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  1. #1
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    Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    I thought I'd bring this up, because I rarely if ever see issues like aesthetics or the humanities discussed here. This is the philosophy thread, right? Well, I think more different philosophical material should be discussed as opposed to the same tired subjects.

    And now that I'm done soap-boxing, let's get on with the actual topic of the thread:

    Is there "high art" or "low art"? Or, more simply stated: Is some art better than other art? But we involve ourselves with some more fundamental questions here: What is art? What are it's aims, if any? And if the collective base of work in the humanities itself ought not to be defined by it's functions and ends, but more as a medium, then what aims have artists had?

    The UOD need not be very restrictive when it comes to this subject. So whatever argument you would like to make, go ahead and make it. It won't be unproductive for you to do so.

    As for my own position, I would prefer to wait a bit and see what some of you write, before revealing my own thoughts whilst interacting with your arguments.
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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    yes there is high art and low art. but only in the happy land of subjectivity

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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lukecash12 View Post
    Is there "high art" or "low art"? Or, more simply stated: Is some art better than other art? But we involve ourselves with some more fundamental questions here: What is art? What are it's aims, if any? And if the collective base of work in the humanities itself ought not to be defined by it's functions and ends, but more as a medium, then what aims have artists had?.
    If we define "high art" as that which inspires our inner and outer senses to a great degree and "low art" as that which depresses (does not inspire) our inner and outer senses, then I do think works of art may fall into "high and/or low art."

    An example of such inspiration could be something like the Sistine Chapel in Italy where millions upon millions of people each year travel to visit from all parts of the world to be inspired by the high art (no pun intended ) of Michelangelo's painted ceiling.
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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    Quote Originally Posted by eye4magic View Post
    If we define "high art" as that which inspires our inner and outer senses to a great degree and "low art" as that which depresses (does not inspire) our inner and outer senses, then I do think works of art may fall into "high and/or low art."

    An example of such inspiration could be something like the Sistine Chapel in Italy where millions upon millions of people each year travel to visit from all parts of the world to be inspired by the high art (no pun intended ) of Michelangelo's painted ceiling.
    And yet art that would be considered "low" in comparison to the Sistine Chapel, by many intelligentsia, can be just as meaningful to select people.
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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lukecash12 View Post
    And yet art that would be considered "low" in comparison to the Sistine Chapel, by many intelligentsia, can be just as meaningful to select people.
    Right. But my point was that IF inspiration is a criteria for defining high art, it's interesting to observe and note that some large groups of the masses are attracted to such art. On the other hand, for some people, inspiration is not part of the equation in art; instead it could be about technical uniqueness and creativity. That's why I think it depends on how we define "high art" vs "low art."
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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    There is art which objectively takes more skill to create than other art, such as the Sistine Chapel compared to paint splattering. But that does not guarantee that it will remain more popular. "High" and "low" art seem more like classist buzzwords, than meaningful descriptions. A rich person can enjoy modern graffiti or paint splatter, and a poor person can enjoy the Renaissance masters. The same can be applied to music as well.

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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    I think one can make an objective judgment in this area, if the following are acceptable criteria. Note: I am not a painter, I play music. I know music so that's what I will make most of my judgments on.

    1. There needs to be a certain human element to it. The human needs to be the driving force. I think in almost any form of art... humans are necessary, but there is a degree of input required for each level. For example, jazz or classical music would, in most cases, have more input than dubstep. The human is the primary driving force, and is so by a large margin compared to the tools used to create the music. While a human still needs to preform the rudimentary tasks of "dropping bass", it's not as heavy a factor. Software can easily define a great deal of this genre. Note: I am not arguing that a particular style of music isn't music. Simply that we can make an objective judgment about how "high" a form it is based on the human factor.

