Thursday, December 15, 2005

''Why is this art?

A post written a while back but I guess I never hit the submit button

A lively debate about the purity of photography at edward_ winkleman with 70 high flying posts about truth and trust - makes me want ask - why would any one trust an "artist" about anything?

Fast forward to the NY Sun's review of MOMA's Pixar show:

But in many ways "Pixar" is both too specialized and too pedestrian. On the one hand, it wants to establish that the computer animation that made the company famous is only part of the story - many of their artists use traditional media. The exhibition also wants to make clear that the computer, like the pencil or brush, is merely a tool - that it is only as good as the illustrator who uses it.

All of this is true enough, but animators are the only ones who really care about the distinction. There is more to "drawing, painting, and sculpture" than illustrative rendering or modelmaking; art is composed of metaphors. The show mistakenly attempts to elevate creative, inventive, and technically adept illustrations and maquettes - cartoon characters rendered for the screen - to that of great drawing and sculpture. What it all amounts to is a purposeful leveling of the playing field: Art is dumbed down and illustration is dumbed up.

Increasingly, artists want to have their tools and eat them, too. MoMA and Pixar want us to believe that the studio's computer-generated illustrations should be considered as art. Yet they feel compelled to remind us that their illustrators work with paint and pastel. It seems to me a bit of overly defensive posturing: Enjoying "Toy Story" doesn't make you a philistine; putting it on a par with Picasso is another story.

And then back track to the NY Times' State of the Art which ends with a flourish:

MANY New Yorkers dismissed ''The Gates,'' or did not take pleasure in it. Some even refused to experience it. Their objections were not to the quality of the work, to the color of the sheets, for instance, or to their height or placement. Technique was never the problem, and few complained that Central Park was being desecrated. Most of the objections went much deeper, reaching in fact to the philosophical issue at the heart of modern art. ''Why is this art?'' the skeptics asked. It's easy to imagine art snobs smirking at what they would consider the cultural naïveté behind such doubts. But the question, a fair and very serious one, has always deserved an answer.

I skipped the Gates and remain dismissive of them. How about you?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Photography at the Tipping Point

In Canadian Artist, Nancy Tousley's "Photography at the Tipping Point" opens with the following sentence:
"Like painting, photography has been declared dead, but so far there has been no public fuss or outcry about the medium's demise, although the obituary was published nearly fifteen years ago."
And then ends just as strong ...

"For the Czech philosopher Vilém Flusser, who is sometimes called the philosopher of new media, the invention of photography was the most important cultural invention since linear writing in the second millennium BCE. The photograph, which Flusser theorized as the first technical image, overcame "the artificial separation of culture into science, technology, and art," as Andreas Ströhl, the editor of Flusser's book Writings, explains. In the early 1980s, Flusser proposed that the crux of photography criticism was not the relationship between an object and its representation. "Truth is a relationship between a statement and its meaning," he wrote. "Photography turns the relationship between statement and meaning completely around. The photograph does not discover meanings, but rather, it gives them. It does not matter if they are true or false—even if this could be established. The critical question is, Which meaning does it intend to give according to which criteria? The criterion 'true'—the value 'truth'—is no longer operative in photography and must be abandoned."

Many artists using photography in the early 1980s were abandoning truth in photography in different ways. But whether art photography will ever completely sever its direct connection to the world, and abandon the notion of truth or reality as something to embrace or something to work against, is debatable, although digital imaging is already doing it in the commercial world. In the meantime, at the tipping point, digital imaging has struck up a relationship with both photography and painting. Picture-theory artists and photographers in Düsseldorf and Vancouver have shown that a photograph can be an autonomous object, pure picture. The tipping point is a rich place to be for photography, filled with potential that will be worked out in the evolving practice of artists."

This notion of "true" or "truth" compounded by the velocity and volume of images leads me to one conclusion, biology will sort this out. Science will discover humans can only view a finite number of images before dying or going blind. In recent days I have felt more than half way there. I hope we haven't jumped the shark ....

Note: Just saw this on microblindness in the NY Times Magazine section, we have jumped the shark.