Saturday, January 31, 2009

Priorities and Roses

One of the hopes I have for the Obama era in America is that we are inspired by his example to be a little more reflective, a little more long-term in our thinking, and a lot more concerned with the legacy we leave future generations compared with our immediate "needs" than we have been as a nation. It's not only the extreme Me-ism of the past few decades that has led us to the brink of witnessing of the fall of the American empire in our lifetimes, but also a ridiculous short-sightedness and near abandonment of our responsibilities to leave this world better than we found it.

On the "Brandies: Art = Cash" thread, an anonymous commenter associated with the university offered the following justification for the decision by their board to close the Rose Art Museum in order to be free to sell off its "permanent" collection:
Yes its a shame, but perhaps its time that the tail no longer wags the dog. Don't forget that the donors get a nice fat charitable tax deduction for the "fair market value" of the art. Remember former Brandeis Professor Maslow's theory-- we need to provide for our basic physiology and safety before we get to be able to worry about our self-actualization. I would suggest that our chemistry, biology, and physics graduates have a better chance of improving the life of mankind than artists.
I would submit that it's debatable whether the basic physiology and safety of anyone at Brandeis is truly threatened by a budget deficit (if so, universities would have been forced to liquidate their museums' permanent collection repeatedly throughout the last century, economic cycles being what they are). But this notion, that art is secondary to chemistry, biology, and physics in terms of importance during difficult times, reminded me of another Rose. Not a museum, but a person.

This Rose, however, faced true threats to her personal safety, not merely the inconveniences of tightening one's belt that every department at Brandeis should be willing to do voluntarily to save the museum, IMO, but actual torture or death if her mission had been discovered. I refer, of course, to Rose Valland:

Rose Valland (1898-1980) was a curator at the Louvre Museum in Paris during the Second World War. In 1940, as German forces began their occupation of France, Nazi officials took over the Louvre's Jeu de Paume Museum -- a modest gallery of Impressionist works, located in the Tuileries Gardens. They used the building for a sinister purpose: to store priceless works of art confiscated from French museums and Jewish-owned private collections. Valland supervised the daily operations of the Jeu de Paume, while the Nazis filled it with plundered masterpieces. The Germans likely viewed her as a quiet, methodical administrator. What they didn't suspect was that she understood German. And perhaps Valland never suspected the importance of the role she was about to play.

[...]

The Nazis enlisted Valland to catalogue their stolen art objects. As she quietly worked, she eavesdropped on discussions in German and kept secret lists of the plundered treasures. As much as possible, she tracked the dispersements and shipments of art. Because the Nazis photographed every object they stole, Valland pocketed the negatives as she left at night and made copies of them. On four occasions, the Nazis became suspicious of Valland and threw her out. Yet each time, she managed to return and to continue spying.

[...]

By the end of the war, as the Nazis grew anxious to evacuate the museum and ship out their precious cargo, Valland thwarted them. A train bound for Germany, loaded with French paintings and other valuables, never made it out of Paris -- thanks to Valland. She reported her observations to the French Resistance, whose sabotage efforts stalled the train until the Allies came to liberate Paris. After the war, using Valland's documents, the French informed the Allies where some of Europe's most cherished art treasures were hidden.

Valland spent the remainder of her life working diligently to recover and protect French cultural property. The French government awarded Valland numerous honors for her lifetime of courage and devoted service. She was a recipient of the Légion d'honneur, the Médaille de la Résistance, and was named a Commandeur of the Order of Arts and Letters. In the 1950s, she also received the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

In comparison with the threats Valland faced, the temporary financial difficulties of any American university at the moment obviously pale. Moreover, it's highly insulting to treat a collection as rich as the Rose's as mere property, IMO. As Pablo Helguera so eloquently put it in his post on Art World Salon, a collection like that the Rose has built represents "the labor of generations of collectors, curators and philanthropists." In other words, a significant slice of our collective culture and a collective commitment to preserve it, as such, for future generations. What will emerge from the labs of a university's chemistry, biology and physics departments may indeed greatly benefit future generations' minds and bodies, but what of their spirits...what of their souls? It's short sighted to suggest only the former are worth preserving.

Labels:

71 Comments:

Blogger Mel Trittin said...

"Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread but give us roses."

1/31/2009 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

The idea that one branch of learning is more important than another is absurd. To say that physics will serve us before art for example is simply wrong. It's an argument that does the rounds from time to time - could there be a society dedicated to the sciences - that does away with the arts?

Well logically, no. The division between art and science is one that carefully evolves through social systems of representation or reference - we decide and define art and science and their various branches, in relation to one another. It makes no sense to see one as any less important than the other, without undermining the many finer discrimination that enable us to build our world and understand it.

Art is not a luxury.

1/31/2009 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Peter Zimmerman said...

Edward,

Quite frankly, I think you didn't push the commenter hard enough in this post. What s/he said was not only short-sighted, but selfish, ill-conceived, and clearly comes from a place of severe insecurity and fear.

There are certainly many, many differences between the sciences and the arts as academic undergraduate departments; however, the point to close the museum thrusts both into some form of relationship founded in crisis. The absence of the museum would, ostensibly, benefit the presence of the science programs. But how? By providing more raw materials, better teacher salaries, higher-tech buildings? OK. Sure, one could make that claim, and thus continue by saying that the science students deserve these things to better support their decision to study.

But what of the humanities students? Brandeis is, above and beyond, a liberal arts university, although it does have strong ties to research. So, it appears to me that the commenter would rather the University renounce its ties to the humanities, thereby effectively making it Brandeis Tech, which would therefore allow for a higher dedication to the sciences.

OK, so that may be slightly too much of a stretch, but I suppose what this all gets down to is the equality of the student. One enters the college under a financial contract to pay $50,190 (according to the official website). That $50,190 does not mean anything more if you're a science major than if you're a studio art major. The simple fact is really that each student should be given the same opportunities, access to technologies, faculty and up-to-date facilities, and above and beyond the same level of respect, which thus means that for the studio art, art history, public relations, history, public service, and public policy majors (to name a few), the Rose Art Museum should absolutely be available as shining example for what art is capable of from a spiritual, emotional, economic, and cultural perspective.

I take a lot of issue with the commenter's lack of respect for the students at Brandeis University, and hope that s/he takes a long hard look at their priorities and re-evaluate if their heart is in the right place-- whether their devotion is to the student unequivocally, or only to those benefiting their immediate, insulated world.

One last point-- Brandeis' motto is "Truth Even Unto Its Innermost Parts"... it would be nice to see this anonymous someone working for the University believe in and uphold that rhetoric.

1/31/2009 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Over the entire history of mankind...

Art doesn't kill people, science kills people.

1/31/2009 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks for the comments, folks. For clarification, though, I don't know any more about the relationship between the anonymous commenter and the university than is revealed by his/her use of the phrase "our chemistry, biology, and physics graduates."

It's possibly a student or alumnus or someone who identifies with the university for any host of reasons. Not necessarily someone who works for them.

