Michelle Marder Kamhi's "Who Says That's Art?"


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And art means what?

--Brant

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour".

(I call your Robert Frost and raise you some William Blake).;)

He bid you with a question,

You saw him with a Blake,

I see you with light.

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I’m not knowledgeable or passionate about art but I have followed many of your conversations with interest. When you  point out the inconsistency that music doesn’t fit her criteria but she called it

LOL. Look at the amount of verbiage you produced when I didn't even cite a passage.  What would I be in for if I did? Ellen  btw, I haven't read any further than the sentence I quoted,

I could, abundant passages, like approximately the whole book. But I don't have the time, and if I did have the time, I wouldn't want to spend it on so frustrating a proceeding - way worse than t

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Blake is great:

A truth told with bad intent

Beats all the lies you can invent.

That reminded me of an odd movie quote:

"Sometimes the wrong train gets you to the right station."

Greg

Where they remove the body.

--Brant

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But in essence there were these distinctions in the arts; utilitarian art, decorative art, and mimic art. Also these are art forms across cultures and across time (except for our contemporary state).

That's false. Those distinctions did not exist throughout the history of art, nor across cultures and time. What Kamhi has done is a bit of spin. She played a little shell game with the terms "pleasurable arts," "useful arts," "fine arts," and "decorative arts'" and she shuffled them and their historical time frames. It was an obvious and artlessly performed trick, but you fell for it because you went into it wanting to fall for it.

Clarifying the distinctions among the arts helps us understand their natures, and what their purposes are for - for example decorating the body or making figurative sculpture for spiritual reasons. This chapter is an excellent way to refute that art is anything.

To whom is it an excellent way to refute that art is anything? Kamhi's practice of using the argument from personal incredulity is not going to be an effective argument to people who aren't eager to be fooled by it.

She did discuss Kant, quite cleverly too. She steered clear of his Concepts of the Sublime, but stayed with his concepts of Beauty, which dovetail well with a classic view of art. The clever part is that by doing that, she takes Kant at his word, that the C of Sublime are not about art, and more importantly she shows there is a universal nature of figurative art.

Heh. Man, how I wish she had discussed Kant on the Sublime. It's really too bad that she's probably unaware of Objectivists like you, Hicks and others pigheadedly misinterpreting the issue of the Sublime. There would be so much comedic value in watching her attempting to straighten you out on the subject.

J

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It's so cool to see the chain of influence and how it affects art: Kant's concept of the Sublime unknowingly affected Rand so deeply that she made it her signature aesthetic style, and then Rand's Kantian Sublime art affected Newberry so deeply that he unknowingly incorporated Kantian Sublimity into his own art. And Newberry even adopted Rand's personal practice of experiencing Kantian Sublimity via making Kant such a powerful villain that he could stimulate Kantian Sublimity in them. Damn, they just fricking love and live for Kantian Sublimity!!!

J

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Jonathan in #671 quotes me: "The idea that 're-creation of reality' means something broader than mimesis of specific objects and people has only gradually crept into Objectivist writing and thinking - including the Blumenthals in their music lectures and Peikoff in OPAR. She passed away much too soon for this case to be made to her, and for her to consider changing her defective portrayal of what a 're-creation of reality' is."

He commented: "People have begun to attempt to broaden the term because they're starting to recognize what Rand didn't: that Rand's meaning of the term and her criteria end up eliminating art forms that Rand didn't want eliminated. It wasn't a defective portrayal. It's as good a standard as any other arbitrarily selected standard. It represents the line that Rand wanted to draw in separating art from non-art. The only drawback is that, if employed consistently, it ends up eliminating what Rand and many of her followers don't want eliminated. The problem is that there isn't a fix. It is not possible to come up with rational and consistent criteria which will achieve the results that Rand and her followers would find acceptable, which is to keep the abstract forms of music and architecture while eliminating the abstract forms of abstract painting and sculpture."

Actually, I have to amend what I said. Rand did indeed revise her interpretation of what "re-creation of reality" means before she passed away. It was simply not generally announced as a change, and it didn't appear in print until OPAR was published in 1991.

Peikoff's 1976 lectures on "The Philosophy of Objectivism" were attended by Rand and almost certainly crafted with her careful supervision. This following verbatim quote from lecture 11 surely would not have been approved beforehand or failed to be commented on in the Q-A section afterward, if it were not done with her knowledge and agreement. Instead, it was replicated with minimal editing in OPAR 15 years later and echoed in other comments made here and there by Peikoff in lectures and prefaces to new editions of her books. So, I think we can reasonably assume that Peikoff is here speaking for Rand in this passage:

(Peikoff 1976, lecture 11) What the artist does—and this is whether he knows it or not, whether he can identify his activity in these terms or not—what the artist does is to create a version of the universe, with the accidental or ambiguous aspects of daily life eliminated. He selects those aspects that he regards as truly indicative of the nature of man and reality. He produces, in effect, a universe shorn of all irrelevancies and broadcasting its essential nature: and he then offers his universe to man and says, “This is what is important about reality.This is what counts. If you want to know the metaphysical nature of the universe and man, look at my painting or read my novel, and you will know it.”

