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Old 10-27-2004, 06:02 PM   #161
Fordim Hedgethistle
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. . .what is "good art"?
Not bad art.
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Old 10-27-2004, 07:00 PM   #162
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My dear Fordim,

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They are not imposed on us from without, but spring up from within ourselves, all of us, trapping us all in the same prisonhouse of consumerist, ideological representation.
Aren't you getting your Althusser mixed up with your Fredric Jameson, (The Prison-House of Language ?

These Marxists do tend to cross-pollinate.

It is not only women artists whose work has been neglected by time and history. Throughout the ninetheenth century, Milton was regarded as the quintessential seventeenth century poet--the protestant rebel finding a chord of sympathy with the romantics and eclipsing more traditional poets such as Marvell, Herbert and Donne. It took the voice of a T. S. Eliot to bring back to the forefront of critical acclaim John Donne.

Strangely now--or perhaps not--the memorials for both Blake and Donne lie in St. Paul's.
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Old 10-27-2004, 07:12 PM   #163
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
... what is "good art"?

...good art reveals Truth.

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Old 10-27-2004, 07:54 PM   #164
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...good art reveals Truth.
Indeed. I have often looked upon Tracy Emin's tent (alas no longer with us) and the works of Jake and Dinos Chapman and reflected on the nature of Truth.
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Old 10-27-2004, 08:08 PM   #165
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You want good art?

Just take a look at those saucepans!

Very nice!
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Old 10-27-2004, 08:22 PM   #166
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Fordim:

Thanks for the explanation of Althusser's views. A question, though: you said:

Quote:
In effect, he argues that we can 'break free' and that creative art 'adds' to human experience.

The limitation he sees on this is that the only thing art can clearly 'show' us is the fact or manner of our 'imprisonment' (he actually calls it "interpellation": being singled out, made and individual, by our culture). That is, the creative artist is able to view the world in such a way as to show us with 'new eyes' the real contours of the structures that surround us
Does he then draw a fundamental distinction between "true" artists, those who can add to the human experience by revealing our interpellation, and the popular artists, whose work meets the demands of the market? Or does the stuff that fills the bookshelves reveal truths about our experience as well?

I must say that in any event I think I disagree with his view. I don't really hold with any philosophy of art that ascribes an integral role to the function of art in society. But I said enough about that in the ancient history of this thread.

Quote:
I still don't go with the "test of time" theory either, insofar as the 'bad' art might not be as widely known, but that is simply to appeal to the other spurious argument of popularity: I just can't see an equation like. . .

been around a long time + popular = good

having much use, insofar as the two terms upon which it depends are both highly questionable -- maybe it's been around a long time because it suits the political purposes of a powerful group, and maybe it's popular because it's got lots of prurient sex and violence.
I should emphasize that I don't believe in any such equation. I never said either that being around for a long time and being popular makes a work of art good or that such a criterion is a perfect indicator of the quality of a work of art. All I claim is that over long periods of time good art tends to maintain popularity and bad art tends not to.

The Saucepan Man wrote:
Quote:
... what is "good art"?
Who cares?

What I mean is: is a working definition of "good art" really necessary for the discussion in this thread to make sense? Of course it's an interesting question in its own right . . .

Perhaps a more pertinent question is whether there is such a thing as "good art". I recall having a long debate about that in another old thread - perhaps I'll go and see if I can unearth it.

Edit: The thread I'm thinking of was The Tolkien Template, one that bears quite a resemblance (and even a link) to this one.

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Old 10-27-2004, 11:25 PM   #167
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Or does the stuff that fills the bookshelves reveal truths about our experience as well?
Of course it does!

Perhaps a formulaic, poorly crafted work doesn't reveal truth as skillfully as the masterpiece of a greater writer, and perhaps a potboiler doesn't reveal a unique truth, but the fact that something could be said more eloquently, or has been said again and again, doesn't make it any less true.

(Personal disclaimer: I am a professional in the performing arts, and I really take issue with the whole idea that there is some discernable boundary between what is art and what is "just" entertainment. I expect the same respect for my craft regardless of the nature of the work I'm performing. I think that when we begin to talk about the "real art" vs. "the stuff that fills the bookshelves," we're setting up a false dichotomy.)
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Old 10-28-2004, 02:50 AM   #168
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What makes a work of art good? When someone says it is good.

And to explain further: More specifically, I mean that a work of art becomes 'good' when sufficient of the right kind of critics have judged it to be so. It does not become 'good' when mere mortals say so, otherwise the overwhelming popularity of Tolkien would mean that he was judged 'good' by even more people. Until the right kind of critics judge Tolkien to be 'good', his work will remain excluded.

Quote:
This seems to approach things with the assumption that people buy music with the goal of escaping consumerism. I don't know about anyone else, but I buy music because I think it sounds good, and as long as it does I don't really care what sinister forces made it available to me.
I too buy music because I think it sounds good. Unfortunately, the opportunities to buy the music I think sounds good are diminishing because of sinister forces like Simon 'smarmy big pants' Cowell. I was talking about this the other day, and I believe that there is too much 'perspiration' in music these days and not enough 'inspiration'; I do not want to hear someone singing, with a 'perfect voice' the same song I have heard so many others sing. I want to hear a new song altogether. Yes, I'm clearly putting the boot into all these TV talent shows! Obviously, all artists must 'sell out' to a certain extent - I read the other day of a band who were so 'punk' they refused to release records and eventually refused to play live apart from in their own garage. That's plainly going too far, but market forces these days all too often prevent the kind of experimentation which in the past has resulted in so much fantastic music!
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Old 10-28-2004, 02:54 AM   #169
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Regarding the test of time and art - often, there are fashions in art, which means that some old works of art no longer fit into later ideals. They therefore sink into oblivion for a time - or forever, if no one rediscovers them - and are lost, despite their intrinsic worth. There is one very notable example in music history; J. S. Bach* was considered old-fashioned by his own sons and their generation. Had not Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy rediscovered him many years later and brought his Matthew's Passion to public performance, who knows if we would be familiar with him today?

To connect this to Tolkien, Peter Jackson seems to have played a Mendelssohn's role in the revival of Tolkien's LotR; though it was never completely gone from bookshelves, it certainly was not at the forefront of attention for a long time...

(*I know I'm not the only person who considers JSB the greatest genius in musical history - and that under most difficult circumstances. The fact that his sons were able musicians and composers, yet without his genius, shows that great art is not reproducable at will nor learnable as a trade, though both will and training are certainly necessary for the creation (sub-creation, if you will) of art.)

PS - Cross-posted with Lalwendë, who also brings up the point of "perspiration" vs. "inspiration"
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Old 10-28-2004, 03:34 AM   #170
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Books and fantasy and valid criticisms ;)

(Digressing a little, as I found saved the basis of an old post I had for this thread (2002!), added a little at the end and am posting it now.)


I imagine a pyramid representing the number of different book titles sold, with the base set in the past and the needle stretching past us into the future. The pyramid is also slanted as you look at it so that it comes from the past upwards into the future. This slant is to indicate an increased number of sales of books in total.

More books are sold today than ever – yet fewer titles year on year. Naturally this decrease cannot have been going on forever, perhaps you can conclude that there is a cyclical pattern of increasing and decreasing numbers of titles sold. (On a side note, the UK has the most different titles published per head in the world. Can’t see it lasting long, though).

The centre of gravity for this pyramid, that which keeps it narrowing into the point, is the market force, as determined by the best selling books. This process is augmented by the currently observed trend of consolidation among book chains, reducing choice for the consumer. The market looks to release books similar to those that do well – and why not? It’s only curmudgeons like myself who want a vast choice of titles…right? (It’s difficult to evade accusations of elitism on and from either side of the debate.) This trend of bookshop consolidation is likely to be turned on its head, beginning a new cycle.

Why? The joy of the internet! The mighty web has injected a heady dose of choice back into the market. Obscure books are now readily available, and smaller independents have been thrown a lifeline, transforming themselves into online dealers of that which is tricky to find on Amazon. As mentioned above, it is easy to fall into melodrama. The world of books is a fairly ruddy one, just try and avoid those odious big shops with small ranges.

