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Author Topic: Essay: Beauty and Desecration  (Read 25285 times)
LKaven
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« Reply #40 on: December 03, 2009, 10:33:57 AM »
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Quote from: EduPerez
I like to highlight one of LKaven's comments (not because I have something again LKaven, of course, but because I have heard / read that same argument upon extenuation):


There it is.

First there is this concept that there is something out there to be understood. Merely contemplating a piece of art is no longer enough: you have to know the artist's statement, you need to talk to him / her and understand his / her motives, you must be versed on the true meaning of art, and keep informed about the latest and greatest in art; that is what you have to do to understand what you are seeing.

But then... then nothing, you just stay there, staring and feeling absolutely nothing. Sorry, but if it does not make me feel something deep inside, I am not interested. Call me primitive if you want, but art that does not transmit a feeling bores me; no matter what it talks about, and no matter how much meaning the author thinks it has.

And there is also this emperor's new clothes emanating from that argument: if you criticize someone's work, it  has to be because you do not understand it (there is no other imaginable reason why you could disagree with the author, of course); thus, unless you want to be called a fool, you must say great things about the most absurd occurrences.

This is what I think; now, feel free to bash me for my rudeness and ignorance: I am young, I will recover.
There are a couple of issues to separate out.  In this case, I was making a point about exegesis of existentialist works, and whether they mean what Scrutin takes them to mean.  [I claimed he didn't.  It's been a couple of weeks since I wrote that, so I would have to take a second look at everything to explain that further.]  This is aside from the point of whether or not a correct understanding would affect his aesthetic experience of them.  

Speaking to your point, I think there is always a question of whether the experience of an art work will yield aesthetic rewards, and to what extent it is necessary for the viewer/listener to meet the art work (or the artist) halfway in order to achieve satisfaction.  One of the beautiful things about art is of course that this question often can't be answered a priori.  So the question for the viewer/listener is to make a judgment about how much s/he should invest of herself in the hope of achieving satisfaction.  This judgment involves a balancing of considerations involving judgments about what the work promises, and in cases where the work promises eventual satisfaction, whether it is worth the investment to gain it.  Making these judgments are fraught with uncertainty, but are also tied up in the direction of "the long journey" that the neophyte (necessarily) undertakes.  

As someone who understands modern jazz very well, I can say that knowledge about musical theory, modernist aesthetics, as well as an acquaintance with a certain musical/cultural vocabulary involved in "what the artist is saying" all make a crucial difference in the experience of the music.  There is, in many such cases, a sense in which the listener "gets it" or "doesn't get it", and in that way, it can be an all-or-nothing affair.  In order to grasp a simple joke, it is necessary to have the relevant background beliefs to render the joke sensible in the first place.  Without those beliefs, a joke is vacuous to the listener.  It is certainly the case in music that a period of study can transform the listener's experience radically, overwhelmingly, and ultimately deliver enormous satisfaction.  But this long journey only seems worthwhile to those who see it's promise from a great distance.  And of course, there are some journeys that lead to nowhere.

Add to this that there is often a certain gamesmanship in the art world involving people maneuvering for power, fame, and money.  The commonplaces of these games are such claims as "I am avant garde," "I am complex and misunderstood," "you are old" (and by nefarious implication thereby obsolete), "you are envious," or "you don't understand".  At its worst, this is a shell game involving semantic sleight of hand played around an empty pursuit.  Sometimes, though, the most overlooked artists yield unexpected and satisfying aesthetic experiences when you finally get around to seeing/hearing it.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2009, 10:35:19 AM by LKaven » Logged

Pete_G
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« Reply #41 on: December 03, 2009, 10:43:12 AM »
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Roger Scruton is an ultra right-wing reactionary essayist. He can't be taken seriously.
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Rob C
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« Reply #42 on: December 03, 2009, 11:17:41 AM »
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Quote from: Pete_G
Roger Scruton is an ultra right-wing reactionary essayist. He can't be taken seriously.


In that case, I had better read everything he has to say.

;-)

Rob C
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Justan
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« Reply #43 on: December 03, 2009, 12:56:19 PM »
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Quote from: Pete_G
Roger Scruton is an ultra right-wing reactionary essayist. He can't be taken seriously.

