April 19th, 2006

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12:48 am - on the arts, time and world civilization...

Oakland Graffiti
Originally uploaded by chrismaverick.
So Sunday night as beststephi and I were driving to Cleveland and back to drop off mamarayne we were listening to a radio show she likes on Sirius's liberal political channel, TalkLeft.

The program, Young Turks, had deviated from their topic of Rumsfield bashing to talk about the nature of art. Two interesting topics came up: 1) is graffiti art. And B) is new media (movies, tv, art, pop/hiphop/rock music) art? And then one must ask, which is MORE artlike?

The part I found interesting was that one of the Turks seemed to think that art was all about expression, and thus graffiti was quite artistic (sometimes, she made the differentiation between graffiti art and "tagging"). One of the other turks felt that art was about a reflection of society and culture and should be relevant and thus TV, movies, etc were the only real art today and painting and sculpture and such were pretty much passé. They went on to discuss this for a few moments before, much like any other pundit show, they basically reverted to childish namecalling, ended the segment and went on to the next topic.

But I was intrigued. So I ask you noble reader, what is the nature of art? What do you consider art? Can popular culture(art, tv, hip hop, the internet) be art? What about counter culture (graffiti, prowrestling, hip hop and the internet again)? Is one more art than the other?

Or as Milk and Cheese say, is art just that which we don't understand?

And speaking of art... I should do more. Half of my not doing so is me being lame, the other half is me not having inspiring models (or at least that's what I'm blaming), so once again, if you want to pose for one of my photoshoots, let me know.

And in closing... Aloha Jam is this weekend... come, party, get drunk, soak in the hottub, be sexy, win prizes... or something...

(22 comments | Leave a comment)

on the arts, time and world civilization... - graffiti.maverick — LiveJournal

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[User Picture]From: kenoubi Date: April 19th, 2006 - 05:45 am (Link)
I prefer to define art as that which is produced with the intention of its having æsthetic value. Æsthetic value I would define as that valued for its own sake, not as the means to some further end. I realize this leads to a few strange cases—most notably, are many/most instances of sex art?—but I prefer to bite the bullet and say that they are. More interestingly, it nearly obliterates the distinction between art and craft, but I prefer that anyway, since I've always thought that distinction was created by Fine Arts practitioners so they could look down their noses at the plebeian craftsmen.

I don't see any reason that pop culture or counterculture can't be art (and in fact, I think that many instances of them are). Isn't counterculture really just pop culture for rebels, anyway? Perhaps by pop culture you meant mass-market culture, but even that seems to blend pretty seamlessly with counterculture these days.

Strictly speaking, of course, many countercultural artifacts are created more to convey ideas than for the sheer enjoyment of contemplating them, and are thereby at least partially propaganda rather than art. I do think there's room for gradations as to how artistic something is.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: April 20th, 2006 - 02:06 am (Link)
interesting... so are you arguing that a piece meant to convey a statement, or to cause someone to think about an idea isn't art? I think most "artists" would disagree. Not that that makes you wrong or right. I'd just be curious as to more of your thinking along that line.

Key in point, if I paint an image meant to tell the conveyor that I hate the gulf war, or I paint a piece depicting the crucifiction, I am certainly not just creating something for the sake of it being valued on its own merit. I am trying to convince the viewer of my leftist or christian viewpoint, right? It would be, as you said, propoganda. But does that make it non-artistic?
[User Picture]From: max1975 Date: April 20th, 2006 - 03:03 am (Link)
interesting... so are you arguing that a piece meant to convey a statement, or to cause someone to think about an idea isn't art? I think most "artists" would disagree.

I have a lot of sympathy for this point of view. I think when art is used to convey a specific message, it has a tendency to, well...to suck. Again, one could write volumes. But to try and simplify, I think art has the power to communicate a whole lot more than whatever idea the artist has in mind when he makes it. When this power is consciously appropriated to serve the artist's ideology, rather than unleashed to its full potential, the result is often quite tacky.

That said, there's a clearly a lot of stuff with ideological content that is also great art (and actually, it's not ideological content doesn't bother me, it's preaching). And the tacky stuff wouldn't bother me so much if it weren't art being subjugated.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: April 20th, 2006 - 10:43 am (Link)
tacky or no, it would still be art though. And besides, I agree with you, a piece can coney a lot more than the artists intention, but that's still not "being appreciated only for its own intrinsic aesthetic value," ya know? So I guess what I was getting at is what you said in the second paragraph, I don't think preachiness and artisticness are mutually exclusive.... if anything its just annoying.
[User Picture]From: kenoubi Date: April 20th, 2006 - 12:34 pm (Link)
Well, first off, most “artists” would definitely consider some things to be art that I think are very marginal examples—“found art”, for example, which I think might well be less artistic than your average five-year-old's crayon drawing. So, I don't necessarily think that's a reliable guide.

