Why Is Modern Art So Bad?

Discussion in 'Art, Media & Photography' started by bostjan, Apr 4, 2017.

  1. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I didn't know where to post this: Art, PC&E, General...

    A friend of mine on facebook, pretty cool guy, usually pretty liberal politically, posted this video:

    https://www.prageru.com/courses/history/why-modern-art-so-bad

    I was pretty surprised that he agreed with the video.

    I will offer a disclaimer that "Prager U" is basically a political organisation whose goal is to bring folks to the radical right.

    But context of the host site aside, let's discuss the content of the video.

    My summary of it is:

    Robert Florczak is pissed off that "modern art" is getting too much attention and too much funding. He praises the composition, style, and attention to detail of the classic, romantic, and baroque masters. He says that the impressionists were pretty great, but created a monster by accepting the ideal of aesthetic relativism, and then subsequent generations glammed on to aesthetic relativism and abandoned realism and objectivism. Then, next thing you know, Jackson Pollack is flinging globs of random coloured paint onto a canvas and fetching hundred of thousands of dollars per piece.

    I've seen some of Florczak's work, and, I have to say, that it's pretty good.

    There are some notes of what he's saying that make me think "yeah, that's not right!" But, overall, I think he's severely missing the point.

    Just my opinion.

    Art is not photorealism, it's not the act of creating something that is difficult to create - it's an object appreciated for it's imaginative aesthetic. We can define it in a number of ways, but I think that the imaginative aesthetic part of it is pretty firm.

    1. Note that artists shifted, not gradually, but pretty suddenly, from valuing realism to valuing imagination, exactly during the period when photography became an accessible technology. It's no stretch of the imagination to think that people desiring highly detailed realism would direct their attention toward photography, leaving a vacuum in the art community for something a little different.

    2. Whilst I don't particularly care for Pollack's work, personally, I don't see the point in trying to talk the people who do out of enjoying those works. I also don't see how arguing with such people would be productive for me, in any case. Furthermore, his anecdote about the smudge paint on his apron smelled funny to me right away. Even though I'm not a fanatic of Pollacks, I'm familiar enough with his techniques to have guessed that what he had shown was not a Pollack piece.

    3. I agree that someone vomiting on canvas and calling it a masterpiece is pretty silly. I understand that this happens. I don't pretend to know enough about art to understand why some people get blown away by something like that. But man, I don't see much modern art like that. I see stuff like Dali's surrealism and think "Hey, that's pretty cool! It looks cool and it says something." I've been to a few museums that had two or three pieces that I thought "I don't get it...", pondered for a few moments, then moved on. I'm not going to boycott the Dali museum just because I don't "get" a blank canvas with a piece of woolen yarn glued to it.

    4. The whole things seems a little like complaining to me. I get that, and I understand why. If I spent 1000 man hours making a nuanced painting of a turtle, with lots of little fish far off in the background, and made certain every last pigment was mixed just so, and sold my turtle painting for $400, then saw a guy take a canvas, and draw a large monochrome x on it and sell it for $200000, I'd feel pretty marginalized. And...I can see why, in a world where that hypothetical situation is not terribly unlikely, not many artists would bother learning intricate composition methods. But isn't that just life? And wouldn't the best way to prove to everyone that your paintings are worth more than $400 to be to keep painting, and make something nuanced to your style, with also some deeper meaning to grab a wider audience.
     
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  2. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire Sunbro

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    Modern art is .... because it's less about the intinsic technicality or actual creativity and more about theatrics/"the process". There's a book talking about how the valuation of modern art is tied specifically to the story the artist comes up about it, where the author essentially creates his own modern art under a pseudonym, and sells art critics on his process/story,they go crazy and love his art, and proceed to run up the price of his "art". The same thing happened with banksy. Modern art (excluding certain sculptors) is all about $$$. This is how hacks like damien hirsch can get millions of dollars for a trisected preserved shark or a skull that he glued diamonds to. :rolleyes:
     
  3. Dekay82

    Dekay82 SS.org Regular

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    Well, let's get the whole "art is subjective" thing out of the way up front. I would argue that modern art is not up to par with past movement because it seems like the artists aren't doing their duebdilligence and jumping right in.

    Look at the foundations of modern art. Dali, Picasso, Matisse and hisbstupid cutouts, those guys were MASTERS of art , and started to break out after they had nowhere else to go. I think in most instances, you have to master the rules and basics before breaking them and going all out. There are exceptions, of course. Even Dada was created by established artists. It was just abreaction to the times.

