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March 23, 2005

On Art, again.

"Science advances at the rate that technology provides tools of greater precision, while art advances at the pace that evolution provides minds with greater insight - a pace that is, for better or worse, glacially slow. Thus while the stone tools fashioned by cave dwellers an Ice Age ago are hopelessly primitive by current technological standards, their wall paintings remain as elegant and expressive as any modern art. And while a hundred civilizations have prospered (sometimes for centuries) without computers or windmills or even the wheel, none have survived even a few generations without art.

Art is art partially because it is constantly taking what has been done to the next level. Interesting in the context of art's timeless quality and "glacial" innovation. Please leave some thoughts. I am running low on my own.

Posted by pedalboy at March 23, 2005 3:32 PM | TrackBack

i like. however, can we really say that civilizations would "not survive" w/o art? what is "survival" anyway?

why a duck?

Posted by: john at March 23, 2005 7:45 PM

it's late and i feel like writing a lot. i'd have to disagree with taking things to the next level. the line has been broken to some extent with modern art, which depends on your view of it and we could talk about that quite a bit.

even cave drawings are much better than a lot of it i think. art isn't something that simply improves and is on a constant progress as we "improve" as humans. that assumes a certain philosophy. i reject the idea that changes over time equals improvement. the greeks and romans had incredible minds and art that rival or fully surpass much of what there is today. pollock or picasso totally lacked the ability to paint bouguereau's "nymphs and satyr" (and saying they didn't want to doesn't change that or somehow make them better). does pop music or john cage take mahler to the next level? yeah, for centuries artists built upon what had been learned and took it to higher levels of technique and virtuosity up until about the early 20th century and then it largely fell apart.

as insight goes, we know nothing more about love, death, or the meaning of life than anyone in history though we seem to think we do. shakespeare had at least as much insight into these as anyone who has come after. homer or dante had at least as much as shakespeare. what seems to matter more is the form which isn't better or worse, just different. the technology of science improves only because people don't have to rediscover things like electricity and as that quote goes they see so far because they "stand upon the shoulders of giants." then enters the regressive 20th century where artists attempt to reinvent their wheel...and it largely ends in image and celebrity providing value to hack art, which is diminishing already; it's hardly a timeless improvement when it can barely survive one century.

Posted by: skaught at March 24, 2005 3:24 AM

"can we really say that civilizations would "not survive" w/o art? what is "survival" anyway?"

Art is being creative, it is expressing yourself. If you have no outlet to express yourself are you truely living? Even mentally challenged people try to express them selves through art b/c in art they are equals. They are just expressing themselves. In art it's not kill or be killed, it's whatever makes you feel. Feel something, good or bad, feel anything.

How depressing would life be without art? How many of us wouldn't want to be here if not for art? Art is unifies us. You hear a song, whether it be in Chinese or Italian, you can pick up the emotions. You can empithize, you feel it. Art in any form helps us b/c it lets us not only express ourselves, but lets us know we are not alone.

Posted by: Kristina at March 24, 2005 7:35 AM

" Even mentally challenged people try to express themselves through art b/c in art they are equals. They are just expressing themselves."

could you explain that, equals to what? sure, it might be therapeutic for them, but don't you think that the result also matters? isn't there such a thing as "good" or "bad" art?

Posted by: skaught at March 24, 2005 12:35 PM

eh, for example: I suffer from severe depression, for a long time I had no will to live. I even tried to kill myself once, but I think in those times the only reason I didn't try more than that was b/c I found an outlet. I wrote. It may not be good writing, at times it was rather vulgar and didn't often make sense, but it was my outlet. That's all I was trying to say. I don't think I would have made it through certain points in my life if I didn't write. And I do consider writing/ poetry art.

Well sure there is good and bad art, but I think it is subjective. What might be "good" to me might look like junk to someone else. What might sound good to my husband often drives me crazy, it's not "good" to me, but it is to him. Half the stuff I write, whether it be poetry or a song, I hate but for some reason there are people who actually like my stuff.

Posted by: Kristina at March 24, 2005 7:20 PM

"Science advances at the rate that technology provides tools of greater precision, while art advances at the pace that evolution provides minds with greater insight."

Technology advances due to minds with greater insight just as art does. The "tools of greater precision" come from insightful minds and then, in turn, inform other minds that continue the advancement of science.

"And while a hundred civilizations have prospered (sometimes for centuries) without computers or windmills or even the wheel, none have survived even a few generations without art."

While many civilizations have prospered for centuries without the "Mona Lisa" or "Starry Night" or even impressionism, none have survived even a few generations without science. Art is not comparable to a specific scientific advance, and science isn't comparable to a specific art piece or movement. Both are continually changing, and changing at a faster rate now that ever before.

Posted by: JARinteractive at March 25, 2005 12:22 AM

Wow this one was a GOOD one!!! Everyone seems to have an opinion (or two) on it.

