• Cavacava
    2.4k
    The following is from an interview with Graham Harman about Speculative Realism. Harman discusses how Science provides a different kind of knowledge than Philosophy and at one point he says about Art that:

    One fails as a scientist if one cannot not replace a name such as ‘Pluto’ with increasingly accurate properties of what we now call the dwarf planet Pluto. But this has never been the case in the arts. We do not understand a painting by Picasso by discovering an ever-lengthening list of true facts about it. The goal of art is not to create paraphraseable imagery, but to create something to which no paraphrase ever does justice.

    I agree that great Art produces something whose imagery is not paraphraseable, "something to which no paraphrase ever does justice" but I doubt this is the goal of Art, but rather the effect of a great work of Art. Art to my mind can never be understood by a simple list of facts, but I think that's in part because what we experience in such works as such is not fully paraphraseable, there's always more that can be said or is felt.

    Great works of art exert power that is not diminished over time, power that goes beyond the normative bounds of any observer. I think this is only possible if force of these works reaches certain objective truths about the world that, if we have sufficient knowledge and emotion, can't be avoided because their power consists in their spontaneous ability to continue to generate new or deeper thoughts, newer more meaningful narratives in observers.

    What do you think the goal of a work is?

    [side question: Is a work of art a "something" ?]
  • Harry Hindu
    1.2k
    Art is simply a social trait that enables one to acquire resources, mates and friends - which is why we do most of the weird social things we do.
  • Baden
    6.1k
    What do you think the goal of a work is?Cavacava

    To make us better people. To communicate quality.
  • praxis
    663
    I agree that great Art produces something whose imagery is not paraphraseable, "something to which no paraphrase ever does justice"Cavacava

    If this is your understanding, Cavacava, can you explain why art is not paraphrasable?

    What do you think the goal of a work is?

    To communicate feeling/value/meaning.

    [side question: Is a work of art a "something" ?]

    As much a something as anything else.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    If this is your understanding, Cavacava, can you explain why art is not paraphrasable?

    I don't think artworks provide discursive explanations of what they are. The aesthetic effect we experience from certain works of art describe a spectrum of experience which is not amenable to discursive explanation because it expands beyond our typical conceptualization of the subject by opening new ground and expanding our conception of what the subject entails . The experience of art , the aesthetic effect is lost in any attempt at interpretation of what is experienced. If there is no remainder, nothing left out of the explanation then what is explained is not a work of art.


    To communicate feeling/value/meaning.

    Art as expression creates narratives which intersect with existing narratives either negatively or positively, the movement is dialectical. It is only by negation of existing meanings in art that new meanings can be experienced, and our notions can be expanded. Kandinsky's abstractions are not based on representations of the exterior world, they are interpretations of an interior world of feelings/values/meanings, which sets him apart from other abstract artists such as Picasso or Mondrian.

    As much a something as anything else.

    I don't think that great works of art are simply things, rather I think they pull things out of simple material existence into processes, or ways of experiencing which if you can catch their vibe separates them from other experiences.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k


    The "goal" depends. The conscious goal of the artist? Sometime's there isn't one. The metaphysical telos of art in general? Big shoes to fill, no? I like what Berdyaev said about art, paraphrasing: "art wants to create actual being, but fails." Art has the divine creative urge, to create being itself. Laughable or controversial, maybe, but real.

    Even for myself, my motives for making art depend. I will say, in leu of the Witty quote I just posted to the TPF Quote Cabinet, that the music I've made that I found to be the most personally satisfying and cathartic was the work that was the most personal and honest, as cliche as that is. The personal goal, for me, of making music is to go deeper and deeper, both into myself as I evolve (or devolve), and also into the medium that I have available to me. To explore my own being concurrently with exploring the medium, and to explore how the two interact, and how they interact with the world. All of this is a product of the world around me; the world and the life I find myself in dictate how I respond to the medium, and to what extent I can go into myself to pull a piece of myself out and transform it into something.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    The "goal" depends. The conscious goal of the artist? Sometime's there isn't one. The metaphysical telos of art in general? Big shoes to fill, no? I like what Berdyaev said about art, paraphrasing: "art wants to create actual being, but fails." Art has the divine creative urge, to create being itself. Laughable or controversial, maybe, but real.



    I can understand how art if understood as semblance fails to create actual being, that's why Plato kicked the imitative arts out of his Republic, but if an artist composes a song with lyrics and melody, a work of art, doesn't that song have actual being?