You could have simply written the sentence “I hate the Gulf War” instead of painting an image to express it. So, the painting might be art, but it clearly isn't art solely in virtue of expressing that sentiment; the sentence does that too, and it isn't art. Something else has to be what makes the painting artistic, and I'd say that that something else is those attributes of the painting that would make it valuable on its own merit.

Fundamentally, the expressive view of art has never been very compelling to me. Sure, most art does express something (and perhaps all art could be “interpreted” as expressing something), but too many things that aren't art express things also for that to be what makes art distinctive.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: April 20th, 2006 - 08:52 pm (Link)
that's actually pretty insightful. So you're saying that art can have meaning or not, but that's not the distinguishing factor. I actually like that a lot.
[User Picture]From: max1975 Date: April 19th, 2006 - 07:48 am (Link)
One could write volumes. But the definition of the word is ultimately arbitrary.

I tend to favor an expansive definition, while divorcing the word from its positive connotations. So there's good art and bad art or, as I like to call it, "crap". I've seen things in the museum that I regret losing the seconds it took to walk past, and I've seen graffiti that's stunningly beautiful. And of course, an item can be multiple things simultaneously. The piece in the museum is art and an insult to artists, and the graffiti is art and vandalism.

This allows me to just hate stuff without getting into internal debates and absurd rationalizations about its essential nature.

But if you forced me to nail down a definition of art, I'd try to say it's anything material that's been transformed for reasons that aren't strictly functional. But then I'd have to go define "functional" and at that point it's all just prattling and nonsense. And maybe art.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: April 20th, 2006 - 02:10 am (Link)
so is the transformation strictly necessary? Dadaism frequently featured found art. Does that not count? What about performace pieces and plays? There is nothing tangible to be transformed, or would you argue that the portrayal of the actor as a character is a transformation in a sense?
[User Picture]From: max1975 Date: April 20th, 2006 - 02:42 am (Link)
Well, someone has to DO something. So the Dadaist has to at least pick up the found object and move it somewhere. At which point he's transformed the context. If he does so for reasons that aren't strictly functional, then it's art, by my definition. Probably crap as well (see "insult to artists"), if all he's done is picked it up and moved it, though I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a transformed context so clever as to be worthwhile.

Performance pieces and plays are all transformations, of ideas if not of material.

[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: April 20th, 2006 - 10:48 am (Link)
Ok, to complicate things then... is there accidental art? Below, bryguypgh states that there isn't. But if we follow your reasoning, wouldn't it be arguable that an aesthetic worthwhile transformation occurs through happenstance? And as such, art could occur randomly and spontaeneously?

Of course if that is the case, then couldn't anything be art? And if anything is art, then everything is, and suddenly nothing is.
[User Picture]From: max1975 Date: April 20th, 2006 - 05:33 pm (Link)
You're dragging me dangerously close to a precipice beyond which lies massive metaphysical meandering. Trying to stay simple though, art requires an artist and a viewer, and those can be the same person, and if you look at an accident and create an idea of it as "art" in your head, then maybe it is art.

Of course if that is the case, then couldn't anything be art? And if anything is art, then everything is, and suddenly nothing is.

Pretty much. Words are meaningless when you look at 'em too closely.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: April 20th, 2006 - 08:54 pm (Link)
[User Picture]From: max1975 Date: April 20th, 2006 - 10:36 pm (Link)
[User Picture]From: bryguypgh Date: April 19th, 2006 - 01:16 pm (Link)

intentional interaction with audience symbolic representations

There's a conservative definition of art - musty oil paintings in museums and the like. If you have a more new-fangled definition of art that has to do with challenging your audience, you must reconcile it with this conservative definition (i.e., the most boring painting in the Louvre must fit your definition) or else you're just neologizing.

Here's my attempt: art is media designed with an intent to interact with symbolic representations in the mind of the audience. From this definition:

* abstract art is still art, it's typically messing with your symbolic representation of art.
* paying for a box of pop-tarts is not art because even though you must interact with the symbolic representations of "cash" "poptart" and "automatic checkout machine" in your mind and that of any bystanders, the intention of the act is to gain sustenance, not to say something about those symbolic interactions. There is no accidental art, although accidents may be captured and represented as art.
* a realistic painting of something mundane (say a still art painting of some fruit) is art because it attempts to match your representation of the fruit, so it (trivially) interacts with your symbolic mental representation of fruit.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: April 20th, 2006 - 02:11 am (Link)

Re: intentional interaction with audience symbolic representations

I actually like that a lot. Have you read Understanding Comics?
[User Picture]From: kochansky Date: April 19th, 2006 - 03:49 pm (Link)
I like Joe's opinion on graffiti...