Skaught, what i mean by "taking things to the next level," i mean doing anything that is not repitious or cookie-cutter. This doesn't necessarily mean abandoning the forms and techniques of the past; it just necessitates imporiving on them if you use them. I LOVE how you defend cave drawings and the statement that "shakespeare had at least as much insight into [love, eath, or the meaning of life] as anyone who has come after." Over time, humans have changed a lot of things about the world and day-to-day life, but we sure have not changed human nature. Postmodern art differs from modern art in that it is trying to deal with the SAME nature in DIFFERENT contexts. I think the different contexts (caused by the effects of the world society creates) are what keeps art fresh... Without a changing world, we could find one definitive work to depect a certain emotion for all time.
And no, neither pollock nor picasso had the ability to paint Raphael's "Madonna and Child," either. But by saying this, you betray that you value technical proficiency more than creative innovation in art.
You say that up until the 20th century, performers built up to higher and higher levels of virtuosity, at which time virtuosity became much more scarce. Have you tried to play any 20th century music? Generally, its wicked-hard.
Okay... art as self-expression. This is historically a pretty new idea. I am pretty sure its linked to the problem of loss of identity in a modern era. Before the industrial revolution, your craft would be your self-expression, but with mass-production (and even more so with "McDonaldization") who you are does not affect what you make for your job, generally speaking. So we shift art to compensate for this a bit. But wowza is it sure engrained in our minds these days. its hard for me to think outside this paradigm, even though i recognize the color of the spectacles I look through.
Good and bad art? I don't think so. There's only art and non-art. Failure is part of the creative process, because knowing what doesn't work is as important as knowing what does. Without that risk of failure, repetition is a garantee - which is the only true mark of real failure.
That said, in regards to the subjectivity of art... everyone of course is entitled to have an opinion on art. Diversity of opinions is wonderful, necessary, and entertaining. However, some opinions are much more valid than others. And that is my (rather invalid) opinion on the subject.
James, you bring up probably the most important point about science in the whole world... There's a subjective element to it. The answers you get depend on the questions you ask. Science is not a book that you read, it is a human conquest. Humans and human imagination drive an empiricle sports car to get where they want to go.
But I have a question - What about the dark ages? Not a whole lot of science going on for a goood long time in there... I am not really certain if there was a lot of art going on there either - darn history class biases. Somebody fill me in.

Which scott are you, scott?

Posted by: pedalboy at March 25, 2005 6:57 PM

i like most of what you wrote, we go...

"And no, neither pollock nor picasso had the ability to paint Raphael's "Madonna and Child," either. But by saying this, you betray that you value technical proficiency more than creative innovation in art."

no no! to me technique is a means ONLY, but an absolutely necessary one to more clearly communicate some aspect of truth or beauty. in itself it's empty. i hate faster louder equals better kids. but creativity without the discipline and hard work to make it mean something to you as well as me is just as empty. why, when someone values technique today, do people pass them off as unoriginal, stagnate, and uncreative? -not saying you're doing that, just a general statement. it's creative if i tear apart a lawn mower and glue it to the wall and stick torn apart rabbits with orange rinds on the blades and call it "Glacier" then add some huge paragraph explaining it's true meaning while screaming "WHO THE @$#% ARE YOU TO TELL ME IT ISN'T ART?!?!?!" instead of taking the time to create a work that expressed that same meaning without the supplemental explanation. (or write a really long sentence). in the st. louis art museum there's this little abstract chunk of wood or something and it's called "cigarette". i find that absolutely worthless, non art in your words. intentions don't redeem the result in art. actually, check this site out if you want, it's a bit more hardcore than i am...but there are great articles along the lines of my views.

that said, i'm not totally anti-modern, just mostly haha. there are definitely shining examples.

oh, i actually am playing a piano piece (trying!) by a composer who's still alive...muczynski's toccata. it's completely atonal, and it expresses rage-which is one grand aspect of truth... anger and atonality mix well. it IS wicked hard, fast and loud, which is only valuable because it helps express the meaning. i was just saying that a lot of modern music i've looked at is difficult for the sake of being difficult, or else different for it's own sake. not much value to that it in my opinion, it comes across as really self-concious and only technically valid.

Posted by: the reeves one at March 25, 2005 10:29 PM

Happened across this post while reading a book called "Diary" by Chuck Palahniuk(he wrote Fight Club). Good book. All about art, inpiration, etc. He goes into a lot about the ridiculousness of some modern art and how everything is self-expression.

"The paradox of being a professional artist. How we spend our lives trying to express ourselves well, but we have nothing to tell. We want creativity to be a system of cause and effect. Results. Marketable product. We want deication and disipline to equal recognition and reward. We get on our art school treadmill, our graduate program for a master's in fint arts, and practice, practice, practice. With all our excellent skills, we have nothing special to document. According to Peter, nothing pisses us off more than when some strung-out drug addct a lazy bum or a slobbering pervert creates a masterpeice. As if by accident.

Some idiot who's not afraid to say what they really love."

"'The only thing an artist ca do is describe his own face.' ...Your hndwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose. It's all giving you away. Everything you do shows your hand. Everything is a self-portrait."

Posted by: mallio at March 27, 2005 10:45 PM

thought i'd add this quote by edgar allen poe after the post by mallio (although i agree with our culture wanting to have results by putting in time instead of meaning and make it marketable)

"Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it 'the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.' The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of 'Artist.'"

there's nothing new about the idea that all art is a self-portrait, what's new is that it has a higher sense of individuality instead of brotherhood. "The ONLY thing an artist can do..." what is that negative connotation for? what else should we want an artist to do? you can just look at the sunset and enjoy something other. you look at someone's painting of a sunset to see it "through the veil of the soul". the connection, or further insight exactly because it has humanness all over it is what makes it worthwhile in a different way than the actual thing it represents. it's humanity's shared expression and experience of life, put in a way that most people couldn't produce, but can recognize.

maybe the absurdity of modern art stems from trying so hard to lose that connection. it tries to be individual and alone. it seeks to point to nothing but itself. maybe...

Posted by: skaught at March 31, 2005 1:42 AM

I don't think you can ever really define what is good art or bad art. To me, good art is something that I can empathize with, something that makes me feel. That's all, it doesn't have to be in a certain form, by a certain person, or at a certain level.

Posted by: Allison at March 31, 2005 3:20 PM
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