Showing posts with label quality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quality. Show all posts

Monday, July 13, 2009

art & entertainment: kunstweek 2009

to continue from the previous post, i remember writing in my comment last year, that the borders between art and entertainment are fading rapidly.

and, the applause machine for this development is being cranked to the highest level. only natural, when one understands the mechanisms behind this. these mechanisms are many and varying in nature.

but a main ingredient is that smart marketing of a relatively shallow product gives a great yield. which is why so much effort is put in the marketing, especially when compared to the product being marketed.
which is why on our television sets we see channel after channel filled with the same rather meaningless entertainment programmes, and we have to search hard among our 100 channels to find serious and well-researched documentaries. [later comment: i must have been in a negative mood writing this - recently i saw various very good documentaries!]

in art, there used to be an added complication. namely the pretention that art is somehow `deep' and `meaningful' and `important commentary on society' etc. etc. etc. but, as we progress, this pretention can surely be dropped. more and more we see that art is being presented as `cultural business'. in the netherlands (as elsewhere i'm sure, since the netherlands never dare to take up a serious frontline position in the arts) the word `cultural entrepreneur' is being advocated instead of `visual artist'.

we are condoning the usurpation of art by business types, money makers and managers. we are more and more sponsoring entertainment which is presented as art, with funds which should [could at least, to be less morally pressuring] be used to create some depths in our modern culture. depths which the entertainment machine will never create, because the effort-yield ratio is too low in business terms.

the running example: kunstweek 2009 (dutch `art week') not only organizes a largely pre-arranged election, but in order to gain momentum -which means enough participants in the election, since success in the entertainment industry is always measured in audience numbers- they offer prizes which can be won if you vote.

and then they dare say (again i translate literally from their website):

Question: Which criteria determine whether an artist is good or not?
Answer: Much can be said on the creative and artistic value of art [sic!], except that it can be measured with concrete norms. There are no conceivable absolute norms for the appreciation of art, neither the market value nor the artistic value. But even if the quality of art cannot be quantified, the resonance and the appreciation can. And that is the goal of the election!

notice, that first they say that there are no conceivable absolute norms for the appreciation of art, and then one sentence later they say that the appreciation of art can be quantified...i'm not joking!

such quantification is even the very goal of the election, they say.

i'm sorry. words fail me. good luck, brave new entertainment world. i always thought art was about something else. perhaps we can invent a new word for artists like me, meaning something like `silly old romantic strugglers with paint, colour, form, life, depth, nature, human existence, beauty'?

better still: let's organize an election for such a word!!! the best word -to be judged by a panel of experts from the advertisement industry- will win the 10,000 easels which were used in the interactive art work `we are all artists' which won the heineken art festival 2009!!! (`we are all artists' is a work by by cultural entrepreneur ralf kwaaknijd in which on a large public square 10,000 people (selected through an internet election) paint a collective portrait of our queen, which is 100 x 100 pixels. each canvas is approximately 20 x 20 cm, the completed portrait measures 20 m x 20 m.)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

kunstweek 2009 (revisited, art & quality 16)

last year i wrote this about a relatively new initiative in the netherlands called `kunstweek' (art week):

since about 5 yrs in the netherlands there is an initiative `kunstweek' (art week), which more or less out of the blue claims an election of `dutch artist of the year' (kunstenaar van het jaar).

of course, this has to be a joint effort from `public' (read internet) and `experts'. this year's expert panel contains some 100 names, with ... 0 visual artists among them. i am not joking, but it is all the more funny!

this is just to illustrate my point that artists have been manouvered to a secondary position when it comes to valuation of art. museum directors, journalists, curators, gallery owners, art historians...pull the strings.

can one expect alternative insights from such an election? or will it all be about artists already `discovered' getting some extra gpr...i leave to the reader to guess and smile.

after i wrote this, i immediately got a rather negative comment from the director of this art week, claiming that i had made many mistakes. however, as i pointed out all the information that i used came directly from the website of i got no reaction whatsoever. see my original post with comments

why bring this up? well, again the generalized pagerank (gpr) machine for promoting the art elite is running, and i'm getting emails and other messages regarding `kunstweek 2009' and another election of `dutch visual artist of the year'.

