• Sentient
    50
    Off the A.E thread, Jamalrob suggested I create another thread addressing the idea that bad art exists.

    Jamalrob mentioned a painting being poorly painted, in the same way a chair can be poorly made though there are no practical consequences in the case of the painting.

    To this end, it would be interesting gathering views on what 'bad art' constitutes and why.

    My stance is one would first have to define 'art' before being able to judge its quality.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    My stance is one would first have to define 'art' before being able to judge its quality.Sentient

    I agree. I think art is mostly subjective. If you make something, chances are someone is going to find it aesthetically appealing.

    For a lot of modern art: if I hadn't been told that this piece was by "so and so" who is "very famous on the European continent," I probably would have passed it over without a second glance.
  • Mayor of Simpleton
    425
    My stance is one would first have to define 'art' before being able to judge its quality.Sentient

    I agree, but here is where the conversation for me ends.

    I quite agree with McLuhan:

    mcluhan9.jpg

    (including Andy Warhol being credited with McLuhan's quote, with only one word being changed)

    2b6eb7669af42ca3236398be103856bf.jpg

    What makes art 'bad' is not getting away with it as 'good' art according to someone saying it isn't, because it doesn't fit their personal standard of measure.

    All debates over art are basically clashes of personal standards of measure and who has the upper hand in saying 'my standard of measure is the one to be accepted' and subsequently 'getting away' with that too.

    As I see it, the art itself matters little in such debates, but rather the personal standards of measure and potentially the 'egos' of those who feel they hold the absolute answers as to what art ultimately is supposed to be for everyone in all cases. (a sort of neurological disorder of self-importance/megalomania via aesthetics)

    Meow!

    GREG
  • unenlightened
    3.9k
    I would say that art is like wine. It's all a matter of taste, but taste is a matter of fact. There are great wines at great prices, for which one needs a sensitive palate to get the full value. Then there is vin ordinere, perfectly good enough for peasants like me. Bad wine should be thrown away, it is undrinkable, worthless.
    Alcoholics will drink the undrinkable, but they are to be pitied.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    To this end, it would be interesting gathering views on what 'bad art' constitutes and why.Sentient

    This question coincides with my recent ponderings about truth. I don't use one theory, I use several. One of them is aesthetic truth. A statement of that theory could be:

    "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know -- Keats

    It's this theory that applies to judging art, understanding morality and justice, understanding cultures, religions, science..and other things.
  • Sentient
    50
    Thank you for all the responses, I loved each and every one. Mayor, great quote! That being said, Mongrel's response gives room for exploration.

    Interesting short poem by Keats. @Mongrel How do you presuppose one finds 'truth' in art and in what way?

    How does it tie into the other disciplines you mentioned?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    How do you presuppose one finds 'truth' in art and in what way?Sentient
    It's something you feel. In analytical philosophy truth is often understood to be a property of statements or sentences. Correspondence Theory uses the idea of a truth-bearer, which can be a statement or a belief. It says that a statement is true if it corresponds to a truth-maker. There is intuitive appeal to Correspondence although it quickly becomes a puzzle on closer examination. See the SEP entry: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truthmakers/.

    With aesthetic truth we can see the same general form: that a comparison takes place. But the truth-maker isn't a state of affairs which "obtains" or something like that. It's a vision of the ideal... what should be.

    I could tell a story that might convey it. My mother took a class in Chinese watercolor painting when I was a kid. She didn't take to it so I inherited the supplies she'd bought for the class. I had already been doing watercolor painting and my own style of painting was starting to emerge. I took to the Chinese painting at first fusing it with my own style, but I also read the guide book that came with the tools and experimented with doing it the Chinese way.

    When I was about 16, I found myself in a Chinese restaurant in NY. There was a large watercolor painting depicting a cascade of koi. I was seeing mastery. I could feel it. To try to put it into words, I'd say it's like seeing the raw force of the universe taking shape in simplicity and elegance.

