The role of the spectator

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The role of the spectator

Post by Adventureland » November 17th, 2015, 6:10 am

Hello Contemporary Philosophers,

Whilst I begin researching art work which rely upon interaction. I ask:

What are your thoughts regarding the role of the spectator within modern art. Interpret and specify the term spectator, modern art and contemporary philosophers/philosophy as you wish.

Thanks for your input.

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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Hereandnow » November 18th, 2015, 11:49 am

adventureland: What are your thoughts regarding the role of the spectator within modern art. Interpret and specify the term spectator, modern art and contemporary philosophers/philosophy as you wish.

I look at a cloud and think elephant, you think poodle. Note how malleable the object is. It yields to interpretation.Art is like this. A piece of driftwood is just that, until you pick it up and place it on the mantle at home. Now it's art. Same goes for Duchamp's fountain. There is no art that has a place over and above the spectator. Art has its source in the spectator. We summon art into existence by bringing an object into an art context. This context is one of many conversations about art in the art world.

In conceptual art, the the physical medium takes a back seat to the idea. The idea can be everything. Take John cage's Minute of Silence. Sure, the silence is acoustically contextualized against the sounds that would otherwise be heard. They move to the foreground and take center place. But the idea of the presence of a featured sound plays against this absence; herein lies the artwork: the interpretation of the absence of anticipated sound. That is cognitive.

It is a work in progress. We don't know what art is any more than we know what morality is. Or physics.

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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by A Poster He or I » November 20th, 2015, 8:47 pm

I completely agree with the previous post. I'll add a few related opinions. Western art, prior to the 20th century, implicitly assumed the artist presented a "subjective" work which the spectator was expected to "objectify." By contrast, Modern art turned this around to varying degrees: the artist produced an "object""which the spectator was expected to transform into a subjective experience. The practical consequence of this is that an artist's talent is no longer primarily assessed by his/her technicianship because his/her job is no longer representation per se. The artist's talent is now primarily assessed by how effectively spectators respond on a subjective level. So the focus has shifted from the artist to the spectator. This shift allows modern art to consider natural or mundane utilitarian objects as art, where the only "artist" is the spectator in his/her capacity to subjectively transform the mundane world into art by sheer perception.

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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Alec Smart » November 22nd, 2015, 1:17 pm

A Poster He or I wrote:I completely agree with the previous post. I'll add a few related opinions. Western art, prior to the 20th century, implicitly assumed the artist presented a "subjective" work which the spectator was expected to "objectify." By contrast, Modern art turned this around to varying degrees: the artist produced an "object""which the spectator was expected to transform into a subjective experience. The practical consequence of this is that an artist's talent is no longer primarily assessed by his/her technicianship because his/her job is no longer representation per se. The artist's talent is now primarily assessed by how effectively spectators respond on a subjective level. So the focus has shifted from the artist to the spectator. This shift allows modern art to consider natural or mundane utilitarian objects as art, where the only "artist" is the spectator in his/her capacity to subjectively transform the mundane world into art by sheer perception.
So, regarding modern art, what seperates the artist from any Joe Bloggs with a tin of paint and a brush?
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » November 23rd, 2015, 12:38 am

Hereandnow wrote:I look at a cloud and think elephant, you think poodle. Note how malleable the object is. It yields to interpretation.Art is like this. A piece of driftwood is just that, until you pick it up and place it on the mantle at home. Now it's art. Same goes for Duchamp's fountain. There is no art that has a place over and above the spectator. Art has its source in the spectator. We summon art into existence by bringing an object into an art context. This context is one of many conversations about art in the art world.

In conceptual art, the the physical medium takes a back seat to the idea. The idea can be everything. Take John cage's Minute of Silence. Sure, the silence is acoustically contextualized against the sounds that would otherwise be heard. They move to the foreground and take center place. But the idea of the presence of a featured sound plays against this absence; herein lies the artwork: the interpretation of the absence of anticipated sound. That is cognitive.

It is a work in progress. We don't know what art is any more than we know what morality is. Or physics.
I also like this post.

Speaking of Duchamp, he wrote a piece called "The Creative Act" in 1957 which gives the spectator a lot of importance. He was a jokster though, hard to tell when he's being serious.

According to Duchamp, even the artist who says he doesn't give a damn about the audience in the end has to deal with the spectator and posterity, like it or not.

-- Updated November 22nd, 2015, 11:43 pm to add the following --
Alec Smart wrote:So, regarding modern art, what seperates the artist from any Joe Bloggs with a tin of paint and a brush?
Try a "what is art" type thread for this question?
fair to say

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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Hereandnow » November 23rd, 2015, 8:24 am

3uGH7D4MLj: According to Duchamp, even the artist who says he doesn't give a damn about the audience in the end has to deal with the spectator and posterity, like it or not.
Herbert Meade wrote that the self is nothing but the collective of spectators; thus, as one composes, there is the implied consensus at work in that creative process, the "chain of reactions" Duchamp talk about.

