• Brett
    2.3k


    That one cannot get one's work taken seriously by the gatekeepers of the establishment unless one has a good line of bullshit. And this is the problem, not what the artist says but that they cannot make art that will be exhibited without saying something 'conceptual'.unenlightened

    Oh no! You mean the artists are being forced to write statements?
  • csalisbury
    2.6k
    Ah. Policing art in the name of not letting art be policed. Very good.StreetlightX

    ?

    I understand the by-the-books dialectical reversal being applied, but I'm surprised this is your take. The easy dialectical reversal breaks down quickly under minimal pushback - & I can supply that if you want - but either way, why this stance? We disagree on a lot, but I feel like I usually can anticipate what we'll disagree about. Didn't expect the love for the artists' statement.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k
    "Shut up and look" is a perfectly reasonable attitude to take when your contemplation is being interrupted, but as an op is smacks of performative contradiction, because you are yourself breaking the silence.unenlightened

    I'll try again, if I may. I'm not breaking any silence by crying "no artist statements!" I'm interrupting the noise of the artist statements themselves. If there were no artist statements, I wouldn't be adding to the noise. I would be quietly reflecting on good art.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k
    Ah. Policing art in the name of not letting art be policed. Very good.StreetlightX

    Surely you are aware of the inanity of what you're saying. If calling for art to be freely experienced by the audience without the imposition by the artist of a forced theoretical framework is "policing", then I'll be happy to continue incarcerating mediocre work indefinitely.
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    At the contemporary art museum in town, they sometimes have two statements. Your standard one, along with one for kids. I adore the ones for kids. It's usually something like: "The blue in this makes us feel sad, and the patterns show how we all have different kinds of sadness. Have you noticed how you can feel different kinds of sadness sometimes? Which patterns do you think you have felt before?". It's simple, it picks out an obvious theme, and it usually tries to relate the artwork to the child in some manner. It's not altogether different from - as the OP put it - a kindergarten show and tell. And it is the very paradigm of how I think all artist statements should be written.

    The kids' statements really bring out that childish wonder which I think is sometimes the best way to experience art. Obviously not all statements do this - a great deal are nonsense - but I like the principle of elaboration on an artwork. Give me context, give me themes, append some intellectual spark along with the sensory, let them mesh, clash, extend, contradict one another. "An artwork should stand on it's own" - but nothing stands on its own, even without the statement. I simply have no time for 'purity' of art. Art isolated, put on a pedestal in the middle of a warehouse with a single lonely light on it. That's art for the collector, who wants to admire pretty things without being disturbed by anything else. Can I say that's bougie bullshit? I'm not sure if we're allowed to use bougie as an insult anymore.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k
    To me most works that I love stand on their own. I can spend time with the work as a sensous experience, and then if it is representational, I can mull over the meanings. I think if someone feels the need to explain what is going on in their art, at the place where the art is shown, they don't really trust their artwork.Coben

    :clap: :party: :100:
  • csalisbury
    2.6k
    Well "Art should speak for itself" certainly seems like an ideological/philosophical position that an artist might take or might not take. Your post could be made by an artist as a statement of their position, even if as it happens, you are not an artist, whatever one of those is. "Shut up and look" is a perfectly reasonable attitude to take when your contemplation is being interrupted, but as an op is smacks of performative contradiction, because you are yourself breaking the silence.unenlightened

    But the 'artist's statement' has to be understood as the specific thing it is. To make this concrete: Imagine jamalrob makes it mandatory that every post here is supplemented in a specific way. You hover your cursor above the post and it brings up a box with your 'post statement.' After a while, these post statements develop their own particular language and terminology. Soon everyone is - through social pressure - expected to adhere to this language. (Some imagination is required here. We're not posting for our livelihood. Artists are.)

    At some point you say - this whole post-statement thing is dumb. Then someone else says: That's just an avant-garde post statement!

    But Is it? Isn't it just literally what it is? Someone saying that post-statements aren't that helpful? & note that the person saying this, isn't saying this as part of their 'post statement'. They're objecting to the form itself. 'Artist Statements' are not, very much not, the same thing as artists making statements.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k
    The kids' statements really bring out that childish wonder which I think is sometimes the best way to experience art.StreetlightX

    I agree that childish wonder is perhaps the best way to experience art, but that exact experience is immediate; the childish wonder of experiencing something artistic for the first time has nothing to do with a theoretical abstract; it simply happens to the observer. There's no need to read a philosophical perspective to receive the experience. A child shouldn't have to be told that different shades of blue can be metaphors for different kinds of sadness; a child can experience that on their own, without guidance.

