Monday, October 22, 2007

Pushing the Limits

A few months back we discussed the limits of contemporary art as raised by a Peter Schjeldahl quote on Chris Burden:
In pragmatic terms, art is a privileged zone of gratuitous activity, with boundaries maintained by the agreement of the vested authorities. Artists of the Duchampian sort delighted in effacing the boundaries, which, with increasingly avid complicity on the authorities’ part, kept being redrawn to corral the effacements. It was a silly game, in the end. Ultimate limits were discovered, most pointedly by Burden, whose influence on conceptual and installational artists, to this day, is immeasurable.
At that time I argued that:
Schjeldahl is most likely wrong. Burden did not discover the ultimate limits. We simply can't imagine them at this point because they'll be of a nature unlike any that we've previously considered.
I went on to pontificate that
My question is whether or not it's ever possible to reach the "ultimate limit" of the imagination. If there's one lesson from history we should have learned it's that there's always some surprise in store for us. I fully understand Burden and even Schjeldahl's desire to dissuade young artists from continuing Burden's earlier explorations, but I thought the best argument for doing so was the one of context Burden offered, not the notion that the ideas therein have been exhausted. Surely that's more likely to encourage some young Turk to attempt to prove them wrong, no?
I provide my earlier statements on this topic as background and context for my feelings about the exhibition by Costa Rican artist Guillermo Vargas that was brought to my attention by the artist "jec" who comments here frequently and I know in person to be both a great talent and lovely person. I'm not so sure I'd say either about Guillermo Vargas, however. Via DailyKos:
According to Nacion, as part of his exhibition, Vargas took a dog off the street, tied it up inside a gallery, and starved it while onlookers watched it die.
My first response to this story was that it's probably not wise to blog about it, because I really don't want to participate in giving this artist any publicity. Not only because I feel anyone who would actually do this should be locked up in prison, but also because it's a conceptually weak piece not worthy of that much attention in terms of good versus bad art.

However, too many of the responses I'm reading are mixing up their horror at the idea with whether it's "art" or not to do this. To me, though, in the context of a gallery, by a known artist, who's calling it his "art," I can't call it anything else. OK, so I can also call it a "crime," but that's a slightly different matter.

Here's how a blog on matters Costa Rican described the controversy:
A Costa Rican artist found himself in hot water with the animal protection people in his home country after using a starving, sick street dog as part of an exposition in Managua, Nicaragua, in August. Guillermo “Habacuc” Vargas allegedly found the dog tied up on a street corner in a poor Nicaragua barrio and brought it to the showing.

He tied the dog, according to furious animal lovers, in a corner of the salon where it died after a day. Habacuc’s exhibition included a legend spelled out in dog food reading “You are what you read,” photos and an incense burner that burned an ounce of marijauna and 175 “rock’ of crack cocaine. In the background, according to reports, the Sandista national anthem played backwards.

According to the artist, his “art” was a tribute to Natividad Canda, a Nicaraguan burglar killed in Costa Rica by two rottweilers guarding property he had entered at night. The incident caused friction between the two countries. Habacuc told the daily La Nacion, “I won’t say the dog died. The importance to me is the hypocracy of the people where an animal is the focus of attention where people come to see art but not when it’s in the street starving to death.”

“The same thing happened with poor Natividad Canda. The people sympathized with him only after he was dead,” the artist added.
I take it from that quote by the artist that perhaps the dog didn't really die (although I'm not sure), so I'll hope that's the case, but, professionally speaking, the piece fails regardless of whether that's the case or not. I'll be honest, I hope the entire thing is a stunt and the dog was not in any way harmed at all. I can't verify that either way, though, so I'll discuss the work as it's being reported. To be totally objective about the piece (leaving my moral outrage out of it for the moment), it fails because Vargas based the piece, in part, on a false parallel. There is no hypocrisy revealed here. A dog tied in a gallery and not fed will die. A stray dog left to its own devices in the streets at least has a fighting chance to survive, reproduce, and/or even enjoy moments of its life to some degree. The piece is weak because the premise is maudlin and false.

With that out of the way, however, let me say that personally I feel the piece is vile. It's vile because it's anti-nature and untrue (and as such, pointlessly cruel). A dog in a street is a human's equal in nature's eyes. Given the right circumstances, either can kill the other, either can help the other, either can ignore the other. Tied up for humans to contemplate in a gallery context, however, the dog is stripped of any shard of self-determination or control over its existence. Yes, this happens in other contexts all the time, but in those, it is a natural outcome of the circumstances of actors making sincere choices. In the context of a gallery, it's simply false.

According the Costa Rica blog above:
The artist apparently is unaware that at least three large, active organizations are dedicated in Costa Rica to the protection of animals and that several persons have been prosecuted for cruelty to animals.
Here's hoping Vargas finds plenty of time to consider why he failed, both as an artist and as a human, behind bars.

Labels:

136 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a urinal is "pointlessly cruel".

10/21/2007 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

to the urinal or you?

if to you, are you asking me to care?

if to the urinal, are there some meds you're supposed to be taking?

;-P

10/21/2007 08:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above anonymous comment is stupid. Vile is a good word to use to describe this artist who decided to make a dog suffer in a pathetic attempt to generate some attention and headlines and further his career. If the "artist" wants to relive the glory days of Vito Acconci and stalk strangers, whack off beneath the gallery floor boards, or bite himself wherever his mouth can reach, or follow in the footsteps of Burden and get a friend to shoot him or crucify himself to the exterior of a VW Bug that is his decision. There won't be a shred of originality involved. But please don't make other humans or animals suffer because it is an easy way to grab a headline. There is no imagination, innovation, complex meaning, involved in tormenting a helpless animal. Let's skip the finer points of argument and call this "event" exactly what it is, SADISM. If we start to award practitioners of SADISM art world accolades what possible direction can it all go in? Suffering and pain is real. We are not dealing with symbols or metaphors here. A real living thing was made to suffer in a gallery and the gallery is not some magical place that transports all those who enter it into a morality and ethics free zone. If this shithead tortured a dog anywhere else in public he would have been dealt with by the authorities or unfortunately gotten away with his crime. If the artist decides to turn his violent urges inwards and to inflict suffering upon himself I still won't consider it art in anyway, because it is psychological illness not avant-garde gesture.

ericgelber.livejournal.com

10/21/2007 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Ed, I eliminated this from my Friday roundup for exactly the reason that crossed your mind - I didn't want to give the artist any more publicity. Too, that Costa Rican blog looks like it's a little short on legitimacy. Caveat lector.

You have an additional problem that I wouldn't have faced: Determining that it failed as art means that it was worth evaluating as such in the first place. This relates to a point I made on this blog a while ago, that conceptual art has injured art as an honorific category. Because you believe that anything can become classified as art by conceptual fiat (eg, all the shoe stores in Amsterdam), it becomes morally urgent to argue that this act failed as art. Because what if it succeeded? We would have a horrible admission to make that something so reprehensible by all other metrics could succeed as art.

Unfortunately, the way you determined failure took advantage of the fact that the artist is clearly an idiot. A few minor adjustments could have made the statement align with the sentiment, or at least a possible sentiment. People are deprived of freedom and die in custody all the time around the world, and the outrage over this dog is greater than the attentions that many of them receive. That would be just one way to rescue the premise from being maudlin and false. In a few other ways that occur to me, the premise could be made apt and genuine, with the same outcome for the dog.

While it's hard to prove that something presented as art is not art, I'm moving away from the idea that mere presentation within an art context is enough to classify an object as art. I'm beginning to think instead that there have to be certain formal requirements to qualify. Care to join me? Because otherwise you'll have to find your own way around the ugly possiblity that someone could make successful art out of killing a dog, or worse.

10/21/2007 10:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't someone say that the 9/11 terror attacks were a great piece of performance art? I forget who said it, but of course people were outraged. Violent actions, large and small, are certainly spectacles, but if this dog-starving could be called art, then pretty much any action could be called art, including murder, war, suicide, rape, etc. (I guess we have Duchamp, then Acconci, Burden, et al, to thank for that.) I'm not sure how this semantic philosophizing really furthers the discussion on what can and cannot be art though.

kalista

10/21/2007 10:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I wonder if people feel that Hirst's shark died any more humanely or for better reasons. I don't.

10/21/2007 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger MLS said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/21/2007 11:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Maybe THOSE kind of people make that kind of art because theirs too much grease in their food.

10/21/2007 11:55:00 PM  
Blogger Hans said...

I remember a German Artist in Amsterdam in the 90s, who created a sort of installation/machine with living mice, where it was suggested that every day a mice will drown and the visitors of the Gallery could save its life by throwing coins into a connected box, who's weight would save the the mouse of drowning. I found this idea absolute ugly then.

Although I do not like either to let a dog suffer for art's sake, that artist from Costa Rica touched a sensible point, maybe the whole good old idea of "Ethics" and "Humanity" got long ago old-fashioned? Franklin made a good point with the connection to Hirst.

???

10/22/2007 01:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Mr Vargas might consider sacrificing his own life as his next masterpiece. I'm all for that.

10/22/2007 02:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't someone say that the 9/11 terror attacks were a great piece of performance art?

Hirst did

10/22/2007 04:44:00 AM  
Blogger nat said...

Your self-righteous post leaves me more disgusted than the death of a dog would.

It is art because you are responding to it(did the dog really die?)
Re-read the Schjeldahl article: "The avant-gardism of the time wasn’t only reliant on publicity; it was effectively about the mediums of information—specialized magazines, insider gossip—through which it became known. Burden strummed the network like a lyre."

And this is what the artist is doing and your response in a way confirms its "success".

Better to reflect on the failure of all political art in that it can be relegated to the realm of "art" and ignored... Again the Schjeldahl article: "“Doomed” unmasked the absurdity of the conventions by which, through assuming the role of viewers, we are both blocked and immunized from ethical responsibility." Would the patrons of you're gallery feed a dieing dog. Would they vote for health care for the poor? or for a presidential candidate who would withdraw from Iraq. Which is more important?

Why don't you, as a gallerist, make your customers fill out a questionnaire stating investments and voting record for the last 10 years. Only your customers with an approved voting history or those investing in appropriate(non-exploitative, etc.) companies would be allowed to purchase the art that you sell. You run a business- does it matter who you sell your work to? Or maybe you can just donate 5% of your take for a few months to a Costa Rican animal shelter. Or just vent your rage to show that really liberal art people "aren't like that"... a good way to defend your territory... and keep yourself immunized from the point, that a dieing dog put in a gallery can become a media spectacle worthy of comment, sympathy or outrage... while, well, when was the last time you blogged about a homeless Costa Rican who died on the street, etc.

10/22/2007 05:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Well gNAT, perhaps you and Mr Vargas should get together and both sacrifice your lives for the costa rican people instead of sacrificing puppies and hiding behind your laptop. But no. I guess you,d like to still be around when hopefully the guggenheim comes calling for that much savoured retrospective. Just imagine nat, Artforum covers and being "down" with the poor people at the same time.

10/22/2007 06:35:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

It's not ART

10/22/2007 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger Ethan said...

Franklin,
A conceptual jerk killing a dog for conceptual art doesn't make conceptual art illegitimate in-general any more than a traditional painter killing a dog for a traditional still life makes still lives illegitimate in-general.

Nat, lighten up. I really don't think this is the issue to draw a conservative/liberal line in the sand. And the argument that art is worthwhile simply because people respond to it is a weak one. It's easy to be provocative, it's hard to be moving.

10/22/2007 07:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nat's "It is art because you are responding to it..." is partly right. However, Nat, you miss the point here by comparing apples to oranges. There is a difference between art and killing. You really need to lighten up.

M

10/22/2007 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It is art because you are responding to it

I never said it wasn't art. In fact I said it is. It's also a crime, and I maintain it's also false, which makes it bad art.

The rest of your comment is incomprehensible to me. Please rephrase.

Bambino, we disagree. I understand why you (and Franklin) include a "noble endeavor" aspect to your definition of art. I love that about you, actually (and admire it in Franklin), but I find the act of illuminating the truth about the world (or at least trying to) noble in and of itself, and so to my mind if work discusses or explores the darker side of humanity, it can still be "art." The actions/morals of the artist and/or his/her subjects do not determine whether an effort is art or not.

I'm beginning to think instead that there have to be certain formal requirements to qualify. Care to join me?

Sorry, I can't. I'll agree that formal determinations can be useful in determining good art, but not in determining "art" per se.

