Do the Fine Arts make you a better person? page 2

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Originally posted by Jantonaitis:

I don’t mind the movie. I read the book recently and quite like it. I tried to organize a fight club when I was overseas, but got no takers.

:-D. I think that’s one of the few incidences where the author felt the movie actually improved upon the book. I’m probably biased and more attached to the movie, since I saw it before I read the novel.

 
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Yeah, good point. There’s something called the massey lectures in Canada that are on the radio every year. I used to steal them off the internet and listen to them. It’s not so much what they say (they have a distinct left-wing bias which can be jarring) as how they say it.

I think in order for a speech to be considered art, it has to excel at both the content and the delivery. A speech is really nothing more than a fusion of literature and theater. A speech with great content and a horrible delivery or a fantastic speaker who doesn’t say anything aren’t really remarkable. When a great speech given by a great speaker occurs, it becomes something more.

I like Notes from Underground, though I wouldn’t go as far as calling it art.

I quite enjoy most Dostoyevsky, although I just especially love C & P (probably my fourth favorite book ever) and Raskolnikov I find to be a completely fascinating character.


I’m probably biased and more attached to the movie, since I saw it before I read the novel.

It helps having Ed Norton in it. He makes everything better.

 
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They normally make people worse, they tend to come with a smug air of self superiority.

 
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Originally posted by issendorf:

It helps having Ed Norton in it. He makes everything better.

Absolutely.

 
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Originally posted by thepunisher52:
Originally posted by Jantonaitis:

In the fantasies of every male pakistani under 30, I imagine.

Based on the response in Punisher’s post directly above mine, I’d say sex with you is first and foremost in punisher’s mind, rather than that erotica novel, Janton. That’s probably a much more disturbing thought. :)

 
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Originally posted by vikaTae:
Originally posted by thepunisher52:
Originally posted by Jantonaitis:

In the fantasies of every male pakistani under 30, I imagine.


Based on the response in Punisher’s post directly above mine, I’d say sex with you is first and foremost in punisher’s mind, rather than that erotica novel, Janton. That’s probably a much more disturbing thought. :)


I admit defeat, I’ve been served.
 
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Fine arts? If I pull out Wagner, Godwin’s law will certainly ensues.

And by the way, what is fine art, actually? Something over a century old, sold at Sotheby’s for a few million bucks? Something that is incomprehensible for the most of the populace? I know it is defined at the OP but if Chinese Food(Warning: Pedomusic) is classified into fine art, then I have nothing to say.

 
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I’ve tried listening to Wagner before but it’s hard to enjoy it. Perhaps you have to understand German. The nazi reference has been discarded for a number of years now; most would likely associate it with the helicopters in Apocalypse Now.

Your post brings up a good point that I’ve been hoping to pursue though. I used to listen to a lot of foreign music – especially Celtic / Gaelic and Swahili. I don’t speak either language but I enjoyed the sounds of it, especially the cyclical resonance in a lot of Celtic songs. There’s a few musicians from both I’d probably put up there as being genuine artists. But the catch is that I haven’t the least idea what the songs are about. They might as well be singing about pedophilia for all I know. So, I guess my question is, can something be art if you don’t fully understand what’s going on?

Take another example, this one from literature: just about anything written by the English modernists – Joyce, Pound, Eliot. A lot of their stuff doesn’t make a lot of sense line-to-line. In fact, a lot of their stuff doesn’t even sound particularly good line-to-line. But they’re at the top of the canon for most College English reading lists, mainly because of the mythological/symbolic references embedded within that you need a phD or a CliffNotes to figure out. The central climax of Joyce’s Ulysses, for example, requires you to be familiar with Wagner. If you aren’t, then all you get from the passage is that one of the two main characters breaks a lamp.

