Wednesday, May 9, 2007

My Art is Deader than Yours: part one


I've recently read an article on Arts Journal.com entitled "Is Art Dead, hmnnn..." in which the author states yet again, this worn out phrase. Instead of repeating or quoting word for word, I'll simplify his points in the interest of time. Let me know if you have any different interpretations of his points and I'll gladly read your response intently, nod appreciatively, and then completely ignore you.

But seriously I would be interested in hearing your responses.

1. "Art is the side-effect of an attempt to manifest something." Art is only Art when it's not trying to be Art.

He's implicitly saying that Art is by nature, not self-conscious. Ever since the artist asserted himself as an intellectual (da Vinci), nobleman (Velasquez), or rock-star (Rafael), he has by definition been self-conscious of his status in society. He has likewise been conscious of the quality of his work by comparing it to other works. So, it seems that our dear author seems to be saying that Art is anything without quality because anything with quality, skill or highly realized craftsmanship must have been self-conscious or else the maker would have not attained such a high level of production.
However by stating this, our author is affirming the existence of the aforemention hierarchy of "quality" or "skill" by specifically placing Art outside of it. Here we come across the typical distinction between "beauty" and "sublime" which disregards the subjectivity inherent to any judgment or definition of these words.

2. Art is not dead, just painting and sculpture. Not because no one is producing good sculpture and painting, but because it is not new and merely regurgitates what has been done before.

Obviously his article is not art as it repeats what has been said for the last 50 years - and of course what was said even before that. Actually, was there ever a time when someone wasn't saying that art was dead?

On to the point - the classification of only painting and sculpture (the anachronistic pursuits) as being dead doesn't coincide with his logic. If all art that refers to something that has come before is no longer alive, then film was dead from its inception as it referred to theater, which referred to drama; music refers to itself and also can be traced back to prehistory; photography is derivative of painting; performance art is derivative of film, theater, music; and "Conceptual Art" is only philosophy in sheep's clothing. There is nothing that does not derive from something that has come before. Thus, according to our author, anything created after Paleolithic times is dead. Bear with me while I apply his logic to a few recognizable examples throughout history:

The Great Pyramid of Giza - Dead, didn't you see the other ones that were already there?

Polykleitos - Dead, one word: Venus of Willendorf, wait that's three, but you get my point.

The Architects of Hagia Sofia - Dead (The Romans had already invented the dome)

The Romans - Dead, they took everything from the Greeks anyway.


St. Augustine - Dead as a door-nail, Plotinus already talked about divine form, and he was just regurgitating Plato.


Dante - I think the Bible had the whole heaven and hell thing covered.


Leonardo Da Vinci - Cave men invented painting, Aristotle initiated scientific thought, and that helicopter doesn't even work.


Rafael, Michelangelo, etc... - Hey, we've already covered the art thing, and they weren't even inventors - Slackers!


Rembrandt- Yeah, yeah, yeah, light shadow, paint - covered that already

Velasquez - Ditto, and so, he painted a dwarf, big deal!


Bernini - yep

Shakespeare - Most of his plays derive from old myths, legends, and folk tales. Besides he probably wasn't even real.


Rodin - need I mention gothic wood carvings or even late Michelangelo?

Manet, Cezanne, Picasso- So, this is a "new" kind of painting huh? Because no one has ever made flat paintings before - reference the 39,000 years of painting before the Renaissance, guess what... it's all flat, primitive, and/or "distills the formal elements of visual language" (choose your own adjective).

Duchamp- this must be new, because no one had ever asked what art was before - or apparently ever seen a urinal either.

Hemingway - Suicide is so passe.


In fact it's obvious that man hasn't had an original thought since we rubbed two sticks together and made a spark. Once you've got the wheel, fire and beer it's all downhill.
In fact, I could do without fire and the wheel.

2 a) His implications is that true art is only the first attempt, all other attempts of conveying the subject or technique are dilutions of it.

There's no need to repeat myself.

3. Art is only Art when it is necessary and fulfills a purpose.

Art never fulfills a concrete purpose. By its very nature it specifically is not a necessity. If you buy a earthenware jug from, let's say Target - Is that piece of art? Let's say you paint some pretty little flowers on the jug, is it art then? What about if you hired a master potter for $4,000 to throw you a 3 ft. tall jug on the wheel, and commissioned him to decorate it with masterfully applied glazes and a depiction of scenes from A Midsummer Nights Dream? You certainly could use it to hold umbrellas, but I doubt you will, one of them could chip the glazes for God's sake! Art becomes Art precisely when it does not serve a concrete function. Now of course one might argue that it must serve some social or intellectual function. However, you don't need Guernica to think about the atrocities of WWII and you don't need a $4,000 pot to put store your umbrellas.

4. There is so much Art out there, or so it is supposed. This is False

Wow! I can't really contend with that. It's obvious that his comment is self evident and requires no logical foundation for his assertion. I guess I'll have to resort to spouting insults instead. Did you learn how to make an argument in a Nazi training camp? I hope you at least got a certificate of completion.