Interesting. Prior to your note I’d never considered political affiliation as a driving force in art essays.  But it certainly can be.
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Pete_G
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« Reply #44 on: December 03, 2009, 07:28:59 PM »
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Interesting. Prior to your note I’d never considered political affiliation as a driving force in art essays.  But it certainly can be.


"One response is to look for beauty in its other and more everyday forms—the beauty of settled streets and cheerful faces, of natural objects and genial landscapes. It is possible to throw dirt on these things, too, and it is the mark of a second-rate artist to take such a path to our attention—the via negativa of desecration."

Scruton, Beauty and Desecration.

"beauty of settled streets and cheerful faces", "genial landscapes", sounds like John Betjeman, but that was 50 years ago wasn't it? Certainly isn't Iraq or Afghanistan. Scrotum has always hankered after the countryside, and fox hunting too.
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Rob C
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« Reply #45 on: December 04, 2009, 02:42:20 AM »
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Quote from: Pete_G
Scruton, Beauty and Desecration.

"beauty of settled streets and cheerful faces", "genial landscapes", sounds like John Betjeman, but that was 50 years ago wasn't it? Certainly isn't Iraq or Afghanistan. Scrotum has always hankered after the countryside, and fox hunting too.




As you indicated, must have been a tough name to live with as a child!

Rob C
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #46 on: December 04, 2009, 02:48:17 PM »
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Quote from: Pete_G
"One response is to look for beauty in its other and more everyday forms—the beauty of settled streets and cheerful faces, of natural objects and genial landscapes. It is possible to throw dirt on these things, too, and it is the mark of a second-rate artist to take such a path to our attention—the via negativa of desecration."

Scruton, Beauty and Desecration.

"beauty of settled streets and cheerful faces", "genial landscapes", sounds like John Betjeman, but that was 50 years ago wasn't it? Certainly isn't Iraq or Afghanistan. Scrotum has always hankered after the countryside, and fox hunting too.

Hmmm.
That would be what is known as an ad hominem attack; going after the person rather than his ideas or arguments. It's certainly fine to have issues with someone's thesis or argument. That's what we're here for, to debate and contend with ideas. But schoolyard taunts? Seriously?

Let's be adults, please.
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EduPerez
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« Reply #47 on: December 07, 2009, 07:24:19 AM »
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Quote from: LKaven
There are a couple of issues to separate out.  In this case, I was making a point about exegesis of existentialist works, and whether they mean what Scrutin takes them to mean.  [I claimed he didn't.  It's been a couple of weeks since I wrote that, so I would have to take a second look at everything to explain that further.]  This is aside from the point of whether or not a correct understanding would affect his aesthetic experience of them.  

Speaking to your point, I think there is always a question of whether the experience of an art work will yield aesthetic rewards, and to what extent it is necessary for the viewer/listener to meet the art work (or the artist) halfway in order to achieve satisfaction.  One of the beautiful things about art is of course that this question often can't be answered a priori.  So the question for the viewer/listener is to make a judgment about how much s/he should invest of herself in the hope of achieving satisfaction.  This judgment involves a balancing of considerations involving judgments about what the work promises, and in cases where the work promises eventual satisfaction, whether it is worth the investment to gain it.  Making these judgments are fraught with uncertainty, but are also tied up in the direction of "the long journey" that the neophyte (necessarily) undertakes.  

As someone who understands modern jazz very well, I can say that knowledge about musical theory, modernist aesthetics, as well as an acquaintance with a certain musical/cultural vocabulary involved in "what the artist is saying" all make a crucial difference in the experience of the music.  There is, in many such cases, a sense in which the listener "gets it" or "doesn't get it", and in that way, it can be an all-or-nothing affair.  In order to grasp a simple joke, it is necessary to have the relevant background beliefs to render the joke sensible in the first place.  Without those beliefs, a joke is vacuous to the listener.  It is certainly the case in music that a period of study can transform the listener's experience radically, overwhelmingly, and ultimately deliver enormous satisfaction.  But this long journey only seems worthwhile to those who see it's promise from a great distance.  And of course, there are some journeys that lead to nowhere.