Finally, a lot of visual art, especially post-modern visual art, works the same way as the music example does – you can’t really understand what’s going on, but on an intuitive level, it’s enjoyable. Likewise, there’s a lot of visual art, especially from the medieval or renaissance, like Brueghel, that looks good, but the reason it’s art is because of all the little bits of symbolism the artist put inside. I can’t understand why people classify either style as ‘art’. The sort of visual art I like (you can take it as a working definition) is something that strikes me as clever as well as aesthetically pleasing . I have this dali piece hanging in my room, for example, and this piece I saw at the MoMA by a Castilian realist named Reveron as the backdrop for my computer screen. The dali one is self-explanatory; the Reveron one I like because of the visuals and also because the women in the background are apparently dolls because no female model wanted to work with him (he was kinda a freak).

 
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Originally posted by Jantonaitis:

I’ve tried listening to Wagner before but it’s hard to enjoy it. Perhaps you have to understand German. The nazi reference has been discarded for a number of years now; most would likely associate it with the helicopters in Apocalypse Now.

Your post brings up a good point that I’ve been hoping to pursue though. I used to listen to a lot of foreign music – especially Celtic / Gaelic and Swahili. I don’t speak either language but I enjoyed the sounds of it, especially the cyclical resonance in a lot of Celtic songs.

Sounds like you might enjoy the scene they have going on at the Colorado Renaissance Festival every year. We bought a Celtic Music CD, from these guys I think, but I kind of dig that scene for reasons I can’t explain.

So, I guess my question is, can something be art if you don’t fully understand what’s going on?

I would hope so. There’s many masterpieces from Dali, for instance, that are appealing but make no sense. Picasso was rife with this dream-like chaos as well. I like the style of cubism, and it reminds me of a lot of the style and architecture of the 80’s—perhaps it even inspired some? I have a picture of a sort of blend of cubism/impressionism that was hanging in my dorm room sometime back; it was a knockoff and probably nothing important, but it reminded me of Tuscany (as well as matched my bedspread really well), so I hung onto it.

Finally, a lot of visual art, especially post-modern visual art, works the same way as the music example does – you can’t really understand what’s going on, but on an intuitive level, it’s enjoyable. Likewise, there’s a lot of visual art, especially from the medieval or renaissance, like Brueghel, that looks good, but the reason it’s art is because of all the little bits of symbolism the artist put inside. I can’t understand why people classify either style as ‘art’. The sort of visual art I like (you can take it as a working definition) is something that strikes me as clever as well as aesthetically pleasing . I have this dali piece hanging in my room, for example, and this piece I saw at the MoMA by a Castilian realist named Reveron as the backdrop for my computer screen. The dali one is self-explanatory; the Reveron one I like because of the visuals and also because the women in the background are apparently dolls because no female model wanted to work with him (he was kinda a freak).

The Dali picture you cite (butterflies) is strange but gives me a sense of peace, and reminds me of some of my days visiting San Francisco—probably the sailboats and the use of color. So yes, it speaks to us even if we don’t understand it, and that’s what’s important, right?

 
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So, I guess my question is, can something be art if you don’t fully understand what’s going on?

Absolutely. TN mentioned art which I quite agree with – almost none of it makes sense (and in the case of abstract masterpieces, that’s sorta the point).

Avant garde film is something I had to study fairly often and I routinely didn’t know what was going on. Ballet Mécanique was fun to watch even though I have no earthly idea what the director meant. Same goes for Mulholland Drive. It was a really fun movie although about 2/3 of the way through I lost what Lynch was trying to do.

Same goes for European Art Cinema. Persona is a neat film but it goes over my head. None the less, I can appreciate what the director was able to accomplish – I recognize that it’s great cinema even if I may not appreciate it to its fullest.

 
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Originally posted by issendorf:
Ballet Mécanique was fun to watch even though I have no earthly idea what the director meant.

Not even the synopsis provided a good explanation as to what was going on; this is probably along the same lines as Fantasia —sit back, get high (or not), and just watch.

I felt kind of the same way about The Master. My husband walked out of the theatre, shrugged, and said, “I have no idea what that was about.” But good performances, nonetheless. I liked it.

