Monday, April 07, 2014

THE BILLION MISSING ART WORLDS



Last month's remarkable discoveries about the big bang have all right-thinking people pondering the impact of this news on illustration art.

from Scientific American

At the moment of the big bang, the universe exploded into two kinds of particles: matter and anti-matter.  For each particle of matter there was a corresponding particle of anti-matter.  As soon as the two particles touched, they annihilated each other.

Thus, in one huge cosmic conflagration matter nearly crackled out of existence.  Anti-electrons canceled out electrons.  Anti-neutrons cancelled out neutrons.

If the number of matter and anti-matter particles had been equal, there would be no matter left anywhere in the universe.   However, scientists calculate that for every billion pairs of matter and antimatter particles, there was one extra particle of matter left over.  That tiny imbalance is why any matter remains today (Scientists at the Stanford linear accelerator note, "to that particle we and the stars owe our existence).

Art owes its existence to that particle too.  All the art that we have ever known is merely leftovers. A billion times more potential art vaporized at the moment of creation.  This raises many profound questions.  For example: why was the comic strip Nancy spared?


And did the particles that would later become Jeff Koons re-emerge from the inferno unintentionally, like some sort of cosmic acid reflux?

Jeff Koons, "Waterfall Couple"

And performance art-- are we sure that isn't really anti-matter in disguise?

But most of all, this presents an opportunity to reflect on the potential worlds of art that vanished as the universe came into being.  Alien arts of epic greatness,  evanescent shapes with evolving meanings,  images sculpted of pure light...  a billion times more  art than we have ever experienced, and a billion times different.

Of course, some things could never ever happen, even in a billion alternative art worlds, such as rapidograph pens that don't clog.  But  here are a few suggestions for what might have been lost in the instant that followed creation:

1.  Access to the absolute:  Our one billionth particle of matter left us with a physical universe which severely limits the characteristics of our art, such as its size or color or permanence.  If an artist wants to convey something absolute or universal, such as making a mark that is totally dark or infinitely long, the artist's only recourse is to imply those characteristics using symbols or suggestions.  (For example, artists create the illusion of an infinite mark by making a short mark on a relatively small piece of paper.)  We are similarly limited to the colors on the light spectrum that our eyes can see, or the sounds our ears can hear.  Like a composer confined to the notes of the scale,  we can only work our way up so high before we must circle back down again.

I don't know about you, but I am pretty convinced that one of the alternative realities that died at the birth of the universe would have enabled us to slip these limitations. So much of the effort of art involves developing persuasive ways to lie about the things that are physically unattainable.  If matter had formed differently, in a way to make them attainable, it would certainly have put our conceptual side to the test.

 2. Healing the rift: Our world evolved with a gap between human consciousness and the surrounding physical world.  As a result, our art has always been split: we live with vexing dichotomies we cannot resolve, such as the fissure between perception and reality, between form and content, between mind and body, even between faith and reason.  This schism runs right through the middle of our culture, and perhaps it is part of the reason we struggle to make art.  But I'll bet we wouldn't have to struggle so damn hard if a different set of particles had survived the big bang.

3. Coming home: Last of all (and this could be the biggie) art might be more enriching and meaningful if it was integrated into our lives the way the bower bird decorates its nest with artistic ingredients.  Instead, art for us is mostly something we perceive separately.  It is framed on a wall or presented on a stage.  We don't appreciate the design and colors of a Brillo box in the store until Andy Warhol places it on a pedestal at an art gallery.   Then we see it with new eyes, at least for a short time.  Art about love or sex or joy or hate always suffers if it is attempted during the lived experience.  Our art requires us to step back from the primacy of experience and apply various filters.  The particles that would have enabled us to bring art home into the moment of experience probably burned up at the beginning of the universe.

If you have any thoughts on what else we lost or how we might get it back, I'd be interested in hearing them.



139 Comments:

Blogger Laurence John said...

David: "Instead, art for us is mostly something we perceive separately."

it's the self awareness of humans - which leads us to pause and reflect - which leads to art making. without this self awareness we'd be no different to animals, and would have no need for art.

as soon as the process of 'civilisation' began (around about the time a human first barbecued a steak) it was inevitable that we would become jaded by it and romanticise the lost innocence of our distant animal nature.

4/07/2014 3:52 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This was one of your big ones, David. Good reading, good thoughts.

Not quite what you are requesting but for some reason your post reminds me of Kipling's vision of heaven:

When Earth's last picture is painted
And the tubes are twisted and dried
When the oldest colors have faded
And the youngest critic has died
We shall rest, and faith, we shall need it
Lie down for an aeon or two
'Till the Master of all good workmen
Shall put us to work anew
And those that were good shall be happy
They'll sit in a golden chair
They'll splash at a ten league canvas
With brushes of comet's hair


Howard Pyle's Swedenborgian dreams of the afterlife were similar, as recounted by Frank Schoonover:

Here on Earth you're translating your ideas by the use of tinted muds, pigment we call it, paint, but it's just tinted muds, not vibrant at all. But when you're translated and when you carry on your work as an artist in your future life, according to Emanuel Swedenborg, instead of having this white color on your palette which is a white pigment, you'll have real sunlight. You'll dip your brush in real sunlight so that your picture will have a glow in it.

4/07/2014 5:02 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

You once said "artists can't drool and draw at the same time." I wrote it down. This is like you wish they could.

4/07/2014 8:22 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Scientists at the Stanford linear accelerator note, "to that particle we and the stars owe our existence

Meh. Enuma Elish for the Star Trek generation.

4/07/2014 10:54 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence John-- How "distant" do you think our animal nature is? As I understand the evolution of the human brain, the newer higher functions in our neocortex did not replace our ancient lizard brain, but just grew alongside it. That animal part remains right there all along, and often I think that's for the best.

As for self-awareness, I agree that is a major ingredient in many kinds of art. Do you think self-awareness precludes art that is more fully integrated into our lives?

Kev Ferrara-- We've seen a lot of intense discussions around here about the specifics of individual pictures and artists. This seemed like a good way to step back and consider the larger epistemological issues of art-- the extent to which things must be the way they are, and how they might be different if we took a broader view. To the extent that our aesthetic boundaries are a matter of physics, consider this a thought experiment about the road not taken.

I love the Pyle quote (theology aside).

MORAN-- Yes, the points are related. Everyone wishes they could combine art and sex but art requires distance and reflection while sex requires closeness and abandon.

etc, etc-- I understand how you might think that from the quote, but the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC, a federally funded research and development center of the Dept. of Energy) is the real deal. Those guys do hard science (and have six Nobel prizes to show for it). One reason I quoted SLAC here is that the scientist who first theorized this latest advancement in understanding the big bang works at Stanford. Here is a wonderful video of his student going to his home to inform him that his theory had been confirmed, 30 years later, by empirical data:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/03/19/stanford-physicist-big-bang-theory-news/6600551/

4/08/2014 4:07 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David: "Do you think self-awareness precludes art that is more fully integrated into our lives?"

yes. the point is that animals don't create 'art' because they aren't as self aware as we are. in your Bower bird example the nest building isn't really art at all (anymore than a bird's plumage is art or a beaver's dam is art.) ...its just part of an instinctive mating ritual.

4/08/2014 6:34 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence John wrote: "its just part of an instinctive mating ritual."

And how does that distinguish it from art?

4/08/2014 7:03 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

"Last of all (and this could be the biggie) art might be more enriching and meaningful if it was integrated into our lives "

David 
How is art not integrated into our lives? The experience of art is the experience of art. Whether making or looking at it.  Is art suppose to be something other then it is? 

4/08/2014 7:33 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David,
are you suggesting that artists ONLY make art to get laid ?

4/08/2014 7:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's why I do it!

JSL

4/08/2014 8:02 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Tom-- In a recent comment, Kev Ferrara wrote: "form is not something humans develop. It is something we notice, come to recognize and understand, and then create with. (Like scientific principles.) Which is just why there isn't a single shape, color, design scheme, or pattern developed by man that you can't tease out of nature somewhere." I agree with that-- the natural world has to be the starting point for our forms and taste and aesthetic concepts. So why do we drive to a museum to look at a two dimensional rectangle of fabric and pigment on a wall to admire landscapes that we fail to notice or admire in the original? The practice is kind of ridiculous when you think about it. Why don't we take aesthetic concepts such as harmony, proportion, balance, contrast and apply them to our lives? Why do we ignore the Brillo box in the grocery store but spend a fortune for it on a pedestal in a gallery (despite the fact that, as Ruskin says, "the only wealth is life")? All art, even theater or performance art, has in common that it is defined by a frame which separates it from the rest of life, and therefore keeps it from being integrated into . There are people who believe that if art were truly integrated into our life, it would disappear. Dubuffet wrote:

[T}he notion of art... will have ceased to be conceived of and perceived when the mind will have ceased to project art as a notion to be gazed upon, and art will be integrated in such a manner that thought, instead of facing it, will be inside it...."

