Celebrating great art in humble places: the glorious talents of the artists who illustrate stories, advertisements and comics.
posted by David Apatoff at 11:41 AM
This guy could sculpt too ! Al McLuckie
Really like the second one (the spiraling back muscles, the buttocks).
Pure essence of design.
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"This guy could sculpt too!"He could sculpt, but he wasn't any good at it.His figures are all muddy; losing definition when they should have it, having too much definition where it hurts the design, leaving sculptures unfinished as though it adds to the work (seems a cheap trick to me).His attempt to combine exaggerated poses with a sort of naturalism falls flat -- he would have been better off being either operatic or naturalistic, not trying for both simultaneously.He has the worst of both sides. From the classics he stole a type of simplicity, but he didn't have the exagerration to pull it off, as in the Rhodes sculptors' Laocoön.He takes from his contemporaries a sort of naturalism, but he has neither the character of Daumier or the reality of Carpeaux.His work lies at a really unfortunate position between the styles of his time. Popular then perhaps, but now, looking back, I think we ought to know better!
Damn Richard --- now I'll be rethinking what I felt from the Rodin museums in Philly and Paris thanks to you . Any more insights on artists undeserving the regard they have been held in ? Al McLuckie
jpleon-- and thank you for writing.AlMcLuckie-- I agree, he was terrific. And isn't it interesting that his sculpture was so muscular while these drawings are the opposite, quite light and ethereal. Antonio Araujo-- I agree that's a beauty, and also the image closest to being anatomically correct, but I kind of prefer the images where he takes more liberty with the human form (such as the first one).
MORAN-- Yes!Richard-- Wow, you are fearless. I try to avoid being a slave to conventional wisdom on this blog but even I try to steer clear of disputes where the odds are 7 billion to one. Have you ever been to the Rodin Museum or the Rodin sculpture garden at Stanford? Have you ever seen his Gates of Hell up close and personal?Al McLuckie-- If you find yourself tempted to change your opinion and shift the odds to 7,999,999,999 to 2, I suggest you lie down until the feeling passes.
No place to hide.I dunno, David; I tend to think the simpler (as in less elements)the composition the less there is that can go wrong. Don't get me wrong; I'm not disputing what is unquestionably a display of solid design skill here, but as a purely academic argument I think there is more artistic merit to unity in complexity than unity in simplicity.
Richard, you freak, Y U no like Rodin?!?! :)))Ok, getting that out of the way :).......I have to admit that my first time in Paris I was mesmerized by "the gates of hell", and I really liked the sketched quality of Rodin's sculptures. But, years later, I spend much more time staring at those amazing little sculpted caricatures of Daumier at the musée d'Orsay than I do at the plaster model of the Rodin's gates upstairs, and I've never found the impetus to take the trip to Rodin's museum again on my short trips.Still, "less mesmerizing than Daumier" is not a terrible epitaph. :)David: I like the penultimate one, too. I'm not crazy about the others, though. Nothing against them, they just don't click with me at an immediate level. But I am often weak in my appreciation of design, so it may just be me...
David , the feeling passed before I had a chance to recline - standing before his Gates was transfixing . Everyone has a right to there own taste and opinion/taste - Toth and Mignola are misunderstood by many who would prefer cluttered detail.Many probably can't distinguish what Fawcett does from a clutter illustrator and there are many who like Boris more than Frazetta.I've really liked the recent posts on simplification/distillation to the essence of the subject.Al McLuckie
Thanks for sharing these, David! They're the last thing I would have expected from the man who made those titanic sculptures at the Legion of Honor.Richard, muddy?? Man, I don't see it, there's nothing in those pieces that doesn't scream of intention. I haven't even seen some of the great sculptures noted here in person, but the stuff they have here in San Francisco... it's amazing what that guy did with form, there's so much power radiating from every part of the surface of those sculptures. And delicacy, when needed. That applies to the giant commissions, as well as the tiny, unfinished studies.
"Wow, you are fearless. I try to avoid being a slave to conventional wisdom on this blog but even I try to steer clear of disputes where the odds are 7 billion to one."It's the internet! If I'm losing I can just dip out! XDI haven't seen his work at Stanford, but I'm from Philadelphia, and have seen a lot of his work before. Maybe I'm just bored of it, I dunno!Maybe you can do a sculpture discussion to swing me back into sanity?Have you done much sculpture?I ask because my opinion on Rodin, and a lot of sculptors, changed after actually studying it.I had an incredible teacher, this guy Richard Blake (president of the National Sculpture Society at the time). He's a big fan of Rodin's, and would probably laugh at me for saying this, but he taught me enough that I'm not too impressed by many sculptors anymore -- not because I'm better than them, just because I have a good of what goes into it. I can see how one becomes a great sculptor, I can't even imagine how one becomes a great painter.Honestly, I'd wager most of the reason these guys stay famous in sculpture is because there is so little competition (compared to the 2d arts)!I'm probably wrong about all of this.Antonio sez "Still, 'less mesmerizing than Daumier' is not a terrible epitaph. :)"True!
Etc, etc-- That's kind of the key question, isn't it?Some people will always prefer the complexity of a symphony orchestra to the simplicity of a string quartet, and vice versa. I'm not challenging that personal taste. But I think we are all familiar with artists who load more into a picture because they can't get away with less.For example, many artists conceal the inadequacies of their draftsmanship with heavy shadows. Artists who have trouble drawing hands often choose to draw figures with hands in their pockets or behind their back. Other artists compensate for the inadequacies of their draftsmanship by using lots of lines (think Reed Crandall). Some artists need to reinforce their line work by adding a lot of half tone shading. In short, second rate drawings are full of crutches and hiding places. Not so with Rodin's marvelous drawings. There are no bushes or shadows for hiding, and no second chances for mistakes.When you consider Rodin's mountain of sophisticated knowledge regarding the human body, his ability to distill all that knowledge into these simple wisps of drawings is an astonishing act of abstraction.Antonio Araujo wrote: "David: I like the penultimate one, too."I like that one too-- interestingly, it is the least sculptural of the drawings, with the figures kind of flowing together in an unresolved fashion that could not exist in bronze.Al McLuckie and Antonio Araujo-- I have not seen the Gates of Hell in plaster, but I have seen them in bronze and shared Al's reaction to them. They were powerful like the megaliths of Stonehenge or Avebury.
It is just that objective knowledge that was lacking in the drawings of your pervious post. One does not need an introduction to the artist bio to try a gleam meaning from these works. It is understanding that makes simplification possible.Everything you wrote about Rodin's drawing made think of another art form that had all the qualities you listed, Greek vase painting.
To me, these have too much peace. They sing like a wide open Copland chord thumbed once on a harp; the sound of which fades endlessly into a vast white hall. Until the silence and the sound sound the same.I know they are excellent but I don't find them interesting. They are, in essence, essence; lacking substance.
That's true Kev, but at heart they have more zing in their strings than an Arp.It's the same zing I find in Ben Nicholson but not in Barbara Hepworth. In Kenton Nelson but not in Fernand Leger.
Tom wrote: "It is understanding that makes simplification possible."I have struggled with the difference between simplicity that comes from the top down-- from knowledgeable, sophisticated artists making radical decisions-- and simplicity that comes from the bottom up, from children or people with mental disabilities who draw instinctively, without consciousness of their choices. If one does not have the "artist's bio," there should theoretically be no difference. Kev Ferrara-- I know you appreciate the view that artists should make their hard work appear effortless. I know you appreciate that a work of art encompasses both implicit and explicit elements. So how do you think that "substance" should manifest itself in an image?Chris Bennett-- Very good. I'm always happy to see a reference to a 1930s Judy Garland song. Like you, I find a lot of zing in these drawings. You could write an essay about each one of these.
I think you have the zing thing reversed in your comparisons, Chris; the formers more reposed, the latters more intense. Regardless, I think all those mentioned are cerebral cartoonists/designers plowing similar fields who serve a niche need among a certain strain of soul that longs for a dreamlike simplicity, a visual Elysium as an antidote to a noisy, scrappy and garbled world.
Substance and essence, content and form, are synthesized in art; each is expressed in the terms of the other without fissure, without sacrificing the audience's belief in the fiction. These works, as designs, aren't moored to such concerns. No place has been reserved in the form for content, because no content awaits entry into the form.
Simplification is a misnomer for what is going on. Poetification is the real matter, concision without lossiness that the art may unfold as an evocation in the mind.
Well, one could say that the content is about the associations they evoke and, personally speaking, if I was pushed into a verbal expression of what I feel looking at each of these beautiful drawings in turn, I’d say:Girl seen as a running Dalmatian/greyhound.Girl seen as a frog.Girl seen as a crescent moon.Girl seen as a broken umbrella.Girl seen as a cloud.Girl seen as a fissure in the rock.Girl seen as a broken tree.These are not the only associations, but they are the first that sprang into my mind. Now, one could of course say that about ink blots. But I find a sense of a subconscious will at work behind these drawings which distinguishes them from that. However, I’d agree that simplicity (as facilitator to ambiguity) is not necessarily responsible for that.
We need to be careful to distinguish, in a discussion of content, what the artist has encoded into the work, versus what the viewer may find in the work when free associating. Or else our understanding of art will indeed be reduced to each viewer's subjective imaginative repose to suggestive ink blots. Our whimsies are not the artist's content. And all handmade works give evidence of subconscious will. So this is no index of the presence of content, merely authorial consciousness.
David said "When you consider Rodin's mountain of sophisticated knowledge regarding the human body, his ability to distill all that knowledge into these simple wisps of drawings is an astonishing act of abstraction."Are you sure he had that mountain of anatomical knowledge? I look at the bodies he sculpts, and I see only two different people, heavily exaggerated, one male one female, anatomical catch-alls -- It's no accident that The Lovers is his most famous piece, his limited cast is finally all on the stage at the same time, all two of them. In that way he seems more like a 19th century superhero comic book artist than some great anatomist.When he does try other bodies, I'm not sure I would describe the results as successful. Like his old woman: one | two And given that it seems he's working with this anatomical shorthand, in that sense, isn't it only natural that he abstract away the details of that shorthand? His bodies have no individual personhood, so it adds little for him to give us any amount of detail on them, no?
Richard,My guess is that your recent line of argument (about Rodin's artistic disabilities) is not getting the attention you expect only because most of David's readers don't enjoy pounding nails into boards with their foreheads.
It’s almost certain that Rodin, when making that first drawing, was not thinking ‘Regarde, zis mademoiselle, she looks like ze piebald greyhound jumping out of ze trap, I’ll draw her zat way.”Nevertheless, personally speaking, there are only a limited number of associations I can make that truthfully line up with my feelings and are not wilful impositions. A dead giraffe and a piece of bleached driftwood are the only others that come to mind without straining on the matter. In other words; there is some sort of finite orbit within which any associations anyone comes up with will fall. She doesn’t look like a pen or a spider or a table. So I’d say that the associations are like pegs holding down the corners of a tent. (Ha! That’s good, con-tent - a (con)tent held taut by associations. Yay! Groan?) With an un-authored phenomenon like an ink blot, any content implied by the associations it engenders in the onlooker is un-authored; the tent is uninhabited. But with the hand-made image, the association guy-ropes are pulling taut a meaningful shelter, inhabited somewhere by its author. And the finer that author, the tauter is their tent whether they are sleeping or not, conscious or subconscious. Is that Mr Ferrara I see striding towards the camp with his diamond sharp scissors?
there is some sort of finite orbit within which any associations anyone comes up with will fall.Yep. And any color you see you can categorize as within the vicinity of one you already know. But you didn't invent yellow and you didn't make ripe bananas, the sun, and coreopsis flowers associated with the color yellow. The nature of content is a very interesting question. These Rodin drawings are like birdsong. If you listen, what do you learn? What do the birds say?
chris sez "there are only a limited number of associations I can make that truthfully line up with my feelings and are not wilful impositions."Does it matter, given that line of thinking, if anyone else makes those associations? For the first image I see the rotting body of a woman with a crushed skull, a bird (because of the clawed hand) and Spring-heeled Jack.Does that mean his tent is not taught enough, or do you expect many associations even for a skilled artist? Do you have an example of an artwork where the number of associations possible is too high, and thus not finely authored? And if the primary association I make with the first one is of a friend who routinely sleeps in that pose, is that authored content because he chose a pose that real people use,, despite that Rodin would have no idea what that actually meant to me, the feelings it derives, because he couldn't possibly know my friend.You say that it reminds you of a dead giraffe, but if a Kenyan poacher draws the same association, but has an entirely different relationship to the idea of a dead giraffe, can those feelings be said to be authored? If only the association can be authored, but not the feelings attached to those associations, are the associations really of any authorial value?
