Posts by Daniel Vargas
The Name of This Post is Secret
“Culture is Ordinary” by Raymond Williams argues (like the title states) that culture and the arts are not only found in the teashop of “cultivated” people but also in the lives of ordinary people.
1) These “cultivated” people use their positions as the “educated” to remove art and culture away from the masses. Almost like the masses are uneducated and cannot benefit from the art. Williams asks how and why some “call certain things culture and then separate them from ordinary people?” Can anyone benefit from art or do you need to have some education in art to truly enjoy it?
2) “So when the Marxists say that we live in a dying culture, and that the masses are ignorant, I have to ask them where on earth they have lived.” With which side do you agree more: with the Marxist who believe that culture is fading and the masses are uneducated or Williams?
3) What is education? “The Times sell nearly three times as many copies as in the days of its virtual monopoly of the press.” Is reading a newspaper truly the way in which people learn?
Comments by Daniel Vargas
"Frank Sibley is distinguishing between aesthetic and non-aesthetic judgments. Non-aesthetic judgments are made from precise description of the art – colors, characters, themes, etc. – while aesthetic judgments are made from taste, perceptiveness, sensitivity, and appreciation or the art.
There are some aesthetic descripting words that have a double duty in everyday intercourse – graceful, delicate, handsome, etc. – and others that are not used as aesthetically anymore – red, intelligent, curved. However, the most common aesthetic words are made through metaphors – but not all as seen by the double duty words.
More often than not, we support our use of aesthetic words in description by referring to other aesthetic words – graceful because of flow as one example – but sometimes we use non-aesthetic words to back ourselves up – delicate because of the curved lines. When we cannot find any non-aesthetic words to support our aesthetic word choices, we pick the most satisfactory answer. What Sibley is arguing is that there are no non-aesthetic features that are logically sufficient to apply any aesthetic term.
When there is a definition of a word we can find the objects that fit in to the definition using the physical characteristics – we know a square is a square because of its sides and angles. But aesthetic terms apply to a variable range of objects so these terms are radically different from these concepts.
Some argue that the terms can be defined through relevant features and that when enough relevant features are accumulated then we are able to give it a direction – playing chess increases your chances of being seen as intelligent but a chess player cannot be unintelligent. However aesthetic concepts do not work like this, no amount of non-aesthetic words can warrant the use of aesthetic qualities. There is no doubt that the features can count against an aesthetic concept – pale coloring cannot be fiery or flamboyant – but no amount of features can amount to a description in aesthetic terms.
To drive the point home there are there are aesthetic terms which can share non-aesthetic features – a poem with regular meter and rhyme can be found to be powerful and strong while another with similar meter and rhyme can be monotonous.
Sibley argues that non-aesthetic features can only negatively govern the aesthetic word choice; no amount of features can logically ensure aesthetic concepts."
--( posted on Nov 21, 2013, commenting on the post Frank Sibley, “Aesthetic concepts”
"The question of feminism is wrongly on the present and immediate needs; we must look to the past and find the origin of the problem. Historically the position of woman is as an acknowledged outsider, while white male position is accepted as natural (the hidden “he”). Male domination has to be overcome to make a just social order and to gain a more accurate view of historical situations.
People might say, "There have been no great women artists because women are incapable of greatness." By falling for the trap one might dig up examples of worthy or underappreciated women artists. These add historical knowledge but do not question the assumptions made. By attempting to answer it, the negative implications are reinforced. Others might respond by saying, “there is a different kind of greatness for women's art,” but there is no such common qualities of "femininity" that link the styles of women artists -- in every instance, women artists are closer to other artists of their own period rather than to each other.
The problem lies in the misconception of what art is. Usually we think of art as a “direct, personal expression of individual emotional experience, a translation of personal life into visual terms;” art is not that, but “a self-consistent language of form given temporally defined conventions, which have to be learned.”
There are no women equivalents for famous artists, any more than black American equivalents. If there were "hidden" great women artists, or if there should be different standards, then women have achieved the same status as men. But we know that things are oppressive and discouraging to all those who did not have the good fortune to be born white, middle class, and male.
The white male perspective gain power through "problems," which are made to rationalize the bad conscience of those in power: the problem posed by Americans as the "East Asian Problem," East Asians may view as the "American Problem"; the so-called “Poverty Problem” might be viewed as the "Wealth Problem,” by those in the ghettos. The “Woman Problem” should not be viewed through the eyes of the dominant male power. Women must conceive of themselves as equal subjects and must be willing to look the facts of their situation with high degree of emotional and intellectual commitment. They must be willing to create a world in which equal achievement will be not only made possible but actively encouraged by social institutions.
The source of the oppression is that men demand submission and unqualified affection. The woman is weakened by the internalized demands of society and material goods and comforts (since this gives them more to lose).
We view art as made by great artists, or Geniuses. Genius has been defined as “an atemporal and mysterious power somehow embedded in the person of the Great Artist.” To go against the definitions of art and Genius would reveal the entire substructure upon which the profession of art history is based. The magical aura surrounding the arts gives birth to myths. Talent always seems to have manifested itself very early, independent of external encouragement. This makes art into a substitute religion.
