• Noble Dust
    3.2k
    I work at a music venue that focuses on a lot of new classical music. I've seen so many performances where the artist explains their music before it's performed. Visual artists have to write artist statements to explain their work. On the other end of the spectrum, when someone turns on the radio, the experience of music is immediate, without any explanation.

    Other artists feel the need to use their abilities to promote political agendas. We've had long debates here about The Bull, The Girl, and now The Pug. Similarly, yet more artists feel the need to use art to evangelize (Christian rock, etc).

    Marcel Duchamp was kicked out of the salon and subsequently began his own journey of turning anything into art. His Ready-Made's where repeatable pieces that anyone could make: take a postcard with the Mona Lisa on it and draw a mustache on her. Suddenly we can have a dead shark in a tank in an art gallery.

    Brian Eno developed a smartphone app that generates music; the user can generate an endless stream of different combinations of sounds; it's never the same twice.

    So, who's in charge? Does the artist dictate what the audience should experience? Does the audience assign meaning to the work? Did Duchamp free us from a world where the artist dictates meaning, or did he perpetuate that model under a new guise?
  • Thinker
    200
    Does the artist dictate what the audience should experience? Does the audience assign meaning to the work?Noble Dust

    The artist set the stage for the show. The audience hears and sees a facsimile of what was intended. The interpretation of what was presented is usually limited by the blinders put on in the artist’s presentation. We don’t rewrite a poem, but we may misinterpret or we may give new meaning – added meaning. I always liked Simon & Garfunkel – “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    We don’t rewrite a poem, but we may misinterpret or we may give new meaningThinker

    If the audience can give new meaning to a work, then how is that demarcated from misinterpretation?
  • T Clark
    3k
    So, who's in charge? Does the artist dictate what the audience should experience? Does the audience assign meaning to the work? Did Duchamp free us from a world where the artist dictates meaning, or did he perpetuate that model under a new guise?Noble Dust

    I hope this is responsive - The work speaks for itself. An artists explanation or biography may or may not be interesting and helpful, but to a certain extent it is irrelevant. If you told me what a work of art you hadn't created meant, I'd consider what you said if I found it helpful, but ultimately I would rely on my own judgment. Why should it be any different if you were the artist? Many artists I've heard interviewed are completely inarticulate about their work.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    Many artists I've heard interviewed are completely inarticulate about their work.T Clark

    Yes, that's exactly it; there's nothing to say. So why do so many artists blather on about their shit? There's a pervading philosophical notion behind the assumption.

    Edit: also, is this inarticulacy a timeless trait, or a factor of the the modern world we live in? Was Da Vinci equally inarticulate?
  • Janus
    6.5k
    “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”.Thinker

    Did you?

    Yes, that's exactly it; there's nothing to say. So why do so many artists blather on about their shit? There's a pervading philosophical notion behind the assumption.Noble Dust

    It seems to be a bullshit post-modern thing about knowing your sources, because, you know, there's no such thing as originality or unknowing, inarticulable knowing. :-}
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    It seems to be a bullshit post-modern thing about knowing your sources, because, you know, there's no such as originality or unknowing, inarticulable knowing.John

    Ok, I think I agree, but why? Why is Duchamp not right? Why is this art rather than that? Am I interpreting you correctly here? Was Duchamp a boon or a blight?
  • T Clark
    3k
    A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the restThinker

    One of my favorite songs. I remember in the town in southern Virginia where I lived then, the local radio station kept trying to beep out "whores" from "Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue." but they kept missing and beeped out "the" or "on" instead.
  • Janus
    6.5k


    I think Duchamp was both a boon and a blight; he made people step back and think about what constitutes art, but then he has been followed by many mediocre imitators whose work is tedious in my view. He also de-emphasized 'art as inspired creation', which I think is a big mistake. Although that is probably not so much his fault; I remember reading a statement of his once which was something along the lines of "The artist does not know how he creates his work", so the fault is probably more with the followers than with the man.