so, naturally, i looked to see if perhaps this year the panel of experts which selected the 90 eligible artists contains any visual artists... this year they say, and i quote literally from (in translation):

Question: can I become a member of the expert panel?
Answer: Yes, you can, if you have a professional relationship with art and you are not a visual artist. The expert panel consists of around 100 museum directors, art critics, art collectors, conservators, art teachers from art college, and other art experts.

well, then please explain to me why my post above was inaccurate?

dear artists and other art lovers, truth has its own particular ring to it. the interesting question then becomes: why is it so unwelcome, the observation that artists are systematically manouvered into a secondary position? why try and deny this?

this is undoubtedly connected to the observation that on the societal level, quality & art are determined by elite positions, which are strongly protected. a reason why i am really happy with the internet and the blog opportunities, because now at least it is possible to voice dissent, and be heard. before internet, also the publishing opportunities were controlled by the elite.

generalized open source. open publishing opportunities. i sincerely hope that this will bring about a change in the art world and outside of it!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

entombment series rembrandt 2: the starting point

rembrandt van rijn, entombment (photoshop alteration)

rembrandt van rijn, entombment (photoshop alteration)

the famous-artist-or-not question: i wrote about it earlier, in the context of quality and art. to illustrate some points regarding this question, i made the above photoshop alteration of the rembrandt drawing `entombment' (see previous post for the unaltered version) and posted it on a dutch art forum in the category `own work'. by posting it there (without text) i silently suggested it was my own drawing. for this the photoshop alteration was necessary, otherwise the age of the drawing would have given everything away immediately. i changed the colour of the ink to blue, and with some work managed to edit away the browning and spots from old age.

after posting, i received a lot of comments by fellow artists who were not so impressed with either composition, or clarity, or drawing ability. to be fair, there were two who said: not bad, it reminds me of old masters, rembrandt even.

after some time i decided to give up the deception. and most were very amused.

then, since i dislike real deception, i felt i owed it to the forum to try and create some really own work depicting entombment. because of recent passing away in my direct vicinity, i was very much reminded of this series. and i thought to give some of them a place on this blog.

so if i find time and energy we will see a series around death of beloved ones, final goodbye, grief, and comfort...

Monday, July 7, 2008

quality & art 15: digital fabrication 3

crystal skull, british museum

crystal skull, british museum

let's face it, fellow visual artists: digital fabrication is one of many upcoming technological developments that will shake the paradigms of art...without changing the essence of art, but with farreaching consequences for artists' practice, income, distribution etcetera.

will these technological developments help us? i should say so, on many levels. but i see drawbacks too. these drawbacks have to do especially with what i perceive as the proliferating superficiality of `professional' imagery. some possible reasons for this that i see are:

  1. new technology brings previously difficult to master technical "visual art" effects into the reach of everyone. this encourages people to produce many otherwise shallow images with these effects, where previously these types of images were only produced by artists with a deep technical but also deep artistic development.
  2. the new (digital) generation of professional imagery-makers for the general public (advertisements, video clips, movies) pays more attention to the technological effects, than to the deepening of the imagery itself. therefore the images are often of a shaming cliché nature, covered by a predictable sauce of technical/digital effects.
  3. superficial doll-like `perfection', in other words, to cover mediocre visual ideas. a nice(?) example of this is the absolutely ridiculous `crystal skull' which is used in the latest indiana jones movie (indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull). the thing is so obviously made out of some sort of plastic, it is truly amazing that a movie with such a budget for digital/technical effects cannot even achieve anything close to a crystal skull. and, even more ominous, few seems to notice...! although: see here [it is interesting to note that there are hardly any pictures on the internet of the skull-prop used, it seems the movie company is aware of the fakeness the prop radiates. wouldn't it be interesting if in the meantime they had a crystal skull counter further criticism. it also strikes me that digital fabrication would be a nice way to produce such a fake-looking skull from real crystal...] and oh yes, another interesting thing: there are many `old' crystal skulls in far all have been found to be 19th/20th century fakes, as far as i can make out from the internet. at least they look like they're made of crystal - probably because they are.

