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25-01-2004, 22:14   #1
Calibos
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Are skepticism and an appreciation of Modern art mutually exclusive?

Sorry about the tongue in cheek thread title but I couldn't resist. The following quotes are from a thread over on the JREF(James Randi) forum. I found myself nodding in agreement and seeming so did most other respondents to the thread.

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I think people can be atheists for different reasons. Some were religious at some point in their life, but something happened to them which turned them atheist. Some thought a lot about whether God existed or not, and after a lot of critical thinking decided they were atheists.

I am simply an atheist because I never felt any need or inclination to believe in a higher being, or ponder the meaning of life, and never understood what draws people to even think about such questions.

In a similar way as someone who has no aptitude for logical puzzles will try to solve a puzzle but have no clue what it is about as it is not "pressing the right buttons", I can read a religious text (or actually a philosophical text, and very often, poetry) and just not get it. My brain does not have a part devoted to the analysis of such material.

I see this trait as something essential to my personality: I am a good logical thinker, I was always good in sciences and mathematics. I was good in writing essays as they were always well structured and addressed the right points. I am just about the only person I know that never had an urge to write a poem. I am a reasonably good painter and singer, but my paintings start with ideas, rather than feelings. I don't like "deep" films and books because I don't get them. I often have a feeling than when an art or film critic describes something as "deep" it means "I don't understand it". And, what the hell does "transcendental" mean?

I somehow assume that on this forum there should be more people who are in this respect similar to me. I am quite sure there are many people who are good in sciences and mathematics, but do any of you make this same connection between religion, philosophy and poetry as I do? Are you also not the type of people to think about the meaning of life? Do you understand or write poetry? Please share your thoughts.

.........and by another poster

As for art, well, I like art that is a show of someones skill, be it their competence with a paintbrush or other materials, or simply a really original or interesting concept or idea. what I don't get is accidents with painbuckets selling for millions of dollars. I consider any creation, like poetry, writing, movies, basically anything that matches my first bolded statements as "ART".
Is my dislike of modern art related to my general sceptical nature??

Heres a funny link from the same thread:

http://www.iht.com/ihtsearch.php?id=...20040119150230

Last edited by Calibos; 25-01-2004 at 22:23.
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26-01-2004, 02:52   #2
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Re: Are skepticism and an appreciation of Modern art mutually exclusive?

Scientific American had an article on the fractal nature of Jackson Pollock's paintings within the last couple of years that you might find interesting.
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26-01-2004, 19:42   #3
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Personally I too can empathise with the person quoted.

I do think much of modern art is a con, but then again that’s because it is a con. I don’t believe that I don’t like it because of some failing in my brain where I cannot “appreciate it” but because I can clearly see it’s a con. Nor did I like “The World According to Garp” or “The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, although I’m not saying they were cons, just bad books. A lot of Theatre and Film is also nonsense dressed up in pretentious clothes. Having said that I think the original Russian “Solaris” is a great film.

Didn’t some guy win the Tate prize recently for his work which consisted of the lights switching on and off.
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26-01-2004, 23:41   #4
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What? You mean you have some godlike objective insight into what art objectively 'means'?

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As for art, well, I like art that is a show of someones skill
Exactly, "like" - as in subjective preference.

There's been plenty of "logical" art, there's been plenty of "romantic" art. There's also every kind of art in between those two (albeit arbitrarily drawn) extremes.

There's good art, there's bad art but the rules that determine that shift. I think art is a powerful skeptical tool - it reminds us there are other languages beyond the gesture and the word.

When I look at art, I try to find out about it, think through it, on its own terms. Otherwise you get nothing from it. Often I'm left unimpressed, sometimes invigorated.

Ironically, my favourite form of photography is of the German objectivist school, but I also love more subjective, romantic art.

Like any linguistic system, it ends up saying more than the sum of its parts. And sometimes even less!
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27-01-2004, 02:09   #5
Calibos
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Whats your opinion on the artist who got a STG£12,000 arts grant which he put to great use in a moving piece called......well I don't recall what it was called but it involved him pushing an Indian Curry in its silver takeaway tray along the ground with his nose up and down some street in stockport or somewhere.