    I always thought this is a wonderful work and one of Duchamp's least characteristic (although I haven't seen it "in the flesh"):

    38l3qopuu9z76qco.jpg
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    he made people step back and think about what constitutes art, but then he has been followed by many mediocre imitators whose work is tedious in my view.John

    I agree on the tediousness of his followers. But if Duchamp made us step back and question what constitutes art, what is our answer? I agree because I so deeply value that question, and I so value artists like Duchamp for having the audacity to ask the question. But if we don't like the general consensus of the answer, then what's our answer? Was there some other path we were supposed to take, but failed to do so? is the evolution of art and creativity deterministic or completely arbitrary?
  • Janus
    6.5k


    I don't know what the answer is; perhaps the very nature of art itself precludes the possibility of a definitive answer. I think the value of the question lies more in shaking us out of preconceived or ingrained assumptions.

    I don't believe the evolution of art and creativity is deterministic or arbitrary; I believe it is a dialectical unfolding of the human spirit with its own, not entirely determinable, logic.
  • mcdoodle
    995
    So, who's in charge?Noble Dust

    I like to think the work speaks for itself. But of course that's always in a context, a work doesn't speak in a void: Euripides and Sophocles still mean something profound to us, but we won't keep performing their work unless we renew it in the (re-)making.

    But then...I do bend in galleries to read the little descriptions beside each painting, I read up on musical works in advance. There's aesthetic gain in understanding the background to a work.

    I would mention that there is a third layer of people: the commentariat, who are also often the funders of public work, (or the same sort of people) and the advisers to private funders, as well as the teachers of the arts. They speak a certain language, on the whole, and influence how 'we' see art, both we-as-artists and we-as-audience. When I was a writer the reviews mattered, as did the sponsoring organisation's internal comments. As a freelance you're only as good as your next commission. If you can't speak the lingo of the commentariat you'd better have friends in high places, or be damn good :)
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    You're bringing up a number of different topics and asking a number of different questions.

    Re "who is in charge" of what gets created, it obviously depends. It differs on a case by case basis. You get everything from artists working solely to please themselves, solely following their muses wherever they lead, to artists solely attempting to please/appease the demands of either an audience or some particular suit or set of suits (like a record company owner, for example). And there is everything imaginable between those two extremes, with the norm being a balance between the two. The vast majority of artists want to follow their muses to an extent, but it's rare that anyone you'd know about--that is, anyone who'd have any sort of career in art & entertainment fields, wouldn't also think a bit about how their work is going to be received by various parties (including audiences, record labels, gallery owners, etc.), how it could affect their career, and then make some adjustments accordingly.

    Re meaning, meaning in general works via individuals assigning it to things they experience. You can't literally put meaning into an artwork. You rather create meaning catalysts or meaning potentials. But once you release your work, meaning is out of your hands, and no matter what you do, there are going to be tons of interpretations that bear little resemblance to the meaning you personally had in mind. (Well, you hope tons, because you hope your work reaches that big of an audience.)
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    So why do so many artists blather on about their shit? TNoble Dust

    Re what you were talking about in your initial post, where composers introduce pieces, where visual artists write artist's statements, etc., it's simply due to social convention at this point. In some milieus it's basically become a requirement that you do those things, and many artists hate it. But it's unfortunately the case that if you want to get a gallery owner to consider your work, for example, and you're not already moderately famous, you need to provide an artist's statement.

    Otherwise it's simply a factor of giving interviews and such. Some artists would rather not do that, too, but managers, label folks, etc. often basically require it as part of their PR efforts.
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    Ok, I think I agree, but why? Why is Duchamp not right? Why is this art rather than that? Am I interpreting you correctly here? Was Duchamp a boon or a blight?Noble Dust

    Things are art or not interpretively and via social convention. That was more or less the whole point of The Fountain (as well as 4'33").
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    I think Duchamp's Fountain established the artist's right to say "this is art" within the 'art world'*. It also was the first piece of Conceptual art as such. His basic ideas were not picked up until Andy Warhol went to work, and after him Joseph Kosuth laid the theoretic foundation for Conceptual art, whose penultimate culmination (at least for me) was the placing of instructions on the wall of a museum as the work of art.

    d8952615db853e16d97ed2fde9220272.jpg

    The thought that the artist's idea is the art work fell apart after this, although it remains persuasive as a narrative, in my opinion.

