This Flight from Failure

Compare a work of abstract art to a work of representational art, though, and there’s a dimension of risk that the representational artist accepts and the abstract artist shirks. Let’s say you set out to paint someone’s portrait. When you do that, your creative vision is no longer the only thing that matters. You’re not just expressing yourself, you’re expressing something that is not you , and you can succeed at that or you can fail. You can, for example, try to paint a likeness of someone and make something that doesn’t resemble the sitter closely, or at all. You can also paint a likeness of someone’s face that fails to catch any trace of that person’s character and personality and life—the things that a good portrait can express better than any photograph, and a great portrait can express better than a three-volume autobiography. What’s more, if you fail in either way, the failure is something that most people can see at a glance.

That’s the kind of failure from which a purely abstract approach to art protects you. Here as in the rest of life, of course, if you shut yourself off from the risk of failure you shut yourself off just as effectively from the chance of success; there are things you will never accomplish, things that are very much worth doing, if your sole criterion is that you’re not willing to fail.

Been thinking about this a lot.

h/t to @studiodc thanks for the link!

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I don’t see any substantive difference. In either case, representational or abstract, successful artists express time and time again what is not themselves. Hopefully, they find themselves appropriated by expression and humbly serve it, in the manner of making it presence, letting it come forth. To do so effectively requires getting out of one’s own way. To get out of one’s own way requires both skill and resoluteness.

Skill is what is already there – what the artist can effortlessly draw upon to bring the expression forth. Its mode of temporality is that of the past, therefore it should not presence in the work. I’ve practiced this piece hundreds of times so that in the moment of performance, I can have a clear and receptive mind – I can focus on nothing other than letting the expression flow through me, an expression that takes up also the audience, the sensuous qualities of the sound… Skill is there precisely so I do not have to focus on it or worry about it in ways that would prevent the expression from coming forth.

Resoluteness comes from the future; it is the very act of self-abandonment, the leap into the beyond, the fateful decision to allow oneself to be appropriated. But it is also the courageous act of taking ownership for what one has allowed oneself to express. Of taking full responsibility for the results, and thereby paying dividends on the freedom that expression has invested in one. Resoluteness likewise, need not presence in the work – the “shock of the new” will come anyway, of its own accord.

The movement of truth in art is not that of correspondence. It is that of revealing or disclosing a new world. A disclosure granted by the infinitely demanding and hopefully courageous act of allowing oneself to be appropriated. An act of correspondence simply occasions the process, since movement out towards the object already constitutes a “beyond”. But it is not the only possible occasioning. Also, correspondence is hardly the standard by which representational art is valued. One can, and often does, move a tree. Also, one values a portrait not merely for ‘likeness’ but for the totally new thing it reveals of oneself, a thing originating in the “beyond” that the artist has accessed by allowing herself to be appropriated by expression. We must not mistake the frame for the picture.

(In much the same way, the ultimate purpose of a competitive game is not to win. Winning merely occasions the game. Of course, both players or teams must play to win in order for their stories and strategies to come forth in their ownmost, which is the real purpose being discussed here. The objective of playing to win is simply a frame, an occasioning for the real movement of truth within the game.)

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Just a Bunch of Paintings with Lines?
Guy walks into a bar…
Sees the painter Franz Kline sitting down with a beer and says, “Hey Franz, just came from the new Barnett Newman show.” Kline says, “Oh yeah? What did you think? I haven’t seen it yet.” Guy says, “You know, it seemed pretty simple, just a bunch of paintings with lines.” Kline says, “Huh. These paintings… all the same color?” Guy says “No.” “These paintings, they all the same size?” Guy says “no.” “How about those lines? They all the same color? same size? same placement?” Guy says, “No.” Kline says “sounds pretty damned complicated to me.”
[/details]


Giacometti portrait


p.s.

https://art21.org/artist/julie-mehretu/ Politicized Landscapes
BBC Four - Forest, Field & Sky: Art out of Nature = https://youtu.be/HdgN7zizaEk

p.p.s.
philip-guston
Gerhard_Richter

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p.p.p.s

– the overflowing of the concept by the concrete/material
– the absolute uniqueness and irreducibility of what is brought forth in resolute self-abandon
– dinergy as such:

(larger/better image: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/98.110)

what greer values so highly, what he has been seeking in the art he so perfunctorily dismisses has been there all along…

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I feel like abstraction has as much possibility to fail as representational art, if not more. Abstract art is often more deeply personal for the artist, and the difficulty of communicating that personal meaning is difficult and often misunderstood or dismissed.