Yeah, yeah great art makes you ponder and question art etc etc. Makes me question how big a grin he had on his face when he lodged the cheque in his bank account Damn I'm such a philistine

Its like religion, a person is entitled to believe what he/she wants as long as it doesn't affect me. An arty person is entitled to create and/or appreciate whatever art they like. I'd just object to my 'tax dollars' paying for the creation of the modern stuff like 'Curry in Motion'
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28-01-2004, 01:14   #6
sextusempiricus
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Quote:
Originally posted by Calibos

Its like religion, a person is entitled to believe what he/she wants as long as it doesn't affect me. An arty person is entitled to create and/or appreciate whatever art they like. I'd just object to my 'tax dollars' paying for the creation of the modern stuff like 'Curry in Motion'
'Curry in Motion' sounds like what happens to me after a Vindaloo. More seriously are you against state funding for the Arts? How is anyone to decide what works should be financially supported? Perhaps the best art gets recognized, even if controversial like the photographs of Mapplethorpe, without state support.
Interesting your comment on the similarity with religion. Some defenders of religion have tried to defend their beliefs along Wittgensteinian lines. I quote from 'What Philosophers Think' edited by Julian Baggini & Jeremy Stangroom,

Quote:
.... you can only really understandwhat religious language means if you are part of the religious community which uses it. To judge religious utterences from a non-religious standpoint is therefore to miss the point. That includes judging claims about God as though they referred to an entity of the same order as persons, trees or planets.
If we replace 'religious' by 'artistic' and utterences as 'works of art' in the first two sentences I think you'll get the meaning of this approach. Hardly helps communication however. We are using language in different ways that are mutually incomprehensible. I'm not particularly in favour of this line of thinking. Seems to justify any nonsense.
David Hume in the eighteenth century in his essay 'Of The Standard of Taste' thought it natural for us to look for a rule, 'by which the various sentiments of men may be reconciled; at least, a decision, afforded, confirming one sentiment, and condemning another.' He realised the great difficulty in achieving this. Hume contrasts 'judgement' and 'sentiment.' Sentiment, that is how we individually feel about a work of art, is subjective and 'a thousand different sentiments, excited by the same object, are all right.'

Quote:
Beauty is no quality in things themselves: it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others.
This accords with Calibos's feelings. Hume of course lived in an age that didn't support the Arts with hard-earned 'tax dollars.'
Hume goes on to consider 'judgement.' If we are ever to discuss works of art in a rational way there must be some rule or standard to resolve disputes. Where are these standards to come from? Rules are certainly not a priori . To form a true judgement the critic must place himself in the same situation as the audience for whom the work was conceived and consider 1) what was the work aiming to achieve? 2) does it effectively achieve those aims? 3) do all the parts fit together in a pleasing way? and 4) is the whole intelligible?
I think much modern art has become esoteric and unintelligible to much of the public. An artist's aims today so often seem to be to shock and alienate. Shaking a few of our mental cobwebs might occassionally be no bad thing. Manet's 'Olympia' was shocking in 1870's Paris. But perversity seems merely to be the handmaiden of notoriety. Did anyone see the Channel 4 programme last year on Chinese performance artists one of whom had photographs taken of himself eating an aborted foetus, two others who took pictures of dead people in various poses and another (I suspect tongue in cheek ) couple from London who made 'penis wine' by pickling the member of a man undergoing a sex-change operation in wine and had a group of invited guests drink it. Now thats a con surely!
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28-01-2004, 01:31   #7
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I'm too tired and busy to reply in length to this thread, but aesthetics is an area that really, really interests me.

Instead, I'll save myself, and all of you the trouble of quoting myself from a previous thread over on Art/Anim/Photo about the recent Turner prize nominations:

Quote:
See, I just think the Turner Prize is a contradiction in terms.

Someone earlier in the thread mused that "all great art is controversial", which implies that art is some kind of political enterprise. Art can be a political enterprise, it can also be an economic enterprise, or a psychological one. But because art is what it is - it is foremost an aesthetic enterprise.

I think a better way to describe art would be to say "all great art is revolutionary". That's different. That implies that all great art has forced us to look at the world, or elements in the world, in a way we never thought possible before. Art as revolution implies that, rather than art courting controversy by stimulating political argument in an already sedimented and conservative discourse, great art stands so far outside ordinary ways of thinking that its shockwaves disrupt habitual, generic existence for all of us so violently that any real discussions about that artwork, or oevre, is signified by a desperate struggle to reconfigure the world by working this new realisation into the world you previously knew.

