Categorizations as reduction.

November 30, 2007

Recently I have engaged Everett Scott in what has become a very interesting conversation into how and why we organize art, looking at why there is Art and art and where entertainment plays a role and how Art acts differently. What has come from this are some very interesting notions as to entertainment and art being on separately playing fields and ultimately incomparable as to effect and purpose on society and culture. This may not be false in the end. And I being one who loves adapting and utilizing arguments contrary to my own brought this up in a recent conversation in a Mystical class I am currently in being taught by Professor K. The conversation was on the mystical merit of Dali. I being of the mind to challenge even my own beliefs on art decided to take the opinion that Dali was a “sellout artist” and one not deserving of any merit; in the end I used this distinction to place Dali as an entertainer rather than an artist. My professor, Professor K, stated rather bluntly that such distinctions were reductive and closed minded.

Well first I’d like to say that I disagree entirely with both sides of that little debate, Dali is an artist to me, and such distinction are most certainly not reductive and closed minded. In fact I would argue that such a statement is the only thing closed minded and reductive in that debate. To refuse to engage in a debate because you believe it to be reductive is the closed minded attitude. I grant that I am not one to revel in categorizations but I do believe there is merit in trying to understand why such works as Guernica or Olympiad or even the Mona Lisa are distinctively different than that of Disney or MGM’s Bond films. But I am not bringing this up to just point out a failure in our class’s ability to discuss openly, rather I want to acknowledge the merit of trying to understand the differences between Art and art and why we should do that. I know that personally I do not believe in such differences but I think in looking at the apparent differences we better understand why we create them. So then I guess I do believe in them I just don’t prescribe to them. I really do not know. But in regards to aesthetics, I do want to delve into how that word applies to art and I will very soon.

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Art for Art’s Sake

November 27, 2007

First I must apologize for taking so long to respond to such a wonderful post. I am still new to blogging and am learning just how much time I need to dedicate to it. Everett has introduced an extremely interesting and thought provoking connection between art and a higher mystical/transcendental purpose on his website, POSHLUST. More specifically he has addressed my desire to compare Art or High Art and art or Low Art as to understand why the difference needs to exist. Everett suggests that this difference exists because in reality they are actually two completely different entities with “artists” working towards completely different ends. Art, Everett describes below:  Art exists “for its own sake” in the sense that it cannot serve an ideological purpose. As Robbe-Grillet says, “What [the author] was trying to do is merely the book itself…. And when we ask him why he has written his book, he has only one answer: “To try and find out why I wanted to write it.” This enlightenment, this awareness, cannot be approached cognitively: art must exist free because the very act of creating is a search, a quest, for something that it is not even entirely aware of when it begins. (For all the arguing I have done about “a heightened sense of consciousness,” I could not even begin to describe it; it is beyond me.) Thus to impose any level of direction on Art restrains it. (This is why philosophical works like those of Camus or Sartre or Brecht fail so miserably as literature: they are trying to teach us, but they force the work to fit their ideas, and the work becomes less because of it.) Art for art’s sake does not mean that it is meaningless; rather, it means that art requires freedom to serve its purpose, which is a search for, a desire to understand and communicate, the ineffable.”  

Therefore Art, Everett suggests is not designed for any one specific purpose but rather is an example of one artist’s search to communicate and/or understand the ineffable (a word mystics love to use to defend their experience as being legitimate). He therefore acknowledges his belief in “art for art’s sake” but not to suggest that art is meaningless and serves no purpose but that its purpose is within what Art is. While he calls art, or low art as being entertainment and having a different purpose entirely.

 This is not the goal of Entertainment. The goal of entertainment is to dull our senses to the world, to make us more comfortable with the world as it is. Mythology, Campbell wrote, was designed to make a mysterious and frightening world more acceptable; one cannot help but watch Live Free and Die Hard in the same context: providing our great fears (terrorism, a government incapable of dealing with disasters) and then providing us a comfortable resolution— the idea that these problems can be fixed, that even the great threat of terrorism is weak compared to American determination and ingenuity. Can there be fine works of entertainment? Certainly. David Huddle’s The Story of a Million Years, Chip Kidd’s The Cheese Monkeys, the works of Edith Sitwell, Stephen King (and most other genre writers for that matter), most of the style of French rococo, et&c.” 

