Wednesday, August 28, 2013
20th century: first time works "purporting to be art" which were not art were created. "Bearing little or no resemblance to the painting, sculpture, literature, music, or dance that had come before."
Art "[makes] sense of human experience."
They believe 20th century art was more like madness or fraud. It gained acceptance by the establishment, and traditional styles were pushed aside. They say this art is bizarre and the scholarly work defending it "impenetrable." "A substantial segment of the public" doesn't embrace it.
Three responses: some have mere confusion or frustration,
"others skeptical that there is anything in it to be understood or appreciated,"
"still others reject it outright, considering it beyond the pale of art"
"We maintain that the ordinary person's view, based as it is largely on common sense, is the correct one." They want to give theoretical justification to this view.
History and concept of the term "art"
A term does not equal a concept.
Term refers to different but related concepts.
Latin: arts, artis
Greek term, techne
skill, discipline, technique
"art of warfare" "art of medicine" "mechanical arts" "liberal arts"
"an ability acquired by careful study and applied to a particular undertaking."
They skill is so fundamental to the concept of art, it is part of any "legitimate uses of the term"
narrower definition dates to late 1800s, referring to collective or individual fine arts. "fine arts" dates to mid 1700s, painting, sculpture, literature, music, dance, drama
Avant-garde "attempts to appropriate...while simultaneously undermining it."
Traditional concept of art did not develop in a vacuum, was not divorced from real experience, similarities between existing art forms, and differences between art forms and things which weren't art.
Dates back to Greek concept of "mimetic arts," proven by comparisons between poetry and painting, song and dance, painting and sculpture, in ancient writings, and are found in other cultures.
Ostensive meaning is what a word refers to.
Claim Western theories of art since 1700s have obscured the referents of art by focusing on nature of art.
"In attempting to identify the essential qualities distinctive to art, theorists lost sight of the original referents of the term, and of their complex totality, and focused instead on certain attributes abstracted from the whole, such as 'beauty' or 'expression.' In so doing, they ignored the attribute of mimesis, whose relationship to art they did not fully appreciate, though it was fundamental to the original concept." [see notes for response]
Architecture was one of the first things referred to as art which was not art.
Since then, this line of thinking, which they believe flawed, was been "exploited by an art world seeking to further a variety of extra-artistic ends, from spurious political agendas to a desire for prestige and financial gain, however unearned."
"What the Ordinary Person Thinks"
The authors present letters to the editor, cartoons, and parodies from tv shows to give a sense of the divide between the ordinary person and the artworld.
"banalities of Andy Warhol"
A unnamed work in the Whitney Museum of Art's biennial exhibition consisting of newspapers
Truisms by Jenny Holzer "gibberish"
Brice Marden's "Untitled" "A rectangle of two shades of mud divided by a straight line"
Summarize mainstream journalists and news talking heads:
Irving Krystol WSJ op-ed
George Will, membership in art community "involves no exacting entrance requirements"
William Rushner "simply doesn't speak to me"
Thomas Sowell "grace, beauty, or exaltation...[vs] puzzlement, boredom, or disgust"
R. Emmett Tyrell, Jr. on Serrano and Mapplethorpe "mere naughtiness in our age sells, but it is not art."
John Leo on victim art "a large puddle of plastic vomit" at the whitney museum biennial
Jeff Jacoby on the NEA, the public would never willingly support it
Morley Safer on Cy Twombly "scrawls," Jeff Koons basketballs, quotes Koons and calls it "artspeak"
Murphy Brown sit-com, and fictitious work based on Duchamp's fountain, and Robert Gober's fixtures
The story of the 18month old painting passed off as an abstract expressionist work
"But is it art?" is the ubiquitous question
Book "But is it art: Art as activism" defines art as furthering progressive goals
"Is it art, or Just Dead Meat?"
They are upset by the use of the term in this context, unless it is something like "Art--Or Just a Hollow Sham?" which referred to Mneme.
"The Experts Speak"
Argue that art experts obfuscate:
H.W. Janson envisions an ordinary man asking "Why is this supposed to be art?" Didn't think "there are, or ought to be, exact rules by which we can tell art from what is not art."