Now, against this background, we reach the Objectivist definition of “art.” Art is a selective re-creation ofreality, according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments.

[if Rand had disapproved of this new, improved "background" for her definition of "art," she would have squawked, loudly - and/or commented indignantly in the Q-A - neither of which she did. And no one in ARI-Land has challenged either Rand or Peikoff on this point. Only revisionists such as Michele Kamhi who cling to the idea that mimesis or re-creation of reality means just re-creation of objects and events. Since I'm often critical and skeptical of what comes out of ARI, it is amusing and startling to me that I find myself on the same side of the issue, but stuff happens...]

(Peikoff 1976 again) The artist is the closest man comes to being God, not in the sense that he creates a universe out of nothing,but in the sense that he re-creates. In other words, given the materials and concretes of reality, he omits, selects, re-arranges, and thereby creates a universe anew, according to how he sees the nature of the original one.

[What is personally gratifying to me is that, working independently and in frustration and irritation with Rand et al for "not getting it right," I had arrived at essentially this same position in 1974 in an unpublished essay that I submitted to Tibor Machan for publication in Reason Papers. An anonymous peer reviewer said that no one means what I said "imitation" and "re-creation" mean, and that my view was just trivial or tautological. Well, I'm glad to see that I'm in good company.]

(Peikoff 1976 again) And that is why we can validly speak of “the world of Shakespeare,” “the universe of Hugo,” etc. They actually do create a world. Not in the mystical sense, of course; but they do re-create reality by the guidance, conscious or otherwise, of their metaphysical value-judgments.

Jonathan further commented: "...it's kind of odd that you're claiming to know the term's true and proper meaning, while not knowing who prior to Rand came up with or used this alleged true and proper meaning of the term. In other words, you seem to be taking the position that whatever meaning you come up with and want it to mean is it true, proper and traditionally and historically established meaning!"

Are there any remaining doubts about which meaning "Rand came up with" is the "true and proper" one? Version 1 c. 1960 or Version 2 c. 1976? I hope not. (If you doubt the accuracy of my transcription of Peikoff's 1976 lecture, you can download the whole set of lectures from the Ayn Rand e-store for less than $10 and "see" for yourself.)

Gosh, isn't this amazing. It appears that my "subjective whim" ("whatever meaning I come up with and want it to mean") turns out to be true after all. Fancy that.

Or...maybe I was just using my rational faculty and correcting Rand's bone-headed earlier presentations before she and Peikoff got around to it. Naw, that couldn't be.

REB

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Jonathan in #671 quotes me: "Plus, are you sure that she was the inventor of the term "re-creation of reality"? John Hospers said that the term was floating around in aesthetics discussions since at least the 1950s, though he didn't provide a citation or example to back up his claims," and he comments: "Until I see citations to back up claims such as Hospers,' I'll treat them as unconfirmed rumors."

Fair enough. When Susanne Langer firmly challenged the idea in her 1953 book Feeling and Form (1953), she alluded to my point:

"Is there justification for the fairly popular notion that one should speak rather of re-creating than of creating things in art?" (10) (She doesn't name names at this point, but she later.)

"Some modest souls, therefore, are content to call art a "re-creation of experience, a 'transcription' of the contemporary world'" (77). (She cites in the same paragraph DeWitt Parker's 1926 The Analysis of Art who says that a painter recreates what he sees; apparently he is one of the "modest souls," but Langer does not indicate whom else she might be thinking of.)

Even without voluminous examples, I hope that suffices to indicate that the idea of art as "re-creation" *was* in the air while and prior to Rand's formulating her ideas and definition. (Which I believe must have happened no later than her 1958 lectures on fiction writing, in which she presented a great deal of her aesthetic ideas that were published during the 1960s. The published version of the lectures edits out a great deal of the chapter on basic concepts and definition of art, which is a huge disservice to historians of Rand's ideas.)

Anyway, I think I know exactly where Rand came up with the idea, and the components of the phrase, that is the core of her definition. This is only conjecture, but two very prominent philosophers wrote works in the early 50s that Rand is sure to have heard about and probably to have read. I've already mentioned Langer. The other is Albert Camus in the chapter entitled "Rebellion in Art" in his The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt (1951).

Camus (1951), who views artists as engaging in a kind of struggle characteristic of revolution and rebellion, says: "In every rebellion is to be found the metaphysical demand for unity, the impossibility of capturing it, and the construction of a substitute universe. Rebellion, from this point of view, is a fabricator of universes. This also defines art." (255; emphasis added)

Camus is speaking generally here: “This tendency is common to all the arts. The artist reconstructs the world according to his plan” (255; emphasis added).[10] He also refers to the artwork as “the re-created universe” (269).

