Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Saving Art from Itself

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Greetings and Happy New Year, Philosophers!

I wanted to share a few links and the Conan joke above as a follow-up to our conversation today about the value, purpose and nature of art and beauty.

I saw this article recently in Slate Magazine, “Why the Art World is So Loathsome,” and I think it might provide a jumping off point for those of you wishing to take your pursuits during this week’s study of Aesthetics toward the more modern. I thought this laundry list of complaints about modern art might offer an opportunity to recalibrate and state what we might deem as art’s redeeming purpose, or necessity.

Freud said the goals of the artist are fame, money, and beautiful lovers. Based on my artist acquaintances, I would say this holds true today. What have changed, however, are the goals of the art itself. Do any exist?

How did the art world become such a vapid hell-hole of investment-crazed pretentiousness? How did it become, as Camille Paglia has recently described it, a place where “too many artists have lost touch with the general audience and have retreated to an airless echo chamber”?

The Slate piece links to another article that posits a solution to the dire situation that will no doubt entice at least one of our face to face participants:

For the arts to revive in the U.S., young artists must be rescued from their sanitized middle-class backgrounds. We need a revalorization of the trades that would allow students to enter those fields without social prejudice (which often emanates from parents eager for the false cachet of an Ivy League sticker on the car). Among my students at art schools, for example, have been virtuoso woodworkers who were already earning income as craft furniture-makers. Artists should learn to see themselves as entrepreneurs.


4 Responses to Saving Art from Itself

  1. I love Camille Paglia’s quote ‘too many artists have lost touch with the general audience and retreated to an airless echo chamber’ – but I love it for the wrong reasons.
    I believe that it is an unfortunate thing when the artist considers their audience; this is the beginning of the corruption. I also believe it to be corrupt that artists are educated beyond their need. Educate the artist with a skill set; then step away. Otherwise the result will be… well, what we are seeing.

    • bryanjack says:

      Thanks for this comment, Kelly. I think the notion of considering your audience is an interesting one to consider. Do you think the consideration of the audience can ever be a beneficial aspect of composition/creation? I think I hear what you’re saying in terms of the purity (if that’s even the word) of individual expression being compromised by thinking ahead to how the work will be received; but do you think considering one’s audience can be beneficial when polishing or editing work to present to the public? Aren’t we considering our audience when we think about how a piece of art will ‘land’?

      Thanks again for joining the conversation!

      • Yes, absolutely true. Composition, colour, medium and subject need to be considered when creating a work; to enable the piece to ‘speak’. So, yes. The artist does need to consider the audience from this perspective.
        My intention when commenting earlier, which you picked up on, was the subject of purity.
        I believe that the job of the artist is to ‘self harvest’ – a term I made up, so I hope it makes sense outside of myself. The artist is that member in society that takes the time to stare at a wall – to look within. To unearth from precious depths – so that the people can be offered the opportunity to look within also, and contemplate that which is not easily seen. The job of the artist – when done in this way, is a painful journey, from which others reap the harvest.

        Thank you for this conversation- ’tis enjoyable.

        • SoundEagle says:

          Artists too are part of the society, and therefore are and will be influenced by the society and its people(s), (sub)cultures, politics, socio-economics, demographics, markets, advertisements, media, educations, fundings, supports, technologies, histories and other institutions, infrastructures and aspects of the society. Artistic styles and movements often, if not always, arise from, and reflect, their contemporaneous socio-cultural and technological changes as well as the social capitals, morays, norms and attitudes of the time.

          As much as artists may have (been invested or entrusted with) special roles and visions, we should not have a romanticised view that they alone, or they invariably, could or should be the civilising member or enlightening element of a society, not to mention that throughout history, many artists have been flawed humans, irrespective of how easy or tough their lives have been as a result of social forces beyond their control. The kind of society and the social class to which an artist is born, in which the artist operates, and with which the artist associates, cannot be separated from artists and their arts. Adequate accounts and understanding of arts and artists can only come from the triangulation of the sociology of art, the philosophy of art and the history of art, in addition to related subjects and courses in the humanities such as media studies, plus the science (including biology, psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary sciences) of art, as well as art therapy and rehabilitation through art.

          My recent posts that have some bearings to art and society include the following:

          Click Music (in post format) or Music (in page format) to learn more about SoundEagle‘s art, music and philosophical ethos.

          My recent review and assessment of an artist’s oeuvres at http://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/soundeagle-in-john-clinocks-art-rat-cafe/.


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