Richard said "His bodies have no individual personhood, so it adds little for him to give us any amount of detail on them, no?" I think the opposite Richard, there may not be much personhood in his work, but there is plenty of detail. His naturalism seems to express a concern for the human condition, and I find his naturalism often overwhelms any obvious meaning. I don't know how much carving he did (I have read not much) but when models in clay his bodies are dominated by the specifics of anatomy and the forces that act upon the body. These obsessions tend to overwhelm planes that are more clearly expressed in classical sculptures.. When modeling he tends to exaggerate the depth and hallows between forms as if an internal psychological is giving external shape to the body. At the same time the forms of the body itself seem to react against unseen forces that they have no control over. All this creates the effect that his figures are carrying the weight of the world internally while externally gravity itself has become a heavy burden. Quite the opposite effect of the drawings David posted. One only has to look at his bronze sculpture of St John the Baptist to have a sense of his overwhelming knowledge of the human body.
I think your right David, "no place to hide." but Rodin is not dealing with a simple subject, the human body has to be one nature's most complex and profound designs and his knowledgeIe of it allows him to coordinate those complex facts in so few lines. Note the clarity , thickness and position of the pelvis in the drawings. The hair in drawings 2 an 5 is drawn straight down in response to the tilts of the models heads. Acknowledging the most important controlling element in the design of the hair, gravity. The pronation taking place in in the closest arm in the 5th drawing is beautiful expressed, you know the position of the extensors, the biceps and triceps, you feel their interior modeling while he has only really drawn the contour of the arm, with the slightest indication of the overlap where the extensors comes forward of the biceps. You feel the fullness of the whole extensor group. The palm of the hand on the far arm in the same drawing is almost in a parallel plane to the floor, but you know the whole hand is raising back up from that plane in the opposite direction of the thrust of the arm. All this from a simple right angle that he has drawn,that represents the side plane and top plane of the hand which establishes the outside edge of the palm and the distal end of the metacarpal of the little finger.
If the interest here is truly the amount of integrity in the drawing, shouldn't we discuss the missing finger, weird foot, downward migrating right boob, leg that reads as a boob, badly foreshortened arm, oops I cut off the feet and arm, and the sanded down head in the seven respective examples?
The early Rodin drawings are said to have been done from his imagination with these later ones drawn from life, but they're drawn as if out his head, or as a combination of drawing with and without observation. They may have been explorations or simple private indulgences, but whatever their purpose, the classical uniform line, flowing with little interruption, especially the undulating lines, or contour as movement, connects him with the moderns that followed, Matisse, Picasso, and the Vienna School. The flowing line and absence of interfering detail accounts for the immediacy of the drawings and too their erotic immediacy which is also very modern.Rodin's sculptures on the other hand connect him to the past and their intentions aren't ambiguous, but require the viewer to know something of the subject at hand. The subjects are epic and public and demanded courage on the part of the artist given the footsteps he was following. The subjects are greater than the sculptures themselves, but how can it be otherwise, even without his faults discussed here?The Gates of Hell, the mysteries of death, the illogic of death, the possibility that the withdrawing life force of aging could continuing withdrawing its final grace leaving the soul to its own state of selfism is an epic subject, even if an assumed anathema today. The Burghers of Calais is also a fantastic story of courage and sacrifice reminding us that civilization is an accomplishment and not a given. The statues of Balzac and Hugo commemorate realism and the madness of the Jacobins respectively.Stripped of their context, some of Rodin's sculptures may be read some degrees off the fullness of their intended meaning, as the link below explains. Given that his sculptures are in relation to their historical or literary content, its possible, the drawings were never meant to stand on their own.http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/rodin-the-kiss-n06228/text-illustrated-companion
Richard, to answer your question one by one: Does it matter, given that line of thinking, if anyone else makes those associations?No, because they are only part of whatever is inside the orbit of associationsDoes that mean his tent is not taught enough, or do you expect many associations even for a skilled artist?Bearing in mind that I’m ‘thinking this out loud’ and ‘on-the-fly’ here, I’ll posit that the degree of tautness in the associations is one of the things that characterises a work’s position on the specific/evocative meaning spectrum. (That’s a bit of a poncy way of putting it I know, but it’s the crispest answer I can think of right now.) Do you have an example of an artwork where the number of associations possible is too high, and thus not finely authored?Any weak abstract work. Although I would not say that the tighter the associations triggered by a work the more finely it is authored. For instance, the purer a piece of journalism, the more it is resistant to interpretation. But a literal, ‘photographic’ painting of a nude lady would none-the-less be strongly authored. Whether the authorship in this case attained artfulness is another matter. And if the primary association I make with the first one is of a friend who routinely sleeps in that pose, is that authored content because he chose a pose that real people use, despite that Rodin would have no idea what that actually meant to me, the feelings it derives, because he couldn't possibly know my friend…. You say that it reminds you of a dead giraffe, but if a Kenyan poacher draws the same association, but has an entirely different relationship to the idea of a dead giraffe, can those feelings be said to be authored? If only the association can be authored, but not the feelings attached to those associations, are the associations really of any authorial value?The only associations that are of any value in this regard are those that pertain to the hard-wired, primal ones salient to our species at the non-cultural level. So although the Kenyan poacher will have a cultural response different to mine, our primal response (the instinctive trepidation and curiosity towards anything seen to be dead as opposed to our surface cultural evaluation of ‘how’ it means to us) will be the same. In other words, personal or cultural associations are not effective in the aesthetic realm, unlike hard-wired, primal (pre-cultural or sub-cultural) ones.
Kev wrote: Yep. And any color you see you can categorize as within the vicinity of one you already know. But you didn't invent yellow and you didn't make ripe bananas, the sun, and coreopsis flowers associated with the color yellow. The nature of content is a very interesting question. These Rodin drawings are like birdsong. If you listen, what do you learn? What do the birds say?Hey Kev, that’s too ‘Chris Speak’ even for me! I’ve no idea what you mean.
Kev Ferrara-- The word "poetification" is a little ungainly, but I agree it's more appropriate here than mere simplification or abstraction. Rodin has distilled figure drawings into poems. He cut out all of the superfluous verbiage and punctuation and left us with these little poetic jewels. "Birdsong" is an equally appropriate term, but I don't understand why you think the bird serenading you from a branch has some obligation to "say" something to you, other than "it's a beautiful world." (In fact, I'm guessing that if you sincerely wanted to "learn" something from the bird's melody, you could manage to do it.)Tom and Sean Farrell-- I enjoyed reading your take on these inspiring little drawings. I had not thought of the distinction between the sculpture and the drawings that way before. Richard-- If we treat these drawings as Rorschach tests, you can probably expect a knock on your door from The Department of Homeland Security any minute now. One point-- rather than treat the random discolorations on the first figure as a "rotting body," can you treat them like the random discolorations in the hair of the last figure? Hair doesn't have polka dots, yet Rodin flattened and abstracted hair and skin with a design that was totally antithetical to the shading and modeling of a 3D form, that a more conventional artist might use.
I use poetification instead of poesis because of how similar poetification sounds to simplification. Maybe for this reason most people cogitate the meaning of poetification more readily than poesis, and so I have found that it makes what I'm saying easier to understand.I enjoy birdsong quite a bit. Bidsong can be beautiful. But it isn't interesting.
Kev: I think I’ve realised what you mean with that banana and yellow statement. It popped into my head over breakfast just now, so I’m responding as soon as I can.It’s certainly true that the artist doesn’t invent the associations engendered by the work. I would also add that the content of a piece of work is not the same thing as its aesthetic meaning. (The girl looking like a greyhound springing from a trap is just a statement). But the artist is responsible for the fence or container or orbit he slings around its possible field of associations. I would say it is the artistry with which an area of associations is implied (the way the field is fenced off) that embodies the meaning in this species of work and therefore, on a broader level, the ordering of content into synthesis that draws aesthetic meaning in general.
"Birdsong can be beautiful. But it isn't interesting."...Aren't we talking about art here?
Kev said, "If the interest here is truly the amount of integrity in the drawing.."I wasn't talking about the "integrity of the drawings," I was noticing his ability to summarize much of the important major facts of the models pose in a very short amount of time. The short pose reveals the artist's knowledge, his ability to comprehend the action and position of form for an aesthetic purpose. He has diffidently slopped over some parts, but his powers comprehension are "marvelous," as David wrote. Being a Frenchman, Rodin as the French say, might have, " preferred the part to the whole."
Sean said, "Rodin's sculptures on the other hand connect him to the past and their intentions aren't ambiguous, but require the viewer to know something of the subject at hand.How can art's meaning exist in a story that is long forgotten? The artwork unlike the story is still fully present. The artwork points to what is constantly present. Stories are not where the heart of the visual arts lie. I don't know the stories that Rubens painted pictures of but that does not reduce the meanings of his paintings. Rubens work is about vitality, the story is the vehicle that allows him to express that vitality. In some ways the knowledge of the story can hide the true meanings of an art work, as the story immediately refers the mind back to itself and what it "already knows,"and away from what one is seeing. His sense of radiance, power and enrgy is what draws one to his work and gives it meaning. Rubens is just an example, people are drawn to all kinds of different artists from different times because of some sort of shared experience.The story is a subject for which the artist can express his ideas about his actual experience of life. After all most stories like most artworks share the same structures and themes with the shape of the form being only the really change. "the classical uniform line, flowing with little interruption, especially the undulating lines, or contour as movement, connects him with the moderns that followed"The classical uniform line is the same line found in Greek vase painting so the drawings point in both directions. The difference between Rodin and the Greek painter form many modern contour drawings is their outlines are the borders of a series of complete forms. You can find the orientation of the individual forms that constitute the whole. Their thought is much more complete. After all much modern contour drawing is just a silhouette a tracing with know understanding an little comprehension of the complete mass that creates the visible contour.
Tom, It's true that vitality is immediate and immediacy is the nature of vitalism, but it's also limited in its range of emotions or ability to articulate complexity or nuance. Of course someone not knowing the story will understand and feel the moment, the sorrow and sense of defeat in the Burghers of Calais, but doesn't the story enhance the understanding, taking it beyond the limits of its vitality or immediacy? Doesn't knowing the Burghers have volunteered their sacrifice of their own lives for the benefit of their town enhance the viewer's grasp of the sacrifice, the fear and trepidation of knowingly facing one's own end? Understanding that the lovers in The Kiss have surrendered to an illicit moment enhances the power of eroticism, whereas looking at two naked people in plaster kissing is hardly a ripping moment, even in the late 19th century. Also in the last post, there were questions regarding the artist's surrender to his strong willed wife, whether it was pleasure or a pathology and such effected the way each felt about the drawings.The Gates of Hell is a reflection on our behavior, but also on exactly how much we can effect our life. We can take vitamins and confidence feels more whole than doubt, but can we actually control which is true, the doubt or confidence? Is life and virtue something we participate with rather than definitively possess? Has one neglected a love from God, or are we congenitally alienated? Such questions and our answers render the imagery more or less significant in our age of doubt. Doesn't a thoughtful piece of art demand thoughtfulness?You have raised an interesting point and one that regards a whole host of things modern and pre-modern.
