What the hell is art? — I. Strange bedfellows

What is art?

Yeah, I went there. Trepidatiously, maybe, but it’s not as if we haven’t talked about it before. Besides, it’s bound to be fun if we pull relevant examples from the reader communities to which we belong. So strap yourselves in, my magnificent comrades; you’re in for some unusual posts.

Each post in this series will begin with a question, and this one seems as good a starting point as any: can an object with a use, such as a tool or a piece of furniture, be considered art?

In the 11,001-word opus I linked above, Cuchlann describes art thus:

A crafted chair can be beautifully wrought, but ultimately it is a tool. … And as such, eventually even the most sensitive person will view it as a chair, to be sat upon. … But art, with no use but to be art, to be “beautiful,” can never be written off as anything else.

And here’s the relevant bit from Oscar Wilde’s introduction to The Picture of Dorian Gray:

We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.

I have a hard time accepting Wilde’s suggestion that a useful thing isn’t worthy of admiration, or at least artistic admiration, by virtue of being useful. Cuchlann’s take is easier for me to digest, as it seems to allow that a tool can evoke an artistic or art-like experience, even if its utilitarian origins are bound to creep in. I get caught up on the question of whether this creeping-in of utilitarian origins weakens or annuls the artistic experience; my immediate, visceral response is no, not necessarily, but then I don’t spend all my time looking at chairs and ornate screwdrivers and such, and I do question the artistic viability of beautifully-wrought weapons, given that a weapon’s most basic purpose is the harming of a living thing. In short, I’m all over the place on this issue.

So let’s back up. If I had to give a definition (and I suppose I do, so you’ll know where I’m coming from), I’d say that art must be human-made, and that it must be capable of entertaining without actively doing anything — that is, one artistically appreciates a novel not because of its potential usefulness as a doorstop, but simply because of those things that come together to make it a novel; one appreciates the crafted form, not the use. The reader is active; the text is not.

To stick with our first example, it’s clear that there are situations in which a chair is active; it actively holds people up. Could someone sitting in the chair in question appreciate the chair as art? Arguably not; after all, the chair is active, asserting its utility to the sitter, not to mention that it’s partly obscured by the sitter’s body. But what about a spectator viewing the chair from afar? Even if the spectator thinks of the chair as a useful thing, the chair is not actively useful. Prompted by the chair’s form, the spectator draws upon knowledge and experience to give it essence; it becomes a symbol, a sign. The chair has done nothing, the spectator everything. If, then, the spectator claims to have been entertained by the experience with the chair, that’s all the proof I need to call the chair art: it’s human-wrought and capable of entertaining someone passively, whatever its alternative uses1.

It’s possible that, in calling upon personal experience, our spectator runs into something that holds entertainment back. For example, I have a hard time accepting a weapon as art in itself because I’m bothered by its social and historical context enough so that when I look at, say, a sword, I’m generally too preoccupied with what a sword can do to a person to appreciate the craft involved. This is not to say I’m bothered by the use of swords in fiction, or even that a sword can’t be art, by my definition; if someone else can appreciate a sword artfully, it doesn’t really matter that I can’t.

Surely you have your own definition of art, and it might not agree with mine, which is fine, of course; one of the greatest things about art, I think, is that we can all disagree and still be as correct as one another (I like to be positive about it and say we’re all right, but really there is no ultimate truth value to opinions on art2). Keep your definition in mind, whatever it may be, as the connection between my central question here and the rather intriguing image above depends upon it.

Whether we think anime and manga are SRS FKN BSNS or not, I assume that most of us would agree that those staples of our fandom are art. But anime and manga are not the only objects of the fandom; our money and support feed a towering machine that churns out all manner of merchandise and derivative work, some of which surely happens to be art. We might, for example, compare figures and models to statuary. The role of fan work is up in the air, I guess, but I suppose posters, wall scrolls, and the like could serve as visual art in themselves. None of these things really serve much purpose outside of being aesthetically pleasing.

Now, what about something more ambiguous? Something like, say, a body pillow?

It is, after all, a pillow; its use is to be slept or rested upon. But can we take a few steps back and appreciate it as art? I suppose so, assuming we like the illustration thereupon. I wouldn’t know personally, not being a collector of body pillows, but it’s theoretically possible, at least as much so as for a poster. We could always separate the pillowcase from the pillow and appreciate it that way.