well, in order not to become too pessimistic, even with the above drawbacks, i can see some sort of parallel with the music world. if digital fabrication becomes widespread reality, then artists will have more ways to realize their ideas, more ways to develop their art. also, the artworks themselves become reproducible, bringing them into the home of anyone wishing to pay a modest sum for the digital blueprint (or copying the blueprint from a friend...).

will my house not become overfull? will any visual artist be able to still generate enough income? will the market be swamped by mona lisas, davids, jeff koons's [wow, these are easy to produce yourself, just click `enlarge' on the blueprint of your home china figurines]? i don't know.

i just wish i had a digital fabricator the size of a large barn...but i will settle for a digital painting machine / paintprinter (yes, a machine that really paints, but which is controlled digitally, although i would definitely need a paintpad / digital canvas and a digital brush, perhaps even real paint, i don't know how to solve the kinesthetic problems).

Monday, June 30, 2008

art & quality 14: personal fabricator 2 (digital fabrication)

to continue with this line of thinking, a question relevant to the quality of an art work also seems: how difficult is it to make such an art work?

with nanomachinery, the time is nearing where we will be able to manufacture many things from a digital blueprint.

consider a van gogh. the oil paint has a certain age, the brush strokes are (say) thick and impasto-style. it is as much a 3dimensional work as a twodimensional one. which is part of the reason why photographic reproductions don't work, and why it is hard to forge a van gogh.

but now suppose we can create a nanomachinery-driven 3d copier, which replicates paintings down to the very essence of a brushstroke, down to the chemical components, say molecule by molecule (or very close).

suddenly, everyone can have a van gogh in her/his room IF the museum would allow the nanomachinery-driven blueprinting, and subsequent distribution. everyone can have brancusi's sleeping muse, in any wanted material too.

think about it.

what would it mean for art & quality? how would it change our perspective of forgery? and what does that say about the validity of our current perspective?

quality & art 13: forgery 3: andy warhol

obviously, other people are thinking on the same issues. i came across edward winkleman's blog (the posting of thursday 26 june 2008, i cannot link to it directly), where he discusses a current forgery issue which tallies with my previous post.

it concerns works by -or not by- andy warhol, such as the work below:

andy warhol? 315 johns

andy warhol?, 315 johns

the issue is also discussed in the new york times of 26 june 2008.

the interesting thing these articles show is that intrinsic value of an art work seems to be considered completely derivational to who made it, generally without any questioning whatsoever as to whether this is a sound principle. by contrast winkleman runs an open thread on what makes an art work `good', and he is clearly thinking about art & quality somewhere along the same lines as the thread art & quality of this blog (he doesn't make a pagerank comparison though, which i believe to be a key issue).

would you -i mean seriously, would you really- believe there is such a thing as the andy warhol art authentication board? it would lead one to not ever take the modern art world seriously again. perhaps unless an art work strikes you as inescapable, unless you are rooted to the ground, or you find yourself coming back to an art work either physically or in your mind over and over again.

i doubt that art works made by artists who produce works by the dozen a day will fall in the above category.

when an artist doesn't produce works as if every scribble, every scrap, every idea, every execution is brilliant deep art - in other words when an artist takes time, effort, mistakes, reworking etc. before releasing art to the world, then i think there will be much less need for an authentication board.

i have seen exhibitions of joseph beuys for instance, serious exhibitions mind you, where it seemed that the curators thought that every scrap of paper that the good man ever touched was transformed into breathtaking mindboggling art.

all the more is the pity, because in my eyes beuys was a very talented draughtsman...but how to find these wonderful drawings amidst all the nonsense? how difficult to fake/forge a beuys? well that depends on the work, but in general it should be extremely easy. just take any oily substance (wax, linseed oil, cooking oil, motor oil) smear it on an envelope, add some pencil, maybe a little ink/paint and you are done. the less you think about it, the more convincing. if you want to do a good job, study beuys' handwriting carefully, and add some mystifying terms. in german.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

quality & art 12: forgery 2

returning to `quality and art', although really this theme also underlies all the previous posts, i would like to add some extra background to the post on anonymous art and forgeries. [where anonymized art as well as forgeries are presented as methods to prick through the balloon of art legitimization. a balloon which floats most of the contemporary art scene. don't be impressed by it, is what i'm saying.]

