Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by richard_john_edwards, Aug 2, 2012.
Is nature and art the same thing?
No. Art is a human-centered concept. Nature is what it is, regardless of whether anyone is there to appreciate it or not. It just exists, and sometimes it's downright ugly...
I think there's an interesting and fruitful line of thought here, in fact. I would ask a slightly weaker question, can nature be art?
If you take the position that art requires artistic intent, then "no". Nothing can be art that was not made by an intelligent being, with the intention of it being "art" whatever that means. If you DO take this position, things get a little dicey quickly, and you get some rather weird consequences (cf. Conceptual Art, Found Objects, that sort of thing).
If you take the position that art-ness, whatever that is, lies entirely in the piece itself, then nature could in theory generate art.
I pick up a stone with a pattern in its surface which is powerfully evocative of some emotion, a stone which causes many people to feel a strong sense of something when they view it. I place this stone in a gallery, on a little stand. It powerfully moves the viewers as they pass by it and examine it. It seems that this is art, surely. Nature made the stone, I found it. Is the art in the stone? Or, is the art in my intentional act of picking it up and displaying it?
Neither position is entirely comfortable, is it? Nontheless, the stone moves the people who see it.
Further developing a bit on Andrew's response, and to answer a question with a question: I picked up a rather unspectacular stone on the beach in 1967 and carried it in my pocket until 2011. Over those years the wear of fabric polished it to a beautiful finish, and the colors seemed deepened. When I picked it out of my pocket with change for a purchase in 2011, the clerk said, "What a beautiful stone!" Because I altered the stone by wearing it in my pocket and someone else saw it as beautiful, is it a piece of art, or only a piece of nature?
It is a stone that at least two people think is beautiful.
Art is something more than that, though a beautiful stone can be art.
My answer to the OP: No. Nature and art are not the same thing. A natural object can be art, though it will take more than a store clerk thinking it's beautiful. It will likely take a village and some art experts . . . among other things.
As William said above, nature can be ugly. So can art.
Art is not necessarily in the intent to make art and art doesn't need the maker's intent, though it very often has it. Plenty of artworks have come about without the maker's intention for it to be art.
Art has an aspect of art-ificial. I'd begin an inquiry into the subject of nature being art by looking for artificial impositions (whether by a maker, a finder, or in viewers' minds) on natural things.
All of nature contains art, but it takes an artist to see it and present it to others as art.
David, now that I made a fool of myself, I should at least contribute something to this thread.
I'm assuming the association of art and nature is based on the premise that nature is beautiful, but beneath its grandeur is filled with violence, blood, death and the struggle to survive happening every minute at every level of living things in it. Living to struggle another day is an everyday reality in nature.
I think everyone will agree there is art in nature, but the two are probably not interchangeable.
I will elaborate a little on my thoughts.
If we go back to some of the original art ie cave paintings, the "artists" gathered ochre and other materials and decorated the walls of their caves or rock faces. we now use modified elements to do the same, the canvases are different and the materials vary. Animals can do the same. the bower bird gather items that are blue in colour and decorated its nest with them. there are other examples of animals using natural elements to decorate, so therefore art may not be exclusive to humans. we don't fully understand the intent of the animals who are doing this and we are presumptuous that we are the only creature capable of creativity.
If the presumption is that art is man made because it has will and intent behind it, then some would argue that nature has will and intent behind it as well. this is of course if you believe in the devine, in the creator! It could be argued that the beauty in the universe is an artistic creation made by the creator. It could be argued that humans are simply recreating / copying / interpreting on canvas, film, rock, dance etc what was the original art. ie nature.
Nature in itself is constantly creating, from the changes to living fauna / flora and even sedimentary items as rocks. Is the energy in the universe that drives these changes not then the artist? Just as the energy that lives within us the driving force behind our creativity?after all it is the heat, wind, waves and light that give us the forms we try to interpret and copy in what we call art.
The rock argument above is part of this story.
<<<If the presumption is that art is man made because it has will>>>
I don't think anyone presumed that. I'm certainly an advocate of art being accidental rather than intentional, as I said above.
<<<we are presumptuous that we are the only creature capable of creativity.>>>
I don't think anyone presumed that either. I'm open to the possibility that other animals can produce art.
Using natural substances to create art is different from a natural thing or substance being art and different from, as you said in your OP, nature being the same thing as art.
Using natural substances to create art is different from a natural thing or substance being art and different from, as you said in your OP, nature being the same thing as art.
Fred, If one considers a natural thing being art, then one needs to consider that a natuarl substance made that art in one way or another.
<<<if one considers a natural thing being art, then one needs to consider that a natuarl substance made that art>>>
Richard, I'm not sure I'm following you, though the discussion you've started intrigues me. IMO, if a natural substance such as a rock or a tree or a river is art, it's art because someone points to it as art and people agree that it's art and it has certain effects on us that art has or it's part of a greater concept or performance. I don't quite understand your suggestion of a natural substance making a natural substance art. Doesn't that just lead to an endless loop? Even if not an endless loop of natural substance making natural substance art, I'm still not getting it. Can you explain or give an example of a natural thing that's art because a natural substance made that other natural substance art? If it's the natural substance itself that makes itself art, I'm not sure how that occurs either.
Might art depend as much or more on how we look as it does on what* the thing is? Art may be as much or more a way of looking and appreciating as it is something inherent in an object, natural or otherwise. That's, in part, what I meant above by artificial imposition on a natural object. The river is the river. The artifice is the "persona" we give the river when we look at it. Do we see "beauty"? Do we see a place to spill our toxic chemicals? Do we see a stage on which to set a modern dance? Do we see something to be at one with when we go rafting on its pounding currents?
* Maybe the oft-asked question "What is art?" is simply a bad question to ask or at least a bad way to approach questions about art. "Why" and "how" might give us more clues.
Fred, I am not the best at verbal or written communication, Sorry for that.
What i am trying to say is, if we photograph the rock and we say and agree that the image produced is art. Then can we not say that the rock itself is art? (Nature is art)
What i mean by nature creating the art is, the rock was not always there, it started life out as something else, and over the years developed form, texture or whatever, that made us want to photograph it. Over the years the elements carves away at it changing its form, the rain belted down on it washing away the softer elements of the rock to leave it in its current state. So what i am saying is that the rock being a natural artwork was in fact created by the elements of nature.
2 things at play, the physical element of nature and the forces of nature.
I feel that it is the same with us as humans, we create art (whatever we deem that to be) by using our energy (life forces) to change the physical (canvas, or whatever)
Is it a coincidence that we find all of our emotions in nature? the good the bad the ugly? all of the things that we depict in art, are we just copying the art that was created in nature?
I think this is doing my head in
Thanks. A great and thoughtful explanation. I understand much better and I love where you're headed. The evolving of nature as a creative force or at least analogous to the creative force. Makes sense and gives me pause for more thought.
A couple of things come to mind. I'm going to be a bit contrary here but only to further the discussion along and by way of wondering out loud more than asserting any kind of certainty. There may be more to art than just creativity, though creativity is certainly a prime mover in art. By having intercourse, a very natural thing to do, we, like the wind and rain in the story of rock formation, change things and create children. I'm not sure that's an act of art. It is an act of creation, however. The rock could be similar. It could be more in the way we attend to the rock than in the way the rock was created that art happens. Four previously dull walls in a house get painted a bright yellow color, livening up the room. Act of creation of sorts. Art? Not so much. Some house painters are artists, not just because they create a new look for the walls but because of how they do it, what the result is, how it's looked at, what it makes the viewers feel.
A photo of a rock could be art without the rock being art, though the rock could be art given some sets of circumstances. A photo is different from its subject.
I'm not sure that we find all our emotions in nature. Good, bad, and ugly aren't emotions. Sadness, joy, love, fear, for example, are emotions. We may experience those because of natural occurrences or experiences we have in nature but I don't think we find them IN nature per se.
