Creative constructive antagonism in photography

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by charleswood, Aug 21, 2015.

  1. Working definition of creativity per Rex Jung [ http://onbeing.org/program/rex-jung-creativity-and-the-everyday-brain/1879/audio?embed=1 ]: Some thing novel and useful, novel and useful within a social context. Antagonism not for antagonism's sake, but for the sake of something, which would be constructive antagonism.
    Can we have creativity in photography without constructive antagonism? Is it the case, or to what degree is it the case, that imitation only yields to creativity via a process involving constructive antagonism? Is a creative product in and of itself antagonistic constructively? If a photograph isn't antagonistic to a degree, is it imitative only? Imitation can be ultimately boring, as in group-think, mass manufacture, commodity production, etc.
    An example of one of my processings influenced by constructive antagonism. http://www.photo.net/photo/14524616 I'm so constructively antagonistic toward what I perceive to be an over emphasis on the eating habits of predators, hence, my exaggerated treatment of such. If it were conversational I would be saying, as part of a dialog with other bird photographers "Enough already." By which I would have meant "Why must the money shot be the kill?", although there are plenty of examples of bird photographers who don't emphasize eating. Even so, those other examples aren't necessarily also examples of constructively antagonistic treatments of a subject, may instead be primarily imitative.
    In your work, where does antagonism come into your process? Or in dialogs between photographers as they contributed to and advanced photography as an art form, as communicating novel and useful information within a social and historical context?
     
  2. Dada was anti-art. It was intended to offend. It's purpose was to reject the logic that was leading the world to self destruction and war. It rejected aesthetics per se.

    And yet it was influenced by the already established avant garde and even cubism to an extent. And it had later influences on such movements as Pop Art.

    So it really was just part of the art dialogue that is like a living chain link fence. In that history there are smoother transitions and more rough ones, sometimes more rift than transition.

    Picasso's "taste is the enemy of creativity" is a kind of antagonist view. His art shows this kind of antagonism in terms of its profound rifts with how art looked up until his time. Yet even he was influenced and influential.

    The world tends to recoil from antagonism because we tend to prefer comfort, generally preferring entertainment to art and water-cooler conversation to dialogue.

    If art is a dialogue from man to man (person to person) and generation to generation, it will evolve only because of certain antagonisms toward what others are doing and have done. "Dialogue" is from the Greek dialogos, and the Greeks said a mouthful. Socrates's dialogues are an example of constructive antagonism. And he was put to death for it.

    [CAUTION: Not safe for work, and having to say this makes me antagonistic!] Maybe MY PHOTO OF RON can be seen in the terms you're speaking of.]
     
  3. Constructive antagonism – yet another phrase that I have never heard before! And one that I have difficulty applying to the field of photography. For me the essence of creativity (and indeed interesting art in general) is an attempt by the author to explore and discover something new, and in the process move out of his/her comfort zone and encourage others to move out of theirs. This is one of the two fundamental approaches to all art forms, including photography, and the one which is far less often practised than work which stays within comfort zones and whose main interest is in displaying craft skills and generating a "feelgood" factor. I think in general very few artists have a consciously antagonistic attitude, which I would understand as a desire to attack others, at the time they produce work.
    Quite how this applies to wildlife photography, specifically birds, I am not sure. Fundamentally, wild animals eat each other, and it is therefore both true and valid to record this fact. The resulting work may appeal to the author but less so to the largely sentimental public at large, who are unlikely, for example, to buy a calendar which features 12 pictures of animals eviscerating each other! It's the old story – freedom from commercial pressures also means the freedom to say what you like, when you like.
     
  4. Fred I really like the idea that art is a sparkling dialog versus dialog at the Sparkletts water bottle in the office. Krista Tippett in her dialog with Rex Jung speaks to that point and here's a quote from the transcript of the interview http://www.onbeing.org/program/creativity-and-everyday-brain/transcript/1882
    Ms. Tippett: Right, right, especially that useful part that's innovative and useful, and novel and useful. Another — so I was actually stunned and very excited about a New Yorker article recently that also said that this idea that we have about brainstorming as the best way to elicit creativity from a group of people and all the ground rules that go with that, about no questions, no judgment, that that in fact just has not now been proven not to be true, but that it's never held up scientifically. And I just want to ask you about that because you've studied creativity.
    Dr. Jung: No, no. I do, and I get asked about that a lot. Well, what about brainstorming? It's like brainstorming is the worst thing you can do [laugh]. The main reason why is because of this process of trying out strange new ideas versus when you put people together in a room, almost invariably they will try to conform socially. So you will get creative ideas, but you won't get as creative when people are trying to please each other than when they're trying to push the envelope. And so the studies invariably show that the quality of the creative ideas that people put out individually are invariably higher in quality than those done in a group format. So another myth bites the dust. And again, I mean, there's always what about the writers of Seinfeld or Saturday Night Live or something like that? They work in group formats. Yeah, but it's different. I mean, they're — where you have collaboration like that, there's often an element of antagonism involved and critical interplay as opposed to cooperativeness.
    Ms. Tippett: Right. So could we — could we state that with positive affect and say relationship [laugh]?
    Dr. Jung: Yes.
    Ms. Tippett: Which includes enough knowledge to be constructively antagonistic.
    Dr. Jung: Yes, constructively antagonistic.
    Ms. Tippett: It seems to me also, and this is a subtle point, but this feels important also, that the contrast to brainstorming where creativity can be demonstrated, there is still interaction. It's a funny thing because, with brainstorming, you have rooms full of lots of people and they're all spewing forth ideas, but they're not interacting. That article talked about some building at MIT where there were just all kinds of informal interactions and conversations that happened all the time, as you say, with people who got to know each other over time, so they could be asking interesting questions of each other. I just found it very comforting because it struck home. If felt like, yes, yes, that is how it works when it works.
    Dr. Jung: It is, and it's more serendipitous. So you have Noam Chomsky at MIT rubbing shoulders with physicists and coming up with his …
    Ms. Tippett: … kind of by accident, right? Just 'cause he happened to be in that building.
    Dr. Jung: By accident, exactly. Because he's interacting with chemists and physicists and mathematicians by happenstance, he's able to think differently about his ideas. And that's one of the things about creativity, you know, getting what we call stovepiped. Having too narrow of a field of view really stifles creativity. So being able to broaden the horizons in that magical building at MIT, the name of which I can't remember …
    Ms. Tippett: … I wrote it down. It's Building 20.
    Dr. Jung: Building 20. OK, we'll call it Building 20 at MIT, that magical building where you could have this exchange of ideas and people running into each other and it's kind of cold and dingy and people didn't really want to be there.​
    So David that interview is where I first came across the idea of constructive antagonism a couple of days ago. So what I like about the phrase is, in the conversational context in which she came up with it, she was moving away from the negative sounding words of Rex Jung. In the transcript, Jung agrees brainstorming doesn't lend itself to creativity, tend toward water cooler conversation, where a Seinfeld or SNL set instead has "...an element of antagonism involved and critical interplay as opposed to cooperativeness. "Krista Tippett immediately wishes for a softer phrasing, her emphasis on relatedness: Ms. Tippett: Right. So could we — could we state that with positive affect and say relationship [laugh]?" So to Tippett, antagonism by itself isn't pretty and prefers a coupling: offering us "constructively antagonistic." She marries Mars to Venus, and together they are more than the sum of their parts.
    David since you point it out, I can see where predator evisceration photography could be a creative response to the tyranny of cute that dominates the calendar market.
     
  5. Here's another perspective from Peter Korn, author of Why We Make Things And Why It Matters, in an interview http://www.artofmanliness.com/2015/...teach-us-about-the-good-life-with-peter-korn/
    Peter Korn: For my generation what we very much saw craft as was an opportunity to be self-employed, self-expressive, self-sufficient and self-actualized. The obvious common word there being self, and thinking about this I then came to see that between the end of the 19th Century and the late e part of the 20th Century which is where I was practicing craft for the most part. The normative idea in our society of what an individual is, of what the self is, had changed radically. It had been changing a long time but it really changed quickly and radically in 20th Century, and the difference was that for all of human history the individual had thought of himself or herself as belonging to a larger social entity as sort of conceptualize the self you might say it’s like a finger on the hand.
    In the 20th Century we saw the rise of this idea of the individual as being fully autonomous and separate and individual and rational, and able to choose everything was choice, and instead of belonging to a society being shaped by it we started to see ourselves as being to pick and choose where in society we want, what ideas we like, and it was that idea of the fully autonomous individual that changed the way we approached craft so that another way to say this is that if you look at art over the millennia, art just tend to portrait a place where they think truth resides and so you’ve got a Greek Art portrayed this ideal of humanity outside of space and time in other words truth lay outside of humanity.
    You’ve got a lot of Christian art in the middle ages and the renaissance that portrayed scenes from the bible essentially, the idea being the truth resided in God’s kingdom, in the bible, as you know it’s expressed in the bible, again, outside of man. And then you’ve got the Hudson River School of Art in the 20th Century which portrayed nature and that went along with all sorts of enlightenment idea about the novel savage and so truth was thought to reside in nature, and then if you come into the 1940s for example our abstract expression as in you’ve got artist who are splattering paint or they’re painting abstract things where the panting take shape because every choice the artist makes is a response to whatever previous mark he or she has made on the canvas. Every choice the artist makes is a response to whatever previous mark he or she has made on the canvas, and so what you get as people painting a portrait of their intuition, of their interior self, so that we were out of place then where truth resides internally and it’s for us to discover as artist or as an individuals and bring forth to share with other people to very different concepts of what the individual is that has shaped my generation and subsequent generations.​
    Which is Korn's historical view.
     