I've gotten some passionate responses to this post behind the scenes (one from a PhD in Physics) all of whom are outraged at the gull of the suggestion that science (which as George notes is also employed to kill people, as well as prolong their lives) is so important its continuance justifies the closing of a museum.

I suspect everyone will lobby for their own interests when tough choices are being made, but I have never heard anyone in an art department arguing that the sciences should be dismantled to enhance their interests.

Personally I blame the government, and the wing-nut branch of the conservative elements in it in particular, for this very American ambivalence toward culture. Rose Valland was celebrated as a hero for risking her life to safe French culture. In the US, she would have likely been mocked for diverting resources away from efforts to secure energy resources, weapons, and geographically desirable encampments.

1/31/2009 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Franklin said...

Personally I blame the government, and the wing-nut branch of the conservative elements in it in particular, for this very American ambivalence toward culture.

I respectfully suggest a glance in the mirror regarding this point. There is nothing nourishing to the soul in the intellectual games to which much contemporary art has been reduced. Art that represents the quintessence of pleasure, the perfection of capability, and the ennoblement of the human has been out of vogue for four decades and counting. To compare its current concerns to the genuinely difficult intellectual work going on in the sciences, and even most of the other humanities, is embarassing. In many cases the price tag is the only interesting thing about it. I'm trying to picture some modern Valland risking her safety over the work of the last three years of visual arts MacArthur fellows, as if it were the very soul of America, and it's giving me a chuckle. Blame the erstwhile conservative government if you like, but really, what have you done for conservatives lately that they should be clamoring to board the great vessel of cutlure?

1/31/2009 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's great that you have hope and goals for the new administration. I wish everyone would be more proactive in stating what their wishes are for the new admin. This website actually encourages people to state what their priority wishlist includes, and they'll collect and pass them along to the admin. The website is http://www.friendsoftheuschamber.com/email/email4.cfm?id=200

1/31/2009 02:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Edward.

1/31/2009 04:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think of comments like that of the anonymous Brandeis poster as a product of the recent political climate, when the policies of No Child Left Behind prioritized reading, writing, math and science at the expense of the arts and music. It is deeply unfortunate for the current generation of college students that they attended K-12 at a time when the arts and sciences were in large part discarded as part of a well-rounded education.

We're seeing the results of this policy in the cultural ignorance of statements like that of the anonymous Brandeis commenter.

Another example of the current disregard toward the arts and culture would be the way that the US handled the looting of the Baghdad Museum. See Rumsfeld's "so many vases" comment for another illustration of this mindset.

1/31/2009 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

People growing old want the youngs to work for them like they are laboratory rats, and take away the wonderful cultural life that they had so that they can have money for their old days.

But life without culture is very boring and not helpful for inspiration. The youth will not do their job well, and they will loose rapidly any sense of value when the message they get is that everyone thinks for themselves.

Old people will be badly served in hospitals by frustrated nurses. Having a great money account is not everything.

Cheers,

Cedric

1/31/2009 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

To compare its current concerns to the genuinely difficult intellectual work going on in the sciences, and even most of the other humanities, is embarassing.

This is to seriously romanticize Science as it functions in Our Society at the moment. Not to mention the Other Humanities. Whatever criticisms can be launched at the Art World (etc) at this point can be launched x ten thousand at other fields in academia and elsewhere. You want to know what it's really about? Follow the money. Most of the time, Art falls well below the high stakes line.

1/31/2009 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

I mean, honestly: what does anyone on this list know about what actually goes on in Science?

1/31/2009 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I'm not sure what to say over the scorched earth left by Franklin, but here goes.

I'm an artist. I was drawing before I could write, before I could do math. I've always been an artist in some sense.

But to assert that science is not so important as to allow the continuance of a museum....

Let me say that it's not certain at all that closing the museum will necessarily help the science students. It's probably a false choice. Chances are there are better ways to cut costs than to close a museum. I've worked in a college. I know they waste money on hilariously stupid things, just like any corporation. Worse, maybe, because they're usually turning out a product less amenable to judgment -- it's pretty clear when a car or a piece of software sucks, but when an alumnus sucks, well, how can you tell for sure?

However, since it seems like a number of people here are talking like it's either the museum or the science students: Come on. Be serious. Science trumps art. Every time.

"Science kills people"? Please tell me that's tongue in cheek.

I love art. It's important we have art. It's a wonderful thing. But find yourself stranded on a deserted island and you'll want some science, not some art. Find yourself in seriously straitened circumstances and the first thing you'll pounce on is science -- agriculture, medicine. Not art.

Art is what you do when science has taken care of the other stuff and you have some free time. That's one of the main differences between humans and animals: When animals have some free time, they nap. Humans draw on the walls.

Rose Valland may have risked her life to "save" some art (saved it from what? Hanging on a different wall? "Calling the State Hermitage Museum, this is Germany. You've got some stuff we'd like back"). Well, maybe that's a good trade, if you make it freely. Maybe she didn't find another way she could contribute. Then again, if she'd been caught and killed, maybe we'd be talking about how crazy she was for risking her life like that.

Art's good and all, but when it comes right down to it, being able to balance your checkbook is pretty important, too.

1/31/2009 10:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can understand the view of the person who said that art is secondary to physics, chemistry......etc. Art has no importance beyond a circle of professionals. I dont think it has the reach of popular music or cinema, two real art forms that have no need to justify their existence. I just think Arts only art when it informs enmasse. When it doesnt, its just an esoteric discipline. And as a discipline or phillisophical pursuit, its values are easily corrupted by the introduction of money and vanity etc. Art reputations are made by Art Mandarins rather than by a mass market. So I guess from the perspective of other university disciplines art does look like unimportant bling. Which it might just well be at this moment of time.

2/01/2009 05:00:00 AM  
Blogger The Reader said...

Just to follow on a little from Peter's point. I don't think there's any doubt that a diverse and well managed art collection can enrich the student life of anyone studying in the humanities, but I do think that if we are to truly assert the value of the arts then we need to take this argument a step further.

In both the arts and the sciences many important breakthroughs come through a healthy dose of lateral thinking. The thing about going sideways rather than following a linear path is that it gets more and more difficult to trace influence.

Recent evolutionary theory tells us that we don't just pass our genes on to the next generation via a linear kind of progression but that genetic material can also travel sideways between species. I think the arts and the sciences also swap genetic material in a kind of sideways movement that is hard to trace but that enriches both "species" in beautifully unexpected ways.

It isn't so much a case of art begets science or science begets art but rather that they exist in a complex and subtle relationship of co-evolution that inevitably leads to greater complexity and beauty in both fields. I realize this is a bit of thesis without examples for the moment but this is a comments thread and not my dissertation.

2/01/2009 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I wrote: "Personally I blame the government, and the wing-nut branch of the conservative elements in it in particular, for this very American ambivalence toward culture."

Franklin replied " I respectfully suggest a glance in the mirror regarding this point."

Because I have demonstrated an ambivalence toward culture?

The rest of your statement is a recycled, if slightly more venomous, version of the argument we will always have until your preferred art becomes dominant in the dialog...I'm not holding my breath and wouldn't recommend you do either.

