The Desolation of Art in the Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries

Dec 2018
113
North Dublin
Art which possesses neither public responsibility, nor aesthetic originality, is a very humble form of art. While for much of history, the concept of art did not yet exist, it is clear that there were works of art being produced. It may even be said that art came naturally to the rhapsodes who were later collectively referred to as Homer, when (initially) composing the lyrical interludes of the Iliad, and later making the whole poem lyrical. But these works necessarily laid emphasis on the side of themselves which were τέχνη, until the event of early Romanticism, as defined by Hamann and Herder, in opposition to Kant. It was not until Yeats' middle period that the idea of a unifying system of public responsibility (τέχνη) and aesthetic originality (art) became proper. Since the deaths of Eliot, Pound, Bunting, and others, High Modernism has been reacted against, by the humble Romanticism of gentlemen like Larkin (in England), and the Post-Modernist experiments of gentlemen like Ashbery (in America). My theory is that this is both caused by and contributing to the general downfall of our society, since verse used to, and no longer does, bother to influence society, in any meaningful manner. Until this idea has been revitalised, there may as well be no art at all, considering it simply stands as a kind of cask-monolith, pretending to do what it does not itself even understand.
 
Feb 2019
844
Pennsylvania, US
Since the deaths of Eliot, Pound, Bunting, and others, High Modernism has been reacted against, by the humble Romanticism of gentlemen like Larkin (in England), and the Post-Modernist experiments of gentlemen like Ashbery (in America).
Your referring to John Ashbery here, right? The surrealist poet / collage artist?
 
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Nov 2016
1,015
Germany
Art which possesses neither public responsibility, nor aesthetic originality, is a very humble form of art.
Let us first talk about an art that everyone should master: the art of expressing oneself comprehensibly. I think that you should get a better grip on this art. Even art experts would have problems with your statements, because they would know the names and technical terms that you use, but would not understand your theses, because they are presented very elliptically and without any argumentation. For example, what do you mean by public responsibility that you equate with "techne" in brackets? As far as I know, the term techne has never been semantically linked to "responsibility" and "public". You probably take the concept of responsibility from the responsibility poems of Yeats, but without making clear what it has to do with art in general and with the public sphere in particular. Why do you think an artist who doesn't care about public responsibility is inferior in your eyes, even if his work might inspire the public? What do you understand by the "general downfall of our society" you claim to be, especially in comparison with earlier societies, and why did you think these were higher? Why do you associate this supposed decline with the lost art of verse, which is probably the strangest statement in your contribution? And what do you think is so important about Collingwood's art theory (which, as I know from another source, you seem to appreciate)? Is a work of art really nothing but a means for the artist to express his feelings? Isn't he also and possibly even more concerned with creating feelings in the audience? Personally, I think the theory of expression is quite wrong because I know from my own experience as an artist in several fields that the process of creation is much more complicated and usually has little or nothing to do with a need for immediate self-expression. Only someone who is not an artist himself can come up with this theory.
 
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Dec 2018
113
North Dublin
Let us first talk about an art that everyone should master: the art of expressing oneself comprehensibly. I think that you should get a better grip on this art. Even art experts would have problems with your statements, because they would know the names and technical terms that you use, but would not understand your theses, because they are presented very elliptically and without any argumentation. For example, what do you mean by public responsibility that you equate with "techne" in brackets? As far as I know, the term techne has never been semantically linked to "responsibility" and "public". You probably take the concept of responsibility from the responsibility poems of Yeats, but without making clear what it has to do with art in general and with the public sphere in particular. Why do you think an artist who doesn't care about public responsibility is inferior in your eyes, even if his work might inspire the public? What do you understand by the "general downfall of our society" you claim to be, especially in comparison with earlier societies, and why did you think these were higher? Why do you associate this supposed decline with the lost art of verse, which is probably the strangest statement in your contribution? And what do you think is so important about Collingwood's art theory (which, as I know from another source, you seem to appreciate)? Is a work of art really nothing but a means for the artist to express his feelings? Isn't he also and possibly even more concerned with creating feelings in the audience? Personally, I think the theory of expression is quite wrong because I know from my own experience as an artist in several fields that the process of creation is much more complicated and usually has little or nothing to do with a need for immediate self-expression. Only someone who is not an artist himself can come up with this theory.
A craft has the responsibility of being social. I think this is clear. Compare a poem like that of Wordsworth, about daffodils, and the Cantos, by Pound, and I think this is not that difficult to understand.
 

