25 Comments

  1. Brown hat guy saw the (in his estimation) foolish stampede for the latest iPhone. He feels this behaviour needed lampooning. Perhaps as a statement on the nature of consumerism. Perhaps he wanted to point out the contradiction of us acting without reason but in the pursuit of advanced technology, the product of pure reason. Maybe he just thought they looked goofy. Bald guy asked Brown Hat about it. Brown Hat explained, the gist, that it was an art project. Baldy told him that the subjects of his art were unaware. Brown Hat said art doesn’t have to be popular. I agree with that sentiment.

    I’d go further actually. I’d say good art is rarely the most popular. The most popular is often that which causes one to question if it is even art. If art has to say something, what is decoration or sound devoid of any intent but commerce? However, the answer, “Art doesn’t have to be popular”, is, ironically a populist version of this sentiment, I think. I think a more insightful answer as to Baldy’s statement would be “Did the stars know Van Gogh was painting them?” Art does not require the subject’s knowledge, only the artist’s intent.

  2. The big meeting?meeting? It’ll be cancelled the day before, and replaced with an army-band sing-along. Well, everybody-who-knows-the-words-sing-along.

  3. “Did the stars know Van Gogh was painting them?”

    Did the star know Andy Warhol was painting her?

    (No, she had just died.)

  4. “However, the answer, “Art doesn’t have to be popular”, is, ironically a populist version of this sentiment, I think. I think a more insightful answer as to Baldy’s statement would be “Did the stars know Van Gogh was painting them?” Art does not require the subject’s knowledge, only the artist’s intent.”

    Doesn’t “Art doesn’t have to be popular” refer to the audience rather than the subject. Whereas “did the stars know Van Gogh was painting them” refer to the subject? Aren’t the dynamics of the audience and the subject entirely different?

    Of course, everything you say is true and has been expounded upon for millenia, but I frequently think we go too far in down-playing the role and need of the audience of art almost to the point of outright disdain of the audience. But I think audience is vital in being art, perhaps even more important than the artist itself. Nothing can be art unless it is recognized by someone as being art.

  5. Art doesn’t have to be popular; Paul Simon still has enough popularity for both of them.

  6. ” Nothing can be art unless it is recognized by someone as being art.”

    If art falls in the forest, and nobody hears it, did it make a noise?

  7. Mitch4: I am not in Singapore. I was when I first started regularly commenting on CIDU and have kept the name.

    woozy: I agree that my proposed response has a different meaning than the original. However, I’d say it was a better one as well. Since the stampeding crowd were the subjects of the art, I don’t know why popularity was supposed to be an issue.

    I agree fully about the importance of audience to art. When a writer or painter or sculptor says “I create for myself”, I think that is both arrogant and equivocal. I think a key thing that separates “art” from “decoration” is that art is trying to say something, to communicate some idea about humanity and place in and connection to the universe. It may be in a small way or it may be grand and profound, but communicating something is essential. Saying that the audience doesn’t matter is saying the communication doesn’t matter. It denies the nature of art. Further, I’d say it’s equivocal because the artist is saying they weren’t really trying to communicate, so if the art fails, well, it doesn’t really matter. The whole sentiment that the audience doesn’t matter strikes me as coming from a cowardly place. This, of course, does not mean that all opinions on the art are equally valid, however.

  8. @ ranedeer – Of course cartoons are art: it’s merely a question of their quality,
    such as was discussed in this Calvin & Hobbes (20-July-1993):

  9. “Saying that the audience doesn’t matter is saying the communication doesn’t matter. It denies the nature of art. Further, I’d say it’s equivocal because the artist is saying they weren’t really trying to communicate, so if the art fails, well, it doesn’t really matter. The whole sentiment that the audience doesn’t matter strikes me as coming from a cowardly place. ”

    Meh. Emily Dickinson was an artist.
    I think it’s valid that an artist may just want to “get something out”, without really focusing on, or even caring, who it’s getting out TO.

  10. Singapore Bill, I think you’re being too hard on those who say,
    “I create for myself”. It can be a short way to say something
    much more complex, such as:

    “I don’t pander to my potential audience. I don’t give them what
    they think they want. I don’t constrain myself by what I’ve done
    before and that people then expect of me. I create what comes
    from within, and if it pleases me, it’s good enough to turn
    loose into the world for others to see. If I don’t like it, I
    won’t turn it loose, even though people might like it. If I let
    other people affect what I create, I become an artisan rather
    than an artist. I have great respect for artisans, but that’s
    not what I want to do.”

