Thursday, October 20, 2005

Art in America (Part One)

This post is not quantum physics but art one of my many other interests. Sometimes I add a comment to someone else’s post and it becomes a post. This is one of those situations:

As an artist I must say that art is anything that moves you. Makes you think. Makes you feel good. Challenges conventional wisdom or even celebrates conventional wisdom. Art is a wide-open area of conversation or a narrow-minded point of view. Aesthetics are facets or qualities of anything be it a painting, a building or a car that appeals to a group of people. Aesthetics tends to be dictated by a group while art is personal. It’s a feeling that people may share but is not necessarily the same for each person. Aesthetics seems to have a basis in science while art is more spiritual, soulful.

As a former employee of a Modern Art magazine I saw a lot (a lot) of crap. Lots of lazy art that I felt let the artist off the hook too easily. The stereotypical artist who makes art that "nobody understands except real artists and critics" is alive and well. Believe me, if it offended it was all the more better. Some people have a point of view that art is anything that is against the grain or that puts people off because they believe that that is the equivalent of making you "think."

I don't agree.

The wholesale desecration of someone else's symbols for no other reason than personal revenge is NOT making a person think. It's mudslinging of the worst kind. You can put someone else's symbols into your paintings or sculpture or movie or anything else and comment or criticize it, but to desecrate? That crosses lines set down by society. Art is not war. Art is not politics. Art is Art. Art is in itself a whole thing. It can say anything you want but when used as a weapon it ceases to be art and becomes something else. It becomes personal journal or a diary. It becomes a political campaign. And that is not to say that those things in themselves cannot be art but it’s the context that counts.

For example, Dada is an art movement that more than being art in itself is more art commentary. Not criticism but commentary. It says, this is art and it is art because I created it with the same process that a sculpture uses but my art happens to be an everyday object. A fur teacup. A bicycle wheel on a stool. A toilet bowl. Granted when you see those things you don’t say, “Art!” but at the time, in the context that it was presented, it was art. It may not have been your kind or art or art that appealed to the masses or even art that many people “got” without an explanation of the intent of the artist but it was art. That was the end of it. Those artists expanded the tools and artist can use. It expanded the realm of possibility in what we call art. (Art is whatever we decide.) But it was not scandalous in and of itself. Perhaps people thought it scandal to consider that thing art but it was not offended a believe system shared by millions. It was not propaganda being held up as art.

That’s the difference that most people don’t get. A lot of people look at some art and say, “My kid can do that.” But their kid did not do it. Their kid couldn’t conceive of it and reproduce it with intent. And their kid could not explain it to others.

(To Be Continued)



Kyle Stemen said...

"That’s the difference that most people don’t get. A lot of people look at some art and say, “My kid can do that.” But their kid did not do it. Their kid couldn’t conceive of it and reproduce it with intent. And their kid could not explain it to others."

You have to admit that the context of the art is often lost when it's re-presented in a book or a gallery. I think people obsessed with art could a better job of conveying that the ugly urinal is not art by itself, but what it did to the art world is, like how you've explained.

As a software developer, there's a type of art I'd like to see but never have. If it exists, please point me towards it. I'd like to see people take complicated formats and hex-edit them into something recognizable, but at the sametime keep it really small. I'd like to see someone hex-edit an mp3 from scratch and have it sound like music. I wonder if a 50 bits per second mp3 could be created that sounds good.

Or someone could mess around with the LZW compression in a JPEG or TIFF and try to create a interesting, but very small pattern. An interesting fact is that can do stuff like that with postscript (what printers use). I've seen postscript programs to calculate pi, draw fractals, and even run a HTTP server (from a printer!). Imagine trying to print a 10k file and getting pages of digits of pi back.

Aside from postscript, the closest I've seen are virii. The old ones would be like 700 bytes and do crazy stuff with the file allocation table to hide itself. I think that's art.

ObilonKenobi said...

The context of art is often lost on the casual observer. Most people think of art and art appreciation as snobby but that is because the casual observer has not taken the time to research the art they are looking at. Effectively art is for everyone. If the point is lost on a certain person I blame them for not going to their local library to find out more about the piece being viewed. Also, there is a base art movement of realism that most people can appreciate. Pictures of boats, flowers, people, etc... Most people look at those and say that that is what they consider art. True. It is art but it is not art that challenges the mind. The same as walking is exercise. It is healthy and enjoyable and within the reach of everyone who owns shoes but it is not particularly challenging. Don't expect stupendous results in loosing weight from simply walking. Add fast walking and walking with weights and you are beginning to challenge yourself. Join a gym, do some aerobics or weight lifting and then you are really challenging yourself. Climb a mountain, run a marathon or compete professionally and then you have reached the pinnacle. It's the same with art. You can buy a Thomas Kinkade or a Bob Ross painting and be perfectly happy. It's satisfying and pretty and I like it too. But if you never look at a Picasso and wonder why the forms are all shattered and broken down then you never challenge yourself. If you look at the DaDa Art Movement and never wonder why it's in a museum, then look it up in a book or ask someone who knows then you have not challenged yourself. Or better yet, you have not taken up the challenge of the artist. He wants you to wonder why it's art. Then go figure it out for yourself. He doesn't want you to find it beautiful he wants to question art in itself. He wants you to question art. Further still you saying "That's art?" is the same as the fur cup in the first place. The cup asks "Am I Art?" Art enthusiasts love to talk about art to the uninitiated. Have an open mind and you will find very little snobbery and more excitement from an art person. Don't say, "I don't get it." Say, "Help me understand it." You will find a wealth of interesting info related to culture, history and style of an era or a movement in history. Art, like religion and science is a process that takes time to understand and a little faith. The more you know the more you appreciate it.

As for the type of art you’d like to see, I’m not sure I exactly understand the terminology but I know that there are lots of artists working with fractals and programming files to create art. If you don’t find what you like by searching the internet then I suggest you make some art of your own. Design your own programs to calculate mathematical equations to produce artwork. It could be fluid and changing. It could be visual or aural. As you see, art can be almost anything you want as long as you create it with intent. You are making art.

The Phoenix said...

I'm inclined to think that as far as the masses are concerned, if it takes too much effort to understand the context of whatever art is presented, they will dismiss it and find something easier to do.

People will do the least amount of thinking as often as possible.

Chicken Little said...

I can see a difference between art I can appreciate, and art I would want in my surroundings every day. If a piece of art made me feel sadness and despair, I probably should not have it where I can see it 12 hours a day.

ObilonKenobi said...

I think that it is true that most people put as little effort as possible into art. The idea being that art is a passive experience which being an art appreciation student at one time I can tell you is absolutely wrong. Art is an active/interactive experience.

That being said, there is a difference between art you appreciate and art you would take home and put in your home. You want to surround yourself with pictures and sculpture that fits a decor not that makes your visitors think. Of course you should stick in a little thinking art whenever you can.

In conclussion, (shameless self promotion alert!! You've been warned!!)goto and buy some of my own art!