Laurence John-- Well... that's not such a bad reason, but I don't think even the bower bird does it ONLY to get laid. Procreation, or even mating in a broader, long term sense, should not be dismissed as getting laid.

4/08/2014 8:44 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

David,

To see the world made into poetry is a way of rendering it timeless, but also a way of finding wonder amid the decay, beauty in the sadness, and meaning in the mindlessness. Thus Art's very important therapeutic role as consolation and encouragement.

(Freudianism is a fetish philosophy.)

Two additions to your list of things irretrievably lost at the proverbial split:

The rift between inspiration and execution, conception and result.

The rift between the time it takes to make effective, vigorous, moral, complete, beautiful, humane art and just how little time is then left over to be an effective, vigorous, moral, complete, beautiful, and humane human.

4/08/2014 9:02 AM  
Blogger Tom Sarmo said...

I think I understand what Kev Ferrara means when he talks of form being the starting point for all art, but I'd appreciate further understanding of how that might apply to highly imaginative/unconscious-mind-type art. When Ruskin says "the only wealth is life" might he be speaking only of art which tried to emulate the natural, outer, world? People also drive to museums to get a glimpse of the inner minds and creations of individual artists; artists who imagine things that they as non-artists can't visualize, let alone execute. I know those artists are using "things they've teased out of nature", but using them in ways that the more concrete thinkers may never be able to integrate. We can't admire the actual "original" because it does not exist out there to be viewed, but exists first within the mind.

4/08/2014 9:24 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

form is not something humans develop. It is something we notice, come to recognize and understand, and then create with. (Like scientific principles.) Which is just why there isn't a single shape, color, design scheme, or pattern developed by man that you can't tease out of nature somewhere.

True, but the audio frequencies of a symphony can be teased out of nature as well. It's the human skill in arranging and composing that makes it uniquely human art.

4/08/2014 9:38 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/08/2014 10:32 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/08/2014 12:10 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David: "Why don't we take aesthetic concepts such as harmony, proportion, balance, contrast and apply them to our lives?"

we do; that's what architecture, car design, fashion design, furniture etc do... but they're 'applied' arts rather than 'fine' arts.

David: "There are people who believe that if art were truly integrated into our life, it would disappear."

that's what i believe (for 'fine' art anyway, not 'applied' art). without the 'frame' there is no art.

4/08/2014 1:32 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/08/2014 2:42 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara and Laurence John-- I was asking about aesthetic concepts such as harmony, proportion, balance or contrast, but even more deeply ingrained in our lives than you suggest.

Laurence wrote, "we do; that's what architecture, car design, fashion design, furniture etc do..." but those are all external decorations to our environment, just as much as art on the wall is. I was thinking more of life as the work of art, and using the same aesthetic concepts we now apply to paintings in order to fashion our lives, or at least enrich our perceptions of the world as we walk through it.

Kev wrote, "To see the world made into poetry is a way of rendering it timeless, but also a way of finding wonder amid the decay, beauty in the sadness, and meaning in the mindlessness. Thus Art's very important therapeutic role as consolation and encouragement." I agree, but why does that vision require art an external focal point? What's to stop us from looking at nature, which you describe as the source of all forms, and directly finding wonder amid the decay without going through a work of art?

etc, etc-- I agree. Eerything I've suggested about art could apply just as well to music.

4/08/2014 10:23 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David: "I was thinking more of life as the work of art, and using the same aesthetic concepts we now apply to paintings in order to fashion our lives"

i don't believe it's possible for the reasons already mentioned above.

Gilbert and George have declared themselves as 'living works of art' but apart from it being a bit of Duchamp-style piss take, the fact is that even if they walk down the street in identical suits and in perfect unison, the event still has a conceptual 'frame' around it.

there's art and there's lived experience and the two shouldn't be confused.

(p.s. i'd much rather look at landscape than paintings of landscape. i can see the English channel from my window and it's much more interesting than any painting of it i've seen).

4/09/2014 6:00 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

What's to stop us from looking at nature, which you describe as the source of all forms, and directly finding wonder amid the decay without going through a work of art?

Nothing's to stop us. Except our deficiencies and the impracticalities of the matter.

There's a host of issues here all tangled. One is that things are in disarray, generally. In the moment when nature (or life) suddenly gives us a miraculous, organized moment, it is fleeting. And nature/life is a continua, which doesn't make for good poetry. So, a large part of being an artist is about finding or imagining the miraculous organization, disregarding that which does not contribute to this organization, remembering the vision, and then distinguishing the subject and idea into distinct elements, composing it, and rendering it beautifully in a "frame" so it can be contemplated at leisure over time.

4/09/2014 9:48 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

It makes me teary-eyed that man cannot yet dream, envision and experience directly into a recorder, edit that mental state, and pass it on to others.

I think most of what your post dreams is past is actually future; I pray I'm there to see it. (Unless this is already it, in which case, viewer ignore this idea, I'll take this part out when I edit this dream -- it's a little too meta).

4/09/2014 10:11 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

(Although I guess if I'm thinking it, and I'm the viewer not the author, than the author of this dream must have decided to leave that part it.)

4/09/2014 10:16 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Also, David, this post was my favourite yet.

4/09/2014 10:43 AM  
Blogger Georgia Ellen Parsons said...

Great post, and thought provoking comments!

4/09/2014 8:55 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara wrote: "the rift between...conception and result."

Ahhh... that's an important one. As our friend T.S. Eliot reminded us,

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

Tom Samos-- I think Ruskin meant that all art is subordinate to life, and so to the extent art is not life-enhancing we should not waste our time with it. I agree with you that some people will always be more imaginative than others (at least under the circumstances we are currently dealt) and that it is important to communicate those heightened aesthetic reactions to the world. Not everything can remain internal.

Georgia Ellen Parsons-- Welcome, and thanks for weighing in.

4/09/2014 11:30 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara wrote: "The frame has always been with us, bounding our transmissions, isolating them as single units of information.... Where art shoves too much into life in a showy, theatrical way, it becomes cloying and unreal. This isn't really art's nature, to rampage through life unchained and lacking in either discipline or distinterestedness."

I agree that's generally the way things work out, although people continue nibbling away at the frame. I view performance art and "happenings" as largely failed experiments testing the frame, although not all failures are a waste of time. I credit Marcel Duchamp with some very intelligent and even necessary explorations. I also think that tribal art, folk art and totem art nibble away at the frame from the "bower bird" side of the equation.

But I guess the thing that interests me most is: is there anything essential to the nature of art that prohibits aesthetic concepts from barging into life? You suggest that it's "art's nature," and perhaps given the particles that escaped from the big bang, that may be true. But as long as we are discussing what might be, why aren't "such foundational principles as harmony, proportion, balance, and the like" equally applicable to the way we order our paintings and the way we order our lives? Isn't that how we give moral form to ourselves? How we "draw the line" and decide what we are and what we are not? In that role, these concepts operate both in the frame and out of the frame.

Laurence John wrote: "There's art and there's lived experience and the two shouldn't be confused."

I assume there's not much point to the former unless it affects the latter, correct? And the closer the two are, the greater the potential for the two to interrelate.

4/10/2014 1:29 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David: "I also think that tribal art, folk art and totem art nibble away at the frame from the "bower bird" side of the equation"

why stop at (presumably non-western) tribal / folk art ?
what about weeping Jesus holograms, rosary beads, dime-store crucifixes or any other religious / mystical paraphernalia ?

since you seem to be including anything that's hand-crafted, why not include hand painted pub signs, fish and chip shop boards, tattoos, piercings, hot rod pinstriping, bomber nose art, toilet wall graffiti, day of the dead costumes, macrame owls or any other form of vernacular art that has a decorative-utilitarian rather than gallery context ?

is that integrated enough yet ?

David, i suspect that you're a closet neo-pagan.
you sound like you'd be happier being a druid at Stonehenge, worshipping the sun rising over the stone monoliths. there's quite a community of them today still at it.

4/10/2014 10:10 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

My last comment needed a little editing. Note to self one should not try to respond to all the comments  during  short breaks in meetings.

David
I don't know if I buy the idea that somehow because there is a frame around a painting that it  is separated from life.  Frames are decorative and contribute to a picture's over all affect making the vertical and horizontal explicit and bringing the painting into proper relationship with wall upon which it hangs, while simultaneously acknowledging the same coordinates that exist in our own body. Decoratively the frame contributes to the whole, for  the picture, the wall and the room.   If you put a a fence around a field, is it now separated from life? Is a building distinct from live?