 
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Not even the synopsis provided a good explanation as to what was going on

Pretty much, from what I remember, gears and stuff but there was some neat camera work going on to make some really fascinating shots. It may have been the director wanted to do nothing more than to create something visually appealing.

this is probably along the same lines as Fantasia —sit back, get high (or not), and just watch.

Yeah…. I was watching it during an 8 am lecture; my goal was to not fall completely asleep so I’d have something to say about it for the write up.

 
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Answering to the OP: Maybe it does…

 
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Good article. I liked this part:

But although I believe that literature is a huge and indispensable aspect of our humanity—that books are, as Susan Sontag put it, nothing less than “a way of being fully human”—I felt that there was something oddly diminishing, and perhaps even absurd, in the notion of bringing literature to account in this way [through empiricial testing]. Of sitting people down and giving them a chunk of Chekhov to work their way through, and then measuring the short-term uptick in their ability to read people’s facial expressions

 
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It is absurd because it is completely unreliable. “Forcing” someone to read some pages (i.e. they are not reading a full novel out of pleasure) and then trying to measure the ability to read people’s facial expression… the observer effect is gigantic on that one. However, if we truly want to know the answer to that question, we must do tests like this (tests that actually work).

 
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Fine art embodies our collective history, philosophy, and culture. It is unaffected by popular opinion. It illuminates those who are touched by it. It withstands the test of time.

Pop art comes and goes, and aside from a few nostalgists, it is eventually forgotten. Fine art is ageless. It cultivates enthusiasts and students of it’s own accord, without having to be shoved down people’s throats. It continues to inspire, and like good education, it teaches people how to think, not what to think.

Fine art teaches us how to create, not what to create.

 
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So, I guess my question is, can something be art if you don’t fully understand what’s going on?

I’d say certainly. But to frame it a different way, who defines what is ‘going on’? Is it the intent of the author? Or the reception of the audience? Is successful transmission the only grounds of art?

Now as for what is declaratively a ‘better person’, that might be a different discussion. But I see the Fine Art’s as a potential bridge into abstract reasoning, empathy, problem solving, cultural expression, personal expression, value criticism. It has a fair bit going for it, potentially. Also by not operating out of our language (mostly) it’s a very universal methodology (mostly).

Fine art embodies our collective history, philosophy, and culture.

I would suggest not so much as it is given credit for, however. Fine Art has always been used to supplant revisionist histories enfranchising the status quo. Also, in it’s embodiment of collective values one can make a case for its destruction, as opposed to celebration. Case in point, The Futurist Manifesto. One of my favorite works of the written word. All the beauty and brutality of unrestrained iconoclasm.
http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/T4PM/futurist-manifesto.html

It is unaffected by popular opinion.

I would have to suggest that is well frankly absurd. On what grounds do you find Fine Art unaffected by popular opinion, as opposed to defined by it? What Fine Art exists outside of popular opinion, particularly in matters of reception, allegations of meaning, material value, ect.

 
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Ungeziefer To clarify, I’m suggesting that fine art, after withstanding the test of time, is unaffected by popular opinion. Still, some art is completely original, often unappreciated during it’s own time, and then becomes timeless.

Also, I’m not limiting the definition of fine art to any specific time period or culture. Consider the difference between classical Sitar ragas and Hindi pop music.

The difference between fine art, and commercial art is intangible, but ever present. I would go far as to say that fine art has a soul. With pop art we end up with a copy of a copy of a copy of something that was originally motivated by something other than money.

Longevity, and authentic roots in the culture of it’s origin is what makes art fine. That’s the difference between William Shakespeare and Danielle Steel, or more to the point, Van Gogh compared to Thomas Kinkade.

Also I’m pretty sure that George Frideric Handel could kick Jay Z’s buttocks.

John Coltrane VS. Kenny G.

Etc.

 
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Ungeziefer To clarify, I’m suggesting that fine art, after withstanding the test of time, is unaffected by popular opinion. Still, some art is completely original, often unappreciated during it’s own time, and then becomes timeless.