5. A Dead Art form is one that is no longer effective.

This is all culturally relative. If you look at a Byzantine Icon today, you might be curious but you certainly won't drop to your knees and shed tears like a peasant in the 12th century. However, I saw plenty of waterworks at the end of Titanic. Hmmm... so, Titanic is the true art? This contradicts what he was talking about before, because the "beauty" of kitsch is supposed to pull the heart strings and make you cry, but the "Sublime" is supposed to be transcendent. Here's a little test for you. I'm going to give you a few examples and I want you to ask yourself how most people respond to them. If it's effective it's Art right?

Britney Spears - "Oops, I did it again"

Mozart - Fifth Symphony

A Mark Rothko painting


Snakes on a Plane


Jackson Pollock - Blue Poles


A hero fighting a villain.


A Rembrandt self portrait

A cute little kitten with great big eyes. Feel something yet?


If you read the original article first, right now you might be saying to yourself, "but you're missing the point". I was just going on a little tangent. But I'll briefly respond to the rest of the paragraph. It depends on how you interpret the term "effective"

Here he implicates especially the practice of illusionism in painting by saying that it's not Art if there's a more effective way of doing it.
First, to judge the "Effectiveness" of a work of Art, one assumes that one knows the intention of the artist, which is completely impossible. Even if the artist tells us, we don't know exactly what he might mean by a word like "beauty", "truth", "reality", or "symbol".
Secondly, who's to say the result was a dead end. If the goal was to represent some "objective" reality (even if we could all agree on what that was), then there are many paintings that are much more "real" than photographs. Photography simplifies the image in different ways than painting and can easily distort the "truth". At least in painting, the artist can decide not to alter the values, distort perspective, and flatten color. The artist simplifies using the brain and not the lens, and so the image is understood according to the function of the brain, which makes the painting more fundamentally understandable and able to convey subtlety.
And as for sculpture... there isn't even a feasible replacement!

6. The symptoms of the demise of art are quotation.

i.e. the derivative... which I've already covered.
When I started this response, I didn't realize how long it would be, so I'll just add one more thing before I conclude this installment. Hopefully I've given you something to chew on.

7. P.S. Why does anyone bother with David Hockney? For an art critic his criteria is desperately wanting, and as an artist he is very poor.

You've got a point there.

Richard T. Scott
www.memoreejoelle.org

6 comments:

Isa Tenhaeff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RichardTScott said...

No offense taken. There are three accepted spellings for the name, (Bruegel, Breughel, and Brueghel) however, now that you mention it I believe the one you suggested is more common.

Thanks.

I'll check out your article as well.

Anonymous said...

Greetings Richard T. Scott,

My name is Paul Mellender, and I would like to reply to your critique of my article "Is art Dead". I've attempted to adress each point in its section. So I have quoted you and then per section, I have made my replies.

“I've recently read an article on Arts Journal.com entitled "Is Art Dead, hmnnn..." in which the author states yet again, this worn out phrase. Instead of repeating or quoting word for word, I'll simplify his points in the interest of time. Let me know if you have any different interpretations of his points and I'll gladly read your response intently, nod appreciatively, and then completely ignore you.

But seriously I would be interested in hearing your responses.

1. "Art is the side-effect of an attempt to manifest something." Art is only Art when it's not trying to be Art.

He's implicitly saying that Art is by nature, not self-conscious. Ever since the artist asserted himself as an intellectual (da Vinci), nobleman (Velasquez), or rock-star (Rafael), he has by definition been self-conscious of his status in society. He has likewise been conscious of the quality of his work by comparing it to other works. So, it seems that our dear author seems to be saying that Art is anything without quality because anything with quality, skill or highly realized craftsmanship must have been self-conscious or else the maker would have not attained such a high level of production.
However by stating this, our author is affirming the existence of the aforemention hierarchy of "quality" or "skill" by specifically placing Art outside of it. Here we come across the typical distinction between "beauty" and "sublime" which disregards the subjectivity inherent to any judgment or definition of these words.”

Dear Reader, is that what I was saying? Let’s begin with your examples. They are very late in the day for art. They are not definitive in any way as to what art is, or why art is done, or how one conceives of their status. I wasn’t addressing the point of status.
Self consciousness is not excluded at all. Self consciously attempting to do one thing while aware that art will be a side effect is self conscious. Trying to make something that has some qualities of the side effect is also possible and a conscious decision- but it isn’t the side effect. I am not stating that art is an unintentional. You can, attempt to do anything and develop a quality, high skill or highly realized craftsmanship- and you can invent these aspects as you go.
Next you have set up a false sequence. By attempting to manifest something one can hone, build skills, and acquire high levels of craftsmanship and quality. By attempting to “make art” one is chasing one’s tail. The word art in some of its very early roots meant “hole” or “door” by which one passed through to other places. With this in mind if we build a metaphor, people trying to make art are trying to create the doors (planks knob and hinges), instead of trying to create an egress through which to pass. This is done in sham and ritual. “Imitative magic”. Their attempt is imitative of the superficial products of the endeavor, not the endeavor itself. This endeavor would seem it include a great deal more need of effort and skill than door building. So lacking the necessary subtle parts- and the place to which one is building an egress, the door, though nice and well built, will fail to lead anywhere. It will fall short of the endeavor.
I am affirming none of the things you mention, and I am dismissing subjectivity in the sense of preference (not in the sense of subjective intake of data based on individual traits- like height or deafness, or poor vision.) We are not discussing the beautiful and the sublime- at all. We are discussing something much more like drugs. You may like or dislike the effects but have no say in whether the drug is effective. In other words there may be a judgment but it follows after the art has had an effect. So, not so typical.


