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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 9:10 am 
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Attila Soos wrote:
Chris Johnston wrote:
But art itself exists, and does not require recognition, or placement, or critics to be art.

Using scientific methods is the only way that an objective reality is can be proven. That is, within a controlled environment, we should be able to replicate it over and over again, the same parameters leading to the same result. This is called scientific experiment.
Using oxygen and hydrogen, we can always create water, regardless of how complex it's molecular structure is, and regardless of the fact that we don't understand the atomic structure at the most intimate level.
And yet, with art, this is not possible.

Attila, at this point, perhaps we are putting too strong a definition on "objective." I am not suggesting that we can plug 5 or two dozen or one million criteria into a computer and thus measure the "artness" of any object. When I say art has an objective reality, I mean that it has existence outside of the viewer. If art is completely subjective, then does Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" become art when an expert looks at it, but then cease to be art when I look at it?
A more objective definition of art is important, I think. Will all accept it? Of course not. But the more subjectivity we let creep into our philosophies and language, the less any statement or object means. We end up with some of the most egregious impositions on the credulity of those who rely upon "experts" and critics.
We cannot allow discussion of art to remain in the realm of Schrodinger's cat, asking ourselves if the art still exists while we are not in the room, or if it is simply a "fog of probabilities." That way removes all content from discussion.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 6:30 pm 
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Chris Johnston wrote:
It is worth less because it is not an original thought, and the original thought is always of more value than the copy.

Hi Chris,
I do share your wish that we should have a more "tangible" definition of art. But I strongly believe that this is not possible.
I chose the above quote from you to use it against you, and to make a point of how subjective art can be.
You said that you don't consider Duchamp's "Urinal" as art, and you also said that originality is an important ingredient in art.
Well, one can't get more original than Duchamp: to present the "Urinal" as art is outrageously original. It is one of a kind, nobody has done it before him.
He was also making the following point: if the drawing or painting of an object is art, and the sculpture of an object is an art, then the urinal can be looked at as the sculpture of an urinal. A very life-like sculpture.
It is a sculpture of itself, and therefore, we can look at it as art.
Duchamp's "Urinal" was created exactly as an illustration for those who, just like us, are debating what is and what is not art, and shows that we are dealing with a paradox.
You said:
If art is completely subjective, then does Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" become art when an expert looks at it, but then cease to be art when I look at it?
I think so. When you look at it, it's not art. When others look, it's art.
The problem is that your opinion (and mine) doesn't count.
Whether or not something is art, it depens on how we define art? And, as you know, there are plenty of definitions out there.
Regardless of what we think, the "Urinal", to this day, is exhibited as art. And this is a fact. How can we argue with the facts?
Now, I wouldn't be surprised if I learned that 1000 years from now the "Urinal" was looked at by the art historians as a bad joke. In that case, if there is a consensus among them, thew would have the power to decide that this piece is not art. This is how art becomes non-art, and vice-versa: a group of people make a decision. It is never a one-sided decision, and there is always plenty of debate, but at the end, the scale clearly tips one way or the other.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 11:50 am 
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Here is Oldenburg's "Clothespin" in Philadelphia.
It is the exact replica of a clothespin. Just like the Urinal, a clothespin is not supposed to be art.
But wait...
If you look long enough, you may realize that the two halves of the clothespin are two people, embracing or kissing each other. The metal clip holding the halves together are the couple's arms.
Is this art, or is it a clothespin? It cannot be both. The creator of the original clothespin never thought about this, when he or she created it.
If art can be defined, how do you define art in this case?
The embracing couple doesn't exist. It's all in our imagination.
To a person with no imagination, this is a clothespin, and there is no art here. To another person with imagination, the couple is obvious, and this is magnificent art.
Do you see how subjective this is? As you said, something that is art for others is not art for you (the Urinal). That's exactly the case.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 1:03 pm 
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Attila,
Thanks for your continued engagement on this topic. There is a world of difference between "Clothespin" and "Fountain." "Clothespin" required thought and skill on the part of the artist, input from an actual human intellect. "Clothespin" is also altered somewhat from just being a giant copy of a clothespin. That is is art cannot be seriously argued.
"Fountain," on the other hand, had no skill applied to it, no artistic input except for the artist to be bold enough to rename it and call it art. That piece smacks more of a rude joke than art. But the subjectivity of art critics has swallowed the joke, hook, line, and sinker.
To take this line of thought to an absurd and crude extreme (but delicately, always delicately), with this type of amorphous and undefinable category for art, both I and a famous artist could defecate in a mason jar and place it in an empty room, and call it an installation. The famous artist's would be called art, and mine would be called crap. (Well, not always so delicately!) And that situation would be complete nonsense and an insult to viewers and critics.
Do not think that I wish to place my tastes in the stead of a good, objective, working definition of art. I know art when I see it, and it doesn't matter if I like it or not.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 3:13 pm 
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Chris Johnston wrote:
both I and a famous artist could defecate in a mason jar and place it in an empty room, and call it an installation. The famous artist's would be called art, and mine would be called crap. (Well, not always so delicately!) And that situation would be complete nonsense and an insult to viewers and critics.

