Author Archives: Evgenia Gorovaya

Posts by Evgenia Gorovaya

Applications to culture as we know it

In Raymond Williams’ “Culture is Ordinary,” he discusses first what he believes culture entails. He then goes on to take issue with Marxism and Leavis’ teachings, two ideologies that he says deeply impressed him, before clearing four significant misconceptions on what culture is. All the while, he maintains a ground truth that all of his arguments come back to: culture is ordinary.

1) Williams describes himself as coming from a farming valley that he believes is part of an “old society,” in which there is a deeply rooted sense of community and in which money was often a limiting factor, such that few in his family could pursue a formal education because few could spare the “immediate work.” Williams states that he was never “oppressed” by his university, Cambridge. He never felt as if he came from a different world; he was never mentally or emotionally isolated by a supposed sense of grandeur. However, he describes a tea shop in which he did feel a sense of unwelcoming and dissimilarity. The inhabitants “had [culture,] and they showed you they had it.” Have you ever found yourself in a setting with a similar atmosphere in New York, or anywhere else? If so, where?

2) Williams states that Leavis taught that traditional culture has been superseded by an industrial state which “deliberately cheapen[s] our natural human responses.” This contradicts with Anderson’s belief that art can be found everywhere, including modern-day technology and water fluoridation. With whom do you agree? Has industrialization conquered art and literature, or has it simply given them a new medium?

3) Williams wishes for three things to improve overall culture and society, one of which is added provision for the arts and education. One of the conditions he asks this on is that in implementing these funds, there be no underlying motive for increasing consumption or state revenue. One must ask himself: is this probable or practical? Looking back to the issue of the Barnes exhibit, is it possible to spend money on art for the sake of the art, or will there always be an underlying motive of earnings?

4) In “On Receiving the Rubén Darío Award,” Julio Cortázar describes culture in Nicaragua, the country from which he received his award. He portrays the culture as the exact opposite of that in Williams’ tea shop: it is that of the ordinary man, with no restrictions and complete freedom to whatever one feels or wishes to portray. On which end of the spectrum would you place the culture of New York, or of America as a whole? Why?

