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But is it "Art"? (part II)

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  • But is it "Art"? (part II)

    A recent conversation with a friend got me thinking about this subject again. I knew there was an excellent thread on this subject here already so I looked it up. Though it's still one of my favorite threads, it was concentrating on the commercial aspects (it's over in the Work/Jobs forum if you're interested).

    I find myself now thinking in more absolute terms. To me art is a form of communication. It differs, however, from the mundane everyday communications of facts, opinions, reminders, entertainments, etc., in that it is a communication between souls.

    Anything can be art, but not everything is. In fact, most things aren't. Art is a dialog, so half of it is in the creation and half in the appreciation. If we find ourselves unmoved by alleged art, it is perhaps the failure of the artist, but we are equally at risk of failure.

    I find this question more important today than ever, as we are awash in "craft". In my view, craft is empty art. Like bad poetry, it can be flawlessly contructed, yet mean nothing, except to its creator.

    I think this last part is the most important "except to its creator". We all love our creations, but that doesn't make them successful. Art is a form of communication, so what is being communicated? To often today I'm afraid it communicates "I needed the paycheck" or "I had some time to kill". Much of what I see in the world today is more akin to assembling a jigsaw puzzle than any real effort at thoughtful communication.

    But, of course, we the viewer are equally to blame. With no basis for comparison we cannot develop a critical eye. And we are notoriously lazy viewers in the 21st century. The old cliche "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear, does it make a noise?" could just as easily read "if an artist creates yet no one is around that can appreciate it, is it art?"

    So we have lazy viewers applauding jigsaw assemblers, while genuine artists toil in a vacuum, and critical viewers suffer from visual starvation.

    So ask yourself the next time you create "what is my soul trying to say?"

    And the next time you view a creation ask "can I hear their soul?"
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  • #2
    I think more angst and hot air is created by viewers and critics of 'art' than is/was ever expended by its creators.

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    • #3
      Possibly true. Art is, by definition, anti-intellectual. But that doesn't stop them from trying.

      If a tree falls in the forest and is broadcast on nationwide TV, does it make a million sounds?

      My own view of critics is that they serve as interpreters (and I know I've badly needed an artistic interpreter more than once). But, as the ratio of artist to critics is a very large one, and to successfully differentiate themselves from the competition the critis must be...different...at some point they are going to start contradicting and missing the point.

      Which is why I'm very critical of the critics I allow into my head
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      • #4
        Wow Doug...you really must have gotten into some strong coffee for a Monday morning! We could spend all day debating some of these ideas...I'll write a few comments now and think about this topic while at work today. (if I mess something up, can I tell my boss that is was because "I was pondering the place art has in society? )

        I like the idea that art "is a communication between souls"... That's one of the more elegant definitions of art that I have seen! Of course, not all souls are included...some just can't be communicated to through anything more complex than a sitcom.

        One other comment you made jumped out at me - "We all love our creations, but that doesn't make them successful." ...not sure that "love" thing holds true for most artists. Most of the time an image is created and even if it's a wonderful success, it's quickly forgotten and it's on to the next image. Most artists look back at work they did from just a few years back and cringe...it might be wonderful to others but most good artists are in such a constant state of transformation in regards to their work, that they do not really have time to sit back and "love" their work. The ones that do, often fall into formula and every image they create ends up looking like the same thing for years on end...which generally gets pretty stagnant and boring!

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        • #5
          While in school we were given the assignment of making a collage of everyday items that represented ourselves. The final work was to be a color Xerox. I worked quite hard on mine, and was very proud of it. We all brought in our Xeroxes, and the instructor told us to take solvent and smear our collage into "art". I couldn't do it, I liked mine too much and had only made one copy. I told the instructor so, and was made an object lesson for the rest of the class in holding our work too "precious".

          I still have the unsmeared Xerox collage, by the way

          "Kill your darlings" - William Faulkner
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          • #6
            A byline in the arts section of my paper a few days ago was..


            "Why is the output of our art schools drawn to contemporary Art?"


            The answer being of course that no technical ability is required !!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Doug Nelson
              Art is, by definition, anti-intellectual.
              I must admit to being puzzled? Why should art be anti-intellectual? Sometimes taking time to study and understand certain art pieces can make us appreciate art. What definition of "art" are you using?

              Tyeise

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              • #8
                Whooo people. Are you guys "Experenced", and those that are understand. Its a Jimmy Hendrix thing I guess.

                I agree and disagree with each of you. Great conversation. Wish we could do this in real time.

                I have been satisifed with very little I have done in the way of art. But some of my restores I have been happy with. But most I just make do because the person likes my job. But I still find things I could have done better.

                Doug - the 2 questions you asked in your first post - do you use these? Maybe that is why my "art" isn't as good as I would like....hum. But really the only time I do sence/feel my soul is while looking in the eyes of my wife. When human communication is not there. Maybe I need to get back in touch....HELP

                This is a great and eye opening conversation.