Hi Chris,
The above situation would be a nonsense...IF it happened.
But, you see, it never did. And the art critics would know better not to call it art, if it did happen.
We can always take a work that is officially recognized as art, construct an apparently very similar hypothetical situation and declare it absurd. Therein lies the fallacy: the original situation happened only once. If something similar happened the second time, it would not be called art.
What do you think would have happened if, shortly after Duchamp exhibited his Urinal as art, someone would have done the same thing with a porcelain fawcet and call it The Fawcet? The reaction would have been: nah, party is over, this is old news, no art here.
Following the same logic, one could have exhibited the appliances of his entire bathroom, one by one.
But there is only one Urinal, and that's it. This piece monopolized the idea, and nothing similar will be ever considered art. That's why it is worth so much.
So, when you take a piece of art that seems absurd to you, and make up a similar scenario, thus proving with uncontestable logic its absurdity, you have already lost the battle. That's because the original idea was Original, but yours is just an attempt to mock it. Everyone can do that.
I think this is the problem with the logic that you are using.
It's the same issue with some of the classic pieces of modern art, where the artist has drawn a few lines and geometrical figures, and now those are considered masterpieces.
The logic is the same as yours: how come that if I draw a few of those lines and shapes (mind you, not copy the original, but just draw something different, using a few lines and shapes), it is not considered art?
It is because those masterpieces were created in a specific context, at a specific junction of the history of art, in a way never done before. That's why those are considered art, and our similar work is not. Our idea is not original. And that's why your crap would not be considered art, and neiter anybody elses. It way passed its expiration date..


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 7:47 pm 
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Attila Soos wrote:
We can always take a work that is officially recognized as art, construct an apparently very similar hypothetical situation and declare it absurd. Therein lies the fallacy: the original situation happened only once. If something similar happened the second time, it would not be called art.
What do you think would have happened if, shortly after Duchamp exhibited his Urinal as art, someone would have done the same thing with a porcelain fawcet and call it The Fawcet? The reaction would have been: nah, party is over, this is old news, no art here.
Following the same logic, one could have exhibited the appliances of his entire bathroom, one by one.
But there is only one Urinal, and that's it. This piece monopolized the idea, and nothing similar will be ever considered art. That's why it is worth so much.
So, when you take a piece of art that seems absurd to you, and make up a similar scenario, thus proving with uncontestable logic its absurdity, you have already lost the battle. That's because the original idea was Original, but yours is just an attempt to mock it. Everyone can do that.
I think this is the problem with the logic that you are using.
It's the same issue with some of the classic pieces of modern art, where the artist has drawn a few lines and geometrical figures, and now those are considered masterpieces.
The logic is the same as yours: how come that if I draw a few of those lines and shapes (mind you, not copy the original, but just draw something different, using a few lines and shapes), it is not considered art?
It is because those masterpieces were created in a specific context, at a specific junction of the history of art, in a way never done before. That's why those are considered art, and our similar work is not. Our idea is not original. And that's why your crap would not be considered art, and neiter anybody elses. It way passed its expiration date..

Attila,
Unfortunately, I have failed to communicate my intent to the point that there is a complete disconnect between what we are saying. I was not trying to make the point that if the derivative is not art, then the original cannot be art, either. You are correct, that is nonsense.
My point was that an object is not art. Art is the skill that produces it. The product is a work of art. And if there is no skill needed to produce a work of art, what is the point of art education (most of which seems wasted if we are unable even to discriminate about this) or even this website?
If no skill is required to produce a work of art, then all I have to do is find a new angle, much like the "viral video" 15-minute celebrities on Youtube. You might say the skill in "Fountain" was the naming of the object. Yet inventive thought alone is not skill. I may be able to visualize the "ideal" bonsai in a piece of material, but without the skill to bring it forth, it is just material.
Art must be defined if we are to make any sense of it or apply it to what we wish to do. And just because others have called something "art," does not mean that their statement makes sense, much less that they are correct.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 8:38 pm 
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Chris Johnston wrote:
My point was that an object is not art. Art is the skill that produces it. The product is a work of art. And if there is no skill needed to produce a work of art, what is the point of art education (most of which seems wasted if we are unable even to discriminate about this) or even this website?
If no skill is required to produce a work of art, then all I have to do is find a new angle, much like the "viral video" 15-minute celebrities on Youtube. You might say the skill in "Fountain" was the naming of the object. Yet inventive thought alone is not skill. I may be able to visualize the "ideal" bonsai in a piece of material, but without the skill to bring it forth, it is just material.