One  of the first considerations of any artist is the limits of the space he is going to use, whether it is a stage, cathedral or canvas. All forms are subjected to limits, in that sense a painting is like everything else in life.

Gravity is one of the ultimate expressions of  "harmony, proportion, and balance," and as everything in our world is subject to it, it  is expressed in all things.  Hence you are already living an artful live.  But maybe you are talking about a more alive perception of the natural world.


"form is not something humans develop. It is something we notice, come to recognize and understand, and then create with. (Like scientific principles.) Which is just why there isn't a single shape, color, design scheme, or pattern developed by man that you can't tease out of nature somewhere"

Can one really say where the world ends and the mind begins?  As the mind and nature come from the same source, the " big bang," how can there be any separation between the two?  Why would  our thought patterns not be structure in the same manner as the natural world is structured? Aren't we in a way recognizing ourselves in what we see?   Reality is like a great chain, no matter where one picks it up you are picking up the same matter.

Art isn't a substitute for reality, it is not something once removed.  It is one of the many manifestations of the universe. The mark on the paper comes from the same source that animates the whole universe.  

It seems art and thought are the same thing. Or another way to say it is the way we think something, is the way we make it. Materials themselves can often  force us to think or conceive the way they want us to think.  In  lots of ways it is a  reciprocal relationship, not one over the other.   Or as Delacroix said, the drawing is completed in the first mark.  

People decorate and give form to their outlook, their view on how the world fits together.   An artwork is the manifestation of that thought.  What one person or one group values is discarded or ignored by another person or another group.  But it all reflects an outlook, a viewpoint.  I don't see how Dubuffet doesn't realize, " that thought..," is already, "inside it (art)..."   

4/10/2014 10:31 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/10/2014 10:52 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

 Hi Kev 

I can't help asking,

"There's a host of issues here all tangled."  Are they really tangled or are you just trying to separate everything? Everything is held in relation, to fight the nature of matter an antimatter leads to lots of distortions and pain.  How do you know life is in disarray? Granted it is messy, but whatever created the universe seems to know what it is doing. But one notion is dependent on the other notion, the showy and the reserved, the  mundane, and the miraculous go hand and hand.  It is all fleeting and not permanent, creation and destruction go together like the top and the palm of your hand.  


And what are, "our deficiencies...?" (except for  my writing skills). It seems we where born to appreciate what is before us. Maybe that is all consciousness wants.  One doesn't even have to try to appreciate certain things, it is in our "matter", almost everyone can be pulled out of their self centered thoughts by a clear starlight night, even if it is only for a moment.

"Where art shoves too much into life..."  it almost sounds like you are describing art as some sort of independent abstract entity that isn't made by people.   Art is going to have all the short comings, the strengths and aspirations of  the people making it. But I understand the distinction  you are making between great works and fashion.
 

4/10/2014 11:07 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/10/2014 11:34 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Bwahaha! That's hilarious, Laurence! But somehow I think Druidism is beneath David's dignity....Spinozian pantheism, perhaps?

4/10/2014 12:51 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

kev sez
>What is unique to a work of art, is that it has a certain complexity synthesized of other symbolisms. The most important of which, for the question at hand, is art's basis as fiction. Are you really interested in bringing more fiction into life?


I'm curious what is implied in that question?

4/10/2014 3:47 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

That is, what is implied about art at large given that point of view?

4/10/2014 3:48 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Richard-- Many thanks. It would be nice if these possibilities would reappear in the future; for a while Hawkings believed that the universe might collapse back on itself and the immense gravitational pull would suck time backwards (n which case we would all have a rendezvous with the big bang) but he has given that up. Long term (100 billion years on my diagram) the prognosis does not look good.

Laurence John-- What time do my brother druids meet, and where do I get my membership card?

Part of the allure (at least for me) of tribal or folk art is that, for all the folly of its superstition and animism, its fluid, collectivist view of reality seems much closer to the natural origins of form which Kev describes and far less "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought" which plagues so much of the bad conceptual art we see today. The great schisms we've been discussing (for example, between perception sand reality) seems not quite so gaping in those worlds. Is there a way to get closer to that state without abandoning our rationality?

A little humility on the side of reason would seem a good place to start. After all, science has turned the most cherished assumptions of Newton and the enlightenment thinkers upside down. (Newton, by the way, had mystical beliefs that would have caused the druids to scratch their heads.) And it will not surprise you that in the US, there are educated adults able to drive cars and use computers and hold meaningful jobs, yet who cling to superstitions every bit as bizarre as those of the Druids. No amount of argument or empirical data will ever dissuade them and they are quick to resort to violence to defend their beliefs.

One way that this relates back to illustration art is that if we have learned to question the rules of the smug, imperious fine art establishment, why wouldn't that same spirit cause us to question the rules of the equally smug, equally imperious establishment that has compartmentalized arts of "primitive" or "pagan" people? I'm not saying their wrong, I'm just saying I'm going to ask my own questions and satisfy myself.

4/11/2014 2:02 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

etc, etc wrote: "somehow I think Druidism is beneath David's dignity"

I am delighted that there is still someone who thinks I have dignity (not to mention that there is something beneath it).

Richard and Kev Ferrara-- Kev writes, "The most important of which, for the question at hand, is art's basis as fiction."

I'm with Richard; that statement cries out for elaboration. Art has a basis in fiction, for sure (not to mention a basis in deceit and illusion). But it also has a basis in truth, in important and higher truths. Are you sure you can say which is "the most important"?

I suppose one reason for musing about what might have been if we started with a different assortment of particles is to conduct thought experiments such as, "how much of that "fiction" or "deceit" is really essential to the core of art. So much of the labor of art has to do with simulations, with mastering illusions and with refining communications. If art was more of a lived experience, would we be able to cut down on the ratio of fiction to truth?

4/11/2014 9:35 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

David, if we accept the notion that art is a fiction that tells the truth, there is no issue.

I meant fiction is "the most important" quality of art for the sake of what you are saying, about grafting art into life. Because much else that is a part of art can be brought into life without making a peep. Or even doing some good.

But once you bring fiction into life, then there is a problem. That's what I meant.

4/12/2014 8:51 AM  
Blogger Catherine Hex said...

In my opinion, art is in everything that surrounds us, including every item of the universe, that is stars, asteroids or galaxies. They in which everything interacts is art.

4/14/2014 4:56 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

>>if we accept the notion that art is a fiction that tells the truth, there is no issue. [...] But once you bring fiction into life, then there is a problem.


Does good Art, or any Art for that matter, tell more truth than it does fiction?

4/14/2014 11:27 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

If you look outside through a window, do you see more window or more outside?

Depends on how clear the window is, don't it? And how close your face is to the glass.

4/14/2014 1:24 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

David, I much appreciate the humor in your interesting post.

Cave paintings were in response to an outside world and fertility art to a part of creation. There was the religious art of Egypt and later in Exodus 25:9, where art became a part of appropriate worship. Art then fit a higher purpose in honoring God and ritual, but it was more than that.

Western religious art wasn't simply as adoration, it reflected certain beliefs regarding man's place in the world, his right of dominion, or survival and the dominion of wisdom as a goal in life. Art was part of expressing man's dominion above other things and creatures as well. Art then was part of the confidence of the Jewish people and later became part of the confidence of the Christian west. Art has remained part of the confidence of people around the world and today we see a loss of confidence in the west as it has lost confidence in its art. Whether the two things are actually linked is another story.

Though the Greeks pursued art as with idealism, its art also served as part of its confidence. Art was part of its conquest over the known world at the time.

That people question their special reality, of having come into being despite layers and layers of required events each of astronomical odds is indicative of the loss of health which human beings began enjoying when they began making art.

Could the primacy of art be in how it reminds us we are human and also a confidence in being human and if so, could a loss of value to that end, be also the loss of art?

4/14/2014 10:29 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David : "Is there a way to get closer to that state without abandoning our rationality?"


and without abandoning our western civilisation's hard won comforts, or unlearning all of our scientific discoveries ? no, i don't think so.

my neo-pagan comment above was only half facetious; i don't think the neo pagans deserve any special ridicule. but their lifestyle is really just a bit of anachronistic-heritage-reenactment. tribal art serves very specific spiritual beliefs which we in the west don't possess. if there's a loss of spirituality in our lives then i think the authentic stance is to deal with that reality rather than run away from it by creating a comforting new age pseudo-spirituality for jaded westerners.

you once wrote about visiting 'the lightning field' art work. it would seem to tick many of the 'integrated art' boxes you're asking about; art that is more of an experience. it even bares obvious similarity to pagan monuments such as stone circles. for my money though, it still has the conceptual 'frame' around it in the first place.

