• TheMadFool
    4.9k
    What exactly is an artist's statement? Is it simply an explanation of the artist's work? Sometimes it's said to be an extension of an artwork which would, in my book, complete the artist's creation; in other words, an artist's statement is part of the art itself, sometimes.

    If an artist and this artist's statement is claimed to be nothing more than the show and tell of kindergarten experience then I'm at a loss as to why this is unartistic. I'm no expert in art but an artist probably wishes to convey information, whether facts or just a perspective and everything in between, through his art. I reckon this is where an artist's statement enters the fray, for who was it who said "for words are slippery and thought vicious"? The artist seems concerned, either out of compulsion to express himself/herself or also out of discretion, that his art not be seen in a way that he didn't intend, thus the need for the artist's statement.

    With that out of the way, an artist's statement, if but an explanation, in some ways reflects a deficiency, a deficiency in the artwork itself which compels the artist to furnish the so-called artist's statement to, in effect, correct the image his/her work evokes in the minds of his audience to match his/her own. It may be wrong to call this a deficiency though.
  • Coben
    1.3k
    With that out of the way, an artist's statement, if but an explanation, in some ways reflects a deficiency, a deficiency in the artwork itself which compels the artist to furnish the so-called artist's statement to, in effect, correct the image his/her work evokes in the minds of his audience to match his/her own. It may be wrong to call this a deficiency though.TheMadFool
    INdividual cases may vary. But the tendency to want to control rather than stimulate/inspire thoughts shown in a trend towards greater use of artist statements, coupled with the tendency to have artwork that relies less on the sensual experience and is conceived of as something, yes, to convey information, to set certain mental verbal thoughts going, is to me a loss. I would never tell an artist not to do it. It might be perfect for a certain work of art. But to me it feels like a trend towards losing out on the sensual in deference to the verbal WHEN ONE NEED NOT choose if one has talent. You can convey incredible amounts information AND make something beautiful a broad sense of that term. But to get the skills to make something that is beautiful, you need to train your ass off, not just train your thinky little brainpan.I think in general it shows a trend away from the beautiful, for no good reason, and a desire to have specific thoughts in brains. To me that's what non-fiction books are for or opinion pieces in newpapers.

    Imagine listening to a mozart piece and hearing a voice-over saying - this is where you are to picture me running from my father scared.

    Oh, someone says, but some songs have lyrics.

    Well, right. But those lyrics are works of art. They enter a dynamic with the music, they are not about the music. They are not suggesting how to think about the music, they are part of the piece and worked on for their aesthetic qualities, not just as information. They are part of the flow of the piece.

    No one should be limited from using an artists' statement, but I think it is a part of a trend towards not building aesthetic skills and seeing art as a kind of propaganda alone, a message in a bottle, where the bottle matters less and less. I go to watch a film and the director writes that the theme of the film is based on his holding back his true feelings for his father when he was a kid and how toxic not telling the truth is in family relationships. Hell, I might as well get up and leave. Doesn't this guy trust his artwork. Can't I come to that meaning myself. Maybe there is a whole lot of other stuff, even the director is not aware of, and now I will keep finding 'the' theme.

    It's on the nose. As in on the nose dialogue. Dialogue with Subtext is vastly superior dialogue.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.6k

    I don't see how you have shown that the artwork is anything more than the physical piece. The fact that artwork is necessarily temporal only serves to demonstrate the reality of this.

    Music is a unique form of art in which the piece must be recreated every time it is to be appreciated. But I don't see how the artwork itself is anything other than the piece which is created. Let's suppose it is something other than the music itself. Suppose the composer writes on paper the specific instructions as to how to recreate the sounds, and the artwork is supposed to be these instructions which are represented by the notations on the paper. Isn't it necessary that the artist (composer) give very clear and precise "statements" in order that the piece be appreciated as it is supposed to be. The person who wants to hear the music cannot just interpret the instruction any old way.

    What you say is a matter for philosophers, not for artists, or viewers.
    How familiar are you with artistic developments of the 20th Century? Because this distinction and all other attempts restrict art were challenged up to the point where everything was art and anything could be art. I pointed this out in the other thread, " where is art going next".

    This development made any analysis by philosophers irrelevant, just like it made any comments by critics irrelevant, to art.
    Punshhh

    Actually, I think the reverse is true. If it is true that "anything", and "everything" is art, then we need philosophy to determine what a "thing" is, because by this conclusion if it's not a thing, it's not art. Claiming that non-existent things are art is where the others have been going, insisting that imaginary things are art. As if I can look at a piece of art and imagine all sorts of things which aren't there, and claim that this imaginary stuff is part of the art.
  • Punshhh
    1.3k
    Actually, I think the reverse is true. If it is true that "anything", and "everything" is art, then we need philosophy to determine what a "thing" is, because by this conclusion if it's not a thing, it's not art. Claiming that non-existent things are art is where the others have been going, insisting that imaginary things are art. As if I can look at a piece of art and imagine all sorts of things which aren't there, and claim that this imaginary stuff is part of the art.
    Not so, if anything and everything can be art, it is the artist who states what art is*, or if a philosopher were to state it, they would by default become the artist.

