South African Skeptics

But is it art?

Offline Rigil Kent

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Artist MC Escher (1898-1972) was an interesting case. He drew  his (no pun intended) inspiration from mathematics of all things. When you Google his biography and quotes, he comes across as sharing Brian's uncle's work ethic: less glitz, more graft. He said: " The things I want to express are so beautiful and pure" I can only assume he was talking about the Platonic mathematical world. Pretty cool methinks.

http://www.mcescher.com/

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Offline Mefiante

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Quite so.  To get a better handle on Escher’s work in the context of modern mathematical theory and development, I strongly recommend reading Douglas Hofstadter’s book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.  And in the literary world, there’s the wonderful Lewis Carroll who does mathematical and logic tricks in and with smart prose.  Martin Gardner’s The Annotated Alice explains many of Carroll’s linguistic capers.

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"Sensitive" people are now carefully examining the entire universe, trying to find something to be "offended" at. It won't stop until such time as the "offenders" learn to stop apologizing, and saying "freck off" instead. — brianvds, The ShoutBox Classics, 02/07/2018.


Offline BoogieMonster

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The question remains, is it art?
"Monkey killing monkey killing monkey over pieces of the ground, Silly monkeys, give them thumbs, they make a club and beat their brother down. How they survive, so misguided, is a mystery. Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability to lift an eye to heaven, conscious of his fleeting time here" - Tool


Offline brianvds

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Offline cr1t

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The question remains, is it art?

It's art, but is it GOOD art?  :-)


Is art not just in its totality a subjective experience, anyway?


Offline brianvds

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The question remains, is it art?

It's art, but is it GOOD art?  :-)


Is art not just in its totality a subjective experience, anyway?

Once we have established criteria, we could judge works of art according to those, reasonably objectively. E.g. one can tell which of two portrait likenesses is the more accurate (assuming one is more accurate than the other). But should art necessarily resemble the world? That is a way more subjective thing.

It seems as if some works of art (and music, and literature) have a certain "something" that makes it appealing to many different times and cultures, and those are what we usually call the classics. If we could precisely codify what exactly that "something" is we could probably all produce masterpieces.

But then, even with the classics, the Paris Hilton effect plays a large role, as Mikhail Simkin tries to show on his provocative website at http://reverent.org/


Offline Rigil Kent

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Brian, after a lot of contemplation, I think what you said right in the beginning of this thread hits the nail on the head:

Art is whatever is presented as such.

Which, of course, offers the audience no guarantees. But perhaps that is how it should be.

Rigil
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Offline Mefiante

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It seems as if some works of art (and music, and literature) have a certain "something" that makes it appealing to many different times and cultures, and those are what we usually call the classics. If we could precisely codify what exactly that "something" is we could probably all produce masterpieces.
This reminds me of an experience I had at school concerning English Creative Writing as it was called at the time.  Early on in Standard 8, quite by accident I hit upon a type of composition and a writing style to go with it that significantly improved the marks my essays were awarded from that point on.  (That content and style is perhaps best exemplified in the writings of Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury and John Wyndham.)  I ported these principles to the other two languages and my marks improved, er, markedly there too.  I remember being a bit concerned that this apparent preference was one limited to the particular teachers concerned, or possibly the school as a whole, but my matric marks eventually disabused me of that worry.

So it seems there are indeed such “universal” ingredients, at least in certain art forms.

'Luthon64
"Sensitive" people are now carefully examining the entire universe, trying to find something to be "offended" at. It won't stop until such time as the "offenders" learn to stop apologizing, and saying "freck off" instead. — brianvds, The ShoutBox Classics, 02/07/2018.


Offline BoogieMonster

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Art is whatever is presented as such.

I can throw in with this to a large degree. But I usually value originality and what you describe, Mefi, makes me hugely uncomfortable. Formulaic anything gets boring quickly, and I used to roll my eyes when people had to read out their essays in class, each with a pre-set theme and structure, going by the textbook. I always preferred an alternative interpretation of the subject material. I didn't do great but got better grades than most, likely because I was in a bit of a backwater Afrikaans school and my spelling/grammatical skills exceeded that of my classmates.

FWIW: In std. 2 a teacher marked my essay down with: "Children of your age shouldn't write like this". I thought this was a definite mixed message, and still think the teacher was being a bit of a retard.

Not that I claim my English is perfect even to this day. I often read my posts here in retrospect and cringe a bit.

That said, I think the difficulty in art is that each piece of art presents something different to be appreciated. There's a universe of different things that qualify something as "art" and that's what introduces the difficulty in people trying to apply reductionist principles in classifying it.

Some art presents beauty, some art presents incredible human suffering to prompt the viewer/listener/reader into action, some art is there to make the recipient reflect on their own behaviour/psychology/struggles/place in the world/etc. Some art is somewhat like a puzzle, leaving you lingering trying to tease the meaning out and rewards you, much like any other puzzle, once you do (or think you do).

Often the more "abstract" art is trying to convey a raw emotion using nothing more than the ferociousness or subtlety of the brush strokes. If it is done well I do appreciate it. However I think more often than not, it fails miserably and just appears like a mishmash of random paint.

More often than not, you walk into people's homes and find "art" that is merely there to look nice hanging on a wall, to give a certain colour or feel to a room. I don't qualify that as "art" art, yet I still think it fits into the general art category by lending a certain mood or feeling to a room. Then again, so does a blank wall painted a certain colour.

