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Is art theory antithetical to art?

 
 
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 08:42 am
I don't like definitions of art, nor do i really think they are either needed or possible, however, I would say that art makes available new ways of constituting our sense of reality; intelligence/thought liberated from the logical constraints of argument.

Providing the above is true, then how does art theory 'help' art, specifically with regards to interpretation? I know there are many disciplines within art theory and not all scholars squabble over trying to pin down meanings of particular works, but the ones that do have surely (depressingly) missed the point (and this is an issue which is making me consider if I really want a job which, basically, to me, sits on a contradiction): Art theory mainly expresses, within the logical constraints of an argument, something which is so much more evocative, more three dimensional when situated outside those constraints. If I am right and this is the case then I'm inclined to go and jump over to the other side of the 'logical' fence.
 
Shapeless
 
  2  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 09:00 am
@The Pentacle Queen,
To the extent that theories are ways of organizing our observations, I'd say art theory is a mostly harmless though not always helpful endeavor. There's a lot of art out there and you can't blame someone for wanting to make sense of it, even if complete and internally-consistent sense is ultimately impossible (and undesirable... I definitely agree with you on that).

But the problem, of course, is when theory becomes prescriptive rather than descriptive, and that's where art theory becomes pretty pointless. Whenever an art theorist, aesthetician, or philosopher says something like "Why do artists _____" and they don't find it necessary to specify which artist they're talking about, they're no longer talking about artworks in any useful sense, since artworks are by their very nature case-by-case objects of study. In these cases, "theory" is imagined perfection and the theorist is usually more interested in the theory than in any particular artworks (except the ones that support the theory).
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 09:56 am
@Shapeless,
What did art theory provide me? As a student ppursuing a BFA, I found that art theory helped me make a mental index of art . I was taken in by the archeological and historical significance of the development of perspective, foreshortening, complex perspective, camera obscura etc. As far as molding my responses to art works, I found archeological art theoreticians like Simon SChama, very pompous and "not getting it" unless he could tie one artists work with its derivation(Although I do like his own take on the works of Carravagio).

1Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
dogdog
 
  2  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 12:24 pm
We tend to compartmentalize, categorize, and create schema to help make sense of and explain experience.

Art is part of our experience and thus calls for the above.

Sometimes theory lends insight and depth to experience. Sometimes it causes confusion or "misinterpretation."

Theory is itself an art.
0 Replies
 
tsarstepan
 
  3  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 12:45 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
The Pentacle Queen wrote:

I don't like definitions of art, nor do i really think they are either needed or possible, however, I would say that art makes available new ways of constituting our sense of reality; intelligence/thought liberated from the logical constraints of argument.

Providing the above is true, then how does art theory 'help' art, specifically with regards to interpretation?


But the above statement isn't true. One can't assign a personally arbitrary meaning to a work of art just because it feeds into anyone particular irrational delusion. Example: One can't make up the notion that the cave paintings in Lascaux, France were created out of reaction to Matisse's Fauvist paintings. That would be an insane lack of understanding of art history.

I tend to believe that a particular work of art can only be defined by the artist him or herself. Everything else is merely speculation. Some speculation is more educated and founded in fact then in other works of art theory.

If Georgia O'Keefe says her paintings are metaphorical depictions of the female sex organs then I tend to take her side over some art historian who has a political/social/cultural agenda he or she has to shackle upon the flower paintings of Georgia O'Keefe in order to prove his or her own point.

If the artist hasn't given us a reasonable or coherent meaning behind his or her work then the job of the art historian is to attempt to solve the mystery of said work. But keeping in mind it may be simply an academic exercise that just might never be solved. I have no problem with that.
ossobuco
 
  2  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 08:18 pm
I have scads of art theory books. Sorry, yawn.

