Well, since you asked...
Originally Posted by jnanian
First of all, by "anti-art" I didn't mean so much that I dislike art for art's sake, but rather that my own personality, strengths, tastes, and methods in most aspects of my life tend to favor logic, reason, skill, and technical elements over things like emotion, intuition, expression, etc. I work with technical drawings, diagrams, etc. and in past jobs, absolutely despised any project where I had to work with artistic types (usually architects, but sometimes graphic designers, interior people, etc.) because of their general lack of familiarity (or regard) for the physical realities of various situations ("No, you *can't* just remove that wall...it's load-bearing."..."Well can't you just make a different wall load-bearing and remove that one? It's going to block all the natural light!"). It's not that I didn't like the people themselves, or that I didn't appreciate and admire their contributions to various projects...just that their approach and concerns were so vastly different from me that most dealings with them led to communication breakdown and frustration.
That being said, I tend to look at art in a way similar to TheFlyingCamera...as a medium, or better yet, a language. A vehicle for communication of ideas, emotions, etc. Like any language, there are accepted standards and guidelines, always in a state of flux, and certainly affected by the context of the times, factors including (but not limited to) social values, world events, technology, religion...and of course history. In this light, it's impossible to separate the two matters of what is new and what has come before. That being said, however, the existence of the past is not the same as tradition, and the effect of the past on the present is not the same as the effect of knowledge of the past on the present.
Some kid with a camera, taking pictures of things because he 'thinks that'd make a good picture' is, objectively, producing art. The reasoning of 'this would make a good picture' means it's an image for the image's sake, to be viewed simply for the experience of viewing it. It's not, say, a snapshot of a smashed car fender, to be sent to an insurance company. To use the language analogy, this kid might not be fluent (or even understandable), let alone eloquent in the language of art, but the fact that he's taking a picture for the picture's sake means he's making an attempt to 'speak the language' of art.
In contrast, take an experienced fine art photographer (subject matter, style, etc. completely irrelevant for the point) who's been selling their images for longer than the aforementioned 'kid' has been alive. He's studied, both informally and in an academic setting, hundreds of artists, styles, works, and theories, both about his chosen area of expertise, and others that have little or nothing to do with him. He understands every intricacy of every element of the photos he makes, and appreciates photographs both on their own, and for their place in the history of photography, and art at large. In the language analogy, he's a bona fide linguist, an expert in not only things like spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax, but also word origins, definitions, alternate spellings, synonyms and antonyms, and the subtle differences in mostly similar words and phrases. He's also got some degree of familiarity with other languages, and makes connections between them.
Both of these "native speakers" are speaking the same language, but nobody would argue that they've the same level of mastery over it. In time, "the kid", if he sticks with it, will develop, and even if he's only exposed to his own work, will find that he likes some pictures more than others and attempt to repeat sucesses and learn from failures. (And I just used 'develop' and 'expose' in a post here and kept a straight face!) This kid, in all likelihood will also tend to look at other photos with more of a critic's eye, and find that he doesn't just randomly like or dislike photos, but that he likes or dislikes elements of those photos. In this way, the past...the traditions...will make their effects known...even if "the kid" never sits down and reads a book on composition. For those here that have argued that "fine art tradition is important because without it the present couldn't exist!", I think that's really begging the question, and very circular logic.
I think that the study of tradition will certainly give an artist a better understanding and familiarity with his work, and will likely make it easier for him to produce work which speaks to others who are similarly "well-read" on a higher level, but with that being said, it's not at all impossible...or even all that difficult...for a "semi-literate" neophyte to produce work that is undeniably art without any connection to tradition beyond the same instinctive human urge to communicate that led to the first cave wall drawings.
It's also worth noting that the language analogy has another component which is highly applicable to the discussion, that really is a counterpoint to the pro-tradition camp: language evolves, and while knowing what came before might be helpful when you tackle the task of digesting some new material that someone else has produced, you really don't ever hit a point where you want to communicate something, but are wholly unable to do so because of a lack of knowledge of tradition (or word etymology, to use the analogy). The more time between the foundations of the tradition and the present, the objectively less-directly-relevant it is. For a shining example, check out early English works. some of it is readable, but other parts are nearly indecipherable to someone not well-versed in language history...even if that person is very well spoken in terms of modern english.
Eesh! Sorry for the lengthy post, but it's difficult to put something like that succinctly. Thanks for reading.
Last edited by Cold; 03-22-2013 at 10:27 AM. Click to view previous post history.