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,743
Lower Styria, Slovenia
I think today's art has stopped advancing but is rather degrading itself. It may very well still be original and innovative (or so it seems), but since the avantgarde movements at the start of the previous century there's often a lot of simplification and deconstruction - when you look at the use of language in literature for example, but also in certain other arts - or it's getting very abstract (which in itself is nothing new either, ancient Celts already were creating abstract art). In the past you could easily recognise art and it was clear that whoever produced it was talented and often also educated in his craft. Imo nowadays that often isn't the case anymore. A lot of modern art has lost its connection to the people in a strange way. We all know about artists who were too advanced for their time, misunderstood and dismissed until the next generation came along, but when I look at certain things produced in the last 100 years I don't understand how future generations could connect with it. Certainly a lot of people today can't. In the past probably less people had access to certain forms of art, yet if they came across them, they could all appreciate them and recognise them as something beautiful (I know that art doesn't necessarily have to be beautiful to be art), regardless from which class they were. Today's art has at least to some degree alienated itself from a lot of people and oftentimes it seems to be appreciated only by snobbish elites, standing around something the average Joe wouldn't poke even with a stick, trying to trump each other with wannabe-smart remarks. I know I often feel like in the fairytale The Emperor's New Clothes when I read or look at modern art. But darn, that little boy sure is taking his time to say out loud the obvious ...
 
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Feb 2019
844
Pennsylvania, US
I think today's art has stopped advancing but is rather degrading itself. It may very well still be original and innovative (or so it seems), but since the avantgarde movements at the start of the previous century there's often a lot of simplification and deconstruction - when you look at the use of language in literature for example, but also in certain other arts - or it's getting very abstract (which in itself is nothing new either, ancient Celts already were creating abstract art). In the past you could easily recognise art and it was clear that whoever produced it was talented and often also educated in his craft. Imo nowadays that often isn't the case anymore. A lot of modern art has lost its connection to the people in a strange way. We all know about artists who were too advanced for their time, misunderstood and dismissed until the next generation came along, but when I look at certain things produced in the last 100 years I don't understand how future generations could connect with it. Certainly a lot of people today can't. In the past probably less people had access to certain forms of art, yet if they came across them, they could all appreciate them and recognise them as something beautiful (I know that art doesn't necessarily have to be beautiful to be art), regardless from which class they were. Today's art has at least to some degree alienated itself from a lot of people and oftentimes it seems to be appreciated only by snobbish elites, standing around something the average Joe wouldn't poke even with a stick, trying to trump each other with wannabe-smart remarks. I know I often feel like in the fairytale The Emperor's New Clothes when I read or look at modern art. But darn, that little boy sure is taking his time to say out loud the obvious ...
What do you believe the purpose of art is? You mention that it does not need to be beautiful - what does it need to be? Does it need to express emotion? Evoke emotion? Evoke an emotion you can relate to? Simply be easily understandable to the masses? Is the artist under obligation of some sort?

I'm just curious...
 

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,743
Lower Styria, Slovenia
What do you believe the purpose of art is? You mention that it does not need to be beautiful - what does it need to be? Does it need to express emotion? Evoke emotion? Evoke an emotion you can relate to? Simply be easily understandable to the masses? Is the artist under obligation of some sort?

I'm just curious...
I'm afraid I can't answer you, because I don't know. Who really knows what art is?

When I look at something or read something or hear something I know if it represents art to me or not. So I have some ideas and standards about what art is, but they're very broad and have many exceptions and are mine alone. What I think art is doesn't have to agree with your ideas about art and vice versa.

I do think art should come from within, express an emotion of the artist and evoke a reaction from the recipient. I think that even if it is sinister or shows the ugly aspects of something, it should in a way be beautiful. Ideally, it should have a message, that even if not in plain sight, can be understood by the masses, if it is explained. The artist should not be under obligation, although some artists in totalitarion regimes with censoring ofte found ingenious ways of hiding their own ideas behind a curtain of state approved technics, or symbols, styles etc. But what about commissioned pieces then? There artists have to combine their own expression with the wishes of the customer. There's so many aspects of so many things and we don't live in an ideal world. That's why I end my reply here.
 
