Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by rachelfoster, Jan 1, 2008.

  1. What constitutes art has been debated to death and then some. So let's do it
    some more!

    My opinion is this. "Art," whether paint, sculpture, photography, etc., does
    not have to be beautiful or even pleasing. The MAJOR requirement for me (and
    I'm speaking from a naive, uninformed, idiosyncratic perspective) must evoke

    Further, I think that because art does evoke emotion it's adaptive (helps us in
    our struggle for survival). More about that later perhaps.

    What do you think? How is emotion involved in "art?" How is "beauty" involved?
    What other components must be there?
  2. I think you're making it too personal. If it evokes emotion in several people, but not in millions more then it's still art. IMHO
  3. Art is art if it accomplishes what the artist wants it to accomplish. If it accomplishes something else, then that's an accident, luck, etc.

    It's a form of communication. If that communication is intended to evoke an emotion, and it succeeds, then the communication (and hence the artform used therein) hit the mark. Perhaps an image in meant to help suppress an emotion. Or convey a concept in a way that is expressly devoid of emotional baggage that might cloud the message. Doesn't matter. The artist has a purpose, and succeeds or fails with a given audience. If the artist is working without a purpose, then we're talking about a different (and wider) area of philosophy (and possibly psychology).
  4. Art is art is art. Everything can be art, depending on context. When you experience something as art or create something as art, then it is art. Art doesn't have to be beautiful, and it also doesn't have to evoke emotion. Emotional response, beauty, communication and whatever other aspects of art you appreciate are subjective.
    As for being adaptive, you are browsing a bit onto why we make art, which actually makes a more interesting discussion, since what art is is actually very obvious - or at least it should be.
  5. Art is all emotion, technique is the form or presentation. Art is about talent and technique
    is about discipline. We have all seen the work of artists who have little talent, and talented
    ones with little or raw technique.

    Beauty is subjective. Photographers (especially) LOVE their subjects. To find out about the
    artist/photographer -- look at what he loves: it's in his photos. Is it beautiful? Yes, to him.
    He sees the beauty in his subject even when others see something else.

    Happy New YEar Rachel and Charles ... but why are we on the internet when we have a day
    off and there is light? Let's get out of here!
  6. Matt, I am a psychologist... and communication is a good point. But what are we trying to communicate and for what purpose?

    Hakon, that's a topic I'll raise in the future! And I'm not sure that art is obvious. If it is, why would there be such debate? Was all of Mapplethorpe's work "art?" That's a debate that can rage for days.

    Leo...I was just on my way out to shoot.

    More later!
  7. But what are we trying to communicate and for what purpose?

    Doesn't matter. That's like asking what the English language is designed to communicate. A means of communicating is just that... a method. The purpose to which it's applied is completely separate from that. Shakespeare put the English language to work equally well in expressing his despair at human folly and deceit and his delight at humanity's capacity for nobility, humor, and love. His writing - which might have been paintings, sculpture, or photography - served to communicate whatever concept he was looking to get across. His mastery of his chosen artform - as a set of skills - helped him to communicate the cleverness, insights, and notions he sought to communicate. The artform itself would have been useless without something to communicate, and even the most insightful topic would be poorly served if the only way to communicate it would have been through badly executed art.

    My own feeble attempts at art have shown me that I need to ask myself, more often, what I'm trying to show people, and why. It could be simple delight in a form or play of light, or it could be a the sense that the record of an event or effort will live longer or command a moment more's thought if it's presented with a bit of drama. Certainly many photographers make images strictly as an exercise in mastering the tools and techniques. It's OK if there's little communication going on there, and those episodes could be said to slip from art into craft.

    But, you're the psychologist. You already know that we talk about art so that we can justify buying that cool new lens. I just know that my message will have a more solid foundation on a Gitzo tripod!
  8. All of Mapplethorpe's work is art. And so is every snapshot ever taken with a camera. The point I was trying to make is that anything is. As long as something is placed in a context where it is experienced as art, it is art - and communication is of course the keyword. Art is objective. What constitutes good art is subjective.<p>
    When you experience something as art, it becomes a form of communication where the actual way of communicating is what's in focus, sometimes even more so than the message itself. Poetry is probably the easiest form of art to explain in those terms, although the same thing goes for all kinds of art.<p>
    In poetry, words are placed together in a way that is different from normal use of language - whether it be in the choice of words, the use of meter, rhyme, verse and other poetic devices - and this adds focus to the expression itself, making the limitations of expression inherent in normal language obvious and therefore making it possible to transcend those limitations.<p>
    If you take a normal use of language and place it in the context of a poetry collection, or hand it out to students saying "this is a poem for you to analyse," that too becomes a poem since it is now experienced as art. Any random snapshot from a family album placed in a gallery will make people look at that too as art.<p>
    Still, as with all other art, whether it is good or bad remains subjective.<p>
  9. Art reaches beyond itself.

    Like a symbol (and with the use of them), it is not what it is.
  10. Art is in the words CREATE and NATURE, the viewer just has to do the arranging......
  11. There is no scientific definition of what is art. No democratic decision neither. But on the
    other hand to insist that art is everything that the individual consider as art on a totally
    subjective basis leaves us with no definition at all. Everything is then art. That might be
    useful for some purposes but not for understand what is art and what is something else.

    I think that a more useful approach would be to accept that we have in all countries an
    establishment that play the role of defining what can be put for sale on the art market and
    what ends up in art museums (in America: The Rockefeller and Guggemheim foundations,
    Moma, NEA and some Government departments) and that they have played an enormous
    role of defining especially "contemporary art", whether we like it or not. Furthermore,
    auction house like Christie and Sotheby have an influence that should not be
    underestimate and which is translated into overviews of what today is considered as art,
    as in the German Kunstkompass. All this includes photography as form of art.

