Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by movingfinger, Jul 15, 2017.
Art is communication. It requires an expected viewer.
Supriyo, I would look at Duchamp as paving the way for some products of artificial intelligence to be accepted as art, in their existence and not just in their being attended to as art.
I think you're right that Duchamp, AT THE TIME, would have said a urinal is elevated to art by the choice of an artist, but he thrust us forward in what we would accept as art and artist, and we've kept moving forward from there.
So, I think it's not quite right to say, as you did, ". . . the urinal became art when Duchamp made an emotional connection to it." No, it became art when he picked it as he maintained emotional indifference toward it, which I think is akin to what the AI machine is doing. AI may be the epitome of the artist who chooses with indifference. Duchamp was trying to undermine the possibility of defining art, so our very conversation might be laughable to him to begin with. But I'd suggest the "randomness" you (or Steve) brought up is one of the things he would not just allow but actually encourage in the world of art. You talked about needing a viewer's emotional connection or else you'd just have "an array of pixels in a sterile world" but I sense the latter was just what Duchamp was moving toward. This idea of "aesthetic indifference" was very important to him. What could be more aesthetically indifferent than a machine? (I suspect in a few more decades, we may find out, at which point we may move on to yet another new iteration of art!) In any case, I see no reason to believe he wouldn't allow the AI machine to stand in for the artist. If you agree that a painting by a painter is art when it's made, I think he would simply invite us to consider the machine as we do the painter. That's what I'm suggesting anyway, even if we don't leave it up to Duchamp to decide.
Art is artifice. It is made. Plato put it down as a cheap imitation of reality, but today we herald it precisely as an apex of human endeavor, as opposed to "natural" occurrence. The "made-ness" of AI (perhaps "ready-made-ness" in Duchamp's terms) seems suited to art. Products of AI have a double layer of artificiality . . . They are made, not naturally-occurring, and they are made by an artificial entity. So, maybe that double layer makes these things made by AI MORE like art rather than less like it!
I don't think so. Art often communicates but I don't think it has to. If there were one woman left on Earth and she spent her day gathering food, cooking it, building a shelter for herself and then at night spent an hour pouring her heart out with paint on a canvas, even knowing no one would ever see it, I think she'd be making art.
I think there's a lot to be said for this idea and it's important but I don't think it's the whole story. It gives too much power to the powers that be and existing institutions if it's made the only thing that determines art. I think there have to be other determining factors allowed to be sufficient at times in the absence of such an art context presentation. I think there has to be room for an individual to make art regardless of context and another person to view it.
Got it! Makes sense.
I agree that intention is important, too, in many cases. But probably not all. I'm not one for fully subjective answers for anything, and would probably find, at least in some cases, more objective characteristics of art than intention to help determine if something is art.
Fred, I respect the contributions of Duchamp and others in revolutionizing the way we approach and going to approach art. I think you make a very good point in referring to Duchamp while discussing machine made art. As I said before, I have difficulties in accepting that art lies in the mere existence of objects, because to me thats opening up a huge floodgate, where anything that ever existed might suddenly qualify as art, the distant galaxy, the planet Saturn with its exquisite rings. I may not be able to open my mind to that concept. May be I am just not yet ready for it.
Duchamp picked objects with aesthetic indifference, aesthetics that was already defined by the establishment, because doing so he thought would lead to more of the same stuff, repetition. I think what he was suggesting was to approach objects without the extra baggage that traps our minds. Taste, he said is the enemy of art. I think this taste is bias that he was recommending not falling for while looking at artifacts. Also, he suggested not to become attached to those objects and love or hate them. But I don't see him asking not to make emotional connections to those objects. Emotional connection doesn't have to be liking or dislike or attachment, it can be a reflection. I think Duchamp showed a lot of emotional connection to his subjects in the form of revolt, irony, sarcasm, humor, metaphor. He famously hanged a math book from the balcony so that the theorems get used to the facts of life. He also cared for his 'readymades'. He inquired about some of them for months to his sister, who had actually thrown them away. All these tell me that Duchamp was far from not establishing emotional connection with his art. What he didn't want to do was look at them with preconceived aesthetics and the associated emotions/biases.
Its intriguing, you see it that way. I see Duchamp's notion of 'aesthetic indifference' as to be free of biases or preconceived notions. He was against both bias in selecting the object and later on being biased by it, as in 'I like it, so lets find or create more of it'. He never asked us not to reflect or make a statement with those objects, all of which are emotional connections to me.
