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Copy of Why do we value art ?

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Leigh Peck

on 18 February 2013

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Transcript of Copy of Why do we value art ?

The Value of Art Because it informs us Because of it's expressive qualitites Because of it's particular 'artistic' quality Imitation Theory Artistic Truth Expressionism Formalism The theory that holds that the value of art lies in it's power to imitate (represent) the world around us accurately and authentically. Albrect Durer's 'Betende Hande' (1508)
We value the piece because of it's beautiful accuracy, and deatiled,realistic sketch of a human hand. Hands praying in alarming detail, from the enlarged veigns, to the wrinkles on his fingers. We admire the piece as we would never be able to recreate anything like it. Plato: founder of Imitavism Plato believed in a world of forms. These are not physical objects, but organising principles to everything in the world. Beauty: The form of beauty is perfect beauty. The objects we regard as beautiful are so because they share in some of the universal form of beauty; but aren't ever perfectly beautiful as they are merely copies. Our perception of beauty is like a shadow on the inside of a cave wall. We can only ever see it's vague form, and never the perfect version of it, which lays outside of the cave. However we recognise it is beauty, as we have seen the perfect form before. Plato defines art as 'meimis' or imitation. Plato seeks to devalue art as it is a copy of a copy, and most furthest removed from ultimate reality. Art appeals to emotion instead of reason or spirit, which Plato deemed as virtuous; therefore it could lead individuals to act impetuously instead of rationally, which was potentially dangerous for Plato. Art is a falsehood and smokescreen that hides reality. Though disparaging of art, Plato does lead us to some strengths. Valuing art due to it's ability to imitate its subject convincingly or faithfully gives us an intelligible account for the value of art. It also gives us two neccesary and sufficent conditions, artisanship and accurtate imitation. Also, if we look to statues like Giambologna's 'Hercules and the Centaur', though Plato claims it is a copy of a copy, this is an idealised form of man, that is closer to Plato's form than any human. However this account seems overly restrictive, discounting any works of art that do not immitate real life. Also, art can never truly immitate or even copy reality; as all perception requires interpretation, based on the conditioned concepts we already have. Could argue that obviously there will still be works of art more a kin to reality, despite the artist interpretation, and ultimately we would value them more. But then with pieces of literature, there is simply nothing to immitate from, and we still place great value on them. Vernet's 'A landscape at sunset' (1773) Turner's 'The Scarlet Sunset' (1830) Furthermore, creating a realistic immitation of something doesn't neccessitate a good work of art. Though their styles are very different, does Vernet's nessecarily become more valued, as it is more accurate? Turner's lack of resemblance doesn't detract from its power at all; and if resemblance is the greatest issue, surely we'd always value photographs more. Copying lacks the creative imagination we often credit an artist for having. imitation seems like it should be a simple way of identifying art and non art, and though is a logical method, doesn't translate into reality, and how we actually value art. Perhaps we would do better by arguing we value art due to its ability to represent? When we say art represents reality, we mean art offers more than just an exact copy of reality. It can offer the author's representation of the world, displaying truth and insight. Hopkins emphasised the role of experience in art; that is to say that it is the same experience as in reality. For example, I may enjoy the same experience looking over a lake filled with water lillies, as I do when looking at Monet's painting 'Water Lillies'; the fact that his is a representational piece does not detract from any of the experience. '.....I like them both !' For Hopkins, his theory is summarised in the expression 'experience of resemblance in outline and shape'; or to condense it ~ EROS. That is art produces the same expereince as encountering reality, whilst also accomadating for the artists's intentions; as each piece was inteneded to produce EROS. However, 3 problems arise from this:
the emphasis on subjective resemblances (what I read into the art) leave objective properties irrelevant, as a piece may move me whilst leaving you cold
outline and shape seem insufficent of recognition as there are many non-spatial works of art (like music) that don't work in terms of outline and space
Lopes ~ we only see the outline/shape when told to look for it or have been culturally conditioned to do so; so EROS cannot be said to explain why we are valuing our experience of a work of art. Wolheim ~ the difference between seeing and 'seeing in'
Seeing = the configurational aspects of the piece i.e. brushwork, contour, fine detail
