Field Theory by Hadyn Green

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Field Theory: A post about art (sort of)

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  • Sacha,

    That sword might be art if it were hanging on a gallery wall in Europe, Chris

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    I once had the pleasure of going through a Danish weapons museum (in Copehagen - it covered several acres of waterfront.) There was everything from cannons to assassin's cross-bows and Spitfires and shot towers hanging on the walls -or, at least displayed.

    But waua! The swords they had there! My little glittery eyes just streamed with joy...

    There was so much practicality - but, as is the wont with those who create weapons - there was so much - useless- perfect adornment about those weapons.

    Weapons can be works of art.

    This is where I not only part company with Paul Litterick - I flat out cant see where he's coming from. Aesthetics encompass utility: there is no exclusion. I have yet to see an example Paul Litterick has given that doesnt have some utility (like earning $$$ for instance.)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Bugger, my earlier edit didn't stick:

    That sword might be art if it were in a gallery in Europe.

    Context, done long ago

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    ...to represent the NZ massive

    I think Chris was meaning the land, but misspelt massif : noun; a compact group of mountains, esp. one that is separate from other groups...
    - which is a pretty nifty way of describing NZ (and the rugger statue) - I liked it!

    ...so Chris, don't fall on that kris
    no wavy goodbyes here... ;- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Aesthetics encompass utility: there is no exclusion. I have yet to see an example Paul Litterick has given that doesnt have some utility (like earning $$$ for instance.)

    I have on my iPod Kim Hill's 2008 interview with Max Gimblett - Kim noted that Max, not a particularly acquisitive person, depended on monied acquisitive people for his art, to which he responded, yes, of course: "all people trade in their neighbourhood".

    The MP3 podcast was up on the RNZN webpage for ages and is well worth a listen, or several - if it's not still there I can always email a copy around.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    @Paul

    But, since we have both signed up to the Institutional Theory (however differently we interpret it) we should look at the practice of the institutions; and there we find that the distinction between art and craft is made. Art galleries exhibit art and crafts are often displayed in specialist museums.

    I'm not saying there's no difference between archetypical cases of art and craft - just that there's no clear boundary.
    I think we interpret the role of institutions differently too- but just a quick search of, eg the Te Papa site looking for "Mäori Art" comes up with a fair swag of entries.
    One of them relates to the Te Mäori exhibition- which is said to have been ground-breaking in exhibiting the taonga explicitly as art, rather than 'artifacts'.
    This seems to me a positive move. In fact, wouldn't the very notion of "primitive art" be an oxymoron in your interpretation of the definition? You may not- but I think this a problem for your interpretation :)
    Trying not to go into too much detail:
    1. Dickie's theory seems able to deal with the notion of multiple 'artworlds'. (Dickie discusses this possibility- can't find a reference, but referenced here: Dickie "...accepts that his definition is indexical, in that the Artworld is a cultural practice that must be understood within the context of its own time and place. But he also accepts that cultures other than our own might have thier own Artworlds (and, within them, create their own artworks)."

    2. As Davies notes, what look awfully like (not to beg the question) artistic/aesthetic practices are more-or-less universal in homo sapien cultures. It seems more than churlish- it seems just obtuse- to deny these practices and practitioners are artistic.
    Some at least (cf China, Japan and India)- if not most- of these practices are self-conciously concerned with notions we'd have trouble not calling aesthetic.
    (It might be worth getting away from the word 'art' and its etymology- and talk of 'the arts'. Music and poetry- and (perhaps a little more controversially for some of us :) story-telling and dance- are generally included in accounts of art. The practices around, say, a poem becoming a 'candidate for appreciation' are less obviously involved with formal institutions- and may be an easier paradigm to consider.)
    3. Davies notes it is odd to say that (his example) a Shakespeare play or a Bach fugue were not works of art when they were created- but became so at a later date. (I know Paul, you wish to push the 'origins of "true" art to the Renaissance. But the same objections will apply to other works).
    The reasoning behind doing so seems to be an attempt to locate in one single time and place (18thC Europe) the beginnings of 'art-for-art's-sake': the first 'objects created primarily for aethetic purposes'.
    I think this very unhelpful to the theory. It fails to explain how similar impulses (to create fine, beautiful, striking things) occur in all cultures; and trying to put "Aesthetics" outside other socio-economic-cultural considerations leads into odd territory, and flies in the face of the facts (art and status, for example, are very often closely entwined).
    4. Since the institutional theory seems able to deal with multiple artworlds, and it seems prima facie that we live in a world with a rich and varied range of artistic traditions- it is obtuse to deliberately exclude all non-western aesthetic traditions by definition .
    If the institutional theory cannot account for the planet's many and varied traditions of music, poetry, storytelling, dance- as well as the visual traditions that "look a heck of a lot like and are readily identified as art by those from a different cultural background" - so much the worse for the theory.
    There may be good reasons the 'institutional theory' can't do this- but I don't think you've offered any :)
    (Sorry for the length of this ramble. Back to being dismayed and furious at Rhino Hide and Poorer Bennet. :(

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Aesthetics encompass utility: there is no exclusion.