so, forgeries. what do they have to do with quality?

suppose i would brilliantly forge a scarlatti sonata. [you should read this, to be honest about my musical ablities, as: suppose i COULD forge a scarlatti sonata ;-)]. i would claim i was cleaning some attic, conveniently dating back to the 18th century, when suddenly my eye fell upon...etc.

experts go wild. in all the texts 555 has to be replaced by 556. special performances are given all over the world. reviews are raving.

then, i'm found out. boohoo. BUT does it make the music any less beautiful? is its QUALITY any less for having been found out as a forgery?

well, in the visual arts this is not a question. so-called experts even frown upon this question. a forgery of a matisse, when found out, will be removed from the museum's exhibition. how hard is it to forge a matisse? well, to be honest, i don't think that should be too difficult.

henri matisse, icarus

henri matisse, icarus

in fact i have sold a number of...oh. perhaps i should wait a little with this revelation, since the centre pompidou is already in trouble with another suspected forgery, see below.

ralf kwaaknijd, paradise snake

ralf kwaaknijd, paradise snake / hidden in plain sight xxxiv, 2005, centre pompidou paris

rather exact replicas of this work from controversial dutch visual artist ralf kwaaknijd have been acquired by a number of other museums of modern art, raising serious questions as to its authenticity. [ralf kwaaknijd is preparing a statement on the issue, it is said. more work by kwaaknijd later.].

Saturday, June 14, 2008

icarus 4: multatuli

ok. let me step outside of the visual arts for a moment, to introduce you to someone who is still -i believe- little known outside the netherlands:

statue multatuli amsterdam

statue of multatuli (by hans bayens) amsterdam

multatuli is seen by many as the greatest dutch writer ever, anyway i think he's a great writer [what great means i leave be, in the light of the ongoing chautauqua on quality; it looks like a gpr-qualification (gpr=generalized pagerank) but can also be simply personal, which is how i use it.]

although he is most famous for his revolutionary work max havelaar, or the coffee auctions of the dutch trading society, to which i will come back, his 7book work ideas is perhaps the most direct inspiration for this weblog to have seen some light of day (electrons of night is more accurate but would you get the analogy?).

to understand this, you should know that multatuli's numbered ideas are in their essence and form a weblog avant-la-lettre. but they date from the second half of the 19th century. they also contain a play and an entire, wonderful novel called woutertje pieterse.

yes, yes, you're getting impatient, i know. what the buzz does this multiperson have to do with icarus...

well, take the time to follow the links above, then you can read in what way multatuli was so far ahead of his time, and flying so much higher as to merit an association with icarus. in his ideas one can read also what his contemporaries write about him and his answers to this. and like boltzmann he put an imnsho lamentable amount of time and energy in trying to uplift his contemporaries to his own level. which, by sheer mass, results most often in being dragged down...

although? let me cite wikipedia on the longterm effects of max havelaar (written in 1860!):

The combination of these two strategies caused widespread abuse of colonial power, especially on the islands of Java and Sumatra, resulting in abject poverty and widespread starvation among the farmers.

Multatuli wrote Max Havelaar in protest against these colonial policies. Despite its terse writing style, it raised the awareness of Europeans living in Europe at the time that the wealth that they enjoyed was the result of suffering in other parts of the world. This awareness eventually formed the motivation for the new Ethical Policy by which the Dutch colonial government attempted to "repay" their debt to their colonial subjects by providing education to some classes of natives, generally members of the elite loyal to the colonial government.

Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer argued that by triggering these educational reforms, Max Havelaar was in turn responsible for the nationalist movement that ended Dutch colonialism in Indonesia after 1945, and which was instrumental in the call for decolonisation in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Thus, according to Pramoedya, Max Havelaar is "the book that killed colonialism".

to be continued.