Seeing in = the recognitional aspect i.e. seeing in - discerning something for ourselves. A perceptual experience that isn't comparable to normal sight, yet carries a certain enjoyment to explain why we value art. But Wolheim fails to define this enjoyment from the 'special experience' which we so greatly value. Lopes tries to resolve this by offering 'recognition theory', acknowleding that only neuro science can answer why we value our experience of art. The brain must be performing similar functions when looking at lillies and a painting of lillies; and these properties maybe accompanied by happy hormones, illustrating why we enjoy the experience. Lopes' recognition theory offers a concreate end to the debate as philosophers can optimistically wait for some neurological discoveries to further understand our perception of art. Another train of thought is that isn't merely 'memis' or representation that causes us to value art, but the fact that it reveals and produces insight to important truths. It is in someway about reality, and conveys a kind of 'knowledge' or truth about reality We are looking beyond the concrete physical ideas and themes presented to us. For example, in Van Gogh's self portrait, we don't value the piece just because we see a man with a bandage around his head. But because his skill has depicted his fraught mental state, in ability to comprehend social relationships and alienation from the world Immediately we have a more robust account of art, as we value it because it gives us signifigant truths, and in doing so, illuminating us about the ways of the world; in a way only art can d0. This account that we value art because it informs us, swerves many objections. Firstly, imitation or copying become irrelevant. The artists is not seeking to replicate anything,and when they do use representation, it is only to to express a deeper reality. They are not merely telling us what we can see, but what we experience in a fuller sense. For example, with Van Gogh's chair, it draws us to the attention of the ordinary. Not merely is it a chair, but it shows how individual and unique an object we take for granted can be. He takes what we overlook in day to day life, and expresses the truth that everything is precisely itself and nothing else, to be valued for its own unique existence. It also allows us to distinguish between the work of an artist and a forgery. A forgery doesn't express the forger's vision, it doesn't express any vision the artist has, or any truth they discover through making the piece. A forgery's purpose is fixed from the outset, and so lacks any truths. James Joyce, an aesthetic philosopher, brought in the point of a truth illuminating our view of the world, with his notion of 'epiphanies' Epiphanies in the traditional greek sense, are an unexpected and momentous manifestation od the divine (God). In joycean ethics he refers to them as a moment of sudden revelation in which we spot something signifigant in the everyday or mundane. For example, in Taming of the Shrew, when Petruchio grabs Katherine with an abrupt, forceful manner. In this simple gesture he has revealed a truth about his nature, that it has a violent, threatening streak; and what he has sought to conceal, is laid bear in that moment, for a keen eyed viewer. Such a moment of revelation and aesthetic apprehension all0ws signifigant truth to be subtly unvieled. However Joycean ethics seems to deal with truth in a haphazard manner. The suspcision is these truths don't reveal any truths at all, but just the artist's preconceptions. In philosophy, truths are demonstratable, like in mathematics, they use proofs to demonstrate the validity of their proposition. Whereas the notion of epiphanies just seems to hint at what might be the case, but may not either. How can the truths of art, so abstract at the best of times, be compared to these tried and tested methods? One may argue that we don't use art to inform us of the basic natural phenomena in the world, or to gain any facts communicated through the piece; and to use the work for that purpose would be to trivialise the work. We would not use Manet's Olympia to gain any factual knowledge about the female anatomey, but to revel the insight as to his desperation to challenge the social classes that afflicted parisian culture, as he looked to shock, presenting Venus as a prostitute. We don't use art to provide us with truths in any normal sense, but truth in an artistic sense is the insight to the way individuals and the world work on some more fundamental notion of being. So truth in an artistic sense is necessarily an abstract notion. But then isn't this then conceding that art doesn't give us truth about the world; as we cannot gain any coherent notion of truth from the abstract? Are they even really truths at all or subjective feelings that don't provide us with anything substantial about the workings of the world? Manet's painting may leave us invigorated by his blatent disregard for social etiquette, but does this really inform us of anything? Is it not partially obvious to assume that an image of a naked prostitute would outrage tight lipped 19th century high society? So we seem to have gained nothing further than a sense of invogaration.... Also, this problem then multiplies