Because you believe that anything can become classified as art by conceptual fiat (eg, all the shoe stores in Amsterdam), it becomes morally urgent to argue that this act failed as art.

Bit of projection there on your part, Franklin. It's not morally urgent. It's an honest assessment.

Because what if it succeeded?

Then I'd still support Mr. Vargas going to jail (because he commited a crime), but would be forced to acknowledge the piece succeeded. That doesn't mean I'd like the work though. I can still be offended by good art.

Here's what this boils down to for me: The original DailyKos post cites Mapplethorpe as an example of questionable "art" because the subject of his work was often graphically sexual and to many people's minds "anti-nature" as well (those being people who feel homosexuality is not natural and that human sexuality and desire isn't, I don't know, full spectrumed, let's call it).

There was a time in the US when many of the actions captured on film by Mr. Mapplethorpe would be illegal as well, making his work criminal in those contexts. So up to that point, we have a parallel between Mapplethorpe's work (which actually has all the formal perfection you're relying on for your definition of "art") and that of Mr. Vargas. The difference to me, however, is that Mr. Mapplethorpe's work, while perhaps criminal at one point, was all the while true (people really did shove bullwhips up their asses, etc., etc.). But the law changed, as the population evolved, and now Mr. Mapplethorpe's work can only be judged on whether it's good or bad, not whether it's criminal or not. None of which means (whether it's good or criminal) that his work can't still be seen as offensive. Some of it is offensive to me, I'll admit, but I still see it as both "art" and "good art."

I wouldn't support decriminalizing cruelty to animals though, so regardless of whether Mr. Vargas worked out the conceptual weaknesses of his piece, I'd still support throwing his sorry ass in jail.

10/22/2007 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

actually Franklin, now that I think about it a bit more, I understand your "morally urgent" comment, and agree. That is why I posted this.

I stand by the rest of my assessment though.

10/22/2007 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger jec said...

I'm glad this is being discussed here; thanks, Ed for posting about it. I've got a lot of random thoughts floating around in my brain, but can't come up with a coherent point to add right now. Maybe after a few cups of coffee....

10/22/2007 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why compare very posed and formal photos of consensual S&M sex and killing a dog? If Mapplethorpe kidnapped his subjects and raped them while taking pictures of the acts then I guess they could be compared. The jury is still out on the definition of art (luckily) so I agree that it is a waste of time arguing whether or not starving a dog to death in a gallery setting is a work of art or not. Luckily we don't have to argue about whether or not it is criminal. Artists should be able to use their imaginations to come up with non-murderous ways of portraying violence, injustice, and tragedy. Once civilization as we know it is in ruins we can enjoy the daily spectacles of murders and suicides from a purely aesthetic viewpoint. Until then artists can't fob themselves off as murderers and expect us to rub our chins and look for the profound ideas and sentiments behind the aberrant act. I am all for uncomfortable subject matter that reminds viewers how f-cked up the world is but as the MC5 put it on their classic album “Kick Out The Jams,” you have to decide if you are going to be “the problem or the solution.”

The German avant-garde composer Stockhausen was the first artist to call 9/11 a work of art and Hirst just copied him. After reading Nabakov for years I have to say that I do have a problem with Hirst killing all of those glorious butterflies to make his ostentatious and gaudy butterfly paintings. But I guess Hirst is just stealing from nature instead of another artist.

ericgelber.livejopurnal.com

10/22/2007 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger the expat/pissedpoet said...

If such an animal had been found on the streets of middle America an animal protection agency would have euthanatized it to put it out of its misery.
Unfortunately 80% of the world isn't middle America and consequently a whole different set of rules apply. And although they can see the dog food dished up by Hollywood they don't actually get to taste it.
Is it a work of Art? Unfortunately yes. Is it pretty? no. Is it criminal? depends on your affluence.

10/22/2007 09:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ortiz Montanez's performance at the Whitney in the 70's; he killed a few chickens, it was called art.

Who did the Goldfish and the blender?

The silk cacoons?

Tattoed pigs?

10/22/2007 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Why compare very posed and formal photos of consensual S&M sex and killing a dog? If Mapplethorpe kidnapped his subjects and raped them while taking pictures of the acts then I guess they could be compared.

rape? where did that come from?

I compare them only to illustrate my thinking about the fact that although I find the Vargas piece vile doesn't mean it's not art. Also to lead toward what I hoped would be a better explanation of how I define "art" (i.e., it can be something that offends me) and "good art" (again, it can be something that offends me.

Is it a work of Art? Unfortunately yes. Is it pretty? no. Is it criminal? depends on your affluence.

My feelings in a nutshell.

10/22/2007 09:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry but offending feelings and killing a living thing aren't the same in my book. That was the point I was trying to make. A big "no duh" on the point about how your life and thoughts are influenced by the environment you grow up in. If you want to make a point about the meat industry or the plight of stray dogs and cats then try to do it without killing something.

ericgelber.livejournal.com

10/22/2007 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In My Inbox this morning:

Hi All,

I got this last week & was ILL! I signed the petition right away & hope all you guys will too! Sorry to bum everybody out, but this guy (& everybody who had ANYthing to do with this show) needs to get locked up yesterday! I NEVER send out big bunches of stuff like this unless it's REALLY important...but I think this time it is. Sorry if I bothered any of you VERY busy folks!

-hrm


Fwd: Do You Think Torturing an Animal is Artwork?
Posted by: "Tamara Wyndham" tamarawyndham@yahoo.com tamarawyndham
Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:19 am (PST)

http://www.latinavihttp://
Do You Think Torturing an Animal is Artwork?

I'm horrified and disgusted. A very stupid man, who
calls himself an artist, let a sick dog die in one of
his "exhibits". His name is Guillermo Habacuc Vargas,
he's from Costa Rica and has been chosen to represent
his country in the "Bienal Centroamericana Honduras
2008."

I don't understand how anybody could choose this
imbecile to represent their country.

Last August, Habacuc created an exhibit called
"Exposición Nº1", in the Códice Gallery, located in
Managua, capital of Nicaragua. In the entrance of the
exhibit, visitors were received with a phrase in the
wall: "Eres lo que lees" ("You are what you read").
The letters were formed with dog food.

Soon after, the visitors were surprised by the most
horrid part of Habacuc's "creativity" horrid part
which was captured in the streets of Managua, was tied
to the wall. According to the "artist", his "Artwork"
represented a homage to Natividad Canda, a Nicaraguan
who was recently killed by two rottweilers.

Habacuc tried to justify, with this explanation, the
capture of a defenseless and sick dog, which he named
Natividad.

The dog didn't receive any veterinary care and wasn't
fed nor was offered water. Although many of the
visitors asked Habacuc to release the poor animal, he
refused to do so.

The dog remained captive, tied to the exhibit's wall,
until the day after the inauguration of the
installation, when it died of starvation, right in
front of the public's eyes.

First of all, why nobody did something to stop this?
How could the authorities let this moron, this
murderer do that? Why was this despicable man allowed
to torture an innocent and defenseless animal at will,
letting it starve to death?

You may think, "Well, it's just a dog". No, it's not.

As Rosa Montero wrote for El Pais, in "Respecto": "We
won't be capable of respecting ourselves, if we don't
respect the other living beings." You should read this
article.

There is an online petition, which is asking for a
boycott of Habacuc's work. The petition's goal is to
get Guillermo Habacuc Vargas banned form the "Bienal
Centroamericana Honduras 2008".

We can't save this poor dog anymore. But we can say to
the world this kind of SHIT is not acceptable; it is
not art. It's cruelty and abuse, and it can't be used
to represent any country in this Earth.

We couldn't save Natividad, but we can save other
animals from being tortured like this.

Link to read and sign the petition:

Boycott to Guillermo Habacuc Vargas' presence at the
Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008

I won't post any photos of the dog, but you can see
some here: 5 Piezas de Habacuc. There's more info
about Habacuc's exhibits. Check it out and you'll find
out he also thinks that burning crack and marijuana is
art. What a load of crap.

http://www.care2.http://www.carhttp://www.ca

Dear friends, this is very cruel and sad. An "artist"
from Costa Rica, named Guillermo Habacuc Vargas, put a
starved dog as a work of art, the poor doggie dead
there, he did not want anyone give him food o water.
This monster asked some childres to chase the dog and
he paid them for their dirty work to give him the dog.

In that event, (in which the dog died) he was chosen
to represent his country in the "Bienal
Centroamericana Honduras 2008",

the petition site is to sign to boycott him , so he
won't can participate in the event:
http://www.petitionhttp://www.http://wwhttp://wwhttp
Please see the pictures
http://www.marcaacmhttp://www.mhttp://www.mahttp://wwhttp://www.marchttp://www
(if you want you can write your opinion abaut this
"artist" below).
The emails of the Bienal to ask that this monster
wont't be select to representative of his country are:
bienalcostarica@bienalcos , info@madc.ac.in

"No matter how much the idiots may outnumber you, they're still the idiots."
--Daria Morgendorfer, animated philsopher

"Never underestimate the power of a large group of stupid people."
--George Carlin, occupation foole

'Each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand mediocre
minds appointed to guard the past.' - Maurice Maeterlinck

10/22/2007 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very powerful artwork addressing the moral dilemma of standing by and witnessing (photographing) human atrocity, suffering and ultimate death without doing anything to aid the victim— Alfredo Jaar's Sound of Silence
http://live.glasstire.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=218>sect=Articles>cat=Review

10/22/2007 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

A conceptual jerk killing a dog for conceptual art doesn't make conceptual art illegitimate in-general any more than a traditional painter killing a dog for a traditional still life makes still lives illegitimate in-general.

Ethan, I wasn't discussing the legitimacy of conceptual art, which I thought was lacking long before this sorry thing came along. I agree with you that this piece would not make the whole genre illegitimate, though. This is an atrocity looking for a context.

I was, however, talking about how conceptual art has injured the idea of art as an honorific category. The word "art" and its Latin precedent "ars" have for millennia referred to human efforts characterized by skill and beauty. Thanks to conceptual art, "art" can no longer be used in that way. So either "art" is no longer an honorific, or the piece under discussion belongs in an honorific category. It has to be one or the other.

10/22/2007 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Henri said...

Aside from the moral and ethical issues - Would this piece be considered art outside the context of the gallery? Is it art only because it was presented in a gallery? How important is the delivery system in determining the artistic merit of ANY presentation? If the gallery acts as the clearinghouse for the presentation of art & ideas then is the gallerist the arbiter of what art is and how it is shown and contextualized? Does the artist need the gallerist to affirm that the presentation is art? Is the gallerist complicit in the art making?

10/22/2007 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger hovie said...

Nat has made a very important contribution to this debate. The following comment in particular is an important one and deserves a response from everyone reading this blog:

Would the patrons of you're gallery feed a dieing dog.

I don't know what kind of gallery displayed this act, but one wonders about the gallery's culpability as well.

10/22/2007 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger hovie said...

Why can't 9/11 be a work of art? Does an act's being "art" make it any less a filthy crime? And vice versa? When something is art, does that mean it's nothing else?

Is art an exclusive category, so something can only be art, and nothing but art? Is it because we expect "Art" to be removed from reality?

Chris Burden had himself shot, but still there was an aura of stagecraft about it, a level of remove. Does an act stop becoming art when "someone gets hurt"? Is it this removal from reality, moreso than having some "honorific," or having some "delivery system," that makes it "art"?

Do we still demand that art be the first syllable of artifice?

10/22/2007 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger KV said...

The necessity to call it art, whatever is presented in the context of art, is absurd.
The poor dog was victim of an action. We should discuss it as such, and judge it as such; good or bad, efficient or not. Here we could say a bad action that was efficient, viewing all it stirred up.
There are actions and staged events that call our attention and reaction, and we can discuss it without the need to call it art.

10/22/2007 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

The bottom line is killing someone alive is crime. Killing someone in the art gallery space does not make the crime is art. I will have a respect for anyone who will disagree with me, but that's what I believe and that's what I think it's right.

10/22/2007 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Sorry but offending feelings and killing a living thing aren't the same in my book. That was the point I was trying to make.

Point well taken.

I may have made a mess by trying to combine two ideas into one. First is that just because some action is illegal doesn't mean it's not "art." Second just because something that's perhaps legal offends us, again doesn't mean it's not "art." This is not meant to be an all encompassing summary of the case in hand, as much as it is merely an fleshing out of my explanation for why I must call Vargas' piece "art" regardless of how vile it is.

