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Archive for the ‘Post modernism’ Category

Photoshop art

Ancient artist wrote a piece about technologically created art and mused on the subject of whether this is art. I have touched on this subject in the past, where my discussion was more on the subject of whether an artist can sub-contract others to do his artwork. This is a similar discussion because it would appear that the computer is a sub-contractor to the artist who isn’t creating the art himself.

However I would hold that the computer is a tool not a surrogate creator.

I think that technologically generated art is art as long as it is made clear to the viewer what it is and what it isn’t. Passing off a computer generated image as a hand crafted one is fraud, but if photography is an art form then Photoshop must definitely be a valid tool as well.

I think that we need to separate between artistic merit and craftsmanship. A high level of craftsmanship can make a building, a machine or a painting a work of art. However can an item of little or no craftsmanship be art? On this hinges the question. Duchamp and his successors would say that art is an intention not a physical attribute of the object. I would hold that there must be a physical manifestation of the intent, because without that what can I see of the art? If you want to craft intentions and ideas, make philosophy not art.

So I think that the issue here is that the tools used by the artist need to be made clear in order that the level of craftsmanship in the piece not be mis-interpreted by someone who imagines that it was hand crafted.  Photography and computer manipulation of images can be done skillfully and those works are art. However like a family snapshot album is not generally art, similarly thoughtless, routine and mundane computer edited images are just that and not art.

You might want to giclee print it on canvas and hang it on your wall because it is decorative, but you might do that with many other things that are not art either.

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Insect artists?

If you thought art by elephants was dubious, well now we have art by insects. Yes it’s true. Yoyo wrote a post today about art by this guy Steven Kutcher who basically dips insects in watercolor paiant and then lets them walk across his canvas.

In my opinion this can hardly be called art. I would hold that art must be an expression of some intelligent intent. While one could argue that an artist who randomly throws paint around is expressing his intelligent intent and creating something according to a (random) plan, letting an insect walk across a canvas is barely the expression of any intent.

Unlike elephants, insects have no noticable intelligence with which to create art. On the other hand, Mr Kutcher can barely claim to be the artist if he entrusted the work to a dumb insect.

I remember reading about some of Monets plein air work that include insects and sand trapped in the paint… well that’s another thing.

Now, if Kutcher could program his insects to create a pattern of his design – that would be cool.

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Yes , “consuming” culture, not “consumer” culture. This phrase may look a little weird in English but looks just fine in modern Hebrew – “Litzrokh Tarbut” or “לצרוך תרבות”.

Right now we are celebrating the Jewish festival of Hanukka. Hanukka (which means “dedication”) is the festival that celebrates the victory of the Macabees over the Greeks. What a lot of people miss is that the fight was not over survival in a physical sense but rather a clash of cultures. The Macabees were fighting a fight for religious freedom and even more so, a fight to be freed from the influence of the foreign global culture of their day.

Anyway… so I was reading the handout sheets they have in have sitting around on Shabbat in most synagogues here in Israel. They are published by all kinds of organizations with studies on the weekly reading from the Torah and a heavy helping of opinion. In honor of Hanukka they all had articles (each according to its editorial line) drawing parallels between the fight of the Macabees and current day events. In the midst of an article I was reading calling for Jewish cultural and artistic revival, I came across a sentence that caught my eye. It was warning me to be careful of the large amounts of foreign culture that I consume and that we need to consume more Jewish culture.

“Consume”. An interesting term to use. Is culture something that we consume? Can you consume culture? In English, the word is particularly out of place, because culture is a rather abstract object and consumption means that something is getting used up, burnt or devoured. In Hebrew, the word is Litzrokh which comes from the same root as “to need” – Tzarikh. “Mitzrakhim” are commodities or consumables of the type you buy in the supermarket.

I understand what the writer meant here but I challenge his assumptions. He is refering to the music we hear, the movies we watch and the brand names we wear. This is the culture that we live in, one where to be part of it you need to buy and consume its artifacts. He is proposing that we substitute the consumption of artifacts of the Western Greco-Christian culture with consumption of “Jewish” artifacts. I think he has missed the point.

Culture is the context in which people live in a certain place and time. It is the context of their art, their language, their customs, the things they value and the things they hate. Millions and zillions of dollars, euros, shekels and whatever currency have been spent on selling us the idea that culture is something we have to acquire and consume. But culture is something else. It is the air, the sounds, the thoughts, the heritage and the zeitgeist. It cannot be consumed.

If we really want to make a difference in the way we live we need to stop consuming culture and start living it.

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Following up from my post last week in which I raised the question whether the artist needs to actually do the work to create his work of art in order to call it his own, I posted the question in this thread on WetCanvas. I got several answers there which helped me understand the question and its answer(s) a bit better.

I asked the question “When is it legitimate for an artist to get a craftsman to do the work for him and when must he do the work himself?” Some suggested answers are:

  • A work of art that the artist can specify to another craftsman exactly what to do, can be created by that other craftsman who is then just the executer of the artists work.
  • That would rule out most painting because you can’t specify every brushstroke, but it would include most sculpture, architecture and print-making.
  • It is generally accepted today that anything I choose to call art is art – which is a very post-modern concept. Therefore automated, random or mechanised art production would not be considered to denigrate the artistic status of the work if I were to call it such. That’s unless you think post-modernism is c**p.

The idea of the specificability rule was an interesting insight.

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I saw this article this morning in the Artist’s Magazine blog about Damien Hirst’s infamous diamond studded skull. Personally, I find most of Damien Hirst’s work of dubious merit and this piece in particular to be rather hideous. However there are two very interesting articles linked here. The first is an article describing the fabrication process of skull. What transpires is that Hirst didn’t really physically create the piece himself, rather he designed the piece and the actual work was carried out by London jewelers Bentley and Skinner.

The question that arises is when does art have to be created by the artist himself in order for it to be his work and when can the work be done by another craftsman under his direction?

In this case Hirst didn’t have the necessary skills to create the piece so he got a jeweler to do it. In another, maybe a sculptor will get a skilled metalworker to operate heavy machinery for him to cut, bend and weld large pieces of steel. These seem somehow legitimate because the art is in the design, not the craftsmanship.

However what of another artist who produces a sketch and gets a craftsman to create a painting on his behalf? This doesn’t sound legitimate. The question is why. Why is this different and where is the border between the legitimate and the illegitimate? Is there a some essential difference between different art media?

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Mikhail Simkin thinks not. In his site Reverent Entertainment he “proves” that his doodles that he calls “fake art” are indistinguishable from the “real thing”.

I had a lot of fun doing his quizes to tell doodles from art and pigeon droppings from Pollocks. The site is worth a visit.

From what I understand conceptual and some other modern art is indeed about the intention of the artist and not in the artifact itself. It is art because the artist gave it meaning. The artifact itself is only the vehicle of that intention.

Thus when Damien Hirst cuts a pig in half and puts it in formaline it gets put in museums. If I were to cut up pigs, it wouldn’t be “fake” art, only art by an unknown artist, assuming I imbued it with artistic meaning when I did it.

The only fake art by this post-modern definition is when I create art like Simkin does in order to fool you.

I agree with Simkin that this can get a bit ludicrous. Maybe the cut up pigs are fake art as well.

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