"Art" - a One Word Oxymoron

Discussion in 'Art & Culture' started by RenaissanceMan, Nov 16, 2010.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    That's "minimalism" taken to an extreme.

    We have the same thing in music. In 1952 John Cage, the patriarch of the minimalist movement in music, composed a piece titled 4'33". It is three "movements" whose timing totals four minutes thirty-three seconds. There is not a single note or other sound in any of them. It has been "performed" live and you can buy a "recording" of it. As annoying as this ultra-minimalism may be, we can take comfort in the fact that only one example of it can be produced in any medium.

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    Trisha Brown, one of the stars of modern ballet in the USA, choreographed a dance that had no music. We saw it about twenty years ago when a certain accursed type of wristwatch was in vogue, and that part of the program happened to start at 8:57pm. Three minutes into it there was a chorus of electronic bleeps from the audience, followed by giggles. She just rolled with it and considered it part of the performance.
    As a musician I have always adopted the point of view that an artist must communicate with his audience/reader/viewer/listener/patron/whatever. Otherwise what he is doing is simply not art, or at the most charitable, a failed attempt at creating art. This communication can be oral, written, visual, aural, sensory, conscious, unconscious, individual, societal, immediate or deferred, but it must take place. One sure way to tell that communication has taken place is that it evoked a reaction.
    Considering the posts on the science boards, I'm not sure what you were expecting.

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    All dictionaries still define art as having either "beauty or exceptional significance."
    The former is fairly common on this website. The latter is in somewhat shorter supply.
    I would never have guessed. My compliments! You are a master linguist. I wish my Spanish or Chinese were half as good as your English.
    We're living through a Paradigm Shift, the sixth one in my own model of history:
    • 1. Agriculture. Hunting and gathering gave way to permanent settlements; rival tribes merged into larger groups so we were no longer living among people we had trusted and cared for since birth; the surplus generated by economies of scale resulted in goods and services not necessary for survival.
    • 2. Civilization. We had to learn to live in harmony and cooperation with anonymous strangers; division of labor resulted in full-time professional artists, teachers, etc.; larger populations required hierarchical government and business record-keeping.
    • 3. Bronze metallurgy. A qualitative improvement in the artifacts supporting life; the first "weapons of mass destruction"; record-keeping evolved into written language; the new technologies made a qualitative improvement in the intricacy, durability and variety of art.
    • 4. Iron metallurgy. Another qualitative improvement in artifacts; even the "barbarian" tribes could make their own weapons; the "classic" civilizations; art and architecture that still stands; the codex (flat-bound two-sided paper) revolutionized writing and the art of illustration.
    • 5. Industry. The conversion of chemical energy into kinetic energy leveraged the productivity of human labor, ultimately freeing 99% of the population from "careers" in food production and distribution; an explosion of science and culture with so many people now available to specialize in it; leisure time; surplus income; transportation technology allowing people to travel more than a few miles from home during their lifetimes; the printing press and universal literacy; massive reproduction of art objects; popular culture as a legitimate source of art.
    • 6. Electronics. Communication free from the control of governments, transcending national and cultural boundaries; the first stirrings of a single global "community" of humans; professionally composed and recorded music available instantly everywhere; similar advances in the other arts, including the ability of very small communities not in geographic proximity to share their own unique preferences and talents.
    I ended the list with emphasis on the arts instead of any of a dozen other impacts of the Electronic Age. All forms of art have been democratized, and new forms of art are springing up.
    The Paleolithic Era lasted for several million years. The Agricultural Revolution took several thousand years to spread to all corners of the earth. The Bronze Age and the Iron Age were each a couple of millennia, and the Industrial Revolution is several hundred years old.

    Be patient. The Electronic Age began in the middle of the 19th century with the telegraph, but arguably was kicked into high gear by television in the 1940s, and then into overdrive by the third-generation integrated-circuit computer in the 1960s. The internet has only been in existence for a couple of decades. It will take a little longer before all of its effects are felt.

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    Last edited: Nov 19, 2010
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  3. ejderha Exhausted Registered Senior Member

    Thanks for your post and compliments Fraggle Rocker.

    You may be right. I'll get back to you on that.

    Oh, you accept it as one shift? I prefer the idea of several paradigmas. But every shift is unique. We cannot compare them, can we? And I personally think it's getting more and more difficult for them to occur. Especially in social sciences. I hate 19th century,lol.

    You entry is a good one. But there are also huge negative influences of it. As there would be for any development.
    I personally think it will also delay the general comprehension of needed historical distance. For anything. This level of communication should have connected the individual, independent thought, on the contrary, it 'summarised' it.
    I sometimes feel like, more the people get connected with each other, with knowledge through technology, the more they get disconnected from real world and life. And the outcome looks like a bulk without substance.

    Technology doesn't just make things easy, it also changes our way of looking at and thinking about things. It seems to me that while paying the price of looking at history with myopic glasses, now we are doing the same mistake in a reversed sense. Well, I don't know.

