"Art" is dangerous

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by David R Munson, Feb 8, 2004.

  1. David R Munson

    David R Munson Member

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    Be forewarned, I may use some foul language in this rant of mine.

    There always seems to be a lot of debate on topics like whether a particular medium is art or not, about what it is to be an artist, etc. To me, though, a bigger issue is whether the concept of art itself has become so distorted, perverted, and so-forth and whether it has, in some way, become dangerous.

    I am not talking about "art" used in the casual sense. I am talking of the self-important "art" that so often dominates in galleries, schools, etc.

    I'll be frank. I distrust most people who claim outright to be artists. As I see it, the status of a creation as art and the status of the creator as an artist is not for the creator to decide. Whether a painting or a photograph or whatever qualifies as art is only for the individual experiencing it to decide. If they consider it art, then it's art. If they don't, it's not. It goes no farther than the individual on the receiving end.

    But obviously a lot of people (most of them?) don't share this point of view with me. And to be honest, a lot of this opinion is grounded in bitterness that comes directly from dealing with the art crowd in my life.

    What makes art dangerous, as I see it, is the way it blinds people and leads them to do and say utterly stupid things. And for the most part, I think it's the use of the term "art" that is the problem. Art itself, as in physical art objects, couldn't be better - my life has been made much better because of it. But there are certain properties of that word that make me resent it in near-totality.

    Too often I have met individuals that, were they to appear in a satirical cartoon, would be the black-beret-and-turtleneck fine art types. These are the condescending, pretentious, and quite often completely incompetent assholes who seem to think that if they claim to be artists they can get away with an absolute lack of proper technique, uncivil behavior, and an almost complete lack of creative vision. Some of these people are the art students who, lacking any true passion for the arts or any actual commitment to what they're doing print underexposed 35mm negatives big enough to use six tiled sheets of 20x30 paper under the assumption that it's art because they say it is.

    Others who distort the term "art" and use it in ways that I feel are inappropriate at best are actual accomplished individuals with good technique, good vision, even passion, often individuals who we would say are artists based on their work, but who personally see it as their prerogative to use their self-assumed position as an "artist" to assume superiority over others, and subsequently also justifying all manner of bad behavior with the excuse that they're artists.

    The collective ego of all the pretentious art types in the world likely occupies a space half the size of the entire solar system.

    But this isn't necessarily the specific problem as I see it. Reprehensible behavior and superior attitudes are only symptoms. The problem is that people get seduced by the words "art," "artist," etc and in the end become so preoccupied with the notion of art and the romantic vision of being a fine artist that the work they produce is no longer truly done in the interest of art, but rather in the interest of the creating individual. When we stop creating because we want to, because we need to, and start creating because we like the idea of being an artist, there's something seriously wrong. The pursuit of art has taken on an air of selfishness and narcissism that I feel will ultimately prevent the furthering of art. So long as people are more concerned with being artists than what they're creating and following their visions, art will continue to stagnate.

    I'm completely serious about this, too. It bothers me to the point that in my serigraphy class last spring I made a few t-shirts emblazened with the words "FUCK ART" in 4" capitals on the front. I wear them proudly to this day.

    But I want to hear what others think about this. I obviously associate a lot of the problems in the art world with the pursuit of the idea of being an "artist" taking general precedence over the pursuit of creating things with meaning and significance that reflect ones passion and vision specifically *without* worrying about if others consider your work art, consider you an artist, etc. Do you agree? Disagree? Tangential rant come to mind? Thoughts please.
     
  2. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Ah, you are in school--the worst place to be for anyone who wants to create from their need. You will perhaps get over it some years after you leave.

    Maybe I haven't met the right people, but of all the artists I know, I don't know one that makes their art for any other reason than the pleasure, true deep pleasure, in the process of making it. Artists are concerned with making, not with things made. And certainly not with the "idea" of being an artist. No sane person would be an artist just for the image of it. It doesn't pay well enough.
     
  3. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    I find that as I get older (and JADED) I become less and less bothered by self-proclaimed "artistes" and more and more concerned with finding beautiful things and beautiful things finding me. I used to be angered by the display in the Tate Museum in London (I think it was here) of one artists work - in particular that person's messy bedroom. All I could think of was that the art world has gone bonkers and that all the artist is doing is showing the world what a slob he or she is. Now I do not care anymore. I do not waste my time or breath on things I have no control over. I do control my own desire to find and feel for art wherever and whenever it strikes me. Typically I find them made by honest and caring people whose own humility is art itself.
     