Such re-creation or reconstruction, however, is not wholesale. Rather, it is selective. Camus says: "This correction which the artist imposes by his language and by a redistribution of elements derived from reality is called style and gives the re-created universe its unity and its boundaries.[12] (269; emphasis added) . . . To reproduce the elements of reality without making any kind of selection would be, if such an undertaking could be imagined, nothing but a sterile repetition of creation." (270; emphasis added)

Naturally, Camus being an Existentialist, is not someone Rand could admit to having read and admired, even in this respect. Even Aristotle's supposed comment that fiction represents "things as they might be and ought to be," was not a direct quote, but was cobbled together by Albert Jay Nock from two separate comments, and then read and taken as accurate by Rand. Sloppy scholarship there, and never corrected. (Tore Boeckmann in his essay in the ARI volume on The Fountainhead claims that while the quote was not literally accurate, its "implications" were. Now we know the acceptable level of scholarship for the Ayn Rand Institute, if we didn't already.)

Langer also says a great deal about selectivity in art (76-77). It's clear that the selectivity component of Rand's definition of "art" was also already "in the air" when she developed her aesthetic ideas.

Perhaps Rand didn't read one or both of these books. But her basic pattern was to find thinkers she disapproved of in some respect, and either to push against them or to borrow from and rephrase them. It would have been altogether like her to, at least, pick up a phrase or idea here, another one there, etc., then to have a moment of epiphany to realize that "certainly, things aren't re-created, it's reality that's re-created," then not to do due diligence on clarifying her definition until after the 2nd edition of The Romantic Manifesto went into print. Next stop: Peikoff's 1976 Objectivism lectures, where the needed clarification got made.

This may be a "just-so" story, or it may be exactly/approximately what really happened. It really doesn't matter, as much as realizing that she *did* eventually adopt the "art as microcosm" view, even while following her long-established pattern of not announcing the change (e.g., her definition of "reason") or of trying to misrepresent by minimalizing her previous view (e.g., the Nietzchean ideas in the first edition of We the Living) or trying to airbrush away the embarrassing idea entirely (e.g., asking Binswanger to omit the entry on "architecture" from his Lexicon). (Perhaps we should start a pool on what forthcoming edition of The Virtue of Selfishness will have eliminated the virtue of honesty.)

REB

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When Susanne Langer firmly challenged the idea in her 1953 book Feeling and Form (1953), she alluded to my point:

"Is there justification for the fairly popular notion that one should speak rather of re-creating than of creating things in art?" (10) (She doesn't name names at this point, but she later.)

"Some modest souls, therefore, are content to call art a "re-creation of experience, a 'transcription' of the contemporary world'" (77). (She cites in the same paragraph DeWitt Parker's 1926 The Analysis of Art who says that a painter recreates what he sees; apparently he is one of the "modest souls," but Langer does not indicate whom else she might be thinking of.)

Even without voluminous examples, I hope that suffices to indicate that the idea of art as "re-creation" *was* in the air while and prior to Rand's formulating her ideas and definition. (Which I believe must have happened no later than her 1958 lectures on fiction writing, in which she presented a great deal of her aesthetic ideas that were published during the 1960s. The published version of the lectures edits out a great deal of the chapter on basic concepts and definition of art, which is a huge disservice to historians of Rand's ideas.)

Anyway, I think I know exactly where Rand came up with the idea, and the components of the phrase, that is the core of her definition. This is only conjecture, but two very prominent philosophers wrote works in the early 50s that Rand is sure to have heard about and probably to have read. I've already mentioned Langer. The other is Albert Camus in the chapter entitled "Rebellion in Art" in his The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt (1951).

Camus (1951), who views artists as engaging in a kind of struggle characteristic of revolution and rebellion, says: "In every rebellion is to be found the metaphysical demand for unity, the impossibility of capturing it, and the construction of a substitute universe. Rebellion, from this point of view, is a fabricator of universes. This also defines art." (255; emphasis added)

Camus is speaking generally here: “This tendency is common to all the arts. The artist reconstructs the world according to his plan” (255; emphasis added).[10] He also refers to the artwork as “the re-created universe” (269).

Such re-creation or reconstruction, however, is not wholesale. Rather, it is selective. Camus says: "This correction which the artist imposes by his language and by a redistribution of elements derived from reality is called style and gives the re-created universe its unity and its boundaries.[12] (269; emphasis added) . . . To reproduce the elements of reality without making any kind of selection would be, if such an undertaking could be imagined, nothing but a sterile repetition of creation." (270; emphasis added)

Naturally, Camus being an Existentialist, is not someone Rand could admit to having read and admired, even in this respect. Even Aristotle's supposed comment that fiction represents "things as they might be and ought to be," was not a direct quote, but was cobbled together by Albert Jay Nock from two separate comments, and then read and taken as accurate by Rand. Sloppy scholarship there, and never corrected. (Tore Boeckmann in his essay in the ARI volume on The Fountainhead claims that while the quote was not literally accurate, its "implications" were. Now we know the acceptable level of scholarship for the Ayn Rand Institute, if we didn't already.)

Langer also says a great deal about selectivity in art (76-77). It's clear that the selectivity component of Rand's definition of "art" was also already "in the air" when she developed her aesthetic ideas.

