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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 10:40 am 
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Gosh . . . I grow, display, and work on my bonsai in my front yard. Maybe I'm not allowed to respond to this thread.
Anyway, Andy said something about a bonsai not being an art untill it is displayed, and the pot, the stand, the companion plant, the background, etc. are all considered together (or words to that effect).
Using Walter's Mona Lisa analogy from another thread, if I took her out of her (rather ugly in my humble opinion) frame and propped her up on my dining room table, would she be any less "art?"
And, Lisa said: "Too often, the bonsai pot and the stand become a crutch for those who exhibit mediocre trees....." and I agree. Many of my trees fit here, I'm sure.
Andy and I have "discussed" bonsai-as-art elswhere and at other times, and I respect his opinion, but I still have to ask whether it matters to anyone but a few, somewhat insecure, talented bonsaiests. Twenty years ago, serious photographers were tearing their shirts over whether what they did was art. I don't really keep up on photographic stuff any more, but I seem to recall that after all the blood had been shed, the answer was "maybe," or "sometimes," or "it can be."
That, I think, is where we should leave the question "is bonsai art." No one cares but us -- and, occasionally, the casual viewer of an especially beautiful tree about which there is no question.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 5:12 am 
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Jim Lewis wrote:
Andy and I have "discussed" bonsai-as-art elswhere and at other times, and I respect his opinion, but I still have to ask whether it matters to anyone but a few, somewhat insecure, talented bonsaiests. Twenty years ago, serious photographers were tearing their shirts over whether what they did was art. I don't really keep up on photographic stuff any more, but I seem to recall that after all the blood had been shed, the answer was "maybe," or "sometimes," or "it CAN be."
That, I think, is where we should leave the question "is bonsai art." No one cares but us -- and, occasionally, the casual viewer of an especially beautiful tree about which there is no question.

So we can go home, work on our trees and forget about it? That would be too simple.
Nobody will ever be forced to join any art discussion, be it 'photographic stuff' now or bonsai. On the other hand nobody should try to finish such discussions just because he does not see any sence behind them. If so, it would be enough just to say: 'I don't need it.' It is not necessary to disqualify the interested ones as 'somewhat insecure' and bring down the topic by saying: 'No one cares but us'.
One does not necessarily have to be insecure to think about bonsai as it is and to discuss, what it could be. Especially the latter is less insecurity but rather curiosity. Art always includes the struggle for development and progress. Sure you can say now: 'Then make your progress. But do we have to talk about that?'. I mean we do. Remember: Once, a certain Fryderyk Chopin said about Schumann's 'Papillons': 'This is not music anymore'. And Eduard Hanslick wrote about a contemporary concerto from Tchaikovsky: 'One means to hear this music smell'. A french critic later warned pregnant women form looking at Monet's paintings. He ment, it could do harm to the baby. The respective works are old, dusty classics. That is also due to discussion, theoretical, abstract discussion.
I respect any bonsai artist who quietly works on his trees, be it in the backyard or in the front of his house. I can assure any of them that his work will find my respect, even it it are trees I hold for old, dusty classics. But please ? let us not behave as if the story of bonsai was finished and all we had to do now is producing another five hundred of them. There are so many questions open once you declare the horticultural problems as solved or at least mastered fairly. That is art: Finding out, what comes next, behind the momentary horizon. Finding out, where we can go. What else could be. This research is not insecurity. It's maybe playful, but with serious intentions. It wants to win, but no war. It will not produce harm to anybody, even if certain design experiments seem cruelly strange at first sight. One can turn away and say: 'This is not bonsai anymore' or even 'one means to see this tree smell'. But this will finally not be more than a single line in a book, that is permanently being continued. Either you are among the authors or not ? your choice.
P.S. These days, a visitor looked at my trees and shily asked, if this now was, 'what is called bonsai'. There is really no tree in my backyard I would recommend as 'especially beautiful', but the following discussion about bonsai, gardening, japanese art, nature and so on lasted hours. Maybe no one cares but us. But we are more than you would think when you think about it all. Start with my visitor and all the viewers here.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 11:17 am 
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Andrew Loosli wrote:
let us not behave as if the story of bonsai was finished and all we had to do now is producing another five hundred of them.

