Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by john_boyd|9, Sep 14, 2015.

  1. I have to write an reflective essay for one my of professors and the subject of the essay has got me thinking and I wanted to know everyone's opinion on this. I have to address the role of aesthetics/beauty in my work and explain if aesthetics is a part of my practice and if it is, who and what influenced me. But I personally believe there is not a specific characteristic in a photograph that makes a photo aesthetic. What really makes a photography aesthetic? What do you call beauty in an image? I feel like beauty is only mixture of emotions and feelings when we see an image and it's something that can't be defined. This has got me thinking for the past few days and I'm not sure if I'm the only one that feels like this.
  2. I'd tackle it by separating aesthetics and beauty. From the Greeks to the Renaissance and beyond, aesthetics was tied to beauty as being about such related things as harmony, proportion, and the ideal. Once the cubists and then post-modernism came along, other things besides beauty came into the language of aesthetics and notions of beauty also changed. Expression became important as did the underlying reality on which art is founded. Readymades were included in art, such as Duchamp's Fountain. The importance of cultural and social as well as art institutions in determining aesthetics was on the rise. In a sense, there became an anti-aesthetic role for art.
    I feel like beauty is only mixture of emotions and feelings when we see an image and it's something that can't be defined.​
    That's all well and good but to be honest, in an academic paper, unless you developed it with some specifics, I'd take it as a copout were I the professor. First of all, I'd ask what you think the difference is between emotions and feelings (since you used both those words). Second, I think photographers take stands and make commitments. They do that, in great part, by framing the world, by choosing what to isolate by that act of framing, whether and how to strip away the original context in which the scene or subject they photograph was found, by what instant out of so many available instants they chose to take the picture. Your photographs define your aesthetics and while it may not be able to be universally defined for everyone, your photographs do actually help define and reflect your own aesthetics. There, you will have to carefully look at your work and seek out your voice and what your work is showing and saying and, at least to some extent, put that into descriptive words. This doesn't mean you have to tie yourself down completely, but it does mean you have to support, commit to, and fight for your photos and what they're doing and what they're about.
  3. Mimesis, imitation or representation, is one art concept which photography can relate to.
  4. John B.
    I agree that aesthetics and beauty are kind of tail-chaser topics. Discussing aesthetics you ponder your current feelings about your pictures to learn the current language of aesthetics . My kind of aesthetics seeks to recognize in art layers of satisfaction akin to music and literature that makes it intelligent (beautiful?) and a success. I don't even like the work (actual pictures) of my primary influences. That is to say, I would not hang it in my house .