Perhaps Rand didn't read one or both of these books. But her basic pattern was to find thinkers she disapproved of in some respect, and either to push against them or to borrow from and rephrase them. It would have been altogether like her to, at least, pick up a phrase or idea here, another one there, etc., then to have a moment of epiphany to realize that "certainly, things aren't re-created, it's reality that's re-created," then not to do due diligence on clarifying her definition until after the 2nd edition of The Romantic Manifesto went into print. Next stop: Peikoff's 1976 Objectivism lectures, where the needed clarification got made.

This may be a "just-so" story, or it may be exactly/approximately what really happened. It really doesn't matter, as much as realizing that she *did* eventually adopt the "art as microcosm" view, even while following her long-established pattern of not announcing the change (e.g., her definition of "reason") or of trying to misrepresent by minimalizing her previous view (e.g., the Nietzchean ideas in the first edition of We the Living) or trying to airbrush away the embarrassing idea entirely (e.g., asking Binswanger to omit the entry on "architecture" from his Lexicon). (Perhaps we should start a pool on what forthcoming edition of The Virtue of Selfishness will have eliminated the virtue of honesty.)

REB

Great info Roger. I wonder if the surge of modern art didn't inspire good people to think of counter examples? In other centuries things like melody and figurative art would have been taken for granted that they were obviously the stuff that art was.

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(Peikoff 1976, lecture 11) What the artist does—and this is whether he knows it or not, whether he can identify his activity in these terms or not—what the artist does is to create a version of the universe, with the accidental or ambiguous aspects of daily life eliminated. He selects those aspects that he regards as truly indicative of the nature of man and reality. He produces, in effect, a universe shorn of all irrelevancies and broadcasting its essential nature: and he then offers his universe to man and says, “This is what is important about reality.This is what counts. If you want to know the metaphysical nature of the universe and man, look at my painting or read my novel, and you will know it.”

My bold. This is excellent.

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A valuable intercession, Roger, thanks a bunch for your input. Looking back I now see the extent of the needless argument premised on the ambiguity of "re-creation".

Re-arranging reality, making it all over again in the artist's image of existence, how it is - or how it should be, was my initial reading of Rand's meaning. Artist as god-like. It was a good enough working model.

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The beauty of this Peikoff (and Rand-endorsed, if not dictated) quote:

(Peikoff 1976, lecture 11) What the artist does—and this is whether he knows it or not, whether he can identify his activity in these terms or not—what the artist does is to create a version of the universe, with the accidental or ambiguous aspects of daily life eliminated. He selects those aspects that he regards as truly indicative of the nature of man and reality. He produces, in effect, a universe shorn of all irrelevancies and broadcasting its essential nature: and he then offers his universe to man and says, “This is what is important about reality.This is what counts. If you want to know the metaphysical nature of the universe and man, look at my painting or read my novel, and you will know it.”

...is that it has the same logical thrust as Aristotle's defense of the Law of Contradiction. Aristotle said that a speaker, whether he knows it or not - especially whether he will ADMIT it or not - is assuming that words have meaning, that things are what they are, that there is a world in which he lives and speaks, etc., that all of these things have identity. Thus, even attempting to deny it must rely on it in the attempt. (The academics call this Reaffirmation through Denial.)

I think that Rand, on the above interpretation (Peikoff-Rand 1976), has put her finger on the axiomatic nature of art, which is a lot more basic than imitation of nature or mimesis of this or that object from the world (Rand circa 1958-69).

It's a rather more ecumenical definition, too. It allows for modern/abstract art to present a "world," just as traditional/representational art does. It still doesn't relieve us of the responsibility and effort of figuring out how to identify and evaluate the meaning of abstract art. But it does provide a leveler playing field.

REB

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The beauty of this Peikoff (and Rand-endorsed, if not dictated) quote:

(Peikoff 1976, lecture 11) What the artist does—and this is whether he knows it or not, whether he can identify his activity in these terms or not—what the artist does is to create a version of the universe, with the accidental or ambiguous aspects of daily life eliminated. He selects those aspects that he regards as truly indicative of the nature of man and reality. He produces, in effect, a universe shorn of all irrelevancies and broadcasting its essential nature: and he then offers his universe to man and says, “This is what is important about reality.This is what counts. If you want to know the metaphysical nature of the universe and man, look at my painting or read my novel, and you will know it.”

I think that Rand, on the above interpretation (Peikoff-Rand 1976), has put her finger on the axiomatic nature of art, which is a lot more basic than imitation of nature or mimesis of this or that object from the world (Rand circa 1958-69).

It's a rather more ecumenical definition, too. It allows for modern/abstract art to present a "world," just as traditional/representational art does. It still doesn't relieve us of the responsibility and effort of figuring out how to identify and evaluate the meaning of abstract art. But it does provide a leveler playing field.

REB

Undoubted the above quote is important in understanding the root of art.

