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Jonathan

Newberry on youtube

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I'm commenting on art and ideas just as you do.

That is not quite exact. Though if you think it is, I would like to see your bio.

Why do you go to a museum that everyone knows was established for the purpose of displaying a type of art that you hate...

Sigh. Do you know the difference between criticism and personal taste in art?

...and then, after viewing a part of a very large, complex work of art, you offer up an article griping that the art, the curators, critics and the museum are not what you want them to be?

Its pretty simple really, art cannot be art and anti-art at the same time. I would never voice dissatisfaction with a museum of postmodern art, or a museum of anti-art, that displayed postmodern art--in fact, it would be queer if they were to display real art in such a museum. But, logically, I don't see how an art museum can ethically call themselves an art museum and display anti-art. Though, if their motive was to undercut real artists, they are doing the perfect thing.

I responded positively to your manifesto. I said that it was put together well and that you were generally positive in the clip, even though my primary purpose in starting this thread was not to comment on your manifesto, but on your apparent hypocrisy. That the hypocrisy was included in the manifesto doesn't mean that I was going after your manifesto.

As presented, you do not make a good case. If it were me trying to make someone out to be a hypocrite, which is quite a serious and potentially slanderous statement, I would not summarize what I think someone says but quote them in depth and in context, and include the relevant images. If I thought there was doubt or that the quote, context, and images did not absolutely and clearly demonstrate hypocrisy I wouldn't bother with making that claim.

But then, there are people who make comments based on their summaries and undoubtedly have a little trouble with facts, quotes, context, method, proofs, logic--you know, that thing called reason. I guess for them, the only thing one can say is: bless your heart.

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You have an anonymous poster, who you don't know anything about other than what they post.

Michael,

"Anonymous poster" is not precise. As forum administrator, I am privy to more information than the general public is. But for the record, I have also had some interesting email correspondence with Jonathan and he has been more than helpful to me backstage (without ever asking for recognition) several times during times of need (hacker, plagiarism, etc.). He also posted some samples of his work on OL:

Paintings

So, without detracting from you, whom I admire enormously, I also have good reasons to value Jonathan as highly as I do.

I do wish you two strong-willed and talented people would find some positive common ground as I am sure there would be benefit all round (including for the readers), but that is up to you two.

Michael

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I do wish you two strong-willed and talented people would find some positive common ground as I am sure there would be benefit all round (including for the readers), but that is up to you two.

I think that Michael and I might have a chance at finding common ground and a positive discussion if he were to simply address this thread's initial subject, which is that he seems to exempt himself and his art from the method of judgment that he applies to other artists and their art. Why are their artistic explorations and expressions of pain, emptiness, etc., "wallowing," but his are "shimmering passion"?

As I said above to Michael,

"We've had conversations in the past where you've asserted that if something is included in a work of art, it takes on metaphysical significance; if an artist includes pain, deformity, unhappiness, emptiness, ugliness, etc., in his art, then that's his view of existence, he's saying that mankind will never be whole, and that he was put on earth to suffer, etc.; that's the artist's sense of life, his view of the essence of existence."

Michael, do you deny that that has been your position? Are you saying that you don't believe those things about others and their work? If so, I'd be very happy to hear it, and I'd be more than happy to apologize for misunderstanding you all these years.

J

P.S. In his post #26, Michael asked for quotes and context, so I did a quick search through my old e-mails, lucked out and found some quotes from Michael from another public forum. I think there are many more, but they may take some time to hunt down -- time that I don't have at the moment -- but what I'm posting below should suffice for the time being.

Back in March of 2004 on the old SOLOYahoo group, we were having a discussion about deformity in art (as a result of Objectivists having their typical fits over Marc Quinn's sculpture of Alison Lapper). Someone -- it might have been Brant Gaede (I don't have that post because I didn't copy/respond to it) -- mentioned that injury or deformity in art isn't necessarily bad depending on the context of the entire work of art in question. It was pointed out that a sculpture of a seriously wounded military hero in action, someone like Admiral Nelson or Douglas Bader, could express the value of what was being fought for.