“2. Art is not dead, just painting and sculpture. Not because no one is producing good sculpture and painting, but because it is not new and merely regurgitates what has been done before.

Obviously his article is not art as it repeats what has been said for the last 50 years - and of course what was said even before that. Actually, was there ever a time when someone wasn't saying that art was dead?

On to the point - the classification of only painting and sculpture (the anachronistic pursuits) as being dead doesn't coincide with his logic. If all art that refers to something that has come before is no longer alive, then film was dead from its inception as it referred to theater, which referred to drama; music refers to itself and also can be traced back to prehistory; photography is derivative of painting; performance art is derivative of film, theater, music; and "Conceptual Art" is only philosophy in sheep's clothing. There is nothing that does not derive from something that has come before. Thus, according to our author, anything created after Paleolithic times is dead. Bear with me while I apply his logic to a few recognizable examples throughout history:

The Great Pyramid of Giza - Dead, didn't you see the other ones that were already there?

Polykleitos - Dead, one word: Venus of Willendorf, wait that's three, but you get my point.

The Architects of Hagia Sofia - Dead (The Romans had already invented the dome)

The Romans - Dead, they took everything from the Greeks anyway.

St. Augustine - Dead as a door-nail, Plotinus already talked about divine form, and he was just regurgitating Plato.

Dante - I think the Bible had the whole heaven and hell thing covered.

Leonardo Da Vinci - Cave men invented painting, Aristotle initiated scientific thought, and that helicopter doesn't even work.

Rafael, Michelangelo, etc... - Hey, we've already covered the art thing, and they weren't even inventors - Slackers!

Rembrandt- Yeah, yeah, yeah, light shadow, paint - covered that already

Velasquez - Ditto, and so, he painted a dwarf, big deal!

Bernini - yep

Shakespeare - Most of his plays derive from old myths, legends, and folk tales. Besides he probably wasn't even real.

Rodin - need I mention gothic wood carvings or even late Michelangelo?

Manet, Cezanne, Picasso- So, this is a "new" kind of painting huh? Because no one has ever made flat paintings before - reference the 39,000 years of painting before the Renaissance, guess what... it's all flat, primitive, and/or "distills the formal elements of visual language" (choose your own adjective).

Duchamp- this must be new, because no one had ever asked what art was before - or apparently ever seen a urinal either.

Hemingway - Suicide is so passe.

In fact it's obvious that man hasn't had an original thought since we rubbed two sticks together and made a spark. Once you've got the wheel, fire and beer it's all downhill. In fact, I could do without fire and the wheel.”