  6. I wouldn't necessarily wish for "softer phrasing." There are many degrees of antagonism. The definition of antagonism allows for a range, from a more benign opposition of forces to active hatred.
    I always liked Stieglitz's quote about Pictorialism, a movement he helped found and foster . . . and then ranted against.
    "It is high time that the stupidity and sham in pictorial photography be struck a solarplexus blow ... Claims of art won't do. Let the photographer make a perfect photograph. And if he happens to be a lover of perfection and a seer, the resulting photograph will be straight and beautiful - a true photograph."​
    Some artists speak in very antagonistic terms (both in words and through their art) and that has a place, a vital and, I think, necessary one.
    Photographers who've antagonized and moved the conversation of photography forward:
    Sally Mann
    Daine Arbus
    Robert Mapplethorpe
    Andres Serrano
    Larry Clark
    Bruce Gilden
    Weegee
    To name but a few. I don't think they all set out to antagonize (though some did). Some were viewed as antagonistic even if they weren't being so intentionally.
    I think, as the Dadists showed, there's also a place for the destructive in art . . . as well as the deconstructivist, which others showed.
    Korn talks about the ideas of the 20th century related to the rise of the individual as being fully autonomous (instead of as belonging to society). In many ways, that's how we understand the influence and importance of Existentialism, radical choice and autonomy.
    Sartre, late in his career, had some interesting insights into the self, freedom, and our relationship to others. There's a confrontational aspect to it but there's also a social aspect to it. I think the artist asserting his individuality, his self-ness, the artist not needing to collaborate (in typical terms) is likely still collaborating in many ways. Just as Aristotle responded to Plato and Kant to Descartes (even across centuries), John Cage responds to Bach, Willem de Kooning and Jasper Johns respond to Picasso.
    Sartre, from Existentialism Is A Humanism
    . . . the subjectivity which we thus postulate as the standard of truth is no narrowly individual subjectivism, for as we have demonstrated, it is not only one’s own self that one discovers in the cogito, but those of others too. Contrary to the philosophy of Descartes, contrary to that of Kant, when we say “I think” we are attaining to ourselves in the presence of the other, and we are just as certain of the other as we are of ourselves. Thus the man who discovers himself directly in the cogito also discovers all the others, and discovers them as the condition of his own existence. He recognises that he cannot be anything (in the sense in which one says one is spiritual, or that one is wicked or jealous) unless others recognise him as such. I cannot obtain any truth whatsoever about myself, except through the mediation of another. The other is indispensable to my existence, and equally so to any knowledge I can have of myself. Under these conditions, the intimate discovery of myself is at the same time the revelation of the other as a freedom which confronts mine, and which cannot think or will without doing so either for or against me. Thus, at once, we find ourselves in a world which is, let us say, that of “inter-subjectivity”. It is in this world that man has to decide what he is and what others are.​
     
  7. Yes and so Stieglitz at some point couldn't do Pictorialism any longer. If (or since) he was at the cusp of emerging individualism, then what followed was anti-authoritarian with a Sartre finding us in a world where "...man has to decide what he is and what others are." Not able to abide authoritarian decisions about who one is and who others are, which 'failure to abide' is an antagonism that constructively constructs or creates something else. I'm also considering the idea that self-expression is antagonistic in some measure. Individual self exists in social context and Dadists emerged in dialog with existing social contexts; extreme social contexts I add because all social contexts at that time failed to prevent world war. I think the creative act has been looked at as a destructive act to varying degrees.
    Stieglitz has another quote [ Alfred Stieglitz (March 14, 1922). "Is Photography a Failure?". New York Sun: 5. As referenced in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Stieglitz ]:
    Photography is not an art. Neither is painting, nor sculpture, literature or music. They are only different media for the individual to express his aesthetic feelings… You do not have to be a painter or a sculptor to be an artist. You may be a shoemaker. You may be creative as such. And, if so, you are a greater artist than the majority of the painters whose work is shown in the art galleries of today."​
    I think he overstates, but that's OK. It's his democratization of creativity that interests me. But where is that democratization going with its stress on the invidual?
    Peter Korn's example of a Jackson Pollock "... Every choice the artist makes is a response to whatever previous mark he or she has made on the canvas, and so what you get as people painting a portrait of their intuition, of their interior self,..." I would have thought Pollock then as having created the penultimate selfie, but current trends with smart phones suggest Pollock didn't create the penultimate selfie. I'm curious as to where we go once the penultimate selfie is created. And wonder if it will come from a highbrows or the demos.
    As to what follows. Here's a movie. The Army (1944) on Hulu whose details should read: A family [not a widow] raises her sickly son to be strong enough to join the army and fight on the front lines. This is a Japanese film, WWII war propaganda. But as I watched it I couldn't help from feeling it was an intentionally anti-war film, I couldn't ask for a movie that artistically expressed a complete rejection of militarism for the effects of militarism's authoritarianism on a family. A mother whose duty is to raise a fit son and deliver him to his Majesty? But what it does portray, antagonistically or not, is the end of a way of life, and anyone watching today would see that film as anti-war and a marker for the beginning of the selfie in Japan, that a fair statement if it is fair statement to characterize 20th century art as an evolution of the selfie. Individualization followed destructive, malignant authoritarianism. Will, or has, individualization become destructive and malignant?
    Which brings me to the selfie's present form, the smart phone selfie, as the culmination of the central trend in 20th century art, democratized. Most of the selfies I view are taken by women. It is the artistic media, photography, not painting, not sculpture, literature or music, the latter dominated by men unlike now photography which is becoming the dominant form of women's own artistic self expression, democratized. In the selfie women define themselves, take control of their identity, reject authoritarism, though you may be a homemaker, though you may be a shoe maker, it is with your own camera that you as a woman give artistic expression which is creative "as such", greater as an artist than the majority of those whose work is shown in the art galleries of today.
    Rather than malignant, the selfie is reinvigorating self-expression and we are far from some final stage individualism's inexorable march. The selfie is constructive antagonism, creativity, in conversation with authority.
     
  8. With the foregoing affirmation of the selfie, where women have staked out territory to finally self-define, most territory already well occupied by hosts of others who would define them in a familiar and ancient battle for control of women, a control and harnessing of nature for gain that the control of women necessarily represents: with that affirmation of the selfie and acknowledgement of women's innate struggle against being controlled I have left unaddressed the question of what follows. At what point in the future will our cultural history as recorded by photography be on the face of it an irrefutable argument against individualism, just like on the face of it the film The Army, when viewed today, is an irrefutable argument against thousands of years of authoritarianism and an irrefutable argument against the control of women and nature? At some point self will be defined in some accord that will allow for reformation of community, a reformation of the substrate of human cooperative life that isn't destructive to women and to nature. At that point those in the future will look back to our culture as expressed in part by photography, film, sculpture, literature and toss it away in wonderment at how we could ever have lived the way we live today, the seeds of our own destruction so obviously woven into the fabric of our existence the wonder will be that we didn't just at this time throw that all away.
     
