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Antistrophe; Pissing on the Other Foot

Posted 21 March 2005, 5.58 pm by Waldo

There’s a poisonous idea still that somehow things might have a hard-and-fast meaning (truth, to be vulgar about it). There are answers! Even in art! Embedded in the piece by the creator and left for us to find, bread-crumbs to a higher order and perfect forms. “What could he have meant by ----?” and such. The puzzling out of imagery done from the perspective of that artist, forget how dead and buried he remains. The transpositioning of self for artist reveling a new world to inhabit if briefly or poorly. Such self-centeredness. “Forget the audience, I’ve a copy-right!” extending into meaning itself, likely through the magic of god and church, hm?

How can the one creature (an artist, vile in-itself) be the sole bearer of meaning? One perspective is no more powerful than another, eyes are eyes, if none so convincing as our own. Can we so easily do away with our preconceptions that we might consider slavery to be regular and moral (allowing for morals)? What of capital punishment? Supple as reeds, not so flexible as to play like that. We cannot find another’s truth. The differences between us (however slight or great you think them) prevent any real understanding from occurring, we cannot suspend ourselves such that we might pretend at being someone else (the artist or anyone). So let’s not make ourselves fools to try understand the artist’s world and instead work out our own, consciously or below that as you’d wish.

With the artist out of grasp we’ven’t any recourse but to take up the thing ourselves and make of it what we can or should like to (ego cannot be taken out of it). O, yes, we’re so very put-upon to find our own way. At least there’s always a flock should we murder Ms. (a guess) Peep.

(Speaking of egoism, how much greater can it be than supposing you might understand another’s mind well enough to predict their thoughts. Predict your own, that I’d like to see!)

So we deny an actual world and actual meaning, we lose history but as another fiction, along side biography and the novel. That is hardly a loss and what’s gained (the potential for disagreement) is interesting enough on its own to give us cause to dilute and lose what we may, should it be greater.

Let’s not make ourselves fools to try understand the artist’s world, something past and gone outside their skin. Human beings have limits. Humanity, the sum of humans, has limits. We are tiny, petty things. We should not suppose that we’re capable of flight but of fancy, we should be amazed that we walk up-right. And there’s pleasure in that. There’s joy in what we can accomplish, in the small, self-centered universes we populate with a hundred things imagined or real, found or created.

Art is narcissism. From end to beginning. We create for immortality or because we think we’ve something to say that hasn’t been heard before or, if it has, so that we might be congratulated for saying it. We want praise for our opinions, if not liked for what we make then for what we like. Sheeple, all of us. It’s a disgusting state. Welcome to the human race; we’re a mess.

Aqua
on 23 March 2005, 8.11 pm
So, here's the situation of today. It seems as if all forms of art are acceptable. There is no immensely popular trend, no traditional art or group of elite artists controlling the output to rebel against; Hell, even shock-art is becoming history as modern art blends into the generic branches of styles. "Back in the day" they created art as illustrations of either religious superstitions, depictions of myths, every day actions and idealistic man as the measure of all things around us. These works of art were blatant and obvious portrayals of common stories/activities/etc that anyone would recognize.

Here, I go into the concept of naming one's art. You see, at this time it was not named. It was a statue of a god at a temple people were familiar with and a generic boxer hunched after a long fight. These things said what they said without a name or deeper meaning. These could have been implying things, like the story behind Echo and Narcissus, or values the god stood for, or his wrath, but still they were easily recognizeable to all.

Now I mention all this because this carries into the great christian art era with depictions of bible stories straight into even recent times with the majority of art as illustrations and then moving into depictions of landscapes, portraits, etc. It was only until comparatively recently that we see abstract forms or depictions from our minds that we really need to clarify on. Theoretically this could be due to the fact that for centuries and centuries art was observatory and illustrative. Is it more interesting to create something fictional than clear "truth"?

I suppose I throw this out to explain why the artist may have the need to create something not of the ordinary to experiment, name it to explain it, and put it out there as an idea or suggestion for other people. On the other hand, some did not even put that different work out there at all. And still- others did in order to revel in a unique piece and gain the most from the new concept.

I had a teacher last semester who had this great idealized view of the artist as someone who is inherently special, different, enthusiastic and not afraid of criticism; they do art for the process as interpretation of the world around them as a way to live and stay sane. I disagreed with some things he said, and with his idealization, but at the same time the concept of "art as observation", "art as interpretation" and "art as contemplation" can ring true depending on the person you talk to. At the same time I think it is easy to find artists who do art, think they do something special, promote and sell it as pure marketing, etc, and are rather egotistical.

At the same time, I can see your logic behind the idea of artists being egotistical because it appears we must conform to those select few views on the world as wholesome and true when they are indeed individualized and from one person's eyes alone. I think it was Plato who said artists are inferior because they are copying a copy of what the eye percieves and as such are low on the chain of necessities.

