What makes art Good

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.
Belinda
Contributor
Posts: 13760
Joined: July 10th, 2008, 7:02 pm
Location: UK

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Belinda » December 4th, 2015, 6:44 pm

Me:A related question : cannot art teach and warn so that the experientially ignorant get inducted into the experiencer's feelings?

Greta:How can we know for sure, given that we can only know our own experience? I may have been brought somewhat into an artist's experience but, if it did, it happened without my knowing (like subliminal advertising).
It happens. I taught the War Poets to some young adults, late teens, and their feelings were affected. I have heard that when good jazz players are listened to by people who really understand jazz, their feelings are much affected. I have seen recent pictures of people in church who were swaying, moving and almost dancing to the singing of a Gospel choir. I laugh at some comedians so much I can hardly breathe.
Socialist

User avatar
3uGH7D4MLj
Posts: 919
Joined: January 4th, 2013, 3:39 pm

Re: What makes art Good

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » December 4th, 2015, 11:35 pm

Hereandnow wrote:Actually I was reaching a little further back to a little book called "Art" by Clive Bell: Art is significant form. What does significant mean>? Simple: it's the form that elicits aesthetic rapture. How do you define aesthetic rapture? It's what is elicited by significant form.
I think I've read the book but don't remember much about it. I think "significant form" is problematic, but I'm right there with aesthetic rapture.

The thing that occurs to me is the connection of all the different kinds of art, and the meanings for art that have changed through the centuries. There is a shared appreciation that makes these things into cultural artifacts that last in our memories. If there wasn't, there would be no art. Maybe we share it from millenniums of crying babies and windstorms and tribal dances, mystical markings.

I liked Belinda's observation about public art museums. No matter how artists challenge art assumptions, expectations, there is a shared appreciation.

My take away is that there is no way to make a generality about what makes art good. We can talk about what is good about any given piece, but art in general is too much of a moving target to nail down to "significant form," or any other single attribute.
fair to say

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 1686
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Hereandnow » December 5th, 2015, 10:36 am

Greta: Greta:How can we know for sure, given that we can only know our own experience? I may have been brought somewhat into an artist's experience but, if it did, it happened without my knowing (like subliminal advertising).
If you have the time,you might want to read Dewey's Art as Experience on this. He's a bit out of vogue, but then, he's right about art.

User avatar
Greta
Site Admin
Posts: 6965
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Greta » December 5th, 2015, 6:27 pm

Greta: Conceptual art carries its own abstract form, often unrelated to the physical form. A simple example would be a Bob Dylan solo ballad (sorry, another musical example, but it's what I know). Superficially at the song's base level we'll have tuneless hominid noises of harsh timbre set in simple stanzas over a strummed guitar. The form here lies in the lyrical meaning, with tension between the sophistication of the lyric and weak visceral and intellectual appeal of the music. Rhyming editorials with backing. Rap without the funk.
Hereandnow wrote:You're entering fascinating territory here. Your extension of the formalist concept, that is. Note how further is played in your (our) own preestablished historical cultural concepts about how those harsher, visceral sounds actually conflict with the meaning of Dylan's lyrics. We are always already in possession of an interpretative set of values and out of this comes the new aesthetic. That is, given the body of musical "knowledge" we had prior to taking on Dylan, the long history of tonality, classical nuance and control, and then the relatively unrefined manner of the folk song, we don't expect anything in the way of deep insight, but we get it (I would argue), and in that the is what you might call a cognitive dissonance, i.e., the novel conceptual form of a postmodernized formalism. This fits well with the postmodern claim that language's concepts are not stand alone meanings, but require difference within a field of coherence. Meaning is all about (though not exclusively, of course) difference.
Yes, in a way it shows a loosening of the class divide. The music of the common people was looked down upon by the intelligentsia of the royal courts but in the 60s (and more fringe the 50s) "music of the common people" was no longer simple-minded and easily dismissed. The plebs were no longer content to squabble amongst themselves but question the "masters".