This passage is weird and only distantly related to anything I was discussing in my article. It reads much more like forwarding an agenda you would prefer to discuss, but as you are using my article as the basis for this confused rant I’ll stick with the topics of my article. Art induced by painting and sculpture are not achieving a state of art (as in a physiological mental state- which will be explained shortly) and this is not because they have been done before, but because the intention is different than the intention that drove art in the first place (however many first places there have been). The idea of a grand thing called “art” has eclipsed the thing that was attempted that induced art. So as fine, original, or lovely as these works may be, if they are done to satisfy a notion of “art” instead of another purpose they will not likely succeed in achieving art. This is because art is not a preferential thing or standard set of principles or a cultural dictate, but a sequence of neural events that cause a specific type of response and experience. The experience itself can be, and has been, mapped. Only recently has data been gathered that indicates what is happening in the brain to induce this experience.
It has nothing to do with regurgitating anything, or repeating anything. It has to do with performing a set of actions that will not achieve a desired result. Now that these actions are traditionally misunderstood, and traditionally followed doesn’t help. I wasn’t discussing innovation. That must be another article you read.
Was there a time when someone wasn’t saying art was dead? Yes, several times, and then as it was dying (that is as knowledge of art was failing) it would be repeated.
Above, you do not apply any logic to what I was saying as you do not address what I was saying. “If all art that refers to something that comes before is no longer alive…” is not what I was saying. I said this “I am saying the reason for these art pieces to exist is dead. For the art to be living (regardless of how many people partake in it) it has to have a core purpose. Artists have millions of reasons behind their work, and most of them involve making art, either as expression or message. But as I mentioned making art is already failed. What signals further failure is making art as still another thing, such as a message or expression. The art has evacuated the form. “ The reason to make the sculpture is no longer manifesting a God, it is to make a sculpture. We may like sculptures they may be well crafted and refined, but building bodies for Gods is not the endeavor, and a completely different set of ideas with completely different expectations and results than making a sculpture. For example, the same intention that drove the pyramids also drove Greek statuary, such as the Athene of the Bridle. Though very different in form they are the results of the same attempt. I didn’t say anything about referring to things that came before. I said art has evacuated the form. The initiating impulse that caused someone to invent sculpture, is not the same impulse that drives sculptors to sculpt. Without this impulse, then one is missing important purposes, and is only following the superficial results. For example the frieze around the Parthenon may be considered a good piece of sculpting. And it can be admired and things can be understood regarding how it was made. These things can even be refined, and improved. Someone can use superior techniques to sculpt something else after seeing the frieze. But the frieze was also meant to be a musical device that induced dancing by placing figures at certain intervals. This latter “use” would likely be overlooked- as would its other qualities.
I certainly did not say that anything after Paleolithic times was not art. I said “When the things that initiate art, though ever recurring, are systematically, and deceptively snuffed out, their evidences and potency are brought to an end. The triggers of art are a continuum, as opposed to derivation.” So your list doesn’t really address anything I was mentioning. What is more many of the things you listed are not derivative, but continuous. The Pyramids were not made spontaneously by a guy, the generating intention had been in the works for a very long time. The problem seems to be you have no definition of art, so seem to be scrambling several traits together and assuming they belong as a whole since they all are called this word. Even by the Renaissance the term had become scrambled, though with vestiges of its original meaning. For example what led you to connect Hemingway and the pyramids, instead of say, the Sun also rises and the Pyramids? Is Hemingway art, or is his work art or both or neither? Your snide list has nothing to do with what I said, and points out some defects in your understanding of the subject of art, and history . Let’s look at the Romans for example, “they” didn’t take everything from the Greeks. They borrowed some technologies, manners, and philosophy. But they also did the same from the Etruscans. They applied these to their own existing ideas and traditions. What is more, they attached many many new manners and technologies from several cultures as long as they advanced the empire. They were not derivative of the Greeks, for that matter they were not derivative but continuous, with adaptations that were derived . The architectural techniques involved with the construction of the Pyramids were derived from previous techniques, the attempt to manifest the pyramids were not derivative, they were the same attempt to do something that had, to that point been unsuccessful. Pyramids were no longer produced after a point as they were not seen as successful- so a dead end. If, for the sake of argument, we accept the idea that the pyramids were “machines” meant to project the soul of a pharaoh to its place in the heavens, we can say many prototypes were made, but none were successful. So though the technology of building the pyramids were derivative and evolving, the purpose was not, and eventually found to be a failure- so this was dead ended. It is important to understand the placement of derivation and continuation.
Your snide list has nothing to do with what I said, and points out some defects in your understanding of the subject of art, and history, among other things.

“2 a) His implications is that true art is only the first attempt, all other attempts of conveying the subject or technique are dilutions of it.

There's no need to repeat myself.”

I feel the same, there wasn’t need for you to write this article at all, let alone repeat parts, but this leads to a different set of ideas, which again you have misunderstood. As I mentioned the problem is getting hung up on some superficial characteristics (like the metaphor of the door) of the side effects of an endeavor. Or now we could say, attempting to build a pyramid, but without knowing why pyramids were built. So we would miss out on a great deal of information to consider in its construction, as we are fixated on a few of its qualities, not all of its proposed qualities. (You will find a discussion of these ideas at length in the article you are attempting to dissect.)
The idea is not diluted. It doesn’t lose vigor as it is imitated. It is a different thing and function than art. And conveying technique or subject are irrelevant. Art, even things that do not achieve art, like say a very well made sculpture are not usually attempts to convey technique. That is a “deconstructionist” point of view. And deconstructionism is vandalism, as is critique. They are devices meant to dismantle what has been assembled, not for the purposes of reverse engineering, but to evaluate (that is declare a value) and “appreciate- ad preccio, set a price upon”. It is destructive, unnecessary and doesn’t further knowledge or art. It is a vanity.
As far as conveying a subject, which piece is it that has a singular subject? And what does conveying a subject have to do with art? From my own experiences as a painter conveying subjects can be done with gestures, grunts, or simple phrases, as well as very easily in paint. What is this mysteriously important thing “conveying the subject”. This seems like a superstitious suggestion that art is paintings and statues are vessels that hold secret magical “subjects” (as if subjects are something strange or uncanny). How Gnostic, the sema/soma duality. Humbug.

"3. Art is only Art when it is necessary and fulfills a purpose.