If it uses fewer than three colors, it's tagging. If it uses three or more colors, it's art.

Although, there are the folks who become so ubiquitous that their work becomes art simply through the chutzpah factor; like Cool "Disco" Dan in DC.

It's all about the effort and though that goes into it. Simple tagging is something that a three year old can do and is really just a sad kind of masturbation.

Yes, I put "three-year-old" and masturbation in the same sentence.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: April 20th, 2006 - 02:12 am (Link)
hmmm... so if a graffiti artist were to paint a mural in black and white, wouldn't it still be art or would it be reduced to tagging?
[User Picture]From: kochansky Date: April 20th, 2006 - 05:03 am (Link)
Still art. The three color idea is not a rule; rather I take it as more of an indication of effort and thought behind a piece.

The image you have with this entry ends up being art to my eye, even though I think it was just a collection of different tags. The building on each other lends the wall much more depth than just one or two tags. Plus the layering gives it an abstract effect.

(I was kinda disappointed about a week after the "Ribbity" picture was taken because the authorities had removed the painting. It was on the window of a "For Lease" corner store and when they scraped it away the Budweiser advertisement was visible again. No matter how many colors they use in printing, it will still be less appealing than a well done tag.)
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: April 20th, 2006 - 10:40 am (Link)
actually, I'm pretty sure that the pic I posted here isn't a collection of tags. It's very precise and intentional looking. And it kind of showed up all at once. I think it was more like commissioned by the city in fact.

As for the other issue... you know, Bud is "The King of Beers"
[User Picture]From: vixendarkfairy Date: April 28th, 2006 - 04:24 am (Link)

Not all lyrics are poems...

Speaking as an artist, I think intent has very little to do with whether a craft succeeds at becoming "art." I have intended to write many poems. I have written words strung into lines that to the untrained eye look like poetry. But only a few of these wannabes qualify as "poems." And those are the ones that I've published.

So, what is the difference between mere lyrics and a poem? What is the difference between a clay craft and a sculpture? What is the difference between a portrait and the Mona Lisa?

ART requires:

1) EMOTION: Whether or not there is an intended message, or the intent to let the viewer/reader decide their own message as in "object art," the work creates an emotion in someone other than the creator. An encounter with art leaves the audience laughing, crying, guilt-ridden, thoughtful... The creation of the work must have been fraught with passion as well. For it is when we dare to lose control that the muse guides us.

2) COMPLEXITY: Art will evoke many emotions -- often different to different audiences. The emotions may conflict within the audience, or they may be taken on a roller-coaster ride that spans the spectrum of human emotion. There must be layers of ideas to be understood. The level of skill of the artist must also demonstrate complexity. They must display proper use of symbolism, meter, and the other tools of their chosen trade. A storyteller may tell a hackneyed tale of forbidden love, but if he does it with outstanding skill, they call him Shakespeare.

3) ORIGINALITY: Originality is key. The most noteworthy art is completely original in some way -- be it style, message, voice, subject, or technique. The first book of a genre usually gets crowned art for this reason. A film may be art because it was the first to demonstrate a new special effect. If there is not total originality, there must be at least enough originality in the work to make it stand out from similar contemporaries and mere copies. This is why the original The Accolade IS art, but a well-painted forgery is not.

There are surely other tests for art, but these are the top 3 IMHO.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: April 28th, 2006 - 02:25 pm (Link)

Re: Not all lyrics are poems...

First, I like that you recognize that these are your opinions and not necessarilly what everyone has to judge based on. I think that's very important.

Second, I'm unclear. Are you saying that you don't consider something art unless it fulfills all of the three tests you mentioned or that it just has to pass one of them and any one of them is fine? Is something more artisitc if it passes 2 of them?
[User Picture]From: vixendarkfairy Date: April 29th, 2006 - 04:03 am (Link)

Re: Not all lyrics are poems...

I think that, to be "art," the work must incorporate all 3. Besides, how can someone create something totally original with great complexity, and have failed to evoke even the "wow" emotion? And it's equally hard to evoke emotion without the use of symbolism (complexity) or putting a new twist on things (originality). And if something is completely unoriginal, then it is a copy. Copies are never art, so... It's actually difficult to find any example that has only one of the prerequisites.

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