Art imitates life and that would include nature, so, sure, we may be in part copying the art that was created in nature. But art is also a product of human imagination, both on the creating and on the viewing/listening/appreciating side. Art is as unnatural as it is natural and there may be some keys in just that paradox. Art can be truth through lying (making stuff up, fabricating).
Oh, and about good, bad, and ugly. I don't think they're found in nature. I think they're judgments we make (and maybe, loosely considered, some animals might make). Volcanoes might seem bad when they spew ash on cities or when people get caught in and killed by sudden lava flows. They can seem good in their role in forming land masses, etc. But in and of themselves they are neither good nor bad. It is our judging that sees them that way. Good, bad, and ugly are man-made concepts. We may apply them to a rock but a rock is neither good nor bad. If it hits you in the head, it's bad. If it helps you get your clothes clean because you can whack your wet shirt against it, it's good.
Now, an interesting twist is this. Someone in a recent thread pointed out that we often forget people are part of nature, so "man-made" may be very natural. Why not? Nevertheless, I think we can separate the idea of plastic from the idea of soil.
Poor choices of words form me again, I totally agree, there is no good or bad, there is a relative perspective only. And yes we are part of nature, so is it the artist who is in tune with nature and its forces, and because he / she is in tune is that why they create, choose to emulate? Musician do it all the time, Vivaldi and his four season, Ansel Adams and his connection with the nature of Yosemite. Cartier Bresson and his connection with human life! Many a people wonder at the creations we have made that hang in Galleries, many people who never visit Galleries wonder at the marvels of nature.
As per your previous comment. The act of intercourse that is part of the creative process (creation of life) some may view that act as an act of art? maybe
The ART of Karma Sutra!
I worry about declaring any and every act art. It neuters the concept, IMO.
Sure, Adams photographed Yosemite and Vivaldi wrote The Four Seasons. But there are many composers who didn't model their music after natural occurrences, though various people might hear strains of nature even in works that weren't necessarily intended to mirror it.
And Andy Warhol painted soup cans, very different from the pastoral scenes of Monet.
That people wonder at creations of art and at natural occurrences doesn't mean that natural occurrences are (always or necessarily) art or vice versa. It just means they both inspire wonder and, in that, they are similar (but not identical).
Adams or anyone else bringing a camera into nature instead of just hiking and breathing in the air (or at least in addition to doing those things) is in some sense a very unnatural thing to do, or at least could be seen that way. Sometimes, the imposition of a camera between me and the goings on or people around me seems like a very unnatural and artificial thing to do . . . and that's an aspect of it that I love and explore. Sometime, on the other hand, it seems like second nature to me to take a picture.
"Anything more than 500 yards from the car just isn’t photogenic.” --Edward Weston
Now, I don't know the context in which he said this. I'm sure on some level he was being sarcastic. But knowing his work, I also think Weston made things photogenic and saw things photographically and photogenically. He didn't necessarily need nature or Yosemite or thoughts of the seasons to do it. A porcelain bowl did just fine.
When Prometheus gave fire to man, what did he "give" us?
Freedom from so much chewing? Forest fires? Central heat? A way to keep the beasties at bay at night? He probably gave us a smouldering tree.
One of the core issues in this question is the separation of man from nature. Where can we draw that line? With Lucy? Or is she too ape-ish? With our ancestors before they began doing art? When they began marking long bones with marks tallying something?
Can we separate ourselves and what we do from nature? Or are we, our culture and art a part of it?
I doubt stones in the desert murmur to each other "look at that! Now, there's a work of art".
By my definition, art is stored human psychic energy. It was the first method of storage outside our brains, one that could stand independent of the creator.
Art is one of the ways (others are science and religion, which both to me are the same) humans use to respond to their surroundings; nature is the human's very surroundings. Art is releasing the human hidden inside a piece of rock (nature), as Michelangelo did.
I think that merely observing nature in a way that brings out the beauty is art. Yes, surely, Michelangelo was an artist, but so was Ansel Adams. Ansel selected the perfect subject and then the perspective and exposed and processed to emphasize the dramatic and let us see nature's beauty more clearly.
I always felt Adams was more a supreme technician than an artist. But, my opinion about Adams aside, I understand what you're saying, David, and I think Adams did pay attention in a certain way to his surroundings that's significant. Art, though, IMO, is more than merely observing. Adams took action. He photographed and, as you say, he selected, chose perspective and processed. I don't know if Adams is showing us nature's beauty as much as he is showing us a kind of photographic beauty, even a kind of idealism. I've been to Yosemite many times, and it has a very different kind of beauty than Adams's photos which, to me, don't bring out what I see or feel when I'm there. True, that's the thing about a lot of photographs: though they are often OF something, they just as often transform that something and don't strike me in the same way that the things they are pictures of strike me. The certainly can, but they often don't. And I find Adams particularly distanced from his subject.
<<<science and religion, which both to me are the same>>>
Reminds me of a TV comedian's joke upon hearing right-wingers claim that atheism is just another religion. "Atheism is a religion," he sarcastically jokes, "like abstinence is a sex position."
This seems to be a related question:
Does art exist without an observer? (for whatever definitions you choose to give each of the words in that question)
Andrew, what's the point of your question? It seems like a variation of "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" And we all know how badly that one ends.
I got a lot of squawk a while back when I declared that Nature is culturally defined. I'm sticking to that opinion. It is kind of an aesthetic, push-me, pull you proposition.
It's closely allied to the question of whether nature is, or can be, art. It is very much the analog of the 'if a tree falls' question, but it's about the nature of art (which is rather malleable and obscure) rather than the nature of sound (which is quite well inderstood).
The "tree falls" question is, taken literally, quite stupid. The point of THAT question is to open the mind to the question of what we mean by sound -- if it truly just the vibration of air, or does the word "sound" and the idea of sound have more going on?
My question parses apart some of the same ideas of "art". Is art about the interaction of a viewer with the piece, or does the piece stand alone? If a stone in the forest is to be "art" do we require a viewer? I have already asked the question of whether we require that the rock be selected, picked up, with artistic intent.
These questions are not really answerable. Thinking them through will help one refine one's ideas about what is, and is not, art.
Fred, I like your point that Adams doesn't show you the Yosemite that you see when you go there. He has interpreted for us in a way that all of us don't accept or consider ideal. OTOH, someone might go there today and take Instagram pix and make them look like they were old and faded film pictures from the 1950s and some might think of that as "art." That's likely not your view of Yosemite.
My point is that nature is a subject and artists interpret their subjects differently. Even attempting to capture Yosemite in a very realistic manner is artistic, at least to some degree. Most of us here on Photo.net would chose a pleasing perspective and attempt skillful composition and exposure during "the golden hours." Another "artist" may purposefully break every rule of composition and take a picture in flat, midday light, with no shadows and emphasizing the haze. Strangely, the "unattractive" interpretation might be more "artistic", at least in some circles.
If we follow "rules of composition" (making an example of only one element of art) in a painting or a photographic image, it's "art", at least to a small degree. OTOH, purposefully breaking all the rules of composition is also "art." If my daughter holds up her cell phone and takes a poorly composed picture, without realizing that it's poorly composed, that may not be "art." The line between documentation and art is narrow, but not particularly bright, IMHO.
Andrew, sorry, but I guess that question just doesn't help me much. If it helps you, that's great, though you haven't said how or what your thinking on the subject of observer-artwork is.
[Addition: Don't get me wrong, Andrew, I think the observer-artwork relationship is fascinating and there is much to consider regarding it. It just doesn't help me to consider whether something is or is not art in the absence of an observer. In general, I'm less interested in the question "What is art?" and even less so in the generic and unspecific question of what can be classified as art* than in questions about art that already is . . . or can be.]