I am curious where Kahmi will go with abstract art, but I believe she set up that argument in the first chapter, in every culture there are textiles, pottery, decorations to make people and things more beautiful, hair design - the decorative arts. While in those same cultures figurative sculptures and paintings carry higher or spiritual meanings. She has alluded to modern trends to eradicate this distinction. I guess that she is heading towards calling the modern times the age of pretension, ha, a potter posing as a 21st Century Michelangelo is pretentious.

A complex theory I have is that if you take Kant's Concepts of the Sublime and surge that with the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim commandment that people should not make graven images and combine that with an artist that wants to make sublime works. It leads inevitably to abstract art and beyond. In every class I taught there were artists that wanted to make intensely "spiritual" works, not necessarily representational rather the student had a vague unformed idea of doing a grand metaphysical work. This idea by the way is the most motivating concept I have seen embraced by serious fine art college students. I believe Kahmi will be stating that this modern stance, abstract work and beyond, is not universal in world cultures, and is really a decadent disintegration of culture.

BTW, I had to look up ecumenical.

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My viewpoint is that if artists believe that they're expressing - or if viewers (or listeners) believe that they're detecting - moral dictums, or any type of specific statements, in abstract painting and sculpture (or in music or architecture), they're mistaken. Thus if, for instance, a painter says, "I meant such and such moral message," and a viewer claims to detect the message the painter claims to have meant, what's happened wasn't "communication."

Ellen

I think that is true, including representational work. But it does exist in propaganda, political cartoons, in which people can certainly grasp the message - like the recent cartoons of the pencils breaking, and multiplying, and being missiles ( the Hebo massacre). Personally I am finding it helpful to share why I painted something, it's a subtle difference in sharing what a work is about and gives the viewer a little insight into where the work came from, yet leaves them free to interrupt the work.

Um, Michael, do you not remember having authored essays on "detecting metaphysical value-judgments" in works of art?!!!! And now you've swung to the total extreme opposite view?!!!

I don't see any swing to the total opposite view. "Moral dictums, or any type of specific statements" aren't "metaphysical value-judgments."

Maybe you don't understand what the latter are. They're basic attitudes about existence, and about man's nature. Is the universe comprehensible? Does man possess volition? Etc. They're conveyed in an art work by what's shown. They aren't statements, such as you gave, which you said the art works you were talking about mean.

Consider Atlas Shrugged. The "metaphysical value-judgments" are presented strongly, blaring-of-trumpets noticeably. But the art work doesn't mean such a statement as "Humans should live by the author's ethics." Galt's Speech could be said to mean that, but Galt's Speech is a discursive, essay-type segment within the novel. The work as a whole presents a world, and gives readers the experience of that world. It isn't ciphers referring to the concepts of a statement.

Maybe if you try to answer this question, you'll see the difference.

Where in those two paintings are the code elements which mean "humans," "should," "desirable," etc. What particular pieces of the pictures can be looked up in a dictionary of definitions?

Ellen

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I'm not defending Kamhi or presenting a united front on her behalf. I debated her and Lou's ideas on music and architecture, and art in general, over a 5 year period in JARS and that's enough. I may read this new book of hers some day, but I don't think there's any new reasoning in it beyond her and Lou's first book 15+ years ago.

Roger,

I only read snatches of the Torres/Kamhi book. I found the style tedious. So I can't compare the reasoning for newness.

However, there's lots of material on art history and the development of the current artworld, and surely much more about specifically the art of painting than in the previous book. Probably also more about neuroscience research - plus material about books published since 2000.

You can access the book on Kindle. I recommend giving it a try.

Ellen

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I don't see any swing to the total opposite view.

Yeah, recently you've become quite fond of not seeing what you don't want to see. Go back and review this thread from the beginning for multiple examples. The old, bright Ellen is gone, and has been replaced with the new, petty, electron-chasing Ellen who doesn't look before she leaps.

"Moral dictums, or any type of specific statements" aren't "metaphysical value-judgments."

Maybe you don't understand what the latter are.

That, or maybe you should look before you leap, and actually read the essays to which I was referring before going off on yet another dumb electron chase? Heh. Oh, and you also might want to read Kamhi's response to one of Newberry's "detecting" essays. It would be fun to see which side you'd take in that clusterfuck skirmish.

J

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Jonathan in #671 quotes me: "The idea that 're-creation of reality' means something broader than mimesis of specific objects and people has only gradually crept into Objectivist writing and thinking - including the Blumenthals in their music lectures and Peikoff in OPAR. She passed away much too soon for this case to be made to her, and for her to consider changing her defective portrayal of what a 're-creation of reality' is."

He commented: "People have begun to attempt to broaden the term because they're starting to recognize what Rand didn't: that Rand's meaning of the term and her criteria end up eliminating art forms that Rand didn't want eliminated. It wasn't a defective portrayal. It's as good a standard as any other arbitrarily selected standard. It represents the line that Rand wanted to draw in separating art from non-art. The only drawback is that, if employed consistently, it ends up eliminating what Rand and many of her followers don't want eliminated. The problem is that there isn't a fix. It is not possible to come up with rational and consistent criteria which will achieve the results that Rand and her followers would find acceptable, which is to keep the abstract forms of music and architecture while eliminating the abstract forms of abstract painting and sculpture."

