Philosophical Art

Use this forum to have philosophical discussions about aesthetics and art. What is art? What is beauty? What makes art good? You can also use this forum to discuss philosophy in the arts, namely to discuss the philosophical points in any particular movie, TV show, book or story.
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Lucylu
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Philosophical Art

Post by Lucylu » June 30th, 2015, 10:14 am

After reading the thread 'philosophical films', I thought it might be fun to also hear what everyone considers to be great works of art or art of great philosophical meaning.

In 1977 the Voyager spacecraft set off with the Golden Record which contained sounds, photos, greetings and music from Earth but, as far as I can find out, it did not include any visual artwork. This seems a pity but I suppose there was a concern that this may give a false impression of what life is like on Earth.

Anyway, regardless of this concern, I thought it might be nice to imagine what art work you would choose to send out in to space to exhibit the heights of artistic achievement and possibly ones which say something fundamental about life. I'm thinking of paintings/ drawings/ sculpture rather than film but all thoughts welcome.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts". -Bertrand Russell

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Val Valiant Five
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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by Val Valiant Five » July 1st, 2015, 8:25 pm

That's an interesting idea to entertain.

I would nominate the life's' work of Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius to be etched into gold plates and archived for the future to find.
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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by Greta » July 1st, 2015, 9:36 pm

Picasso's Girl before a Mirror and Guernica come to mind, but I tend to be more attracted to art's aesthetics and freshness than its philosophical meaning, which no doubt usually sails right by me.

Lucy, would you send out a de Stijl painting? Minimalism makes a philosophical statement in itself, the understanding that sometimes "less is more". Appreciating the concept of "enough" is one of the beginnings of wisdom.
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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by Harbal » July 2nd, 2015, 4:50 pm

I thought it would be a good idea to send the complete output of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin into space but then I thought how embarrassing it would be if some intelligent life form found it.

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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by Lucylu » July 2nd, 2015, 5:06 pm

Val Valiant Five wrote:I would nominate the life's' work of Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius
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Wow! I had never seen his work before so thank you for introducing me to it. There seems to be a Japanese influence. Some of his works reminds me of the clean lines and emotion of Katsushika Hokusai and the like.
Greta wrote:Picasso's Girl before a Mirror and Guernica come to mind, but I tend to be more attracted to art's aesthetics and freshness than its philosophical meaning
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This reminds me of a scene in a film (Event Horizon) which depicts eternal, physical hell. I do think it would be unfair to only represent the best of ourselves and hide our darker side but we also don't want to scare them off! But to be able to step back and reflect upon our faults says something of our potential, as well as our limitations.

Im not really a fan of Picasso myself. I went to the Musee National Picasso- Paris and I just find his work uncomfortable. But perhaps that says that there is something in myself that I don't want to look at! The point is, whether I liked it or not, I had a reaction to it so it must be powerful. If I'm going for abstract, I do prefer the total abstraction of de Stijl, particularly Mondrian. The straight lines, primary colours and asymmetry really resonate with me, for whatever reason.

My other favourite would have to be Monet, who's paintings are always outstanding in person. His complete works should be sent out to any intelligent life to show our pure love of light.

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Whistler's Nocturnes in Black and Gold would be a must too. Any life form that can evoke emotion from so little must be intelligent.

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It is very curious why so much music was added to the Voyager but no art. They could add photos and images so I'm not sure why they would rule out art, especially when we are such a visual species. Instead, any aliens that find it will think we're all like Bach and Beethoven!
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts". -Bertrand Russell

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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by Greta » July 2nd, 2015, 8:36 pm

My history lessons at school struck me as a chain of wars and restructuring of societies - perhaps a bit like the early solar system. So Guernica would seem a fair representation. After all, we wouldn't want aliens turning up to our doorstep thinking we're a peaceful species and then get shot down by Ukranian outlaws. Welcome to Earth - Beware of the Humans.

Monet is a good choice because it would show the other side, though, and his emphasis on light could be especially interesting to aliens whose home world is orbiting a red dwarf star. http://www.solstation.com/life/a-plants.htm

I'd be more inclined to send a video than painting, something like Samsara
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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by Lagayscienza » July 3rd, 2015, 2:41 am

How about Rodin's Thinker?
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The work of the surrealists is thought provoking - the nature of time and being.
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-- Updated July 3rd, 2015, 5:44 pm to add the following --

And Casper David Friedrich is very Neitszchean.
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La gaya Scienza

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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by Greta » July 3rd, 2015, 3:11 am

Ha! Dali would have a lot of aliens scratching their antennae. If that's the game we might as well add David Lynch's Eraserhead, Scott Walker's Tilt and a bag of weed to the package :)
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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by Lucylu » July 3rd, 2015, 7:39 am

Lagayscienza wrote:And Casper David Friedrich is very Neitszchean.
All great Lagayscienza. The Wanderer is perfect! Looks like a portrait of Shelley himself.

This one of Plato and Aristotle would suggest our intelligence too.

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Greta wrote:Ha! Dali would have a lot of aliens scratching their antennae. If that's the game we might as well add David Lynch's Eraserhead, Scott Walker's Tilt and a bag of weed to the package
Ha! Well we don't want to be too honest. Probably best to keep tales of our genital warts until the second or third date! Perhaps a relationship with aliens will make us more conscious of our faults and force us to take a good long look in the mirror.

I'll watch Samsara asap! Looks fab!

John Singer Sargent would make us look good and be disarming. It speak to the innocence and wonder of children.

