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Can Art have no Artist's Statement, Vision or Idea?

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Does anyone know when some variant of the Artist’s statement begin to appear regurlarly?

At another site someone suggested that it begin in the early 1900s and reached common place status by the 1950s. One person cited Tom Wolfe (in The Painted Word) saying that by the time abstract expressionism was popular, artists begin to write essays about their work, and from this was the wide use of the Artist’s statement. Others say the practice started earlier but don’t doubt that by the 1950s it was a common practice.

As a technical issue, if one finds the origins of this practice then the reasoning for it becomes less opaque.

As a hypothetical example, if this did become common in the 50s, the timing puts it during the main frontal attack of the cold war, when many artists were accused of being communist. If true then the artist’s statement likely became a tool of political ass covering.

In the cynical light of day, the artist’s statement is little other than an opportunity to promote the work under some pretext and to use that to direct the emotions of the potential patrons…..
Tracy,

When I used the words "Artist's Statement, Vision or Idea" I erred. I did not mean the essay that Alain Briot advises folk who want to market their work. He BTW, is in correct and in order, as folk want to know what you represent and that's fair. I'd not be cynical. "I paint roses since I love them" would be good enough for me.

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Asher, a sharply perceptive list although things like found art, conceptual art, performance art, and committee art pose some problems.

Anything can become found art merely by an artist declaring it so. I suppose the artist's mind is involved because one thing is chosen rather than another. Photographers who only do camera work, point 'n click, and have all subsequent work executed by others are a good example of "foundies", I think.

Conceptual art eschews physical manifestations on the basis that the central thing of value is the artistic thought . In practice successful conceptual artists sell objects but the objects are not the art itself but merely certificates that the great thought has been thunk.

Performance art disappears the instant the performance concludes. But, as always, it is possible to sell a recording to ease money from collectors.

Committee art is arrived at by concensus. Some threads on OPF seem to be headed that way: How shall I crop this picture? What would make this better? What Photoshop manipulations will deliver success? The original artistic mind fades away in pursuit of mass approval.

One thing that I fiercely insist on is that the artist will have put the work through their own mind mind. If they can't be bothered doing that I can't be bothered putting it through mine.
I quote Maris in order to get back on track.

Let's lock at art presented here and it's dangers for a while, "committee art" as Maris calls it. We've always warned that ultimately, photographers must keep in mind their own vision and strive to weigh even good ideas against that. I see nothing wrong for asking for critique or feedback. Using it is requires that the photographer has some shape, form, gesture, pattern or sensibility that is worthy of preserving.

We struggle with art as it not only has to serve us but convey an experience or allow a new experience in others. In the former, the ideas better be fitting to the culture of the recipients or it won't work as the photographer wishes. In the latter case, there may be no messages just a framework for a wandering mind and that again can benefit from feedback. If folk walk by it and are not drawn in, amused or mused, then it does not work on us. That might be good for a photographer to know if one wants to have folk experience pictures to the extent that the photographer enjoys his/herself.

If one's famous, one can be obscure or mediocre. but then the work is more of the fecal droppings of a rare elephant. For the rest of us, feedback simply helps us know how some folks react. All the ideas on cropping, vignetting and the like, merely suggest weighs in which the photographer might make the work with it's ideas, arrive at the gallery, show or home safely.

Sometimes well meaning suggestions that may be correct technically have to be rejected since they clash with one's original intent. So art by committee will only occur if the photographer fails to filter even good feedback.

My own son, seeing my latest picture here, (NSFW because of bare back and bottom), advised me to put it through a battery of enhancing filters to see which would give it a modern high impact look!

Asher
 
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Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Mea Culpa!

Asher,

I'm not familiar with Mr. Briot’s writings.

If you did not mean what you wrote, then what is it that you meant to write?

Tracy,

My error in leading folks astray; mea culpa!

Let me apologize to all for not being more precise. One has to listen to Brooks Jenson first: Brooks' Jensen's latest Lenswork podcast. From this podcast, the context of my use of the word Artist's Statement" is clear. It refers to the work of art, the photograph we show.

Brooks Jenson publishes "Lenswork" in exquisitely printed form and by DVD as well as podcasts. He brings to the public some of the finest B&W prints from folk that often may not even have gallery representation. In the podcast, he reports being criticized for his photographs being "too definitive" and "statement orientated" and that outlook on photography is outdated and really arrogant.

Brooks goes on to point out the fashion of training MFA graduates to produce work that's ambiguous, leaving it to the viewer to determine the virtues, values, statement and intent.

