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Limits Of Modern Art

  1. Nov 15, 2007 #1
    even in this time, when nothing really shocks us, we see more and more artists, who give the name "art" to abstract pieces, in which i (personally) can t see any meaning. i attended an exhibition and for example, there was a video, that showed a man throwing up. i don t know.. i am not conservative and i like innovation in art (even if artists provoke, like gilbert and george), but doesn t art have any limits?! i mean, is everyone who doesn t have any idea about art, able to create something easy and draft and at last give it the name "modern art"?!

    in former years, where anti-art was really innovative, provokative and meaningful, this special kind of art was reaching its goal.

    but what is the meaning of "trying" to shock now, when noone is really shocked?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 15, 2007 #2
    I know what you mean when, you go to a modern art exhibit and up on the wall is a big red dot with a white background, and the picture's title is "Big Red Dot with White Background Number 1" and everyone is supposed to consider it artistic in some way. Last time I checked, I could recreate that picture using microsoft paint and about 5 seconds of my life.

    I think the problem occurs when an artist sees some symbolic meaning in what he is creating, but fails to communicate that meaning to his audience. If you've ever read Breakfast of Champions, I think that about sums it up.

    As far as trying to shock people now...I've been thinking about that for awhile. It seems like artists are going to greater and greater lengths to get a rise out of people. Does that mean they're running out of ideas?
  4. Nov 15, 2007 #3
    good art provokes emotions
    be they good or bad , that matters less then the strength of the reaction
    so love it or hate it it is good art
    bad art gets no reaction or far less anyway
  5. Nov 16, 2007 #4
    i would agree with ray_b.. the matter in art is to feel it as deep as you can.. even to see a part of yourself in it.. because we all consist of too many souls, even if we don t notice and cultivate them. we can realise these more souls through cultivating ourselves(and one way is art). this can happen only by the deep feelings, that art can create.. no matter if these feelings are melancholy, hate, love, shock etc..
    what i wanted to say is, that maybe in this period of time, when nothing really shocks us (because "odd" things happen every day next to us and not only in modern art museums), it would be wiser for an artist not to do something just to provoke, but something meaningful. (for him and for the audience.. )
    (because it s hard for a west human being to feel provoked, we just ignore what we don t like..)
    some say, if something touches even one person,this can be called art.... but i still can t help but wonder.. doesn t art have any limits?!
    and if it is so important, that we can live in the painting s world for a while, then where do the impressive techniques of realism belong to?! this realistic kind of art can impress rather than be felt i think...........
  6. Nov 16, 2007 #5

    jim mcnamara

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    Starting back 120 years ago, part of Art was all about breaking existing limits.
    Even the Preraphaelites were trying to break the mold set by Victorian times.

    I think what you are seeing is the result of a continued attempt at breaking limits. The boundaries have been pushed so far that "art" is a now a panchreston - a word that is often used but has so many definitions that it has lost meaning.
  7. Nov 16, 2007 #6


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    Bad art provokes bad emotions. It's really upsetting that so much garbage is allowed to be called art. So many people completely void of talent consider themselves artists, con artists is more like it.
  8. Nov 16, 2007 #7
    yes, but what dali did for example in SOME of his paintings (not all of them), was the creation of feelings of "shock".. these are not the most positiv feeling. we can t lower dali though......
  9. Nov 16, 2007 #8
    furthermore, my opinion is that i kinda "like" it when something really provokes me. i may not admire the artist or the piece, but even there, i find a part of me.. i see my own limits somehow, even if i don t like the work of art.. in such an occasion, i catch myself with civil-conservative, even arrogant thoughts towards the piece, that lives in contrast with the artistic, that excuses almost everything and believes in the freedom of art without limits, ONLY when the artist really feels something about his work. (i may critisize a piece according to MY feelings and MY point of view, but i try to remain in a personal level. i really, don t feel right to judge the expression of an artist, just because it doesn t express me..)
  10. Nov 16, 2007 #9
    It's best to define first, then discuss:

    Most people are referring to 4 a when they speak of "art":

    Art, by this definition, is about aesthetics rather than functionality. A nice looking car, for example, is aesthetically pleasing but isn't considered art because it has a function beyond, and clearly more important than, it's aesthetics.

    What makes something of aesthetic interest are: line, form, rhythm, color, and texture. If we add "meaning" as a vital component we're no longer talking about art per se, but about a sub-category of art called "illustration". When the story told takes on importance then the aesthetic considerations are pushed down the list in importance. That doesn't mean they don't have to be just as good, only that they are less important in the overall experience, now sharing the spotlight with "meaning". The artwork is now more a functional thing, the function it performs being to convey the information comprising a "meaning".

    Is it still art? Well, it's aesthetic elements are still art, just as the purely aesthetic aspects of a car can be considered art, apart from it's function as a transportation machine.

    The reason I laid all that out is to point out that the opposite of video-vomit art isn't art with "meaning"; it's any art that demonstrates sensitive command of aesthetic considerations: line form, rhythm, color, and texture.
  11. Nov 16, 2007 #10
    i don t think i understood this.. do u mean that the video-vomit art has line, form etc and IS AESTHETIC?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!
  12. Nov 16, 2007 #11


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    I love Dali, "Child eating a rat" is one of my favorites. I consider his paintings humorous, not shocking. Dali has TALENT, he's an excellent artist.

