Form/ Aesthetics v. Concept/ Statement

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Darkroom317, May 11, 2012.

  1. Darkroom317

    Darkroom317 Member

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    Well, I finally did it. I made into my university’s BFA program. However, one of the comments on my application exhibit hit on something that has been haunting me for the past six months.

    “Work needs conceptual and technical development”

    This is coupled with a recent comment from one of my roommates who is a BFA painting student. “Your photographs look like postcards, where is the concept”

    I will admit I am a fan of Ansel Adams and other modernist photographers, so my work is formally similar. It seems to me that the current art community looks down on landscape photography even though Adams and landscaper painters such as J.M.W Turner are studied and revered.

    It seems that currently revered art photography is made by Stephen Shore or William Eggleston clones.

    Is concept valued higher that form in contemporary photography? I have seen a lot of technically crappy and uninteresting photographs. It wasn’t Flickr where I found them but the websites of MOMA and MOCP.

    I only know of one contemporary photographer, who has been exhibited internationally, that is Amjad Faur. I had him as an instructor for an art history class this semester. His work is solid in technique (8 X 10) and concept. But the work of others looks just as cliché and technically bad as instagram and lomography. The subjects are boring and the photos washed out.

    Who are the currently internationally known photographers? Does the gallery/ museum framework of modernism and postmodernism still exist or function today?

    Why does a Gursky photograph of a river sell for $4.3 million? Is photography as art dying in the world of mediocrity? Is it more difficult to work conceptually in photography verses other media such as sculpture and painting?

    Also, why is necessary to make a social point in art today? When did artists start becoming social activists? What is more important the work or the statement? Are we artists first or something else?

    We often talk about the Bauhaus, most of those artists were concerned with the formal qualities. Will photography ever come back to these considerations? Art evolves through reactions to previous movements like straight photography reacting to pictorialism.

    Will the philosophy/ art movement of romanticism that encompasses Adams and the Hudson River School painters, come back to the art world?

    In short where are we headed as artists? Where is photography been and going?

    Sorry, for such a long post but this issue is rather complex.

    Kris Johnson
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    This is MY idea about MY OWN WORK.

    I have been thinking about this a lot during last year or so. When I started photographing "stuff", I took picture of something that look like it made a good photograph. I followed rules of photography and made images that have nice composition, color, tones, subjects, etc. It went on for a few years. I became good enough to take "pretty pictures." Yup, they look like postcards.

    I then ran into a problem. Why am I doing this? Why am I taking THIS photograph? Certain images resonated with me more then the other. I did landscape, I did portraiture, and I did everything else.

    Then I realized, I seem to be taking images with full of emotional content. I like portrait of people interacting with others. I like landscape that indicates solitude. I like "stuff" that looks like it might speak - although pepper (for example) will never speak to an onion. Now, I look for a way to speak - photographically. That's my theme. That's my "artist statement."

    My work isn't a social statement. My work is about my experience and my emotions. I didn't start out this way, but my work now speaks for me. It's not a theme I deliberately picked. It came out this way and it looks "right" to me.

    I don't know if you can force this kind of thing. As a student of art, you will obviously go through several growth period - both technically, professionally, and personally. At one point, I'd imagine you'll want to say something - anybody listening or NOT. At that point, it will speak for you. Then, your work won't look like a postcard anymore.

    That's my take.

    By the way, I have no desire to be famous. I have no desire to sell my work. I have no desire to make this my profession. I did enough of turning hobby and passion into a paying job. Having money involved takes fun away from my passion.
     
  3. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    You expect your professors to be "objective"..... even self-reflective and philosophical??

    Bwah... ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!! :devil: :munch:

    Insecurity coupled with arrogance equals "beat the crap out of my students syndrome".

    That's life... those are your future "boss experiences" so get used to it. :wink:
     
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  4. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Subscriber

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    I teach photography in the art department of a major university. I can tell you from experience, as a teacher, and as a former student making the same kind of modernist photographs you like, that it is not 1954 anymore. Don't worry about a Gursky selling for any amount of money. That is unrelated to you making photographs or having your work critiqued, or art making in general. That is about art market economics, not art making.

    I am not going to tell you that you cannot make the photographs like your heroes, but be prepared to defend it. What they are telling you in subtext is that art moves forward, and the work you like was made half a century ago. How can you make them while looking to the future of photography? If all you want is to make that type of photograph, then there is no need for you to get a BFA, or even go to school. The department is going to push you to evolve in style and ideas. That does not mean you need to change what you do, but they are going to ask you to think critically about why you choose to look to the past and explore old ideas about photography, and not new ones. You need to ask yourself the same thing.

    You are going to get a lot of people here telling you what you want to hear, that a university is only going to try to force you to make photographs like the people you hate. That is not true, and if it is, go to a different school. But, a university is about research. In the art department, that means exploration of new ideas in visual communication. If you are only rehashing old ideas, you are not doing research.