    Where does that leave us in the small world of Photonet? Art, as defined by the system
    loosely described above, is probably present on Photonet, but such photos can maybe be
    counted on one or two hands (today's POW would be one of them in my modest opinion).
    What we have especially on Photonet is an impressive series of very, very good photos that
    deserve our full attention, because it is a pleasure to look at them and because we all can
    learn something from analyzing them in view of improve our own photos.
  12. Anders-

    I, like you, can't accept defining art as anything we consider art. Such a definition basically
    renders an important term and concept meaningless.

    But I think we are better
    off dealing with intrinsic properties rather than extrinsic.

    I'm afraid your definition could easily boil down to a similar one as "everything is art." The
    one caveat in your definition would simply be that "everything is POTENTIALLY art."

    Yours is a restatement
    of George Dickie's institutional theory of art, that the art world establishes what is art. The
    theory's drawback is that we may then be handing esthetics over to gallery owners and
    curators and critics who are more businesspeople and who don't know the first thing
    about art. Yours and Dickie's theory is in jeopardy of becoming, "art is what sells as art"
    and that would be severely shortchanging the notion of art.

    Relegating it to the government or government agencies is even more problematic. Just
    look at the current U.S. government's obfuscation in defining what's torture. I'd hate to
    leave those guys in charge of determining what's art for you and me.
  13. Art transcend the ordinary, even if it depicts the ordinary. It is always subjective for the artist that creates it, but after published has its own life and impact on the viewer ( can be a museum and galleries curators and layman as well). The impact can be emotional, thought provoking, aesthetic, beauty , message etc. The significance is the level of comunication artist/viewer.Professionals as well as layman.

    Anders, you are right that not the layman will decide what will be hanged in the museum , or exhibit in a gallery.
  14. Fred I agree fully with you that there are pitfalls connected to both approaches.

    You might know that there are very different historical contexts in for example the US and
    France as concerns the art establishment. They both have such a thing, but one is largely
    in the hands of private economic interest (US) the other controlled by national public
    institutions (France). In both cases art is defined by their decisions of purchase on the

    I don't believe we have an alternative definition to art, but we might have more elaborated,
    and even shared, understandings of what we consider as very, very good photos.

    Fred and Pnina, I think we are mixing artistic expression that all of all ages can participate
    in and share, and "art".

    I have no other definition of art than that of the establishment, unless maybe:
    "Expressions (in all forms), that break new avenues of understanding the world, potentially
    changing our relationship to nature, society and life in general". This goes far beyond
    what the art establishment, in whatever form, can determine. However, if we or someone
    manage seriously to define art, we would immediately at the same time provoke artistic
    expressions that see it as their ultimate aim to destroy such understanding of what is art.
    It is a moving target. "Interactive postmodernism" is such a movement as far as
  15. Anders

    "I have no other definition of art than that of the establishment, unless maybe: "Expressions (in all forms), that break new avenues of understanding the world, potentially changing our relationship to nature, society and life in general". This goes far beyond what the art establishment, in whatever form, can determine. "

    It looks a contradiction , as you are right, the art establishment decides what is art, and it is a market sale like any other items., but your second part says that new expression that breaks and change our life perception, and it is beyond what the establishment can determine, so who decides that it is a real new expression?
  16. Pnina, you are right that such a definition still leaves us without a tool for pointing at a
    photo and say "that's art". History will show ! For me only the art establishment can play
    the role of defining what is "art" but they might be dead wrong and be corrected in the

    That does however not mean that we should not be continuingly critical to the functioning
    of the art establishment and its decisions. Much manipulation happens that has no other
    explanation than fast profits or national pride and political interest.
  17. So...can it be art if it does not evoke emotion?
  18. Rachel--

    Can you give me an example of something that does not evoke emotion?
  19. Oatmeal.

    Seriously, I should say significant or profound or unusual emotion.
  20. Rachel, I agree with Fred, we react emotionally, it can be negative or positive. I think that the only time it is not, is when we are indiferent.... ( even this is also a kind of emotional reaction....)
  21. Ah, looks like I'm outnumbered. But not down for the count! But I'm going to see what others want to say first.
  22. The logic of art as emotion goes like this:

    Art is emotion

    A puppy provokes emotion.

    A photo of a puppy provokes emotion.

    A photo of a puppy is art.
  23. Not quite. That would be true if emotion were both necessary and sufficient. I say emotion is necessary, but not sufficient.
  24. OK. Good. So we've got that cleared up. And, by the way, I happen to LOVE oatmeal.

    It's not THAT emotion is evoked, it's about HOW emotion is expressed.

    And I think, as I said above, symobols (as words are symbols in language which is a form
    of communication) are important.

    And, Anders, I agree that the problem with defining art is that it will always become a
    moving target. That's why I said "art is what it is not."

    I think "art is what it is not" is important in a couple of respects. Because "symbols" are
    what they are not. In other words, what a symbol does is to transcend its everyday
    meaning and take on a universal significance. And I think art does that.

    The 1 out of 10,000 images of a puppy that rises to the level of art does so because it
    becomes about something MORE than the puppy. That happens because the image of the
    puppy becomes significant in a way that puppies are not.

    The reason we can "love" to listen to sad music even though most of us wouldn't "love" to
    be sad, is that the sadness of the music goes beyond itself as sadness. So does the
    sadness in a subject's eyes in a work of art.

