The Instigator
SolaGratia
Pro (for)
Losing
44 Points
The Contender
Kleptin
Con (against)
Winning
59 Points

Art that has no discernible point--Modern or Postmodern--is not art

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/4/2008 Category: Arts
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,673 times Debate No: 3069
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (27)

 

SolaGratia

Pro

Much of the Modern/Postmodern art of today has no discernible point. It is not beautiful, it does not take skill or time. In many cases it is meant to shock.

This is not the function of art, and thus these "artworks" are not art at all.
Kleptin

Con

That something has a discernible point or not is not a necessary characteristic of art.

As my preliminary argument, I will simply argue that the term "art" is board enough to cover Modern/Postmodern art and ask you to provide an argument as to why the certain characteristic you find unappealing is enough to exclude those pieces from the definition of "art".
Debate Round No. 1
SolaGratia

Pro

First let me clarify: There are several modern/postmodern artworks that I find appealing. They do take skill, and on some level they make a point. Frank, by Chuck Close, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art is one example I can think of.

However, many more so-called works of "art" are everything but.

I guess I can only really show you by example.

I went to the Hirshorn Modern Art Gallery in D.C., and was amazed at how utterly pointless it all was. A few pieces especially stuck out.

http://hirshhorn.si.edu...

This is sloppy and pointless. It could have conceivably taken an hour to paint, I'd guess less. Where is the beauty? Where is the truth? Where is the art?

This is compounded by the fact that the museum has 20 pieces by this artist, most of which follow this theme. No skill, no creativity.

Or what about this one, by Lichtenstein, at the Minneapolis Institute, my home turf.

http://www.artsmia.org...

Once again, we see no point. At this link there is a short blurb, where you can see the museum's laughable attempt to give it a point.

"Of Lichtenstein's various recurring motifs, the brushstroke, as depicted in this color screenprint of 1967, is among the most enduring icons of his art. In a parody of the painterly gesture associated with the Abstract Expressionists, he represents the brushstroke--the principal signature of the artist--as an object in its own right, a visual pun frozen in time and space. Placed against a field of colored dots, Lichtenstein's motif mimics the photomechanical printing methods commonly used to produce comic strips, thus reflecting both his Pop art sensibility and preference for the impersonal and machine-made image."

So, it's a brushstroke, made to look like a comic strip, which shows us a preference for the impersonal. I'll ask again: where is the beauty? Where is the truth? Where is the art?

I trust I don't have to give more links. I once saw a painting which was simply a canvas covered in salmon-colored paint, in different textures. Aside from the repulsive color, it had no purpose. It was not art.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York is a prime example of this: they exhibited a picture of the Virgin Mary in a jar of urine. Why? Not to improve, art's true purpose, but to degrade. To desecrate. It is meant to shock. Once again, it is not art.

Art, to define the term, is truth and beauty. It has aesthetic quality. It appeals. It is aesthetic. This trend in art, from Andy Warhol to Roy Lichtenstein to Pierre Alechinsky, is to move away from real art.

Thanks,

Sola Gratia
Kleptin

Con

My opponent declares that art must pass certain standards in order to be categorized as art. I have a difficult time following his line of thought, as I have always envisioned art to be an extremely broad term.

Going by my opponent's argument, we cannot logically conclude that those things are not art. We can only conclude that these pieces stray from the traditions of past artists and that my opponent dislikes them.

I argue that it is impossible to give an objective scale to measure whether something is art or not, so my opponent's declaration that "X is not art" is false.

Simply put, everything is art.
Debate Round No. 2
SolaGratia

Pro

My opponent has a fundamental misunderstanding of what art really is. He says that he has always thought of art as an "extremely broad term." Even the broadest terms have definitions, and so it is with art.

According to Wikipedia, "Generally art is a (product of) human activity, made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind; by transmitting emotions and/or ideas." (http://en.wikipedia.org...) This is a wide, basic definition, and Wiki admits that beyond this there is no generally agreed upon definition. My personal definition is that an artwork must possess truth and beauty--whether these are apparent at first glance or only after long study.

And no, my bias against the pieces and classes of art I have mentioned is not based on my personal views, but rather on the basic definition of art as provided by Wikipedia. The pieces I spoke of ARE generally "products of human activity," and they MAY, on a basic level, have the INTENT of "stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind," (although I would hazard that it most of these pieces were made for personal gratification or pure monetary value) but they are CERTAINLY not "transmitting emotions and/or ideas." They are not even symbolic. They have no meaning. Art, I'm sure you'll agree, must have meaning.

My opponent says, "We can only conclude that these pieces stray from the traditions of past artists and that my opponent dislikes them." My opponent cannot conclude that these artists have strayed from past traditions. People have been creating NON-art art for centuries. However, it is only in this day and age that it has transcended all other forms of "art." He can logically conclude that I do not like the pieces, but that in itself is irrelevant, and it is fallacious to boil my argument down to that. It would be like me saying, "We can conclude that my opponent DOES like the pieces."

My opponent also says, "I argue that it is impossible to give an objective scale to measure whether something is art or not, so my opponent's declaration that 'X is not art' is false." If this were true, then this would be a futile debate for both of us because if there is no standard for art, there is no art, and nothing to judge the debate by. Art, like most everything in this universe, is finite and has standards. It is objective.