    No matter what you do in your work, be open minded about other people's work. Look at all of it, even if it isn't what you would make. Try to understand what they are trying to accomplish and it may help you figure out what you want to accomplish in your own work.
     
  5. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    -----------------------------------

    Like I said.....

    -----------------------------------

    And I'll add... brainwashing via education is passed down to every next generation of students.

    I say... keep it simple... don't be forced into a corner by over-educated brain-washed brain-washers... make the art that makes you happy... carpe diem.

    There's a fine line between "knowledge" and "wisdom"... such as there is between "control" and "freedom".
     
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  6. Darkroom317

    Darkroom317 Member

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    Thanks, Greg. I know that and understand it. I just kind of wonder how much further can we go.

    The issue is that I developed a severe case of artist's block that caused me a lot of problems this semester.

    Not all of my work was similar to modernism but those works are digital, therefore I shall not post them.

    Not all of the comments were bad, it just touched on a pre-existing issue.

    Here is another comment: "Work is strong overall (photographic work) and shows technical proficiency and a good amount of exploration”
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    i don't think it has anything to do with brainwashing, but having an open mind
    and knowing what you are doing, and why, and being able to say what you are doing, and why
    ... not just doing something because " you like to "
     
  8. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    jnanian... Control and power IS brainwashing. Not many college professors have truly open minds. Most are over-educated and insecure, therefore, brainwashed... so they pass the same bullshit along to their students. BTW, I'm the son of a college professor.
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    maybe in some instances some professors force people to think their way,
    but i don't learning to think critically about one's own work has anything to do with brainwashing ...
    unless you become a robot and only do what "they" want you to do
     
  10. Darkroom317

    Darkroom317 Member

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    I've only had one instructor that really came close to brainwashing. It was 3D design. I made a sculpture and then she tried to get me to change my concept to more fit what she was reading into it. She wasn't a professor but a ceramics grad student.
     
  11. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Congrats on your studies!

    Learn everything you can....maybe an elective or two so opposite of you....

    Follow your heart....all comes secondly

    This video inspires me....might you too
    http://vimeo.com/25380454
     
  12. Darkroom317

    Darkroom317 Member

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    Thanks

    Haha. I am also a journalism student. It is completely objective as opposed to subjective art. But that is a whole other matter.

    What I am really asking about is the current state of photography and its future. It isn't necessarily about me but the art as a whole.

    The video is true. Just look at classic, renaissance and neo-classical art. How many times are we going to do colored (classical), white nude statues?

    This is why they have us do master studies or take aspects from other artists in painting assignments. Copy, transform and combine
     
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  13. zsas

    zsas Member

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    It is about you! You are the future!
     
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  15. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    This is the real story. The first criticism that says you need to develop technique and concept, well that sounds damning on the surface. But if you can twist it around to mean you are "just starting out and have unlimited potential"...

    cliveh, here on this forum, is a teacher who conceptually works as Henri-Cartier Bresson but lately has been trying new things I imagine like Wynn Bullock's color abstractions might have been... Maybe you can take a class from him during your schooling - if not formally - maybe through correspondence. I hope I'm not being presumptuous but travel to learn from different teachers would be a good thing for an art student.

    I have a friend, a sculptor, who takes amazing pictures with his iPhone. I recently discovered a third generation photographer who is covering the same territory of his forbears (his grandfather was known to develop E6 4x5 in the basement), but this grandson is using non-analog techniques. He revisits amazing scenery trying again and again to get it right. Both these photographers are today shaking my idea of what constitutes fine art.
     
  16. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I like that!

    I'd ask why you need to get a BFA ? I'd guess it's of little economic value long term. Are you looking to get deeper into photography? Expand horizons? I pursued a mostly non-art college education and study and practice photography at my own pace and interest (along with work, family, and other pursuits)


    “Work needs conceptual and technical development” Get used to being misunderstood as an adult doing your own thing. It never stops if you keep learning and doing. Consider it matter-of-fact that nobody actually understands anyone real well, and it goes both ways. Consider their suggestion an opportunity that could either help you, help you understand other photography, or both. If they are wrong (which is unlikely as it's quite vague), nothing's new. If they are right, rise to the challenge.
     
  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    people always speculate about what the future of anything will be like.
    writers, poets in the 1800s guessed, movies in the 19-teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s &c never got any of it right, not even "near future".

    things don't change very fast.
    the future of photography, won't really be much different than it is now ... and the "NOW" isn't much different than it was 20 or 30 years ago ...

    in art school teachers can be very critical of student-work, but that is their job ... they are preparing you for the world outside of school
    where you do work for clients

    they want to make sure that when you hear critical things like "when i said do whatever you wanted, i didn't mean do whatever you wanted, what were you thinking"
    you can say why you did something and what the point was ... not just "well you said do whatever i wanted, and i wanted to do this" :wink:

    good luck and have fun!

    john
     
  18. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Historically many of the best artists (not all) in various mediums had serious mental issues and were usually one trick ponies.

    Many were homosexual and many were suffering from severe bi-polar syndromes.

