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Author Topic: Art and the plasticity of its forms  (Read 11155 times)

opgr

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #120 on: March 07, 2017, 10:02:53 AM »

Actually what I wrote was that art is not defined by aesthetics or degrees of difficulty. I posted 3 examples that I hope illustrate that point.

At the other end of this particular scale I could post as an example an image of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Truly beautiful, amazingly skilful and a degree of difficulty that is massively impressive.

But is it more a work of art that Duchamp's urinal?

Okay, does that mean that for you the classification of art is a binary proposition?

(for the record: I'm more of a proponent of "Art = Communication", so for me personally, degree of difficulty or aesthetics, however impressive, is not the defining qualifier.)

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Oscar

GrahamBy

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #121 on: March 07, 2017, 10:51:19 AM »

Who decides who is, or is not, an artist?

If it is something about having been shown in a gallery, or selling through some other means, that would pre-suppose that the person had created art before she became an artist by virtue of having exhibited it, no? Or is it anything created by a person who will one day be acknowledged as being an artist?

Or am I at liberty to declare unilaterally that I'm an artist?


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opgr

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #122 on: March 07, 2017, 12:26:40 PM »

The individual decides. I don't think you need anybody's permission to be an artist.

Unless of course you are a terrorist and decide that you're an artist with murder is your chosen medium...
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Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #123 on: March 07, 2017, 03:02:00 PM »

Reverting for a sec to the OP: was any question actually asked, or is it just an assumption here that there was, and if so, that it was: what's photographic art?

If so, we do seem to have drifted into the Sargasso Sea instead.

It has been mooted by Jeanloup Sieff, amongst others, that there is no art, there are just artists.

And even within the definition (?) of what that might mean, some things that artists produce are art and some not, so one can't define art as strictly the product of artists, either.

Perhaps as close as we can get is to believe that folks who are good at drawing, painting, making photographs, playing musical instruments, singing and so forth are artists. The stress is on the two words, good at. Because one does any of those things badly would, I suggest, preclude that person from being considered an artist in that specific medium. I struggle to accept the concept of a bad artist. I would judge the bad artist a wannabe artist. If, indeed, he had such pretensions at all.

Galleries also exhibit stuff that I could never accept as art. Now, was that infamous urinal actually meant to be 'art' or was it simply, as some suggest, a joke and a dig at the established order of things? You can never tell: people do all manner of stuff in promoting thenselves. Many show their naked curves, and so perhaps the Duchamp urinal was his attempt to show something else, and he never quite got round to doing that? Where the artists hang out, then. Would Duchamp's member have been a work of art? Who knows, who remembers? How temporary the full flush of manhood.

This is the second most shocking post anyone has read on LuLa. Absolutely not a nice place to be.

Rob C
« Last Edit: July 08, 2017, 03:33:00 PM by Rob C »
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marton

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #124 on: March 23, 2017, 06:38:49 PM »

For anyone who is interested in photography and philosophy, an interesting and informative article here - https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/23916-photography-and-philosophy-essays-on-the-pencil-of-nature/
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Beakhammer

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #125 on: July 08, 2017, 11:49:56 AM »

The idea that photography is not one of the arts requires a definition of art that is too narrow to be very useful or interesting, in my opinion.   All attempts to organize the various disciplines, or the products of artists and craftspeople, into categories that are either "art" or "not-art" are doomed to failure at a fundamental level since all made-objects possess characteristics of art, and craft, and of many other such qualifiers to varying degrees.  Most people will draw the lines that define these various ideas in different places.  Different traditions and cultures have defined them in very different ways over the ages.  I think it is a complete waste of time to try and define these categories in absolute terms, however it can be useful and interesting to attempt to define how these various categories manifest themselves in specific works of art.  In order to do this it is important to define what you mean when you say "art".  The term means so many different things in so many different contexts that using the word "art" without defining exactly what you are talking about raises more questions than it answers.

I find that art is such a complex and far-reaching topic that it serves me best to use very broad and inclusive definitions of what art is, and then only to narrow things down in defining what makes specific works of art similar or different in specific terms.  I think of art as a set of characteristics that attach in varying degrees to all made-objects.  The original word simply meant "skill as a result of learning or practice" and then came to be applied to making things (by an artisan).  Only much later, in a few societies, did the definition get narrowed down to apply only to the one-of-a-kind expensive products of elites and isolated geniuses.  I think this narrow idea of art as being terribly precious is misleading and destructive.

I have made my living for decades primarily by selling forged steel sculpture in the Public-Art market.  I think of myself as an artist.  This work could be said to be representational, though it is far from literal.  When it functions as architectural ironwork it might be seen as utilitarian, or decorative craft, when it is presented as free-standing sculpture it might be seen as non-utilitarian fine art.  Because the work involves blacksmithing it might strike some people as a blue-collar craft product.  Because it often looks nothing like traditional blacksmithing many people will have no idea how it was made and will simply consider it to be sculpture in a generic sense.  Whether someone decides that this work falls more or less under the umbrella of art, or of craft, is in fact entirely subjective, based on a wide ranging set of cultural assumptions and prejudices. 

In many ways artists are held hostage by the particular prejudices, or lack of engagement, or lack of imagination, of their audience.  One of the main problems artists face is in breaking through this wall of pre-conceptions, and this often takes the form of an exaggerated need to be "original".  Sometimes artists may go too far in trying to break through, so that the shout for attention drowns out other more interesting content.  At the other extreme, artwork that looks just like a thousand other examples may become effectively invisible, no matter how good it actually is.