  9. My apologies up front for not going into some of the follow-up replies, but in the OP what strikes me most is the importance given to novel and useful (within a social context). It sounds like a rather tall order, maybe even rather exclusive.
    How novel can one still be, or how exactly does one want to see things as novel? Is picking up on 2 or 3 older movements and styles, and blending them into something personal novel, or is it a mixture of old things?
    Useful, to me, is too tricky. Art of art's sake, or not. Does art have to be socially engaged, or can it be purely individual? I'm not going to answer that, it's too old a discussion with too little conclusion. And ultimately, I feel it doesn't matter. Expressing something does - and that expression can have its (social) resonance, and as a result have effect (usefulness). Or it can just be a purely personal thing. I don't think this makes it more or less creative.
    Is antagonism in itself useful, or in fact creative? Is disagreeing more creative than agreeing? Is carving a new path by definition more difficult and daring than perfecting the existing path? Is antagonism as antagonistic as we're lead to believe?
    Many of the "revolutions"- both within arts, or within a wider context - aren't as immediate and abrupt as popular writing is telling you. If I were to believe the short writings on classical music, Beethoven's 3rd symphony changed everything - disruptive, very novel, very antagonistic, revolutionairy. And I cannot help but wonder if they ever cared to listen carefully to the 2nd symphony. It was all already there.
    It's a cycle, with accelerations and slow downs and multiple cycles running simultaneously alongside. So, are those who work in times of accelerations more creative than those who seek to perfect the cycle during its slow down period? I find that hard to defend, look back at centuries of people expressing themselves creatively, and you will find too much great and absolutely creative work among artists that were more conformist than antagonist.
    I do think that a sense of antagonism is part of us becoming creatively aware, a trigger for that need and want to express oneself creatively. All on our own level, and some are more conformists than others, but all part of standing on shoulders of giants, and trying to look further. So it sure plays its part, and not an insignificant part. But it's with twists and turns, interaction between artist, his world around him and his views on it - none of them constants, and none of them isolated to the strictly personal, yet also not completely 'public domain' either.
    In my work, antagosism isn't actively there. I'm not that deliberate in what I try to insert into my images - it's slices of my surroundings as I see them, sometimes in context and sometimes just because I feel it'll make a nice image. It's not a response to others. In fact, I feel creatively more free if I just do as I please without thinking about those others, most of the time. Just do what I feel like doing. Arguably a highly egoistic/egocentric approach and in a way antagonistic to comunal sense that was popular before I was born.... but it'd be so subconscious that I'd find it stretching the definitions a bit too much to accept all that.
     
  10. Some great points, Wouter. We talk about imitation and creativity but rarely dissect them. Is it imitation if I choose the same subject matter as someone else but personalize it? Is it imitation if mine, on the surface, looks like others but it's mine? Does creativity have to equate with novelty?
    Charles, while contemporary art may be leaning toward more democratization and while various schools of art have sought to allow into the art world all kinds of readymades, there's a risk of rendering art meaningless by overdoing it.
    I think selfies are a phenomenon and haven't made a study of them enough to know how much validity there is in your claims about selfies and women. Definitely of interest is your mention of women having, through selfies, control of their images. To the extent that's true, it would be liberating. But how much are there selfies influenced by other selfies and by the advertising world in general. All of our self perceptions have already been so influenced by Hollywood and Madison Avenue that I wonder if any of us will ever be truly free to see ourselves in our own unique way.
    Due to their immediacy, I also have to wonder how many people might regret what they posted of themselves the night before at the party or when under the influence. My guess is that professors and potential bosses might hold unflattering posted selfies more against women than they would against men. So just how freeing this practice ultimately is could still be debatable. We have not only to consider what women are able to do in society but how society views what women do.
    All that being said, I'm not sure why I would automatically consider a selfie art. Some selfies would be art, of course, and I'm not getting into a discussion of what is art, but I think most selfies are not art, not intended to be art, not understood as art, and they certainly don't need to be in order to have social value and cultural significance.
     
  11. For whatever help this is worth, I located some unpacking of the phrase "constructive antagonism." The source is a book by Professor Nancy Rosenblum (www.gov.harvard.edu/people/faculty/nancy-rosenblum), entitled On the Side of Angels. (http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8812.html) She quotes John Stuart Mill as suggesting this phrase with a meaning akin to the meaning of the term "dialectic."
     
  12. "(www.gov.harvard.edu/people/faculty/nancy-rosenblum), entitled On the Side of Angels. (http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8812.html) She quotes John Stuart Mill as suggesting this phrase with a meaning akin to the meaning of the term "dialectic."
    Word play, attaching meanings to confuse and express intellectual superiority. Endless quotes.
    All photography has elements of antagonism dependent on what the photographer is trying to portray and how the viewer percieves.
    A bird of prey eating and capturing prey is not antagonistic because that is what they do. Nothing special.
    This is a international site, and if you want members to participate from other countries...try talking in plain English so folks from those countries can join in. Talking gibberish, and playing with words without any real sensible meaning is a load of clap trap.
     
  13. Not referring to you Michael.
     
  14. Allen, English is not my native language. Nonetheless it seems possible to understand what is written and try to constructively join the discussion, rather than making some simple snarky remarks that add nothing.
    Maybe it's not the language skills of the international visitors that are your problem here.
     
  15. If not me, Allen, then who?
     
  16. It seems to me that the thread begins with a technique a team of collaborators might use to explore their various views of some aspect of their joint project to reconcile their differences. Naturally, they don't always agree with each other, but nevertheless their efforts are often required to have a single resolution. Hence "creative antagonism" or perhaps you might call it a "working compromise."
    The OP then appears to go on to apply the term by observing a conflict between prey and predator which he sees as antagonistic. As well he might think that! Who can imagine that a creature would enjoy being turned into food? This seems to me to be a somewhat twisted interpretation of the original thought though. Here he is being creative with his photography as he observes his subject being antagonistic. The teamwork required to realize a common objective got completely lost.
    I think we ought to suggest that the OP go back to his drawing board to find a way to reconcile the difference between a group dynamic demonstrated in a of people working together and a single individual working on whatever he finds in front of him.
    The evidence for creativity is found in the results it produces, after all. Creativity fits into both the group and individual setting, but antagonism doesn't. Certainly not antagonism used to characterize a disagreement among the members of a team engaged in planning and managing some common project. In fact, I find it to be difficult to apply antagonism used this way to the individual photographer at all. Perhaps he is confused or conflicted in some way as he tries to see the perfect picture before tripping his camera shutter? Beats me! Naturally, you can overthink just about anything. Go figure.
     
  17. This has been an interesting thread. From what has been said so far, it would appear that "creative antagonism" is a fancy new way of saying "creative tension", which almost everyone would agree is essential for the creative process. This can of course take numerous forms - one interesting example already mentioned is comedy writing, with a sharp contrast between the American style of group script meetings and writers constantly trying to top each other (under heavy pressure from sponsors to produce an immediate ratings hit), and the British way , which tends to have pairs of writers who spend most of their time in the pub or each other's apartments and allows comedy series to mature even if the first episodes bomb (for example, "Blackadder").
    With specific reference to photography, creative tension may drive pictorialists to produce prints with ever-more-wonderful tone scales and sharpness, it may equally motivate a Weegee to beat his fellow pressmen to the punch, or a Diane Arbus to study people on the fringes of society, or a Don McCullin to document warfare, even though he was plagued by demons afterwards. Creative tension may even take the form of deliberate aggression in the form of polemical works such as W. Eugene Smith's "Minamata" or Philip Jones Griffiths' "Vietman Inc." In my view, with selfies there is a total lack of creative tension, the only driving force being superficial narcissism, which I feel disqualifies them as art - there is not even the inadvertent artistic content of a traditional snapshot, which at least shows some kind of interaction with the environment.
     
  18. Wouter "I do think that a sense of antagonism is part of us becoming creatively aware, a trigger for that need and want to express oneself creatively."
    OK good, that movement from antagonism to creative awareness reminds me of the Dr. Jung interview, introduced as a neuroscientist who explores creativity. Particularly, from the written introduction for the Ms. Tippett interview with him "Rex Jung has notably helped describe something called transient hypofrontality. In layman's terms, it's now possible to see the difference between intelligence and creativity in the brain. We can watch the brain calm its powerful organizing frontal lobes and become more "meandering," less directed, in order to make creative connections."

    Wouter "How novel can one still be, or how exactly does one want to see things as novel? Is picking up on 2 or 3 older movements and styles, and blending them into something personal novel, or is it a mixture of old things? Useful, to me, is too tricky. Art of art's sake, or not. Does art have to be socially engaged, or can it be purely individual? I'm not going to answer that, it's too old a discussion with too little conclusion."

    I don't know the answers to the questions you raise there. But as to the question about if a creative product has to be useful and socially engaged, yes; but that is Dr. Jung's working definition and he found that definition already in use when he began his professional work on creativity, according to his statements in the interview. So my approach is to accept that defintion for discussions sake alone.

    Wouter "In fact, I feel creatively more free if I just do as I please without thinking about those others, most of the time."
    I hear you.
     
  19. Michael "Mill as suggesting this phrase with a meaning akin to the meaning of the term "dialectic.""
    I think you're onto something. That source sounds a lot like something Ms. Tippett would have read. Thanks!
     
  20. Fred "All that being said, I'm not sure why I would automatically consider a selfie art."
    All art is self-expression, but not all self-expression is art? And I think that Dr. Jung is looking at creativity generally, not art specifically. So all creativity is self-expression, but not all self-expression is creative.
     
  21. One idea Dr. Jung expressed in the interview, when speaking to why social context is an element of the working definition of creativity he uses, is that a creative product needs to be intelligible. That makes sense if, as we say about Art, that Art is a dialog. So although I can't understand a Jackson Pollock without help, others can, he is intelligible to them and can explain it, etc. Which does get at a question Wouter raised earlier as to if art can be purely individual. I suppose it can if it is intelligible?
     
