This is a general question about art. What makes art "good", or lasting, is probably a worn-out discussion, here (it's perhaps the first question that comes to mind, on the topic). Art, as I've seen it, can be "good" so long as it to refers to something besides itself, something which gives it value, and which keeps from limiting it to subjective emotion, which could be relative, and which would destroy the meaning, and then the possibility, of anything that could be considered art, with meaning. So art should not be viewed as subjectively relative, perhaps, in order to define its power, to give it power.
For art to have lasting value, and to be good, its purpose shouldn't be solely dependent on an historical context, but should influence human emotion into its design, in order to escape its times. If this explains nothing else, it explains why people might say, without thinking, "I like this because it makes me happy." Why? It reflects their happiness. As far as their happiness is relative, or confused, the art is relative, and meaningless, I believe. But if their happiness is defined, and given a cause through their interpretation of the work of art, then the work of art is definitely qualified, and distinct from the person interpreting their emotion through it, while still influencing that person, inasmuch as he understands the work of art as describing happiness.
But why should I believe that art is definitely qualified by the message I receive from it? Should a work of art ultimately be subjectively relative, even if people, whose intuitions we might, sometimes, distrust, agree with us? I'm inclined to say "fuck them, I see something in this," even if everyone is against me. But I also believe one could bring others to agree with him, if he gives definite reasons for admiring a work of art. But if you're clever, or creative, enough, you could probably convince someone an old popsticle stick on the ground, applied to art, becomes your invention. And then what would you do? Just give it "lasting meaning"? Art is art if the fool says it's art, not because it's art.
My question is, is there no line to draw? And if that's true, we shouldn't define meaning in art. We should interpret it. Art would be a play in context, rather than truth.
what about the arguement 'art for arts sake'? And for art to influence human emotion - way too subjective. Anything and everything can influence human emotion...and whose emotion? If it influences just one person, that is enough to say it influences human emotion, the arguement can't go anywhere. All all art is defined and interpreted - but its done on a genre and/or individual basis. I think the 'meaning of art' is as vast and complex as art itself. You can't pigeonhole art into a defined little set of rules because the practice hasn't got those rules, the artist don't have those rules. Not with contemporary art anyway, I mean, historically there were definitions for art - something could only be considered art if it depicted a religious scene, or later, if it was highly realistic, or if a man was the artist, and it goes on. Today, anything is art, and thus the meaning of art is anything.
Ok...I wasn't trying to pigeonhole art. I was trying to demonstrate how it couldn't be pigeonholed, even if it seems to be, when it follows a certain set of rules.
I didn't say "for art to influence human emotion"...the sentence meant that art incorporates emotion in its design, according to the observer. As far as I understand it, this is as vast and complex as it comes. Complexity must be clear, and vastness should be plotted, if art's to be interpreted any way at all.
If I get the feeling of "vastness" standing in front of a painting, well, then I've interpreted vastness. But in that very word, even though it's defined, art is unfathomable.
The very problem of any discussion regarding the arts is the vagueness and breadth or the very word "art". Nowadays, it seems that artists have blurred the lines between art and well, not art, to the point that it becomes to distinguish what "art" is. Much less how good that art is.
For art to have lasting value, and to be good, its purpose shouldn't be solely dependent on an historical context, but should influence human emotion into its design, in order to escape its times.
Emotion does tend to be an important aspect in art. However, it is not always the central focus, as one discovers after a cursory glance in say...Music History (since, Music is the artform I'm most familiar with). Bach is a prime example. The passions and various vocal works notwithstanding, the majority of his work seems to be based around the idea of mathematical and harmonic perfection. The art of the fugue, for example, is less an expression of feeling, but rather something that looks to transcend emotion.
Should it be an expression of feeling, in order to influence feeling in its design, according to the observer?
My question is, is there no line to draw?
</i>And if that's true, we shouldn't define meaning in art. We should interpret it. Art would be a play in context, rather than truth.
Well, maybe there's more to be said.
If we like works of art, and value them according to the method by which their truths are presented, then we'd believe there's a best way in which the truth is presented. The purpose of art could be to find the best context.
There might still be a line to draw, maybe, if not in the play of truth, which gets too subjective.
I think that art may have meaning in an entirely different way. Consider, what is the difference in an Original Andy Worhol painting of a Campbell's Soup label, A perfect imitation of an Original Andy Worhol painting of a Campbell's Soup label, a can of Campbell's Soup with Andy Worhol's Signature, A perfect imitation of a can of Campbell's Soup with Andy Worhol's Signature and, well, a label from a Campbell's Soup can?