I am also an avid photographer and have spent years painting and drawing, so I have direct experience with the topics of this thread.   My formal education was in the history of ideas, so I have also been exposed to a more philosophical approach to these topics.  Art History and art criticism tends to be a bit on the self-referential side and I find anthropology often gives a better perspective on what artwork may be, and on how it functions in various cultures.

I think the notion that photography is simply reproduction of a scene, and involves simply pressing a button, pre-supposes a singularly un-imaginitive and passive photographer.  That's not how I use a camera.  I often spend years photographing and re-photographing a subject, exploring many experimental paths before arriving at images which begin to express what I want to express.  This is exactly the process I go through when I am using oil paints, pencil and paper, or hammer and anvil.  Of course the tools and processes are different, but the mental processes that go into creating something that carries my intended meaning is very similar in each discipline.  Artists tend to use iterative processes, making and re-making things over and over again, perhaps understanding a bit more each time.  I think you need to consider whole bodies of work, particularly when it comes to photography, to come to grips with the process an artist is engaged in.

I found that practicing various different disciplines allows them to inform each other.  Things I have learned while painting and drawing contribute a lot to my photographs.  Forging steel taught me more about drawing three-dimensional objects than all the drawing classes I have taken over the years.  Struggling to get photographs of my sculpture teaches me about how the sculpture interacts with light and feeds back into designing and forging the next sculpture.  After a while the divisions between these processes seem less important than the similarities, and the places where they overlap strongly turn out to be rich veins, sources of new ideas and better processes.

Many of the posts in this thread seem to come from a consumer's point of view, discussing art-objects as final products, detached from the person and process that made them.  From the artist's point of view the process of making the work is often more interesting than the final product.  What other people make of the work once it is complete is a whole other ball of wax.

If you look at Duchamp's urinal all by itself it is easy to dismiss it.  You have to consider the urinal in the context of the artist's life and work, and the zeitgeist he was responding to, to begin to have a real discussion about what role art plays in this particular work.  Art is communication.  The meaning of any communication depends on context, and this context extends out to the entire culture(s), the history and even the biology of all of the people who are a party to that communication.  I find that the more you learn about a particular artist or work of art and the culture that gives it context, the harder it becomes to generalize about art or to fit art into clear-cut categories.

I like Crewdson's work too.  His process reminds me of Rembrandt, who also created carefully orchestrated scenes (that we would now term "cinematic") and worked with a large organized team of assistants to carry out the actual painting.

David Hockney, in his book "Secret Knowledge", makes a convincing argument that painters have made heavy use of cameras (the Camera Lucida) to discover and reproduce perspective and the behavior of light and shadow in their work all the way back to the Old Masters of the Renaissance.  It might be said that these painters were the first photographers, albeit with a very slow and painstaking way of capturing and developing the image.

It is significant that Henri Cartier-Bresson was a painter first, then a photographer, then a painter again.  Drawing and painting teaches a person to see with greater precision and depth than an untrained person sees.  We don't see with our eyes, we see with our minds, based on previous experience.  That ability to see a scene in depth, and to comprehend it in a flash, improves with years of training.  Rembrandt's sketches of street people have the imediate quality of street photography.  There is tremendous overlap between the actual practice of drawing and the practice of photography, even in the apparently spontaneous act of snapping photos on the street.

The question of whether or not a given object is officially "art" doesn't interest me much, that just depends on who you're talking to.  In fact I think that all objects or actions can be viewed as art in one way or another.  What interests me are specific questions about how art manifests itself in the object or process or performance under discussion, to whatever degree art can be discovered there.  In other words I think it is more productive to talk about how art is created and understood than to talk about how it has value assigned to it.

The studio is more interesting than the marketplace.  The essence of art is practice, not product.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2017, 08:41:45 PM by Beakhammer »
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Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #126 on: July 08, 2017, 03:51:33 PM »

Perhaps the principal reason we can find art and definitions of art difficult is due to marketing. The moment price it attached, then expectations of value are raised, and with value we now find ourselves evaluating by the measures of our own sensibilities, experiences and financial standing. Is something superior art because it's beyond my pocket? Is the pretty little snap of Spanish staircases that I see for sale on a market stand for a couple of euros just crap, because the intended buyer of holiday kitsch is a tourist?

Is a bend girder art when it's bent because of demolition, or only when an "artist" bends it? Is a test Polaroid art because Avedon exposed it but not if the chap in Death Valley made it to check his shot? If Albert Watson shoots a girl in latex in Las Vegas that's art; if a guy in LA does the same in a motel, is that porn? If I do it, am I just a copycat?

Maybe that's why these threads lie dormant...

;-)

Rob C

Beakhammer

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #127 on: July 08, 2017, 03:56:57 PM »

Sure, but that is the consumer's point of view.  I am more interested in the artist's point of view.  Let's talk about what goes into making art, and enjoying art, and leave talk of buying art to those people with spare cash.
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Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #128 on: July 09, 2017, 05:41:57 AM »

Sure, but that is the consumer's point of view.  I am more interested in the artist's point of view.  Let's talk about what goes into making art, and enjoying art, and leave talk of buying art to those people with spare cash.

