The role of the spectator

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Alec Smart
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Alec Smart » November 25th, 2015, 5:30 pm

3uGH7D4MLj wrote: 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.
Very wise, I'm sure, but it has nothing to do with what I was trying to get at when I asked my original question.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Greta » November 25th, 2015, 5:33 pm

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.
3uGH7D4MLj wrote:Hi Greta, are you talking about Happenings? what do you mean when you say hippie experimentalists?
Yes, exactly. They preempted interactive art, at least in the modern age.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Belinda » November 26th, 2015, 6:19 am

A Poster He Or I wrote:
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.
Those are performative arts; they are theatre, what you and Greta agree to call "happenings". If they represented something, even something abstract like the number five, they could still do so as performative arts, and would still be representing by a metaphor of the real . e.g. the real gear positions on some car.

I accept your explanation of the role of the spectator. Thanks for that. I can understand how the spectator is all-important in the examples that you provided. Are those examples that you mention any different from Greta's photo of someone's oven door, or any other natural event? ( Apart from being installed in a posh art gallery, that is). Does it matter if art has disappeared except as metaphorical comments on what art is and is not? Sort of meta-art.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by A Poster He or I » November 26th, 2015, 1:48 pm

Those are performative arts; they are theatre, what you and Greta agree to call "happenings". If they represented something, even something abstract like the number five, they could still do so as performative arts, and would still be representing by a metaphor of the real . e.g. the real gear positions on some car.
In practice, modern art is a spectrum from pure representationalism all the way to completely non-objective presentation, so yes, the "real" is still represented in a lot of modern art. What makes it modern is when the real element is recognized not to be Achilles in battle or Liberty leading the people, but a can of Campbell's soup or the letters "A," "R", "T" painted large amidts an otherwise empty 30 ft. by 10 ft. canvas (Roy Lichtenstein's painting "Art"). Your example of "the gear positions on some car" is a perfect example of this.

So any representational component becomes secondary or incidental to what I see as the primary role of modern art: to get us to recognize art goes beyond representationalism, even going so far as to call art itself into question. And the answer to this question put before us by extreme examples of non-objective art forces us to consider that art happens entirely in the subjective experience of the spectator.

In the above examples, representationalism is being leveraged to "ease the spectator into a recognizable process" rather than just standing him in front of a Jackson Pollack and demanding he "feel" something elevated.
I accept your explanation of the role of the spectator. Thanks for that. I can understand how the spectator is all-important in the examples that you provided. Are those examples that you mention any different from Greta's photo of someone's oven door, or any other natural event? ( Apart from being installed in a posh art gallery, that is). Does it matter if art has disappeared except as metaphorical comments on what art is and is not? Sort of meta-art.
To my mind, presenting a mere photo of an oven door as art crosses the line into postmodernism. We've gone beyond any role for the artist worth mentioning nor is their any implicit acknowledgement of the cultural tradition that is institutionalized art. All credence of any legitimacy whatsoever is exclusively in the domain of the spectator.

Is this art? To my mind, postmodernism does not need us to answer the question (it cannot be answered objectively anyway; only subjectively). Postmodernism only implicates, and makes us consider why art as an institution should be implicated. To me, postmodernism is therapy. It can be strong and as objectionable as an emitic, but it forces an issue (when successful) that anyone who appreciates art should eventually face.

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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Alec Smart » November 26th, 2015, 2:25 pm

In spite of looking on Wikipedia, I still don't know what post modernism is.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Greta » November 26th, 2015, 4:23 pm

Belinda, I'm considering direct interactivity. For instance, there's the interactive exhibit by Yoko that first interested John entertainment.howstuffworks.com/john-le ... nnon30.htm
After being introduced to "the millionaire Beatle," the woman handed him a little card that said simply, "Breathe." John, although puzzled, responded politely with a quick pant. Next, his eyes settled on a ladder leading up to a canvas suspended from the ceiling, with a spyglass hanging from it on the end of a chain. Climbing to the top of the ladder, he looked through the spyglass to read a word printed in tiny letters.