    Being able to see how a painting falls short of its ideal self is the goal of exploring aesthetic truth. Not surprisingly, books on drawing or composition sometimes fall into philosophy as the author tries to convey that the book only offers training wheels. Jesus is supposed to have said that all of the Law can be reduced to one thing: love. All the laws of aesthetics reduce to one thing: beauty.

    Imagine a person who doesn't seem to know what love is. Speculate about what happened to cause that. Maybe this person could "overcome" it. But some would say this wouldn't be a matter of growing a capacity for love, but undoing the structures that are blocking it. It may be that those structures formed originally for protection. There's a similarity there to the way artists talk about striving to be transparent like glass to inspiration... to undo the things that block it and muddy the outcome.

    How does it tie into the other disciplines you mentioned? — Sentient
    It came to me recently because I was trying to understand something about Islam. I read three books about it and back up material to understand the books.. and one day I realized this path wasn't leading anywhere. I was on the verge of dropping it. All at once the Keats quote went through my mind. For a second I gulped because applying that idea to understanding Islam seemed like something that was way too arrogant for me. But as it settled in, I realized the truth. The answer to my question about Islam can only be answered by seeking aesthetic truth. And nobody can hand me that. I have to find it myself.

    Brian Greene's book The Elegant Universe points to the way a sense of aesthetic truth can influence scientists.
  • Sentient
    50
    @Mongrel

    To try to put it into words, I'd say it's like seeing the raw force of the universe taking shape in simplicity and elegance.

    Thank you for your reply, you write beautifully.

    But as it settled in, I realized the truth. The answer to my question about Islam can only be answered by seeking aesthetic truth. And nobody can hand me that. I have to find it myself.

    I must say this intrigues me mostly because I have no idea how you could achieve this or what it entails. Could you explain it more in depth?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    I must say this intrigues me mostly because I have no idea how you could achieve this or what it entails. Could you explain it more in depth?Sentient

    I have to find a Muslim holy person. With Christianity, It's not too hard to at least identify the title of a guy who is supposed to be a holyman. I've found that with Islam it's not quite so clear. This image came to me:

    Imagine you buy a toaster and it doesn't work. You take it back to the store and the manager says: "I'd love to return your money, but I'm not authorized to do that." So you head up the ladder receiving the same answer on every rung... "I don't have that authority." You finally head out to the house of the guy who owns the company and knock on the door. He appears and in answer to your appeal, he says the same thing the manager of the store said. You say "Wait. Don't you own this company?" He says.. "Well, not exactly. There used to be owners of the company, but they died and though I'm holding down the fort, I'm not the owner. You see, the original owners left behind instructions for company operation. My job is to make sure everybody in the company follows those instructions."

    You say: "Dude. The instructions didn't say anything about returning money for toasters that don't work?" He smiles and says. "I'm sorry. No." You say, "Well.. I think you should probably start writing more instructions. He says: "You know, you sound just like one of our former employees. His name was Ruhollah Khomeini. He caused a giant disturbance that polarized the employees. Some divisions of the company have worked out promising solutions to it, but in other sections, the walls are still covered in fresh blood. We can't really do much with the instruction issue right now."

    You stare at him thinking.. but wouldn't this be a good time to write instructions about not killing fellow employees? But you don't say that. You just walk away with one lingering question: why is this company still here? It's had plenty of chances to disappear altogether, and it abides. You have an intuition that if you can discover the answer to that... the money for the broken toaster might just have been worth it.

    I think with any religion, there are facts to be gathered that will explain why that religion exists. But there's a dimension of it that has to do with beauty.. not the mundane "beauty products" sort of thing. The deeper thing.. it's tied to perception of the ideal.
  • Sentient
    50
    Who or what is a 'Holy person' and how can one identify them? Why? This is utterly fascinating.
  • Soylent
    188


    Bad art is art that has no or little aesthetic value. Aesthetic value is a judgement made by reference to the culture in which the work exists and can be a function of at least one of the form, techne, meaning (intended or perceived) or materials. As such, pictures of plane crashes might be bad art in a memorial for 9/11 but good art in an exhibit away from that context. Art has a minimal definition as being an artefact so art disqualifies natural objects. Natural objects can be represented in art (e.g., a photo of a sunset), but cannot be art objects themselves.
  • Sentient
    50
    It seems by most of your definitions that 'ugly' things can't be art. Is this a fair representation? If that is the case, I disagree vehemently. By claiming something with little aesthetic value can't be art, one sterilizes, distorts and placates the discipline.