  22. Albert - "The OP then appears to go on to apply the term by observing a conflict between prey and predator which he sees as antagonistic."
    No, I was trying to say that some dissatisfaction I had with bird photography, dissatisfied that emphasis on eating was unfair in some way. So I showed a shot where I had tried to exaggerate the drama of predatory/prey. I wasn't meaning to speak to the antagonism between the two birds.
    Albert - "I think we ought to suggest that the OP go back to his drawing board to find a way to reconcile the difference between a group dynamic demonstrated in a of people working together and a single individual working on whatever he finds in front of him."
    I'm not sure how to reconcile that difference. One attempt would be to say that no man is an island, no single individual is without influences of others. In a group dynamic, say the practice of brainstorming: from the interview that dynamic isn't conducive to creativity per Dr. Jung in the interview. Ms. Tippett offers a different group dynamic, like a dynamic in producing Seinfield or SNL. But neither offers that creativity is necessarily exhibited only in group work, collaborations which again seems a point that common sense favors.
    Wouter has suggested, if I understand him correctly, that an antagonism might be part of his process at times, can at times be "...a trigger for that need and want to express oneself creatively."
    And I do agree one can overthink anything, as I know from experience. What was also interesting in the neuroscientist's view is that he can measure the thinking, or intelligent, part of the brain turning off to some extent when a meandering creative brain process engages. But I don't think that means, or implies, that an antagonism must exist before a meandering.
     
  23. David B. I agree with your post, appreciate the clarification of terminology and particularly fleshing out examples and the references to photographers. Agree, that is, up to the point where we do have somewhat different views of selfies.
    Question though, what about a Jackson Pollock who I portray as having produced some selfies in paint? I'm relying on Korn as having given an accurate description of some of that type of art as being an interior portrait, Korn quoted above, here in part: "... Every choice the artist makes is a response to whatever previous mark he or she has made on the canvas, and so what you get as [sic - bad transcript of the interview with Korn] people painting a portrait of their intuition, of their interior self,..."
    If the individual self and it's interiors are a proper subject, not necessarily narcissistic, then, well? But I think my points about selfies were more of what I am exploring as to their culture and/or historical significance, less so about them as art. Certainly self-portraiture is an art form though.
     
  24. One other thought. Let's say that in my accepting Dr. Jung's working definition of creativity, let's say that I was suspending disbelief so as to not quibble with questions about that definition that are much larger than I am. Does that have anything to do with what Dr. Jung terms transient hypofrontality? Did I shut down my reasoning to meander a bit? Probably. But that suspension of disbelief also I recognize in my viewing movies, theater, other forms of art. Transient hypofrontality in creative consumption of art products too? Well I'm getting sleepy for now.
     
  25. Question though, what about a Jackson Pollock who I portray as having produced some selfies in paint? I'm relying on Korn as having given an accurate description of some of that type of art as being an interior portrait, Korn quoted above, here in part: "... Every choice the artist makes is a response to whatever previous mark he or she has made on the canvas, and so what you get as [sic - bad transcript of the interview with Korn] people painting a portrait of their intuition, of their interior self,..."​
    Every action we take, not just art-making, can be considered to help build a portrait of ourselves. Only in that sense are all selfies portraits, but no more so than how we wave good-bye, how we hold ourselves when smoking a cigarette, how we respond in a crisis, or what fear or joy look like in our faces. And . . . I think a self portrait is different from a picture that is of or includes oneself. I think most selfies would fall under the latter rather than the former concept.
    All art is self-expression, but not all self-expression is art? And I think that Dr. Jung is looking at creativity generally, not art specifically. So all creativity is self-expression, but not all self-expression is creative.​
    A good start, but not quite. I'd lose the "self" and never start a sentence with "All art (or creativity) is . . ." since I don't think all art or creativity has in common any single quality. I think art is more like a series of Venn diagrams with overlapping characteristics, where no one characteristic is necessarily present in all cases.

    If and when expression applies to art and creativity, and I think it often does, I tend not to think of it solely as self expression. Art has an audience or viewer, even if it's only the artist. When God, the ultimate Creator according to various mythologies, finishes Her work, She stands back from it and declares "It is good." Even She becomes the observer. The expression is a matter of collaboration, not owing to a sole perspective. Getting back to mere mortals, the expressions come not only from the self but often simply through the self as a result of interactions with others, as a result of history, as a result of a dialogue with other artists, present and past, as well as other things. Many artists and creative types say they are the vessel through which something gets expressed which I think is a different concept from "self-expression." I'm not saying self-expression isn't something to consider. I'm saying it's not the only kind of expression to consider when discussing creativity or the artist. I think artists tend to be in touch with things beyond themselves and the expressions can come from more universal/transcendent places and not just found within. Much artistic and creative expression is more a zeitgeist. Artists can tap into what's all of ours, not just what's theirs. A Beethoven symphony and a Renoir painting and a Stieglitz photo feels as much mine as theirs, and I believe it comes from that sort of place.
     
  26. Hi folks,

    I've been following the comments on this thread from the sidelines, and have refrained from saying anything for fear that my comments might be too simplistic. Anyway, after a few sleepless nights, I've reached a level of fatigue that has removed the inhibition, so here goes:

    For me, there are 2 sides to the equation. On the one hand, there is the photographer who makes the work, and on the other hand, there are the viewers. The photographer's goal in creating an image might be to imitate, to break new ground, to shock, or many other things. How he/she goes about creating the image is the result of so many variables (individual, social, cultural, temporal etc) that the process underlying each image will probably be unique (even if there are only small differences from other images made by the same photographer). In terms of the viewers, whether images are seen as creative or subversive or imitative or innovative (or anything else) will depend on a huge number of variables to do with each individual viewer and their personal histories, and the social and cultural context in which they are viewed. Teasing out key influential factors with any degree of accuracy when there are so many variables is well nigh impossible (a lesson well known from large-scale epidemiological and scientific studies). So we are left with trying to lump together works into common themes and to try and explain the creative processes behind them using (to my admittedly limited mind) increasingly complex language.

    To illustrate: an image of a hand peeling an orange (a kind of 'kill-shot' if you will) will likely be interpreted by most people as simplistic, perhaps derivative (definitely not innovative) and possibly devoid of all interest; if the lighting is magical, perhaps it might be seen as having at least some redeeming feature. To me, the same image would bring tears to my eyes, as I fondly recall my late grandfather coming to visit me as a child, bag of oranges in tow, sitting on the verandah and peeling them for me to enjoy; the image would hold immense power and meaning for me, and I wouldn't care two hoots about whether it is innovative or constructively antagonistic. The argument can also be flipped on its head - if I were to make the same image, even with my history and context, the image still wouldn't have any impact on most viewers.

    When I shoot, my goals vary with each image/subject/scene and how I create it will vary with my mindset at that time (grumpy, happy etc) and with the more global variables I mentioned above. Only a small minority of viewers of the image will even come close to understanding the goals or variables that went into the image. To me, it does not matter. It also does not matter to me whether my work is dismissed or criticized - I don’t care if it is seen as creatively constipated or constructively antagonistic. It will also not matter to the (hopefully one or two) viewers who find the image poignant, humorous or moving.

    As I said, I may have an overly simplistic view, but only I will truly come close to understanding my motivations and processes in making a photograph, just as only the viewer(s) will come close to understanding if/how/why a photograph affects them (or not). All said and done, I enjoy making photographs - whether they are creative (or any other adjective) or 'art', I'll leave to others.
     
  27. I wonder to what extent people might think that this (the movie "Whiplash"):
    http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/drummer-peter-erskine-on-whiplash-film.html
    represents an example of creative antagonism, since it seems to suggest that the highest form of creative expression can be achieved only through a process of extreme sadomasochism (the classic ballet film "The Red Shoes" suggests something of the same). This attitude is far from uncommon among arts educators and trainers – I recall being told by the British photojournalist Grace Robertson that in the early days on the staff of the magazine Picture Post she was assigned to work with the veteran photojournalist Kurt Hutton, whose reaction to what he felt was inferior work was to (wordlessly) scream, rip Robertson's prints to shreds and stamp on them. I have also heard from young classical musicians whose playing to my and most other people's ears was sublime that, on taking masterclasses with so-called "gurus", they have encountered a deliberately harsh and hypercritical attitude. On the many occasions when I have advised and mentored young artists, my approach has been the opposite – I much prefer to say "You seem to be here at step X, I feel you should try to achieve step X +1, in order to do so, you might like to explore approaches a, b or c", while always being ready to be told "No I'd rather aim for something different and take a completely different approach."
    In one of his postings, Fred G. uses the word "transcendent" – an extremely important concept in my view, and one whose attainment demands progression to a higher mental plane, beyond friction and conflict, where I would venture to say that the word "antagonism" has ceased to have any meaning and the artist is simply allowing his/her art to lead where it will. I have experienced this sadly more rarely than I would have liked, most often when playing acoustic music groups, mostly but not necessarily with a classical repertoire.
     