I can't agree with this concept for two reasons.
First, the word skill needs to be replaced with the word talent. Skill produces craft, talent produces art.
Second, we can't see talent except in the object it produces, the object is the art born of the talent. Talent produces art, it is not art in itself.

Will


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 11:19 pm 
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Will Heath wrote:
I can't agree with this concept for two reasons.
First, the word skill needs to be replaced with the word talent. Skill produces craft, talent produces art.
Second, we can't see talent except in the object it produces, the object is the art born of the talent. Talent produces art, it is not art in itself.

Will

How about a good working definition of talent, then? Does it preclude skill? Do the great artists not show skill?
You see, the point is the same. "Talent" is also a nebulous cloud of probabilities, whereas skill is concrete. We can argue about vision. We might agree on whether someone has talent, or we might not. But skill is quantifiable.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 1:25 am 
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Chris Johnston wrote:
How about a good working definition of talent, then? Does it preclude skill? Do the great artists not show skill?
You see, the point is the same. "Talent" is also a nebulous cloud of probabilities, whereas skill is concrete. We can argue about vision. We might agree on whether someone has talent, or we might not. But skill is quantifiable.

The definitions define the essense of most art vs craft debates Chris. Skill can be learned, but talent, ah talent can not be, you either have it or you don't. Period. The point is not at all the same.
You asked for definitions, let's turn to Encarta http://encarta.msn.com
(The bolded parts highlight my points.)
Skill
1. ability to do something well: the ability to do something well, usually gained through training or experience
2. something requiring training to do well: something that requires training and experience to do well, e.g. an art or trade

Talent
1. natural ability: an unusual natural ability to do something well, especially in artistic areas that can be developed by training.
Here we see that skills can be learned, talent can not be. Talent can be developed, nutured, refined, but it can not be learned, given, or borrowed.
This is what separtes craft from art, craftsmen from artists, bonsai from works of art. No matter how skillful one may get, without talent they can never create art.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 12:26 pm 
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Will Heath wrote:
Skill
1. ability to do something well: the ability to do something well, usually gained through training or experience
2. something requiring training to do well: something that requires training and experience to do well, e.g. an art or trade

Talent
1. natural ability: an unusual natural ability to do something well, especially in artistic areas that can be developed by training.
Here we see that skills can be learned, talent can not be. Talent can be developed, nutured, refined, but it can not be learned, given, or borrowed.
This is what separtes craft from art, craftsmen from artists, bonsai from works of art. No matter how skillful one may get, without talent they can never create art.

The corollary of that particular statement might be that no matter how talented one may be, without skill they can never create art.
At least with a more objective definition of art.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 2:02 pm 
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Chris Johnston wrote:
And if there is no skill needed to produce a work of art, what is the point of art education (most of which seems wasted if we are unable even to discriminate about this) or even this website?
If no skill is required to produce a work of art, then all I have to do is find a new angle, much like the "viral video" 15-minute celebrities on Youtube. You might say the skill in "Fountain" was the naming of the object. Yet inventive thought alone is not skill. I may be able to visualize the "ideal" bonsai in a piece of material, but without the skill to bring it forth, it is just material.

Hi Chris
I totally agree with you that skill (or talent, or whatever you call it) is needed. But the skill can be in the form of an Idea. Here is a wonderful little video clip about conceptual art (you need RealPlayer to play it).
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/egg/209/concept ... eo-hi.html
This is the realm of conceptual art, where the '"traditional skills", such as drawing, painting, clay modeling, vital in the classic visual arts, lose their significance. This is idea-based art, mostly invisible to the eye. The fact that they are classified as visual art is unfortunate, since most of it is invisible. The saying "I can tell art when I see it" doesn't apply here. Sometimes there is little to see, you need to "know" much more about the work than what your eye can see.
Here is a quote from Wikipedia:
For the layman, this quotation highlights a key difference between a conceptualist installation and a traditional work of art - that the conceptualist's work may require little or no physical craftsmanship in its execution, whereas traditional art is distinguished by requiring physical skill and the making of aesthetic choices.
The above quote addresses your concern about skill in art.
You can log in to the link below and find plenty of examples of this kind of art that you are objecting to.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptual_art
Conceptual art is not as "flashy" as the traditional visual arts. But it has some wonderful attributes: it makes you think "out of the box", it challenges your prejudices, it makes you laugh, it shows life and objects in an entirely new light, and many many more. It cannot replace the traditional art forms, but it is a wonderful addition to them.
Cheers,
Attila