    Indeed- in so many ways. The notion that art is 'useless' - which sprang from the same 'art-for-art's-sake' romantic movement- is another nonsense artists didn't have to deal with before that time.
    That whole romantic ideal of the artist as a maverick genius can also be seen as a grand (and cunning) manoeuvre to capture maximum status :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    "You call that dinner?"

    "That's not dinner. That's some seaweed wrapped around rice and fish. The Japanese only learnt that this was called dinner once Westerners arrived. They had no concept of the "dinner" until this time."

    :)

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    ... and until pale beard-stroking experts from the west catalogued, collected and exchanged that "dinner" for money and glory - much like their insect-collecting brethren pillaging the globe to fill the fine museums of the empire.

    Later, foodcourts developed..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    ...and they were named Galleries...

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    much like their insect-collecting brethren pillaging the globe to fill the fine museums of the empire.

    I think you need to clarify that it wasn't art until it crossed into Europe's 200 mile zone. "Shit wot people made" up until then.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    That's not dinner. That's some seaweed wrapped around rice and fish.

    Unless it were Whales wrapped in red polyethylene placed on stainless steel poles exactly 33.33 metres apart across a Gobi dessert placed upon a Bubble wrapped Table Mountain, I could not conceive of calling it Dinner, I would call that lunch.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    Why not just call objects and practices by the names their owners have given them? We have become accustomed to using the word 'taogna' which I think covers a more complex notion than 'treasure' or any other word in English. Using the original terms avoids the danger of applying our cultural norms to objects and practices that probably were not made according to those norms.

    Calling things 'art' when they were not made as works of art is an unwitting form of cultural appropriation and it dilutes the term 'art' into something meaningless. The impulse to create beautiful things (cited by Rob) is not necessarily the same as the impulse to create art. Swords can be beautiful, but their primary purpose is not to display their beauty but to kill people. An ugly sword could be just as effective for killing purposes. Equally, art does not need to be beautiful: much contemporary art is consciously anti-beauty in its conception, but still remains art.

    Dinner was delicious, but not a work of art - despite being made by an artist.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    "We have become accustomed to using the word 'taogna' "

    ... is that pasta with a meaty sauce? is that what you had for tea?

    Since Mar 2010 • 378 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Calling things 'art' when they were not made as works of art is an unwitting form of cultural appropriation

    When the university has a specialised department of Taonga Studies (or more accurately, Toi studies), let's revisit your argument.

    Until then, it's just perverse when all societies have practices that perform similar functions to the one you've chosen to latch onto and deify. Aint multiculturalism a bitch.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    When the university has a specialised department of Taonga Studies (or more accurately, Toi studies), let's revisit your argument.

    Why should that happen? Is it to make you feel better? I only ask because it seems you have some particular hang-ups of an anti-intellectual, colonial cringe kind, that you demand be assuaged by reforming culture to fit your rather narrow definition. At the same time, you continue insisting that you are the multiculturalist, although you assume that all cultures fit your romantic notions of everybody making art and living together in perfect harmony. Funny thing is, I doubt you could find anybody who studies these cultures in any depth who would agree with you. In fact, they would probably say that you were the colonialist, imposing your rather quaint notions of art on peoples who manifestly do not act according to your arcadian fantasies.

    All societies do not have practices that perform similar functions. Ain't reality a bitch.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    yes.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    It has worked for the last two hundred years. That is Shiner's point: art is a comparatively recent invention, one of the Enlightenment.... I am saying that art is an invention of the monolithic West that has become global.