    So my advice is, if you're not already, develop a liking for people of the same sex, and do a lot of drugs to fuck yourself up.

    Wear strange clothes, hang around in bars and clubs and act "different".

    Soon you'll be noticed, become famous and rich, exploited, and bitter.

    As far as the work goes, don't worry too much about it.

    It's not about the work, it's about how strange you are.

    There are people that can sell the work, because most of art is bullshit anyway.

    Enjoy the ride.
     
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  19. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    First a metaphor.

    My wife went back to school to get back up to speed with a certificate in GIS at the encouragement of the gentleman she was working for. She wants to re-enter the full-time job market and have her own career after raising our daughter. It's her turn.

    On her return she was required to take some math. She hated those first classes, went through all the classical arguments where the heck was she going to use this, blah, blah, blah, then she took a course in databases for fun, and then declared a major, computer science since she was going to be in school enough to get a second degree.

    She is now one semester from being a full fledged "coder" to be able to do exactly what she wanted to do, GIS.

    The point of having to learn things and stretch outside the box of what you think you need is to give you context that you will need, and possibly as in my wife's case, the ability for even greater specialization.

    Which brings me to my point.

    I'm going to assume that you want to make a living with your education/art. If that is true you need to understand the status quo of thinking in the business/the market, because regardless of your vision you have to create something salable to survive in the business.

    Copying Ansel (or anybody else) probably won't get you paid well enough. You need to bring something fresh to the table if you want to make a comfortable living. Ansel had the same struggle to set himself apart, it was the f64 crowd vs the Pictorialists back in his early days.

    Food for thought.

    If you've already decided on the artistic style (product) you want to offer the market, your challenge is no longer "artistic", it's one of "business"; marketing, sales, manufacturing, and accounting.

    If that's true you might need to ask yourself if you are even in the right program.

    My bet is that, like most of us would, you will learn a lot about yourself in the program you are in.
     
  20. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Member

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    I second the general train of ideas expressed by Blansky and add that if you die young your works will certainly have more value in the market, but you have to generate some heirs beforehand and it all will be lost to the State.
    You should preferably die of an overdose of alcohol and benzodiazepine, or maybe glue solvents, that kind of stuff. Cocaine is obviously utterly banal and might even damage your posthumous reputation.

    Before that, remember to impress the buyers: wearing sport shoes with a tight doesn't work any more. Try a bathrobe. When they ask you, say "I am an admirer of Marat". Don't worry, they won't know Marat.

    If you have hairs, you should paint them alternatively with all primary subtractive colours or all primary addictive colours. Don't mix them up, as you'll be making "a statement about the importance of colour in our visual perception of things" and " showing practically how colours are always in the head of the visual artist".

    Being homosexual is a bit too exploited. I suggest going to a vernissage with your goat and introducing it as "your fiancé" specifying it's a male goat obviously lest they think you are a conformist.

    Above all don't let anybody suspect you are normal :wink:

    Fabrizio
     
  21. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Member

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    A more serious answer. Our fathers said "De gustibus non est disputandum" because they understood, many centuries ago, that any reasoning around art is ultimately a mental masturbation. Art is art. If you get it, you get it on some other plane than the intellectual one. When you begin rationalising, justifying, and analysing too much, art ends and mental masturbation begins.
    For centuries, we have called this mental masturbation "Aesthetics" and have studied it in Philosophy faculties. I mean, people who didn't need to work for a living.
    But the fact remains, that Verdi or Wagner or Monteverdi (or Bernini, Borromini etc.) never "justified", or felt the need to "justify" on the intellectual plane what they were doing. Art can be judged only on the plane of art, and that cannot be expressed in words.

    In short: where University begins, art ends, and where art begins, University ends.

    Fabrizio
     
  22. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    :D:D
     
  23. Wolfeye

    Wolfeye Subscriber

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    It's very difficult for a photograph to be art. This has always been true, but now it's much harder. The plethora of good images has increased not by careful and intentional design but by monkeys at the typewriter. With a limit of 36 exposures to work with (or even less for MF and LF work) each image on film needs to be carefully considered or you're either documenting what is (which is totally fine, but it's not art) or you're just plain wasting film. The exception there is when you are documenting extraordinary events, lives, or places.
     
  24. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    That's because photographers are trying to be good at it. A total waste of time.

    You're far better off to fuck up the exposure, fuck up the focus, fuck up the shift/tilts, if you're anal enough to have them, and then fuck up the developing.

    Once you have the developed negative place it carefully on floor and place your foot on it, turn on Chubby Checker and do the twist with it.

    When you print it, make an hack, amateur print and develop it in the wrong shit.

    And viola.

    You be an artiste.

    And wear a cape.
     
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  25. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I truly disagree.

    it is relatively easy for most any medium to be made into art. The craft of photography is mature, it's qualities are understood, teachable, and repeatable. Same is true of painting, metal working, marble work...

    What is tough is evoking emotion and marketing the work, that's where being on the fringe helps. :wink:
     
  26. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Mapplethorpe and Warhol.