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Roger Hicks
06-07-2007, 01:52 PM
Roger Hicks:
We are all born artists.
Roger, think twice.

Dear Daniel,

I didn't say we were born good artists...

Cheers,

R.

TheFlyingCamera
06-07-2007, 02:07 PM
Very little music lasts very long without being part of some lineage or another. Even the serialists maintained traditional instruments (for the most part) when they departed from tonality. And that entire era will most likely end up as a footnote a hundred years hence because it strayed too far from what the listener could agreeably appreciate or even comprehend.

For the most part I agree, but I think, if 'art' is made at all, it becomes so because the photographer experiences an emotional resonance and connection with the subject whatever it is, and in whatever style it is photographed. It becomes something even more significant when the viewer senses that emotional energy. I am highly dubious about whether or not 'meaning' has much to do with it, hence the uniqueness of musical, or visual work on its own terms.

I perhaps conflated "meaning" and "emotional response". I think the two concepts are inextricably connected as far as the creation of art is concerned - without an emotional response to a subject, it lacks sufficient meaning for me to want to capture that meaning on film, and if it means nothing to me, I don't respond emotionally, so I don't want to capture it on film. The overriding paradox here is the clash of rational and emotional responses that have to co-exist to create a work of art. The emotional tells us WHAT to photograph, and the rational tells us HOW to photograph it. Without the emotional, there is no subject, and without the rational, there is no depiction of the subject. But we must invoke the rational to create the representation of the emotional, so that we can communicate the emotional to others.

ACK- another chicken-egg game!

Donald Miller
06-07-2007, 02:50 PM
Irrespective of medium, representationality, or message, art to me is about an act of creation. And I don't mean this in a religious sense.

Creation is about ownership. It's about bringing something into being that is yours. With pure art it's about bringing something into being that is non-functional, though a gray zone exists with architecture, furniture-making, and even disciplines of entertainment.

When at least an element of your creation is non-functional, you have made that creative choice for aesthetic (or perhaps philosophical or narrative) reasons that don't require function, or efficiency, or economy.

To me there is an impulse in many of us to be creative. And whether the fruits of our creativity are representational or not doesn't matter so much -- they all stem from the same drive.


Incidentally, I've done some reading about musical aesthetics, and as I understand it most music really does not have much resemblance to naturally occurring sounds. Bird songs are atonal, for instance. Pieces of classical music that evoke nature (Beethoven's Pastorale, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, etc) don't really sound much like actual nature. I suppose the second movement of Mahler's 7th Symphony sounds a bit like bird songs, but in a very stylized way.

One exception to this is the African tama (the talking drum), which to an amazing degree mimics the inflections of the tonal languages (esp. in Nigeria).

Paul, I want to thank you for a very nice comment on one of the aspects of creation and it's application to art. Very helpful.

Donald Miller
06-07-2007, 02:51 PM
I want to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your participation in what, for me, was a very enlightening and helpful discussion. A big help...thanks.

Curt
06-07-2007, 03:05 PM
Taken those conditions into consideration, what then is artistic about that which we (you and I) produce? Since most of us are human beings at the very core of our condition...that furthermore our work is not singular in point of address, what conditions of human experience are we addressing in the production of our photographs? Does the record of the existence of a tree, a stream, clouds in a sky, the interior of a temple, address anything about the conditions that human beings experience? How does illustration of these "known objects" lead to any universal acceptance by others and how does the illustration of these "known objects" speak to the matters of hope, fear, despair, lonliness, joy, sorrow, hunger, plenty, peace, or unrest within the soul of man?

You seriously need to read the Walker Evans book "The Hungry Eye". From start to finish. I just finished going through it and I think I have advanced some in my own thinking.

It's a lot like pain, I am in my 7th year of physical pain from an accident. It fluxuates from mild to severe. I had very hard time trying to explain it because it can't be taken out and put on a counter, looked at, qualified, quantified or measured against any other except the crude "on a scale of 1 to 10" gauge.

My wife, who is a nurse, said to me "Pain is what you say it is". So when someone tells me what my pain is, how do they know? It's what I say it is.

Way back when we were children and got our hands on some materials, any kind of materials, and started to make "things" we called it Art. Have you ever asked a child what they are making and they said "Art"? Art is what they say it is. We may think it is poor art, we may think it is brilliant art, or we may think that it is not art at all. It doesnt' matter, it's what the child says it is.