    Some of the reasons people might be frustrated with your arguments, Paul, might be discipline-related. Your arguments in favour of epistemic rupture in the Enlightenment leading to revolutionary change were very common in, say, English literary history about 15-20 years ago. But we don't seem to hear much about it now. Claims that, say, literature, or selfhood, or subjectivity, or individuation were creations of the European eighteenth century used to be everywhere. But that tide seems to have gone out. Part of the reason may be academic fashion. More importantly, though, the "everything is the fault of the Enlightenment" argument fails to explain why different cultures or time periods can "talk" to each other. A world in which there were absolute ruptures in intellectual history would be one in which it would be impossible for ideas to cross the boundaries between nations, cultures, historical periods, selves. Yet, everything about the history of the actual world says that isn't so. There are broad continuities everywhere. We can speak to each other. The translations may be imperfect, but the fact that they can be made at all testifies powerfully against the "rupture" school of history.

    To prove the "Enlightenment changed everything" theory, you'd need to show that:

    (1) There were no continuities between Enlightenment thought and the intellectual cultures of earlier periods.

    (2) The ideas of the a small cadre of canonical C18 texts affected the practices of actual artistic communities everywhere in a uniform, predictable, and revolutionary way.

    (3) That "art" now, as it's practised and understood, is what those eighteenth-century guys said it is.

    I think this grossly exaggerates the actual power and achievements of Enlightenment thought. It's hardly as though they invented this stuff out of thin air, and that this "monoculture" (as you term it) then successfully colonized the world, extinguishing whatever traditions existed in other countries and entirely replacing them. Firstly, the West has never been an intellectual monoculture. Secondly, syncretism exists -- this is how ideas travel. They merge with pre-existing patterns of thought and create new and unforeseen systems. Thirdly, the Enlightenment was never that important nor that revolutionary, and only seems so retrospectively because of the enormous success of certain mid-20th-century (French) theorists in arguing that it was.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Caleb wrote;...the "everything is the fault of the Enlightenment" argument fails to explain why different cultures or time periods can "talk" to each other.

    Awe.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    ...art is a comparatively recent invention, one of the Enlightenment....

    sounds awfully like "... gravity is a comparatively recent invention, one of the Enlightenment." Cos before Newton, things just drifted about...

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    My use of the word 'monolithic' was sarcastic: Giovanni had used it earlier, in earnest. I am not entirely convinced by Shiner's argument: I think he underestimates the developments of the Renaissance, which he discounts because artists were still largely dependent on patronage. His point is that the notion of 'art for art's sake' emerges in the Enlightenment and the separation of art from craft practices. That is the art practice we have today and which has been adopted world-wide: artists work freely, selling their works through dealers, works which are bought by public museums and private collectors.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • David Cauchi,

    That is the art practice we have today and which has been adopted world-wide: artists work freely, selling their works through dealers, works which are bought by public museums and private collectors.

    Not true. The obvious counter-example is that many artists are dependent on patronage by the State: they get publicly funded grants and show their work in publicly funded artist-run spaces.

    There are a lot of different types of art and artists, even just within the monolithic West.

    This is the thing with these analytic philosophy of art discussions. They tend to be parlour games for pompous academic philosophers. They also tend not to take much account of the real world, preferring to deal with hypotheticals such as driftwood art or stone age artists rather than actual art works made by actual artists.

    Unfortunately, artists are afraid. They whisper to each other about academics and curators who could prevent them from making their bits and pieces of rubbish.

    Defining art is simple:

    Art is the worship of error.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2007 • 121 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Defining art is simple:

    Art is the worship of error.

    Heh. I thought that was religion :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    All societies do not have practices that perform similar functions.

    Yeah, those brown folk are just not quite human are they Paul. Just listen to yourself, you pompous oaf.

    Inclusiveness is hardly narrow. People do understand one another, and art is part of that process of exchanging and negotiating meaning and experience. My understanding of culture seems a whole lot broader than your wizened, pale, commercialised, academic monoculture. It's one strand, but it's only one of many.

    Nothing anti-intellectual here, but also not disconnected from the world most of us inhabit beyond academia - and noting your modernist tendencies hardly put you in the most up-to-date camp of cultural theory either.

    Never said anything about "harmony" either, just insisting that your Euro concepts are not the be-all and end-all you seem to believe they are - and arrogant colonialism is hardly novel here. I don't know any New Zealanders who would use the term "noble savages" without quote marks. Try learning something about what Te Ao Maori actually means to Maori rather than try to fit other people's understanding inside your own model. And then repeat the exercise with the other cultures that make up this place.

    If your thinking is representative of your department's or your faculty's then I shudder to think what damage is being done to this country's cultural development. And what oportunities wasted through sheer lack of respect for other cultures and traditions - and people.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    If your thinking is representative of your department's or your faculty's

    I wouldn't worry about that to be honest.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

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