    And "art is what it is not" is important in conveying that, to the extent Anders has
    recognized, it defies a definition that will hold. As soon as we pin it down, it will be defied.
  25. Rachel--

    I meant elaborate on my asking you for an example of something that didn't evoke emotion. I
    agree with you that emotion may be necessary and not sufficient, but it's necessity is trivial
    since emotion is pretty much necessary in most if not all human endeavors. That's why, to
    me, it's about HOW the emotion works in art and not THAT it does.
  26. I also think it's a mistake to keep talking about art's "evoking" of emotion. That is limiting it
    to the side of the viewer. The artist "expresses" emotion. What gets expressed by the artist
    through symbolic and significant means results in an evocation in the viewer. There is a
    dynamic that's important. As an artist or photographer, you are expressing. The evoking is a
    related but different matter. Too much concern with what you're evoking could hamper the
  27. My philosophy of aesthetics class was a mort of years ago, but I'll take a swing at this.
    Art is not history, business, or economics, so museum pieces and high-priced objects are not in and of themselves art. We don't call any naturally occurring unselected object art, so there is no art without an artist, as there is no artifice without an artificer. Contrariwise, art does not require an audience or viewer--an artwork locked in an attic for a century is still art, though it is not experienced and engenders no responses (Sorry, Rachel!). Art can be good art or bad art, so merit is not part of the definition, either (kitschy-koo!). Artists often have special training, but we accept folk artists and primitive artists as just that--artists--and we seem to have a difficult time distinguishing the works produced by chimpanzees and elephants from the works produced by human artists fondly referred to as mature. We don't seem to require any manipulation as part of the artwork--found objects can be juxtaposed or simply selected. We don't require physical objects, either, as we accept musical, dramatic, and dance performances as kinds of art, and "performance art" that establishes transient actions as artworks.
    Thus by a process of elimination, we infer that, number one, art is a work or performance identified by an artist as art, and number two, an artist is someone who identifies one or more works or performances as art. Q.E.D.
    If anyone is dissatisfied with the definition above and charges that I am not taking the subject seriously, I reply blandly, "Is art?"
  28. Fred I understand what you want to express by the twitched sentence "art is what it is not"
    but this, in my mind, tells you only about reactions to any art concept. It still does not
    define what art is, before it is not (sic!).

    I believe that the whole question is a cul-de-sac for us here on Photonet. It does not help
    us better to understand the difference between good photos and very, very good photos. I
    believe that we will never reach an understanding of why a specific photo becomes
    something that the art establishment points at and declares as ART. The interesting thing
    is that such photos might get, if they passed by here, their ordinary dose of 3/3s without
    comments and end up outside the shiny "top photos".
  29. Hi. Ability to generate emotion is not a token of art. Humans are permanently multiemotional all the time and the flow of emotions is permanently affected both from outside and inside.

    The phenomena of art, seen from true artists and true consumers point of view is all apparent and does not need any deffinition.

    The art is not the only undefined basic categoria in our world. In much better chartered watters of phisics for example, we live comfortably without universal deffinitions of time, mass or energy.

    The term art is not definitive and in rational speach can only be used as loosely descriptive. It does not prevent us from building usefull theoies and practics utilizing it as actual factor.

    Art is very simple thing actually.
  30. Anders, I think we are very much on the same wavelength. I was trying to move the
    discussion with Rachel toward making better photos by distinguishing between expressing
    and evoking. I think my photos are better when I am true to expressing myself and not overly
    concerned with what I evoke.

    I may get in trouble for this next part, but it wouldn't be the first time. I think more photos
    on PN are about representing something seen or presenting something seen than they are
    about expressing something.
  31. I just came to think that we all are seating writing sort of like each knows a thing or two about the art and stuff and clever too.

    Is here anybody who can stand up and say loud: "Yes, I am an acting, full blown artist and the art I do is.." ??

    Might be interesting to hear form a practitioner, wouldn't it?
  32. Come on up, Fred. Tell us damn thing..
  33. I consider that I am beginning to make art, yes. I have not yet had any public showings and
    have never sold a photograph.

    I'm afraid a lot of "practitioners" wouldn't impress me just because they were "practitioners,"
    either as artists or as definers of terms.

    I'm not sure an artist would be any better at defining art than a philosopher, psychologist or
    layman. Just like I don't think a plumber would be better able to define art than a lexicologist.
  34. I meant: Just like I don't think a plumber would be better able to define PLUMBING than a
  35. Hiding still, forget plumber, tell us how YOU DO ART.
  36. First tell me why you are being so accusatory, so I know what I'm up against.
  37. All right. I will help. Now we are not talking definition. We are talking matter of art. The MATTER, Fred.
  38. I am not acusatory at all and there is nothing up against. It is all good and kind ment. May sounds a little provocative and more dynamic then some are used to. Spring straight forward, have no fear. What's Art, now?
  39. Actually, Ilia, I invite you to head over to my portfolio. It's got examples (my photos) and
    many comments, many of which are my own. Most of what's on view are
    fairly recent images. I have said a lot in response to various comments from a lot of people
    about how, conceptually, I go about creating my images and have included a few opening
    statements on my work. It would be hard to distill it down here into a couple of
    to be honest. Perhaps you will find some issues worth discussing. There are many topics
    I'd like to discuss in depth. I'm not sure what more you would want right here. That's
    how I've been using PN. To show and talk about creating photographs. It's in my work and
    in many of
    my dialogues.
  40. There is one big chase. I keep the door open..
  41. What I can say is that I bellieve I am starting to find and assert a voice, that comes from and
    appears to me as I look at my photos. I also believe there to be an intentionality to my work. I
    think those are two important aspects of art. Judging from my own feelings and some of the
    resonses of others, there are some meaningful accidents that happen, which seems to be
    something happening in most art. There's a beginning.
  42. "There is one big chase."

    That's exactly what it feels like! LOL
  43. Chance, i mean. Right now i am not interested in discurssions. I want you to recognise your self as THE ARTIST, better immidiatelly.
  44. I already have.
  45. Yes, Fred creates art, no question.

    But, Fred, what makes your work art? Dismissing EVOKING emotion (I'm not going to give you expressing but I'll come back to that)as trivial I think misses the point.