Add to this that there is often a certain gamesmanship in the art world involving people maneuvering for power, fame, and money.  The commonplaces of these games are such claims as "I am avant garde," "I am complex and misunderstood," "you are old" (and by nefarious implication thereby obsolete), "you are envious," or "you don't understand".  At its worst, this is a shell game involving semantic sleight of hand played around an empty pursuit.  Sometimes, though, the most overlooked artists yield unexpected and satisfying aesthetic experiences when you finally get around to seeing/hearing it.

Thank you for your patience; I appreciate your efforts, and I see your point, but I still find it hard to believe that education can lead me to enjoy someone's feces put inside of a can, or that I will admire a blank canvas on a gallery more that on a hardware store, or that a shark inside a tank is art because it is inside an art museum instead of a biology museum, or that I will be able to telepathically receive someone's performance.

I confess I am a complete ignorant about jazz, but I am pretty sure that there are musicians on the stage during concerts, and that they are supposed to play their instruments; I may not be able to appreciate all the fine details, but I think I can distinguish a sad theme from a happy one. Now, a blank canvas...
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Ray
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« Reply #48 on: December 07, 2009, 11:05:24 PM »
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Quote from: EduPerez
Thank you for your patience; I appreciate your efforts, and I see your point, but I still find it hard to believe that education can lead me to enjoy someone's feces put inside of a can, or that I will admire a blank canvas on a gallery more that on a hardware store, or that a shark inside a tank is art because it is inside an art museum instead of a biology museum, or that I will be able to telepathically receive someone's performance.

I confess I am a complete ignorant about jazz, but I am pretty sure that there are musicians on the stage during concerts, and that they are supposed to play their instruments; I may not be able to appreciate all the fine details, but I think I can distinguish a sad theme from a happy one. Now, a blank canvas...

Good point! But we should not use the exception to demonstrate a trend. That which does not inspire or is not meaningful, will eventually fall by the wayside.

I too have seen in art galleries the occasional painting of a clear wash with no detail, essentially, a blank canvas. I've thought to myself (or commented to my partner), how silly and pointless, and what a waste of money and effort sponsoring such a work.

On the other hand, I sometimes think, when struggling to be as kind and understanding as possible, that perhaps such a work does have a point and purpose, which is to define and provide an example of something that is meaningless and pointless. The title of such a work could be, 'Meaningless, Pointless, and a Complete Waste of Money'. A benchmark has thus been set suggesting that from here forward, just about anything might be better.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2009, 11:11:45 PM by Ray » Logged
Rob C
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« Reply #49 on: December 15, 2009, 04:21:46 AM »
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Quote from: Ray
Good point! But we should not use the exception to demonstrate a trend. That which does not inspire or is not meaningful, will eventually fall by the wayside.

I too have seen in art galleries the occasional painting of a clear wash with no detail, essentially, a blank canvas. I've thought to myself (or commented to my partner), how silly and pointless, and what a waste of money and effort sponsoring such a work.

On the other hand, I sometimes think, when struggling to be as kind and understanding as possible, that perhaps such a work does have a point and purpose, which is to define and provide an example of something that is meaningless and pointless. The title of such a work could be, 'Meaningless, Pointless, and a Complete Waste of Money'. A benchmark has thus been set suggesting that from here forward, just about anything might be better.




So there you have it: generosity of spirit in both artist and viewer - the best interface of all!

Rob C
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Theresa
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« Reply #50 on: January 12, 2010, 07:37:13 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Oddly, considering the brayings of the feminist movements, political correctness and their combined contributions to the eventual demise of my calendar business, it's interesting that the overarching effect has not been what those people had expected: rather than simply sanitising the world's media, they achieved the opposite effect of driving out much that merely put women up there on an anassailable pedestal and turned the ground over to the pornographers. Some alternative! And now, if you want to see good-looking women without their clothes on, where do you go? Exactly! Right into the heart of the women's world - the fashion magazines. Now is that a feminist victory or the annihilation of the movement at source, in the very heart of the gender?

As the author indicates, if you kill off beauty you fill the void with the cult of the ugly, the corrupt and the profane.

