AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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GUEST POST: MARY-BETH WILLARD REVISITS FEARLESS GIRL STATUE

Mary-Beth Willard is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Weber State University. She works in metaphysics and aesthetics, and writes about street art, including an objectively absurd amount of time spent on the story of this little statue.

When I last wrote about Fearless Girl, I observed that the meaning of the little Bull-challenging statue will lie in its interaction with the public, who for the moment has claimed it as an icon of feminism, capturing the vivacity of little girls at that tender age where they still dare to dream.

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Fearless Girl reportedly now has a permit through 2018, and this has angered none other than the creator of Charging Bull, Arturo di Modica, who has asked for Fearless Girl to be relocated, because it’s making his Bull into a villain.

Here’s a quick version of an argument on behalf of di Modica. Fearless Girl might have been intended by the artist and firm who commissioned her (It? She. Has to be “she.”) as a stunt aimed at promoting the hiring and retention of women in the financial industry, but that’s not how people reacted. She opposes the bull – she’s not riding it, after all – and the public has decided that they’re on her side. If she represents the power of girls, then the bull is now a beast that tramples them.  This substantially changes the meaning of Charging Bull, and the artist, who supports gender equality, does not want that. Given that both pieces are works of public art, he cannot simply declare that Charging Bull is not anti-feminist, because his declaration will mean nothing to the swarms of visitors who see the tableau. Thus, to preserve the meaning of Charging Bull, the Fearless Girl must stand down.

The ethos of street art, according to one influential account, commits artists implicitly to accept its ephemerality; once in the street, the artist should expect to have no say over what happens to it, because historically many works of street art were illicit, and would be removed.  The relevant contrast is supposed to be with sanctioned public art, which by way of having sought official approval, is historically afforded a degree of civic protection. Charging Bull has permission, and in the past has been protected from the threat of physical damage by civic authorities, so one question raised by this case is whether the implicit expectation of civic protection extends to the meaning of the work.

There’s also an ethical discussion occurring between the artworks, which arguably affects how we should view di Modica’s request. Curiously, both Charging Bull and Fearless Girl were presented as if they were street art: installed at night, under the cover of darkness. Charging Bull was even hauled off by the authorities before being rehomed two blocks south; there’s a case for it to be properly considered as street art that owes its permanence to its unexpected welcome reception. (Fearless Girl, the result of an ad campaign, had a permit.) In both cases, the intended meaning of the works were overwritten by the reaction of the public. The street decided that Charging Bull was a symbol of the financial district, and that Fearless Girl symbolized everything opposed to it.

In asking for the city to remove Fearless Girl, however, di Modica is saying that in this case, the street does not get to decide the meaning of his artwork. But can he succeed?  There is a limit to what an artist’s intention can establish – there’s no way to preserve Charging Bull as long as Fearless Girl stares it down. He might sue.

(So far, the mayor is telling di Modica to pound salt.)

But if Fearless Girl is so threatening that she must be removed, might she already have won the battle over the meaning of Charging Bull? Imagine the stories: The Charging Bull is so thoroughly identified with capitalism that the power of the state is called in to save it from a tiny ponytailed girl. We were here first, little lady. It was fine when we did it. Don’t you go trying to change the way things are done around here. Don’t take up space.

Will the bull become a bully?


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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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YouGov SURVEY ANSWERS PERENNIAL QUESTION: CAN VIDEO GAMES BE ART?

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Survey says… No. 😥

But tattoos can be, and many other things.

Internet-based market research company YouGov asked over 1500 Brits whether they thought various mediums could be art.

Their results:

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Unsurprisingly, results varied a lot across age groups, and some across class. Take a look at YouGov’s write-up of these surveys, and their detailed survey results. This updates some older results they got in 2014.

Well, I guess we can shut things down around here. Thanks to everyone for playing!

p.s. But seriously, stay tuned for the next JAAC x AFB Discussion on this beloved non-art-form. We’ll be discussing Grant Tavinor’s JAAC paper “What’s My Motivation? Video Games and Interpretive Performance”.

Photo credit: Ryan Quick, The Art of Video Games via Flickr


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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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ARTIST INTERVIEW: LAUREN KALMAN

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Artist Lauren Kalman interviewed by Alex King for AFB

Lauren Kalman is a visual artist based in Detroit and an assistant professor at Wayne State University. Her practice is invested in contemporary craft, video, photography and performance. Kalman’s work has been featured in exhibitions at the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Museum of Contemporary Craft, Cranbrook Art Museum, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Mint Museum, and the World Art Museum in Beijing, among others. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and the Detroit Institute of Art. She currently has a solo show at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, running through March 15, 2017, as part of their MAD POV series; as well as an installation at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, PA, running through February 12, 2017.

[Ed. warning: this interview contains some nudity, may be NSFW]

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A THANKSGIVING ANNOUNCEMENT FROM AFB

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Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Scorched Earth, Clear Cut Logging on Native Sovereign Lands, Shaman Coming to Fix (1991) (via Yuxweluptun’s website)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in America, and while there are many things to be thankful for (though also many things to be dissatisfied with, to put it mildly), we at AFB would like to take a moment to recognize and celebrate Native American art and people.

Please remember that the conventional Thanksgiving narrative is at best naively and misleadingly incomplete and at worst grossly, perniciously, and irretrievably wrong.

And be aware that Native Americans still fight for recognition, respect, and rights. Be aware of the current Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) situation (see how you can help here). Be aware that while you may be sitting down tomorrow to a meal with family and friends, others will be protesting at the National Day of Mourning in Coles Hill Plymouth, MA and at the Indigenous Peoples’ Sunrise Gathering on Alcatraz Island, CA.

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David Bradley, Pueblo Feast Day (1997) (via Wikimedia Commons)

The influence of indigenous cultures on contemporary American culture is immeasurable. So we would like to say thank you, and we stand with you.

If you’d like to get more informed, below the fold are a few links to recent developments in Native American art and the artworld.
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ARTISTS RESPOND TO THE 2016 ELECTION RESULTS + AUDEN POEM

Follow these links for some great coverage on how artists are responding to the 2016 election results. Please feel free to share any information about how artists are responding to the election results in the comments below.

For your viewing pleasure, here is the cold open from Saturday Night Live this past weekend. A response to the 2016 election results and Leonard Cohen’s death from the obviously multi-talented artist and comedian, Kate McKinnon:


In conclusion, an Auden poem:

September 1, 1939 | W. H. Auden, 19071973

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

 


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MARINA ABRAMOVIC, BLACK MAGIC, THE 2016 ELECTION, AND A REMINDER TO VOTE TODAY!!!

It turns out that there REALLY are some emails that can seriously hit the democratic party hard… Infowars–Alex Jones totally legit conspiracy theory site–breaks the news that “the latest bombshell to come from WikiLeaks connects Clinton campaign head John Podesta to top occultist Marina Abramović” through Podesta’s brother’s email!! Check out the full bombshell by reading the article yourself: Bombshell: Hillary Clinton’s Satanic Network Exposed. Here’s the devastating email Abramović sent to Tony–John’s brother–in all its satanic glory:

To keep up-to-date on this super-important election issue… Or to just add some more fun absurdity to this whole extravaganza, check out these articles:


On behalf of all of us at Aesthetics for Birds and the rest of the world…

GO OUT AND VOTE TODAY, SERIOUSLY, DO IT!!!