    As an example, some of the best literature or poetry can be considered 'ugly' in nature. Then, of course, there are the 'boundary pushers' in any artistic discipline whom enjoy playing with the concept of aesthetics in various ways.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Who or what is a 'Holy person' and how can one identify them? Why? This is utterly fascinating.Sentient

    It's a kind of person. They're usually identified by names like shaman, priest, priestess, monk, bishop, pope, guru, preacher, imam, and so on. Typically, it's a person who stands apart and doesn't lead a normal life, but is attached to the community in an honored role. A holy person might be a sage, like a medicine man or an astrologer. Or the separation from society could be emphasized as with hermits or the Russian "holy fool." It could be a person who plays the role of hierophant, which has a meaning like "tone setter." Or it could be a person who goes on the offensive against the ills in a society like Jesus or Muhammad. Martin Luther King, Jr was a holyman, which means he stood up to lead people in a spiritual way as opposed to a military way.

    From it's beginning, Christianity has made a big deal out the concept of the false holyman. It's the idea of a person who has taken the title, but is using the position for nefarious purposes. I have a Christian background, so it's normal for me to distinguish "holy person" from just anybody who has the title. Protestants are especially nervous about false holy people, so it's not unusual to see Protestant churches where the congregation maintains control over who stands as their preacher. How do they decide to kick out a preacher? I imagine it's mostly a matter of politics, but the justification is supposed to be that every person is born knowing the difference between good and evil... which is an aspect of aesthetic truth.
  • Mayor of Simpleton
    425


    If it helps, I also believe that religion is anything (or what) you can get away with; thus it's similar nature to art. ;)

    Meow!

    GREG
  • Sentient
    50
    @Mongrel

    The reason I asked for clarification is not so much for an overview of the technical nature but more your own ideas. How can we tell someone is 'Holy'? The way they dress? A title? The way they live? Or the way they think/act? How do we know the 'heart' of a man? Can we ever, truly?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    The reason I asked for clarification is not so much for an overview of the technical nature but more your own ideas. How can we tell someone is 'Holy'? The way they dress? A title? The way they live? Or the way they think/act? How do we know the 'heart' of a man? Can we ever, truly?Sentient

    Well, Bach, the actual guy, doesn't show up on my beauty-meter. What he created does. Same thing with holy people.
  • Sentient
    50
    What do holy people create? Do holy people exist? What proof of this do we have?
  • jamalrob
    2k
    My stance is one would first have to define 'art' before being able to judge its quality.Sentient

    Why? Do you have to first define 'chair' before judging the quality of a chair? If something can count as a chair, then it's a chair, and the same with art.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    If it helps, I also believe that religion is anything (or what) you can get away with; thus it's similar nature to art. ;)Mayor of Simpleton

    I thought you attended the church of Baseball. Ever see Bull Durham?
  • Sentient
    50
    Why? Do you have to first define 'chair' before judging the quality of a chair? If something can count as a chair, it's a chair, and the same with art.

    I don't understand the comparing and contrasting of a physical object with a collective idea such as art, to be honest.
  • jamalrob
    2k
    Go back to my original comment in the other thread and it should be clear. I'm not comparing a chair with art. I'm comparing two artefacts: a chair and a work of art.
  • Sentient
    50
    Ah, I see. Apologies. I was attempting taking a step back and firstly deciding what even qualifies as 'a work of art' before being able to decide on its merits.
  • jamalrob
    2k
    Well, feel free to do that. Several philosophers have given thought to the problem. I was just asking why you think one must define art before judging an artwork. If the answer is that you personally find it hard to judge artworks without an explicit definition of what constitutes an artwork, then go ahead and pursue the "what is art?" question. But in doing so you sabotage your own discussion, which is not about defining art but about judging it—and many great critics, curators, art historians and writers know very well how to tell good from bad art without knowing or caring what precisely art is.
  • Sentient
    50
    How can I judge something I haven't properly defined? It'd be much the same as a beauty pageant (not that I endorse them) without any qualifying standards?