Call Frederick Hartt patronizing for arguing that he was hostile to contemporary art as a young man, and recommending the young student engage in constant exposure, study, and analysis.
In the authors' view contemporary should not be used to describe avant-gardism.
"Personal language" means it is inscrutable
"...he virtually ignored the requirement of objective content and meaning with respect to contemporary work..."
Erbst Gombrish "There is really no such thing as Art. There are only artists."
John Canaday "inexhaustible enrichment of life"
They accuse these authors of giving short-shrift to traditional works.
They demand an objective definition.
Transition to revision of art history texts: "gender, race, sexual preference" substitution of study of art for study of images, "aesthetic relativism and cultural pluralism"
Postmodern art history: suspicious of the idea that some works are more deserving of attention than others, suspicious of "common culture," chronology is male-dominated, masterpieces are suspect, and used to reveal "biases," "contemporary politics"
Quote James Elkins with alarm because he wants to study "images which are not art" like maps, graphs, astronomical charts, etc. "writing the history of images rather than art."
Roberta Smith "If an artist says it's art, it's art."
Rita Reif citing Rosenblum "If an artist makes it, it's art, regardless of the artist's intentions."
Grace Glueck "intended as art, presented as such, and...judged to be art by those qualified in such matters."
They cite Jacques Barzun and Eliseo Bibas to state that modern art instiutions have so consistent philosophy or aim.
"Since they [modern critics] cannot discriminate between 'art' and 'non-art,' they cannot be relied on properly to discriminate between 'good' art and 'bad.'...forfeits claim to respect or consideration." all subjective opinion
Grant that one could reject contemporary trends while not accepting the need for a theory, like John Simon. Argue that Simon still operates under a theory when he critiques film.
Argue that classifying what art is does not fall to artists, critics, or historians, but to philosophers.
Cite Steven Davis' argument to illustrate their idea that chaos and disintegration in art traces to philosophy: Davis argues that Fountain is in textbooks, taught about in art courses, has influenced artists in their manifestos and other works...that it has had undeniable impact.
According to American Society for Aesthetics, two threats to art as an idea:
First, central question of aesthetics, what is art? becomes frustrating
Second, whether an account of art must generalize or always be art-specific
Turn to Ayn Rand as the provider of their philosophical basis
Traditional: "painting, sculpture, music, and literature (fiction, poetry, and drama)"
Mimetic, "albeit in a highly selective and often stylized manner."
They call this the position of the "ordinary person" and of 19th century philosophers like Tolstoy.
They claim that Rand does not rely on the authority of the past. (They use James W. Tuttleson as an example of a cultural conservative who criticized modern art but relied on an appeal to authority)
Rand said a civilized society should accept ideas because they are true, not because they are old or their ancestors believed them.
These art forms are "the only forms consonant with essential features of human nature."
She rejected the idea that traditional arts are meant to convey pleasure or value through beauty.
Purpose of art is "the meaningful objectification of whatever is metaphysically important to man."
quoting Rand, "selective re-creation of reality"
Psychological need for art, cognitive and emotional.
Esthetics is the study of art, not the study of beauty and related concepts.
Objecticism is an integrated, neo-aritotelian philosophy, which means Rand's answers to art questions relate to her whole philosophy
Tone: the authors write in a polemic tone. They frequently put terms in quotations when they are dismissive of their opponents' views. Though they are self-described generalists, they make broad historical claims that need more historical investigation. In effect, they claim a better understanding of art than any art theorist or historian since the 1700s.
They refer to "the public" and "the ordinary person." This, in my view, is an everyman fallacy of logic. They would defend themselves by saying that by "the ordinary person's view" they mean "common sense" or the logical view. Yet, they spend a great deal of time trying to give their audience a sense of what this "ordinary person's" view is. I do not think they would spend all this time if they did not understand their audience and the rhetorical power of an everyman fallacy. What should be important is their truth claim, not their popularity. Certainly, one who has studied Ayn Rand should understand the danger of populism or tyranny by majority rule.
It's hard to argue with someone who defines their position as the common sense position and other positions as contrary to common sense, but since they put so much emphasis on Socratic logic and objective reasoning, perhaps they would respect an attempt to critique their thesis through these methods.