Andrew,
I love this quote. It is wickedly funny, and it is sadly true for a lot of us.
What I often see in club meetings and other bonsai events is a sense of quiet resignation from the experienced practitioners. That everything that could be said, was already said by the old classics, and all we have to do, is to imitate them.
Our duty is the compulsive production of one bonsai after another. Once they are done, we have to show them to people unfamiliar with bonsai and lecture them about the intricacies of rules and regulations attached to those trees.
How exciting!


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 5:51 pm 
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Andrew L and I seem to be talking of apples and oranges.
His examples of Schumann, Tschaikovsky, and Monet are all within already established arts -- examples of people (traditionalists) declaiming against innovators in those arts that everyone agrees are arts. It would be like Andrew (or whoever) looking at someone else's bonsai with a ceramic monkey climbing in its branches and saying "That's not bonsai" Some day tastes might change (shudder!) and that might become bonsai -- just like we today like Tchaikovsky's "unplayable" violin concerto, and Monet's lilies, and Schumann's piano works.
His examples are not someone from an artistic endeavor that the established arts don't really recognize seeking a cachet of approval from those other arts -- someone knocking on the door of the art establishment and wanting in. That's what is going on here in this discussion.
But one thing holds true for most regoginzed arts (Christo's ephemeral "art" -- some of which I like and some of which I don't -- and performance "art" notwithstanding) is its permanence. Rodin's "Thinker" will be around and looking exactly the same much longer than any bonsai -- even the oldest. And, barring a fire, even paintings will remain unchanged for many, many years. Trees change -- always.
It takes great skill to produce a bonsai that might be classified as a work of art. But let that bonsai change hands and those new hands may not be able to maintain it as one.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 5:59 pm 
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Jim Lewis wrote:
But let that bonsai change hands and those new hands may not be able to maintain it as one.

But isnt' that same case with the performance arts ? A good musician or dancer makes the work admirable, while the poor performer can make a mockery out of it. And yet, the art-ness of the performance arts is never questioned by anyone. Why would the bonsai be different: Art today and a shrub tomorrow?


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 8:10 pm 
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Attila wrote:
Quote:
"But isnt' that same case with the performance arts ? A good musician or dancer makes the work admirable, while the poor performer can make a mockery out of it. And yet, the art-ness of the performance arts is never questioned by anyone. Why would the bonsai be different: Art today and a shrub tomorrow?"

No. It's not the performance that is the art. It is the symphony or the ballet or the opera themselves that are art. The performers interpret it -- well or badly. Beethoven's 5th symphony, Swan Lake, or Turandot are art in and of themselves -- no matter whether Bernstein, Barishnikov, Pavrotti or Ms. Jones' 5th grade kazoo band play.
The unique beautiful bonsai in the wrong hands is no longer a beautiful tree, no longer a work of art (or of artistic merit); it's just a bonsai (or worse) -- one of thousands. And if it was lucky enough to get back into the hands of a talented bonsaiest, it would not be the same "art" that started out because that bonsai artist would create his or her own interpretation, not a ghost of bonsai past.


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 11:56 am 
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Jim Lewis wrote:
No. It's not the performance that is the art. It is the symphony or the ballet or the opera themselves that are art.

Well, I have to say that the above statement is wrong. The symphony does not exist without the musician and his art. And it does not exist without the composer either. So, it is the result of combining two man's work (or more people's work) into one final product. You cannot separate the Idea (the score written by the composer) from the Medium (the physical sound coming from the instrument). You need both in order to experience the music. Some of the finest artist that ever lived are musicians, playing music written by someone else. Nevertheless, they are artists in every sense of the word.
Same concept can be easily applied to bonsai, by the way. There is always an original idea, which is the image of the tree of your imagination. When working with a fine yamadori, you have an idea of where you want to go with it. You have an ideal picture and sometime you actually draw it on paper. This would be the "musical score", if you will. Then, you actually work on the medium to physically create it. The art is a combination of the original idea and the craftmanship that makes it happen.
I believe that this concept is not too hard to understand.
Regards,
Attila


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 3:28 pm 
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Quote:
"Well, I have to say that the above statement is wrong. The symphony does not exist without the musician and his art. And it does not exist without the composer either. So, it is the result of combining two man's work (or more people's work) into one final product. You cannot separate the Idea (the score written by the composer) from the Medium (the physical sound coming from the instrument). You need both in order to experience the music."