What's the difference in feeling between an original Van Goeh and an exact copy of one?
Is ancient art touching because it moves us deep inside, or because we consider it art, and therefore find meaning in it?
We find meaning in it, and therefore consider it art.
(Now this is a decent topic for discussion!)
I get very nervous anytime the words `Art` and `definition` are used in close proximity. As previously pointed out, Art is about interpretation and revelation, not objective truths that can be plotted out neatly in smug reams of graph paper. I get the feeling that you are somehow blaming Art for the shortcomings/impoverishments in modern Western society(and all the shitty things that pass for art, like 99% of popolar music and books), meaning the avalanche of crap that we are exsposed to in North America. Surrounded by and oftern drowning in advertising, the vast majority of people are simply too numb or unsophisticated(yes I know it elitist, but its still true) to know the difference between that which expresses our common humanity(Art) and stuff that just titilates(Paris Hilton washing a monster truck in an thong).
One interesting comparison I made recently while arguing this point in a local bar was that `The artist has the diametricaly opposed funtion in our society as the Lawyer`. The artist attempts, not always successfully to distill human experience, our `Inner World` and expand the Spirit, while the lawyer attemps to manipulate the `Outer World` and create power and advantage over others...
"As previously pointed out, Art is about interpretation and revelation, not objective truths that can be plotted out neatly in smug reams of graph paper."
What if the artist's intention is for the work to be about an objective truth?
Dude, that's THE most coherent comment I've read on LJ this year. Respect!
What do you mean referring to something outside itself? The whole of modernism has been a story of art increasingly being just about art. I don't think you want to say that it's all bad. That tosses a lot of masterpieces out of the museum.
"For art to have lasting value, and to be good, its purpose shouldn't be solely dependent on an historical context, but should influence human emotion into its design, in order to escape its times."
This is essentially impossible. All art is the product of its own time, all artists are influenced by their times, and all art work is made within the context of a narrative of art. Certain things may retain meaning for us, but it's not clear that they can retain the SAME meaning that they had for the originally intended recipients, and that they should be lesser art if they do not. Dutch mannerism requires an audience educated to its allusions and educated symbolism that is not part of our education. I can admire icon painting even though I don't think the saint represented is literally present therein. Our grandmothers have Monet on their cups and pillows, when at one time pregnant women were advised to avoid his shocking exhibitions. And so forth. So, does it have to retain meaning, or retain the SAME meaning?
Another example is someone like Robert Mapplethorpe's sexually themed work. If there came a time when that was no longer shocking, when it was a commonplace on par with how we see Monet today, would it retain the same meaning it did when he made it? I think it would not. Should that mean it's not great art now? I don't see why it would.
"We should interpret it."
I agree. But I also think that the artist had definite intentions in making a work of art, and, at least on the surface, we can be wrong about our interpretations. The problem comes in verification. The only real way to know is to ask the artist, 'is this a correct interpretation of your work?' This limits us to living artists willing to be interviewed on the subject. That is, there are better and worse interpretations according to how close they match the intentions of the artist.
Yes. I probably shouldn't be a critic. I get absent-minded around art, and start to think of different things, and thank the artwork I was looking at for the experience. Maybe the artist intended for me to consider the artwork, instead of using it as a springboard for everything that isn't the work of art. I think you're right here.
In the first two paragraphs, I was trying to equate historical value with subjective interest. I don't know how well I succeeded. And I'm having second thoughts on it, now, actually...unfortunately. But maybe that clears up some of the mess.
And I was thinking about including some of the things you've added, in the last paragraph, here. We'd have to limit our interpretations, somehow. This seems to be a good way to do it.
What is art?
You might take a classicist viewpoint, and define an art as that which is used to express human creation. This would seperate it from science & philosophy - which would be the undertakings of insight and discovery - and commerce - which would be the undertaking of aquiring or redistributing resources for survival, or for the aquisition of wealth or power.
That said, not everything that humans create will necessarily be considered "good" by everyone who percieves it, which is where subjectivity creeps in. Foremost, it could be said that one has to have something of an artistic spirit to appreciate art at all. A purely pragmatic individual, whom defines valuable as that which has purely practical benefit might value art for its monetary or trade value, but will likely derive no pleasure from the art itself.
To have art in one's soul might then be defined as having a creative spirit or urge, and such a soul would percieve as "good" that art which nurtures that spirit within them...
What exactly does it mean to 'express human creation'? Surely humans create all kinds of things that are not art.
Some of my favorite art is subjectively emotional with no real world attachments.
On the topic of modernism - I've heard people and art professors refer to modernism (mostly pop art) as a 'phase' or a 'stage' rather than an actual movement, whatever you make of that.