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                • #9
                  Appreciation of art can have intellectual aspects. Creating art can have intellectual aspects. But art itself exists in a sphere separate from intellect. In fact, it is contradictory to intellect. Intellect can dissect the components of art, perhaps even identify context, but the communication itself is non-rational.

                  Intellect can describe the little hairs on the back of your neck standing up, perhaps even define the process involved, but all the intellect in the world can't convey the experience itself. In fact, it can prevent the experience from happening.

                  I was defending my love for a particular musical piece to a friend of mine recently. I said "Do you remember the first time you visited the Grand Canyon? That feeling that grabs you for the first time you see the actual size of the thing? That's how that music makes me feel."

                  He didn't get it. But I think he will someday
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                  • #10
                    LB: I listen for whispers of soul all the time. Occasionally I actually hear it. I find as I grow older and experience more I can hear it more easily. But I'm also more sensitive to the silence.

                    I also use the other question, but not in the way you might expect. My art isn't retouching or restoration or even photography. But sometimes, when I'm in a certain mood, and have the proper measures of inspiration and caffiene, my soul sings when I write.

                    Sometimes
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                    • #11
                      I shall further deepen the hole I'm digging by asserting that many, perhaps most, confuse art with aesthetics. Aesthetics is to art as rhetoric is to truth.

                      All pretty pictures communicate the exact same message: "I'm pretty". Just because it looks good over the sofa doesn't make it art. Ditto for sexy, funny, pastoral, etc.

                      And on the creation side, I suspect many folk confuse the buzz of craftmanship with artistic inspiration. I know I have.

                      But if you just enjoy looking at it or making it, does that make it bad? No, it just doesn't make it art.

                      When you have a stimulating conversation you're larger when you finished than when you started. Art also makes you larger, both in the creation and the appreciation. Pretty pictures (or words or music or whatever) may make you smile, but they rarely leave you larger.
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Doug Nelson
                        I shall further deepen the hole I'm digging by asserting that many, perhaps most, confuse art with aesthetics.
                        To some extent, I think I understand this. Some art is pretty, some art is not necessarily so.

                        So you have defined what art is not... can you give me a definition of what art "is"?

                        Is art something that has a purpose? Is art only something that makes you feel something deeply? If so, is it art if it causes one person to react and not another?

                        Can you give me a little more help on how you ARE diffining art?

                        Tyeise

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                        • #13
                          Well, there's a bit of a paradox here in that you're asking me to use intellectual tools (words, logic, etc.) to describe a non-intellectual thing.

                          To mangle Lao Tsu, "the art that can be described is not the true art"

                          But I'm game if you are. In creating art you are not representing a flower or a tree. You are representing yourself, seen through the lens provided by said flower or tree. If the subject is the flower/tree/whatever, you have failed. The subject is yourself.

                          In viewing art you are trying to view back through that lens. If all you see is the flower/tree/whatever, then someone in the chain has failed. If your response is merely "oooo, pretty!" or "ick" then the communication has failed, and instead of seeing through a transparent lens we are merely seeing a reflection of ourselves.
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by photomauler
                            To me, everything has a certain artform about it. Everything communicates something to someone, therefore everything does start with some level of artistic quality or form. It is up to us just how high that level is raised.
                            I agree with this...although I think the idea that art can be "lifted" to a higher level does not really mesh with "Everything communicates something to someone." How would you define a "higher level" if everyone has a different interpretation of what that is. A velvet Elvis might be kitsch to me but high art to someone else. ...of course, now we are delving into the whole Postmodern thing and I am not sure anyone wants to be bored to death!

                            Doug - I'm not really into grand meta-definitions of art...too constraining! I don't think art has to move one's "soul" to be considered art...besides, who's soul are we trying to inspire? I once created a whole series of paintings based upon concepts from physics and astronomy..."intellectual art" at it's finest! ...I would be willing to bet that 95% of the people that walked into the gallery were bored by the work...but I know of several people, including one astronomy professor who loved the images. I'm not sure if it moved any souls, but I think they were inspired by it at least. How would such work fit into such a narrow definition of art? No matter how hard I attempted to communicate, I was only able to reach a small audience...was this my failure as an artist or a failure of the viewers? ....My answer would be neither!

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                            • #15
                              The only contraint is assuming any soul-to-soul communication must result in inspiration or movement. The easiest way to inspire or move someone is to show them exactly what they want to see, with no "communication" involved. That's the sign of good craftsmanship.

                              Lawrence Olivier once had to deliver a speech he was unprepared for. Ever a trooper, he went on, spoke awhile, had the audience in tears and on their feet at the end. It was only in examining the transcript later that it was discovered he'd simply pasted together odd bits of dialog from previous projects and delivered it in his well-practiced manner. It actually made no sense at all.

                              In the words of Gertrude Stein, there was no "there" there.
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