Art has no importance beyond a circle of professionals. I dont think it has the reach of popular music or cinema, two real art forms that have no need to justify their existence.

Not a scientist, are you?

The reach of popular music or cinema are triumphs of distribution, not artistic accomplishment or importance. Museum attendance across the US has been estimated at 600 million annually (in a nation of 350 million) and that's to go see unique objects, not products sent out to every corner of the nation at the same time. Don't assume how you feel about fine art is evidence of its importance...look at the numbers.

I'm trying to picture some modern Valland risking her safety over the work of the last three years of visual arts MacArthur fellows, as if it were the very soul of America, and it's giving me a chuckle.

I'd ask any artist out there to ask themselves how sure they are Valland would risk her safety for their own art before they chuckle too hard.

2/01/2009 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

...they exist in a complex and subtle relationship of co-evolution...

Well put Reader.

War and Peace

Art and Science

Stab Me With Your Paintbrush

Dumb Like a Painter

Density Overcomes Insight

Follow the Money

Hey, is today really Super Bowl Sunday or am I just dreaming?

2/01/2009 11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Fine, Ed - explain to us what the government in general and its wingnut conservative elements did to cause American ambivalence about culture.

Valland would be a moron to risk her safety for my work, although it would be awfully nice of her.

2/01/2009 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous anono said...

2 things.

1) I'm pretty sure that Rose Valland would not have risked her life for my art unless I was a Certified Successful and Famous Artist making a product (or unique object) with verifiable value.

2) And really, I would not hope for someone, even myself, to risk their life for my art. What if she got killed doing it? I don't want that burden. Life is more important than objects.

anono

2/01/2009 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger jeff f said...

This is a sad day when one person who claims to be an artist makes a statement like this "Rose Valland may have risked her life to "save" some art (saved it from what? Hanging on a different wall?" Rose Valland and many like her risked their lives because the art was considered part of the national identity of France. We Americans do not have this kind of cultural tie art or music or anything cultural for that matter. Our culture is manifest destiny and capitalism.
How else could someone who claims to love art make such a statement like the one above (sorry Chris).
I am not a big fan of the collection at the Rose but I think this is a horrible and despicable thing to do. If Brandise university needs to make cuts it should be across the board. The president of the college, Jehuda Reinharz has refused to take any pay cuts even as little as 1% in light of the fiscal crisis at the college.

Here is a little lesson in how a leader should lead: The CEO of Japan Airlines has taken a huge pay cut, his salary is now down to 90k a year and he has done so because he believes that a a CEO should lead by example and that they should not ask people below themselves to make sacrifices without themselves doing so.
This guy is my man of the year, someone willing to take a hit show some solidarity and respect for the people under him.


There is an excellent documentary on this subject about how art and culture was treated by both sides during WW2. “The Rape of Europa” is well worth watching to see how culture was used and saved in WW2.

2/01/2009 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

This is to seriously romanticize Science as it functions in Our Society at the moment.

Sorry, but only artists believe this. There really is a hierarchy of intellectual difficulty and art is nowhere near the top of it. A lot of art writing is an effort to close a tonal gap between art and the top of the hierarchy, given that closing the intellectual gap is hopeless.

I mean, honestly: what does anyone on this list know about what actually goes on in Science?

I subscribe to two science magazines, which is two more than the number of art magazines I subscribe to, because the writing level of the latter is typically abysmal. For fun I study software engineering and I just picked up a book on calculus so I can understand computer science better. When I can I attend the meetings of Grey Thumb. SEED just ran an article about how a new model of human and artificial intelligence is developing out of work done by Richard Feynman in 1972 which created a statistical shortcut through Baysean probability to calculate the likelihood of multiple events. If anything equally challenging was described in Artforum this month, I can't find it.

The rest of your statement is a recycled, if slightly more venomous, version of the argument we will always have until your preferred art becomes dominant in the dialog...I'm not holding my breath and wouldn't recommend you do either.

I don't know what "becomes dominant in the dialog" means. To the chagrin of many, holding my breath isn't really my style. And actually, we're going to keep having versions of that argument until someone demonstrates to my satisfaction that I'm mistaken about my end of it.

2/01/2009 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Andrej said...

this science vs art thing is dumb.

what's more important, water or friends? you die quicker without one, but have a shitty life without the other.

2/01/2009 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

You know, Edward, I think you may be a perfect example illustrating another line from Yeats' famous poem: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity." I wouldn't call you the worst by a long shot; but, you know, when someone criticizes me, I think really hard about what I'm doing. Franklin, too. We're in our studios thinking, man, almost everything we do sucks. And yet you appear to be completely bulletproof.

Is this a pose or are you really, truly that sure of yourself and your gallery's program?

I ask this question knowing full well I can't possibly expect a real answer. But I ask it anyway.

2/01/2009 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Joy sez:
I mean, honestly: what does anyone on this list know about what actually goes on in Science?

I certainly do. I was trained as a scientist and an engineer and I personally know people who work, for example, on nuclear missile guidance systems and nuclear power plants, just to name two really big things.

One doesn't need to romanticize science to say that it involves, to quote Franklin, "genuinely difficult intellectual work."

Or to put it more simply: When I get together with the scientists and engineers I know, I'm the dumbest guy in the room. When I get together with the artists I know, I'm the smartest.

2/01/2009 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger eageageag said...

"The reach of popular music or cinema are triumphs of distribution, not artistic accomplishment or importance. Museum attendance across the US has been estimated at 600 million annually (in a nation of 350 million) and that's to go see unique objects, not products sent out to every corner of the nation at the same time. Don't assume how you feel about fine art is evidence of its importance...look at the numbers."

Thank you for making me think differently about this issue. I think I have been having erroneous thoughts about this subject for quite a while now. Time to reconfigure my opinions.

2/01/2009 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

We're in our studios thinking, man, almost everything we do sucks.

Artists everywhere are in their studio thinking this, Chris. You're not unique in that respect.

As hard as you hit back on your blog and in others' threads, though, retreating to a victim posture now is entirely insufferable. Stand up for your art. Never back down. Ever. The dialog will shift again (it always does)...but it will definitely take longer if you withdraw even an inch. And the reward for your efforts may not even come in your lifetime; a pity perhaps, but a small price if you truly believe in what you're doing. But rolling over and crying "poor me"? You're better than that.

this science vs art thing is dumb.

Amen!

They are so intertwined and dependent upon each other as to make this forced dichotomy positively moronic. They feed each others' "eureka" moments, they fuel each others' metaphors, they advance in lockstep and would both suffer greatly without this symbiosis.

Why we're even having this debate has more to do with resources than anything approaching truths. Throughout human history, a paucity of resources serves to emphasize differences and polarize people who would otherwise happily collaborate. It's so silly, it should make intelligent people embarrassed to engage in it.

2/01/2009 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

explain to us what the government in general and its wingnut conservative elements did to cause American ambivalence about culture.

I don't even need to delve into the wingnut realm of the Conservatives in the US government to demonstrate this, Franklin (which is good, my hazmat suit is at the cleaners)...look at the 2008 Republican Presidential candiate's statements about culture vs. those of the Democrat's. McCain is hostile toward the arts; Obama highly supportive.