    Even for myself, my motives for making art depend. I will say, in leu of the Witty quote I just posted to the TPF Quote Cabinet, that the music I've made that I found to be the most personally satisfying and cathartic was the work that was the most personal and honest, as cliche as that is. The personal goal, for me, of making music is to go deeper and deeper, both into myself as I evolve (or devolve), and also into the medium that I have available to me. To explore my own being concurrently with exploring the medium, and to explore how the two interact, and how they interact with the world. All of this is a product of the world around me; the world and the life I find myself in dictate how I respond to the medium, and to what extent I can go into myself to pull a piece of myself out and transform it into something.

    “If anyone is unwilling to descend into himself, because this is too painful, he will remain superficial in his writing...If I perform to myself, then it’s this that the style expresses. And then the style cannot be my own. If you are unwilling to know what you are, your writing is a form of deceit.”
    ― Ludwig Wittgenstein

    Here is what Kandinsky said:

    It is very important for the artist to gauge his
    position aright, to realize that he has a duty to his art and to
    himself, that he is not king of the castle but rather a servant
    of a nobler purpose. He must search deeply into his own soul,
    develop and tend it, so that his art has something to clothe,
    and does not remain a glove without a hand.

    Yes "If you are unwilling to know what you are, your writing is a form of deceit." and yes, "All of this is a product of the world around me; the world and the life I find myself in dictate how I respond to the medium, and to what extent I can go into myself to pull a piece of myself out and transform it into something"

    Kandinsky and Wittgenstein seem to bring ethics into the goal of art, the duty that one owes to one's art as one of its devout practitioners. So then perhaps a goal of art is to produce ethically authentic works, that further our understanding of truth because they can enable observers to experience a facet of the artist's self which is consciously or unconsciously transformed and presented in the work of art.
  • frank
    1.3k
    An artist's job is to give the seed of inspiration what it needs to come into this world. Once the baby has arrived, the artist gives it up to the world to go out and find independent life in other souls.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    I like your analogy, Do you think that inspiration is independent of the artist that becomes inspired; that perhaps the artist's insight is already shared in the artist's community and that the artist through his/her sensitivity and skill enables a synthesis of existing ideas which are presented in a novel manner in the work of art.
  • frank
    1.3k
    Yes, it appears as something independent. On reflection, it's apparent that an artist's time and place are part of the medium in a way. It puts an interesting slant on "artistic community" to think about artists who worked alone throughout their lives. The ones I know of all happen to be women: Vivian Maier, Emily Dickinson, and Hilma Klint are some that I think of as biggies who were loners.

    It's interesting to compare Hilma Klint to Kandinsky.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    I don't know that much about Hilma Klint, however looking at her works, all those circles, reminds me of all those squares Mondrian painted.

    Kandinsky wrote a theory of his work published in 1912 "Concerning The Spiritual In Art"
    Unlike most abstract artists Kandinsky did not look to nature or the universe for inspiration, he looked inside himself and gave expression to his interior feelings, emotions, what he suggests is the pure or essential pictorial plane, and he did this by means of the figurative, the external, which for him is the non-essential plane.

    artists who worked alone throughout their lives
    They may have worked alone, but no one can fully isolate themselves from society, they have to be raised by someone, go to school and learn. Yes they can become eccentric, and perhaps by in being so isolated they can see further and clearer than those who are so fully enmeshed in society that it is impossible for them to have such a point of view.
  • frank
    1.3k
    True. Would you say the meaning of a piece of art is public in the same way the meaning of a statement is?

    There are cultures where that's how art is understood. A Chinese watercolor painting can be clearly translated into words.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.1k


    Harman's Pluto-Picasso comparison feels downright misleading:

    Science explores the universe and things in it.

    Art does not explore itself, that's the consumption of art (some art is surely self-exploratory, however), like science it tends to explore the universe and things in it.

    Some art may be hard to paraphrase, but its meaning has finite strokes. No, study of a single Picasso does not reveal ever increasing detail because the Picasso itself is a limited study of something else.

    "Science" is thought of as a larger body of work - a process -that spans many subjects, but a single work of art might amount to less than half a hypothesis. Trés gauche. The on-going creation of art does in fact reveal an ever lengthening list of (sometimes) true facts about the subject matter it captures...

    If we're forced to compare art to science, it's hard to speak to its "goals" as the goals of scientific endeavors are varied (it is not merely the pursuit of knowledge). Likewise the goals of artistic endeavors are many.

    What art is or does seems trappable though:

    A scientific work yields descriptive and predictive power over the physical world by making rigidly defined and testable statements in procedural fashions. Artistic works can also yield descriptive and predictive power over things in the physical world, but they tend to do so without the organization, consensus, and rigidity which science demands as prerequisite.