Tom, Per your second point regarding line. I referred to the line as classical because of course it is rooted in the ancients and yes, it does point both ways but is uniquely modern as follows.Your point about using the even line as a cookie cutter silhouette is true enough, but I don't think that's what Rodin was doing, nor Matisse, Picasso, Klimt or Schiele who followed. In the last two years of Schiele's life, his drawings captured a remarkable sense of form. What all of them shared which was modern was the use of line as movement and especially the lines of contours as an undulating movement in figure drawing. The viewer's eye flows through the form created by the undulating contours as well as along its edges. Certainly the eye followed the long lines in ancient work, but I don't think in quite the same manner. It wasn't quite as fluid as with the artists mentioned above.Matisse and Picasso also punctuated the linear movement with space and spaces and open ended shapes, sometimes giving the allusion of one line going behind the other, or shapes were left ope to capture movement as direction. The combination of drawing from observation and without it in the same drawing and keen observation with disregard for detail at other times makes for a uniquely modern approach in the use of the thin even classical line.Thanks
The content of a picture is everything about it which inter-resonates without reference to outside texts or any other symbolic communications. Because this is so, an artwork's references should be general enough to be understood by most anybody without requiring extensive or uncommon intellectual knowledge. And if some aspect of the work requires definition, that definition should be an integral part of the work. To consult outside knowledge is to make the picture a "multi-media" project, which disunifies it as a total work. The Burghers of Calais as a an artwork means itself; nothing less or more.Just who the Burghers were or what they did, is either known from experiencing the work, or it is not part of the work. The work does not need the story to be effective. What we know about the Burghers is exactly what is expressed by the form through the reference: that these men are joined in some fate, anguished, some stoic, some in deep thought, some worried or pleading. And there is a feeling of heaviness about them that forebodes.The idea of the historical event has been generalized by Rodin so as to refer to, and provide emotional understanding of, all doomed associations of men. In this way, the particular is shown to be universal.
Kev, Then the sculptures are not about the Burghers of Calais, but just some heavy footed males in shackles wearing long dated looking robes. They could be slaves, or captured enemy soldiers, some sort of imprisoned subversive plotters or criminals well deserving of their punishment for that matter and the fuller meaning of the statues is entirely lost. The title is part of the work and the title involves a story. The work is articulated by understanding what event is taking place, what one is witnessing.The KIss is a little different as it was is lifted to become a stand alone from the larger work, The Gates of Hell. It's meaning along with The Thinker are greatly reduced on their own. The Thinker becomes a man with his head resting on his hand, but for the title and cultural meaning of the posture which is a meaning accredited to the human ability to think over centuries of thinking. Thinking by its nature takes us beyond the vitalism of the moment, though it can be used to describe the moment.The Thinker in the context of the larger work is a far more complex image than just a human being thinking. The Gates of Hell is about nothing but the gymnastics of the figures without the human drama, the human condition in the Christian context, or a least a wider understanding of hades regarding other cultures. A viewer's appreciation of the piece is greatly reduced or diminished in their understanding of the subject they are looking at.The Pieta for example can be understood, or felt outside its religious context, but as the mother who delivers the author of virtue into the hostile and jealous human condition is quite another image.
Kev, In the matter of the Pieta, it's not mandatory that one believes, but rather that one understands that something in humanity being shown up by virtue got jealous and attempted to murder it. Otherwise, the sculpture becomes a woman holding a male with a peaceful look, beautifully and masterfully sculpted, but of no real meaning. So the same happens with Rodin's work.
Sean, which Pieta are you referring to?
Chris, I meant the sculpture by Michelangelo, The Pieta, 1498-1499.If one is talking about a landscape or simple image of some kind which alludes to nothing beyond itself, then defining a piece of art by such limits is fine, but depicting a story or part of a particular story may lie outside such a narrow definition and requires much wider range. Historical narrative painting is legitimate.
"The content of a picture is everything about it which inter-resonates without reference to outside texts or any other symbolic communications. "I'm willing to believe that, but it seems that that would leave us only talking about abstract expressionism and design.
PS: What I meant to say was, an appreciation of a piece of art is greatly reduced or increased by the level of understanding one brings to the subject one is looking at.If there is no understanding of paint, light, or of lots of things that goes into a landscape, the appreciation is reduced accordingly. It isn't entirely lost. But if we don't understand a story being depicted in a particular work, the subjective reading of that piece of art may drift far afield from what the story actually depicts. The Burghers of Calais is about a particular event and a particular type of heroism.
Yes Richard, that's true. At least it would reduce subject matter to grunts and groans, oohs and ahhs or similar simplistic emotional immediacy. We have to bring outside experiences to appreciate art and sometimes outside knowledge to articulate a specific setting.
No Richard, that is not true.Nobody who looks at a work of art needs to be told what a field of grass is, or a pair of lips, or a foot. Or a brick wall. Or a sunrise. Or a shadow. Nobody needs to be told that there is a general difference in meaning between a uniform, most neatly angularized and decorated with precision-crafted symbols, and shabby clothing that is ripped and torn like rags.Nobody needs to be told that a large bulky man is stronger than a frail old woman. That proximity reads as familiarity or association. That the eyes stare in order to comprehend. That light and warmth is preferable to cold darkness. That if a figure isn't balanced, it may fall over.We all share a vast body of internalized general experience. We just don't often consider what that similitude consists of. By the time a human is able to comprehend a flat image, none of this knowledge need be referenced. In other words, we don't need to leave the confines of the picture plane to understand the art of it. They could be slaves, or captured enemy soldiers, some sort of imprisoned subversive plotters or criminals well deserving of their punishment for that matter and the fuller meaning of the statues is entirely lost.The "fuller meaning" is literary in nature and requires the facts of the incident in order to be grasped. The actual art, what is pictorial or sculptural about the work, is about what is true about the Burghers' experience. And that truth is what is communicated aesthetically by the sculpture.
Kev,I'm aware that each art has its limitations, but I wouldn't define visual art in such a purely limited manner. Paintings of the Battle of Lepanto and the Battle of Bunker Hill are quite different battles signifying different things, yet both are historical art. To make a distinction between the two requires some learning. By the time one has learned the basics of negotiating the world visually, they have also picked up numerous culturally distinct things and such wouldn't be applicable to art because they weren't visually universal? Yet not knowing such references does limit one's understanding, does it not?What you are implying is that Rodin failed to capture the nuances of the sacrifice in The Burghers of Calais possibly by intention and that may be true. Or it might be impossible to do so, as the nuances are literary, beyond the scope of the simpler visual symbols you are describing. But does he capture it with the aid of the historical reference and how does one feel about the sculpture after the story is known?What one experiences from the art prior to the injection of the literary knowledge is subjective, false and not universal since it can be interpreted in many ways as I specified and as you also described, which had nothing to do with the specific story. If it was the universalizing of an experience of all doomed associations of men, then it may have failed the commission and certainly had little to do with The Burghers of Calais, whose sacrifice was by their courage.Certainly the title deepens the experience of heart when one can eliminate the possibilities that the men in chains didn't deserve their plight. But in truth, as you said, it wasn't deepened by the art work alone. European art was visual before many people became literate. Punctuation didn't develop until 800, so it was the image and the story which led Europe into literacy as the local oral languages where being transcribed. Art then began as an interdependent relationship of story and image.Someone told me of a visit to a church in Scandinavia, (if I remember this correctly) where before the altar, a sculpture of an oversized knight knelt with helmet removed and both hands laying down his sword. Was it art, religion, literature or theater? The man who told me the story didn't know but he said, he stood before it, very moved.
Sean,Q: How can you receive an appreciation of a truth of life through a fictional work? Look into your memory and examine instances where you have come into some understanding about life that you recognized as undeniable while under the spell of entertainment that, if you really think about, was bullshit from start to finish.If you can answer that question, you can then understand how, with respect to providing the audience with truth, the academically-researched facts of some ostensibly historically-accurate work of art are essentially equivalent to the made up facts of a fiction. The truth value isn't coming from the facts. It never does come from the facts.Historical art is never truthful as a collection of facts. Because facts have no meaning. Because you can't know what really happened. Epistemology tells us. Our limited experience tells us. History is dead and gone. There's nothing there. A few generations out, and everything turns to ghosts, events turn to stories, and stories turn to fables. And only great art can reanimate that dead moment. That inert bunch of words that diagram the history.And in reanimating that lost moment of time, the question arises, what constitutes the truth of the matter? It certainly was not names, dates, places, and a bone-dry diagram of events. As written, in all probability, by a scribbler who had not been there, relying on whatever accounts he could amass.What is real is what you can believe. And by believe I don't mean what you can cogitate by reason, but what can you feel within you that is undeniable. Because what is true in art, what is true in Rodin's sculpture, is what you feel. For that is the purpose of composing; To ensure that you cannot deny the emotions that animate the fiction. If you do not believe the emotions, in the sense that you feel them yourself, you will not believe the fiction, and then all you are experiencing is puppetry, dummies in costume. I was interested to see how your intellect led you astray on the Rodin, too. You wondered if they were guilty or not. But do you realize that you could only ask that question if you already had some knowledge, wildly incomplete, of the literary reference. There is no reference in the art itself that these men are being judged. They are free to move around, are they not? So the question of their guilt is not actually a question the sculpture engenders. Even the questions: "who are these men, why are they so anguished, where are they, what is going to happen to them, what are they saying?" Even all those questions are the result of the literary mind intruding upon the experience of the artwork. The sculpture is. There are no questions about it. How you experience it is the truth of it and the statement it is making simultaneously. When the literary mind shoves its way into the experience, the art experience, the reanimation, the truth-telling, is effectively over.
Hi Kev,I knew you were taken by the radically ahistorical Enlightenment and post enlightenment thinkers, but I was unsure as to what extent. Who said anything about facts?Why do you think that the story of the siege and the call for the surrender of the Burghers evokes any less real an emotion in me than the simpler sense of what is taking in place in the sculpture is in you? You are interpreting the metal sculpture as if it were alive, through exactly the same process as that of the written word. Both are pointers, both point to and evoke an emotion. A visual cue is a pointer, just as a word, a sentence, an idea is a pointer.If the story turned out to be untrue, I still got a chance to contemplate the seriousness of such a situation, whereas the person who denied the verbal story outright lost such an opportunity. After a while of dismissing verbal cues, one's mind changes and eventually becomes less capable of entertaining verbal cues and contrasts.Clinging to the concrete is no more real because one is clinging to sensations and in doing so, retrains their mind to respond to them as the mind does to any pointers. A sensation is no more real than an understanding of compassion for example or an understanding which may dispel a fear. Truth be told, sensation can't give the affirmation that the heart seeks.Why is a written description which evokes an emotion any less real than cuing pointers in the creation of an object? Both the description and the object are created by utilizing languages as pointers and so both are the products of the mind using pointers through different languages.Why is my belief in the supremacy of virtue over darkness any less real than another's commitment to vitalism? Do we assume that communing with a virtue has less reality, less vitality. less emotion, less being than communing with some other non verbal aspect of reality?If the woman I mentioned who sought to be euthanized was lovingly told that her sober misery was worth far more in life than herself in death, or another's delusional happiness, might she have reconsidered her decision? Possibly. If the doctor believed that her misery in life had more dignity than she in death, would he have euthanized her? I don't think so. It might have given her pause to reconsider. In other words, I agree with you that it is in what one believes which has consequences.In life there is an in perpetuity, a sense that life goes on. Death itself is a fiction to the verbal mind as you would put it, but also to the entire mind, yet we know at some point, despite this in perpetuity of being, such will happen.Vitalism is a belief in a continual denial of the verbal self in favor of sentient being, even a continual denial of self, since the verbal mind is in a state of continual dismissal.Does anyone really think drawing and painting is learned by some nonverbal mind? We learn to recognize the contrasts to look for as taught by teachers. In a sense, we relearn them as some were already learned as pre-verbal cues. It is by tradition that each individual observation builds upon the last. Such is part of history and our personal history. Then understanding how to see, we learn more for ourselves and add upon it in some degree. All of this is of the mind that is commenting, shaping and interacting with being, seeing, etc.. It doesn't matter if such is unaware of itself, it is always the same mind operating upon different cues or pointers, be they verbal, heartfelt or to some color or sensation. Thanks
Short circuits abound.If you find the literary story moving on its own, as moral journalism, that is fine. But you haven't been moved by it as art. In the former case your belief in the truth of the story is crucial to your emotional response. In the latter case, of art, some minimum level of belief in the fiction would be required.I am not interpreting the sculpture. I am experiencing it. This is the realm of the aesthetic. In ignoring this, your characterization of art, or explanation of it goes wildly off the mark; You are only treating of the surface of it when you emphasize pointing. Pointing can never evoke, can never be aesthetic.