  4. victor

    victor Member

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    dave u point here so many issues that it is very difficult to respond at once. i know what u mean. i am in academy, in the department of philosophy. what u say about those "artists" i can say about the "philosophers". i also visit many times the art department and see there people, students and teachers. u point here a very painfull problem.
    i will tell u why it is so eassy to pritend yourself to be a "philosopher" and may be even eassier to be an "artist"... cause in both cases there are more conceptual and principial disagreemantes between "real" educated and gifted philosophers or artist than some agreemants. that leads to some prularism, which is ok of course. the problem is that this "prularism" gets out of its contest. we find that somehow these "proffessional" disagremants are interprated as every thing is accaptable.from here it goes to some cheap rehetorics to make some impression. here there is no more philosophy ot art.
    to be artist or philosopher u have to be gifted and u have to work very hard. it is not enough to say that u dont like kantian philosophy, and it is not enough to make a painting without any skills and to say then look at the paintings of egon schielle. one who says it simply doesnt understand schile and how skillfully he was making his art and what were his intentions. but again - the problem that in this "prularism" u can hide behind shiele or whoever.
     
  5. victor

    victor Member

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    michael and francessco...
    sure there are artists. i know them too very well, some younger at my age some older than me. but u know, to be an artist it is not enough to create (though this is the most and the mooooooost important). there is a comunity of artists as well. it happens many times that this comunity can be described some how as dave pointed, and they can be very snobish. in this case u have mainly three choices - to low dawn your profile or to to start being snobish and comunicative with them or to have and use enough charizma to be your own self and still be considered by this comunity as an artist.
     
  6. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    You may tend to hit a wall on this one because most of us have ranted quite a bit on this topic over the last few months. Your insights are very much in line with a lot of what was expressed.

    See older threads in "ethics and phliosophy" as well as "off topic discussions."

    Welcome to the group and please continue to rant on.


    Michael McBlane
     
  7. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    If art is "dangerous", just what are the dire consequences that we are in danger of enduring?

    I view art as a living thing ... constantly changing, evolving, ... infinite .. as diverse as those in it.

    I think, from what I read here, that the essence of your "rant" is directed towards what we former members of the "Beat" generation used to call "phonies". Over the years, I've learned to deal with them ... I hold no anger towards them, only compassion. It must be a terrible state to be in ... where one feels so worthless and depressed that they have to lie and posture to be able to survive.

    I seem to have found one common characteristic among those we - or the raqged-assed-masses out there - choose to call "Great Photographers" - and that is an almost ... weird ... sense of modesty. I remember one "cocktail party' conversation where a gushing (and I mean GUSHING) Matron of the Arts approached one of the luminaries of photography:

    "Oh, Mr. XXXX - I am so happy to meet the Worlds Greatest Photographer!!!"
    That really startled him...
    He answered: "Uh , well ... I take photographs ... I guess, once in a while, I get a good one."

    I try to avoid being hung up on labels and titles. I can remember the opening of Psychology 101, where the class was trying to solve the burning question of "What is Psychology" - and the answer finally emerged - "Psychology is what Psychologists Study."
    I'd propose something similar, if reversed: A "Photographer" is someone who does Photography; an "Artist" is someone who does "Art".
    How well they do their work - whether or not they are "good" photographers or "artists" - is something else entirely.

    I do not think "Art" itself is in danger from the phonies and poseurs ... they have been around since man decided to draw images of bisons on the walls of caves with charcoal. They haven't destrroyed Art yet.

    If I go to a gallery, and see something (this is necessarily theoretical) that I think has been done by a "phony" --- something not worthy of being called "Art" - I always remember the words of one of the most "accomplished" photographers I've ever met ... "Oh, look! There is another photograph two feet to the right ...."

    OK ... so much for MY rant.
     
  8. David R Munson

    David R Munson Member

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    Thanks for all the quick replies to this. I'm not nearly so pissed about this right now as I was last night, thankfully. Just something that periodically gets to me. I'm sure that my feelings will change now that I'm officially done with school and am no longer in a forced, captive environment with many of the individuals who have helped give rise to this sentiment. But it's not something that'll ever leave me, I don't think. Just a product of my personality.