Regards,
Curt

catem
06-07-2007, 03:09 PM
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." ~Degas

jnanian
06-07-2007, 03:20 PM
Taken those conditions into consideration, what then is artistic about that which we (you and I) produce? Since most of us are human beings at the very core of our condition...that furthermore our work is not singular in point of address, what conditions of human experience are we addressing in the production of our photographs? Does the record of the existence of a tree, a stream, clouds in a sky, the interior of a temple, address anything about the conditions that human beings experience? How does illustration of these "known objects" lead to any universal acceptance by others and how does the illustration of these "known objects" speak to the matters of hope, fear, despair, lonliness, joy, sorrow, hunger, plenty, peace, or unrest within the soul of man?



donald

people react to things differently depending on their life-experience.
while a camera is able to record things on film ( or paper ) and while
the image recorded may resonate with some, it will never resonate with everyone.
a lot of "art" i see every day in books magazines, galleries &C
means something to someone, but because i haven't had some sort of similar
experience that links me, i can't relate and it is lost on me.
sometimes landscape photography is like that (to me) i can not see beyond
the illustration part, because i have no life expereince that connects me to
the landscapes shown ... other than --- that place looks - calm, nice, hellish, ...

i am not sure if what i said makes any sense at all ...

interesting discussion,
thanks!

john

Curt
06-07-2007, 06:05 PM
people react to things differently depending on their life-experience.
while a camera is able to record things on film ( or paper ) and while
the image recorded may resonate with some, it will never resonate with everyone.
a lot of "art" i see every day in books magazines, galleries &C
means something to someone, but because i haven't had some sort of similar
experience that links me, i can't relate and it is lost on me.
sometimes landscape photography is like that (to me) i can not see beyond
the illustration part, because i have no life expereince that connects me to
the landscapes shown ... other than --- that place looks - calm, nice, hellish, ...

i am not sure if what i said makes any sense at all ...


It's not Art because you can't step up to it with the knowledge or experiences to make it so or is it the fault of the person who made the Art? Maybe it's not Art. Brett Weston was aware that laymen and workers "got" it and were thrilled about his photographs and that was more important to him than some so called art expert.

Maybe it's not "High Art" then. It's what Ansel Adams called "scenery". It's just "scenery" because it fails and does not become ......... And that is the something that is hard to pin down. Even Adams squirmed all over about it and didn't or couldn't make the defining statement.

jnanian
06-07-2007, 08:56 PM
...


It's not Art because you can't step up to it with the knowledge or experiences to make it so or is it the fault of the person who made the Art? Maybe it's not Art. Brett Weston was aware that laymen and workers "got" it and were thrilled about his photographs and that was more important to him than some so called art expert.

Maybe it's not "High Art" then. It's what Ansel Adams called "scenery". It's just "scenery" because it fails and does not become ......... And that is the something that is hard to pin down. Even Adams squirmed all over about it and didn't or couldn't make the defining statement.

i am not suggesting you need to be a so-called expert to "get it"
i am just suggesting that the "getting it" sometimes has to do with personal experience ...

MurrayMinchin
06-07-2007, 11:02 PM
Oh Donald...

I found this nugget that you wrote back in 2005 when I was gazing at my own navel;

Murray, I am sorry if I offended your or anyone else's sensiblilities. I still feel quite strongly about all of the heavy, thoughtful, intellectually engrossing philosophical questions ongoingly posted here that obviously don't have any heavy, thoughtful, intellectually engrossing valid answers.

Speaking from my personal experience, gathered over the past twenty five years, and the experiences of others, it seems that these "heady and deeply philosophical questions" all come down to still further self absorbtion and self aggrandizement at monumental scale.

In retrospect, I think that I would have been better served to let you and all who want to engage their minds in these pursuits do so...hell I may be surprised and find that you may come up with the "meaning of life" in your ruminations.

Heck if you or I don't feel like taking photos...then simply don't do it...if you want to do it later...do it...if you or I never want to do it again...we should do that too...the answers for why this happens are largely illusory...they are personal. I would hope that you would have the intelligence to not pretend that you have answers for me...or I for you. Until then I will leave the philosophical questions to those who want to spend their time so engaged. I will go and make photographs...or not.

How the passage of time changes things ;)

Murray

Mike Richards
06-08-2007, 03:21 AM
With nothing better to do they discovered by accident that things in the environment make marks on other things. Then they found that the things they made marks of looked like things in the environment.

It took 30,000 years to get to the stuff that looks like things that make marks on things that don't look like things in the environment. We call that Art.

First, a correction. The cave paintings are more like 10,000 years old. The 30,000 year old relic at Altamira was a man shaped void in a layer of earth that had been assumed as a tomb of some type. Memory gets a bit foggy at my age.

Curt, Interesting definition well stated, although I had to read it several times to get it. I still wonder why they took the trouble to make the paintings.

catem
06-08-2007, 03:36 AM
.

I still wonder why they took the trouble to make the paintings.

Something to do with - for want of a better word - 'soul'?

catem
06-08-2007, 03:41 AM
On second thoughts I think 'soul' is a good word - but possibly one (like 'inspiration') we've become a little afraid of using. Not sure why this is - perhaps they've come to seem a little 'big' for us.

Donald Miller
06-08-2007, 10:57 AM
In a response to one of the images that I posted as examples of questionable images aligned with this thread. Several of the respondants questioned why I would ask the question that I did? In response to that enquiry, I wrote that which follows.