But wait! We can’t sum up a body pillow by saying it’s something to be slept upon and it has a pretty picture on it, can we? Look at the art on most of them; body pillows have another purpose, don’t they? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. We’ll get to that in the next post.


Endnotes

1Speaking of chairs: in the fifth chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus, Joyce’s fictional analogue, outlines a stance on art drawn heavily from Aquinas and Aristotle. He mentions that he “found [his] theory of esthetic” by answering “questions [he] set himself,” one of which is, “Is a chair finely made tragic or comic?” It doesn’t seem to bother him that a chair is a useful thing. Interestingly, though, he tries to appreciate the chair artistically in literary terms, as literature, he says, is “the highest and most spiritual art.” You might assume that my job as The Equalizer™ (no relation) doesn’t let me agree, and you’d be right. I bring this up because James Joyce is always relevant, but also because I’ll be referring to the Portrait again in the next “What the hell is art?” post.

2The topic of good and bad craft might be exempt from this. That is, there’s certainly a wrong way (or many wrong ways) to write literature; anything that jars the reader from enjoyment is bad. But then, if the nuance in question jars some readers but not others, I’d be hesitant to call it objectively bad. Craft might be best approached from a social angle: what percentage of readers does the nuance jar?

Also, you may wonder whether the outright rejection of objectivity is a cop-out; I’ve wondered this myself, but the more research I do on the reading process, the more it makes sense. At any rate, ousting objectivity from the “literary” approach doesn’t discredit a separate (but not unrelated) sociocultural approach which values works according to the relative sizes of their fan communities, general political impact, and other people-centric factors.

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48 Comments

  1. OGT

     /  26 April 2009

    Is this your clever way of telling us that you just bought a Chihiro hug pillow in which she is in an eroticized state of potential imminent disrobement and telling us that you are most certainly not a pervert nor any other sexual deviant due to the fact that it is art because you say it is?

    Because, you know, you could have just said “I bought a pillow of Chihiro in her underthings because it was hot”.

    That said, art is art because I say it is and can successfully convince you of same. Is it beautiful? Tragic? Depressing? Abstract? Concrete? Poetic? Gruff? Pornographic? Pure? Tainted? Gloomy? Absorbing? Tedious? Melodic? Discordant? Indescribable? Ineffable? Inevitable?

    Yes.

    Is Truth Beauty, or is Beauty Truth? I say: basically the same.

    Reply
    • Pontifus

       /  27 April 2009

      I got the picture of the Chihiro pillow from Danbooru. I don’t really like body pillows in general; too much pillow for me.

      I don’t think you even have to convince me (or anyone) that what you say is art is, in fact, art. If it’s art to you, that’s good enough. I’d say using personal differences to debate about it is fun, but I don’t really get into too many debates about it, as I pretty much agree with everyone on some basic level at this point because nobody can be wrong. Basically, this post and those to come (maybe one, maybe more) will consist of me saying “some people might say (thing x) isn’t and/or can’t be art, but look at it this way,” with perhaps some variations on that formula and digressions into other things.

      As to beauty/truth, yeah, I’d agree with you cursorily, though it’s not something I really think about. The question sort of trivializes both beauty and truth anyway.

      Reply
      • OGT

         /  27 April 2009

        I wanted an excuse to write “eroticized state of potential imminent disrobement” since it came into my head when I saw it so I wrote it as a joke. :P

        “Is Beauty Truth, or is Truth Beauty?” is my default Deep Philosophical Question, mostly because it’s an utterly fruitless task. I threw it in there because if beauty = art and truth = reality, what happens?

        MINDS EXPLODE, that’s what happens.

      • I think (note I said “I think”) Plato would say that Beauty = Truth in the sense that the most beautiful is the unchanging, and the true is the unchanging, so both Beauty and Truth belong to the unchanging, which in his system are the Eternal Ideas, after which the world is patterned etc. That’s a simple answer, but you’d have to become a Platonist to accept it, and that’d be a hell of a mindf*ck in it of itself. Still, it does sound nice to put Beauty and Truth together!

