Is THAT art?!?!?! I mean a child could have done that?

February 20, 2008

I have much to say and engage with in regards to these two questions and I do not plan on writing it all down now, or even get close to addressing all the problems with these two questions but I wanted the conversation to start. So I have been doing some Saussure reading lately, for a class mind you, I don’t think I could do it for myself yet in life, and well more specifically I have been reading his Lecture Notes from the University of Geneva, 1906-11, compiled and published by his students after his death. Okay that all being said the part of these notes I want to draw attention to is the three ways in which a word, a linguistic sign, is arbitrary. The three ways come from first breaking up the sign into its two parts, signifier (the sound) and signified (the idea or concept). For example when we say “chair”  the sound associated with the concept of a device for sitting on are not inherently combined, that’s easy enough to understand when one travels to a place where one’s native language is not practiced. Try saying chair somewhere where they don’t speak English and see if they understand you. So with these two aspects defined what is then arbitrary? Well as is suggested above the relationship between the signified and the signifier is completely conventional, why call a chair a chair and not a table? It is just what we have chosen. Second the sound itself is arbitrarily defined, why not chairy or chaaaair? Lastly the concept is also arbitrarily defined. A stool and chair are separate in our language, not all languages and a desk chair and table chair both use the word chair, in other languages they don’t have the same signifier.

We can spend all day talking about Saussure but the only thing important for the art question is the arbitrariness of language.  given that I want to know bring up C. S. Pierce who studied sign. Pierce, 1839-1914, defined three different signs: Icons, resembles what it points to, Index, related to its object through forceful interaction, and Symbols, anything that requires information to form the connection. Language as it is arbitrary and conventional falls under that third category. Renaissance paintings fall under the first category and photograph falls under the first two, as it is both representational of what it points to and it is a consequence of it (that’s why photos can be evidence and paintings can’t, for the most part).

Okay NOW back to the question at hand, what is meant when someone says “a child could have done that?” that’s what I am now going to address:

So last weekend I was at our university’s annual sculpture show and had a wonderful and exploratory time observing and being part of the exhibitions. But of course, with the art being student created (ie experimental) there came a slew of questions or rather comments regarding the validity of the art. For example when looking at one of the more hidden pieces that was made up of plaster, grocery bags, hot glue, wax, and a globe it was stated that the piece was not for sale. The response of one individual to that knowledge was “why would someone even be interested in that? they could get it at a supermarket for far less, hell it comes with your order at a supermarket” he was obviously referring to the enormous number of plastic bags used int he sculpture’s creation. So therefore the question becomes creatability? I guess you could say, or rather that he and many others were measuring the “artistic merit” of the works based on how “easy” or “accessible” they were to create. Here is where I bring up Saussure, to remind us that our “conventions” for what is easy and hard, and what is beautiful and ugly, and especially what is and isn’t art is NOT based on any fundamental truth, for there isn’t one, but rather it is based on our own arbitrary definitions. One may be able to easily translate beauty linguistically between English and French but you’d be surprised at how the term may be applied very differently in the two cultures. I bring this up to suggest that when we talk about certain elements that “should” be striven for in art, those elements have no universality in them and furthermore are completely relative based on what we define them as not.

Okay then so let’s briefly talk about what is implied with that child statement. First let me say that I am not going to take the time here to debate it but rather just understand it, later we’ll debate it. So typically the “a child could do that” statement applies to the works of art that appear to have no talent applied during the creative process. One that I always think of in this argument is Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square or Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. In either case the artistic object is not something that requires a mastery of representational ability. By that I mean to suggest that when this statement is applied to either work the implied meaning of it is that neither work achieved the same level of representational, iconic, achievement that say the Mona Lisa did. So in the end I bring this up now to ask, do you think that what is implied by this statement is a comparison with Renaissance art? After all nothing can be defined independently, everything is always negatively defined. Therefore for this to be slated with being less than art, what other artistic objects are being conjured up to mark this objects failure? Furthermore I want to bring up the question of “talent” and to suggest that we are applying to this word an age old convention of something physical. That the talent required to be a superior artist is some sort of mastery over representational, some kind of ability to recreate life through a medium. I would argue that it requires the SAME amount if not MORE talent to produce something so iconistic as to go against convention. Why seek only to use convention when defining art?

 

But I must also add that by bringing up Saussure we are going down a path of arbitrariness that may conclude with that unnerving realization that art itself is arbitrary.

 

Let the discussion begin,

Huysmans


Catching up and going places

January 31, 2008

My last semester of college has begun and I have been busy actually writing my thesis and working for classes that this little blog has been somewhat neglected. I promise that soon i will post some of the work I have done for the thesis itself but until then I would like to engage the blogosphere in a discussion of some of the other discussions being had around the digital world.

