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Douglas Lain
Posted on Thursday, May 05, 2005 - 02:24 pm:   

I bought Robert Hughes book The Shock of the New today and keep thinking about the supposedly defunct notion of Avant Garde art. I'm curious to know what you might think about this notion. More importantly, do you think art has the power to transform the world? If so, can you point to an example? If not, why not?
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, May 07, 2005 - 05:24 am:   

no.

the things that transform the world are wars, curses for cancer, political changes and so forth. you can argue that art influences it, or even that art brings in a new thought... but to me art often serves as a representation of the world, rather than something that can change it.
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Carole C
Posted on Saturday, May 07, 2005 - 12:34 pm:   

'but to me art often serves as a representation of the world'

That seems to be true if you think back over the history of art, (even something like cave-art). But maybe depicting certain things in society, and then reflecting it back does give people pause for thought.

Literature would seem to be a more effective tool for change, maybe books like 1984, Animal Farm etc, but once again, these are extrapolating (brilliantly) factors which may be already present. Books like 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' might have gone some way in breaking down sexual mores (but not very effectively at the time).

I think Avant Garde art is very much alive and kicking, in fact it's successfully kicked out most other forms of art. Although it's true that it might have entered a more postmodernish phase.

(I'm taking avant garde here to mean 'cutting edge' art).
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Douglas Lain
Posted on Saturday, May 07, 2005 - 01:14 pm:   

Here's my definition of Avant Garde:

The vanguard, a small troop of highly skilled soldiers, explores the terrain ahead of a large advancing army and plots the course for the army to follow. This concept is applied to the work done by small bands of intellectuals and artists as they open pathways through new cultural or political terrain, for the mass of society to follow.

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Carole C
Posted on Saturday, May 07, 2005 - 01:45 pm:   

'The origin of the artistic avant-garde can be fixed at May 17, 1863, the opening of the Salon des RefusÚs in Paris, organised by painters whose work was rejected for the annual Paris Salon of officially sanctioned academic art. Salons des RefusÚs was held in 1874, 1875, and 1886.'

This is interesting, as my friends often used to say that, now, avant-garde art is itself absolutely like the Paris Salon, rather than the Salon des Refuses. In other words, it's got extremely rigid and dictatorial (just ask any student).

Avant garde art might be defunct, because its difficult to keep coming up with new ideas, when most of the really innovative art was created in the early part of the century. So if you are taking a political view of it, then actually it might indeed be an effective mirror of society, as it is becoming so rigid and rule driven. In fact, the nice lecturers at my college used to make jokes about us thinking it was a place of freedom, when in fact it was more like a nazi prison camp (I kid you not - these were their actual words).
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JV
Posted on Saturday, May 07, 2005 - 02:57 pm:   

I think in countries with repressive regimes, the publication of satire, for example, that the regime doesn't recognize as such, can be a form of relief for the populace. I'm thinking of Eastern Europe under communism, for example.

Does it transform the world? I don't know. But it helps make life viable for some.

JeffV
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Kenny
Posted on Saturday, May 07, 2005 - 11:52 pm:   

Igor Stravinsky's ballet, The Rite of Spring inspired rioting in the streets after its 1913 Paris premiere.

The shock made those who heard it rethink what they before thought they understood about music.

I'm told Nicholas Nicholby caused a scandal by revealing the condition of children's boarding schools.

Did these things transform the world? First I'd need to know what would it mean to transform the world? And then I'd need a system to evaluate how we measure it if it happened?
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al duncan
Posted on Sunday, May 08, 2005 - 04:35 am:   

More importantly, do you think art has the power to transform the world?

Yes.

If so, can you point to an example?

The Bible.

What? Did you mean transform the world in a good way? Shit. Now that's a trickier one.
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Douglas Lain
Posted on Monday, May 09, 2005 - 02:24 pm:   

JV: Many black market newspapers were sought out in the former Soviet Union. I wonder if the same is true of black market fiction.
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Bob Urell
Posted on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - 06:29 am:   

I've always maintained, and my every exposure to all forms of art has reinforced this for me, that WE are the art. The art is within us, not upon the canvas or the page, and therefore, it's only through the viewer, not the artist, that the art exists at all. Our reaction to the work is the art, which is exactly the reaction we have in other occasions of our encounters with the sublime. It reminds us, in various ways, how small and insignificant and fragile we are. It does this in diverse ways and by different degrees for each person, and so it can indeed change the individual viewer. But such a unique experience, not calculable or qualified by any means, spreads its power for effect too thin and renders it immediately powerless against a mob, but potentially omnipotent in its influence if it can endure the quixotic meander of fashion that always plagues the shallowest edges of art.
Can art change the world? Only if the world can be changed by such a diffuse power as a singular reaction amidst the chaos of the herd from which it emerges....
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Douglas Lain
Posted on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - 07:54 pm:   

I'm not sure that we are the Art. If by this you mean that art should be lived then I agree. If you mean that the art takes place inside our head then I'd have to agree, but so does everything. If you mean that we are the commodities that are called Art I might agree, but only in despair.

Only if the world can be changed by such a diffuse power as a singular reaction amidst the chaos of the herd from which it emerges....

This is an interesting thought. Does art emerge from the sameness of the herd? How? I think the position of the avant garde was that liberatory art can indeed emerge from the herd. The opposition of the Avant Garde was, in its way, an attempt to redeem the prevailing culture.

Does the herd produce the rope by which we will hang it?
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Bob Urell
Posted on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - 08:04 pm:   

I mean that art (Art) produces a singular reaction, which becomes, upon fruition, an idea that is particular in content and strength to each viewer and therefore only one idea among the chaos of many, and only as effective for change as any other of those myriad ideas. As for what I meant by "we are the art," I mean simply to extend the old empirical argument that phenomena only exist in the manner that we perceive them. Works of creativity can exist sans perception, but they can only be art via the reaction they engender upon their audience, us, and therefore we are, by our powers of perception, the art.
Though, now that I think of it, the term "Change the world" is so imprecise. If art changes only one person, hasn't, by consequence, the world changed?

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