    Give me context, give me themesStreetlightX

    The context is you, the observer. If I need to give you the themes, then you're being lazy.

    I simply have no time for 'purity' of art. Art isolated, put on a pedestal in the middle of a warehouse with a single lonely light on it. That's art for the collector, who wants to admire pretty things without being disturbed by anything else. Can I say that's bougie bullshit? I'm not sure if we're allowed to use bougie as an insult anymore.StreetlightX

    But purity in art is the experience of childish wonder.
  • csalisbury
    2.6k
    At the contemporary art museum in town, they sometimes have two statements. Your standard one, along with one for kids. I adore the ones for kids. It's usually something like: "The blue in this makes us feel sad, and the patterns show how we all have different kinds of sadness. Have you noticed how you can feel different kinds of sadness sometimes? Which patterns do you think you have felt before?". It's simple, it picks out an obvious theme, and it usually tries to relate the artwork to the child in some manner. It's not altogether different from - as the OP put it - a kindergarten show and tell. And it is the very paradigm of how I think all artist statements should be written.

    The kids' statements really bring out that childish wonder which I think is sometimes the best way to experience art. Obviously not all statements do this - a great deal are nonsense - but I like the principle of elaboration on an artwork. Give me context, give me themes, append some intellectual spark along with the sensory, let them mesh, clash, extend, contradict one another. "An artwork should stand on it's own" - but nothing stands on its own, even without the statement. I simply have no time for 'purity' of art. Art isolated, put on a pedestal in the middle of a warehouse with a single lonely light on it. That's art for the collector, who wants to admire pretty things without being disturbed by anything else. Can I say that's bougie bullshit? I'm not sure if we're allowed to use bougie as an insult anymore.
    StreetlightX

    I like that kindergarten idea as well. It's charming and I think it's a great idea.

    But there's a clean and quick way to deal with second point - 'nothing stands on its own, even without the statement." If nothing can stand on its own, then the artwork, from its inception, already carries with it all the things it can't stand alone from. 'A work of art isolated, on a pedestal in a warehouse with a single lonely light' already carries all sorts of conceptual meaning - otherwise that particular assemblage wouldn't have come to you as a way of imparting some sort of meaning. It doesn't need a secondary prose statement to put it all together.

    [as a rhetorical exercise, let's say the artist's statement does do some necessary work of orienting the viewer. You say that the art in a blank warehouse is art for the bourgeois consumer. Maybe? ( I think definitely not, artists statements tend to be very gallery- agent-consumer directed, on an empricial level) But we can just as easily bourgeois-ify the artist statement by comparing it to the way in which Ikea contextualizes furniture by displaying it in a well-appointed room, where everything fits just right. The artists statement, in the same way, fits the art into the conceptual/mental 'living room' of the bourgeois art collector and so forth --- you can do this back and forth, for each side, forever. It's just rhetoric.]

    What the OP seems to be objecting to the artists' statements as the social artifact they are And that thing is, for sure, silly. Most artists, if you warm up and have a few drinks, agree. (It's like saying Butler's 'giving an account of oneself' is self-contradictory because it asks those who ask us to give an account of ourselves to give an account of their asking us to give an account. And, maybe? but how far do we go down that route.)

    The simpler thing is : mandatory artist statements are stupid.
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    mandatory artist statements are stupid.csalisbury

    Sure, I can agree with this. But that's the thing, not supplying a statement is fine too. That too, 'says' something. The isolated warehouse artwork also carries 'meaning'. But it all does. Inveighing against the artist statement is simply arbitrary. It closes off possibilities elsewhere admitted. It's policing. It's equally stupid.

    ---

    Would it be over-interpretation to say that this is neoliberalism at the level of art? 'An artwork should pull itself up by its own bootstraps!'. Eugh. Reagan as art curator.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k


    Can you present an argument in favor of artist statements? Other than the concept of a children's artist statement, which I think is fine for what it is. In the OP I made room for this; I asked some open questions that provided potential avenues for counter arguments. So far I've only seen reactions against my arguments, all of which I've found to be pretty easily thrown aside. I'm asking honestly.
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    Everything you think are detrimental about artists statements, I think are positives, basically. I think the so-called 'purity' you're after is a myth, and I think you're unnecessarily closing down avenues of interest so that you can better secure that myth.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k


    That's not a proper argument. Can you elaborate? I gave specific examples; I'd love specific examples of how you disagree in such a polar opposite way. It would help both of us understand our disagreement, and clear up confusion.