"You're on this ladder -- you feel like a fool, you could fall any minute -- and you look through it and it just says 'YES,' " he told David Sheff in 1980. "Well, all the so-called avant-garde art at the time, and everything that was supposedly interesting, was all negative; this smash-the-piano-with-a-hammer, break-the-sculpture, boring, negative crap. It was all anti-, anti-, anti-. Anti-art, anti-establishment. And just that 'YES' made me stay in a gallery full of apples and nails, instead of just walking out saying, 'I'm not gonna buy any of this crap.'"
Alec Smart wrote:In spite of looking on Wikipedia, I still don't know what post modernism is.
Basically it's a rejection of standards - seeing value in everything. By contrast, modernism is the claim that standards are real and not just an illusion of our senses. Is every child special? Yes, each is a miracle of bioengineering and each child is a piece of matter very much more aware and interesting than most similarly sized chunks of matter. At the same time, every child is not special because the notion renders the word 'special" obsolete.

Most great musical movements stemmed from post-modernist rejection of standards - in my lifetime the early rockers of the 60s basically said it was okay to sound raw and amateur, as long the music is played with spirit, which is more or less the same way that early pioneers of jazz annoyed classical buffs in the 1920s. It's how disco and punks later offended rock fans in the mid-to-late 70s. Ditto rap in the 90s ("it's okay if you can't play or sing as long as you have rhythm and a message"). The loosening of standards opens up new fields of creative possibilities. Once the possibilities arise, though, they are largely developed by modernist approaches.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Belinda » November 26th, 2015, 7:08 pm

Regarding post modernism, Greta wrote:
The loosening of standards opens up new fields of creative possibilities. Once the possibilities arise, though, they are largely developed by modernist approaches.
Greta was writing about post modernism in music. Her summing-up applies also to science. Modernist science is founded upon standards based upon Enlightenment scepticism. A Poster He Or I wrote that post modernism act like an emetic; same idea :)

Post modern science has no standards to the effect that the only truth is pragmatic truth.

Questions of morality are often answered by reference to standards, for instance The Golden Rule, a standard which survived the demise of the religious myths. Post modern morality has no standards so that what transpires is where morality is at.

I agree with Greta that post modernism is an incentive to creativity. It leads to creativity because we cannot live without standards and the free-floatingness of post modernism feels dissonant so it motivates post modernists to create something new.

A Poster He or I wrote:
And the answer to this question put before us by extreme examples of non-objective art forces us to consider that art happens entirely in the subjective experience of the spectator.
A found object, for instance a small bit of wood that came off a tree I have kept for years and it still pleases me, is like this, as I am the only person who really likes it a lot. It does not look like anything but itself. It is not a useful implement. It is not an object of worship. It lives on my dressing table. I confess that I value it partly because of the occasion of my finding it, however I liked it on sight so that I did pick it up off the ground and carefully took it home. The bit of wood is an art object in its own right, in itself, even if I am the only person who thinks so.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Hereandnow » November 26th, 2015, 11:08 pm

Alec Smart: In spite of looking on Wikipedia, I still don't know what post modernism is.
There's a lot to say, but the one central idea is this: In the past there was in the West Christendom. The Age of Reason came along and promised that reason could displace faith, or complement it, enhance it and so this took center stage. Postmodernism rests with the simple understanding that reason does not after all pan out the way it was supposed to. It was supposed to be definitively responsive to the timeless questions about life the universe and everything, and it turned out to fail on all accounts. So what is left? The post modern crisis of a centerless existence.

The stake in the heart of the confidence in foundational meaning lies first with Nietzsche.Then in a very damning analysis of language in the rise of analytic philosophy (literary analyses) whereby reason is pushed to its threshold. No center is produced. No center, no foundation, and especially NO SELF, because there is no evidential support for this. We are adrift and all that was once sacred and profane vanishes into thin air.

Nothing new about nihilism, really. The difference here is the the focus on language and the limits of logic and meaning. Take Rorty, my favorite,a neopragmatist. Can't put him on the table here, but he is the best, along with Wittgenstein, for making it crystal clear why language and logic cannot be used to make meaningful statements beyond the truth value possibility of propositions. "Out There" there is no grammar, no logic, no propositional values. Nothing to say about it. Wittgenstein's Lecture on Ethics is a good read for, what, the disillusionment of anaylsis.