Actually, I have to amend what I said. Rand did indeed revise her interpretation of what "re-creation of reality" means before she passed away. It was simply not generally announced as a change, and it didn't appear in print until OPAR was published in 1991.

Peikoff's 1976 lectures on "The Philosophy of Objectivism" were attended by Rand and almost certainly crafted with her careful supervision. This following verbatim quote from lecture 11 surely would not have been approved beforehand or failed to be commented on in the Q-A section afterward, if it were not done with her knowledge and agreement. Instead, it was replicated with minimal editing in OPAR 15 years later and echoed in other comments made here and there by Peikoff in lectures and prefaces to new editions of her books. So, I think we can reasonably assume that Peikoff is here speaking for Rand in this passage:

(Peikoff 1976, lecture 11) What the artist does—and this is whether he knows it or not, whether he can identify his activity in these terms or not—what the artist does is to create a version of the universe, with the accidental or ambiguous aspects of daily life eliminated. He selects those aspects that he regards as truly indicative of the nature of man and reality. He produces, in effect, a universe shorn of all irrelevancies and broadcasting its essential nature: and he then offers his universe to man and says, “This is what is important about reality.This is what counts. If you want to know the metaphysical nature of the universe and man, look at my painting or read my novel, and you will know it.”

Now, against this background, we reach the Objectivist definition of “art.” Art is a selective re-creation ofreality, according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments.

[if Rand had disapproved of this new, improved "background" for her definition of "art," she would have squawked, loudly - and/or commented indignantly in the Q-A - neither of which she did. And no one in ARI-Land has challenged either Rand or Peikoff on this point. Only revisionists such as Michele Kamhi who cling to the idea that mimesis or re-creation of reality means just re-creation of objects and events. Since I'm often critical and skeptical of what comes out of ARI, it is amusing and startling to me that I find myself on the same side of the issue, but stuff happens...]

(Peikoff 1976 again) The artist is the closest man comes to being God, not in the sense that he creates a universe out of nothing,but in the sense that he re-creates. In other words, given the materials and concretes of reality, he omits, selects, re-arranges, and thereby creates a universe anew, according to how he sees the nature of the original one.

[What is personally gratifying to me is that, working independently and in frustration and irritation with Rand et al for "not getting it right," I had arrived at essentially this same position in 1974 in an unpublished essay that I submitted to Tibor Machan for publication in Reason Papers. An anonymous peer reviewer said that no one means what I said "imitation" and "re-creation" mean, and that my view was just trivial or tautological. Well, I'm glad to see that I'm in good company.]

(Peikoff 1976 again) And that is why we can validly speak of “the world of Shakespeare,” “the universe of Hugo,” etc. They actually do create a world. Not in the mystical sense, of course; but they do re-create reality by the guidance, conscious or otherwise, of their metaphysical value-judgments.

Jonathan further commented: "...it's kind of odd that you're claiming to know the term's true and proper meaning, while not knowing who prior to Rand came up with or used this alleged true and proper meaning of the term. In other words, you seem to be taking the position that whatever meaning you come up with and want it to mean is it true, proper and traditionally and historically established meaning!"

Are there any remaining doubts about which meaning "Rand came up with" is the "true and proper" one? Version 1 c. 1960 or Version 2 c. 1976? I hope not. (If you doubt the accuracy of my transcription of Peikoff's 1976 lecture, you can download the whole set of lectures from the Ayn Rand e-store for less than $10 and "see" for yourself.)

Gosh, isn't this amazing. It appears that my "subjective whim" ("whatever meaning I come up with and want it to mean") turns out to be true after all. Fancy that.

Or...maybe I was just using my rational faculty and correcting Rand's bone-headed earlier presentations before she and Peikoff got around to it. Naw, that couldn't be.

REB

I don't know what you imagine that the material that you posted proves, but it has no bearing on my position that Rand's notion of "re-create reality" meant that art must be realist/representational rather than abstract. In the material above, you criticize Kamhi for taking the position that Rand's notion of "re-create" means "just re-creation of objects and events." You then quote Peikoff as stating that an artist "creates a universe anew." Are you suggesting that you somehow believe that "creating a universe anew" includes something other than objects and events? Are you somehow interpreting the phrase "create a universe anew" to mean that Rand (through Peikoff) had broadened her position on art being realist/representational, and that she suddenly accepted abstraction?

J

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I'm not defending Kamhi or presenting a united front on her behalf. I debated her and Lou's ideas on music and architecture, and art in general, over a 5 year period in JARS and that's enough. I may read this new book of hers some day, but I don't think there's any new reasoning in it beyond her and Lou's first book 15+ years ago.

Roger,

I only read snatches of the Torres/Kamhi book. I found the style tedious. So I can't compare the reasoning for newness.

However, there's lots of material on art history and the development of the current artworld...