2/01/2009 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Ed sez:
The rest of your statement is a recycled, if slightly more venomous, version of the argument we will always have until your preferred art becomes dominant in the dialog...

I'm disappointed that Franklin didn't grasp the nettle on this one, so I'm going to have to do it for him.

Saying that your detractors are suffering from sour grapes isn't the same as defending your work (or your artists' work, in this case). Whether or not "our" "preferred art" is "dominant" is entirely beside the point. Franklin laid out pretty clearly: You claim there is a "very American ambivalence toward culture" at work and you blame "the government, and the wing-nut branch of the conservative elements in it in particular". Franklin posits that perhaps this ambivalence stems, not from some distant and demonizable "other", but from your own efforts which are nothing but "the intellectual games to which much contemporary art has been reduced."

To this you offer no cogent rebuttal except to say that widdle Fwankwin is thwowing a tantwum because his "preferred art" isn't "dominant".

This is intellectually cowardly of you, Edward, and you know it. I expect better from you. Explain to us how the brooms with G8 national flags affixed to them qualify as the kind of art Rose Valland should have risked her life for. Explain how the Licorice Shoes would reduce the American ambivalence towards culture, if only the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy hadn't been suppressing their effects.

Refute Franklin's assertion that there is, in fact, "nothing nourishing to the soul in the intellectual games to which much contemporary art has been reduced."

Whether or not Walter Darby Bannard or Franklin Einspruch is hanging in Winkleman isn't the issue. This isn't the whining to of the disenfranchised for you to dismiss. Let's see a positive defense here.

2/01/2009 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Franklin's inane remark about ... MacArthur fellows, as if it were the very soul of America is self serving to his own point of view but deflects the dialog away from the issues surrounding the actions of the Brandeis trustees.

Regardless of what we may individually think, the arts vs. science, or humanities vs. science, arguments are in the long run silly and beyond much debate. The humanities represent the parts of society where we look inward and the sciences where we look outward. As noted earlier, they are intertwined and both ultimately define us, and our society, as human.

The real issue here is what actions the Brandeis trustees will take. Surely they are not the only university feeling the pinch of a collapsed economy. Since it's unlikely these other universities have a legacy like the Rose Art Museum, what are they doing to bridge the funding gap?

I would also question how long these financial difficulties have been festering. Is the current economic situation just the straw which broke the camel's back? Were the present problems foreseeable but ignored by making the mistaken assumption the economy would remain robust for the foreseeable future?

What actions could have been taken earlier to prevent the current panic response? As I have suggested before, I feel (speculate) that we are not being told the entire story in a transparent way which accepts responsibility for the need to take such drastic actions.

2/01/2009 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Ed sez:
...retreating to a victim posture now is entirely insufferable. Stand up for your art.

I'm not retreating to victim posture. I stand by some of my art. I also agonize over it. I do so publicly because I feel that to pretend otherwise is lying. I'm unsure about my art. Many artists are. I don't think I'm special in this regard and I've never claimed to be a victim.

What mystifies me, however, is others' seeming impermeability to criticism. When someone says that my work stinks, I say, hm, you may have a point. When someone says your work stinks, you say, "You're just mad that I'm not showing your work."

You see the difference?

2/01/2009 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

You see the difference?

Yes, you're discussing your work in the context of everything you make in your studio. I'm discussing my artists' work in the context of it having been edited by the artist and then co-edited by both of us, before it's presented to the public. If you feel that someone who says work you and someone else selected for an exhibition sucks "may have a point," then you're not quite ready for that stage, I'd say. At the point you're presenting it the public in such a context, you stand behind it. Period.

2/01/2009 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Refute Franklin's assertion that there is, in fact, "nothing nourishing to the soul in the intellectual games to which much contemporary art has been reduced."

How do you prove a point as subjective as that?

What nourishes Franklin's soul may not nourish mine and vice versa.

I'm not the one saying anything negative about anyone else's art here. I'm talking about a dialog that's consuming most of the press about art and how that does indeed seem to be what you and Franklin are eventually criticizing. Franklin has galleries and I assume sells his work as well as any other artist out there...he's not wanting for that kind of validation...what then leads him to spend as much time away from his studio to rail against what he sees as "intellectual games" as he does? He has his audience, he has his practice...what fuels this campaign if it's not some form of sour grapes?

2/01/2009 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

And I will note, as I have before, that more than anyone else who comments here, Franklin has a particular knack for steering the conversation...any conversation...into a debate over his personal opinions on art. For those who lost track, this thread is about a comment made by an anonymous commenter affiliated with Brandeis which has decide to liquidate a collection (a possibly legally tricky action) of art, who justified that decision by asserting the sciences are more important.

2/01/2009 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Ellen Rennard Photography said...

I find the Navajo (Dineh) concept of hozho instructive here. Hozho describes both religion and art; it embodies the idea of striving for balance and harmony together with beauty and order. The purpose of life is to achieve such balance. What's interesting is that in attempting to achieve balance (of their budget in this case), Brandeis is about to throw things even more out of whack.

2/01/2009 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Henry Bateman said...

Museums and /or institutional Art Galleries are the repositories of a nation’s cultural capital. It is there that the finest examples of what defines a people and where they have come from are shared with themselves and visitors.

It is interesting that one of the first acts when Iraq was conquered was the destruction of public work of art which coupled with allowing the looting of the museums sent the vary clear message to the people of Iraq and the world that Iraq exists at the conquers pleasure. Whoever and whatever the Iraqi people are, it is now under our terms. One cannot help but speculate who the Iraqi “Rose Valland” might be?

No field of human endeavor can exists in a vacuum and more often than not it is the arts that give the broader perspective. Einstein reportedly took great pleasure in Mozart's violin sonatas. The quality of the information Franklyn derives from his scientific books will be, in no small part, due the literary abilities of their authors.

A myopic physicist, a myopic chemist like a myopic president will more than likely do more harm than good, and for that matter a myopic University. The sad part is that, although the art works will not lost per se, they will, for the most part, go into private hands which will be a great loss for the community the university serves.

Should this university push through with it decision to break up its collection it will do itself a great disservice. For reputable universities are not just teachers, they are repositories of learning and knowledge which they share with their communities in the broader context through their cultural activities of which an art collection is a highly visible component.

2/01/2009 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger David Cauchi said...

Chris:

At 10:31pm on 31 Jan, you wrote '"Science kills people"? Please tell me that's tongue in cheek.'

Then at 2:19pm on 1 Feb, you wrote 'I was trained as a scientist and an engineer and I personally know people who work, for example, on nuclear missile guidance systems and nuclear power plants, just to name two really big things.'

Huh!?! Could you please reconcile these statements?

Seeing as Ed managed to Godwin this thread before it even started, I'll say this: When the Nazis did with art produced some horribly kitsch statues and paintings, some decent parades, and a fantastic exhibition (the 'degenerate art' one). What they did with science on the other hand...

But it's not just the scientists in thrall to a bonkers ideology you have to watch. Fermi had good reason to believe the first atmospheric nuclear test would incinerate the entire planet's atmosphere and went ahead anyway.