I am raising this question because as a photographer striving toward artistic expresson I have questions about my own work and also the work of a lot of what I see being produced today. I observe that a great deal of what I hear or see labeled as photographic art has no universal connection to the human psyche...does the label "art" make it "art"? Does the individual photographer or artist have any basis from which to make this determination? Does the individual producing this self determined art have the objectivity to make this determination? We can take the tack that the marketplace will be the final determiner...and to a certain extent that may be true...but let us not be cheerleaders in a parade leading toward obscurity of this means of expression...and by that I mean artistic expression for those who are hopefully so engaged.

Let us not become so blinded that we soon accept excrement as representative of artistic expression when it bears not even a parting resemblance to that.

It appears the widely recognized art of numerous disciplines that has survived the test of time has a quality that is LACKING in much of what we like to label as photographic art...photography has the ability to transmit information...does that make it art? Is art about beauty alone? Does photographic art amount to nothing more than "pretty pictures"? I would sincerely hope that photography...by that I mean the participants, including myself, involved in artistic expression via the practice of photography have not sunk to that level.

Let us not forget the great tulip hysteria that once infected the minds and greedy souls of that time. If that becomes the case in photography...we will someday see that the king goes riding nakedly down the street.

jstraw
06-08-2007, 12:18 PM
Anything that is produced, presented or otherwise conveyed for the purpose of eliciting an emotional and/or intellectual and/or aesthetic experience that either does not otherwise involve a utilitarian purpose or communicates these emotional/intellectual/aesthetic qualities distinct from it's utilitarian function, is art.

That's my best effort at defining "art." There are limitless ways to do these things. A visual document is not art just because, any more than a written text is art just because. The state of being art has everything to do with why it exists and what it does.

Intent...context...effect.

This goes for every medium. There is nothing that makes this more or less complicated when the medium happens to be photography.

What one person makes may be said to well and truly be art if it functions in this manner for even one perceiver...even when that sole perceiver is the person that made it.

jovo
06-08-2007, 01:08 PM
Anything that is produced, presented or otherwise conveyed for the purpose of eliciting an emotional and/or intellectual and/or aesthetic experience that either does not otherwise involve a utilitarian purpose or communicates these emotional/intellectual/aesthetic qualities distinct from it's utilitarian function, is art.



I hope you would not exclude all the work of past centuries that was done 'to order' so to speak, but is irrevocably 'Art' with a capital A. Of course the most famous among such people...like Bach, or Leonardo etc....are obvious examples, but I think there were legions of quotidian artisans whose sincerity and skill raised their products to a level of profoundly genuine art. It's only relatively recently that self conscious makers of music, photography, painting etc started to wonder whether they'd measure up. Their ancestors were too busily engaged in their craft to worry about it. 'Artist' or 'artisan' is not for us to decide....that can be determined by others at another time.

Roger Hicks
06-08-2007, 01:14 PM
'Artist' or 'artisan' is not for us to decide....that can be determined by others at another time.

Absolutely, and it's a recent distinction anyway -- arguably only post-Romantic, which really began with Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werthers in 1774.

Cheers,

Roger

jd callow
06-08-2007, 02:15 PM
Hog wash
An artisan is easy to define. An artisan is a craftsperson and it has a connotation of higher skill. Although it may be immodest and they may be called on to prove it, a craftsperson can refer to themselves as an artisan. It doesn't require the consul of learned old folk, or history to identify an artisan.

An artist is someone who has the creativity and originality to produce work of aesthetic value or someone who creates work of aesthetic value with creativity and originality. Most thinking people should be able to pick out an artist and anyone smart enough to understand the meaning of the word and is capable of fulfilling the role can also call themselves an artist.

Whether the word was coined in 1774 or yesterday has no bearing on when and who can use it.

Although it may seem arrogant to refer to themselves as an artist it is equally as arrogant if not more so to say that time is the only arbiter of who is an artist.

What about temporary art -- art that only lasts for a moment or relates only to the moment -- how will history know or be able to judge? What about art dedicated or specific to a small or closed group, a group to small to make it on to the pages of history? What about other ignorance’s of future generations.

Frankly the thought that only time can determine what is art and who are the artists smacks of elitist bull shit -- no offence intended.

Roger Hicks
06-08-2007, 02:21 PM
Frankly the thought that only time can determine what is art and who are the artists smacks of elitist bull shit -- no offence intended.

Surely the opposite, if anything. Anyone can call himself an artist: THAT'S elitist bullshit. Whether this evaluation is supported by others must necessarily be a matter of time.

An artisan may or may not be an artist, and an artist may or may not be an artisan. It is a false dichotomy -- which I (and others) believe to be of relatively recent origin, dating to the Romantic movement.

No offence intended -- and at least we agree about how to spell offence.

Cheers,

Roger

jd callow
06-08-2007, 02:35 PM
It is romantic to think that only time will tell, but having only time be the decider of what is art or who is an artist fails far too many tests. To have a word which can be defined but not used, or to have others tell you that "although you understand the word you are not allowed its use," simply can't be defended.