the emperor’s new clothes

mvuent

Void Dweller
this is a stock phrase commonly used against modern (or generally “inaccessible”) art. i tend to roll my eyes when i see some would-be critic earnestly invoke it. not only is it incredibly trite, it also comes across as arrogant, suggesting the critic is confident that literally everyone who claims to like the thing in question is dishonest and/or stupid.

YET

there are times when the critics seem to be vindicated. the worlds of gallery visual art and virtuoso classical performance seem particularly susceptible to humiliations of this sort.


which legends in this genre are your favorite?

I know most people brush these stories off as mere trivia. but i suspect they’re important, in that we can learn something about how art works through them.

if you gave a good review to pierre brassau's artwork, one way to respond to the hoax is to bite the bullet: archaic notions of artistic talent are obsolete, because great aesthetic experiences are easier to come by--or at least, less dependent on deliberate talent--than we realize. morton feldman once proclaimed, “now that things are so simple, there's so much to do”. picasso appreciated animal-made painting enough to hang such a work in his studio. so i think this answer has truth to it.

...still, even the most open minded person would have a hard time coming back from the revelation that an artist they had proclaimed, in print, to display “the delicacy of a ballet dancer” was in fact a monkey. so there must be more to the issue.

obviously there is the related issue of “art bollocks” but here i’m less interested in obfuscatory language than the genuine thoughts and feelings behind it. this thread isn’t about how we bs other people, but about how we bs ourselves--assuming that we really do.

yo pierre you wanna come out here.png

Ah, back to France!
 

mvuent

Void Dweller
in college i had a professor who was insistent upon anonymous grading (where the grader doesn't know who wrote the essay until after they give it a score). his thinking was that, in writing, ambiguities or "gaps" inevitably arise--and how the reader/grader fills in those gaps often depends on their assumptions about the writer. professors make different interpretive and evaluative assumptions about a passage depending on whether they think the student who wrote it generally is a bit slow or is brilliant. personally, i always had the suspicion that my essay grades depended as much on the teacher's idea of me as on what i actually wrote.

essentially the same observation is brought up in that borges story "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote". he talks about how the same sentence reads differently depending on what era and aesthetic context we think the author worked in.

so if you look at a bunch of wild brushstrokes or paint splatters you'll interpret them differently depending on whether you think the artist was a highly skilled yet boundary pushing iconoclast... or a chimp eating bananas. returning to picasso, "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." is easily the best self promotional statement of all time in light of this dynamic.
 
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mvuent

Void Dweller
basically, as a viewer/listener you should always imagine the coolest possible background story possible for any work of art/music you come across. it's only fair.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I find these things to be very interesting... or potentially so at any rate. Over the last few years there have been a lot of unknown, ahead of their time krautrock (or whatever) records "discovered" that have been done in such a half arsed way that they kinda put me off the whole thing. I like it when it's done properly, working on every aspect , but when they bosh it out with a totally transparent story, using fonts on the sleeve that didn't exist when it purportedly came out and so on and they don't care if people figure out within five minutes that it's not true cos it's just an attempt to get a tiny bit more press and sell a few more copies... well that puts me off and it seems a shame to tarnish such a potentially interesting genre (for want of a better word) with pure laziness.
Anyway, seconded on F is for Fake - I particularly like the bit at the start when Welles swears blind that for the next hour everything he says will be one hundred percent gospel truth... moving beyond film, I read The Recognitions last year I think (is that right @version, I lose track of when things happened so easily these days?) which has one of its main characters a genius painter and aesthete who creates unbelievably good "lost" masterpieces by renaissance artists. Not copies but simply paintings that could have been done by some famous genius; a lifetime spent accumulating knowledge of art history means he can create precisely the right pigments in precisely the right way and this, combined with his preternatural ability to ape any given style means not only that his "fakes" are indistinguishable from those of the masters in question, but also that Gaddis compares them favourably to the modern art that is filling up the galleries of NY - basically the book implies that the fake masterpieces cooked up by the protagonist are not just better than the modern art he contrasts it with but also more authentic. I guess it's for the reader to decide if that is an interesting way to debate the nature of authenticity, originality and artistic value -or simply a conservative writer dressing up and "my ten year old son could have done that" within nine hundred pages of other stuff.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
A couple of years ago I read a book a while back called Their Brilliant Careers - Jenks mentioned it in the "what are you reading now?" thread and the idea intrigued me. It's a very funny book