when we look at the emphasis placed on individual charecter. An artist can blur the factual account by giving greater weight to a particular series of facts. Fortunino Matania painted 'If you get through... tell my mother... ' for sphere newspaper, as to accompany journalism. While one may argue it conveys truths of the suffering of war, and the loyalty of the human nature, it is also framed to depict certain events, and we must not overlook the problem of perspective. Perspective is not usually an issue, but since we are pushing the case of truth, then the artist cannot convey any objective truth as they are giving a particular slant from his or her own objective. The 'truths' they give us are always going to be tainted by their own interpretation and life experience. Can we ever really talk of being informed by art, or are we merely being given a range of views for us to digest ? Representationalism seems to miss the psychological dimension of art. Firstly in making art, the artist expresses themselves, most distinctly their emotions. Wordsworth deems poetry as 'the spontaneous overflow of emotion' and this expression of emotion is even true in the most abstract works of art. Piet Mondarin said he was trying to express the spiritually sublime. Also art moves us, the onlookers, in a special aesthetic way, giving rise to aesthetic emotions which are somewhat, disinterested. As Wordsworth says of poetry it is 'emotion recollected in tranquility'. Expressionism bares merit as we often view an artist as one with an artistic soul, who's emotional sensititivty allows them to express their emotions in a particularly vivid way that can be appreciated by an audience. This inclusion of non-representational art gives weight to the theory, as it overcomes criticisms that afflict imitation theory. It can equally express and evoke emotion through its form. Mark Rothko's 'Red on Maroon' with its pulsating edges, lack of saturation in the colour and smears of red are unsettling, while the way the red rectangle sinks into the darker background is comforting. 'Night Mother' has been valued as a play due to its emotional depth, and Marsha Norman's ability to express her feelings of repression from her strict christian southern upbringing in the charecrers of Jessie. Through understanding and sympathising with Jessie's loneliness, can we come to understand Norman's emotional state when she was banned from making friends with anyone not christian, thus her expression of Jessie allows us to assimilate the alienation and loneliness she must have felt growing up. Finally Tolstoy argues for this theory, that its not just the artists expression, nor our emotional response, but the connection between the two, that makes us value art. 'Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man conciously, by means of certain external signs, hands onto others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by those feelings and also experience them.' The value of art doesn't lie in the pleasure of individuals, but connects us to each other. We come to share the artist's psychological state, establishing a bond between us. We also share the same psychological state as each other, and thus a bond is established between members of the audience. In 'Night Mother' when the final shot is heard, the audience all suffer the same initial shock at the piercing sound, and then reel from the realisation that Jessie is dead. The unifying shock and its impending affect on the audience leaves them all shaken, and thus can sympathise and understand one another, having experienced the same thing. While also they came to understand Norman's emotional state after her close friend shot herself, through Mama's reaction to the gun shot and the heartbreak of realisng the one you love is dead. So to summarise it bares it's strengths in
including non representational art
acknowledges the emotional aspect, and is an affect of an artistic soul
it unites us as an audience, and with the artist Tolstoy's notion of 'infection' is a difficult metaphor to develop into a complete theory, but is overcome by more sophisticated theories like Croce and Collingwood. They place a greater emphasis on the mental and psychological development of the artist when creating works. Croce describes the process of creating art whereby the artist is inspired by his or her imagination and then takes time to administer the exact brush stroke, or choose the perfect note to affect the imagination of the audience. Croce's theory answers the criticism that expression cannot be why we value art as not all art is expression and not all expression is art. He argues that art is when the artist seeks exactly the right expression of what they have a sense of. Finding the right representation, imposing of ofrm of unorganised stimuli, is a relief and emotional expression. But his emphasis on accuracy and finding the most fitting brush stroke to administer the correct emotion doesn't seem to fit the way a lot of artists work, especially the abstract artists. Jackson Pollock for example approached his work in a very haphazard and experimental style. Little did he care for accuracy or apportioning precise strokes to achieve and intended effect. Thus it seems artists do not