Still quite disagree. It is popular opinion that defines fine art and gives it it’s pedigree. Our reception and attitude towards fine art, can, and has, shifted radically. Look at what Marxism, or Facism, or the Nazi’s did to Fine Art. Look at what the Christian conversion of Rome did to Fine Art. Look at what the Catholic Backlash in the Renaissance did to Fine Art.

Also, I’m not limiting the definition of fine art to any specific time period or culture. Consider the difference between classical Sitar ragas and Hindi pop music.

I’m afraid I am going to have to press you to exactly what differences you are alluding to. I believe you are suggesting one is inherently superior to the other prima facie. I’d like you to expound as to why.

The difference between fine art, and commercial art is intangible, but ever present. I would go far as to say that fine art has a soul. With pop art we end up with a copy of a copy of a copy of something that was originally motivated by something other than money.

One again, disagree. I believe the difference between Fine Art and Commercial Art is it’s consumer base and their motivations. Something fairly tangible indeed. Copy of a copy? Fine Art had a long standing, self evident, and honest tradition of copying from The Masters for centuries. Go to any Gallery/Museum exhibiting them, you’ll likely see the practice marching ever onward. The Masters, in turn, of course copied extensively from The Greeks and The Romans.

I also find the idea of Fine Art as inherently, and also exclusively, motivated independently of financial concerns questionable. More then a few Fine Artists saw considerable wealth, power and influence as a consequence. I’d also say plenty of artists never canonized within the Fine Arts labored quite sincerely without financial gain.

Longevity, and authentic roots in the culture of it’s origin is what makes art fine.

Longevity? Longevity in what context? A plastic bag is well rooted in our culture, and is going to to last a damn long time, is that Fine Art? Longevity is a function of constant social intervention, and/or base materials. Shit breaks, the arts are no exception. Where are the caps of the pyramid? The marbles of rome? Did they stop being Fine Art the moment someone took a hammer to them? Longevity is constant social intervention, is constant social affirmation, is the status quo.

Secondly, what is problematic about inauthentic cultural roots? Wouldn’t, again, the authentication of appropriate cultural boundaries by an outside authority just be a function of once again simply be a function of appeal?

That’s the difference between William Shakespeare and Danielle Steel, or more to the point, Van Gogh compared to Thomas Kinkade.

Van Gogh copied shamelessly from Ukiyo-E, he’s not Japanese, so how is that function of authentic cultural roots? Further, Kinkade fails longevity inherently because he is contemporary, so that is just a flawed comparison. Yes, new things are not old things.

 
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Ungeziefer, I feel no need to defend my position, or contend yours. A hundred years from now, when Handel’s Messiah is still still being performed by orchestras, and no one on earth will even know who Jay Z was, we’ll both be dead, and this conversation won’t matter.

 
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Originally posted by Aleazor:

Ungeziefer, I feel no need to defend my position, or contend yours. A hundred years from now, when Handel’s Messiah is still still being performed by orchestras, and no one on earth will even know who Jay Z was, we’ll both be dead, and this conversation won’t matter.

how classist and probably racist of you. The idea that hip-hop (or really any form of popular music) cannot be art is purely a function of the belief that true art is not for the masses, but for some sort of elite. Add into that the fact that you immediately jump to JayZ, an urban and black performer, as an example of music that wont stand the test of time (probably because you’re white and privileged, so you don’t identify with the messages and feel of hiphop) kinda shows the racial and classist bias you hold.

Identifying exclusively with classsical music is p pseudointellectual, imho.

(i will give you that jay z probs wont stand the test of time, but thats purely because tupac, B.I.G, eminem, kanye, etc. do what he does far better. I wager they’ll be remembered to the same extent as the orchestral classics.)

 
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Glad to see the thread has been picked up again.

Like Ung and cammy I have a hard time with the idea that fine art is produced in some kind of bubble free from crass commercial interests. I think that’s an idea we picked up from the Modernists, who were themselves deliberately trying to hit the elitist ceiling.