For example, Edouard Manet's 'L'Olympia' caused social outrage, Igor Stravinsky's 'Rites of Spring' caused riots, the Marquis de Sade was imprisoned. Why did these artists provoke such radical reactions? The list goes on to include more peaceful revolutions like the scientific techniques of Masaccio, Leonaro and van Eyck which revolutionised representation and the way we understand the world. All these episodes in the history of art were revolutionary and they broke violently with tradition, authority and reality.

The Turner Prize is a celebration of ordinariness and boredom. How on earth can an established art prize present 'revolutionary art' if the art is so culturally acceptable in the first place that is can win a prize? If there's no revolutionary potential within the artwork - and there necessarily isn't in this context - then it's just bad art. It's just eye-candy. It's just playing around with signs.

There's no challenge, there's no anxiety, there's no fear, there's no liberation.

We just amuse ourselves for a few minutes until we all agree to disagree and make ourselves feel better that we know what we're talking about.

Well if any of that art was real art, we'd be pissing ourselves.

http://from <i>http://www.boards.ie/...genumber=1</i>
Oh, and I also found this, on the question of whether "art is a mirror":

Quote:
The question is more about representation. Does art represent the world (i.e. act as a mirror) as it is?

If you read your Foucault, and accept what he has to say, you'll find that the role or art has changed through history. Until the Renaissance, art was understood as being a gateway to the divine realm so art was based on *RESEMBLANCE* - it was for contemplation because the precious materials art was made of was believed to have been placed there by God and to have divine properties. Then the Renaissance, combined with the new religion, science, shifted the role of art to *REPRESENTATION* so art's role was concerned with attemting to map out reality (surface reality and underlying reality) but also to delight and amaze. Art today has become completely detached from the world, referring more to itself than to the world so 'post-modern' art has become *REFLEXIVE*.

So, basically, the role of art changes FUNDAMENTALLY depending on one's concept of 'reality' which, itself, is shaped by the existence and operations of power through all aspects of human life.

Clearly, the role, runction and shape of art in any given age is dependent on context - where it's made, when it's made and of course on power: what are the dominant codes of culture? who controls knowledge?

While art may no longer resemble or represent reality like it used to, it certainly is shaped by a current state of affairs and often as a reaction "to the larger social "system" in which it exists". Power doesn't flow in one direction, it's composed of parry and riposte.

The philosopher and art theorist, Frederic Jameson has said that the shape and role of art today is dominated by the "cultural logic of late-capitalism" which essentially means that art is no longer a transgressive and challenging meditation on reality which it was at the turn of the century but is a product of our economic system's internal logic. The domination of kitsch for example is a clear illustration of where post-modern art has found itself: a sickly sweet, ironic world of blandness invented and reinvented for the soul purpose of giving fleeting moments of pleasure for the purpose of social climbing. Ironically, another critic, Matei Calinescu, noted that kitsch is actually a bastardisation of Romantic Art because the Romantics turned art away from dealing with beauty by pointing towards the divine realm towards seeing art as objects which were beautiful and desirable in themselves.

So, in answer to your question: I think today art is the outpouring of our world's underlying cultural trends and, by consequence, our underlying and dominant economic system.

As a result, a lot of art has become frivolous and superficial, dealing only in novelty and there only for ornamentation. New art which is political and conceptually forceful has taken a back seat; art has, since the 60s (though perhaps ever since Marcel Duchamp) become political against itself (arguing over what we're arguing about) but has almost been too coy about reclaiming the realm it once occupied: to speak out about crap stuff that's going on and to give it a voice.

This is probably because it's unfashionable. It sounds too much like propaganda. This is probably because of WWII, the Cold War and the Bildeberg Group who made the decision after Rockefeller destroyed Diego Rivera's mural, that they would prevent political art from gaining a foothold in America or Europe.

There are hopeful artists out there, though. Josef Beuys was a true Romantic; some America black artists are very eloquently political; Leon Golub, an American expressionist painter, never gave up on being political; and social photographers like Richard Billingham and Andreas Gursky are really pushing the boat.

from http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showt...threadid=93186
Maybe that'll get things going

Last edited by DadaKopf; 28-01-2004 at 01:36.
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28-01-2004, 01:32   #8
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In a gallery there was a picture, a black square with the label Garfunkle.