It's hard for me to think of any art as a "stage."
What makes art "lasting" is foremost the intention of the artist. If you look at "high art" like a Picasso, Brancusi or Van Gogh, they worked on the premise that the final result will be essential, complete and thorough for what they had to say. What they had to say will be meaningful in 1000 years as well, much like a Michelangelo is still valid now. It's not the case with a Jeff Koons or a Jackson Pollock, who are primarily innovators and not interested in this eternal aspect of art. But that doesn't mean they're "bad" artists. "bad" art would me more like intentionally deceiving the observer, illusionism meant to provoke a response with no substance behind the appearance.
External reference is important to modern art, not so much to classical traditions (although much of what is classical now was modern at the time, conventions change through the ages). A painting by Rafael is not artistic because it refers to a scene in the bible. Likewise, a modern installation is not artistic merely because it refers to trash bags or computer screens or airplanes, although those things are more common now than the bible. They are artistic because of their impact on how we see the external reference in the light of its artistic representation.
You cannot "give" meaning to something that is merely fleeting and temporary, no matter how much art goes into doing that. Art is a form of communication, but it goes beyond communication in pointing towards the unsaid. There is a metalanguage which seeks to define its own terms. It cannot exist merely as a utility of justifying a message.
If you look at "high art" like a Picasso, Brancusi or Van Gogh, they worked on the premise that the final result will be essential, complete and thorough for what they had to say.
People like Bach, Mozart, Haendel, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, and almost any other composer before Beethoven never really intended for their music to be heard past their lifetimes. At least in music, much work before the the late 18th/early 19th centuries was never meant for posterity. And innovation wasn't their primary motivation, it seemed, rather, a consequence of their work.
You use the words "subjective" and "relative" too often without defining them as terms, and you seem to be drawing some pretty unclear conclusions using them. For example, you claim that if a work of art "only" (as opposed to what?) has a relative or subjective value, its meaning is "destroyed". Not only is this conclusion vague, it also appears to be wrong. It's very difficult to see how art could have any meaning which is not both "subjective" and "relative". By this I mean that the meaning of art is unavoidably bound to an experience of the artwork, and this refers fundamentally to the experience of individual subjects, and this is just as true for classical art as it is for postmodern art. Even artwork that is experienced in a way that's highly socialized (Greek tragedy, for example, or early Renaissance altar pieces) still relies upon the experiences of human subjects to generate its meaning. It's therefore no surprise to find the meaning derived from enduring works of art changing along with the society of which it is a part as an art object; even works of art which ostensibly speak to the most "universal" of themes undergo radical shifts in meaning and value.
I started my argument assuming that art is not "subjectively relative." I ended it admitting that it is.
It's very difficult to see how art could have any meaning which is not both "subjective" and "relative".
I agree. I wrote, at the close of the second paragraph: Art is art if the fool says it's art, not because it's art. It's a pretentious way to put it, I think; maybe that's why it didn't get your attention. But I think we're mostly in agreement.
Art and emotion
I agree with this minimum definition "Art is defined as art as long as it brings emotions to at least 1 person."
I disagree that art is necessarily about having EVERYONE feeling emotions about it.
There is nothing wrong with popularity but sometimes this popularity may come at the expense of "little emotions" shared by everyone.
A "masterpiece" is about "strong emotions" shared by a great diversity of people.
My only problem is... should something be considered "artistic" if the ARTIST is THE ONLY ONE to feel a (genuine) emotion? I would say yes. The artist may be "too advanced" for the public.
Re: Art and emotion
The thing you have to keep in mind, with this, so you don't get confused, or spout out some meaningless distinctions about "degrees of emotion," or whatever you're trying to express by calling emotion "little" or "strong," is that the artist can't control the responses of his public. If he could, as you say, we could call something a masterpiece, claiming a great diversity of people feel "strong emotions" concerning it. Well, possibly. But the work of art could be shit, and the emotions could still be strong.
"My question is, is there no line to draw? And if that's true, we shouldn't define meaning in art. We should interpret it. Art would be a play in context, rather than truth."
I disagree with the idea that art has anything to do with emotion ... outside of Art and human emotion being incidental at best ... propaganda at worst.
Understanding the Interpretation of art as a play in semiotics is very important. How can you do math if you don't understand what numbers represent?
Human emotion in art is another sign, understanding the relationship between signs is the basis for understanding art. The only line to draw in art ... is the one that "connects the dots" ... dots being the semiology between all things. Creation is just translation .... translation can be found everywhere in art.
What makes art decent is a lack of communication breakdown, its whatever rocks you.