"If Albert Watson shoots a girl in latex in Las Vegas that's art; if a guy in LA does the same in a motel, is that porn? If I do it, am I just a copycat?"

To quote myself, above, I am seeing it from both perspectives, that of a viewer (which can even preclude a buyer) and that of myself as photographer, as explained in the quotation.

I think the reality, at least for me, is that making the self-conscious call to declare oneself artist is possibly a little bit of a limitation on what one might actually feel like venturing forth to shoot. Why push the confrontation: am I social artist this morning if I shoot fat persons at the beach, or only this evening if I photograph them dolled up to the imaginary nines as they go out on the town? Is my image of a swan putting on the brakes as it lands in the park lake art, on my part rather than of the swan, or is it art if I shoot the full globe of the Sun as it rolls down to the distant mountain ridge prior to taking its hissless, daily dive back into the Mediterranean from whence it arose as silently this morning?

What goes into making art? It's a flawed question, as you know, because we have no widely acceptable definition. What may be art to one person is junk to another. All it reasonably leaves us with is the decision we might want to make about whether we like the product or not. And there has to be a product, or there is nothing. For myself, the most powerful of the arts is music. Photography runs somewhere in the far distance. I am a photographer and not a musician. Perhaps therein lies a clue to what I might mean by art: something that moves me deeply but is beyond my own powers to create? Because I can't do it, do I perceive a greater value?

Enjoying art. It's instinctive, and not something that follows from reading about some genre or another, which is equivalent to learning geography or history: that's a memory challenge. In schooldays I had a great young memory with not much other than sex taking up space: exams were a matter of memory of facts and reiterating them as asked. I passed everything I had to study. Today, I could never learn much by reading about it because age, condition and space have all had their devastating inputs... In today's Internet world of Wiki, everybody is an expert at the click of a mouse, whether or not they had a clue about a topic five minutes ago. It's what's so deeply unsatisfying about discussions such as this one: people can simply read something relevant and repost it; they may not really have a clue, but for those few seconds of the reader's attention, they appear plausible. You just have to glance at the current dogma/blindness/ignorance/lack of wider perspective in the "Trump" threads to understand the curse of shallow instant expertise and blinkered belief, and why so many of us have just dropped out in dismay at what drones on and on, and interminably bloody on.

So yeah, what does go into making art? Rephrasing that to what goes on in the making of photographs, in my own experience, is an easier and more honest question. I think it very much depends on the subjects. With people (girls - I can't photograph kids and men well because I have no interest in them) there is the desire to make them look better than they actually seem to be; I never want to mock or to humiliate subjects. In fact, that kind of feeling is what informs my choice in favourite photographers. I can't resist those few with the capacity to remove the model from the reality within which she exists. It's what I find so exciting about Sarah Moon and her created visual and spiritual atmospheres on the one hand, and Feurer's fine distillation of beach, city or desert right down to the essential simplicity of what it is that makes each genre so everlastingly powerful. In its way, I see his beach creations as parallel to the work some landscape people manage to produce shooting desert: they can strip it right down to sand, dune and form, and so well that there is no sense of things missing. A Feurer city fashion shot: it boils down to girl, clothes, blobs of oof colour from reflections on trucks, trams and cars, traffic signals: a simple completeness, then, with only suggestion to add location atmosphere to the principal subject...

I like long, manual focus lenses. I feel something specially - if indescribably - wonderful when I move focus over near planes to wherever the subject might be; that in and out of focus feeling is amost palpable to me: I imagine I can taste it. That's one buzz, and another is the complicity enjoyed within a model/photographer relationship when things go well and you both combine to produce special dreams that existed neither before nor after those few seconds when you both got to where you thought you wanted to take the thing. (It's a part of the muse experience, about which I have written elsewhere.) That the actual photograph may be yet a further step away from where the two creative minds were at the time, is another thing altogether. "Art" is nothing if not full of surprise to the so-called artist. If it isn't I think he no longer is creating his art: he is turning out widgets. And that's a failing with photography: you only have to observe what gets posted here and in almost all such spaces, to find repetition, formula and general boredom. The only thing that makes some different is photographer fame. Stripped of that, there are more nudes around than meet the eye! At least mine were honestly underdressed.

;-)

Rob C

Beakhammer

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #129 on: July 09, 2017, 12:46:28 PM »

You sound jaded, as if (very understandably) the art-world makes you squeamish, but I still think that's the marketplace and American culture talking.  As a lifetime professional artist I have learned to try and ignore all that static and concentrate on the artwork itself.  Amateurs may pretend not to be artists when they make art.  Professionals can't do that, but why should we?  It's a profession to be proud of, if you make good work.  I don't think it matters what kind of artist you call yourself; it is the art you produce that matters.  If I understand you correctly, it sounds like you are saying that this kind of self-consciousness gets in the way of seeing and understanding.  If that is what you mean, then I agree with you.

I also don't understand your apparent problem with learning from books.  What you mean by "instinct" needs clarification, but I can't agree that knowledge, such as history or geography, can't play a role in deep appreciation of art.  Perhaps that is not what you meant.  I am only 60, but I read a lot still.  I do find that a well-researched book is often a better use of my time than wandering around on the internet, but there are also good sources on the web.