Even though no serious contemporary art historian takes such obvious fairy tales at their face value, even the most sophisticated investigations of great artists use the golden-nugget theory of genius and the free-enterprise conception of individual achievement. Because of this internal concept of genius it is easy to reason why women aren’t in the art world, they simply do not have the golden nugget of artistic genius. But the aristocracy has always provided the audience for arts and has contributed little to the creation of art itself. Despite having education and leisure, they seem to not have the genius. So it is not a term of genius but devotion to a profession. Moreover, development of reason and imagination (aka genius) is a dynamic activity and an activity of a subject in a situation and only appears to be innate to the unsophisticated observer. So art is not about genius but of a social structure and is determined by social institutions.
In the past, the problem lies in the nature of given social institutions and what they forbid in various classes. Nudes were central to the training programs but women were not allowed to draw them. To be deprived of this ultimate stage of training meant to be deprived of the possibility of creating major art works. Similar to a medical student being denied the opportunity to examine the naked human body.
It is all right for a woman to reveal herself naked-as-an object for a group of men, but forbidden to a woman to participate in the active study and recording of naked-man-as-an-object or even of a fellow woman. It seems clear that "women were not accepted as professional painters.” It also becomes apparent why women were able to compete in literature. Oversimplifying, anyone has to learn the language, can learn to read and write, and can commit personal experiences to paper. However an artist need to exchange ideas, find patrons, travel widely and freely, and have a studio.
The social condition women are in makes them direct attention to the welfare of others. Women are warned against the snare of trying too hard to excel in any one thing: To be able to do a great many things tolerably well is of infinitely more value to a woman, than to be able to excel in any one. This guards men from unwanted competition in jobs, assures assistance on the home front, and lets them have sex and family and fulfillment of talent. Meanwhile if the woman's commitment to art was a serious one, she was expected to drop her career and give up this commitment at the behest of love and marriage. No man was automatically denied the pleasure of sex or companionship on account of this choice. If the artist in question happened to be a woman, guilt, self-doubt, and objecthood would have been added to the undeniable difficulties of being an artist.
Women that succeed in art had a close personal connection with a stronger or more dominant male artistic personality. For a woman to opt for a career at all has requires a certain amount of individuality; she must have rebellion in her, rather than submitting to the socially approved role of wife and mother. It is only by adopting the "masculine" attributes that women have succeeded."
--( posted on Nov 18, 2013, commenting on the post Linda Nochlin, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”
"Correct me if I am wrong but section III of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction defined the ‘aura’ as the phenomena of feeling distance even when one is close to the object. It argues that by bringing the works of art closer by means of reproduction destroys the ‘aura’ but I believe that it does not. Reproduction is just a means to arrive at the aura; we are only trying to experience a fraction of the feeling that the work of art provides. We are trying to get closer, but by doing so; we accept that what we are looking at is merely a reproduction, giving an even greater sense of distance. If the definition of aura given is correct, then the reproduction would enhance the experience of the viewer by bringing it closer (as in being able to manipulate the reproduction which one would not be able to do to an original) and putting it farther away (as in the original with all its glory and history is not equivalent to the reproduction only similar)."
--( posted on Oct 29, 2013, commenting on the post Walter Benjamin
"Tolstoy notes that without this, “men would be like wild beasts, or like Kasper Hauser”. What does he means in this statement? Why would lacking this specific ability make us like wild beasts and/or the laconic Kasper Hauser?
Tolstoy is saying that if we do not have the ability to give information to others, be it by speech or art, or if we were incapable of receiving information, as in not understanding intonation or seeing the purpose of color, we would become no better than wild beasts. If mankind lacked these abilities, we would not be connected as a species. Man is, as much as it pains me to say, inherently selfish; he only looks out for his own well-being, survival, and comfort. However, because we are able to communicate and receive emotions from others, we feel that we cannot be purely self-centered. It is this communication and empathy that allows the human race to work together towards common goals and not stay in the state of nature with wild beasts.
According to his definition of counterfeit art, counterfeit art is incapable of evoking feelings in the recipient. How do you agree with this view? Do you Tolstoy is being too extreme to categorize an artwork as counterfeit if the feeling of the author is “unintelligibly expressed”?
Tolstoy does not that counterfeit art cannot evoke emotion, he is saying that the emotion that counterfeit art produces is not the purpose of art. Because we have forgotten, or never knew, the meaning of art, we have dubbed art as “an activity producing pleasure.” Society today sees art something for enjoyment and not the purpose of communication. “There are people who, having forgotten what the action of real art is, expect some else from art, and that therefore such people may mistake for this aesthetic feeling the feeling of diversion and a certain excitement which they receive from counterfeits of art.” This counterfeit art is one that is not sincere in the feelings it portrays; it exist only because there is, or was, a demand for it. If the creator of the art were sincere in the feelings he put into the art, it would not be “unintelligibly expressed.” It is this sincerity of the artist that fuels art, his need to create something to show others how he feels. If his sincerity is present then clearness and uniqueness would flow naturally and the artist would create a work of art."