Signed, Philistina Osso
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 08:33 pm
@ossobuco,
...Art is a form of "replication" via "software"...that is, via Cultural production.
...leaving behind our personal mark, which is also a form of identity...a "symbolic transposition" fits the bill of its "core momentum" ! ...and that translates to, what it means, its function or algorithm...
(how about that for a "colourful" expression eh ? Drunk Rolling Eyes Mr. Green )
...of course, one needs aesthetics to achieve it, and that is genetically engraved in our minds...to look out for patterns, symmetry┬┤s and such like...
...its not therefore to admire, its remarkable resemblance in many aspects with religious experience...
...given in the end all in Biology comes being about the "after life"...(or preparing it)
JLNobody
 
  2  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 09:04 pm
Art theory is not necessarily antithetical to art, but they are inherentlyl different. The former is in the medium of abstract thought, the latter--with the exception of conceptual art (an oxymoron, if you ask me)--has to do with the immediate sensual aesthetic appreciation of experience. Being different is not necessarily oppositional. When I have the urge to experience beauty (and by that I do not mean prettiness) I get little satisfaction from reading art theory. In addition not theoretical description of a work of art gives me access to its aesthetic value. I appreciate it because of the "taste" I've developed in my own evolution as painter, musician and recipient. One thing I do believe is that art is profoundly subjective, the more subjective the better; that is to say subjectivity is its greatest strength.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  2  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2011 09:04 pm
Art theory is not necessarily antithetical to art, but they are inherently different. The former is in the medium of abstract thought, the latter--with the exception of conceptual art (an oxymoron, if you ask me)--has to do with the immediate sensual aesthetic appreciation of experience. Being different is not necessarily oppositional. When I have the urge to experience beauty (and by that I do not mean prettiness) I get little satisfaction from reading art theory. In addition no theoretical description of a work of art gives me access to its aesthetic value. I appreciate the art because of the "taste" I've developed in my own evolution as painter, musician and recipient. One thing I do believe is that art is profoundly subjective, the more subjective the better; that is to say subjectivity is its greatest strength.
ossobuco
 
  3  
Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2011 08:33 pm
@farmerman,
That saves me some trouble - I've never read Shama, though I've meant to.

I guess I am into personal experience, in the doing or the looking, however naive that sounds.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2011 10:21 pm
@ossobuco,
Not naive at all.
0 Replies
 
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2011 09:11 am
@Shapeless,
Quote:
In these cases, "theory" is imagined perfection and the theorist is usually more interested in the theory than in any particular artworks (except the ones that support the theory).


I like that; it rings true, I know that I, for one, am often more interested in what the theory provides for me than what particular artworks do in themselves.
0 Replies
 
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2011 09:42 am
@tsarstepan,
tsarstepan wrote:

The Pentacle Queen wrote:

I don't like definitions of art, nor do i really think they are either needed or possible, however, I would say that art makes available new ways of constituting our sense of reality; intelligence/thought liberated from the logical constraints of argument.

Providing the above is true, then how does art theory 'help' art, specifically with regards to interpretation?


But the above statement isn't true. One can't assign a personally arbitrary meaning to a work of art just because it feeds into anyone particular irrational delusion. Example: One can't make up the notion that the cave paintings in Lascaux, France were created out of reaction to Matisse's Fauvist paintings. That would be an insane lack of understanding of art history.

I tend to believe that a particular work of art can only be defined by the artist him or herself. Everything else is merely speculation. Some speculation is more educated and founded in fact then in other works of art theory.

If Georgia O'Keefe says her paintings are metaphorical depictions of the female sex organs then I tend to take her side over some art historian who has a political/social/cultural agenda he or she has to shackle upon the flower paintings of Georgia O'Keefe in order to prove his or her own point.

If the artist hasn't given us a reasonable or coherent meaning behind his or her work then the job of the art historian is to attempt to solve the mystery of said work. But keeping in mind it may be simply an academic exercise that just might never be solved. I have no problem with that.



I didn't say that one could assign any meaning to any artwork, but one can contort a set of abstract phenomena into any number of different interpretations which 'close the (illogical) gaps' with a logical form of argument. One surely can't argue that cave paintings were influenced by fauvism, but that's because in that case, there is a 'benchmark' to judge that 'interpretation' against - what we know from history.