Friday, June 6, 2008

art & quality 11: the personal fabricator

so let us continue with science a little bit more.

already we discussed science giving us some insight into what we might perceive as quality in art, through the field of bioaesthetics.

but there are other developments in science which ultimately could change the art world dramatically - so i believe.

one of these developments is called `personal fabrication' (or digital fabrication, fab lab, rapid digital prototyping, whatever). let us suppose for a moment that there is such a thing as a personal fabricator (called a pf, for sure) at our disposal. in the following posts i want to explore some of the remarkable consequences for the art world that i see arising out of the pf.

these consequences also shed a light -i think- on the discussion on art & quality today.

but it is really past my bedtime, will be continued, good night (to myself, is the most sensible interpretation i realize)

Monday, June 2, 2008

brave new world

aldous huxley, brave new world (front cover first edition)
aldous huxley, brave new world (front cover first edition, 1932)

lately i'm reminded regularly of a book i read when i was 16: brave new world by aldous huxley.

its relevance to what i'm pondering on is multiple in character, i believe. so perhaps i will be able to weave its themes into this art chautauqua (a word robert pirsig uses for his story in zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. indian word, beautiful, world of difference with the anglo-american word `blog'.)

summarily, i think brave new world tackles the issue of where modern society wants to go and is going. what drives human beings and societies? where does this logically take us, if there are no direct hamperings?

if i as an artist want to reflect on human values, societal values, spiritual values, then the question is whether i can do so completely from within, or whether i am always part of a group, many groups, this society.

probably not only my way of sharing/touching deeper layers will be co-determined by these groups, but also that what i perceive on some (sub-, semi-, or fully conscious) level to be the most relevant issues.

and, to continue partly with the previous thread on quality and art, generalized pagerank etcetera, it goes without saying that the societal appreciation of my art endeavours also influences me and my creation process.

[all this in my not so humble opinion...i feel better repeating from time to time that my insights are just that: personal insights, not overwhelming general truths].

Saturday, May 31, 2008

quality and art legitimization: anonymous art

mare de deu amb el nen, anonymous artist (detail)
anonymous artist, mare de déu amb el nen

anonymous art is exempt from artist legitimization. it speaks for itself mostly in terms of what i would perceive as quality. [but see the previous posts on quality & pirsig]

as promised in the previous post, i see 2 obvious ways to prick through the excesses of art & artist legitimization which seem so abundant in the current art `scene'.

the first way is to take an artwork, and present it stripped of any additional information such as who made it, when was it made, what is the price etc. then let people take a shot at valuating the art work.

the second way is to forge a work, supposedly by a well-known `master' artist. and then again let people take a shot at valuating the work.

both ways have been done, with interesting results (works by chimpanzees hailed as profound, forgeries disputed until the forger gave demonstrations...)

i get the impression that modern artists are marketed like brand names. the artist's name comes first, then the work. this influences what type of art is being made. if art were to be presented anonymously, i believe we would get other art works. better art works? i don't know. what is better? it's an even more difficult question than `what is good?'.

but the purpose of this post is mostly to express why an artist need not worry about legitimization, if (s)he knows her/his `stuff'.

if you know your stuff, the inner qualities are bound to come out. it may take a while, a long while sometimes, but i do believe that the appreciation of inner quality is something sufficiently shared by people to allow recognition in the end.

what remains for the artist to be done? deepening inspiration, approach, technique, ambition maybe - ambition in the expressive sense i would say, but perhaps ambition in the social sense is a good motivator too. personally i get very tired of all the competition mechanisms that modern society seems to embrace with such abandon and without much reflection. but you reader will have guessed as much if you read more than one of these `quality & art' posts.

co ngo, untitled
co ngo, untitled

Thursday, May 29, 2008

quality & art: artist legitimization

so what can one do. sure, there are a lot of interested open motivated people out there in the art world. still, probably also because of the oversupply of artists wanting to claim their 15 square meters of exhibition space, there is an issue -to say the least- with what i call artist legitimization.

here we have all these important people in art, busy communicating their views, busy selecting important artists, busy buzzing or doing something worthwile (yes i know, terribly subjective, i know i know i really know...but still). and what on earth will induce any member of the art elite to spare time and attention to an artist?