They offer 3 distinct attitudes without specifying which view represents their own. It is different to be skeptical of a work's value and to reject that work as not being art to begin with.
One odd question that is hanging in the air: why do they slam philosophers of the 1700s for muddling the definition of art with their theories while simultaneously using the "traditional definition of art" which they admit originated in that time?
Second, is it enough to define art in a way which matches up with the "traditional definition"? Isn't that the fallacy of an appeal to tradition? Shouldn't the question be whether the definition is correct or incorrect? They would likely agree. What that means is, once they get to Ayn Rand's definition, that definition will be open to scrutiny.
Third, I think it odd they don't mention Plato's critique of the mimetic arts. Were they really unaware of it, or did they fear that presenting their readers with an opposing view which dates to the ancients would undermine their own argument? I find that a bit of a glaring error. It was hardly universal for the ancient world to define art as mimetic, which is a large pillar they rest upon.
Importantly, they identify beauty and expression as things which are characteristics of art, but not the fundamental definition of art. Therefore, if I could prove logically that a work is both beautiful and expressive, that would not be enough to define it as art, in their view, if it were not also mimetic. I think in this, they depart significantly from their nebulous "ordinary person" since many ordinary people might appreciate certain works or art which are beautiful and technical, but not mimetic (Van Gogh perhaps, Bill Viola, Makoto Fujimura).
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
An internet meme is any idea that is spread over the internet. It can include images, phrases, jokes, websites, actions, etc. The root word comes from the Greek word mimeme, meaning something imitated. An internet meme is not necessarily something viral.
A work such as a video, comic, work of art, song, etc. which spreads rapidly through culture. A video of a cat may garnish millions of views, but it does not become an internet meme until an idea from that video is absorbed into the language of internet culture.
Standing Cat is an example of a viral video which was accepted as a meme by Know your Meme:
Ask a Ninja is an example of a popular web series which has not been accepted as a meme by Know Your Meme for one or more reasons: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/ask-a-ninja
In contrast, Yugioh the Abridged Series by littlekuriboh is mentioned heavily in one article because it was influential in the creation of a new genre of memes, but the show itself is not a meme: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/abridged-series
The broad topic of memes is related to the study of anthropology and culture. Internet memes are narrowly focused on ideas generated and spread through sub-cultures via the internet. For example, the sexual innuendo, “That’s what she said,” from The Office, has become a cultural meme, but it did not have its origin in the internet (though it has, of course, been subsumed into the internet culture). Through memes, different sub-cultures which may not share a common interest do begin to share a similar language to express their ideas. Memes are generally meant to be humorous, are
often simplistic, but are not at all just random silliness.
Exploitable image definition:
An exploitable image is any image that becomes popular for creating memes. Often, the original creator did not intend for his work to be used as an exploitable. On other occasions, a creator may deliberately release his work for use.
A sub-genre of exploitables is advice animals. These place a picture of something, often an animal, over a colorful background, and ascribe a specific trait to the figure depicted. The jokes all relate to that trait.
Foul Bachelor Frog: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/foul-bachelor-frog
Why Not Zoidberg?: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/futurama-zoidberg-why-not-zoidberg
For an example of exploitables which have been made freely available by their creators, see Rage Comics. Using a series of crude drawings of faces, anyone can make their own rage comic. The faces all have a meaning, and sometimes the differences between to faces is nuanced: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/rage-comics
For examples of images which were exploited without the consent or knowledge of the artist, see these:
Chris Torres’ animation of a pop tart cart was taken to create Nyan Cat:
Give Pikachu a Face: htttp://knowyourmeme.com/memes/give-pikachu-a-face
The use of Larry Van Pelt’s kitch drawings for the meme Jesus is a Jerk: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/jesus-is-a-jerk
A panel from a comic by KC Green became Staredad:
Some artists react negatively when they discover their work has been turned into an exploitable. Others, like Chris Torres, are pleasantly surprised and don’t attempt any legal action.
There are institutions that are heavily influential in meme culture.
Certain websites are at the forefront of creating new memes and documenting existing ones.
4Chan (also referred to as /b/): a mature forum, blocked by Concordia, which allows any type of discussion. Many memes are traced back to their origin in 4Chan.