With this definition he argues that one should not engage in a difference between the two categories because in the end they are entirely different productions that serve a different purpose and are produced in different ways. Where entertainment seeks to comfort art seeks to understand. This is a very interesting idea and one, I’ll be honest, I haven’t considered when engaging this debate. And I believe that Everett has posed a very convincing argument as to the validity of such a separation. He further argues that these entertainment pieces are:

 

temporal, their goal is, as the word “amuse” means “to divert from serious business,” a pleasant escapism. It is not to say that these works lack beauty or do not provoke thought, but rather that they are not designed to fundamentally change our perception of the world, our relationship with the world.”

But I must ask the question with this in regards to those well constructed entertainment pieces. What if they fundamentally change our perception of the world or have the influence to affect that change, maybe not fundamentally. But Everett has set up his argument well and stated that they weren’t designed to and therefore their effects do not necessarily influence which category they fall under. My problem with this argument is that it puts too much emphasis on the creator. I believe, as I have stated before , that art is not defined by an object but rather by an interaction and therefore requires active participation by the observer. Thus with this definition I believe that this new distinction between art that seeks to understand and art that seeks to comfort becomes completely subjective based on the relationship with the viewer. I also recognize that I am coming at this from one who believes mysticism and this ineffable thing we try to understand through mystical experiences is simply a euphoric state achieved through aesthetic experience, basically I am saying that art is not designed to explore some higher spiritual existence but rather is designed to explore our relationship with aesthetics. I cannot buy spirituality because I believe it is entirely connected to the “flaw of civilization” that Everett describes in his addendum to his Art as Mysticism post.

 

As always I am running out of time to post this so I leave it with a question. If art is mysticism and its true purpose is to explore this higher spiritual state, then how can those who do not live in mystical awareness and do not acknowledge spirituality interact with art? No I believe that his is one possibility but one that can only work for those who have strong belief in a spiritual world. For the rest of us art must and always be meaningless. It is in its meaninglessness that is thrives on being able to challenge our concepts of beauty, natural beauty, representation, creativity, productivity, style, design, all of these are aspects that in the end are there to entertain. When I have more time and for part two of this post I will dive more into why I believe art is and should be meaningless.

  

Huysmans


Art or art

November 22, 2007

Well first off Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope it is a good one.

 

For this holiday post I wanted to engage the question of art versus Art. That age old, or at least a century old question on the difference between what is considered “high art” and all that other stuff they call “low art.”  I know that the distinction has come up already and the term entertainment has been thrown around as well as what Adorno called it, “light art,” bud I’d like to dedicate a post just to this distinction. First I really don’t see merit in defining which is which just yet and I apologize to those who do. I would like to start with a discussion of the category itself and why we as a society have felt the need to create it.

 

I know we could have an entire conversation on why our culture has the need to create categories in the first place and maybe we will someday here at this blog but for now I’d like to approach the conversation of why with art. I know that that may seem very simplistic to some of you but you never know, sometimes it is the simplest questions that produce the most complex answers.

 

Anyway perhaps an obvious explanation is our desire to award genius talent, to separate those among us who show an extraordinary ability. And when the goal of art was that sort of extreme realism and mathematical precision it was during the Renaissance, that distinction was necessary. But what about today? Today that ability is not measured by some sort of tangible talent but rather by a talent in approaches. I have to stop here and acknowledge the fact that for those who do not accept modern art as art this probably will suffice as an explanation of the two, but for those of us who see modern art as definitively art then let us continue.

 

So today when the definition has been so greatly expanded and the potential for even “ready-mades” to fall into the category of Art (yes with a big “a”) why should we even have this division? I purpose that based off my idea of art as an interaction, that all “art” can now obtain that level of “Art” depending on the interaction between the observer and the object.

 

But how much should we follow such a proposal, I mean are we ready to except the Mona Lisa and Duchamp’s Fountain on the same playing field? Well based on my interactions with both, yes.

 

I look forward to your thoughts,

 

Huysmans