There is indeed a lot of material on art history. Some of it is quite good and accurate. Some of it, however, is spin and distortion.

J

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From the section in Kamhi's book called A Highly Dubious Approach:

The sort of "decoding" I have just described is not essential to a work's appreciation in my view, but it is valid and can enrich one's understanding. Another type of "decoding" that has become all too common in postmodernist culture is far more problematic, however. It seeks to interpret art in terms of presumably hidden biases regarding matters of gender, race, social status, and political power, which are said to be part of a work's "subtext." But its conclusions are often of dubious validity.

An exhibition of paintings at the Metropolitan Museum some years ago contained a telling instance of such questionable "decoding." It concerned the painting Ernesta (Child with Nurse), created in 1894 by the American artist Cecilia Beaux (1855–1942). The image depicts a bright-eyed little girl standing next to her nursemaid, whose hand she grips. The top of the nursemaid's figure is cut off from just below the waist, so that her face is unseen. A zealous curator's wall text prompted viewers to regard the image as revealing the marginalization of nannies in the bourgeois society of the late nineteenth century.

A personal experience of mine some time later called that interpretation sharply into question. My Austrian-born daughter-in-law happened to snap a photograph of her mother and daughter, then a toddler, in which the relationship of the two figures was virtually identical to that in Beaux's painting. By analogy with Beaux's work, are we to conclude that this family photo is indicative of the marginalization of grandmothers in early-twenty-first-century European society? Or is it simply the result of the natural human focus on a much-loved child, who is being held securely by the hand of a caring adult?”

An even more lamentable instance of politically driven misinterpretation pertains to the Post-Impressionist masterpiece Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, by the French painter Georges Seurat (1859–1891). In the sort of Marxist-inspired interpretation that postmodernist theorists are prone to, art historian Linda Nochlin rejects the common impression that the work depicts a happy scene in the park. She argues that the painting is an "anti-utopian allegory"—which reflects "the most advanced stages of the alienation associated with capitalism's radical revision of urban spatial divisions and social hierarchies of [seurat's] time." She claims, moreover, that Seurat went so far as to "actively produc[e]" (emphasis hers) such cultural meanings in the painting "through the invention of visual codes for the modern experience of the city."

Nochlin's politicized interpretation is completely at odds with what an unbiased viewer is likely to see in the painting, however. As one such viewer put it: "It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon. . . . [P]eople are having a great time with friends, the weather is perfect, the water is perfect, the clothing and people are perfect, it just seems like something taken out of a dream."[16] Nochlin's view is also contradicted by what is known about Seurat's goals and concerns as an artist. According to a dissenting scholar: "Nothing we know about Seurat's history, neither his own statements, the eye-witness accounts of acquaintances, nor the writings of contemporary critics who knew him, supports such a thesis."[17] Indeed, when one studies the primary sources available regarding Seurat, the logical conclusion is that the novice student who sees the painting as being about people enjoying themselves in the park comes much closer to the artist's original intent than Nochlin's anti-utopian thesis.[18] This is but one of countless instances in today's artworld in which the judgment of the ordinary person is more reliable than that of reputed experts, for it is based on a natural response to what is seen, rather than on ideological or theoretical considerations.”

Excerpt From: Michelle Marder Kamhi. “Who Says That's Art? A Commonsense View of the Visual Arts.” iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.


In practice, what is the difference between the examples above of postmodernist "decoding" methods arriving at "conclusions that are often of dubious validity," and of Objectivists doing exactly the same thing? I'm curious, once again, why Rand's very dubious interpretations of art weren't discussed in this section, especially since they were reliably much more dubious than postmodernist decodings (which isn't to say that I think that postmodernist decodings have much validity to them). In the realm of dubious ideological Rorschaching and viciously false vilification, postmodernists methods are quite gentle and reserved compared to Objectivist methods. Why is Rand exempt from criticism on these issues in Kamhi's book?

J

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Michelle Kamhi:

"Another type of "decoding" that has become all too common in postmodernist culture is far more problematic, however. It seeks to interpret art in terms of presumably hidden biases regarding matters of gender, race, social status, and political power, which are said to be part of a work's "subtext." But its conclusions are often of dubious validity.

An exhibition of paintings at the Metropolitan Museum some years ago contained a telling instance of such questionable "decoding." It concerned the painting Ernesta (Child with Nurse), created in 1894 by the American artist Cecilia Beaux (18551942). The image depicts a bright-eyed little girl standing next to her nursemaid, whose hand she grips. The top of the nursemaid's figure is cut off from just below the waist, so that her face is unseen. A zealous curator's wall text prompted viewers to regard the image as revealing the marginalization of nannies in the bourgeois society of the late nineteenth century.

A personal experience of mine some time later called that interpretation sharply into question. My Austrian-born daughter-in-law happened to snap a photograph of her mother and daughter, then a toddler, in which the relationship of the two figures was virtually identical to that in Beaux's painting. By analogy with Beaux's work, are we to conclude that this family photo is indicative of the marginalization of grandmothers in early-twenty-first-century European society? Or is it simply the result of the natural human focus on a much-loved child, who is being held securely by the hand of a caring adult?"