Indeed, perhaps that’s the point; that it’s choice rather than a form of objective qualitative analysis for which we should be striving. I rather agree with Aiwendil above with a distaste for classifying ‘good art’; it is moreover in my opinion a phrase to be avoided,

If, however, you take the possibly more accurate view – that there is no ‘art’, only the perception thereof, the argument glides into a smooth downward spiral that comes to rest on Descartes. Not of much benefit to a discussion, but the point being that it is impossible and perhaps unwanted to create hard and fast rules for perception for any more than one person.

Choice, then. Let’s not dictate what should and should not be read, rather let’s question the uneven playing field for a wide range of books. I think this is what I was driving at in my last post on this thread, made with customary glibness, that it is the practical side of the argument that merits discussion. With this, I refer to the original discussion on fantasy books.

To the wider discussion that has been happening on and off between some bright minds on this thread for a while, I will for now restrain myself to a rather facetious quotation from Auden: “Some books are undeservedly forgotten, none are undeservedly remembered.” Looks like we’re back to longevity equations.
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Old 10-28-2004, 06:34 AM   #171
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Interesting post about book selling, Rimbaud!

I have to say, thank goodness for t'Internet when it comes to finding books. Several years ago, book prices were effectively 'fixed' in the UK. Then the government, in it's infinite wisdom , suddenly released retailers from the requirement to sell books at their Recommended Retail price (RRP). At the time, commentators said that market forces would inevitably mean that the big selling titles would get much cheaper, and the more obscure titles would see price rises. This has indeed proved to be the case.

And in addition, chain bookshops do not seem to carry the range of titles that they used to. These chains have also proliferated, which is good if you are after something readily available, but if not, you are put in a bind. There are less independent booksellers these days, thus book buying online has become the only option for less profitable titles. I lke the fact I can get the latest Harry Potter in the supermarket for a knockdown price, but it's a bit annoying that in my whole city (a 500,000 poulation, including 50k students!) I have as yet been unable to find a shop to spend time in browsing Tolkien critical works.

Let me drop in some praise here for two independent shops - The Whitby Bookshop and Broadhurst's of Southport. I've got no commercial interest, just they are fantastic shops.
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Old 10-28-2004, 08:23 AM   #172
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
The Saucepan Man wrote:
Quote:
... what is "good art"?

Who cares?

What I mean is: is a working definition of "good art" really necessary for the discussion in this thread to make sense? Of course it's an interesting question in its own right . . .
And I thought that you were the master of quantification.

The reason that I asked is that assumptions are being made on this thread as to what is "good art" or "bad art". Who decides what is "good" and what is "bad" at any given time? Is it some cultural elite? Is it the majority of consumers (the popularity argument)? Or is it simply down to personal taste? I have a lot of time for the works mentioned in my previous post, and yet they certainly don't have mass appeal and there are many (probably the majority) who find them pointless and entirely devoid of merit.

And must "good art" necessarily reveal some truth as to the human condition (customarily, I avoid the dreaded capital 'T' )? And, if so, who is to say what those truths are? In any event, surely the individual can simply enjoy art without having to feel that they have learned some basic truth. Or can simple enjoyment be classified as a basic truth of human experience?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
More specifically, I mean that a work of art becomes 'good' when sufficient of the right kind of critics have judged it to be so. It does not become 'good' when mere mortals say so, otherwise the overwhelming popularity of Tolkien would mean that he was judged 'good' by even more people. Until the right kind of critics judge Tolkien to be 'good', his work will remain excluded.
But who are these "right kind of critics", and why should they determine what is good and bad for the rest of us?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Perhaps a more pertinent question is whether there is such a thing as "good art". I recall having a long debate about that in another old thread - perhaps I'll go and see if I can unearth it.
Precisely the point that I was driving at. Isn't it all, ultimately, subjective? Of course, in communities such as this forum, where one's very presence is driven by a particular interest (the works of Tolkien in our case), there will be a broad (though not exclusive) consensus on many areas of artistic endeavour. But there will always be disagreement on the fringes (if not the central ground).


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rimbaud
Indeed, perhaps that’s the point; that it’s choice rather than a form of objective qualitative analysis for which we should be striving. I rather agree with Aiwendil above with a distaste for classifying ‘good art’; it is moreover in my opinion a phrase to be avoided.
Since the merits of an individual work of art are entirely subjective, I would agree that there can be no such thing as “good art”. A piece of art cannot, objectively, be classified as “good” simply because a certain group of academics regard it as having academic merit, although it is certainly “good” to them. Neither can it be classified as “bad” because others regard it as having little merit (by reference to their own criteria). Similarly, with the works of authors such as Danielle Steele, or Jeffrey Archer, or Terry Brooks. Like tar-ancalime, I would not exclude works such as these from the general definition of "art" simply because they are regarded as “mere entertainment” for the masses. They are popular with, and therefore regarded as “good”, by a large section of society, while others regard them as drivel and therefore “bad”. Objectively, they are neither.

Of course, works of art can come to be regarded as good by a sufficiently large or influential section of society, such as they become generally regarded within that society as “good” (and this will change over time). That is not to say that only art which is popular is to regarded as “good”, but it is surely one determinant of quality. If the works of a particular author or artist or director are popular, then they must be doing something right.

I would agree with Rimbaud concerning the desirability of choice. And I would say that there is a sufficiently wide range of shared tastes within our society to prompt the "producers" and those who market their "products" to give us a sufficiently tolerable choice. There may be those within society whose particular tastes are not catered for, but such tastes would surely be very eclectic indeed. Otherwise, while those who have less “popularist” tastes may need to search a little harder (whether that be by surfing the net, tuning into the right radio station, going to the right bookshop and so forth), that which they find to be “good” will generally still be there somewhere.
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Old 10-28-2004, 08:44 AM   #173
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And must "good art" necessarily reveal some truth as to the human condition (customarily, I avoid the dreaded capital 'T' )? And, if so, who is to say what those truths are? In any event, surely the individual can simply enjoy art without having to feel that they have learned some basic truth. Or can simple enjoyment be classified as a basic truth of human experience?
Those who believe in transcendant Truth would say yes, that enjoyment of something Good leads to a deeper (not necessarily intellectual) understanding of that Good; that enjoyment of Truth leads to deeper understanding (again, not necessarily intellectual) of that Truth. Further, the reason that such enjoyment is subjective is due to the variety and subtlety inherent in the individual's perception of Truth, not because the Truth itself is inconsistent.

Those who neither believe in, nor pursue, Good or Truth, would say there are no such effects.
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Old 10-28-2004, 09:34 AM   #174
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Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by mark12_30
Those who believe in transcendant Truth would say yes, that enjoyment of something Good leads to a deeper (not necessarily intellectual) understanding of that Good; that enjoyment of Truth leads to deeper understanding (again, not necessarily intellectual) of that Truth. Further, the reason that such enjoyment is subjective is due to the variety and subtlety inherent in the individual's perception of Truth, not because the Truth itself is inconsistent.
But is this true of every work of art that one who believes thusly perceives? And surely much the same might be said of art which such an individual considers to be "bad" - that the negative reaction enhances understanding.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mark12_30
Those who neither believe in, nor pursue, Good or Truth, would say there are no such effects.
And does that render valueless to the believer the enjoyment of art by the non-believer that he or she finds to be "good"?
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Old 10-28-2004, 02:25 PM   #175
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I dare say "good art" is not nearly as subjective as has been asserted; certainly not completely subjective. Standards have always applied throughout the history of art. Cultures that have done art (which is probably all of them) have conformed to styles and standards. What kinds of standards? At least those of skill and beauty; or, when beauty was precisely that which was being rebelled against (such as early 20th century), then a vigor in ugliness was a kind of standard - because of the skill with which it was achieved.

The word "good" implies standards. If there is "good", there has to be "better" and "best". It's only in our own culturally and philosophically relativist era that standards of "good art" have become subjective. Tolkien found the relativistic tendencies in modern art and literature to be quite repulsive. He, being perhaps an extreme example, considered any literature in the English language that had been produced after 1800 (I think), not to be worthy of the term.