Bambino, I agree it's a crime. I'm just saying a crime can still be "art." Again, the photographs Mapplethorpe took were of actions that until recently were crimes...but they're still "art."

10/22/2007 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The necessity to call it art, whatever is presented in the context of art, is absurd.

We disagree. In fact, I'd say the need to distance certain work from "art" is absurd. Mature people can discuss why certain art is criminal or offensive without having to downgrade it to something less than "art."

To suggest those things can't be "art" is to suggest art must somehow be only about approved things or actions. The question of "approved by whom" comes next with all its implications of censorship.

I'm sorry, but to my mind, the need to protect "art" from immoral associations is immature and borderline authoritarian.

10/22/2007 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

Bambino, I agree it's a crime. I'm just saying a crime can still be "art." Again, the photographs Mapplethorpe took were of actions that until recently were crimes...but they're still "art."


Why dont we call some many crimes as art than? And let some criminals out because they might be artists???

10/22/2007 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Again, the photographs Mapplethorpe took were of actions that until recently were crimes...

Crimes of consent are hardly crimes.

To suggest those things can't be "art" is to suggest art must somehow be only about approved things or actions. The question of "approved by whom" comes next with all its implications of censorship.

We decide on our own as individuals what is good art and what is bad art. I don't see why we can't do the same for what is and isn't art. I was thinking, in fact, that just because the art world as a whole can't use "art" as an honorific doesn't mean that I can't. Maybe I'll start and see who follows.

10/22/2007 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger KV said...

There is no need to downgrade, Edward. An act is an act whether done within the gallery or outside in the street. To kill a president in the theatre you can see it as an act, but not necessarily as theatre.

10/22/2007 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

There is no need to downgrade, Edward. An act is an act whether done within the gallery or outside in the street. To kill a president in the theatre you can see it as an act, but not necessarily as theatre.

Granted, which is why my original statement on the subject was as explicit as it was:

"in the context of a gallery, by a known artist, who's calling it his 'art,'"

The three elements together-- clear context, clear artist as author, clear intent--leave me with no alternative but to accept it as "art." The question I have to answer is whether it's any good or not.

We might have to agree to disagree on this one Bambino. I understand your feelings on this, but if I decide that something isn't art because it's also a crime, that could lead to institutional censorship, which I can't in good conscience be part of. My role isn't to say what is or isn't "art." That's an artist's role. My role is to decide what's good or bad art.

Crimes of consent are hardly crimes.

They can still land you in prison.

We decide on our own as individuals what is good art and what is bad art. I don't see why we can't do the same for what is and isn't art.

My point of view is that for us (i.e., anyone other than the artist in question) to decide something isn't "art" for him/her is to authoritarianly limit potential progress or new revelations. It's to take away the artist's autonomy. That's an Orwellian nightmare scenario to me.

The only way to avoid this, in my opinion, is to let any artist offer any action or product as their "art" and then let the law and the public's reaction to it do the rest. It doesn't cheapen the rest of "art" for someone to put forth something the rest of us agree is crap. It does cheapen the rest of "art" for the rest of us to dictate the boundaries of what we'll accept as such.

I honestly feel when folks say "that's not 'art'" they mean simply that "that's not good art." As Finch notes, most art sucks. So clearly being sucky doesn't make something not "art." Being criminal, or vile, or immoral doesn't make something not "art" either.

I feel like a broken record....

10/22/2007 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

actually, I fell into a trap of my own making via laziness here...art cannot be immoral...it can be criminal or vile though.

10/22/2007 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

If anything can be art then certainly art can be immoral.

10/22/2007 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

What sucks is that no one else did anything to stop it.

10/22/2007 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

"The Shape of Things" is a pretty good film that deals with ethical issues in art. It is about a female art student who tries to "shape" a guy she is dating for her art thesis project, the moral or ethical issue comes in how she goes about it which is rather cruel.

As someone with 2 black labs for whom i would die, i must say im appalled by what apparently happen here. But in answer to Franklin's idea that all conceptual art limits art's honorific category I just want to say that Yoko Ono wrote the word "yes" and not "no" on that ceiling. When John Lennon climed that ladder and saw that he wanted to meet her.
This Costa Rican artist unwisely chose to use the word "no". There are many ways using this dog he could have chosen "yes". I can imagine at least one.

10/22/2007 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

What sucks is that no one else did anything to stop it.

Totally agree.

If anything can be art then certainly art can be immoral.

Yeah, I knew I had dug myself a ditch there...

I'll probably make a right mess of this as well, but let me try to clarify my position on this. Performance art has two components: The idea and the actual performance. The idea---any idea---cannot, to my mind, be immoral. I can't subscribe to the notion that any thought is immoral. An idea is an idea and worthy of consideration, if not shared for fear of what others will think of you, but not because it's immoral to have thought of it. Likewise an idea cannot be a crime either. Any position less than that open borders on needing thought police, etc. etc.

The actual performance is another matter. Here morality does enter into the picture as does the law. Although the performance is a component of the art, it's not the entirety of it. Performance art, like much conceptual art, exists before and beyond the actual time of an actual act, if the act takes place at all via the idea. Again, an idea cannot be immoral. An act can.

Does that make my POV clearer or worse?

There are many ways using this dog he could have chosen "yes".

Nice point.

10/22/2007 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I agree that ideas cannot be immoral. But that's just you and me. A lot of people feel differently, I think.

10/22/2007 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger prettylady said...

Ideas leave not their source, darlings; therefore 'morality' is a construct of the ego. But enough of that.

I am sorry to report that tying up dogs and leaving them to starve to death is an activity so frequent as to be mundane in Mexico; I imagine this habit may extend to other central and South American countries as well, though my eyewitness accounts are confined to the rooftops I was able to view from my own in Guanajuato. Generally, people from First World countries arrive in Mexico, are horrified, start their own SPCAs, and then give up after a year or two due to local indifference.

I myself was forced to watch and listen to a Rottweiler on a too-short choke chain expire miserably; its owners tied it up so tightly that it could not lie down and left town. I was physically unable to break down their door to reach the dog, and no local authority would bother to respond to a report about mere dog torture.

We, as First Worlders, in our multi-culti liberalism, frequently forget that other cultures really do view life, death and suffering differently than we do, and are perfectly capable of running their lives with a complete lack of the empathy which comes naturally to us. I imagine this Costa Rican artist is genuinely surprised at the outcry in response to his 'piece.' Perhaps he will learn something.

10/22/2007 02:28:00 PM  
Anonymous kelli said...

I wonder how many pet loving New Yorkers would have a problem with public funding for Tom Otterness's puerile subway scupltures if they knew he shot a puppy years ago as part of a "performance" piece.
College students in the Midwest protested university funds being used to buy one of his sculptures for this reason. His excuse was that he was struggling in his career and depressed. Most college students are depressed and living on ramen noodles and toast yet somehow they manage not to slaughter innocent animals.

10/22/2007 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Arthur Danto there is not and does not have to be an obvious or noticeable difference between art and non-art. Art can be a thing, action, event, or the antithesis of any of these. We should ask these questions: Did killing a dog change the world? Did killing a dog anger people? Will killing a dog be remembered for generations to come as an important work of art? Will killing a dog become a new genre? Will historians write about the artist who killed a dog? Will artists decide to become anti-killing a dog artists? Will the act of killing a dog be appropriated by an artist in the future? Did the gallery give the dead dog a proper burial? Did gallery goers enter the gallery while the dog was starving to death and rub their chins and say “Hmm.” Did people see a picture of the dieing dog in the ARTS section of the newspaper and say, “That’s not art!” How long did the gallery leave the dead dog on the gallery floor? Did they have wine and cheese at the opening? Did the dog beg for food at the opening? Did the gallery owner or the artist clean up the urine and shit that collected on the gallery floor? Did the artist give the dog a name before it died? And most important of all, did someone buy the dead dog or pictures/video of it?

ericgelber.livejournal.com

10/22/2007 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

disagree, but it's messy.

One can have immoral thoughts.
There is a difference between thought and action. Certain thoughts, such as the thought of killing someone, can be said to be immoral as a description of how they may exist in the world of actions.

The relationship between thoughts and ideas is more complex if one views thoughts as existing in the mind and ideas as a more formed or external manifestation of the thought.

It seems to me that this piece is, in one aspect, about manifesting an immoral idea and making the audience complicit in it’s immorality.

One might argue that such an installation could serve to draw our attention to how we can become complicit in immoral acts by ignoring them. Unfortunately this is the status quo, we know the problem, where do we go from here, to find a solution?

10/22/2007 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger prettylady said...

To suggest those things can't be "art" is to suggest art must somehow be only about approved things or actions.

I ask you, Edward, what comes to your mind when you read these sentences:

'She artfully twisted the canopy over the outhouse.'

'He artfully led the conversation away from politics, and on to the congenial subject of his star performance at soccer.'

Does not the term 'artful' connote something akin to grace? Adroitness, elegance, skill or craft, applied to a purpose?

Does grace require approval to be graceful, or does it merely require grace?

10/22/2007 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger prettylady said...

I would say that Vargas' act quite clearly lacks grace.

10/22/2007 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

George sez:
The relationship between thoughts and ideas is more complex if one views thoughts as existing in the mind and ideas as a more formed or external manifestation of the thought.

This touches on something Franklin wrote about recently. Ideas and thoughts actually do exist in the real world. They're patterns in the fabric of the world. There is, as Franklin says, no "out there" and "in here" -- it's all one place, and the things "in our heads" are actually arrangements of real things, e.g. neurons, electrical potentials, chemical structures, and so on.

Looking at it that way, it is possible to have immoral thoughts and ideas, if one's definition of morality includes "forbidden" arrangements of real-world objects.

10/22/2007 03:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Arthur Danto there is not and does not have to be an obvious or noticeable difference between art and non-art. Art can be a thing, action, event, or the antithesis of any of these. We should ask these questions: Did killing a dog change the world? Did killing a dog anger people? Will killing a dog be remembered for generations to come as an important work of art? Will killing a dog become a new genre? Will historians write about the artist who killed a dog? Will artists decide to become anti-killing a dog artists? Will the act of killing a dog be appropriated by an artist in the future? Did the gallery give the dead dog a proper burial? Did gallery goers enter the gallery while the dog was starving to death and rub their chins and say “Hmm.” Did people see a picture of the dieing dog in the ARTS section of the newspaper and say, “That’s not art!” How long did the gallery leave the dead dog on the gallery floor? Did they have wine and cheese at the opening? Did the dog beg for food at the opening? Did the gallery owner or the artist clean up the urine and shit that collected on the gallery floor? Did the artist give the dog a name before it died? And most important of all, did someone buy the dead dog or pictures/video of it?

ericgelber.livejournal.com

10/22/2007 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Mr. Winkleman. I didn't mean to re-post an entry you previously deleted for whatever reason. My apologies.

ericgelber.livejournal.com

10/22/2007 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Eric,

I didn't delete any comments. Must have been a blogger.com bug.

10/22/2007 03:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

But in answer to Franklin's idea that all conceptual art limits art's honorific category I just want to say that Yoko Ono wrote the word "yes" and not "no" on that ceiling.

I didn't say that no examples of conceptual art are well-intentioned. I said that conceptual art undermined associations of art with skill and beauty that go back for millennia. If art need not be skillful, beautiful, material, or anything else, then it can't be an honorific category. This seems self-evident to me.

If the piece that Chris linked to above is correct, then it should be possible for awareness to form internal representations that run up against one's own morality, and would run up against that of others if you acted on them. That would mark them as immoral.

10/22/2007 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

To follow-up on why this piece is a failure, the fact that most of the conversation falls into the "that's not art" category, rather than the issues Vargas supposedly wanted to explore, says it all to my mind. If anything, art does have the responsibility to be about, at least in part, what it's about. Unless the piece was about "what is art?" it's bad.

10/22/2007 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

if you acted on them

is the key.

All the rest is simply a matter of whether you dwell upon them (as opposed to whether they occur to you, you consider them, and reject or accept them) after you've concluded it would be immoral to do them. That dwelling is actually an "act." So I'll stick with my assessment that there are no immoral thoughts.

10/22/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Another thought, it occurs to me that the ‘art world’ the realm of criticism, can accept the responsibility of rejecting this piece as art.

Just because we tacitly agree that ‘anything can be art’ does not imply that everything is art. Art is determined by the culture, and the culture can choose to reject something by simply saying it is ‘not art’ and ignoring it.