He then explains his view of what art has been for thousands of years, the product of the "seer", one who sees what others don't. So to Brooks, the essence of the artist is to being to the society insights, magic, ideas, vision which most of us lack. Something that's not imbued then with any autistic intent or grain of a statements, therefore cannot serve us. So his answer to those who demand ambiguity was, "PIFFLE!"

So, I should have made it clear that the artist's statement in part of the picture being defined enough to read intent as opposed to photographing anything and presenting a vague undefined image for others to come up with meaning. This is Brooks division of things I was referencing. My apologies if my presentation allowed folk to miss the need to click through to Brooks' actual words. It really was a mistake I made. The so-called "artists statement" is valid for discussion here too and that's added value I never thought of. Thanks for bringing that up.

Asher

As to Alain Briot. He is an established and highly successful workshop leader, teacher and publisher who shares his insights on how to be successful in art. He leads workshops in beautiful Arizona and you can buy excellent prints and DVD's from his website here. The current workshop: Summit 2012: (Zion, Jeff Schewe, Alain Briot, Escalante, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon)
is Almost Sold Out - Register now if you want to join them! It costs money, yes, but it will allow you to meet some distinguished teachers and get in some excellent photography shoots.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
To whatever extent I am an artist, I have little meaning in my work.

I primarily make photographs that appeal to me for their compositional merit..
Bob,

What examples can you give? I wonder whether the elements you include might really have subliminal connections for you. Still, you're correct implying that meaning is not required for art, and that's a late realization people have on the matter.

Asher
 
There's a trend in photography, amongst young graduates to attempt to leave meaning up to the viewer as a higher form of art!

Once again, we have a serious photographer putting forward work elsewhere n OPF, which is left for the viewer alone to find meaning and value, care having been taken to not contaminate or alter the matter of the subject with the photographer's mind!

But is this even possible, let alone a valid claim for art.

Let me quote Brooks' Jensen's latest Lenswork podcast on the matter,


"PIFFLE"
My first guess is it might be part of the open endedness of art these days. That it is expected of the viewer to bring more to the process than before.

I'll listen to the podcast now and see what my thoughts are afterwards.
 
My first guess is it might be part of the open endedness of art these days. That it is expected of the viewer to bring more to the process than before.

I'll listen to the podcast now and see what my thoughts are afterwards.
From what I gather listening to the podcast, either these kids are producing works that have no meaning, but are just interesting, pretty or whatever, or they just don't know how to out the right words to what they are doing.

In my case, 90% of my photos say: There is a visually interesting world outside! Get out and go for a walk and look at some of it!
 

Mark Hampton

New member
is he the sarah palin of the art criticism?

Let me quote Brooks' Jensen's latest Lenswork podcast on the matter,


"PIFFLE"

this is one of the worst cases of drivel I have heard in a long time - factually inaccurate and used to push an ideological point. the language is calculated to demean what he clearly doesn't understand.

it reminds me of the reaction to rock and roll / punk by right wing religious fanatics - is he the sarah palin of the art criticism? i was just waiting for him to talk abooot hockey moms.

its ironic to me when I look at his site how much he enjoys the abstract.........
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Mark,

This comment by Maris might help elucidate the dilemma.

One thing that I fiercely insist on is that the artist will have put the work through their own mind mind. If they can't be bothered doing that I can't be bothered putting it through mine.
A carefully titled work is evidence of the artist's intent and conceptual thinking. But is it necessary?

Some art is so obvious that a title is hardly needed. Still, a title adds hints of its creator's mental process. That, I believe is a generous act. If it's a mother bending down to kiss her 4 year old, no title is needed. But a collection of cubes and an apple might be helped.

Sometimes, the art is in between such extremes and giving no title puts the onus on the observer in reading the picture, based on both common artistic language of that culture or their own ideas. I like that situation too. In some delightful cases, the art acts as a playground for our minds and there's no need for a title.

However, saying the all "Art should speak for itself!" is both piffle and drivel and arrogance to boot.

Asher
 

Jerome Marot

Active member
Brooks goes on to point out the fashion of training MFA graduates to produce work that's ambiguous, leaving it to the viewer to determine the virtues, values, statement and intent.

He then explains his view of what art has been for thousands of years, the product of the "seer", one who sees what others don't. So to Brooks, the essence of the artist is to being to the society insights, magic, ideas, vision which most of us lack.
The two are not mutually exclusive when you think about it. One could be a "seer" and find out that the best way to let people perceive what you see is to present a work which is ambiguous.