    We can aplly this to music too. Ornette Coleman was a goddamn beast on his horn, he took years to master it, then eventually went buckwild with his free form. Hell, even Tosin Abasi spent years learning from shred tapes and look at him now. Indont even like AAL, but that guy took his time, learned the rules, and the best way to break them to innovate.

    Also, rich folks with no taste often pay big $$$ for stuff that is trendy. Watch Wall St. plenty of rich folk have good taste, so don't dogpile on me for that last comment.
     
  4. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Okay. "Modern Art" is a really wide subject, encompassing surrealism, cubism, fauvism, minimalism, expressionism, et-cerea-ism, et-cetera-ism, et-cetera-ism...

    You want to talk about a more recent surrealist who had excellent composition technique, what about HR Giger? Not everyone loved his works, but I don't think too many argue that his technique was under-developed.

    I've seen stuff in museums that was interesting, and still showed a high degree of skill. Surprisingly, for me, at least, pretty much every piece of modern art that I would describe as such was by lesser-known artists.
     
  5. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    I sometimes listen to music that is just guitar and bass amplifier feedback, and I enjoy it more than Top 40 music, or classical.

    No one mistakenly created aesthetic relativism; aesthetics are inherently relative. It's only just that humans have a long history of forcing conformity of value upon each other.

    However, in modern times humankind has advanced in many ways. We have indoor plumbing, education, internet, and important for this discussion-- understanding of sociology and history, which allows us to think and logically conclude that there is no true metric by which to measure "art".
     
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  6. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I agree.

    There is, however, a value assessed to a piece of art when it is sold, and a certain virality to art when it is reproduced or influences other artists.

    When an artist splatters paint on a canvas, the result is random and unscripted. Some feel that detracts from the value of the art, but those who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for those pieces have a much more final say in the art's value.

    Honestly, If I wanted a monocrome painting of a blue canvas to hang on my wall, I would mix up some blue paint and paint my own canvas blue.

    If I want some simple geometric designs, a la Frank Stella, then I think I could use masking tape and a ruler and make my own.

    On the other hand, if I wanted to reproduce Starry Night I could print it off of the internet or go buy a poster from the local bookstore. Otherwise, I would not be able to reproduce the techniques without years and years of training and practice.

    Same with music...if I wanted to just hear feedback and a lo-fi drumbeat, I could go into my basement, throw an old shoe in the dryer, and plug in my hollowbody and leave the volume set so as to produce low level feedback. And I would be fibbing if I were to tell you that I hadn't played around with such ideas before.

    I'm not saying it's not art or doesn't have value (I personally feel contrary to that), just trying to probe into the discussion.
     
  7. DredFul

    DredFul SS.org Regular

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  8. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I feel like I have a lot of this kind of discussion in my head any time I see a Glen Fricker video where he complains about drum samples or something, or when someone says that electronic music isn't made by "real musicians" or something like that. I see art basically as an expression. People who create want to justify and validate their expressions, and to avoid being invalidated. That's all I think it boils down to. Everything else is talking about valuation systems and market forces and personal taste and all kinds of things that, while tangentially related, have zero bearing in my mind as to what counts as "art" or what counts as a "valid" expression.

    I'll defend anyone's right to dislike something, be it a painting or song or whatever else, but at the same time argue that it doesn't stop the thing they don't like from being art in the first place.
     
  9. DredFul

    DredFul SS.org Regular

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    Well said.

    I love the electronic musician argument :lol: "they just press buttons" what do we guitarists do? We press notes hoping that something cool comes out, where's the difference? I actually think electronic music can be one of the most creative fields because you are not bound to one sound, but rather can make anything your instrument.

    That as well as the "it's just shredding it doesn't have any feel" I think is just an attempt to disregard and invalidate something that doesn't appeal to you.

    I'm getting to Nietzsche-territory here :ugh::lol:
     
  10. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire Sunbro

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    If we're just going to talk about art in general, then for me, art is whatever speaks to me. Generally for me it's all about the flow of the work and the composition. That's a large part of why I find most modern art boring/distasteful, is the lack of composition. Even Surrealists like Dali, Giger or Beksinski all had excellent compostional skills and know how to draw your eye towards important part of the painting in a natural way. Compare that to paintings by Basquiat and they are far more disjointed compositionally/lacks that natural flow. Personally I find sculptures from Rodin or Giambologna or other great sculptors extremely moving, same with photographers like Peter Hegre.
     