    Aspiring to a fluency of both formal and execution of craft skills is a worthy aesthetic challenge for photographers. Degrees of success are always problematic. To violate or falsify aesthetic essentialism/beauty always leads to new avenues of work. It seems to me that, with art, feelings informed by culture produce an ethereal appreciation of a work. In fact, isn’t that part of it? Beauty is feelings that can’t be pinned down.
  5. Is body hair beautiful?
  6. No, shaving is ;-)
  7. Yes I do view aesthetics/beauty as in how one sees it.
  8. Fred G.
    The “shaving” picture has significant layers of interest. Thanks.
    Thinking of the personal art “atlas” idea I mentioned in the “Fools Gold” topic, the kind of things artists put in an atlas say a lot about their work. Atlas art (media) has an affinity with the “scrapbooking” craft and selfies. In the digital graphic media era, we build enormous atlases. Our finished work is seeded both literally and figuratively by our atlases.
    These “moment to be determined”, atlas items form our shooting habits. We “pre-visualize” a continuum if we are doing it right. At the same time, the frames not shot are there waiting to be seen - the “expansion” of art with art.
  9. Alan, just responded to you in the Fool's Gold thread and it seems we're both on a similar track which gives quite a bit of significance to someone's body of work and not limiting such discussions to individual items we may call art.
  10. What may we call art? A consideration: Art may have its origins in a capacity to view the world in a non-utilitarian way. Art, as play, de-objectifies because play isn't real. For the strict utilitarian, art doesn't exist because for her there is but one realm, one realm populated entirely by objects and their mechanism, play itself just a handmaiden/handyman to mechanism, art mere mechanism, function.
  11. Though non-utilitarianism can certainly be an aspect of art and, historically, it's often brought forth as one of the defining qualities of art, I've become more skeptical of it over time. Last week's WEEKLY DISCUSSION was about Aleksandr Rodchenko, just as one example. For him and the Russian Constructivists, art and advertising and political advocacy were inseparable. Another example is that museums house many ancient tools and implements that we now consider art (and even in their times had an adornment as well as utilitarian purpose) but I'm not sure you can or would want to separate the function from the form, the utilitarian from the aesthetic aspects of the work, which are likely pretty intertwined.
    I don't necessarily totally buy this, but it's worth considering . . .
    “All of that art-for-art’s-sake stuff is BS. What are these people talking about? Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren’t writing about kings? All good art is political! There is none that isn’t. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, ‘We love the status quo.’ We’ve just dirtied the word ‘politics,’ made it sound like it’s unpatriotic or something. That all started in the period of state art, when you had the communists and fascists running around doing this poster stuff, and the reaction was ‘No, no, no; there’s only aesthetics.’ My point is that is has to be both: beautiful and political at the same time. I’m not interested in art that is not in the world. And it’s not just the narrative, it’s not just the story; it’s the language and the structure and what’s going on behind it. Anybody can make up a story.”
    —Toni Morrison​
  12. So a spider can't see its world in other than utilitarian terms. A species' capacity for play would then be a marker of a capacity to separate what's real from what is imaginary to a point and in degrees. Stakes in a game root play back into a strictly utilitarian world and there is no getting around that fact. I stake myself with that fact to the point of defining play as requiring stakes, play without stakes is instead just a way of wasting time. Point in fact, dogs play fight over some thing, constestual inhibited bites and shoving a proto kabuki theater in the result. A spider can't imagine. A dog can imagine itself the winner had instead the stakes, bites, and shoving been real.
    That drama of pure contest is professional sports and I don't see any way out of allowing that professional sports is a theatrical art, even to the point of making the officiating appear just real enough to be believable when in fact, the officiating isn't believable really and debates about the reality or unreality of officiating are essential to the theater of it. As with any theatrical performance, the audience is at risk of taking a sporting event or season all too seriously and some others in the audience may also become involved in the performance by admonishing that it's all just a game. And without stakes, who would play? None, and I feel I've made my case for defining creativity, play, and art as requiring stakes.
    So I think when we accept a definition of creativity, of art, as novel, useful, and in a social context (conversation, dialog) we accept that creativity or art without stakes isn't creativity or art. For art, stakes may be the only element that roots that activity back to a strictly utilitarian world because art doesn't have a strictly utilitarian purpose just like imagination doesn't have a strictly utilitarian purpose. Art imagines that a bowl can be more than a bowl whereas a spider doesn't imagine anything.
  13. Art imagines that a bowl can be more than a bowl​
    So does utilitarianism. A bowl can be used as a hat. It can be turned over and used as a writing surface. Interestingly, artists are often the best at finding different and unexpected utilitarian purposes for things.

