1. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    How do you define art?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Louanne Learning, Aug 22, 2022.

    How do you define art? What elements about it make it art?

    I favour Tolstoy's definition:

    A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist...

    If only the spectators or auditors are infected by the feelings which the author has felt, it is art.

    To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling — this is the activity of art.

    Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.

    Leo Tolstoy on Emotional Infectiousness


    So, for Tolstoy, the core of art is its infectiousness—its capacity to infect the receiver with feelings which the artist has felt.

    What do you think about that?
     
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  2. Earp

    Earp Contributor Contributor

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    Tolstoy had a way with words that I don't, but it really seems this simple to me (I posted this in another thread):


    Boy, can you make folks feel what you feel inside?

    - lyric from The Ride (Gary Lee Gentry, John Blayne Detterline)
     
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  3. Madman

    Madman Life is Sacred Contributor

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    This may be contentious post.

    I love classical art, or rather art that is actually, to me, art. For example, something that is intricate and has a lot of work and thought behind it. A statue that resembles a human with all the right angles and forms, for example. An embroidery, is art. A shield with a dragon painted on it, is art. Things that have "beauty" is art to me. Beauty is hard to define, but it is something that pleases the eyes and is sometimes symmetrical.

    What I do not consider art is a lot of modern "art". An upside down toilet placed on a table, is not art to me. It is junk. A banana taped to a wall, is not art. A dot painted on a white sheet, is not art. Well... to me... anyway.

    That's just my own opinion, and some may not agree with it.
     
  4. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    Love it. That's it in a nutshell.
     
  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I don't feel tardy.... Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There's the famous quote that art is something that doesn't exist and nobody needs.
     
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  6. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    And words can be beautiful, put together beautifully, and cause an emotional response in us.
     
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  7. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    The closest I could find to that is a quote from film director, screenwriter, poet, photographer, and film producer Abbas Kiarostami, who said:

    A work of art doesn't exist outside the perception of the audience.

    Art is the meeting of two minds, the artist and the receiver.
     
  8. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Interestingly, this sounds very much like the definition of showing as opposed to telling. I just wrote up a big thing about that on the workshop, and this is essentially what I was striving to say. 'Don't tell them something happened—make them feeeel it!'
     
  9. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    Then it is art!
     
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  10. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    Here's one explanation for why we are drawn to horror tales.

    In A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), Edmund Burke defines the sublime as an artistic effect productive of the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling (thus giving the English Romantics a theoretical foundation). And we want to feel that powerful emotion.

    For Burke, sublime art excites a state of heightened arousal and astonishment, and the strongest passion of all is terror:

    Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.

    The passion caused by the great and the sublime in nature, when those causes operate most powerfully, is Astonishment; and astonishment is that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror.

    https://wordsworth.org.uk/blog/2015/03/02/edmund-burke-and-the-sublime/
     
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  11. Mogador

    Mogador Senior Member

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    Worth remembering that the word really does mean more than one thing, so the definition of 'art' is semantically unresolvable, in English at least.

    Take the phrase, "Its an art not a science". Broadly speaking that means it requires intuition, experience, a dash of inspiration maybe, and a some luck, but it doesn't imply any imparting of feeling. You would have to say that being a racing driver requires artistry as well as science, for example, but that, regardless, no-one thinks Louis Hamilton is trying to or succeeding in imparting his feelings on the human condition to the viewers of Sky Sports Plus.

    And yet Tolstoy's definition is also true.

    It follows that art is a word we make carry several different burthens.
     
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  12. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I've done a lengthy writeup somewhere on the board about several different takes on the sublime (in both of its iterations—one means only perfect, with no thrill of terror involved) by Burke and a few others.

    I'm not sure these thing define art to any extent, but they are extremely fascinating subjects that I think are highly relevant for writers and artists.

    Another thing that applies is Freud's paper on the Uncanny:

    "It is undoubtedly related to what is frightening — to what arouses dread and horror; equally certainly, too, the word is not always used in a clearly definable sense, so that it tends to coincide with what excites fear in general. Yet we may expect that a special core of feeling is present which justifies the use of a special conceptual term. One is curious to know what this common core is which allows us to distinguish as 'uncanny'; certain things which lie within the field of what is frightening.

    As good as nothing is to be found upon this subject in comprehensive treatises on aesthetics, which in general prefer to concern themselves with what is beautiful, attractive and sublime; that is, with feelings of a positive nature; and with the circumstances and the objects that call them forth, rather than with the opposite feelings of repulsion and distress." [...]

