin - "My kid can do it" has finally found its companion. "I couldn't do it" is now the criterion for artistic excellence. The legions of Americans with no artistic talent or printmaking training have just crowned Andy Warhol the king of art, with your blessing. Jon Bon Jovi could probably sing Nessun Dorma better than Potts did, and Potts certainly couldn't sing Bon Jovi's music half as well as he (nor am I trying to being facetious or facile).

6/15/2007 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Potts's performance has excellent qualities, and I can't get that sound out of my throat. Correlation does not equal causation. Thank you for not putting it there, using it as a basis for stupid conclusions, and saying I endorse them.

I am no expert on opera, and am also no expert on Bon Jovi. Nevertheless it would surprise me if Bon Jovi could sing opera, although I understand that the current singer for Judas Priest, Rob Halford's replacement, does have some classical training. In any case, I don't see how Henry's point is germane.

6/15/2007 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Cecilia said...

Art hasn't lost its ability to give goosebumps. A larger group of people are making, buying, and consuming art now than ever before because there still is good art out there.

What we don't have, to some extent, is risk.

What gives you goosebumps, and me goosebumps, and everyone else who has had an experience with art goosebumps, is the physical response to a risk taken by an artist that anticipates his or her contemporaries. This leap in thinking is what gives the piece its impact because it makes the artist's concerns all the more potent.

You had an experience with a Van Gogh and an aria by Puccini--both works to which you can give context. The bubble of time between you and the creator allows the genius of work to be painfully obvious--moving.

The challenge of viewing, understanding, and appreciating contemporary art is to hunt out the next move, to separate the "noise" art that fits into the current with the anticipatory and the daring (daring is not to be confused with flashy. Schnabel taught us this).

The problem with contemporary art is that we are its contemporaries.

And the problem with contemporary art education is a general discouragement of risk.

6/15/2007 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

Cecillia! Fantastic! I love this:

The problem with contemporary art is that we are its contemporaries.


I would say that risk IS the most important aspect of art (way more than "visual quality") because, to me, that is the point of art- its a way to be transgressive without going to prison.

As always folks, that be me humble opinion, and admitting that formal issues are incredlibly important in my own work. Its hip to be a hypocrite!

I also love thie above description of music:
Musical ideas develop over time. When we hear Potts sing, the notes create an expectation, dissapointment,expectation and ultimately a wonderful relief. This is music's language.

You go!

6/15/2007 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/16/2007 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger aurix said...

i think it's also a question of medium, as pointed out by Chambliss Giobbi. we experience visual art on a different time/space plane than music (or dance, or literature, or film), if that makes sense.

space is more static in visual art (speaking generally, of course). there are always works that defy the rules/transcend mediums. on average, too, it doesn't take 5 minutes to look at a painting in front of you, as it always does to listen to Nessun Dorma. i'm not talking about close examination, which can take as long as one wants, but about the initial perception:to perceive what's in front of you, which is normally how goosebumps experience occurs anyways. it's sudden and unexplainable. it doesn't come after close analysis, although it can.

6/18/2007 12:40:00 AM  

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