      • Pontifus

         /  27 April 2009

        I might be thinking of something else, but didn’t Plato say that the eternal ideas are unknowable, at least prior to death? In that case, it seems as though “real” or “essential” beauty and truth would be impossible, and we’d be stuck with our subjective facsimiles. Can anything in life really be perfectly unchanging? Sorry if I’m off the mark here; I haven’t read a great deal of Plato.

      • That’s right, I think. We can only approach the Ideas. If I’m not mistaken, Plato taught that it was in the periods between reincarnations that the soul could fly the closest to them (and Truth and Beauty). Heraclitus said “Everything changes”. Parmenides said “Nothing changes”. Plato says: “Everything in this world changes, but there is a higher world that is perfectly unchanging.” Eat your cake and have it too?

      • OGT

         /  27 April 2009

        Yes, yes, I see that “think” there.

        My own philosophy (if one can call it that) is basically a stitched-together template of everything I’ve learned, either through direct experience or through literature, so I tend to read philosophers and go “hey that’s right!” or “that’s an interesting point!” and then watch them set up a delicate crystal lattice house of cards built on sound principles that eventually collapses and shatters into a zillion pieces because they get over-specific. Then I pick up the pieces I like and go on.

        That and for some matters I rely on intuition more than logic, it seems, so a lot of things that some people go to great and laborious pains to explain I tend to understand, with the corresponding disadvantage that I can’t actually explain it in words, resulting in logical errors.

        For Plato, though, I think he (along with the other Greek philosophers I am aware of: Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno) is, to put it mildly, batshit nuts. Not sure about Socrates. He might be sane. He might not be. I’m not sure. But for me, Beauty is most certainly not unchanging (for then why would it be beautiful?), which would mean, according to Plato, that Beauty is not Truth, so have fun with your (false, if you ask me) dichotomy between appreciating Beauty and finding Truth.

      • Kaiserpingvin

         /  27 April 2009

        No one can really know if Socrates was sane or not, since pretty much all we know about him is what Plato attributed to him (which were, essentially, often Plato’s own ideas). There are a few other sources, but the only extensive one was Plato. Early Plato writings were surely a lot more Socrates-thoughts than Plato-thoughts and vice versa.

        So yeah ;_;

      • I recently read Xenophon’s Socratic Dialogues, which are another source for Socrates. The problem is: Xenophon and Plato are so far opposed to each other in character and thought that their Socrates’ don’t match at all!! But just from the fact that Aristophanes writes about Socrates in his plays I’d say we can be sure Socrates was awesome.

      • Pontifus

         /  27 April 2009

        In my first reply, I almost wrote that I’d probably be honest about it anyway, as I embrace my inner deviant, but something stayed my hand. I guess I can only be so reticent when the topic of the next post is hentai…yeah, that’ll be interesting.

        A quandary: perhaps it takes a sexual deviant to see a body pillow as art in the first place ;) Oh wait, I guess I shouldn’t stick a wink face there…

      • OGT

         /  27 April 2009

        You don’t have to be a sexual deviant to find a body pillow with a partially unclothed girl on it art, but it helps.

    • Kaiserpingvin

       /  27 April 2009

      I’d say beauty is the polar opposite of truth. Beauty is taste, truth is tasteless. The false can be beautiful as well as the true can (say, the immortal soul is a rather pretty idea… but probably a false one).

      In the sense of everything that is potentially being viewed as beautiful by someone, and as thus beautiful, I agree. Though rather than equivalence it’d be sets sharing elements. And that would make truth a subset of beauty.

      ….waitaminute

      Reply
      • “Beauty is the polar opposite of truth”. Sounds like you’d have thrived as a preacher in the Puritan Colonies!!

      • Kaiserpingvin

         /  28 April 2009

        idk, I tend to dislike reality, so I’d likely fancy the gnostics.

        Mmmm. Gnostics <3

  2. I’ve never dared to define Art (well, I have, but then 10 minutes later something happened and I had to tear the definition to pieces). Anyway, I think Pontifus and Cuchlann are on the right track here, or on my track, I should say. There is a book on Art that goes to the heart of this issue, and this book is Kant’s Critique of Judgement. The big problem is that to really understand the book you must have read Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason first, and I think ghostlightning will agree, this is a major bitch of a task. Kant says that we get an aesthetic sense from objects that do not have a use, but that somehow give off the sense of purposefulness. For example, a finely crafted chair might include a design of lines crisscrossing down the back that reminds us of a living organism or some sort of tissue, but of course these lines are really useless to the purpose of the chair. He gave much better examples of this but I can’t remember!