And this is where I come back to the admittedly thorny issue of originality. Is a guy pumping out moulds of ducks and selling them in a curio shop making art? I would say no. Seeing the same knitted-dress Barbie doll covering a toilet roll doesn't inspire much feeling in me, other than total apathy. But then by the same token, if we mass-produced perfect stroke-for-stroke copies of the Mona Lisa, would that make it not art? After a while, it's impact would diminish and nobody, IMHO, would consider it art any more.

It's like your favourite song, that you listened to just one too many times in a week, and can no longer stand. (EDIT: Or like yet another italian villa some person has built in the middle of joburg. Maybe the first one was a good idea, but after 100 it got a tad... repetitive)

I think there's something in this. I think true art requires novelty.
"Monkey killing monkey killing monkey over pieces of the ground, Silly monkeys, give them thumbs, they make a club and beat their brother down. How they survive, so misguided, is a mystery. Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability to lift an eye to heaven, conscious of his fleeting time here" - Tool


Offline cr1t

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I think there's something in this. I think true art requires novelty.

Then a giant butt plug in the middle off Paris is a novel as it gets.  ;D

But I agree with everything you said.

My father in law is a part time painter. And we've had the debate a few times,
that in painting you don't need or want a perfect copy of some scenes you have photos for that
rather a more abstract picture where the artist has left his impression is better.
Unless you going for a photo realistic painting in which case the skill is what is appreciated.




Offline Rigil Kent

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That content and style is perhaps best exemplified in the writings of Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury and John Wyndham.

Creative writing? Nope, never was a reliable source of marks for me. My heroes consistently failed to extract themselves from the impossibly convoluted and hair-raising horrors that I penned them into, and the stories almost always ended with someone that wakes up with a start ... it was all a dream! Clearly, I  took my literary inspiration from Dallas.

Then a giant butt plug in the middle off Paris is a novel as it gets.
Serious? You should visit PE. We've had one for ages.

Rigil
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Offline Mefiante

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Perhaps it is the case that if, as brianvds suggests, “we could precisely codify what exactly that ‘something’ is” then anything based on such a codification ceases to be art for want of originality (or an essential element thereof).

However, it’s not obvious to me that, provided such a codification is sufficiently abstract, it would somehow forestall originality.  An accomplished artist who works in a particular medium with a preferred style (e.g., a painter who only does pointillisms on hardboard) can of course only render works that are physically possible with that combination of medium and style, but that does not mean the art so produced lacks originality because the content of the work counts at least as much as its presentation.

And so, with regards to my earlier post about English Creative Writing, it is similarly a bit of stretch to suggest that because an author works in a particular genre with a style that is their own but still recognisably derivative of other authors, such an author lacks originality because plot, structure, character development, etc. are also critical ingredients (Stephen King and John Grisham are good examples).

The “type of composition and a writing style” I wrote about isn’t a rigid algorithmic or automated procedure where you churn out virtual clones under different titles.  Rather, it’s a somewhat fuzzy and loose collection of flexible guidelines and preferred ways of structuring a story, of phrasing things, of characterisation, of plot elements, and so on — and also what to avoid concerning those aspects.  I think the school’s aim was to inculcate the ability to recognise what is generally thought of as good writing, and to get pupils to emulate it.  It’s not an easy thing to convey those aspects of writing, and I suspect the teaching thereof is even more difficult, hence the focus on classic literature where the pupil is exposed to them and will hopefully try to imitate them, eventually to refine the overall flavour of their writing to their own unique blend.

Finally, we must not lose sight of the fact that, lacking precise evaluation criteria, a work of “art” can only become a classic through sufficient consensus of various individuals and parties.  As individuals, we may or may not like a specific painting or sculpture or composition, but our opinion in any particular case has only limited relevance concerning whether the work in question is true art or not.  For example, I have a pervasive and especial, even morbid, dislike of collages but I wouldn’t presume to suggest that they aren’t art.

'Luthon64
"Sensitive" people are now carefully examining the entire universe, trying to find something to be "offended" at. It won't stop until such time as the "offenders" learn to stop apologizing, and saying "freck off" instead. — brianvds, The ShoutBox Classics, 02/07/2018.


Offline Brian

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I wrote a few poems not sure they qualify for that somewhat esoteric title. Each time I did this, it was done expressing some emotion such as losing my grandson or deep love for my wife etc. Also when I was diagnosed with MDR TB. I don't claim they were "arty" but they did give me a sense of release and today I can go back and re-read them with some "revision" of those erstwhile emotions: Here's one written by my son in law:
BLVD

Specious delicious
Fishnet stocking

Vivacious salacious
Shaven haven

Magnetic fluorescent
Fifty buck special

Inconsummate delegate
Irritating (b) itch
Never let the child in you die!


Offline brianvds

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FWIW: In std. 2 a teacher marked my essay down with: "Children of your age shouldn't write like this". I thought this was a definite mixed message, and still think the teacher was being a bit of a retard.

Lemme guess: your essay was titled "50 Shades of Grey." :-)


Offline BoogieMonster

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Not at all anything risqué, but I'm stumped about what it was about... That was a long time ago.
"Monkey killing monkey killing monkey over pieces of the ground, Silly monkeys, give them thumbs, they make a club and beat their brother down. How they survive, so misguided, is a mystery. Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability to lift an eye to heaven, conscious of his fleeting time here" - Tool