    Do you not realise that something imaginary is art, or part of an art piece if the artist says it is so? The artist is king now, following the liberation of art during the 20th Century. This so called liberation is on ocassion regarded as the death of art, so may not be all that liberating.

    You really do have to get out of the reductionist box now. The philosophy of art, as discussed on the other thread, has not been definitively spelled out and has to encapsulate the social and cultural considerations of humanity, or it fails to capture what it is attempting to account for. Such considerations include, imaginary and unreal forms. Take for example aboriginal art, which was handed down from the Dreamtime.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamtime

    *I restricted it to the artist here for simplicity, I do consider that the art establishment can deem something art, also.
  • Noble Dust
    3.5k
    I don't see how you have shown that the artwork is anything more than the physical piece.Metaphysician Undercover

    I summed it up here:

    The difference in how these mediums relate to time demonstrates that the physical aspect of a work in any medium is only one variable in the totality of a work. Time and it's relationship to the physicality of a medium is another. Existentially, total experience of a work can't be tied down to one or more of the physical senses by which the work was apprehended.Noble Dust

    Isn't it necessary that the artist (composer) give very clear and precise "statements" in order that the piece be appreciated as it is supposed to be. The person who wants to hear the music cannot just interpret the instruction any old way.Metaphysician Undercover

    No, not at all. Interpretation by the performer has always been an integral part of classical music, for instance; improvisation used to be pretty common place, even. The concept, within classical music, of a rigid, platonic ideal of the piece represented through notation is just an ossification; the formation of an orthodoxy. And that's to say nothing of stuff like this (John Cage):

    07aac22dbf1529899b355fa9445418e5.jpg

    Claiming that non-existent things are art is where the others have been going, insisting that imaginary things are art.Metaphysician Undercover

    LOL, is sci-fi not art?
  • Noble Dust
    3.5k


    Have you been to an art museum or gallery lately?
  • Noble Dust
    3.5k
    I go to watch a film and the director writes that the theme of the film is based on his holding back his true feelings for his father when he was a kid and how toxic not telling the truth is in family relationships. Hell, I might as well get up and leave. Doesn't this guy trust his artwork. Can't I come to that meaning myself. Maybe there is a whole lot of other stuff, even the director is not aware of, and now I will keep finding 'the' theme.Coben

    It's scary how much I agree with you on this topic, but also nice to not feel like I'm going insane here.

    But this comment brought to mind another aspect of the artist statement, to get back on track to the OP. Often times, this impulse to explain away one's own artistic work is actually a bright, flashing red sign that the artist is insecure, that she lacks confidence in her work. This is surely not always the case with an artist statement or explanation, but often times it can be; even in the form of a seemingly confident statement, which actually masks the insecurity.

    Of course self-doubt and artistic creation do tend to go hand in hand, but there's a certain barrier that an artist needs to overcome in order to make great work; self-doubt will never magically disappear, but, as you say, the artist needs to work their ass off for a long time, and eventually the barrier is broken through, and there is a feeling of assurance; assurance that the work is good. Self-doubt will remain, but not the type of self-doubt that leads to the impulse to explain away the work to the audience out of insecurity.

    Maybe it's true that a lot of artists and art appreciators never break through this initial barrier; the artist statements then work like a comfort blanket.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.6k
    Do you not realise that something imaginary is art, or part of an art piece if the artist says it is so?Punshhh

    How would you present something imaginary as art, if not in a physical form? And, the physical form is the artwork, not the imaginary thing which is represented.

    I summed it up here:Noble Dust

    I don't see any argument there.

    No, not at all. Interpretation by the performer has always been an integral part of classical music, for instance; improvisation used to be pretty common place, even. The concept, within classical music, of a rigid, platonic ideal of the piece represented through notation is just an ossification; the formation of an orthodoxy. And that's to say nothing of stuff like this (John Cage):Noble Dust

    Sure, I agree completely. And, representations of various pieces of music morph over time.. But then the music played is not the same as the music written by the artist, and we cannot truthfully say it is the same piece. We call it an interpretation.