`send me your resume please. i cannot begin to look at work of every artist wanting to show in my gallery. a good resume is essential.'

so i'm looking at artist legitimization from the opposite direction. does the artist know what (s)he is about? suppose so. then don't hide your light under the bushel. who knows how to paint? how to sculpt? how to draw? in such a way as to open doors and windows to the heart? don't let gpr-driven people put you down.

still, noblesse oblige, as they say. it may not be necessary to become as adept with art historical references, language, knowledge of (modern) art (hypes) as the people who claim to be able to judge an artist's work. but it certainly doesn't hurt to look beyond one's own work, it doesn't hurt to be able to put one's own work in some perspective. and it doesn't hurt to be able to prick a needle through the many balloons that are blown up around art.

what makes a rothko so valuable? mostly gpr (although i'm quite a fan myself). there are ways to expose much of this gpr-balloon. and this has been done, clearly, shockingly, more than once. artists can benefit from knowing these ways, i think. if they sense their legitimacy within, then they will be less easily subjected to gpr-legitimization blues. will address this in the next post.

mare de déu, anonymous artist (detail)
anonymous artist, mare de déu (detail)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

quality & art 7: bioaesthetics & neuroaesthetics

ok, i googled a bit on the theme of the previous post, and whaddayaknow, my thoughts fit in with an emerging branch of science called bioaesthetics. a quote from martin skov on :

Neuroaesthetics can be thought of as a part of a more general study of art and aesthetics as a biological phenomenon. I will follow other proponents of this view (such as Tecumseh Fitch) in calling this broader approach bioaesthetics. The overall goal of bioaesthetics is to answer the three basic biological questions – what?, how?, why? – in regard to aesthetic behaviour in humans: what is art and aesthetics?; how does art and aesthetics spring from the brain?; and why did this cognitive ability evolve in humans? Neuroaesthetics is predominantly concerned with question number 2. In the list that follows below I will also mention a number of books that discuss the other two questions.

martin skov's piece makes for good reading, and is relevant to the thought train here. please take the time to read the link!

but pirsig's thoughts on quality and art also merit more thinking. i'm still reading zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance and its views are surprisingly recognizable. in fact pirsigs defines art as a high-quality endeavor. (quality comes before rational thought, quality is zen-like, being the source of everything we experience, and more relevant remarks i would like to cite here but it really is better to read the book. still, the passage coming before some of these conclusions is a must:)

[zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, end of part ii:] know what it is, yet you don't know what it is. But that's self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There's nothing to talk about. But if you can't say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn't exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does exist. What else are the grades based on? Why else would people pay fortunes for some things and throw others in the trash pile? Obviously some things are better than others, but what's the "betterness"?...So round and round you go, spinning mental wheels and nowhere finding anyplace to get traction. What the hell is Quality? What is it?

i've been finding some traction -i believe- in the juxtaposition of generalized-pagerank quality vs. inner-compass quality.

[i also believe that many people who pay a fortune for certain art works do so more out of gpr-motivation then out of inner compass motivation. i believe many art `experts' wouldn't dare rely on their inner compass, waiting instead for enough gpr-buzz to base their valuations on. its a rembrandt, therefore it must be a wonderful painting!]

but pirsig's approach yields a more fundamental result: motorcycle maintenance can be art also. this at least goes a good way in explaining the difficulty for modern art to be sharply defined.

hakuin ekaku, mount fuji and eggplants
hakuin ekaku, mount fuji and eggplants

buddha, enlightenment, nature (frank waaldijk/joint work, 2006)
frank waaldijk & unknown artistbuddha, enlightenment, nature, 2006

Friday, May 23, 2008

quality & art 6: inner compass, art, music

still not done, but time nears for other thinking.

recap. an elusive quantity. to me, inner compass is preferable to outside gpr. but how does this inner compass function? [perhaps it would be better not to know?]