Interestingly, popular music seems to be both evolving and devolving. Whenever a new style emerges - be it jazz, blues, rock, punk, hip hop or techno - it involves the breaking of a taboo, what is seen by the establishment as a "lowering of the bar". Classical boffins scoffed at uncouth jazz with its coarse tones and "primitive" rhythms. The bebop virtuosos sniffed at the harmonic and rhythmic simplicity of rock 'n roll, the "boring old farts" of rock thought that disco was simple-minded and that the punks couldn't play, and none of them thought much of music that involves a young man talking about his hangups over a drum machine beat. Each time, the gatekeepers of standards are brushed aside in a new postmodern wave.

Yet not all movement has been backwards. The lyrics of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Roger Waters broke new ground. I see videos of ever younger children playing instruments with the skill, and sometimes the sophistication, of an adult. Virtuosity seems to be more common today, although maybe it's just more visible. Then there's the technical advances - more available timbres, more reliable instruments and higher fidelity amplification and recording equipment.
At a simple level, we may compare the appeal of a politician smoothly spruiking slogans, an everyman speaking haltingly about the loss of his family, a preacher and a friend sharing her thoughts on life. Technically, the politician and evangelist are the better speakers and thus can provide a reliably "professional" performance, but all they tend to offer are recycled and rebadged platitudes.
Hereandnow wrote:Compelling speculation about which came first, the rhetorical flourishes or the music. Music could have evolved out of a social evolutionary context in which the need for catharsis (as well as a robust pronouncement of well being) rose to expression which produced a fetishized love for tonality. After all, we really don't have a good theory for an evolutionary psychology for aesthetics.
Aesthetics evolved from healthfulness. Blue skies, greenery, flowers, regular features - all signs of healthfulness. Certain sights and sounds are considered more beautiful than others, and generally beauty translates to health-promoting, even if obliquely.

Of late I've been a tad obsessed with observing display behaviours in humans - all the different ways BS is employed to encourage a result. Arts has as much BS as any other field (at least) - art used to get results (usually financial or egotistical) as opposed to expression, catharsis or genuine reaching out.

-- Updated 06 Dec 2015, 03:00 to add the following --
Hereandnow wrote:We are always already in possession of an interpretative set of values and out of this comes the new aesthetic.
Another thought on this. A chicken and egg problem: Which came first? The note interpreted as being musical or the first note played with the intention of being musical? My guess is the former. That is the first music would have been voices or natural sounds made incidentally that were found to be be pleasing and then repeated.
This space left intentionally blank.

User avatar
3uGH7D4MLj
Posts: 919
Joined: January 4th, 2013, 3:39 pm

Re: What makes art Good

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » December 7th, 2015, 10:32 am

Belinda wrote:3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
Is truth something that is determined by the maker? If truth exists, isn't it something that stands outside the maker? Or is it the same as sincerity?
Truth is determined by the maker, because it is, as you suggest , the same as sincerity. For sincere intentions to be fulfilled as art the intentions have to be ameliorated by sufficient adroitness in gauging what others need, and also by kindly intentions towards the spectators. By "kindly" I don't mean sentimental or superficial. I mean kindly in the sense of doing a lot of work for the spectators with the intention that they will be enriched by what the artist does. I think this covers what many of us find incomprehensible about post modern art.
I don't suggest that truth is the same as sincerety, I'm just asking if that is what you mean by truth. Since it is, I agree that's what we want from an artist. We want Rauschenberg's truth, Beuy's truth, Dylan's truth, whatever that may be. It's a kind of belief or faith I think, a useful first step, but it becomes less important the more you look.

Nevermind someone who is absolutely sincere and absolutely wrong, or misled, confused. We want the impressionist's sincerity, but their theories were pretty naive. The Bauhaus artists were so full of heart, but their designs are now quaint and camp knicknacks. We realize this now, so contemporary art is purposely ironic, the very opposite of sincerity. This kind of defines the postmodern realization, our healthy disillusion. We know how sincerity can lead you astray.