* Those are questions more geared to curators than photographers or artists, IMO. I wonder about how different photos work, how aspects of them move us or are seen, stuff like that.
"Does art exist without an observer?"
Perhaps as a wave function?
Reminds me of Garry WInogrand's quote:
"There are no photographs while I'm reloading".
Is nature and art the same thing?God created nature. Man creates art.
Alan - God is created by man; nature by itself.
Firsty, does something need to be viewed in order for it to be art? the idea posed by Andrew
If a stone in the forest is to be "art" do we require a viewer
This is good, is it only art when someone discovers it tells the world and they agree and flock to see it? Can the same be said for a photograph, it is just a photograph untl someone see's it, tells the world and they all flock to see it?
I also like Nozar's point, that god is a creation of man? I would say GOD is an interpetation of man, just as art is an interpretation of man. neither are absolutes.
Lets put aside the GOD aspect for a bit and replece that motion.
The Kabalah and the tree of life talk about the negative veils of existance, something comes from noting, but it must first become concious. a thought, and from that nothingness things materialise, art is the same. 1,000,000 years ago the statue of David was not even a thought let alone its creators existance, but some how Leonardi hada thought and creation of the art then took place. that can be attributed to the creation of Nature as well.
I am not saying all Nature is art, just as i am not saying all Photo's Paintings Sculptures are art. but some of those do shine through as art, as do some wonders of nature for me, whoever or whatever the creator of those spaces was. They are now there for us to interperet.
Whatever or whoever or however nature was created, it's not art by any definition I am aware. On the other hand, however you describe art, the definition includes it being created by humans.
What is nature?
Lukas asks, "What is nature?" I'll answer to what I believe many people intuitively feel 'nature' to be. I think that it 'feels' like the ocean; they can see what's on the surface, but it grades into the ever-less-known and ultimately into the completely unfathomable unknown/unknowable.
To borrow from Blanchot (with a nod to Andrew Molitor's questions of yesterday), the unknown "does not belong to light, but rather to a region "foreign" to the disclosure that is accomplished in and through light. The unknown does not fail before a gaze, yet it is not hidden from it: neither visible nor invisible, or, more precisely, turning itself away from every visible and every invisible."
... and/but also, continuing from Blanchot, "How can we live without the unknown before us?"... there is something that summons us; a difficulty that, holding us in its sight, nonetheless steals away in a nearly reassuring form. It has to be sought." -- and -- "[T]o live 'authentically,' 'poetically,' is to have a relation with the unknown as such, and thus to put at the center of one's life this-the-unknown that does not allow one to live ahead of oneself ... "
In my opinion, art is inextricably entangled, rooted-in, continuous-with, a-consequence-of, cannot-be-without this originary "unknown" (that, by definition, as Blanchot points out, can't be known (duh!): "This relation will not consist in an unveiling. The unknown will not be revealed, but indicated.").
Asking whether or not art "is" nature seems to me to be like asking if the man "is" the seed or egg or embryo or infant, etc. of his origins.
Western thought (originated from the Greek), and especially mixed with today's need of Capitalism (economy), tends to transfigure aspects into "things" in order to "have", wherein ownership is the cornerstone (of economy.) One is more inclined to say "I have an idea" instead of "I think". Eric Fromm (in his book “To Have or Not to Have) says we have forgotten that Love is a verb and not a noun (to love, rather than, to be in love). And Steichen says (in: ON PHOTOGRAPHY):"The use of the term art medium is, to say the least, misleading, for it is the artist that creates a work of art, not the medium." If we approach the topic of this forum as what the artist does (as opposed to what art is), then there is no need, any more, to try attributing it to humans; it already is. Same is to use religious versus religion that automatically reveals that it is God that was originated in human, not the other way around.
<<<I think that it 'feels' like the ocean; they can see what's on the surface, but it grades into the ever-less-known and ultimately into the completely unfathomable unknown/unknowable.>>>
I think this describes not only nature but just about every phenomenon we experience. Is there something beyond the surface? It's the old appearance/reality saw. What you see isn't what you get. You see another person. You see the outside and wonder what's "within." Remember all the discussions here about essence? You work on your computer every day. You marvel at how it does its thing yet all you seem to come in contact with is its results and the screen you look at.
Good segue to photography. (This is the Philosophy of Photography forum, right?)
Portrait. Does it show me the person? A likeness of the person? The essence of the person? Remember Avedon? [“My photographs don’t go below the surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues.”]
Picture of a sunset. Is it limited to "representing" sunset? Is it like a xerox copy? Does it look just like the sunset I saw that day? Does it feel like it? Does the photo transcend the sunset? Transform it?
Is a photo always a photo OF something just because it appears to be a photo of that thing?
Nozar, very nice addition: the artist.
Do we talk more like viewers here or photographers?
Maybe all the world (nature? -- no one has said what is NOT nature) is a photographic stage? Not a thing to make photos OF but a platform on which to act, on which TO BE a photographer.
Before humankind were there to admire it, was nature art then? Or does art need an appreciative audience? I believe we have almost got back to Bishop Berkeley.
Colin, it's more fun to do that question spatially than temporally. Take the Mona Lisa, put her (it) in a spaceship and send it away at warp speed. At what distance from its audience does it stop being art? 100 light years? 1000 light years? If we find the exact distance where it stops being art and wobble it back and forth, is it art/not-art/art/not-art forever?
There needs to be a "What is art?" clearinghouse. No matter what the OP, mention "art" and the same old comments (including my own) pop up.
If one or many are making the same old comments, it's their own fault (fault is probably too strong, habit might be better) and not the fault of the subject matter or the word art. Think more and differently and one's comments may start to vary and expand. Enter into a discussion with others instead of posting an occasional quick snippet or an overall assessment of the thread and one's thinking on the subject might move forward as it interacts with the thoughts of others, and becomes a construction rather than a debate or series of one-liners. There have been many good ideas and questions presented here by several posters, any one of which could be picked up on, mulled over, expanded and built upon . . . if one just puts in the time and energy.
OK here's a divergent thought:
Instinctive awareness of species-relevant "signs" is fundamental to all living things. The curious thing is that a type of sophistication and subtlety that requires close observance and training that we call "art", is evident in the earliest humans. Some here have speculated that these expressive skills and sensibilities evolved by natural selection. It is interesting to wonder where "art appreciation" might plausibly lie on the evolutionary record.
FG "Maybe all the world (nature? -- no one has said what is NOT nature) is a photographic stage? Not a thing to make photos OF but a platform on which to act, on which TO BE a photographer."
What is not nature for me is culture. Art is culture. Photographing objects found in nature, (created by nature) is culture. Creating art is mankind's cultural nature. Finding/labeling art in nature is a human response. Art exists by and for humans. Did nature have a hand in bringing us to this motivation ... maybe but right now i think not. Will it become significant for nature? Is it significant for nature...? maybe via resources and environmental impact yada.
Art is significant to human beings.
Nature does not make art, we do with are intent and labels. Art and nature may be often weaved together in human terms but is art and nature the same thing. Not for me. imo. God and art and love have more in common than art and nature.
I do find an interesting 'comparison' when i ponder the way i create art and the way nature creates. but that is my projection.
God and art and love have more in common than art and nature.Of course. Art comes from the heart, the soul. Although art like nature has form, it transcends the physical. It's spiritual and mysterious which is why we have trouble defining it. It has no aesthetic value unless man witnesses it.
Here's a throwback thought (well throwback to the neoclassicism of the 18th century).
Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism actually addressed poetry as a specific art form -- and even more specifically, Wit, as an aspect of poetry, but his comment has resonated for me over the decades: he sees art as nature presented with her best face forward.
And I will bet many of us nature photographers do this regularly!
True Wit is Nature to advantage dress'd,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd;
Of course the romantic movement put an end to that notion!