What goes into making art does not have to be valued in relation to other people's opinions of that art.  In fact, when an artist starts thinking too much about what other people believe this can get in the way of producing good work.  This is a paradox that artists need to address squarely:  Art is communication, so it does matter what people make of your work, but if you worry too much about the how much the audience understands you, you run the risk of watering down your message and weakening the work.  One way to address this constant problem is to make work that resonates on multiple levels.  Even music works this way.  Most people will respond viscerally to music, loving some music, disliking other music, but musicians with a knowledge of music theory, and history, and the nuances of performance,  will appreciate the same music on additional levels, and will have an even richer experience.  Music is a powerful direct line to the emotions, but it is also an exquisite branch of mathematics.

In practice this business of making work that resonates on multiple levels is tricky.  If the work is too pat and ordinary in it's approach then people my be stopped at this surface level and never bother to investigate any deeper levels that may exist in the work.  On the other hand, a work that is too outlandish may also stop people at the surface.  These considerations are a bigger problem for people like myself who make work in the field of Public Art, since we are literally making the work for everybody.  We don't have the luxury of selling to small group of elites through a gallery that understands their tastes already.  Still, I think these considerations apply to any artwork.  My favorite photos show a mingling of mystery and familiarity.  They are both attractive and puzzling.  They make me want to keep looking at them, and thinking about them.  Best of all are images (or poems or songs or stories or paintings or buildings or gardens or whatever) that I can come back to again and again over the years and keep finding new things in them, new ways to relate to them.
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Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #130 on: July 09, 2017, 03:02:54 PM »

1.  You sound jaded, as if (very understandably) the art-world makes you squeamish, but I still think that's the marketplace and American culture talking.  As a lifetime professional artist I have learned to try and ignore all that static and concentrate on the artwork itself.  Amateurs may pretend not to be artists when they make art.  Professionals can't do that, but why should we?  It's a profession to be proud of, if you make good work.  I don't think it matters what kind of artist you call yourself; it is the art you produce that matters.  If I understand you correctly, it sounds like you are saying that this kind of self-consciousness gets in the way of seeing and understanding.  If that is what you mean, then I agree with you.

2.  I also don't understand your apparent problem with learning from books.  What you mean by "instinct" needs clarification, but I can't agree that knowledge, such as history or geography, can't play a role in deep appreciation of art.  Perhaps that is not what you meant.  I am only 60, but I read a lot still.  I do find that a well-researched book is often a better use of my time than wandering around on the internet, but there are also good sources on the web.

3.   What goes into making art does not have to be valued in relation to other people's opinions of that art.  In fact, when an artist starts thinking too much about what other people believe this can get in the way of producing good work.  This is a paradox that artists need to address squarely: Art is communication, so it does matter what people make of your work, but if you worry too much about the how much the audience understands you, you run the risk of watering down your message and weakening the work.  One way to address this constant problem is to make work that resonates on multiple levels.  Even music works this way.  Most people will respond viscerally to music, loving some music, disliking other music, but musicians with a knowledge of music theory, and history, and the nuances of performance,  will appreciate the same music on additional levels, and will have an even richer experience.  Music is a powerful direct line to the emotions, but it is also an exquisite branch of mathematics.

In practice this business of making work that resonates on multiple levels is tricky.  If the work is too pat and ordinary in it's approach then people my be stopped at this surface level and never bother to investigate any deeper levels that may exist in the work.  On the other hand, a work that is too outlandish may also stop people at the surface.  These considerations are a bigger problem for people like myself who make work in the field of Public Art, since we are literally making the work for everybody.  We don't have the luxury of selling to small group of elites through a gallery that understands their tastes already.  Still, I think these considerations apply to any artwork.  My favorite photos show a mingling of mystery and familiarity.  They are both attractive and puzzling.  They make me want to keep looking at them, and thinking about them.  (4) Best of all are images (or poems or songs or stories or paintings or buildings or gardens or whatever) that I can come back to again and again over the years and keep finding new things in them, new ways to relate to them.

1.  Yes, I do sound jaded because I pretty much think that I am. I can't subscribe to the idea of people thinking themselves artists simply because they make pictures with a camera; so does a speed trap. And amongst those of us who do make pictures and consider ourselves to be some kind of artist, not everything we do meets even that less than critical standard. It's in the work, not the maker: I can't presently remember who said this, I think it was Jeanloup Sieff, but in essence: there are no artists, only art. Which I take to mean that some of what one does in photography may be art but a lot is not.

I cut my teeth in an industrial photo-unit within a huge engineering company that produces jet engines. The aim of the work was to make images that were as close as dammit to looking at metal. That was a skill, but hardly an art. If there was an art, it lay in the printing where a lot of hand manipulation was almost always necessary. I do the same manipulation today, almost sixty years later, but via a computer, and for me, that's hardly even skill because you can keep messing on and on, bit by bit, like a crossword, until you get it "right" once, and then it's done, and forever after you just churn 'em out on demand. There was both a little art and a lot of skill in hand-printing thirty or so 8 x 10s in a single run at the dish, all at the one time, and have them look identical. And then run another set exactly the same, perhaps a week or a month later.