    LOL, is sci-fi not art?Noble Dust

    The art is the physical thing, the written material, not the interpretation of it.
  • Noble Dust
    3.5k
    The art is the physical thing, the written material, not the interpretation of it.Metaphysician Undercover

    I know I won't change your mind, and I'm just about done going over and over the same points here. But I'll mention here that this is such a depressing over-simplification of art. I also don't understand what position on your end would even make this distinction important. In the case of a novel, if the art is the physical thing, what exactly are you referring to? The words in a specific language used? The grammar? The ink choice of the publisher, and their choice of paper type? By "written material" do you mean the whole thing, the "novel"?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.6k
    n the case of a novel, if the art is the physical thing, what exactly are you referring to? The words in a specific language used? The grammar? The ink choice of the publisher, and their choice of paper type? By "written material" do you mean the whole thing, the "novel"?Noble Dust

    Right, the novel is a composition of all those things, the paper, the ink, the binding, etc.. Now you can get a novel on line, and it will be the words on your screen. So the important part of the novel is the arrangement of words, because this is what these two forms have in common, the same arrangement of words. Therefore the choices of paper, ink etc., are not essential aspects, in the case of the novel, we can call them accidentals, the arrangement of words is what is essential. In the case of a painting, the choice of ink is an essential aspect. And if the painter includes words in the form of a statement, this is most often not an essential aspect, but an accidental.
  • TheMadFool
    4.9k
    Have you been to an art museum or gallery lately?Noble Dust

    Much to my regret, no.


    If artist's statements are more a rule than an exception then it might be a very big hint that the task of making the art speak for itself is either very difficult or maybe even impossible. I find the artist to be in a similar position as many of us find ourselves in during day-to-day conversation: we want to say something but the words are simply inadequate to get the point across and so we resort to other methods - a diagram, a picture and germane to the discussion, a painting. So, if art can be used to augment verbal or written communication then why can't artists have the corresponding artist's statement? After all there seems to be a limitation to how effective communication can be.
  • Coben
    1.3k
    If artist's statements are more a rule than an exception then it might be a very big hint that the task of making the art speak for itself is either very difficult or maybe even impossible.TheMadFool

    I really don't think this is the case. I live with a painter. I go to galleries reguarly in the two countries I nearly straddle. And I can look at new and old works at have them speak to me, give me both aesthetic pleasure AND make me think, though the latter usually is slower, unless it is more modern conceptual art.
    why can't artists have the corresponding artist's statement?TheMadFool
    They can, and I would fight to allow them. I see it as a bad trend, and as an increasing trend. Part of a trend towards a diminishment of investment into the sensual aspects of art and a seeing art as getting messages and ideas across as the main idea. Since a beautiful work can do this just as well, as one put together with one with less skill, this means a general trend to a net loss.

    And it also assumes that getting that main idea across is the best thing to do, rather than allowing a range of cognitive, emotional and aesthetic experiences in one's audience. If you tell people what it means, it will limit them. It is distrusting everyone. It's like making a rock song and then telling people how you want them to dance to it. (yes, a few songs actuall did this)

    If you want people to have these thoughts and not those thoughts, these associations and not those, you'd be much better off in another art from, one that uses language. Write an essay, give a lecture. Visual art inspires rich individual experiences and I think are diminished when treated as non-fiction or propaganda or specific confession: here's what this means it relates to when this happened to me. If I want to tell people that sexism is bad because of X and I think the causes of this are Y and Z, I am much better off writting an essay rather than diminishing something I have put years of training into creating and limiting it. In general. Of course some works of art this may work. It is the trend that I think is a sign of decay.

    But I've gone through this in much better detail in earlier posts.
  • Noble Dust
    3.5k
    Part of a trend towards a diminishment of investment into the sensual aspects of art and a seeing art as getting messages and ideas across as the main idea.Coben