(From the same Essay on Criticism comes one of my very favorite Pope quotes:
A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Art created by animals or plants or even non-living physical nature (lava flows, erupting mountain ranges, cloud formations, etc.) can only be art in the mind of humans (independent of "soul" or "heart" which are only metaphors for mind), until of course we can eventually find conclusive evidence that the contributing elements of art are understood by and appreciated by one or two species of animals.
If nature therefore somehow "creates" physical things we consider as art, then it is simply we who are creating art from the nature's subject matter.
I disagree with the argument that art is sometimes not being motivated/created by the human. Yes, it can be the result of accidents, as has been mentioned, but the recognition of the happy accident and the desire to present it as art, is uniquely human motivated.
Nature is nature, but it's also an incredible source of subject matter and inspiration for art by the human observer and artist.
Art is a a human activity and product, even if the human does little but detect and interpret something in nature that then becomes art in the mind of the human.
J.D., I think talking about art as cultural is extremely important. You actually take the notion of the importance of the artist and expand it beyond the individual. Culture is a communal affair as is, IMO, art. Yes, of course, art is very personal, but part of its power and its nature (pun intended) is to be shared and to draw on signs and symbols that are often culturally based and understood, culture extending from much smaller communities to much more global communities.
Yes, neither art nor culture are nature. Neither is plastic or styrofoam by the way.
The question "What is art?" can be taken more than one way. Two of them that seem relevant are 1) What things do we classify as art, and 2) What do we mean when we say "art"?
The first is about which individuals get to be part of the group. The second, which seems more significant, is about understanding the group and experiencing the whole as something greater than the sum of the parts. Culture is a whole whose sum, too, is greater than the number of individuals that make up the community. And it is very much man-made. It is also fluid rather than fixed.
Some posts back, I asked "what is nature?".
Let me first state that I am new to this forum, and I am quite intrigued by some of the answers.
Julie Heyward, if you read this, could you provide the reference from where you got those quotations of Blanchot? I find similar thoughts elsewhere in French philosophy, particularly with Levinas.
Nature versus culture - yes, certainly, that is what we all think. But could I make the proposal that the way we think about nature is a cultural concept (Bruno Latour writes this, but I think he flocks a dead horse)?
The way nature is looked at particularly in the US-American photographic tradition I would characterize as "wilderness", which is interpreted as an realm of pristine beauty and drama. People trek into Yellowstone and god knows where else in order to photograph rock formations, rivers and streamlets, forests, trees, places which preferably show no human intervention (well, often, not always). This idea has indeed, as far as I can see, helped to form a US idea of landscape - Adams and the Sierra-club (is this the right term, I forgot) were instrumental to this. This has formed an idea of how people in the USA see their own country, something over and beyond the suburbs, cities, cars, smoke, silicon valley, something like paradise. (I am a native to Germany, and we have a similar obsession with forests which I am able to detect already when looking at 15th century Danube school paintings (Altdorfer and others).) It is a fall-back to all those ideas about technical advance, progress, fashion, and so on.
About art, finally: I don't think that nature is art, of course, nor do I think that these two ideas are intrinsically related or dependent on each other - nature is for me a cultural concept art busies itself with.
The question "What is art?" can be taken more than one way. Two of them that seem relevant are 1) What things do we classify as art, and 2) What do we mean when we say "art"?Thanks in part to artists like Duchamp, Warhol some now have the idea that anything can be made into or recognized as art (I also think photography has played a role in this preception) -While that has some truth and imo much misunderstanding... what is most significant to me is the high degree of need and significance art has to human beings. That is the only 'essence' I have discovered in art. If ever there was there is no longer A definition of art.
"wilderness" for Lukas. "nature is for me a cultural concept art busies itself with."
I think most here are thinking of nature as much more and less than landscapes.
Ths may add to this discusion,
I found the comment about art requiring a viewer, and if the monalisa was sent into space without a viewer, when does it cease beng art.
Lukas, if you wanted to provoke me, your "nature is for me a cultural concept art busies itself with" has done the trick nicely. As if the infinite darkness that is "nature" could be encompassed by the pinprick of light that is the "cultural" and the puny confines of "concept." Far better to say that culture is something that nature plays with than vice versa. As to what art does ("busies" makes me think of making widgets in the widget factory; one does not "busy" oneself with nature and nature doesn't "busy" itself with us except when it steps on us because it didn't notice we were/are there).
I need another quote to try suggest how this kind of argument matters to the idea of art. From Niklas Luhmann's book on art, this: "Being two-sided, a form presupposes the simultaneous presence of both sides. One side, taken by itself, is not a side. A form without another side dissolves into the unmarked state; hence it cannot be observed. Yet, the two sides are not equivalent. The "mark" indicates this. That asymmetry is difficult to interpret, particularly if one wants to give it a very general meaning. But this much is clear: only one side of a distinction can be indicated at any given time; indicating both sides at once dissolves the distinction." Sounds stupidly obvious, but the point is that there is always, necessarily, an "other side" and that "other side" that is not perceived.
Therefore, to the argument that art is necessarily man-made or man-motivated, etc. I would say, yes it is but the *necessary* "outside" of the best art is the unknown encompassed by "nature" (think about the expression "expanding the envelope"). It's not the made-ness that makes art special (we make stuff ad nauseum). It's the almost-NOT-made-ness of it. The one-man at one-time, just-barely got it-ness of the thing. The visceral awareness in the audience of the closeness of his/her return from mother darkness, the smell of strange blood, the howling at the just-slammed gates of the out-there of nature.
It's not that art is man-made that makes it art -- it's that it's *this close* (I dare you to get closer!) to being not-made. One slip of the brush, one moment's difference with the camera, etc. etc. And it is nature (Blanchot's "unknown") that is this necessary and defining un-made "other side." Remember Luhmann; you cannot have one side without the other, therefore ...
For Richard John Edwards (responding to his linked article) and to Alan Zinn, a poem (thank you for the excuse to post this):
by Alan Shapiro
proceeds by chance
creatures who demand
Lukas, the Blanchot quote is from The Infinite Conversation, section III of part III ('René Char and the Thought of the Neutral')
Jd.Wood, yes, I also think that the way the term is used in these days, there is no more one definition of art, but it rather comprises a number of concepts related to each other in the fashion of resemblances within a family.
With regard to nature being more than landscapes: of course. However, I think the notion of landscape looms large in the US tradition (not only there, of course, but particularly in the photographic one), and I strongly suspect that it inspired the very initial question of this thread.
Art requiring a viewer; Richard, thanks for the link, that was interesting. I don't think the the topic is so new, however. The art of creating gardens comes to my mind (I love Baroque gardens).
But I do not think at all that art requires a viewer. I find this argument similar to another one I have often heard, particularly with regard to the above mentioned continuing confusion about what constitutes modern art: art is what sells as art. If that were true, then van Gogh's paintings would not have been art in his lifetime. (They also did not find viewers, apart from Gauguin and a few other such weirdos.)
You find a treasure in the earth, a decorated Celtic war shield, let's say, or salvage some Kwakiutl bronze plate from the ocean where it was dumped in during some Potlach. That had not been art until it was discovered?
Much of Kafka's work would have been destroyed if Max Brod would have listened to him. I am also thinking of outsider art: people who produce things not for others, but just for themselves. Miroslav Tichy in Photography. And there are others, more extreme loners.
If anything, art constitutes a gesture, an intention.
Of yes, on a more narrow, modern definition of art: I very much remember the discussion in the 90ties about whether the work of Norman Rockwell would constitute art, or only mere illustration (such a distinction does not make sense to me at all, but is very common in the contemporary art world).
Lukas, You take home the Gold!
" Nature is for me a cultural concept art busies itself with."