So while Mr. Dogkiller is asking us to accept his work as ‘art’, we as viewers, critics etc, members of the contemporary culture, are NOT required to accept it as art, even as bad art. To be fair, in many cases, I do not think this can be done simply by decree, but that it requires a cogent argument to counter a number of valid arguments in favor of ‘anti-art’ as a class of art, along with the issues surrounding censorship.

As a culture we decide what represents this moment in history to those in the future. We choose.

10/22/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Ed sez:
Unless the piece was about "what is art?" it's bad.

How are we to tell what a work of art is "supposed" to be about?

10/22/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Ed sez:
All the rest is simply a matter of whether you dwell upon them...

Ed, I knew you were brought up Christian but I had no idea you still are a Christian!

10/22/2007 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Art is determined by the culture, and the culture can choose to reject something by simply saying it is ‘not art’ and ignoring it.

Again, to my mind, that's conflating "good art" with "Art."

How are we to tell what a work of art is "supposed" to be about?

Well, the artist told you in his quote. Besides, as horrific as it is he did it, the piece is a bit of a one liner.

Ed, I knew you were brought up Christian but I had no idea you still are a Christian!

Is that where I got that? Damned cultist freaks.

10/22/2007 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

The "but did you dwell on it?" question is standard Catholic routine. "You had impure thoughts," says the priest, "but did you entertain them?" That's the difference between not a sin and a venial sin right there.

Now, more important things:
How are we to tell what a work of art is "supposed" to be about?

Well, the artist told you in his quote.

But what if everything the artists says or writes about the work is part of the work? How do we know whether the artist sincerely means to say "This is what the work is about" and not "This is what I want you to think the work is about to make my real point, which is what the work is really about"?

10/22/2007 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger nat said...

Perhaps, Edward, that is the failure not of the art but of the audience, first the audience in the gallery, and secondarily the blog-o-response. What would an ethical response to this story really be? To condemn it as not art? I find this equivalent to carping about Brittany Spears being a bad mother.(Petty moralizing, Scapegoating, etc.)

That was the point of my original post(sorry if it seemed too personal)and my outrage was a mimicking and exaggeration of the outrage over the death of the dog(and I shouldn't drink and post).

Also, the media effect--suddenly the dog is famous and is the object of worldwide(on the internet)sympathy whereas it might have died on the street anonymously-- is parallel to the case of the burglar killed by rottweilers. So Vargas did "sucessfullly" recreate this media effect. It is easy to sympathize with a single publicized event while not caring, say, about all the starving dogs in Costa Rica?

I still find it odd that he was burning crack in the gallery too...But, if you are what you read I better stop here.

10/22/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

if you acted on them is the key.

I presume that you have some kind of mechanism in your awareness that tells you whether a thought ought or ought not be acted upon. I call the mechanism "morality," and the thoughts it decides against "immoral." You can frame it some other way if you like.

My point of view is that for us (i.e., anyone other than the artist in question) to decide something isn't "art" for him/her is to authoritarianly limit potential progress or new revelations. It's to take away the artist's autonomy. That's an Orwellian nightmare scenario to me.

I've been mulling this over and I'm liking it less and less. If you're not going exercise authority over your own art viewing, to whom or what do you cede it? Señor Dogkiller? Sure, you have to pay attention to what's going on and exercise self-criticism, but ultimately you have to rely on your two eyes for what they're worth. People giving up their autonomy is what results in the Orwellian scenario. And sadly, in this art world people have given up their autonomy en masse. At Art Basel you can almost hear bleating. In Artforum you can read bleating. It's scary.

10/22/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger nat said...

Last note- has the factual basis of this controversy actually been established? I thought that was part of the point of "you are what you read"... maybe I'll be proved wrong.

10/22/2007 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I hope you're right Nat. (I'm not sure it has been established).

That doesn't make it any less vile though.

10/22/2007 05:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the well documented or completely falsified event, the starving of a dog in the name of art, isn't bad art or a failure in any sense of the word. It is all about the failure of the gallery-goer witnesses to the event and the b(f)loggers response to the Internet text that has now become holy writ so to speak.

(The rest of my response to Nat can be found at:
ericgelber.livejournal.com. Shameless plug, I know...But long responses on blogs can be tiresome to read.)

10/22/2007 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

What would an ethical response to this story really be? To condemn it as not art?

Yes, that’s one possibility.

However, I think everyone has fallen for the artists true intentions to shock the audience for his own self aggrandizement. (well, ok, maybe that’s just another possibility)

If, one has a wounded animal, or person, then mistreats and neglects them, chances are their condition will get worse, possibly leading to death. This is a fairly simplistic law of nature that as sentient beings we are all aware of. So nothing that occurs in the course of this dogs waning life is to be seen as unexpected, one can starve and neglect an animal until it dies. The only question is, how long will it take?

Certainly, animals, both domestic and wild, die equally horrible deaths every day. Certainly, animals die of mistreatment and brutality every day. However dark, it is a fact of life we are all aware of.

If we have two wounded and neglected dogs, plus two people who mistreat these animals in a cruel way leading to their death. Would you, the reader, find this offensive? Now suppose, one of these people performs this cruel act under the guise of calling it art. In this case the ONLY difference (by definition) of this action is that in one case the person maltreating the animal is calling it "art" as an excuse. Are you willing to accept "art" as an excuse?

How would you feel if Mr. Dogkiller had nursed this animal back to health?

All the other wild, malnourished, mistreated dogs in the world do not matter. It doesn’t matter if one dies every minute, for the rest of your life. What matters, is one person stepping in and saving a life that is on the frail edge of extinguishing. It does not matter if the life is lost the next day, death is inevitable in spite of our wishes. What matters is that one person intercedes in an attempt to make something better. It does not matter if they succeed, the reward is in having tried.

10/22/2007 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

G - Art is determined by the culture, and the culture can choose to reject something by simply saying it is ‘not art’ and ignoring it.

Ed - Again, to my mind, that's conflating "good art" with "Art."


No. What I am suggesting is that ‘good’ is a term that gets attached to the works that the culture accepts as art. In the process, the culture may use past metrics to help make the decision, but this is not requirement. The culture responds by rewarding the art that resonates with the cultural moment, including its reflexive view of history, with elevated status. This elevated status becomes an extension of the definition or meaning of ‘good’

By choosing to reject something as art, by implication the culture is indicating it is ‘not good’ through the process of disinterest, the culture just doesn’t care.

10/22/2007 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

George, while previewing, I see our responses are getting crossed, but I worked on this one, so I'll post it anyway....

What would an ethical response to this story really be? To condemn it as not art?

Actually this is a more revealing question than anything I've come up with so far toward my main point in that by answering "yes" one divulges that anything considered "art" is seen as somehow categorically superior to other actions/things.

I know this is part of art's romantic myth, but I really think the best art is the result of a smart, talented person who works hard and there's nothing all that romantic, or at least sacred, about it.

Still, by suggesting we downgrade an action or object to something less than "art" because it offends us suggests that we do indeed bestow some special talisman-like status on "art." Any art. All art.

I don't agree that we do.

I believe we bestow special status on good art (with the caveat that there will never be total agreement, and sometimes "good" art isn't obvious to a majority for some time). Bad art collects dust or gets recycled or destroyed and in that sense is just as "condemned" by history/contemporary society as offensive art.

But that still doesn't make it "not art." Condemning something offensive to the "not art" category is an attempt to punish the artist, it seems, and again begins to sneak into censorship territory.

10/22/2007 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Ed, interesting. One thing, we are in the middle of this debate as a conceptual event of the moment. These types of controversies occur all the time (albeit for different reasons) and generally are soon forgotten.

When I wrote "To condemn it as not art?" I understood how this remark could be misinterpreted. However, it is, what I think actually occurs in fact. These little cultural controversies occur and ultimately some sort of cultural consensus is formed. To condemn something as ‘not art’ is fairly simple, less directed and occurs frequently, we just ignore it.

10/22/2007 07:17:00 PM  
Anonymous eva said...

Note: The exhibition is taking place in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Isn't that a factor to be considered?

;)

10/22/2007 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

eva,

why?

10/22/2007 07:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question raised by the work is what does it take to elicit pathos? To enrage? To activate? To state?

10/22/2007 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

You're not off the hook yet, Ed - as hard as it is to prove that something presented as art is not art, it's equally hard to prove that there's any functional difference between bad art and non-art. Most kinds of objects have a function. If something fails this function to a great degree, it stops belonging to that class. If you rip the seat, back, and two legs off of a chair, you have chair legs, not just a bad or failed chair. A feather duster is not just a very bad can opener. But if things become art by conceptual fiat, you can deprive an object of qualities to the very edge of its existence and still not disqualify it from the category of art.

And yet art has no inherent or common trait except that bestowal of special status that even you admit to granting. Ellen Dissanayake uses almost those exact terms for the creation of art: the act of making special. (And sure enough, I can get conceptual art's proponents upset by arguing that they support a kind of work that injures "art" as an honorific category.) This would tend to suggest that good art is art and bad art is non-art, at least among objects that aspire to be art.

I would agree that one ought not disqualify a thing as art simply because it's offensive. But if a thing is offensive, mismatches execution and sentiment, fails to enoble, explicate, or communicate via any formal or conceptual channel, and is otherwise harmful and sad, we have two or three (or fifteen or twenty) millennia of precedent, a certain amount of self-respect and basic decency, and some common sense behind disqualifying the thing as art. So I'm with Bambino here, and therefore you know I'm right. At least if you value peace in the house. :)

Of course, we have a particularly horrid act to consider by way of example. I think it would be harder for me to make my case using something more mainstream, like an uninteresting painting. Nevertheless I think I'm on to something, so thank you for the conversation.

10/22/2007 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

The question raised by the work is what does it take to elicit pathos? To enrage? To activate? To state?

This is intellectual bullshit.

If I hit Mr. Dogkiller with a baseball bat, would this answer the question "what does it take to elicit pain?"

This line of inquiry is intellectually misdirected.

10/22/2007 08:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Really interesting post for the moral dillemas it raises.
Mr Vargas' "piece" fails firstly as politics. I can't imagine costa rican peasants on rooftops shouting viva vargas el saviour. Or feverishly buying artforum mags. He will change nothing.
Secondly as art all his work highlights (as most political art does) is the inability of art to effect change outside its own parameters. Just as a plumbers convention wont stop starvation in africa.
But the wanton cruelty to the animal, the Gallerys complicity, and the artists own deluded ambitions for this work just highlight how career ambition can morally corrupt ones take on reality. Mr Vargas doesnt really care about the plight of costa ricans. He's a Fashion Victim.

10/22/2007 09:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George, if you hit Mr. Dogkiller with a baseball bat, I hope it is after you set the dog free and give it some food.

10/22/2007 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I appreciate Bob’s measured response. Rather than just blindly accepting someone else’s explanation of the work, he thought it through for himself.

A difficulty in this type of work is that it fails as metaphor and metaphor is a device created by the culture, which allows one to call up pathos (or…) indirectly, without resorting to the performance of an immoral act. The direct act of cruelty, provides little distance for the viewer and is essentially on the same level as striking someone with a baseball bat.

If we allow for a gray zone at the boundary of the immoral acts, and accept that some acts are immoral, then a act of cruelty masked ‘as art’ creates more problems than it solves. If we hypothetically allow ‘cruelty as art’, an art of the immoral, where do we draw the line as the definition of its boundary escalates? Would one suggest that we call gas chambers (yes, those gas chambers) art, because they elicit pathos? Or fear? Or hate? Or any of the other negative and painful emotions?

I suggest that we cannot just stand by and accept this as art, une petite mort, and just move on as if it never happened? At what level of escalation does our intellectual gamesmanship fail us with revulsion? At what point do you say "no"

10/22/2007 10:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Eva said...

George,

In order to widen the spectrum of
interpretation.

It might be that the artist would have chosen a different way to communicate the same ideas for a new york audience? He is a central american artist and the exhibition was in central america. He might wanted to be a relevant actor in the collective programing of the central american mind and not the 'universal'one...?

10/22/2007 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i ate dog soup in korea. nothing like a hot bowl of dog soup under a blue tarp tent to end a night of drinking.

about this death... the quotes posted tell two different stories. one of them says that the dog was taken to the gallery and starved, the other says a sick starving dog was taken to the gallery and died within a day. two very different scenarios.

did he kill the dog, or did he make a dog's death public?