Sean:Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pieta and the earlier work of 1498-1499 are of course the same subject and your beautiful interpretation; “that one understands that something in humanity being shown up by virtue got jealous and attempted to murder it,” applies to both.However, regardless of the ‘unfinished’ state of the Rondanini they are very different works, so their differing expression comes from the plastic elements intrinsic to their form and not the text that inspired them.I find the Rondanini’s breath-taking crescent of subtly spiralling forms simultaneously ascending and falling speaks of transcendence through unfettering. And this is realised and expressed in the form of a man holding up a woman who is simultaneously holding him from falling.In the earlier work of 1498-1499 we have a slippery mountain of graceful forms speaking of transcendence through stasis. And this is realised and expressed in the form of a woman serenely looking down at a wounded man fading on her lap.
Pointing can never evoke, can never be aesthetic.Kev,We scan the world around us and are moved by things that grab our attention while almost unknowingly disregarding many other things. All of these things noticed evoke varying responses and all of them are pointers. Someone punching a person in the face is making a point. A woman with a great pair of legs in a pair of spiked heels is making a point. Other times someone is noticing points that are none of their business. Such things are pointers capturing us and thus pointing us to them, making themselves known, but they are still pointers, language.All things we notice then are pointers and have varying content, possibly triggering long forgotten incidents of little consequence and sometimes discardable associations. Everything recognized is in some way a pointer, an indication. There is no clear line between what is and what isn't real since certain virtues and their antithesis are also real and evoke real feelings, developed responses and sometimes refined states of being. There are also contexts for things, or categories as you once put it and all of this is part of not simply thinking, but integral to being. I think this is where we differ in belief. That is, I reject the notion that concrete things are more real than other things, beliefs, states of being, dispositions, etc. evoked by verbal or other languages or relationships.As makers of pictures an artist learns to direct such pointers, capturing posture, attitude, etc. as indicators, indications, recognitions of something.Your take on history is a description of how you disregard various stuff and that's part of the choices you make.I got to know the Burghers of Calais as a project I had to draw from j-pegs available on the internet which weren't very good, so it required some time trying to figure them out which led me to want to know more about them. I experienced the sculpture in its limited universal meaning of the human condition, but not as the Burghers of Calais. In this regard, the sculpture failed its commission.Here's an example in reverse. Looking at the John Sloan print, "Girl's Sliding", I'm taken by the joy of the girls in their light moment. Many of his prints have the same effect and it's a common response, because such was his intention, but this was an era characterized by a narrative of plight, overcrowding, poverty, alcoholism and misery. Yet Sloan captured a rich spirit in the children and life in general which sheds light on this time in history. So it is with Brueghel's etchings which chastised the local serfs for their often grotesque pettiness and indulgences; their dancing, drinking and other follies, (which he may have found beneath himself). But the people in his images have time for such and are well fed, indicating that conditions were hardly as bad as the current narrative which has serfs as entirely miserable and incapable of joy.John Sloan and Brueghel didn't capture the whole truth, no one does, but they intentionally and also unintentionally captured certain truths which shed light upon the current narratives and in so doing have become historical in addition to being art.The inter-relationship of art and the word will continue on in varying forms.
Chris,Very different works indeed. The expression of this sculpture is so unique that I can only wildly guess where it may have come from. It's such a personal statement, different from anything but perhaps the rosary mystery, Mary Ascends to Heaven. That's the only thing that comes to mind as a possibly existing inspiration. The bodily Ascension of Mary and The Pieta as one sculpture.The ascending and descending as you describe it is evident enough to see without effort. This Pieta seems more intimate than the earlier work and clearly suggests a union between the two as possessiveness as they cling to each other. That he spent so many years working and contemplating the piece is also moving as it means each shape and contour was something he was looking for in the marble itself as you suggested.Thank you for sharing this.
Sean,It seems you are confusing empathetic responses to life experience or moral narrative with aesthetic emotion, which is predicated on the intuitive experience of form. Because of this I think you thoroughly misinterpreted what I was pointing out about the aesthetic re-animation of history versus, for want of a better word, the journalistic narration of it. Regarding evocation, while an object in life may, by a chain of association, summon (evoke) some memory to mind, possibly with emotional affect… such an experience is literary in essence. (Based on codified symbols in linear arrangement, even though the codification may be only the viewer’s.) And personal in nature. (You may form associations that others do not and vice versa.) Such an evocation is not suggested by compositional intension, which is a matter of form and how it can be used poetically. In the example of Breughel, I agree that his illustrations of indulgences are effective by virtue of pointing (reference, indication, naming, representing). Which is exactly why they, to the extent they “point”, don’t function aesthetically. Or, to be more clear, the truth Breughel presents is of the “correspondence” variety. Whereas the truth presented through form is of the experiential/aesthetic variety. Both kinds of truth are still predicated on the recognition of relations between elements, but with pointing the codification of the sign used to reference causes that aspect of the communication to be anaesthetic. Very hard to discuss these things over the net, I’m afraid. Best wishes,kev
Kev, It is hard to discuss this stuff over the net for a bunch of reasons, but you made a lot of senseand I appreciate your efforts.Though it's true Brueghel is pointing to stuff in his story, that's not really what I was referring to, but it does help clarify what you are saying. What I'm saying is, light hitting a field is pointing to it. The lit field is being pointed out and thus making itself known. It is a field by its distinction from an apple. It already is a pointer because it is distinct. It also will always be in relation to certain things like a sky or trees or grass. The sun actually does cast light as the world turns, so the relationship is existential, not verbally linear, but in movement, in time.All things are, so all things are already designated in their being, each as its own noun of sorts, a pointer. All is distinguished by its nature and is in relation to other things by its distinguishing traits. I would include linear things here as well but it's gotten in the way before.I know I'm not going to convince you that the verbal works in reverse, delivering one to states of being via understanding, where non verbal things can't go, but that's another area. Yes, of course verbal language is inadequate to take one to certain places and that is the distinction you are making and I do appreciate it and the other concepts you're trying to share. I hope that was a little clearer.Thanks.
I think it is uncontroversial that verbal/text based language should have a different referential purview and different aesthetics than visual language. My understanding of the distinction between the experience of linear languages (text, speech, poems) and nonlinear languages (Art) is that the experience of linear languages begins with distinction and movement and ends with comprehension, whereas nonlinear languages reverse that process.I think you have pulled on this notion of “pointing” to where we no longer share a common understanding of what we are talking about.In art, distinction is intentional. A distinct silhouette is a form of pointing by the artist. But a figure distinct from a ground, in and of itself, is not a form of reference except in the most general way. (i.e. that some thing, as yet indistinct, is being referenced.) Thus visual distinction in art is actually equivalent to a pronoun, not a noun. Since I think it is our minds which convert our perceptions into signs, I can’t agree with how you seem to be assigning intentionality to natural occurrences. I would classify your thinking that distinction in nature is “pointing” (an intentional directing of attention) as religious; “that light in the field is a sign from God” kind of stuff. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that our instinct for immediately assessing distinctions in our environment is what directs our eyes to the lit patch of field?Another way to put it is; an anomaly in nature doesn’t exist, except from the reference frame of a pattern-centric consciousness such as ours which seeks out and notes all outliers. In a similar vein it is hard to agree with the idea that all things are designated as themselves by their particular nature. To our extent of knowledge, nature does not designate. It just is. The light bouncing off objects isn’t being sent to our eyes. The light is being sent everywhere from everything. Most of which never comes close to an eye. When our eyes get in the way of some light rays, then we see stuff. And we learn as infants to recognize all these visual perceptions our eyes take in as icons of their original. And often, at the same time, indexes (or clues) of other related objects, happenings, etc. as smoke indicates fire. As well, a field is not a field by virtue of being distinct from an apple. A field is simply a field. It is only our understanding of the experience of the field that requires contrasting it against things that are not the field in order to be clearer as to what it is or is not.But I still don’t see how any of this refutes what I have said about the essential nature of the art experience as distinct from the experience of journalism or moral thought.
Kev,Yes of course art is different than writing and the second point about comprehending first and later is an interesting line, but music is movement which reveals itself in time, or at least it travels in time. Art has this element of time and movement and often it takes some time to comprehend a nuanced piece of art. Compositions too are of time and may take some time to experience. But yes, we understand something at once in art, but not all of it if it's going to hold our attention.In a zip, what I'm saying is that A) we learn pre-verbally in time and we accumulate recordings of such experiences in time B) that process is one that collects distinctions, designations and pointers, this is soft, that is rough, Mommy get bigger when she comes to me and smaller when she goes away and C) visual perception is as to the nature of things in movement in time. Light is one animating force.All man made objects indicate direction and also are an animating force as are distinctions between things an animating force.Children very quickly learn to discard the inanimate for the moving. Playing beats staring into space, a small gerbil is more entertaining than a lecture. Time, sequence or movement is part of observation.Observations and sensations are not necessarily feelings. Feelings are not necessarily the truth of what is going.Okay, a pronoun, but no, I'm not personifying things as in religion. Of course light lands indiscriminately upon all things, but we're talking about perception.As perception, a field is nothing without some distinguishing feature. You are assuming the human mind can distinguish clearly things at face value prior to the mentioned experiences of learning. We now know that isn't true. A man regained his sight and had to learn to understand the world around him and they made a movie about it.A modern notion is that visual reality is more true than verbal narrative which it is fraught with limitations and lies, but advertising and most modern visual communication is propaganda of some kind and much of people's visual experience today is not watching nature, but television, etc. Art is also capable of propaganda, or can be swept into propaganda through categorization.Some suggest that there is way to eliminate time and enter some kind of pure or primordial preverbal experience to truly relate to the visual world? I disagree with this idea and consider it a fantasy. People can take drugs or abandon themselves to sensation, but they can't comprehend much of a piece of art in all its depth. They can experience a sensation or feeling if the image comes at one as a feeling, but moods and many feelings also become as discardable as inanimate things are to the child.A quick story. A daughter of mine spoke only moma and da and pronounced them oddly, which was concerning. Then when she was two and a half years and looking at my wife's wedding ring she said, "Oh, look at all the lovely angles". After which she didn't say a single word until she was four. In other words, learning and language is so natural to a human being, so apart of the process of learning, loving and relationship, this it is most unusual that a society would embrace a suspicion of it as has ours.Both the visual and verbal world share a number of things in time. There is a hierarchal ordering of elements by their interest and this too is part of the natural pattern of reading the visual world and many of these are learned pre-verbal as impressions, or orientation per appetite.So no, I'm not arguing with you that the visual and verbal experience are in ways unique from one another. Your distinction is well taken. Yes, one is visibly in space, but both are in time. I don't believe them to be so purely separated that titles which shed some light on a piece of art need to be stripped and replaced with titles like, No.24.