<<<You find a treasure in the earth, a decorated Celtic war shield, let's say, or salvage some Kwakiutl bronze plate from the ocean where it was dumped in during some Potlach. That had not been art until it was discovered?>>>
A way one could re-word the first phrase is, "You find a decorated Celtic war shield in the earth and designate it a treasure." The designation includes retroactivity. We don't say it started being art when we discovered it. We think of it as always having been art. We can do that. Because it is we who are now thinking of it that way. Up until now (since we hadn't yet discovered it) we weren't thinking of it at all. There is nothing VALUABLE about a diamond in itself. To nature (whatever that means), it has no value, it just is. It has value to humans.
Art, like culture, is fluid. What we think of as art changes and we can change it retroactively. Many paintings were not recognized as art in their times and yet we consider them art and we consider them to have been unrecognized works of art in their own times, not to have suddenly become art when we recognized them. But we are still conferring that status on the past. We say "It IS art." And that would seem eternal. But what we can only be saying when we say that is "We now recognize or designate this thing as art and as having been art from the inception."
J.D. brings up an interesting twist in mentioning Duchamp. Duchamp realized this fluidity and so he was able to designate the urinal as art, calling it Fountain, and put into question what this art-ness was. Was the urinal art before he displayed it in the museum, before he declared it to be so? Or was it just something to piss in? And he would have been savvy enough to know that many WOULDN'T accept it as art, as they had been accepting the Mona Lisa, for example. So he made art a question more than an answer, and it is those who seek fixed and definite answers regarding art who will often come up with the short end of the stick.
If Van Gogh's paintings would not have been seen as art in his lifetime then, from the perspective of those in his lifetime, they were not art. From our perspective, they not only are but they were art, though unrecognized at the time. That's the nature of art, culture, and time. Why do we need to simplify this situation and say, "Well, these paintings are either art or they are not art!"
The word "art" and language in general is USED, not defined as fixedly and strictly as some would like it to be. The same philosopher who talked about family resemblances talked about language games and words being used according to situation and at least tacit agreement by various groups of users. "What is art?" sounds like but is not a metaphysical question.
J.D. Gets the Silver.
"If ever there was there is no longer A definition of art."Aesthetics is the tail-chase that seeks essential qualities for art. The world is far too complex now for that.
<<<Aesthetics is the tail-chase that seeks essential qualities for art.>>>
No it's not. Essential qualities, for many philosophers and philosophers of aesthetics, kind of went out the door in the middle of the 20th Century.
And, are you seriously coming around awarding medals here?
Making & Effacing Art by Philip Fisher talks about appropriating non-art cultural objects. It fills out the arguments we've been struggling with perfectly.
Another excellent book is "After the end of Art -- Contemporary Art and the Pale of History." by Aurthur C. Danto. He talks about an art world where "everything is permitted."
Aesthetic philosophy may have given up on essentialism in the academic world (Danto alludes to this) but it is deeply embedded in popular thought and most certainly here! BTW there is a type of evolutionary aesthetics that seeks essential behaviors. I proposed that we look into that earlier but there have been few takers - Julie gets a Bronze for the poem though.
Yes, I'm awarding medals today. Ribbons seem kind of "state fair."
"....and if the Mona Lisa was sent into space without a viewer, when does it cease being art?"Richard, I would say "immediately", as you have subtracted humans from the equation. However, perhaps one would only say that it is simply "latent" in the context of art and not simply an object, and waiting for a viewer (unlikely in space, at least in our lifetime) to qualify it as art or not.
Whow! Discussion moves fast here!
Julie, trust me, I did not mean to provoke you, at least not in a negative sense. Nature plays with culture, fine, I can agree with that, from a certain point of view, within a certain terminology we use. I also do not think it necessarily contradicts what I said either.
Let me try to elucidate: when I said that nature is a cultural concept, I should have said that I think culture is a cultural concept, too. Now, if one uses this terminology, if one thinks in terms of this opposition, nature - culture, body - mind, material - immaterial, subject - object, action - thought, fact - idea, then yes, culture is likely to be seen as something crafted on nature (life, history of the earth, evolution), as a form of superstructure. But all these oppositions emerged in the Western tradition of thought and cast a particular view on reality, provide a particular access. That is, they are not necessarily inscribed into reality itself, but provide our link to it. And I think it does make sense to think about that link itself, also very much with respect to what might be art.
The importance of the unknown you highlight is indeed paramount, also in the sense of a close shave of what might have been. I personally just would prefer not to refer to the unknown as nature, but just as the unknown, or the other possibility, the beyond.
Fred, I give you that your formulation certainly clears a misunderstanding. Yes, the shield becomes a treasure only once I treat it as such. But for me, it has always been art, or better, included the aspect of art - for it is also a weapon.
You have got a point with Duchamp, though. Let me just do some road clearing here: the term "art", according to my understanding, is in the contemporary discourse used in two different ways: once as the art world uses it in difference to functional issues, art in difference to functionality, artisanship. The debate about Rockwell was hinged on that. The other use is much wider, encompasses anything aesthetic, ornamental, whatever. This is the way an archaeologist handles the term when he calls cave paintings art, the Kwakiutl copper plate or the mentioned Celtic shield. Some other hypothetical archeologist in the future would find it mighty difficult to interpret Duchamp's urinoir as art. It becomes art only (does it really? well yes, I think so, in a way) through Duchamp's intention, his decided effort to show that anything can be art if you treat it this way. You therefore certainly need to know the cultural context to determine whether this is art or not.
Be that as it may, the future archaeologist is, however, just not able to interpret properly in front of him, just as the proper meaning of cave paintings is hidden from us, and we cannot read the Indus valley script. Duchamp's intention will be in future also what is was in 1916 - or whenever he did what he did - even if you will need a time machine to verify.
Alan, thanks for the gold from your side, I take that as a compliment, but I don't think I really deserve it. Anyway, I like this discussion. Happy to have got myself registered.
Apart from its quite different biological context/definition, anthropologically derived or philosophically derived cultures are relative things and relate to the distinctive behaviour of two or more groups or two or more individuals. In the 18th through much of the 20th centuries, culture seems to have been a chosen parameter to simply describe the goal and benefits of better personal education and experience, although an anthropological and philosophical definition, as currently acknowledged, is to me much more pertinent. These cultures are not part of nature, but only a human response to either nature, the man made world, or to things that exist only in the imagination.
Although material in substance (a photo, a painting, a sculpture, poetry, music), art is only the product of the mind of the artist and the viewer or listener. Nature is distinct from that and simply serves as a material stimulus for creation. If nature didn’t exist, man would find another substitute to inspire his art. He does that in one way at least, in deriving/conceiving art entirely from within his imagination and without material (animate or inanimate) support. The material called a work of art is more important to art than nature (which is a subject matter for the artist, creatively inert as such), as it makes the art communication palpable to others. Once the communication of artist and viewer is consummated, it too becomes secondary. I ignore some of my prints only to return much later to view them on a wall and re-communicate with their meaning. In some ways, art survives in the mind without the need for the material art object. Conversely, like unseen trees in a forest, the work of art (having previously been so-labelled by the creator or one or more viewers) that sits unseen in an attic or on an ignored wall (museum, house, etc.) can have reduced or no art value/effect, until seen for the first time, or re-seen. Art exists and works in the mind. Unless the definition of nature takes in the mind of man, nature plays but a tiny role in all that.
Art is a component part of a culture, whereas nature is a component part of the physical and biological universe, a material that has no purpose-role in art until used or adapted or perceived by man, as one of his subject matters for his creative thoughts.