    That's perhaps the main value of art. I say (opinion, not based on data) that the reason art has existed throughout humankind's history is that it is adaptive. How? Well, we as humans naturally try to avoid painful things. So, we "push away" painful emotion. However, those unresolved, unprocessed emotions are a drain on us psychologically and over time can wreak havoc on our adjustment and general well being. So, this is where art comes into play. If it EVOKES emotion (sorry Fred, couldn't resist) it helps us to face/forces us to process those emotions we've tried to sidestep. Once processed and perhaps even a little resolved, we can go on without the immense weight of that useless baggage. In other words, I see art as a sort of environmental shrink. It helps us process feelings.

    So . . . .

    I'll see what responses there are to this and then say more.
  46. Plumbing, eh? Ain't much of pioneering, I guess. Well, enough for today.. Best regards.
  47. I think the evoking of emotion is trivial because so many other human endeavors evoke
    emotion. I can't think of any that don't. So, "evocation of emotion" doesn't say anything
    informative about art specifically.

    What you are talking about just above is catharsis, which is a different matter than simply
    evoking emotion. And I think there's a great deal in what you have to say. It's profound
    and important. It was Aristotle's whole point, in the Poetics, about art, still studied today
    by philosophers, artists, writers. But catharsis is more akin to symbolism and significance
    in that what results from seeing something tragic is not a tragedy (according to Aristotle
    and to me), it transcends tragedy and therefore, at least for Aristotle, positively effects the
    human spirit.

    I'd probably quibble with the "positively" part of it because I think good art can be a
    downer and that's ok. But I think the main point of talking about emotions as you now are
    and catharsis in general and Aristotle in particular as that it's not about the specific
    emotions but about what art DOES with those emotions.
  48. Don't know if I can agree to that, Fred. Catharsis is more of a watershed sort of thing, to my mind, and processing can occur bit by bit, no?

    True that many things evoke emotion, so perhaps we should say significant or important emotions? I'd even allow emotion connected to certain events/situations. Hmmmmm...
  49. I don't think the suddenness commonly associated with catharsis was intended by Aristotle
    but the rest of it was, and you make a good point, it can occur bit by bit.

    No I don't think it's about the kind or quality of the emotions. What is of significance is not
    the emotions but what's in the art that evokes them. By means of significance (and symbols),
    art evokes emotions. I think the artist tends to be more involved with things of significance in
    his work than with what emotions get evoked.
  50. Not sure I follow the last sentence.

    Anyway, I'm willing to stipulate emotions are necessary but not sufficient. What else is necessary?
  51. Some examples to help explain the last sentence.

    Light and shadow help in a photograph.

    The polka dots in my photo of Jeremy are significant in a few ways. They are significant in
    the way they relate to Jeremy's eyes and shirt, they are significant in calling up the art of
    the 60s, they are significant in allowing some of the feeling of the mundane to work its
    magic, they may be significant in giving the viewer a grin.

    Focus is significant. Dimensionality is significant. Intangible energy is significant. Color is
    significant. Texture is significant.
  52. You ask what else is necessary. The things that the art form uses, as exemplified in the
    above, to evoke whatever it evokes are crucial.
  53. I think I"m going more Socratic, more macro.
  54. Art draws on territory that makes us human in the best sense of our conscious aspirations. At our reach across mortality, connectedness to the world and to others,and triumph over pain. Yes pain. Art is a soul search which is not always a joyful one.

    Art grabs at the emotions in a way that is simple and yet powerful. I along with other smarter folks suspect a genetic basis. If Sophocles plays are art today (unarguably) and were art in 300 BC (popular anyway and revered), I say look to that form,the tragic drama, for a definition, Rachel. Photography is too bloody new in the 'agora' of forms. gs. not a playwright fr sure..
  55. Rachel, it's not art's responsibility to proactively "evoke" an emotion. Let's stick with
    photography for a moment: The photographer knows what he
    felt when he took the photo ... and also its context. That's the last time in history that this
    photo was not ambiguous.

    As a moment of time, as a piece of evidence that the subject existed, without an
    explanation or caption, the photo becomes ambiguous ... without a story to give it
    meaning. We as viewers can now supply the story. We give the photo what it is missing ...
    meaning. But our meaning. The photo did not evoke meaning or emotion in us, we
    supplied it and colored the photo with it ... not from the real moment in time and place,
    but from our own imagination and experiences.

    When the photo is given a caption in words, it gives meaning to both the photo and to the
    words, and the combination can be powerful, even iconic.

    So the artist/photographer made the photo from his emotion at the moment in time that
    he felt something about the subject. He made it either technically well or poorly, and
    unless you know his body of work, the line between the two is often blurred. But,
    from then on it is not the artist's or the photo's job to evoke emotion in order to qualify it
    as art. It IS art. And unless you are a psychopath, you will suppy the emotional response to
    the photo, so the question is irrelevant.
  56. So what makes it art?

    Communication? Common symbols? Extraordinary? Those have all been suggested and I say all are part. But what makes it "art?"

    You see, it's a terribly difficult question to answer. Beauty is not necessary. Emotion (to me) is. And there is where I begin to falter.

    Is it perhaps a communication at the level of what we often refer to as the "soul?" But that's emotion! I can't get my head around the philosophical (metaphysical?) part of it. What does art have that "not art" is missing?
  57. I can't answer the question. I think I stumped myself.
  58. "So what makes it art?"

    Simply: Intent.
  59. Intent, that's interesting. Intent plus vision plus skill?
  60. No, just intent. You're trying too hard, Rachel! The intent IS the vision. The skill merely impacts the subtlety of the art.
  61. There is a lot of crap out there with intent that isn't art...or is it?
  62. Some art is crappy.
  63. If "intend" was the answer then we would all be artists so we are back at the beginning of
    the discussion. Everything is art so: No wall buildings; pure democracy. If "emotion" is the
    criteria then we are at the same point, Skills and perfection (what ever that means) must at
    least be added.