always administer any exactness when creating their works, but allow them to develop while they work. This feeds to Collingwood's notion of art that it is not the 'concious working-out of means to the achievement of a concious purpose'. It would be a mistake to think that what the art will ineveitably express is concious to the mind of the artist as they worked. While they have certain concious 'intentions' much of their psychology goes into the work, most particularly their unconcious mental states, emotions, vision and experience of the world. An artist can be suprised by their own product, but when they view their work, they can sense it has expressed something for them. For Collingwood, art proper then is pure expression. Works of art solely created for their intrinsic value rather than any instrumental purposes. It is the product of genuine emotion, and has no preconcieved end. In true expression the artist does not know what he is expressing until his expression is complete; he cannot see the end result in advance. Pseudo art then, has a preconcieved end, and is produced not as an expression of emotion but as an aim to arouse the audience's emotions for some practical purpose or for their entertainment. Hymms, patriotic songs or devotional art are condemmed for trying to arouse direct and particular emotions such as patriotism or devotion to God. Horror films also are condemmed for their purpose is to arpise terror (although enjoyably) in the audience. Expressionists hold that the value of proper art lies in the fact that it is created by an inspired individual of its own sake. The value of such works lie in their purity. However Collingwood's theory exerts very exclusive limitations on what art can be valued, discounting much of what we would consider to be art as not proper art. In applying any of the theories in practise, it ultimately leaves us a very limited range of 'proper art'. Dante, T.S Elliot, Jane Austen, Cezanne, and Mozart are admitted, along with a few Beethoven symphanies and a couple of Shakespeares plays. Not much else passes the test. Shakespeare's plays would be discarded as for entertainment, and works like The Wilton Diptych are excluded for being too devotional. The expressionist emphasis on emotion seems to overlook the role and skill of the artist in the production of the art. For a lone poet to pen a worthy sonnet, he is required to have a certain technical mastery of iambic pentameter for it to be deemed to have any value at all. A successful work may arouse emotion, express others and exhibit technical mastery. Thus the value of art may well be concerned with emotion, but it is surely not exclusively concerned with the emotion of the artist, but also the emotional reaction of the audience surely needs to be taken into account This criticisims note what the theory leaves out, viz the practical skill of the artist and the audience respone. Theses aren't damming to the Expressionist account as they can simply go back to drawing board and insert what was missing to create a subsequently more complete theory. These are simply prima facie criticisms. This draws our attention to drawing things in sharper and less sharp focus to escape any accusation of exclusing something important. As an expressionist I can allow for some role of expertise and artisanship, while placing the role of emotion in sharper focus. The expressionist could take Eugene Carriere's 'L'enfant malade' and acknowledge that while we value the painting for its realistic qualities, and composition; unltimately it is due to his expression of mourn and loss, while painting his wife craddling his sick child, who later died the year the painting was completed. It is tinged with beareavement, and this is why we value it, because of Carriere's ability to so vividly portray a parent's grief. Then expressionists can argue that the expression of emotion is a necessary but not sufficent condition for art. Art could not be deemed art without being the producition of emotional sensibilities, yet on their own they are insufficent. This also mends the problem that the expression alone is art, because we do not deem drunken ramblings, on a saturday night, or telling someone I love them, art. But such stress on emotion begs the question 'what then is an emotion?' How do we gauge the emotional state of an artist? These require a further level of explanation to be developed in terms of philosophy of the mind and psychology. We want to know why drumbeats instil fear or what is it about green that is so calming Any attempt to refer to the artists state of mind falls under the 'intentional fallacy', which is that it is fallicious to attribute value or criticism to a work of art because of the artists intentions. The objection argues that it contrasts the public accessible nature of artwork to the private nature of the mind. The artwork itself, we can all experience. But the private nature of the mind, we only ever know our own mental states first hand, in a way that no one else can. From artwork, we cannot infer the state of mind of the artist, we cannot know what they inteded when creating artwork. Thus this emphasises the distinction between the art and the artists mind. They are two seperate things, we respond