I think I see it somewhat differently from Arthur. The intermingling of the mind, soul, heart, gut, and creativity of the artist with his or her materials seems to be of the utmost importance . . . in at least a whole lot of cases. The materials aren't often just a means to an end or a tool. They can be an inspiration and the art itself can comment on, play with, be dependent on, be symbiotic with, move ahead of while attending to, be unique to, those materials. Artists get their hands dirty in addition to utilizing or exciting their minds. They construct very much in the physical world even while, in many senses, transcending it. In order to transcend they are first grounded in it. A sculpture, for example, can be TOUCHED in addition to being FELT or understood. It is tactile, physical. A photograph is visual, seen, a print can be held, hung, ripped, frayed, yellowed with time. The idea, the mental, can often be rather secondary to the unfettered physical reaction, or they can certainly go hand in hand. Yes, sometimes the mental or emotional will predominate. Depends on the art and depends on the viewer or listener. But I tend to think of a lot of art in very physical and material terms.
Fred, I don't think we are in disagreement at all. I agree with much of what you say, but my point is not that the artist does not have those connections/responses, but simply that all that is human inspired and felt. The idea that nature itself is art, or creates art, is the point that I was rejecting. Anthropological and philosophical cultures are independent of nature and are in the mind of man. Nature is simply one major source of subject matter for the artist, with art being created in the mind (even accidents need to be recognised in the mind - they become art only then).
Ahh, I see, Arthur. Thanks. It was that line "art is only the product of the mind of the artist and the viewer or listener" that got me. But I better understand now the context in which you said it. It wasn't so much to differentiate it from the physical or material as much as to say that there is no INHERENCY to objects being considered art. It takes a maker's or a finder's or a pointer's or a viewer's or listener's intent (and culture) to make it art. Hope I've stated that in a manner consistent with your views.
Just a followup to the material/mental issue, as well, which is to say that I try to keep in mind that the mental IS material, despite a long tradition of Western thought which has told us otherwise and a language which makes a non-dichotomous approach a little tough, and so there is a sense in which the mental and emotional and the physical or material are one when it comes to art and really anything else.
"In space nobody can see you look enigmatic."
Distancing art from our time -- a Paleolithic person, 40,000 years ago would be, like us, charmed by La Giaconda and yet, even back then, familiar with its naturalism. Leonardo would, without doubt, have been extremely pleased and impressed by their cave drawings. Picasso grew up seeing paleo art in Spain and was not shy about "borrowing" it. Whatever art is it must include the close affinity of these historical extremes.
If you haven't seen Herzog's film The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, you must see it. It will enhance your thinking about the nature of art.
The current NYT book review features "The Storytelling Animal" by Jonathan Gottschall. Among the many interesting things he has to say about the storytelling mind is that we spend more time "in our heads" authoring story vignettes and imaginary scenarios than we do confronting the external world. If his analysis includes mental illustrations - I haven't read the book - it is reasonable to imagine that the visual art of the internal dialog might have some cultural, AND universal, as well as personal psychological visual aesthetic. Then it follows that we are, as a species, mentally "built" to be artistically inclined. Taking that a bit further -- we as photographers spend our time illustrating our internal dialogs. Several of us here have, more-or less, said that.
I think Art is just part of human existence (culture), it seems to me that since the dawn of time humans have been depicting life and the world around them in some form of artistic interpretation. even primitive man.
I would still like to hear some more on the concept of nature being art from the position that nature itself is created (i don't subscribe to the notion that it just is). it has an audience. Could it be that the nature having been created and art having been created and both having audiences are one and the same. does it have to be man made to be art? does it have to be appreciated by man to be art. Who says that humans are the only ones who appreciate it? the fact that so many animals share so much of our DNA would make us have to think that they to can, they share the life force we share, they live they feel they interact is social groups. Perhaps they appreciate the art as nature and don't feel the need to create interpretations of the world around them as we do, and why do we do that? some of us don't, some just travel and marvel at nature. the natural canvas ever changing, like the works of art on the gallery walls.
Who says that humans are the only ones who appreciate it?http://www.aaanything.net/wp-content/gallery/photography-and-nature/dog_watching_sunset.jpg
The universe is nature and what little we know about it is astounding. Our knowledge of it is always evolving (Maybe there will someday be a limit to that knowledge, or to human comprehension of what is the universe). Creations within the universe, and just within our own planet are also astounding, including the equilibrium between the molten mass of material that is the centre of our planet and its solid crust, the gravity that allows us to fix ourselves to this rapidly rotating object, the incredible sequence of events that created life from basic through more complex forms and the unexpected creation of oxygen from sea altering matter and the eventual development of the human species with the creation/evolution of that complex thing that is our brain. The completely ice covered planet may well have been the final result. All that and more is reason for wonder and appreciation of that natural process, whether it may be ascribed to religious origins or to parameters that science is only beginning to suggest as causal. Whatever it is, it is largely outside of the hands of man.
There is beauty and enigma in the processes of nature and in a lesser degree in some of its visual manifestations that we are aware of. Does that make it art? If it were the product of man, then perhaps it would easily fit the definition of art. Not being the product of human creation, as is art, I would suggest that we choose a different category to qualify the beauties and mysteries of nature. Perhaps nature is reason, or the process of reason, coupled by that equally undefinable thing called time and underscored (in the human mind) by the laws of thermodynamics, entropy, quantum and more advanced physics, biology, and other processes which replaced earth-air-fire- and water. But if the universe and nature have a mind (or is a product of some unknown mind), that is foreign to us and not easily within our grasp. As rather lowly humans we can be content to exercise our creativity with our own minds, including the activity of art.
I think the answer to what i posed may lie in what the definition of Art is, since there is no one agreed definition then we must open up to the possibilities of my Nature as being art. As humans we have coined these words, we have created little boxes to place things into that match our words. The issue is that when things become more complex and less definitive we struggle, yet we are quick to dismiss. ie God. Art, even Science. Exploring the possibility the the only true art is Nature and that humans merely try to copy that art could be the answer. As i Alluded to before Cosmic forces weather intelligent or just random have created the wonderful universe including us, if intelligent, is this creation their masterpiece?
I think intent is part of the equation that we label as art.. If not then maybe everything created/manipulated is art, good and bad art. I think the why we create is significant. I don't think of nature as having intent.
Intent to create for the purpose of satisfying a need to express a personal view or interpretation of what it is to be human. reflection. That is why art is special imo. I see nature as unintentionally reflexive maybe... no plan no feeling no passion no intent no accidents no consciousness no art until we step in.
if the monalisa was sent into space without a viewer, when does it cease beng art.
? never I think. till humankind no longer exists … why? intent.
If it was chosen because it is art so it remains art. open to interpretation and labelling at it's next encounter. Like the example Richard introduced "If we go back to some of the original art ie cave paintings, the "artists" gathered ochre and other materials and decorated the walls of their caves or rock faces" A teaching tool, a document, a way to communicate basic needs. boh? or perhaps it was it art at origin?
Did anyone hear the NPR program on the color blue? as the last color to be labelled in most cultures. Fascinating little story concerning that lack of color description of the sky until the color blue was labelled much later than others. They just didn't write about it with a descriptive color even though colors were used freely to write about other things.
I think art is of our making and fulfills our needs. Of course this is based on my nominal definition of art. Among other things It is more than creation and sentient. Not to say that we cannot project art in natures processes and works. And depending on the nature or character/context of the conversation at hand I would also propose that nature is the greatest artist Ever. or maybe the ultimate master craftsmen. .. but it was not art nature was creating nature created and we made it into art even if only touched by our words not our hands.
BTW what do pro philosophers do in the face of elusive definition or no definition. ?
Arthur & Richard you were posting while i was squeezing words out of my head. ouch.
<<<BTW what do pro philosophers do in the face of elusive definition or no definition. ?>>>
They discuss things as we are discussing them here, agree not to pin them down, find side roads to go down, connecting webs of ideas, loose terminology in some cases. Sometimes talk more about what something is NOT than what it is. Sometimes use what they know are tentative and unworkable definitions in order to find common ground, common aspects, overlaps of ideas. With contemporary aesthetics, for instance, a lot of writers and books are collections of essays that cover a wide variety of historical definitions, art as representation, art as catharsis, art as beauty, art as a product of the art world, art as what sells, art as symbolic form, art as expressive, etc. and then show why all of them have some merit, all of them apply to some aspect of art and inform us about art, but ultimately why none of them really works as a final definition. Often end with questions rather than answers.