So while there is (sometimes) more flexibility in terms of raw craft or materiality, there is also more at stake.

A bad portrait is a failure of craft that is immediately apparent to the audience. A failure of concept or abstraction is a failure of intent, or even of the mind, that can be dismissed or misread by the audience.

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I think the points made here fit interestingly alongside the comments on @jasonw22’s original post.


I’m not for or against abstractness in any meaningful sense and I have very little to say about artistic merit, meaning, what art really is about or any of that stuff. It’s clearly deeply personal, both for artists and art observers/appreciators/people who are exposed to it/whatever you want to call it.

I also think Mr. Greer isn’t really going on against abstract art in specific - he’s using it as an example of how people can hide behind a style - and I DO think many people hiding in the more abstract worlds of art are in fact doing precisely that - not to take anything away from those who aren’t or the various styles that can be perceived as abstract themselves. Some of you are going a little too far towards throwing the baby out with the bathwater by assuming that’s what he’s saying.

I do agree that there are many artists (and a general public at large) who are afraid of being CHALLENGING with their work (or being challenged by it). I also believe that “challenge” (as in, difficulty finding/uncovering “meaning” behind an artwork or performance) is another thing that people with limited vision hide behind - “make the end user work hard to figure out whatever meaning I might have put there, because I’m too tired to actually put the meaning there” is, I’d argue, not unheard of in the so-called artistic world. Both things are true, yet there remains excellent art in all styles/genres/categorizations/non-categorizations/etc…

Perhaps people can “challenge” themselves to not knee-jerk about the criticisms of abstract art and focus on the real point which is: our culture does exhibit signs of having difficulty with confrontational issues in the arts* - whether that’s new or not new or increasing or not increasing is not really relevant - and this is perhaps especially not a good time for that to be true. Perhaps we can find good ways to rise to the challenge, to find new means of expressing human emotion, desire, experience, in ever-richer fashions without losing the subtle, perhaps a return to vibrance is as important as a deep dive into nuance? Perhaps they’re not on opposite ends of a fictitious spectrum?

I’d be much more interested in discussing the social and human relevance of this topic, which is I think more at the core of what Greer is trying to get to, than in discussing whether there is or isn’t merit in abstraction, ambient-isms, or whatever other subtle, sublime, or not-strictly-formulaic art forms out there.

@emenel, I especially liked your comment about the failure of concept or abstraction - what does it mean to fail in this way? How can we recognize and build on those failures and the lessons in them to become better (better what? better artists? better communicators? better listeners? better storytellers?..)? What IS excellence, and should we be inspiring each other to pursue it? How do we find it?

And perhaps most relevant to topics you all seem to love to discuss here: how can you be EXCELLENT at abstract art forms? Is there a standard for this? Can there be one? Should there be one? How do you relate to the concept of excellence at all? :smiley:

I’m very happy we have a forum where we can ask these questions non-ironically and really dig into things sometimes. As an artist who recognizes my own lack of excellence (according to my own standards at the very least) I’m always inspired by those who exhibit what I experience as excellence - which is a very wide, deep, and polymorphic field - and I find it worthwhile to pursue each day a little bit of that same spirit in myself. I’d love to see how we can use the power of discussion to sharpen our craft collectively.

  • Edit: when I say ‘confrontational issues’ I’m not limiting this to politics, but including the entire range of human experience that is not culturally ‘in fashion’ at any given moment, context, place, or audience. Take this in a very broad sense, I’m not trying to be political here in specific.
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Oh, I think his argument gets way caught up in this, to the point where it becomes impossible to disentangle it without beginning the whole argument over again. It’s much more than an accidental detail; it colors the entire discussion. And the fact that we’re still speaking of formats (abstract, representational) as divided with respect to issues of craft, resoluteness, and intent means there are still things to discuss.

Anyway my hope was to start with something at Greer’s conclusion (the “dinergic principle”, which I did appreciate) and trace it back to a more originary openness to the world founded upon resoluteness as opposed to prior conceptual intent. It is here where I find the meaningful distinction, not in genre or format. [Greer and I seem to agree mostly about craft, so I’ll skip that.]