I don't know whether I agree with you about the artist knowing about their own works. I don't think artists always, actually, completely know what they are doing, when they do then they don't always 'talk sense' of their own works. Also, it is possible for works to carry more meaning than they themselves realise, arising from sets of relationships within the work they might not have noticed with another might.
I think the best way to view what an artist says as a very 'rich' lens through which to view the work, but certainly not the only lens. But then, I also have a problem with the other side of the spectrum, too, as above... I think my main problem with academia in relation to art is that all to often it seeks to solidify. The interpretation is often presented not as a 'a' lens, but as 'THE" lens through which to view the work, which i feel often makes meaning two dimensional, (either in terms of 'this is good because it influenced this' or, 'this part here expresses this issue within the artist's life' or even just 'this part here definitely symbolises/evokes this concept here and not this other one'') and I think is antithetical to the manner in which a lot of artworks work, which is through quite nebulous evocation, and the way art is actually enjoyed.
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2011 09:44 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
Fil Albuquerque wrote:

...Art is a form of "replication" via "software"...that is, via Cultural production.


I disagree. I'd say 'construction' not 'replication'.
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2011 09:52 am
@ossobuco,
ossobuco wrote:

That saves me some trouble - I've never read Shama, though I've meant to.

I guess I am into personal experience, in the doing or the looking, however naive that sounds.


Why would that sound naive?
For me, that is the optimum.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2011 11:16 am
@The Pentacle Queen,
"Replication " was meant as a form of "reproduction"...as my approach was an intent to undress what underlies behind the compulsion that every human being experiences to an extent to produce "Art"...a form of projecting himself into the future, or preventing Death, by creating something that may endure, that is closer to "perfection", that will last a while longer...in that sense Art is a projection of the "spiritual" self in the world, in the craft...a form of permanence !

Best Regards>FILIPE DE ALBUQUERQUE
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2011 11:19 am
@ossobuco,
The Truthful, is never naive...and the personnel approach, the first of all rules...
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2011 12:38 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
Just looking at the words, they appear naive to me. But there's a background for my words, in that JLNobody and I have chatted for years now about how we individually consider the process of painting (or otherwise making) and seeing art, and we much agree on the heart of it, for ourselves. The words are simple but represent my, and I think his, take on the matter.

We used to agree on beauty not being prettiness; I call it 'fit', wrote a lot about that on a2k at one point. We agree on the element of play as a key part of the doing.
0 Replies
 
Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2011 05:25 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
Quote:
I don't think artists always, actually, completely know what they are doing


Quite true, and in fact I think the mistake many theorists make is to assume an artwork is reducible to a more or less concrete intention. The notion that an artist can intend different things, or even contradictory things, does not often jibe with theories, since theories in general don't deal well with contradictions. It is also the case that artists lie outright about what they intended to do, so someone interested in the historical origins (rather than the personally subjective interpretation) of artworks is better off not assuming the artist's word is law when it comes to the meanings of their artworks.

Quote:
Also, it is possible for works to carry more meaning than they themselves realise


Quite true, and thank god for that. It's what allows art to survive from generation to generation. (And in that sense, I don't fault theorists for weaving fanciful theories, since they're just doing what we all do: interpreting artworks in ways that make it relevant and/or appealing to themselves.) The example I always use is the melody of the Star-Spangled Banner, originally intended as a drinking song but which has since acquired meanings its composer (John Stafford Smith) could scarcely have imagined when he wrote it. Smith's meaning was the first one, to be sure, but that's all that it has going for it. Compared to the meanings that melody now conjures up (both positive and negative) for billions, Smith's is actually kind of boring.
0 Replies
 
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2011 09:52 pm
@JLNobody,
JLNobody wrote:

Being different is not necessarily oppositional.


Good point. I suppose if I stop dichotomizing them, the problem disolves.

JLNobody wrote:

...conceptual art (an oxymoron, if you ask me...

Could you elaborate on this for me?
 

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