  28. Fred G. uses the word "transcendent" – an extremely important concept in my view, and one whose attainment demands progression to a higher mental plane, beyond friction and conflict​
    I appreciate your point of view, David, and I think many folks want to attain that sort of resolution beyond conflict. I personally don't. And, for me, the word "transcendent" is a move beyond but not necessarily a move beyond conflict or antagonism. I often hesitate to use it because of its association with transcendental meditation, which is a quiet attainment. That's not what I mean, though. As a matter of fact, in this case I used it to mean going beyond the individual self and alongside the word zeitgeist, which doesn't necessarily entail a lack of conflict at all.

    I've had both kinds of teachers in various disciplines and, for me, some of the old curmudgeons worked really well, but so did some of the more circumspect and even cordial mentors.

    Regarding the movie Whiplash, I took the conflict between the Miles Teller character and his teacher to be real and also to be a metaphor for Teller's own internal struggle. That struggle needn't ever end.

    My favorite scene of such musical teacher-student antagonism is in Ken Russell's The Music Lovers, when Richard Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky first performs his now-famous Piano Concerto for his teacher, Anton Rubinstein, who trashes the piece and accuses him of banging out a bunch of noise and even mimics his playing, to which Tchaikovsky responds brazenly and confidently, "I won't change a note."

    Sometimes, the best antidote to antagonism, at least from without, is confidence, stubbornness, and a huge ego, something many artists have.
     
  29. rajmohan - "Only a small minority of viewers of the image will even come close to understanding the goals or variables that went into the image."
    I agree and also think there's a related point here, quoting Fred, "Every action we take, not just art-making, can be considered to help build a portrait of ourselves." And if I take Fred's broad view of self-expression**, then I can take rajmohan's point too " Teasing out key influential factors with any degree of accuracy when there are so many variables is well nigh impossible (a lesson well known from large-scale epidemiological and scientific studies)." [** Fred "Getting back to mere mortals, the expressions come not only from the self but often simply through the self as a result of interactions with others, as a result of history, as a result of a dialogue with other artists, present and past, as well as other things."]
    Still, there's a self there that made an expression, without which there wouldn't be an expression. Seems an impossible hope to sort it all out.
    David "I have also heard from young classical musicians whose playing to my and most other people's ears was sublime that, on taking masterclasses with so-called "gurus", they have encountered a deliberately harsh and hypercritical attitude."
    Holy cow David I think you're describing what amounts to child abuse from a master, who if in turn was trained under similarly harsh methods becomes intergenerational child abuse and not wholly deliberate. David "... rip Robertson's prints to shreds and stamp on them." At least my woodshop instructor didn't take my beginner projects to the wood chipper.
     
  30. Rajmohan, I think you bring up some important points. The main way I'd pick up on what you've said is to consider that an artist's goals and motivations are not the only things that get shared with an audience or a viewer. It's the results that get shared. We may read certain things into those results (or not) but we are each affected by them, intellectually and emotionally, rationally and sensually.
    I think art is more than just communication as I think it often strikes a certain empathic chord and connection that communication doesn't necessarily accomplish. But, just looking at communication, it requires some degree of shared language, which is a type of symbolism. The visual language of photos is not dissimilar. When someone talks to me, I may understand some of what they are saying and misunderstand some but we usually manage to connect at least to some extent and share in ideas and moments. Same with photos.
    Photos are not as specific as verbal language and there is often more ambiguity than with the spoken word, but I don't think that means we sever the ties that can bind the creator and the viewer through the photo itself, through the results. Think about a significant lovers' quarrel, which most of us have had. All kinds of misplaced motivations are attributed and then, hopefully, reconciled. And all kinds of misunderstandings can take place. Yet, it is precisely this kind of "antagonism" that will so often move the relationship forward.
    Some of my most important art experiences have been when I first completely misunderstand or simply don't get a work of art I'm newly exposed to. That antagonism will run very deep, and when I finally make a breakthrough and come to an understanding, all the antagonism may not disappear, but the experience deepens.

    Learning about an artist is not some kind of academic accomplishment. And art does allow for much more personal interpretation and experience than ordinary communication. However, not so personal that the work of art should ever stop pushing back. Too often, in describing the so-called subjectivity of art, the very work that is the work of art gets dismissed in favor of everyone's right to their own interpretation. I don't have the solution and don't think there is one or needs to be one, but I think it's a beautiful conundrum.
     
  31. Fred -
    Regarding the movie Whiplash, I took the conflict between the Miles Teller character and his teacher to be real and also to be a metaphor for Teller's own internal struggle. That struggle needn't ever end.
    and
    My favorite scene of such musical teacher-student antagonism is in Ken Russell's The Music Lovers, when Richard Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky first performs his now-famous Piano Concerto for his teacher, Anton Rubinstein, who trashes the piece and accuses him of banging out a bunch of noise and even mimics his playing, to which Tchaikovsky responds brazenly and confidently, "I won't change a note."​
    So Fred I wonder if Tchaikovsky composed within a lattice of internal antagonisms, his conflict with Rubinstein, like Teller's conflict with his teacher, a metaphor for Tchaikovsky's internal conflicts.
    Seymour: An Introduction is a movie that in part concentrates on showing Seymour Bernstein teach piano to students. Seymour didn't come off as contentious with his students, his style more in line with how David describes his teaching style. For me I can benefit from a thorough raking over the coals, but prefer the kind of methodical 'showing how' that I see in Bernstein.
    I think from the interview with Dr. Jung and Ms. Tippett that constructive antagonism was a kind of side point, where more emphasis was given to switching off, or attenuating, the 'narrative' part of one's brain to instead creatively meander.
    From Weekly Discussion 2.0 #3 it seems that portraiture can be a creative meandering between the photographer and the subject.
     
  32. So Fred I wonder if Tchaikovsky composed within a lattice of internal antagonisms​
    I very much think he did. I can't help but see the alternation between bombast and idyll in that piano concerto as almost a literal outpouring of his struggle with his own sexuality and the role society expected him to play. Do I choose the sweetness and comfort of romance or the angst and darker sides of my own lusts?
    From Weekly Discussion 2.0 #3 it seems that portraiture can be a creative meandering between the photographer and the subject.​
    Sure. And it can also be more overtly antagonistic. I've done portraits where I've felt an edginess and wanted to find something other than what the subject was giving me, which is sometimes more of the "say cheese" variety than the "let's get real" variety. That can set up an oppositional dynamic that has great potential. So, sometimes the creativity is a collaboration . . . and sometimes it's more of an estrangement or even an alienation.
     
  33. RE selfies, photograph-as-medium and deliberate antagonistic work: Very well said by all. Glad to see new Forum topic!
    I was inspired to think more about polemics and deliberatively antagonistic creative work. The most deliberative means of expression we have is with art. It is our selfie stick of self awareness. We attempt to get away from our self-centeredness and achieve nirvana or some-such, but find various modes of selfie-expression more interesting.

    I believe a better term to use instead of “aggravate” is “arousal”. And ‘creativity” is too vague. “Novelty” is more precise. Art tends to cycle from novel to commonplace, and then back again, especially in our meme-driven world. “Creativity” workers are caught up in a capitalist model of competitive novelty –“Mad Men”. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you enjoy the rush. Being creative, for me, is an unshakeable urge to be just too clever. Got to relax.

    The way art seems to me now, much to my delight and confusion, is that anything goes. The compressed, novelty/commonplace cycle gives us endless choices to exercise expressive needs. I feel that the pictures I choose to make have certain expressive content. I want them to arouse. That does not necessarily mean that I want you to see what I see in them. Just see something. They most often are not about something. Or, a picture of something. I may be just testing an idea of how the picture looks. I find consistency and growth in my own outlooks and feelings in them.

    Art has always been POP! Art. The idea of what is “contemporary” art is impossible to pin down. I find in it high arousal in both a good and a bad way. So-called “Museums” of contemporary art” are supposed to arouse. I go in knowing I’ll be either terribly annoyed or inspired. I’ll fall into the bad humor of everything about the present generation looking grotesque – as was mine to the to the previous. But the new guys are grotesque-er faster.