And yes, I did mean that self-consciousness gets in the way, we agree. But because photography is a reasonable profession for an increasingly shrinking group of people doesn't give it any intrinsic value of its own. Come to think of it, it lost its glamour years ago, but working within certain branches had once been the same as being a rock star. In my case, I can't really pretend it was a career choice at all: it was a burning desire over which rational argument held no sway. I never wanted to be an industrial photographer at all, and when I could go solo I set out to become a fashion photographer in a city where fashion - if you could think of it as such, there and at that time - was done by general studios shooting whisky bottles one day and factory installations the next. I think I became the sort of local go-to fashion guy because I found myself standing in the drizzle on a church step awaiting the arrival of the poor bride, who looked about as miserable as I felt. It was my Damascene moment: I remember clearly thinking of my then hero David Bailey, my own age, driving past in his Rolls, slowing down and smiling at me in my misery. I swore there and then I would never do another wedding again, and if the fashion didn't happen I'd quit. That was was in '66. Fortunately, it came through. But it was oh so close to being the end of the game for this guy.

2.  That one's easy: I feel unable to retain stuff that I read today. I put it down to age and fading ability to remember detail from such a huge overload of information, good or poor, as the Internet and everything else offers.  My poor dome is already just too full of waste I can't dump.

When I was young, I read all that I could find on art, I used to visit art galleries, buy postcards and try to make my own versions of the paintings. I read what I could about photographers (note: photographers, not photography beyond the basic how to process a film) and even late into my fifties I was very aware of who was shooting which calendar with which models and where: I was in the same business and such knowledge was vital. Today, long retired, I neither see many such productions nor are many of the same ones still going strong. So much changed, from money in advertising, how it was shared out and the disaster that political correctness was to become for hundreds of snappers as well as for as many - if not many more - models. Within the world of art, and for convenience I shall include photography here, my interest is strongly focussed on the person and the style of the work is usually already familiar, or the interest in the person wouldn't exist. I enjoy interviews with photographers but have less interest in hearing about how they do what they do. (It doesn't matter: what matters is what they have to show, so I think we agree there too.) I really want to know more about their battles, the challenges they had to overcome. Cameras, lenses, they are all the same except for the brand names - that's of no interest to me.

3.  I'm not so sure I feel totally happy about "art is communication," but it certainly often is. This is seldom better used than in road and similar signs and symbols; airports do it well on an internationally understood manner; great work! Photographs? Paintings? As I say, I'm not so sure. In my amateur status today I really don't intend to communicate anything; I try to recognize something there within the thing that draws me to photograph it. I have no way of making a third part understand what drew me - if I really know myself - without resorting to lengthy captions, and so it doesn't form part of my motivation. That said, I do respond to pictures that somebody else makes that ring bells within me: it's the ready-made version of doing it for myself. As you wrote about reactions to music, it's visceral, and, I'd add, hardly cerebral when it's applied to photography.

4.  Favourite pictures of mine - my own or by others - don't do much of that. I just see great graphics and something, sometimes, somewhere within that I think beautiful. I can't confess to thinking deeply about meaning bcause I feel that's pointless, for whatever I may try to read or load into a picture is just my own attempt at second-guessing the author. Which usually displeases me when folks indulge in that exercise. I  believe we experience, when we experience anything from an artwork, emotion and not meaning which, of course is specific and, if not, largely imaginary and thus a little masturbatory mind game of our own.

Of course, for anybody else, a totally different persective is unavoidable. I'm just the product of my own genes and experiences.

Rob C
« Last Edit: July 09, 2017, 03:12:37 PM by Rob C »
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opgr

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #131 on: July 09, 2017, 03:49:50 PM »

The discussion makes me wonder about this: is there not any progression in art? And if there is, what will be the next level? Is there such a thing as personal progression in art? Or in the appreciation of art?

With music btw i find that i am very well capable of identifying good exponents in genres that i thoroughly dislike...!?
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Oscar

Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #132 on: July 10, 2017, 03:52:10 AM »

The discussion makes me wonder about this: is there not any progression in art? And if there is, what will be the next level? Is there such a thing as personal progression in art? Or in the appreciation of art?

With music btw i find that i am very well capable of identifying good exponents in genres that i thoroughly dislike...!?

Good questions.

Did Pablo progress when he left his great craftsmanship period behind and took up the distortions racket? It made him rich, but isn't that, being rich, sort of irrelevant to art itself? Or is it the purpose of being an artist, the dream behind it? But for him, his lifestyle, it was the only way to go. He even took up ceramics, for pity's sake. A one-man corporation, one could say.

Personal artistic progression? Well, time to practise should bring a refinement in techniques, but that's not the same as a refinement in artistic appreciation or expression. In my own case, obviously the one I know best, all that happens is that when the doors to one genre close, I have to explore a new one or just stop doing it at all. So really, I find myself doing things for which I have no history of personal precendent by which to judge, by which to know if I progress or lose what I had.

Music. Yes, I have to agree with you there. That may sound grudging but it's not. I think what happens in such instances is that we can appreciate the skill of a singer or a musician operating in a school of sound not of our choosing, perhaps because sound is a direct-line appeal to our souls, whereas images have first to go through the filter of our eyes, and what we see can shock and displease us more easly than what we hear.

"Video killed the radio star." Hornes, Downes and Woolley, 1978.

I mean, if one is blind, would a woman with a beautiful voice but no looks at all be at a disadvantage to one who had a "usual" voice but the looks of a goddess? In many ways, images can be too powerful for our own good. Hence the tricks of propaganda.

Is it unusual to have indigestion in the morning?