    I'm agreeing with Fred when he writes: "..more photos on PN are about representing
    something seen or presenting something seen than they are about expressing something".
    It is actually in line with the "straight photography" tradition which does not in it's intend
    go beyond reproducing reality in pictures. Technical perfection becomes the ultimate
    criteria for a very very good photo. We can have fun pursuing that ultimate goal and by the
    way invest fortunes in perfect technical tools. We might even make a living of it, but we
    would not necessarily have "art" in mind.

    Art is more and it is that "more" that we are trying to identify here.

    Artistic expression can better be grasped as an "art of communication". It can in my eyes
    be made with total lack of emotion as well as intend. Emotions might help as would
    "inspiration" (whatever that is) but they are not necessary elements in the creative process
    of producing art and neither in "consuming" it. You can be influenced, manipulated,
    inspired by a piece of art without feeling a thing. If "beauty" was the ultimate criteria of
    art, emotions would come to the forefront.

    As mentioned above I really believe the discussion on what is art is a "cul-de-sac" that
    will not help us argreing on the difference between good photos ad very, very good
    photos. It might not even help us better understanding why some photos end up in
    museums and being sold as "art" - and others not.
  64. I will disagree with you a bit, Anders, and thus with Fred. Those large of numbers of "representational" shots that we see on this site (ahem, obviously including my own portfolio, monument to mediocrity that it is) may seem that way to the average viewer but likely ARE an attempt to communicate and to convey an emotion. Most people's bad cat snapshots are posted out of love for the critter, and the (generally vain) hope that that love will come across to an essentially random audience. In its intent, such photography is far more than merely recording the existence of the cat: it's a form of communication about the photographers feelings for the cat, and the hope that someone out there might share those feelings or be inspired by them.

    Such hopes are ... hopelessly naive in most cases. Those shots are communication, but they're the equivalent of writing a poem about the cat using your own private language, or in handwriting that no one else can seem to read. Fred's significance is there - it's just in a secret code that only the photographer knows, or uttered in a visual language so unsophisticated that it can't carry the intended nuances. That doesn't rule out artistic urges on the part of the photographer, it just means it's ineffective art because the artist didn't take the audience properly into account.
  65. I agree with you that a photo of your love ones is a message of love and compassion. But it
    does not make it into a piece of art. Picasso's portraits of his various women were all portraits
    of compassion but the artistic dimension was much more as you write yourself. It is this
    "much more" that we have tried , in vain (including my modest suggestions), to fence in.
  66. Art is Id. Id is It. It is Art. A.P. Stubbs (2008)
  67. Not emotion: resonance.

    Museums and galleries are filled with examples of art that was produced by commission;
    decorative art; highly technical pieces, designed to showcase virtuosity; experimental
    work; reactive work; even "anti-art"... None of these need have any connection to
    emotion, either in the artist, or in the viewer, yet all are recognized as art, often even as
    "great" or historically significant art. The only thing that can be said about them with
    certainty, is that they came from within the artist.

    They are material objects, external to the artist, that in some way resonate with the
    artist's internal (metaphysical) world.
  68. I think art is about seduction. A baited trap. Think of commercial art; the model in bikini draped over the new car. You are drawn to the flesh but you then go on to buy the car.

    In non-commercial art, the artist wants to draw the viewer out of himself (where he hides behind locked doors) so he lays out visual bait -- something fine, shiny, sexy, tasty, flashy, scary, the moon, the sun, a waterfall, a snowy mountain, a seashell, whatever.

    The viewer leans forward for a closer look and is lead, inexorably (if the art is good) further into the picture (the trap). This 'leading' requires all the usual tools of composition, etc. to take the interest of the viewer and both hold and guide it.

    Bait without a trap won't hold a viewer. I think most of what is created by novice artists is such. But a fine big trap with not enough bait won't work either. For example, I think much of Walker Evans' pictures are fantastic traps with not enough bait.

    Why does an artist want to do this? Good question. I do think that the 'trap', or the space/things that he wants to make the viewer see are from his mind, not from 'out there'. Purified, clarified, transformed.

    He/she wants to seduce the viewer to come play in his world. He may tickle you, he may torture you, he may rob you blind. If he's good, he'll make you want to come back for more.

  69. Reading that thread shows that art and definition of art has many forms, and really hard to define in several lines.each of us have HIS definition of what he sees as art, so I think that it has two essential faces. One is the artist creation itself( in all domains of the visual arts, but literature, music and other domains as well) meaning : his intent, his need for expression ( his inner world, his feelings, his arge for creating as a means of communication, his long time work, his skills, his technic.

    Than there is the publication of his/her work( here in PN or any other place), when published, the art work is having it own life, and relation/communication of artist/ viewer.

    Anders,my experience in real life shows what you have expressed, that the art establishment IS the authoritative one to decide what is meant to be art, and the market forces with them.

    It does not mean that other works that don't stand establishment criteria, are not art, and there are other index to measure art.

    Rachel ,not one easy parameter, and definition....
  70. The definition of Art is: "a male given name, form of Arthur." ;)
  71. LOL Matt Needham!

    Wonderful discussion. I'm no closer to understanding what it is, but my lack of understanding is richer and more profound. As it were.
  72. Most folk's definitions, in my opinion, are correct in the sense they are part of the whole.

    Pnina, has done the maths and has arrived at the most logical conclusion. However, defining art is like defining "why we are here, for what purpose, if there is any". To my mind art is about creativity, emotions, and the desire to understand, and to creatively express ourselves........all very much one of the same. I do not think art is just about images, sculptors, creative writing, it travels far beyond such simplicity leading us to the very outer limits of human understanding. The desire to create, to express, to understand.......