That's the context. Michael's thoughts on that thread were:

"Deformity in art has unmistakable metaphysical and symbolic connotations, none of them good."

"A deformed human engaging in a heroic struggle, especially as a solitary figure in sculpture, conveys that humanity is in essence a mangled heap but destined to 'try' their best; no matter how 'successful' they become they will never be whole."

"Nothing will change the fact that a mangled body is not a standard for human ideal or for the heroic."

"Physicality in painting and sculpture convey much, much more than they do in reality—the form of the human body is the means to convey emotions and thoughts: a mangled body equals a sub-human soul."

So, apparently context doesn't matter -- art is very similar to math, and deformity equals a "sub-human soul." If an artist chose to depict a hero continuing to fight for freedom despite the fact that his opponents had cut off one of his arms, the meaning would not be -- could not be -- that freedom is more dear than one's limbs. No, according to Michael's views, the artwork includes a mangled form, so, despite all of the other visual evidence in the image, its true meaning would be that mankind has a mangled soul.

And, as I've said, Michael has said similar things about pain, ugliness, emptiness, etc., in art. They all seem to "equal" stuff like "sub-human souls" and "wallowing." Except, apparently, when included in Michael's paintings.

But, hey, I'm very open to learning how I might be misunderstanding Michael. I wish that he'd finally address the substance of the issue instead of trying to turn the discussion into a review of my career, which, though I'm not interested in going into too much detail, includes quite a lot of professional experience as a sculptor and photographer, including some very advanced, pre-digital special effects art photography, and some professional experience as a painter, illustrator and animator.

(Someone remind me to start asking for résumés whenever Objectivists are giving their opinions about photography not being an art form.)

Edited by Jonathan

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Look, it doesn't matter how much artists natter; all that really matters, unless one pays undue attention to the nattering, is the work itself. That's why I can appreciate "Guernica" and Newberry.

In 1968 Ayn Rand was asked in an NBI Q & A what she would do if she owned a Picasso. She answered: "I'd sell it," to laughter. (We were sort of expecting her to say she'd burn it because she was in a semi-antagonistic mood, hence the laughter in relief and for her practicality. She saw the humor, too.) Better she would have kept it--only she didn't have one to keep--considering how much up in value since then.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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Glad to see you put up a few quotes. But I think you have work cut out for you if you wish to make a case for hypocrisy.

I've been posting quotes since the beginning of this thread.

Post #1 included:

In the clip, Michael says that one of his goals is to "bring forth shimmering passion, not to wallow in despair." He says, "Many times I think that the world is not nice, nor beautiful," and, "I see many artists express pain, discontent and anger, and, though I understand it, it is not my way."

I re-quoted the same passage in post #7 and explained why it appeared to be hypocritical:

Someone who says, "I see many artists express pain, discontent and anger, and, though I understand it, it is not my way," yet he expresses pain, loss, numbness, confusion or devastation in his art, sounds hypocritical to me, especially when he categorizes his own expressions as "shimmering passion" and others' expressions as "wallowing" simply because he's decided to interpret them that way.

Now let's look at your image called "Rend" (definition: v., to tear or split apart or into pieces violently; to tear in anguish or rage).

It appears to me to be an image of great sorrow or anguish. Sorrow or anguish would qualify as an expression of "pain," which you say in your manifesto clip is "not my way."

How is this not hypocrisy?

Further, like your views of others' works of art, such as Munch's "The Scream" and Goya's "The Shootings of May 3rd," isn't the character in your "Rend" "doomed," "wallowing" or a "plaything of forces beyond his control," rather than a representation of "shimmering passion" or the ability to "find happiness on earth"? If not, could you help me to understand how I've failed to apply your theory of detecting metaphysical value-judgments to "Rend"?