However, some say art is technically a gift and makes artists selfless instead of narcissists. It's interesting to think about. I think today in this day and age it's hard to classify artists as a whole because we have so many people and so many different kinds of attitudes toward art, whether that's talking about the people making it or the people buying it. I would be like saying those who write books write them for themselves only, or at least mostly. I think some actually do, while the obvious objective is to sell the work and not as self-improvement, etc.

I've also heard some say "Art is its time" and "Art is the lie that exposes the truth". And while it's true that art theoretically lasts a long time and as such is egoism to create it so that it will survive long after we are gone (ars longa, vita brevis), I still think the opinions and reasoning behind this are varied enough, however unconscious these motivations could be.


Lilith
on 25 March 2005, 9.15 am
All other things aside, why do you insist that egoism and narcissism are such bad things? I see nothing wrong with being either or both at all.


Waldo
on 25 March 2005, 2.45 pm
Lilith; Personally, I’ve had ‘qualms’ with egoism as long I can remember, along with loathing greed and selfishness (the CoS would never take me but as a blood donor). I don’t have what I think is a convincing argument against egoism other than that it seems inherently wretched and disgusting to me. Probably from all that christian poison absorbed via years in suburbia and public schools. I can recall being called a patriot in the first grade.

In my experience, everyone is an asshole if you spend enough time getting to know them. Everyone falls through to selfishness. It is humanity’s defining characteristic after inhumanity. I feel the need to add that I’m as guilty as anyone (though I believe I encoded that in the main). If distantly related, I am human. Taken with that, and that everyone at heart dislikes selfish and disloyal assholes so long as they’re being bothered by them, is the idea that we are tiny, petty things blown up by the brief-if-witless nature of life-spans and should not be looked up to in any way no matter how we identify with them. No heroes, no authorities but force and its threat. Egotism and narcissistic tendencies seem absurd to possess and revolting when seen. Of course, I readily acknowledge my own damaged ego as the likely source of this, but that’s tangential to this argument affecting the reader, I think. Either you are an egotist or you aren’t.


Waldo
on 25 March 2005, 2.50 pm
(note: a) My ctrl+c/v skills are lacking or b) hitting 'comment' posted the previous one rather than the new text...)

Aqua; The Plato quote rings true only if you do not consider a work of art to be a thing in itself. Just as you might look down on someone as they copy ‘Water Lilies’ rather than putting together something original. If every thing is a thing in-itself there’s no way to look down on art as-a-thing, inherently, unless you regard the whole material plane as base.

The idea that somehow ‘giving’ art is a selfless act is nonsense to me. I can see anonymous creation as approaching selflessness, but the act of creating always has an ember of ego within it. Even should you want to dissociate yourself from it, you still created it to have people view it. You want to affect them in a meaningful way, but perhaps you get off on voyeurism or the idea of being a hidden agent itself appeals. In either case, it’s about you and your self-esteem (a dirty word in my book).

Of course it is difficult to classify anyone generally, let alone a crowd. Let alone a crowd as diverse, ugly and perverse as ‘artists.’ Ego is the heart of all matters though. It motives everyone, it is our prime mover and as such open to worship (as is the neighbor’s Porsche). I think that is a shame and bemoan it, while seeing no alternative and being a brash hypocrite.

It occurs to me again that I ignore wholly a branch of art: commercial. Creating for sustenance does not strike me as an egotistical act. While hardly self-less and lacking in many other things (sell-outs are distained primarily for two reasons, a) they make more money than you for doing something you like [akin to a definition, that] b) they are meant to appeal to broad swathes, that is those who lack taste along with those who have it [as subjective a marker as that is, I’ll use it freely if only because everyone seems to think they have it], and lose something vital there.) the act itself (distinct from the product) rests with me better. I can’t see myself participating in that field (not that I’ve been asked or will be), but it does nothing to set off my loathing of ego at least.


Mr_Fred_Smith
on 25 March 2005, 3.59 pm
Great stuff, Waldo, I've missed your dessicated Arizonan cynicism a great deal. But, to the substantive point in your reply above:

"everyone is an asshole if you spend enough time getting to know them".

Do you really believe this? Unlike, Lil, I'm willing to accept the premise that narcissism is unhealthy, but I think it sits uneasily with the skepsis of your other points: on the one hand you seem to be saying that art is vain, and that we're all island universes (which latter point I'd have to say I agree with) which our subjective cores cannot penetrate, but on the other you seem to be saying that your own subjective, misanthropic core tells you that vanity and narcissism are vile qualities. I suppose that's the ultimate problem with scepticism: it's dictates are cogent, but you still have to live in a probable world.

Is art vain? Probably, there's an element of Josephine the Mouse Singer in most artists. But how is that inherently different from any other human activity?



Aqua
on 25 March 2005, 4.49 pm
Honestly, I put down some of those quotes to see what your response to them would be. The Plato one- I disagree with. It seems to make sense *technically*, but not *essentially* as it seems to disregard the motive behind it.