    It is not too surprising that the visual artist puts a brief description about his work in a gallery or museum, otherwise people might be totally mystified by some modern works of art. The practice started in the 1990s. Curators today have become the new 'artists' in the visual arts, and the installation itself has become a work of art. The curator controls who gets into the museum or gallery, how the work is placed within the museum, what other works or themes are presented.

    The art world controls what is seen, heard and read, what is considered art or not. The artist's creation is only his to the extent that he is responsible for making the work. The art world, the society(ies) in which the artist was nurtured bear most of the responsibility for the creations of any artist. Note how certain theories are developed independently and contemporaneously such as Leibniz/Newton's creation of calculus, or Darwin/Wallace's theory of Evolution. These are not anomalies, I think they point to the 'fact' that we all think and act with cultural narratives, conceptual frameworks (call it whatever), it controls, it guides, and it is difficult to get outside of, maybe why Gauguin took off for Tahiti.

    There is a lot more to say, but...I wondered about your term "new classical music", what does that mean?

    *The Artist's Visual Arts Act, the Berne Convention attempt to protect works of art after the artist has transferred ownership. It might have prevented Rockefeller from destroying Diego Rivera's mural.
  • T Clark
    3k
    I think Duchamp's Fountain established the artist's right to say "this is art" within the 'art world'Cavacava

    I have struggled with this question. I go to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. I see things which involve little technique. I can see the idea behind what they are trying to express, but I question whether or not it is art.

    Not sure of my own definition of "art" is exactly, but the word means something. Some things are art and some are not. The artist does not get to decide. Robert Pirsig said that art is high quality endeavor - he included skilled welders as artists. I always liked that thought, although I don't agree with the definition.
  • T Clark
    3k
    Edit: also, is this inarticulacy a timeless trait, or a factor of the the modern world we live in? Was Da Vinci equally inarticulate?Noble Dust

    Why would we expect that someone who is a skilled and talented visual artist to be able to express herself in words? For that matter, why would we expect a poet or novelist to have the skills of a literary critic?
  • T Clark
    3k
    Yes, that's exactly it; there's nothing to say. So why do so many artists blather on about their shit? There's a pervading philosophical notion behind the assumption.Noble Dust

    Everyone blathers on about their shit. Why would you deny artists the satisfaction?
  • Thinker
    200


    I think you are really asking what is art and what is it worth? Art is in the eyes of the creator and the observer. What I mean to say is that art is anything the creator intents – be it music, literature, science, mathematics, philosophy or theatre. It can be anything. Is there such a thing a null-art? Many argue that Rothko was a nihilist. I am not a big fan of Rothko, so I will not comment. I saw Rothko’s work in Houston and it was powerful – in a way. I am not sure what his message was.

    Artists are the leaders of civilization. They have a vision of what tomorrow will be. Without artist, we don’t know where the hell we are going. Einstein had many theories that he was not sure of. He had the courage to propose things that were uncertain. I think we are all glad he did. A good artists or perhaps the best artists are out on a limb. It takes courage to get – far out on that limb - to push the horizon past where it stands.

    The audience has a somewhat easier job. You know the old saying – “everybody is a critic”? How much great art and/or ideas have been crushed by critics? I don’t know – a lot. However the audience is important in its interpretation and implementation of the art. The ball is in the court of the artist to ensure the dance between the two is successful or not. I like found art – junk art – some people look at my stuff and say – what the fuck is that? It is all grist for the mill.

    Art is what steers our ship of state. In the very beginning philosophers proposed methods of living and thinking which we used to advance. Zeus was a very successful vision of the world in its day. I wonder how Zeus feels about things now? Oh well, we have new sculptures in our houses today. Perhaps you have one of Jesus on your walls? Tomorrow I hope people will put my works in their house. Art bridges us from today to tomorrow and on into the future.
  • Thinker
    200
    “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”.
    — Thinker

    Did you?
    John

    We all do.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    I don't know what the answer is; perhaps the very nature of art itself precludes the possibility of a definitive answer.John

    To me, Duchamp and then the conceptual artists afterwards are just moving the goal posts; I think the same drive still compels them as much as those who came before to "make art". That's more of what I'm getting at.

