Why is modern art so bad?


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Does art have objective standards?

No, it does not.

But, if you disagree, then please identify the specific objective standards, demonstrate how you logically arrived at them, and give examples of their being applied in reality. Perhaps start by objectively proving which painting is objectively better qua art, da Vinci's Mona Lisa or Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring.

Then maybe move on to "objectively" proving which of your other subjective tastes is "objectively" superior, such as whether chocolate is an "objectively" better flavor than vanilla, or whether dill is "objectively" tastier than rosemary.

Thanks.

J

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Jonathan,

I know this is a hot button issue with you, but do you believe evaluations can have objective standards?

I'm thinking of normative abstractions. Does normative = subjective to you?

The reason I ask is because, whenever this issue comes up and you get testy, I generally see you compare one work against another work, rather than one work against a standard on a scale.

For example, you said, "Perhaps start by objectively proving which painting is objectively better qua art, da Vinci's Mona Lisa or Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring."

On those terms--with no standards or scale-lines stipulated--I agree that all evaluations have to be subjective. However, if we use a standard for qualification and a scale-line for measurement--let me choose a goofy one for clarity--like, say, depiction of jewelry or quantity of blue, we would have to conclude the "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is superior. The "Mona Lisa" depicts no jewelry and has very little blue in it. That is, of course, if our scale-lines are defined as more blue superior and more jewelry superior.

You could flip that scale-line, too, if you are looking for something else. For example, to match colors with objects other than the painting, etc. It is conceivable that more blue and/or more jewelry would be inferior for that outcome. So the scale-line would reflect that. It would depend on what you are looking for.

I see objectivity here. According to the standard of quantity of blue and a scale-line where more blue is better, it is objective to say the "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is superior to the "Mona Lisa." Why? Because this can be proven.

Once we get into the more abstract concepts of art, I believe we can use the same reasoning. But this is a very long topic and, like I said elsewhere, I am not convinced of Rand's concept of sense of life is a good overall normative standard. She had aesthetic standards, too, which were technique, quality of performance, etc., but she used art as a whip according to her normative standard, not her aesthetic one.

I have my own hypothesis evolving in my mind and it includes story as a standard for all the arts, including plastic arts, but it is nowhere near fleshed out. And believe it or not, it makes room for modern art without denigrating it. (btw - Story is not the only idea in my mix, but it is fundamental as I believe humans cannot stop thinking in stories.)

In fact, I believe this story idea is implicit in Rand's own standard. One type of story for her is where people actively make conclusions about things they confront. Another is where people simply react to things on an emotional level. And another is where people evade making conclusions and/or reactions altogether. Using those three types of story (and mixes thereof), you can set them on a scale of two, actually:

Evasions the worst (boo!) <------------------> Active rational conclusions the best (yay!)

Thus we have her normative judgments of superior and inferior. And to confuse matters, sometimes she talked about aesthetic judgments of superior and inferior (i.e., technique).


I got my three-types-of-story (and two-story poles) approach for Rand from her own words: Sense of Life.

He may draw conscious conclusions, which may be true or false; or he may remain mentally passive and merely react to events (i.e., merely feel). Whatever the case may be, his subconscious mechanism sums up his psychological activities, integrating his conclusions, reactions or evasions into an emotional sum that establishes a habitual pattern and becomes his automatic response to the world around him.

Using that standard and scale-line, it is possible to set criteria for judging art. The judgment would be objective so long as the standard and scale were referenced and the elements of the art work were shown to actually correspond to the standard.

(The devil is in the details of doing that. :smile: )

A judgement would not be objective if it used no standard and scale.

Also, note that if different standards are used, it is possible to have an objective judgement of superior for a work according to one standard, then an objective judgement of inferior for the same work according to a different standard. In other words, the same work can objectively be called superior or inferior, depending on which standard is used.