4/15/2014 4:48 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Sean--


The Greek march towards idealism is highly exaggerated. They didn't discover a realist idealism, they copied it wholesale from the Egyptians, by way of Crete.

Greek statues, even 800 years later, were of significantly poorer quality, and quite the opposite of art for art's say, they were art for myth's sake. For the Greeks it was not a march towards idealism, it was art as narrative illustration, using the systems they had pilfered from the Egyptians.

It was, rather, the Romans who took those statues and remade them into highly-crafted pieces of art idealism, but it was not the worship of Art that led them to do so. For the Romans, it was the result of their worship of the Greeks themselves. In that way, the Roman's idealism was itself a narrative pursuit.

They strove to show the idealism of the Greeks, because for the Romans, upholding the seemingly-elevated Greek culture was their ticket to a Manifest Destiny. Their work illustrated the idealism they wanted present in Greek art that was not really there. The Romans made great art by accident, while trying to show how great the Greeks were. That was their narrative.

It's always the same story -- it is the narrative pursuit that sets the great Artist in motion.

It is in the loss of those narratives where lies the thread of truth in your theory.

Man loses confidence in humanity as he stops creating elevating mythos about himself.

As our grand narratives fail in the face of our mammalian pre-history so does our illustration, and since all good Art is good Illustration, the Art fails. Art for Art's sake, Art that is not Illustration, just means the Art of a people who have no mythology. There is nothing of value in that Pure-Art lineage.

A placeless humanity, a humanity without a mythos who aspires to nothing creates nothing, so you're absolutely right about that.

4/15/2014 9:35 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Richard, Everything you wrote was very interesting and I appreciate it. Thanks

4/15/2014 10:07 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- When you contrast fiction with "truth" or "life," aren't you presuming that there is a single, empirically knowable truth or reality out there? If so, I'm going to need some more help.

What is the difference between bringing "fiction into life" and bringing opinion into life? Or bringing exaggeration into life? In fact, is it even possible to keep perspective out of life? Such deviations from a single objective reality seem to be at the heart of art.

I confess I've never fully understood the intent behind the saying, "art is a fiction that tells the truth." Does it refer to fictions of form (such as a 2D image creating the illusion of a 3D reality, or actors simulating reality) or does it mean fictions of substance (such as lies about human nature or exaggerations of "reality")?

Catherine Hex-- OK, but does that mean you draw no distinction between art and nature?

Sean Farrell and Richard-- I'm not sure how it is possible to argue that "The Greek march towards idealism is highly exaggerated." I'm no scholar of classical antiquity but as I understand it, three Greeks did more for idealism than everyone else in the world combined: Pythagoras, who appears to have invented the connection between reality and math that became the basis for science; Plato who invented the concept of ideal "forms" of earthly reality, and Aristotle who first posited such a thing as "perfect" beauty. As far as I know, the Egyptians never approached that conceptual realm (although I am second to none in my admiration of Egyptian sculpture).

Back when I was reading articles claiming to know "which culture begat which culture," I recall a few articles claiming that the Greeks copied the Egyptians, but they were always part of
a larger argument that the Egyptians copied sub-Saharan Africans, the Greeks copied the Egyptians, and then all of western civilization copied the Greeks, therefore all of western civilization copied sub-Saharan Africa. I walked away from that debate after some of the more meticulous historians were dismissing such theories as political wishful thinking substituting for history. Richard may have some later news on this topic.

I do agree with Sean that Greek art (at least, Classical and Hellenic sculpture and architecture) was a manifestation of the confidence and spirit of the era. If you contrast the art of the Parthenon with the kind of whiny, angst-ridden art so popular today, it is difficult to resist drawing conclusions about the two cultures from their art.

Of course, much of what we know about Greek sculpture comes from Roman copies because the originals were destroyed and the Romans (along with every other western culture into the medieval era) looked up to the culture of the Greeks.

Richard wrote: "all good Art is good illustration." Man, I thought that I was pretty cocky on this subject, but I should turn authorship duties over to you.

Can you give us more on, "It's always the same story-- it is the narrative pursuit that sets the great Artist in motion."

4/16/2014 4:49 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Kev,
"The more you divide your artistic intention, the more simultaneous points you seek to make, the weaker the artwork gets."

I guess you would have to elaborate artistic intentions, it seems a lack of artistic intention is a greater problem, not knowing what one wants to say, leads to copying.  To me  the true power of art is it's ability to make many points simultaneously.  With a single simple mass and artist can determine the direction, orientation, lighting, the time of day, the energy of a thing or a space. The simplest thing brings an over riding order to the complexity of nature.   Such simple conceptions give great force to an aesthetic impulse an such an impulse in itself is aesthetic.  To say the least with the fewest means.

The firm grasp of a mental conception of the subject is what allows the poetry happen.  When there is no lack of comprehension in the conception  in the artist's mind, there is no hinderance

4/16/2014 9:28 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Richard
Don't you think the narratives of western art freed artist from the problem of a subject, and allowed them to pursue the nature of art.  The straight line, and flat plane is at the heart of Greek art and Western thought.  Have you heard of the stories of Englishman lightening the sculptures by candlelight to more clearly see the flat planer changes that take place in sculpture.  And going into raptures over the sculpture's precision. This wonder has 
nothing do with the story the sculptures tell.  Much of an artwork's meaning lies not in it's narrative content but in how the artist has conceived and constructed the artwork.  I think people fine deep connections to art not because of the narratives  but because they have found a kindred spirit. 

And who needs a mythology to make art?  One can value a "plane," without any story.  In fact when one is really involved in the making of something (or the looking at an artwork) all kinds of wonders come into being that are so much more compelling then a story.  The thickness of a arm, the way the planes of the shoulder insert into the clavicle and the shoulder blade, the value changes that reflect the plane changes in a surface, how the shape of things is a reflection of energy's relationship to gravity.  The artist's communication is deeper then the apparent subject, whether it is a God he is portraying or a tea cup. 

And isn't no mythos just another mythos?

4/16/2014 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

David,
Confidence has taken a beating as people have been defined as accidents and the definition opening your post goes one further, saying that we are now the left overs of an accident.

Confidence is like religion, which should come with a disclaimer in small writing saying something like, too much of it may lead to excessive imagination, self righteousness and diabolical behavior. Oddly enough, a lack of it almost guarantees the same. So it is a loaded subject, but the image of Nancy reminds us that hope springs eternal, which is the power of the innocent, of new life and also her simple and charming character.

Tom's response brought the notion of confidence to the action of art and I was thinking about art as an act of confidence, but mostly my concern was the idea that we are what we believe we are, how our parameters define and limit us and so on. That is, an unwillingness to accept definition leads to a lack of definitions and therefore a lack of understanding.

I mentioned the quote from Exodus because in it is implied, that beautifying the ritual was endowed, it was acknowledged as from on high; things more encompassing deserved to be separated from the natural state. I was also thinking of theater, theology and philosophy along the same lines. Math too was considered an art for a long time. In a sense, art was appropriate to the higher things and that this sense of a hierarchy of things further enhanced the confidence of human kind, as humanity remained humbled within a larger mystery.

In the same light, music came from a harp or lyre. Even fans of rock acts from the 1960s can see that more recent music has nearly reached the point of incitement to riot, sensuality as near riot, etc., requiring the earlier disclaimer. Yet it's the confidence not of ancient valor, of the loyal warrior, or even of early art, but of undefined people acting in the face of an opposition which is no longer able or willing to define itself.

4/16/2014 12:07 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/16/2014 12:13 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/16/2014 12:14 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

**I switched/confused the words "real" and "exist" in my comment to you, David.

Concepts are undeniably real, but they can't be said to surely exist.

4/16/2014 12:22 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi Kev
Just to clarify, I said with a single simplest "mass," such as a cube. But maybe you could get something out of a dot might work.

You wrote "with out an overall point," I meant the same thing when I wrote, "it seems a lack of artistic intention is a greater problem, not knowing what one wants to say," which in the end is a lack of intention.
Thanks

4/17/2014 1:13 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

You wrote "with out an overall point," I meant the same thing when I wrote, "it seems a lack of artistic intention is a greater problem, not knowing what one wants to say," which in the end is a lack of intention.

Hi Tom, the importance of having a point to what one is saying was what I was addressing in my 10/4/2014 11:34 AM post. Guess that wasn't clear. Sorry.

4/17/2014 5:09 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...