In resoluteness one opens up beyond oneself to enter into a partnership or discourse with one’s material to bring something forth, while at the same time agreeing to bear full responsibility for the results (thus, after first having opened myself, after putting myself in question, I disclose myself to myself anew in the work… I must accept who I through the work have allowed myself to become…) A partnership, not a command relationship; discourse, not rhetoric. The anticipatory vision that one realizes and one in a sense becomes is thus a product of the space opened up by discourse. In the sense of being a “product” of certain terms it is dinergic – but these terms are in partnership, not opposition.

But with prior intent, one still “works” the material, but in a servomechanistic relationship in which there is no opening and hence no risk. One no longer works “with” material but forces it into place according to a preconceived idea or plan. Material resists and hence there arises the idea of challenge or opposition. One’s stance becomes no longer conversational, but rhetorical – one appears to converse with the material, but only to solicit the “yes” – the response already predetermined in the concept. The art work becomes only then an empty triumph or conquest in which no fundamental disclosures take place.

But the retreat into prior intent is more than simply opposed to resoluteness: it is a failure of resoluteness, and hence a major source of failure of the art work. The flight from failure into preconceived ideas or normative expectations indeed leads only to failure. To save the “baby” then, this does come around to something like Greer’s initial position… that the failure to risk going outside of oneself is problematic. But it’s problematic precisely because the work always fails, not that the work magically avoids failure simply because it is in one genre vs. the other.

Also, to justify his position Greer needs to bring in all of these external and frankly useless notions – the idea of truth in art as correspondence, for instance – which are simply untenable (and especially so in representational art), and which themselves risk undermining his position.

So I’m trying to reconstitute Greer’s idea of failure in art as something much more fundamental – it’s not merely failure to open oneself to an object, but a more fundamental failure to open oneself altogether – which means to take a stand on one’s existence, to make one’s own being an issue or question.

Finally, I want to say that this discussion is indeed very personal… there’s very little merely “abstract” or “conceptual” in the notions I am trying to discuss – my own failure to be resolute or commit myself to the destiny that is unfolding before me – a large part of which veers into controversial territory, a controversy I neither made nor welcomed, and yet one that originates in a historical condition which I must also own (“I too am responsible”) – my personal failure to fully expose myself, to make myself vulnerable, to thereby take a stand has lead so far to nothing but failure. It is even this lack of commitment which renders my skill inadequate – by merely exploring this avenue or the other – each time a completely different set of skills (or even equipment) is emphasized and I spread myself too thin.

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I love this. And want to clarify that when I wrote about “intent” in abstract art, or concept, I did not intend to imply this sort of material-in-service relationship. More that when work has no obvious representation of something “real” (a whole other conversation) then the work is the result of a different sort of conversation between the artist, the material, and the world. One that can be even more “risky” than representation (even if realistic representation is not the point of the representation).

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Ok, so I went back and read the rest of the essay because I wanted to see if there is anything I missed.

There was - a clear fundamental ignorance of contemporary art practice or literature, and a startlingly narrow and subjective definition of art, craft, and meaning.

Not to mention a tone so dismissive that he makes it very clear that he doesn’t think any contemporary art is “real art” (a phrase he uses).

It comes of as an essay of “my kid could paint that” without a really sense of what goes into artworks or their function.

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Thanks for clarifying. I’d also like to clarify – I don’t want to prohibit discussion of intent, I just think one only discovers what one’s “intent” was after realizing it in the work. And from that standpoint self-expression can also have meaning – but only as the self that gets disclosed in the work, a “self” that changes anew as it goes out of itself once more to create something else.

Photographer Garry Winogrand said this so beautifully – “I don’t have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph. I have no preconceptions.” http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/blog/15219/27-quotes-by-photographer-gary-winogrand/

Also John Cage “I have nothing to say and I am saying it…”

Unfortunately, the challenge is that the “we” who discuss things like “intent” have to realize that we’re largely seeing these concepts through these ontological filters or binary oppositions (subject/object; mind/body; Man/nature) in which the self is posited as the subjectum or foundation, and the world becomes a mere spectacle set up over and against the self for purposes of manipulation. The servomechanism – still relational at its core – is then reified as “mind” or “mental representation” and hence there arises the division or “fence” we must therefore only communicate across – one that requires the mediation of representation.

[further possible origins and consequences of “the fence”:]

In an open(-loop) relationship, however, we don’t “represent” the world, we are embedded within it – that is, coupled directly to that world. The closed-off world, the world of mental representation, is the place where freedom gets reduced to “freedom of choice” – like choosing among different varieties of toothpaste – and the notion of self-responsibility that should accompany such freedom vanishes. Only in this place can arise the question of “arbitrariness” in art that Greer takes as given. Only in the other place, the place of embeddedness, can we solve the problem of arbitrariness by refusing to create it in the first place.