Art never fulfills a concrete purpose. By its very nature it specifically is not a necessity. If you buy a earthenware jug from, let's say Target - Is that piece of art? Let's say you paint some pretty little flowers on the jug, is it art then? What about if you hired a master potter for $4,000 to throw you a 3 ft. tall jug on the wheel, and commissioned him to decorate it with masterfully applied glazes and a depiction of scenes from A Midsummer Nights Dream? You certainly could use it to hold umbrellas, but I doubt you will, one of them could chip the glazes for God's sake! Art becomes Art precisely when it does not serve a concrete function. Now of course one might argue that it must serve some social or intellectual function. However, you don't need Guernica to think about the atrocities of WWII and you don't need a $4,000 pot to put store your umbrellas."

Wow! That was a confident statement you made. Art never fulfills a concrete purpose? It doesn’t? In the examples you list above, as well as those I mention, if art involves “making” something, it is concrete. That is what making is. When I make a pie, especially with my cooking skills, I have made something concrete- that sadly tastes like concrete.
It isn’t a necessity? Well here we are on some ideas to consider. Necessity is a value judgment. But here we can probably fix some values that would be generally agreeable to the vast majority of people. You see art has some neurological and physiological responses (these things make what would otherwise be an assemblage of stuff into art). The responses cause such things as “kindling”, and experiences that have much in common with focal point epileptic seizures. These things are the building blocks of thought, identity, and narrative (which is important in for memory among other things). None of the things you listed above are art, and none of it describes any situation around art. Art is not a luxury it is a building block of our minds. When removed from all things art and all traces of art (even those we have come to carry as part of our behavior) people lose identity, they go insane.
Above you describe commerce regarding household decorations. This does not determine art. And whether or not it is clear to you (apparently it’s not) you need art- it is a necessity to your well being in a very real and reproduceable way. What is more, the less art you have the less stable your identity. Then again, an overload of art can cause psychosis. You seem to think art is a past time, or hobby, and an amusement. It isn’t, this is why it is so wide spread, and is one of the oldest known human endeavors. Before the commercial situation you listed above, art existed. It existed before politics and philosophy. It existed before every silly idea you have presented above, so how do you consider it as a subcategory below later inventions? That would be like that idea of time travel where some chrononaut goes back in time and becomes his own grandfather. Interesting Sci –Fi idea, but a logical fiction.
It might be important to note, that Picasso, when asked about the Guernica painting and it’s “mastery”, he replied- “It is only a masterpiece of Communism, nothing more!”


"4. There is so much Art out there, or so it is supposed. This is False

Wow! I can't really contend with that. It's obvious that his comment is self evident and requires no logical foundation for his assertion. I guess I'll have to resort to spouting insults instead. Did you learn how to make an argument in a Nazi training camp? I hope you at least got a certificate of completion."

You must have missed the logical foundation of why this was so, or as I like to call it – “the rest of the article”. But I’ll summarize briefly here, mein herr. If you don’t know what art is and you are deliberately making art you aren’t doing anything. So since legions of people are at once completely in the dark about what art is and at the same time claim to be artists it follows that they are probably not artists- they have equal chances of being dentists, old school break dancers, Priests of Moloch, or scrapbook hobbiests as they do of being artists. Ta da.

“5. A Dead Art form is one that is no longer effective.

This is all culturally relative. If you look at a Byzantine Icon today, you might be curious but you certainly won't drop to your knees and shed tears like a peasant in the 12th century. However, I saw plenty of waterworks at the end of Titanic. Hmmm... so, Titanic is the true art? This contradicts what he was talking about before, because the "beauty" of kitsch is supposed to pull the heart strings and make you cry, but the "Sublime" is supposed to be transcendent. Here's a little test for you. I'm going to give you a few examples and I want you to ask yourself how most people respond to them. If it's effective it's Art right?

Britney Spears - "Oops, I did it again"

Mozart - Fifth Symphony

A Mark Rothko painting

Snakes on a Plane

Jackson Pollock - Blue Poles

A hero fighting a villain.

A Rembrandt self portrait

A cute little kitten with great big eyes. Feel something yet?

If you read the original article first, right now you might be saying to yourself, "but you're missing the point". I was just going on a little tangent. But I'll briefly respond to the rest of the paragraph. It depends on how you interpret the term "effective"

Here he implicates especially the practice of illusionism in painting by saying that it's not Art if there's a more effective way of doing it.
First, to judge the "Effectiveness" of a work of Art, one assumes that one knows the intention of the artist, which is completely impossible. Even if the artist tells us, we don't know exactly what he might mean by a word like "beauty", "truth", "reality", or "symbol".
Secondly, who's to say the result was a dead end. If the goal was to represent some "objective" reality (even if we could all agree on what that was), then there are many paintings that are much more "real" than photographs. Photography simplifies the image in different ways than painting and can easily distort the "truth". At least in painting, the artist can decide not to alter the values, distort perspective, and flatten color. The artist simplifies using the brain and not the lens, and so the image is understood according to the function of the brain, which makes the painting more fundamentally understandable and able to convey subtlety. And as for sculpture... there isn't even a feasible replacement!”