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2007 9:02 am 
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Not really replying on the original post, but taking part to the conversation about "Fountain, to be Art or not to be Art".
From wikipedia
"A traditional fountain is an arrangement where water issues from a source (Latin fons), fills a basin of some kind, and is drained away."
According to that, the urinal which Duchamp has taken out of it's context and named the piece as Fountain, matches quite nicely, thou this fountain has dried out. The funnier thing is that the same explanation applies to us as "the source" when taking a piss to a urinal in it's original place.
Ok, it's funny, but thou it is funny, I don't consider it as a joke. One thing I could consider a joke, is a sterile toilet with 10 urinals in line and us beeing kind of uncomfortable in that situation trying to do our thing.
Sakari


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 6:25 pm 
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A few days ago I was reading Ayn Rand's "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" and I've made a connection between the objectivist theory of a product's value, and artistic value (Objectivism is a philosophical school of thought, attributed to Ayn Rand).
The idea is that a product's value always depends on the person who uses it, his education, backround, needs, social status, etc. There is no such thing as an "objective value" of a product, a value that exists outside the person who is involved. A janitor who buys a lipstick, but would not spend her money on a microscope, values the lipstick much more than she values the microscope. For her, the lipstick means the difference between self confidence or wretchedness, but the microscope is worthless to her.
So, the value of a product is set by the individuals who need that product. In the case of the microscope, there are obviously people in the society to whom the microscope is worth a lot, so in the end, the microscope will sell at a much higher price than the lipstick. Our conclusion here is that the value of the microscope is established by a specific group of people who need that product, and who are using that product.
The exact same thing is happening with the objects of art. The value of an art object is established by a select group of people who need it, display it, use it, etc. This select group of people is what we call the "art establishment": critics, high profile sponsors, gallery owners, curators,etc.
The "Urinal" may be worthless for a lot of people. For them, just like the microscope for the janitor, there is no use for it, because they don't see anything in it. But for a select group of people (the "art establishment"), there is a very high value for it. They see something invaluable in it (for reasons that are irrelevant for the purpose of this argument), and therefore the art object becomes extremely sought after.
This is why I believe that the art-ness of a work is established by a select group of the society. This is not done by force, but by the choices those members of the group make. To this group, a certain object of art is very valuable, so they become the standard, and there is nothing that the layman or the rest of the crowd can do about it. The layman has a choice to ignore the object in question, but that will not change the fact that others will pay millions for it, because they deem it invaluable.
There is no such thing as a universal criteria, to establish artistic value, or any value. That's because the concept of value is very different from one group of people to the next one.
People who demand that art should be defined, using one uniform criteria, are denying this basic law of the human society. And the objectivist philosophy recognizes this law very clearly. As soon as we try to impose a uniform criteria on art, we are acting as dictators, denying the rest of the individuals from exercising their own perception of values, based on their own human condition.
This is what happened in societies where one group of people decided to set moral standards: it resulted in totalitarian regimes. Stalin, Hitler, Mao were big fans of such standards.
Setting artistic standards would lead to the same results.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 9:53 pm 
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Attila Soos wrote:
Here is Oldenburg's "Clothespin" in Philadelphia.
It is the exact replica of a clothespin. Just like the Urinal, a clothespin is not supposed to be art.
But wait...
If you look long enough, you may realize that the two halves of the clothespin are two people, embracing or kissing each other. The metal clip holding the halves together are the couple's arms.
Is this art, or is it a clothespin? It cannot be both. The creator of the original clothespin never thought about this, when he or she created it.


I have highlighted a key point, at least for me anyway.
This has always been my point of view about artists and bonsai. Most artists do not go about creating art. They create bonsai first and formost. Everyone else labels it as art. They do this according to their ability to see and argue about their point of view. The trouble is, not everything to everyone is art. Still a very subjective medium and not one that will ever be solved.
One creators art is another man's trash, and one critics trash is another man's art. Al Keppler 7-17-07


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2007 12:50 am 
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Al Keppler wrote:
This has always been my point of view about artists and bonsai. Most artists do not go about creating art. They create bonsai first and formost. Everyone else labels it as art. They do this according to their ability to see and argue about their point of view. The trouble is, not everything to everyone is art. Still a very subjective medium and not one that will ever be solved.

Artists, by the very definition of the word, create art. This fact is undeniable, however the debate as to if it is good or bad art is left up to others who are more knowledgeable on the topic, the artist doesn't care as long as the vision is expressed. The artist can not be concerned with how the piece will be accepted, what the critics will say, if it will be understood, the artist creates, the critic explains. The artist has no choice in what becomes accepted by the community or not anyhow, the artist creates, others decide the merits of the creation.
The old cop out that art is subjective by those who don't yet understand what art truly is grows old and tired and should be put out to pasture for good. Being strapped for time this week, I won't dive into it, but instead will save it for an article. Meanwhile a good primer on this can be found at http://www.paulgraham.com/goodart.html
Here's a quote for thought...
"The notion that the public accepts or rejects anything in modern art is merely romantic fiction. The game is completed and the trophies distributed long before the public knows what has happened." -Thomas Wolfe

Will


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