    Ed I think you hit it square on the head in your use of the term "phonies." It was exactly the word I was looking for last night but that wasn't coming to me for whatever reason. I love art, and it's the phonies and their perversions of what I love that really pisses me off. But then I'm sure (positive, really) that I anger enough people in my own way.

    And, you know, something tells me I need to stop posting on the forums I follow so late at night....I think I'm building a reputation as a bit of an angry radical :lol:
     
  9. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    What the world needs now ... is Angry Radicals.

    Who else have ever improved our civilization?
     
  10. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    ..
     
  11. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Beutifully written, Aggie!!

    I wish I had said that ....
     
  12. photomc

    photomc Member

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    And you know Aggie...

    There are still people out there trying to make something more out of 'Puff the Majic Dragon' than what it is - somethings just have to have more meaning for some people...

    Too Bad they aren't like us....
     
  13. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Isn't that a shame? Some people can read anything into a simple metaphorical story about hallucinogenic drug use. :cool:
     
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  15. bmac

    bmac Member

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    hehe
     
  16. roy

    roy Subscriber

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    Just develop your own style with maturity and not worry what others do or think.
     
  17. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    I think you have it sideways[/list:u:4d69c1b607]
    • "However, there are still artists who consciously and emphatically attempt to avoid tendency of any kind by renouncing completely the representational, even the problematical. Often they believe they can work instinctively and aimlessly, like Nature, which, without visible purpose, gives form and color to crystals, plants, stones—everything that exists. They give their paintings obscure names, or just numbers. Evidently this method is based upon the attempt to produce pure stimulus, as in music, through intentional elimination of all other effectual possibilities. The painter is to be nothing but a creator of form and color. Whether these artists believe their work has no “deeper meaning,” or whether they impart to it an emotional or metaphysical meaning hardly perceptible to the spectator, the fact remains that they intentionally renounce all the artist's possibilities of ideological influence (in the areas of eroticism, religion, politics, aesthetics, morality, etc.), standing silent and indifferent, that is, irresponsibly, in relation to social occurrence, or - in cases where that is not the intention - they work in vain through ignorance and ineptitude."

    (read the whole, short, book if you can find it)

    Blah, blah, blah. If Grozs could see it so obviously in 1925, it's a tragedy that so few self-righteous art students can manage it in 2004. I also have to wonder when I see lengthy monologues against pretense.
     
  18. victor

    victor Member

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    bjorke and others...
    u knwo, there are so many opinions about the art and its function etc... u can find full shelves in the labrary only on this thing. i look at the histoty of art, at the great artists... take an example |Goya (i think everyone will agree that he is one of the greatests). is he creating colors and forms... well sure he is.. is it beautiful... have no words to say how much. but there is some much critisism from goy towards society. there is so much "higher meanings" about the humanity etc etc. he painted jesus (a very famous of his paintings). what is that picture - an icon???!!!
    he expressed throughthe colors and forms a new attitude towards "jisus" and by that broke the rules of religion. how???
    well, at the bigginig there were paintings of jesus in form of icons. then they moved to very thin and ill, suffering jesus with plenty of symbols etc., all from the bible stories. here comes Goya - revolution in his expression. the "form" of jisus was of a normal man with flash etc. the color was much pinkier. the church at some time lost its suverinienity on "thought".
    so, u say that no higher meanings etc...
     
  19. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Not the easiest "read" I've encountered recently.

    The way I understand it, George Grosz and Weiland Herzefeld were bemoaning the "danger to art" caused by the strict limits being imposed on art by politics and commecialism. As I see it - this is a call for re-introducing FREEDOM into art - translation: "Do your own thing - and save art."

    BTW - I am am marginally familiar with some of Gerge Grosz' work. A little tough to take ... and difficlt to avoid the "pornography" label.