Kev,Just an aside, the Burghers are arranged differently in different cities and there is one figure with shackles on the wrists, but no chains. It's not important, but the j-pegs are pretty hard to read.
Kev sez "I can’t agree with how you seem to be assigning intentionality to natural occurrences. I would classify your thinking that distinction in nature is “pointing” (an intentional directing of attention) as religious; “that light in the field is a sign from God” kind of stuff."That's what makes art so exciting to begin with, it can make even more religious images than reality itself can, or at least, it makes for a religious reality with more regularity than reality itself does, and it helps us appreciate reality as though there is intention behind it.Looking at a well done rainy landscapes is nice while I'm looking at it, and one hundred times more exciting when it informs my experience of a rainy day, and during that period, looking out on the rainy day, I can feel like maybe the world isn't just an incredibly lucky, albeit meaningless, collection of atoms, maybe there is a god, or at least an order.Even a gothnerd who looks at goth art all day is doing it, I suspect, because they can feel a certain gothic order to their life. For them, everything can be meaningless, but at least it will do it in a cohesive ordered way.
I don't disagree Richard. Sean,I’m sorry, I’m taking issue with too much of what you’ve written and I’m a bit short on time at the moment to really get into it. I’d love to see the Burgher with the shackles on his wrist if you can find a url. I’m not seeing any shackled wrists. And I’ve seen the sculpture in person three different times in three different locations. (I suppose it is possible I didn’t notice.)Regarding ads and art that lies, I think you still aren’t getting the difference between aesthetic form and codified symbols (words, symbols, logos, known personages, standard scenarios, the emotion-symbols of the face, etc). This seems to be the constant sticking point.All advertising must use codified symbols and it is in the use of such symbols that most of the lies take place. (Not the aesthetic feeling, if there even is any, which there usually isn’t.) An elderly couple in nice clothes walking on a beach is not a lie, generally. But it is understood to be a fiction. When the voice-over discusses just what pharmaceutical product has allowed for the happy walk on the beach, then prevarication may enter into things, because now what is being implied is that the couple seen walking on the beach is in fact a real couple who have indeed really been healed by the product. It is most often the words that bring in the lies in advertising. I can’t think of a single instance where it is the aesthetics.Now there are ways of lying in the visuals of ads too. But this too is due to “speaking” to the audience in known and codified symbols. For instance, we have a codified symbol that has entered the lexicon of film, the shaky camera that denotes an impromptu filming session, as in “on the spot” reporting. A completely set-up scenario with actors and canned staging and all the rest can be filmed in “shaky camera style”, and we are being lied to that possibly the actors and dialog we are witnessing is not a fiction at all, but a real interview being conducted guerrilla style. Again, this lie is perpetuated by the introduction of the known technical index of the shaky camera indicating guerilla-style filming, (once the exclusive province of on the spot news.) So what about that infamous heroic painting of Hitler? By what method does the lie enter there? I submit that it enters by the introduction of the known symbol of Hitler’s personage. Not by the aesthetic qualities that give the viewer the feeling of heroism. Whoever has assigned the heroism to Hitler is at fault. Not the artistry of composition. If Hitler had never looked like that, the painting would just be a fiction, rather than propaganda.This is why the theory of “fascist aesthetics” is pseudo-intellectual pap. It isn’t aesthetics that lie, that glorify tyrants or unhealthy foods. Aesthetic feeling is always so. It can’t be denied. Where the lie enters is where some knave or fool tries to attach the expression to specific products, personages, events, etc, in an untrue or unverified manner. And usually attending these instances; the artist also tries to fool the eye in the tromp l’oeil way of hyperrealists or photo-manipulators, so that the fiction gives the illusion that it is a recording of fact. Good art is a fiction that tells the truth, nothing less or more. This means it doesn’t try to give the illusion that you are looking at a photo, and it doesn’t use codified symbols in any way that falsifies the aesthetically-felt meaning of the picture.
Kev,That's what I meant by categorization. A painter's work can be swept into a propagandistic purpose by being categorized a certain way, used.A bird, a stream, light entering and hitting some leaves, those leaves shimmering and reflecting the light, the direction of an animal with head and tail, no, these things aren't responsible for corruption.Add a logo and the whole thing is corrupted.But there are those whose aesthetic is more stringent than your own and to such even a composition is hackneyed, cultural interference and corrupting. To such Degas said something to the effect, that even a landscape needs to have adjustments.As a person learns these many things of looking, feeling pre-verbally, they also develop a series of likes and dislikes which shape what they find agreeable and disagreeable and these too can be corrupting as they become habitual or cultural.The same aesthetic arguments continue today and a visit to Pinterest will explain with no words why some people make horrifically ugly pictures as an attempt at a counter world. Some sensibilities are born long before by habits unbeknown.On a trip to Ireland I was told to notice that the gardens change from wildflower gardens to manicured gardens as we crossed the border into Northern Ireland and indeed they did and this was a cultural aesthetic reality of basically the same neutral flowers. Nothing corrupt, but just a point.Likewise, on a different trip a group of us found ourselves entering a pub in Connemara by the sea as the summer sun was setting late. It was country pub and myself and company sat down and ordered our pints. At the table next to us were two local women and a man, who appeared to be the husband of one and a young mentally challenged boy of about 18. All were nursing pints. Two other boys from the group were playing pool in a back room. I was entirely amazed at the tenderness afforded to the young man when he spoke and in general, the tenderness of the group. By the time I finished my pint, my life was never going to be the same.I was a younger successful man of enjoyment and assumed myself comfortable within my own skin, but I understood during that short time that I had never been in my skin like these people were. The work hard, play hard lifestyle and aesthetic of NYC truly revealed itself to be quite empty. In truth, several events of a similar nature added to the pub moments which had exposed me to myself. There was nothing sentimental read into the situation. I was viewing something unknown to me and very real.Seeing oneself is very difficult, largely because our aesthetic relationship to life is molded by habit and the non and pre-verbal process, and by acclimating ourselves to an agreeable and sometimes self aggrandizing aesthetic.A trip is often what knocks an artist into another realm. American artists travelled to Paris, Parisian artists to Morocco, etc. I wonder as the world becomes ever more similar will such jarring be possible.Take away every word, every commercial reference in any commercial print piece or video and what is left is just as corrupt as any linear, or journalistic narrative.I'll look for what I remembered as a shackles on the wrists of one of the Burghers. If I don't post it, then considered the point conceded.
Sean, I'm just disagreeing with so much of what you are writing, that I really risk total diffusion of our exchange if I respond to everything. I would rather just concentrate here:Take away every word, every commercial reference in any commercial print piece or video and what is left is just as corrupt as any linear, or journalistic narrative.Again, please acknowledge that you understand this point: A fiction is not a lie. A fiction only becomes a lie if one attempts to pass it off as reality.Also, I never said, and don't believe that linear or journalistic narrative is inherently corrupt.
Kev, Yes, I acknowledge what you are saying by, a fiction is not a lie unless passed off as the truth. What I'm saying is, that non fiction is a lie when its "believed" to represent more than partial truth, even when not being manipulated. Nature in the negative utopian novels became a window, an alternative reality where a one could experience a state of being outside the parameters of the conditioned society and thus it was a truthful opening. When it becomes the alternative state of being to the dystopia, then it is no longer truth, as it represents but a partial truth. I'm trying to share how one can't see what they have never experienced or understood and prior to such experiences, are living in a partial world, experientially or otherwise.
Kev,I stand corrected. In this image the man on the right is holding the key to the city, which not having heeded the entire story I may have remembered as something else. The ropes? I have no idea what they are, but that may have been what was in my head.http://www.adtca.com/2014-convention/convention-schedule-events/barnes-museum-rodin-museum
Good art is a fiction that tells the truth, nothing less or more.Good art is a fiction that tells a partial truth. It is when an individual or group thinks they hold the entirety of truth, that we see the development of puritanism.
Hi Sean Could you have mistaken the town key one of the Burghers is carrying for shackles?Yes the story can make arr more interesting. Some stories are so much a part of a culture they are almost tools of conditioning. But " thinking" or "thought" or the word is so incomplete compared to reality. Why did Thomas Aquinas stop writing?as he said "I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me." At the simplest level everyone knows what the word hand stands for but to draw or paint a hand one quickly learns how barren one's mental conception is and how beyond words the actual hand is. When you seat down to make a deeper connection to reality by drawing the vagueness and incompleteness of thought to use a spiritual world is "revealed," and if your honest you realize how little you know of something that is for all practical purpose constantly present. If art teaches anything it teaches appreciation for what is.The power of the Burghers of Calais is it reflects the human condition which is suffering. The circle they travel in, (a circle always returns on itself) the hopelessness, the fear and lost they confront isn't that everyone's condition? The vitality of Rubens reflects a deep appreciation of life, it's over abundance , it's world without end quality, it's beauty it's radiance (and what is more spiritual and meaningful then radiance). Vitality is responsible for all "nuisance and all complexity," or as the Taoist say, "the tao that can be spoken of is not the tao." Visual artists often do not shared in the concerns of the political and moral man. This exactly what the clergy suspected of Veronese when he was called upon to explain his painting Feast in the House of Levi. Kev I never thought you would be in agreement with Picasso, who said, "Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth."
I said Art is a fiction that tells a truth, not a lie that tells the truth. This was a common belief among artists long before Picasso mangled the idea.
Hi Tom, Yes, I think I mistook the key to be a shackle, possibly over time and may have mixed the non existent shackles with the ropes. Even if the ropes were possibly tow ropes for lifting things, the sculpture says enslavement to some. Your description of the statue is very good. The sculpture as it appears here, is different than at Stanford University, where the figures are separated. The men are perplexed, but why? Such is where the story enhances the artwork, but enough of that.When C.K. Chesterton was asked, Mr. Chesterton, what is wrong with this world, he replied, Me, I'm what's wrong with this world.The wisdom of acknowledging that mankind can't know all, is the reason the Greeks and others came to recognize at the very least, that only something beyond us could know all things. This is because life is sequential and we can't see all of our lives until they've been lived. Neither can we see anyone else's story in its entirety. Also though we are in a reality, we are in it in a partial way. By human nature we are forever trying to navigate live or experience life from incomplete experience and life is continually teaching us, (to personify life).Kev has made a very good point, that art is a fiction, that tells the truth. I'm adding, that being is a partial reality, that even in seeing that drawing a figure is different than the actual figure, we are not drawing the truth, but something as a point in time, a partial truth and to draw on Kev's contribution, the drawing itself is a fiction that tells that (partial) truth.It goes without saying that I communicate in short circuits, but new things come of it all the time. If I spoke from knowingness in all things and that was my criteria, I either wouldn't lift my head from the ground because I know my experience is woefully partial, or I would learn nothing in the process.Tom, your point about the Tao is pertinent and this was the crux of what I was driving at, which was, that our experiential reality is effected by the understandings as we move through life. We are not simply metabolic beings in time, but the very nature of the "Tao" changes in us with understanding. In other words, we are not just tapped into life as alienated creatures filling up at a gas station, to an external reality, but in relationship with it. It's not relativism, but a relationship growing in understanding which is revealed sequentially in time. The very nature of the oneness sought is never entirely known as we are continually learning and can never be entirely known. At least, that was once one of the purposes of social order. Yes, the Aquinas example is extraordinary. Of course he understood the difference between experience and reflection, that wasn't the revelation. He got to see something he could only have pondered, as a reward for his writings as the story goes. He saw the beatific reality of something beyond the limits of ordinary sensory reality. Not only did his writings appear dead, but this life as well had lost its grip on him. We know this because such was what his writing was about.Thanks
It is when an individual or group thinks they hold the entirety of truth, that we see the development of puritanism.Again, you are bundling different kinds of statements together presented in different mediums of expression which consider different scales of experience and use different symbl systems without considering that the differences matter. Belief systems are literary in nature. They are not to be confused with an aesthetic experience, which is incontrovertible. You blithely keep saying you understand me, but then you keep making the same analytical errors.