    "The German word 'unheimlich'is obviously the opposite of 'heimlich' ['homely'], 'heimisch' ['native'] the opposite of what is familiar; and we are tempted to conclude that what is 'uncanny' is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar. Naturally not everything that is new and unfamiliar is frightening, however; the relation is not capable of inversion.

    We can only say that what is novel can easily become frightening but not by any means all. Something has to be added to what is novel and unfamiliar in order to make it uncanny."​

    Here's a link to a the whole thing: Full text of The Uncanny @ Archive.org

    Note the paper is in three parts. Each part ends with a large section of notes. So when you hit what looks like the end, keep scrolling down to find parts 2 and 3.

    Kubrick studied Freud's paper intensively before launching to work on The Shining. And I don't doubt for a moment he also delved deeply into the sublime.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2022
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  13. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    Burke called it obscurity—the uncertainty inherent in what we fear. For example, the fear of death is rooted in not knowing what happens upon death.

    And from Immanuel Kant:

    Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless, so that the mind in the presence of the sublime, attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the failure but pleasure in contemplating the immensity of the attempt.


    https://www.orionphilosophy.com/stoic-blog/immanuel-kant-greatest-quotes#:~:text=Whereas%20the%20beautiful%20is%20limited,the%20immensity%20of%20the%20attempt.
     
  14. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    We seem to be interested in many of the same topics.

    Brain science has come to believe that the left hemisphere, which largely creates what we call the conscious mind, deals with the known and familiar, while the right hemisphere (the unconscious for all practical intents and purposes) is for dealing with the unknown. It strives to find patterns and connections with familiar things so we can begin to untangle it. This is the creation of Cosmos (order) from Chaos (disorder).

    When you find yourself immersed in the unknown you'll often dream about past events that are in some way similar. This is the unconscious delving into your memories to try to find familiar solutions to problems like the ones you're facing now.
     
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  15. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    And this is the essence of Einstein's Combinatory Play - a process to generate new ideas

    Einstein called combinatory play "the essential feature in productive thought". It basically consists of putting two seemingly unrelated ideas or thoughts together to come up with something new. It is opening up one mental channel to dabble in another.
     
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  16. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I think of it as a subjective feeling in an objective framework.
     
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  17. ABeaujolais

    ABeaujolais Member

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    To me art is something that invokes an unexpected positive reaction. It doesn't have to be comfortable. For example, in this sense something that produces an uncomfortable reaction but imparts knowledge is positive. Edgy comedy, etc., is art in my opinion, not counting comedy that is disgusting just to be disgusting. I guess to put another way, anything gratuitous does not meet my definition.

    I agree with Madman about "art" that does nothing but evoke a reaction. It's is just a cry for attention. Anything too cheap and easy doesn't deserve the title, in my opinion.
     
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  18. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, miss me those pretentious, arguably low-effort creations. Though I think the intended statement itself is to bring attention to the distinction between art and not-art—to which I would reply how many times do these 'artists' need to raise that question?

    https://ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/local-arts/newmans-revenge-the-value-of-voice-of-fire-is-scorching-hot
    [​IMG]
    You can also colour me... not appreciative of abstract art. :D
     
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  19. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    Well I guess by Tolstoy's definition this piece of art does evoke emotion - but the emotion is disgust.
     
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  20. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    Saw this in my feed today. It remined me of Tolstoy's characterization of art as an "intercourse" between artist and receiver.

    [​IMG]
     
  21. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Samhain Contributor

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    Over the long windblown years of my existence, I have managed to educate myself into appreciation for much abstract art... and to recognize that some folks are better con artists than artists. ;)
     
  22. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Sometimes I feel like we're imitating God, using his scraps. We can never create a tree, an animal, a sunset, but we can pour our feelings into a representation of these things in a way of feeling out and paying homage to Him and his design.
     
  23. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    Echoing Tolstoy's characterization of art as a sharing of feelings, from artist to receiver, are the words of van Gogh below, written to his brother.

    Van Gogh qualifies the relationship as one of love. A writer who approaches his task with love will enter into the relationship Tolstoy wrote about.

    "...and I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."
     
  24. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    Very early in my writing "career" this book was recommended to me. I now recommend it every chance I get.

    If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, by Brenda Ueland

    Ms. Ueland wrote:

    Art is a generosity. You tell somebody something not to show off, but because you want to share it with them ...

    Art is a living current exchanged with a listener ... It does not work when a writer only talks to (her-)himself.
     
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  25. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Art is an expression that provokes a reaction.

    ETA the Arts, such as medical arts, is practicing for that one day where you realize the positive result is practicing forever.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2022
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