-- Updated December 7th, 2015, 9:43 am to add the following --
Hereandnow wrote:I am a formalist, myself, but one has to modernize, or, postmodernize, Bell's thinking. E.g., can conceptual art be analyzed in terms of significant form? What constitutes a form? and so on.
I'm interested in what is in your mind when you say "I'm a formalist."

Doesn't Bell talk about a balance of formalist elements? Greenberg talks about "the thing itself" the art object, without symbolism or context.
fair to say

Belinda
Contributor
Posts: 13760
Joined: July 10th, 2008, 7:02 pm
Location: UK

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Belinda » December 7th, 2015, 2:27 pm

We know how sincerity can lead you astray.
Yes, we do indeed . Hitler was sincere. Shall we substitute 'authentic' for 'sincere' ? Sartre is right that authenticity is essential for human freedom. We can choose between saddling ourselves with secondhand notions of right and wrong, true and false, but we must choose whether or not to accept second hand notions. Our choices whether authentic or inauthentic are inevitably going to clash with someone else's. Kindness is organic it's not cognitive, and Hitler, like other fascists ,either lacked imagination or kindness or both. As far as pure cognitive processes evaluate art, sincerity is the best measure . We don't like to be bamboozled by the emperor with no clothes on but if the emperor sincerely intends to show people that they themselves should be sincere then the emperor of the story is good.
Socialist

User avatar
Greta
Site Admin
Posts: 6965
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Greta » December 7th, 2015, 9:20 pm

Belinda wrote:
We know how sincerity can lead you astray.
Yes, we do indeed . Hitler was sincere.
He was, and he had quite a fan base.
This space left intentionally blank.

Belinda
Contributor
Posts: 13760
Joined: July 10th, 2008, 7:02 pm
Location: UK

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Belinda » December 8th, 2015, 7:46 am

How is it possible to be a formalist in art appreciation? I mean, forms themselves acquire meanings for any living humans from the moment of birth, if not in the womb. The form of the human face for instance is known to be have great meaning for babies as soon as they can see. This fact is probably related to what Gombrich(I think with reference to tribal art) points out about how the visible pair- formation immediately transforms a previously uninteresting form into a face; emoticons make use of this.

I wonder if belief in formalism in art appreciation is similar to belief in those putatively meaning-free perceptions that we call qualia. Context is inevitably perceptible to any being that is a meaning-maker. Everything relates to everything else.
Socialist

User avatar
3uGH7D4MLj
Posts: 919
Joined: January 4th, 2013, 3:39 pm

Re: What makes art Good

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » December 10th, 2015, 1:25 pm

Greta wrote:On drum forums there is always a great deal of controversy about Meg White, the drummer in the White Stripes duo, masterminded by her exceptionally talented ex-husband, Jack White. At the time the pair wanted to apply a De Stijl style minimalism approach to rock music, drawing inspiration from garage rock and punk rock groups of the past. To this end, Jack wanted Meg to never practice or take lessons so she would always be at beginner level. He didn't want her learning the licks and tricks that almost all drummers pick up.

Unsurprisingly, many in the drum community were frustrated and annoyed that a drummer (and a woman at that!) who was only capable of playing the simplest lines had become famous and wealthy. Why should she perform dream gigs to huge audiences while those who had had paid their dues for decades around the traps, with lessons, practice, dedication and passion - are only playing low rent club dates? Talent unrecognised, ignored, unwanted. So it goes.
There are drummers who will stage a solo that goes through everything they ever learned... then there are drummers who can actually kick, and who can lay down an irresistible animal groove. Guess which I prefer.

-- Updated December 10th, 2015, 12:31 pm to add the following --
Greta wrote:Their father set up a rigid schedule for the new group, which he named the Shaggs after a then-popular sheepdog-like hair style. The girls, who had a minimal social life, studied and rehearsed in the morning, played more music in the afternoon, and did calisthenics before finishing their day with another rehearsal.

... Austin convinced Fremont administrators to allow the Shaggs to become the house band for Saturday night dances at the local town hall.