    I am a depressed, pessimistic person so I mostly see the dark side I guess.
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    But that's the history of our species, and even of our ancestral species like Homo erectus. One might even say it's the essence of what it is to be human! Ever since the first humanoid figured out how to turn a rock into a tool, and then used that tool to change another thing into something else, we have been resolutely disconnecting ourselves from the "real" world. We protected ourselves from the feast-famine cycle by growing our own food. We shielded ourselves from the weather by first making clothes and then houses. We found a way around the limitations of nighttime by taming fire. We found a way to travel to exciting distant places and still be able to come back and tell the rest of the clan about it, first by inventing the sail, then taming fast-running animals, and then the wheel, the steam engine, the airplane and the spaceship.

    What our ancestors considered "real life" is something that today most of us only see on TV or on camping trips. We have created an entire artificial environment for ourselves. Cyberspace is only the latest iteration of that. What do you think my ancestors thirty or forty thousand years ago would think about the two domesticated wolves who are lying peacefully at my feet--playing with unreal bunny rabbits made from artificial fibers?
    Every generation has something derogatory to say about the new reality their children have built. My mother thought the world was going to end because of rock and roll.
    Absolutely! Our ability to do that is one of the unique things about our species. Other animals don't have a large enough forebrain to be able to transcend their instinctive behavior to the extent that we can.
    Once again you sound like my mother.

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    She was about 45 when she said things like that. I hope you're not 25! Getting old doesn't mean that you have to lose your ability to appreciate and adapt to exciting new transitions. I'm 67.
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  7. ejderha Exhausted Registered Senior Member

    Fraggle Rocker, you're older than my father. I am 34 and you are much younger than me I admit,lol. I started to say things like that atvery early years. May be I should have had kids I don't know. By the way, I am really recovering from a depression, so your attitude is by all means refreshing and welcomed but a bit too bright for me.

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  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    We don't have any, so that must not be the solution.
  9. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    But if you now agree that it's all in the eye of the beholder, then I'm happy to let you off the hook. So, what do you say?
    What you see when you look back on those periods is a filtered selection of the best art that has endured. I'm sure that those periods were just as full of "crap" art as today's world is (with the caveats that probably less art was created overall, and that the kind of mass reproduction and distribution apparatus that we have today did not exist back then).

    While you're naming great artists and composers, do you know that about 90% of the music from those periods that is played regularly today comes from just three men - JS Bach, L Beethoven and A Mozart.

    Extrapolating from what you are most familiar with is a dangerous practice. Geniuses in any field are very rare. In any generation there are only a few. you can't judge the entire artistic output of a century by the work of a few extraordinary geniuses.

    It often takes time for great works to be widely known and appreciated. A lot of the most performed operas were widely panned by the "expert" critics when they first premiered, as were a lot of the works of the most famous composers.

    From your posts, RenaissanceMan, I don't picture you as a regular classical concert-goer. Correct me if I'm wrong. How aware of the concertos of the last decade are you? How many times have you gone down to your local concert hall or chamber recital hall to hear a new work being performed in the last 10 years?

    Maybe you could start by looking at various prestigious music composition prizes awarded in the past 10 years. That might help you to get an inkling about what you're criticising.

    When was the last time you went to an art gallery to look at art in the flesh?

    Have you ever actually stood in front of a large Jackson Pollock painting and really looked at it? Somehow, I doubt it.

    What kind of art do you like, RenaissanceMan? Why don't you link us to some of the art that you consider great? And tell us why it is better than the "crap". I'd really like to hear your expert analysis and comparison.

    Have you ever tried to produce anything artistic yourself, by the way? And I mean beyond primary-school finger painting. Was it good, or was it "crap"? Maybe it's harder to produce good art than you imagine. Maybe you need to try it.

    Appreciation of fine art is an acquired skill, as I have explained above.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2010
  10. RenaissanceMan RenaissanceMan Registered Senior Member

    I say that you and I can wager $10,000 and submit the most blasphemous, the most intentionally insulting of these many pieces of crap to a public vote as to whether or not they constitute "art" in the classical sense of the word. If a majority of Americans so voting agree that indeed blasphemy and insult ARE "art," then you win the $10,000. If they vote that such ignorance is NOT "art," then I win.
    I posted the link to the great pianist Nobuyki Tsujii. Here it is again. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9MlN-ZudKo
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2010
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    What ever gave you the impression that a cross-section of the general public would be able to define what art is or is not? Most people would say "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like", which is really the only argument you're making in this thread.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2010
  12. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    It appears that our discussion has been censored by a moderator. Here are a couple more fragments that are non-personal and on-topic.

    I'll send you the rest of my response by PM.


    Since I can't easily find the evidence, I'm happy to retract the claim. It's not particularly important.

    Please don't put words into my mouth.