Your viewpoint is a cliché and parrots creeds my article does not challenge or even address. What exactly were you reading when you read my article? Were you reading it every tenth word, or vertically instead of left to right? Because you seem to be finding secret hidden messages I never professed.
First, as is apparent in your historical knowledge above, artists have been discussing how long and why pieces of art are effective. Such things as why you wouldn’t respond to a Byzantine icon like a 6th Century Byzantine spectator would. Some of the proposed reasons have been very good, and are backed by recent discoveries of brain function. Briefly here is why: art is not eternal. It causes some effects but these effects are not perpetual and can be out grown, especially if later more thorough pieces are introduced to the viewer. The techniques and subjects of Byzantine art have been surpassed by other works you have seen. That is they are less complex, with less data, than what you are used to. Taken at an earlier age you would be deeply impressed. Are you still reading Dr. Seuss books for deep understanding? Or have you gone to more complex reading material? If art, as I suggest acts on your brain in certain ways that “make you smarter” would you imagine that previous baby steps, assimilated and habitual, would be perpetually stressful, or cause the same effects over and again? When you hear your favorite song is it the same way you heard it the first time? It was for this reason that the Greeks had certain rituals (the word “rite” and “art” are related and were understood to be so by the Greeks) that were to be undertaken by initiates only one time. If you did it twice it wouldn’t be effective.
The Titanic movie wasn’t kitsch. It was sentimental, to be sure. It wasn’t my favorite movie, I must admit, but it seems that some ideas need to be defended here. First you are sneering at something that has to do with preference, which simply shows you are condescending. But you are also applying this to what I wrote. I didn’t say anything about art causing emotional outbursts. That is your idea of effective. Not mine. I specifically didn’t mention a connection between art and emotion because art is not effective through emotions. Heightened emotional responses are a side effect that follow art(hysterical activity in the limbic system, in an attempt to relieve stress and confusion). Emotions are not the intentions and purpose behind art. If it were why bother? We emote over big and little things all the time. Emoting is a common perpetual experience. Art was referred to as “the extraordinary experience” or an “ecstatic experience” or a “hierophantic experience” (that is making the divine manifest). Do you think they were referring to a good time, happiness or sadness? We are not discussing the beautiful or sublime (again) which was a popular discussion among philosophers in the age of Idealism( Kant, Burke, etc). That is a contrived and flawed notion. We are not discussing “kitsch” beauty, or transcendence, as both are red herrings in the discussion of art. When I write that art is ineffective, I am writing about “effects”, not affects. “Something brought about by a cause or agent”. That is the reactions, the brain function which is brought about by specific triggers (and have been known and described long before there were discussion of brain function) does not occur. No “art response”, no art. This response is very, very well documented for many centuries, and discussed in many fields of study, such as anthropology, neurology, history, linguistics, etc. Somehow, artists and the “artworld” seem to overlook this important group of ideas, or deliberately ignore them. So we end up with silly critiques such as the one you have provided.
As to cultural relativity, well that is a gigantic subject with little connection to what we are discussing here. But not no connection. The effects I mention with art above, can also be found in culturally specific instances. Like tarantism, or various forms of “shaking” and “vibrating” mentioned from modern India and Africa, to ancient Greece. But we are not quite discussing these- though they are a related subject in a sense, and have to do with “ecstatic experiences”. But it shouldn’t be surprising that there are a variety of experiences, a spectrum, that are related to art. The problem is we are discussing art specifically, and a lack or blindness to art. The death of our ability to partake in an important experience.
Art is not permanently debilitating or effective. Once the thing has been assimilated, it doesn’t work as art again. Likewise, art can be more and less effective depending on what cues are used. There are universal cues (especially with music and visual works) and there are cues that interact with ones knowledge and expectations. Art is not based on the idiom of the products. It is not based on the style of the drawing. Art is, again, a description of a mental experience. If this mental experience is achieved (and it has specific characteristics) a piece of art has been effective. Now you seem to have connected the idea of art with sentimentality, as with your examples above. But this is arbitrary (though not completely removed from possibility). More often art is connected with “being moved”. This is not our modern idea of being “moved’ as in moved to feel certain emotions, but rather moved out of the way. That is, you aren’t you. It was equated with possession and also called inspiration (meaning possessed by a God) and sense of self is gone. Art induces a spike in the activity of limbic system as a side effect which can cause powerful emotional states, but this follows being moved when one feels nothing except awe or confusion So your test above doesn’t address anything having to do with art.
When a piece of art has been effective it is known to the spectator, and possibly the artist. Now if the artist put some silly message in his work or filled it with “meaning” then whether or not his sermonizing or story telling have been effective is known only to the artist. But meaning (as opposed to experience- that is meaning vs being) doesn’t seem to induce art very much. It seems to be an intermediary when communicating ideas. Art isn’t an idea, nor is it communication. Nor is art made of ideas. Art may induce ideas, but art is a set of experiences of a very specific sort. The artist’s intention will always be explicit in a work of art, and if it is art it will be effective. What the artist wishes to tell us, is irrelevant. Because telling us things will not induce a state of art. What is more, statues or paintings would have a very limited use in “telling” anyone anything, which is why speech comes in handy so often.
Your examples are part of an old argument I have completely ignored as a false dichotomy. You mention such silly things as painting vs photography, or replacements of sculpture. Then you seem to apply to me a Marxist idea of progress, which isn’t present in what I am saying. What I did say was that when the endeavor has been accomplished, performing the endeavor further is simply ritual. It’s like finding something in the last place you look, it certainly should be the last place you look as you found it, if you find it and are still looking you are looking for something else. I don’t recall mentioning replacements, or any such ideas.
Remember what happens when you assume (as you have done in this critique). When you assume you make an ass of you….and well that’s about it.

