Objectivist Esthetics, R.I.P.


Jonathan

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btw - For readers who want to know a larger context, I don't believe artists like James Joyce were on a mission to stage a savage attack against man's mind. Ayn Rand's perspective was of the Russian experience, not the European one. Her family lost everything to an incoming dictatorship supported by an uprising of the poor. In Europe, things were different.

At the time the avant garde European artists came up with their new approaches, the world was not on fire from the blaze of an uprising so much as crumbled from rot. Back then, WWI had demolished life as people understood it in Europe. War was no longer glory. It was stinking vermin-infested mud trenches where soldiers picked off each other like lice over four years, that is when the soldiers didn't die from poor hygiene. It seemed like it would never end. And all the old customs based on royalty and upper class privilege didn't serve as a buffer against that. The world for the lower classes to strive for came crashing down.

Some artists started groping in the dark unknown to see if they could find something that would help keep this from happening again. They reasoned that the culture that led up to that war had actually caused it. So merely repeating the old ways might cause a new war.

Joyce was one of those attempts.

My favorite attempt, though, was not among the avant garde folks. It was in a five-volume autobiography in the 1920's by a guy named Frank Harris: My Life and Loves

Harris's theory was that Christianity had taken a bad turn with the Apostle Paul, who instead of teaching the true love of Jesus, taught repression and guilt and all kinds of evil in the name of Jesus. And this exaggerated Grundy-like restraint caused widespread anxiety that swelled and swelled and swelled in European culture until it finally erupted in WWI.

So to counter this, he wanted to take the world back to love, true love, love in all it's forms uncontaminated by control-freak dogma. And to set a good example, he decided to write about his own efforts at love. Obviously, Paul's prudishness was no answer. So a new approach was needed.

The colorful part is that he was a dog who humped every upper-class female he could get his mitts on. And he humped a lot of them all across Europe--many royalty and most of them married. :) What's worse, he named names in his book--actual names--and described in detail the size and shape of their genitalia, how they acted in the throes of sexual passion, some really odd stuff about contraception (he had them fill a syringe with water and squirt it up their vaginas after sex), and so on. All hell broke loose all across Europe after that. :) 

(Hell, he might have caused WWII all by his lonesome. And, don't forget, he did this all in the name of Jesus. :) )

I'm sure Ayn Rand would not have approved of him, either, but he is a lot more fun to read than Joyce... 

Ah... the times when trial and error reigned...

:) 

Michael

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5 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

I used to do this kind of us against them reasoning re Rand all the time. I don't anymore.

Granted, this is true for a lot of the schlock out there, but I have come across critiques of Rand's aesthetic theories by people who don't misrepresent her at all. I even have my own critiques and I don't misrepresent her. 

Just because someone disagrees with Rand, that doesn't mean they misunderstand her ideas.

They could simply be evil.

Like me.

:evil: 

(So there. :) )

Michael

You misread, Michael. I wrote "... misinterpreted her..." 

Her ideas about art get "misrepresented", sure enough, but that's about par for the course with all Rand did. It won't surprise me.

"Us against them" is really old hat to me! :) Good ideas against other ideas is what interests me.

Flouting reason, abandoning reality, is what I see more of, and I try to connect the dots backwards to the probable causes. I find a pattern sometimes. The growth and accumulation of some types of art have something to answer for. Who can argue art has no effect on people's thinking and behavior? An artist who'd do so is rather undermining himself.

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3 hours ago, anthony said:

Good ideas against other ideas is what interests me.

Tony,

OK. So here's an idea to chew on hard. It's one of the reasons I began looking into other theories of art.

Why on earth did Rand reject Aristotle's aesthetics (The Poetics)? Hollywood is practically run on that work, so that is proof that the theories are sound. Nobody forces the public to buy tickets and make a bunch of seriously deranged folks outrageously rich, so something is working to attract them.

Oddly enough, just to be able to use Aristotle's name, Rand did use his idea of art imitating man, but she threw the meaning of present perception of a fictional character into the future only by saying man's aesthetic hunger is for "what man could and should be." But Aristotle's whole notion of pity and fear being intensified, then purged through catharsis, the concept of spectacle, the form of a beginning, middle and end (the way he defined it), etc., she would have none of it. It's not that she openly opposed it. It's that she refused to talk about it.

Instead, she also did another weird thing. For writing advice, she relied on Aristotle's notions of final causality and effective causality. She claimed final causality doesn't exist and was one of Aristotle's errors, but that was the way you have to write. Basically, this this is a highfalutin way to say work backwards from a climax during creation to get your story right.