    I like to think the work speaks for itself. But of course that's always in a context, a work doesn't speak in a void:mcdoodle

    Sure. But most of the best experiences of art/music etc that I've had have been with a limited context. I think this especially happened when I was younger; I didn't have the proper context to understand something, but it moved me deeply, struck a new chord within me, etc. If someone had droned on about what the piece was supposed to be "about", it would have ruined my experience.

    You can't force-feed the audience what your intention was. But I see it happening too much.

    I would mention that there is a third layer of people: the commentariat, who are also often the funders of public work,mcdoodle

    Good point.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    Re "who is in charge" of what gets created, it obviously depends.Terrapin Station

    But once you release your work, meaning is out of your hands, and no matter what you do, there are going to be tons of interpretations that bear little resemblance to the meaning you personally had in mind.Terrapin Station

    What I mean by "who's in charge?" is more in line with the second quote you made here. I wasn't talking about whether the artist or the record label, or whoever, is in charge. I meant what you addressed in your second paragraph here, and I agree: the audience assigns meaning to the work. The audience is 50% of the equation of art. This is why I'm against artist statements and the like. Or, show me the piece first, and then I'll read your statement.

    Things are art or not interpretively and via social convention. That was more or less the whole point of The Fountain (as well as 4'33").Terrapin Station

    I agree in part, but as I mentioned to , I think there's still an underlying drive that motivates artists and audiences. We still seem to need or want art, regardless of how the definition changes culturally. It's almost as if that definition doesn't really matter as much as the underlying drive.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    I wondered about your term "new classical music", what does that mean?Cavacava

    It just means contemporary classical; it's also called "New Music", at least in NYC.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    Why would you deny artists the satisfaction?T Clark

    Because I want to experience their work myself first. Then maybe I'll listen to what they have to say. I'm a musical artist; I rarely explain anything I do to anyone.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    I think you are really asking what is art and what is it worth?Thinker

    I'm asking how art receives content or meaning, and as I've stated, I think the audience is 50% of the work, so all of these attempts by artists to define what they've done beforehand are not only unhelpful, but futile.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    I think Duchamp's Fountain established the artist's right to say "this is art" within the 'art world'*. It also was the first piece of Conceptual art as such. His basic ideas were not picked up until Andy Warhol went to work, and after him Joseph Kosuth laid the theoretic foundation for Conceptual art, whose penultimate culmination (at least for me) was the placing of instructions on the wall of a museum as the work of art.Cavacava

    I have mixed feelings about conceptual art. It feels like more content being forced on me, the viewer. I think if an artist is going to involve the audience so much in their work (giving instructions on what the piece should be), then the audience should feel free to disobey the instructions and do something different. That to me would be the logical end point of this sort of art; the audience should rebel, thereby taking away the content the artist thought they were imparting to the audience.
  • T Clark
    3k
    Artists are the leaders of civilization.Thinker

    Artists don't lead civilization, they ride on it. Excess wealth generated by centralized economic systems allows expenditures on things that are not directly related to food, shelter, and security. That doesn't say anything bad about art, but there's no doubt it, as an organized institution, is a luxury.

    The paintings in the Lascaux cave are some of the most beautiful and moving things I've ever seen. It seems unlikely that whoever painted them had any concept of art or artists. Seems to me that art became a thing when cities came into existence. I have no evidence for that.
  • T Clark
    3k
    I'm a musical artist; I rarely explain anything I do to anyone.Noble Dust

    I'm an engineer. I always explain everything I do to everyone.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k


    This thread is about artists, not engineers.
  • T Clark
    3k
    This thread is about artists, not engineers.Noble Dust

    Yes, I know. It is not inappropriate to broaden the perspective a bit in a discussion. How non-artists behave is not irrelevant to how artists do.

    Also, I was trying to be amusing. I read my post again, and still think it is.
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