    If you want to talk about shocking, how about Hieronymus Bosch' The Garden of Earthly Delights"? Again, he has talent.
  13. Nov 16, 2007 #12
    I believe this statement is correct. Try reading my previous post over a few times.
  14. Nov 16, 2007 #13

    jim mcnamara

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    Let me try one more time, too.

    When anyone who particpates in a discipline gets to create his very own definition of what the discipline is, that means that person redefines the limits of it. Inherent in a definition of art is what art means: see Zooby's very clear post. Not connotations of art, which is what it seems to me to be more of what you folks are talking about.

    'What art means to me' vs throwing human body parts off a bridge as art are distinct things. Throwing stuff into the brink is clearly a definition by action. Simply saying 'I feel that...' is more in the realm of connotation.

    Bottom line:

    The real point is that to get 'noticed', (IMO), art practitioners have to define a niche for themselves. And if every practitioner roars off at the speed of thought past separate "brinks" of art and throws stuff over the edge, thereby creating an obscure niche, what you have left is not suitable for reasonable discourse. Why? Because lobbing body parts, painting with colored mayonnaise, and creating videos of ballistic vomiting have nothing in common, except that somebody chose to define them as art by action. ie., calling it 'art'

    That is a panchreston. It is a word that has lost meaning. It lost meaning because it was applied to very different things. I view the discipline as sort of in a state of 'deteriorata', a parking lot for misguided efforts designed to increase entropy in the world by decreasing meaning.

    One reason why slang terms die is because of this same phenomenon. My daughter used the word 'heavy' in so many ways it went beyond the point of having meaning. In her usage it meant anything from profound to large mass to confusing to insirational. It is not used that way anymore; it mostly refers to mass or thickness. It lost its usefulness.

    IMO the meaning of art has died a death similar to the one for the word heavy, but the practitioners don't know it. It has little meaning among artists anymore. It is no longer a useful term. Except as Zooby found it in the dictionary.

    Maybe that's why these guys can't sell their stuff... now there's a thought.
    Kinda like why you can't find many recordings of John Cage's music. "music" had a similar problem back in the 40's. IMO.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2007
  15. Nov 16, 2007 #14
    Throwing body parts off a bridge as art, and vomit videos may well be conscious or instinctive imitations of the strange but powerful "art" movement known as Conceptual Art.

    more at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptual_art

    Some examples of conceptual art I recall from my college days are Chris Burden's "Breathing Water", which was a sort of bit of theater in which he plunged his head into a sink full of water, in front of onlookers at a museum, breathed in as much as he could, then coughed it out. It was about the concept of breathing water. In another piece he crawled for some distance over a path of broken glass (cutting himself quite a bit). In another he had himself literally crucified on the back of a Volkswagon Bug: nails pounded right through his hands.

    In a way his pieces strike me as peculiar variations of Dali: the attempt to present inexplicably strange images for their own sake.

    To the extent Conceptual Art sets out to "question the very nature of what is understood as art" it produces a lot of stuff that simply baffles or repels people. That appeals to a lot of people who simply enjoy confusing an audience, I think. If they weren't making videos of people vomiting, they might be out making crop circles, or they might have become stage magicians, who knows.
  16. Nov 28, 2007 #15


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    From this, I guess that you are saying that art now may have provocative and innovative qualities without meaning, and this is what you would like eliminated.

    This raises some questions, firstly what do you mean by meaning? I don’t understand what you have said about souls, maybe you could elaborate. By stating that anti-art was reaching a goal and saying it was meaningful are you saying that having these goals gave the work meaning, and is that the meaning you mean? If so, then, secondly, if the vomit video was to have this sort of meaning, for example, a vomiting video could be consistent with abject art, theoretically related to Kristeva’s abject - would this validate it? However, you may be aware of this and not consider it sufficiently meaningful. (This would be strange, however, because you approve of gilbert and george, and they have also been classified in this way).

    A third question arises by what limits you would place upon art. Many different ideas about how this may be done have been put forward, and none have been entirely satisfactory, I believe (and the amount of these different and opposing ideas suggests the same). Or, if you were to attempt to limit art by whatever this particular, or any idea, of meaning, how would you define this meaning and limit art in this way, and on what authority?

    This brings more questions, too, such as, why should someone without an education in art not be free to create art? Isn’t that promoting an elitist view that only the specifically educated can understand, appreciate and create art? Indeed, the anti-art of the avant guard, particularly Dada, must not have reached goals of destroying Kantian/bourgeois autonomous art (Berger)(ideas about visual art being exclusive and superior and only really accessed by the specifically educated, talented few) if this belief prevails. And rather, the vomit vid has been more successful in this way by prompting the questions you’ve asked.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2007
  17. Nov 28, 2007 #16


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    re previous mentions of function here, too, I think I should have emphasised that included in the Kantian/Bourgeois autonomous ideals of art that the avant guard aimed to destroy, was the idea that art as an end in itself has been considered superior to art with function, expression, meaning and other values.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2007
  18. Nov 30, 2007 #17


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    I concentrated on the topic name, and avoiding an issue you mentioned because I need to learn more about it myself, which is further use of the term 'meaning', and your mention of shock, and how that relates to recent art, including abject art.

    'ACCORDING TO JULIA KRISTEVA in the Powers of Horror, the abject refers to the human reaction (horror, vomit) to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other.'

    Also, I misspelt 'Burger' 2 posts back (and 'avant-garde'!)
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