J

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Sometimes in my mentor program, an artist will come up with an idea that is not worth taking all the time and work to flush it out--the end result will go for nothing. It's a mark of wisdom to know the difference.

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Jonathan,

The more I think about it, the more I have trouble with the word "hypocrisy." The problem is normative because it comes with an extremely negative connotation.

May I suggest the word inconsistency and a request to explain?

For my own opinion, I respond to artistic pain in both manners. When I perceive pain shown as "this is as good as it gets" for human life, that is when I turn off. When pain is shown in a person whose normal attitude is not accepting it as all there is, and even fighting it, that is when it hits me viscerally.

To use your examples, a great moment of fighting pain is Marc Quinn's sculpture of the deformed pregnant lady. From her defiant and proud pose, I get the feeling of the human spirit not accepting even accidental deformity and transcending all barriers. The discussion you had on RoR where you were roasted for defending essentially this position was silliness incarnate. Talk about concrete-bound rule-based mentalities. Rand said a cold sore was evil on an otherwise beautiful woman, so imagine deformity! Time to bash and feel moral! btw - A strange thing happens to me when I stare at that image for a long time. I stop seeing the deformities. And I still see the uplifting spirit. I noticed that the other day and I think that's really cool.

800px-Alison_Lapper_Pregnant.jpg

On the opposite end, the sheer terror shown in Scream by Edvard Munch doesn't provide any visual clues (to me, at least) that life is better than that. Even the gentlemen in the background seem beyond reach. I feel uneasy inside when I contemplate that painting. I definitely do not get the feeling that I want to be that way or that this represents a state I have experienced meaningfully. I get the impression of perception of the physical world being molded like Silly Putty to conform to an inner state that deforms all meaning through the filter of terror. The only light moment is that sometimes the person looks to me like Caspar the Friendly Ghost.

463px-The_Scream.jpg

Granted, these are my own reactions, not anything I would write in stone. But the feelings I have are strong and they feel "right" (except for Caspar, of course).

Michael

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Jonathan,

The more I think about it, the more I have trouble with the word "hypocrisy." The problem is normative because it comes with an extremely negative connotation.

May I suggest the word inconsistency and a request to explain?

I suppose that "inconsistency" works, but I went with "hypocrisy" because Michael's judgments of art and artists often seem to have a quality of superiority and condemnation to them, which smacks of hypocrisy when he creates the kind of art that he judges negatively when others create it (while judging his own very positively).

And, as I mentioned early on in this discussion, I'm questioning what appears to be Michael's hypocrisy. I keep supporting my reasons for doing so with quotes and arguments, and he seems to be doing little more than trying to change the subject and avoid giving direct answers to my questions.

In his latest post he seems to be saying that "Rend" and his other works which delve into pain or emptiness were not worth taking the time to "flush" out, that they were just preliminary studies (but were, nonetheless, worth highlighting in his video as examples of his artistic "shimmering passion"). It's sounds to me as if he's offering up some sort of technicality which makes his darker art not quite fully "art" and, therefore, conveniently removes it from being judged by the standards outlined in his "Detecting Value Judgments" essay. But I can't tell for sure. His last post sounds to me more like a fortune cookie than a serious response to my arguments.

As for Quinn's sculpture of Lapper, I see in her what you see, MSK. I never thought of her as horrific. One of my first thoughts on seeing the piece was "Wow, a contemporary Venus de Milo."

And speaking of Newberry's theories and Munch's "The Scream," Michelle Kamhi has some interesting comments on both in this pdf version of her JARS article:

http://www.aristos.org/editors/jars-mmk.pdf

Scroll down to page 461 (which is the 49th page of the pdf file).

J

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It was a mistake for me to post here.

The feeling I have with Jonathan, is like relating a deeply held feeling of confidence and oneness in one’s atheistic self to a religious mystic.