;-)

Rob C



« Last Edit: July 10, 2017, 04:11:25 AM by Rob C »
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GrahamBy

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #133 on: July 10, 2017, 04:47:01 AM »

Perhaps the principal reason we can find art and definitions of art difficult is due to marketing.

Last week I found a second hand copy of a book Peter Lindbergh did for charity, Reporters Without Borders (Reporteurs sans Frontières in the original). He writes a quite thoughtful piece about propaganda in the preface, without ever drawing the link that marketing is propaganda: it seeks to persuade you of an untruth, that you need this thing, and that it will make you happy.

The photos are excellent, and back up the essay: stars without much make-up, post-processing or PR approval. The ones of Geraldine Chaplin are particularly stunning, but also of Julianne Moore.

My relationship (one-sided!) with PL is ambivalent, precisely because of his relationship to marketing. I've read more or less the same version of his story of having revolutionised fashion photography by showing the woman behind the make-up, while seeing nothing that wasn't done (at least) by Sieff. But then he works in a world of total marketing, in the sense he helps sell products of no concrete value, purely by image and association (why else do fashion magazines run shots of nude super-models?). He hasn't achieved the freedom Newton had of making images that openly mocked the culture he was working in... perhaps because it is harder now that everything is checked by a committee of Commerce School graduates trying to appear useful.

But he walks the talk.

Sieff talked about commercial work the same way a modern artist (or scientist) talks about funding: he had a project, he just needed someone who would pay him to do it, with as little modification for commerce as possible. I guess Lindbergh is doing the same 40 years later.

To bring it back to the topic, Sieff was scathing of committees that attempted to manage "pure" photographic art, and he seemed to find more liberty using commercial funding than chasing artistic fashion, and there doesn't appear to be any discontinuity between his commercial and personal work.

Of course prior to the 19th century, painting was pretty much all commercial :)

PS Rob, I did encounter a photo of Duchamp's hands the other day, so I guess it remains to interpolate between the hands and the urinal.
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Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #134 on: July 10, 2017, 06:18:28 AM »

Last week I found a second hand copy of a book Peter Lindbergh did for charity, Reporters Without Borders (Reporteurs sans Frontières in the original). He writes a quite thoughtful piece about propaganda in the preface, without ever drawing the link that marketing is propaganda: it seeks to persuade you of an untruth, that you need this thing, and that it will make you happy.

The photos are excellent, and back up the essay: stars without much make-up, post-processing or PR approval. The ones of Geraldine Chaplin are particularly stunning, but also of Julianne Moore.

My relationship (one-sided!) with PL is ambivalent, precisely because of his relationship to marketing. I've read more or less the same version of his story of having revolutionised fashion photography by showing the woman behind the make-up, while seeing nothing that wasn't done (at least) by Sieff. But then he works in a world of total marketing, in the sense he helps sell products of no concrete value, purely by image and association (why else do fashion magazines run shots of nude super-models?). He hasn't achieved the freedom Newton had of making images that openly mocked the culture he was working in... perhaps because it is harder now that everything is checked by a committee of Commerce School graduates trying to appear useful.

But he walks the talk.

Sieff talked about commercial work the same way a modern artist (or scientist) talks about funding: he had a project, he just needed someone who would pay him to do it, with as little modification for commerce as possible. I guess Lindbergh is doing the same 40 years later.

To bring it back to the topic, Sieff was scathing of committees that attempted to manage "pure" photographic art, and he seemed to find more liberty using commercial funding than chasing artistic fashion, and there doesn't appear to be any discontinuity between his commercial and personal work.

Of course prior to the 19th century, painting was pretty much all commercial :)

PS Rob, I did encounter a photo of Duchamp's hands the other day, so I guess it remains to interpolate between the hands and the urinal.

Hi Graham,

Peter Lindbergh. He has me in several minds at once. I remember when he first began to appear in Brit Vogue, of which there were, at the time, five different UK versions specially designed to carry local department store advertising. Now there's a nugget not everybody has seen before. ;-) I liked what he was doing, though I can't remember ever thinking of him as being innovative in any way, as he - and even Bailey - were simply taking up where at least Sieff and Horvat had already been a decade earlier. It's often asked whether one can be an independent mind in "art" or not; I think the answer, as with everything in this field, has to be ambivalent. From the experience I know best, I can't claim to have modelled myself on anyone, but equally, I can not claim to have been blind to what others were (and are) doing. Peter L has a special talent, though, the ability to handle success and keep it flowing to him. It doesn't come by itself, I don't think.

His latest Pirelli features "stars" supposedly sans makeup, but I seriously doubt it. As I doubt the lack of PS applications. I just think the ones to which his work gets subjected are more subtle, and the people involved have not fogotten the look - and appeal - of real skin. I have always disliked the look of plastic people, nude or otherwise. Make-up has always been used in fashion, it defines looks and eras, even. A difference, PS aside, is this: up to the early 60s models all knew how to do their own make-up and hair; they all carried wigs and a lot of their own costume jewellery. That's not to say pro make-up atists didn't exist: they sure did, but their services were kept for special shoots, often where colour was going to be involved, at which stage there was the matter of co-ordinating the look of a shot in terms of colour; not all eyes are capable of that. A benefit, for me at least, was that when models did their own, un-PSd thing, I could recognize favourite models whereas today, they all look exactly the same clone of another fantasy.