    It is the very core of our being, of that aware life force, which we call humanity. But, then again it could be.....

    The definition of Art is: "a male given name, form of Arthur." ;)
  73. Allen, you have well described the art as transcends the ordinary even when it depicts the ordinary.

    "leading us to the very outer limits of human understanding" (or another way of understanding...). I like that.
  74. All that have participate in this discussion can surely say that we are still confused, but now
    on a higher level. A good start of the new year.
  75. What makes it art? INTENT.

    I have thousands of shots of my beloved rescued animals. (Google my name and find out
    why.) But they are intended as fund raisers, not as art. SOME can become portraits and
    maybe the portrait, selected from many shots and cropped, will be intended as an art
    "object." If I do that, then THAT is art, though maybe slightly beyond pure photographic

    When I shoot countless photos of my daughter and our many house pets, it is not intended
    as art -- but as freezing a moment in time that will be more meaningful to me, to my
    family, as the years go by.

    When I set out to do my documentary work (landscape, animals, wildlife, vernacular
    lifestyle), I INTEND that to be art and I feel and see it what way. So it IS art. Will YOU like it?
    I don't know ... some viewers will because they will infuse it with their own powerful
    emotions and experience. But it is art, even if I am the only one who ever appreciates it.
  76. My young ten year old friend just added that art is something that someone tried to recreate. (A bit of probing revealed he means it's an attempt to capture reality.)

    There is something in that. I was in a discussion last night (with a fellow PNer) and we concluded something along the lines that art, in part, creates a more permanent instance of reality. Monet's haystacks were the example he used.

    Leo, I'm off and googling!
  77. It's simple and I do not overthink things.

    Photographic Art should be something *interesting* to look at. It should provide a new POV; something beatifully captured; some sort of innovation in technique or processing.

    Taking a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge is not art. It could be if you treat the subject well and make an attempt to treat your print of your subject as art.
  78. I still like to use historical references in my definition instead of abstractions which call for further definition even as they make for discussion. If my grandchild,say,asks me what is art, I might point to examples. I might offer an older person a copy of this western art history by Daniel Boorstin. Look,those are examples of art. You decide the common threads if you like:
  79. Yehudi Menuhin, an accomplished concert violinist, was talking about the range of emotion he derived in his performances. Someone asked him about rock music. He said he had never attended a rock concert. Then, he did so,and had something like this to report " Well, if you look for emotion, I don't find it. But there is plenty of motion,for sure." Not to ruffle anyone whose musical tastes might be very ample in their forms, Rach. Yet,I think Mehuhin was on to something.
  80. Love the quote.

    I think I'm going to just conclude I don't know what art is, but it involved communication, emotion, transcendence, and connection. Has anyone mentioned connection yet?
  81. I would like to bring the attention to that Fred had to say yesterday. He mentioned: 1. VOICE, 2. INTENTIONALITY [creative] if I may add with Freds permision and 3. MEANINGFUL ACCIDENTS. Which IMO are important characteristics of art making and do key us in for broadening of paradigm we probably need in this case here.
  82. Good point, but I'm not convinced on intention. I'm thinking about that one still. Meaningful accidents is very interesting.
  83. There is another, rather radical possibility here.

    If we cannot find any unique characteristic of the phenomena we call Art within our cultural framework and can not agree that everything is Art then we might try to look into the last possible logical conclusion - nothing is Art. Or there is actually no such a thing as Art as we perceive it. Or the Art as such is false notion.

    May sound strange to some ears but let us remember that we, humans are extremaly good at being deluted, create and maintain and even make money on each others delusions believing something which is not.

    Old chinese proverb says: "It is difficult to catch a black cat in dark room, specially if it is not there."
  84. Meaningful accidents is a GREAT addition, Ilia.

    Rachel, why are you hesitant about intention?
  85. The totem pole, the cave drawing that Ogg did, petroglyphs, masks, crayon drawings by
    young school children, paintings by Monet, scrimshaw by drunken sailors, your photos
    taken AS ART ... are all art if that was the intent of their creator. Period. On the scale of 1
    to 10 -- ten being a masterpiece and 1 being crude -- it is all still art. If that was the

    It is art if its creator says it is. Jaques-Henri Lartigue's photos are NOT art, despite being
    sold at auction for lots of money. They are IMPORTANT photos in the history of vernacular
    photography, but they are not art ... because Jacques did not intend them to be anything
    but snapshots. Even if he composed them classically, they are not art.

    This discussion, however, is not art ... it could have been had you asked us to contribute
    to a work of art about art.
  86. I can think of no greater act of futility than a discussion as to what ART is.

    Art is something different to all people.

    ART is completely and absolutely subjective. Many people won't like that but that's tough.

    I'm always skeptical of people who like to put such things in boxes and label them.

    I'm also skeptical of people who claim to find meaning in everything.

    I am so weary of those who take ART and elevate it to divine status. Its a cruel exploitation of such a simple HUMAN thing.

    And while art may provoke emotion in someone, not having it provoke an emotion in me doesn't disqualify it as art.
  87. Rachel. Reading Old Testament one can not fall to notice the abundance of episodes there the Voice arrange ones intentionality or the direction of action and the Accidents are realy happening to confirm that the Voice says is true and must be followed...

    I think we have not yet found the good deffinition of Art here because our search range is too limited and predominantly materialistic. For example we have not had God, Faith, Love, Human Mission and Compassion mentioned on this thred yet.

    I would rather try to search broader then giveup on agree that there is no gold deposites in this backyard.
  88. I hesitate on intention because of the lucky accident. I do not create art. But the two photos I've done closest to being artistic were happy accidents, done with a 5 mega pixel point and shoot.