Related to this is that the distance of benevolent romanticism is so far way and so different than Marc Quinn’s monumental deformity it’s virtually impossible to take you through all those aesthetic paths that lead to different conclusions. It is not in my best interest to do that on a forum–so I will leave it to Jonathan and Michael K. to guide you to see how deformity equals beauty; how immobilization equals scaling ramparts.

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I think you're a great artist, Michael. That Marc Quinn thing is disgusting. I thought it was a deformed pregnant man. As for "Scream," that's for a world without Objectivism.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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Michael,

I might be wrong and Lord knows I am not Master of the Universal Truth in painting and sculpture, but my vision goes directly to the face of that woman, not her body. It is the face I find beautiful, not the rest. (It has always been my automatic habit for as long as I can remember to look to the good, not to the bad—to look up, not down.)

The deformity is the obstacle she is overcoming (and I fully agree that the deformity is quite ugly). Using a standard of overcoming obstacles (conflict), I find that the beauty of her face in that context stands out greatly by way of contrast. That is what moves me. Not the ugliness.

If this were literature, the deformity would be the villain and the face and expression would be the hero. Except here there is a metaphysical villain to beat and her expression shows she is doing it.

In no way do I ever wish to convey that "deformity equals beauty." I don't think James Taggart was any beauty—certainly not spiritually. Rand had to create him ugly to provide a contrast for Dagny and the other heroes. She created her share of ugly villains, and she even created one ugly good-guy who bears our name "Mike" in The Fountainhead. Here is the description (pp 91-92):

The man raised his head and turned to him abruptly. He had a big head and a face so ugly that it became fascinating; it was neither old nor flabby, but it was creased in deep gashes and the powerful jowls drooped like a bulldog's; the eyes were startling—wide, round and china-blue.

That sounds like quite a sight. Was Rand's intent here to show that ""deformity equals beauty" or to highlight the beauty (integrity, etc.) inside this man by making him hellishly ugly?

Michael

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"Mike" in "The Fountainhead" was not deformed. Hugo did write a novel or two about deformed men, btw.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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It was a mistake for me to post here.

The feeling I have with Jonathan, is like relating a deeply held feeling of confidence and oneness in one’s atheistic self to a religious mystic.

Related to this is that the distance of benevolent romanticism is so far way and so different than Marc Quinn’s monumental deformity it’s virtually impossible to take you through all those aesthetic paths that lead to different conclusions. It is not in my best interest to do that on a forum–so I will leave it to Jonathan and Michael K. to guide you to see how deformity equals beauty; how immobilization equals scaling ramparts.

Hey, don't go now! You're right that MSK and I have the deformity end of things covered, but we still need you around to guide everyone on how agony and grief equals heroism, shimmering passion and other monumental notions of how existence ought to be. You still haven't explained it. At least the sculpture of Alison Lapper shows her looking confident and proud, with her pregnancy symbolizing the hope of the future, so it's all pretty easy to explain. But your "Rend," on the other hand, is a vision of anguish and emptiness, with no such symbols of hope to be found. The figure looks absolutely devastated. So, please, stick around and help us out. Without you, we can't do the complex art-math of how utter despair and suffering equals glory.

J

Edited by Jonathan

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Art is not about shocking people with disgust, but to inspire them with the good the sublime, with the best.

And Mr. Newberry, does just that.

Thank you! Michael.

Ciro

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Art is not about shocking people with disgust, but to inspire them with the good the sublime, with the best.

How sad. Is that all that you see, Ciro, when you look at the sculpture of Lapper? An object of disgust rather than a human being with whom to identify? Is your only reaction to be aghast that your tender sensibilities have been offended or that your art rules have been disobeyed?

I think one of the interesting things about Quinn's sculpture, as well as other recent works that have occupied Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth, is that they are more expressive and on a much more individual level, both in style and content, than the surrounding works, which tend to be homogeneous projections of imperial power and royalty. And it's interesting that Objectivists seem to prefer those works which glorify monarchy or empire to those that highlight individual triumphs. I guess it's an issue of volume or scale, much like Rand's finding inspiration in William Hickman: a loudly arrogant, vicious murderer projects the "right" sense of life where a much more quiet and peaceful vision of a brave woman who has dealt with her deformity is "shocking" and "disgusting."