to the art work, and should be focusing on that, not the mind of the artist. The artists intention is irrelevant to our interpretation and aesthetic response to the work. If this is right we cannot value art for the artists self expression since we cannot know this, and to disagree is to commit the intentional fallacy. If we come to know the artist's mind, we would have to study the arist, and if we think we do find an intention, we would have to find evidence within the artwork. But still we don't need to refer to the artist , but can study the artwork objectively. In making judgements about an artwork, interpreting or valuing it, we should do it entirely of its own merit (the internal evidence, the evidence presented in the artwork) and not in terms of the psychological or social background which contributed to its creation (the external evidence) Since we respond to an artwork without knowing the mind of an artist, it cannot be the artist's state of mind that we value, but what the artwork evokes in us. The value must therefore rely in our responses. Obviously, if the artist is dead we can never know their intention. But even if they are alive, the artisitc motivation may work at such a deep level of subconcious that the artists exact emtional motivations could never be established. "The causal origins of an art work are independent of the artistic product and as a matter of fact we have plenty of evidence showing that what or how strongly an artist
happens to be feeling has no bearing on their capacity to produce even the most
emotionally direct and intense work." This is to say how the art is produced, and the creative process leading up to the artwork has no impact on how powerful the work maybeo n the audience. This is epitomised in the works of Marla Olmstead. Her work 'Frenzy' is a particularly intense piece of art. The deep reds and oranges swirl together and seem to show a great emotional franticness within the artist. If we were to go down the line of expressionism, it would seem natural to jump the assumption that the art is expressing the artists fraut state of mind. However Marla Olmstead is a 4 year old girl, who has recently shot to fame for being haled as an artistic prodigy, and the new Jackson Ploock. Thus our initial assupmtion about the piece and the artists emotional state would seem incorrect. Such an intense frenzied soul is highly unlikely for a young girl who creates art on her kitchen floor, and only does so as a form of pleasure. This further reiterates that the artists emotional state doesn't dictate the emotion it can express and conjure in the audience. Marla is also an example against expressionism, as a child seems to have little life experience to express through their art. Further she seems to have to intentions at all when creating art, but purely just enjoyment in its creative process. It is like Kant's conceptual schemes, in that we must organise stimuli in order to create experience of the wold that is intelligible. An artist does the same thing, as when recieving orderless stimuli is frustrating and painful, like when we can't find the words to express how we feel. The artist also feels the same frustration when they can't complete a painting or identify the right chors sequence. One solution after another is tried and rejected in an attempt to find the 'right' expression, and when it is found, aesthetic pleasure follows. So art is not as Wordsworth said, an outpouring of emotion, but searching for precisely the right outlet. The artist must be in control of their emotion, and when they find what is 'just right' it enables self understanding. Formalism is the belief that we value art due to certain formal qualities, like colour, shape, patterns and chords. Kant is the founding father of this approach to aesthetic philosophy. He argued that the value of art lay in the work's capacity to draw the perciever into the work by gradual discovery of more and more formal qualities. This is a typical Kantian move as he attributes value not to the skill of representation, nor to whether the work produces an emotion, but according to the beauty of the structure of the work through formal qualitites. Like with his moral theories, he views the human element as irrelevant, and it is only the 'particular aesthetic quality' that we respond too. Brancusi's 'Fish' 1926 can be used to illustrate the role of form and to reinhance what it is in a piece, define form. The form is its combination of netural colours in the base, offset by the cooling grey stone,; its bold and simple shapes; its clean cut lines; and overall flow throughout the piece. These are aesthetically pleasing, and are why we value the piece. Formalism values, not a piece's content but whether it posseses certain forms. This distinction is of primary signifigance, and can be defined if we relate it to smelting coins. The varying colours and types of metal are its content, whereas the mould or outlines are examples of the coins form. While Kant removed all human elements and thus the role of emotion, Clive Bell deos suggest some connection between formalism and expressionism; namely that beautiful form engenders aesthetic emotions in the perciever. He coined the term signifigant form. Signifigant form is a combination of lines, shapes and colours in certain relations. Not all form is signifigant form, but if an object has signifigant form, it has so because of the relation between these lines and shape. Signifigant form has the power to produce an aesthetic emotion in sensitive viewers, and this power to produce aesthetic emotion is inherent in signifigant form. Unlike Kant also, Bell aknowledges the role of representation in art. