AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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JERRY SALTZ: BAD ART CANNOT BECOME GOOD IN NEW CONTEXTS

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photo of Longo’s sculpture on Whitney’s Tumblr account

Another entry in philosophy-meets-the-artworld:
Famous art critic Jerry Saltz weighs in on Vulture about Robert Longo’s All You Zombies: Truth Before God, which was recently installed at the Whitney.

Saltz writes of ‘badness’ as a “metaphysical constant”:

Can older bad art be made good by changing political times? The short answer, I think, is “No.” Really bad art may be a metaphysical constant, and in the case of rediscovered, long overlooked masterpieces I tend to believe the work was always good and we just weren’t capable of seeing it yet.

But says that, really, it might not be that important:

But when thinking about how times change works of art, we probably need to get away from using words like good and bad. Let’s focus instead on values that make art useful: surprise, energy, redefinitions of skill, a willingness to fail flamboyantly, originality in pursuit of different ideas of beauty, ugliness, urgency, the shedding of biography, or 1,000 other things. Look through these lenses and older art will often look very different in newer times. Any image of black face or lynching reverberates horribly today, as it should.

So what exactly does Saltz think of Longo’s sculpture? Check out the full article at Vulture.


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CAN #SELFIES BE ART? SAATCHI SAYS YES

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I’m going to go ahead and say Saatchi isn’t really that cutting edge on this one. People have been doing self-portraits for a long-ass time. Maybe those don’t count as “selfies” though?

In any event, the famous Saatchi Gallery will host a show this spring called “From Selfie to Self-Expression”. This is funded together with the enormous Chinese telecom company Huawei. (Hm, I wonder why they’d be interested in selfies.)

Maybe most exciting is for those artistic sorts who read the blog: You can enter your own selfie for a chance to be shown at Saatchi!

They’re currently holding a selfie competition (entry rules here), open until March 12, 2017. You have to submit images via their website interface. For whatever reason, you can’t just post an Instagram with the #SaatchiSelfie hashtag and be entered. Although they do want you to use that hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Or you can just scope out the current entries.

From the website: “Winners will receive Huawei’s latest smartphone and have their selfies showcased at the Saatchi Gallery as part of Selfie to Self-Expression.” Even if you weren’t jonesing for the newest line of Huawei phones, being part of a Saatchi show would be pretty cool.

The show will run from March 31, 2017 – May 30, 2017.

Image: Rembrandt, Self-Portrait (1660), courtesy of The Met Collection


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CITIZEN TRUMP: AN INAUGURATION DAY SPECIAL FROM AFB

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Did you know that Donald Trump’s favorite movie is Citizen Kane?

Did you know that the famed film director (and one-time Berkeley philosophy PhD candidate) Errol Morris interviewed him about it?

And did you know that LitHub’s Anthony Audi interviewed Errol Morris about that?

On Rosebud, Morris recalls:

It’s fun to hear Trump talk about how Rosebud somehow works, the metaphor works, “I don’t know why it works, but it works. After all, Steven Spielberg paid a lot of money for it, so it must work. Paid a lot of money, maybe seven figures, six figures.”

This comment is in reference to Spielberg’s having purchased the sled used in the film for $60,500 in 1982. (In fairness, that is six figures in 2008 dollars – about $135k.)

Humor aside, Trump seems to be suggesting an aesthetic theory on which money is evidence of – or perhaps constitutive of – quality. (Surprising, I know.)

Check out the video of Morris’ 2008 interview with Trump below:

The interview contains some intriguingly vulnerable moments. (“Wealth does in fact isolate you from other people. It’s a protective mechanism.”) But also some classic Trump.

Morris: “If you could give Charles Foster Kane advice, what would you say to him?”

Trump: “Get yourself a different woman.”

One last gem of Morris’ from the LitHub interview:

I have this concept based on possible revisions to the DSM V, the diagnostic manual for American psychiatry, and I was going to call it Irony Deficit Disorder: the absolute inability to appreciate irony on any level whatsoever, particularly when the irony involves oneself.

To find out more, follow the above links or check out these articles:

Excellent meme via @laurenweinstein on Twitter


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POET ANSWERS STANDARDIZED TEST QUESTIONS ABOUT HER POETRY – INCORRECTLY.

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I must alert you to an awesome piece by poet Sara Holbrook on HuffPo, where she explains that Texas used two of her poems for middle school standardized tests.

Holbrook:

  • receives an email from a distressed teacher who doesn’t understand the answers
  • discovers poor formatting that adds to the confusion
  • finds the questions in question
  • cannot, ultimately, answer them

The narration of her thought process going through the questions is also delightful.

At one point, she writes:

Parents, educators, legislators, readers of news reports: STOP TAKING THESE TEST RESULTS SERIOUSLY

Idiotic, hair-splitting questions pertaining to nothing, insufficient training, profit-driven motives on the part of the testing companies, and test results that simply reveal the income and education level of the parents.

All very fair. But then a bit of intentionalism to finish it all off!

My final reflection is this: any test that questions the motivations of the author without asking the author is a big baloney sandwich. Mostly test makers do this to dead people who can’t protest. But I’m not dead.