Over a hundred kids—nearly all of the teenagers in Fremont—usually attended these events. Some would dance, while others would heckle the Shaggs and pelt them with trash. Finally, Austin Wiggin felt that his children were ready to make a record. He booked studio time at Fleetwood Studios in Revere, Massachusetts in March of 1969. When the studio engineer heard the Shaggs rehearse, he told Austin that they were not ready for professional recording. Austin replied that he wanted to get them while they were hot.
As fate had it, the band was deemed "so bad they were good" and so they weirdly fulfilled the grandmother's prophesy. Their first album was called "Philosophy of the World" :)
The funny thing about this is that I worked at Fleetwood Studios for a while in my youth. I don't remember the Shaggs but they would fit in with the stuff Fleetwood was recording.

-- Updated December 10th, 2015, 12:39 pm to add the following --
Belinda wrote:
We know how sincerity can lead you astray.
Yes, we do indeed. Hitler was sincere. Shall we substitute 'authentic' for 'sincere'? Sartre is right that authenticity is essential for human freedom. We can choose between saddling ourselves with secondhand notions of right and wrong, true and false, but we must choose whether or not to accept second hand notions. Our choices whether authentic or inauthentic are inevitably going to clash with someone else's. Kindness is organic it's not cognitive, and Hitler, like other fascists, either lacked imagination or kindness or both. As far as pure cognitive processes evaluate art, sincerity is the best measure. We don't like to be bamboozled by the emperor with no clothes on but if the emperor sincerely intends to show people that they themselves should be sincere then the emperor of the story is good.
That's an interesting take on the emperor's new clothes story. Thanks for getting me to look up Sartre's use of "authentic." "Authentic" is an annoying new-age cliche around here.

-- Updated December 11th, 2015, 10:11 am to add the following --
Belinda wrote:
We know how sincerity can lead you astray.
Yes, we do indeed . Hitler was sincere. Shall we substitute 'authentic' for 'sincere' ? -- snip -- Hitler, like other fascists, either lacked imagination or kindness or both. As far as pure cognitive processes evaluate art, sincerity is the best measure.
Maybe Nazism was a modernist movement, sincere, utopian, ideological.
fair to say

Belinda
Contributor
Posts: 13760
Joined: July 10th, 2008, 7:02 pm
Location: UK

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Belinda » December 13th, 2015, 8:40 am

3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
Maybe Nazism was a modernist movement, sincere, utopian, ideological.
It was and still is, except for the "modernist" . The intentions of theological or political autocrats to turn other people into figments of their imaginations is much older than modernism ideas which are only a couple of centuries old.
Socialist

User avatar
Greta
Site Admin
Posts: 6965
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Greta » December 13th, 2015, 6:45 pm

Belinda wrote:How is it possible to be a formalist in art appreciation? I mean, forms themselves acquire meanings for any living humans from the moment of birth, if not in the womb. The form of the human face for instance is known to be have great meaning for babies as soon as they can see. This fact is probably related to what Gombrich(I think with reference to tribal art) points out about how the visible pair- formation immediately transforms a previously uninteresting form into a face; emoticons make use of this.

I wonder if belief in formalism in art appreciation is similar to belief in those putatively meaning-free perceptions that we call qualia. Context is inevitably perceptible to any being that is a meaning-maker. Everything relates to everything else.
Faces are a huge part of an infant's world. The world is huge, incomprehensible and scary and faces, and what they bring, are our only comfort at that time. This harks back to the point made earlier that we are attracted to the healthful. We find green fields and blue skies beautiful, just as we may find blue fields with green skies disorienting - yet that disorientation has its own attraction. Again the attraction is health-based - enjoyment of challenge facilitates survival and wellbeing. Our tastes are at least initially shaped by evolution.

In both art and music I look for form over content. I love Picasso's flow and design sensibilities, Dali's distorted realism, Roussou's and Gaugin's colours, shapes and forms. I usually don't have the slightest interest in "unpacking" the art. I mostly just absorb the forms and colours as one might enjoy a landscape or watch a sunset. I tend towards instrumental music and frequently ignore lyrics of songs too. IMO a lack of content is preferable to banal content, which pointlessly distracts from the form.