Even Newton lost his freedom. I remember him saying on a Fashion TV slot (Canadian station) that everything had become such a big deal now, cost so much money; freedom to roam the Paris streets like a pack of mad dogs was no longer in a photographer's remit. But Newton was a case in his own right! Was he ever really a fashion photographer, or simply a photographer with a penchant for porn who got away with as much as he got away courtesy the magazines' editors? Terry Richardson was another "fashion" guy who went over the smut edge and AFAIK that was pretty much that. Victims of political correctness perhaps, but apart from that consideration, it is decidedly odd that fashion magazine show so many nipples. Is the fashion magazine world now of a predominantly le's-be-friends readership?

Did Newon mock his world? I'm not so sure. I rather think he enjoyed going along with it, both wherever it led and wherever he could take it. Nice to have lived the seasons between Monaco and California! But visually, he claims to have trawled the Berlin ethic of 20s and 30s supposed aristocratic decadence. Having never set foot in Berlin, I don't know. I would far rather be chasing the 50s and 60s epochs of Rome. I did visit then, and yep, wish I had been able to settle there. Still have that faltering wish.

Glad about the Marcel hands, but was there a direct connection to where the big knobs hung out? That would be novel!

;-)

Rob
« Last Edit: July 10, 2017, 06:24:44 AM by Rob C »
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GrahamBy

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #135 on: July 10, 2017, 11:49:27 AM »

Yes, the PL "no make-up" thing is clear and obvious bunk: so much that he must have a different definition of make-up. I see skin to which some make-up has been applied, elsewhere I see make-up under which there must theoretically be skin (unless it was all invented digitally).

I think finally Newton was a documentary photographer: he wanted to tell his version of what the world of the very rich was about, with its codes and ruthlessness and humiliations. That's how I understand his obsessions with S&M iconography, which is not really about sex... it's too cold, it's about the exercise of interpersonal power. I suspect that is what he saw replicated from Berlin in the 30's to Hollywood in the 90's.

He was obviously also happy to live on the scraps from the table... there are a couple of French sociologists who made a career of studying the French aristocracy, they were humoured and invited to parties as amusing oddities, until they said a little too much about Sarkozy. Anyway, they made the comment that within what one counts as "rich", there is a far greater variation than among middle class to poor. They name a chef holding 3 Michelin stars as about the bottom of the ladder with a few million €, tolerated for his skills, but of course the scale runs up to the 10's of billions. To the extent that when Bannier and his cronies defrauded millions from Mme Bettencourt, they couldn't really be prosecuted for harming her fortunes, since the total of their blunder added up to a couple of weeks of her earnings. Within that sliver of the population, knowing one's place and playing the right role can be lucrative, because even large amounts of money are trivial.

An amusing sidelight: I discovered the older son of Carla Bruni-before-Sarkozy is a youtube blogger, militating for veganism. He is remarkably logical, coherent and eloquent... I have to wonder how often he eats with his step-dad.
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Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #136 on: July 10, 2017, 04:18:51 PM »

I think the thing about real wealth is not widely understood.

I should imagine that a week or two spent wandering along the Côte d?Azur and Monaco would open a few eyes to what it can mean. There are lots of sixty-something-foot boats here, locally, but they are chicken feed. The guy who owns the company that owns Zara has a 72 metre one called Drizzle that apparently has a 100,000 litre fuel tank. Imagine filling her up. I couldn't imagine it. A thing that made me smile in Monte Carlo was the sight of a Ferrari dealership with the cars parked for sale out on the pavement, just like the old UK dealers used to do in some low-cost areas of big cities...

It's all relative, and perhaps a mercy to most of us that we do not get confronted with these contrasts every day of our lives; enough to hate the guy with the bigger BMW or the S Mercedes! ;-) I've been through that sort of dumb self-castigation. Was a time I could hardly walk along the local marina without hating myself for not owning a Sunseeker of a Fairline or something similar. Today, I realise it was just another symptom of the first male menopause. Thank goodness I don't have the yacht problems. Nor the menopauses, either!

Carla Bruni plays a handy little guitar and has a not unpleasant singing voice. Nobody knows you when you're down and out, the old jazz thing, is one of the numbers she sings somewhere on the Internet. Pity she's so skinny, though. Michel Comte shot a series of her in the altogether for an AIDS campaign, I think it was, but I'm sure it was for a charitabe cause. Perhaps I'm mistaken, and it was just very hot in the studio or she wanted a cup of tea... I wonder what she saw in Jagger?

Rob
« Last Edit: July 10, 2017, 05:02:43 PM by Rob C »
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GrahamBy

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #137 on: July 10, 2017, 04:47:40 PM »

Well, Jagger is also pretty skinny :-)

You've seen the photos of her, the family pîano and her dad by Newton?
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Rob C

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #138 on: July 10, 2017, 05:08:49 PM »

Well, Jagger is also pretty skinny :-)

You've seen the photos of her, the family pîano and her dad by Newton?

From behind, leaning over the keyboard holding some framed pictures? Beautiful ass! Newton always found access somewhere...

Now I need that cup of tea.

;-)

Rob

Beakhammer

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Re: Art and the plasticity of its forms
« Reply #139 on: July 11, 2017, 12:07:24 AM »

1.  Yes, I do sound jaded because I pretty much think that I am. I can't subscribe to the idea of people thinking themselves artists simply because they make pictures with a camera; so does a speed trap. And amongst those of us who do make pictures and consider ourselves to be some kind of artist, not everything we do meets even that less than critical standard. It's in the work, not the maker: I can't presently remember who said this, I think it was Jeanloup Sieff, but in essence: there are no artists, only art. Which I take to mean that some of what one does in photography may be art but a lot is not.