    00dT10-558262884.jpg
     
  34. Alan - " I’ll fall into the bad humor of everything about the present generation looking grotesque – as was mine to the to the previous."
    As were the older grotesque to us when we were under 'age 30', as used to be said. We were right then. The generations now younger to us, in seeing we elders as grotesque are also right. Not as to any particular one of us, but as to the sum of our adaptations as a whole. Viewed as a whole, we are crazy. And those younger to us now seem as a whole crazy to us. And history will repeat itself, sadly. But the young with their selfies don't know that yet. That's how I try and process my own bad humor on intergenerational topics. So in your posted photo of Chicago manners and dress, there is to me as a viewer an element of constructive antagonism involved, intergenerational.
    So to say that in artistic words, I would paraphrase The Who:
    Things we do look awful cold
    We didn't die before we got old.
     
  35. Suggested movie watching: Straight Outta Compton
     
  36. Thinking a little more about it, I suspect that many in the younger generations would laugh at the old fogies who are suggesting that all selfies are art. I don't think many of them if any of them have made a case for that or even are thinking in those terms. It's kind of an older generation context, I think. Misplaced, IMO.
     
  37. This is one of my favorite photos on Photo.net: http://www.photo.net/photo/12763154
    The photographer's commentary on his shot: "Now listen, I'm old and big enough to go on my own.............. Did you hear what he said?........ No, did you?........ No of course not, got my ear plugs in :) Best regards, Harry"
    My take is that instead the bawler bird, the young child of the two mature parents, in fact wants to be fed by the parents. The bawler doesn't want to be on its own, it wants to be fed. At some critical point the parents abandon it, at that point where they have taught their child all that they themselves know.
    Here's one of mine of a young cooper's hawk where the tantrum lasted for a couple days because the parents had flown the coop, not the other way around: http://www.photo.net/photo/13722933
    Another species, young and fairly recently on its own: http://www.photo.net/photo/10281710 . it's being mobbed because it is a predator, uncomprehendingly, doesn't understand why it is a target.
    Young but self-sufficient cooper's hawk now worried that somebody will steal his latest catch: http://www.photo.net/photo/15199213
    At some point they are majestic, are completely settled into and absorbed by making their living: http://www.photo.net/photo/11159735 . The eggs are somewhere, or will be, and so it goes, a baby hawk becoming its parents.
    And so did we, and so did Hip Hop beating that age-old drum of surrender, a marker of a recognition of 'a problem' and nevertheless that problem's reemergence into yet another generation unresolved.
    Note that I'm interpreting other's, and my own, photographic artistic expression in the context of the human condition.
     
  38. Fred - "It's kind of an older generation context, I think. Misplaced, IMO."
    Sure, not all selfies are art, but they nevertheless are examples self-expression in a world adapted to, that world at large one where it is only money that matters, where money is the only thing that truly exists, the only tangible measure of all things. So I suppose a selfie may be either a marker of a self yet consumed by antagonism OR, a testament that despite all, self still endures.
     
  39. As I said, I think selfies have little to do with selves and more to do with what I'd term "gestural punctuation", like a wave hello or good-bye. They are cultural as much if not more than individual, more exclamation than expression.
     
  40. !
    What's behind that punctuation mark except a self expressing. Me! Punctuation makes a writing express more because of what written words without punctuation don't convey. What isn't conveyed is left to the imagination. If there's only an exclamation, it's for the imagination [viewers, viewers] to convey the rest. Evidence for the 'rest' in a selfie is scant, I grant you. However. I deem our culture as leaving little room or space for self, where expression is largely confined to script reading. So culturally, I'm considering the idea that a selfie is a space for scripted expression. Because in many places, the likes of which we all know, self-expression isn't exactly encouraged while scripted expressions are. Art is unscripted expression that is new, useful, intelligible (for being part of a conversation) with punctuation included, sure, sometimes excessive punctuation, sometimes sort of regrettable punctuation yet part of civil conversation nevertheless.
     
  41. ???
    There are a very limited number of punctuation marks. What makes writing self-expressive are the words used and the way they're put together, the meanings, the cadences. Punctuation marks do what they're supposed to do. They punctuate those expressions. They emphasize, exaggerate, put a halt to, raise a question about . . . the expressions to which they are tied.
    I don't think a selfie is much different than the family snapshot of days gone by. Family photo albums are significant. But most of the time and in most cases they're not art and they're not self expressions of the photographer. I've seen art displays based on family albums. Usually some kinds of ideas or themes are being explored with them when I've seen them in an art context.
     
  42. oops I meant " I'm considering the idea that a selfie is a space for unscripted expression."
     
  43. I was surprised you said "scripted" because that would have undercut your ideas about selfies. I do see them more as culturally (and corporately) scripted expressions.
    Referring again to family snapshots, most are much more mementos than expressions or self expressions and I'd even say the same thing about most non-selfie photos posted all over the Internet. They're remembrances that "I was here" as opposed to expressive of what it was like to be there.
     
  44. Well, a selfie includes 1) a self portrait and 2) can also consist of the photographer photo bombing every shot. In days gone by item 2 wouldn't have been acceptable. Not scripted.
    I'm just saying that one possible explanation for selfies is that society has become more confining and that selfies emerged in a compensatory way in response to that change. A self portrait we can understand. Having the photographer in every shot, landscapes, group portraits, well, that does seem a bit much. If it's the only space a self can occupy unscripted, then I feel sorry for what we have become. If it is a mere change in the script, what really has changed? It's still a script. I may have to look elsewhere for signs of a new dawn. The moral arc of the universe seems to bend toward scripts though.
     
  45. If it's the only space a self can occupy​
    Surely it's not. What the selfie phenomenon is, IMO, is a very visible manifestation of a cultural trend, seized upon by popular culture. I interact with younger folks all the time who are expressing themselves, be it in academic settings or community organization settings. They're still involved politically, at least here in San Francisco. They're still doing art. And in many cases, they're living here and commuting daily to Silicon Valley where they're responsible for software and apps that are driving the world in all kinds of unknown and unforeseen directions. They're expressing and asserting themselves all over the place.
     
  46. Restated, if it's one of the few spaces a self can occupy unscripted.....
    But you've described more than a few such spaces where they are comfortable.
     
  47. But you've described more than a few such spaces where they are comfortable.​
    Which brings us back to the topic at hand . . . antagonism. What do you see as the antagonistic or uncomfortable side of selfies?

    And I'm not sure that characterizing the spaces I spoke of as comfortable does them justice. The academic sphere these days is costly, so we've put kids in the position of taking on great debt in order to get an education and a start, which has its antagonistic aspects. And a good education will entail intellectual antagonisms, debating sides of issues, etc. Community groups that I'm part of and just aware of are struggling for a limited and often dwindling number of public funds, often doing health outreach, for example, into populations fearful of or at least reticent about perceived mainstream normative attempts. Political activism is antagonistic by nature.
     
  48. For me, the antagonism or discomfort that gives rise to an era of selfie may be that life is harder for young people today than it was for me at that age, harder in the ways I'm glad you mentione, and in other ways too. If I consider the selfie in the context of the personal difficulties that are not pictured in a simple selfie, I feel I'm being fairer towards selfies. I'm at times tempted to be antagonized by selfies because selfies in popular culture can be presented as examples of excessive self-centeredness of the young. Self-centeredness in the young can be annoying, but it's nothing new or uniquely human, nothing really for me to be antagonized by.
     
  49. personal difficulties that are not pictured in a simple selfie​
    That's been my point. I thought you were saying selfies were expressive of this conflict. If they were, they would, on some level, picture it. Their being born of such conflict doesn't mean they're expressive of that conflict.
    selfies in popular culture can be presented as examples of excessive self-centeredness of the young​
    I'm hesitant in the attribution of self centeredness. From the outside, other groups often look either self centered or self indulgent. People have long been saying of gay pride parades that they are self indulgent. They may simply be celebratory and not self censoring which is often mistaken for self centeredness. My own generation was denigratingly referred to as the "me generation." I've alternatively heard the current generation referred to as impersonal, their cell phones and technology taking them away from the "realities" of the world and, then, self centered. I'd lean away from not only their being self centered but their being self aware. I think technology has objectified more than subjectified all of us. My own youthful search for self actualization was mistaken by outsiders to be all about "me" which it was anything but. In so many cases, it was about the search to connect me to something greater, whether that was nature or others. Listen to the criticisms from the right about Black Lives Matter, claiming it would be much less self centered if it were called "All Lives Matter" which, of course, not only misses the point but proves it!
     
  50. All good Fred.
    Going back to the earlier quote from the Peter Korn interview: "...if you look at art over the millennia, art just tend to portrait a place where they think truth resides and so you’ve got a Greek Art portrayed this ideal of humanity outside of space and time in other words truth lay outside of humanity." He then suggests that truth moved to heaven, to nature where truth was thought to be there e.g. the Hudson River School, and then to the present era with individual truths, generally speaking as he puts it. And he is speaking of Western art.
    But he began with Greek Art, not with the beginning, not with cave paintings. If I accept Korn's premise that art tends to portray the place where humans feel truth resides, then in the beginning, for the cave painter, truth was in the animals, it being animals that were portrayed. Will we come full circle? https://www.google.com/search?cat+s...hMIsbSJ29LWxwIVRSuICh3DsAJj&biw=1464&bih=1178
    Cat selfies? Will we at some future time find it hard to imagine that in our representational art humans ever pictured themselves at all? Will we then begin to care about all of nature as much as today we care so deeply about our cats? Are cat selfies the cutting edge of societal change, the quickening of a new dawn for our species?
     
