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Thread: What is art?

  1. #40
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    Every school of thought has its mandarins.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TASmith View Post
    So, what you're saying is people lie to themselves when they say they don't like Waterhouse, because... of it's cultural associations? I'm still confused.
    They either do not have the sensibility to be emotionally reactive to what is physically there on the physical, graphic surface of the Waterhouse or they are announcing a political attitude in response to what its literary symbolism represents in terms of their perception of its cultural context within contemporary society. Or both.
    Last edited by Chris Bennett; June 15th, 2013 at 06:10 PM.
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  5. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    Every school of thought has its mandarins.
    here is a rare picture of them
    What is art?


    maybe is a bit like modern technology. to fully UNDERSTAND an iPhone you need to be expert in quantum physics, relativity, many fields of materials and manufacturing technology, international business, and thats just the device, before youve even considered the range of potetnial messages it can send...

    to use an iPhone, thats relatively easy, mostly.
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  6. #44
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    Interesting article and I'd only comment:

    You often hear it said that "museums of art are our new churches": in other words, in a secularising world, art has replaced religion as a touchstone of our reverence and devotion.
    Well, people always more believed in "art", than in church and that's why church was the prime art commissioner throughout the most of the history.
    The only thing that changed today is the "owner" of the art and therefore the object of worship.

    Also, Chris is right...people are told what to like, on the sociological level.
    What people like on anthropological level is something else and most are even unaware of that.
    Sometimes people say; -"this is what I want, but this (other thing) is what I need", where "want" refers to social and "need" refers to anthropological aspect.
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  7. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bennett View Post
    There are two things going on when witnessing a work of art. A direct, subconscious reaction to the physical, gestural elements of the work itself. And a conscious response that is context driven by our knowledge of its symbolic cultural associations.
    But these two things are quite distinct.
    The problem arises when they are confused with each other and seen to be part of the same thing.
    Most people tend to override their subconscious emotional appreciation of the gestural, physical elements of a work with the assumption that their reaction to its symbolic cultural associations is the measure and content of the meaning the work has for them.
    This is spot on.

    Edit: Actually, this is one of the most straightforward discussion of art I've read in a while. I'm not even kidding.
    Last edited by BichNguyen; June 15th, 2013 at 07:39 PM.
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  8. #46
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    "A direct, subconscious reaction to the physical, gestural elements of the work itself."

    Is this completely animal and innate or is this also learned? Is the human subconscious response to artwork always the same or is it informed by experience? These discussions about the definition of art always come down to dogma on one side vs. dogma on the other. Neither side will lay claim to their truths being learned dogma. So any definition will be exclusive or meaningless as it will include everything. But does more than one definition of art mean that there is no definition or merely many definitions?
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    What is art? Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no mooorreee!
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  10. #48
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    i think its a bower bird making nice nests to attract a mate x big frontal lobes x 30000 years of culture.

    its decorative, emotional, and apparently rated pretty high on our list of things to do because once someone has air, water, food, shelter and some time to kill, theyll often pick up some aesthetic or enjoyable making-something task and get on with it. in many higher creatures who can achieve this state of free time, wolves, dolphins, etc, they play.

    a culture without art isnt much of a culture and a childhood without play isnt much fun.

    when i was a kid, i used to imagine stories and cool things happening, with my friends or alone. drawing and making things has pretty much taken over that buzz, along with playing Gran Turismo!

    so i suggest art is a netoteny, a childlike activity thats preserved to adulthood, and shows the expected increase in complexity youd figure would happen in a larger more complex mind.

    trying to pin down what art is is kind of a dull game, because although we can try to draw distinctions between things, nature doesnt so much. there are probably an infinity of ways to discribe art most people would agree with and an even bigger one of discriptions some people would agree with. yawn.

    that said, taxonomy doesnt necessarily to just have to be stamp collecting; plenty of people are investigating what seem like difficult unresovable ponderables of the human condition. the downside i gues you might say is the reasons are invariably prosaic, basically evolution did it, and we have big brains. its as simple and complex as that.

    http://youtu.be/7dep9KPWp3g
    Last edited by Velocity Kendall; June 15th, 2013 at 10:32 PM.
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  11. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    "A direct, subconscious reaction to the physical, gestural elements of the work itself."