Kev Ferrara and Laurence John--
Kev wrote:
"Doesn’t the fact that you wrote that sentence to me also presume that there is a shared reality between us?"

I'm a firm believer in shared realities. If we can't agree that you and I mean roughly the same thing by the experience of "orange," then the world truly becomes so subjective that we are all turned into objects, no more capable of communicating than trees. But at the same time, as you also note, "differing perspectives can't be avoided."

Laurence wrote: "i don't think [there a way to get closer to that pagan state without abandoning our rationality] and without abandoning our western civilisation's hard won comforts, or unlearning all of our scientific discoveries."

I am a sworn enemy of today's anti-science types who choose to disregard medical science, geology, meteorology, and evolution in favor of childhood fairy tales. I believe that wise people live their lives striving for as much of a shared reality as is attainable.

But in both cases what we really seem to be talking about here is only a matter of degree: you would both probably agree that the range between cheerful and negative ways of perceiving the world is acceptable, but that animistic or totemistic ways of perceiving the world go too far.

You would also agree, I assume, with my theme in this post that we have to live with "vexing dichotomies we cannot resolve," such as the gap between perception and reality, but disagree with how much humility I think is required by our inability to resolve those dichotomies.

No one, to my knowledge, has ever found a way out of the box created for us by Descartes (and later Hume) who showed us that we cannot know reality for a certainty. And that was long before 20th century physics piled on and taught us that most of what our senses tell us about reality is a lie. (As you say, "A lie is something that is presented as factual and true, but which is discovered, sooner or later, to not be.")

I'm not ready to give up on rationality yet, but I think that, things being how they are, we need to find some room for a variety of perceptions of the world (perhaps attributable to variations in brain chemistry). Those perceptions do indeed shape reality, in my view. Different people might perceive the same set of empirical facts from a romantic or a bitter or an idealistic perspective. In fact, I would say that people who have been gifted by a romantic outlook may be the lucky ones. (ee cummings wrote, "wholly to be a fool / while Spring is in the world / my blood approves, /
and kisses are a far better fate
than wisdom.") Some people view the world through a lens of faith while others view it through a lens of skepticism. I think the jury is out here; ("It is faith that moves mountains, not reason.")

If we are going to acknowledge limits to our ability in some areas to say that one is right and another is wrong, it wold seem to me that art is one of the prime areas for that kind of open mindedness. This doesn't mean we give up altogether (For example, if someone argues that Boris is superior to Frazetta, it is still permissible to strike them about the head and shoulders and say, "you are simply wrong.")

Sean Farrell-- I agree with your point that proportion is the key to all of the concepts we have been discussing. Not just confidence, but faith, open mindedness and the other concepts we have been discussing can be harmful in quantities too large or too small. It may not be a popular message these days, but the mature judgment necessary to balance proportions and achieve equipoise is the key.

4/18/2014 2:00 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Richard: "As our grand narratives fail..."

what a silly idea that our 'grand narratives' are crumbling all around us and leaving us bereft like abandoned children.

the very term 'grand narrative' (a post modern term btw) sounds like something that only infants require.
i've never fallen for / been indoctrinated into a 'grand narrative' in my life (and i'm 43 so i think it would have happened by now) have you ?

4/18/2014 3:41 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

>i've never fallen for / been indoctrinated into a 'grand narrative' in my life (and i'm 43 so i think it would have happened by now) have you ?


I find that very hard to believe.

4/18/2014 4:45 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

ok, i was walking down the street once and i metanarrative.

4/18/2014 5:02 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

David, if your argument is that, due to the prevalence of human delusion and experiential myopia, all truth claims require evaluation before being accepted, then I agree. C.S. Pierce wisely noted that even vetted truth claims must only be provisional, as truth can only be aimed at, never arrived at, like infinity, perfection, or any other ideal.

In full acknowledgment of this principled view of truth, I would make the point again that one cannot tell a lie in a natural language. The grammar of a natural language is itself truth, in so far as truth is. There is nothing you can pronounce with the grammar of physics, for instance, that is not so. Because the very relationships undergirding the language are incontrovertible from the standpoint of human experience. The language of aesthetic form is similarly unassailable. If you experience it, it cannot be denied. It is only when pre-codified symbols, which merely reference their meanings extrinsically, get into the mix that honesty goes up for grabs.

4/18/2014 7:05 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

David,

Personally I see no justification for speculation about aesthetics without a teleological basis, and teleology is concomitant upon theism. Without teleology, any discussion about how art might have evolved isn't that different from wondering about how many angels can dance on a pin head. If most any garden variety of theism is true, teleology is an ontological given, even if one or even everyone were an atheist. Not so if theism were false and existence was purely a probability game.

4/22/2014 7:42 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/23/2014 9:45 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Personally I see no justification for speculation about aesthetics without a teleological basis.

Do you have a rationale for why you believe such a thing?

I mean besides "any discussion about how art might have evolved isn't that different from wondering about how many angels can dance on a pin head" which is not an argument at all, but merely an analogy, quite inapt.

4/23/2014 9:48 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Do you have a rationale for why you believe such a thing?

Yes. Years of the sustained and objective study of and investigation into the cultural fountainheads of great visual art (namely Greece and Italy), as well as the corroboration of many of the greatest minds of philosophy in history, especially those that devoted particular attention to the subject of aesthetics (namely Kant and Hegel). I have no rationale for expecting it to be effectively articulated to the unwilling via an internet blog, however; that would certainly be a waste of time and effort.

4/23/2014 10:33 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Again, arguments from authority aren't arguments. Least of all if that authority is you, given your mania for hiding everything about yourself that might engender respect here.

So all that is left is the appeal to reason. But you won't even defend what you say with reason.

So upon no authority, and without reason, you have declared in favor of teleology.

Might as well talk about angels on pins.

Incidentally, do you make Christian-themed art, Mr. Etc?

4/23/2014 3:52 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

arguments from authority

Mr. Kev,

Every argument about aesthetics is an argument from authority, whether that authority be ourselves, others, or the artwork itself. More importantly, I did not simply defer to any authority that Kant and Hegel's writings may or may not have on the subject, nor did I insist anyone else should; I said their writings corroborated what I had already determined from personal research. Frankly my first readings of Kant led me to suspect it was opium induced babbling (I'm still working on whether or not Heidigger was on heroin); those writings have little didactic value....only after you know what they are talking about can you know what they are talking about.

do you make Christian-themed art

I'll answer your question if you'll explain to me how it is relevant.

4/23/2014 5:26 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Every argument about aesthetics is an argument from authority

I strongly disagree. This statement assumes that aesthetics is all in the eye of the beholder. When it is certainly not. Aesthetics is as rigorous a discipline as science and as testable. Sadly, also prone to as much bluffing and politics as Science too.

That there is no unified field theory in either Aesthetics or Science that satisfies all interested parties in no way refutes the general necessity of there being some unity or profundity undergirding it all. (Particularly as some of the parties to the Aesthetics argument have no actual interest in aesthetics, only politics. So they only confuse the issue.)

only after you know what they are talking about can you know what they are talking about.

I strongly agree here. This has been my constant experience. The way I put it is that the words only point toward the insights. If one can't have the insights, the words are just signs in a foreign language, pointing somewhere.

I'll answer your question if you'll explain to me how it is relevant.

I'm struggling to imagine why you are so afraid to reveal yourself.

This proceeds, on this occasion, from the question of why you would assume others would grant you authority on questions of art if you aren't even willing to be forthright about who you are as a human being. I think you would agree that trust is not something given lightly, except by fools.

And I doubt you make you claims about difficult topics here to win over the easily-swayed, who probably don't even understand the issues. So why leave out the actual arguments for your positions?

Plus, from all you have written, you would seem to me to be the exact kind of person to despise the irresponsible anonymity of the internet, where smug twerps pose and posture and taunt from a hermetically sealed bubble of cowardice and inexperience. Why associate yourself with those people? They are part of the problem, aren't they?

4/23/2014 10:23 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Since the post got started with some theoretical physics, I thought this presentation by Dr. Pierre-Marie Robitaille on the validity of Kirchoff's Law might be of some interest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Hstum3U2zw

As a lay person, I'm not the one to direct comments on the video. I just found it interesting.

I don't know what was about to happen in the discussion on teleology, authority, etc., but I have to say, I'm sorry it didn't happen. It was sounding very interesting.

4/23/2014 10:32 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

This statement assumes that aesthetics is all in the eye of the beholder.

Aesthetics is all in the eye of the beholder; but not all eyes are created, or rather cultivated, equally.

why you would assume others would grant you authority on questions of art

I'm not looking to be granted authority by others on questions of art. I'm just throwing a few things out there for those who might be interested to chew on; you're perfectly free at all times to spit them out.