Comments by Evgenia Gorovaya

"Aesthetic Concepts-Frank Sibley In Frank Sibley's "Aesthetic Concepts," he discusses that which we need to understand aesthetic terms, what defines these terms, and how to argue about whether or not art contains certain aesthetic characteristics. He starts off by defining an aesthetic term or expression as "a word or expression such that taste or perceptiveness is required in order to apply it." He relates aesthetic terms to metaphors in which we take every-day terms that can be applied outside of the arts and make them mean something in relation to whatever art is being discussed. He also points out that the taste and perceptiveness needed to apply aesthetic terms is more rare than other human capacities, and when found, it can often be less developed than other human capacities as well. Although, however rare or limited taste may be, we are all capable of exercising at least some degree of taste. Sibley points out that aesthetic qualities depend on the non-aesthetic features that make up the work of art, such as the colors, the lines, or the tempo of a piece. However, there are no "necessary-and-sufficient" features that can define that which a specific aesthetic quality pertains to. For example, one cannot qualify an aesthetic term to only apply when certain conditions are present in an artwork. Likewise, one cannot provide a set of standards that can write an artwork off as having a certain aesthetic quality so long as the standards are met. Like Sibley said before, taste is required to discern and apply aesthetic terms. Sibley compares aesthetic concepts to "defeasible" concepts. These concepts also do not have a set metric to determine if they are true. However, he is careful to mention that though there are similarities, they are in essence different. A defeasible concept is one that could have a set blueprint had there not been endless "voiding features." An aesthetic concept, however, will never have a set blueprint because it will not only always have voiding features, but it will also have too many attributes that cannot be blanketed over by a set term. He goes on to underscore why taste is required to utilize aesthetic terms. Those without taste simply won't understand why something is graceful, for example. He could learn the general rules by which art is characterized, but he can never be certain that he is correct in his judgements of a work, for what if his lack of taste made him miss a nuance crucial to understanding the entire artwork? In Part II, Sibley relates the exercise of taste to our five senses, as one cannot really describe what makes a brown book look brown, it simply is brown. He then goes into discussing the role of a critic and how he relays his taste along to the people. He states that the critic is simply getting someone to see that which the critic sees. He proves to us that this is natural, as it is reminiscent of the way we were taught to see basic aesthetic qualities in music or art as children. We train other children as well to see rudimentary aesthetic qualities as critics teach us to see those which are more complex. Therefore, however rare or limited one's sense of taste or sensitivity to aesthetic concepts is, it can always be built upon or improved."
--( posted on Nov 21, 2013, commenting on the post Frank Sibley, “Aesthetic concepts” )
"Linda Nochlin begins her essay, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" by drawing attention to the fact that she will be taking a feminist stance different from most of today's feminist activity. Instead of driving her argument forward with appeals to one's emotions, she will provide historical analysis. She continues by pointing out that by discussing this "woman problem," she will provide a paradigm for discussion of other social issues. We should not answer this question with respect to what is wrong with the women, but rather what is wrong with the institution of art. Nochlin proves this by discussing the "semi-religious conception of the artist's role" that is popular in the nineteenth century. Great artists would often have romanticized stories accompanying their successes, such as having their talent and genius prevail against all odds (a lowly position in life, or ignoring their studies). If men, fueled by genius and talent, can achieve greatness through these odds, does that mean that women simply do not have the genius or talent necessary to prevail through the opposition they face? Nochlin points out that there have been no great artists from the aristocracy, either. Do aristocrats also not have this talent and genius that drives other male artists? The answer is that the expectations of women and aristocrats in society simply did not leave them any time to truly devote themselves to art. Nochlin also reminds us that there were less opportunities presented to women to let them become great artists. In order to become great in visual art, one needs specific training and experience. One integral part of said training is learning how to draw the nude, a practice which was denied to women. Nochlin equates this to "a medical student [being] denied the opportunity to dissect or even examine the naked human body." Furthermore, women were excluded from the apprenticeship system, which, in art education, "was almost the only key to success." Nochlin draws an interesting parallel to written art, explaining women's success in that field: there are no fundamental techniques that one has to learn in a formal setting, save reading an writing, in order to become proficient and great in writing poetry or novels. Therefore, because women could not be excluded from any type of education, they were on a more level playing field with the opposite sex. This relatively level playing field, however, still did not allow for many great female novelists or poets because of the ever-present feminine mystique. Women who were great at one thing were considered unfeminine and un-marriageable, for their proficiency would "draw away her thoughts from others and fix them on herself." Women were encouraged, instead, to be able to dabble in several fields, so that they could prove useful in several different situations. However, they still couldn't win; this superficial dabbling manifested contempt from the serious male career-man. A woman's frivolous activities away from her family and home "fall under the rubric of diversion, selfishness, egomania, or, at the unspoken extreme, castration." A woman was not allowed to focus on herself, even at the most superficial levels. Her whole life was supposed to be devoted to her husband, her home, and her children. The few women artists who have succeeded in making great visual art had help from a strong male artistic influence. Even with this help, the women had to adopt masculine characteristics of autonomy and independence in speech, thought, and action, which was not an easy feat in the face of social antagonism. Nochlin proves that there have been no great women artists due to institutional, not individual reasons."