Truth only refers to a gestalt, a complete statement, a comprehenive relation of some scale. There is no such thing as partial truth. That is an idea that comes out of the use of codified language, which is all kluged. Nothing is partially experienced. It is in our characterization of experience in codified language that distortion enters and corrupts.
Kev, Intelligence is present in experience, it's simply not commenting on it simultaneously as an afterthought, but it is aware of experience simultaneously as intelligence. I've made a case that language, observation, intelligence and reasoning interrelate in art and that art is never entirely experiential or non-verbal even though the art product is non verbal, (but for its title). Cats don't view art, though they are experiential.I wonder if Howard Pyle considered his Battle of Bunker Hill dismissible as historical art because he wasn't there? Maybe he did. I haven't a clue.Actually, "belief systems" are pre-assessment and experiential as intelligence, though you disagree.We disagree on some things, fair and simple.We are supposed to disagree. There may have been some misunderstandings, we tried, but we'll survive it. That's what a place like this is for.
Kev, I would be letting you down not to put you onto a book that describes vitalism in the introduction as one of three areas of thought. Erich Kahler's introduction to Man The Measure, A New Approach to History, 1956 New York, George Braziller, Inc. In the introduction he explains vitalism as the dismissal of thought as an interference with experience and experience as truth.Of course the roots to this are eastern and then Rousseau but now popularized by positivism.Since you've repeatedly expressed this position, I thought it might be of interest to read someone whose mind was well regarded in relation to the matter. The question of the section is titled, What is human?His buddies included Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. We reached a point where it was good for us to let it go. Thanks.I've included a wiki link to the thinker and book here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Kahler
Sean, I don't dispute that a host of factors can affect the experience of a work of art, but almost none of them are unique to art. Nor do they provide the power of art. What is unique to art, and its wellspring of force, is solely the aesthetic component. It is hardly only vitalists who appreciate this. (I've read quite enough on vitalism already, but thank you for taking the time to research the topic for the sake of enriching the conversation.)Much of the issue here simply boils down to how we differ in our definition of experience. You will assert that the definition of experience includes conscious thought, and I will disagree, asserting that thinking is not living. However, on that point, since the instinct can be quite extensively trained in any number of modes and patterns of understanding, each of us replete with such internalized paradigms which we apply constantly and reflexively, it is hardly so that thought is being "dismissed" here. Thought is simply understood as preparation for experience. Such pragmatism is hardly anti-intellectual. It is however anti-solipsistic.
Hi Sean"When C.K. Chesterton was asked, Mr. Chesterton, what is wrong with this world, he replied, Me, I'm what's wrong with this world." I like that. Ramana Maharshi said essential the same thing,"In due course, we will know that our glory lies where we cease to exist."
Kev, I once held to the premise that experience was the measure of being, or reality and thought a reflective response. Words may be reflective, but that's too obvious to accept as the end of it. All people have languages, other sentient creatures don't, so the question then becomes what is human, over what is real. Or rather, what is human being.I was beheld by the premise that experience was truth and living experientially, assuming it was unguided by the premise and in avoidance of a great many observations one might have called derived. Experiences in a given life are often inadequate for a fuller understanding of being human. A culture based on economics fails to create such experiential iconography, or iconography one might experience, real visual situations one might find themselves in. That would be, living art, or the subject matter of art.The whole matter took me more than a year to wrestle my way out of since a skewed premise skews all. I hesitate to go even near the matter, so oddly trained and difficult it was to extract myself.Kahler's book was one of the few things that offered a different perspective and asked the proper question.We are talking ideas here so they aren't actually personal, I mean, lots of people believe many things on both sides of this coin, but because they are so believed, so repeated in oneself, they become personal and are taken personally. Which is why I was talking around you, trying to avoid talking at you.Yes, I believe consciousness is living as love is experienced and involves thoughtfulness which often precedes action. Thoughts may also be inspired, sometimes preceding action.The expressions of art as 50 foot long wooden walls hammered a million times express truth as experience but little more. Yet as I experience it, I'm experiencing the life of my own organism, my breathing, the space between me and it as much as I'm experiencing the hammered wood, etc. Somehow, both the experience of such art leaves me in a half experience, half hearted, or divided, as it doesn't draw me into abandonment to itself which might be called a full experience. Kev, thanks for your response.Tom, thank you for Ramana Marashi's quote and I'm glad you liked Chesterton's quote.
Sean, you are assigning me more of your own assumptions about what I think per paragraph than almost any commentator I have encountered. Your even temper, poetic writing style, and wide scope of reference is at odds with this tendency to pigeon-hole rather than consider. You are also conflating questions and issues which are distinct matters and then attacking the bundle you’ve made as a proxy for some point of mine that is distinct from most of what is in the bundle. I never said that experience was the “measure” of being. I merely hold to a particular definition of experience as distinct from reflection (Dewey’s Art as Experience defined experience in a way that I still find compelling) I never denied that reflection is one of the things that makes us human nor that it can provide a fuller understanding of us and the world. This is obvious truth. Where did I deny it? A culture based on economics fails to create such experiential iconography, or iconography one might experience, real visual situations one might find themselves in. That would be, living art, or the subject matter of art.No idea what you are trying to say here, what you are trying to disprove or prove. You say “a culture based on economics”… which culture in history was based on economics? Do you think what I am saying necessitates such a “culture based on economics?” No idea why you think that.The whole matter took me more than a year to wrestle my way out of since a skewed premise skews all. I hesitate to go even near the matter, so oddly trained and difficult it was to extract myself. Kahler's book was one of the few things that offered a different perspective and asked the proper question…. lots of people believe many things on both sides of this coin, but because they are so believed, so repeated in oneself, they become personal and are taken personally. Which is why I was talking around you, trying to avoid talking at you.You know, I was going to mention in one of my previous posts on here how I once held your position and changed. But then I realized that that was not really an argument but a rhetorical trick to make it seem like I held to the deeper understanding between us without actually having to explain why this was so. Such assumptive tendencies don’t make for honest conversation and you should ponder why you felt the urge to use such a tactic here.Yes, I believe consciousness is living as love is experienced and involves thoughtfulness which often precedes action. Thoughts may also be inspired, sometimes preceding action.Dear fellow, when you change the wording of the thought, you change the thought. I don’t dispute that consciousness is part of living, nor that love is an experience. I do dispute that consciousness must involve willful analytical-symbolic cogitation. And I do dispute that love involves thoughtfulness. (The tending of one’s loves requires thoughtfulness, not love itself.)I have no idea what your 50foot long board with nails hammered into it example has to do with. But I am sure it has no relation to any aspect of any argument that I actually made. Sean, thank you for your response.
Kev, I'm responding to the ideas.I'm saying consciousness is part of experience and the two aren't separate, even if reflective thought may appear so at times.Experience as receptivity is not creative, only the animating aspect is. The act of creativity is an experience involving thoughtfulness.The intelligence in consciousness is the same that animates thoughtfulness, reflective thought is not added like a quart of oil.We experience things in hierarchy by way of what we focus on or don't focus on, what we experience or don't. Allan Watts who popularized Zen in the 60s and 70s said something along the lines of, we aren't aware of our feet until they hurt. By saying this, I am not attacking you. I'm saying it because I think it is an interesting point to bring to the subject.There is a natural hierarchal reality in all experience, a natural selectivity to it. Even in peripheral receptivity, perception of the whole field of vision for example and of course where there is focus, or perception of action and in action. In Breaking Home Ties, either the art director asked Rockwell to add the pennant or he did it himself. The use of the pennant is a cultural icon, not universal, though the image is easy enough to understand as an older man and boy presumably the father. The pennant and word State adds a dimension of meaning we understand in terms of the title, but without having to know the title. I'm not a purist about these things, so I'm not offended by the literary addition. Yet I'm not saying you are offended by it either when I say I'm not offended.The larger dimension of Breaking Home Ties is animated by the understanding of fatherhood which is brought to the image from outside, from the viewer. It's not a universal understanding since not everyone is a father, nor seems to understand the intimacies of it as a father might. The years the father protected the boy as he helped fortify him from and for the world, the picture then becomes more heartfelt. I think it is fair to say the artist used the pennant as a devise to animate the viewer in this direction. When I write this I'm not saying you don't understand these things, but they reflect upon the subject of literary intrusions and extra experiential understandings intruding or brought to an image. The experiential wall of hammered wood is a reflection on the concept of a partial experience, Experience may be divided, decreased or heightened by the level of interest, or by possibly fear, desire, anticipation, adrenaline, etc.A world based on economics is our now very materialistically domesticated society which I believe lacks certain contrasts and iconography by its nature. This also had nothing to do with you. I was extending thought on partial experience, something you expressed a different opinion on.There is no such thing as larger partial reality, but people experience it partially. How I once thought and how difficult it was to extract myself explained the power of training oneself in a particular direction. What you actually believe isn't going to change my wariness of the subject. I think it's a difficult and tricky area.Finally, love is experienced, often discovered, other times given by no participation of one's own will. It's a statement again which explains that it is not willful analytics. You agree, but act as if I was attacking something you said by adding it. My point...is that the love that is experienced is also a love that may be co-created or recreated to be returned in some part through the animation of consciousness in action as thoughtfulness. Thus it is in itself an experience. That is, creativity is an interacting with life and art, it is culture and it as much a part of experience or every bit as real as preverbal experience. All of this is in relation to the act of being human and creativity. That's what I've been talking about.
I don’t disagree that consciousness is part of experience. I think I just disagree that consciousness is the same thing as symbolic-analytic reflectivity. I think reflectivity is a large part of consciousness. But I believe there is such a thing as non-symbolic consciousness which is governed by both innate and trained instinct. And thereby may be quite intelligent indeed in whatever eventuality or circumstance it is called upon to experience. Particularly as time marches and a person internalizes an ever-enlarging library of reflections upon experience. And it is this kind of open consciousness that operates in the true experiential mode. No doubt that in the midst of experience, reflectivity, or “thoughtfulness” may arise. It may arise continually, and often. My feeling is that such rhythmic insertions of reflection into experience are either part of the effort to use symbols to clarify the ongoing experience, or some past experience, or to model the current experience or future ones, so as to more successfully navigate it (experientially, symbolically, or both). But, as I probably already implied, my feeling would be that in reflecting, one drops out of experiencing. C.S. Peirce made the observation that the purpose of reflective thought is “the fixation of belief.” I find this a very compelling view. Thus, one finishes reflecting, and in so doing, having solved some problem through mental modelling, returns to experiencing.