Yes - but is it Art ?
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28-01-2004, 01:34   #9
Calibos
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I do accept that its all subjective and I have no problem with state funding of the arts either. I don't dislike all 'modern art'. Like that controversial piece in the Tate last year. The Bronze painted blowup dolls. I don't know, anything that took some time and effort to create. I have this idea in my head that that this blowup doll guy got his years grant. Pondered for a few weeks what his major piece that year would be, came up with the idea for his work, bought the materials and set about creating it. On the other hand I imagine Curry man got his grant, laughed all the way to the bank, pondered(sp?) for a few minutes and set off for the local curryhouse. Taking the p1ss quite simply. I just hope the grant administrators can distinguish between the p1sstakers and the real artist modern or otherwise.
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28-01-2004, 01:50   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Calibos
I do accept that its all subjective and I have no problem with state funding of the arts either. I don't dislike all 'modern art'. Like that controversial piece in the Tate last year. The Bronze painted blowup dolls. I don't know, anything that took some time and effort to create. I have this idea in my head that that this blowup doll guy got his years grant. Pondered for a few weeks what his major piece that year would be, came up with the idea for his work, bought the materials and set about creating it. On the other hand I imagine Curry man got his grant, laughed all the way to the bank, pondered(sp?) for a few minutes and set off for the local curryhouse. Taking the p1ss quite simply. I just hope the grant administrators can distinguish between the p1sstakers and the real artist modern or otherwise.
On that very specific point, you may as well throw in Velasquez, Goya, Titian, Carravaggio, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Ruebens, Rothko - basically any 'great artist' who worked on commission, or in Velasquez' and Goya's cases, directly employed by the King of Spain. And they were the good artists. What about the lesser known artists?

I mean, to pick on Velasquez, he was more into social status and money that art. You think modern art is unique in this respect?
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28-01-2004, 15:07   #11
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Perhaps it would be more instructive to ask what 'isn't' art.

I visited MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art) in New York a couple of years ago and enjoyed some of the exhibits but in my humble opinion the bag of cat litter leaning against the wall on the top floor exhibition is NOT art, regardless of who put it there or what profound thoughts they were thinking at the time they put it there! If this crap is art then lets get rid of the galleries for this sort of thing (and the exorbitant entry fee) and just tell people to go home and look around them ... at all the fine art.

The telling point in some way is some of the hilarious tests done which have indicated that (supposedly informed) people can't tell the difference between exhibitions done by elephants (literally) and the real deal ... surely that says something profound.

So here's a provocative criterion ... if you can't tell whether the 'work of art' was an accident (made by a passing wild animal) OR a human endeavour indicating skill, reflection and thought ... then it's probably not a work of art!!

Secondly ... if the 'work of art' is indistinguishable from the ordinary products of human daily activity (an unmade bed, a bag of cat litter, a used tissue) then that's what it probably is ... rather than a 'work of art'.

Sometimes you just have to tell the guy next to you that the emperor is naked!
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28-01-2004, 18:33   #12
sextusempiricus
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Quote:
Originally posted by Myksyk
Perhaps it would be more instructive to ask what 'isn't' art.

We can get too bogged down in defining what is and isn't art. Its certainly more than what can be hung or displayed in a gallery. A lot of artists are turning against this sort of art and turning to 'Performance Art' and 'Happenings'. In last year's 'Festival of Dance' I saw a performance of three naked people prancing across a stage drawing on each other with a skin marker and at one point one squatted down to pee subsequently wiping chalked words off a blackboard at the rear with the urine. I wasn't shocked, merely bemused. The performance was hardly revolutionary, perverse is a better description. Lingers in the memory however. I wonder why. I thought 'Performance Art' was meant to be ephemeral.
Sceptics may feel more interested in the plastinated corpses of Gunter Von Hagens displayed in his 'Body World' exhibition still touring the world and which I managed to see in London a year ago (after a 2 hour queue). This might be stretching the term 'art' a little but his corpses are certainly displayed in dramatic poses, many pinched from the Old Masters. The early anatomy books by people like Vesalius had detailed artwork of skeletons standing and walking as if alive against country landscapes. Von Hagens is merely doing the same thing with dead bodies. His combination of art and anatomy is quite fascinating and the viewers, many of them quite young, seem very interested indeed.

Last edited by sextusempiricus; 28-01-2004 at 18:41.
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