10/23/2007 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Eva,

That's what I thought you meant, I wanted to see you flesh it out.

I accept the cultural differences but for the reasons I stated previously, I think this is a failed effort. It moves towards cruelty, as an exploitation to achieve some other goal. I believe world art, has to decide if this is what it desires to embrace, or if is something it chooses to ignore.

I don’t believe that just because someone says something is art, that I am compelled to accept it as art. I am not willing to accept Today’s Tyrant executing an immoral act in the name of art. I think such activities must be given a careful response in order to avoid justifying or condoning, an act masked as art, that would otherwise be condemned by society.

10/23/2007 12:19:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Well if this was a preplanned work of agitprop art, when did the dog come into the picture? The day before? A week before? Was this something that was conceptualized and executed within 24 hours. Or, did Mr. Dogkiller spot this neglected and sick dog several days before the start of the exhibition? Did he keep that poor dog hungry and thin so he could exploit it the following week? You are right, there are a number of unanswered questions here.

10/23/2007 12:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Gallery released this letter:

"EXPLANATION OF GALERIA CODICE
Managua, 19 of October
Gallery Codice from its creation in 1991, has promoted the Central American, but specially the Nicaraguans visual arts, as much in the national level, like in regional and the international. In Codice they have exposed great Central American teachers, as well as consolidated and emergenging artists. The contemporary languages of the universal art also have had space in Codice, reason why periodically it welcomes samples of conceptual art. With that spirit, Thursday 16 of August just last No.1 Exhibition appeared, of the Costa Rican artist, Guillermo Vargas, known artistically as HABACUC.

One of the exposed works consisted of presenting/displaying a famélico dog that Habacuc gathered off the street, and during the exhibition he appeared moored with a nylon cord, that was subject as well to another cord that hung of two nails in a corner of the Gallery. Habucuc named the dog "Natividad" in tribute to the Nicaraguan Natividad Canda (24 years) that died devoured by two Rottweiler dogs in a factory of San Jose, Costa Rica, the dawn of Thursday 10 of November of 2005.

The dog remained in the premises three days, from the 5pm afternoon of Wednesday 15 of August. He was loose all along in the inner patio, except the 3 hours that the sample lasted, was fed regularly with dog food that the same Habucuc brought. Surprise, to the dawn of Friday 17, the dog escaped happening through the iron doors of the main entrance of the building, while the nocturnal watchman who finished feeding cleaned it the outer sidewalk of the same one.

The Gallery Codice reserves the right of guarding by the quality of the exposed works, respecting at any moment the creativity of the artist and it has never tried to exert no type of censorship, as long as they do not attempt against the elementary principles of the ethics and much less than they imply the life of a living being, is human or animal. I thought to remain with "Natividad", but he preferred to return to his own habitat. I celebrate the one that so many people in the international level have been annoying by the declarations offered by Habacuc, in which she maintained that its intention was to let die to the starvation dog, which is of its absolute responsibility. When fulfilling informing the truth into the facts, I hope that all those same people have also elevated their voice of repudio when Natividad Canda was devoured by the Rottweiler.

Kindly, Juanita Bermúdez
Director Gallery Codice Managua, Nicaragua"

10/23/2007 02:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here is the source of the above press release. it was sent to that blogger by the gallery

10/23/2007 02:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re:

"If we allow for a gray zone at the boundary of the immoral acts, and accept that some acts are immoral, then a act of cruelty masked ‘as art’ creates more problems than it solves. If we hypothetically allow ‘cruelty as art’, an art of the immoral, where do we draw the line as the definition of its boundary escalates? Would one suggest that we call gas chambers (yes, those gas chambers) art, because they elicit pathos? Or fear? Or hate? Or any of the other negative and painful emotions?"

As it happens and as you are probably aware, the historical military regime famous for the employment of gas chambers had very specific ideas about the emotions their art was meant to elicit. If the populace had, at the time had the access to images of horrific atrocities that they had to delicious, seductive and assuring propaganda, what might the outcome have been?

10/23/2007 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

thanks for sharing that press release. As I noted in the original post, it was difficult to find much in the way of credible evidence that the dog had truly died. The artist, refusing to say one way or the other, though, still deserves the scorn he's getting. Plus kidnapping the dog for his art is still cruelty to me, so I'd still favor him doing some time behind bars.

10/23/2007 07:53:00 AM  
Blogger Ethan said...

And sure enough, I can get conceptual art's proponents upset by arguing that they support a kind of work that injures "art" as an honorific category.

It doesn't really make me upset... to be honest the statement just doesn't make (much) sense to me.

I think you're harking back to a golden age that never existed... so that we have a better grip on what you're proposing, could you suggest a time & place whose attitudes towards art we should emulate? The Middle Ages (great, we'll all be limited to religious art)? 19th Century France? Oh, wait... wasn't there some unpleasantness about the Impressionists? Modernism?

So the meaning of "art" has changed.

So what?

Everything changes and the change is usually comes with good & bad. You're not going to be able to turn the clock back on the meaning of art. Your energies would be better spent pioneering a new term or phrase for what the type of art you like & want to promote. Right now you're like someone who is annoyed that the kids these days are marrying for love instead of more practical reasons. You could keep saying, "But that isn't what marriage has meant for a millennia!" or you could say, "*sigh* I guess we'd better start calling the old ways 'arranged marriages'."

I suspect you're not proposing removing all conceptualism from art (it gets pretty boring is artists aren't allowed to express some concept/belief/idea). But art is a very big umbrella that ranges from decorative arts to purely conceptual art... you may be most comfortable with the middle ground, but you don't get to have that without having the extremes.

10/23/2007 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger hovie said...

In light of the update provided by the gallery (which answers Nat's important question about gallery culpability), let me repeat my question from above: Is it only art if it's artificial?

10/23/2007 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Is it only art if it's artificial?

Every time I try to answer a question like that, I find so many possible exceptions to my own rules, leaving me with the final conclusion that it's counter-productive to try to define limits for what's considered "art." Why not let artists decide that.

10/23/2007 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

If the populace had, at the time had the access to images of horrific atrocities that they had to delicious, seductive and assuring propaganda, what might the outcome have been?

I do not disagree, but this is not what I was criticizing.

Immoral acts masked ‘as art’ and used as a means of exposing immoral acts within the society cause the moral positions of the artist and the exposed to merge towards the immoral.

It suggests the possibility, that actions masked as art, literally become what they are criticizing or exposing, creating a different but parallel atrocity.

Society has developed expressive devices which allow the artist to expose and reveal immoral activities within the society without resorting to parallel immoral actions. It is one thing to expose something through the means of images or language, and quite something else to utilize an immoral action in an attempt to achieve the same results.

Atrocities are committed daily as a result of the exercise of power. I believe it is a grave error to do the same thing in the name of art.

All of my comments here are intended to address the general case, not specifically this gallery event. I stand behind my remarks and in the light of new information, one can decide whether or not my comments apply to this specific situation.

There have been some deflecting points, ‘dog stew’ was one, "...investment and voting records..." another, euthanatization of street animals, 911, and those unspoken, which attempt to sway our response either by minimizing this action, or by changing the focus. I agree that there are uncountable immoral activities that occur every day. The difference is that in this particular case the artist is in a position to intercede and therefore complicit in the activity.

… the moral dilemma of standing by and witnessing (photographing) human atrocity… is different from creating an atrocity to photograph. Once the artist inserts their self into this type of situation, they create a moral dilemma for themselves and they must recognize that there is a huge difference between the dilemma of passively witnessing an atrocity and the dilemma of instigating an atrocity.

One must also consider if we are the target of nothing more than propaganda. Earlier arguments suggest that this event is supposed to address the events surrounding the death of Natividad Canda who was killed by two guard dogs. I fail to see the logic in punishing another hapless dog for the sins of his species. While I can appreciate, even be sympathetic with the outrage over this event, I still can only view this gallery event as misguided propaganda.

10/23/2007 09:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or as my mum would say," Two wrongs don't make a right."

10/23/2007 10:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I think you're harking back to a golden age that never existed... so that we have a better grip on what you're proposing, could you suggest a time & place whose attitudes towards art we should emulate?

Ah, the old Turn Back The Clock distortion. Ed tried to use this on Roger Kimball once: "His clarion call to return to the 19th Century" - which Kimball never issued! - "can hardly be expected to excite a new generation of artists."

Ethan, I champion an attitude, not an era. This attitude takes art seriously as a visual enterprise and aspires to visual quality. I champion this attitude because it has produced and continues to produce the best work. You're free, and you should be free, to make whatever kind of work you want to make. I am free to exercise my taste as if it belonged to me. Ed finds the latter censorious if I understand him correctly, but it's the same exercise of freedom.

10/23/2007 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

You're free, and you should be free, to make whatever kind of work you want to make. I am free to exercise my taste as if it belonged to me. Ed finds the latter censorious if I understand him correctly, but it's the same exercise of freedom.

Are they giving away Irony with each latte at Starbucks today?

In the same comment where you chastise me for putting words in Kimball's mouth that were (according to your take) never there, you'll misrepesent what I've written so boldly?

I've never even come close to implying that exercising one's tastes equals censorship. Ignore art you don't like, condemn art you don't like, rant and rail like a banshee on acid about art you don't like, if that's how you choose to exercise your tastes.

In the interest of not censoring other artists, however, all I ask is that you give them the benefit of doubt that their "art" is indeed theirs to call "art." In other words, your tastes entitle to you a critique of its quality, but not a definition of its essence.

10/23/2007 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Ethan said...

Ah, the old Turn Back The Clock distortion.

Let's assume that I'm trying to be in a good-faith dialog, ok?

Ethan, I champion an attitude, not an era.

Well, multiple times in this thread you wrote about how art for millennia meant beauty and skill. I think it's natural for a reader (such as myself) to infer that you wished we held some previous period's attitudes towards art.

I champion this attitude because it has produced and continues to produce the best work. You're free, and you should be free, to make whatever kind of work you want to make.

So are you happy to share the term "art" with conceptual artists? If so, you may want to examine how you talk about art because that sure doesn't seem to be the case.

My experience is that conceptual artists tend to be happy to share the sandbox whereas those who dislike conceptual art tend to want the whole thing to themselves and disenfranchise those who do different kinds of work.

10/23/2007 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

My experience is that conceptual artists are just as contemptuous of painters as painters are of conceptual artists; which is just as contemptuous as small car drivers towards SUV drivers; which is much the way chemical engineers feel towards computer programmers; and computer programmers aren't very charitable towards Web designers.

I think, in general, most people like to redefine the rules of the race so that they're winning. Humans defend mental territory just as fiercely as they defend physical territory.

10/23/2007 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

In the same comment where you chastise me for putting words in Kimball's mouth that were (according to your take) never there, you'll misrepesent what I've written so boldly?

Calm down. Apparently I didn't understand you correctly, which is why I hedged my remark accordingly. (Although the aforementioned words were not "(according to [my] take) never there." There were actually and verifiably not there.)

...your tastes entitle to you a critique of its quality, but not a definition of its essence.

This is an important distinction that I hadn't gathered from your statements above. I'm still not convinced it's true, either regarding (1) that one ought not make decisions about what is art in the same way that one makes decisions about what is good art, or (2) that doing so is censorship. I'm listening.

10/23/2007 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I wasn't actually not calm (as I had hoped the Starbuck's joke might convey), but alas, this is imperfect medium for conveying emotions.

Regarding the censorship issue, I can perhaps best explain via my personal POV and position in the art world. Say I work with an artist who wants to exhibit item X. I've worked with this artist before and trust his/her intellect, talent, and conviction.

Item X however is not something I would have ever before considered to be "art" (for whatever reason). If I suggest to the artist that "X" is not art (with the corresponding implications that it doesn't belong in an art gallery), I have unquestionably discouraged that line of exploration.

Works that might have fallen into that category when first introduced, had other gallerists signed onto the notion that they define what's "art" rather than their artists, include Sheri Levine's Weston re-photograph, Carl Andre's "Equivalent VIII," Duchamp's readymades, and a host of other (to my mind) classics that broke through pre-existing definitions in some important way.

If the galleries or museums who had faith in those artists had instead stuck to their predetermined limits on what they considered art, we may have never heard of those works, which is paramount to institutional censorship based on authoritarian claims to the right of essence definition and the keys to the spaces where others would find these works. In other words, dictating what an artist should produce if they want to get their work out there via rejection of certain new ideas (which if truly evolutionary or revolutionary would by definition be beyond any existing definitions) would stymie progress and miss or set-back important developments.