--( posted on Nov 17, 2013, commenting on the post Linda Nochlin, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” )
"In Berenson's "Understanding Art and Understanding Persons," he discusses understanding art across different cultures. Berenson first proves that it is indeed possible to understand art across a culture and that doing so is not as difficult as some people make it out to be. He says that all cultures have some sort of amalgamation to begin with, and that everyone is capable of learning and gaining an understanding of another culture in order to be able to fully appreciate the art that emerges out of said foreign culture. One point that I found interesting was that, on page 55, he states that we are all, in a way, united by a natural "human impulse to create and express." He then quotes Ruby Meager, who relates art to human life. Seeing these two points presented in such close proximity got me thinking: is this natural impulse to express in any way related to our biological impulses to reproduce? In this sense, it is not so much of an effort to keep our species going but rather an effort to keep our ideas alive and help them flourish by putting them in such a medium which can then germinate in other people's minds and repeat the cycle. What do you think? Does this make sense, or am I reading (no pun intended) too much into it?"
--( posted on Nov 6, 2013, commenting on the post Frances Berenson, “Understanding Art and Understanding Persons” )
"I found it very interesting how Walter Benjamin connected film with Freud. In Section XIII, he discusses how film now lets us analyze every aspect of motions that we would otherwise not give a second thought to. On page 236, he states: "The enlargement of a snapshot does not simply render more precise what in any case was visible, though unclear: it reveals entirely new structural formations of the subject." The study of body language became popular and legitimate around the same time that film really picked up. One must wonder: how real are these new structural formations? Isn't a wave just a wave? And if you do believe in body language, how many other hidden meanings do we communicate, and through what mediums? Before Freud, no one would have thought that a "slip of the tongue" meant anything; likewise, before the advent of film, no one really payed any attention to body language. Maybe one day we'll discover what our natural vocal range says about us."
--( posted on Nov 4, 2013, commenting on the post Walter Benjamin )
"Being familiar with the time period in which Shostakovich adapted Gogol's "The Nose" can help us see why he made many of the changes that he did. I do like the original written work better because I thought the story works better with the satire, which is not as obvious in the opera. However, Shostakovich had to leave out the criticism and satire. During Shostakovich's time, the people were under strict governmental censure. They were watched very carefully, and mistakes had dire consequences. Therefore, he had to make the opera a strictly comedic one. He made the opera because he was still critical of the government, but he had to make sure that his feelings were not obvious. The criticism that he was trying to convey was the same as Gogol's, which was ridicule of the bureaucracy, as well as Shostakovich's added criticism of the police."
--( posted on Nov 3, 2013, commenting on the post The Nose )
"I agree that people listen to music in the territory of these three planes; he is right in saying we "correlate them--listening in all three ways at the same time. It takes no mental effort, for we do it instinctively." Though I am of course under all three planes, I am usually leaning more towards the second, expressive plane. Although I have been trying to keep myself in check as of late, I used to only look at music with an almost practical attitude. I would always ask myself, "what does this mean? How does it relate to my life?" I'm starting to try and intermix more of a sensuous attitude. Not in which I am passively or inattentively listening, but rather in which I'm not so concerned over finding some sort of meaning. If you simply listen to the music for the music's sake, the meaning will come to you. I listen to classical music because I believe it has much more to offer than today's pop music. There is something about classical music that once you really start listening to it or learning about it, it's difficult to just forget about it. Besides, it is so diverse over the various styles and periods. It can appear dauntingly intricate at first, but upon further insight, it completely simplifies. Also, as a guitarist, there's something almost otherworldly about connecting with a piece that I simply can't reach when playing the chords to a song on the radio. I don't believe classical music is extinct at all; I just think it's not as pervasive in all sects of society as it once was when there weren't so many options of music out there. Of course one reason that people choose pop music over classical is, as I've already explained in another comment, that it's simply easier to listen to. Pop music provides cheap entertainment while doing menial chores and tasks such as laundry, or patching up holes in clothes. One's view on classical music and its popularity really depends on the sort of people