Foucault took the matter further: He once said that we are being ventriloquized by history, that is, the self and its language, its seemingly personal stream of consciousness, is just a unique arrangement of the same, the same that flows through social circuits and permeates subjective boundaries. Or better, there are no such boundaries, only tactics of language use that deploy the idea of boundaries, renewed and affirmed in every "Good morning! How are you today?" and "My, what a lovely day!"

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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Alec Smart » November 23rd, 2015, 4:13 pm

3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
Try a "what is art" type thread for this question?
I was asking a question related to something in the post and was hoping for an answer from the poster. As you are neither the poster nor seem to have an answer I don't think you've been of much help but thanks anyway.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Greta » November 23rd, 2015, 4:49 pm

Hereandnow wrote:Herbert Meade wrote that the self is nothing but the collective of spectators; thus, as one composes ...
We can include self in that collective. It hard to miss humanity's propensity to regurgitate each others' ideas. Failure to do so tends to generate distrust. We "prove" ourselves to each other with our regurgitation choices and competency in regurgitation. A more academic approach will also consider how others synthesise their regurgitations.
Alec Smart wrote:So, regarding modern art, what seperates the artist from any Joe Bloggs with a tin of paint and a brush?
Can you tell the difference between a work from Pollock and one from Joe Bloggs? New approaches challenge conventional technique - unorthodoxy can be either an example of incorrect technique or a new technique. Exposure and connoisseurship are the short term arbiters of quality, history the long term.

Alfie, it's good for completion's sake to observe that there are different kinds of spectators which introduce political aspects to taste, ie. the poor mocking the exploratory "bourgeois" art of the rich and the rick mocking the simple tastes of the poor.

Art is communication. As in socialising, people can either be attracted or repelled by those who only try to please themselves, who "don't play the "game". Those who expect to be reassured by regurgitation may be offended, equating self-oriented approaches with selfishness, masturbation. Others consider such a determinedly original approach as honest and refreshing as compared with endless regurgitation.

Regurgitation or masturbation? Development or innovation? It depends who you ask. IMO each side is wrong to judge the other; different art has different audiences whose lives are subjectively improved by that art, which is the bottom line. Even line dancing :)
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » November 23rd, 2015, 7:48 pm

Alec Smart wrote:
3uGH7D4MLj wrote:Try a "what is art" type thread for this question?
I was asking a question related to something in the post and was hoping for an answer from the poster. As you are neither the poster nor seem to have an answer I don't think you've been of much help but thanks anyway.
Ouch, sorry. But if Joe Bloggs has a brush and a tin of paint, he just might be an artist. Dead giveaway.
fair to say

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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Alec Smart » November 24th, 2015, 3:58 pm

3uGH7D4MLj wrote: But if Joe Bloggs has a brush and a tin of paint, he just might be an artist. Dead giveaway.
He's more likely to be a painter and decorator. Anyway, for the purposes of this thread, he isn't an artist but he thinks he is just as capable of throwing paint at a piece of canvas as anybody else. He just wonders why some people are paid a fortune for doing that sort of thing while no one would be at all interested if he were to have a crack at it.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » November 24th, 2015, 7:26 pm

Alec Smart wrote:He's more likely to be a painter and decorator. Anyway, for the purposes of this thread, he isn't an artist but he thinks he is just as capable of throwing paint at a piece of canvas as anybody else. He just wonders why some people are paid a fortune for doing that sort of thing while no one would be at all interested if he were to have a crack at it.
Every artist making a modest living, teaching or waitressing to make ends meet, knows about the high-end art market, the astronomical prices.

The artist -- she approaches art as a proper job, she's been to art school, her daily routine includes grant writing, applying for residencies, pitching galleries, getting into local festivals, photographing work for her website, and of course writing and drawing, painting, studying. There's a local scene, she has her art pals who come through with a gig for her once in a while. They get together for informal crit parties or just talk. Maybe it came up about the Gustav Klimt that just sold in NY for 135 million (the price of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner).

She knows what she's doing, her work is strong and getting stronger with good next-step potential. There are a couple of people who are interested in her work... wouldn't call them collectors exactly, art lovers, they've bought some pieces and are talking her up with their friends. The paintings didn't bring that much, but then she doesn't expect to get paid the same as an established branded artist with a powerful dealer, high auction prices, famous collectors on a waiting list, etc.

That may come, who knows, for now she's a hard working artist, leading a rich and creative life.
fair to say

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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Greta » November 24th, 2015, 9:05 pm

3uGH7D4MLj, yes, that's the day to day reality for most involved with the arts.

Re: the OP, in the arts generally there is more of a demand by audiences to be included, ironically as pioneered by the much-mocked hippie experimentalists. Now we have reality TV, online videos and blogs, games, interactive exhibits and applications and so on.