  11. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I honestly get pretty annoyed with Glen Fricker constant ranting about how drum samples are the worst thing ever- and then he immediately goes on to praise amp and cab sims, plugins that process the bajeezus out of your drums so that they sound like samples anyway, etc.
     
  12. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Agreed.

    Also, I guess there is a certain thing about the video that rubs me wrong, which is the whole premise of the the thing is "this is category of things is bull...., you should dislike it indiscriminately." I think Florczak could have made a better approach of "this is what I like, and here's why you might like it too."

    I thought those examples (who were modern artists, by the way) had some of the best composition skills. I guess the video is partially so bad because it isn't even really making the distinction between various types of modern art, so some of the arguments come off sounding ignorant. If he wanted to go after minimalism or dadaism, then maybe it would have been a more coherent video.
     
  13. inaudio

    inaudio Hack Fraud

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    I apologise in advance if any of the points I make seem juvenile. I don't claim to be well versed in philosophy but I like to dabble into it every now and then.

    First off, I think this conversation is a difficult one to have but interesting regardless. I think that one a cause of confusion in this "debate" is that a lot of the words used aren't explicitly defined, but rather serve as containers for different meanings to different people. When it comes to relativism I think that you have to be careful not to drift off too far into postmodernist territory. I know that postmodernism is a bit of a boogeyman buzzword these days but I don't think that I'm misusing the term for dramatic effect. Just for the sake of clarity I'll dig up the Wikipedia definition of postmodernism.

    I think that a simpler way of defining postmodernism would be through the catch phrase "there is no universal truth." When I was younger I bought into that statement wholeheartedly until I realised that the statement itself is a paradox - the statement implicitly states that it actually is the new universal truth, while holding that there is no universal truth. In the same Wikipedia article there's a valid criticism towards postmodernism made by Chomsky.

    I think that the whole "art is subjective" statement is valid, but only when you consider art from the perspective of individual experience. I don't think that there is a single universal metric that could be used to define "good" art, but that does not mean that we can't investigate art on various levels of analysis to see if we can find something of value.

    I think that an interesting thing to consider is the evolution of art. A lot of the music that we are able to listen to today from the classical composers exists only because it was conserved; in some sense art actually goes through a quasi-evolutionary process of elimination. An interesting thing to ponder is what art of our time will actually be preserved by the future generations when we're no longer around. Whether or not that is a valid measure of how "good" art is, is up for debate, but at least it offers a concrete aspect of music that we can observe and discuss. I think that some of the points made in the video criticises (some) modern art for abandoning the old traditions. I think that the criticism is valid, bearing in mind that the traditions themselves may have a meaningful reason behind their existence.

    The reason I felt compelled to respond to this thread was because relativism and postmodern philosophy actually ended up being a major cause of depression for me. I'd like to end this with a little classical quote from George E.P. Box that helped lift me up and out of my existential funk.

    Like I said, I'm not well-versed in philosophy and if anyone wants to point me towards new direction I'd be more than appreciative of it. This is definitely an interesting topic and an interesting thread! :yesway:
     
  14. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    inaudio, that was very well said.

    I know nothing about art. I really don't think my life would be much enriched by knowing anything about art, though. I like observing art, generally.

    I guess we can bring high-level philosophy into this, but I'm vaguely nihilistic about philosophy. The philosophy of art is probably another topic wasted on my ears. Post-modernist philosophy has been a major frustration for me as an educator, since I'd often have a student disrupting class by trying to strike up an argument about whether our measurement of time is really measuring time or just flat-out failing to measure anything, because he read a sentence or two about Einstein's theory and interpreted general relativity to mean that we don't know anything about anything and somehow that means that he needs to argue with me about that during class time, instead of learning how to solve a quadratic by factoring, or whatever was on the syllabus.

    So, I guess my experience with popular post-modernism is that it equates to simple contrarianism.

    Aesthetic relativism, though, isn't a post-modernist model, it's a plain old modernist model. The idea in fine art was that all of the mechanical techniques are just tools to create something subjectively valued, anyway. Your modern movement in fine arts really spans from the late 19th century to the mid/mid-to-late 20th century.