Feb 2019
844
Pennsylvania, US
I'm afraid I can't answer you, because I don't know. Who really knows what art is?

When I look at something or read something or hear something I know if it represents art to me or not. So I have some ideas and standards about what art is, but they're very broad and have many exceptions and are mine alone. What I think art is doesn't have to agree with your ideas about art and vice versa.

I do think art should come from within, express an emotion of the artist and evoke a reaction from the recipient. I think that even if it is sinister or shows the ugly aspects of something, it should in a way be beautiful. Ideally, it should have a message, that even if not in plain sight, can be understood by the masses, if it is explained. The artist should not be under obligation, although some artists in totalitarion regimes with censoring ofte found ingenious ways of hiding their own ideas behind a curtain of state approved technics, or symbols, styles etc. But what about commissioned pieces then? There artists have to combine their own expression with the wishes of the customer. There's so many aspects of so many things and we don't live in an ideal world. That's why I end my reply here.

I used to dislike / feel absolutely indifferent towards certain modern or contemporary artists that everyone else loved... even felt rather lost as to how to think of Andy Warhol, who is very approachable. My work was all stringently representational, or functional (wearable, not sculptures) and these other artists went against my personal, badly underdeveloped, (teenage) aesthetics. The more I studied them and learned about their work, their motivations, and read reliable critics' reactions, the more I began to understand their value. They are not always easily approachable - and sometimes they are far more subtle and beautiful in the understanding of them than many "easier" pieces. Not everything that has worth is automatically attainable (i.e. learning a new language)... or even completely comfortable (i.e. practicing for a 5K run)... but they can broaden your experience of the world and leave you all the better for having connected to them.

What if you want to express something terrible... either horrific or traumatic or just about the banality of life? Should it still be beautiful? Can it be beautiful? Again, I'm just curious. :)
 

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,743
Lower Styria, Slovenia
I used to dislike / feel absolutely indifferent towards certain modern or contemporary artists that everyone else loved... even felt rather lost as to how to think of Andy Warhol, who is very approachable. My work was all stringently representational, or functional (wearable, not sculptures) and these other artists went against my personal, badly underdeveloped, (teenage) aesthetics. The more I studied them and learned about their work, their motivations, and read reliable critics' reactions, the more I began to understand their value. They are not always easily approachable - and sometimes they are far more subtle and beautiful in the understanding of them than many "easier" pieces. Not everything that has worth is automatically attainable (i.e. learning a new language)... or even completely comfortable (i.e. practicing for a 5K run)... but they can broaden your experience of the world and leave you all the better for having connected to them.

What if you want to express something terrible... either horrific or traumatic or just about the banality of life? Should it still be beautiful? Can it be beautiful? Again, I'm just curious. :)
Certainly, one's taste developpes and ripens with time and as you learn more about new things. Due to my studies I have read a lot of German and a bit of Russian literature. I can now appreciate expressionists, while in high school I didn't really think that highly of them. Back then romanticism was my favourite literary period. Then having read and dealt a lot with sentimentalist and romanticist literature, well, at one point it gets a bit pathetic and predictable ... I'll probably never like dadaism, even though I performed a major dadaistic work quite a few times myself. I've read postmodernist works but I don't like them. Same with chromatic music, I can't develop a taste for it while I have no problem with listening to traditional Istrian music, which uses a scale different to the typical Western scale and doesn't sound pleasent the first few times, if you're not familiar with it.
In the end I think dealing too much with any period or style eventuelly gets boring. I see that with my taste in music. It changes every few years, when I grow sick of the previous thing and have to find something new - comparable, yet different. Some things never change though.

And I'm not saying my worldview is the only correct one. In my country we say "each pair of eyes have their own painter", meaning as much as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I still call BS on a lot of what is being sold as art today though.

Are the French impressionist paintings of drunk alcoholic people in bars not beautiful? Is Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son beautifully disturbing or disturbingly beautiful?