    Is this completely animal and innate or is this also learned? Is the human subconscious response to artwork always the same or is it informed by experience?
    I think it's more so innate than learned. "Subconscious" is the key word here. Hopefully, I am not twisting Chris' words too much here, but I think this is what he means by that quote: when we experience art, our brain is automatically picking up and processing pure visual (and sometimes auditory as well as other sensory) information that's there.

    The learned part would be more in line with another quote Chris stated: "And a conscious response that is context driven by our knowledge of its symbolic cultural associations." The perspective of art changes from culture to culture because art and culture have a tight bond. For example, various African art features fractal designs because traditionally, these societies' perspective is based on their cultural concept of a "self-structured" society. You will see a similar pattern in different African mythologies such as Legba, the trickster god, in the Vodun religion. However, if you brought samples of their art to, say, India, their meaning would not carry the same weight because of the differences in their cultural focus.

    Like Chris mentioned before, mistaking the "subconscious response" with the "conscious response" and vice-versa is where problems can come in. I think this is where the different dogmas of "what is art" kicks in.
    Last edited by BichNguyen; June 16th, 2013 at 06:51 PM.
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  12. #50
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    I know exactly what Chris is saying. I also know that there exist proponents of many different things who make the same claim to an innate subconscious awareness that supports their own beliefs. Religions are built upon such beliefs.

    So you think that there is a common physical response to great art no matter the background, geographical location or period in time? I'm not sure an exhaustive enough study has been or could ever be done that could prove something like that.

    The questions I am asking have more to do with sparking discussion than ignorance or not understanding.
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  13. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    So you think that there is a common physical response to great art no matter the background, geographical location or period in time?
    Bill, there has to be. Otherwise art from the past could not communicate to us emotionally, ever.

    I'll take the example of music, because that is less encumbered by the 'conscious wool gathering' that can easily happen in the more concrete literal visual or literary arts that orochigenicide has just discussed and expanded on.
    18th century music sounds 'old fashioned' and Indian classical music sounds 'trippy' because of our chronological and cultural perspective. But these are generalised, surface additions; intellectual barnacles that accrue on the hull of the work, not its deep design. Most can't see the ship for the barnacles, and interpret what they discover in accordance with their particular historical archaeology.
    But the sailor in us senses the hull underneath, filters out the random cultural barnacles to get to the unfettered shape at its core and hears the music for what it is; a structure of sound that passes through us and activates the cams of our emotional commonality.

    That is to say, when seeking deep meaning, our innate pattern recognition tunes out the cultural noise and seeks out the elemental grammar of our emotional language.

    One concrete example to give everyone an actual taste of what I'm saying:
    Think of what would go through a young child's mind if the odd pieces of rotting keel dug up from a Viking burial site were only explained to him.
    Now think of what happens to their mind when you show them the full scale reconstruction of the long boat itself.

    Two quite distinct ways to appeal to two quite distinct functions of the mind.
    A lecture on wind dynamics.
    A yacht straining under full sail.
    One understood only by the educated, the other capable of touching us all.
    Last edited by Chris Bennett; June 17th, 2013 at 06:06 AM.
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  14. #52
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    Chris you know that I am only really trying to get some kind of real discussion going right? On the other hand you are conversing, so to speak, with an emotionally scarred person as we all are. Trusting emotions is a dangerous thing. My background in religion has tweaked my emotional receptors and makes me suspect of everything. I was taught to trust something spiritual, which it turns out was only really emotion, and believe in it.

    So in my damaged state, again we are all emotionally damaged in some way, I trust intellect in equal measures. Something that is capable of touching us all does not necessarily make it valuable or good.

    I have been physically and emotionally moved by visual art, I cried (a manly weeping) and was physically weakened when I saw a Vermeer on the wall for the first time. I went weak kneed in a room full of Rothkos and wanted to shout. But I will always be suspect of a universal shared human emotion; an emotion that exists in a vacuum of experience.

    Perhaps we understand emotion in different ways Chris. Your first sentence hints that might be true. Maybe I've lost my way with the word emotion.
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