    Reply
    • Pontifus

       /  27 April 2009

      Yeah, I haven’t taken on Kant. He frightens me.

      I think it’s okay to have a definition of art, as long as you allow for it to change every few [insert variable unit of time here]. Personally, I feel a lot better saying that things are art than that they aren’t, so that’s the approach I’m trying to take here, finding arguments against certain things being art and saying, “well, we could look at it this way…” or “if you separate concern x from concern y, then…”

      To clarify, did Kant specify that organic designs are at the heart of art, or was that just the example you chose? And was Kant suggesting that it’s the ultimately frivolous/useless trappings of the chair that make it art?

      Reply
      • No, he didn’t confine art to organic design, but that was a good example for him because every part of an organism serves a purpose. His point is that things that seem to have a purpose/use but don’t, are artistic. So the chair as chair isn’t art, but if the shape of the chair is such that it reminds you of a purpose (other than sitting, I suppose) without this being its purpose, then it will evoke the aesthetic feeling in you. Anyway, that’s what I got from my single reading of Critique of Judgement, which is nowhere near enough to be confident about my understanding it!

      • Pontifus

         /  27 April 2009

        Ah, alright; that makes a lot of sense to me, as I’d agree that it’s the appreciation of the chair’s form that leads to artistic experience. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say the chair must remind one of a purpose, specifically (unless “purpose” here is used very broadly); it could invoke in someone of any number of bits of knowledge, and that’d be fine. I suppose I ought to read Kant, but it’s such a feat…

    • OGT

       /  27 April 2009

      That’s what Kant thinks–what does animekritik think?

      Reply
      • I shall not touch definition of Art with a ten-foot pole. I really honestly don’t have a clue.

      • OGT

         /  27 April 2009

        Doesn’t need to be a complicated epistemology, a logical statement, or anything backed by complicated terminology and twisty grammar. Isn’t the point of studying other philosophers to come up with one’s own philosopy?

        If you don’t have a clue how to begin defining “Art” or “art”, then you at LEAST have trouble defining where art ends and not-art begins. Which, in and of itself, is a perfectly fine philosophy.

      • Would you let me get away with saying that Art is a human construct, and that therefore there’s no absolute definition to be found, only the arbitrary definitions that we impose on “it”? That’s my way out when I can’t figure out something…! (it’s a cop-out, I know).

      • OGT

         /  27 April 2009

        Cop-outs are usually the correct response, or, at least, the more sanity-endowing one, if not always the right one. I prize sanity over correctness anyway, and it’s not like most of the discussion here isn’t your selfsame “cop-out”. :)

        I subscribe to the Monty Python definition of art: “I don’t know much about art but I know what I like!”

        (also I get a little leery whenever people start seemingly offloading their opinion onto a Famous Dead And/Or Alive Guy, because that’s the true cop-out, I think)

  3. Not sure the active thing is going to work. Ballet, imo, is active art, it’s being made right then and there. This reaffirms that my definition may be subjective (and it is); duality is innate, physically.

    Reply
    • OGT

       /  27 April 2009

      Art as “inactive” is problematic anyway: what if reading a book galvanizes you to go out into the world and make a difference, in a small or large way, for yourself or for others? Perhaps the galvanization all occurs inside, but the external impetus was the reading of the book.

      The act of reading a book and looking at a painting is hardly an inactive activity anyway. Listening to music, maybe, but even if you’re laying on your back trying to not think of much or you put it on as background noise, there’s a conscious decision there to have music on.

      (of course this all depends on your definition of “active” and “inactive” because philosophy is nothing if two people can’t use the same words and mean entirely different things)

      Reply
      • Pontifus

         /  27 April 2009

        What I mean by “active” is simply that, in the exchange between reader and text, the reader does all the “work,” so to speak. Yes, the reader must be prompted to make all those necessarily internal semiotic connections by the text — I don’t mean to say that the text is “inactive;” the one thing it does is exist, and the reader engages with it by actively appreciating its very form, not by making use of it to exert some force. You might argue that the author acts upon the reader through the text, but I tend to think the author is out of the equation of reading.