What's even weirder is that it is perfectly possible to see Aristotle's principles underlying her literary works even more than the principles of her own that she talked about (making a perfect man, style representing epistemological reasoning method, cognitive, normative and aesthetic abstractions, her weird definition of melodrama as being volition only on one side of the drama, naturalism versus romanticism characterized by volition, etc.). I will be making up a list of examples later.

In fact, I've been working on a project of trying to find a teachable way that works to write fiction like Rand since most of the good fiction by others that is influenced by her philosophical theories has little to do with her literary theories (Terry Goodkind, for example) and most of the fiction by others written according to her instructions sucks big time. It always bothered me as to why that happened. I'm beginning to understand it. She was a lousy teacher--way too much reified theory that sounds good, but misses so much, and way too little reality about basic storytelling. Sorry, but it's true. :) 

Incidentally, there is a fad among the intelligentsia to say that Rand was a lousy writer as a stylist and a lousy writer in general. That's simply not true. She was an excellent stylist, far better than her critics, a wonderful writer in general, and, what's more, bears the mark of all great artists--she developed her own voice. You don't have to read more than a paragraph or two of any work to know it was written by her.

btw - Her nonfiction style is very good sometimes, but uneven. It's awfully heavy on the passive voice when she wants to present what I call her decrees. When she got theoretical, like with ITOE, her style was outright boring with a firework or two thrown in at sporadic moments. I think she imitated the English of the 1800's translations of Aristotle to sound serious and learned.

Michael

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18 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

T

btw - Her nonfiction style is very good sometimes, but uneven. It's awfully heavy on the passive voice when she wants to present what I call her decrees. When she got theoretical, like with ITOE, her style was outright boring with a firework or two thrown in at sporadic moments. I think she imitated the English of the 1800's translations of Aristotle to sound serious and learned.

Michael

I think Rand  really  wanted to be Victor Hugo.  

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13 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

I think Rand  really  wanted to be Victor Hugo.  

Discussions about Victor Hugo usually start with a comment by Gide who, when asked who was the greatest French poet, replied, "Hugo, hélas!" ("Hugo, alas!").  Anyone wanting to hit harder might go on to quote Cocteau: "Victor Hugo was a madman who believed he was Victor Hugo."

Gide's lament meant many things, but now tends to be read as meaning Hugo (and perhaps, in particular, Hugo the narrator) is a great writer despite his innumerable defects, his bombast, his sometimes insufferable rhetoric.  Cocteau's quip, however, is not quite correct: Victor Hugo was not a madman who believed he was Victor Hugo - Victor Hugo simply believed he was God, or at least his official interpreter.

Umberto Eco, Hugo Hélas!: The Poetics of Excess; Inventing the Enemy p.97

Sound like a commentary on anyone else?

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I have the complete works of VH in English including the poetry. You can assume out of the box that translated out of French it must be bad. I have no way of evaluating it in the original. Prose is properly translatable. Nathaniel Branden related how Rand didn't like the Hugo he was reading so she went into her study and translated a couple of pages. Hugo was transformed according to NB. I wonder where that translation went. It probably no longer exists. I would love to see it.

--Brant

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1 hour ago, 9thdoctor said:

Discussions about Victor Hugo usually start with a comment by Gide who, when asked who was the greatest French poet, replied, "Hugo, hélas!" ("Hugo, alas!").  Anyone wanting to hit harder might go on to quote Cocteau: "Victor Hugo was a madman who believed he was Victor Hugo."

Gide's lament meant many things, but now tends to be read as meaning Hugo (and perhaps, in particular, Hugo the narrator) is a great writer despite his innumerable defects, his bombast, his sometimes insufferable rhetoric.  Cocteau's quip, however, is not quite correct: Victor Hugo was not a madman who believed he was Victor Hugo - Victor Hugo simply believed he was God, or at least his official interpreter.

Umberto Eco, Hugo Hélas!: The Poetics of Excess; Inventing the Enemy p.97

Sound like a commentary on anyone else?

Dare I guess?  Was it Rand?  

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17 minutes ago, Brant Gaede said:

I have the complete works of VH in English including the poetry. You can assume out of the box that translated out of French it must be bad. I have no way of evaluating it in the original. Prose is properly translatable. Nathaniel Branden related how Rand didn't like the Hugo he was reading so she went into her study and translated a couple of pages. Hugo was transformed according to NB. I wonder where that translation went. It probably no longer exists. I would love to see it.