    Good science describes relationships that are hard to reduce.

    Good art says things which are hard to paraphrase.

    I think good art is indeed good because it "says something" that is difficult to compress or is very specific. In the case of Picasso, by distorting and removing so much, what remains is brought into greater focus.. Good art reveals, and it does so with ineffable style by using clever compositions of imprecise language.

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but how many words can a Picasso fetch?

    In high school I had a very talented art teacher who showed us his magnum opus which was a hyper-realistic painting of an old row boat tied to a dock. It was so realistic that I could not distinguish it from a photograph. Here was a work of art completed with more organization and rigidity than most other artworks, but he was almost ashamed of it and now I can gather why: it said little to nothing of value or intrigue. It was a painting imbued with skill beyond what I can fathom, and really that was the only remarkable thing about it. It's language was too precise. A grainy black and white photograph would have stated more.

    What reveals more about the world and is harder to paraphrase, a photograph of a person or Picasso's portrait of them? In describing the photo, we would have a long list of details, and in describing the Picasso we might also need to list all the details which have been intentionally warped and omitted. It's kind of paradoxical that a photograph contains more information than a painting, generally (Picasso could probably have done what he did working from photographs to begin with) but a good painting even from a photograph can mean so much more. Photos tend to contain more data, but good art simplifies to magnify, making them more interesting and meaningful.

    Science is the same way though: we observe vastly mixed phenomenon and try and bring fundamental parts and relationships into focus. Science seeks to highlight by simplifying and magnifying.

    A painting is generally more interesting than a photo because the painting makes commentary. The commentary of the painting might be contained in the photograph but discerning it would require the lens of the artist (additional data perhaps).

    So to conclude, good art says more with less. It trims detail into a kind of negative space where it becomes ambiguous, and what remains therefore becomes the object of focus. Often times we do not have suitable language for the things artworks communicate. The beauty of life, the curves of nature, the hubris of man. Such specific and contextual (lacking better terms) concepts and experiences are sometimes most efficiently expressed through a non-verbal medium, and if a work of art efficiently communicates a perception or notion I find worthy or interesting, I'll call it good art.

    But I'm reluctant to discount prose; A picture can be worth a thousand words but a well written book can be worth thousands and thousands of pictures.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    Harman is expanding on the notion of difference between the scientific image and the manifest image, he breaks this down into a difference in knowledge provided by science and by philosophy, while recognizing that there are those who move between the two. Here is the full paragraph and citation for interview

    What you seem to be worried about in my position is the view that science and philosophy do not provide the same thing. Science is supposed to provide knowledge, of course, replacing vague proper names with lists of properties truly possessed by things. One fails as a scientist if one cannot not replace a name such as ‘Pluto’ with increasingly accurate properties of what we now call the dwarf planet Pluto. But this has never been the case in the arts. We do not understand a painting by Picasso by discovering an ever-lengthening list of true facts about it. The goal of art is not to create paraphraseable imagery, but to create something to which no paraphrase ever does justice. The same goes for history. Here, factual research in the archives is only one part of the work. To understand Napoleon or Suleiman the Magnificent requires going beyond the verifiable facts and understanding an object that lies somewhat beyond knowledge. The same holds for philosophy. Socrates gives us no knowledge about virtue, friendship, or justice. Philosophy is not a proto-science from which the sciences are spin-offs. The reverse is actually the case: the pre-Socratics are certainly scientists, but in my view not quite philosophers. They speculate about the ultimate physical root to which everything can be reduced— this is a scientific aspiration, and not a philosophical one, as shown by Socrates’ jail cell remarks distancing himself from Empedocles’ naturalism.


    Some art may be hard to paraphrase, but its meaning has finite strokes. No, study of a single Picasso does not reveal ever increasing detail because the Picasso itself is a limited study of something else.
    I am not sure I understand here. Is it because he is imitative in the way Plato suggests in the Republic or do you mean that Picasso always founds new ways of presenting what he had previously presented.

    The on-going creation of art does in fact reveal an ever lengthening list of (sometimes) true facts about the subject matter it captures...
    Yes, I wanted to bring that up, I don't agree with Harman that there is a finite interpretation, in fact I would strenuously argue against any finite limit, as long as there are humans there will be arguments about what is the correct way to interpret. I think the reason why masterpieces are masterpieces is because they continue to strongly affect their observers.

    What reveals more about the world and is harder to paraphrase, a photograph of a person or Picasso's portrait of them?