Oh foo and fiddlesticks!
You can know it's art by reading the score! You don't have to "hear" a note -- except internally! That symphony (and scores of others) exists in hundreds of orchestral libraries. It's art there, just as much as it is on my Victor Red Seal recording with Walters conducting, or in any hall in which it is performed, however well or poorly.
You seem to be saying that YOU as an individual have to hear (or see) something for it to become art. Existential art? Amazing conceit?
As for working with a yamadori and drawing a picture (or a virtual), that doesn't seem to relate to anything I've touched on; I don't believe I ever alluded to any of that, but spoke of the ephemerality of bonsai as works of (whatever).
I spoke of the fact that today's bonsai is NEVER the same as yesterday's (and is less and less like it as the yesterday's go on). I said that the tree you see today can never be brought back to "yesterdays" tree, but "Art" -- a painting, sculpture, and the symphony, ballet, opera and other performance art that follow the author's/composer' score -- exists in its original form for as long as it DOES exist.


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 4:16 pm 
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Jim Lewis wrote:
You know it's art by reading the score! You don't have to "hear" a note -- except internally!

I am sorry, but I can't hear it internally. I can try to imagine it when I read the scoresheet (I know how to read them, btw), but I don't know the quality of the sound, the texture of it, the accoustics, the inflections. I don't know a lot of things, untill the music is actually played.
According to your theory of art existing solely on the score paper, I might as well cancel my membership to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra concerts in the Disney Hall. I should just order the scoresheets and listen the music in my head. It would be just as good as the real thing.
And it doesn't matter who is performing, as long as they "follow the scores". The high school marchband, or the London Symphony Orchestra. It's all the same art as long as they can read the scoresheet.
And Artur Rubinstein should not take any credit as an artist, since his creative talent has absolutely no influence on how Mozart's piano concerto will turn out to be.
Your opinion is very ...unusual, I might say.
(apples and oranges is always a good excuse, at least for a while)
May be it's just me, but people never cease to amaze me.
Best regards,
Attila


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 6:47 pm 
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Attila Soos wrote:
Jim Lewis wrote:
You know it's art by reading the score! You don't have to "hear" a note -- except internally!

I am sorry, but I can't hear it internally. I can try to imagine it when I read the scoresheet (I know how to read them, btw), but I don't know the quality of the sound, the texture of it, the accoustics, the inflections. I don't know a lot of things, untill the music is actually played.

Many people can -- or at least some. As I said, you seem to be defining and relegating art only to YOUR way of reacting to it.
Quote:
According to your theory of art existing solely on the score paper, I might as well cancel my membership to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra concerts in the Disney Hall. I should just order the scoresheets and listen the music in my head. It would be just as good as the real thing.

That is so absured a point to try to make that it hurts your entire argument. Of course you/we/everyone wants to hear it; that's what it's for.
But it's still art, even when no one is listening. (If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear . . .)
Quote:
And it doesn't matter who is performing, as long as they "follow the scores". The high school marchband, or the London Symphony Orchestra. It's all the same art as long as they can read the scoresheet.

You got it. It's still art, even if the performance is totally botched. It's just not well-performed art.
Quote:
And Artur Rubinstein should not take any credit as an artist, since his creative talent has absolutely no influence on how Mozart's piano concerto will turn out to be.