Is the standard Rand used the most inclusive for judging art? Could it ever be a good indication a superior soul? These are matters that, I believe, suffer from too much scope trouble to get a yes. But I do believe her standard is a good one to include alongside other ideas and standards. As my idea matures, I will write about it.


Michael

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Jonathan,

I know this is a hot button issue with you, but do you believe evaluations can have objective standards?

I'm thinking of normative abstractions. Does normative = subjective to you?

The reason I ask is because, whenever this issue comes up and you get testy, I generally see you compare one work against another work, rather than one work against a standard on a scale.

For example, you said, "Perhaps start by objectively proving which painting is objectively better qua art, da Vinci's Mona Lisa or Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring."

On those terms--with no standards or scale-lines stipulated--I agree that all evaluations have to be subjective. However, if we use a standard for qualification and a scale-line for measurement--let me choose a goofy one for clarity--like, say, depiction of jewelry or quantity of blue, we would have to conclude the "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is superior. The "Mona Lisa" depicts no jewelry and has very little blue in it. That is, of course, if our scale-lines are defined as more blue superior and more jewelry superior.

Oh, absolutely! We can definitely apply objective standards, but only after we've subjectively -- or even arbitrarily -- chosen a standard by which to measure, such as jewelry or blueness. The point is that we cannot objectively arrive at a preference for jewelry or blueness in the first place.

You could flip that scale-line, too, if you are looking for something else. For example, to match colors with objects other than the painting, etc. It is conceivable that more blue and/or more jewelry would be inferior for that outcome. So the scale-line would reflect that. It would depend on what you are looking for.

Yes, but the scale-line that you're proposing is a subjective preference, if not an arbitrary one. It is not objective. That is true of all scale-lines used to measure subjective taste preferences.

I see objectivity here. According to the standard of quantity of blue and a scale-line where more blue is better, it is objective to say the "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is superior to the "Mona Lisa." Why? Because this can be proven.

We can also apply the same method to judging anything and claiming that the judgment contains "objectivity." Is socialism "objectively" superior to capitalism? Heck yes, but only if we first subjectively select the standards by which we can successfully measure socialism as superior. Let's choose "giving people stuff for free at others' expense" as our standard. By that subjectively chosen standard, socialism can be objectively measured to be better than capitalism.

J

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Here's a thread on OO where Objectivists couldn't tell the difference between "toddler art" and realist Romantic paintings:

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=26463

In fact, one of the administrators judged some of the world's most beloved and highly valued Romanticism as "lesser art"! Was he employing an "objective standard" in doing so?

J

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Does art have objective standards?

No, it does not.

But, if you disagree, then please identify the specific objective standards, demonstrate how you logically arrived at them, and give examples of their being applied in reality. Perhaps start by objectively proving which painting is objectively better qua art, da Vinci's Mona Lisa or Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring.

Then maybe move on to "objectively" proving which of your other subjective tastes is "objectively" superior, such as whether chocolate is an "objectively" better flavor than vanilla, or whether dill is "objectively" tastier than rosemary.

Thanks.

J

At first, I was taking you to mean technical standards by "qua art," but then, in the next paragraph and in your reply to Michael, you talk about "tastes."

I'd like to see you state outright if you think that there are no objective standards of technical proficiency. If you think that there aren't such standards, then, to be consistent, you should use qualifiers such as "in my opinion" many times when you don't use such qualifiers in speaking of technical pluses and minuses.

Ellen

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At first, I was taking you to mean technical standards by "qua art," but then, in the next paragraph and in your reply to Michael, you talk about "tastes."

I meant technical standards and tastes, as in "which technical standards do your subjective tastes make you prefer"?

I'd like to see you state outright if you think that there are no objective standards of technical proficiency.

