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Author Topic: Art Forum Voyeur Chimes In  (Read 17394 times)
sradman
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« on: February 04, 2007, 07:50:16 AM »
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I thought I'd end my voyeurism on this forum, register, and add to the conversation.

I am an amateur nature/underwater photographer. I don't think of myself as an artist, nor my images as art. My images are to fine art photography what a newspaper columnist's articles are to literature. This isn't a statement on quality, its a statement on intent and process. I document beautiful things but I don't think I create art.

But I am fascinated by the "what is art" question. So here is a blanket statement:

Art is 50% aesthetic and 50% social

Aesthetic
The aesthetics of an image is what I focus on in my nature/underwater photography. There are certain properties of the image itself that make people say WOW. I like to think about these aspects in terms of "mind modules" the way Steven Pinker describes them in his various books about the mind. This is the area where composition, lighting/shadows, color, depth-of-field, and background come into play.
But we can look at an aesthetically pleasing photo, say of a sunset, and think to ourselves "uh huh, been there, done that". That is when the social aspects of art kick in.

Social
Once you think about the social aspect of art you start to see how pervasive it is. I think of the social aspects on 3 levels:
1) subject
2) artist
3) audience


The subject usually conveys the emotional content. A child's toy in the wreckage of a bombed out building or an eagle soaring with a fish in its claw.

The artist is often a key component to whether we consider an aesthetic work art. We have a notion of what an artist is. We need to know who the artist is and how they went about creating the specific work of art. If you see an abstract image and the artist tells you that it was computer generated, it lessens the quality in your mind. You want/need/expect the artist to go through a certain kind of pain or effort. Consider a quality photograph of a tropical bird that shows the tell-tale signs of a fence in the background. It was shot in a zoo... do you buy the print?

The audience is often forgotten. Self and group identity come into play. The viewer of the art feels a connection to either the subject or the artist.

I started a blog recently and I'm finding myself posting about the "what is art" question more and more. I've covered the following so far:
Photography’s First Gift: Depth of Field
Abstract Expressionism
Cold Compassion

I think depth-of-field is something that photography has specifically given to the world of art. Motion Blur is the other.

I apologize for the length of this post :-(

RAD
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Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2007, 10:46:43 AM »
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sradman

I have just found this thread and I am quite impressed with the way you knitted it together.

There is a problem here, though, and I think that what is happening is that you are taking the entire subject far too seriously. It is impossible to create rules or viewpoints in the manner that you are perhaps suggesting and as far as the ´artist´ is concerned, having all this luggage consciously onboard would induce paralysis. This reminds me of another thread here not so long ago where someone was proposing that photographers (or was it just himself?) might go into the world with the camera and with the articulated thought: I´m going to create some art. I proposed that one just sally forth and see what comes one´s way. Somehow, this didn´t ring artistic enough.

Ciao - Rob C
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2007, 11:29:13 AM »
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I think an important part of the "social" aspect is that the audience always feels compelled to impose (or develop) rules in order to classify the works they are looking at. Understanding the "rules" helps you understand the "art".

But then, the artists are always searching for new ways to break all the old rules so as to be "creative".

Thus, there are endless cycles of building and breaking rules.
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-Eric Myrvaagnes

http://myrvaagnes.com  Visit my website. New images each season.
mmurph
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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2007, 10:17:02 PM »
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RAD,

Nice post. But if you are serious about the question, I think you need to look much farther than a photography bulletin board.

Photographers, in general, tend to be one of the most conservative group of "artists" I have encountered. To understand current conceptions about "what is art", you should probably start with the works - all of the works - of Marcel Duchamp.  Don't skip his later career or you will miss his concluding "remarks."     I would suggest that you could spend 1 or 2 months reading Duchamp and his commentators.

Then take a look at the work of other folks like Josepf Bueys, things like his "I love America, America loves me" performance piece.  And continue.  That will give you a good foundation for understanding much of contemporary art.

Then you can come back herte and write a thesis!    

Good luck, I mean this in all sincerity!

Best,
Michael
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2007, 10:14:00 AM »
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The 50% / 50% blanket statement is a strong quantitative one.  Is there a possibility for, say, 45/55 or 55/45 or even some other distribution?
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Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2007, 10:44:01 AM »
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Quote
The 50% / 50% blanket statement is a strong quantitative one.  Is there a possibility for, say, 45/55 or 55/45 or even some other distribution?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=131027\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Art AND maths is a very dodgy marriage, despite the protestations of those who da-da boomp their way through the layers. Percentages are best left to agents and accountants; they´ll take one, anyway.

Ciao - Rob C
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sradman
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« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2007, 08:54:43 AM »
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Hmmm.... some interesting comments.

I meant for the "50% Aesthetic and 50% Social" as a short hand for "the social aspects of art are as important as the aesthetic aspects".

I think of the social aspects as the "stories" a piece of art tells. Some of the stories are about the subject, some are about the artist, and some of the stories talk to the audience's own experiences. The stories are normally independent of the visual aesthetic of a piece of art.

It is just a personal observation. We rarely think of the social aspects of art but when we think of the various aspects that add "value" to a piece of art it is obvious that the social parts are important... sometimes radically so.

I'm am not trying to come up with a numeric quality of art index I am just trying to point out that the social aspects of art are important and rarely come up in the "what is art" philosophical discussions.
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Rob C
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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2007, 09:55:51 AM »
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Quote
Hmmm.... some interesting comments.

I meant for the "50% Aesthetic and 50% Social" as a short hand for "the social aspects of art are as important as the aesthetic aspects".

I think of the social aspects as the "stories" a piece of art tells. Some of the stories are about the subject, some are about the artist, and some of the stories talk to the audience's own experiences. The stories are normally independent of the visual aesthetic of a piece of art.

It is just a personal observation. We rarely think of the social aspects of art but when we think of the various aspects that add "value" to a piece of art it is obvious that the social parts are important... sometimes radically so.

I'm am not trying to come up with a numeric quality of art index I am just trying to point out that the social aspects of art are important and rarely come up in the "what is art" philosophical discussions.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=133409\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

sradman, perhaps that´s because I can´t imagine anyone thinking along such lines at the moment of taking a picture. It seems to me to be part of the after-shooting game, along with the titles that folks feel obliged to give, possibly to strengthen a weak image; you know, a sales pitch to pretend there is more to the thing than there actually is.
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Ray
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« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2007, 11:22:02 PM »
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The principle of dividing the value of a work of art into social and esthetic consideration is fine as long as we remember they are subjective considerations.

One viewer might be mostly concerned with the esthetic considerations and largely oblivious to the social implications, and vice versa for another viewer.

I've often wondered what social aspects might be bestowed upon some modern abstract paintings.

Here's a shot from Sebastiao Salgado which is roughly 50% esthetic and 50% social (very roughly).

[attachment=3029:attachment]

I wish I could have taken a photo like this. There's no sense of the 'rat race' here. No 'keeping up with the Jones's'. No worrying about 'my house is bigger than yours', 'my car is faster, more luxurious etc, than yours'.

There's only one problem. Those bloody Homo Sapiens! Some of them try to bump us off. Those guys with cameras seem okay, though.  
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Rob C
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« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2007, 04:52:37 AM »
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Ray -nice to see youn back!

Ciao - Rob C
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