Fred, if you are referring to the AI machine, it produces images based on very well defined rules, that are gleaned from the training photos fed to it. The training photos are selected by a human with personal aesthetic biases, so the photos produced by the AI machine reflect those biases. I would not call it 'aesthetic indifference'. On the other hand, there are machine made art like the Electric Sheep Project, that are produced purely from algorithms that are allowed to evolve in a computer, without much human input. I think, 'aesthetic indifference' might apply to them during creating the works, not selecting the ones for viewing though.
I am very much open to that idea, but I still think the machine is not producing the art, the viewer is, by virtue of his/her emotional connection to the works, and the machine which produced them. Such a viewer needs to have an open mind in treating those works as art, which aligns with your reference to 'aesthetic indifference'.
I am very much open to paradigm shifts in any field, including art. But I also like to define what I am studying in it's present form, because it is a way for me to understand what is what. I like to establish boundaries, because only then I know when I have crossed them into a new paradigm.
Supriyo, we've covered a lot of ground and I think I'll leave things pretty much where they are with some agreements and some disagreements between us, which is probably as it should be. Leaving the conversation a bit open-ended gives room for thought and mulling over the various ideas. Just one thing I wanted to address.
I'm not sure why allowing art to lie in the objects opens more floodgates than allowing it to lie in the emotional connection to a viewer. Can't the viewer be aesthetically connected to anything she chooses, the distant galaxy, the planet Saturn with its exquisite rings? I think there are floodgates either way, and I think not just Duchamp but many more modern and contemporary artists are constantly trying to open up those floodgates. I, too, am not interested in "reducing" art to "It's EVERYTHING!" But I'm not sure it's wise to reign it in only by emotional connection to a viewer. I think there has to be, or at least I'd like there to be, a multiplicity of ways to contain art from losing its meaning. That keeps art on its toes, and it keeps it from being able to be defined by a single criterion, which I think is important. The fact that it can't be limited by a single criterion like "connection to a viewer" shouldn't mean it's everything. It should simply mean we don't outright reject the connection to the viewer, and that we also don't make connection to a viewer the sole factor. There are so many different types of art that I think there probably have to be a variety of criterion. That means that things that are art don't have a singular kind of identity, but are rather in a situation much like family resemblances: differing, but overlapping and loosely defined similarities that can't be judged by a single feature.
They can, and then such objects could be seen as art from that point onwards. What I find hard to accept is that those objects (planets or galaxies) always existed as art, as you posited in one of your previous comments. Accepting that in my view would be akin to opening a floodgate, wherein anything can be proactively called art, because someday someone might find it as so. I respect your views on this, and will leave it at that.
This is where I would bother you, because you sometimes come up with alternative views which may have missed me. What other ways can something be meaningful as art, if the emotional connection aspect is completely absent? In AI art, there is no emotional connection between the art and the creator, but there is connection with the viewer.
I also think disagreements are fine, they are far better than misunderstanding and going round and round. I think I have succeeded in identifying the points of our disagreements, which I consider a success for me. These discussions challenged me and made me think, which is always a welcome exercise for me. Thank you for that.
It seems to me it has to be more than emotional attachment. I am emotionally attached to my children. That doesn't make them art. What is the additional ingredient that makes a painting art? Why is a sculpture art, which I am emotionally attached to, but not my bronze baby shoes, which I'm also emotionally attached to? What is it that makes me attach emotionally as art to one thing vs. another?
I think the answers to these questions often lie in a series or amalgam of all the traditional answers that have been given throughout history: Declaration by the art world or, as Phil said, an object being put into an art context. Beauty. Symbolic form. Expressiveness. A lie that makes us realize truth, according to Picasso, etc. In other words, in defining ways something can be considered art, I'd use a variety of criteria that sometimes don't and sometimes do overlap in various works of art throughout history and according to various definitions throughout the history of art, art theory, and art criticism. I'd include lots of artist's definitions or metaphors, lots of Philosophers' theses, and lots of art historians' and critics' viewpoints. I would not narrow it down to a singular criterion. I think some of the criteria will reside in the objects, some in the viewers, some with the establishment, some in the artists themselves. Not all works of art would have all these criteria. Some would have a singular criterion. Some would have a few, some many, some would have them all, maybe. We would come away with a loose idea of what art is rather than a fixed definition.
Fred, thank you for your response. I really appreciate it.
Experiencing an artwork triggers our imagination and allows us to emotionally connect to the subject of the art. I think that may be different from attachment that we feel for our loved ones or belongings, which are not that much associated with imagination. Yes, one can imagine a story with one's loved one, and that can lead to art, but the original person is not considered art in that case. Nevertheless, I didn't preclude things other than art to not have emotional connection. My question was, if the emotional aspect is completely absent, can such an artifact or object be considered art. In that light, I was proposing the emotional connection as a necessary, but not sufficient criterion for art.