Back to my main point. There are necessarily objective standards for art, precisely because humans cannot avoid thinking and behaving in terms of standards of good, better, and best.

If one really believe that art is subjective, one cannot refer to any art as "good", etc. - it just is. .... which is untenable.
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Old 10-28-2004, 06:13 PM   #176
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Tar-Ancalime wrote:
Quote:
I am a professional in the performing arts, and I really take issue with the whole idea that there is some discernable boundary between what is art and what is "just" entertainment. I expect the same respect for my craft regardless of the nature of the work I'm performing. I think that when we begin to talk about the "real art" vs. "the stuff that fills the bookshelves," we're setting up a false dichotomy.
I agree wholeheartedly. I asked about such a distinction only because I wondered whether it is part of Althusser's/Fordim's view. I still think we can make a qualitative distinction between what some would call "high" and "low" art (whether that is a good/bad distinction or merely a stylistic, thematic, cultural distinction). But I don't think we ought to make a fundamental distinction or judge them by different standards (as I said in the popularist vs. literati thread).

Lalwende wrote:
Quote:
That's plainly going too far, but market forces these days all too often prevent the kind of experimentation which in the past has resulted in so much fantastic music!
I think I agree - though it's hard for me to say, since I dislike pretty much all music from after about 1973. Maybe this is why.

Estelyn wrote:
Quote:
There is one very notable example in music history; J. S. Bach* was considered old-fashioned by his own sons and their generation. Had not Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy rediscovered him many years later and brought his Matthew's Passion to public performance, who knows if we would be familiar with him today?
Ah, but Mendelssohn did rediscover him. Bach is the perfect example, in fact, of the "test of time" theory working - he was vastly underappreciated in his own time but now he has the recognition he deserves. Further, it's quite unlikely that any future change in musical fashion will drive him back into oblivion (though of course there may be smaller scale fluctuations in his popularity).

Insofar as you're saying that without the happy accident of Mendelssohn championing Bach, Bach would be unknown today - I must say that I doubt it. It need not have been Mendelssohn. Given time, I think it was very probable that someone would have rediscovered him. As a matter of fact, he wasn't ever wholly forgotten. Mozart, for example, knew and thought very highly of his work in the 1780s. I would say that it was almost inevitable that, given time, he would achieve the popularity he now enjoys.

The Saucepan Man wrote:
Quote:
And I thought that you were the master of quantification.
A time to quantify, a time to refrain from quantifying (even though you can).

Quote:
And must "good art" necessarily reveal some truth as to the human condition (customarily, I avoid the dreaded capital 'T' )?
My answer is a resounding "NO" - and not just because I fear another "canonicity" argument. There are any number of criteria that might define "good art". Personally, I still say that good art is that which is most aesthetically pleasing.

Quote:
Precisely the point that I was driving at. Isn't it all, ultimately, subjective?
This is exactly the question that I argued in that "Tolkien Template" thread I linked to. And I still think that either the quality of art is not in fact subjective or you get fairly strange results. I don't claim to know, with certainty, which of those options obtains - but I do think that a kind of objectivity can be derived from the relative invariance of the human mind, given a definition like "good art is that which is most aesthetically pleasing". A whole debate could be had of course concerning just how invariant aesthetic pleasure is from mind to mind - but I think that would be beside the point.

On the other hand, if you really want to say that art is subjective you cannot even claim that a Mozart symphony is superior to the noise I banged out of a piano when I was three. Now that's a coherent position, but I suspect that few people really agree with it deep down.

Quote:
Like tar-ancalime, I would not exclude works such as these from the general definition of "art" simply because they are regarded as “mere entertainment” for the masses.
Another distinction ought to be made (I wish I could have a nickel for every time I've said that). One could (and I would) say that such works (those of Danielle Steele and the like) are in fact "true art", just the same as Tolkien or Joyce or Homer, and yet say that they are "bad art".
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Old 10-28-2004, 06:59 PM   #177
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
But is this true of every work of art that one who believes thusly perceives? And surely much the same might be said of art which such an individual considers to be "bad" - that the negative reaction enhances understanding.
To that I would echo Elrond: it is dangerous to study too closely the arts of the darkness. I refer you back to the Victorian pornography; studying it would enhance understanding of what? And is it worth it? If there is ultimate Truth and Goodness, then the answer to "Is it worth it" is most likely No-- with the narrow exception that someone might be trying to reach out to victims of the not-good, and thereby be pursuing enough understanding of what is not-good to be able to counter it. Yet I still call that risky.


Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
And does that render valueless to the believer the enjoyment of art by the non-believer that he or she finds to be "good"?
I think rather than using the terms "believer" and "Non-believer" (really, ARE you trying to get me excommunicated from the Downs??)... Personally for the sake of this argument I would prefer something more along the lines of Truth-seeker and Indifferent.

But to answer your question: not at all. In fact, the 'believer'(Truth-seeker) should expect that in enjoying 'Good/True art', something is happening deep within the the 'non-believer' (Indifferent) that has, or might have, or hopefully will have, the effect of drawing him towards Good and/ or Truth (same thing, in the end)-- and in that the Truth-seeker would rejoice. In fact, the Truth-seeker may actually place a higher value on the Indifferent one's enjoyment, since the Truth seeker has hopes that the enjoyment may, in the end, have an eternal effect.

Is a eucatastrophe-- a glimpse of Truth-- any less of a eucatastrophe if the person who gets the glimpse doesn't fully realise what he is seeing? I think it depends on the heart; and who can judge that? The glimpse of Truth may sow something transcendant in the soul that that does not come to fruition for many years.

(Frodo's dreams of the sea come to mind.)

On to Aiwendil's post:

Quote:
Quote: And must "good art" necessarily reveal some truth as to the human condition (customarily, I avoid the dreaded capital 'T' )?

My answer is a resounding "NO" - and not just because I fear
another "canonicity" argument.
(poor Aiwendil!)
Quote:
There are any number of criteria that might define "good art". Personally, I still say that good art is that which is most aesthetically pleasing.
Aiwendil, I would point to "most aesthetically pleasing" and say that beauty, goodness, truth, and Aesthetically pleasing all derive from (capital 'T') Truth, which is (capital-G) Goodness, and (capital-B) Beauty. I will go further, and call that Tolkien's Evangelium; and I will go yet further, and state that everything "beautiful" in all of Tolkien's works is his sub-creative reflection of Truth. Other sub-creators form other reflections. But having said all that, and recognizing that there are many on this forum and on this thread that do not consider Truth to exist in it's "capital-T" state, that if one finds something aesthetically pleasing, and it is indeed something which (for example) Tolkien sub-created in a reflection of Truth, then that aesthetic enjoyment (in my opinion) works because the Truth was there to be reflected in the first place.
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Old 10-28-2004, 07:24 PM   #178
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
There are necessarily objective standards for art, precisely because humans cannot avoid thinking and behaving in terms of standards of good, better, and best.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
I do think that a kind of objectivity can be derived from the relative invariance of the human mind, given a definition like "good art is that which is most aesthetically pleasing".
Indeed. Hence my point:


Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
Of course, works of art can come to be regarded as good by a sufficiently large or influential section of society, such as they become generally regarded within that society as “good” (and this will change over time).
The merits are still subjectively assessed. It's just that a significant section of society (whether in terms of numbers, influence, authority or whatever) reaches broadly the same conclusion. I accept that that this equates to what Aiwendil describes as a "kind of objectivity". But, ultimately, it boils down to the subjective assessment of the individual. The proof being in the fact that there will always be works of art that some consider to be "good" and others consider to be "not good".


Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
On the other hand, if you really want to say that art is subjective you cannot even claim that a Mozart symphony is superior to the noise I banged out of a piano when I was three. Now that's a coherent position, but I suspect that few people really agree with it deep down.
I entirely accept that certain "producers" are more able to satisfy a greater number of individual tastes than others. Does that make them "good" artists? Well, yes in terms of those (the majority, the culturally influential etc) who assess it positively and therefore yes in terms of that society's assessment, but not to those who do not find such art to their tastes.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mark12_30
To that I would echo Elrond: it is dangerous to study too closely the arts of the darkness.
Well, I wasn't necessarily thinking of art that the believer might consider to be evil. Or does the believer consider all "bad" art to be contrary to his or her Truth? But, with regard to the point that you make, Sun Tzu would disagree with you, counselling rather that it is better to know your enemy.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mark12_30
In fact, the 'believer'(Truth-seeker) should expect that in enjoying 'Good/True art', something is happening deep within the the 'non-believer' (Indifferent) that has, or might have, or hopefully will have, the effect of drawing him towards Good and/ or Truth (same thing, in the end)-- and in that the Truth-seeker would rejoice. In fact, the Truth-seeker may actually place a higher value on the Indifferent one's enjoyment, since the Truth seeker has hopes that the enjoyment may, in the end, have an eternal effect.
So the non-believer's enjoyment of the art would be valueless to the believer if it did not in fact lead the non-believer to his or her Truth.
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Old 10-28-2004, 09:54 PM   #179
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Mark12_30 wrote:
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I think rather than using the terms "believer" and "Non-believer" (really, ARE you trying to get me excommunicated from the Downs??)... Personally for the sake of this argument I would prefer something more along the lines of Truth-seeker and Indifferent.
Wait a minute - there's a big difference between a "non-believer" and one who is "indifferent". I don't believe in your transcendent Truth (though perhaps only because I still don't really understand what it's supposed to mean). But I'm most certainly not indifferent toward the matter. The question of whether there is such a thing interests me greatly, even if my answer is "no". I seek truth but I don't think I'm a "Truth-seeker" in your sense.

Quote:
Aiwendil, I would point to "most aesthetically pleasing" and say that beauty, goodness, truth, and Aesthetically pleasing all derive from (capital 'T') Truth, which is (capital-G) Goodness, and (capital-B) Beauty.
Then perhaps (surprisingly enough) we agree on the criterion for good art, but disagree on the reason the causes of aesthetic beauty.

I must say, though, that I can't see how certain areas of aesthetics could be derived from "Truth", unless my understanding of the term is even less than I thought. In tonal harmony, for example, voices are not supposed to move in parallel fourths. Of course, sometimes this rule is broken, often succesfully, but in general it really does hold value - there is something displeasing about about parallel fourths, and they are often detrimental to the aesthetic value of a composition. Now if aesthetic pleasure really does derive entirely from Truth, there must be something "unTrue" about such a composition. So I ask: how do parallel fourths violate Truth? How can an abstract object like that violate Truth?

The Saucepan Man wrote:
Quote:
The merits are still subjectively assessed. It's just that a significant section of society (whether in terms of numbers, influence, authority or whatever) reaches broadly the same conclusion. I accept that that this equates to what Aiwendil describes as a "kind of objectivity".
Then perhaps our difference is one of definition rather than of substance. However, I should emphasize that it is not in my view popularity, with any segment of the population, that makes art good. A work could be aesthetically beautiful and yet, for one reason or another, not liked by anyone.
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Old 10-28-2004, 11:24 PM   #180
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I'd like to toss a single crouton into this very mixed salad, one cut from a slice of Tolkien's own bread; this statement:
Quote:
Originally Posted by mark12_30
Is a eucatastrophe-- a glimpse of Truth-- any less of a eucatastrophe if the person who gets the glimpse doesn't fully realise what he is seeing? I think it depends on the heart; and who can judge that? The glimpse of Truth may sow something transcendant in the soul that that does not come to fruition for many years.
reminds me of the Queen of Faery's comment on the diminutive fairy decorating the cake in Smith of Wootton Major:
Quote:
Do not be grieved for me, Starbrow. Nor too much ashamed of your own folk. Better a little doll, maybe, than no memory of Faery at all. For some the only glimpse. For some the awaking.
Various "levels" of art perhaps have the merit of offering various people different "levels" of Faery, so that each one can find that with which s/he feels comfortable. Some may go on, some may stay there...
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Old 10-29-2004, 02:58 AM   #181
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If one really believe that art is subjective, one cannot refer to any art as "good", etc. - it just is. .... which is untenable.
LMP, I do not actually agree that this is an untenable position. However, I would posit that the stronger position, were one to hold it, would be that ‘Art is not’. Does one judge the artistic merit of a sunrise against a painting of that sunrise?* If one does, then both are art, as would be my bathroom floor. Cleaner then to hold that neither is ‘art’, and the ‘art’ is oneself and (my favourite word again) one’s perception. Which, neatly, puts one in the uncomfortable position of making commentary not upon the object, but upon oneself. Thus, there can be no rational or widely applicable standard, and one is left alone. This, quite naturally, is unpopular to a social animal and so, even in these flights of intellectual whimsy, we depend on each other for the reassurance of agreement, to aid with basic self-recognition.

This position then followed, all that which one considers their own ‘taste’ is a process of individual and then collective aggrandisement. However; this argument falls down for me when we come to what I consider to be the crux: synaesthesia.