    In roaming thriugh the "links" from the parent website, here, I came across a reinforcement of something I've been saying ... an alternative view to those who say that every work of art (read: photograph) *MUST* carry a clear "message" or it is a "failure":

    "A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain, you end up boring people"

    - Edgar Degas
     
  20. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi Member

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    Wow. Someone is a little steamed, aren't they. I guess what most of us here are saying in our own way is, we have heard the same stuff from various people (teachers, critics, others) regarding the meaning of art, and the secret hidden meanings / motivations etc etc etc ad nauseum. Art, whatever the heck it is, is not in any danger. Today's guru is tomorrow's laughable has-been, the hacks come and go. Art (whatver it is) changes (a bit), and stays the same (a bit). To borrow from the tone of the note that kicked this thread off, opinions are like assholes.... Everybody has one. So, let the students, wannabes and hacks have their moment. They will be replaced by someone else soon enough. Meanwhile do what pleases you, and to hell with the rest. While they are jabbering and wasting daylight, you wil be DOING something.
     
  21. mark

    mark Member

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    Art is not dangerous those who take issue with it are.

    I spent five years getting a creative writing degree and I had the same arguments as you did, just about the people who wanted to be "writers" so they could live the "writer" lifestyle. I then spent several years in the Archaeology department and encountered the same types, they just tended to smell worse. My brother makes distinctions between artists and "Arteests". ON the flip side of the coin are those with your attitude who waste their time fuming about the Arteests. I am now an educator (for the money and prestige of course) who can say with dead certainty that you are wasting your time. Because I was just like you. I have not written a story in almost ten years, and I cannot look at a piece of pueblo pottery without feeling instantly exhausted. You will burn yourself out. Relax and shoot film. and avoid the speaking part of student art exhibitions.

    I was told by a sculptor once that anyone who really wants to learn art should not go to art school but should become an apprentice to learn their chosen craft. sound advice.

    Take classes that will get you a job if you want to go to school. find a teacher, a guide, or a master if you want to learn art.
     
  22. victor

    victor Member

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    hi mark,
    ive seen your photos, they look very good.
    tell about your works, u can dio it as a comment in one of my posted pics if u want, i dont mind, or just post it.
    any way.. u say : relax and shoot the film.
    and we talk here about the art and the artist or somebody somehow calls himself artist etc.
    u want to tell me that u just put the film and shoot. cause my impression is that in your imagies there is a lot of knowledge in composition, exposure, printing etc etc. i dont know if there are some "higher meaning" (it is not necessary to have high meanings, this is not the only way to make arts). i was talking in my posts here that there are many people that very eassely come and call themselves artists without having an accaptable technique and an acaptable knowledge in art. im talking about ppl that think that they can paint without technique and telling that it is ok cause egon schiele was not painting and drawing realistically like rembrandt.
    yes i agree with u, that schools are not the best place, but it only makes it more difficult to study.
    i am amazed sometimes when i get to the art department. i see students enlarge their 35mm negatives that were taken with wide-tele-zooms to 20/24", and many of them dont even get that it looks bad. most of them are not even focused well enough to withstand 8/10". i dont elarge my negatives more than x15 usually, with far better glasses and much better technique, pushing their qualities towards their best. i think u understand what i say. u cant just do art, not in terms of techique and not in terms of what is there behind your photos. one must study and work, and then, making "artistic statements" and gallery quality will come as intuition in the process of making and creating.
     
  23. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    Damn, I'm glad I never went to art school.

    :wink:
     
  24. victor

    victor Member

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    lol cheryl
     
  25. victor

    victor Member

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    i had not either. i was stiding my 1st degree in philosophy and politics and i hated it. all that i know is from my own studies and from my friendship with some philosophers that thought that i am gifted anf guided me to study.
    on the phd things were more accaptable - lol
     
  26. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Quite the opposite. To retreat into what's so glibly described as "true" art -- that is, self-involved art and "self-expression" -- is to fail. As Grosz writes: "No answer is an answer." Or:
    • [list:e33a0724d4][​IMG]
    [/list:u:e33a0724d4]
    • [The artist of today] must choose... Either way, he must give up 'pure art.' Either he joins the ranks of engineers, architects, and ad men whom the industrial powers employ and the world exploits, or he becomes a depicter and critic who critques the face of our time...
    The initial post in this thread, by focussing primarily on the perceived "status" of art and artists among themselves, belies an inherently bourgeois notion about the function of art -- as a verification of a fixed social hierarchy and as a mechanism to satisfy desire for status. Not the notion, as Michael Smith says, of creating from their need to create, but art (and even art creation) as merely a sort of investment.

    This is all fine, actually. Art workers need to eat too. But to put on airs about it, whether of the beret-wearing above-the-social order type, or the radically indignant sandinista, is to be pointlessly sidetracked by words.