I don't mind saying that my position on this isn't easy to maintain. I think it's human nature to want to categorize things and set limits on what we'll accept as this or that. But to do so for "art" is to suggest it's not progressive (i.e., that it won't continue to look like something I have not yet imagined), which I reject as my role to declare and in fact would hate to see happen.

Moreover, and why I get frustrated by those who want to limit what's considered "art," openendedness on the definition of "art" is not a threat in my eyes. Quality measures will weed out the junk. Why not let the definition stand as "art is what an artist says it is"? I'm not suggesting this applies to anyone here, but the only answer to that question I can imagine is it makes things easier. I can't subscribe to that reason for limiting anyone either.

10/23/2007 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

So are you happy to share the term "art" with conceptual artists?

Of course. I never said I wasn't.

If so, you may want to examine how you talk about art because that sure doesn't seem to be the case.

See previous comment. Read previous comment.

My experience is that conceptual artists tend to be happy to share the sandbox whereas those who dislike conceptual art tend to want the whole thing to themselves and disenfranchise those who do different kinds of work.

In that case, I want to hang out with you guys, because I've generally found conceptual artists to be snotty, thin-skinned, careerist, and prone to launching ad hominems in response to criticism. The modernists have the best senses of humor by far. But obviously people are people and there's good and bad everywhere. The Miami museums, which represents most of my experience as an artist with museums, wouldn't work with any locals who weren't involved with conceptualism unless they were photographers or video artists. I would go look at how much that sandbox of yours is getting shared.

10/23/2007 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger hovie said...

openendedness on the definition of "art" is not a threat in my eyes.

Edward, I share your reluctance to make these declarations, but I also see the perceived threat. An artist wants to know where they stand, especially when their career is nascent. Unclear definitions of art and quality make this difficult.

You might say it's good to give individual artists the ability to decide what constitutes art. It's very hard to disagree with this position. The problem tho is that when you have a million people doing it, decision-makers like curators and gallerists are forced to choose between two artists not by the quality of the art itself (whatever that might mean), but by the quality of its justification. Quality no longer means best-executed, but best-justified.

If art is not judged on intrinsic qualities like Franklin desires, then artmaking becomes indistinguishable from salesmanship. Ergo Damien Hirst. Which is neither a value judgment on Hirst, nor a call for intrinsic evaluation, but merely the simple observations that Hirst's natural salesmanship puts him in much better stead than his peers, and that straying from intrinsic evaluation makes everything that much more difficult frustrating for everyone trying to get their product accepted by the market, as it were.

10/23/2007 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Ed sez:
Works that might have fallen into that category when first introduced, had other gallerists signed onto the notion that they define what's "art" rather than their artists, include Sheri Levine's Weston re-photograph, Carl Andre's "Equivalent VIII," Duchamp's readymades, and a host of other (to my mind) classics that broke through pre-existing definitions in some important way.

Wow, Ed, did you shoot yourself in the foot here if you were trying to convince me or Franklin of your position. I'm pretty sure both of us -- and a lot of other people -- really wish gallerists had stuck to their pre-conceived notions on these.

But I know you don't, and a lot of people agree with you, so it's okay.

Ed then sez:
...but the only answer to that question I can imagine is it makes things easier.

It makes some things easier but some harder. For example, you have to go to great lengths -- as exemplified by this comments thread, among others -- trying to slice very thinly between "an artist is free to make art of anything they want" and "this particular artist did something morally repugnant". It's actually much, much easier, in a case like this, to be able to say simply, "What that jerk made wasn't art, it was stupid cruelty, plain and simple." Instead, you have to say something like, "Well, he's an artist and he said this is art, so I support his right to create his art, but in this case I found his means of expression unpleasant," which just sounds like the mealy-mouthed liberal equivocating the Rush Limbaughs of the world have come to expect from effete leftists.

I know you and I have gone back and forth about art versus not-art, and who defines what, and so on. I think ultimately we sort of agree on most points and are caught up in semantics, which is why I've kind of retired on the discussion (note I haven't been deeply involved in this thread). Bottom line, we both agree with Finch when he says most art sucks.

I think Hovie makes a good point about salesmanship trumping artistic quality, but I think -- and I'd bet Franklin would agree -- that salesmanship has trumped artistic quality plenty of times across the history of art. Franklin is, I believe, like me, making a personal stand against that mindset, but we don't really think anyone's going to change the world.

10/23/2007 01:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

If the galleries or museums who had faith in those artists had instead stuck to their predetermined limits on what they considered art, we may have never heard of those works, which is paramount to institutional censorship based on authoritarian claims to the right of essence definition and the keys to the spaces where others would find these works.

I don't know how you keep it all separate. Galleries and museums constantly exclude work. They exclude more than they include. There are probably thousands of worthy artists whose work will never be known because of this exclusion. Probably not much is excluded on the basis of not being art, but I'll bet a lot of it is excluded on the basis that it doesn't serve the reputation that the gallery or institution wants to establish. Is that censorship as well? What difference is there between excluding art you don't like from your gallery and excluding things you don't think qualify as art from your gallery, particularly from the standpoint from the art? Is not liking work tantamount to censorship?

Would anyone agree with me that Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire is art and Saw IV is not? If so, why can't we make similar distinctions between objects destined for the gallery or museum?

10/23/2007 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Probably not much is excluded on the basis of not being art, but I'll bet a lot of it is excluded on the basis that it doesn't serve the reputation that the gallery or institution wants to establish. Is that censorship as well?

This seems like a wild unsupported assumption, do you have sufficent evidence to support this claim? For the general case, and not just an outlier?

10/23/2007 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

Would anyone agree with me that Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire is art and Saw IV is not? If so, why can't we make similar distinctions between objects destined for the gallery or museum?

I think the "Wings of Desire" vs. "Saw IV" distinction would make more sense when comparing fine art with graphic art or fine art with craft. It doesn't seem very analogous to the relationship between art focused on formal issues with art focused on conceptual issue.

10/23/2007 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

I think the "Wings of Desire" vs. "Saw IV" distinction would make more sense when comparing fine art with graphic art or fine art with craft. It doesn't seem very analogous to the relationship between art focused on formal issues with art focused on conceptual issue.

To follow up on that, and to continue the art film analogy, I think a better comparison would be "Koyaanisqatsi" and "Wings of Desire." Are they both art films (I think so)... but I could imagine someone whose personal preferences run towards one or the other trying to create a definition of art film that excludes the other (or at least casts it as inferior): "Koyaanisqatsi" is better because it isn't fictional. Also it doesn't have any dialogue to distract from the images.

At a certain point this is silly. Why not simply accept one's personal preferences as just that? Why does it need to be a universal or greater Truth?

10/23/2007 02:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

This seems like a wild unsupported assumption.

Not at all. There are galleries that focus on mid-20th C. modernism, realism, NY's bleeding edge, botanical prints, and on and on. They want to become known to their audiences for doing what they do. Is that an outlandish claim?

It doesn't seem very analogous to the relationship between art focused on formal issues with art focused on conceptual issue.

It wasn't meant to. It was meant to address the problem of whether one ought to decide for oneself whether something is art.

10/23/2007 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

What difference is there between excluding art you don't like from your gallery and excluding things you don't think qualify as art from your gallery, particularly from the standpoint from the art?

Other than the fact that I don't see it as my role to make that decision (i.e., whether something qualifies as art that's being presented as such by someone sincerely), the difference is how open minded you are about the limits of your own knowledge/appreciation and whether you're willing to take a chance on someone who has otherwise demonstrated they're sincere in their efforts.

With art I don't like, well, it's simply a matter of taste. With efforts/products artists present that I would have never considered "art" had they not told me it is, well, it's simply a matter of faith. After faith, however, taste (i.e., critique) comes back in again. Just because I'll accept that anything can be art doesn't obligate me to like it or show it.

10/23/2007 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

It was meant to address the problem of whether one ought to decide for oneself whether something is art.

Hmm... I'm a bit perplexed about your position... you said that you don't have a problem with conceptual art being "art," but you still want to draw lines between what is and isn't art. Presumably that line doesn't have anything to do with conceptualism?

I think it's fine to decide whether you own work is art or not... the problem is when your starts proscribing (or want the right to proscribe) others' work.

The best (though flawed) way I can describe it is this:

It is a violent act to tell an artist what he or she makes isn't art... it feels analogous to denying someone's humanity.

To riff off your art film vs. slasher film logic... I would ask since it's ok for us to agree that a dog isn't a human, why isn't it ok to discuss whether someone of some particular ethnicity is or isn't human?

Well, it isn't ok... and, for me at least, it isn't ok to disenfranchise someone else's art either. It's ok to ask whether something is bad art (or someone is a bad human), but it isn't ok to deny art or humaness.

10/23/2007 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Presumably that line doesn't have anything to do with conceptualism?

No, it can't, because all art has a conceptual component. I could potentially be talked into drawing the line at works that consist only of concepts and have no material components, but that's a fringe of conceptual art. In any case we're not discussing where to draw the line, but whether one can legitimately draw that line in the first place. Conceptualism makes it possible for anything extant to be called art, but it wouldn't make sense to draw the line at conceptualism because the tendency varies by degrees all the way up to the most formal work.

It is a violent act to tell an artist what he or she makes isn't art... it feels analogous to denying someone's humanity.

Since you mention it, when I told my wife about the alleged death of the dog, she remarked that the artist wasn't human. She has a point. "Human" has honorific status relative to "inhuman" and "non-human," at least when discussing people. In that sense of "human," one can fail one's way out of the category by doing inhuman things. (Obviously your species doesn't change. I mean "human" here as "possessing qualities worthy of a human being" or "has humanity".) That leaves art, possibly, as the only thing in the universe that can't fail its way out of its category until you utterly deprive it of existence. Something seems wrong with that.

Ed, a lot of your above equation of the refusal to accept something as art and censorship hinges on your status as a gallerist. This gives us a fine concrete example, but what about the average viewer whose activities in the art world consist only of viewing? Would his refusal to regard something as art amount to censorship?

10/23/2007 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

Hmm... well, note we say the person is acting "inhuman," not that the person "is not a human."

If you want to apply a similar syntax to art, you'd say that a work "is not artful" not that it "is not art."

For me, at least, "not artful" doesn't offend my sensibilities in the way "not art" does. And actually "artful" seems to be the right adjective for what you seem to be a proponent for (i.e., grace & beauty).

10/23/2007 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

"censorship" is being misused a lot here today.

Deciding to not show a work is not censorship.

10/23/2007 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.

I'm not so sure, George.

Substitute "art" for "etc." above and "because it doesn't meet a predetermined definition" for "other grounds" and it seems to be being used correctly in this context to me.

What word would you suggest is better though?

10/23/2007 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Regardless of the media...

for the purpose of suppressing...

There are numerous reasons why an artist or artwork might not be exhibited, most of them have nothing to do with censorship.

Simple example: You don't like work A, but like work B and only have room for one. You exhibit work B.

OR, replace "don't like" with any number of phrases representing business decisions, like A is prohibitively expensive to ship and B is not.

The results of these actions are censorship only if you are, in fact, trying to suppress the work.

10/23/2007 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger nat said...

Man, this guy--Vargas--served up some dog food and you guys growled and yapped and ate it up... without a mention that that was his intention.(rhyme,ouch!) That's what I think is worth comment and not the "is it art" question.

10/23/2007 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

My question is did this dog really escape? If not isn't the galleries press release a blatant lie, just an attempt to spin away their culpability, from the pictures I've seen that dog hardly looked capable of escaping.

If in fact the dog was well treated by Vargas during the exhibition, then what are we to make of this deception by Vargas? Then I would agree with Nat, and as a publicity stunt maybe it has a bit more merit, and Vargas is not so much a Sadist, as a Manipulator, by feeding mis-information into the blog-sphere I would say he is using the tools of the media to get his message out, much like Holzer does. Maybe we should be verifying it on Snopes.com before debating it.

As for the whole is it art aspect because the artist says it is, or because it is in a gallery, I say this Vargas is by no means an Artist..;)

As for the movies, a lot of art goes into every movie made and one that is relevant to this whole discussion would be "Henry: portrait of a Serial Killer" if you never saw it, it will creep you out, there aren't any gory bloodbath scenes, Henry isn't a raving lunatic, it is an eerie study of pathology, Henry is tutoring his friend in how to kill, and how to avoid being caught, "Never kill the same way twice" Henry considers himself an artist and the killings art.