We are all synaesthetes, to varying degree, and to my mind, it is this mingling of the senses, of which we understand very little, that shapes our initial response to everything. Our primitive receptors are fired off in unexpected, different and unique sequences by any number of ‘events’: a piano key, a leaf, my bathroom floor, the sound of the wind, your loved ones talking. As our synaesthesias are unique, so thusly are our responses. These miniature arts form our daily sensory symphony, and it is these hardwired responses to the individual stimuli of a whole work that are similar enough to create what has been termed above the 'relative invariance of the human mind' with regard to aesthetics, and separate enough for 'each wo/man to be an island'. It is for this reason that ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ can be misleading in this context, as subjectivity suggests an amount of conscious analysis non-commensurate with the truth of initial reaction. This gives us roughly 6,470,523,588 objective opinions, which I rather like.

~~~

* Not in agreement with Renaissance delineations in this quarter...
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Old 10-29-2004, 03:28 AM   #182
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
A work could be aesthetically beautiful and yet, for one reason or another, not liked by anyone.
Aesthetically beautiful by whose standards? I don't understand how a work can be described as aesthetically beautiful if no one perceives it as such.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rimbaud
Cleaner then to hold that neither is ‘art’, and the ‘art’ is oneself and (my favourite word again) one’s perception. Which, neatly, puts one in the uncomfortable position of making commentary not upon the object, but upon oneself.
But surely this is another way of saying that the value in art is subjective? It lies in the response of the subject viewing it, rather than the object itself. I agree one's reaction to a work is subconscious to a significant degree, but I don't see "subjectivity" as necessarily implying conscious assessment.
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Old 10-29-2004, 04:06 AM   #183
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Yes, exactly, that initial argument leads to subjectivity. I went on to say that we have an individual objective standard manifested as 'initial reaction' that is superseded only by deliberate thought - and that assessment itself is necessarily 'corrupted' by one's objective initial reaction. I suppose what I'm saying is that we all have a hard-wired reaction to things which tempers the way we consider them: to develop and/or counter these feelings does indeed require an element of conscious assessment. I deliberately circled around where this leads, as my feelings on it are ambivalent: but the view results in questioning the veracity of any reaction other than the primitive response.
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Old 10-29-2004, 04:46 AM   #184
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rimbaud
I suppose what I'm saying is that we all have a hard-wired reaction to things which tempers the way we consider them: to develop and/or counter these feelings does indeed require an element of conscious assessment. I deliberately circled around where this leads, as my feelings on it are ambivalent: but the view results in questioning the veracity of any reaction other than the primitive response.
Agreed. Although I would say that environmental factors will also determine our initial (subconscious) response, in addition to biological factors. Upbringing, life experience, social and cultural values etc will all play a role.
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Old 10-29-2004, 05:05 AM   #185
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Good point. And this was partly why I mention the synaesthete, although I did not explain myself fully. This intermingling of sensory data is accumulated through the years, different smells, sounds, textures. The links thus formed give us a detailed response pattern to any 'art' as all these little neurons fire off in response to this sensory memory and confusion of sight, smell, sound and touch. Obviously, this accumulated data is (wince) 'as unique' (stop wincing) as the form and level of synaesthesia and hard-wired reaction of each individual.
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Old 10-29-2004, 06:07 AM   #186
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Aiwendil, I certainly meant no offense, and I apologize if any was taken. My point in using the term "Indifferent" was geared strictly towards the pursuit of Truth within the work of art. One viewer (Saucy's "believer") is actively seeking Truth as the art is considered. The other (Saucy's 'non-believer') is, as the art is perused, consciously indifferent to the impacts and effects of Truth on his enjoyment of the art. He ony cares whether he enjoys it or not. Hence, for that moment, regarding the connection between Truth and the art, he is Indifferent.

I prefer these words because there are plenty of 'believers in Truth' who don't expect it to shine through a painting at them. Nor do they expect to pick up a faery tale and experience a glimpse of evangelium. THey stand before a painting Indifferent to Truth, for **that** moment. Are their lives less rich for their lack of expectations? I cannot say, for the art may be working its transcendance on them unbeknownst to them.... like Frodo's dreams of the sea. That inner working is, I think, what Tolkien desired and expected.

Difficult topic to discuss on the Downs. There is plenty of vocabulary that I have set aside.

Saucie

Quote:
So the non-believer's enjoyment of the art would be valueless to the believer if it did not in fact lead the non-believer to his or her Truth.
No, that's not what I said.

Rimbaud:

Quote:
Does one judge the artistic merit of a sunrise against a painting of that sunrise?* If one does, then both are art, as would be my bathroom floor.
Since the sunrise is Creation and the painting of the sunrise is sub-creation, to do so would be to compare the Creator to the sub-creator. If one is seeking to understand the Creator as an artist, then one may well ponder the sunrise in such terms. Many do.

I have never seen your bathroom floor. But if it is a thing of beauty-- perhaps on the level of showing the sheen on a single leaf-- why should it not be a work of art? There are many glorious mosaic floors in the world, and even some commercially available linoleum for which the original design work was very creative and tastefully done. Just because we find it mass-produced and available at Home Depot, does that mean we cannot allow it to affect our soul?

And that comes back around to the consumerism thing, and popularity. If a thing sells well, is it therefore not art? Hardly a fair stance.

Back to Aiwendil:

Quote:
I don't believe in your transcendent Truth (though perhaps only because I still don't really understand what it's supposed to mean).

...how do parallel fourths violate Truth? How can an abstract object like that violate Truth?
In that last sentence, do you imply that Truth transcends abstract objects (like parallel fourths?) I would say, there are truths that are transcended (one might say 'trumped') by higher truths; justice can be trumped by mercy, without truth being violated. There are many times when the parallel fourth law is a good one (as is the law of justice, a good law); but there are also times when a different, higher harmony (like mercy) will prevail. As in Frodo's protection of Gollum, it may not seem to make sense; but in the end, the Truth will shine through.
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Old 10-29-2004, 06:49 AM   #187
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Silmaril

Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Back to my main point. There are necessarily objective standards for art, precisely because humans cannot avoid thinking and behaving in terms of standards of good, better, and best.
lmp, I'm still pondering the ramifications of this-- especially in light of some of Aiwendil's points. I think I agree with you; but I'm wrestling with those standards.

At the risk of creating a maelstrom, I will say.... ---- nah. Maybe I'll PM you instead.

No, doggone it, I can do this.

It all goes back to Tolkien's concept of "sub-creation"-- which is done, according to Tolkien, in *honor* of the Creator because we are made in His image.

(And to that I hold... )

That in my opinion is the final standard, and will be the standard to which the Truth-seeker will adhere **to the degree which he understands it himself**, which comes back around to both a cultural and a heart issue. To the degree that the artist is capable (here we have a heart-judgement which only the Creator is capable of)-- is this sub-creative work in **honor** of the Creator? If it is, it will ultimately be judged as Good. It will to some degree draw those who enjoy it to the Truth, because, being made in honor of the Creator, it will reflect Truth to some degree.

Back to your point about cultures: each culture reflects what revelation of beauty they have. Rohan reflects horses, elves reflect trees and stars. So cultural standards differ. And when cultures merge, some understand the other's sense of beauty and some do not. I'm not quite sure where this goes yet. But in the end, it's a heart issue, of that I am certain; and a work made as a sub-creation to reflect the Creator, which causes in the enjoyer the faintest glimmer of transcendance-- Tolkien's evangelium-- will meet that standard.
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Old 10-29-2004, 09:14 AM   #188
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In tonal harmony, for example, voices are not supposed to move in parallel fourths. Of course, sometimes this rule is broken, often succesfully, but in general it really does hold value - there is something displeasing about about parallel fourths, and they are often detrimental to the aesthetic value of a composition. Now if aesthetic pleasure really does derive entirely from Truth, there must be something "unTrue" about such a composition. So I ask: how do parallel fourths violate Truth? How can an abstract object like that violate Truth?
The only compositions in which parallel fourths sounds "displeasing" are those written in the functional harmonic style of the 17th through 19th centuries. In fact, while these works were being written there was no such "rule." There was a style of composition, just as there are always fashions in art. At the time a composition using parallel fourths would probably have been judged "bad," but so would a composition that broke from the prevailing style in any other significant way. (Which is why we are able to look at the style now and pick out its characteristics--if anything and everything could be good art in a particular time and place, it would be very difficult for a prevailing style to develop.) What such a composition would not have been is "unTrue--" it's always just as possible to reveal something badly as it is to do it well.