So I still see all these filters more or less operating in Greer’s article, despite its good points. It is just ironic to see them operating in an ecosophy blog, since a fundamental task of ecosophy is to overturn these divisions and recover an ecological way of being which respects embeddedness .

Anyway – “What is real” – the greatest of all great questions – let’s bring it forth!

p.s. this goes to another discussion I’ve been wanting to have – I’m really convinced that it was the role of photography as bringing in new visions into painting, rather than merely “replacing” the function of representation, which led to so much of the rapid transformation in the latter half of the 19th century. [This unfortunately does leave out an important “minority tradition” within spiritualism and Theosophy, which could be taken up in a broader discussion of the West’s gradual opening towards the world. also would be good to question the term “minority”.] The point is what counted as “real” visually, changed dramatically that one could no longer even “see” a landscape the way they were painted in the 18th century. But even in the early 19th century there were artists ahead of the curve, Friedrich and Turner… so in a sense the invention of photography was already prefigured in the Romantic way of seeing … which is where my argument gets weird. [And all of course very provisional because I need to do a lot more research, I need to develop these points with actual evidence…]

But then perhaps, a way to embrace the weirdness is to see art as a domain where “what is real” gets negotiated and transformed, and thus it’s not so weird that art itself is anticipatory.

I’d have to find the source again, but one thing that made the “positive role” of photography obvious to me, other than my own experience photographing – was seeing a bunch of 1896 World’s Fair photos on flickr maybe ten years ago, I forgot the photographer but there was an obvious passion for images that we would associate much more with abstract art. Ever since that point I tend to see modern realism – including the hugely neglected genre of social realism – and modern abstraction as not being so opposed despite the many attempts to divide the two.

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I don’t have anything coherent to add at the moment, but I liked these quotes so much I had to re-quote them. :grin:

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I like very much Tony Conrad’s Yellow Movies paintings. He never called them paintings but they are in museums and galleries. It’s abstract and it is a deep direct depiction of people and process. It represents as much as the representation of a human face in an oil painting.

Abstraction can represent quite a lot of detail that doesn’t belong to the artist.

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Yes, I completely agree. A lot of this reminds me of concepts from second order cybernetics. We don’t observe and react, it’s more symbiosis between the acotrs and systems. We are not looking from outside, but constantly conversing with a world in flux - as much acting on it and it acts on us (us being any animate being).

I’ve been reading a book called Vibrant Matter by Jane Bennett. In it she argues for a way of seeing the world as ecologies where all the actors, animate and inanimate, exert forces on each other. That all things have an active role in this ongoing reshaping of “real”.

I’ve been reading it as part of my artistic research. Art can be a way of investigating. Where the intent isn’t about production but instead about focusing the conversation with material and ideas towards the eventual making of something that is about the questions that come from that conversation… or the learnings. Quite often the work is perpetually unfinished just as the conversations are. It’s one of the reasons I love interactivity as a core to this type of artwork. You can frame an interaction to engage a larger group, or wider world, in an aspect of the conversation.

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One more quick thought. Even if we want to reframe artistic intent in a different light (I.e. non-servomechanical) there is always a reason to start. Someone or some group starts on a project with some impetus, their intention for the endeavor. It may or may not include a firm idea of the form of the work, I think in contemporary practice this is less common. It’s more common to start with a line of inquiry and let that lead to an expression of the idea (as artifact, engagement, system, etc)

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One of the things I picked up from Greer’s other writings is that this is sort of fundamental to his worldview - intent. Of course, being a ceremonial magician, his entire worldview is pretty much focused intent, so let’s realize that’s heavily colouring even his view of art - I think in his mind art, in a metaphorical sense, is encapsulated intent, just as his magic is encapsulated intent. I do agree with @ht73 that he’s quite narrowminded in his ability to see precisely what he’s talking about in art forms or practices that he’s less familiar with.