I cut my teeth in an industrial photo-unit within a huge engineering company that produces jet engines. The aim of the work was to make images that were as close as dammit to looking at metal. That was a skill, but hardly an art. If there was an art, it lay in the printing where a lot of hand manipulation was almost always necessary. I do the same manipulation today, almost sixty years later, but via a computer, and for me, that's hardly even skill because you can keep messing on and on, bit by bit, like a crossword, until you get it "right" once, and then it's done, and forever after you just churn 'em out on demand. There was both a little art and a lot of skill in hand-printing thirty or so 8 x 10s in a single run at the dish, all at the one time, and have them look identical. And then run another set exactly the same, perhaps a week or a month later.

And yes, I did mean that self-consciousness gets in the way, we agree. But because photography is a reasonable profession for an increasingly shrinking group of people doesn't give it any intrinsic value of its own. Come to think of it, it lost its glamour years ago, but working within certain branches had once been the same as being a rock star. In my case, I can't really pretend it was a career choice at all: it was a burning desire over which rational argument held no sway. I never wanted to be an industrial photographer at all, and when I could go solo I set out to become a fashion photographer in a city where fashion - if you could think of it as such, there and at that time - was done by general studios shooting whisky bottles one day and factory installations the next. I think I became the sort of local go-to fashion guy because I found myself standing in the drizzle on a church step awaiting the arrival of the poor bride, who looked about as miserable as I felt. It was my Damascene moment: I remember clearly thinking of my then hero David Bailey, my own age, driving past in his Rolls, slowing down and smiling at me in my misery. I swore there and then I would never do another wedding again, and if the fashion didn't happen I'd quit. That was was in '66. Fortunately, it came through. But it was oh so close to being the end of the game for this guy.

2.  That one's easy: I feel unable to retain stuff that I read today. I put it down to age and fading ability to remember detail from such a huge overload of information, good or poor, as the Internet and everything else offers.  My poor dome is already just too full of waste I can't dump.

When I was young, I read all that I could find on art, I used to visit art galleries, buy postcards and try to make my own versions of the paintings. I read what I could about photographers (note: photographers, not photography beyond the basic how to process a film) and even late into my fifties I was very aware of who was shooting which calendar with which models and where: I was in the same business and such knowledge was vital. Today, long retired, I neither see many such productions nor are many of the same ones still going strong. So much changed, from money in advertising, how it was shared out and the disaster that political correctness was to become for hundreds of snappers as well as for as many - if not many more - models. Within the world of art, and for convenience I shall include photography here, my interest is strongly focussed on the person and the style of the work is usually already familiar, or the interest in the person wouldn't exist. I enjoy interviews with photographers but have less interest in hearing about how they do what they do. (It doesn't matter: what matters is what they have to show, so I think we agree there too.) I really want to know more about their battles, the challenges they had to overcome. Cameras, lenses, they are all the same except for the brand names - that's of no interest to me.

3.  I'm not so sure I feel totally happy about "art is communication," but it certainly often is. This is seldom better used than in road and similar signs and symbols; airports do it well on an internationally understood manner; great work! Photographs? Paintings? As I say, I'm not so sure. In my amateur status today I really don't intend to communicate anything; I try to recognize something there within the thing that draws me to photograph it. I have no way of making a third part understand what drew me - if I really know myself - without resorting to lengthy captions, and so it doesn't form part of my motivation. That said, I do respond to pictures that somebody else makes that ring bells within me: it's the ready-made version of doing it for myself. As you wrote about reactions to music, it's visceral, and, I'd add, hardly cerebral when it's applied to photography.

4.  Favourite pictures of mine - my own or by others - don't do much of that. I just see great graphics and something, sometimes, somewhere within that I think beautiful. I can't confess to thinking deeply about meaning bcause I feel that's pointless, for whatever I may try to read or load into a picture is just my own attempt at second-guessing the author. Which usually displeases me when folks indulge in that exercise. I  believe we experience, when we experience anything from an artwork, emotion and not meaning which, of course is specific and, if not, largely imaginary and thus a little masturbatory mind game of our own.

Of course, for anybody else, a totally different persective is unavoidable. I'm just the product of my own genes and experiences.

Rob C

Art is always communicating something, but it may do other things too, and nobody can make you heed the message if you don't feel inclined.  That certainly includes photos and all the visual media, as well as performance and music and acting and all that.  In fact I would say that everything is always communicating, trying to fill up your poor over-stuffed head with even more stuff.  The universe is a veritable beehive of information, infinite buzz.

It's not just about the photo itself, or the photographer's intentions; there's also the people and places and times and things that end up in the photo, all busy trying to communicate something, voluntarily or involuntarily, whether you want to hear it, or not.

A lot of artwork is chock full of stuff that the artist may not have intended to include.  There is nothing wrong with listening to these unintended messages.  There are also certainly photos that are rich in both cerebral and visceral ways, but it's always up to the viewer to find the way in.

I have to admit that the majority my own photographs are not particularly cerebral.  That's not what I enjoy about making photos, but I do enjoy other peoples more cerebral images.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2017, 12:13:10 AM by Beakhammer »
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