J

Edited by Jonathan

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Art is not about shocking people with disgust, but to inspire them with the good the sublime, with the best.

How sad. Is that all that you see, Ciro, when you look at the sculpture of Lapper? An object of disgust rather than a human being with whom to identify? Is your only reaction to be aghast that your tender sensibilities have been offended or that your art rules have been disobeyed?

Maybe the word disgust is not appropriate here, because I sound like I don't have compassion for people like Lepper, but I do.

What I meant was that when I look at deformed art, like Lepper's, it disturbs me.

It makes me feel sick to my stomach. It is not a feeling of anger that I feel, but a sense of fear, more or less.

Ciro

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Maybe the word disgust is not appropriate here, because I sound like I don't have compassion for people like Lepper, but I do.

Her name is Lapper, not Lepper.

What I meant was that when I look at deformed art, like Lepper's, it disturbs me.

It makes me feel sick to my stomach. It is not a feeling of anger that I feel, but a sense of fear, more or less.

Might it be a good thing for you to confront that fear? Or let me rephrase that -- is it necessarily a bad thing that the sculpture has confronted you with that fear rather than giving you a comfortable hero of the typical variety that you would've hoped to have seen instead?

J

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What I meant was that when I look at deformed art, like Lepper's, it disturbs me.

And why shouldn't art be disturbing? Do you think art is only about pretty pictures?

I found it fascinating to reread the thread on RoR (see here), especially the different reactions to the sculpture.

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Dragonfly,

I reread that old thread on RoR and I had a hard time trying to contain an aesthetic response to the discussion itself. Curiously I ended up seeing it as a reflection of the statue of the deformed lady.

First, there were honest reactions to the statue on both sides (those who liked it and those who didn't). These people looked to the best within themselves and reported what they felt and tried to verbalize why. This was a small part of the discussion and spiritually I see it as corresponding to the woman's heroic life-affirming face.

Then there were the smarmy put-downs, gross psychologizing of other posters and "I am so clever" kind of observations. The issue was not reacting to art, but instead judging how superior one was using the work as a prompt for kindergarten bickering. This was the main part of the discussion and spiritually it corresponds to the woman's ugly deformed body.

Whether one dislikes/loathes or likes/loves this statue is not nearly as important as why one does, i.e., what values one is responding to. For those who like/love it because of the individual heroism in the face, what is wrong with loving individual heroism? For those who dislike/loathe it because of the ugliness of the body portrayed, what is wrong with loathing ugliness? (Once again, this corresponds to the life-affirmation of the woman's face.)

I see a hell of a lot wrong with considering a good person to be slime for not seeing the values one responds to in a sculpture and blanking out what he is really responding to—even to the point of telling him to his face that he is lying about what he is responding to or a fool for doing that in light of the other part. This is turning the mind off on purpose in order to bash him. (Once again, this corresponds to the spirit deformed just like the woman's body.)

The fact that this work touches so many people in such polarizing ways, and prompts discussions molded to follow to its own form, shows its power of conception and execution. Whether one likes or dislikes the sculpture, it is hard to deny that it wallops people in the gut and brings out the best and/or worst in them.

Michael

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Dragonfly,

The fact that this work touches so many people in such polarizing ways, and prompts discussions molded to follow to its own form, shows its power of conception and execution. Whether one likes or dislikes the sculpture, it is hard to deny that it wallops people in the gut and brings out the best and/or worst in them.

Michael

It didn't wallop me in the gut. It walloped me in the head: WTF!

--Brant

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Here's an image of the sculpture of Nelson atop his column in Trafalgar Square:

1418381213_d70197f0ff_o.jpg

Notice the empty sleeve where the right arm should be. It "equals" a "sub-human soul" according to certain aesthetic theories.

J

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