But, I’m strongly in the view that there’s a lot “art” as a whole can do for humanity, and while discovery, play, and this practice of “saying nothing” have a strong place especially in a very disciplined artist who has trained themselves to listen to what the universe is saying and to either discover it or express it or bring it into the physical in some way (I’m not trying to nitpick or pigeonhole -just emphasize) – while this practice has a role for the artist and maybe for humanity in a discovery sort of way – the practice of starting from a strongly focused intent and then working WITH the medium and the concept as collaborative (and occasionally opposing) forces to end up with an expression that is a symbiosis of the artist and the process has a great amount of relevance to the human experience throughout our history on this planet. I do think that the more we “abstract” (and I’m not speaking here of the genre) meaning from form or figure, and the more we abstract intent from the final product, the more we lose certain aspects of the impact to exchange for others. This leads into the questions of “who is art for - the artist, the observer, society, the purchaser, who?” and of course also deals with “what is the role of art at all and what responsibilities should an artist have?” So I think what’s coming up here between all of us who are actively interested in this discussion is a classic balance between going very deep into a practice for the pure pleasure of discovery, versus going very deep into the application of intent to create something very specific. Neither excludes the artist’s will or skill, nor the ability of the materials, process, universe, happenstance, etc. from shaping the end result. But I don’t think that it’s appropriate to celebrate John Cage’s statement “I have nothing to say” without also acknowledging the validity of those artists who very much do have quite a lot to say and work hard to find equally creative and often sublime means of expressing it - and judging the results of both of them against an appropriate standard of accomplishment or communication or whatever it is we can put our finger on to say “wow” or not.

So… that to say that intent really matters to me, as well as the means the artist chooses to express that intent, and even John Cage’s intent to say “nothing” is a very strong artistic will expressed in his pieces with great force and clarity.

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There’s a distinction that’s being elided here; that between mind and will. Only with the Cartesian viewpoint do they become conflated.

How then would you (or Greer) interpret Peter Carroll’s statement:

(Liber Null, p.14)

Or in general the idea that one must often enter “non-ordinary” states of consciousness to participate more fully in magic? That ritual has a key transformative role?

Is it at least possible to see will as something that manifests not through “mind” but through receptivity – as something that appropriates, something that calls one to bring something forth? Resoluteness is heeding the call and bearing full responsibility for the results. It is accepting one’s place as a caretaker and cultivator of what one has been given.

What one is to bring forth, through force of will – why wouldn’t that thing be indeed highly specific? Is this degree of specificity even possible in mental representations that categorize, reduce, generalize, flatten? Creation is nothing if not intensely specific – no two snowflakes, no two leaves on a tree are exactly the same. Each snowflake, each leaf, each painting, each composition overflows every possible thought that could think it. Their essence, perhaps lies in this overflowing. Indeed, if art could simply be “thought”, as a pure exercise of mind, there would be no reason to make or to view artworks.

Resoluteness is not the absence of intent or care, merely a correction in its temporal structure. To speak of resoluteness as opposed to intent is an acknowledgement that true will arrives from the future, not the past. It is perhaps the most primordial phenomenon of the future in its lived experience. Whether creating a painting or simply exiting a room, it is the future that draws us out of ourselves (Greer’s “not you”) and that makes us act to close the gap. The initial spark of commitment or resoluteness is not merely to throw caution to the wind; it involves also a full understanding of what may transpire and a willingness, whatever the consequences, to accept responsibility.

Resoluteness is a mode of care in its deepest sense. But this care is not something we possess, not something that we wield at our pleasure; rather, care possesses us. Care appropriates us while at the same time keeping us honest. It is what calls us to account and what reveals our choices as anything but arbitrary.

Hyginus’s fable illustrates this so beautifully:

“she would keep her creation as long as it lived.” And then the final judgment being rendered by Time… by temporality in its manifest experience.

Cage’s abdication of mind (“nothing to say”) is the very opposite of “not saying” or the abdication of care. He is saying, and in the end does say something so irreducibly specific, and so overflowing of any concept that it is difficult even to speak of it. Cage abdicates mind in the interest of will; he abdicates mind in order to open himself more fully to care.

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You’ll have to read Greer’s own magical writings to answer your question regarding how he would see all of that - he’s rather widely published.

On the other hand, I am not a philosopher, I am an engineer, and the distinction between mind and will (or the lack thereof, or which viewpoint makes one and which does not) does not particularly interest me.

I did in fact mention that Cage was being very intentional about saying nothing, so I think we agree there; whether it’s mind, will, or whatever. Intent, to me is where the mind and the will meet, and in my view, I think that’s what you were quoting Carroll as saying here:

But that’s neither here nor there. I think there are core questions here: can there be “bad” art? is art something someone can “fail” at at all? and is there any truth to the supposition that “without failure there is no success”?