    For instance, make a case for why what you perceive as my conception of purity is a myth.
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    If a work of art I make requires an explanation, then it's not worthy of anyone's time. The work should speak for itself; essentially, what the philosophical issue is here is that art should express itself on it's own terms.Noble Dust

    This isn't a proper argument either. Why should an artwork 'speak for itself'? Why it is 'not worthy of anyone's time' if it requires an explanation? What is the artwork's 'own terms'? What does it even mean to say that an artwork has 'its own terms'? This a-contextual notion of art is so incredibly, well, artificial that it's simply incomprehensible to me. It's simply a hermetic sealing of art off from anything in the world. It's elitist and bourgeois: "I will not have the petty concerns of the world or of people intrude on my charmed experience of the artwork!". The OP asks for a 'counter-argument' - but there is no argument to counter. Simply a bald series of statements without any provided rationale.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k
    Why should an artwork 'speak for itself'?StreetlightX

    Because art communicates via it's own inherent medium. If you don't understand this, then I don't know what else to tell you, and I'm not trying to insult you by saying that.

    Why it is 'not worthy of anyone's time' if it requires an explanation?StreetlightX

    Maybe I went a little overboard here. But generally, good art should evoke interpretation, not require explanation. Does that make sense? No? Let me know if it doesn't.

    What is the artwork's 'own terms'?StreetlightX

    This metaphor simply indicates that art is not primarily apprehended theoretically. Again, let me know if you have any questions.

    I'm still waiting for your argument in favor of artist statements. Why are artist statements important/good/necessary/helpful, in your view, @StreetlightX?
  • csalisbury
    2.6k
    Would it be over-interpretation to say that this is neoliberalism at the level of art? 'An artwork should pull itself up by its own bootstraps!'. Eugh. Reagan as art curator.StreetlightX

    Or the artwork, due to neoliberal precarity, is forced to market itself through the artist statement, like a worker made to forge their way in a gig economy, seeking the right conceptual hashtags to render itself employable. Again, political reframings are so easy to do, one way or the other, once one learns a few rhetorical tricks (do you recall Schopenhauer's chart showing how you can link anything to anything else through gradual conceptual slippage?) Better to drop that approach. It's suasive flash and fury, maybe, for those unversed - but for those who are, its very clearly what it is!

    Anyway, if the artwork doesn't speak for itself, but requires a statement, then we can as easily say the statement doesn't speak for itself (what, is this a statement in a warehouse?) and so needs an additional statement and so forth. As though some final explanation would settle things, funneling the whole thing into explanatory purity. But if we aren't saying this, if we admit that any explanation is itself in need of explanation, and so forth, then we can say that the artwork itself already enters as its own thing in a turbulent space of reception, to stand on its own, as something complexly composed, in polyvalent dialogue. It already contains, as part of itself (developed through the artist's education/experience, the process of creation, the audience and so forth) a self-explaining complexity that goes beyond simple paint on canvas. Or doesn't it? If it doesn't, then doesn't it just simply display itself? But, as you say, this isn't the case, because ... You can see how easy it is to turn these arguments back on themselves. Brought to their limit, they snake around to bite their own tail.

    That's the thing with these kind of arguments - they're free-floating and mercenary. plunk them down in any context, and they can do whatever you want, either way, as long as you don't follow them too far. If you do, you realize they're not talking about anything but themselves, using this or that content for fuel, and always have to wend, strategically, at certain junctures in order to forestall their self-negation.

    It's better to focus, empirically, on how artist statements, artists, and the artworld interact. (Unless that smacks too much of [concept degree one, concept degree two] --> [bad political thing] )
  • Wheatley
    1.3k
    If a work of art I make requires an explanation, then it's not worthy of anyone's time.Noble Dust
    There's much more to art than the actual art piece. There's context to art such as the background and culture behind it. To fully appreciate art you have to have a certain level of knowledge. An artist statement simply provides some context to the artwork, nothing wrong with that.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k


    I feel like I say this every other post, but the most important context to a piece of art is you. You provide the context. Not only is there cultural and theoretical context to any given piece, there is also your perception of that context. The audience is half of the work itself. This is a seminal building block to my philosophy here, and I think is responsible for so much confusion.
  • Wheatley
    1.3k
    You provide the context.Noble Dust
    You mean "you provide most of the context"? I don't think I agree with this. As a viewer, you don't provide any context. The context is whatever inspired the artist, which you had nothing to do with. How you perceive a context is a different story. If you're happy with merely perceiving a context, my hat is off to you.

    I like to think I will have an enhanced perception of the art piece when I know more about it. :up:
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k


    No, you provide the contextual lens through which the work is viewed. I mean, is this really debatable? The context [which is] "whatever inspired the artist" is something that you experience yourself. The illusion we all fall into is that we're philosophers observing from Hannah Arendt's concept of a perfect objective viewpoint; we're not.