This is an example of the Marxist sickness of feminized leftists who constantly need to create imaginary victims dependent upon the State to make everything "fair".

To the hyper-politicized cataract encrusted eyes of the left,

the beauty of a loving relationship is ugly social oppression.

Greg

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Is a "masculinized leftest" a contradiction in terms?

--Brant

Sort of from Greg's definitional structure...maybe metrosexual would work as a "masculinized leftist."

Top Definition

metrosexual

You might be "metrosexual" if:

1. You just can't walk past a Banana Republic store without making a purchase.

2. You own 20 pairs of shoes, half a dozen pairs of sunglasses, just as many watches and you carry a man-purse.

3. You see a stylist instead of a barber, because barbers don't do highlights.

4. You can make her lamb shanks and risotto for dinner and Eggs Benedict for breakfast... all from scratch.

5. You only wear Calvin Klein boxer-briefs.

6. You shave more than just your face. You also exfoliate and moisturize.

7. You would never, ever own a pickup truck.

8. You can't imagine a day without hair styling products.

9. You'd rather drink wine than beer... but you'll find out what estate and vintage first.

10. Despite being flattered (even proud) that gay guys hit on you, you still find the thought of actually getting intimate with another man truly repulsive.

"Some people think he's gay, but he's actually metrosexual."

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Jonathan in #692 wrote: "Are you suggesting that you somehow believe that "creating a universe anew" includes something other than objects and events? Are you somehow interpreting the phrase "create a universe anew" to mean that Rand (through Peikoff) had broadened her position on art being realist/representational, and that she suddenly accepted abstraction?"

I don't know for sure whether she (via) Peikoff was broadening her concept of art to include abstract(er) art. But it's consistent with some of what she wrote in "Art in Cognition" in 1971.

She definitely had a distinction between noise (or what she might call "anti-music"), on the one hand (pp. 77-78), and modern music, on the other, which she was apparently referring to with the descriptors "jumbled music" and "broken, random kind of music" (p. 59) or, respectively, something like certain Charles Ives pieces and an assortment of styles including twelve-tone, serial, and aleatoric music.

Using her analogy of physical entities and melodies (which she called "musical entities"), she could have (not saying she did) realized that melodic music was like figural representational art, and further that since non-melodic music was still music (and thus still art), non-figural painting &c was still painting (and thus still art). This would be a logical pathway for her to revise (via Peikoff and, as often, without announcement) her position about whether abstract art is art. (Did she ever say it wasn't? Not sure I saw her say that in so many words. She only ruled out "smears," which is granted a rather vague, rubbery differentia for non-art.)

REB

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Roger, what have you been fighting about on this thread?!?!?! Are you not paying full attention to what's being discussed?!!!

Earlier, you had said:
Rand's discussion on the second page of "Art and Cognition" was grotesquely illogical - and I think the problem is with Rand's and Kamhi's (apparently) concrete-bound misconception of what constitutes a "re-creation of reality."

And I responded:
Rand didn't have a "misconception" of what constitutes a "re-creation of reality." She invented the term and its meaning! As the term's originator, she gets to decide what it means, not you or anyone else, and her meaning was that art must be realistic/representational. Her meaning was that art must be very "concrete-bound," and that it must be a direct, instantly-identifiable-to-all-people, mimetic, imitative, perceptual likeness of things in reality, or, in the case of literature, a verbal/conceptual description of direct, instantly-identifiable-to-all-people, mimetic, imitative, perceptual likeness of things in reality.

Then, in post 680, you posted some excerpts from Peikoff about art creating a universe anew, and then you declared victory and congratulated yourself.

The problem is that the Peikoff material that you posted in 680 does not support your claim that Rand "broadened" the meaning of the term "re-create reality" to mean that art could be anything other than "a direct, instantly-identifiable-to-all-people, mimetic, imitative, perceptual likeness of things in reality."

So, in post 692, I asked you to clarify what you thought that your posting of Peikoff's comments proved, because they have no relevance to the discussion.

And now, in post 699, you say that you don't know if Rand via Peikoff was expanding her meaning of "re-create reality" to include abstract(er) art!!!

WTF?!?!?!

Um, the only possible explanation that I can come up with is that you somehow have your own special, personal meaning of the word "abstract," and that you don't understand what "mimetic/imitative" means. Are you somehow under the impression that "abstract" equals "imaginary" or "fictional"? As in, if something in an artwork doesn't exist in reality, like, say, a dragon, or a unicorn, or John Galt, then it is "abstract"? And therefore you think that any painting of a dragon, no matter how realistically rendered, is an example of "abstract art"? Is that the mistaken notion that you're laboring under?

If not, then I have to ask again, what do you imagine that you've been fighting about on this thread?!!! In what way do you imagine that Rand and Kamhi have been too concrete-bound in identifying what Rand meant by "re-creation of reality"?

J

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