    2. The tools are also important. What I mean is this: for music it's guitars, pianos, saxophones, etc. These are the tools of the art. For painters its the brush, canvas, and paint. Sculptures have their clay and their sculpting tools. The tools are necessary for the job, but require the human interaction to make the art. A guitar makes no music without human interaction. Without a man strumming an A7 chord there is no music. Now, you can have a computer do it, but we are removing at least 50% of the human element. We go back to point one here. I once visited the Chicago Art Museum and saw a bag of manure in an acrylic case sliced open and paint filled a quarter of the way up in the acrylic case. This was art. As bias as I am against modern art, I found this insulting to my intelligence. Was there human interaction? Yes, It even used some art media. So some of the tools were there. It's art, whether I like it or not. But it's not nearly as high on the list as a sculpture that took time and talent, even a modern art sculpture of random shapes is a higher form of art. The human interaction wasn't as high the list, or as necessary. A horse could have made that mess. A horse can't sculpt in steal or stone. So the human element and tools are necessary and objective ways of defining how "high" on the scale one is.

    3. Technical knowledge. This is a more debatable point and usually where I separate myself from the snobs; but to be fair some level of technical knowledge is required in all art forms. Sculpting a man figure in stone is more difficult than a pencil sketch, in most cases, certainly not all. Drawing a circle takes more technical knowledge than throwing paint on a canvas straight from the can. Jazz takes more technical knowledge than dubstep. However, many great artists had very minimal technical skills. Wes Montgomery was by no means a theory expert, but a fantastic musician. However he had basic understandings of music. You can easily make up for the lack of this field in others. Someone with great technical knowledge can play with no feeling and give nothing to the world in terms of art. Malmsteen comes to mind... Vai, Satriani. All technical wizards. Very boring to listen to after about 5 minutes.

    Defining what is "art" is much more subjective. But we can take all "art" forms and judge them fairly objectively based on those criteria. How much human element, the use of the tools and how much of a role the tool plays vs the human interaction, and finally the technical knowledge.

    For me, I love the blues. It is however, a lower form of music art. It's not difficult to play, and the theory behind it is very minimal. It doesn't make it any less enjoyable. The same can be said of my jazz obsession. It's infinitely more difficult than blues or rock in a technical sense but is as equally pleasing for me. It's a higher music form, that doesn't mean it's better.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    I'd say that a good deal of what some people call "art" these days is not, in fact, worthy of the name. An example that comes immediately to mind is "Piss Christ." Sorry... but urinating into a jar and putting a picture of someone in it is not art. It's a statement of disgust or disdain at someone or something, but it's not art. If people insist on calling this sort of thing "art," then I would argue that it is most certainly "low" art, in that it expresses no significant talent, explores no useful or great ideas, and not, by any objective measure, any more aesthetically pleasing than any other jar filled with urine with someone's picture in it.

    If I tried to exhibit a mason jar full of urine with someone's picture in it as art, I'd be laughed out of the gallery... and this is intuitively obvious to anyone who thinks about it for a moment. The reason for this is quite simple: we all have an inner sense - an instinct, if you will - for what is beautiful. It may differ from person to person, but there are some things that most people will agree are, to some extent or another, intrinsically beautiful. This is what makes something art. If that piece of art (be it music, sculpture, writing, visual art, or what have you) elevates the senses or the mind.. if it takes us from the mundane realities of everyday life into something more profound... then art has achieved its aim. This is what I would consider "high art."

    These meaningless, abstract assemblages of scrap metal and literal splashes of paint on canvas without any thought toward beauty or any technical skill required contribute nothing to the person who sees them except name recognition. Jackson Pollock's pieces are easily mimicked by anyone with a piece of canvas, a few gallons of latex house paint, and some paintbrushes with which to literally throw paint onto a canvas. It's not genius... it's a child's finger painting that someone decided to call "visionary." The only reason that Jackson Pollock's pieces are given value is because they are associated with the name itself. A person doing the very same thing that Pollock did with the exact same materials, if he did not already have a reputation in the art world as avant garde, would be laughed out of a gallery as quickly as I would urinating into a jar with a picture of Jesus in it.

    Case in point:Aelita Andre... a little girl whose finger paintings were shown in a "modern art" gallery and whose paintings have, for some inexplicable reason, been sold for thousands of dollars. Also, reference the paintings done by an elephant, which have sold for similar amounts of money.