    I like to think I will have an enhanced perception of the art piece if I knew more about it. :up:Wheatley

    I don't disagree with you here, and I think this is key, and probably a source of further confusion in regards to my position. Educating oneself about works of art is a rich pastime which I recommend indiscriminately to anyone. But, for maximum aesthetic experience, education should follow experience. Why? Because the experience will be lacking if it's preceded by education. Theoretically understanding something creative inherently robs the creative work of it's essence. This is understood experientially, not theoretically (which is not surprising). This of course brings up the big question of what art is for; is it primarily for aesthetic experience? To add more confusion, the answer is no. But aesthetic experience is the language of art, not it's goal. So, counter to @StreetlightX's claims that my view is bourgeoisie here, the exact opposite is the case. The pleasure of art is merely it's communication; what it actually communicates is philosophically beyond pleasure.
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    Or the artwork, due to neoliberal precarity, is forced to market itself through the artist statement, like a worker made to forge their way in a gig economy, seeking the right conceptual hashtags to render itself employable.csalisbury

    But in many ways I think this is right too. Art in a gallery is already compromised in some way; an artist statement does function - or is made to function - much like you describe. But I can fully accede to this while still thinking that some principled prohibition on artists statements the name of some faux-purity is also dumb. There's a whole bunch of stuff about Benjamins' 'aura' going though my head right now if you're familiar with that stuff, but if not nevermind. Anyway, so yeah, you can totally have that conversation - conditions of art in the modern world, etc etc, - but that's just a different conversation.

    Anyway, if the artwork doesn't speak for itself, but requires a statement, then we can as easily say the statement doesn't speak for itself (what, is this a statement in a warehouse?) and so needs an additional statement and so forth.csalisbury

    Yeah, we can say this, but should we? Perhaps part of the problem is that the very idea of art 'speaking for itself' or not is silly to begin with. The way I see it, a statement for the most part is just another way to engage with an artwork; another way 'in': it's embellishment upon an embellishment, excess upon excess. Like, I'm not saying that art 'requires' a statement. That'd be silly. I'm just against it's 'prohibition': that it must be without one, otherwise - what? It interrupts some purity? No. It's all excess all the way down.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k
    The way I see it, a statement for the most part is just another way to engage with an artwork; another way 'in': it's embellishment upon an embellishment, excess upon excess.StreetlightX

    What? the work itself was not an embellishment or excess to begin with. When I write a song, I'm writing a song so I remain alive. If you don't understand this about art, again, you just don't understand art. And I don't mean that as an insult.

    I'm not saying that art 'requires' a statement. That'd be silly. I'm jsut against the negative: that is must be without one, otherwise - what? It interrupts some purity? No. It's all excess.StreetlightX

    And I'm not saying artist statements should be banned. But they should not have the place in the conversation that they do. @csalisbury has done an ace job of describing that.
  • Wheatley
    1.3k
    No, you provide the contextual lens through which the work is viewed. I mean, is this really debatable?Noble Dust
    I feel like your twisting the word "context" to suit your position. It's not a big deal, just pointing that out.

    Educating oneself about works of art is a rich pastime which I recommend indiscriminately to anyone. But, for maximum aesthetic experience, education should follow experience.Noble Dust
    I don't think it's fruitful to make such broad statements about art, as if there's an essence to art. There are many different kinds of art and many different ways to appreciate it. Let's not oversimplify things here.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k
    I feel like your twisting the word "context" to suit your position. It's not a big deal, just pointing that out.Wheatley

    I mean, sure, there is an "outside" context (the artist, culture, etc), and there is the "point-of-view" context: you. I just spitballed that right now, but is that more clear? What I'm trying to say is that the "you" context gets neglected in the glut of the illusion of "objective" context which no one actually has. And I think that illusion is detrimental to art appreciation.

    I don't think it's fruitful to make such broad statements about art, as if there's an essence to art. There are many different kinds of art and many different ways to appreciate it. Let's not oversimplify things here.Wheatley

    I disagree; make a case.
  • Wheatley
    1.3k
    I disagree; make a case.Noble Dust
    It's okay if we disagree.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k


    It is, but this is a philosophy forum where we discuss ideas which we generally disagree about.
  • Wheatley
    1.3k

    That's fair. I'll give it a shot.

    Where do I begin? First it's important that we both have the same understanding of what art actually is.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k


    Also fair. "What is art?" There was a whole 20-something page thread about this...I don't want to get mired in another one of those debates, so I'll try to set out the minimum tenets I find to be necessary in a definition of art.

    Art is a human expression which functions creatively/via the intuition.
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.