I Can Has Cheezburger? and its sister sites (Know your Meme, Memebase, etc.): a site which features several genres of memes voted on by a community. Know your Meme attempts to function as a Wikipedia for internet memes.
An example of a meme originated on 4Chan is “i herd you liek mudkips,” based on a Pokemon which has become a mascot for the site. The authors of Know Your Meme admit they do not know the original origin of this meme, but it is wide-spread enough that it must be acknowledged as one: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/i-herd-u-liek-mudkips
Reddit/Tumblr: Popular blog sites which make the spread of memes simple. Individuals will often create a page devoted to one meme. If a tumblr has the words "F*** Yeah" in its title, that is an indication that it is devoted to a single meme.
[Art Student Owl on Tumblr: http://fyeahartstudentowl.tumblr.com/
There are at least two separate sites on which you can create your own Why not Zoidberg?meme: http://www.quickmeme.com/Why-not-zoidberg/?upcoming
YouTube: Popular video site where most memes in video form can be found. YouTube has it’s own sub-culture of modern-day dada film makers. Non-sensical videos derived from internet memes are referred to as “YouTube Poop.”
Professor David Baily of Georgia Southern University created a video addressing YouTube Poopers because he believed it had potential to become an avant-garde art movement:
With that introduction out of the way, one must ask, “Why study internet memes?”
First, I would say they reveal something true about culture, for good or ill. Second, within the realm of politics, this sub-culture is gaining a voice. The SOPA/PIPA debate was fiercely opposed by this community, because much of what they do is an amalgam of pop culture references, and meme creators are not afraid to use copyrighted material. As Baily pointed out, these people are at the forefront of copyright law.
The 300 This is Sparta Remix relies heavily on copyrighted footage, but combines it with an original song:
Is this fair use? The answer to that question could criminalize or legalize a lot of internet activity.
Second, I would say that the phenomenon of internet memes can reveal information about human nature which is timeless, rather than just an immediate fashion. I find many similarities between the spread of some internet memes, and classical religions such as the Greek Parthenon.
After I pointed out that both Greek Myth and internet memes share crude humor and slapstick, Tony Fuget responded by comparing the trickster God Loki with the Troll face:
If a Norse story teller, sharing a myth about Thor and Loki, were to describe Loki as anything but a trickster, his audience would catch his mistake. The same is true for the meme community, which will notice when one misuses their language. As storytellers ascribed specific traits to their gods, an advice animal ascribes a trait to an image, such as Foul Bachelor Frog.
I’ll conclude with some samples of internet memes that I have found particularly revealing, especially with regards to issues within Christianity:
The passionate adoration that an internet subculture has shown for this character cannot be understated. It began with someone noticing an apparent mistake in the show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” The show itself has gained prominence on the internet due to it’s surprising popularity amongst adults including adult men. If one paused the first episode at the right moment, 17:18, they would see a character in the background with crossed eyes. This was either a mistake on the part of the animators, or a subtle inside joke. The image of this character spread and fans of the show gave her a name. Artwork was made of her, stories were written about her, aspects of her personality and life were determined and agreed upon by her fans over the internet. The creators of the show, noticing this popularity, gave the character more “easter egg” appearances, and eventually gave her a spoken line and accepted the name “Derpy Hooves” as the character’s name. An internet sub-culture influenced Hasbro and the creators of the show to reinterpret their own work. This demonstrates the power of this group and also relates to questions of whether authors determine meaning in their stories or their audience.
Derpy Hooves is not a good metaphor for God, but her followers’ passion draws parallels with the early Christian church. I have told some of my friends that an adult man has no buisness watching My Little Pony. These “Bronies” defend the show’s merits with logical arguments and evangelize it to others with a religious fervor.
I discovered the character of Derpy as one might have first heard about Jesus 2000 years ago. The followers are outspoken about their love for this figure. Sending someone to check 17:18 is like sending someone to check a Bible reference. I was reminded of the Ethiopian in Acts 8, an intelligent man who read the scriptures but couldn’t comprehend them because they seemed so foreign to him. http://bible.org/seriespage/ethiopian-eunuch-acts-826-40
Like Derpy, “i herd you liek mudkips” is a meme which parallels faith. It probably began as some in-joke. The joke, though, has been taken up by the broader culture, and many who presumably have no idea what the in-joke is spread the meme as if they did. One must have faith that, despite it’s mysterious origin, this meme is funny.