    I argue that these are not art - high *or* low - because they do not represent any reasonable form of intentionality in creating something worth looking at and are in no way different from or superior to things that one finds anywhere, just by looking around. Is a mason jar ipso facto art? Sorry... I just don't think so.
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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talthas View Post
    I'd say that a good deal of what some people call "art" these days is not, in fact, worthy of the name. An example that comes immediately to mind is "Piss Christ." Sorry... but urinating into a jar and putting a picture of someone in it is not art. It's a statement of disgust or disdain at someone or something, but it's not art. If people insist on calling this sort of thing "art," then I would argue that it is most certainly "low" art, in that it expresses no significant talent, explores no useful or great ideas, and not, by any objective measure, any more aesthetically pleasing than any other jar filled with urine with someone's picture in it.
    I would agree, and not simply because it visually assaults the religious sensibilities, or is blasphemous (which it is). An actual skillful painting, sculpture, song, etc. which deprecated Christ in some way would still be more qualified to be considered art, by any reasonable measure.

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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinBrowning View Post
    There is art which objectively takes more skill to create than other art, such as the Sistine Chapel compared to paint splattering.
    Fans of Jackson Pollock might disagree.

    Note: I do not count myself among them.
    ~Zealous

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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    Well, I think when we ask ourselves what art is, we need to see it's place in history and the development of two key words: art, and aesthetics.

    The word aesthetikos formed into a prominent concept in ancient Greece, under the influence of the Pythagoreans. They created a tuning system that we call "just intonation", in which every interval of a fourth was harmonically perfect. Concepts like "harmony" and "dissonance" in music originated with their philosophy of a "harmony of the spheres". Beauty, to them, was mathematical perfection. And in using just intonation they basically were using "right angles". A clean fourth has no beats (overtone conflicts), and between each clean fourth is the same cent value. Their word aesthetikos meant: pleasant to the senses.

    What do we get from that today? Well, I don't think it is at all observable that one aesthetic exists, so much as it is observable that through the lens of cultural circumstance we can see how different aesthetics throughout history represent the ideas of those who used aesthetics. This is important because it builds on my concept that art is always at least functionally representative, if not intended to be representative.

    The word art itself originated in the classical Latin tongue, and essentially meant "craft". What this implied was skill, aesthetics, and pride. Artisans took pride in their work. One of the basic ideas of a craft is that people create, that what they imagine they then can physically represent. Yet this word wasn't used to denote a tradition in the humanities until the Romantic period. And at that time their definition of art was more strictly one of self contemplation, of an outlet for romantic thought.

    But such a definition seems too limited in scope to me, and it bastardizes the meaning of it's base Latin word. Definitions abound of art that represent an individual's ideals, of what an individual's aesthetics are, yet that kind of definition is only useful to a few people. I think that for us to look for a definition of art, requires of us to use important criteria like principles such as holism and relativism. Using just those two key criteria, I think I can come up with a pretty good definition, but I'm open to other important criteria.

    Here it is: Art is any work done by a person that is representative of that person either culturally or on a level of personal intellect.

    Now, on to the ideas of "high" and "low" art, of whether or not certain art has stature, of whether or not some art is simply better than some other art (and I don't mean to be redundant, because there are key difference between each of these ideas):

    I would say that there is such a thing as art that is more valuable to the lot of us than other art that is more valuable to a smaller group. Now, don't confuse this first statement for a populist view of art, because it hasn't much to do with popularity. It has more to do with posterity, with learning, with self contemplation, or with social bonding, and simple pleasure (which is a good thing of it's own). I'll use music as my example because this is the area of art where I have done the most study:

    Popular music is valuable in that it serves a social purpose, and in that it can be an emotional outlet or inspiration as well. It has certain trends, but it wouldn't be fair to label it all as an arm of the marketing system. However, popular music is always forgotten by the general public within a span of decades. Regardless of the effort put into it, the level of inspiration shown by the artist(s), music that is sold to the general public today will cease to be appreciated as it used to be appreciated. Sure, Elvis might even last as a cultural icon for some time to come, but that doesn't mean that his music will ever be played as much as it was played during his day, and the numbers dwindle of people who are familiar with most or all of his output. He penetrated the artistic consciousness, and his effects will be seen for some time to come.