    Both were dumb luck. Again, they are not art but the closest I've come.
  89. If you make a 10 and call it lucky, so be it. If most of your work is, to you, a 6, then so be
    it. But it IS art if you intended to make art, whether a 6 or a 10. It is merely a good picture
    of your piano and daughter (my meaning infused into your art) if THAT'S what you
  90. Interesting point. I'll consider that.
  91. Leo-- I understand that your putting a big period after it (and you can substitute an
    excalamation point if you like) is a way to emphasize your point. I get that your belief in
    what you're saying is strong. Still, I disagree. I think your view trivializes art.

    A promise is something that is created by intent and utterance. Art is not.

    A counterexample for you:

    Mother says to two-year-old, "call that drawing you made art." Two-year-old has no idea
    what the word "drawing" or the word "art" means, but points as the mother did and says
    "art." There's no intent, only mimickry, so I hope you'll agree it's not art.

    So, what is the two-year-old
    lacking that makes us say there's no intent. Understanding. When the two-year-old
    matures a little and has an understanding of art, he can form the intent, which follows the
    understanding rather than creating it. In order to intend art, you have to understand art. If
    you identify understanding and intent, you have created circular reasoning.

    (Think of the law. Someone suffering from severe mental illness likely can't form intent
    because of a lack of understanding . . . as well as other things.)

    Both Ilia and I agree with you that intent is necessary. It's not, however, sufficient.

    Rachel-- What camera you use has little to do with it.

    I'm not, and I don't assume Ilia is either, talking about intention in the sense of "intention
    to make art."

    If you consider those two photos to be MERELY "happy accidents" (even though accidents
    surely happened to allow them to come to be), you will not learn from them. If, on the
    other hand, you consider what your intention was when you took them, you may learn a
    great deal.

    When Monet painted the haystacks, I doubt a major part of his intention was to make art.
  92. My intention was to capture the image of something I thought pleasing. And now I get it. I thought it was "intention to make art" that was the point. But...intention to create something that looks a certain way...yep. I'll buy that.
  93. And, by the way, Ilia, I'd sooner accept a notion along the lines of Art is Nothing rather than
    Nothing is Art. In the same sense as Nothingness in Sartre's Being and Nothingness really
    refers to human freedom and potential (the nothingness that refuses to be labeled as
    something), you may have struck some gold!
  94. Leo. I am not agree with your suggestion because it appears to me as way too categorical and oversimplified. Can not see what it can be used for exept for somebody seating making whatever and justify it as making the Art like something important, mystical or sacral which other may not mix in or disturb. Besides it exclude the objects made by persones who do not have idea of Art or/and Intent.

    I personally know more then few examples of IMO very serious and long reaching art making made by children of 5 - 6 years old and full grown mentaly ill persones who both were beyond any notion of Art and most likely had no clear intention. Only apparent wish to bring it up.

    I also know number of graphic artists of old school, othervise normal people, who make realy impressive art if INSPIERED but nothig comes out of them on term of INTENT. They can not do a thing if they intented or say motivated by handsom payment. Put theem in the company of new, interesting people, better young women, set up some goog food, wine - they do miracles with rest of Cetchup on pieces of wrapup paper which easy go away for couple of hudred bucks right on the spot.

    Rachel. I say this: Ctearive Intent is 1. VOLATILE 2. KIND by nature.

    All. I think we might try to look into etymology of this word of ours, the Art.
  95. I dig that, Fred. In China they talk about Tao. Don't know how much are your in on that.

    I brought that one only as a curious figure of logical reasoning.
  96. Also think that Leos deffinition devaluete the art complitely.

    It is also has to be realized that not everyone can make thing happend by naming it as such. The power of speach is not in everybodys posession.
  97. See. If you put "lucky" before accident and then say "dumd luck" you create a situation there is no avenue to continue along.

    But if you put "meaningful" before accident you will have no way to call it dumb and create a broad avenue for your self AND YOUR SUBJECT to proceed.

    Here on PP forum we have no possibility to edit back, but we can try again. Haw about that?
  98. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Also think that Leos deffinition devaluete the art complitely
    It's not so much that it devalues, it has no value in itself, it doesn't connect to anything but itself.
    We have no access to the intent of almost anyone who has created what we consider "art." Many have been dead and left no statements of "intent." Some cultures that have produced incredible art had no definition of "art," so there never could have been any intent. "Art" is something we have determined.
    Much of Western "art" was created as religious imagery, to serve the church. The artists weren't filled with intent except to satisfy the religious leaders.
    If we were to depend on Leo's so-called definition and used it to qualify art, the art museums might have a few pieces here and there, but most rooms would be empty.
  99. Why must art have any modifiers?
    Is it not enough that art is simply an expression.
    Always its, 'this plus that equals art'.
    Art needs no such conditions.
    It exist outside our ability to rationalize it, just as love, faith or brotherhood does.
    Its is intrinsically human, just as it is intrinsically human to try to define such ethereal things.
    Art does not reside is some mythical place but in each of us.
    It can not be quantified.
    It is HUMAN.
  100. I agree with Jeff's last statements. If a definition such as " It is art if its creator says it is " then chugs us to dead end wall or to a circular logical dead end, it has little taxonomic value, or,is no good for nothing. If something resists defining by some generally accepted measures, then maybe does not exist. A few common terms in we rarely examine to see how this shapes up:
    Art or not?

    - Fine Art. Sistine Chapel ceiling.Yep.

    - Musical art. Any Beethoven symphony. yep.

    - Folk Art. Grandma Moses, I don't know, you show me.

    - Digital Art-Same, you show me, I don't want no heat.

    - Calendar Art. Nope. NOT art, but I am pressed to say why.(Fits in
    a happy but vastly different category.)

    The need to pin it down has consequences or it wouldnt get such space I am thinking.