Artists and artisans have worked hard to refine their technical abilities to a point where it's now no longer enough to just be impressive - impressiveness today via technical excellence in all fields is a dime a dozen now. How to make an impact? Be ever more extreme, extravagant and unrestrained. So the overall spectacles become bigger - be they stage show extravaganzas or giant sculptures and paintings. So artistic scenes appear to be splitting - at one end there's a trend towards ever more monolithic entertainment and at the other end more interaction.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » November 25th, 2015, 12:21 am

Adventureland wrote:Hello Contemporary Philosophers,

Whilst I begin researching art work which rely upon interaction. I ask:

What are your thoughts regarding the role of the spectator within modern art. Interpret and specify the term spectator, modern art and contemporary philosophers/philosophy as you wish.

Thanks for your input.
I remember seeing a full spread in the NY Times Art and Leisure section with David Byrne on one side and Sam Shepherd on the other. The question was about the audience, the spectator, and whether each of these artists considered the audience when making work.

David Byrne said yes absolutely, the audience was very important to keep in mind. Sam Shepherd said no way, he thought that it was a mistake to consider the audience when making work. My preference is more in line with Shepherd, but both approaches have their points.

Since you mentioned the definition of modern art, there is a convention that locates Modern Art as being before 1970. Art made after that is called Contemporary.

-- Updated November 24th, 2015, 11:25 pm to add the following --
Greta wrote:Re: the OP, in the arts generally there is more of a demand by audiences to be included, ironically as pioneered by the much-mocked hippie experimentalists. Now we have reality TV, online videos and blogs, games, interactive exhibits and applications and so on.
Hi Greta, are you talking about Happenings? what do you mean when you say hippie experimentalists?

-- Updated November 24th, 2015, 11:32 pm to add the following --
Alec Smart wrote:Anyway, for the purposes of this thread, he isn't an artist but he thinks he is just as capable of throwing paint at a piece of canvas as anybody else. He just wonders why some people are paid a fortune for doing that sort of thing while no one would be at all interested if he were to have a crack at it.
It's a conscious decision, are you an artist or not? If you want to be an artist, start making art. If not, go on being the best painter-decorator you can be and complain all you want about the big ticket artists.
fair to say

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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Belinda » November 25th, 2015, 11:36 am

A PosterHe Or I wrote:
The practical consequence of this is that an artist's talent is no longer primarily assessed by his/her technicianship because his/her job is no longer representation per se.
But only artefacts that are exact copies, clones,or are purely tools, are not representations. Most pictures are much miniaturised representations of some memory or of some concept. Even life- sized statue- portraits, and abstract assemblies, even if those are life sized ,lose some attributes of real life e.g. smell, sound, texture, or actual function. Objects of art are therefore representations and the spectator always did and still has to interpret them.

Possibly an object of art such as a statue of the Virgin which emerges as a lead character to process through the streets of a Spanish town is a co-spectator with the assembled believers who welcome the Virgin as a fellow participator in the ritual. The Virgin witnesses the believers and accepts their worship.


I have seen carved shepherd's crooks which are undoubtedly intricately- carved art objects and which are at the same time fully operational for the useful purpose of catching sheep by their necks to restrain and direct them. The technicianship of the crook maker is obvious if a shepherd had to use the crook, and the carving is an integral part of the crook, and cannot be separated from it without destroying the whole object. In such cases the technicianship is even more salient than it is when the art object is in no way a tool.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by A Poster He or I » November 25th, 2015, 2:03 pm

"But only artefacts that are exact copies, clones,or are purely tools, are not representations. Most pictures are much miniaturised representations of some memory or of some concept. Even life- sized statue- portraits, and abstract assemblies, even if those are life sized ,lose some attributes of real life e.g. smell, sound, texture, or actual function. Objects of art are therefore representations and the spectator always did and still has to interpret them."
Hmm, I don't think I agree that representation is preserved in modern art as the PRIMARY function of art; rather it becomes secondary or even incidental, and in non-objective art non-existent.

If 19th century artist Frederic Church spreads pigments and oil across a cotton canvas, it is expected that the spectator should recognize objectively that the effort constitutes a landscape and the spectator's satisfaction is in admiring how effectively Church has captured the nuances of nature in his work. So the spectator's interpretation is limited to an objective assessment of Church's subjective interpolation of nature into oil and pigments on 2-dimensional canvas. (Ideally, this interpretation yields a subjective emotional experience for the spectator as well, I readily admit).

If 20th century artist Marcel Duchamp takes a urinal from a men's restroom, turns it upside down, signs it "R. Mutt" and puts it on display in an art museum, the spectator's interpretation no longer involves admiring the artist's representation of nature or how effectively he has created anything to be interpolated through a medium. The artist's only creative act has been an original juxtaposition of mundane elements set before the spectator. There is no representation here in the classical sense. And the spectator's interpretation is no longer a consideration of Duchamp's talent at representation. The spectator's interpretation is now the whole focus: his or her subjective experience is what transforms the mundane urinal into art.

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