I came across an interesting article the other day, The Death of Postmodernism And Beyond: philosophynow.org/issues/58/The_Death_o ... And_Beyond which talks about the shift to what the author calls pseudo-modernism, which involves the shift towards audience involvement:
Postmodernism conceived of contemporary culture as a spectacle before which the individual sat powerless, and within which questions of the real were problematised. It therefore emphasised the television or the cinema screen. Its successor, which I will call pseudo-modernism, makes the individual’s action the necessary condition of the cultural product. Pseudo-modernism includes all television or radio programmes or parts of programmes, all ‘texts’, whose content and dynamics are invented or directed by the participating viewer or listener (although these latter terms, with their passivity and emphasis on reception, are obsolete: whatever a telephoning Big Brother voter or a telephoning 6-0-6 football fan are doing, they are not simply viewing or listening).
The author goes on the add:
The cultural products of pseudo-modernism are also exceptionally banal, as I’ve hinted. The content of pseudo-modern films tends to be solely the acts which beget and which end life. This puerile primitivism of the script stands in stark contrast to the sophistication of contemporary cinema’s technical effects. Much text messaging and emailing is vapid in comparison with what people of all educational levels used to put into letters. A triteness, a shallowness dominates all. The pseudo-modern era, at least so far, is a cultural desert. Although we may grow so used to the new terms that we can adapt them for meaningful artistic expression (and then the pejorative label I have given pseudo-modernism may no longer be appropriate), for now we are confronted by a storm of human activity producing almost nothing of any lasting or even reproducible cultural value – anything which human beings might look at again and appreciate in fifty or two hundred years time.

-- Updated 13 Dec 2015, 20:32 to add the following --
Greta wrote:On drum forums there is always a great deal of controversy about Meg White, the drummer in the White Stripes duo, masterminded by her exceptionally talented ex-husband, Jack White. At the time the pair wanted to apply a De Stijl style minimalism approach to rock music, drawing inspiration from garage rock and punk rock groups of the past. To this end, Jack wanted Meg to never practice or take lessons so she would always be at beginner level. He didn't want her learning the licks and tricks that almost all drummers pick up.

Unsurprisingly, many in the drum community were frustrated and annoyed that a drummer (and a woman at that!) who was only capable of playing the simplest lines had become famous and wealthy. Why should she perform dream gigs to huge audiences while those who had had paid their dues for decades around the traps, with lessons, practice, dedication and passion - are only playing low rent club dates? Talent unrecognised, ignored, unwanted. So it goes.
3uGH7D4MLj wrote:There are drummers who will stage a solo that goes through everything they ever learned... then there are drummers who can actually kick, and who can lay down an irresistible animal groove. Guess which I prefer.
At one end of the spectrum you have technical masters - astonishing virtuosos pushing techniques to the next level, like athletes breaking world records year after year. Musicians who can play ever more precisely and quickly. Painters capable of photo realism and jarringly realistic sculpted works. That's one direction of artistic evolution.

Another stream is similarly moving towards technical expertise - skill in the use of technology. Digital art and programmed music, which don't necessarily require physical skills or knowledge of theory at all. More exactly, they draw on a different body of knowledge, or they create their own naive forms.

Art echoes religion in that "the message" is handed down by messiahs - be it Renoir, Picasso, Coltrane or Madonna - after which a plethora of less original artists do their best to copy the elements they liked in the works of the icons. It's a curious tendency - if somebody says something that resonates with you, the tendency is to parrot it. Enough parrotings adds up to a movement, after which critics decide whose parroting is accurate and whose parroting falls. Artists are required to "ticks the boxes" as supplication to "the giants on whose shoulders we stand" before peers and patrons will be prepared to take them seriously - "you have to know the rules before you break them". To fail to follow the prescribed script is to be irrational, to "reinvent the wheel". Anti-education.