        Sure, a book could inspire you to go out and do something, but surely it won’t inspire every single reader to do so; those readers who were inspired met the right set of conditions — that is, they had the right set of knowledge, the right personality — to be inspired in the first place. To be particular, it’s not the text that inspires, but the mental version of it the reader has built. The text can have a tendency to evoke inspiration in people with a certain foundation, but it cannot actively inspire, as I see it.

        I’d argue that ballet, too, is passive. The dance itself is the form of the text; it’s the audience who decides what to get out of it. A dancer is active, certainly, but a dancer is not in a prime position to appreciate the dance as art, as the dancer is the crafter. This all comes with the disclaimer that I’m grossly unqualified to talk about dance in general.

      • OGT

         /  27 April 2009

        The only problem I have with this pseudo-metaliterary explanation is that it can get way too specific and limit some things. If the “use” of a novel is a doorstop, then yes, it requires an active appreciation of the novel for it to be “art”.

        …but what if the practical use of the novel is to be read? A novel that is not written nor published nor purchased or otherwise obtained without the intention to read is useless because the stated purpose of the novel is to be read, and if it’s not read it’s useless. In that case, the very act of reading is use, and if appreciation is part of reading, then…

        Or perhaps, can I not see a chair at, say, an IKEA store, go “oh that looks pretty” and then sit in it and say “this is comfy.” I am appreciating the chair actively making the experience of sitting pleasant. Is a chair that I appreciate as both attractive and comfortable, or even as merely comfortable, can I not call that art? Is this the next post, except with less innuendo?

      • Pontifus

         /  28 April 2009

        Well, novels (and anything else whose primary or intended purpose is simply to be appreciated) are easy to deal with in that way, since reading is artistic appreciation; a novel isn’t as ambiguous as something like a chair or pillow. I don’t mean to suggest that things made for the sake of art are “useless;” I don’t really like Wilde’s wording there. It’s just that, in being used, the novel has no active impact on the world. I mean, it has weight, I guess, but that’s gravity’s fault. Really, it all comes down to how one uses a thing.

        I’d say that appreciating the chair’s comfort, its practical application to a sitter, isn’t appreciating it as art, while appreciating its beauty would be. You could certainly do both, though it’d be harder to do the latter from the perspective of a sitter, both due to the point of view and (maybe less so) the distraction of the chair’s active “chairness.”

      • Kaiserpingvin

         /  27 April 2009

        Hmm, but not every crowbar can open a window, for example. If it is made of a badly carbonized steel, so it’ll break when used. And it’s really the user of the crowbar who is active in the first place (and he may choose to get something else out of it, say, open a beer can or use as a bookend).

        And music can be used in warfare, as was done in Iraq.

        The lines are fuzzy!

        Perhaps rather than asking “is X art”, one must specify the context a lot more since the truth value will be dependent on it (you seemed to imply it in the post but it sort of disappeared along the way into the comments I think), when talking about art in this apragmatic sense? “Is X at context C art?” and then we stumble deep into deixis. I read something in Lycan with α(“utterance”,C) where α is a function for deciding the truth value of the sentence and C is the context, I’ll do some reading to see if I can support this system here with some application of this, ridivulously overwrought analytical pedantery. Not because I agree, I don’t.

        (I will likely forget to do it though. Not that it is important.)

      • Pontifus

         /  28 April 2009

        But the crowbar does part of the work for the user, or it allows the user to get more work done with less expenditure of force; in my mind, that’s the crowbar being active. I feel like the line between distinction and sophistry is drawing near, though.

        In the case of music as warfare, I’d assume that someone harmed by it would have a difficult time appreciating it as art. I suppose I don’t think of art as a thing, or a set of things, so much as a way of experiencing things. In that sense, it seems that context would be of far more importance than the object in itself; I think I was trying to get that across, yeah, though I didn’t especially push it.

        Maybe I should make an intermediary post between this one and the next explaining the things I’ve figured out from talking to you all.

  4. We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

    All art is quite useless.

    …that is to be enjoyed for its own sake. In behavioral science terms, beauty and art is not classified among the hierarchy of needs (Abraham Maslow), unless it is rationalized within the higher categories: [->]

    5. Physiological
    4. Security
    3. Love/Belonging
    2. Esteem
    1. Self-actualization

    I can rationalize art to satisfy belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs. In terms of belonging, if the person’s society has a high appreciation of art, to belong that person must have a similar appreciation and/or acquisition/consumption of art objects.