“6. The symptoms of the demise of art are quotation.

i.e. the derivative... which I've already covered.
When I started this response, I didn't realize how long it would be, so I'll just add one more thing before I conclude this installment. Hopefully I've given you something to chew on.”

Yeah, so did I. I hope you have something to chew on.

“7. P.S. Why does anyone bother with David Hockney? For an art critic his criteria is desperately wanting, and as an artist he is very poor.

You've got a point there.”

I like to put some irrefutable statements in everything I write.

RichardTScott said...

Greetings Paul,
Due to the length of your comment, I will have to take a bit of time to mount my response. However, thank you for your vigor and condescension, it is thoroughly enjoyed (which I do not mean ironically).

I had a moment to breeze through your comment, which I will go through more thoroughly later. Firstly, I would like to respond to some of the main thrusts of your argument.

1. That I was not responding specifically to your article, but to some other article I've read.

This is true. What I was responding to is the cliche argument typically parroted by "conceptual artists", de-constructionist psuedo-philosophers, et al, utilizing different specific points but generally stating the same psuedo-intellectual, circuitous logic. I will hand it to you. Your views are a bit more informed, but essentially still as cliche.

2. As to your metaphor of the door. My response is quite simple and hinges on Berkeley's riddle about the tree falling in a forest.

If you have a thousand doors before you and only a few of which lead to a passage, which door are you compelled to open? If the door is masterfully crafted and stands out amidst the monotony of shoddy doors, you're more likely to pick it out of the thousand. But if the passages are only behind mundane doors, how do you find them out of the thousand... the long process of elimination? The average viewer does not put forth that much time and effort.

My point is that the content, concept, or "hole" is irrelevant if no one is compelled to investigate the door you've crafted because it is rarely if ever chosen out of all the others. Yes, the craftsmanship of the door is not the art, but it is essential to it's communication.

Unless you mean to say that in your platonic world, communication is not important, much less so to the larger (if less educated) public. In such a case I might respond that you could take your elitism, and guffaw about the proletariat on a cold and lonely hill with the impotent triumvirate who share your esoteric vocabulary.

Though it is likely, seeing as it seems that English is not your first language (though I admit you've picked it up fairly well), we may have different definitions of certain words or concepts due to cultural perspectives. This I'll consider as I finish reading your comment.

Just as you so obviously don't care to be stereo-typed as I perhaps hastily did, we (by we I mean "I") don't care for stereo-typing either. Admittedly, it is difficult to convey all necessary information in such a brief essay or reply without resorting to assumptions about one's knowledge base, cultural context, or stereo-typical views.

As it is a well founded argument is never brief, as all topics lead to all others. But I shall revive this topic once I've dealt with more pressing matters.

Mr. Mellender, you have an open invitation to respond as often as you like. I will not censor your comments, and will go so far as to invite you to post an essay here on Art Babel - just as long as you bring your pomposity to the table as I will surely bring mine.

Anonymous said...

"RichardTScott said...

Greetings Paul,
Due to the length of your comment, I will have to take a bit of time to mount my response. However, thank you for your vigor and condescension, it is thoroughly enjoyed (which I do not mean ironically)."


Greetings Richard,

Take your time. There is no hurry. I don't expect our debate will bleed out into a pressing worldwide revolution.

To be honest I didn't think my tone was anymore condescending than the original blog entry. I tend to find condescension and sneering cause distraction in arguments. It also takes time and space to sift through the posturing to get to points.

"I had a moment to breeze through your comment, which I will go through more thoroughly later. Firstly, I would like to respond to some of the main thrusts of your argument.

1. That I was not responding specifically to your article, but to some other article I've read.

This is true. What I was responding to is the cliche argument typically parroted by "conceptual artists", de-constructionist psuedo-philosophers, et al, utilizing different specific points but generally stating the same psuedo-intellectual, circuitous logic. I will hand it to you. Your views are a bit more informed, but essentially still as cliche."

As I mentioned I think you are reading into what I am writing and not reading what I am writing. "conceptual artists", de-constructionist psuedo-philosophers, et al" Have nothing to do with me. I am not a conceptual artist, deconstructionist, Post Modernist, or other silly crank.

You have pronounced it as cliche, but you haven't explained how. Maybe this is upcoming. I find it interesting you took time to make the assertion but not, even briefly, back this assertion.