There are objective standards of technical proficiency, but in order to judge an artist's technical proficiency by any standard, we'd first have to know if he intended to comply with that standard. For example, a viewer might choose to judge a work of art as being inferior because it does not technically adhere to visual reality. But art is not necessarily about adhering to visual reality, and the artist may have intended to deviate from reality for expressive purposes. Therefore one cannot just subjectively or arbitrarily choose "adherence to visual reality" as one's standard of judging technical proficiency and call one's judgment "objective."

J

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Jonathan,

There are certain standards and scale-lines that are not subjective.

I hinted at one--the way story works in the human mind. Setting aside a bunch of different definitions out there, a basic fundamental narrative works the same way for everybody and there is a growing body of evidence from psychology and neuroscience to back that up.

If you start with a basic narrative, which will induce a story trance unless you actively resist it or are too tired to pay attention or something like that, there are correct ways to add more and more elements to induce deeper engagement: plain old continuing interest, emotions, morality, free association from metaphors, etc. That means different parts of the brain will light up under an fMRI scan.

That correctness is objective.

But, there is the context of the audience. Art is two-way, not one-way. There are objective standards for the audience, as well. When the two meet correctly on this brain resonance level, magic happens.

But I'm not fully prepared to argue all this just yet.

I'm still reading and pondering and connecting dots.

Leave it to say that the main movie companies don't lose money anymore. Note that nobody forces anybody to watch a movie, TV show or DVD. They have figured out how to make stories appeal to a wide enough audience the world over that if they lose in one market (which only happens with production budgets are monstrous), they pick up the loss in another. Guaranteed every time. There is a great deal of objective testing that has gone into all this at the story level.

Michael

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Does art have objective standards?

No, it does not.

But, if you disagree, then please identify the specific objective standards...

Sure, Jonathan. :smile:

People subjectively perceive beauty when what is on the outside (the world) matches what is on the inside (us).

Now while the perception of beauty is totally subjective... the reality of the outer matching the inner in order to perceive it is objective.

So by virtue of understanding this objective principle:

Those who have beauty within themselves will naturally love that which is beautiful...

...while those within whom ugliness resides will revel in the ugliness they perceive as beauty.

Greg

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What the hell is "Prager University"?

It is a series of brief concise 5 minute talks by a wide variety of speakers on a wide variety of political, social, moral, and religious topics. It is the antidote for the liberal politically correct drivel taught by unproductive tenured failures in government Universities.

As far as I can tell it seems to be a neocon propaganda mill.

Not sure you know the meaning of that word. Dennis is hardly a "New Conservative" as he's my age... and he stands for everything that you absolutely detest.

Greg

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Does art have objective standards?

No, it does not.

But, if you disagree, then please identify the specific objective standards...

Sure, Jonathan. :smile:

People subjectively perceive beauty when what is on the outside (the world) matches what is on the inside (us).

Now while the perception of beauty is totally subjective... the reality of the outer matching the inner in order to perceive it is objective.

So by virtue of understanding this objective principle:

Those who have beauty within themselves will naturally love that which is beautiful...

...while those within whom ugliness resides will revel in the ugliness they perceive as beauty.

Greg

Yeah, I remember that you've posted that theory of yours before. Do you remember that you didn't answer my questions and criticism of it?

Here are links:

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=13569&p=191210

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=13569&p=191456

Now, in addition to those old, unanswered questions, you haven't answered the new ones that I asked you on this thread -- you haven't identified objective standards, demonstrated how you logically arrived at them, or given examples of their being applied in reality. And you haven't proven which of the two paintings that I named is objectively superior.

J

P.S.

Um, you've got a really anti-philosophical, anti-reality mindset, but I do value the fact that you are the person who inspired me to identify the Doubly Irrational Genius Pose:

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=13569&p=191473

I've linked to that post many times in discussions with other Doubly Irrational Geniuses. It's been a valuable resource. So, thank you for that!

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"Better than", "worse than" is an individual value judgment. It all hangs on the totality of one's life: the past, one's experiences, thinking, emotions, morality, aspirations, subconscious, integrity and level of rationality (what one 'knows', in the fullest sense) at any given moment.