    The same can be said to satisfy esteem needs. To own art objects, or better: to create art objects can and most probably will satisfy esteem needs contingent to the profile of the person.

    Even more so for self-actualization: one’s life goals may be to pursue travel to witness art performances, see art objects in person, and/or the acquisition of art/objects, and/or again the creation of art itself.

    These are all contingent to the profile of the person. But if it is the case, the experience of art almost certainly has nuances or degrees of utility (in economic terms) for that person.

    Reply
    • OGT

       /  27 April 2009

      Maslow’s self-actualization is “integration” isn’t it? I tend to link the “integrated personality” (defined as someone who has recognized all the facets of their personality and come to terms with them) with self-actualization, anyway; it’s someone who’s met their more basic needs and is free to live life to its fullest as long as those lower needs remain fulfilled. Art creation can easily satisfy 3, 2, or 1, but I’d think that when one creates art at 1, it’s the most personally fulfilling. Natch.

      Reply
    • Pontifus

       /  27 April 2009

      I didn’t think about it in terms of Maslow (I’m pretty sure I haven’t thought much about Maslow since the 11th grade), but you make a good point. I’d agree that, yeah, art does serve some purpose to the people who enjoy it. I’m more caught up on the active/passive thing; in order to enjoy art for its own sake, I think the art in question mustn’t be acting on anything outside itself, it must simply be.

      Reply
      • But but but… the art is ‘acting on’?

        I have a problem with this statement. Interpretation, reading, and appreciation are active pursuits depending on the agency of the person. Inasmuch as the art is ‘interfaced,’ it does not do anything but be itself. It ‘acting on the consumer’ is merely it being the source of a signal or a set of signals.

        To go back to your artful chair. If someone is sitting on it, it can well be experienced for its own sake. I can look at it as ‘chair being sat on: where ass meets art”

        But perhaps you mean the person sitting on it – she may not experience the chair as art while sitting on it. She may experience it only as an uncomfortable place to park her ass. Then again, the subjectivity is notable.

      • Pontifus

         /  27 April 2009

        Interpretation, reading, and appreciation are active pursuits depending on the agency of the person. Inasmuch as the art is ‘interfaced,’ it does not do anything but be itself. It ‘acting on the consumer’ is merely it being the source of a signal or a set of signals.

        Yeah, this is what I’m trying to say. The reader is active, the text is passive.

        But perhaps you mean the person sitting on it – she may not experience the chair as art while sitting on it. She may experience it only as an uncomfortable place to park her ass.

        Also this. The chair is appreciated not for its form, but for what it does, by someone using it as a chair. The main problem may be that it’s obscured by the sitter’s body, though.

  5. Kaiserpingvin

     /  27 April 2009

    Art is in the eye of the beholder imo.

    Boring hackneyed response is boring, yes. Perhaps, to make a definition that begs the question: Art is whatever evokes an aesthetic-emotive response. Now, what an aesthetic-emotive response is, Haruhi knows, or rather, everyone can make of as they will. Everything may be found aesthetically pleasing/fascinating/interesting/fappable and so on and so forth. As I expressed my wonder over a while ago on ak’s post on Tokyo Akazukin [->]*, there are even a market for eroguro. Moreover, I, pathologically phobic of everything below the skin, find it quite aesthetic-emotive a genre. Not in that way, though, gods no. Well, okay, in the case of Fran. But anyway. The particular emotion is generlly disgust/shock/morbid fascianation; but it still feels… aesthetic. There must surely be more people who have decidedly aesthetic emotions? Or am I mad?

    So anyway. Everything someone finds aesthetically giving is art. Everything may, and probably is, aesthetically giving for someone. I do not fancy the active/passive roles that much; say, would that not invalidate most of, or mayhaps all, architecture? At the very least modernist minimalism á la Loos?

    *The post I mention on the fascination of erogruo went as well as all my other posts went – I lost any and all confidence in it – but it might return to my working table sometime. Just so you all take note that yes, I really am a worthless, lazy person ;_;

    Reply
    • Ubiquitial

       /  27 April 2009

      even if art is subjective, there must be some qualifying factor, something that defines art. The way the defination is perceived may be dependant on point-of-view, but there must be something that makes us recongnize it as art.