Sorry. Wordy. And yet, not nearly enough.

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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » November 27th, 2015, 1:52 am

Hereandnow wrote:There's a lot to say, but the one central idea is this: In the past there was in the West Christendom. The Age of Reason came along and promised that reason could displace faith, or complement it, enhance it and so this took center stage. Postmodernism rests with the simple understanding that reason does not after all pan out the way it was supposed to. It was supposed to be definitively responsive to the timeless questions about life the universe and everything, and it turned out to fail on all accounts. So what is left? The post modern crisis of a centerless existence.
Nicely said. I started to understand postmodernism by reading Charles Jencks' little book on the subject. Sort of an architectural point of view but it gets you started. Modernism is late Age of Reason. Allow that?

I like to think of Modernism as a secular religion, comforting, we believe in human progress and get up every morning to go to work on that over-arching project (a good example of this: the Bauhaus movement). But like you say, it doesn't pan out. We look around and see that we're not really progressing at all, and we lose faith.

So we're free of the meta-narratives, but not sure of anything anymore. There are many interpretations of postmodernism, but this is how I see it too. It's a pretty big cultural rachet-click. It is reflected in architecture, art, literature, everywhere.

Rorty mentions Pomo in one instance but then pooh-poohs it in another.

-- Updated November 27th, 2015, 12:59 pm to add the following --
Alec Smart wrote:
3uGH7D4MLj wrote: 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.
Very wise, I'm sure, but it has nothing to do with what I was trying to get at when I asked my original question.
Maybe you could re-iterate?

-- Updated November 27th, 2015, 2:15 pm to add the following --
Greta wrote:Basically it's a rejection of standards - seeing value in everything. By contrast, modernism is the claim that standards are real and not just an illusion of our senses.
Art critic Arthur Danto talks about the age of manifestos when the "standards?" of art nouveau, impressionism, suprematism, fauvism, realism, superealism, minimalism, gesture painting, pop, op, abstract expressionism were on parade. These are all modernist movements. Each has its own set of rules and supersedes whatever came just before. They are all "just an illusion of our senses." No matter how important they seemed at the time, now we know that these art and architecture movements were kind of arbitrary, and don't have much meaning.

ok that's progress, but it leaves us with a culture with a hundred parallel universes, the narrative has been splintered into pieces. Those movements were a comfort, we believed in them, there was a progressing, there was a bettering, it was all an illusion. Now we have post-modernism, and it's a clearer view. It's a bit scratchier, a bit more anxiety producing, but it's also freeing, we no longer have to toe the line, follow the doctrines.

There are lots of ways of thinking about postmodernism, but this is how I've worked it out for myself.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Alec Smart » November 27th, 2015, 7:01 pm

3uGH7D4MLj wrote: Maybe you could re-iterate?
A Poster He or I said this:
where the only "artist" is the spectator in his/her capacity to subjectively transform the mundane world into art by sheer perception.
If this is the case, and the artist no longer contributes the concept behind the art or the technical skill to produce it, then what exactly justifies his claim to be an artist?
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by A Poster He or I » November 28th, 2015, 2:16 am

If one buys into my argument that modern art has elevated the subjective experience of the beholder above any objective assessment of that which is beheld, then it follows that justification must also become subjective. So the artist's claim to being an artist is as valid as his own subjective belief in himself or herself as an artist. But it also follows that any spectator's claim that this very-same self-proclaimed artist is in fact a charlatan is equally valid (assuming the spectator's standard of judgment has validity for the spectator).

One might argue that if gallery reps and museum curators routinely vie to obtain this charlatan's "art" then the art community has de facto justified (objectified) the title of artist for this individual. But to my mind, such an argument merely kicks the question of justification one level upstairs. If the spectator has no respect for the curators' judgment (probably for what they consider to be collectible art), then we're back to justification residing completely at the level of individual subjectivity.

