2005-12-05

Alasdair MacIntyre And Pompous Art.

I've always had a problem with the concept of the more modern forms of art, in that they seem completely meaningless outside the context of modern art. That is to say that they seem to lack any intrinsic merit, and can only be judged as subjectively good by members of the actual art community. In one hundred years we will all stand by and ridicule Jackson Pollack, and in less than that Andy Warhol (how his 15 minutes are fame have already been stretched so far, I will never know), and even dada (sad to say). But I figure we might still find merit in Picasso, Van Gogh, and other masters who actually seemed to paint things (as opposed to non-representational blobs). I make this claim since it seems that some forms of art can exist somewhat outside that of pure self-referencial context, such as the art of the Greeks, where we don't even fully understand their cultural motivations anymore, but still find their statuary to be beautiful.

It seems that modern are is directly opposed to the art of the Greeks, in that it has become only understandable through going to art school, or taking classes where someone tells you why it is art, meaning it has no individual standing, only a contextual standing, to be harsh, it is objectively meaningless.

MacIntyre promotes, in "After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory", an idea that he calls practices, in which they promote a good within themselves, and this good can only be grasped by virtue of the practice itself, within the practice. This view could explain the purely subjective and internal worth of modern forms of art, in that they are only viewable within the lens of tradition, and only through participation in the practice of art. This means, according to MacIntyre, that modern art is a purely subjective good in relation to itself.

This fits interestingly with the fact that modern art is purely self-referencial, with no outside referents. Modern art is only a critique on art, and most of it is based on previous such critiques, meaning that the body of contemporary (post-modern) art is nothing more than a meta-critique. This can be seem in Baudrillardian terms, in that art is becoming more can more simulation of art, rather than the real (art-in-art-itself) practice of art. There is no reality in art anymore.

While MacIntyre accepts this concept as valid in the nature of practices as such that he defines them, I find this troubling. If we accept that there is concept free art, that is beautiful throughout the ages, this seems to imply that there is a non-self-referencial standard for aesthetics, and this is a standard completely ignored by the main body of contemporary art. I think that it may be possible to completely deny modern art as art if such a link can be drawn to some external referent. Acceptance of modern art means that any thing can be called art, if we accept that there is an external referent to it. After all, if we can call a simple pipe art, what is to keep me from simply refering to my discarded cigarette butt as the same? The only satisfactory answer to the contrary seems to be "But you are not an artist", which is absurd, since the only way to become an artist is to do art, and by this answer the only way to do art is to be an artist. This begs that art is only valid internal to art, it has succumbed completely to the
META.

I've noticed this trend within philosophy too, much of modern philosophy is a critique of philosophy, and by this it becomes a critique of itself. Oroborus swallowing his own tail. This is the problem that falls upon epistemic relativists such as Richard Rorty and Nelson Goodman, its a ready-made reductio. How can something be completely contingent upon itself, and still be meaningful?

This seems, also, to be related to the rise and fall of the post-modern movement. Where everything (no exaggeration, every-single-thing) has been elevated to a symbolic representation of itself (simulation), things step up, farther and farther away from reality. Like Plato's realm of ideals in reverse (movement from the particular to concept, and not visa versa). All practice has become contingent upon itself, from art to poetry/literature, to philosophy. Thankfully the physical sciences have been saved by virtue of empiricism and an intrinsic grounding in bedrock reality (though QM makes one wonder!).

What are the implications of the complete dominance of the meta? Does this threaten the actual meaning of things? Or does it just happen to solidify the rolls, where one must now be a philosopher to understand philosophy, an artist to understand art, or a poet to understand poetry? Isn't it a good thing for the laypublic to understand things, for things to be almost universally digestible? There are hard questions that will require a bit of thought. Feel free to comment with answers or comments!

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5 comments:

lizzy washington said...

i can't beleive you said that about poor polluck. did you know that the patterns formed in his drip paintings are a form of fractal expressionsim. fractals are never ending patterns found in nature, for instance the crystals in a cave. looking at them up close, they bring to mind autumn rhythm.

Edgar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Omestes said...

I'm glad that you replied!

And sadly, all I can say is, it sucks to be you! It is nice that you took a full minute out of your time to abuse the caps lock key.

Sie sind ein Arschhut!

David said...

Hi. I would really like to start a conversation with you (and ramble, unfortunately). You seem brilliant and very integrated, except here, in regards to art. My question is how do you define "intrinsic value?" And if it is "usefulness" then surely you don’t claim that Pollock didn’t find use in his art (are you familiar with why he painted what he did?)
You seem to be holding a position sees art as objects that the public values (sometimes ignorantly or melodramatically) without looking at art as subjective experience and expression for stages of consciousness. Do you believe in the evolution of consciousness, and if you do, then do you see where art fits in? Lets talk, because I was very surprised at your naive, conventional opinions about these things. DO you not see why dada happened in relationship to postmodern philosophy? It was a breakthrough. Do I not understand something about your opinion?

Maybe the reason that art in this modern and postmodern world has reached something of a cul-de-sac is not that the art itself is exhausted and shallow, but that the postmodern worldview is. Just as rational modernity previously exhausted its forms and gave way to postmodernity, so now the postmodern itself is on its deathbed, (with nothing but infinitely mirrored irony to hold its hand).
So perhaps it isn’t Pollock we should be laughing at, but the worldview that interprets his work.
“The death of painting.” Pollock finally did it. He killed painting. He dripped it onto the canvas without any object.” the common distinction between realistic and abstract, which is made by virtually all art critics, is that realistic, “classical” painting is "representational," and abstract painting is "nonrepresentational” is incorrect, I think. A landscape painting represents states of nature; an abstract painting represents states of mind. Both are, in that sense, representational, because both the physical worldspace and the mental worldspace are real and existing landscapes. Do you agree?
However, the conventional distinction is useful in this sense: impressionism is depicting states that are relatively objective to the painter's consciousness, while expressionism is depicting states that are relatively subjective to the painter's consciousness. Now sure, the line gets blurred with impressionists like Van Gogh, (all painters carry some sort of psychological state into their work), but the point is that expressionism is nonobjective, only dealing with mental environments. What do you think of Rothko?
I’m a big Ken Wilber fan. He has an interesting comment.
“When I view an artwork, it has meaning for me. Each and every time a viewer sees a work and attempts to understand it, there is what Gadamer so unerringly calls a 'fusion of horizons'—as I would also put it, a new holon emerges, which itself is a new context and thus carries new meaning.” Could it be that by simply thinking about a work of art we fulfill its purpose or ‘intrinsic value” which is creating a new idea? Does any of this even interest you?

I often ask people who hate an abstract painting to tell me what they hate about it. Is it the color? Do you have a problem with red? Does it hurt your eyes? Or is the blue triangle? Is that shape offensive? What could be wrong with a shape? Or is it the fact that it is in a gallery? What do you think should be here instead? Doe s this art not express something about the painter, or our culture, or yourself who so easily is affected by it?
If you read this far I'm impressed. Please understand that I like your mind. my email is davidfordtitterington@gmail.com

Omestes said...

Thanks for the comment, even if it was longer than the original post. You bring up some interesting ideas, and my responce would be long, so I will email it to you.