    Picasso's mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter portrait-of-marie-th%C3%A9r%C3%A8se-walter-1937.jpg!Large.jpg

    203.jpg

    The photo and the portrait are both mimetic, in a photo time is frozen as it presents a reality which as you indicate presents much more detail and more information. Yet it is still a simplified reality, since it presents a 3D object in 2D. The portrait distorts her face providing an overt commentary (to use your word) prior to any interpretation. Simplifying it as you suggest. While the figurative elements in the artwork may be simpler than the photo, the art work presents a much deeper view of the character in the portrait. It goes beyond the surface to the invisible in a way that is very difficult to replicate using a camera.

    So then perhaps a goal of art is the communication of a way of understanding/experiencing by means of simplification and stylizing of its object.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.1k
    I find much less to object to with the full context

    I am not sure I understand here. Is it because he is imitative in the way Plato suggests in the Republic or do you mean that Picasso always founds new ways of presenting what he had previously presented.Cavacava

    What I mean to say is that a single painting or work of art might be analogous to a single scientific detail like "dwarf" in "dwarf planet". Comparing science to the study of a single artwork instead of the on-going body and process as a whole seemed vastly unfair in the analogy. The additional context makes it clear that its point was not to produce this effect, but I think my objection might be down to the authors somewhat loose usage of the terms art and philosophy (Do we define art/philosophy by specific products? By their processes? Their goals?). As he reassures us though, the issue is of mere taxonomy.

    Yes, I wanted to bring that up, I don't agree with Harman that there is a finite interpretation, in fact I would strenuously argue against any finite limit, as long as there are humans there will be arguments about what is the correct way to interpret. I think the reason why masterpieces are masterpieces is because they continue to strongly affect their observers.Cavacava

    If there is a limit to variations in interpretation, it's not scientifically testable :)

    The photo and the portrait are both mimetic, in a photo time is frozen as it presents a reality which as you indicate presents much more detail and more information. Yet it is still a simplified reality, since it presents a 3D object in 2D. The portrait distorts her face providing an overt commentary (to use your word) prior to any interpretation. Simplifying it as you suggest. While the figurative elements in the artwork may be simpler than the photo, the art work presents a much deeper view of the character in the portrait. It goes beyond the surface to the invisible in a way that is very difficult to replicate using a camera.

    So then perhaps a goal of art is the communication of a way of understanding/experiencing by means of simplification and stylizing of its object
    Cavacava

    This definition resonates very strongly with what I consider to be good art. In addition to this, art which invents complexity which is not there in the first place (instead of simplifying and focusing), the dreaded abstract art, tends to say nothing at all by obfuscating and randomly distorting until all tangible meaning is lost. Anti-art.
  • praxis
    663
    If this is your understanding, Cavacava, can you explain why art is not paraphrasable?
    — praxis

    I don't think artworks provide discursive explanations of what they are. The aesthetic effect we experience from certain works of art describe a spectrum of experience which is not amenable to discursive explanation because it expands beyond our typical conceptualization of the subject by opening new ground and expanding our conception of what the subject entails . The experience of art , the aesthetic effect is lost in any attempt at interpretation of what is experienced. If there is no remainder, nothing left out of the explanation then what is explained is not a work of art.
    Cavacava

    I see now that Harman doesn't claim that art is not paraphrasable. He merely says that art may be created that "no paraphrase ever does justice."
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    Quoted in my opening post and you quoted in your response to me.

    The difference I tried to point out is that this inability that "no paraphrase ever does justice." is an effect and not a goal. Harman said:
    The goal of art is not to create paraphraseable imagery, but to create something to which no paraphrase ever does justice
    I didn't deny this only that I don't think it is art's goal.

    You said art's goal is to "To communicate feeling/value/meaning.", and I wonder how such a goal differentiates it from other human endeavors which also attempt to communicate feeling/value/meaning?
  • praxis
    663
    You said art's goal is to "To communicate feeling/value/meaning.", and I wonder how such a goal differentiates it from other human endeavors which also attempt to communicate feeling/value/meaning?Cavacava

    In a word: aesthetics.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    So the butcher, the baker, the cobbler, the culter, the chef...don't have an aesthetic?
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k


    Isn’t the aesthetic of an artwork something different? It serves no utility, unlike the work of the other artisans you mention, Cava.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Yes, that's my point. What's your answer ND?

    Sorry missed the utility part...does the whole exist for the benefit of the parts or do the parts exist for the benefit of the whole, where is the utility?
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