4/24/2014 12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It interesting reading a bunch of pagans discuss the bs they have been taught overs the years. And how they speak of theories as actual facts.

4/24/2014 5:02 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev,

stick to the theoretical arguments and stop trying to hound people into showing you their work so you can have the pleasure of tearing it down publicly.

4/24/2014 5:17 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Aesthetics is all in the eye of the beholder; but not all eyes are created, or rather cultivated, equally.

Not sure you are apprehending the actual purview of the topic. Are you mistaking aesthetics for style? Aesthetics appreciates the conditioning of taste, but is not about taste at any depth. Taste acts as a filter of aesthetic experience, but it isn't itself aesthetic. True aesthetic experience can easily change taste all by itself. It does so all the time.

I'm just throwing a few things out there for those who might be interested to chew on;

You haven't thrown out enough to chew on. That's the problem. So what are you doing?

Kev, stick to the theoretical arguments and stop trying to hound people into showing you their work so you can have the pleasure of tearing it down publicly.

Laurence, why not stick to your interests and stop bloody assuming I will either tear down anybody's work on this blog, or take pleasure in such an act. The point is about being people, real human beings with each other. Mr. Etc. has made no claims about his work in real life that might warrant deflation.

It interesting reading a bunch of pagans discuss the bs they have been taught overs the years. And how they speak of theories as actual facts.

Nobody listens to anonymous cowards. "While evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived."

4/24/2014 11:17 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Aesthetics is a measurement of Art against our internal 'spiritual' ideals.

Humans have vastly different spiritual ideals, and as a result make vastly different artworks exciting vastly different aesthetic sensibilities.

A spirit addicted to an Apollonian power will be desperate to see that sort of power in the craftsmanship of Artworks. A spirit addicted to an impermanent lightness will seek that out instead.

The commenters on this blog, long steeped in a Randian Westernality will gravitate towards works that masturbate that particular sensibility.

4/24/2014 12:17 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Aesthetics appreciates the conditioning of taste, but is not about taste at any depth.

Mr. Kev,

Really?

4/24/2014 12:24 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/24/2014 12:32 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

You are confusing your own tribal/Pavlovian conditioning as something distinct from that of others, and have termed them thus to set your own aesthetic goals as morally superior, but your arguments therein are founded on tautology.

4/24/2014 12:45 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/24/2014 12:54 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

You are confusing your own tribal/Pavlovian conditioning as something distinct from that of others, and have termed them thus to set your own aesthetic goals as morally superior, but your arguments therein are founded on tautology.

Form has no tribe, silly.

4/24/2014 12:56 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Richard, i agree with your last two posts.

form (in art) is shaped by ideological / cultural beliefs (or lack of).

4/24/2014 2:02 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

>Richard, i agree with your last two posts.

I would be interested in learning, then, where you seperate those greater aesthetic/spiritual concerns from a meta-narrative.

4/24/2014 2:19 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

*grand narrative, not meta-narrative

4/24/2014 2:22 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Richard,

they usually don't separate; a grand or meta narrative is simply faith in a large all encompassing belief system, usually a religion.

4/24/2014 2:28 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

But you yourself said that "i've never fallen for / been indoctrinated into a 'grand narrative' in my life".

If there isn't a separation, wouldn't that argue that Kev is correct? That Form is objective, Aesthetics objective?

4/24/2014 2:37 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Richard,

just because someone doesn't subscribe to a grand narrative doesn't mean that they have no aesthetic sensibility.
it just means they have no larger narrative to provide answers to the thorny questions of existence.

4/24/2014 2:49 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

@_____@

4/24/2014 3:33 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

p.s.

what i was suggesting in my earlier 'abandoned children' comment was the idea that just because our 'grand narratives' are crumbling it doesn't mean we need to be fearful.
the popular grand narratives of the past were only invented by other humans after all, and therefore any art form that espouses them is also human made.

a grand narrative (and it's accompanying aesthetic form in art) is an expression of the human pursuit of beauty / the ideal.

... and therefore grand narratives are as impermanent and changeable as the civilisations which created them.

4/24/2014 3:45 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/24/2014 4:31 PM  
Blogger Aleš said...

Etc,Etc, I'm wondering why are you using a 18th century philosopher as an argument since aesthetic thought was further developed after his death? Didn't the most intensive progress happen through 19 century, maybe early 20th?

I mean... it seems like you are not actually acquainted with the aesthetics thoroughly, you're just aware of a certain historical fact when aesthetics began to be equated with taste. But how does that definition make sense to you today after reading Dewey and others?

4/24/2014 7:50 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

It's a question of what is subject to us and what is not subject to us. We can't snap our fingers and experience happiness, but we can dispose ourselves in a way that happiness is more likely to happen. In other words, we can cultivate a disposition towards happiness, but we are subject to happiness and happiness is not subject to us.

Likewise we can't summon wisdom, kindness, humility, honesty, etc. but must dispose ourselves to them. Then there are relationships in the virtues such as honesty which requires a certain purity and purity implies a certain innocence. There's a paradox between wisdom and innocence and within them the virtues exist.

The mysteries of these things which are attributed as characteristics of the western monotheistic God and are not different to people of the east, but there is a difference in how the context is interpreted. In the east, good and evil are equal in a dualistic system of ying and yang. In the west, God as love and mercy conquers evil. In the west, evil is that attempt to find happiness outside of the virtues, or to claim the virtues are subject to the will of the individual. Thus, it can be said that whether one acknowledges God or not, one is still subject to the virtues and cannot experience the joy within them by one's own will.

Science on the other hand is subject to us and so encourages a belief in the notion that science and will can solve the pursuit of happiness without being subject to the virtues which comprise happiness. The discovery of the flaw in Kirchoff's Law after better than 150 years is a good place to pause and reconsider the project of the pursuit of happiness as an action of will.

Beauty is a good. Is it subject to us or is the viewer subject to it?

4/24/2014 10:19 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Sean,

attributing 'virtues' such as kindness to something outside ourselves (god-given) is simply something we've been conditioned to do over thousands of years.
atheism is about accepting responsibility for our own actions and not giving the power to illusory authority figures.

4/25/2014 6:38 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

>Attributing 'virtues' such as kindness to something outside ourselves (god-given) is simply something we've been conditioned to do over thousands of years.


Well, and for good reason, because virtue falls apart in the face of the universe of cold scientific modernity.

4/25/2014 8:49 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Richard: "the universe of cold scientific modernity"

sounds rather dystopian and sci-fi. is it a real place ?

4/25/2014 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Laurence John and Richard,
But then how does one explain the nature of the virtues, which one doesn't actually control or summon? The virtues are participatory, we participate by choice, we submit to them, but they aren't ours to possess. How do we explain the nature of happiness which is also participatory? Such was the error of the enlightenment, when morality was explained by reason as if it were under the domain of reason alone.

I never considered attributing the virtues to God by any conditioning, such simply are the attributes given to God in the Bible, that's what I was saying. It was after observing peace, kindness, etc. that it occurred to me I was submitting to something.

Beauty is not a virtue but a good and by logic we shouldn't be overwhelmed by it because looks can be deceiving and yet we often are as our senses or our desire for pleasure overwhelms our reasoning. Vice also is a type of submission if carefully observed, except that people find vice so agreeable they rarely bother to observe them closely. In fact, people regularly conjure vice and some are well aware that such is submission, even worship.

Then there is the language of beauty in art and to this I was hoping to elicit some thoughts, to its nature.

Richard, I agree that our narratives are crumbling. How else can one explain a trouple, a new word for three women married as one?

Yes Laurence John, I agree, we are responsible for ourselves, by our choices.

4/25/2014 10:22 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Sean "I agree, we are responsible for ourselves, by our choices."

if you agree with that then there's no need to place morality as something which exists outside of ourselves, as something that is bestowed upon us.

Sean "Then there is the language of beauty in art and to this I was hoping to elicit some thoughts, to its nature."

beauty is a characteristic we ascribe to things which have a life affirming quality such as good health, physical attractiveness, nature in bloom, harmony etc. it seems perfectly rational to me that we would celebrate it in art.

4/25/2014 11:32 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

>sounds rather dystopian and sci-fi. is it a real place ?

I used to live there, and it seemed very real from the inside.

Whether or not it was reality, I don't even know well enough what the word means to answer you.

4/25/2014 1:03 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

>Science on the other hand is subject to us and so encourages a belief in the notion that science and will can solve the pursuit of happiness without being subject to the virtues which comprise happiness.

>if you agree with that then there's no need to place morality as something which exists outside of ourselves, as something that is bestowed upon us.