  51. If I accept Korn's premise that art tends to portray the place where humans feel truth resides, then in the beginning​
    I guess there might be some academic reason to do so, but I have a hard time accepting this premise even for the sake of argument. I just don't see framing art within the context of truth.

    I do put stock in a question that you asked, however, which is, "Will we come full circle?" I think we continually do, though it's probably a bit more like a spiral than a circle. Again, back to antagonism: without it, we might just come full circle, or more likely just keep going in circles. With it, we do often circle back but within an overall state of advance.
     
  52. OK, but I would add that in that spiral, in the progress of human generations, children become their parents and what's reproduced along with new adults are the age-old, self-made problems that beset our species. That's a view of our species as in stasis, and the fossil record shows that once a species is physically stable, it is in stasis and that it's only geographical isolation that contributes change. If punctuated equilibrium describes the change mechanism for our mental constituents, and if our mental state even can evolve, then it follows that an individual working in isolation is the only hope for the emergence of an evolved mental state, an evolved mental state the only way out of our current congenital stasis that is our anthropogenic extinction, a physical product of our limited minds. Hail the tortured artist working in isolation on the problem of the human condition.
     
  53. And as to art framed within a context of truth, I don't see how it can be otherwise framed. The truth of a Jackson Pollock is hard to sort out, maybe as incomprehensible and mysterious as are some examples of his art. Incomprehensible I don't value in dialog however, incomprehensibility in conversation, medium and no message of little value; and in truth if we look at Jackson Pollock we find he embraced the bottle, not his suffering. Though there may be intuitions and connections portrayed on a canvas that he rolled around on with paint, we don't know from his art product what exactly that inner life of his consisted of. Apparently he didn't either. Because he didn't embrace his suffering, he embraced the bottle and the bottle killed him and I don't see how that truth, or a truth, doesn't frame his art or the art of anyone else.
    Even mine. Here's my neighbor's backyard after the tree 'trimmers' came today. It is my expression about how I at times see man in relation to nature. Naturally my neighbor spends most of his time in his house. His idea of a yard is comprehensible as should be my antagonism toward that idea of his. I baited the bird with peanuts, the bird is nature, the backyard man's relationship to nature.
    00dTHP-558296584.jpg
     
  54. Truth demands meaning and art doesn't. Jackson Pollock's paintings don't have to mean anything at all, and neither do da Vinci's. You may want something from Jackson Pollock and you're entitled to want that. But he's not obliged to give you that.
    In any case, why isn't one's drunken product a truth as valid as one's self reflection? Are our truths only things we know about ourselves?
    IMO, you're over-defining both art and the artist and in that sense putting unreasonable restrictions and demands on both.
     
  55. Art doesn't demand meaning, nor does a cough or a sneeze demand meaning beyond whether a cough or sneeze be produced in interesting form or not. I suppose then I'm just making a value judgment.
    Fred - "Are our truths only things we know about ourselves?"
    No, sure, our truths includes things we don't know about ourselves. For example, my neighbor has no awareness that his back yard is a self-portrait of not only his relationship to nature, but of his relationship to his inner garden, a garden in which he allows some things to grow and with the other things there he's rude and controlling.
     
  56. " For example, my neighbor has no awareness that his back yard is a self-portrait of not only his relationship to nature, but of his relationship to his inner garden, a garden in which he allows some things to grow and with the other things there he's rude and controlling."
    Interesting. A persons or society reflecting images which reveal their character and nature.
    I wonder if this photo also speaks the same message.
     
  57. my neighbor has no awareness that his back yard is a self-portrait of not only his relationship to nature, but of his relationship to his inner garden​
    Charles, this is why truth and meaning are connected but neither necessarily connects either to art or photography, though they often do. So, for example, the reason you say your neighbor's garden is a self portrait, etc. is because you may know something about your neighbor or his gardening habits. Now, let's say I don't know anything about your neighbor and pass by his yard on the day this picture was taken and assume it's a self portrait telling me just the things you're thinking. The next day I learn that, in fact, his trees became infested with a destructive bug and had to be taken down and he was sick about it and his garden likewise had been infected with some awful disease and he decided to strip it and was in the process of starting from scratch. In fact, just a few months ago he had a spectacular garden. Then my seeing his relationship to nature as you seem to be would have been very much "false."

    Now, either way, whether he has a very uncaring or even destructive relationship to his garden or whether he had no choice and is terribly upset about his garden, there would be something negative going on, and that's something significant to get from the photo, but taking it much further than that in terms of meaning and truth could be very misleading. Maybe he really does hate nature and revels in that fact and is kind of giddy over the way his garden looks and makes his neighbors feel. Well, then, the negativity is on YOUR part, not his, so it may be that your reaction is more a portrait of you than his backyard is a portrait of him.

    I'm certainly not saying that portraits can't give us insights into the people they're of. They very often do and they do often reflect significant things about their subjects. At the same time, the only confirmation that those things are "true" comes with knowledge, not just by looking at the photos. I think sometimes we get emotional truths (which may not line up to what the subject was experiencing but is simply a product of our relationship to the photo) and not factual ones or ones with literal meaning.
     
  58. Allen, offhand I don't think yours and mine speak a similar message because yours is of a person and mine isn't of a person. I intentionally let the back yard attest to a person's character without picturing the actual person. It's like you came over to my house and I let you stand on a ladder to peer into the guys back yard, something I used to do with guests to show them how tall native CA weed species can grow without actually having to take them on a trip with me to the local park's nature center. (Weeds not a problem any longer because he got a gardener. I was instrumental in his obtaining a gardener.) So you can tell from looking over his fence a bit about my neighbor. And you can tell a little about me, that I'm the type to get a ladder to look at just how bad the neighbor's yard has gotten and to do it in broad daylight without any canopy to hide me from my neighbor's eyes. Had I used a wide enough lens to get the ladder I was standing on into the shot, it could have become a picture suggestive of neighbors being the topic. That the photographer was standing on a ladder in full view would have suggested that I don't care if my neighbor is antagonized by my taking a photographic survey of his yard. A ladder would have put a bit more of me into the photograph, the ladder would have become a prop just as the bird is a prop for my having baited it into the photograph.
    In yours, the person is pictured and speaks for herself.
     
  59. Fred wrote:
    At the same time, the only confirmation that those things are "true" comes with knowledge, not just by looking at the photos.​
    Interesting points. So again with my The Hand of Man photo as an example, I take it your sympathy as a viewer could fall to either side of the fence? At first blush let's say that photo bears equally either interpretation, sympathy on my side or sympathy on my neighbor's side. My bias is that it is on me the photographer to 'speak' clearly if I want sympathy; it's on me the photographer to speak clearly if I want sympathy for my neighbor. Had sufficient clarity been achieved: I think that the only fact discernible by a skeptical viewer would be that the photo was a plea for sympathy, a plea made by the photographer, a plea for sympathy for one side only, not for the other. It would have then been for the viewer to decide what to make of such a plea for sympathy beyond just enjoying it as such. The only truth expressed might be that neighbors can annoy each other at times despite how egregiously I could have portrayed one neighbor or the other. My attempt however was to present my neighbor's back yard as exemplifying what I think of as our species' collective effect on nature, we as bad a neighbor to nature as my neighbor is to me in some respects.
     
  60. Anyway I think communication of any kind is framed by clarity and veracity, and we combine those two elements in varying degrees when communicating.
     
  61. Sure. But I think art runs the gamut from literal communication all the way to impressionism and expressionism not to mention abstraction, whose goals are neither clarity nor veracity.
    By the way, your photo causes me only to have sympathy for the trees and not to even have considered either neighbor.
     