--Brant

See the opening of her essay The Comprachicos.  She translated a couple pages from The Man who Laughs there.

11 minutes ago, BaalChatzaf said:

Dare I guess?  Was it Rand?  

That's obviously who I'm alluding to.  Or rather, to what her critics often say. 

Eco never referred to Rand, not anywhere that I'm aware of.  And by now I'd have come across it. 

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  • 2 months later...
On 6/8/2017 at 2:37 AM, Theo said:

An emphatic NO, Jonathan. You have deliberately made them NOT look like tiles, and even if you did, that would not be enough. The image would still be on the most basic perceptual level. Any painted object must be given a context by adding at least one other recognisable entity that it can be related to, showing its significance of being included. The early Dutch painters included floor tiles in their artworks but these were not their primary choice of subject.

 

Um, the idea with philosophy isn't just to make shit up in order to try to cling to a predetermined belief.

I've shown the painting to other O'vishes, and they've identified them as tiles!!!

Here's just one quick example: http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?/topic/18733-non-objective-art/&do=findComment&comment=245970

Your little belief that they don't count as looking like tiles because you don't want the painting to qualify as art doesn't cancel out the reality that others have seen them as tiles (likenesses of objects that exist in reality).

But, let's look at some paintings which don't qualify as art according to your just-made-up little theory that two entities must be shown.

maxresdefault.jpg

 

2595514_c99af38788_o.jpg

 

9771ec190d904d20951755f1711ca3bf--acryli

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  • 2 weeks later...

Firstly, Jonathan, you need to distinguish clearly in your mind the difference between the chosen subject matter and how an artist chooses to represent it. This clarity is needed to know what makes up an artwork and how it can project any given theme. There are many aspects that makes-up an artwork - but the 2 primaries are subject and stylisation. When I said a painting must contain at less two related entities in order to project a theme, I was obviously referring to subject matter. I should have made it clear that attributes of entities also contribute to a theme. I never said an artwork was not an artwork because it contained only one entity. I said that for an artwork to project a theme it must contain at least 2 related entities, very similar to concept formation. In regards to the image of the apple, YES it is a work of art. It has a reasonably good method of stylisation, but in regards to subject matter, it IS very limited. It is as if the apple has been isolated from anything else giving it any context. Simply compare that image to most early masters works which contain many related elements, which may even include an apple.

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44 minutes ago, Theo said:

Firstly, Jonathan, you need to distinguish clearly in your mind the difference between the chosen subject matter and how an artist chooses to represent it. This clarity is needed to know what makes up an artwork and how it can project any given theme. There are many aspects that makes-up an artwork - but the 2 primaries are subject and stylisation. When I said a painting must contain at less two related entities in order to project a theme, I was obviously referring to subject matter. I should have made it clear that attributes of entities also contribute to a theme. I never said an artwork was not an artwork because it contained only one entity. I said that for an artwork to project a theme it must contain at least 2 related entities, very similar to concept formation. In regards to the image of the apple, YES it is a work of art. It has a reasonably good method of stylisation, but in regards to subject matter, it IS very limited. It is as if the apple has been isolated from anything else giving it any context. Simply compare that image to most early masters works which contain many related elements, which may even include an apple.

When you screw up parallel parking, start over.

--Brant

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Jonathan, to address your painfully concrete-bound tiles example.  Of course, you can see tiles, because the shapes are tiled. But they don’t represent tiles stylistically. There is a massive difference between textured shapes, colours that vaguely resemble tiles and representing tiles in a room, showing how the light reflects off the surface, how the colours change within different areas of the room showing bounce light, simply showing only the essential details that makeup tiles and not just every single detail etc.
 
Your tiles example is equivalent to saying that this is a praying mantis:
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On 9/16/2017 at 6:38 PM, Theo said:

I sense ugly cynicism from you - and nothing intelligent to contribute!

I went to your website. I liked more than I didn't.

You might delete the titles and the website address you put on the bottom of each photo of your paintings. Just let them stand alone. Render them a little bigger too. The words are distracting.