    I really think, as I said in the OP, that the accessibility of photography during this period had a profound effect on the fine arts. If John Q. Public wanted a portrait in 1867, he would have to hire a portrait painter, unless he was fairly wealthy or had academic connections. John Q. Public Jr., in 1907, would have hired a photographer for the same purpose. This leads me to believe that there would have been less grunt work for budding artists during the modern period. Sure, an artist could always paint all day long, but there's suddenly less financial incentive. Art goes from being a job that can put food on the table to a pass-time for the wealthy and those passionate enough to live a monastic lifestyle. By 1970, as the movement had been past it's usefulness, artists, having taken artful expression to the nth degree, had slowly pushed the envelope to the point where this was normal:

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Given To Fly

    Given To Fly Contributor

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    I want to hone in on this: "they just press buttons" what do we guitarists do? We press notes hoping that something cool comes out, where's the difference? "Frets are not buttons." Here is why: if frets were the same as buttons, using the guitar as a reliable MIDI input device would work just as well as using a keyboard. The guitar is not a reliable MIDI input device but every year there are lectures/demonstrations on the topic that always end with the same sentiment: "That would be really cool if it worked." You asked, "Where's the difference?" The difference is in the amount of control an electric guitarist has over a fretted note after it has been plucked. A "true" electronic instrument requires the musician to have almost no control after the initial attack. That is the difference. I think the confusion lies in the fact the electric guitarist can manipulate the electric guitar so thoroughly in both the acoustic and electronic realms that the idea "frets ARE buttons" becomes deceptively logical.

    Otherwise, I agree with most of what you said. :yesway:
     
  16. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Ha ha, well, I think what he was saying was that they are all ways of translating the noises in one's own head into the noises in someone else's head.

    In that sense, a song is like a story, the instrumentation is like the language of that story, and the players are like the voices telling the story. The main idea there is the story itself, which is conveyed either by pressing buttons or bowing a violin or strumming a guitar or humming into a kazoo. There are so many other layers in that, though. I mean, would you rather hear Morgan Freeman read you a story in English, or listen to Bobcat Goldthwait read you the story in Arabic?

    Parallel to that is fine art, except the story to tell has to be contained in a piece, usually in 2-D form on a canvas or 3-D form sculpted into bronze or marble, so, for me, it's less emphasis on the story itself and more emphasis on the instrumentation.

    I think of something like the ultra-minimalist painting I posted above roughly analogous to the guitar feedback with shoe-in-dryer noise rock piece I mentioned earlier.

    Then a Jackson Pollock piece is analogous to a Wing song with full 8-bit MIDI instrumentation, complete with guitar solo.

    And observing a Helmut Ditsch piece is like listening to Michael Angelo Batio performing speed lick exercises.
     
  17. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    My original point of bringing up electronic music was pretty much exactly to illustrate this kind of tendency to try to invalidate things for which we don't hold much personal value. We (as guitarists) value the expressiveness that comes with instruments operated via fine motor skills and muscle memory more than relatively static expression resulting from a MIDI note, but that doesn't make a MIDI controller a less valid way to produce music.
     
  18. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Validity depends on context and congruent expectations.

    If you want to perform some sort of brutal death metal and expect to gain a cult following locally, your most valid instrumentation will be guitars, bass, drums, and deathmetal vocals. If you go instead with a drum machine, MIDI guitars, a theramin, and falsetto off-key vocals, you might not achieve validation. On the other hand, if you only expect to make some really weird music, and be unique, then you are probably on the right track...
     
  19. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Maybe 'valid' is the wrong word. I'm talking about generalizations and dismissals, stuff like saying "a singer is not a musician, because REAL musicians play instruments" or "rap isn't real music, it's just people saying things over some noise", or "guitarists are better musicians than bassists" or "country music is objectively garbage".

    In the context of personal opinion, or with a particular objective in mind, sure, you can decide what's 'valid' or appropriate. When I say valid, I just mean it in the sense of 'this is a valid example of'.

    I want to try to connect this to the whole "no true Scotsman" thing, cause in my mind the principle is very similar, but that's maybe not a great way to describe it.

    So saying something like "a guitar is more of an instrument than a MIDI controller is".... I think is just a projection of personal values rather than anything resembling an objective observation.
     
  20. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    Consider this: To an old man, it's potentially more difficult, requiring more practice, time, and effort, to operate a computer, set up MIDI connections, install and run interface software, programming notes, etc., than it is to play a guitar. We say "pressing a button" like it's nothing because we grew up using computers (or at least I did, and I was born in 1990).

    I'll tell you what right now: I myself could personally record a demo on a 4 track way, way more easily than I could ever program EDM.
     

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