    I don't see an inherit contradiction or sabotage in firstly defining art, then judging it. I rather find they go together. Interestingly enough, posters tended having different ideas about what art 'is'. Mayor suggested it's whatever you get away with, Mongrel goes for truth which is akin to aesthetic value in their pov, I offered the idea that 'ugliness' can constitute as art, as well.

    Of course, other people such as critics, curators etc etc are free deciding for themselves how, when and why they judge art. Among philosophical circles, I'd expect a different angle/slant to art critique as you pointed out.
  • Soylent
    188
    My stance is one would first have to define 'art' before being able to judge its quality.Sentient

    I wonder if it's worthwhile to note on your account that a definition of art for the sake of judgement need not be a good or accurate definition. For instance, if one's definition is: "art is a painting that uses at least three colours", then a judgement of bad art is constrained by that definition. As the definition is challenged and more works are included in the domain, the judgements one makes about specific works will change accordingly.
  • Mayor of Simpleton
    425
    I thought you attended the church of Baseball. Ever see Bull Durham?Mongrel

    One of my favorite baseball films (a work of 'Art'), but I don't attend the church of baseball. I'm too much like Crash and think Annie is full of crap.





    ... but unlike Crash, I wouldn't go to the batting cage.

    I suppose I'd miss out on this type of moment:



    Then again, unlike Crash, I have this place. :D

    Meow!

    GREG
  • Mongrel
    3k
    One of my favorite baseball films (a work of 'Art'), but I don't attend the church of baseball. I'm too much like Crash and think Annie is full of crap.Mayor of Simpleton

    :)
  • unenlightened
    3.9k
    I was attempting taking a step back and firstly deciding what even qualifies as 'a work of art' before being able to decide on its merits.Sentient

    One might with some justification suggest that creativity is an essential ingredient. And this gives rise to a problem; one cannot specify it in advance. Pirsig has much of interest to say about this. It is the nature of originality to break with tradition, to make its own rules.

    But I think the problem for art at the moment is that this has been adopted as the only criterion of quality. And this means there is no way to distinguish creative genius from contrarian rubbish. Pirsig would say, I think, that the judgement of quality comes first, and then one derives by analysis the criteria, the rules, the definitions, but only after the event as it were.
  • Sentient
    50
    One might with some justification suggest that creativity is an essential ingredient. And this gives rise to a problem; one cannot specify it in advance. Pirsig has much of interest to say about this. It is the nature of originality to break with tradition, to make its own rules.

    Excellent point. What, then, qualifies as creativity?

    But I think the problem for art at the moment is that this has been adopted as the only criterion of quality. And this means there is no way to distinguish creative genius from contrarian rubbish. Pirsig would say, I think, that the judgement of quality comes first, and then one derives by analysis the criteria, the rules, the definitions, but only after the event as it were.

    I've never read Pirsig but I very much concur with what they have to say as you present it. Thanks for the suggestion, at that.

    Also here though, the issue becomes by which 'standards' one judges (quality). Is something contrarian by nature 'rubbish'?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Your first post in this thread is great Mongrel! Thanks! :D (we really need internal replies lol)
  • unenlightened
    3.9k
    Excellent point. What, then, qualifies as creativity?Sentient

    Also here though, the issue becomes by which 'standards' one judges (quality). Is something contrarian by nature 'rubbish'?Sentient

    To tie this in a nice tight knot, I can simply say that creativity is non-standard. Thus whatever standard one has is inadequate. Here is something new and the judgement of quality has to start from scratch. One has, as it were, to look with new eyes at a new thing.

    What does not follow from this though is that every new thing is good. One makes a judgement, and if it is good, then one can analyse it and derive standards, methods, and so on from it. If it is bad, one can similarly analyse and derive negative standards, things to avoid. Such standards are not the rules by which one judges, but part of the repertoire of the artist, to be used, played with, bent, and transcended.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.