As to what will survive, or what has survived…let’s do the latter first. Much of our fine art (visual) has survived because of conquerors who liked the idea of surrounding themselves with pretty things, without much discrimination of what was ‘pretty’, a practice begun long before the nazis, but they’re certainly one of the better examples. In terms of literature it’s been pretty random. We’re missing a number of plays by sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, etc, a big chunk of aristotle…what we have of sappho was found in an egyptian garbage dump. That’s just the greeks. We bemoan the loss of the library of Alexandria but tend to forget that they weren’t famous for collecting great works, they were famous for collecting EVERYTHING ever written down. It’s not as though the great works survived because they were destined to. For that matter, it’s far from certain that they are great works, compared to what was lost. A lot of plato’s dialogues survived that nobody reads except plato scholars.

As to what will survive…we’re in a much better position than the Alexandrians. Solid state memory will keep everything written down secure, even if there’s no computers left to read them…of course, that in itself is a problem. We may advance so far that our descendants are unable to read the files in memory. Otherwise, barring a disaster or war, etc, I strongly suspect that everything written before the invention of the internet /and or the feminist revolution / end of USSR will be more or less permanently shelved and all but forgotten, because our culture(s) will have moved too far, too fast, and we’ll be unable to make sense of them in any meaningful way.

What I mean by that is we might recognize that they’re art in some theoretical way, the way we recognize Gilgamesh as art, but it definitely won’t be something any but a very slim minority will be reading in the future (but then again, only a slim minority reads any ‘art’ books). I already feel that way about Dickens, Austen, and most other Augustans/Victorians; I don’t think it’ll be too long before we view anything written before 1980-1990 as belonging in the dustbin of history.

Sometimes I’ll be reading something, a mystery or some genre fiction written around or before that time, and I’ll think ‘Why doesn’t he just use his cell, or why is he so suspicious of the guy with the russian name, or why is his wife so submissive?’ And then I’ll remember and I’ll immediately lose interest in it as anything but a quaint historical novel. Because, nothing against historical novels, but it’s difficult to follow along when you find the motivations or actions of the characters utterly incomprehensible.

Another example: Japanese literature like Haruki Murakami, is tough to understand for western audiences, because he’s a post modernist and also because it’s translated, and also because it’s from a foreign culture. But Japanese culture, while strange to westerners, isn’t THAT different. It’s not that hard to get into the rhythm and follow along. In contrast, reading kabuki, or Lady Murasaki, is completely alien. You need a cliffnotes to understand it, not because it’s stylistically any more difficult than Murakami (they’re both a lot simpler, actually) but just because it’s so far removed from our time. The idea that the ‘human condition’ has eternal characteristics that are universally recognizable by other humans in any era, is pretty much pure bullshit. And if it IS bullshit, why do we bother reading that stuff at all?

NB: We might listen to handel, but we don’t listen to Wagner (except Flight of the Valkyries), and that is really only because wagner has been so heavily politicized. How many other supposedly great works will we / do we ignore for the same reason? Or to reverse it, consider how people so often idolize Napoleon, but never read him. Why? Because regardless of the humanist stuff he’s famous for, his actual writings are often antithetical to most modern tastes.

 
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Ungeziefer, I feel no need to defend my position, or contend yours. A hundred years from now, when Handel’s Messiah is still still being performed by orchestras, and no one on earth will even know who Jay Z was, we’ll both be dead, and this conversation won’t matter.

But can’t quite resist having the last word? I don’t always agree with Urine, but have to suggest he’s mostly on point. Your inability, or unwillingness to defend your position is because it is logically unsound. It’s the autofellation of the elite. There’s virtue enough in the Fine Arts, but not as a simple affirmation of the power structures which sanction its conception.

But, speaking of Fine Art and orchestral snobbery, here’s some Strauss celebrating that most notorious iconoclast.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFPwm0e_K98

Janto, to be fair to the politicization of Wagner, I feel he was a political guy making earnestly political works.

 
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I agree, obsessing over art from the past is a great way to pave the future.

brb sacrificing goats to God because people in the past did it so it must be great!