[-empyre-] poets patrons and the word academic

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Tue Jan 5 04:37:25 EST 2010


I agree with your post, wholeheartedly.  But would add an extra
emphasis to your statement and suggest that it might be a "bad" idea
to deny the contingency of relative axes of value.  Sometimes, there
is a tendency to push art into purely aesthetic or purely moral scales
of relation, and I think there is something important about evaluating
the relationship between aesthetics and ethics.  It is find to impose
a separation between form and content, as long as people acknowledge
that this itself is a word-game.  The beautiful and the grotesque are
never purely aesthetic, but they are expressions of ideas, social
relations, philosophies, etc.  I think there is something great about
engaging and arguing over questions of values that can lead to
progress, provided, of course, there are certain values to which
people are going to accept (either willingly, by hammering out a
minimal sort of social contract, or through coercion, simply imposing
them).  It is a hard-handed approach to social existence, but social
existence is what we make it, and if we don't make it widely
agreeable....  then it will be, as it is today in most parts of the
world, increasingly disagreeable (and even murderous).  The disengaged
view (which says there is nothing to agree upon, so just worry about
yourself) is increasingly ugly.  There might have been a time when
being venal and trivial was considered brilliantly clever....  but
today it just seems obvious.  Early on these moves might have conveyed
an unpleasant truth about art's complicity...  but I think this is
something that most people kind of understand (that artists, styles,
ideas are promoted by institutions in accordance with market logics).
And I think this is why you see such a bloom of great works that
convey such a strong desire for sketching out and cultivating a social
consciousness, that might start with a foot in the art world, and
might make use of those institutions, but which yearns for something
else (see, for instance,
http://vectors.usc.edu/index.php?page=7&projectId=57).  In some cases,
this desire for social existence is not even political in the
conventional sense (I recently sat in on a children's workshop
sponsored by the Minnesota Center for Book Arts
<http://www.mnbookarts.org/aboutmcba/aboutmcba.html> and spent some
time in the Robot Store in Michigan <http://www.826michigan.org/>,
both of which are examples of a wider interest in teaching communities
how to make...  More importantly, they teach people that art is not
something you appreciate....  it's something you use.

Take care.


On Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 5:06 AM, Simon Biggs <s.biggs at eca.ac.uk> wrote:
> 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
> disagree.
> Best
> Simon
> Simon Biggs
> Research Professor
> edinburgh college of art
> s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
> www.eca.ac.uk
> Creative Interdisciplinary Research into CoLlaborative Environments
> CIRCLE research group
> www.eca.ac.uk/circle/
> simon at littlepig.org.uk
> www.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!
> Davin
> 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
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