    Yes, art as fundamentalist worldview; apologetic art, wether religiously apologetic, atheistically apologetic, or otherwise.
  • Punshhh
    1.3k
    How would you present something imaginary as art, if not in a physical form? And, the physical form is the artwork, not the imaginary thing which is represented.
    All the avenues of imaginary, or conceptual art were explored, covered and represented by artist during various art movements during the 20th Century.
    For example, at a Sentations exhibition at the Royal Academy, which I attended in the 1990's. There was a gallery in which the lights were turned off and on again every few seconds. I don't know where, or what the physical form of the art piece was. There were no additions to the gallery space and the lights were controlled remotely. As the viewers passed through the gallery, they imagined, contemplated the artwork, while not knowing what, or where the work was. Some read the artist statement, some didn't, I don't remember what it said, or whether I read it. Some viewers will have imagined the physical artwork, some will have imagined a world of conceptual art where there aren't any physical traces of the work, but where the work exists as a concept in the minds of the viewers and the artist.
  • Coben
    1.3k
    And then, often as political. Further, in films, when you have two people being wankers or at least one while another character suffers,the 'talking about art' by overintellectualized fools is a cliche. Well, that cliche is, to me, fed by the trend towards art as ideas and not as beautiful objects, when in fact they can be both. Language is a vastly better tool for conveying ideas if the ideas of language based ones and you want only those ideas.
  • TheMadFool
    4.9k
    You're right about letting people see what they want to see in a piece of art. Why limit them in any way at all? I'm not qualified enough to make a sensible comment on this but I don't think it's a secret that art can be, at times, about controversial issues and then the artist has to be careful not to rub people the wrong way which I presume would be a priority for him/her; I mean who wants to be responsible for a riot right? I believe that in such cases we need some kind of an explanation from the artist to prevent disastrous consequences. On the flip side, a work of art may have a beautiful and important message which is liable to be silenced in the cacophony of multiple interpretations that would result if the imagination of the audience is given free reign; on such occasion too an explanation is in order.
  • Noble Dust
    3.5k
    I'm headed to The Met Breuer today. I'll report back...
  • Noble Dust
    3.5k
    Met Breuer was trash. Two small floors worth of disgusting modern art. Nothing requiring skill.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.6k
    There was a gallery in which the lights were turned off and on again every few seconds. I don't know where, or what the physical form of the art piece was.Punshhh

    Wasn't the physical work the blinking of the lights?
  • praxis
    1.8k
    I saw the 30 Americans exhibition yesterday. Very powerful, I thought.

    exhib_slideshow_30_ameri_headers.jpg

    In addition to the artist statement, all the works were accompanied by a quote (not specific to the piece) from the artists in enlarged letters. I think it gave a bit of insight into the artist's general drive.
  • Punshhh
    1.3k
    Met Breuer was trash. Two small floors worth of disgusting modern art. Nothing requiring skill.

    Agreed, (although I haven't visited myself).
  • Punshhh
    1.3k
    Looks interesting, it's a long way for me to visit unfortunately.
  • Punshhh
    1.3k
    Wasn't the physical work the blinking of the lights?
    I think that is for the viewer to decide, that's not the way I saw it. Unfortunately I don't know what the artist statement said.

    But I know that in reference to works like that, there is attention given to the possibility that the viewer/s become part of the work when they are in the room. Making the viewer susceptible to being viewed as part of the work.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.6k

    I can see how artists would intend to make the viewer part of the work. There are participatory forms of art. Even music, in the sense that the composer writes, and the musician plays what has been written, is a participatory form. These are ways in which the artists push the boundary between creator and audience. However, each of these requires that the artist give explicit instruction to the participants or else the participation will be random. And, the fact that much effort must be taken to push the boundary in this way, and the physical boundary can still be determined through analysis of the instructions, is evidence that the boundary is very real and cannot be avoided.

    It's the boundary between your mind and my mind. There is a real medium between us, and as much as we can communicate using words and other symbols, the ideas which you get from reading these words are not the same as the ideas I get when I am writing them.

    As an analogy we could say art is like language. If we say that "language" is more than the words and signs which exist between us, as people here want to say that "art" is more than the physical thing in the medium, then we are not really looking at language any more, but something more like "communication". If we replace "language" with "communication", we include what happens within each other's minds as part of what is signified by the term, this is part of "communication". But then "art", just like "language" is a form of "communication".

    Now, if we are talking about art as a form of communication, we are talking about something abstract, and not individual pieces of artwork any more. Then we would need to proceed by asking what is the purpose of communication. What would be the purpose of randomness, or even ambiguity in communication?
  • Punshhh
    1.3k
    Now, if we are talking about art as a form of communication, we are talking about something abstract, and not individual pieces of artwork any more. Then we would need to proceed by asking what is the purpose of communication. What would be the purpose of randomness, or even ambiguity in communication
    Again, this is a matter for philosophers, not for artists, viewers, the art establishment, the wider public. At least not as a requirement for art to be art. You suggest it becomes a process of communication, well yes and the artefact might become an irrelevance at some point during the communication. The ramifications would reduce the communication to communication/conversation within the mind of the viewer, even an emotional conversation within the viewer, the artist, is also one of these viewers. One can identify a conditioned response to an artwork, a human nature response,which could become a foil for the mind and the emotions. Leading to a complex reaction, interpretation and response to an artwork, or any comment on it.
    Here is a work by one of my favourite artists, if you contemplate this, presumably you will experience all the stages of reaction, interpretation and response that I have outlined.
    IMG-9049.jpg

    Really art has become unbounded, which means it can't be tied down philosophically, other than describing it as a human phenomena. To many and perhaps the art establishment, this freedom becomes a curse, an existential crisis. Where do we go now? Where will art go next?
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