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To me, the only “absolute” measure of what makes art valuable is effort. If someone puts years and years and a huge amount of passion and energy into working on something… the result pretty much has to be Art.
If I had to explain why this was, I’d say it’s because we as human beings always tend to judge things based on the value other people set on it. There is no cosmic force which can decree that anything is better than anything else, so all we have to go on is each other.
But when someone makes something which is substandard and devoid of passion – like the Key example in the podcast – it indicates that they themselves, the creators, didn’t value the work. So why should anyone else?
Likewise with the Sistine Chapel. If Michelangelo had simply doodled a few quick sketches and written down what we thinks they represent and how people should emotionally respond to them… who would give a damn? But by actually doing the work of painting the ceiling of the chapel he sent a message. He said: “I care about this. I think this is valuable.”. And that’s why the Sistine Chapel has artistic value.
I’m not saying that there is a “perfect work”, which will be made when the maximum amount of effort is put in. It’s more complicated than that. There is a lot more to art than simply effort. There’s individual experiences which make particular works speak to somebody while being meaningless to another. Pokemon comes to mind here.
Pokemon is, at its core, about a world where 10 year old children can strike out on their own, leave home and travel the world with a group of always trustworthy and reliable friends without having to follow rules set down by adults and can ultimately become valued “champions” and “masters” of the world while retaining their childhood and without compromising with the cold, dull 9-to-5 world of adults. And that’s why children love it. It’s certainly why I loved it. But at the same time, I wouldn’t expect older people to “get it”. It’s not something that speaks to them, to their way of looking at life.
So, I guess what I have to say is that although we can all pretty much agree when a work has had “soul” put into it, and that is the best way of bringing together different people and viewpoints towards something resembling a consensus about art… ultimately taste in art will always be about an individuals own preferences and a truly “absolute” standard will never materialize.
Not sure that effort –> art works. If the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel had been made in a single evening and Michelangelo didn’t put any effort into it at all — but the final product looked exactly the same — would it matter? What about ‘Found object’ art? Of course, even if it didn’t make a difference and if ‘found obect’ art IS art (and if it doesn’t take effort) this would only show that what is art doesn’t necessarily take effort. It wouldn’t show that what takes effort isn’t art. So all this would show is that it doesn’t seem plausible that art –> effort.
Actually, the idea of art –> effort seems greatly at odds with our normal intuitions: an artistic genius produces works with more skill and less effort than the non-genius.
Going the other way around, does effort –> art? If two people make the exact same work — one with effort, one without effort. Mix ’em up and could you identify which one is which? And if you can’t tell the difference, is it a difference that makes a difference? Anyway, you see that this opens up an entirely new can of worms and causes problems.
My view is that it’s actually something of a mistake to think that identifying art depends on the accurate perception of the work and then the proper application of criteria. In fact, I think the VERY IDEA of “identifying’ is mistaken. I think we pick out art the same we pick out friends, the way we fall in love, or come to have heroes — not by rationally applying a set of criteria, but experiencing the end of a causal chain of events. From that point on, we rationalize, justify, and advocate our positions — and perhaps use our rational faculties to grapple with our situation –but the rational game of applying and examining criteria and justifying beliefs is only one small part of the larger game.
In a way, art is like people’s waifus: there’s an irrational attachment and we can’t help but advocate for them. But it’s not a matter of getting agreement, showing that you love your 2D waifu JUST MEANS tirelessly advocating for her — the advocating is the expression of some relationship rather than the making of a move in a rational game of knowledge claims.
Hmm… I’ve given your answer a bit of thought and I think I see the error in what I said before.
When I said that the value of art is proportional to effort… it would be more accurate to say it’s the PERCEPTION of effort that matters.
If we look at your example of someone painting the Sistine Chapel without effort, say. Let’s look at two different scenarios:
1) Painting the chapel in an evening was so easy that literally anybody could do it and Michelangelo just happened to be the guy who got the job.
2) Michelangelo was so amazing that he was able to do the impossible and paint the chapel in a single evening.
If (1) was the case then surely painting the chapel would be equivalent of drawing a stick man or whitewashing a garage. Would people still regard the Sistine Chapel as an achievement in such a world? I doubt it very much.
In case (2) however, the Sistine Chapel remains valuable because even though Michelangelo painted it without effort, the person looking at it BELIEVES that it must have taken a lot of effort to make since he’s never met anybody able to make something like that without putting years of their life into it.
If there’s one thing that I’m prepared to put forward as a “fact” in the shadowy, multi-polar world of art, it’s that in order to be moved by a piece of art you have to believe that the creator cared about the work. How on earth can anyone be moved by something if they know that the person who made it regards it as worthless?
I get at what gremz is saying. If we were all super-heros, no one would be. So a sense of achievement must be met for it to be “art”. Which, I suppose, can only be measured by what we find appealing or helpful. I don’t exactly like his second scenario though. Not that I don’t agree with it, because we will always hold the powerful on pedestals, I just don’t enjoy the scenario. Maybe that’s an example of taste on my part, or maybe just my character speaking for itself (if there is a difference).
So how can we measure art? Well, if we measure it with time, you run the risk of saying “It took you twelve years to make this mud-pie. Here’s some recognition”. While time is usually a correlation to quality (and in radical cases, such as trying to paint the Sistine Chapel in one night, it very much is), time is not, alone, the only thing we can use to measure art. Shame too, time might be the only quantitative value we have for this topic.
So we judge by quality, which is an even bigger issue because we all define that differently for different topics. That becomes such a big issue that we have to sometimes stick four guys on Skype to talk about it for an hour and a half. Sometimes we start wars over it too.
So, instead, I prefer to measure art by the message I receive from it. If the message of the artwork agrees to what I have, over the course of my life, determined to be morally and logically accurate, I enjoy it. If it does not agree, I have to consider the message of the piece as a possible truth. If my logic says “eh, yea, it’s true”, then I’ll toss it into the forest I proclaim my morals and see if it survives the gauntlet. If it does, I now have a new opinion, and an old one. This thus increases my pallet of “taste”.
Rinse, wash, repeat.
One last foot-note. I think a reader who enjoys artwork the artist didn’t like can actually lead to a “one man’s trash, another man’s treasure” kind of effect. You become bonded to the work out of… pity (?) as well as just liking the work. That could actually lead to an even stronger love of the piece than initially. I think what you enjoy is entirely devoid of what the artist likes since he/she is, after they make the art, an audience member.
What’s neat is when the artist and audience clash, as discussed in episode… 3? You get that weird hybrid that isn’t always what either side wanted, or maybe what only one person wanted. A growing issue as technology increases (an idea discussed in episode 3 ).
From what little I know of psychology we do choose friends and wives for a number of reasons, though there’s a lot of changing variables, random elements and freedom of choice (many psychologists don’t believe in free will though, I disagree personally). But I think even so, our choices are artistic.
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