Finally, Google “Why Not Zoidberg?” or even just “Zoidberg” and two kinds of images should come up. One is a picture of Zoidberg as Jesus, another is the Zoidberg “advice animal” macro: http://memebase.com/2011/10/17/internet-memes-why-not-repent/
The trait ascribed to Ziodberg is that he offers himself to you for whatever purpose you may have. The punchline of every joke is “Why Not Zoidberg?” because he is the solution. Most of the people who make and spread these memes may never make the blatant connection between Zoidberg and Christ.
Quit Procrastinating, Work on Your Art directly addresses a specific target audience.
The artist is Ralph Schwartz, and he appears to have added the text himself: http://ralfschwartz.typepad.com/lm/2010/12/quit-procrastinating-work-on-your-art.html
The image has been featured on Memebase in the past, but it is arguably not a significant meme, because it has not gained much presence online or been used as an exploitable. Why is this? Could it be that the image is so closely associated with this original message, that the audience couldn’t separate the image from its clear message and use it for other purposes? Many other memes have a clear, direct statement, like Why Not Zoidberg?, but Zoidberg is used by many different sub-groups, whereas I have only seen this particular image of Batman within groups that are fans of superheroes and on artists’ walls.
Apart from its non-starter status as a meme, Quit Procrastinating, Work on Your Art is also interesting because it is used by multiple art students as a form of self-imposed propaganda. Like the image of Staredad when hung on the wall, it has commanding authority, disapproval, and a direct gaze. Unlike Schwartz's Batman, Staredad has become more universal. When I hung a drawing of Staredad on my wall, it elicited a stronger response from my roommates without having a message attached to it. They were viscerally creeped out by his gaze and felt he was disapproving of their behavior, more so than the Batman I had taped to the wall long before. To some extent, both Batman and Stare Dad are symbols for a judgmental, paternalistic figure, akin to God as described in Exodus, who command obedience.
These memes function as “metaphors” for Christian themes in one capacity or another. If they are religious at all, they are “accidentally religious.”
There are three broad patterns I have noticed in memes which are not accidentally religious, but deal directly with religious issues. One could debate about whether a meme belongs in one category or another, of if a particular meme blurs the line, but these patterns generally hold true:
An observational meme: A meme which observes something which is objectively present within the image or religious narrative.
A shrewd observer spots something within a photo that alludes to one of Christ’s miracles: http://memebase.com/2011/12/30/internet-memes-why-do-you-think-hes-so-sad/
Examples of an individual pointing out something ironic within the Biblical narrative, the image is less important:
An irreverent meme: One which simply tries to make humor at Christ’s expense. Kitch art is especially susceptible.
An example of a meme which combines the graphic of imagery of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ with the Benny Hill theme. Another infamous version of this meme juxtaposed this music with 9/11 footage.
Raptor Jesus, definition and example: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/raptor-jesus http://memebase.com/2011/09/20/memes-philosoraptor-jesus/
Fart sound image (this one is both irreverent and observational): http://memebase.com/2011/11/09/internet-memes-oh-that-jesus/
An antagonistic meme: one that is somehow political, or anti-religious. This could be directly antagonistic towards Christ, or it could use Christ to make a negative message about Christians whom the maker of the meme disagrees with.
A visual pun putting forth an atheist’s point of view: http://memebase.com/2011/03/31/memes-faith/
An image used to show disapproval, usually of Christians: http://media.photobucket.com/image/fu%20jesus/quicktusa/fuJesusFU.jpg
An image claiming solidarity with Jesus over issues such as war and healthcare: http://jewmanist.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/jesus.jpg
The general patterns I observed from searching for internet memes showing Jesus are as follows:
Sincere, devotional art depicting Christ is heavily liable to receive ridicule itself, or be made into a backdrop for a new meme.
Most of the confrontational images of Christ I found leaned left. Either they used an image of Christ to claim that Jesus would support my political position, not yours, or they accused the religious right of abusing the image of Jesus for political purposes.
