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.
Drau
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What makes art Good

Post by Drau » January 10th, 2013, 10:07 pm

With enough imagination, just about anything can be justified as art and interpreted to symbolize something. But does it mean that just anything can be art?

It is true that what is art and what's not is a greatly debatable topic, but I personally think that there seem to be 2 things for something to be art:

1) First of all, it should be a strong expression. I read somewhere the phrase that "true art needs no explanation", that is, sometimes people start to explain what some artistic representation means, and they are right, but the representation itself is weak and although everybody knows what it meant, its not good art because it didn't SHOW its subject good enough.

2) The second part is the subject. The subject itself needs to be deep and carry some high emotional, intellectual, existential etc quality. Can any subject be considered good enough for art, even if its very good shown? Once I saw a short philosophical cartoon, I don't remember it very good, but the idea was about someone contemplating on the booger from his nose that's on his finger and how it evokes in him disgust and then wonder and then likening himself to that booger and questioning his own life etc... But I personally wouldn't say that the subject of boogers can be incorporated into art, no matter how good and meaningfully its shown.

Fleetfootphil
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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Fleetfootphil » January 10th, 2013, 10:12 pm

You would be wrong.

Jklint
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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Jklint » January 10th, 2013, 11:52 pm

I think one aspect of art - and note I say ONE since the motives to create are many - is that it can take what's inherently trite, banal, conventional and make a masterpiece out of it. It all depends on the talents of who's imputing.

Blazing Donkey
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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Blazing Donkey » January 11th, 2013, 2:17 am

Drau wrote:With enough imagination, just about anything can be justified as art and interpreted to symbolize something.


I agree.
But does it mean that just anything can be art?
I think so.
I personally think that there seem to be 2 things for something to be art:

1) First of all, it should be a strong expression. I read somewhere the phrase that "true art needs no explanation", that is, sometimes people start to explain what some artistic representation means, and they are right, but the representation itself is weak and although everybody knows what it meant, its not good art because it didn't SHOW its subject good enough.
I disagree. There are many kinds of art that are very simplistic in nature. For example this painting by famous minimalist Piet Mondrian:

Image

How does your first example apply to this painting? Do you not consider it to be "art"?
2) The second part is the subject. The subject itself needs to be deep and carry some high emotional, intellectual, existential etc quality.
Your second statement is empty because it implies that the subject is only art based on how others react to it. For example, if I painted an image and you felt it was boring and blase~, by your argument, my "art" ceases to be art because you didn't get the reaction you wanted.
No man is an island, but if you tie a bunch of dead guys together they make a pretty good raft.

Nick_A
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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Nick_A » January 12th, 2013, 4:27 pm

Drau wrote:With enough imagination, just about anything can be justified as art and interpreted to symbolize something. But does it mean that just anything can be art?

It is true that what is art and what's not is a greatly debatable topic, but I personally think that there seem to be 2 things for something to be art:

1) First of all, it should be a strong expression. I read somewhere the phrase that "true art needs no explanation", that is, sometimes people start to explain what some artistic representation means, and they are right, but the representation itself is weak and although everybody knows what it meant, its not good art because it didn't SHOW its subject good enough.

2) The second part is the subject. The subject itself needs to be deep and carry some high emotional, intellectual, existential etc quality. Can any subject be considered good enough for art, even if its very good shown? Once I saw a short philosophical cartoon, I don't remember it very good, but the idea was about someone contemplating on the booger from his nose that's on his finger and how it evokes in him disgust and then wonder and then likening himself to that booger and questioning his own life etc... But I personally wouldn't say that the subject of boogers can be incorporated into art, no matter how good and meaningfully its shown.


Before being able to answer the question of good art, we have to agree on what art is. I have a minority view which makes answering the question easier for me.

IMO art doesn't exist, it occurs. A work of art exists Art is a form of emotional communication similar to the intellectual communication of a text book.