Besides, the discussion is based on disputable premises:
-the idea that an artist is a "seer" is quite modern (it originated with the romantics, I think)
-the idea that most of the people lack this ability is disputed and, in any case, unproven
-if most people do not have the ability to "see", that is: recognize something that goes beyond the mundane in what appears to be ordinary stuff, where is the public? You need to see beyond the mundane to perceive art.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
?You need to see beyond the mundane to perceive art.
I like that!

This might be written, "Perhaps one needs to see beyond the mundane to perceive art to it's full potential; not just what is there, but what it might recall, represent, invoke and ask of us too." too.

Still, some claiming to be "ordinary folks" might object to this as being too "art farty" and intellectual. Then, I'd say, "You're right too! Just take what you see in a picture at face value, as most of the experience has to be there anyway."

Asher
 

Mark Hampton

New member
Asher,

jez i give Maris the benefit of the doubt when I look at his work. He doesn't even have auto focus on !

and most of the time he does ken what he's on about - I am also almost convinced that digital work is not photography (but that's going to be whole other story)

I just don't see the dilemma - I do see an agenda - the visionary seer crap. is it just Americans really dig this ?

man.......

*
 

Mark Hampton

New member
The two are not mutually exclusive when you think about it. One could be a "seer" and find out that the best way to let people perceive what you see is to present a work which is ambiguous.


Besides, the discussion is based on disputable premises:
-the idea that an artist is a "seer" is quite modern (it originated with the romantics, I think)
-the idea that most of the people lack this ability is disputed and, in any case, unproven
-if most people do not have the ability to "see", that is: recognize something that goes beyond the mundane in what appears to be ordinary stuff, where is the public? You need to see beyond the mundane to perceive art.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/apr/08/marcus-coates-artist-elephant-castle

Mr Coates explores this area beautifuly

jez - logic as a krateeeeee chop Jerome - ok going oot to make some dark pictures !
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Asher,

jez i give Maris the benefit of the doubt when I look at his work. He doesn't even have auto focus on !

and most of the time he does ken what he's on about - I am also almost convinced that digital work is not photography (but that's going to be whole other story)

I just don't see the dilemma - I do see an agenda - the visionary seer crap. is it just Americans really dig this ?

man.......

*

Leaving the visionary seer assertion aside, Brooks does have a point. Most work that goes through one unique bloke's brain can benefit from a title if he/she wants me to have an easier time of reading it the way it was imagined and made.

Leaving out the title can be just a maneuver of the high brow, stuffy and conceited sects, or else the opposite. It can also be most generous in allowing us to bring our own ideas to the work. So a general rule of requiring titles is as foolish as saying "Art should speak for itself!"

Asher
 

Mark Hampton

New member
Leaving the visionary seer assertion aside, Brooks does have a point. Most work that goes through one unique bloke's brain can benefit from a title if he/she wants me to have an easier time of reading it the way it was imagined and made.

Leaving out the title can be just a maneuver of the high brow, stuffy and conceited sects, or else the opposite. It can also be most generous in allowing us to bring our own ideas to the work. So a general rule of requiring titles is as foolish as saying "Art should speak for itself!"

Asher
Asher, I just saw this !

http://www.openphotographyforums.com/forums/showthread.php?p=128195#post128195

this thread should just have this - take out the text and play brooks on a loop to this image !

- images like the one above melt the heart of even the coldest cynic !
 

Mark Hampton

New member
Leaving the visionary seer assertion aside, Brooks does have a point. Most work that goes through one unique bloke's brain can benefit from a title if he/she wants me to have an easier time of reading it the way it was imagined and made.

Leaving out the title can be just a maneuver of the high brow, stuffy and conceited sects, or else the opposite. It can also be most generous in allowing us to bring our own ideas to the work. So a general rule of requiring titles is as foolish as saying "Art should speak for itself!"

Asher
Asher,

to go back to the title of this thread - Art (what ever that may be) does not contain anything other than visual (looking at photography) marks left from a period of time as a mitigated recording of light.

It contains no ideas - thoughts or vision. These are projections from makers and viewers.

Art - is a context that a record can be placed in.

A simple example would be cave paintings - some have been lost to our vision for 20,000 years - upon being discovered again they are placed in an new context - Cave Art. There appears to be no titles - we have no way of understanding the significance of these images to the makers - what they though of them - why they were made.

There seems to be only a small number of these images so what can we really deduce from such a small amount of data that is self selected?

This vacuum is filled by our imagination - as readers we find our context and read the image in relation to this.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams - by Werner Herzog - plays with this and provides a new context - it is a fact / fiction work.

If you accept Cave painting as Art - you then accept that - Art can have no Artist's Statement, Vision or Idea, because Art itself is just an context that things are put in by people.

cheers
 
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