Right again. Sorry, Rubinstein (or whoever) interprets someone else's art. He is extremely talented and he (and many others, like you) undoubtedly calls himself an artist (as many bonsaests call themselves -- to get us somewhat on topic) but unless he creates something of his own, he can't reall be an artist. Art is creating things. Beethovan created the notes/sounds of the Emperor concerto. Rubinstein interprets what Beethoven creates. And he does it better than almost anyone else (except, perhaps, R. Serkin on his best days). And both interpretations are of the same "art."


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 10:32 pm 
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Not to nit pick, but sound is defined as vibrations picked up by the ear, therefore if a tree falls in the forest and no ear is present, there is indeed no sound.
The art of music is defined in the hearing, the art of bonsai in the viewing. To say that un-played music is art is the same as saying that an un-viewed bonsai is. Both may very well be, but no one would ever know it.

Will


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 11:05 pm 
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Note to Jim Lewis
Jim, I'm sorry to do this here in public but you've given us a non-functional email address when you registered and you have not been checking your private messages. Please correct your email address and read your private messages (click on .Messages above) before you post again.
Carl Bergstrom
Moderator, Art of Bonsai


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 12:14 am 
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Will Heath wrote:
The art of music is defined in the hearing, the art of bonsai in the viewing.

Thank you Will for the common sense that this thread is in dire need of.
That musicians cannot be artists unless they play their own pieces is too absurd for me to grasp. I had to respond with equally absurd counterarguments in order to highlight the absurdity of it.
But I agree with Jim in that it's time for me to move on, past this thread.


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 6:11 am 
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I beg your pardon. It was not a really good idea to bring up Chopin and Tchaikovsky. Every art form has specific problems. Painting bases on materials and two-dimensionality, music is being interpreted (but ? what about the 'frozen' form of recorded music then?), literature has to be read and can use existing language only?
I should have known comparisons do never work. Whenever I try to convince my son he should behave by using a comparison, he will for sure find a way to use my argument in his favour. We know these games.
But we are the big boys. We do not necessarily have to play them, do we? We could instead try to find the combining lines, and let the separating ones aside. This would mean not to mention the problems coming with interpretation of music anymore. Or do we really want to discuss here the advantages of modern pianos compared to contemporary pianoforte when playing Beethoven?
Instead we could go back to the very point: You brought up the idea, that bonsai changes, whereas 'art' is eternal. No art forms has your 'eternal form'. Not music, not ballet. The classic greek marble figures where probably painted all over once, a brass sculpturer thinks about how the patina will develop, many composers worked together with instrument builders, the 'tempi-discussion' at playing Bach is ongoing, with paintings one has to think about the 'hanging' too. 'State' is a moment in a process. Remember the discussion about Michelangelo's paintings in the Sixtina? Most modern artists will at least smile when you say their works do not change. But all that is their problem, we have our own as you said.
Fact is, the design of a bonsai is the result of a work that has all signs of artistic work. When you continue working on it, you work on a piece of art ? be it good, be it bad. Think optional - instead of saying 'it cannot be art, because it changes' you could start a discussion about 'how to keep the art in a bonsai through all it's changes'. And this again is something perfectly normal for artists. Maintaining the artist's intention without shying away from necessary interpretation, sometimes even adaptation - so much courage you will find with any art form today.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2005 6:07 am 
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Art has at least 2 different meanings for me: art is everything that we can?t evaluate with a systematic score book, and art is telling something about the artist ?nd what (s)he try to communicate.
In the first meaning I can say that art is everything that is beyond good quality, one may call it superb, as if God (as a super human) has created it, not ordinary human. Something we simply don?t understand how it is possible to be made or performed.
The second definition requires the artist and the communication.
In conclussion: in the West some bonsai could be called art in the first meaning, questionable in the second meaning. At least if I look at the first part of it, because the bonsaiist face or character remains unreachable to me.
In the ancient Tribal communities, bonsai was/is not an artform. They didn?t/don?t even have the concept of art as a mean of self expression like we have in the West. The ?self? is never important. Through bonsai they try to be more open to the beauty of Nature, to closer to God. Art is a Western modern concept which has it?s foundation in Individualism.


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