  62. Fred: "But I think art runs the gamut from literal communication all the way to impressionism and expressionism not to mention abstraction, whose goals are neither clarity nor veracity."
    I agree and add that it still helps for there to be clarity in the artwork about whether it's impressionism, expressionism, abstraction, etc., or something entirely new, because the work can at least then be understood in context of the ongoing conversation, or as the start of a new conversation. What comes to mind in that regard is Stieglitz. Quoting from Wikipedia
    It was in the catalog for this show that Stieglitz made his famous declaration: "I was born in Hoboken. I am an American. Photography is my passion. The search for Truth my obsession." What is less known is that he conditioned this statement by following it with these words:
    "PLEASE NOTE: In the above STATEMENT the following, fast becoming "obsolete", terms do not appear: ART, SCIENCE, BEAUTY, RELIGION, every ISM, ABSTRACTION, FORM, PLASTICITY, OBJECTIVITY, SUBJECTIVITY, OLD MASTERS, MODERN ART, PSYCHOANALYSIS, AESTHETICS, PICTORIAL PHOTOGRAPHY, DEMOCRACY, CEZANNE, "291", PROHIBITION. The term TRUTH did creep in but it may be kicked out by any one." [24]
    This statement symbolized the dichotomy that Stieglitz embodied. On one hand he was the absolute perfectionist who photographed the same scene over and over until he was satisfied and then used only the finest papers and printing techniques to bring in the image to completion; on the other he completely disdained any attempt to apply artistic terminology to his work, for it would always be that – "work" created from the heart and not "art" created by academicians and others who had to be "trained" to see the beauty in front of them.​
    So I gather that to some extent training is dead weight, but more to the point, I can see where at times the term TRUTH can be seen as always trying to creep into a conversation and I suppose the term Truth SHOULD be kicked out! I hate truth. Why all this framing art in terms of truth? I'm not down with that.
     
  63. I agree and add that it still helps for there to be clarity in the artwork about whether it's impressionism, expressionism, abstraction, etc., or something entirely new, because the work can at least then be understood in context of the ongoing conversation, or as the start of a new conversation.​
    No, no, no! ;)

    What's great about art and about so many of these types of conversations you refer to—whether among folks like you and me or art historians and critics, or curators and museum owners, or artists from decade to decade and century to century—is the LACK of clarity about such things. We never really know for sure just how to categorize it, classify it, or in which (of so many) contexts to see or understand it. That allows the same piece of art to fall into different categories, play different roles in different contexts, change over the centuries, and be and remain alive. Some of my best art experiences have been when I'm really not sure what I'm looking at or listening to and I may well be all over the place in terms of where it actually fits in and whether it even does.
     
  64. I hate categories too. Seems I've been approaching art the way my neighbor deals with his back yard.
     
  65. My first impression of Chicago, and the start of my urban photography passion forty years ago was arriving at Union station in the morning rush hour. An enormous flow of people poured out into the city. I went there last month and took a few hundred frames.
    Among the results there are a couple that seem to feel right, but looking closer they didn’t express what I was feeling. The only way they looked good as traditional b/w images, looked like Metzker, Kline or Sugimoto. I love doing those guys all the time but not this time. I joyously took pictures of half-awake people trudging off to work and got "Urbanism’s deadening effect on the human spirit". I am used to going out at the noon hour and shooting people in line at gourmet food trucks.
    A word about selfies. I had to learn about some of the effects available to smart phones and P&S cams from my 5th grader grandson. Like, “Ken Burnes effect” and “old films”
    He has no idea what they mean but looks cool. What does that tell us about visual sophistication and fluency?
    I agree with Fred G. and those who say selfies are punctuations or gesturing. And they are “real-time”. Forget about reality and meaning. They change with every picture. New forms of expression always arouse and selfies will continue to evolve just like all gestures. The ability to gesture with a camera intrigues me.
    Give a monkey a mirror and what does it do first? It looks at its ass. It knows it has one because all the other monkeys do – but they are not his ass. So just to be sure and self-aware… . My reflection or shadow is commentary about myself. It places me somewhere actual.
    There will be a special selfie app for everyone. – you heard it hear folks!
    00dTSC-558319784.jpg
     
  66. Seems I've been approaching art the way my neighbor deals with his back yard.​
    Don't be hard on yourself. I didn't think you were doing that. A hatchet is kind of an ending. Sharing of thoughts is a beginning. Had you stormed out of the room and deleted this thread from your computer, maybe there would be a comparison. ;)

    Probably should also distinguish between contexts for clarity and veracity. When talking about art and when a curator puts together a show or an art historian writes a book, there's certainly room for clarity and veracity, for categorization, etc. These things often help edify and expand ideas about art. That's different from any need for clarity, veracity, or truth from art itself.

    I saw a show a few years ago about Picasso's influence on Modern American art. There were looser influences and there were very direct instances of influence, homages, mimicking, copying, all by some of the great American artists of the 20th century. The show provided a lot of clarity and put a lot of the American works of art into a significant context. And, of course, that context and what those works communicated in that show and with reference to their roots in Picasso is still only part of the story. The importance of clarity in that particular presentation of the various artworks exists side-by-side with the importance of not tying those works down to such clarity. It's why I think art is served well by seeing it both in terms of communication and expressiveness, the latter having less to do with clarity and truth than the former.
     
  67. By the way . . .
    ANTAGONISM AND RELATIONAL AESTHETICS
    ANTAGONIST MOVEMENT
    And apropos of at least part of our discussion on the individual and art, a bit from the first link (which I haven't yet finished reading).
    " . . . Bourriaud argues that art of the 1990s takes as its theoretical horizon 'the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space'. In other words, relational art works seek to establish intersubjective encounters (be these literal or potential) in which meaning is elaborated collectively rather than in the privatized space of individual consumption. The implication is that this work inverses the goals of Greenbergian modernism. Rather than a discrete, portable, autonomous work of art that transcends its context, relational art is entirely beholden to the contingencies of its environment and audience. Moreover, this audience is envisaged as a community: rather than a one-to-one relationship between work of art and viewer, relational art sets up situations in which viewers are not just addressed as a collective, social entity, but are actually given the wherewithal to create a community, however temporary or utopian this may be."
     
  68. I see your point Phil.
    And Fred, I read the article.
    From Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics linked to by Fred above:
    The interactivity of relational art is therefore superior to optical contemplation of an object, which is assumed to be passive and disengaged, because the work of art is a “social form” capable of producing positive human relationships. As a consequence, the work is automatically political in implication and emancipatory in effect.​
    An example of relational art from artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, a:
    ...hybrid installation performances, in which he cooks vegetable curry or pad thai for people attending the museum or gallery where he has been invited to work.​
    That cooking event together with interactions between artist and people an exhibit of a 'better world' of social harmony.
    Enter 'antagonism' per the author, Claire Bishop:
    If relational aesthetics requires a unified subject as a prerequisite for community-as-togetherness, then Hirschhorn and Sierra provide a mode of artistic experience more adequate to the divided and incomplete subject of today. This relational antagonism would be predicated not on social harmony, but on exposing that which is repressed in sustaining the semblance of this harmony. It would thereby provide a more concrete and polemical grounds for rethinking our relationship to the world and to one other [sic].​
    I see that Nicolas Bourriaud is a curator.
    So I'm tempted to see a Rirkrit Tiravanija as producing art for a curated art world. To do that he relies largely on his own narrative brain and on the narratives of others. Consequently, I see Bishop's endorsement of 'antagonism' as fiddling around with a narrative, adding 'antagonism' to the narrative brain's broth, 'antagonism' being "...that which is repressed in sustaining the semblance of this harmony." I think it's worthwhile of her to wish for relational antagonism as more concrete. I'm not sure how that would look in a thusly more polemical Tiravanija's cooking performance.
    I think Bishop makes some interesting points.
     
  69. "Allen, English is not my native language. Nonetheless it seems possible to understand what is written and try to constructively join the discussion, rather than making some simple snarky remarks that add nothing. Maybe it's not the language skills of the international visitors that are your problem here".Wooter.
    Well, Wooter, have you just promoted yourself to a moderator or just a rude little man? Im entailed to my thoughts and opinions without a rude little man calling me names.
     
  70. Allen, when you accuse someone else in the thread of "talking gibberish" (which is what you did in your first post) you might consider having a thicker skin when you get just the kinds of reactions you deserve. "You can dish it out but can't take it" comes to mind.
     
  71. "You can dish it out but can't take it" comes to mind."
    Of all people you just know that is not true....comes to mind. Okay, he is your mate...but no need to defend him he has his own loose mouth.
    I was making a comment that certain posts were gibberish to my thoughts and perhaps clarity would help overseas members ....Wooter implied I was stupid and being snarky. I responded, as you would, if you were subject to such comments. That simple to understand...sorry, if that has upset you.
     
  72. I have read the whole post with interest...and since I have made that comment folks have been responding in plain English... perhaphs my imagination but that is how I see it.
     
  73. "Let us know when the swelling stops".
    Not sure what you mean, Fred? I suspect, and maybe wrong, you are not being very nice. I forgive you as always. Just being Fred.
     
  74. . "That's a view of our species as in stasis, and the fossil record shows that once a species is physically stable, it is in stasis and that it's only geographical isolation that contributes change"
    The latest research contradicts that statement.
    mentalfloss.com/article/30795/5-signs-humans-are-still-evolving
     
  75. Indeed Allen, I am a rude little man. Well, I'm not a moderator,so given the choices, that's the only remaining option.
     
  76. Allen: "The latest research contradicts that statement."
    Oh Allen you're simply nitpicking. :)
     

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