    There is another tradition of music, that was in demand in it's own time, but dominated more by national pride, by philosophical traditions, and by it's connection with religion. "Classical" music will not be forgotten any time soon. In fact, more and more is being done to dig up the names and works in this tradition of music. And this is done because this tradition summarizes, comments on, and viscerally acquaints us with the history of the West. These figures are so embedded into our culture and it's story, that there is no end in sight to the fascination and devotion that people have to it. This gets preserved, yet popular music doesn't. This gets taught in courses on the humanities, while popular music is bought and listened to until it is merely forgotten.

    And I think this is so because one has more academic value than the other. But also the themes addressed by this tradition are, by and large, less mundane, and refined by developments in philosophy. Baroque era music is very mathematical, formulaic, religious, cerebral... and that is because of Enlightenment era thinking, of the advent of Lutheranism, etc.

    So, some art is valuable in that people identify with each other using it, and they inspire themselves with it, and other art is of more value to people throughout the ages, because it does all of that and then some. This is my preliminary exposition of the issue. More of my ideas I'll share as you interact with the ideas of one another and myself.
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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    Quote Originally Posted by ZealousDemon View Post
    Fans of Jackson Pollock might disagree.

    Note: I do not count myself among them.
    They might, but they would be objectively incorrect. By any reasonable measure of skill, the Sistine Chapel took more skill (a craft, trade, or job requiring manual dexterity or special training in which a person has competence and experience: the skill of cabinetmaking. - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/skill?s=t), than it does to splatter paint haphazardly on a canvas.

    Now, there are people who do enjoy or appreciate such paint splattered canvases more than the Sistine Chapel. And they are not "wrong" to have that aesthetic or subjective reaction to it. But it still took less skill to create than Michelangelo's chapel ceiling.

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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    I think you could more objectively measure things like dexterity or finesse, but I think words like "skill" and "talent" are much more in the realm of subjectivity.
    ~Zealous

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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    Quote Originally Posted by ZealousDemon View Post
    I think you could more objectively measure things like dexterity or finesse, but I think words like "skill" and "talent" are much more in the realm of subjectivity.
    Maybe in terms of how people use those words, subjectivity may be the case, but those words themselves are actually fairly objective. It is easy enough to observe how some crafts require a certain amount of training mentally and physically, which we call skill. And it is easy enough to observe that some people have latent abilities, hence their rapid progress in a skill.
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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    High art and low art is not really all that hard differentiate and certainly do exist. As always the extremes show the difference the best.

    Here is a clear example of high art.


    Here is an example of low art.


    Now in comparing these two it is clear that one is about all that is lifted up by society and looked up to, while the second is all about what is cast down and even looked down on.

    While the extremes are easy to identify as to which is high art and which is low, it certainly this leaves room for a "grey" area of uncertainty.
    Picture falling in the grey area.

    The picture as enough elements of the things above, and the things below as to put it in the middle. Some will argue that it is clearly high art, but in comparison to the extreme of high art, it is quite a bit lower. It is well within reach of even the most basic artist. Still, in comparison to the extreme of low art, it is very much higher in every way.

    That is really all I can contribute to discussions on art



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    I apologize to anyone waiting on a response from me. I am experiencing a time warp, suddenly their are not enough hours in a day. As soon as I find a replacement part to my flux capacitor regulator, time should resume it's normal flow.

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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    High art is supported and patronized by rich people. Low art is consumed by poor people. High art can become low art if the masses of proles get their grubby hands on it. Low art can become high art if it is forgotten by the masses and picked up by bourgeoisie historiographers.

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    Re: Is there such a thing as "high art" and "low art"?

    That would all be in the opinion of the one viewing the art. There are high arts and low arts for every individual viewer. As a whole, all real art is self expression of an original creation so no one is better than the next. When it comes to art being used in different industries such as advertisement and media then there becomes highs and lows depending on massive consumer statistics. It's really a double edged sword between artistic expression and mainstream industry in my opinion.

 

 

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