10/24/2007 01:42:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

joseph offers us this statement:

"H… considers himself an artist and the killings art."

Individuals are capable of taking actions which society forbids. While they are capable of taking such actions, this does not mean they have the right to do so. The ‘right’ to do something is granted externally, in this case by society.

Suppose ‘H’ did declare himself an ‘artist’ and his killings ‘art’, are we required to accept this as a truth? Why? Because ‘H’ said they were ‘art’?

While anything could potentially be art, this is not the same as saying everything is art. An individual may call theirself an ‘artist’ and declare what they do as ‘art’ but this is just the initiating step in a process. Society and the culture perform a continuing series of truth tests on the initial declaration.

So while an individual may offer us a declaration which he is suggesting we accept as true, this does not make it true. Since this declaration may be true or false, society and the culture eventually decide.

*** Anything can be art, or not.

An artist may say, directly or through an action, "this is art" but I suggest this is an incorrect statement with an undetermined truth value.

What the artist actually offers us is a question: "Is this art", society and the culture provide the answer.

10/24/2007 08:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The word "art" has so many shades of meaning, in our language and culture alone, not to mention other languages/cultures. State of the art, an artless act, artfully done, the art of war, it's an art, not a science, art director (as in advertising or editing). Even within the fine arts, there are multiple meanings. It doesn't seem fruitful to endlessly argue whether a particular act is or isn't art. If a completely empty gallery is art, if Duchamp's readymades are art, if Sherrie Levine's rephotographs are, if Chris Burden's being shot is, if Vito Acconci's masturbating is, and on and on, yes, anything can be art. The viewer or critic can certainly declare that certain art is just hucksterism or self-promotion or cynical careerism, or repugnant, but does it matter to debate whether or not it is art?

We can't say that someone isn't human because they do something that we are so horrified by that we consider it to be outside the realm of human-ness. Humanity encompasses all the horrific things that have ever been done and could ever be conceived of; rape, murder, mass murder/genocide, torture, etc. - all these things are done by humans, so the state of being human includes these actions. (And remember, humans are also animals. Highly evolved animals, but still, we have the base animal instincts within us.)

I understand the impulse to be outraged by an act, to distance ourselves and say that that act is outside of what "we" do; we are artists, we don't starve dogs, we are humans, we don't murder/rape/torture/[insert repugnant act here], but we have to share our species with all kinds, even the ones furthest out on the edges. Just because we accept them as human doesn't mean we condone their actions. To say Vargas is an artist shouldn't make us ashamed to be artists.

Okay, I got way off track and started rambling, sorry, but I wanted to get this out.

kalista

ps remember, as kelli noted, that tom otterness killed a dog in a performance. I can never look at his subway sculptures without thinking of that and being repulsed, but I' don't think I can say that makes him not an artist.

10/24/2007 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Art as a noun.

but does it matter to debate whether or not it is art?

yes.

"Is this art?" is the question that is at the root of critical inquiry.

When we open Pandora’s box revealing that "anything can be art", and this now forces us to identify what is art in order to separate it from everything else. We must now question, "is this art?"

Ultimately, the question, "is this art?" will be answered by the culture rather than an individual.

10/24/2007 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Ultimately, the question, "is this art?" will be answered by the culture rather than an individual.

The culture consists of individuals, so we still have to answer this question for ourselves.

10/24/2007 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Ultimately, the question, "is this art?" will be answered by the culture rather than an individual.

What you describe here closely resembles a definition of censorship. Regardless of what culture dictates, each individual decides on their own what is and isn't art, or maybe doesn't decide, just reacts, that is each persons liberty.

Would you suggest we only allow perusal of state authorized "Art"?
only participate in government sanctioned artistic activity? What happens to those who have an unlicensed aesthetic emotion, fined, jailed, flogged?

I find it ironic how those trying to make a convincing argument that "Art" is some higher enlightened entity are sounding a bit fascist, and I wonder what lengths they are willing to go to in the name of preserving the sanctity of the almighty "Art", or just to have their own views imposed, if not accepted, as the authoritative definitive.

10/24/2007 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Yes, but the final answer is only found by a consensus of the culture, and this may disagree with individual opinions.

10/24/2007 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

joseph,

No, my point is not about censorship. In fact it includes art which may be censored at some point in time, and then reconsidered by the culture later, as art.

Further I am not suggesting that the viewer adopt any particular behavior.

What I am suggesting is that within the culture, what becomes defined as art is really a process which occurs over time.

1. The artist offers something to the culture which he/she believes is art. Just because an individual, artist or otherwise, believes something is art does not make this a truth. By offering their work to the culture as art, the artist is in effect asking us the question "is this art?"

2. The viewer responds to the question "is this art?" yes, no, maybe, or I don’t care. This is the opinion of the individual viewer and only one piece of the collective opinion of the culture.

3. Over time, individual opinions coalesce into a consensus which ultimately is the answer given by the culture to the question "is this art?" Even if a consensus is formed, individuals will continue to have opinions which disagree. Even if a consensus is formed, the culture may change it’s opinion at a later date.

4. As time goes by, the culture preserves what it considers ‘art’ as part of the cultural history. The other stuff fends for itself on the way to the trash.

None of these arguments deal with how good we may think an artwork is. That is another question which is answered after we decide, or are willing to consider, "it is art"

10/24/2007 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Carla said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/24/2007 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Yes, but the final answer is only found by a consensus of the culture, and this may disagree with individual opinions

Do you mean the final solution?

what happens to those individuals with disagreeing opinions?

Further I am not suggesting that the viewer adopt any particular behavior.

But that is exactly what you are doing, art isn't an object,it's a behavioral response, it happens in the viewer, it cannot be described by its physical attributes, id est if an object has an engine four wheels and a seat does that make it a car? What if the same object were in a garage? A car would have to be able to transport passengers from point A to point B. Art doesn't have any set physical parameters, it does elicit a response in the viewer, and that cannot be dictated.

What I am suggesting is that within the culture, what becomes defined as art is really a process which occurs over time.

As soon as that process starts it becomes part of the culture, and the culture has already accepted it as art, a culture is more defined by what it rejects than what it accepts, and that doesn't even begin to take into account so called subcultures, of which I would say the "Art World" is, and one where most times the more someone tries to exclude an artist the more notoriety that artist seems to get.

As time goes by, the culture preserves what it considers ‘art’ as part of the cultural history. The other stuff fends for itself on the way to the trash.

So a culture that blows up ancient giant Buddhas because they consider them to be blasphemous isn't censorship in your opinion, just a cultural consensus?

10/24/2007 10:58:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

The culture consists of individuals, so we still have to answer this question for ourselves.

Well, yes & no. Certainly everyone has the right to think however they want. However, just because an individual thinks a certain way doesn't make it true in a general sense. For example, just because I might say automobiles and light bulbs are food and consume them, doesn't make them food in a greater sense.

At this point in time, the Duchampian view holds sway. Just because "fountain" is art now, doesn't mean it would have been in the Rennaisance. And who knows what will be considered art in 200 years.

(is it just me, or does everyone have to enter the word verification exactly two times?)

10/25/2007 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

First, the question "is it art" is used, and I think required, to define the boundary condition of the definition of what is art. In otherwords, what is the culture, society, willing to consider as art, and what is excluded, something else? Most ‘art’ falls well within the boundary and this question never arises.

Second, the question "what is art", a definition of art’s boundaries is arrived at by the culture as a consensus formed over time and subject to revision over time.

If the culture decides, by consensus, that something is not art, it will be ignored. This does NOT mean that individuals with a dissenting opinion will be forced to agree, they may continue to consider the debated work art.

When an object or activity fails the "is it art" test then tough shit. The maker was not effective in presenting the experience to the viewer, the work will be forgotten, not cared for or documented, and end up in the trash. Those with a dissenting opinion will live out their lives with the memory of the disputed artwork, and then die, taking the memory to their grave. Like I said, tough shit, it was ineffective.

This is reality blogging, take a look at the real world, how art exists in the real world. Look at this process objectively, what I am describing is what actually happens. I am offering an opinion based on experience, not some theoretical bullshit.

So a culture that blows up ancient giant Buddha’s…

This was done by a group of dissenting individuals, not by a cultural consensus.

… that doesn't even begin to take into account so called subcultures…

Yes it does, you are confused about where you are in the process. Certainly, at one point, the work of Duchamp was considered controversial and even "not art" by some. Those who championed his efforts were a subculture, and initially a minority within the general culture. Eventually their opinions prevailed and the broader culture reformed its consensus vis a vis Duchamp’s work.

[g] Further I am not suggesting that the viewer adopt any particular behavior.
[j] But that is exactly what you are doing…

No it is not. I am describing, or at least attempting to describe, what actually happens in the real world. How art is assimilated or ignored by the culture over time. You, get a vote, the opportunity to influence others with your opinion, but if the artwork fails, tough shit, happens all the time, next.

10/25/2007 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

No it is not. I am describing, or at least attempting to describe, what actually happens in the real world. How art is assimilated or ignored by the culture over time.

Your thesis fails on two levels,first by sinking
to the use of profanity
second if this does happen "in the real world" as you say you fail to
site supporting examples. and how much "Real Art" is ignored as well,
do you want to say if it doesn't wind up in Jansen's it isn't "Art"? In
a museum? (after they are filled with Serra's there won't be room for
much else)

Second, the question
"what is art", a definition of art's boundaries is arrived at
by the culture as a consensus formed over time and
subject to revision over time.


If it takes time, then I guess there is no "Art" in Chelsea
and is that as in Historical Revisionism

This was done by a group of dissenting individuals,

as most art is.

not by a cultural consensus.

So you are suggesting there is no culture outside
the west? The Taliban was the dominant culture in Afghanistan whether
we like it or not, and you have no idea how many Afghani's supported
the Taliban, and even if they were a regime that took over without
popular consensus, I would say by the definition of culture, as in
cultivate they were the ruling power based on Islamic law.

Certainly, at one point, the work of Duchamp was considered controversial and even "not art" by some.

At the time "Fountain" was relegated to a
hallway in the so called open call Armory Show, it's entry was intended
to see if it would or wouldn't be shown not to make urinals into art,
the art was its entry into an open call by an unknown name R. Mutt,
Duchamp was testing the boundaries and they were widened. Those who
fight to maintain current boundaries and control what is or isn't art
are fighting for their own comfort zone, and acting in the name of some
greater good that their limited boundaries supposedly represent, often
growing violent in their desperation to impose those boundaries on
others. Real world history case in point when Right to Life groups
shoot Doctors in the name of preserving life, and then they try to
justify the act by deciding the value of one life over another, then
try to live in denial that they are worse than what they oppose. Do you
think Hitler thought himself to be a fascist dictator? He believed he
was restoring the glory of Germany, Do we really want to believe we are
in the middleeast because we are desperately trying to
maintain an unsustainable culture based on crude oil, and
preventing the collapse of an economy dependent on world trade being
based on the US dollar not the Euro. The aggressor
never acknowledges their aggression that is real history .As
for whether something is "Art" or isn't, did you ever think you are in
the minority of what is or isn't, and a bit out of step with the
culture?I'm sure you would have been rageing against
"Fountain", disgusted by Acconci and rejected Burden in their time and
argued that it isn't art as some did at the time, and over
time
you would have been proven wrong. The
more and more arguments are made to describe how something is or isn't
"Art" the more I find myself giving Senor' Vargas the benefit of the
doubt, I can't ignore he did something that has become part of the "Art
World" discourse, and that gains addmission into the "Art" category
which was my point, once someone does something that enters the
discourse it is futile to claim it isn't art,... you might as well call it
food.

10/25/2007 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

…you fail to site supporting examples…

Well joseph, how about you helping me out here a little bit and giving me an example.
My argument essentially states there won’t be any, that society discards, or otherwise fails to preserve and document as art, items which are no longer considered art. They might remain around but are just other stuff.

If it takes time, then I guess there is no "Art" in Chelsea and is that as in Historical Revisionism

I am not sure what you are trying to say here. Certainly most of the ‘art’ in Chelsea, or anywhere else for that matter, has initially passed the ‘is it art’ test. I assume the ‘failures’ never made it into the gallery although I doubt this happens all that frequently. The rest of your remark seems like it might be addressing whether or not the culture considers the art to be ‘good’ and I am not addressing that.