      I do agree with ghostlightning, though, on his (Maslow’s) view of art.

      Reply
      • This is the problem with all of these big words (Art, Moe, GAR). You can say they’re subjective until you’re blue in the face, but there must be some aspect, or at least aspect cloud, that everyone can agree on because otherwise how come we all seem to know what Art is, even though (especially when) we disagree about the specific art objects? This is precisely what pushed Plato to come up with the Ideas as the source of this hazy images that people grope around in the dark for…

      • Pontifus

         /  27 April 2009

        I think the definition of art (and moe and gar for that matter) stems not from the objects of art, but from the experience of art. It’s not too terribly difficult to agree on what an artistic experience is, even if it’s hard to define; we can call it enjoyment, or entertainment, or aesthetic appreciation, or whatever, but it’s just a set of good feelings (or maybe just feelings) produced by experiencing a crafted thing. It doesn’t really matter whether we agree on which things are art and which aren’t, or which things are good art and which are bad, as long as we have that experience in common.

      • Kaiserpingvin

         /  28 April 2009

        Thisthisthis, I much agree with this.

        I figured out today, that the aesthetic-emotive affect may be said to be the feeling of appreciation for something being done well. It does not quite capture it, but it’s some road to some sort of clarification of my vague nonsensical terms.

      • Kaiserpingvin

         /  28 April 2009

        Well, I do not think it is possible to define. It’d be more like Wittgenstein’s family words. You know, the classic: you can’t define “game”, it is rather made up by a lot of similar practices and phenomenae, A similar to B similar to C, but C dissimilar to A. Similarly, art is just too subjective and wide to have a definition of.

        But that is mere conjecture from my aesthetic-pluralist musings and the repeated failure of definitions to capture what is being said. A falsifiable but not quite provable sentiment.

    • Pontifus

       /  27 April 2009

      Architecture is a conundrum, yeah. I think it might be possible, though, to use a usable thing — to stand in a beautifully-crafted room, say, in which case you can’t really help using the place as a shelter — and to be able to appreciate the art of it anyway. The practical use is separate from the artistic experience, even if both happen simultaneously; they’re in different classes, I suppose. I don’t know, I’ve been meaning to read up on theories of place…

      Oh, and bring your guro research to my next post. It might be relevant (gods forbid, perhaps…).

      Reply
  6. A lot of intellectuals like to make a distinction between mass-produced pop culture and “art” intended for a gallery style audience. Then you get other intellectuals who pipe in and talk about gallery politics, “street art”, “performance art”, etc. It’s a big mess, like most have noted. If you’re interested in reading some more modern takes on the subject, Arthur Danto, Morris Weitz, and Richard Wolheim represent a few major authors. I think it’s Wolheim who expanded on that idea of an aesthetic-emotive response that Kaiserpingvin pointed out, although I could be mistaken.

    Reply
    • Kaiserpingvin

       /  28 April 2009

      My own ideas are my own ideas, I wouldn’t dare attribute them to someone who knows surely a lot more than I on the subject. But I’ll check the dude out, would likely be fruitful (I hated aesthetics until quite recently, so it is a huge black area in my knowledge).

      Reply
  7. I will say again, as I said here, that the distinction of art vs. consumer object cannot be absolutely made: a shovel is a mere tool, but the presentation of a shovel as a Dadaist statement about the state of art is art.

    In that previous Anime Diet roundtable I asserted that perhaps ultimately it is the artistic experience that one identifies with, and this experience of art which ought to be the focus of attention. The problem is that this leaves art even more ill-defined, if such a thing is possible. Apparently, Kaiserpingvin and Pontifus agree above, using slightly different terms.

    The problem ultimately may be linguistic: language deals best and most clearly with objective truths, not subjective experiences, and art is far on the subjective end of human experience.

    Reply
  1. What We Buy When We Declare a Show a Favorite: An Image to Sell or, How Anime Fans Create Themselves As Brands in a Social Market; a Theoretical Speculation by ghostlightning; Told in the First of Possibly More than One Blog-Post « We Remember Love
  2. anitations - citation form
  3. Lies and Truth, Epistemology and Semiotics, to Know Mugi is to know God (Yuri-ka!), The Quixotic Quest of Language; and OH YES Eureka 7 « We Remember Love

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