Most of the tame or tepid images leaned right. Jon McNaughton painted an allegorical painting which clearly expresses a Conservative idea about the Founding Fathers. The use of Jesus is always straight-forward and respectful, meaning it would have limited appeal in fine art circles. http://www.mcnaughtonart.com/artwork/view_zoom/?artpiece_id=353#
Here is a video of McNaughton discussing his painting. There is little work left for the viewer to do to interpret this painting's meaning.
McNaughton's painting became a meme only when it was spoofed. Some internet user copied the site closely, but changed a few key descriptions: http://420.thrashbarg.net/one-nation-under-god-usa-mcnaughton-fine-art-shortpacked-parody.html
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Once I found a stone that was brown, irregular and very smooth. It was heavy, and looked a bit melted. I remember showing it to a wise, old, bearded rock-hound pastor from Morristown, Minnesota. Reverend Zimmerman's house and life were filled to overflowing with interesting stuff he had collected in his lifetime. When he saw my brown stone, his bushy eyebrows twitched, He looked at me and said 'Son, this is a meteorite - a star' That stone became special to me and I carried it around to surprise all my friends. I was the boy with stardust in his pockets.You can read the full blog post here.
The other blog I stumbled across is about Seward Nebraska. Marxhausen left such an imprint on the community, it's not surprising to see his work discussed here.
According to the author, Mike Sylwester, these photos were taken on July 4, 1975, and originally had a caption: "Marxhausen Seward Fourth of July Parade float. Old St. John Lutheran Church in the background." Sylwester explains that the second picture "shows the front of the float being held by Karl Marxhausen (in the foreground) and Reinhold Marxhausen (in the background). The back of the float was held by Paul and Dorris Marxhausen (son and mother) and some friends, but they are not seen in these pictures."
He also quoted Reinhold Marxhausen's son, Karl, who discussed how the float was constructed:
Dad used hula hoops for the four corners. With a walker in each hoop. He created a fish line grid, to which inflated ballons were secured. The rectangular float could be elevated by the front and back walkers moving to the middle, creating a 20 high arch.The full post can be read here.
Friday, May 14, 2010
This is an article from the Library of Congress written by Donna Urschel. In it, Ted Kooser talks about Marxhausen's way of finding beauty in everyday things. Kooser has contributed to this blog by writing about his memories of Marxhausen. The Full article can be read here.
Ted Kooser on Appreciating Everyday Things
...at the suggestion of a Bankers Life management consultant, the insurance company brought in Reinhold Marxhausen, a photographer, to cheer up the employees. "Marxhausen was a delightful man, playful yet serious about art and its happy effects," Kooser said. The photographer spent several weeks taking pictures, 35mm color slides, of the workplace, capturing "the way light refracted from the chrome of a doorknob, the flowing shadows in curtained windows, and so on."
When he was finished, Marxhausen appeared before an assembly of employees in the cafeteria and showed the slides. "He showed us what was all around us, but what we had never stopped to notice," Kooser said.
"His slides were beautiful, rich with color and mass and texture. Who would have thought, for example, that the arc of water in a common drinking fountain could be so beautiful? We left our gray metal folding chairs feeling altogether happy and refreshed, as if sprinkled by a hose on a summer day. And we were a little in awe, looking about us to see what kinds of beauty we, too, might find right under our noses. What had we been missing every day?"
The slide show was a life-changing event for Kooser. He, too, started to pay attention to the details, "to the beauties and pleasures of the ordinary."
About 10 years ago, Kooser was asked to write a poem to accompany a painting for an art book, which was never published. (Kooser later used a picture of that George Ault painting on the cover of "Delights & Shadows.") The poem that Kooser proposed was:
"If you can awaken
inside the familiar
and discover it strange,
you need never leave home."
"This four-line poem is a kind of credo for me," Kooser told the audience. "In short, we have beauty all about us, if we take the time to pay attention to it. Reinhold Marxhausen knew about paying attention; George Ault knew it. Pablo Neruda wrote dozens of remarkable poems about common things. Thousands of poets and painters have learned to pay attention like this. We honor the ordinary by giving it our attention. We enshrine the ordinary in our art. Is there anything really ordinary, I wonder."