Art differs from expression because it is a direct emotional communication. The process of good art begins with an artist with the ability to create a work of art capable of allowing a viewer to experience the intended quality and depth of emotion put into it. In this way it is a direct emotional communication of a quality of emotion rarely experienced in our daily lives. The artist puts this quality of emotion into a work of art and the viewer receives the intended impressions.

Of course the process of art is quite rare. Such artists are rare and a viewer has to be open enough to experience it.

I believe for example that the Sphinx is such a work of art. Some within its presence receive the quality of emotion that was put into the work of art.

Good art for me includes those works of art capable of this communication. It's highest quality is truly sacred
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace

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Nalthar
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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Nalthar » January 13th, 2013, 2:17 am

To me, art is anything that is not purely functional.

As for what is good art, its hard to say definitively. The most crassly consumeristic piece of marketing could be interpreted to have a great meaning. Look at Andy Warhol.

Its all up to interpretation.

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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Fleetfootphil » January 13th, 2013, 9:56 pm

In response to the title of this thread, I would say good artists make good art. Occasionally, some artist-moron can accidentally produce something good but that's the exception. Good artists make good art, bad artists make bad art. The remaining artists provide us with mediocre doo doo. The rest of humanity looks, thinks and offers opinions on the work of those who do things. That's a safe bet for them, nothing risked, nothing lost.

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Damorobo
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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Damorobo » February 11th, 2013, 10:45 am

I think I would add another criterion to Drau's two criteria. Any piece of art must be created by the artist. This might seem an obvious or trivial point but by this I mean that even a great artist could not produce a piece art by following an instruction manual to build a sculpture or painting by numbers. This idea also implies that the art has to be created intentionally. I do not think that an artist can randomly chuck paint on to a canvas without thought or deliberation and then label the product art.

In addition, I would suggest that originality in art could be an indicator of 'good' art. I do not think we could use originality as a necessary condition for something to be classified as art as this would assume that originality was a binary condition: either it is original or it is not. I do not believe that this dichotomy exists since artists are generally inspired by previous artists and this must influence their works. So a piece of art could never be truly original since it will have multiple influences. So the originality comes from the artist in bringing together what they have learnt and then applying and expressing their own perspective.

XavierAlex
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Re: What makes art Good

Post by XavierAlex » February 11th, 2013, 11:10 am

To answer the question of what is good art, I think the only true judge is time. If time passes and enough people like the art, the consensus is 'good'. History is filled with bad poetry or paintings that are lost and unrecognized; by the same token, only after awhile does an artwork become good. It can be put together hastily (Naked Lunch) or simply (Old Man and the Sea). Otherwise to judge what is good in contemporary is more subjective than a historical consensus.

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Damorobo
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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Damorobo » February 11th, 2013, 11:32 am

Xavier,

When you say that the 'consensus is good' who would you suggest the consensus comprises of? Art critics? The public? Private investors of art? I think all three would reach different conclusions as to what 'good' art is.

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Re: What makes art Good

Post by XavierAlex » February 11th, 2013, 11:53 am

Who?--I think that is rapidly changing to mean the popular consciousness. It used to be white old men who created the Canon of Literature, but as we enter the 21st century, with more people discovering old works of art, the consensus would be populace. Critics in different niche circles may define what is good and bad, but over time--I mean vast amounts of time--the most reliable way, imo, to tell what is a good work of art is through the lens of history. While there may be exceptions, the uncovering of new art from the past changes say the canon of literature or great painters. I wouldn't say private investors so much because they want to turn a profit immediately. They're sort of the antithesis of this point. It has always been the investor pushing art into the popular consciousness, such as songs on the radio or MTV, films galore, etc. But when the critics and unofficial critics, i.e. regular people, judge older works, it is then that I think a criteria for good work is best exemplified. Like in science, a prevailing theory after a while is revised for a better theory. That's my opinion.