Therefore a value judgment has context, and the context is YOU.

"Subjective"? I don't believe so. Unless objectivity means a value-choice must be universal to everybody or perfect, which is ridiculous. My marrying Sue is an objective choice of a partner, through seeking an objective value (of love, intimacy and companionship).

Would this mean that every objectivist in the world should also want Sue?

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Does art have objective standards?

No, it does not.

But, if you disagree, then please identify the specific objective standards...

Sure, Jonathan. :smile:

People subjectively perceive beauty when what is on the outside (the world) matches what is on the inside (us).

Now while the perception of beauty is totally subjective... the reality of the outer matching the inner in order to perceive it is objective.

So by virtue of understanding this objective principle:

Those who have beauty within themselves will naturally love that which is beautiful...

...while those within whom ugliness resides will revel in the ugliness they perceive as beauty.

Greg

Yeah, I remember that you've posted that theory of yours before.

It's not a theory. It's a principle.

Just as there is an objective match of the inner and the outer to subjectively perceive beauty. There is also that same match to express it. Artists who have beauty within them express that inner beauty outwardly in ways that uplift and inspire the human spirit. And in a like manner those with ugliness inside of them will express their inner ugliness in the world in ways that defile and degrade the human spirit. Their ugly expressions will be praised by others who possess the same matching ugliness within them.

How I arrive at the understanding of this principle while you do not, can be accounted for in the completely different standards by which each of us lives.

you haven't identified objective standards, demonstrated how you logically arrived at them, or given examples of their being applied in reality.

No I have not.

For my aim is not to try to convince you... but rather to communicate that I am unconvinced by you.

Each of us has already made our choice of how we will live. Arguing will never change that.

Greg

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"Better than", "worse than" is an individual value judgment. It all hangs on the totality of one's life: the past, experiences, thinking, emotions, morality, aspirations, subconscious, integrity and level of rationality, at any given moment.

Therefore a value judgment has context, and the context is YOU.

That's what "subjective" means! It means "belonging to, proceeding from, or relating to the mind of the thinking subject and not the nature of the object being considered..."

"Subjective"? I don't believe so. Unless objectivity means a value-choice is universal to everybody, which is ridiculous. My marrying Sue is an objective choice of a partner, in seeking an objective value - of love, intimacy, and so on.

Would this mean that every objectivist in the world should also want Sue?

Yes, that's what "objective" means! It means that a proposition is true regardless of the perceiver. It means "of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers..."

Further, the Objectivist view of subjectivity is that it is the state when a person "cannot tell clearly, neither to himself nor to others – and, therefore, cannot prove – which aspects of his experience are inherent" in the object and which are "contributed by his own consciousness." Your preferring Sue as a romantic partner where others do not is such a state. Your preferring DaVinci to Vermeer, or Robert Florczak to Adam Schickling, is a subjective preference. Your preferring very bluntly spelled-out novels and realist paintings to more subtle and abstract art forms such as music, architecture and abstract paintings is subjective.

See, all of your judgements don't become objective just because you want them to be. Objectivity doesn't mean subjectivity when you want it to.

J

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Does art have objective standards?

No, it does not.

But, if you disagree, then please identify the specific objective standards...

Sure, Jonathan. :smile:

People subjectively perceive beauty when what is on the outside (the world) matches what is on the inside (us).

Now while the perception of beauty is totally subjective... the reality of the outer matching the inner in order to perceive it is objective.

So by virtue of understanding this objective principle:

Those who have beauty within themselves will naturally love that which is beautiful...

...while those within whom ugliness resides will revel in the ugliness they perceive as beauty.

Greg

Yeah, I remember that you've posted that theory of yours before.

It's not a theory. It's a principle.