What I'm trying to say, in my long-winded way, is that this "rule" about avoiding parallel intervals is a modern construct, placed on a particular style of art from the past. It's a style characteristic, not a decree from on high. The only way to violate it is to write a composition that adheres to the style in every other way, and also uses parallel fourths, which would stick out like a sore thumb in that context. The "rule" would be violated, but the work wouldn't somehow lose its relatipnship with the truth. Not even the historical truth of the style would be violated--the context of the rest of the composition would speak loudly enough, and the parallel fourths would sound out of place, just as they should in such a work.

Which, I suppose, boils down to a restatement of what I was trying to say before--the craftsmanship (or, if you like, the degree of its adherence to a particular style) of a work has nothing to do with its ability to show us something about our experience.

Reading this, it occurs to me--am I sidling up to a position that what makes good art is the degree to which it fits into a prevailing style? I certainly hope not! I'll have to think about that.
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Old 10-29-2004, 10:45 AM   #189
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Aesthetically beautiful by whose standards? I don't understand how a work can be described as aesthetically beautiful if no one perceives it as such.
Well, as I said earlier:
Quote:
A whole debate could be had of course concerning just how invariant aesthetic pleasure is from mind to mind - but I think that would be beside the point.
If there is sufficient invariance among human minds that "aesthetic beauty" simpliciter could be defined, then aesthetic beauty would be a simple property of objects. So, though aesthetic beauty is defined in relation to the human mind, it would be perfectly sensible to talk about the aesthetic beauty of a work of art without reference to any human.

A work, then, could be aesthetically beautiful but, for one reason or another, not liked. Maybe there are non-artistic prevailing attitudes that disincline people toward the work (this I think is the case with many "serious" composers for a big part of the population). Maybe the work is not accessible for some reason (a novel written in Tocharian A could in principle be great, but only a few philologists would be able to read it). And I think there are a great many popular works of art that are not good, but are liked for non-aesthetic reasons - for a surprisingly large segment of the population, I think, musical taste is dictated by "image" rather than by the aesthetics of the music itself.

Mark12_30 wrote:
Quote:
Aiwendil, I certainly meant no offense, and I apologize if any was taken.
None at all. You'll have to try much harder if you want to offend me.

Quote:
My point in using the term "Indifferent" was geared strictly towards the pursuit of Truth within the work of art. One viewer (Saucy's "believer") is actively seeking Truth as the art is considered. The other (Saucy's 'non-believer') is, as the art is perused, consciously indifferent to the impacts and effects of Truth on his enjoyment of the art. He ony cares whether he enjoys it or not. Hence, for that moment, regarding the connection between Truth and the art, he is Indifferent.
So essentially the distinction is between those that share your theory of art and those that do not. I only harp on this because, as you know, all these capitalized terms give me a headache; I would prefer to state things clearly and plainly.

Quote:
In that last sentence, do you imply that Truth transcends abstract objects (like parallel fourths?) I would say, there are truths that are transcended (one might say 'trumped') by higher truths; justice can be trumped by mercy, without truth being violated. There are many times when the parallel fourth law is a good one (as is the law of justice, a good law); but there are also times when a different, higher harmony (like mercy) will prevail. As in Frodo's protection of Gollum, it may not seem to make sense; but in the end, the Truth will shine through.
An interesting analogy. But I'm afraid my question was intended in the most crassly literal way. If aesthetic beauty derives from "Truth", then the details of what is beautiful must derive from Truth. My concern is that I don't see how this is possible in some cases. What is it about Truth that makes parallel thirds aesthetically pleasing and parallel fourths not so?

Tar-Ancalime wrote:
Quote:
The only compositions in which parallel fourths sounds "displeasing" are those written in the functional harmonic style of the 17th through 19th centuries. In fact, while these works were being written there was no such "rule."
As I said, in traditional tonal harmony. But traditional tonal harmony is still quite prevalent outside avant-garde circles. Even a lot of the important modern composers (like Copland, Holst, Shostakovitch) used tonal harmony (of course, there have been major stylistic changes in the past 400 years, but with the exception of serialism and the like, they've been changes within the context of tonal harmony). As far as the avoidance of parallel fourths not being a "rule" in the 17th through 19th centuries - I must disagree. True, no one at the time said "parallel fourths are to be avoided", but that does not make it any less true that such avoidance was an implicit or emergent rule of the style. Nor do I think that it was merely a convention followed because of style. I know that I have heard pieces where something struck me as unpleasant, and only later discovered that the reason for the this was motion in parallel fourths, or some other violation of a "rule" of harmony.
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Old 10-29-2004, 01:24 PM   #190
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë More specifically, I mean that a work of art becomes 'good' when sufficient of the right kind of critics have judged it to be so. It does not become 'good' when mere mortals say so, otherwise the overwhelming popularity of Tolkien would mean that he was judged 'good' by even more people. Until the right kind of critics judge Tolkien to be 'good', his work will remain excluded. SpM asked: But who are these "right kind of critics", and why should they determine what is good and bad for the rest of us?
I should have answered this sooner which was rude of me. By these comments I was referring to the fact that judgements on whether art is good or bad are made by those 'professionally qualified' to do so, not by the consumers. I was being a bit sarcastic, as I see that this is indeed the case, but I do not want it to be like that! And when I say 'professionally qualified' I am again being a little sarcastic, as it is clear to me that there is a certain amount of elitism involved in judgements about 'art' and culture.

Quote:
A work, then, could be aesthetically beautiful but, for one reason or another, not liked.
I think this is entirely possible. I understand that the artist Raphael, who produced perfectly rendered paintings, fell out of favour with the contemporary cultural elite (Rossetti, Burne-Jones et al) some time in the 1800s. It is only now that his art is in favour once again. The reaction against his style of art gave rise to the term pre-raphaelite. Nobody could deny that Raphael's art is aesthetically beautiful, but it certainly was not liked for some time.

To take a contemporary example, (so I can't be accused of being elitist ) let's look at music, and just because it was the first thing to come to mind, look at Gareth Gates. He has the right looks and image for a pop star, he sings beautifully, and he has been supplied with well crafted songs. All very aesthetically pleasing. Yet I would not say he is liked by music fans. What are they buying instead? A good comparison is the success of The Darkness, four fairly ugly blokes dressed like something from the early 70s and churning out old fashioned rock music. Not aesthetically pleasing at all, but a wider range of people like them.

Quote:
for a surprisingly large segment of the population, I think, musical taste is dictated by "image" rather than by the aesthetics of the music itself.
Definitely true. And at both ends of the spectrum from pop to alternative. I happen to like quite a lot of 'alternative' music (amongst other things), and I have no doubts that this grew from my teens when I shuddered at the very thought of being seen dead buying anything by Wham. So when I saw characters like Morrissey or Bob Smith in my copy of Smash Hits I went and bought their records.

Quote:
I think there are a great many popular works of art that are not good, but are liked for non-aesthetic reasons
I like a lot of music that really winds other people up, and it's definitely not aesthetically pleasing, but it's me-pleasing, and I would say that this is a non-aesthetic reason by choice. I like to hear cathartic or discordant music as much as I like to hear Vaughan Williams.

Before I start on a long essay about why some of my favourite bands are so ace, I'll round off by saying that what we like is strongly related to the shifts in our personal truth, and that our taste is not always, in my opinion, related to any concrete definition of good or bad art, but to what the influences of the world around us (media, friends, even people we want to irritate) thinks is good or bad. This is a good thing, as those who only consume the things in culture which they have been told are 'good' are rapidly going to become insular, locked in their high or low brow mindsets. Those who are willing to explore are going to find more enrichment. I hope this makes sense!
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Old 10-29-2004, 06:04 PM   #191
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I'd like to start with a distinction regarding the word "good" in terms of "good art". There is moral good and aesthetic good. One can write a book that is morally bad but aesthetically good; or one that is aesthetically awful while morally good. A book could be both kinds of bad, or both kinds of good. I think the kind of "good" that is most germaine to this discussion is aesthetic good. Moral good in art is an additional issue that has so far, in my estimation, clouded the discussion.

Good art is art that is aesthetically pleasing. The viewer or reader may take pleasure in the beauty of the artwork itself, or may take pleasure in the skill of the artist having made such a pleasing work of art. Are there other aspects to aesthetic pleasure? I don't think so, and desire correction if I'm wrong.

So good art is that which is aesthetically pleasing, whether due to skill in making, or in the beauty of the artwork itself. Does aesthetic pleasure vary by culture? Of course. So to that extent, good art is culturally relative. But that does not mean that there is not absolute standard. What it means instead, is that human perceptions and ability to reason, and cultural development, are finite and fallable, and will necessarily fall short of any ideal standard, be it a standard for beauty, or skill in realization.

Not long ago, I asked myself just why it was that the form of a woman is so aesthetically pleasing to me. I was not satisfied with strictly gender related reasons. Indeed, gender relatedness begged the question! Why is it that most human males are absolutely convinced that they know a beautiful woman when they see one? How do they know? What is the standard? Is there a standard? Why, in short, do I say that the form of a woman is beautiful?