he associates himself with. For instance, I went to an arts high school and spent my Saturdays in a preparatory program at a conservatory; therefore, it comes as a surprise to me that some people think classical music is on the decline. However, if I consider the people I know from outside high school or my music school, none of them really listen to classical music, which makes sense because they've never really been exposed to it. I think that anything that can be appreciated aesthetically can indeed fall under the category of aesthetics. I do not think that this title ruins music in any sense. If anything, it enhances it and protects it from such notions like it being wholly based on that which is more concrete and closed to interpretation, such as mathematics. Music does not have to be appreciated aesthetically in order to be considered music, but aesthetically appreciating it makes it worthwhile music. Otherwise, what is separating it from our scholarly pursuits in which there are always right and wrong answers?"
--( posted on Oct 9, 2013, commenting on the post 10/8 – Copland, Kramer, Sparshott )
"I agree with Copland in the sense that music which relays the same message each time you hear it makes it almost insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I'm not saying that good music will dramatically change each time you hear it, but there will always be something small which shifts; there will always be at least one new nuance you've never heard before. This is something I love about music: a composition may be hundreds of years old, but you can hear a performer taking a totally different approach to the piece that you wouldn't have thought of, and suddenly everything shifts. Consistency is nice, but it becomes stale very easily. I also agree with Copland in his description of the way music often renders us unable to produce an accurate description of it as the feeling evoked is often too complex to be put into words. However, I believe that this can happen with a great play or novel as well. I find it very difficult to describe a lot of the good literature I've read beyond "it was amazing," for how can one ever specifically convey that particular feeling of sparks for every sublimity one may reach in connecting with art? I think that the advent of technology is to blame for the decreased interest in classical music. With auto-tune and EDM, people are being bombarded with so much music that is simply pleasing to the ear on a superficial level. No one has to think very hard or even pay very much attention in order to get out of this music its full potential. It is the same thing as comparing reading a summertime novel to Pushkin. People aren't looking for enrichment but rather something to occupy their brains while waiting in a doctor's office. In fact, that is why games like candy crush are so appealing. They provide instant gratification of moving onto another level, similar to a catchy tune in the latest pop hit-single, and one can easily put it down in order to immerse themselves in that which they consider more important, like their careers or social lives. It is a shame that these people most likely just don't know what they're missing. That being said, I certainly do not think that classical music is dying. From my experience, there is still a huge population that appreciates and enjoys it. At the very least, even if people haven't been exposed to classical music, they are at least open to the idea of exploring it. I don't think that classical music will ever be on the level of popularity as the music which one can hear on z100 today, simply because of the increased effort it demands. In order to truly take everything that a classical piece has to offer, one must be totally immersed in it. I, for one, cannot shop for groceries while listening to Bach. I can, however, shop while listening to the radio. With the fast-paced world that we live in, the radio is simply the fastest, easiest way to get one's fix of music. Like all things that are fast and easy, however, it is also of the lowest quality. I do think that keeping classical music alive is simply a manner of taking an evening off and just listening to it, or attending a concert. At the very least, one can perpetuate it by playing it around the house so one's kids can get accustomed to it."
--( posted on Oct 9, 2013, commenting on the post 10/8 – Copland, Kramer, Sparshott )
"1. I agree with Tolstoy in the sense that art must "infect" its audience in order for it to be considered art. For if one doesn't see any meaning in a painting, how can one regard it as anything more than a nice picture on a wall? The whole point of art is expression and communication of said expression. If there is no expression, then what is the point? 2. I think that the only way a world without art would be possible is in a totalitarian state in which the government censors everything and prohibits deviation from the state's doctrine. If a possible digression in thought can cost someone's life, like in Orwell's 1984 the beginnings of Soviet Russia, the people will be too scared to express themselves. Otherwise, I think that art is unavoidable, as people need outlets for their emotions. I don't think that people would be unable to relate to each other in a world without, but I imagine that everyone would be very tightly wound and nervous as to make sure that no accidental inappropriate expression would be betrayed. 3. I don't believe that a work must be truly beautiful in order to be understood by all, but I do think that an artist has truly accomplished art if he can communicate the basic human emotions across cultural barriers for all to understand."
--( posted on Sep 26, 2013, commenting on the post 9/26 – Tolstoy )
"When Tolstoy regarded the art of his time as perverse, he was referring to the "art" that was produced art in hopes of gaining recognition from peers or in pursuit of contentment at having produced something beautiful. These self-proclaimed artists had no intention of transmitting any feeling or emotion. I do not believe that in today's world, paying for art devalues it; making a profit and expression one's emotions are not mutually exclusive. Of course, when money becomes the sole reason behind art, it loses its value, but selling one's work does not mean that it was produced for only that purpose."