And then there's thalidomide.

2/01/2009 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

Thanks for the re-direction Ed.
Perhaps it has been mentioned here but it seems fitting that this liqiudation would take place within an educational institution. The arts (especially visual) are extremely low on the educational totem pole in this country beginning in K-12 and on up. This is the main problem.

We all know that of course, but when I heard of this sell off it did not surpise me in the least. Anyone know the current staus of symphonies in the U.S? It will be interesting to see if this nation continues this slide into de-culturization, or if a poetry reading Prez can help stop the hemmorage?

2/01/2009 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher/Mark said...

"Art has no importance beyond a circle of professionals. I dont think it has the reach of popular music or cinema, two real art forms that have no need to justify their existence."

Does this Anonymous person have a brain? "Popular music" (whatever that means), and "cinema" (hardly one thing) would barely exist were it not for what Anonymous is calling "Art" if I understand his or her remark.

Art is Art is Art. It is what Artists do. It is the fountain of civilisation. That's all.

2/01/2009 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger jeff f said...

As I am reading all of this it strikes me as a sad commentary on how the arts in this country is viewed as some kind of secondary after thought. That to me is what is so dumb, Chris you say your so smart and yet you can't see it, at least not in the context to the Brandise debacle.

I heard this today right out the mouth of a Republican Senator complaining about some of the stimulus money going to the NEA and he wanted to know how this would help the economy. It was a mere 150 million out of Billions!

All over this country right now there are ballet companies, theater companies and orchestras closing down or laying people off. The arts generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue in this country and it sustains us with substance and an escape from the absurdity and humdrum of every day life. This argument that art is not a necessary part of of life is not only dump, it's dangerous.

Chris announcing to the art world that your smarter than most artist, as if this matters in context to this discussion, points more to your lack of confidence than anything else, how do you know your smarter, by your own calculations?
By the fact that you have a degree in computer science? Are you kidding me? Your not as smart as you think you are when it comes to culture or painting for that matter.

The French get it, they understand culture which is why so many risked their lives to save mere pieces of canvas with paint on them and hunks of marble, plaster and bronze. Thank God for the Rose Valland's of the world.

Without art, music, theater, literature and dance what are we?

Edward is so right on this and I for one support everything he is saying here. I don't like Jasper Johns very much nor am I big fan of a lot of modern art. However for Brandise too decide to close it's museum; which is part of our cultural heritage is criminal in my view. It sets a bad precedent for institutions of this caliber and status. Do they not have a responsibility too the local community and to larger academic communities?

Some of you are starting to sound like philistines and should really think about why you make art and have such a disconnect to culture in general.

2/01/2009 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger jeff f said...

On the issue of being smarter than other artist Chris here is a little something to ponder.

In the the 30's there was a little known photographer named Mike Disfarmer who made the most amazing portraits of the people of his small town of Heber Springs Arkansas. This man, if you happened to have met him would have left the impression on you of someone who was aloof and with a bit of a temper. He would have rubbed you the wrong way and maybe was not very smart by your standards. He did however make some amazing art and that's more than most of us can say or do.

2/02/2009 12:42:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

In the hopes of letting this thread get back on track, I've opted not to post a number of comments that continue to focus on personalities and artists wholly unrelated to the topic at hand. I'd encourage those commenters to talk to me in person about such matters. This thread is, as I've noted, about the Brandeis decision to liquidate a museum collection of considerable note and the suggestion that doing so is better than asking any of their science departments to make similar sacrifices.

2/02/2009 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I don't know that the thread got that far off track. You're asking, basically, why Brandeis administrators think art is disposable. Well, they think art's disposable because they apparently believe most of the major artists of the 20th century. Duchamp with his readymades, Jasper Johns and his cans, Rauschenberg and his combines of trash, Yves Klein and his "zone of pictorial sensibility", Sol LeWitt and his claim that anyone could create his art by following his formulas, all the way through to today's conceptual artists, including the ones you represent in your gallery, Edward -- all of them have pushed forward the devaluing of the art object in favor of the art idea.

So, given that, it sounds perfectly sensible to chuck out all the art objects and save the houseroom; a small library should be enough to contain all the art concepts, and that you can put on CD and hand out to incoming freshmen.

2/02/2009 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Oriane said...

I'm sorry Ed, I know you're trying to get this thread back on track, but I would like to make one comment that might appear to be "on personalities" and not on topic, but there is a point to be made here.

Chris, some of the arguments you make here have validity, but your rhetoric is so polarizing that you force the conversation into these strange tangents. This does not help prove your point. When you say that you are the smartest one in a room full of artists, you weaken whatever gains you might have made in the argument. Your assessment of the intelligence of everyone in the room reflects more on you than on them. I'm not prompted to write this because I'm personally insulted (I've been in the same room with you and I don't feel you know me sufficiently to make such a claim) but just to remind you that it's the kind of statement that makes one question all your other conclusions.

Think about it with that big brain of yours!

Oriane

2/02/2009 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Chris,

By bringing my artists into it (none of whom have work in the Rose collection), you are making your argument personal with no apparent reason other than to strike out. This is the last comment of yours I'll publish that does so.

I know you're trying to argue that I too should reflect on the long-term implications of my decisions as a means of making your personal argument on-topic, but the gaping hole in your argument is that the art you're suggesting (without any evidence) Brandeis doesn't feel is as good as some other art they might have is the same art causing the uproar among so many of the people across the blogsophere and elsewhere. In other words, it's important to many, many, many people.

Just because it's not important to you doesn't negate that fact.

2/02/2009 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Seems to me that the Rose Art Museum would be better off with a collection of pallet knife nudes or whatever works could have been culled from graduate exhibitions over the years. This way the artworks would be relatively worthless and therefor it would be pointless to try and sell them. Dig-dig.

Come on folks, this debate is not about the quality of the Rose Art Museum collection. Regardless of ones particular opinion about the art works, they are worth a considerable amount of money even in todays depressed art market.

The questions revolve around how the Brandeis trustees are handling the financial problems they are facing. There are a number of questions, philosophical points, about the what are the mandates of institutions of higher learning.

On one level the trustees might argue that this is a simple business decision. They cannot pay the rent so they want to sell something which was given to them, in trust, as a legacy for the future.

Ok, it's a business decision, either we fire 20% of the staff, or sell the paintings, how do you vote? Can you imagine same argument happening at Yale, Harvard, or Oxford? Come on, get real.

2/02/2009 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

I don't subscribe to any science magazines but I did do my undergraduate studies in Physics. I also don't believe I'm the only reader here with a scientific background. But, I'm going to avoid name dropping and other scientific esoterica and just offer up a bit more information on one of the people mentioned earlier.

Richard Feynman was a prominent figure in the arts community of my home town. In addition to being a physicist at Cal Tech, he was also a serious painter. (He was serious about everything he did) Moreover, there are also some interesting dialogues between him and one of those "MacArthur fellows" which someone maligned earlier. There was an retrospective exhibition of Feynman's paintings this summer.

Albert played the violin. Did you know that there is a strong correlation between mathematical and musical skills?