Regarding Breaking Home Ties, you are conversing with a fellow that grew up under a single mom. For all intents and purposes I had no father growing up. And yet I never didn’t understand the poignancy of Rockwell’s masterpiece. Thus I must believe that my experience refutes your opinion in that regard. I would add that I don’t believe anybody who views that picture needs anything to appreciate it outside of common experience. Not just at the literal level either. Because Rockwell has done a masterful job of explaining through aesthetic form (in the wide sense) everything that needs to be known outside of common reference in order to both understand the picture intellectually, and to feel it as a work of art. This is not to say that as time goes on, one’s appreciation for father-son partings may not become more acutely felt. One can imagine such a viewer returning to Breaking Home Ties, the emotional catharsis it provides then becoming more specified and/or stronger. But this specificity is only an illusion with regard to what is portrayed by the picture. What has really happened is that the viewer has loaded up with more acute tension in need of catharsis regarding the subject. It is still the aesthetic effect of the picture that is providing the catharsis. This being all the more hidden, and thus made effective, by the specific connection made by the viewer with the subject.I disagree that there is such a thing as partial experience. As far as I can tell, there is only experience and symbolic consciousness. What you call partial experience, in the sense of divided attention or disinterest, I would re-word as a situation where the subject was divided between their interior modeling and exterior perception. But whatever their experience was, insofar as it fits the definition of experience, it was their full experience. (In other words, the experience is not what happens at some event, the experience is the non-symbolic consciousness’ intersection with the event. Thus a partial participation in an event is still a complete experience.)Where fear, desire, anticipation, and adrenaline enter into it, one is dealing with authentic experience, as such states can only be triggered by real events or by trigger-symbols hard wired to activate the intuitive response. In the case of exhaustion or laziness, where not much interaction is happening nor mental reflection, I believe the experience of the torpor is the reality.I see your later points as to do with mental models and would dispute that recollection is experience. I think this is solipsism. As memory and imagination can easily be commingled in the mind. And one can very easily have an emotional reaction to an imaginative fantasy. Indeed, one can wake up accidentally in love with the pillow case.
Kev, Yes, the Rockwell is a masterpiece of capturing a complex emotional moment, one that involves time as in father and son exist across time. I was also referring to the pennant as an external, non-values neutral object, (real as some put it), literary in nature and a cultural element because it also is an article born of time and place.There is a past tense, present and future reality. The past is difficult to discern (we agree) and the future is susceptible to the delusions of optimism and also despair. The present though is where we make all our mistakes.I wish the experience of innocence in peripheral awareness was a more widely functioning part of life, but it isn't. Awareness is of different natures, focused, peripheral, receptive or predatory in nature depending not on an analysis but often our interior state, but also what grabs our attention in our sphere, also not by analysis. Of course delicate observation births forth thoughtfulness as they are from the same intelligence-awareness and from predatory observation springs accordingly, all without analysis. That is not to say such thoughtfulness can't be born as or in action. Civilization is the decision of choosing one over the other however subtle it may be and such is accumulated over time. I do know what you are referring to as full experience and also reality. But for the moment, if we separate the real from experience we see that reality has to be experienced, yet that experience can't be assumed as always true or therefore true. Experience involves awareness, so half aware isn't fully aware. Reality exists regardless of awareness. A child experiences differently than an adult because both are at different levels in the accumulation of experience. Nowhere has analysis as time been mentioned yet.We chase the love of our lives in the moment and we may enter into it without much reflection, but if it is to grow it will require understanding. Understanding is as real as hitting one's thumb with a hammer and can be as delicate and joyful as any sensory experience. Our sense of humor is an example of understanding as joy.Through understanding one can engender and cultivate the habits of thoughtfulness and this is as real as the awareness which gave birth to thought.They are born of the same stuff. They may be separate as falsehood or misunderstandings, but they are always real. Thanks.
PS: Sorry, values neutral object, missed the comma and cancelled the meaning.
Nothing in Breaking Home Ties is placed without being considered as a compositional element which has its effect through aesthetic means; the pennant included. One doesn’t need to know what the pennant says, or what a pennant is, (as I didn’t in the first few years of my appreciation of this picture) in order to understand what that bright red and white patterned shape expanding upward means at the abstract level. The quality of the passage of time is beautifully expressed in the comparison of all weathered objects to the spanking newness that suffuses and surrounds the young man. (It is analyzing art at this abstract, compositional level where I am not sure you have the same depth of appreciation to match your strong appreciation of the human/literary side. And I think this is leading to patches of miscommunication in these exchanges.)Delicate observation, as with all observation, has both an aesthetic and a symbolic component. I stand behind what I have already wrote that our consciousness switches back and forth between perception and symbolic modeling (of the various sorts), even in situations of careful detection. (Incidentally, one of the most sensible critical views of text-based or verbal language is to note just how poor it is as a model of reality. Words are the least like experience of any medium of expression ever developed by mankind. And I think this is why so many have lost their bearings living too deeply in the realm of words. Words, it seems, are quite often used as an anti-anxiety medication more than a carrier of information; The illusion that naming a thing is understanding it, an epidemic among the literate, is a particularly pernicious habit to shake.)“Awareness” may be a synonym for the non-symbolic consciousness. Again, though, it is important to note how internalized experience greatly informs awareness.if we separate the real from experience we see that reality has to be experienced, yet that experience can't be assumed as always true or therefore true.Again and again, you aren’t getting that it is in the interpretation of experience that the error comes in. Experience itself is always true. Truth comprehends facts at all scales of life. The lie comes in if you assume that whatever your particular experience was, (of some event) it was/is sufficient to comprehend the truth of the complete event. (This is known as an induction fallacy.) Or the lie may come in when we attempt to interpret the experience through symbols and symbol-based paradigms. (i.e. squashing the experience into mere words (reductio ad absurdum), or seeing the experience through an Ideological prism, (easy enough to do given that such prisms are endemic to thought.))This is the danger of giving the intellect the benefit of the doubt, given how prone to error it is. The ego and the intellect are inseparable. Both so pleased with the success of the mind’s capacity to model experience through symbols, that such modeling happens constantly, reflexively and without sufficient epistemological humility. The only check on this is experience. And this is just why it is of the utmost necessity that experience be given a distinct definition and one in contradistinction to any and all manipulations of the mind.
Understanding is as real as hitting one's thumb with a hammer and can be as delicate and joyful as any sensory experience. Our sense of humor is an example of understanding as joy. Again, you are running into the epistemology issue. Understanding is an assumption. One’s understandings are quite often merely the prevailing ideology of one’s culture. I know otherwise intelligent people who believe everything and hold every opinion that appears on the news channels they adhere to or media they read, and everything outside of that particular narrowly controlled sphere of information they consider to be horrible lies told by selfish, foolish, mad monsters. Accordingly, what these people find funny is also exactly in accord with the beliefs held in the information fortress their politics/indoctrination has garrisoned them in. Again, this all comes back to the same points. Experience is incontrovertible. The interpretation of that experience is where the lies begin. And the more one lives in the symbolic representations of experience, relying on them for understanding, the more likely it is that some understandings will be blinkered to the point of madness. The more one checks the mind’s models against further experience, the more the potential for symbolic madness is kept in check and it is indeed truth that is internalized.
Kev, Thanks for explaining to me what you have. The point you are making is not something I disagree with. It's a simple one to me. A tree falls in a forest and one hears it, no falseness. But receptivity isn't action even though it is an experience. I think I covered that. The troubles arise in experience as action, not only as action from past tense verbal interference, or even past experienced interference.In other words, troubles come from impulses of appetites too.Look at all the people in jail. Some are there because they couldn't control their impulses of or for non verbal wants. They didn't understand another as themselves, etc. They didn't understand the concept of civilization.The reason we make all our mistakes in the present is because we are always in the present, not because we rely upon past associations. Is there any state of being so resolved as to possess no fear, so resolved as to be able to function without certain understandings? Are not impulses of appetite and even certain wants non verbal? Don't humans have conflicts involving such non verbal realities?The Rockwell is expressing a complex emotion through non verbal language, yes, I understand that.Humor is also something real involving understandings and Rockwell was a master at that as well. Through understandings we can direct ourselves to more humane heartfelt experiential reality. Language is directional. That's the purpose of learning and experiencing things, to become more human. I already lamented previously here that there wasn't a more functional state of innocence. Images evoke language and language may evoke images and both may evoke feelings. Also feelings may invoke images. All is directional and has purpose. It all converges on a very fine question, the mystery of intelligence? At some point, a word or sound pointed or indicated something. It is not as divided as you imagine. Understanding helps us order our impulses. Peace.
Kev, Going back to the beginning of this exchange, I think I mentioned that our understanding of the visual world is learned. When we recognize something it implies we already have been there and our observation is accordingly. In other words, we don't examine each thing we recognize as if seeing it for the first time. Though visual as it hits our eyes, we have coded it to some degree.As a result, this is why an artist will make something more real than it is. Also, I have gained some things from your writings here which I am grateful for.
Just to be clear, the tree falling in the forest is not the experience. The experience is the intuitive apprehension of the event by the consciousness. The reason it is true is because whatever facts are involved in the experience are pre-integrated into their proper relations to each other and the gestalt. This is simply the nature of reality, that facts and how they are related is indistinguishable. So any clear communion with reality will be truthful in its way. It is only in our symbolizations and our grammatic arrangements of symbols in mental models that facts and their natural relations become erroneously distinct and accidentally scrambled. It is true that receptivity is not equivalent to action. However there is a strong overlap. Action is the perfect test for understanding; an experience designed/modeled in the mind which, when realized as a form of tool of some intended effect, directly contacts with reality, providing sensory feedback about the validity of the presuppositions by which the action/tool was originally designed. (Either consciously or unconsciously) Actions are really no different than the feelers of an ant, in terms of gaining feedback from direct contact with the world. We as human merely have the amazing capacity to mold our feelers at will.The question of acting on impulse really depends on the impulse. Most every action we take is on impulse, although we rarely appreciate that. I have been pointing out that impulse can be trained by the internalization of lessons experienced. And since these lessons take symbolic form in the mind before they are internalized, I am again pointing out a necessary role of the modeling function of the mind. (Again, if a model passes real world tests of sufficient rigor, they generally are internalized and become intuitive paradigmatic governors of further experience. Of course, there are people who simply don’t have effective minds or have had nothing but bad experience, and such people are often helpless to learn effectively from life, to extract/abstract truths from concrete experience.)
Understanding helps us order our impulses.Did you think I contradicted this notion? This fits in exactly with what I am saying about the role of the mind as symbolic modeler, and the role of experience as the constant check on the models. Impulses are instincts acted upon. Appreciated experience trains instinct, thereby training impulse. Of course, again, there are people who have learning issues of various sorts; hyperactivity, compulsions, addictions and the like, and these issues alter the way feedback from reality is brought into comprehension (in order to fix new beliefs about successful methods of self-governance by which to improve our habits of mind and body.)Images evoke language and language may evoke images and both may evoke feelings. Also feelings may invoke images. All is directional and has purpose. It all converges on a very fine question, the mystery of intelligence? At some point, a word or sound pointed or indicated something. It is not as divided as you imagine.Just because two buildings are connected by a road, that doesn’t mean they are the same building. This seems rather obvious. Since I am not forgetting the role of the road to connect the buildings, my understanding of the fact that the buildings are distinct is in no way compromised. So I would counter that the symbols by which we think are just as divided and unitary as I imagined. Just as the call number for a book is not the book, the word is not the thought. But some pathways in the mind are so well worn that they expedite the calling process to a rather startling rapidity. But these calls only seem instantaneous; they still require electrochemical signals to wend through the brain. That's the purpose of learning and experiencing things, to become more human.This is ideology which you are asserting. The more likely way of viewing learning and experience, is that its first role is to help us survive as organisms. Once physical survival is assured for some duration, the mind is at leisure to use whatever abilities it has in whatever way it finds interesting. Some people will use that time to learn how to better play Texas Hold’em. Though visual as it hits our eyes, we have coded it to some degree. As a result, this is why an artist will make something more real than it is. Obviously I agree that we must learn the visual language of the world, and such conceptions, with the test of time, become internalized. But I’m not sure the connection with artists you are making.