It's one way or the other. Either there is morality from a source outside ourselves, or morality is just a thing in our head, a machine which we can learn to manipulate.

I now believe morality comes from God. The alternative became too terrible to live with. If it is a fiction, so be it, better a good fiction than a terrible truth.

4/25/2014 1:22 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

what's so terrible about the idea that our moral sense is innate and not god given ?

4/25/2014 2:58 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

If morality is just another innate instinct, then much like the other instincts, it can be wrestled, reasoned out of and overcome for the benefit of the individual.

For an example, I work in the financial sector, where I have access to a lot of very personal information that would make enriching myself at the expense of others very easy.

If the only thing that stopped me from robbing people was the vestiges of my mammalian pack instincts, it wouldn't take long for me to reason my way out of that instinct and into easy wealth.

The idea that the only thing keeping society on the path of morality is a simple evolutionary trait, and the laws that build out of them, that's very frightening. It would make a lot make sense though, e.g. The Holocaust, General Butt Naked's Army, etc.

4/25/2014 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Laurence John,
If one observes the amount of life affected by our will and that affected by the choices presented to us and considers how much happens upon one, such as emotional experiences one never asked for, the melancholy, sadness or unexpected joys, it seems that what we affect by our will is but a part of the stuff we call life.

Willfulness is often a disaster in relations and just as often determines that we don't get what we want. We don't have control how others feel about us for example no matter how hard one tries. Yes, the human will is extraordinary and capable of great things, but in the scheme of things is too small a faculty to contain morality.

Morality is far more complex than individual drive.
Will is incapable of knowing the harm it does until after it has done it. So it's not dim witted to believe morality lies beyond the self. We recognize truth more than create it. We recognize love more than create, etc., so it exists before it is recognized.

Thanks for your comments on beauty. I was thinking more about the theory suggested earlier.

I now believe morality comes from God. The alternative became too terrible to live with. If it is a fiction, so be it, better a good fiction than a terrible truth.

Richard, your thinking above makes perfect sense, the alternative is a terrible prospect.

4/25/2014 4:09 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Richard,

if morality was god-given then aberrations like the holocaust couldn't happen and we'd now be living in an earth-bound utopia.
the holocaust happened. so if a 'god-given morality' can be over-ridden by human impulse / greed it would suggest that it's basically non effective.

4/25/2014 4:10 PM  
Blogger Aleš said...

If morality is just another innate instinct, then much like the other instincts, it can be wrestled, reasoned out of and overcome for the benefit of the individual.

Richard, what if I end that sentence with "for the benefit to stimulate our collaboration with each other"? That's how I see it, it's a set of rules that even social animals develop and these rules have a purpose to restrain dangerous selfishness and egoism.

4/25/2014 4:32 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Sean: " it seems that what we affect by our will is but a part of the stuff we call life."

i would never suggest that we can control our own destinies down to the Nth degree, or that chance or randomness can't intervene and turn hard effort into bad luck.

but if you want to create something from scratch, you first need the WILL to do it.

Sean: "We recognize truth more than create it. We recognize love more than create, etc., so it exists before it is recognized."

no... we recognise only what is relevant / meaningful to us and then build it in to our ongoing narrative.

a concept such as truth falls into the same area as a 'grand narrative' i.e. it seems 'eternally present' at first but is subject to the same impermanence, changeability, fallibility.

universal human emotions such as love seem to have 'always existed' (and therefore seem 'eternal') because we all, as humans, experience pretty much the same sensation and can recognise it when others wax lyrical about it.

4/25/2014 4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David , it just occured to me that this entry would have a good excuse to show Boris Bodybuilder Jesus masterpiece , sandwiched between Nancy and Koons . Maybe a future post on crusifiction paintings - Frazetta Boris Dali etc.

4/25/2014 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

no... we recognise only what is relevant / meaningful to us and then build it in to our ongoing narrative.

Laurence John,
I'm not saying that we can dispense with will or those pursuits which are subject to our will, but a great deal of life falls into other categories and some of those things go well beyond what is perceived from the particular point of view that life is subject to us, which is the dominant way of viewing life today.

There's no doubt that such a tendency exists to recognize only that which fits one's own narrative, but a dramatic turn may take place rather late in life which had nothing to do with the life a person may have been living. I remember a man who became remarkably optimistic in the face of his own death. Something happened to him and whatever it was, it must not have been ordinary or what he had previously known because he expressed true joy. He died a few days later. Some things in life can be hard to figure.

Likewise, childhood curiosities and experiences can linger in a person for their entire lives, experiences which don't fit into anything they learned, or are at odds with their cultural upbringing.

It is difficult to define that which is beyond life as subject to oneself. Madmen are sometimes those who insists life is under their jurisdiction and may play God and cause others incredible suffering.
Thanks

4/25/2014 9:17 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

It is interesting, in the grand overview, how the same ideas keep getting forgotten and then recovered. The relationship of the human to other humans and to the world of experience clearly has qualities to it that are archetypical. We keep finding the hidden conceptual orders in the relations of all things to all things, animate or inanimate.

Whether they are there, or we just create them by being us, with our brand of mind, is a good question. The classic/ancient version of this question is whether any concept/abstraction/essence exists outside ourselves. Plato believed in a conceptual realm apart from the world. Aristotle believed that the only reality of an abstract concept was when it was instantiated in an object or event.

Ultimately, the matter can't be settled. Idealists can't prove the existence of a dimension of concepts. Physics theory is now replete with convictions about real things of absolutely no substance as we understand the term.

The pragmatic question to follow up with is, would the ancient debate have any consequences either way it came out?

I think the answer is no.

Essentially, any method at all that gets people to act virtuously will do. The instantiations of virtue are their own societal, humane reward. The best method to bring virtue into the world, however, is surely the method that does not require coercion or enforcement. Which is to say, early, tribe-wide indoctrination.

4/25/2014 10:37 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

a concept such as truth falls into the same area as a 'grand narrative' i.e. it seems 'eternally present' at first but is subject to the same impermanence, changeability, fallibility.

Absurd, human minds cannot do away with truth. All truth is, is the most accurate comprehension of the relationship of a set of facts possible under any circumstance. Truth cannot be done away with and more than the idea of goodness can be done away with. It is simple pragmatics.

4/25/2014 10:39 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/25/2014 10:44 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Kev,

Baumgarten died young before completing his work on aesthetics, which has never been translated into English. There is debate about what exactly he meant by his appropriated word "aesthetics" (see Review of Metaphysics December 1983). At any rate, I'd be quite surprised if anywhere the Stanford EoP actually backed the claim you made that aesthetics is not about taste at any level, a claim so easily refuted by reading the original source material.

4/26/2014 1:50 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev: "Absurd, human minds cannot do away with truth"

agreed.

Kev: "Beauty is not a characteristic of an object"

i agree, and i didn't say it was. i said we ascribe it to things.


beauty is relative.
truth is relative.
god is dead.

4/26/2014 2:28 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Atheists - 1
Christians - 0

Booyakasha

4/26/2014 2:54 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/26/2014 3:28 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev,

if an omnipresent point of view existed (i.e a god's eye POV) then i would agree that there exists - in theory - an objective truth.

but from a biased, subjective, human point of view 'truth' must remain fallible and therefore, relative.

4/26/2014 3:57 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev: "Ideas never die"

the 'god' idea is long past it's expiry date.

4/26/2014 4:04 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

All human beings are inescapably "native speakers" of the innate language of form. From this, the natural language of art springs.

Yes, and that exactly falls under the purview of the pre-20th century notion of taste as it relates to aesthetics. You're using a 20th century definition and understanding of taste, and I'm not:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aesthetic-judgment/

(Don't assume that I'm endorsing everything Kant said on the subject of aesthetic judgment; I'm not.)

4/26/2014 4:13 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/26/2014 4:14 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/26/2014 4:39 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev,

you can justify all the soft versions of truth you like.

there's an atomic-level version of truth which the lifeless matter of the universe knows, which is to do with objective physical fact.

and there's the human version of truth... which is subject to fallible human perception.

of course, i'm fully aware that we can't access the higher truth beyond ourselves. that is our tragedy... that we're limited to a human -centric POV while sensing so much more beyond our scope.

4/26/2014 4:39 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

you can justify all the soft versions of truth you like.

And I have.

And you justify the soft version of truth all day long. And so does anybody who is sane and productive.

I accept everything you are saying about the absolutist claims for truth, and reject them as irrelevant to the discussion.

4/26/2014 4:54 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev,

i accept pragmatism; you have to to make a living.
i just don't accept a universal idea of 'truth'.