So you are suggesting there is no culture outside the west?
No, I never suggested that. I suggested the Buddhas were destroyed by a group of dissenting individuals. I would like to further suggest that this was a political act of desecration. The Buddhas had been there for 1700 years. They were part of the local culture, which is not a western culture, for 1700 years before they were senselessly destroyed for political reasons. I would love to hear your rationalization for why destroying them was a good idea.

Those who fight to maintain current boundaries and control what is or isn't art are fighting for their own comfort zone, and acting in the name of some greater good that their limited boundaries supposedly represent, often violent in their desperation to impose those boundaries on others.

I hope you are not referring to me with this remark, I comment here using my real name and think my past comments should reveal that I am opposed to rigidly defined boundaries for art.

The rest of that paragraph, "right to life groups shoot…", Hitler, middle east, crude oil and the dollar vs. the Euro, whew! that’s confused stew of words, but actually argues better against Vargas’s exhibition than anything I said.

You are out of line making assumptions about me personally, you do not know me, nor do you know what I thought when those artworks/performances were made. You are wrong and I find your remarks offensive.

Finally, I never disputed whether or not Vargas’s exhibition was art, it was in a gallery and I gave it the benefit of the doubt on that question. I did ask what do we want to consider as art, what boundaries do we want to set, will we accept immoral and inhumane activity as art? To the latter I say no.

One final thought, for me the dog story does not compute. I really do not know who to believe and find it curious, suspicious if you will, that an abandoned, hungry dog left its source of food and comfort. I guess I don’t know anything about dogs.

10/25/2007 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger nat said...

I think this "performance" or story elicited fear, which makes people blind and narrow.

I can think of a list of issues raised by this story but none of them have been addressed here. (What is the effectiveness of framing something as art vs. political protest? Does an act documented and publicized differ from a personal act--i.e., what if someone fed a stray dog for 3 days and then released it--would that be immoral, or criminal, as Ed would have it? How does being "art" effect the sensationalization(?) of an event? Why the outpouring of angst over a dead dog in Costa Rica-- because it took place in a gallery? What was the artist even addressing and should the theme, or political point, be ignored because we disagree with the means?(This would relate to terrorism).

If anything, looking at art should foster an ability to read, look, understand something different from one's self, or one's egotistic concerns. I find the inability to do this immoral, and it makes for bad art criticism.

10/26/2007 02:22:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

I would love to hear your rationalization for why destroying them was a good idea.

Where did I say it was a good idea to destroy the Buddhas? Please point that out.

My argument essentially states there won’t be any, that society discards, or otherwise fails to preserve and document as art, items which are no longer considered art. They might remain around but are just other stuff.

If you are going to say

what I am describing is what actually happens. I am offering an opinion based on experience, not some theoretical bullshit.

and had said

These little cultural controversies occur and ultimately some sort of cultural consensus is formed. To condemn something as ‘not art’ is fairly simple, less directed and occurs frequently, we just ignore it.

So I would guess from your own personal experience you posses knowledge of some piece of art that has been ignored or stripped of its artistic merit.

From my personal experience, I can't quote any examples, because as far as I know there aren't any, it is just theoretic rhetoric without any substantiating credetials.
Maybe "Norman Rockwell"

Certainly most of the ‘art’ in Chelsea, or anywhere else for that matter, has initially passed the ‘is it art’ test,

so basically no matter how immoral and inhumane an activity if it is in Chelsea or anywhere else it has passed your "is it art" litmus test. So are you negating your previous statement

a definition of art’s boundaries is arrived at by the culture as a consensus formed over time

If it takes time to arrive at a cultural consensus,How can what is in a gallery at this time be "Art"?
I'd ask how long does it take?

If a viewer is standing in front of something in a gallery and experiences an aesthetic emotion is what they are looking at "Art"? What if it isn't in a gallery?


I hope you are not referring to me with this remark, I comment here using my real name and think my past comments should reveal that I am opposed to rigidly defined boundaries for art.

Yes I am, you seem to want to believe you are open minded and anti-boundary, but you maintain boundaries and seem to be trying to rigidly defining them here, and by stating.

will we accept immoral and inhumane activity as art

you open up a debate on what is and isn't immoral and inhumane. Which is at the heart of what Senor' Vargas set out to do.

You are out of line making assumptions about me personally, you do not know me, nor do you know what I thought when those artworks/performances were made. You are wrong and I find your remarks offensive.

Righteous Indignation, one of the more clever Neo-Con strategies, illicit sympathy by portraying yourself as misunderstood and a victim of slander in the hope of gaining consensus, and avoid addressing the flaws of your comments by making any question of you comments a personal attack

The rest of that paragraph, "right to life groups shoot…", Hitler, middle east, crude oil and the dollar vs. the Euro, whew! that’s confused stew of words

let me clarify:

Right to life groups believe a fetus at any stage has a god given soul, and if a woman for whatever reason has an abortion it is murder, which is a sin, and the woman a murderous sinner, so they picketed outside abortion clinics trying to convince the women and other citizens of their views, that didn't work so they started harassing women on their way to exercise their legal right to have an abortion, calling them jezebels, whores and godless sluts, and very creative statements meant to denigrate and humiliate the women, to a point they would not have an abortion. When that didn't work they threatened them in a violent manner hoping to intimidate them, that didn't work so they decided if there were no abortion clinics for the women to go to then there would be no more abortions, so they bought themselves a copy of the anarchist cookbook, whipped up a bomb from a down home recipe and set out to blow up some clinics, when that didn't work and they realized that it was the doctors not the clinic performing the abortion a man named Michael F. Griffin had the revelation (perhaps a divine message)that if he shoots the doctor there will be no one to perform abortions and all the unborn babies would be saved, so he went to Wal Mart bought himself a shotgun and waited outside a clinic where Dr. David Gunn worked and when Dr Gunn arrived at the clinic Mr. Griffin yelled "Don't kill any more babies," cocked that shotgun and shot Dr. Gunn three times in the back killing him, now that made Mr. Griffin a murderous sinner but in his eyes it was OK because god lead Mr. Griffin to kill the Dr. to save the unborn children.

so let me quote my previous statement

Those who fight to maintain current boundaries and control what is or isn't art are fighting for their own comfort zone, and acting in the name of some greater good that their limited boundaries supposedly represent, often growing violent in their desperation to impose those boundaries on others.

to which you commented

I hope you are not referring to me with this remark,

that seems to be a bit of a threat as if to suggest there will be repercussions if I were to dare suggest

you did earlier comment

If I hit Mr. Dogkiller with a baseball bat, would this answer the question "what does it take to elicit pain?"

that after declaring

This is intellectual bullshit.

then

This line of inquiry is intellectually misdirected.

to which I would say it is just not in accord with the intellectual direction you would like it to take.

You are out of line making assumptions about me personally, you do not know me

I am making statements based on your comments and your tendencies to abandon a reasonable debate and make aggressive comments, which allude to violence, and it is in line to do so, especially when you are making arguments that would assume be the definitive criteria for how something is deemed to be "Art" or "not", based on your personal interpretation of the "Real World" and under the guise of cultural consensus.
You have repeatedly said that an individuals consideration of "Art" is irrelevant, I have repeatedly asked if the so called Culture defines "Art" what happens to the individual who considers something to be "Art" outside the Culture and you have repeatedly deflected that central issue, by accusing me of being confused, claiming ignorance about the meaning of a counter argument, insinuating that you alone posses knowledge of the inner working of the "Real World" and all this Blogging is theoretical bullshit and claim my comment offends you, and all the while you fail to make a convincing argument that your process isn't censorship, and the reason you haven't is because you can't, what ever you throw out there and the best you have done is

taking the memory to their grave. Like I said, tough shit, it was ineffective

Again abandoning reason showing contempt for individual opinion in favor of Culture, becoming aggressive, and failing to make a convincing argument.

And to be perfectly clear when I wrote:
The aggressor never acknowledges their aggression,
I was referring to your increasing aggressive comments, which you continued and escalated in your next comment, and I questioned how far would you go in the name of assuring something immoral is not called "Art"

(will your next move be casual dismissal?)

10/26/2007 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Nat, Your comment illustrates the problem fairly clearly.

First, a number of the initial comments were in response to the initial version of the story where the dog was kept chained up until it died in the gallery.

Later we get a different, sanitized version, of the story where the dog was kept the gallery for a few days until it ran away.

We were told that According to the artist, his "art" was a tribute to Natividad Canda, a Nicaraguan burglar killed in Costa Rica by two rottweilers guarding property he had entered at night.

Depending on what actually occurred to the dog, the artists intentions might be seen quite differently and therefore any issues that his ‘performance’ was supposed to investigate could also be seen quite differently. For example, how does a dead dog become a ‘tribute’ to someone, or is this just misplaced revenge at dogs in general?

You ask, Does an act documented and publicized differ from a personal act?

In principle no, but the documentation of an act introduces new variables into the equation by introducing the activity into the public sphere where one could expect a reaction. In other words, if you beat someone privately, nothing might happen, if you beat them publicly you might be arrested. The beating act is the same in both cases, the public response is different.

The question that I raised is whether or not we, society, want to consider immoral actions as works of art. If art should foster an ability to read, look, understand something different from one's self, then killing someone or something seems like a awfully blunt instrument being used to make a point.


Is art nothing more than the rubble of life’s actions, or is it something more?

Is the adoption of any means acceptable as long as it produces the desired response from the audience?

10/26/2007 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

joseph,

Let’s make this simple.

I am suggesting that an ‘artist’ offers up an ‘artwork’ (extended definition) to society, the culture, and in the process of doing so, the question "is it art?" is implicitly asked. For the most part, this process is trivial to the point where we don’t actually consider the question. In the boundary cases, the question may become more acute as the artist probes society for a definition of arts boundaries. I am not setting any boundaries in my argument, only suggesting that it does seem that society and the culture does.

If we assume that art has some boundary, some means of distinguishing itself from everything else, where do we draw this line? Do we allow murder as ‘art’ because it is a form of personal expression?

Finally, in the real world, what happens to people and things in a lifetime. People say they are artists and they make ‘art’. For the most part these artworks enter the culture as art without dispute. Over time, the culture evaluates these artworks, some are more highly valued than others and are preserved for future generations. Others, are valued less, even considered not art, and become part of the general collection of things produced by a society. Over time, things which are not valued by society end up in the trash.

In the real world, the artist may value the process and their exercise of personal expression more than the ultimate destination of their production. Just because society, or the culture, indicates it is not interested in someone’s artwork, it does not mean that the artwork had no value in a private sense.

10/26/2007 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Verbatim from the Google cache of Vargas’ MySpace page: (the page is now 'private' and no longer accessible)

"Guillermo's Blurbs
About me:

Hello everyone. My name is Guillermo Habacuc Vargas. I am 50 years old and an artist. Recently, I have been critisized for my work titled "Eres lo que lees", which features a dog named Nativity. The purpose of the work was not to cause any type of infliction on the poor, innocent creature, but rather to illustrate a point. In my home city of San Jose, Costa Rica, tens of thousands of stray dogs starve and die of illness each year in the streets and no one pays them a second thought. Now, if you publicly display one of these starving creatures, such as the case with Nativity, it creates a backlash that brings out a big of hypocrisy in all of us. Nativity was a very sick creature and would have died in the streets anyway."

and would have died in the streets anyway.

I’m done with this, let sleeping dogs lie.

10/26/2007 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger nat said...

Let sleeping dogs lie...

When I open up my cheap dial-up connection here in rural Californa, the "top" news stories are displayed for me... First the entertainment news, where Brittany Spears has been on top for the last 2 weeks... then the "headline news" which is taken from Topix.com's most talked about news... and our dog, Nativity, is now at #2 in the most talked about stories here

10/27/2007 12:35:00 AM  
Blogger nat said...

Oh, and as a follow up... it would be interesting to compare the discussion there("Kill the sonofabitch") to the high falutin' discussion here. I don't think there is too much difference between the two.

10/27/2007 12:39:00 AM  
Blogger nat said...

According to SpayUSA there were 40,000 animals killed in Fresno, California in 2002. That's 80 killing for every 100 people. According to their statistics killings per year have dropped from 17 plus million in 1985 to 4 million or so in the 2000s. It is like a doggie holocaust, geez...

The chic vegan who posted the gallery's response links to a South American charity whose main focus is on spaying/neutering. Their link is here

Donate for the dogs...or not.

10/27/2007 01:27:00 AM  

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