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"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts". -Bertrand Russell

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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » July 18th, 2015, 12:59 pm

Lucylu wrote:After reading the thread 'philosophical films', I thought it might be fun to also hear what everyone considers to be great works of art or art of great philosophical meaning.
Richard Rorty says that philosophy is a kind of literature. I don't see how art (images, objects) can be philosophical, being non-verbal, non-literary.

Art can definitely be political, but philosophical? Still thinking...
fair to say

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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by Lucylu » July 18th, 2015, 4:31 pm

3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
Lucylu wrote:After reading the thread 'philosophical films', I thought it might be fun to also hear what everyone considers to be great works of art or art of great philosophical meaning.
Richard Rorty says that philosophy is a kind of literature. I don't see how art (images, objects) can be philosophical, being non-verbal, non-literary.

Art can definitely be political, but philosophical? Still thinking...
That's a very good point and one I have been thinking about myself, considering the relative disinterest this thread has cultivated. I would disagree though. They are just different forms of abstraction.

We know that communication comes in many forms. We naturally feel that it is primarily verbal but in fact it is largely visual (ie body language). We are very visual creatures. Also, written literature has only been recorded, for what, the last 2500 years? Whereas art has been found to be possibly 200,000 years old or more. It may be perceived to be more primitive, but it is also then more fundamental. It speaks to our unconscious archetypes, to our darkest fears and dreams. You must have heard the saying 'a picture speaks a thousand words'?

Perhaps it depends on ones own perspective and aptitudes. As an artist myself, I would say that a work of art can speak volumes in a completely honest way, whereas much of the debate that accompanies verbal and literal philosophy is rarely not accompanied by the speakers own voice, their ego and their desire, not only to be right but also to be known to be right. A true artist taps in to something much deeper- something pure. They step outside themselves and channel something much greater. And what is philosophy if it does not speak of the fundamentals?

But that's just my opinion. I do appreciate that everyone speaks 'different languages' essentially. What speaks to me may be dead space to you and vice versa. Many people are more literal and prefer 'hard' facts'. I may be able to appreciate both hard and soft science, but perhaps that means I will only appreciate them half way each! I don't know.


May I ask.. Do you have a favourite work of art?

Why do you think a topic heading such as Philosophy of the Arts and Philosophy in the Arts was included in this site?

Would you consider music potentially philosophical?
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts". -Bertrand Russell

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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » July 19th, 2015, 8:25 am

Lucylu wrote:That's a very good point and one I have been thinking about myself, considering the relative disinterest this thread has cultivated. I would disagree though. They are just different forms of abstraction.

We know that communication comes in many forms. We naturally feel that it is primarily verbal but in fact it is largely visual (ie body language). We are very visual creatures. Also, written literature has only been recorded, for what, the last 2500 years? Whereas art has been found to be possibly 200,000 years old or more. It may be perceived to be more primitive, but it is also then more fundamental. It speaks to our unconscious archetypes, to our darkest fears and dreams. You must have heard the saying 'a picture speaks a thousand words'?

Perhaps it depends on ones own perspective and aptitudes. As an artist myself, I would say that a work of art can speak volumes in a completely honest way, whereas much of the debate that accompanies verbal and literal philosophy is rarely not accompanied by the speakers own voice, their ego and their desire, not only to be right but also to be known to be right. A true artist taps in to something much deeper- something pure. They step outside themselves and channel something much greater. And what is philosophy if it does not speak of the fundamentals?
I agree about art communicating, but it (plastic art, images and objects) doesn't communicate in words. It seems to me that philosophy is a word game, played and expressed in language. Just my opinion!
fair to say

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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by Greta » July 20th, 2015, 9:10 pm

John Cage's 4'33" is a philosophical work that requires no language (although it can incidentally include or incorporate language).

To be fair, before the concept - the philosophy of the piece - was explained to me in words I considered it to be an "emperor's new clothes" stunt, absurd. However, others immediately understood 4'33"'s meditative message.
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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » July 21st, 2015, 2:23 pm

Greta wrote:John Cage's 4'33" is a philosophical work that requires no language (although it can incidentally include or incorporate language).

To be fair, before the concept - the philosophy of the piece - was explained to me in words I considered it to be an "emperor's new clothes" stunt, absurd. However, others immediately understood 4'33"'s meditative message.
ok. You may be right. It is an unforgettable piece, and you may never be the same after hearing it, but is that philosophy?

How do you see it as philosophical? Questioning everything like Descartes?
fair to say

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Re: Philosophical Art

Post by Lucylu » July 21st, 2015, 4:01 pm

3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
How do you see it as philosophical? Questioning everything like Descartes?
If a work is consciously making a statement about the universal nature of existence, that's pretty philosophical. Perhaps not a study in the same way as a book but still a thoughtful expression or statement of something fundamental to reality.

Look at how Rothko, for example, can ponder nothingness or eternity just as philosophers do. Even creating something which projects the illusion of nothingness, making nothing visible, is a comment in itself. He typically used very large canvasses, making his work more interactive rather than just a pretty image to be looked at.

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Also, in his earlier works he makes more literal statements about the destructive nature of humans, while exploring the theme of Greek mythology, in Oedipus.

"For Rothko, Oedipus embodied the victim of pride and passion, which the artist believed were at the center of man's destructive nature. As in other representational works of this time, Rothko has dismembered and then recombined his figures so intricately that they became a single mass of human conglomeration. In this way, Rothko sought to suggest how mankind is bound together by tragedy." The Art Story- Modern Art Insight.

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"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts". -Bertrand Russell

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