Alternately, one might accept the title of artist as justified precisely because the individual is successful at selling his art, regardless of any lack of perceived talent. But to my mind, that doesn't mean any return of objectivity to the issue of justifying an artist as an artist. It simply implies a subjectively-held respect for the institutions of art commerce.

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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Alec Smart » November 28th, 2015, 4:03 am

A Poster He or I wrote: Alternately, one might accept the title of artist as justified precisely because the individual is successful at selling his art, regardless of any lack of perceived talent. But to my mind, that doesn't mean any return of objectivity to the issue of justifying an artist as an artist. It simply implies a subjectively-held respect for the institutions of art commerce.
I'm obviously still not making myself clear. What I'm asking is: If the modern artist's talent doesn't lie in his technical skill with a paint brush and it doesn't lie in him having an extraordinary insight into things that don't occur to the rest of us then where does it lie?
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Belinda » November 28th, 2015, 5:40 am

Alec Smart wrote:
I'm obviously still not making myself clear. What I'm asking is: If the modern artist's talent doesn't lie in his technical skill with a paint brush and it doesn't lie in him having an extraordinary insight into things that don't occur to the rest of us then where does it lie?
The accredited artist who exhibits some natural found object or some unchanged implement(such as the urinal in the art gallery) is deliberately risking her reputation as an artist in order to coerce spectators into asking "What is art?" and "How is this arrangement of bricks, or this urinal, beautiful, true, or good?" and even "Are expensive art galleries justifiable when implements for the alleviation of suffering(e.g. houses for the world's poor) are needed?"

During my undergraduate course, I once did some impromptu interviews in the city street, near the art gallery, and people were indeed asking varieties of those questions.

The value of post modernism is that it forces us to look afresh, and question.

In short: the artist as heroic leader.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Alec Smart » November 28th, 2015, 6:54 am

Belinda wrote: The accredited artist who exhibits some natural found object or some unchanged implement(such as the urinal in the art gallery) is deliberately risking her reputation as an artist in order to coerce spectators into asking "What is art?" and "How is this arrangement of bricks, or this urinal, beautiful, true, or good?"
Whether or not there is any value in this kind of "art" is, surely, debatable. You use the words "in order to coerce spectators into asking "What is art?", which implies that the art is presented to us with it's message or meaning already there. A Poster He or I is saying that the spectator is the one who puts meaning into the work of art. So, given that the spectator provides the meaning and the artist employs no technical skill in creating the object in question, it seems to me that any acclamation given to the artist is misplaced. To my mind, when Tracy Emin presents us with an unmade bed she is not demonstrating any artistic ability beyond the capability of the layman but the art establishment, who know more about these things than I do, would disagree. I can't help wondering what they know about Tracy Emin that I don't.
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Re: The role of the spectator

Post by Greta » November 28th, 2015, 7:42 am

Alec Smart wrote:So, given that the spectator provides the meaning and the artist employs no technical skill in creating the object in question, it seems to me that any acclamation given to the artist is misplaced.
Not only is being lauded misplaced, it's unimportant. The important thing is that the art is produced. Sometimes the whole point of art is the process of making it, for instance, art as a catharsis. If any other people "get it", great, if not, c'est la vie. Aside from skill and insight, consumers of art may appreciate energy and vibrancy, originality, imagination, humour, poignancy, or perhaps a personal resonance that has nothing to do with quality.

Alec Smart wrote:To my mind, when Tracy Emin presents us with an unmade bed she is not demonstrating any artistic ability beyond the capability of the layman but the art establishment, who know more about these things than I do, would disagree. I can't help wondering what they know about Tracy Emin that I don't.
Here, instead of technique there is a concept. The thing is, usually an artist only gets "one free pass" to do such anti-art things, if that. So pundits might be satisfied with John Cage's silent piece, 4'33", as a single statement but the friendship would wear thin if he released an entire album of silence. The accusation would be "easy money", and the critics would be right.

Ideally, those stretching the boundaries will be those who know the rules well enough to break them, but artists can easily get locked into careers and decide that experimentation doesn't provide much return for effort, so sometimes it takes naive mavericks on the fringes to break out from the usual. The standard of mavericks' work will tend to be inconsistent, ranging from unmade beds to original quality work.
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