    I'm sorry to say I lost you on the rest. Don't get the game/stakes/utilitarian/play connection. Can you simplify, elaborate, or describe in other words?
  14. Fred I see we were writing simultaneously.
    So if I consider Morrison's quote in context of considering that "some thing being at stake" is a precondition for the arrival in a species of the triplet "imagination -> play -> art", then... Maybe a characterization of what Morrison calls state art would best begin by first describing state art as the expression of a materialist aesthetic, whether politically that expression be fascist or communist. Morrison may conceive of the stakes of artistic expression as always and ultimately political. If so, to my way of seeing things, she thusly marks herself firmly with a materialist philosophy. That's because she seems to limit her conception of the stakes involved in true art to what is in my view her own over emphasis of the political.
    How useful is such an 'all political' conception, to whom, and when, whether it is over emphasis or not? I'm acknowledging that hers is a useful perspective. I have to acknowledge that because for me stakes are a precondition for imagination -> play -> art. Stakes plant us into the earth of the real world. And so what? But interestingly, art for Morrison, art which I've called de-objectification of the object, makes a complete round trip back to objectification, art becomes an object again for Morrison.
    Like any other object, Morrison probably is saying art is an effect with a cause. From Fred's Morrison quote "I’m not interested in art that is not in the world." For Morrison, the world is political always, a flight of fancy gathering no magic dust at all in its return trip to good old planet earth. SAY IT AINT' SO TONI, SAY IT AIN'T SO! Well it is so, in part, but so what? Maybe in reality the only important thing that has ever arrived on this planet is the capacity for imagination.
  15. Fred - "So does utilitarianism. A bowl can be used as a hat."
    Any bowl can be used as a hat. A bowl that is more than a bowl for being 'art' is still 'art' when used as a hat. A bowl is just a bowl, a spider web just another tool, a hat just a leaf placed over the head. I can use a commode as a door stop, the mona lisa as a dart board.
  16. So Fred I suppose what I'm trying to do is root art in play and root play in imagination and root imagination in biology. It isn't enough for me to have the definition of art floating around like a balloon that can be blown around and made to go where ever, when ever. If art isn't rooted in what I would loosely term biology it doesn't then mean much to me, much like to Morrison art that isn't in the world (hers political) isn't as interesting.
  17. "Yes I do view aesthetics/beauty as in how one sees it".
    I would agree. I think aesthetic beauty can take many forms...not just the pretty and cliché as we see in Fred's photo. Don't get me wrong Fred I think your photo is very good.
  18. By the way, my very first Philosophy paper (for Aesthetics) in college was "Sports as Art."
    I've often thought one of the secrets to art is transformation, which came to me long after "Sports as Art" but perhaps "Sports as Art" helped lead me there.
    My search for a definition of art usually leads me to history. The best way I've been able to approach a definition of art (I've said elsewhere if not here that art is better discussed than defined) is to consider the various definitions that have been offered and that seemed to emerge through history and discuss it from those standpoints individually and then from how one definition seemed to move to the next. I understand rooting it in biology but I wonder if it would make more sense to root it in culture, which seems more man-made and intentional. As culture evolves, so will art and its definition.
    Does the artist define art by creating it? In other words, a full definition of art doesn't exist because we don't know what the artist is going to come up with next. In art's case, the definition may follow the production. We don't define it and create something to suit that definition. We define it and then create something that defies and changes the definition. ???
  19. Aesthetic beauty clutching a truth of reality, revealing a honesty of existence, a poem about us.
  20. Just love the candid photo...not set up...just as it is...humanity being humanity.
  21. FRED G. "As culture evolves, so will art and its definition."​
    That is a most reasonable and useful way to explain the perennial "what is art" question' It gets us faster to the real best answer: "Art is a discussion about itself." Did somebody here say that yet? For me, that is what my pictures, individually and in volumes are supposed to be. I say "Photographs are discussion about the moment."
    Beauty" and "aesthetics" doesn't have to come up and muddle things up with "taste", etc..