Just as there is an objective match of the inner and the outer to subjectively perceive beauty. There is also that same match to express it. Artists who have beauty within them express that inner beauty outwardly in ways that uplift and inspire the human spirit. And in a like manner those with ugliness inside of them will express their inner ugliness in the world in ways that defile and degrade the human spirit. Their ugly expressions will be praised by others who possess the same matching ugliness within them.

How I arrive at the understanding of this principle while you do not, can be accounted for in the completely different standards by which each of us lives.

you haven't identified objective standards, demonstrated how you logically arrived at them, or given examples of their being applied in reality.

No I have not.

For my aim is not to try to convince you... but rather to communicate that I am unconvinced by you.

Each of us has already made our choice of how we will live. Arguing will never change that.

Greg

Yeah, I know, Greg. You're impervious to reason. You're allergic to proof. And you probably don't even understand what you're being asked to explain. But you want to pose as a guru.

Got it.

J

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What the hell is "Prager University"?

It's sort of a non-university. On its web page it says, "Prager University is not an accredited academic institution and does not offer certifications or diplomas. But it is a place where you are free to learn."

On the Youtube home of Prager, it says: "Prager University is a virtual institution of higher learning with one unique feature -- all of our courses are only 5 minutes."

I thought the video by Robert Florczak was funny/sad. Some guy tells the world how to turn back the tide of so-called bad art in museums in a five minute video. I tend to think that any efforts to produce 'good art' just takes us back to the days of official art that serves noble goals. Like Soviet Realism or the edicts of the Nazi art arbiters.

Here's a few of Florczak's fine art works, from his website. They are lovely examples of a talent for illustration. They have the soul of a nicely polished boot, in my humble opinion.

Winter Rose:

Winter%20Rose-fixed.jpg

Distant Thoughts:

DISTANT-THOUGHTS-%28master%29.png

Moonlit Lovers:

MOONLIT%20LOVERS.jpg

Edited by william.scherk
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How does that tree in Distant Thoughts survive on a rock outcropping a hundred feet in the air? How did those two get up there? Why is he so bored with her? It's not as if his fashion sense is any better

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As a disclaimer, I'm not a big art expert.

What the guy in the video is advocating is bsically nothing more than your standard I-don't-get-it-so-it's-garbage style anti-intellectualism. In order to understand modern art, you have to understand art history, philosophy, as well as the specific artist's previous work and his influences. Before modernism, works of art were comissioned either by the church or the state, or some wealthy patron, for the purpose of promoting and propagating religious, political, and ideological ideas, or just for plain old decoration. This is the context of romanticism and neoclassicism. The modernists rejected these influences and, from what I understand, turned art itself into a criticism of then-contemporary ideas and creating an ongoing discussion, blending art with philosophy.

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A couple of problems here. You conflate several different business models. Royal / ecclesiastical / noble patronage prevailed at least up to the Renaissance, but after that painting and sculpture became increasingly commercial fields with private patrons paying most of the bills. The transformation was pretty well complete by the time of the Romantics. Noble patronage for purposes of state is significantly different from private patronage for private enjoyment, even if the clients happen to be of the aristocracy. The Dutch and Flemish painters, including Rembrandt and Hals, worked mostly for private citizens long before Romanticism came along, so I'd say that the old model was not Romanticism's context.

Modern art began, in the late nineteenth century, on the private-commerce model, but by the middle of the twentieth century it was largely paid for by governments, universities and foundations (the nobility of their day).

Yes, modern art has its propagandistic strain. This is not new; you said yourself that indoctriniation was one of the functions of art centuries earlier. Among the Romantics and Neoclassics, Daumier, Delacroix and Goya come to mind as artists who made political statements.

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I especially like this one...

Is Florczak's work objectively great art?

The Queen of Objectivity declared (purely objectively, of course) that Parrish's work was trash, so it only follows that less technically adept imitations of his style would be less than trash.

It expresses noble human qualities worthy of aspiration.

Which qualities are those? Monarchical rule? Shoddy architecture? Poor ellipse management?

J

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