--Brant

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On 9/16/2017 at 8:26 PM, Theo said:

Firstly, Jonathan, you need to distinguish clearly in your mind the difference between the chosen subject matter and how an artist chooses to represent it. This clarity is needed to know what makes up an artwork and how it can project any given theme. There are many aspects that makes-up an artwork - but the 2 primaries are subject and stylisation. When I said a painting must contain at less two related entities in order to project a theme, I was obviously referring to subject matter. I should have made it clear that attributes of entities also contribute to a theme. I never said an artwork was not an artwork because it contained only one entity. I said that for an artwork to project a theme it must contain at least 2 related entities, very similar to concept formation. In regards to the image of the apple, YES it is a work of art. It has a reasonably good method of stylisation, but in regards to subject matter, it IS very limited. It is as if the apple has been isolated from anything else giving it any context. Simply compare that image to most early masters works which contain many related elements, which may even include an apple.

What if two people "project"  differently?  Which one (if either)  is right?

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On ‎9‎/‎16‎/‎2017 at 8:26 PM, Theo said:

Firstly, Jonathan, you need to distinguish clearly in your mind the difference between the chosen subject matter and how an artist chooses to represent it. This clarity is needed to know what makes up an artwork and how it can project any given theme. There are many aspects that makes-up an artwork - but the 2 primaries are subject and stylisation. When I said a painting must contain at less two related entities in order to project a theme, I was obviously referring to subject matter. I should have made it clear that attributes of entities also contribute to a theme. I never said an artwork was not an artwork because it contained only one entity. I said that for an artwork to project a theme it must contain at least 2 related entities, very similar to concept formation. In regards to the image of the apple, YES it is a work of art. It has a reasonably good method of stylisation, but in regards to subject matter, it IS very limited. It is as if the apple has been isolated from anything else giving it any context. Simply compare that image to most early masters works which contain many related elements, which may even include an apple.

I don't dislike "still life's" like a bouquet of roses but they must be boring to paint.

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On 19/09/2017 at 1:48 PM, Brant Gaede said:

I went to your website. I liked more than I didn't.

You might delete the titles and the website address you put on the bottom of each photo of your paintings. Just let them stand alone. Render them a little bigger too. The words are distracting.

--Brant

Thanks, Brant. Your criticisms are valid. There is a difficult balance between having an online gallery and marketing ie images that end up outside of my website can be traced back. Also, Google search do like words (text), so deleting titles may affect this.   

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On 20/09/2017 at 1:58 AM, BaalChatzaf said:

What if two people "project"  differently?  Which one (if either)  is right?

Neither is right or wrong - it depends on the intentions of the artist. However, from a cognitive point of view, the question arises, does the artist wish to project his/her subject matter with clarity or not. You can decide for yourself whether clarity of thought is right or wrong - I know my opinion on this.

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On 22/09/2017 at 7:30 AM, Peter said:

I don't dislike "still life's" like a bouquet of roses but they must be boring to paint.

How I want to stylise a bouquet of flowers eliminates the boredom, but if I only had flowers in the painting without any other element to give it context, that would be boring to me.

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My brother dabbled in painting when he was a teenager and was quite good for being self taught. Are most artists self taught? He painted a vase of flowers and they hung it on the church rec hall for a while but when he painted a young lady arranging the vase of flowers he actually sold that one. I think he copied a more famous painting, but it was excellent.

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8 hours ago, Peter said:

My brother dabbled in painting when he was a teenager and was quite good for being self taught. Are most artists self taught? He painted a vase of flowers and they hung it on the church rec hall for a while but when he painted a young lady arranging the vase of flowers he actually sold that one. I think he copied a more famous painting, but it was excellent.

Most artists are self-taught if they recognise in themselves that they have strong visual/spacial capabilities and then develop them further. It also depends on the individual and how they prefer to learn. Some people need to go to Uni to learn but you definitely don't have to as there is a lot of resources on art available.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 9/16/2017 at 7:26 PM, Theo said:

Firstly, Jonathan, you need to distinguish clearly in your mind the difference between the chosen subject matter and how an artist chooses to represent it. This clarity is needed to know what makes up an artwork and how it can project any given theme. There are many aspects that makes-up an artwork - but the 2 primaries are subject and stylisation. When I said a painting must contain at less two related entities in order to project a theme, I was obviously referring to subject matter. I should have made it clear that attributes of entities also contribute to a theme. I never said an artwork was not an artwork because it contained only one entity. I said that for an artwork to project a theme it must contain at least 2 related entities, very similar to concept formation. In regards to the image of the apple, YES it is a work of art. It has a reasonably good method of stylisation, but in regards to subject matter, it IS very limited. It is as if the apple has been isolated from anything else giving it any context. Simply compare that image to most early masters works which contain many related elements, which may even include an apple.

Complete waste of time. You're just making shit up off the top of your head.

Not interesting whatsoever.

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