Kev, I will try and flesh out the last point.Yes, I understand a word represents something and isn't that something and that perception requires electromagnetic signals. You understand that color and sight itself can be deconstructed and so too auditory experience. Such doesn't mean that they don't exist, yet on a certain level they don't exist. The marvel is that from such parts, they do exist. Likewise, we see something not once, but multiple times and develop an understanding by way of familiarity, pre verbally. As the infant learns one thing it moves to learn another and each novelty replaces what was novel not only yesterday, but even minutes ago. It's a non verbal familiarity but reduces the actual experience of seeing once and replaces it with a seeing experience based on recognition as it is now understood, familiar. The interpretation of what one sees gets inured or prioritized, given a different status and placed on a different level of importance. Not over a long period of time, but by the nature of priority, visual focus. Sometimes monotony, a hunger for novelty and many other pre verbal elements do come into play to dethrone the previous novelty.Marriages or human relations of all kinds suffer from such visual musical chairs all the time. What replaces the initial experience of seeing doesn't need to be verbal to reduce the seeing experience, or effecting upon being an experience from ah to oh.The artist uses a visual hyperbole or visual exaggeration of something so one notices it,takes notice of it, so it becomes interesting again.The artist may capture something, making it appear new, more real.I was unfamiliar with your work and then saw it at Concept.org. You have a toolbox of things you do really well and this is not to flatter you falsely, but I enjoyed many things you do, but most enjoyable for me was the way you draw horses and riders upon them. I loved the twisting and turning, the weight of the horses and their riders.It's hard for me to believe that my enjoyment of your drawings of horses wouldn't be a pleasing thing to you. I draw all the time and I love it as an end in itself, but it means something to me when a peer notices when I make a big breakthrough or sees something I was enjoying, or sees something enjoyable I may not have noticed myself.I'm saying that the visual world is the same and the same in art, that our understanding in the world both in visual iconography and the word both convey a real feelings, unless of course being human is just an ideology which means nothing to someone. Each language makes use of experiences often learned using another language. Rockwell did this all the time with his humor and complex emotions. Human beings not only have biological impulses, we have desires and needs which sometimes surpass even our concerns for survival. One of the oddest and most enjoyable of such needs is for other people and to be recognized. Even to recognize one's self as is, or another as in themselves is a complex experience. Civilization is not an ideology, it is real.Where I got lost and I seemed unable to connect here was that I was trying to identify the experience you were talking about which wasn't subject to prioritization. Other than an initial experience, I don't know of any freed from prioritization. Texas Hold 'em, funny, yes, well that's a civilized way of passing the time too.
Likewise, we see something not once, but multiple times and develop an understanding by way of familiarity, pre verbally. As the infant learns one thing it moves to learn another and each novelty replaces what was novel not only yesterday, but even minutes ago. It's a non-verbal familiarity, but reduces the actual experience of seeing once, and replaces it with a seeing experience based on recognition as it is now understood, familiar. The interpretation of what one sees gets inured or prioritized, given a different status and placed on a different level of importance. Not over a long period of time, but by the nature of priority, visual focus. Sometimes monotony, a hunger for novelty and many other pre verbal elements do come into play to dethrone the previous novelty.I do not think this is an accurate understanding of how one learns the visual language. First off, familiarity, (or recognizing) is not understanding, and it is a mistake to think it is. This is another form of the “naming is to understand” fallacy. Naming being merely a way to call up the visual signs of a known entity by the use of a “calling” text sign.To actually understand the language of the visual world, there is on the one hand, the understanding of how light works, and all its phenomenal manifestations, optics, physics, and all that… which requires understanding the relation of visual causes to visual effects. And on the other hand, the association of visual qualia with physical qualia, which comes with association of the datum from one sense (usually touch) with the datum from the visual sense. (You even pointed this out later in your post; Each language makes use of experiences often learned using another language. )So, for instance, a rough texture means nothing to the eye until we feel the texture with our fingers. Then the mental connection is made, and our mind’s eye is educated about what roughness looks like. So next time we see rough, we have a connection to the sensory feel of rough (such connections are the origin of the effectiveness of metaphor, we now know.) Another example: If we see a huge mountain in the distance, we have no sense of it until we walk up to it, seeing it grow and grow until it is, indeed, mountainous before us. And then having an appreciation for its scale visually, we try to climb it. Then, and only then, do we understand what we are seeing as solid reality. And then, and only then, do we understand at the intuitive level what it means to say “move mountains.”
On prioritization/fixation/focus: If we fixate on that which we already understand in the environment, we will indeed become inured to its aesthetic reality, which is its real meaning. The same thing happens with any distinct thing. It is made meaningless by our fixation on it. (Probably because loss of context causes a loss of meaning. Thus, the more we focus on a thing to the exclusion of all else, the less it means.)I started to address focus earlier when I discussed how “our instinct for immediately assessing distinctions in our environment is what directs our eyes to the lit patch of field.” Implicit in this description is the reality that focus is a process that moves from the generality to the specificity. It happens to be so that the conscious intellect, which is terribly, irredeemably linear, cannot deal with gestalts. Which is to say, the symbols of the mind can’t be directly applied to the totalist quality of phenomenological experience. (Which is why so much of art teaching goes to getting the student to feel instead of think.) So almost any true experience almost immediately shuts down our ability to experience the fullness of the event. (You hear a racket outside. You open the door. You see a riot going on. It is a confusing jumbled mess. Then you focus on one of the rioters, pulling away from the overwhelming gestalt to the comprehensible particular.)And so as soon as consciousness is engaged, focus is initiated and some singular or linear aspect is fixated upon. But before that happens, we have indeed already had the experience of the totality.And even after fixation on detail happens, there is still experiential awareness, there is still gestalt apprehension. And this is the essential point. I will explain by example:I knock on your door. You answer the door, and we immediately pick up our current philosophical conversation. You put on your shoes and we walk together down your street, talking and thinking and talking some more, nonstop. We return to your stoop, you offer some tea and we finish the conversation at your kitchen table. And then I thank you for the conversation and tea, and then leave. Having focused the entire time I was there on the philosophical discussion, you will still be able to successfully describe the weather during our walk, if someone were to ask. This goes to point out one of the more interesting features of the mind, which is that it never stops appreciating the gestalt. In successfully collecting our attention and directing it towards some small aspect of the totality, the intellect gives us a false sense of limit on what we are perceiving. But the truth of the day was not lost on you. In fact, it is a remarkable fact that the truth of most of our days are not lost on us. Our minds retain so much more than we appreciate. If we could just access the memory.On your nice things said: while it is so that praise and notice pleases, it is also so that if we give too much power for our sense of artistic (or even personal) worth to words of praise and appreciation, we also give the same power to criticism and antipathy. Given the obvious danger of handing over your sense of self worth to the teeming masses of confused and bitter souls who might pop in and out of one’s orbit, it pays to limit the emotional value you put on the reaction of strangers. Generally, I only allow myself to be affected by people whose opinion I have come to value. So I did indeed enjoy your praise. Human beings not only have biological impulses, we have desires and needs which sometimes surpass even our concerns for survival. One of the oddest and most enjoyable of such needs is for other people and to be recognized.When our desires and needs surpass our concerns for survival, we enter dangerous territory. Sometimes this means giving up a kidney so a beloved child may live. Another instance might be a disaffected kid murdering his school mates so as to feel empowered.
Kev,A very interesting read. I don't think you're saying a blind person's sense of auditory and touch isn't heightened in experience over the person relying on sight.One of the favorite criminal lawyer's tricks is to demand a witness remember incidental things in the wider experience since he knows ahead of time that incidentals aren't well retained from the focus of the incident. Our minds are endlessly discarding information as well as taking it in. Yes we do take in the surroundings as you've described, but dismiss its incidentals just as readily, sometimes retaining an impression.A child does experience the shape of a bird without holding it. When we experience light, we might experience warmth, but not on a Minnesota winter's day. Still a child learns light and often fears dark. Though you have described the extra sensory elements of touch in exploration, visual realities such as larger to smaller, overlapping shapes and such are little challenges in learning visual reality. Yes, agreed, a multi-dimensional sensory understanding is a fuller understanding than one derived through a single sense (the mountain example).Beginning with, it is all broken down to electrical impulses, (meaning not impulses of appetites as I was using the word before). Such describes the organism, but when does the organism distinguish itself from any organism and become human? To determine such we have to walk backwards from the electrical impulses towards normal orientation with its increasing complexities. We have to deconstruct the deconstructionism or what we grasp will be like trying to hold an ever increasing amount of water in a small glass. The gestalt of dimension and that physical world in it is little different for the dog or man, child or elephant, even if certain senses do change somewhat.Visual and auditory sensation can be deconstructed into impulses and tactile experiences less so, as they related directly to the nervous system in a manner of pain and pleasure, also agreeable and disagreeable, but the tactile isn't distinctly human when compared to the sensory experiences of a pup for example. Two experiences stand out curiously to me, since experience itself can be deconstructed. One is the receptive experience, which you are calling the gestalt, but I go further and add David's experience in the cave, an oceanic experience of otherness. Which is my description of what he was saying and my apologies if I'm off. The second is something little practiced and greatly misunderstood today with its excesses only remembered, which was the mortification of the senses. Both experiences are related in an odd way.As a receptive experience, the first appears as an experience visited itself upon an individual, as one's will is stilled. The practice of mortification is a meditation where one understands that the choices of like and dislike favors the agreeable sensory experience to the less agreeable and understands such can be deceiving. It also aims to trim as well the excesses of vanity and it's egotistical process of choosing likes over dislikes as it reflects upon one's self image, the self ingratiating process. So both the excess concerns of the mind and sensory are dismissed, leaving an individual not in a void, but reorienting themselves to the human heart as an experiential reality throughout the meditation. In some cultures, the meditation was used in an attempt to recapture or engender the elusive experience of beauty visited upon the stilled will as a stilled will will not produce said effect of its own.If that made sense, I think we might not appear as entirely apart as we might have imagined. Only the human being can evaluate its accumulations of likes and dislikes, its past in terms which other creatures can't. Only a human being makes art, prepares food, can express regret and make amends and in so doing avoid the excessive use of the violent pecking order required of simpler experiential and social primates.
The people I read on this subject tend to take great pains to distinguish the incidental from the epic -- the factual but insignificant minutiae from the greater encompassing truth. The Brandywine illustrator-teachers are particularly evangelical on this point. A child may experience the shape of a bird, but until you hold one in your hand, you don’t realize how soft it is, how quickly its little heart beats and how that flutter feels under your fingers. Or for that matter just how and where its legs attach to its body.I’ll take a sunlit Minnesota day over a Minnesota night for warmth, won’t you? So the light of day is still a barometer of temperature even in Minnesota.(A complicated network of electrical impulses) describes the organism, but when does the organism distinguish itself from any organism and become human?Aside from our unique outer physiognomy, it seems what makes us human is the ability to model experience (past, present, future, dreamed, and imagined) in our minds symbolically, using our various symbol systems, some seemingly innate and some a code of our own crafting. And then to recreate and extend ourselves as the tool we have conceptualized as having the requisite ability to affect reality in our favor or to our preference. From these uniquities, all the abilities you listed in your post arise. Clarification: I am not calling the receptive experience “the gestalt.” I am calling the receptive experience “experience.” The very fullest extent to which we experience an event, I am calling “the gestalt.” Just as the very fullest extent we can experience a painting is to experience it in its totality. So both the excess concerns of the mind and sensory are dismissed, leaving an individual not in a void, but reorienting themselves to the human heart as an experiential reality throughout the meditation.I certainly don’t discount the experience of the physical self as real experience. So long as it is unmediated by symbolic modeling.
Kev,The light in Minnesota is deceptive, because the temperature is affected by the stream of air from Siberia and can warm or cool accordingly, often in defiance of the lighting, evening, etc. Having lived there it is different than say, the east coast which is warmed by the Gulf Stream.Yes, I was loosely using the term Gestalt to refer to all which is external to the self, larger, when it generally refers to something greater than its parts.Thanks for the long exchange. I much enjoyed it.
Take care Sean.
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