Now if I wanted to go to a museum and say this art is good or that art is bad, etc. that would be my subjective opinion--like this post. However, as we parse through art throughout history, we come across amazing things that at the time were considered ludicrous or just went unrecognized (Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson). But the canon keeps revising itself--which is a good thing, imo; otherwise, static observations from authorities would solely dictate what is good and what is not.

-- Updated February 11th, 2013, 12:12 pm to add the following --

Just to follow up, I think there are exceptions in the sense that we know they are exceptions in hindsight. For example, The Beatles and Picasso were at the top of the world in their day, and I think in hindsight popular consciousness has considered them deserving their recognition or they have survived the test of time. It's hard for me, I guess, to say what is the opposite. Maybe somebody like someone in the Rat Pack. While Frank Sinatra stands the test of time, not so sure about Dean Martin, who was huge in his day. These are just minor examples that I think imply what I'm getting at. There's probably hundreds of thousands of artists to discuss of the merits and criticisms.

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Suichoy
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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Suichoy » February 12th, 2013, 4:04 pm

I define art as any work that is:

1) Created from a set of mediums that are recognized through consensus to be artistic mediums. 2) Serving a primarily aesthetic goal.

About the first requirement: I don't think art is a purely objective or subjective quality. Everyone has a unique perception of a work of art and to try to identify a single "correct" interpretation is folly. So in that sense, subjective interpretation is a justification in itself. However, art becomes trivial if it exists purely as an infallible judgment in one's head that cannot be reconciled with others. Instead, I think the artistic-ness of a medium depends on its recognition as an artistic medium within a group of people.

About the second requirement: Historically, it is clear that the goals of art are not static but dynamic. The goal of art music in the 1300s, under the consensus of Christian thought, was to facilitate communication with God. Today, the goals are extremely diverse: the pursuit of beauty, of personal exploration, of cultural criticism, and more.

This may seem like too broad and too uninteresting a definition of art to some, but I think this is because people inevitably tie the term "art" to a judgment of value. That is, to call something art is to say "this is significant and culturally important" and to associate it and compare it with the prestige of the artistic canon. If one takes away the inherent connotations of value from the term "art", then a lot of debates become much simpler.

So to finally respond to the OP, art is good to the extent that it achieves goals of its audience. But that is not to say that all art is equal. I do believe that there is good art and bad art but one must first specify the work and the goal before judging whether art is good or bad.

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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Belinda » February 12th, 2013, 6:58 pm

The goal of art music in the 1300s, under the consensus of Christian thought, was to facilitate communication with God.


Do you mean to say that music to accompany heroic narratives, or music to sing and dance with was not art?
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Suichoy
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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Suichoy » February 12th, 2013, 8:22 pm

Belinda wrote: (Nested quote removed.)



Do you mean to say that music to accompany heroic narratives, or music to sing and dance with was not art?
Those forms of popular music were not thought of as art in the sense that we view it today, which is heavily influenced by romanticism. They were not notated, which suggests that they were largely improvised, i.e. made up, on the spot. And in both cases you mentioned, the music is largely a facilitator for other activities, as a temporary amusement.

But I should have been clearer. When I said "art music", I really meant the conventional name for "classical art music", which is the line of works that I see as leading to our current conceptions of art. But given the the new claims that popular music has taken on in recent history, it is important to distinguish it from "popular art music".

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Re: What makes art Good

Post by Belinda » February 13th, 2013, 4:48 pm

Suichoy wrote:
Those forms of popular music were not thought of as art in the sense that we view it today, which is heavily influenced by romanticism.
Then would you say that the aspect of Romanticism which you have in mind is individualism, i.e. the artist as hero? If so, was this a sea change very significant in the story of humanity which includes art in the wide sense that includes even the art of pre-historic humanity ? Reviewing the original question 'what makes art good?' I can see that the rise of Romantic individualism gives meaning to the question which prevously was either meaningless or had a meaning other than what we today understand by 'good' art.
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