https://www.blackincbooks.com.au/books/their-brilliant-careers

But one chapter is particularly relevant here. It is based (I suppose) on the Sokal Hoax (for those who don't know, there was a scientist called Sokal who was annoyed by the "pretend philosophy" of Theory types such as Derrida and so he submitted an essay linking quantum theory to literary theory or something like to some philosophy magazine that duly printed it, after which he gleefully pointed out that it was total and utter gibberish - cue much embarrassment and loads of arguing). Anyway, in the book there is something equivalent that happens, but then it turns out that the magazine was itself a hoax to trap him or something - and then it transpires that prior to that there had been another hoax which had been created to trick them into creating a hoax magazine. Something like that anyway, I forget the details but the story is very cleverly done. I would highly recommend the whole book in fact, every chapter is different and interesting in its own way.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Oh and one more thing that springs to mind is the Ripper Diary which came to light in 1992 and which, if real, implicates James Maybrick, a wealthy Liverpudlian cotton merchant as Jack the Ripper. There were various stories as to the provenance of the book, I don't remember the full details but I think at first they said it had been found underneath the floorboards of a house in Liverpool that was being refurbished and then passed on to the person who produced it - but then I think they changed the story to claim that it had been in the family for decades... and then I think one of the family of the person who brought it to the public admitted that they had forged it.
And it's that that is interesting to me, cos it soon became apparent that the sophistication of the forgery - if such it was - was way beyond that could have been quickly whipped up by the people who claimed to have done so. Again - sorry - I can't remember all the details, but I think that whoever wrote it would have had to have a fantastic knowledge of events at the time, not just those in the news but also about certain people involved in the story and their movements - and on top of that, the paper and the ink and the paper were sufficiently well chosen to have experts arguing inconclusively to this day about whether they were old and available enough to have possibly been used by someone writing at the end of the 19th century. Whoever made the diary, certainly did NOT just go out and buy a leather bound book from WHSmiths and then start filling it up off the top of their head with stuff to incriminate JM:
To me it's fascinating and, actually, much more interesting if it's fake than otherwise. And why did people who clearly couldn't have faked it claim to have forged it themselves, and why on earth was the provenance so disputed? Just another massive pile of unanswered JtR questions to go on all the other piles that multiply all over the place whenever you start reading about that stuff I guess.
 

suspended

Well-known member
I think what a lot of this cuts down to, Mvuent, is our shared suspicion that "conceptualization" does a lot of the work in symbolic thinking, evaluation, assessment, etc
 

suspended

Well-known member
And also that things (artists, works) play different "games"—they have different priorities, different audiences, different scoring systems, different traditions and "game states" that make moves "mean" differently in the game.

That game sometimes gets called "genre" or "scene," but sometimes individuals get to define their own game via the concept "biography"
 

suspended

Well-known member
Huh, maybe the best way to think of Barthes' "Death of the Author" is as saying: "There are games (and narratives—narratives emerge from gameplay, from player strategy and intention, interaction and consequence) besides biography that matter to literary signification."
 

linebaugh

Well-known member
,the intrigue for much of this stuff is grotesque curiosity. Sincere or not, the art in question is entirely cynical and self negating. Each piece a little act of sepukku and entertaining as such. In this regard authenticity is out of the question
 

luka

Well-known member
basically, as a viewer/listener you should always imagine the coolest possible background story possible for any work of art/music you come across. it's only fair.
this is maybe true if your goal is to maximise the pleasure you get from every aesthetic encounter, wring as much out of it as you can. but even then i dunno. and if your goal is to be fair then probably you will have to keep switching your method of approach, shining a different light on the artifact each time. these were the kinds of issues which were coming up in the listen to this thread werent they.
 

boxedjoy

Well-known member
in theory I'm all about the death of the author and how meaning comes from the act of interpretation, and that's why I believe taste is about the self's personal politics as much as pure aesthetics (if there can be such a thing) - but in actuality I'm not putting on a Gary Glitter or R Kelly album at parties, am I
 

boxedjoy

Well-known member
one of the things I hate about art criticism is when someone says "anyone could do that!" - yeah, but they did and you didn't, that's why it's art
 

WashYourHands

Well-known member
there a similar quote about Sun Ra

akin to someone saying “anyone could play that” after listening to him, to which Sun Ra then asked “but could they write it?”
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Yeah, exactly, then why didn't you fucking do it and be the one sitting on a pile of money or whatever, fending off criticism of how easy it was to do.
Criticism is a funny thing though, I really hate the absolute other side of that coin where you have people saying "Well, you have never made a blockbuster action movie so you can hardly criticise can you?" - I notice a variation on that on the Guardian website almost every day, someone slates some shitty film and there is a passive aggressive response "Please can you link to your list of successfully published and critically adored books - which obviously you must have if you have the temerity to criticise Jeffrey Archer."
 

linebaugh

Well-known member
There's a generous reading of the 'anyone could do that' critique that goes the art industry is parasitic/incestuous and that 'anyone' isn't meant to comment on skill and rather anyone can be grist for the mill, provided they make themselves available to it.
 
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suspended

Well-known member
in theory I'm all about the death of the author and how meaning comes from the act of interpretation, and that's why I believe taste is about the self's personal politics as much as pure aesthetics (if there can be such a thing) - but in actuality I'm not putting on a Gary Glitter or R Kelly album at parties, am I
if you liked R Kelly a lot would you listen alone, or is it about social policing and giving people a bad impression of you?
 
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