So let's not draw this line too fine.

PS Richard Feynman wrote a very entertaining biography that's worth reading.

2/02/2009 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Hey, George, nice not-too-subtle dig at Franklin! Ed, I thought we had to stop talking about specific artists here.

I'll reformulate my previous point. It's got nothing to do with whether I like the art at Brandeis or not, or whether I like any particular kind of art at all. My opinion doesn't enter into it. It goes like this:

One of the planks in Conceptual Art's platform is "deprivileging the art object," so here's Brandeis deprivileging a whole building full of art objects.

If Conceptualism has any claim to validity, then the Brandeis administrators are acting in a perfectly logical manner. Can anyone who supports Conceptualism explain how this is inconsistent?

2/02/2009 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

nice not-too-subtle dig at Franklin

Didn't catch that, actually. George, please refrain from using anyone's art here to illustrate a point.

If Conceptualism has any claim to validity, then the Brandeis administrators are acting in a perfectly logical manner.

That is such a stretch I'm sure it will leave scars in your cerebral cortex, Chris.

The plank of Conceptualism (which as an "upper-case C" art movement actually ended in the late 70's) you're focused on is but one of several points of interest that emerged as a reaction against the kind of (some would say oppressive) formalism advanced by Greenberg et al....all of which have since become grist for the mill, so to speak, and used as points to inform practice decisions, as opposed to hard-and-fast rules. The movement is over. Its impact continues.

In other words, throwing planks at people to justify this decision is silly.

2/02/2009 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

You cannot seriously be claiming that deprivileging of the art object hasn't been a continuing project, that somehow the work's been done and that angle abandoned.

When I listed the artists I did above -- Duchamp, Johns, Rauschenberg, Klein, LeWitt, and so on -- I didn't list them to say "Their work is clearly disposable, so of course Brandeis is correct in judging all of their art disposable." What I'm trying to say is that these artists were making a statement through their artwork (and through their writing about their artwork) that the actual physical manifestation of a given piece of art wasn't important. Klein went so far as to not have an art object at all and he did this specifically to make a point.

Many contemporary artists continue to make the same point, over and over. It's not something "used as points to inform practice decisions" -- whatever that argle-bargle means -- it's the foundational idea underlying much of the contemporary philosophy of art.

Duchamp's point -- that anything can be art -- isn't something set in type in a book. It's a living approach to art, one you yourself have championed on this blog, not once, not twice, but constantly. I recall there was a long discussion on a piece you loved, which consisted of the artist telling people that all the shoe shops in Amsterdam were his art object.

So it's disingenuous of you to claim that this is somehow "grist for the mill" -- it's become the mill.

So what I want to know is, if the art object doesn't matter -- if the idea is what's important, not the execution -- if the process is the thing, not the result, which is just the detritus left after the process is done -- then why on Earth should Brandeis expend any effort at all on keeping the results in a building? Wouldn't it be just as valid to write all the ideas down and burn them onto a CD?

2/02/2009 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Chris, Keep talking, you are ruining your own credibility by leaps and bounds.

The Rose Art Collection has 6000+ artworks. Where do you get off as an authority on what is in their collection? You do not have a clue. It's really difficult to find a complete list of artworks in their collection.

Among the 6000 items, there are 28 artworks that were purchased under the direction of Sam Hunter in the early sixties which, you Chris, are improperly suggesting are conceptual art. The rest of their collection is outside of your vision but in one fell swoop of egomaniacal animosity you want everyone to dismiss.

How many artworks in the Rose Art Collection are "Conceptual Art"? Since you are so eager to make this connection, perhaps you would do us the honor of naming them? Do you even know what Conceptual art is? Or is this just a linguistic grab-bag you are using to hold everything you don't like.

In all honesty, you are just mouthing off about something you don't know anything about at all.

Source: Brandeis Plunders Its Rose Art Museum

2/02/2009 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

You cannot seriously be claiming that deprivileging of the art object hasn't been a continuing project, that somehow the work's been done and that angle abandoned.

I claimed exactly what I claimed, Chris...that it is one point of interest that informs decisions artists make today but not a hard-and-fast rule.

underlying much of the contemporary philosophy of art

As Bambino would say, "catch up slo-mo," the blurring of conceptual concerns with the creation of art object has been part of widespread practice since the 90s. Your argument requires a purist adherence to an idea that few are advancing as such.

if the art object doesn't matter

Your determination to saddle someone here with that over-simplification is misguided.

-- if the idea is what's important, not the execution -- if the process is the thing, not the result, which is just the detritus left after the process is done -- then why on Earth should Brandeis expend any effort at all on keeping the results in a building?

Nails on a chalkboard, that tortured and anachronistic reasoning...why are you being so black-and-white about this? Can't you consider two conflicting ideas in your mind at the same time and process both toward your own ends? Movements end because folks work past their asserted absolutes...move on, Chris...move forward. Pluralism has given you license.

2/02/2009 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

er...make that "Conceptualist" concerns, not conceptual concerns.

2/02/2009 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Look, George, you're confused about what I'm saying.

I'm not asserting anything at all about what's in the Rose Art Museum. I'm not asserting anything at all about how much I like anything in the Rose Art Museum. I admit total ignorance regarding the Rose Art Museum, not to mention Brandeis University. Honestly, I don't even know its geographic location.

None of that has anything to do with the point I'm trying to make.

Ed: What I'm trying to get across is not what I personally believe about anything. What I'm trying to say is, these Brandeis people have just internalized something that has been beaten into them over the past fifty years: That art objects don't mean anything, that art itself is disposable, that the very concept of culture itself is meaningless. I'm fairly certain -- even if I can't find Brandeis on a map -- that there are at least a couple of professors in the philosophy and art departments who have taught just that at some point in the last twenty years or so.

I'm also saying that anyone who today espouses an art based on Conceptualism is aiding and abetting. On the one side you have regular non-art people asking why they can't appreciate this piece of art or that one; and on the other side you have art people saying art is whatever you say it is, can be anywhere and everywhere, and has no need of being embodied in any physical form. Between the two, one can see how keeping a museum open seems like a waste of money.

My personal opinion is that shutting a museum down to cut costs is pretty stupid. I happen to believe in art objects and their importance, though. I think the choice between art and science is a false one -- science only wins if it really is a choice between one or the other, and how often does that happen? If the choice were truly between cutting an active, useful, constructive science department and a moribund museum full of Jasper Johns and Marlene Dumas, well then I'd side with science. But of course it's not going to work that way.

Universities run on their endowment. I happen to consider the museum part of that endowment in a sense, although it's not literally part of the monetary endowment. Cutting into the endowment is regarded really poorly in academia. It is exactly like tearing up your ship's hull to feed into its steam engines. It doesn't work. Selling off the museum is, to my mind, the same thing: It's a sign the ship is out of fuel and sinking.

But, really, I have some trouble hearing the hue and cry from people who've made it their express business to open up art to the deskilled, to allow anyone to call themselves an artist and anything to be called art. Because if anything can be art, then nothing's art.