    In regard to individual success at art expression goes, the "body" of work counts if consistency over a career matters. I think it matters. A number of successful pieces tell us a real artist did the work. I've seen, for example a number of Renoir klinkers (maybe fakes?!) Genius fades in and out but nobody notices it for a time.
  22. Nor would I suppose the artist knows what she is going to come up with next? Fred what did you mean when speaking of art as transformation? Transformation of the artist? And we don't produce to fit a definition I agree generally and that's a helpful point.
    Alan I like that about photographs being discussions about the moment.
    As to rooting in culture: I suppose if that's helpful. I like rooting in biology because that gets me into a natural philosophy category as opposed to metaphysical, philosophical, etc. At least as a starting point. And I think that if rooted in culture, we may be more apt to miss art in subculture, or mislabel it as just another object. In a way it's similar to where we can see that another culture's gods are silly fabrication and fanciful story, it being harder to discern the same of our own gods. Also, with biological roots: we've for a long time missed tool making as being something other than an exclusively human behavior so at least in a biological rooting we may have some way of identifying behavioral markers of imagination and creativity in other species. A humpback whale's song is to us just a mating song, we deprecate it, but so we deprecate our own art products, at least in my mind, when we reduce art to the operation of some more fundamental function, some mechanism or another. I suppose my interest in rooting in biology is to root art in something akin to a drive, instinct, or need, that is, root it broadly in life itself.
    As to subculture, an Elvis on Velvet makes some sense to me as Celtic, a singer with spangles for a culture that had oral histories, not written, pastoral v agricultural, and I mean Celtic traditions not in modern times, traditions for centuries that elevated oral story and song over writings of same.
    That Cole Weston photo has me thinking there's an Asian or Japanese Wabi-Sabi aesthetic in play, a sort of scene that has the stamp of time on it and some elements of decay and beauty, the kind of thing an American might go to Europe specifically to find. I also find in Western wabi sabi interpreters traces of cultural appropriation. But that is an aesthetic I've come across in my woodworking craft as an alternative to my Western aesthetic that initially favored symmetry, completeness, homogeneity to the point of my achieving true sterility and boredom in my first attempts at wood working pieces. When I say alternative I also mean an alternative mind set such that I have a reason to do some reading and study having to do more with my own growth. With wabi-sabi western interpreters I find that definitions really get in the way, as though an aesthetic could be defined by breaking it down to its constituent parts. I can see then that definitions of aesthetics don't convey much, you have to actually go to the art museum. But if anyone can get enough about my interest to recommend something to read on aesthetics, recommend something please?
  23. Fred what did you mean when speaking of art as transformation?​
    That while the green water may be murky and have certain connotations when we're standing before it and may retain some of those connotations when photographed, framing it also transforms it.

    That what the urinal is becomes transformed when placed in a museum and pointed to. And then we realize that it was that all along even outside the museum and so we are transformed in now being able to look at urinals outside the museum differently.

    That painters transform canvases and sculptors transform blocks of marble and architects transform space and photographers transform by framing and cinematographers transform still frames into motion through time and musicians transform sounds into compositions which may be as simple an act as John Cage giving a title (4'33") to a few minutes of ambient sound and silence.

    By the way, I didn't speak of art as transformation. I spoke of transformation as being one of the secrets of art. It's not meant to be definitional or to suggest an equivalence. It's not the magic ingredient . . . which doesn't exist.
  24. I think Fred your term transformation is similar to my term de-objectification. A urinal is an object de-objectified by being placed in a museum, transformed with the help of an artist's playful imagination. I suppose that a Chinese scholar's rock isn't all that different from Duchamp's Fountain, the urinal. The rock, the urinal are transformed, and I use de-objectification as a term for that event from which a rock or a urinal becomes no longer a rock or a urinal by operation of imagination. Objects are mere objects unless imagined to be otherwise. I like the term de-objectify, at first blush anyway, because I'm trying to root the transformation in the imagination. And I think that through art objects are de-objectified regardless if happening in a context of "mimesis, imitation or representation", a context Andy M. notes as art concepts salient to photography.
    Art objects as objects per se are objects that exist in space, occupy a space [a frame, a screen, a concert hall, a stage, a page]. That framing defines the space within the frame as imaginary, as pretend space, as play. The contents of that framed space are objects de-objectified. Some discussions concerning whether particular de-objectified products don't belong in that space boil down to making an argument for 're-objectifying' the contents of the frame. In your terminology that might be a transform - re-form, put in frame, remove from frame. An example of re-form would be to criticize Duchamp's fountain as being nothing but a urinal. A scholar's rock argued to be just a plain old rock. I was calling that thought process re-objectification of the de-objectified, clumsy terminology no doubt.
    Phil I think in my neighborhood the soul of man is the soul of a warrior under siege and I'm inclined to photograph the fortress homes in my neighborhood as a series to illustrate same. It is ugly I'm inclined to say. I take your points to heart though. I also think that in the ancient history of art, a cave is a frame and the frail human mind, developing, needed a frame to remind itself that it's imaginary objects weren't really real, weren't real because of where they were placed, and where they were placed was in some sort of frame. That cave art for its framing must have seemed magical.
  25. that event from which a rock or a urinal becomes no longer a rock or a urinal by operation of imagination​
    I think the urinal does not lose its original self. It wouldn't work if it wasn't STILL a urinal in my mind. That's part of the deal. Also, I think, it's about more than just THAT urinal.