    If is Art it gets to be auctioned by Sotheby's meaning there is a common feeling between art producing seller and informed artist loving buyer?.
    One could say " Anything appraisable and auctionable is ergo a form of Art.Vat you tink, Rachel? And Sotheby's has to sell it alongside Picasso,so....
  101. It this has been damned fine discussion and has given me much to think about.
  102. Art can be anything that has been created by a human, right? But I think the right question is: what is a good art?! I think that's the question. Is art that sells - a good art? I am watching a show about tattoos, is that an art form? People that do them talk about it as an art and they make some impressive stuff.
    When we talk about what is art we can look at its roots and its purpose and I think it has a great purpose in our human existence otherwise we wouldn't be talking about it. I think art is a search for the truth and we are all trying to find it.
  103. Art is about aesthetics, nothing more.

    People who can 'do art' usually just get on and do it. Those who cannot just spend a lot of
    time waffling about it, presumably to make themselves feel better about it all (that is the
    only possible reason I can see for so much pompous and pretentious bleating). It's the
    visual equivalent of playing 'air-guitar'.

    Analysis and dissection is irrelevant unless directly from the artist. In my experience,
    anything else is nothing more than supposition based on what the 'critic' wants to see.

    Why are so many people so desperate for everything to mean something? Why do so many
    people talk so much nonsense?
  104. Why do so many spend time reading and responding to what they consider nonsense?
  105. A: In the words of George Leigh Mallory; 'Because it's there'.

    B: If someone spends all that time writing it, it must be important. No?
  106. "If someone spends all that time writing it, it must be important. No?"

    Either important or nonsense, I suppose. No such thing as "just doesn't interest me?"
  107. If I take a dump or a leak on a piece of canvas, is that art? I guarantee it would evoke emotion.
  108. Chip--

    It seemed like thread had already acknowledged that "emotion" alone would not be sufficient.
    But you bring up a good question?

    What makes Duchamp's Urinal art but would make what you're talking about not art? I think
    there is a distinction. So, if we could discuss differences, perhaps we'd get somewhere.
  109. I think this is where context and "voice" come in.

    If someone does something outrageous, we look at the context in which it is done which
    helps us develop a sense of his/her intention. We also look for some sort of body of work
    which will also help supply the context and give an indication of this person's "voice." Those
    seem to me two elements of artistry.
  110. Why do some people "waffle" about art? Because they have intellect and enjoy thinking, maybe.
  111. Urinal. I am impressed with the Duchamp reference. But it appears common. I vote for greater stringency.
  112. I don't know what you mean by "common."
  113. Chip-- Would Serrano's Piss Christ suit you as a better example?

    Do you accept either one as an example of art? If so, do you agree that context and voice play
    a role in the determination that something is a work of art. By context, I mean not only the
    particular context in which the work in question is generated but the art historical context in
    which it may or may not play a role.
  114. Rachel Foster: "Why do some people "waffle" about art? Because they have intellect and enjoy
    thinking, maybe."

    Thank you for explaining that to me.
    I am, of course, quite devoid of intellect. The vacuous sludge that resides within my cranial
    wasteland is rarely troubled by cohesive thought. Gosh, you're so clever.
  115. Russell--

    I don't think it's a matter of your being devoid of intellect. It's just that you chose not to use
    your intellect and instead joined a group in progress by making ad hominem attacks
    regarding what the group was endeavoring to do. Adding something of substance to the
    discussion would have been a more intellectually stimulating way to go. Alternatively,
    passing it by for lack of interest might simply have been nicer.
  116. No Russell, that's not what I said. However, your previous comment was quite insulting. I merely pointed out that some people enjoy intellectual stimulation, and that it is not necessarily a case of

    "People who can 'do art' usually just get on and do it. Those who cannot just spend a lot of time waffling about it, presumably to make themselves feel better about it all (that is the only possible reason I can see for so much pompous and pretentious bleating). It's the visual equivalent of playing 'air-guitar'."

    Now that I've explained that, I'm through with this particular subtopic. Hopefully you will see what I said as it was meant and not as bait for hostilities (which I do believe your previous post was).
  117. Fred--The Serrano example is a perfect example of why it does not necessarily matter.
  118. "why it does not necessarily matter"


    Why what does not necessarily matter? As you're being brief and so obscure, I'm left with the
    impression you're not terribly interested in discussing the issues, so I'll leave it at that.
  119. If it ain't based on drawing, it ain't art.
  120. Bruce--

    Beethoven was an artist.
  121. Art is about aesthetics, nothing more.

    Idea of beauty.

    Simplistic view to challenge; let's look in at that statement in a more thoughtful way. Join with me, Russell, to understand. And yes, you have created a rustle on the forum. Just could not resist the word play.

    Really, you are talking about a pretty picture you have made....but, don't you thing there is a part of Russell in there...sort of a unique special vision. Otherwise, we could be a Russell; don't you think?

    Nope, i don't think you have a brain similar to cabbage. Methinks you are doing the Devil Ad thing.

    Have a pause for thought.
  122. If it ain't based on drawing, it ain't art.

    I always thought it was about a serious arse wipe. Jeez, it might be about having a sticky arse.

    Gonna give up art....who wants a smelly sticky arse.
  123.'ve left me speechless!

    Erm.......I can't draw.
  124.'ve left me speechless!

  125. Okay, just back from Photo LA for three days and four nights, and you guys are still at it!
    Art was all over the place at Photo LA: photography or photographic-based work intended
    as art. What was selling that was not art: work by famous dead photojournalists who
    captured a moment of history, kept prints in file cabinets for a record, and whose
    descendants sold those few remaining prints to galleries. The difference between the two:

    Yes you have to be an adult and of sound mind to have such intent. And your art may be
    great or it may suck. But if you intend it to be art and you shoot it with that intent, it is art
    whether it pleases others or just you. Beauty in photography? Read Robert Adams.

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