Me, I chose to get closer to art by becoming a musician then a photographer and set philosophy aside because I got frustrated with thinking about it and felt there was more to be had from and more to be understood by doing it. It seemed to work.
That leads me to something I wanted to say by way of response to Alan's last point, which really hit home for me, the internal dialogue stuff. I understand and can relate and feel that way myself often. But, for me, there's a twist to it. I actually do photography and did music, in great part, to turn that internal dialogue off. STOP THE VOICES! Seriously. I needed to project outward more, stop reflecting and self reflecting, stop the voice and meta voice. And doing music and now especially photography allows me release from that dialogue, which seemed to come in the form of intellectual verbalization for me, at least. Art allows me to let go more, to forget, to be more physical and emotional even if still talkative. It's a release from that dialogue.
"Sing out, Louise!"
Fred, how true that is for so many of us "artists" "musicians"
« Le monde est bleu comme une orange » (Paul Eluard)Art is a human creation. Nature, for all its beauty, has little desire or need to consider the world a blue orange. It's process and reason and creations are impressive to behold, but not art.
<<<since there is no one agreed definition then we must open up to the possibilities of my Nature as being art.>>>
It is certainly interesting to consider, and there is much to be gained from, this discussion which your proposal began. But it is possible to establish or at least to suggest there is no agreed or singular fixed definition of art without opening ourselves to every possibility. Surely, though we won't specifically define art in positive terms, we may be able to suggest some things that art is not. Example: we may not be able precisely to define what love is yet I'm pretty sure it's not hate. We can exclude the possibility that nature is art (or at least many of us can) while simultaneously saying we do not want to pin it down to one and only one specific definition. While some art, for example, is frightful, art is not fear. While some art is ugly, art is not the ugly. While some natural objects have been declared to be art, art (IMO) is not nature. Art may be in some ways like nature, it may in some ways or in some sense be created like nature is created, it may in some ways and in some senses make us feel as nature makes us feel. None of that tells me that art is nature. It's kind of like marriage not being love and psychology not being consciousness.
Fred, I may be coming from this from an angle that has not yet been understood, or not well communicated on my behalf. Let me try:
If we can agree that all life has some sort of energy that drives it (keeps it in motion, gives it LIFE) when i say life i don't necessarily refer to living, ie a rock is bound by energy as is the planet, the solar system etc.
If that energy is universal , we could conclude that the energy is one, we could conclude that as individuals we are also one. the notion of the the center is everywhere, yet the circumference is no where.
Here is the bit i am trying to get through. if that same energy created what we call Nature, including us humans, and us as humans create art inspired by nature (i use the term nature as everything in the universe, living or not that is not in itself man made), then why cant we deduce that nature then by definition of something that has had an external element / energy create it, not also be considered art? do we know that the creator of all things in life weather it be deemed god, science, big bang or whatever does not have consciousnesses? did not have intent? did not want us to be inspired to mimic copy and photograph? why should we limit our response to only view it from a human perspective.
To take your view that love is not hate, I would argue they are the same, just different perspectives of the one emotion. relationships that are built on love descend into hate so often, yet strangely love still remains.
I get a very strong sense that most commentators take the view that nature is nature and nature inspires art, I understand that, I am suggesting that even though art is expressly human in how its defined, how its created and is considered a human social and cultural trait. maybe its a narrow viewpoint. maybe nature is the only true art. perhaps we as humans are living art on the worlds canvas.
Someone once said, all the worlds a stage and we are merely players. Perhaps I am saying all the worlds a canvas we are merely models.
j.d. wood >>> "intent ..."
Intent = superstition.
<<<Intent = superstition.>>>
I would find it so helpful if something like this were explained, rather than simply declared.
+ 1! Fred.
Richard, I was watching a spider create his web the other day, seemingly as painstakingly and methodically as an artist involved in creating a major work, as an engineer conceiving a device or as an athlete or musician in systematic training. To human eyes, a finished web is a rather intriguingly beautiful object. We marvel at its form as well as at its function, just as some are impressed by the sleek form of a manmade modern aircraft or the expansive parabolic shape of a major concrete dam for hydroelectric energy. Do we call the web art because it is a product of nature (like the spider), or do we simply call it a product of evolution (how long did it take for the millenia of spiders to evolve that design and to assure themselves of a method to survive?). I think it is agreed that the spider has no notion of making art in what he is doing. On the other hand, art often has no practical purpose, other than to pose questions, to show things in the way one human sees them, to express emotions or fantasies or to explore unknowns (of which there are plenty for the humans to think about). Does nature generally do that? Whatever controls nature's works, if indeed there is any control at all, is for me somewhat like the reason the spider builds intriguing patterns or the many billions of snowflakes each possessing a distinct pattern. Nature just looks like art to the human being, partly because we are part of nature and it teaches and inspires us. Simply.
Richard, piggy-backing on Arthur's points, I find it helpful to consider the (sometimes and sometimes subtle) differences between purpose and intent.
Evolution has purpose, loosely, the survival of the fittest. Photosynthesis has a purpose. There is a purpose in a spider spinning a web. In Philosophy it's the final cause, the teleology, the end something moves toward as opposed, for instance, to the material cause, which is the thing that starts it off.
I see intent as a more active and conscious part of decision-making. I don't think a plant makes a decision to grow toward the sun. Its growing toward the sun fulfills a purpose and could be said to show a purpose. But it does not show intent . . . or consciousness.
A plant could have consciousness like a unicorn could exist. But until I'm shown evidence that either is the case, I will remain skeptical.
Anthropomorphizing natural processes (which are different from human decisions and conscious actions) may be a form of art in itself (poetic, metaphorical) but it's not logically or philosophically sound, IMO.
Alan K. Thanks for that! Not a far-fetched thought.
Fred - You have a good point RE turning off inner dialog -- need to take a break for a while to charge your creative batteries. I think it is wonderful that you have the talent and skill to illustrate AND accompany your internal dialog. But, can you dance to it!
Arthur:"Art is a component part of a culture, whereas nature is a component part of the physical and biological universe, a material that has no purpose-role in art until used or adapted or perceived by man, as one of his subject matters for his creative thoughts."Thinking of this and my cave art comments I think we have to examine the conditions of being one-with or fully engaged with nature and being the cultural owners ofnature. We romanticize and idealize it yet our attachment to it is minimal. Psychologically totally different than early humans for sure and even some contemporary societies. I think we still find in our biology a thread, though tenuous, that we instinctively -- in the literal sense -- keeps hold of nature.
Alan, I didn't mean turning off the dialogue to be about taking a break to recharge my creativity. It was about creating itself. I was actually talking about NOT illustrating the internal dialogue and not having one to accompany. I mentioned singing out but, sure, dancing will do fine as well. Luis and I have often talked about photographing others (and it could really be photographing anything) as a dance, also as a performance, but that got us in trouble with a poster of yore -- LOL. I think if you do a search, you'll find a thread here on the performance aspect of photography.
Fred - found it! Great stuff! I think about the idea of a gestural or "Action Jackson" equiv. photography. Like to think that the camera itself performs too. Mine does!
No. Art is a human-centered concept. Nature is what it is, regardless of whether anyone is there to appreciate it or not. It just exists, and sometimes it's downright ugly... And so is a lot of human Art! I find this statement absurd (don't know if it is Williams or not). It's utter ridiculousness lies in the fact that Words are poor carriers of meanings, culture and times alters perspectives and understandings of language. Nature displays all the intelligence of an artist and none of mans' inspiration for being artistic or creating comes from his own making, it is all inspired by the world around him, and most of it is found in Nature, so on this foundation I think Nature has the qualification of being Art De Facto. Oh and while we are on the subject, The workings of Atomic level Chemistry is also Art, it depends now on how one defines his own perspective on what is creative beauty.