Also- I tend to disagree with the selflessness of "art as a gift" because, as you say- it would take being annonymous and then, again, you have the gratification of knowing you did it anyway, even if others don't. The interesting thing here deals with self-esteem and what about it is inherently good. It seems doing good deeds anonymously is good- you are doing good- you feel good- why bother with whether it was selfishly done or not when it ends up doing good either way?

So, we're talking about the deepest roots of creating art being that of selfishness, even if we admit art we create is made to sell and make money off of. Now, I'm sincerely not being oppositional here- but it seems to me that anything in this world is done selfishly because of money. It's what we need, so even if we like what we're doing, and even if we care about the quality so that we can make these people who buy the products/services/etc happy, it's still all in selfishness. I think this is true, when you *technically* look at it, but again, I think it's mostly the effect that matters since we're all doing things for technically the same reason. If that makes sense.

Personally I think self-esteem is a good thing, only because I went with little or none for years, constantly self-consciously aware of whether or not I upset the people around them, irritated them, or wasn't compassionate enough.

I think it's interesting you say commercial art is okay because it is done strictly for profit, while technically all art can be considered as such if you go to an actual school to improve it. Theoretically if you did this for yourself you would have no need for "improvement" or "perfection" because it would be pure expression for your eyes only, etc. However, I do think there can be combinations of doing things and utilizing them as selfish, necessary, means to a need, with an eye or motivation of expression, as something one seems to be inherently good at- without it being done as a dirty, egotistical thing.

Interestingly enough, a lot of this has only truly fallen into place recently, so I've only begun to seriously brush the surface of all that is art.


Waldo
on 28 March 2005, 3.53 am
‘rote: I think you’ve hit the nail squarely. We might believe that there’s no objective truth or should there be that we still cannot reach it or others through the fault of any number of flaws, but we cannot deny that we believe we see and feel and know that we have opinions (same as we know we have beliefs), however unjustified and irrelevant they might seem. Destruction (or reduction) of the self seems the only way to do away with such things. Whether we should is a matter we must take up with our selves.

I think so long as we keep in mind that everything is subjective and ignore the faults of English (the verb ‘to be’ ends up doing much more work than we mean it to, google “English Prime” if you’re unfamiliar with the topic) we can still have entertaining arguments while bordering sophistry. We might believe what we say, but we also believe that we haven’t a reason (a good one) to believe what we do. Discussion is for entertainment alone. (This does lead to something more interesting, but increasingly off-topic, the application of scepticism by government figures and military powers. I suppose there’s a reason there aren’t any philosopher kings.)

Aqua; I feel I should clarify. I see commercial art (art created solely to sell, or with that as the reason for it’s creation) as less offensively self-serving or egotistical because I do not see its maker as an artist in that instance, they seem to be acting as a capitalist instead and are then being quite honest about their egoism and motivation. I certainly have other qualms about their selfishness and greed but I’m less inclined to judge them on the same moral or ethical standards I would an artist. At this point I’d stray (if I’ven’t already) too far into the meat of another topic so I’ll leave it at that for now but for saying that while I regard King and Crichton and Grisham and the like as hacks and fools (however they regard themselves [as commercial or artists]), I do not see them as artists but as craftsmen, inspiring a different sort of sneer. Welders of the English language.

I like that you’ve brought up a point regarding means/ends (though I suppose the discussion here and previously has been right beside such a thing for a while). If something beautiful is created for money (or accidentally), is it damaged in anyway? I’d say not, but the artist might deserve a sneer and the look. The means matters as far as I concern myself but the piece remains separate, whatever it should be. Holocaust photographs are lovely and horrifying in turn.


Aqua
on 29 March 2005, 2.38 am
Something interesting occured to me while delving deep into the depths of... art... and it's an obvious connection I can't believe I didn't think of before. You see, what we're doing here is a segregating of artists who do work with any said medium,visually, and artists who make music. Personally, I find the similarities of the two uncanny.

Artists who work with music can start out in their basements, make some for themselves and jam, and then move on to make music for a living, as something they're talented with utilized for profit necessary to our current culture. I don't think that's vile or selfish; they're doing what they love that they started out doing for themselves or their friends and applying it in a necessary way. They're doing both.

Just as learning a rift can be compared with painting something for one's own color practice, I think all of the above goes for artists using paint and such too. On can start with doodling for fun or drawing to improve, and then move up to making a living out of it.

But once again this is an idea that embraces the selfishness and isn't always the case. Just like some musical artists only play in their basements or for themselves with friends, some artists only get to that point and make a living off of something completely unrelated.

Also- again, the case doesn't always ring true, and I think some artists of both categories are "sell-outs" or just doing it to get money, etc. Either way the good ones are doing what they love, regardless of whether it gets them money or not.

But agian, I'm just throwing this out here as something I forgot to mention that you may or may not agree with.


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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!

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