Or, as Paul Schrader said about elevating trash culture over high culture: "It was fun watching the applecart being upset, but now where do we go for apples?"

2/02/2009 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Chris,

The big problem is that you are off-topic and confusing the issue. In the present context, your remarks show little attention to the topic at hand and only serve your own agenda. You are poorly informed, and I'm really not interested.

2/02/2009 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I realize that McCain has a consistent track record of opposition to public arts funding. I don't see how this results in American ambivalence about culture or translates to the philistinism displayed by leadership at Brandeis. If anything, McCain was playing to a base that already harbored ambivalent feelings about culture, a base that subsequently elected him. If politicians influence those sentiments by voting to spend public money on culture (or not), which doesn't sound convincing, I'd like to see evidence for it. Meanwhile, I can't speak for other fields, but the proponents of an extremely narrow and somewhat arcane set of artistic priorities have overrun the centers of of the contemporary art world. Even I, as a participant, have ambivalent feelings about that material; I have no idea how casual observers might even understand it, much less feel inclined to fight for it.

I completely agree with the basic charge left by the unnamed Brandeis apologist, that our chemistry, biology, and physics graduates have a better chance of improving the life of mankind than artists. I assume we all agree that it makes no sense to translate this into a decision to can the Rose. But the centers of the contemporary art world have been proving him right by producing and promoting work that sets out to do things - question this notion, challenge that conception, push this other boundary. And again, compared to the genuinely difficult intellectual work going on the sciences, this stuff hardly merits notice.

The objection to our anonymous friend lay in presently unfashionable principles of humanism. So I have my rebuttal: we don't measure a liberal education by metrics of utility; we measure it by its accounting for the higher reaches of beauty and the finer pleasures, and its allowance for certain persons with talent for them to cultivate those talents. But that doesn't fit your personal opinions about art, so how do you answer?

Nails on a chalkboard, that tortured and anachronistic reasoning...why are you being so black-and-white about this? Can't you consider two conflicting ideas in your mind at the same time and process both toward your own ends? Movements end because folks work past their asserted absolutes...move on, Chris...move forward. Pluralism has given you license.

Chris asked a simple, fair, and eminently germane question. It deserves better than the above response.

2/02/2009 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger jeff f said...

Characterized by academic excellence since its founding in 1948, Brandeis is one of the youngest private research universities, as well as the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college or university in the country.

Named for the late Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court, Brandeis University combines the faculty and resources of a world-class research institution with the intimacy and personal attention of a small liberal arts college.

Located in Waltham, Mass., on 235 attractive suburban acres, Brandeis is in an ideal location just nine miles west of Boston.

The above is from there web site Chris, it took me all of 5 seconds to get this information. I think it would have been prudent for you to have done so.

I have been to the Rose a few times, it is a nice small museum with a very nice collection of modern art. It also has, or had very nice exhibition space for visiting artist. I think Dana Schutz had a show there when she was just starting out.

For me the tragic issue is that this college is treading into some very dangerous waters that I fear will have repercussions for them and small museums like the Rose for years to come. The other issue is what are the responsibilities of institutions such as Brandeis in relation to our culture and the in setting them selves up to be stewards if it.

Chris I just read your blog, I hate to say this but are you sure you want to go down this ridiculous rabbit hole just to prove to all that your stubborn and maybe a bit childish?

2/02/2009 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I realize that McCain has a consistent track record of opposition to public arts funding. I don't see how this results in American ambivalence about culture

I think it's pretty straightforward, actually. People look to their leaders for cues on how to feel about things. It's a bit of a leap to suggest a truly meaningful parallel, but the following is indicative of what I think happens here:

"While some broccoli historians question the impact of President Bush's anti-broccoli stance, in fact, the U.S.D.A. reports that U.S. broccoli consumption hit an all-time peak the year before he took office and then declined by as much as 15% during his presidency."

Here I was, happily unaware that there were any Broccoli historians...

Chris asked a simple, fair, and eminently germane question. It deserves better than the above response.

Let's call a truce on all the righteous indignation flying back and forth on this thread, alright? The only thing we're less likely to agree on than how important Conceptualism is, is who's being ruder to whom in this thread. I suspect we're boring the others reading to tears.

For me the tragic issue is that this college is treading into some very dangerous waters that I fear will have repercussions for them and small museums like the Rose for years to come.

Every shift in how things are done will do this. Just as Hirst taking his work directly to auction probably lead to certain other galleries reviewing their representation contracts, this news will undoubtedly send a chill through the community of collectors who donate work only when they're confident the institution will follow their wishes.

2/02/2009 08:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I simply want to hear your answer to Chris's question. Mine too.

We need to consider the 85% of folks who continued to come to their own conclusions about broccoli. I would think that if the public is ambivalent about culture, then culture is providing it with sound reasons for ambivalence. Honesty obliges us to entertain this as a likelihood.

2/02/2009 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

As for Chris's question: He's asked it several different ways at this point, but the form you seem most intent on getting an answer to seems to be this one:

"If the idea is what's important, not the execution -- if the process is the thing, not the result, which is just the detritus left after the process is done -- then why on Earth should Brandeis expend any effort at all on keeping the results in a building?"

To answer this and do it justice would require addressing each of the reportedly 8000 art objects in the Rose collection (asking was the process more important than this resulting object of each).

Collectively, there's no evidence at all that Chris's central premise (the art in the Rose is what we would all agree is "the detritus left after the process is done" and this justifies liquidating it) is true, meaning rather than debating something that's actually happening or provably related to this thread's topic we would instead be debating a personal pet peeve's of Chris's. He has his blog for that.

As for your question: I answered why I believe the Conservatives are to blame for ambivalence toward art in America...just because you apparently don't accept my answer doesn't require me to come up with another one.

2/03/2009 07:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One can't have it both ways - if one makes and show work that "challenges boundaries" or "undermines established hegemonies" as some of the works you're taking about claim to do (dubious, dubious), then one can't expect the powers that be, entrenched in those hegemonies, to support one.

I don't think conceptual work challenges anything other than common sense and taste, but if it truly does exist on the bleeding edge of culture, then to expect the government to support it seems foolish.

2/03/2009 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I don't think conceptual work challenges anything other than common sense and taste

The very genesis of so much interesting work in one concise, if inadvertent, statement. :-)

The truly annoying thing about how this tangent has derailed this thread is that much of the work owned by the Rose was made before the dawn of the Conceptualist movement. Let's please get back on topic. If you insist on justifying this decision by the university based on the work in the collection, at least have the intellectual honesty to cite actual works in the collection that back up your claim.

2/03/2009 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Chris: What I'm trying to say is, these Brandeis people have just internalized something that has been beaten into them over the past fifty years: That art objects don't mean anything, that art itself is disposable, that the very concept of culture itself is meaningless.

There is NO evidence of this at all. Brandeis University has a serious financial problem and because of their prior support of the Rose Art Museum, it now is one of the most valuable liquid assets they have. Just because they have considered selling the art collection does not mean they believe "culture itself is meaningless" It means they are desperate and don't know what else to do.

Chris: I'm also saying that anyone who today espouses an art based on Conceptualism is aiding and abetting.