First I came across a post today regarding blogs and their ability to be critical. Kassia over at Booksquare has suggested in a recent post that blogs do not have the abilities print does to be critical and therefor are not a threat to print. I have posted a response to this suggestion and would encourage everyone out there to join in. What is important is that we identify where critical work is being done online and see how the blog is functioning to support or hinder that work.

Through technorati I found this post commenting on the rather long NY times article on the books on blogs. The author is giving a roundup of the Review of Books essay. This essay should prove very helpful in looking at the publication world’s response to blogs. A huge component of the thesis will focus on the literary community that exists between blogs and books.

Another blog has picked up the same article for review. Writing for the Web, has submitted a response to the tone of the article along with correcting a few of the gross generalities presented.  In general this author’s blog is very thoughtful and insightful when it comes to writing and the web 3.0.

The Blog Herald, a metablogging site that has proven very helpful with this thesis has just announced the expansion of Google’s Blogger into the Arabic World. Let the tools of the internet tear down the walls blocking communication.

Another post at The Blog Herald is in regards to blogging anonymously. It is a very good article and provides links to some very interesting posts where the authors describe their own struggles to be public about their online identity. It would appear as if the age old American debate of free speech has found a new forum in the blog world. Can someone be critical of their employer, professor, government and be honest and open about who they are as well? It would seem as though the answer to that is leaning towards the “no” with those fighting for it to be a “yes”. As being one who was personally effected by this fight when I decided to leave a class due to the professors misgivings about the blog world, I would like to see it lean towards the yes and end the days of digital silence.

if:book again provides us with updates on the progress of Grand Text Auto by announcing the completion of part 1, Expressive Processing. A meta-discussion is to follow in the next phase, check it out. Here is the meta of Grand Text Auto.

Another post on the if:book blog proved to take me back a few years, and I only mean a few as I find myself one who is pretty well in tune with my inner child. I love discussions of creativity, especially when the discussions themselves are creative. After all it is one thing to talk about the futurizer, it’s another to believe it, or believe in believing in it. For myself I am looking to one day invent my timechangeizerfying machine, perhaps I’ll do it for this blog, who knows.


What will come of the book

January 15, 2008

In working through aspects of this thesis I have come across a fair amount of literature on the future of the printed book. I knew going into this project that I would find such discussions but what is curious to me is our desire to weigh in on such a what if conversation. Yes the book in its printed form has been a fundamental tool to our society since its inception and yes today for the first time in history that which the book offered can now be offered by something else. But this new technology, right now culminating with the Kindle I guess but I have yet to see this new device in action, can it really replace the book? Or rather is this really a conversation worth having. Now I know that I have defended the value of this artistic conversation and in so doing have met many individuals who believe the entire conversation of defining art has no value and ultimately hurts art in our culture, I obviously disagree with that sentiment. But with the discussion over the plight of the book I really see no value. This new medium will create a new art, not a new platform for the same art. So the better question is will the old art die? I don’t think so either, writing has not died out after typing became available, and with that I don’t think print will go out even if this Kindle and its super screen that doesn’t strain eyes really does work. 

I guess the point of this post is to get that out, I’d rather these authors focus on what makes internet writing unique and new rather than waste time describing it as an improvement to the book. TV is not an improvement to film and VHS did not replace the cinematic experience. But on the flip side I don’t think those comparative arguments work either, because radio I do believe is on the out thanks to the internet and soon TV will follow. 

 But both of these mediums never established themselves like the book did and that may be its saving grace. It is part of our history and its tangibility along with its content is what makes it unique. 

 

So here I am complaining that this argument is occurring in these texts and by doing that I too am contributing to the discussion. Oh well back to the thesis…

 

Huysmans  


We’ve got blog

January 8, 2008

I am finally back from vacation and have finished the collection of essays titled We’ve got blog: how weblogs are changing our culture. It was a very interesting collection, very diverse, and will be very helpful in understanding more of the specifics in regards to the history of the blog. However the funny thing about anything in print in regards to this topic is that it becomes immediately dated. All the essays in here are from the late 90s through 2002, which makes sense since the book was published in 03 and for a book that’s recent. But still in regards to the “A-List” blogs they talk about in the book, well many don’t update anymore.

 

But the important part is that it gave me some good perspective on the blog’s development. It’s interesting to me, but yet not surprising, that it started as a filter, as a collection of interesting links within the internet, one could say that that purpose is still around today, in fact most probably would, if not through the posts and tags then through the blogroll, but the blogroll isn’t updated regularly like the original weblogs were. I know from the book that the debate on which is a real blog still exists, or at least it did then.

 

Something I find rather interesting about this collection of essays is that there is no discussion of art in the blogs, these writers don’t identify as authors, many as journalists and probably a few as strictly writers or bloggers, but what is interesting is that they don’t see their work as art.