--( posted on Sep 26, 2013, commenting on the post 9/26 – Tolstoy
"In American Muse, Chapter 1, Anderson puts forth the notion that “there is an enormous amount of art in America today — far more than is generally recognized by most people, scholar and non-specialist alike.” He goes on to define art as “being made by humans whose elevated intellectual, creative, or bodily skills are recognized by others in their group; of being imaginatively created in an immediately, and directly sensuous, public medium.” If one applies Anderson’s definition of art to the music, paintings, sculptures, and other works that have been created in modern times by Americans, one can say that Anderson’s argument that art is alive and well in America is quite valid. However, do you believe that Anderson’s definition of art is flawed, and if so, how would you define art?
• I believe that his definition is general enough that one cannot argue with it. This is not to say the definition is perfect. If we used general definitions with every word we encounter nothing would be specific enough to use. For example, if we define the word library as a place where there are books, then we would call bookstores libraries also (which we know is not the case). However we cannot argue that libraries are not places where there are books, the same way we cannot argue that art is manmade with skill and imagination to embody its sensuous elements. In conclusion, I believe that the definition is slightly flawed; in that it is not specific enough; however, I do not have a better definition, therefore it is, in my eyes, valid as a definition of art.
Anderson focuses on the descriptive rather than the evaluative usage of the word art throughout American Muse. However, most people who look at art make statements such as, “Oh, that’s a beautiful painting” or “That doesn’t look lifelike enough.” Is it wrong to make such evaluative statements about art? Is there such thing as “good art” or “bad art?”
• There is no such thing as “bad” art. Art, according to Anderson, is made with skill to have a sensory effect on its audience; once it is classified art it cannot be “bad.” It is better to ponder on the true question when looking at art: what is the artist trying to show me? If this question is in your mind when looking at art one would agree that art can not be “bad” because the artist is made deliberate movements to make the viewer see what he is trying to show. The same way a public speaker needs to use proper diction and pace to be more persuasive, artists (painters, musicians, etc.) need to use their own methods to get the point across to the audience. Once the artist feels they have put their best work forward, it immediately become art. The same way Anderson’s singing is art even if he is not the best singer. One is allowed to say, “Anderson is a bad singer” but not allowed to say, “Anderson’s expression is wrong.”"
--( posted on Sep 17, 2013, commenting on the post What Really Is Art?
"Do you think that the Barnes Collection should be exhibited in the public and economic interest contrary to Barnes’ intentions, or should the will of but one man and his followers be respected?
o Art in general belongs to everyone and everyone should get the chance to enjoy its grandeur. Therefore, the public should be able to view the artwork in the Barnes collection. Some may say that since the art is in a private collection no one has a right to see it, if the owner does not want them to (even if it is a breathtaking collection). Barnes did not want his collection of artwork to become dull and unsatisfying like the works that museums usually hold so he decided to withhold the artwork for students of art. But the collection does not belong to Barnes alone, the trustees believe that more people should benefit from the magnificent collection.
o Barnes did not want the collection to lose its aesthetic value, which he spent his life making perfect. The biggest problem that Barnes had with the “Main Line oligarchy” was that they did not invest their emotions in the art they showed, they just displayed the art side by side in order to see the art. Barnes wanted people to feel the art, not just see it. The juxtaposition of the pieces and the aesthetic pleasure you receive from the pieces are what he was afraid of losing if even a single frame was loaned, borrowed, or bought. But since the whole collection is moving, more people can view it without it losing its aesthetic organizational value.
Martin Filler portrays Albert Barnes as an “incompetent, out-of-control relative” in Victory and compares the movement of the Barnes to a “desperate family’s intervention aimed at saving a shared inheritance from being irrevocably squandered.” Based on what we know about Albert Barnes in this reading, Moving Pictures, and The Art Of The Steal, is Filler’s argument about Barnes and his collection justified, and if not, what about his argument is flawed?
o Even though he owned the collection he gave it up when he died. The living descendants can do with their inheritance as they wish.
• When you give $1 million to your descendants you cannot tell them “you can never share this with anyone.” The new owner can donate the money for a good cause as he sees fit, the dead cannot control the life of the living.
• The writer of the will can put conditions on the money like the money has to stay in a specific bank account until it is needed. But what if the bank is going bankrupt and the descendants need to withdraw the money to save it from being lost, even though the will said not to withdraw the money it cannot be left to disappear.
o Nobody can see into the future and predict all the conditions to put into a will so if a condition is found that is not found in the will it is up to the living descendants to find a solution. When it comes to the Barnes collection the artwork was going to be lost if left in the building with bad conditions. Since that condition was not discussed in the will the living descendants can choose what to do with the art. If it were up to Barnes he would rather let the art be destroyed rather than let the art go into a museum."
--( posted on Sep 9, 2013, commenting on the post Moving The Barnes: Albert and The Art Experience vs. The Masses