I developed a personal aphorism. It goes like this: Beauty is being that which a thing was meant to be. This aphorism assumes a maker who designs, which is true of any art form. It also includes a standard for beauty, and thereby a standard for good art.

It allows for negative expressions, such as a rebellion against beauty as a standard for good art, in that an artwork in rebellion of beauty can, in all its purposive ugliness, be in its realization of its goal, a thing of beauty.

It also allows for a primary creator.

So what?

Assertions have been made that there is no absolute standard for good art, and mark12_30 and I have disagreed with that. The two of us are convinced that there is an absolute standard for good art. I say that that standard is beauty. Where does beauty come from? Did it just grow out of our evolutionary development? Or was it designed into us? Maybe the reality is that it was a combination of both design by the Maker, and evolution as the Maker's method. Or not. That's of relative unimportance in regard to "good art".

Mark12_30 and I have stated the bases for our points of view. I would appreciate it if someone who holds to the "good art is a subjective, relative thing", would kindly provide a reasoned basis for such a position. Thanks!

Finally, I do believe that there are valid criticisms of the genre, and that they have everything to do with the writer's efforts to bring beauty to his or her work of fantasy.

Oh! And if I have missed someone's efforts to provide what I have here asked for, please accept my humble apologies and point me to the appropriate post. Thanks!
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Old 10-29-2004, 06:44 PM   #192
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Originally Posted by Aiwendil
If there is sufficient invariance among human minds that "aesthetic beauty" simpliciter could be defined, then aesthetic beauty would be a simple property of objects.
No. Aesthetic beauty must always rely on subjective assessment. The fact remains that there will be works that some people find aesthetically beautiful and others don't. How can aesthetic beauty be objective when this is the case? And, in any event, aesthetic beauty, to my mind, doesn't (for the individual) necessarily have to be the defining characteristic of "good" art. I can think of works of art which I don't find aesthetically pleasing, but which nevertheless stir such a reaction within me that I would (subjectively) class them as "good". Many of the works of artists such as Jake and Dinos Chapman, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, would fall within this category for me.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I should have answered this sooner which was rude of me. By these comments I was referring to the fact that judgements on whether art is good or bad are made by those 'professionally qualified' to do so, not by the consumers.
But that's precisely my point. Why should any individual be told by some cultural elite what is "good" art and what is "bad" art? Surely we Tolkien fans should understand this only too well. We get irked when Tolkien's works are not accorded the academic respect that we think that they deserve, and yet it has been suggested here that certain other artists are not "good", even though they might stir a positive reaction within others. I simply cannot see how the two views can match up.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Nobody could deny that Raphael's art is aesthetically beautiful, but it certainly was not liked for some time.
Conceivably, there might be individuals who could honestly say that his art was not aesthetically pleasing to them. Unlikely, maybe, given the mental invariance that Aiwendil talks of (which leads to that "kind of objectivity"). But possible nevertheless. And, in any event, aesthetic beauty is not the only determinant of "good" art for the individual, in my view, as I said earlier.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
... for a surprisingly large segment of the population, I think, musical taste is dictated by "image" rather than by the aesthetics of the music itself.
What is wrong with "image" as one determinant of "good" art for the individual? The example of The Darkness that Lalwendë gives is a telling one for me. When I first heard their music, I considered it to be terribly derivative and I reacted negatively to it. Then it occured to me that they had their tongues halfway (at least) in their cheeks. They were poking fun at the whole 70s glam rock thing. Once I realised that, I approached their music with an entirely different mindset. It isn't necessarily aesthetically beautiful to me, but I enjoy the joke and now consider their art, taken as a whole package, to be "good".


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I like a lot of music that really winds other people up, and it's definitely not aesthetically pleasing, but it's me-pleasing, and I would say that this is a non-aesthetic reason by choice. I like to hear cathartic or discordant music as much as I like to hear Vaughan Williams.
So, although you may not consider it to be aesthetically pleasing, and others may consider it to be "bad", you nevertheless consider it to be "good". That illustrates precisely the point that I am trying to make.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
This is a good thing, as those who only consume the things in culture which they have been told are 'good' are rapidly going to become insular, locked in their high or low brow mindsets.
There is not necessarily anything wrong with liking something because others have told you that it is "good". It depends whether, deep down, you actually believe it to be "good". If you do, fine. If not, then you are simply deceiving (and short-changing) yourself. Personally, I have never been one for "trends", so I can't undersatnd the mentality which persuades one to like something because one is told one ought to. As they say, I like what I like. Perhaps there is value in going along with one's "peers" because it accords one with some kind of security within society. But that has little to do with the subjective assessment of the art itself.

Edit, having cross-posted with lmp:


Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Not long ago, I asked myself just why it was that the form of a woman is so aesthetically pleasing to me. I was not satisfied with strictly gender related reasons. Indeed, gender relatedness begged the question! Why is it that most human males are absolutely convinced that they know a beautiful woman when they see one? How do they know? What is the standard? Is there a standard? Why, in short, do I say that the form of a woman is beautiful?
Two words. Biological imperative. But even that doesn't provide the complete answer, as there are males who do not find the form of a woman to be beautiful. And, once again, I would not insist upon aesthetic beauty as the only determinant of "good" art.


Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Mark12_30 and I have stated the bases for our points of view. I would appreciate it if someone who holds to the "good art is a subjective, relative thing", would kindly provide a reasoned basis for such a position. Thanks!
Well, I've given it my best shot, so I'm not sure what more I can add without repeating myself.
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Last edited by The Saucepan Man; 10-29-2004 at 06:58 PM. Reason: Cross-posted with lmp
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Old 10-29-2004, 07:16 PM   #193
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Littlemanpoet wrote:
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I'd like to start with a distinction regarding the word "good" in terms of "good art". There is moral good and aesthetic good. One can write a book that is morally bad but aesthetically good; or one that is aesthetically awful while morally good.
A very good point, one which I think I failed to articulate properly to Kalessin in the old days of this thread.

Quote:
Not long ago, I asked myself just why it was that the form of a woman is so aesthetically pleasing to me. I was not satisfied with strictly gender related reasons.
Here I must disagree. I'm afraid the truth is that there's no more than a genetic program at work there. Aesthetic beauty, I think, is quite different from this (or - a useful definition of "aesthetic beauty" would be quite different from this). Aesthetic beauty appeals to the rational mind; beauty of that sort appeals fundamentally to irrational impulses and drives.

The Saucepan Man wrote:
Quote:
No. Aesthetic beauty must always rely on subjective assessment.
I don't think I understand your "no". I said that if there is sufficient invariance among human minds then aesthetic beauty can be treated as a mere property of objects. You can certainly disagree about whether there is such invariance. But given sufficient invariance (whatever that may amount to) aesthetic beauty would have to be definable in such a way. To take the limiting case, if all human minds were exactly identical, then obviously it would be definable.

Yes, people like different things. I offered some possible explanations that could account for these differences that are unrelated to aesthetic beauty (popularity, accessibility, etc.). Now, maybe these are enough to account for the variety of tastes and maybe they're not. But they do show that it is not simply differing standards of aesthetic beauty that result in different likes and dislikes.

Quote:
I can think of works of art which I don't find aesthetically pleasing, but which nevertheless stir such a reaction within me that I would (subjectively) class them as "good".
I think perhaps that you may be taking my use of "aesthetic beauty" too strictly. It is certainly not a perfect term for what I mean, though I can think of none better. Many things can contribute to aesthetic beauty in my view. Comedic value may contribute; allegory may contribute; dissonance and even ugliness may contribute. I've never heard of The Darkness before. But I am a fan of "P.D.Q. Bach". Schikele's music is not good in the same way that J.S. Bach's music is, and if I didn't get the humor I wouldn't like it. But I do get the humor, and I think that this does give it value. Similarly, I would say that The Darkness could be aesthetically good for precisely the reason you like it. This is not at all what I meant by "image". I meant the tendency for certain people to "like", for example, a certain form of music only because it is the popular thing to do - or to like another kind for precisely the opposite reason. In other words, to like a work of art for essentially non-artistic reasons.

You address this yourself at the end of your post:
Quote:
It depends whether, deep down, you actually believe it to be "good". If you do, fine. If not, then you are simply deceiving (and short-changing) yourself. Personally, I have never been one for "trends", so I can't undersatnd the mentality which persuades one to like something because one is told one ought to. As they say, I like what I like. Perhaps there is value in going along with one's "peers" because it accords one with some kind of security within society. But that has little to do with the subjective assessment of the art itself.
I have certainly never been one for trends either, so I can't understand the mentality any better than you. Maybe, as you suggest, there is indeed a kind of social value in such things. But as you correctly point out, that has little to do with the assessment of the art itself. That is what I meant.