I protest.

Whoa – okay. Now the little dose of philosophy:

She definitely thinks she has the final word on how her poetry is interpreted! But like, does she really? Maybe she’s a good poet but a bad interpreter. (I’ll admit that the questions and answers do in fact seem a little silly. And I’ll be the first to throw down about how terrible standardized testing is.) But in principle, there’s no reason to think that just because she can’t answer the questions, they’re bad questions. Right? What do you guys think?

Go read the whole thing on Huffington Post.

Image credit: t-shirt design via Fashionably Geek – sorry little birdies, it looks like it’s sold out! 😥


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VENGEANCE IN BRIGHT PINK

You might think that you can’t, like, own a color, man.

But you’d be wrong. (And actually you’d have been wrong for a while. See Yves Klein Blue.)

Context: Maybe you remember the dustup earlier this year when superstar artist Anish Kapoor acquired the exclusive rights to (artistic) use of Vantablack, the blackest black in the world. Check it out:

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you can totally see through your screen that it’s the blackest black in existence, right?

Snarky remarks aside, it seems to make the aluminum look downright velvety. Artists were (reasonably) pissed about not being able to use this.

One such artist took revenge. Stuart Semple has developed the pinkest pink in existence. Check it out:

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it’s definitely pinker than this image can depict

And he’s making it available to everybody except Kapoor. Even you* can go grab a jar for £3.99.

*Unless you’re Anish, in which case, wow! We’re super flattered. Click-like-share this blog with your friends!

He’s also developed the glitteriest glitter, which is about twice the price of the pinkest pink, and also available to anybody except Kapoor.

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so why is everybody just talking about the pink?

Real questions: Are these really the pinkest pink and glitteriest glitter? On what sort of scale? Is this just a publicity stunt? Was what Kapoor did just a publicity stunt? Does any of that matter? And is it a problem for the future of art, now that you can actually own certain colors? Or is it no big deal?

Read more:

Images credits: (1) via Wikimedia Commons; (2) and (3) via CultureHustle, Stuart Semple’s website


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3D PRINTED, AI-PRODUCED ORIGINAL “REMBRANDT”

A collaboration between ING bank, Microsoft, Delft University of Technology, and the Mauritshuis museum brings us the Next Rembrandt project.

They’ve created an original, Rembrandt-style “painting” created by analyzing existing Rembrandt paintings (colors, head direction, facial composition, etc.).

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If this is a taste of what the robot apocalypse will look like, then I guess it seems sort of anticlimactic.

Anyway, if you were curious about how to make the MOST paradigmatic Rembrandt painting, you’d want the following characteristics:

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Okay, but so much you probably already knew, without any deep data algorithms. Just with your fleshy meat brain.

But could you do this part?

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They did micro-landscape analysis of the brushstrokes and mimicked that, too. Then used “paint-based UV ink” to create the final product with a 3D printer.

And how does it look?

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I mean, it looks like a Rembrandt to me. (Some people claim they can tell it’s not authentic. I’m skeptical.) This – like computer-generated poetry – raises a bunch of interesting philosophical questions.

  • Is it an artwork?
  • Is it a painting?
  • Is it an original painting?
  • Is there an author? Who is it?
  • Is there any creativity involved? Any expression?
  • Would it actually be distinguishable, even by experts, from a real Rembrandt? And does that matter?

But most importantly:

  • Will this creativity and computer learning lead to robots enslaving humanity?

“You could say that we use technology and data like Rembrandt used his paints and his brushes to create something new.” – Ron Augustus, Director of SMB Markets at Microsoft

I mean, like, you could… but should you?

If you’re curious, check out the video below to see an overview of the project. Much more at the project website.

(Via Core77. Thanks to Noah Greenstein for the pointer.)


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3D ANIMATION FOR ADULTS: “BORROWED TIME”

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The emergence of new art forms and media is often, if not always, met with some resistance. Animation has always had a back seat, but now graphic novels have gained some cachet, and experimental animation has raised the status of what used to be stuff for kids.

3D animation of the style we see from Pixar and Dreamworks has been relegated to the same just-for-kids and not-for-serious-people category, but it too is trying to break out of that mold. (Remember the first 5 minutes of Up?)

Watch the newly released short “Borrowed Time” from a couple of Pixar animators (Lou Hamou-Lhadj and Andrew Coats) to see for yourself. Have some tissues on hand.

Borrowed Time via vimeo

Other good pieces pushing these boundaries? Or is 3D animation just too wrapped up with kids to be rescued? Or does the whole issue rest on the mistaken assumption that things for kids can’t be for serious aesthetic consumption?


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KERI SMITH’S ADVICE FOR ARTISTS

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detail from Keri Smith, The Artist’s Survival Kit: survival 4 (2010)

#MotivationalMonday

Here’s how to feel miserable this week! Illustrator, author, artist Keri Smith’s advice for artists.

We all know those aren’t the only ways to feel miserable, but are they some good ways? Are they translatable to other creative endeavors (like, oh I don’t know, philosophy)?

See Smith’s entire Artist Survival Kit here.