4/26/2014 5:03 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

But I accept you at your word and would be interested to hear your critique of Kant on that topic.

Are you serious? Why on earth would I undertake such a thing when you are unwilling or unable to comprehend Kantian terms such as "taste" and "concept" and fight me at every turn? No thank you. Best that you stick with your Pyle, poets, and symbolists.

4/26/2014 5:11 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Laurence John,
It's very understandable that people believe God is dead because there is so much knowledge and people live within such knowledge. That is, it is people who are far less in contact with life itself
and operate through a medium of knowledge. In a certain way, modern people could be said to be in a way, dead because we live around life, repeating yesterday's pleasures until some unknown calls one to attention.

So unknowingness is less apparent, but remains. Life flows not through knowledge but is and to which knowledge is an aid. The concept of entering life then implies entering unknowingness. Faith is a way of trusting the unknown or entering life in trust. Trust implies a truth, but that truth is associated with life, not mechanical knowledge.

Fear then was ameliorated by faith, but more so a person could develop a loving relationship with the unknown, a previously absurd idea. That is, one could travel into the unknown in a manner whereby instead of self protection, one could carry a loving or generous relationship toward the unknown. In fact, one could travel as being loved in this unknown.

Even going to sleep is a kind of unknown and one can fall asleep as an infant in a mother's loving arms. Has mechanical knowledge brought people such peace?

I'm not arguing against the knowledge, laws and mechanisms of distributing goods, etc. which make for modern stability, but I don't think modernity understands that measurement is for one thing, while faith is an extraordinary thing for dealing with the unknown, or living.

I've pursued this line because I think it relates to the idea of getting in contact with something primal and one reality lying beneath tastes, but I also suspect that some may actually not understand that such beauty is very real and relates to art as well.

4/26/2014 10:40 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/26/2014 10:48 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/26/2014 10:49 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

But if you want me to actually believe Kant's formulations as a predicate for you following through on your comment, then we should terminate.

I've made it plain that even I don't "believe" all of Kant's "formulations". But it is critical that you have a grasp of Kant's specialized vocabulary, and I'm just not convinced you have that, or anything other than a superficial knowledge of Kant's aesthetics. Besides, we've already had some time ago the discussion you are inquiring about, and I see no good reason to rehash.

4/27/2014 10:46 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Fyi, I just want to make better artwork and share what I consider to be the predicates for a better culture on forums like this, where all thoughts are allowable.

To the degree that discussing Kant helps that, I am interested. To the degree that your mentions of Kant are part of some weird ego game you get off on, or some religious mission, not so much. You want to play a Kant authority on the internet, go ahead. Advertise away. Nobody cares, nobody is impressed, nobody even knows who you are. We're all just interested in the substance of the matter. And time is fleeting.

4/27/2014 12:21 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I'm just going to link to pictures that I like.

4/27/2014 5:23 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Fyi, I just want to make better artwork and share what I consider to be the predicates for a better culture on forums like this, where all thoughts are allowable.

You'll have far more fun on forums pretending to have secret information other people are dying to know...try it! ;)

4/27/2014 5:53 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

You'll have far more fun on forums pretending to have secret information other people are dying to know...try it! ;)

I think your sense of humor is really coming along. And I encourage you to continue to practice trying to be funny in the future.

4/27/2014 8:09 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Beauty is not a characteristic of an object, but a sensation we feel. This is a critical distinction.

The above quote by Kev was well worth this entire string for me and it was the kind of nugget I was hoping would come forth from the aesthetics discussion. Thanks.

Laurence John and Richard, not only are you both reasonable men, but I suspect you have a bit more of the mystic in you than you let on.

The idea of abandonment to divine providence is one that has been lost for some time and was probably never widely understood, but it does offer a direct relationship with life and one that is highly civilized. It is not a threat to modern accomplishments but is aware of the difference in life and the accumulation of knowledge. Beauty is a characteristic of such abandonment. It also brings clarity to the notion of abandonment to the energy of nothingness which was a source of tragic confusion in the 1960s and 70s.

Life is what happens to one and knowledge to some degree, is what people use to avoid it. Now that modernity has succeeded in eliminating so many of life's unpleasant unknowns, a natural hunger to reenter life more directly will persist.

4/28/2014 9:34 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

From that dubious Wikipedia site:

Kant proposed a "Copernican Revolution-in-reverse". In simple terms, Kant argued that our experiences are structured by necessary features of our minds. The mind shapes and structures experience so that, on an abstract level, all human experience shares certain essential structural features. Among other things, Kant believed that the concepts of space and time are integral to all human experience, as are our concepts of cause and effect. We never have direct experience of things, the noumenal world, and what we do experience is the phenomenal world as conveyed by our senses. These observations summarize Kant's views upon the subject–object problem.

4/28/2014 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

I'll try to put this another way.

We seek the unknown, or we seek to know what we don't know. It is an unknown or the unknown which drives our hunger to know things.

But in the larger world, knowledge is beginning to tighten its noose on the unknown as knowledge approaches various conclusions. At least, knowledge is closing in on the probabilities of certain aspects of life and gadgets are defining many things in a kind of known way.

It's inevitable that a hunger for the unknown, or at least a hunger for a more direct relationship with life will grow stronger, not less as various areas of knowledge reach their conclusions. Beauty and the virtues belong to an unknown, which is why they appear so transient, even unreal because we don't actually posses them, though we hunger for them, or at least realize they are necessary for us.

To conclude that knowledge is the answer for our attraction to the unknown, or the same as life, is to believe that people will suddenly change and no longer be interested in the unquenchable; love, beauty and other intangibles which require a direct relationship with life and grow stronger as one gains an appetite for them.

4/28/2014 1:01 PM  
Blogger Aleš said...

Etc,Etc wrote: "You'll have far more fun on forums pretending to have secret information other people are dying to know...try it! ;)"

Kev provides a lot of valuable knowledge here and demonstrates a sensitive and critical approach to art that most people do not possess. And I'm thankful to him for that, as probably many other readers are, even tho we mostly lurk in silence.

4/28/2014 1:37 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Sean... I tip my hat to thee. I enjoy your interesting thoughts all the time on here.

Just fyi, Mr. Etc, I think that wikipedia article puts Kant's overall view quite well and succinctly.

Ales, your check is in the mail. ;)

However, I think you weren't quite getting the ironic reverse-psychology jiu jitsu of Mr. Etc's quote.

4/28/2014 2:56 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Sean,

What you are describing sounds very much like Romanticism; is that what you have in mind?

4/28/2014 7:40 PM  
Blogger Aleš said...

Oh, I apologize if I misunderstood you Etc and I take it back. (I'll keep the check, Kev, I need a new easel)

4/28/2014 8:25 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

No need to apologize, Ales. I think Kev and I would both agree that frank and spirited discussion about art is a good thing.

4/28/2014 10:07 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

bub

4/29/2014 11:56 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

lrooerfos

4/29/2014 3:03 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

The triumph of knowledge isn't going to be what it's cracked up to be. First we will experience an exhaustion of certain forms, which we have been experiencing already. But also, knowledge turns all into a subject or subjects and that will include turning human will into a subject, or tyranny.

The ancients did understood that knowledge was authoritative and so it was understood that a God must have been all knowing (as well as powerful). Being all knowing, people were God's subjects, just as all is subject to knowledge, or knowledge makes a subject of all. The question then becomes, what kind of subjects were people to be?
Contrary to the subjugation of all things by knowledge, a statement like, All is permissible, but not all is beneficial, from 1st Corinthians is a very sophisticated comment on free will. It was radical in its mercy because it was stated in an era where the order of justice was enforced with brutal physical punishment. It was also radical because at that time, free will wasn't a concern in regard to the ordinary person or slave.

Love from a source which knew all, could only be true. It was so concluded because love is the height of values, but also because an all knowing would have no interest in what wasn't true. Such may explain a curious freedom in love and a curious repulsion to either good or evil by their opposite.

Accordingly, we know love and fear as of a certain level because we live within an accepted known range, but possibility is an opening up to the unknown.

Freedom, love, beauty, feelings, the arts, religion and a certain type of objective reality are all part of the unknown as the known is defined today in a strict manner, which is why I think the things of the unknown will again recapture the hearts and imaginations of multitudes of people.

Thank you Kev, I appreciate your compliment very much and extend the same to you too.

Etc. Etc. I don't think I am talking about Romanticism, but I have been listening to people's thoughts here and asking people elsewhere their thoughts on it. I'm all ears on Romanticism.

4/29/2014 6:46 PM  
Blogger Yasmeen Elsayed said...

thanks ,,,,,,,,,

5/12/2014 8:52 PM  

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