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There is no such thing as 'bad' art

Posted 9 December 2002, 7.03 pm by Alexander

I must take this opportunity to thank all the deliberately objectionable people I speak to online. They get me thinking about things, and sometimes not just how the internet should have an intelligence test for entry.

The other day in an IRC channel, we were talking about music, and I was shocked when some kid said one particular band was "bad music". I asked him how he qualitatively judged music, and he went on to tell me everything he personally didn't like about that particular act. I asked him the question again, and a third time. Still he could give no reason why this band produced 'bad music'.

I offered this: There is no such thing as good or bad music, just music you like and music you don't like. Listen to early industrial like SPK or Throbbing Gristle and you'll hear noises, rarely anything remotely resembling a note or a melody. Some of it is just painful and detrimental to your hi-fi. It's still music, and these bands were relatively popular. Still are today in fact, although not in the sense that NSync are popular.

Flip side - Think Britney Spears is rubbish? Why? In what way is Britney Spears 'not good music'? If it was really of such a low quality, why would it sell in such phenomenally large quantities? And don't blame marketing - are you insinuating people are buying music they don't like? If you don't find the sound of Britney's latest opus pleasing, say so. Say "I don't like Ms Spears". That's a statement of both opinion and fact.

This isn't just a post about mainstream pop culture. That's been done to death. Hating the mainstream is so mainstream now, it's people who profess to liking Linkin Park who are the real outcasts. Not the minority, by any means, but certainly in the marginal internet demographic. No, let's look at the wider picture. What makes art successful?

In my opinion, as an artist (cough), art succeeds when it meets it's target, fulfills it's potential and performs the task for which it was designed. And who sets these criteria? The artist. Therefore, NSync is good art because it succeeds in getting money out of 13 year olds and their long-suffering parents. Damien Hirst's is good art because it sparks controversy and debate. SPK's is good art because it embodies Graeme Revell's mindset at the time. Art is thrown out into the marketplace, gallery or record store with a purpose. It's just not always obvious what that purpose is sometimes. If Throbbing Gristle aimed to sell 500 copies of their LP and did that, they would be just as successful as NSync picking up some teen award.

So before you scoff at the next mainstream, pre-packaged pop idol, bear in mind it's purpose may not necessarily be to entertain YOU. And while you are absolutely entitled to your own opinion and the right to voice it, what you think is irrelevant unless you're directly affecting the piece's success.

Try it, see the bigger picture. Recognise what is effective and ineffective to you, rather than making qualitative judgments based on your own personal tastes.

firebrand
on 9 December 2002, 9.38 pm
nice alex, but no matter how much you try, people will still concieve of things as 'good' or 'bad' even if such black and white nomenclature is not called for.

besides, certain types of music can be percieved as good or bad as they reflect upon someone's morality and social conscience. whats hard is to separate personal distaste from a moral judgement.


hollowearth
on 9 December 2002, 10.53 pm
I disagree. There's some very, very bad art. And lots of it. NSync isn't good art because it succeads in what it sets out to, that just makes it functional.

I agree that not liking something doesn't effect it's potential to be great art though, there's a lot that I don't like that I acknowledge as good art, and there's a lot that I like that clearly aint.

It's in the intent, and whether it's good or not is a decision that can only be made and debated subjectively.


Alexander
on 9 December 2002, 10.56 pm
Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm saying - good and bad IS subjective, so how can this relate to the object itself? As anyone can have any reaction to any piece of art, how does that work? Once you take the general consensus out of the equation, what are you really left with?


hollowearth
on 9 December 2002, 11.10 pm
Nothing quantifiable in any way, really.

Some consensus from time to time (If we wanted to judge NSync as art, we'd probably be in agreement that it was very bad art), but that's it, really.

Unless someone wanted to validate that Saatchi creatures buying habits as absolute truth or write some equation based on essays written.


Alexander
on 9 December 2002, 11.29 pm
Quite so. But I suppose this line of discussion is fairly self-defeating really - nothing is quantifiable if you scrutinise it closely enough...


hollowearth
on 9 December 2002, 11.48 pm
Yup ~ I do think that it's valid to evangeliae your own tastes. I do, since what I listen is utterly fantastic, and more people should buy it. That would make more people produce it, and there'd be more chance of it being on the Juke Box next time I go down the pub.

Still, no matter how often I point out that Blind Date is an offence to humanity, it's still on the tele in my folks house every Saturday night I go to Spennymoor.


Unforgiven
on 10 December 2002, 4.57 am
I always felt that it was good so long as it was honest, in the sense that no one across the country was hired to write lyrics for someone else to sing, over some music that complete strangers play.

Seems to me art is great and it's best when it's amde for the art's sake. Bad art is art that is treated as a commidity and not a medium.



DemonAnton
on 11 December 2002, 5.01 pm
What you have to understand is that when someone says something is bad nine times out of ten they are just offering an opinion based on their own preference. It takes someone with on overwhelming superiority complex to actually believe that their opinion isn't actually an opinion but the truth.

With you line of thinking where art isn't good then there can be no good which can be transferred into their being no good, bad, evil etc. in the world at all. Most comments we make on a subject are opinoons or opinion based so to me it seems pointless to spend time chastising people for an improper use of the english language and appearing as if they are speaking the absolute truth when they are only giving an opinion


Alexander
on 11 December 2002, 7.39 pm
You miss the point Ant, I wasn't talking about people who use the word 'bad', but about the people you alluded to who actually think their opinion is right, and everyone else is wrong.


DemonAnton
on 12 December 2002, 12.46 am
Oh. Whoopsy.


Tagboard
on 13 December 2002, 10.33 am
From personal experience, I always think this kind of debate is greatly facilitated by substituting the word "art" in favour of "handshandy". At that point the element of subjective pleasure becomes eminently clear to anyone reading.


EEP
on 3 January 2003, 10.57 pm
'Bad' can mean a lot of things. It's like the word 'life'. In a sense, it's a 'catch all' term in which you can draw many meanings. Over the years, the word 'bad' usually denotes one's personal dislike for a certain thing.

You may not notice it Alex, but the word 'bad' has more or less lost its true meaning today. More and more people seem to be using it differently, E.G; "Coffee's just BAD !!", or "Britney's just BAD"


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Doggybag/baggy_dog is an artist living and working in Barga, Italy. Click here to read about this piece in his own words.


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Hmph

80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!

Yo ! Does this work ?

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