    I have nowhere claimed that every artist whose work is shown somewhere is a genius. Nor have I claimed "the opposite", which would be that every artist is a hack.

    I have merely disputed your claim that the works you posted in your opening post are all "crap".

    Did you see any dreck, or was it all Quality stuff?

    There must have been a lot of dreck that wasn't worth the money those galleries paid. Right?

    Got the visitor numbers statistics for the Pompidou handy? This time I'm going to ask you to support your claim with evidence.

    And I take it your answer to the question I actually asked is: no.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    * * * * NOTE FROM THE MODERATOR * * * *

    I generally do not care if discussions go off topic, so long as they can be charitably construed as remaining in the realm of art, culture, sociology, etc. I have a high tolerance for wise-ass remarks and good-natured exchanges of childish insults.

    What I do not tolerate is flaming and trolling. I have finally taken the time to clean up this thread. If it doesn't stay clean I will lock it. This will bring out my grumpy side and when I get grumpy I start banning people.

    R-Man, you are hereby on notice:
    • Keep the discourse CIVIL. This is a place of science and scholarship, or at least it will be when I'm finished.
    • Cease ALL of the personal insults. We have an "About the Members" subforum for that, and I try to avoid reading it so you're safe there.
    • Halt the innuendo about national politics. We have a subforum for politics.
    • I will not issue a second reminder. The next step in this process is a temporary ban. You have gone way beyond my limits of tolerance.
    Everybody else:
    • Remember that despite the unfairness, the old whine, "It all started when he hit me back," is TRUE. There can be no battle if the first person to be attacked does not strike back. These are insults, not thermonuclear weapons; a response is not required.
    • Do not be goaded into a flame war.
    • If something or someone really bothers you, contact me and I will take care of it.
    Now please let's get back to the business of analyzing art.

    Have a nice day!
  14. Gremmie "Happiness is a warm gun" Valued Senior Member

    The way the deep reds mesh with the white canvas (monitor screen) is truly a fine work of art...I applaud your masterpiece Fraggle..
  15. wsionynw Master Queef Valued Senior Member

  16. RenaissanceMan RenaissanceMan Registered Senior Member

    Good one, Rocker.

    No, really.

    I'll be quoting you.
  17. RenaissanceMan RenaissanceMan Registered Senior Member

    Brilliant commentary. Really. Most commendable.

    Or as Fraggle Rocker said:

    Your post proves that.
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Well then please do a more honest job of it. What I actually said was this:
    I'm dead serious about this. I don't tolerate intellectual dishonesty, and changing someone's words is a textbook case of that. Consider yourself warned.
  19. RenaissanceMan RenaissanceMan Registered Senior Member

    Which words of yours did I "change"?

    You seem to have missed the ", ///" part.

    More importantly, name ONE Leftist you have warned, much less banned.

    Evidently, in your book, calling people "morons" or worse is intellectual honesty.

    "Scientific," no?
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2010
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You changed the sense of my sentence by leaving out the second half.
    I didn't miss it. That was as if someone's girlfriend said, "I'd like to marry you, but you have too many red flags," and he comes into work the next morning and says, "My girlfriend said last night, 'I'd like to marry you'!"
    I don't moderate these boards based on the politics of the members. I base it on the content of the posts. In this era the Left is the faction of science and scholarship, and the Right seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into religion and other woo-woo, so I have more problem with crackpots on the right than on the left. It's just the times and wasn't always this way. As a libertarian I have equal contempt for both "conservatives" and "liberals." They both want to grant ever-more powers to the government. The only substantive difference is that the liberals want to take away our money first and the conservatives want to start with our rights, but in the end they both want to take all of our money and all of our rights, and leave us under the control of a bureaucracy grown so large that it doesn't even notice what's going on outside of itself.
    No, that's just a personal insult, which is a violation of a specific website rule. We all let it slide if it's in jest, or if two people are trading good-natured jibes and no one takes offense. But if it's truly mean-spirited or gets out of hand we have to crack down.

    Of course some people really are morons, so it can be a tough call.

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  21. RenaissanceMan RenaissanceMan Registered Senior Member

  22. RenaissanceMan RenaissanceMan Registered Senior Member

    Cable television just began a few notes of a beautiful classical music piece.

    I love to guess the composer, and if possible, the work itself.

    This wasn't easy. I said "Schubert" and was surprised. It was indeed his work, the 8th Symphony. I didn't get that, though.

    Try Name That Classical Composer. You'll enjoy it.
  23. RenaissanceMan RenaissanceMan Registered Senior Member

    What really bothers me is that your *moderators* comment as much or more than posters. Nor are they the slightest bit balanced or fair in their musings.
    No, they're quite like you, Leftists. And of course we almost never see godless Leftists rebuked by any *moderators*, do we.

    So, are you going to "take care of it"? At long last?

    Now please this:


    It is true art, not merely the slinging of paint up against canvas, or urinating into a jar.

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