I don't like to define things via singular criteria either, but I believe it is possible to have a fundamental essence of many different criteria. For example, all the different aspects of art that you so nicely brought out do result in emotional feelings. I can't think of a single one of them that doesn't. So, the emotional response or expression seems to be a common essence to all those criteria, when applied to art. However I would like to keep my mind open, because I want to know and understand.
IMO -- Children are the only Art that the majority of the world's people leave behind. All else pales to insignificance beside them.
Supriyo, a quick response before meeting a friend for dinner. Some of the people I know with mental and emotional disabilities respond in very unique ways to art, especially music. I think there can be some pretty strictly intellectual responses on the part of some people to art and I've seen some very instinctual but not necessarily emotional reactions to music. For myself, though perhaps not as extreme, I react much more intellectually than emotionally to MC Escher, more along the lines of how I react to a good Philosophy book than how I react to a painting of Van Gogh. Yet I consider Escher's prints art and don't consider Philosophy books art. That's why I'm hesitant to put too much emphasis on reaction in trying to figure out the art thing. There's a similarity in how I react to Escher and Bach, who's a good musical counterpart to Escher. But much less similarity between Escher and Van Gogh or Escher and Tchaikovsky in terms of reaction for me. So I keep thinking there's something about the work itself of Escher and Tchaikovsky that is more similar and telling of art than my very varied reactions. What is that? No answer here right now. My answer, seriously is to go out and take some pictures and forget about it. Art is the answer to questions about art!
I think children are more significant than art on a great many levels though usually don't care to rate things in order of significance as if life were a Top Ten list. I don't feel the need or desire to classify something as art in order to emphasize its degree of significance. Children are children and at the peak of significance for many people if not most people. They aren't art and they don't need to be seen as art in order to show how significant they are. Just call them children or family and they are plenty significant enough and of more value to most parents than a painting hanging in a museum.
I have found some of the most emotional 'art' installed on the walls of abandoned buildings. Going far and above the typical graffiti sort of illustration--at the level of Banksy and an urban Escher. All in supreme isolation from the public, often in places that are not even visited anymore by any sort of urban crawler. A statement to the transitory also, as eventually these places are demolished by neglect or purpose. Ephemeral and eloquent.
Here I am reminded of the Tibetan Buddhism practice of the 'sand mandala.'
I have to say that this has become a most engaging conversation--when we can post. I had incredible thoughts yesterday--thinking that had the incisiveness of Sartre, the wit of Voltaire, and a healthy twist of Kafka. Could not post due to PN problems. Now swept away, like digital dust in an ethereal wind. So I am left with simple brain farts that I will not belabor except to say that art is art as long as one person appreciates it--even if it is only the artist themselves.
by Linda Pastan
In ethics class so many years ago
our teacher asked this question every fall:
if there were a fire in a museum
which would you save, a Rembrandt painting
or an old woman who hadn’t many
years left anyhow? Restless on hard chairs
caring little for pictures or old age
we’d opt one year for life, the next for art
and always half-heartedly. Sometimes
the woman borrowed my grandmother’s face
leaving her usual kitchen to wander
some drafty, half-imagined museum.
One year, feeling clever, I replied
why not let the woman decide herself?
Linda, the teacher would report, eschews
the burdens of responsibility.
This fall in a real museum I stand
before a real Rembrandt, old woman,
or nearly so, myself. The colors
within this frame are darker than autumn,
darker even than winter — the browns of earth,
though earth’s most radiant elements burn
through the canvas. I know now that woman
and painting and season are almost one
and all beyond saving by children.
Fred, I agree to what you said in your whole comment, but just want to point out that intellectual activity is also associated with emotions like wonder and intrigue, but they are surely different from the emotions I feel from a Renoir or Monet. I understand when you said, your feelings associated with Escher's work is more intellectual. I also get a similar feeling while deriving say, a math equation. Initially, all the algebraic variables are all over the place. As one works down a few steps, suddenly things start to fall in place and the initially chaotic equation settles into to a compact form. There is a whole chapter on mathematical aesthetics, but I am not focusing on the aesthetics of the equation itself, rather on the realization that it can be made into a harmonious compact form. I think, there is aesthetics associated with realization and understanding, even if some of them are mostly left brain activities.
I thought I would just pass along this article from TechRepublic discussing Google's AI technology, that I stumbled upon. If someone already posted this before, my apologies.
Could artificial intelligence disrupt the photography world? - TechRepublic
Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind - BBC News..
Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind - BBC News
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