Yet sometimes we tire of all the parroting and seek authenticity and honest expression, even if flawed.
3uGH7D4MLj wrote:The funny thing about this is that I worked at Fleetwood Studios for a while in my youth. I don't remember the Shaggs but they would fit in with the stuff Fleetwood was recording.
Ha! That job must have been a treat for your ears ;)
This space left intentionally blank.

Belinda
Contributor
Posts: 13760
Joined: July 10th, 2008, 7:02 pm
Location: UK

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Belinda » December 14th, 2015, 9:17 am

Got to go out so will read Greta's post when have more time but this occurred to me:

Greta wrote:
In both art and music I look for form over content. I love Picasso's flow and design sensibilities, Dali's distorted realism, Roussou's and Gaugin's colours, shapes and forms. I usually don't have the slightest interest in "unpacking" the art. I mostly just absorb the forms and colours as one might enjoy a landscape or watch a sunset. I tend towards instrumental music and frequently ignore lyrics of songs too. IMO a lack of content is preferable to banal content, which pointlessly distracts from the form.
I stand corrected about the possibility of appreciating meaningless form. I also begin to see how visual art relates to music, via form. Greta, what is your take on programme music , such as for instance the Vltava music by Smetana?
Socialist

User avatar
Greta
Site Admin
Posts: 6965
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Greta » December 14th, 2015, 4:22 pm

Belinda wrote:Got to go out so will read Greta's post when have more time but this occurred to me:

Greta wrote:
In both art and music I look for form over content. I love Picasso's flow and design sensibilities, Dali's distorted realism, Roussou's and Gaugin's colours, shapes and forms. I usually don't have the slightest interest in "unpacking" the art. I mostly just absorb the forms and colours as one might enjoy a landscape or watch a sunset. I tend towards instrumental music and frequently ignore lyrics of songs too. IMO a lack of content is preferable to banal content, which pointlessly distracts from the form.
I stand corrected about the possibility of appreciating meaningless form. I also begin to see how visual art relates to music, via form. Greta, what is your take on programme music , such as for instance the Vltava music by Smetana?
Belinda, unfortunately I can't give informed opinion about classical music, especially non contemporary musics. I had a quick listen and, like any good, long non-minimalist piece it's a journey through various different tones and moods.

Yes, music and visual art have some similarities. George Wettling was a jazz drummer in the 50s and 60s who also painted abstracts. He said it was surprising there weren't more people who did both. Each field requires rhythm - a smoothly controlled dynamic flow of movement. Having said that, in art, everything goes and so there can be charm in a lack of smoothness, especially in folk art, eg. the pathos conveyed in the shaky lines of a Leunig cartoon or the cracking of Janis Joplin's voice, or the hilarious bone-headed incompetence of The Shaggs :)
This space left intentionally blank.

Jklint
Posts: 1199
Joined: February 23rd, 2012, 3:06 am

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Jklint » December 15th, 2015, 5:29 am

Belinda ~

Since you mentioned Smetana, here is one of the most famous cities in the world as described by one of the most famous pieces of music in the world. Hard to imagine a better blending of sight and sound.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdtLuyWuPDs

Belinda
Contributor
Posts: 13760
Joined: July 10th, 2008, 7:02 pm
Location: UK

Re: What makes art Good

Post by Belinda » December 15th, 2015, 10:18 am

Jklint wrote:Belinda ~

Since you mentioned Smetana, here is one of the most famous cities in the world as described by one of the most famous pieces of music in the world. Hard to imagine a better blending of sight and sound.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdtLuyWuPDs
It's a lovely sound. I have never been to Prague or saw its river but the music is a sound picture of a river from its smallest spring to its surge into the ocean and the sound is like the sound and force of the river. True, there is the old folk melody with the traditional words which my old friend Vlasta Cermakova taught me sixty years ago (I never saw the words written down) so there is meaning in the music for me, and I know that the sentiment intended by Smetana is love of native land. But I chose this river music as an example of an imitation of natural sound and force and so I can listen to the music with meanings abstracted from it, so that it's sensory not conceptual.
Socialist

Post Reply