--( posted on Sep 26, 2013, commenting on the post 9/26 – Tolstoy )
"1) What with the advent of technology, the world seems to be moving much faster than ever before. New ideas and beliefs spread like wildfire; there is hardly such a thing as a stable status quo nowadays. In ancient times, there was no way of spreading change; therefore, progress was very slow. People had to stick to the basics because that was all that they knew. Today it is much easier to "think outside of the box," if you'll excuse the cliché. 2) I disagree that there is a grey area between art and non-art. If there is feeling involved in the piece, then it is considered art, and vice versa. As for the sketches by the local Indian artist, the same rule would apply. If he was simply making sketches for the money, then there is no art involved. He is simply exchanging his services for money like any other skilled worker. 3) I can identify most with Dick Jobe. His art may not be considered the most sophisticated, but it embodies a personality of familiarity and homeyness. The Volvo-esque logo, the coffee-related decorations, the business licenses, and the Automotive Service Association patches are all distinct expressions of self. I am in no way skilled to produce something of my own in visual art, but decorating is just as potent in expressing who I am."
--( posted on Sep 12, 2013, commenting on the post Specialization of What Art Means to People )
"I certainly agree with Dewey in the sense that teaching art defeats its entire purpose. Dewey was right in his analogy of the poet, where he describes that if the poet tries to literalize or control his poetry, it loses its essence. Art is not something that one can put into a classroom, for feeling cannot be taught. Art is different for each person; therefore, it is impossible for one to impose their own opinion of what art should be onto an entire class. The art classes I took were based on technique, which was very helpful as vocal technique is difficult to grasp simply because one can't see his instrument. The majority of class was not spent on interpretation, as it should be. I believe that art is mainly an indicator of current times. One can reveal his aspirations and hopes as well as convey his everyday emotions; however, one's hopes are based off of that which he already knows which is shaped by the society in which he lives. Even that which is a prospective blueprint of the future tells the viewer about his current surroundings. I do not think that the Navajos and people of Yoruba would be able to see the art in our Western society. The art that Anderson mentions is one of a subtle nature, such as technology or water fluoridation. It is almost disguised as non-art; one needs to dig deeper in order to see these things as art. As for tribes that are more accustomed to wooden statuettes and art closer to nature, I imagine it would be more difficult for them to find the art in our steel universe."
--( posted on Sep 12, 2013, commenting on the post Education of Art, Morality and Viewing Western Civilization through the Eyes of Somebody Out of It. )
"Schjeldahl certainly does not view the relocation as an aesthetic crime. His article seems to be completely for the relocation, as he believes the art is better off in its new home. He may have thought it an aesthetic crime in 2004, before he had seen the art in Philadelphia. However, now that he has seen that nothing is really lost artistically, he condones the move. It seems that although it was promised that Barnes' wishes will be kept, there are no intentions to adhere to his principles if they are inconvenient. The museum was moved to Philadelphia in order to increase revenue; lighting was changed in order to make the paintings as attractive as possible; the design was even changed so that designers would be able to input their own originality. At first, it may seem that Barnes' rights are being respected, but upon closer inquiry, it is clear that there is hierarchy in play here. Both articles chose to not dwell on Barnes' will because it would blatantly disprove their argument that the moving of his artwork is justifiable. If considering the public, he art is better off in Philadelphia: it is more accessible and it is more attractively displayed. However, at the end of the day, the art belongs to Barnes, and Philadelphia had no right to ignore his will."
--( posted on Sep 9, 2013, commenting on the post Underlying Intentions of the New Barnes: For Alfred or the Public? )
"These questions also struck me as I was reading. The author of "Moving Pictures" did in fact have a very one-sided article. It seems as if between 2004 and 2012, Schjeldahl had lost sight of a major issue: Barnes' rights to his own property. He simply describes how well the art fits in its new location. The allusion he makes to his older article only includes how he thought the integrity of the art would change without Barnes' genius design. He says very little about Barnes' rights being violated besides that Barnes would not be happy with the move. Even so, he debases Barnes' feelings by implying that they were simply built on pride over a power struggle with "the man," or Philadelphia's elite. I do not believe that he would have the same position in any other case where there was dissent based on hatred for another institution because it seems that he doesn't even care about Barnes' stance. He only seems concerned with the art. "Victory!" was also extremely one-sided. Martin Filler portrayed Barnes as a crazy old man who was determined to hoard away that which the public is entitled to. What both Filler and Schjeldahl seem to forget is that no matter how great and culturally rich Barnes' collection is, it was still his own. That art is Barnes' private property and he can do what he pleases with it. The public is no more entitled to have access to Barnes' collection than it is to have access to my wardrobe."
--( posted on Sep 9, 2013, commenting on the post Bias, Dissolution of Personal Wish, and An Odd Question of rights )