Rob C

As a woman I find fashion magazines and glamour photography degrading.  I think you are "braying" against the trend to see beauty in how women really are, not their glamourizing in the pornographic images of the fashion photography world and your loss of access to the pornography you were used to.  The world is not composed only of young, smooth skinned women but of women who have struggled through life and their bodies show it.  I find real images of people beautiful, an obviously subjective category and one that you have objectified.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
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Rob C
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« Reply #51 on: January 13, 2010, 10:14:47 AM »
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Quote from: Theresa
As a woman I find fashion magazines and glamour photography degrading.  I think you are "braying" against the trend to see beauty in how women really are, not their glamourizing in the pornographic images of the fashion photography world and your loss of access to the pornography you were used to.  The world is not composed only of young, smooth skinned women but of women who have struggled through life and their bodies show it.  I find real images of people beautiful, an obviously subjective category and one that you have objectified.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.




An interesting take on my post, and I might have misunderstood what you appeared to be saying. I attempt, below, to try and make my position unambiguous.

1. I was never a pornographer; I hated that genre and still do.

2. Women 'really are' as women are; some are undeniably beautiful and others undeniably ugly with the majority in the middle, just as are men available in similar styles.

3. Beauty is  most certainly not in the eye of the beholder; all that is in the eye of the beholder is subjectivity and then perhaps when directed by the underlying feeling that such a justification is necessary as a form of self-defence or self-justification as, perhaps, in the case of finding one's self with a less than spectacular girlfriend. I will grant you that beauty might mean different physical things within different ethnic groupings, but by the way that trophy wives etc. are traded I am beginning to think otherwise. Were beauty purely a subjective tick in the eye, then no trophy ladies could, by definition, be deemed to exist.

4. Confusing the fact that some women struggle through life - who doesn't? - with beauty is bizarre; beauty is physical; character is spiritual. Beauty is probably temporary, accidental and on loan to anyone who has it whilst character is pretty well fixed and either ugly or beautiful or neutral. It is all too easy to equate the gentleness of an angel with the beauty of a Bardot; they have nothing in common though Miss B might also have been an exception... I used to think so.

5. The moment you select anything in order to photograph it you have 'objectified' it; what else have you imagined yourself to have done?

Rob C
« Last Edit: January 13, 2010, 10:16:21 AM by Rob C » Logged

LKaven
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« Reply #52 on: January 13, 2010, 12:44:29 PM »
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I think it is partly in our nature to have our self-images reflected as idealized versions of ourselves and our potential.  Men characteristically see themselves -- or their own potential -- reflected in movies and stories about other men with heroic qualities, superhuman strength and stamina, and highly idealized bodies.  Of course, many women see themselves correspondingly too, as reflected in stories about women with superhuman qualities.  But women characteristically see themselves reflected in idealized forms as creatures of special beauty and grace and make use of a mise en scene in order to form the image, along with imaginative props and accessories, and special finesse in color and composition.  

And one thing I think increasingly is that all women, regardless of whether they fit the ideal exactly, are closer themselves to the ideal than anything else in creation that isn't a woman.  In other words, the ideal partly reinforces the sense that all (all to an approximation) women are special and beautiful, paradoxical as it sounds.  However, this is not to deny that the entire business is infected with games having to do with brutal competition for wealth, power, and status, and other predatory pursuits.  Fashion is at its essence about selling something, and in its historical practice, it is often vacuous, especially where it pretends to be something else -- such as social commentary or high art.  To put one's self forth falsely as social commentary when one's true purpose is selling is a prostitution of a special kind, one that is not unique to gender.
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« Reply #53 on: January 13, 2010, 02:03:42 PM »
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Quote from: Theresa
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

This is an unfortunate but common misconception.

There has been quite a bit of research on both female and male beauty. Beauty is directly correlated with left/right symmetry in body proportions and facial characteristics, smooth skin, shiny hair, and small waist-to-hip ratio in women (correlated with fertility). A beautiful face is "average," meaning that the proportions correspond with those of the average face in the population - although I postulate that the most beautiful faces are beyond average, eg. Angelina Jolie with her lips which are "too" thick, and Cindy Crawford with her mole. These are universal, regardless of race, upbringing and social status. Even babies with no pre-conceived cultural influences look at pictures of pretty people longer than those of ugly kissers.

Also, striving for external beauty is certainly not limited to women: taller men earn more than shorter, and body images portrayed by action figures and on Men's Health magazine are just as unreachable as those of Barbie's proportions or found in women's fashion magazines.

There is a fascinating book titled Survival of the Prettiest which summarizes much of such research. Incidentally written by a woman. Highly recommended.
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