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Old 10-29-2004, 07:29 PM   #194
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Quote:
Quote:
Not long ago, I asked myself just why it was that the form of a woman is so aesthetically pleasing to me. I was not satisfied with strictly gender related reasons.
Here I must disagree. I'm afraid the truth is that there's no more than a genetic program at work there. Aesthetic beauty, I think, is quite different from this (or - a useful definition of "aesthetic beauty" would be quite different from this). Aesthetic beauty appeals to the rational mind; beauty of that sort appeals fundamentally to irrational impulses and drives.
lmp is *specifically* separating the two.

A man may paint the form of a woman, and achieve something merely impulse-driven; or, he may paint the form of a woman and achieve something transcendant. Luthien was a transcendant beauty. It doesn't make sense to me that her beauty appealed fundamentally to irrational impulses and drives.
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Old 10-29-2004, 08:08 PM   #195
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Aiwendil, I can only conclude that you and I differ only in our definitions. Yet again.
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Old 10-30-2004, 03:10 AM   #196
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Aiwendil's mention of the music of P.D.Q.Bach (pseudonym of Peter Schickele), in contrast with the music of J.S.Bach, makes me want to clarify the difference between enjoyment and aesthetic beauty. I definitely enjoy the former's parodic music, but a good deal of the humour involved is based on the fact that it is not aesthetically pleasing, though it is composed with skill and for the purpose of producing the effect which it does, successfully so! Mostly, it plays with the standards of beauty of that musical age, interspersing jarring elements that emphasize the difference. I chuckle over those pieces, but I am not deeply moved by them in the way that I am moved when I hear and play J.S. Bach's music.

To bring that point back to Tolkien, the same thing applies to parodies of his work; I can enjoy them tremendously, when they are well-done, and there is certainly an element of skillful use of language in those that are well-written, but beautiful? I don't know...
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Old 10-30-2004, 06:03 AM   #197
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beauty: trend vs friend

As an aside somewhat unrelated to the current flow of discussion:

I think the desire to share beauty and to share art is pretty normal and natural. To share a joy with a friend is a big deal. There are few near me who love Tolkien as I do. When I do have a moment of 'Tolkien-sharing' with someone local, it's a high point of my day, often remembered with pleasure afterward. There is a bonding involved in being able to say to a friend, "Doesn't this ROCK?" and have the friend reply, "Yeah, it really does."

It's also part of the learning process to have one's eyes opened to beauty by someone else. "Uh, it rocks? Really? Why?" "Because....." "OOOOOH!" Another bonding moment, recalled fondly thereafter.

However, at some point, the desire to belong seems to trump the desire to share real beauty, and that's where trendsetting seems to come in, and elitism, and all the rest.

In modern day, it gets more complicated than that. Many folks on this board are on the younger, newer end of Snowdog's Scale of Tolkien Fandom. For them, the PJ-driven trend introduced them to what the geezers have loved for so long. So to call something 'trendy' as a form of insult doesn't hold water either. Some trends are good (or have good aspects) even if they're a bit stormy at their peak.

It just bothers me to hear something ridiculed for the sole reason that it's a trend; something is cheesy and lame just because it can be purchased at Wal-Mart or Home Depot. "It's a trend-- good!" turns to "It's a trend-- Bad!" without any examination of the inherent virtues or flaws of the thing.
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Old 10-30-2004, 08:06 AM   #198
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*Firefoot sticks her nose into this fascinating discussion, hoping that her thoughts are relevant.*

To quote my old sig:
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"The best and most beautiful things in life cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt in the heart."
It think this pretty well sums up why things like good art, beauty, and the like are hard to define: they are intangible feelings, individual to each person. Because people have different opinions on what is good, or true, or beautiful, their definitions of these things will also be different.

If there is something that one person thinks to be beautiful, but everyone else in the world thinks it is not, does it make the thing any less beautiful to that one person? If that is what the one person truly thinks, then no, it doesn't. So is it beautiful or not? Most people would say no, but as long as the one person thinks so, that thing must hold some element of beauty.

Can goodness, beauty, and truth be defined, then? Individually, I would say yes. I can take my set of morals, values, and opinions and put them together to get my opinion of these things. But universally? Except in the most general sense, I don't think so. The human race is too vast and different for that. I think that most people would agree with Mark12_30's statement that good art reveals truth. But I don't think that the statement can be taken any futher than that, because each person's perception of truth is different.
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Old 10-30-2004, 08:20 AM   #199
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Aiwendil: I'm afraid the truth is that there's no more than a genetic program at work there. Aesthetic beauty, I think, is quite different from this (or - a useful definition of "aesthetic beauty" would be quite different from this). Aesthetic beauty appeals to the rational mind; beauty of that sort appeals fundamentally to irrational impulses and drives.
I disagree with your "no more than a genetic program" point. Such an assertion necessarily begs the question, "where did the genetic programming come from"? Which is answered (at least for me) in my little aphorism, beauty is being what a thing was meant to be: there is a maker/designer behind the genetics.

I think that any human's first response to art is not rational. ("Irrational" has connotations I'd rather avoid.) The individual's need to make sense of her world brings about the rational attempt to explain the first response .... within the work of art ... which is projection, isn't it? (uh oh) Thus aesthetics could be construed as the rational attempt of the appreciator to explain something within the self that connected to the work of art. Jungian. Tripe? No. It simply explains (to me) the subjective part of aesthetics, since in our modern age, aesthetics is done by individuals more so than ever.

Quote:
The Saucepan Man:The fact remains that there will be works that some people find aesthetically beautiful and others don't.
Well, of course. Which has as much to do with exposure and education as personal taste. Just as striking as the wide variety of individual points of view on beauty, is the universal agreement among all humans as to what constitutes beauty.

Quote:
The Saucepan Man:I can think of works of art which I don't find aesthetically pleasing, but which nevertheless stir such a reaction within me that I would (subjectively) class them as "good".
I attempted to account for your objection by including the rendering as well as the art itself. As Estelwyn aptly illustrates in her distinction between J.S. Bach and "P.D.Q. Bach".

Lalwendë
Quote:
Lalwendë ... judgements on whether art is good or bad are made by those 'professionally qualified' to do so, not by the consumers.
It has been my experience that market forces typically trump professional judgments. This is best seen in the movie industry. I've watched some movies that were classed as real stinkers by the elite, and they were really quite good, as well as popular (since they did well in the market). And I've watched movies that were proclaimed brilliant, and found myself faced with postmodern tripe that was so disgusting and/or absurd that it could have been grist for C.S. Lewis's mill in his writing of The Abolition of Man. Market forces do more to decide what's good or bad art than any other force in our day.... sad to say? At times, yes.

Sometimes too much exposure breeds contempt, which is the problem with critics. They're so deep into their art form that the tried and true is for them merely boring. I wonder how much this affects our discussion of the fantasy genre?

Quote:
Lalwendë:I like a lot of music that really winds other people up, and it's definitely not aesthetically pleasing, but it's me-pleasing, and I would say that this is a non-aesthetic reason by choice. I like to hear cathartic or discordant music as much as I like to hear Vaughan Williams.
Quote:
The Saucepan Man So, although you may not consider it to be aesthetically pleasing, and others may consider it to be "bad", you nevertheless consider it to be "good". That illustrates precisely the point that I am trying to make.
No, I don't think it does, SPM. I think that Lalwendë is saying that to her it's "enjoyable" even if it's not "good". There is a difference. It's the same thing Estelyn pointed out regarding the two Bachs.

Quote:
Firefoot:If there is something that one person thinks to be beautiful, but everyone else in the world thinks it is not, does it make the thing any less beautiful to that one person? If that is what the one person truly thinks, then no, it doesn't. So is it beautiful or not? Most people would say no, but as long as the one person thinks so, that thing must hold some element of beauty.
With your "no, it doesn't", you suggest that the one person is right just because the one person holds an opinion of any kind, as to beauty. It could just as easiliy be because of individual human fallibility, failure of education, and/or misperception.

Last edited by littlemanpoet; 10-30-2004 at 08:33 AM.
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Old 10-30-2004, 10:32 AM   #200
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I'd like to add another point to the discussion of recognition and appreciation of beauty - that of acquired taste. Whether it be a fine wine, a new style of music, or a type of literature previously unfamiliar, each of us has to learn to enjoy some things that would generally (by experts in their fields) be considered aesthetically pleasing. We do not start out with the same level of enjoyment that we develop through experience and training. I know that I learned to appreciate the beauty of Medieval madrigals and (some ) early 20th century symphonic music through my college education in music. We develop and refine our tastes during the course of our lives, by exposure to new forms of art or variations of old ones.

For this reason it is good to share opinions with others, to test our own opinions for their worth and to be willing to give something new a chance before judging it to be the 'good', the 'bad', or the 'ugly'!
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