 

Something that I have been toying with is the idea that the public journal aspect of a blog, the type of blog that has become the most popular form of blogging today is in fact a genre of literature, a theme for writing if you will. I believe that it is a hybrid of an autobiography with the essences of a collaborative work such as the Surrealists would do. I know or rather can imagine that there are bloggers out there that honestly write what really does happen to them in that given post but they are still adding opinion, interpretation, hopefully artistic exaggeration, and lets not forget style and format, all of which are artistic and literary themes so therefore I would almost venture to say that these blogs if they were to be found in say a Barnes & Nobel they would be found under the section of Blog Journal, which would be next to Magical Realism and Autobiographies.

 

Just my thoughts and I know it’s a week late but.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR and good luck in ‘08

 

Huysmans


Community and Art

December 21, 2007

Today was the last day of school for my old high school of which my sister is now a senior. I being an alumnus snuck myself to watch this winter tradition. I bring it up here because I think that it so perfectly describes the power of art in education.  The performance was one hour long and consisted of different acts by different grades, for example some 6th graders read their own poetry while the first graders performed a procession and high school groups both sang and danced. The most memorable for me was what the fifth graders did; the sword dance. A highly choreographed performance involving swords that are incorporated into a star by the intercrossing of the dancer who are marching in a circle, sounds complicated, looks complicated, but as being once a fifth grader who did it, it isn’t that hard to pull off.

 

Regardless of what was performed, the performance as a whole brought the school together, from kindergarten to twelfth grade, from students to faculty, and my push will be to get alumni there as well. What I am trying to say is that it helps connect that community; it removes the boundary of age, of position, of background and allows us all to enjoy something together. Even better is the fact that there was no one dominating medium of artistic production, we had costumes, dancers, musicians, singers, writers, and of course an audience interaction and response (which I count as a whole other medium).

 

Sorry I don’t have much more to say just yet but I guess I want to add this one final thought.

 

I talk about art and write about art and produce art because it is fundamental to community.

 

Huysmans.


Facebook as Literature

December 21, 2007

I used to think, and by used to I mean up until this week, that these new fangled applications on facebook were not just a waste of time but a disgrace to the essence of what is Facebook. Well that was back when I was elitist for being a college student and couldn’t get over the fact that now high schoolers had accounts. Though I wouldn’t say I am passed that phase of my Facebook relationship I have come to see some value in these applications.

 

I bring it up here because it is rather interesting to see how the literary world has utilized it. First I want to introduce a rather interesting and simply engaging application I found through Chris Joseph’s blog. The novel is called Why Some Dolls Are Bad and it is a graphic novel and is dynamically generated through a Facebook application by the same name. I highly recommend looking into it.

 

It is works like this that are key resources for reviewing the literary potential of blogs, though this app itself is not a blog it does use many of the unique blog features I plan on discussing, such as hypertext, mixmedia, and a community set up through the app users. But again it isn’t a blog in that we cannot directly communicate with the novel author, Kate Armstrong.

 

Anyway it is something worth checking out and thanks to Chris for pointing it out.

 

On another note on Facebook I have also added the scrabble game, a game I like to think helps stimulate writers and with it on Facebook I can enter multiple games at once with my friends that take place over a long period of time, a cute way to remind me about how bad my vocabulary is. For example below is my attempt at trying to make words with the letters I had, I have decided that it makes some rather interesting phonetic poetry, or just crap. You can decide for yourself.

 

Huysmans.

 

Dif tif dif nif wintow woodin wid

 

Woodint winotod

 

Windoo windot wondit wond windo woodi n tinwood nitwood woodnit inwood


Being Dated.

December 20, 2007

So since I know have the ground working for working on this thesis something that I have been thinking about a lot lately is the momentary aspect of my research. The moment I make a statement about the current situation, that statement becomes dated. Today we are dealing with a system that’s most fundamental tradition is a tradition of change.

 

I bring this up now for one reason in particular, my roommate has just recently started a flickr.com account and we both have become rather excited about the potential it has for him. I myself have begun to ponder on the idea of creating one for my photos, for no other reason then to pack them up on the internet. But also because it is nice to be able to share travels and experience and for those who are trying to become photographers like my roommate, it is a good way to get out there.

 

So why do I bring up flickr when talking about blogs? I’m sure the answer is obvious to most of you (it wasn’t to me at first) but because perhaps the blog is not a literary tool. I am excited to do my thesis and will work it to its conclusion but what I am pondering right now is the reality that we need to move away from placing these new tools in old media and just establish them as new media. I intend to do this with my thesis but at the same time my goal is to look at their literary potential, by that I mean I am not using flickr for my research.

 

If I was to write a book rather than a thesis though I think that looking at these online blogs,vlogs, photo blogs, and so forth should be brought under one new medium, the internet, a medium that has no restrictions save one, it is not tangible. Everything created exists and only exists on the internet, in that specific format.

 

So here is to being dated and to always need those addendums.

 

Huysmans.