To begin, you are again making gross generalizations and lumping everything into one category or the other, choose Craft or Conceptualism. This is not how the real world works.

Over the entire history of art we find opposing views, differences in the psychological makeup of artists which produces profound differences in the art. This can be something as simple as the use of a precise or expressive line in drawing or painting. Ingres vs Delacroix.

These are psychological differences, they do not have a right or wrong associated with them, just a concept of difference. Over time, artists put forth their best efforts which express their particular psychological makeup and vision for art. Society, the culture chooses what it feels is the work it wants to revere and preserve.

We as artists, can only do our best. We assume we know the truth, what is good and important for art, but we must accept that it is possible we might be delusional and wrong.

In the case of the Rose Art Museum, I'd speculate that a third of the collection are what we would literally consider 'craft' objects.

Chris: Universities run on their endowment. I happen to consider the museum part of that endowment in a sense, although it's not literally part of the monetary endowment.

While you are free to consider things whatever you want, your statement is factually incorrect.

An endowment is capital which provides a permanent source of income for the University. Properly used, the financial returns of the invested principle are used for University expenses without spending the principle. The Rose Art Collection is a windfall, an asset worth 6000 times what it was originally purchased for. However, it produces no income and is convertible to cash only by the selling of its assets, the art.

Franklin: I can't speak for other fields, but the proponents of an extremely narrow and somewhat arcane set of artistic priorities have overrun the centers of of the contemporary art world.

Well, speak for yourself. Unfortunately you are seeing demons where there are none. As artists we can always expect that some of the "priorities" of the culture, the contemporary art world, will be at odds with what we personally believe. Other artists will continue to make art we hate, so what?

The problem here is that the "arcane set of artistic priorities" you are reacting to have already been displaced in the present and are no longer considered issues in advanced art. This is a typical problem manifested by middle aged artists who are freaking out over yesterdays war when in fact, it's already done, finished. As noted by Ed and others, "conceptual art" is a thing of the past, it's residue is just one more historical element to inspire todays young generation of emerging artists.

If you don't like the art being made by others, make something better, smarter, more beautiful, more exciting, something relevant today. The world will beat a path to your door

Finally, Chris asked: So what I want to know is, if the art object doesn't matter -- if the idea is what's important, not the execution -- if the process is the thing, not the result, which is just the detritus left after the process is done --

An art object is "just the detritus left after the process is done" Any artist knows this, ask Leonardo, the Mona Lisa took on a life of its own after leaving the studio.

For the rest, as noted earlier, you are forcing things to be black or white, crafty or conceptual. Worse, you are asking us to accept your personal metrics of craftsmanship, and ignore our own. Well, I'm sorry, I have a different vision, a different opinion about what I believe is good art, what is good craftsmanship (for lack of a better word in order to exclude conceptual issues) Why should I accept Chris's viewpoint? or Franklin's or anyone else here?

Talk is cheap, show me the beef, hit me with your best shot, Don't just tear down other art or other ideas as a manifestation of your frustration, show me better art.

Show me better art, convince us.

2/03/2009 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


Show me better art, convince us.


That is the essence of what's lacking in all this.

2/03/2009 09:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris' question is simple - the work you champion has had a role, however small, in the attitude towards visual art that you lament. Privileging the idea way way over any formal values of a work has consequences - it tells the wider culture that things that have those formal values are of less worth to us now.

It has nothing to do with what is actually in the Rose Collection.

2/03/2009 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It has nothing to do with what is actually in the Rose Collection.

Which is why this is the very last comment on this tangent I'll post in this thread.

2/03/2009 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Franklin said...

Show me better art, convince us.

How does this comment relate to the original topic?

2/03/2009 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It doesn't. It merely caps off that tangent in what I personally consider the best means of moving this topic forward in some future (other) thread.

2/03/2009 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger eageageag said...

Brandeis is making a horrible horrible mistake and they should find the cash reserves elsewhere. When I went to SUNY Purchase as an undergraduate in the late 80s I practically lived in the library and the Neuberger Museum, which was located on campus. I would spend entire afternoons in the Neuberger, sitting on the floor or on a bench and staring at (or listening and staring in the case of the Vito Acconci mini-retrospective that was there for quite a while) the art. I would read and write and do sketches of the art. You can't live with art like this in the big crowded museums. I experienced so much new art, stuff I had never seen before or even knew about and it was fantastic. I even worked for the museum for a few months, but I got accused of being a lazy homosexual by the crazy bearded director and he fired me. That is a story for another time. Being able to wake up in my dorm room and take a short walk over to the Neuberger Museum and look at stuff I had seen the day before was so important to me.

2/03/2009 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Ed:
+++ask themselves how sure they ++are Valland would risk her ++safety for their own art


I'd say "don't do it, I'll make a copy", I'm not interested in the aura of uniqueness and special editions. We live in 2009.



Chris
++(art) that you can put on CD and hand out to incoming freshmen.


I don't see anything wrong with that. You can record the form of a Rodin in a computer and replicate it anytime you want. So it's not just the record of the idea. That's durability.

I'd love if we could copy-paste the Brandeis collection, Chris,
but unfortunately this is not possible for most of the pieces
(except perhaps Sol Lewitt). The technology is not all perfect yet.
A lot of the conceptual art you described depends on the history,
aura and importance we give to the proposals, not their disposability.


To Franklyn:
I subscribe to Leonardo.
Art can be scientific.


++lazy homesexual

ahh...the pleasure of watching long performances of naked Vito.


Cedric

2/03/2009 01:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the millions of people you call artists are entertainers. Talk about a section of society that should get no govenrment monies.

The true arts are created by those who are not of the publics wants, but create in isolation, works that unify and exalt all of mankind. Often going agaisnt the prevalent winds of public discourse. And so no monies should ever be spent on art, for it shall be wasted. Only tried and true forms, which would be music, dance, and other public performers of agreed upon artistic value. These are also not artists, but performers. And while needed, do not create. They interpret.

Also public vehicles for presentation, PBS for example. But no monies ever for individual grants or artist, it only degrades and detracts art. Artists must be strong to create, this makes for softness and waste. Real artists will survive, and create, they need no gifts, but do need work. That comes from the private sector, and commissions, not the government.

2/03/2009 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger jeff f said...

Brandeis President: I Acted Too Hastily...

BOSTON - February 06, 2009 - The president of Brandeis University says his original message about the future of the Rose Art Museum may have been "misunderstood."

In a letter to students and faculty yesterday, Jehuda Reinharz said he "screwed up" in how he communicated the Board of Trustees' decision to close the Rose and sell some of its collection to help ease the university's financial crisis. He also apologized for not including more of the Brandeis community in the decision-making process.

While the Rose museum will stay open in name, it won't be a public art museum. And while the university won't sell its entire collection, it will sell some works, if necessary.

President Jehuda Reinharz spoke with WBUR about the situation.

From WBUR

http://www.wbur.org/news/2009/83035_20090206.asp


Spin all you want Mr.Reinharz your still destroying an asset the arts community to save your job.

2/06/2009 10:13:00 AM  

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