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it, but rather the artistic value of visual art lies elsewhere. Egon Schiele's 'embrace' through its relation between curves and lines, as well as the fleshy tones on a murky background, engender an aesthetic emotion within us of security, love and protection. As Bell himself says 'the representative element may or may not be harmful: always it is irrelevant' Art then is not about life even when it seems to be. For Bell, there was one unifying feature in art, that without its existance, art cannot exist, and that is signifigant form. Formalism bares weight as an answer to why we value art as it scurts problems that afflict imitvaism and representation. All art will have some sense of signifigant form, and thus all types of art, representational or non representational are encompassed by the theory. So we can establish what is art and 'non art'. 'Non art' may contain form, but not signifigant form, and thus will not engender any aesthetic emotion. But with Bell's emphasis on form within the painting, it follows that if two paintings were identical, mark for mark, Bell would have to say that if one had signifigant form, the other neccesarily would too. Such forms are in principle to replication, especially when the piece is particularly uncomplicated like in some abstract art. This is the problem of the perfect forgery. Since both contain signifigant form, we would have to conclude that we value the forgery eqaully to the original. Bell would respond to this that 'differences between the copry and the original, minute though they maybe, exist and are immediately felt'. The forgery then seems to lack something the orginal has. That which it lacks is the state of the artist. The original marks were made by the artist in a particular state of mind, and the person creating the forgery wouldn't have the same state of mind and so won't be able to replcate the lines, and shapes perfectly. 'The power of creating signifigant form depends, not on hawklike vision, but on some curious mental and emotional power.' While Bell can reply to this response, however sufficently, there are more damming criticisms that afflict his theory, and thus afflict formalism. One of the most serious being the theories vicious circularity. The circularity occurs with the definition of the two central concepts, signifigant form and aesthetic form. Each is defined purely in terms of each other, and so we have a highly uninformative theory based upon two mutually defined technical terms. It is like looking up 'yes' in a dictionary and finding it was 'the opposite of no'. Then going to look up 'no' and finding it was defined as 'the opposite of yes'. It would be perfectly valid to feel agrieved. In reference to Bell's theory, the same problem still stands. Signifigant Form is mostly defined as that which gives rise to aesthic emotion. Aesthetic Emotion is then simply the emotion felt in the presence of signifigant form. Thus the theory is viciously circular. Bell could avoid this problem by giving a more expansive definition of either terms. If we could understand these concepts independently then it would provide a way out of the problem. But Bell falls to offer any such independent definitions, and therefore the theory, at its hard, is devoid of content. Even if the charge could be answered, one serious difficulty remains. That is that there is no obvious method for deciding between completing claims against a work of art. I may claim that Howard Hodgkin's painting 'After Matisse' clearly exhibits signifigant form, while someone else could argue it is simply smears on a page empty of any formal qualities. And much more we could both be sincere. According to Bell one of us must be right. It can't be that his paintings have the capacity to produce aesthetic emotion and simultaneously not in someone else. To do so would be absurd and contradictory, yet Bell offers no way of discriminating between these competing claims, and no form of acreditation. While it doesn't undermine the theory, as it could be true that only a few can distinguish form in art. Ultimately too much emphasis on form leads to artistic elitism, in which only a select few can distinguish. Bell's theory is distinctly elitist, though he wouldn't see this as a criticism, more a neutral description of it's content. Bell dismisses those who do not feel aesthetic emotion as 'deaf men at a concert' but also that only a discerning few can make relevant sorts of discrimination about visual art. In this respect it is elitist , and he is so frequently chardged with elitism due to the fact that it seems he is elevating the particular tastes of a small, yet influential, sub class of English society, into an apparently objective ideal.
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