"2. As to your metaphor of the door. My response is quite simple and hinges on Berkeley's riddle about the tree falling in a forest.

If you have a thousand doors before you and only a few of which lead to a passage, which door are you compelled to open? If the door is masterfully crafted and stands out amidst the monotony of shoddy doors, you're more likely to pick it out of the thousand. But if the passages are only behind mundane doors, how do you find them out of the thousand... the long process of elimination? The average viewer does not put forth that much time and effort.

My point is that the content, concept, or "hole" is irrelevant if no one is compelled to investigate the door you've crafted because it is rarely if ever chosen out of all the others. Yes, the craftsmanship of the door is not the art, but it is essential to it's communication."

I'm not sure this has anything to do with the metaphor of the door. There is no door shopping implied. There is no looking for a door. The door has already been used. The metaphor involves mistaking the door for the place to which it leads. Tribes in New Guinea built airstrips in imitation of the airstrips used by explorers who brought cargo. They thought the building of the airstrips would invoke more cargo. This is much like the metaphor of the door.

This wasn't just a metaphor. This door making was practiced in various places, and yet often the way was a hallucinagen, not the voodoo door. As with the other biases in your previous critique you are mentioning an argument or idea I did not address.


"Unless you mean to say that in your platonic world, communication is not important, much less so to the larger (if less educated) public. In such a case I might respond that you could take your elitism, and guffaw about the proletariat on a cold and lonely hill with the impotent triumvirate who share your esoteric vocabulary."

Again, this has nothing to do with me. You seem to be addressing some other opponent, or generalizing all opponents as having the same cluster of ideas. I am not a Platonist. Not even a little. I haven't addressed communication. As art seems to have been triggered (and like similar reactions to stimuli can still be triggered) in sensory deprivation, communication may only play a partial part, like creation of a setting, or framework.

So lacking a Platonic world, and without addressing communication or the proletariat at all (I'm not sure how the proletariat or some elitism fits into this)I think you may have to withhold your response. My vocabulary isn't especially esoteric, or unusual. It's pretty clear. I was discussing some of the subjects mentioned here with some of the proles on the city bus, and they seemed to understand very well.

"Though it is likely, seeing as it seems that English is not your first language (though I admit you've picked it up fairly well), we may have different definitions of certain words or concepts due to cultural perspectives. This I'll consider as I finish reading your comment."

English is my native tongue. You and I should have the same definitions for "certain" words and concepts. I do like words and spend some time studying etymology and semantics but I don't think this would cause confusion.

"Just as you so obviously don't care to be stereo-typed as I perhaps hastily did, we (by we I mean "I") don't care for stereo-typing either. Admittedly, it is difficult to convey all necessary information in such a brief essay or reply without resorting to assumptions about one's knowledge base, cultural context, or stereo-typical views."

I didn't offer any stereotypes, which is one reason I try to address sentence by sentence, even sometimes word by word. So that I am not thinking of you as any general thing but only your statements, one by one. I have no image of you but I can say that there are inconsistencies in your paragraphs.

"As it is a well founded argument is never brief, as all topics lead to all others. But I shall revive this topic once I've dealt with more pressing matters."

I agree, and I dislike concision, so take your time.

"Mr. Mellender, you have an open invitation to respond as often as you like. I will not censor your comments, and will go so far as to invite you to post an essay here on Art Babel - just as long as you bring your pomposity to the table as I will surely bring mine."

Thank you for the invitation.

RichardTScott said...

Mr. Mellender,

I'm curious as to your particular educational background.

My formal education lies in art history, critical theory, and a bit of philosophy via Yale and the New York Academy of Art. The reason I ask is that when one uses certain vocabulary in this context it tends to have different implications than the same vocabulary in a different field.

Yes, I was reading into your choice of vocabulary and making assumptions as to your general views. And you seemed to be making similar assumptions about my statements. But this is human nature, and in an age where we are increasingly driven to perform multiple tasks at once (for instance I am a working artist and a teacher) we have to generalize and perhaps stereo-type in the course of a day just to find time for everything. Regardless, it appears that our different backgrounds are proving difficult as I was responding to your statements in a fairly clear way. Both of our arguments are built on assumptions - otherwise they would be many volumes long. And it seems that our assumptions are quite different. As such, how we build upon these assumptions may not seem applicable through the lens of the other.

So,as your choices of vocabulary tend to be the same ones used by the self titled "post-modern" "intelligentsia" which I have come across here in New York. (Given, most of them have little idea what they're talking about.) I had responded as such.

If you happen to live in New York, I would be very glad to have a beer with you to continue this discussion. Unfortunately, I will have to bow out of the debate here.

As my career as a working artist and teacher has really picked up this year, and I am also a writer and husband... I have little time these days to be a full time blogger and debate with strangers online, however interesting and enriching it may be.

So, my offer for a face to face discussion is genuine. Perhaps when I have some more free time I'll be able to respond in full to your previous writings, but I don't foresee that being soon.

Sincerely,
Richard T Scott