If Cage, to continue with your example, had NOT done a good job of “saying nothing” as it were, would his art still have had a strong impact? Would it have mattered? Is it important that he focused his mind/will/intent/whatever on that or simply that he delivered the concept of “saying nothing” as a musician in such interesting and diverse ways?

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Sadly, based on this article and a few of his others, I’m not likely to follow up on his other writings, not merely because of this issue but because I detect a distinct “Counter-Currents” vibe to it all (“all” including reader comments) – which is very muted and which may not be his prior intent, but I think is nevertheless worth addressing. (and shows again, how fickle “prior intent” really is).

This really hits a sore spot for me because I myself have been accused in other contexts of promoting far-right ideas and have taken great pains to clarify my position as a result. But I will say – Amy Hale is a good source on this – (this Amy Hale: https://www.amyhale.me/bio/) that we do have a major problem in how our stuff gets co-opted, a problem that goes all the way back to Tacitus and to how so much of our story has been told by those who had no @#$%^ business telling it.

Now, none of the above may be fair – a vibe is only a vibe – and there could still be a trove of more interesting material – I am “generally” interested in people like Greer – but I also have a pile of other important stuff I haven’t read that would keep me busy for years. I might do so if Greer enters the orbit of people like Gyrus, David Abram, Graham Harvey, and others who have at times challenged my own thinking in productive ways and hence have influenced it greatly. I guess what I’m saying is we all come from certain contexts and I couldn’t care less about Greer being “good” or “bad” but more in how he fits in to, or challenges those contexts in interesting ways, which is also how I think about art. I was hoping to hear more about your context, but I guess you don’t want to have that conversation.

I’d be interested as to why you think “good” or “bad” art is a core question. For me it’s much more specific, it’s about the specific thing or conversation or whatever the art brings forth, and whatever else this gathers around it. Trying to flatten everything into a Yelp 5-star rating doesn’t seem to do anything at all. We are finite, life is finite. There will be vital and interesting pieces of art we’ll never come across. Why then does it matter if they are vital and interesting? Or – shouldn’t one ask at least what specifically a piece of art does before asking if it does it well? [And again, I’d be much more interested in the “what”…]

Also, there are simply things in art which don’t communicate. Different universes. Only when they can meet in some way can one even think of comparison. Problem with comparison along some scale of value is, it still flattens or reduces the work. Much better to start a dialogue. Take A and B and instead of asking does A > B, rather ask: what “C” can be produced as a result? If the works can converse, let them! Expand, never contract or reduce. The closest thing we have to objectivity is discourse.

Failure on the other hand is a core question, but a very different one. For me it pertains to the questions: Was the artist resolute in receiving, then taking charge of a vision? Did the artist have the requisite skill to realize that vision? Put another way, which takes up both questions – did the artist get in her own way? All artworks I think fail in some measure. As artists, I think we want to fail less but what is helpful there always plays out more in specifics. At minimum I do think we need to be mindful of the contexts in which artworks are embedded before discussing exactly how they fail or succeed. And this isn’t subjectivism or relativism because there’s really no “subject” here that’s trying to serve as foundation for the failure or success of the work. There’s just the sense in how everything is interconnected and flows through the artist and flows out into other possibilities. Or in how that flow may be blocked.

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I did want to address this, sorry for leaving it out a second time. I don’t think that Cage ever said nothing, it’s that he said exactly what was there in the work itself.

Thinking nothing as a concept is still very much “thinking”. It’s still very different to “not thinking” or having “nothing to think”.

When one consigns one’s thoughts to the Cloud of Forgetting, in order to open oneself to the Cloud of Unknowing, it is not to have this cloud or the concept of nothing in one’s thoughts, it is literally to consign those thoughts. :wink:

[on the other hand… not a perfect analogy; engagement in creative work is moving out into the between, not a total abdication, otherwise there would not be dinergy. it is still useful to maintain the distinction between action and contemplation. still, the same basic performatives apply… which hints at the grounding of the active life in the contemplative.]

The thing with Cage is it’s never anything specifically modern he’s doing, he is simply tapping into various currents of ancient wisdom, whether from Zen, Christian mysticism, Gurdjieff or other sources. They live on again in new ways in his work.

(I’m also sorry if this is cryptic… it’s the best I can do.)

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I remember from art school that it was easier to whip up a few abstracts when end of year deadlines were looming. It was easier to present them in class for criticism since the critical framework for abstract work focused more on the conceptual rather than the technical criticism that realistic work generated.

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