    When someone was asked, “Am I a writer?”, the reply was, “Don’t
    write. If you can follow that instruction, you’re not a writer.”

    So, some artists do create works just for themselves because
    they can’t keep it in. If others find and enjoy those works,
    that is secondary to the art’s purpose. If it’s not being pushed
    on you, it’s up to you to decide if the artist has produced
    something that communicates with you.

  11. Arthur,

    I will agree that some may be using it as shorthand. However, in my personal experience, it is more often used to deflect criticism. I write fiction and am a member of several writing groups. “I write for myself” is typically heard from the worst writers who can’t deal with any comments about how they might improve the writing (though that is the purpose of the groups). I think it’s likely used in that way quite commonly.

    If an artist is saying they are creating without thought for how the art will be perceived, I think that is largely disingenuous. If you’re hoping to communicate an idea or feeling, you have consider who the audience will be so you can communicate effectively. For example, if I want this comment to convey my ideas effectively in this group, I should write in English, not Gaelic. Not compromising the message is one thing, but not considering how to best ensure that message is heard is likely to lead to an unsuccessful piece. Now, if they created and kept it in the garage and never showed it, I might believe they’re 100% genuine.

    The nature of art is an interesting topic and I’m glad we’re having this discussion and not at all surprised that we’re having it here, a forum for understanding.

  12. woozy,

    “Nothing can be art unless it is recognized by someone as being art.”

    I disagree. I think art starts with intent. The next step, is the one you articulate in your comment, being recognized as art. If this happens, it is successful art; it has communicated an idea (at the very least “Hey! I’m art!”).

  13. ‘”I write for myself” is typically heard from the worst writers
    [in a writing group].’

    I thought you were quoting professional (and possibly
    pretentious) artists. In this case we’re probably in agreement.

  14. ““I write for myself” is typically heard from the worst writers who can’t deal with any comments about how they might improve the writing”

    Being edited is part of professional writing; of writing for publication. But it’s not an essential part of writing; writers can (and some have, successfully) avoid this step.

    One of the differences between successful artists and developing artists is that the successful artist has mastered the art of recognizing when something is “done”.

  15. Singapore Bill: My wife has had people like that in her writing groups. Her complaint always is “If they’re only writing for themselves, and don’t care what aynone else thinks about their writing, then why are they coming to a writing group?” Her conclusion has always been that they do care about what people think about their writing – so much so, that they’re coming to a writing group to be told how great their writing is, rather than to improve.

    You can make art just for the sake of making it. I do this myself. I make something because I have a idea for how it’s going to come together, I make it, and then, satisfied or not, I stick it in the closet. But most art that’s in a public forum is put there because the artist intentionally put it in that forum. In that case, I think it’s pretty rare that the artist doesn’t care what anyone thinks about their art. 99% of the time, they put it there because they wanted to communicate something with some audience, or they wanted to get a reaction, or they wanted money. They may not care if most of the population think it’s an ugly waste of space, but there is some target audience they want something fron. Or else why did they display it in the first place?

  16. Apparently when you teach great apes to paint (Gorilla or Chimpanzees, I can’t remember which this anecdote was from — maybe both), they are definitely interested in creating, and clearly have a goal in mind — they are not just randomly squirting paint around; they get the point, they seem to understand they are creating a painting. The thing is, they have no interest in it once they are done. Try to remove the canvas before they have finished their expression, they will fight you — they want to complete it. But once they feel that they are done, OK, that was that, don’t care about it. If they had refrigerators, they wouldn’t be taping their paintings on it.

  17. Tristram Shandy’s relatives on Art: “Others were masters of fourteen languages at ten,—finished the course of their rhetoric, poetry, logic, and ethics, at eleven,—put forth their commentaries upon Servius and Martianus Capella at twelve,—and at thirteen received their degrees in philosophy, laws, and divinity:——But you forget the great Lipsius, quoth Yorick, who composed a work the day he was born:——They should have wiped it up, said my uncle Toby, and said no more about it.”

  18. “the successful artist has mastered the art of recognizing when something is “done”.”

    “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” – Leonardo da Vinci

  19. “For some the hardest thing is to know when you are finished
    Should you keep on polishing, or should you let it go?
    While others can advise you, you know it will be wise to
    Filter all of that advice and make your song just flow”

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