[-empyre-] poets patrons and the word academic

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Mon Jan 4 21:06:17 EST 2010

Good and bad are relative concepts, being the poles of an axis of value.
That axis might be personal or public but it is always contingent. It does
not exist as an absolute geometry but is variable, depending on context.
That context is prescribed by other values of equal contingency.

Art is a relative concept. Some people consider something to be art, others
do not. There will rarely be agreement and it will not include everyone. You
cannot please all the people all the time.

It is only a good idea to get into arguments about relative concepts if you
enjoy interminable word-play and the ultimate outcome of agreeing to



Simon Biggs

Research Professor
edinburgh college of art
s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

Creative Interdisciplinary Research into CoLlaborative Environments
CIRCLE research group

simon at littlepig.org.uk
AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk

From: davin heckman <davinheckman at gmail.com>
Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Date: Sun, 3 Jan 2010 19:13:43 -0600
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] poets patrons and the word academic

Maybe bad art is art that does a "bad" thing.  There is art which
tries to make a moral evil look like a moral good (take, for instance,
nature photography that is used to give a notorious polluter a
positive reputation....  or, say, propaganda which seeks to convince
people that a human rights abuser is a human rights defender.)  Yet,
even art which seeks to tell a lie, at least has the good sense to
know that the fictional utopian world is preferable to the grim
realities that they mask.

Then there is the kind of badness is that which wants to wash its
hands of ethical considerations, altogether.  I would argue that works
that aestheticize violence might fit into this category.  There are
plenty of games, for example, which have no content beyond the
representation of killing as fun.  But I would also lump purely
capitalistic "art" into this category....  think about high-concept
movie merchandise (novelizations of films, picture book adaptations,
direct to video sequels, coloring books, soundtrack theme songs,
etc.).   For every dozen crap trinkets, the manufacturer could
concievably hire an actual artist to make something meaningful....
but instead they choose to flood the world with garbage, made in
sweatshops, that hurts the minds (and sometimes the bodies) of the
people who consume them.  (But you could argue that the mindless
acquisition of tripe represents a different utopian impulse, working
in an archival/d-base aesthetic).

And then there are those works that are productively complicit....
that exist in the zone between two worlds...  the kinds of things
which might fit into one system, but which create change in another.
I think of the many movies that actually do make me think, but without
the heaviness that comes with message films... (I think that Where the
Wild Things Are, for instance, is a great movie that goes beyond
simply cashing in on children's desire).

As always, where somebody begins is an interesting thing.  But where
people are going, or trying to go, is much more so.  It is always
fascinating when someone betrays their narrow interests in favor of
broader ones....   Or when someone unexpectedly questions their own
biases.  Even if people end up in the wrong place, there is something
to be said for effort, intention, affect, etc.

Happy New Year!


On Sun, Jan 3, 2010 at 8:40 AM, G.H. Hovagimyan <ghh at thing.net> wrote:
> gh comments below:
> On Jan 3, 2010, at 4:30 AM, Sally Jane Norman wrote:
>> where and how do/ can we draw the line between bad art and bad causes?
> gh comments:
> Bad art is an aesthetic decision that is subjective.  I've seen in my
> lifetime art that was considered bad to become re-evaluated as good.
> Actually I think the aesthetic kick is in playing with that
> contradiction and skating close to the line of bad art and bad taste.
> Otherwise good taste and good art turn into so much decoration.  I
> don't know what you mean by bad causes but in terms of art I would say
> that when you make art as a political statement its propaganda rather
> than art.  If you make art to make money it's commerce rather than
> art.  If you make art to illustrate a particular theory or piece
> demonstrate a piece of software it's illustration.  I think the only
> proper cause for making art is to advance the art discourse or
> critique it or expand the aesthetic milieu.
> G.H. Hovagimyan
> http://nujus.net/~gh
> http://artistsmeeting.org
> http://turbulence.org/Works/plazaville
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

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