I was in the middle of editing the above when the software told me that I had run out of time. So if your self-disciplined enough, don't read the above, (of course you will) here is my edit. Allowing the emotional reaction to speak instead of thinking about what I should say: Here is the non-emotional text.....
No. Art is a human-centered concept. Nature is what it is, regardless of whether anyone is there to appreciate it or not. It just exists, and sometimes it's downright ugly... And so is a lot of human Art! I Words are poor carriers of meanings, culture and times alter perspectives and understandings of language and how we use it. Nature displays all the intelligence and qualities of an intelligent design with artistic innovations and much of mans' inspiration for being artistic or creating is inspired by the world around him, and a lot of it is found in the natural world.
Chris, while I cannot associate the brilliance of natural evolution, reason and its physical wonders with the word art, or perhaps even of some intelligent design (chance and other evolutionary parameters have to also be considered), I agree that art is a singular* human act and concept. For this, your own abstracts taken from nature's subject matter and the work of many of us are proofs of the attractive pull of art objectives on the human mind.
* maybe it will be shown some day that some animal also possesses the same intent
<<<Nature displays all the intelligence of an artist . . .>>>
Any intelligence nature might display seems to me a projection of man onto nature or simply a way of trying to understand or relate to nature. For me, attributing intelligence to nature is a case of anthropomorphism and possibly anthropocentrism. I generally find the latter even more objectionable than the former, since we're talking about a universe much greater than man and of which man is a small part.
Some of the nature-is-creative ideas expressed throughout the thread approach a kind of Creationism or Intelligent Design theory. I think God as the ultimate artist is an interesting way to think of God but it doesn't much affect my own thinking about art since I don't find much to recommend either Creationism or ideas about Intelligent Design. I haven't been convinced here that nature is de facto art. I'm also unclear whether the claim is that nature is art, an artist, or both. That nature may inspire (man to make or appreciate or direct attention to) art doesn't make nature art . . . or an artist.
Could the word we're looking for be "Muse"?
Funny, a man walks into an art gallery and sees a painting by someone; it's a painting of well let's say a bed of roses by a musky river bank somewhere in Holland. It is selling at auction for 5000 something. Our man buys it, he thinks to himself; beautiful as he admires the aesthetics and forms and symmetry and creative genius. He calls it art, the curator calls it art, his friends congratulate him on a fine art piece, everyone says "art". OK, I walk into a field next to a bed of roses by a musky river bank somewhere in Holland. It's free, I call it oh problem what do I call it? A bed of roses accidently evolved from Deoxyribonucleic acid strands through random mutation? Or simply a bed of roses in a field? Or do I think to myself, beautiful, as I admire the aesthetics and forms and symmetry and creative genius. And I call it art.
Chris, you are seeing things my way.
Arthur - You say that art is a human concept, I don't agree, it is just that humans have placed a word to try to describe it. Humans use to think that Love and other emotions were attributes of humans, we now know after further study of animals that this is not the case. I think human think to much inside the box, and like to pidgeon hole words thoughts and concepts to meet our own view of the world. Most often we are proved wrong. The world was flat. and how dare you think otherwise lest you be a heretic.
Chris, I'm afraid I don't see the humor in that story. What I do see are the many differences between a photographic or painterly rendition of a bed of roses and a bed of roses. I generally don't think of photos or paintings as mere representations. Obviously, we say "it's a painting of a bed of roses" but it is as much NOT that as it is. It is, or at least much good art is, transformational of its referent. When we look at Monet's water lilies for example, it is convenient to say it is a painting of water lilies, but that doesn't begin to describe what it is. Now, to be fair, neither does "bed of roses" really describe the fullness of the experience of roses in nature. But the point is that the experiences are so very much fuller than their descriptions and so very much NOT the same. Think about all the things a painting or photo of roses DOES NOT have that the actual experience of them in nature DOES have. And think about all the things a painting or photo of roses CAN have that the actual experience will likely NOT have. Then think about all the art that is not representational and that is not just OF or ABOUT its subject or referent but is a product of the expression and intent of its MAKER. Nature has no MAKER, IMO. Art does.*
*Even if the maker is someone who just brings our attention to something.
Chris and Richard,
Question for you: Can beauty exist without art? Perhaps that is a question that might help to differentiate art of the human and the beauty or fascination that can be found in nature.
When Chris looks at nature in a certain way (viewpoint, choice of time and atmosphere, light, presence or not of shadows to enhance what is being seen) and finds it beautiful, is it nature or Chris the creator of that communication, an albeit fleeting (the particular viewpoint or ambiance will change) moment of beauty until he passes onto another subject matter?
I think art is an emotional response, less about the object and more about the person. But art is just a flimsy word that is incapable of articulating a very big concept. Nature communicates only what the onlooker is willing to see and feel, an array of fleeting emotional responses then ensues and it is up to the onlooker to translate his/her feelings into words or visuals in a way that is never truly satisfying, but at its best, adequately enriching.
Sorry Arthur forgot to answer your question directly. Yes Beauty can exist outside of Art, when I watched our kittens being born and then growing up, we often described them as being beautiful, when at even two months they all slept huddled up together, it was so beautiful to watch. But this is clearly an emotional response, and I would not turn to my wife and say: Hey, that is so artistic. But really I do emphasize that art is too big a concept to be pinned down into a realm of philosophical analysis. Nature exists and man has admired it for thousands of years in the same way that man admires his own creations, both contain and express the same values and aesthetics that are found in Nature.
Oh and Fred why is that excellent image of an elderly Jewish man in the Idolatry gallery? It's a great image, I love the way you took it. Ironically the very first thing that the eye was led to in that image was the opposite of idolatry, the hebrew word blessed on his tallit (BaRuCH). I was surprised given the context of the gallery in question. Idolatry is defined as the worship of a false god, which in turn implies the existence of a True God, given that you appear (if I am wrong please correct) not to believe in a creator, how do you define your gallery of images entitled "Idolatry"?
Chris, thanks for asking. I didn't think too much about the title. It just came to me for that group of photos as I was going through my portfolio a while back. I suppose it is meant in some ways ironically, maybe provocatively, a little bit tongue-in-cheek, and not necessarily literally. For me, the narrative tie was different kinds of worship but even that doesn't work as well as just a visual and visceral something-or-other I perceived. I think of titles to be questions as much as answers, so the fact that it led you to question and ask is a nice touch, and I certainly appreciate your attention to it.
I don't believe in a God but I do find religion fascinating, especially in terms of ritual. I can be very moved by another's devotion. I know the word "idolatry" is often meant pejoratively and, again, I used it as much to question my own feelings about things and less to put religion down per se. The reason I included the sexy guys along with the men and symbols of Judaism and Christianity, and also the pictures on the wall of sexy guys, is because I, myself, have felt a sense of idolatry in the way I and other people I know relate to sex and particularly to those we think of as sexy. Of course, I'm putting together a lot of these thoughts now that I've been asked, so it's a sort of analysis in retrospect. Not all this thinking, believe me, went into the original choice of the title. The one color photo seems to belong visually and even rhythmically though it would be harder to make a narrative case for its inclusion.
While I admire many religious people, I also deplore much about religion, so I have to be honest and say that, on some level, I see all religion as a form of idolatry (in the sense of being false, and false compared not to a true religion but to no religion). I have those feelings, somehow, along with a sense of wonder and intrigue as well and certainly with both a respect and hatred for some of the power religion has had through history.
I find religion's symbols and transcendence ponderous subjects for photos.
Art is a way of perceiving and communicating. Nature is a subject that can be perceived and communicated thusly, but
other such subjects exist.
I look at nature as God's canvas and He has produced many beautiful works of art.
Separate names with a comma.