an interesting comparison to music has been keeping me occupied lately. music for the billions, it seems: music & movies & tv comprise the games in the modern version of old rome's `bread and games for the people'

pop star (own work, 1982)
pop star (own work, 1982)

there must be some explanation for the fact that music keeps so many people in thrall, whereas visual art seems to touch most people much less. look only at how pop stars are idolized...what visual artist is idolized? (not that idolization seems a desirable state of affairs, but it marks a very sharp difference in the appreciation of music vs. visual art). if we look in the visual realm for idolization, where do we end up? exactly, with movie stars.

i suspect it has something to do with the impact of music on our amygdala or `reptilian brain': the part of our brain which roughly equals the brain of a reptile and which scientists believe to have come first in our evolution. this reptilian brain of ours is responsible for our emotions and (primitive) basic feelings such as anxiety, joy, stress, relaxation, anger, agression etc [please bear with me as i'm not a neuroscientist].

perhaps along with the evolution of the human voice, much of our emotions seem to be capable of being communicated by and tied to certain sounds, musical lilts even. the soothing voice of father/mother but also the angry voice of father/mother...the roar of a lion vs the trickle of a clear stream with drinkable water...

therefore i (completely out of the blue, i know, i should probably check this first, and come back to you after some googling) suspect that music is capable of reaching the amygdala pretty directly, resulting in a profound emotional experience.

then what about art? --> next post

Sunday, May 18, 2008

quality & art 5: where to turn

ok. more positive now, as promised. cup half empty is cup half full etc.

somehow, art & quality cannot be about two completely different things. (will you grant me that feeling, then the following train of thought hopefuly will make sense.)

robert pirsig describes (in zen & the art of motorcycle maintenance) a meeting that phaedrus (his overintelligent former self) has with a visual artist. a very interesting meeting, because it breathes that art has an intrinsic, pre-logos quality. even the book title `...& the art...' makes clear that this intrinsic quality is what we're looking for. in art, yes, but in life perhaps even more.

the question then becomes: where to find this quality. phaedrus tried to find it by thinking. in what one could call a quantum leap, the post-electroshock phaedrus - pirsig himself- finds it (at least by my standards) in zen-like experiencing.

although not in one-one correspondence, it reminds me of the duality: look for quality by outside criteria (generalized page-rank, gpr, see previous posts) or look for quality by intrinsic criteria: what does my heart tell me.

for me it has been difficult to recognize this dilemma and the potential behind it. i wouldn't be surprised if this is similar to the dilemma that phaedrus was grappling with (i'm currently rereading the book but haven't gotten to that part yet, perhaps i will be seen to have been simply repeating it only less compelling...!)

let's have some positive yadiyada: i believe that -for me and many others- wonderful art develops when an artist chooses for intrinsic quality. when the heart and head are open, like a sensitive antennae/dish array, to many many signals, and where the inner compass of the artist then is given as much rein as possible. this inner compass, inner light, whatever...i think it is only confused by gpr.

obviously, this view of art is personal, although it is probably shared by many and also by many `experts'. this holds for probably any more or less coherent view on any subject, i only repeat this to emphasize that i do not believe in one view of art for all. i would like to share some of my thoughts on gpr and intrinsic quality, especially with artists who like myself struggle to find a sense of direction because they feel that the gpr-approach isn't what they want. this can be a lonesome struggle, because by gpr's nature, the gpr-aficionados drown out other approaches.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

kunstweek / art week (quality & art 4)

(this post is really a short postscript to the previous one, as illustration. new positivity follows right after this one!)

since about 5 yrs in the netherlands there is an initiative `kunstweek' (art week), which more or less out of the blue claims an election of `dutch artist of the year' (kunstenaar van het jaar).

of course, this has to be a joint effort from `public' (read internet) and `experts'. this year's expert panel contains some 100 names, with ... 0 visual artists among them. i am not joking, but it is al the more funny!

this is just to illustrate my point that artists have been manouvered to a secondary position when it comes to valuation of art. museum directors, journalists, curators, gallery owners, art historians...pull the strings.