    Transforming is not limited to changing in substance or composition. It can be a change in character or outlook.

    I'm into art as artifice, that photos are, very often, an artifice. That artifice can express a truth, which is different from a fact or an accuracy.

    If photography and art are about imagination and emotion, a photo has the power to objectify not just the objects in it but the imagination and emotion brought to the experience by the photographer and in the experience or subject itself.
  26. Take a look at from phylologic point, folks. Beautiful and Aesthetic are close but not semioticaly identical items. I think b. comes in English from French and originally signify a human personal quality and perhaps an animal grumming / pedegree - something from nobel trends. While a. is about constructions and design, say a building. In this sense a horse can be beautiful or not but a caw can not, yet architectural creation may be described as apropriatelly aesthetic or not. IWS b. works thorough emotional aspect and a. is mainly thorough the rational cons.
  27. Charles W. I suppose that a Chinese scholar's rock isn't all that different from Duchamp's Fountain, the urinal.​
    Re-purposing objects to assists “walk around” mindfulness is aesthetically pleasing. Try to think of a beautiful object in the midst of chaos. My things are museum objects.
    The challenge is not to think of art. Like saying: “Don’t think of an elephant.” not thinking of one then becomes difficult, “Don’t think of art” in the context of a gallery is also perplexing.
    The attraction of DADA-like expression to artists is that novelty alone offers sure-fire arousal. They remind us: “Do think about art. That is not a pipe.” Visual puns and ironies exercise the bored mind. I aspire to make pictures that fall in the places between wit and beauty.
  28. Fred "I think the urinal does not lose its original self."
    Well it has been re-purposed - thanks Alan - and isn't just a urinal anymore. It is still a urinal. But our behavior toward that particular urinal would have changed, that change in behavior I take as a confirmation that the mind has changed with respect to that particular urinal. But it still is a urinal and that is part of the deal, and it is about more than that particular urinal. A spider wouldn't make a distinction between a urinal on display in a museum or one in situ. To a spider it is a urinal, no behavior marker of a changed spider mind that can't be explained by purely physical differences between the two (surface moisture, etc.)
    I'm not a fan of reified schema, and do question the value of my over thinking.
    Fred "If photography and art are about imagination and emotion, a photo has the power to objectify not just the objects in it but the imagination and emotion brought to the experience by the photographer and in the experience or subject itself."
    I agree and the behavior of specifically creating a space to contain objects in play would be a behavioral marker to look for in some other species to see if they, like our species, may be able to imagine that some thing is also something else. A snake doesn't re-purpose. We make tools, crows too, but crows can't but be entirely pragmatic about that, not making temples to house beautiful tools, the idea of beauty probably not well developed in that species. I just say play when I could have said create a space to imagine within. In imagination things are plastic and malleable. Fate doesn't seem to be plastic and malleable enough!
  29. JB >>>"... I have to address the role of aesthetics/beauty in my work "

    First am not familiar with your "my work".

    JB>>>"... But I personally believe there is not a specific characteristic in a photograph that makes a photo aesthetic."

    Of course whole books have been written about aesthetic qualities of visual art so that makes no sense unless you are interpreting that in a narrow sense. If so need to be more specific. For instance there is much one can differentiate between various patterns, lines, geometries, colors, shades that are either more or less aesthetic. Thus if many judged a close-up image of a typical jewelry gem like a cut and polished ruby versus a dirt clod, the aesthetic choice would be overwhelming and much could be easily analyzed as to why. It is those elements of aesthetics that fill books on the subject.

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