can one expect alternative insights from such an election? or will it all be about artists already `discovered' getting some extra gpr...i leave to the reader to guess and smile.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

quality & art 3

imnsho a key issue with human (e)valuation of quality in art is that we lack `objective' and common (= sufficiently shared) criteria / perspectives / touchstones / communication handholds even.

is it so strange to say that art creates its own quality?

historically (if we stick to a societal definition of quality, meaning generalized page rank, see previous posts) this seems to be the case, YET -just like the situation where e.g. christ would come to modern society and proclaim himself, who would believe him today?- we seem to wish to judge art by existing gpr standards.

most people -including (yes terrible) art `experts'- even want this judgement to take at most a few seconds, preferably less, because... well i suppose because time is money or you might miss out on some other wonderful painting or something like that.

also interesting is that today the quality of art is often judged from the gpr-fueled perspective of what the role of art should be in society. therefore some moral-philosophical viewpoint of `art-derived experts / power brokers' co-determines the gpr-valuation of a given artwork / artist. there seems to be little (self-)reflection by these brokers on the situation. some art curators seem to hold beliefs -i'm serious- that one cannot leave art to the artists, since they lack overview and insight in the role of art. artists are useful for providing the building stones of a much grander artwork: the curators' collection / exhibition / statement.

so one can come across statements that modern art `should be' (i'm parafrasing but not off the mark) about the basic human struggle with life, like sex, death, misery, joy etc. or it `should be' to show / tell/ educate the viewer about some profound aspect of modern society which the viewer hadn't yet (couldn't of course) discover[ed] without this particular art work.

the new clothes of the emperor: who gains from saying they might be less than the gpr-buzz would have us believe?

i know i probably sound mighty negative here! but once again: honestly, do you hear this kind of sound often? or are you ususually drowned in the gpr-buzz? oh, this artist is so wonderful! this art is so profound! it shows the gallery visitor that a gallery can have a completely different meaning! the locked door symbolizes the difficulty one can experience with understanding modern art, and one's own heart. so one has to climb the stairs on the opposite building, to see -with a telescope!- the exhibited art works inside. the artist makes us feel the impossibility of communicating directly, the loneliness of the artistic existence, the longing to be with the ones we love but who stay out of close reach, so that we end up with just some peeks in their true treasures, etc etc etc.

so, let me end on a positive note with an artwork i really appreciate, `even' if it already has high gpr...! ;-)

panamarenko, scotch gambitpanamarenko, scotch gambit

i promise to make the next posts on a different and more positive note!

Monday, May 5, 2008

quality and art: hype, fiction, pirsig & page rank

many things. many things i've been thinking, about quality. quality being half of my current life motto, the other half being love. (is there any real difference between the two? spiritual love can be seen as quality in human relations, quality can be seen as love of what is good. but what is good? what is spiritual love?)

this weekend i visited the rijksmuseum in amsterdam. took my children there to see some art treasures, only to find...that even on a personal level i cannot consistently experience let alone define quality.

the paintings that i was especially looking forward to enjoy: rembrandt's de staalmeesters and the jewish bride and the milkmaid by johannes vermeer. in de staalmeesters i was happy to find once more my admiration for the red tablecloth: a true and wonderful abstract painting hidden in a group portrait. but the jewish bride left me less thrilled than on earlier visits. and the milkmaid didn't hardly touch me at all.

rembrandt, de staalmeestersrembrandt, de staalmeesters

a self-portrait by rembrandt on the other hand i enjoyed for something perhaps strange; it gave me the following feeling: a man looks at me, knowing i will look at him-on-canvas when he is long gone and also knowing that he is a master far ahead of his contemporaries - not per se in skill alone, but especially in vision, in artistic feeling and experiencing reality, and therefore also in rendering reality - and knowing that i will appreciate this where most of his contemporaries lack the necessary depth of development of visual/philosophical issues.

rembrandt, self-portrait as the apostle paulrembrandt, self-portrait as the apostle paul

ok, i've hardly begun touching on what i want to say, but this post is long enough, will be continued.