In conclusion, my opponent says, "Simply put, everything is art." Again, this is fallacious, and would be akin to me saying "Simply put, NOTHING is art," and equally false. The most BASIC definition of art is that it is created by human activity. Since "everything" is not created by human activity, this statement is utterly false.

You cannot hang a tree in a frame and call it art. Well, actually you can, and if you have a big name in the art business, you can even sell it to a museum or eager private collector for a large sum of money. But this is not art.

My opponent basically holds that there is no definition to art. Art, he says, is "everything." This is demonstrably false.

Once again, the "art" that I have described is not true art. It has no truth or beauty, it is merely scratches on paper, etc. Perhaps it does not signify anything, even to the artist. And it is most certainly not created to stimulate the mind and senses, or if it is, it fails and thus fails to be art.

The Modern/Postmodern art craze can be summed up by a comic strip I once saw. I believe it was from Non Sequitur. A man, trying to impress his companion, walked up to a blank piece of wall in an art museum and, with arms outstretched, started to extol its virtues. He believed it was a piece of art, and gave it all sorts of pop-art qualities likes, "shows the artist's soul," etc. While this was going on, a janitor came up and hung an artwork on the blank space on the wall. "Had to clean the dang thing," he said, apologetically. The last panel showed the other people in the room looking at the man in disgust, while he hung his head. It was an excellent, meaningful comic strip, and it's totally true.

When everything is art, nothing is.
Kleptin

Con

"Even the broadest terms have definitions, and so it is with art."

That's fair. I'll examine the definition of art as provided by my opponent.

"According to Wikipedia, "Generally art is a (product of) human activity, made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind; by transmitting emotions and/or ideas.""

This is a fair definition. I agree with it.

"My personal definition is that an artwork must possess truth and beauty--whether these are apparent at first glance or only after long study."

This is where I must disagree. I can concede the wikipedia definition, but truth and beauty are completely subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we assume infinite opinions. Thus, beauty cannot be a necessary quality. As for truth, I'm not sure how my opponent defines truth.

"The pieces I spoke of ARE generally "products of human activity," and they MAY, on a basic level, have the INTENT of "stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind," (although I would hazard that it most of these pieces were made for personal gratification or pure monetary value)"

That is a concession. That means I only have to focus on the final requirement.

"but they are CERTAINLY not "transmitting emotions and/or ideas." They are not even symbolic. They have no meaning. Art, I'm sure you'll agree, must have meaning."

Yes, and those pieces do have meaning. Meaning is not intrinsic, meaning is bestowed upon other things by human beings. A piece of art is a piece of art as long as one person views it as such. Whether it is the artist himself or another admirer.

"My opponent says, "We can only conclude that these pieces stray from the traditions of past artists and that my opponent dislikes them." My opponent cannot conclude that these artists have strayed from past traditions. People have been creating NON-art art for centuries. However, it is only in this day and age that it has transcended all other forms of "art." He can logically conclude that I do not like the pieces, but that in itself is irrelevant, and it is fallacious to boil my argument down to that. It would be like me saying, "We can conclude that my opponent DOES like the pieces.""

That's fine. When I mentioned these two points, I was conceding them as irrelevant fact. If my opponent chooses to attack a concession, that's fine with me.

"My opponent also says, "I argue that it is impossible to give an objective scale to measure whether something is art or not, so my opponent's declaration that 'X is not art' is false." If this were true, then this would be a futile debate for both of us because if there is no standard for art, there is no art, and nothing to judge the debate by. Art, like most everything in this universe, is finite and has standards. It is objective."

I retract that statement. I instead offer one objective standard: That someone believe it to be art. As long as one person believes something to be art, it is art. I extend this point by noting that art does not intrinsically exist. Art is a description, not a thing. This description is given by humans.

"In conclusion, my opponent says, "Simply put, everything is art." Again, this is fallacious, and would be akin to me saying "Simply put, NOTHING is art," and equally false. The most BASIC definition of art is that it is created by human activity. Since "everything" is not created by human activity, this statement is utterly false."

Fair. But I have already accepted the wikipedia definition and offered a rebuttal.

"You cannot hang a tree in a frame and call it art. Well, actually you can, and if you have a big name in the art business, you can even sell it to a museum or eager private collector for a large sum of money. But this is not art."

I disagree. The fact that my opponent says a tree hanging on a frame is not art does not mean it is not art. For example, I can hang a tree in a frame and interpret it as irony, or a symbol for nature-worship, or for anthropomorphic thinking. So long as one person sees art in something, it is art.

"Once again, the "art" that I have described is not true art. It has no truth or beauty, it is merely scratches on paper, etc. Perhaps it does not signify anything, even to the artist. And it is most certainly not created to stimulate the mind and senses, or if it is, it fails and thus fails to be art."

Scratches on paper can be interpreted as futility and frustration. Imagine an artist trying to draw something but the lead snapped and he can only scratch on the paper. It becomes a symbol of rebellion and apathy. To me, that is beautiful, meaningful, and true. Even if the artist did not intend that, that is how I interpret it, and thus it is art.

"The Modern/Postmodern art craze can be summed up by a comic strip I once saw. I believe it was from Non Sequitur. A man, trying to impress his companion, walked up to a blank piece of wall in an art museum and, with arms outstretched, started to extol its virtues. He believed it was a piece of art, and gave it all sorts of pop-art qualities likes, "shows the artist's soul," etc. While this was going on, a janitor came up and hung an artwork on the blank space on the wall. "Had to clean the dang thing," he said, apologetically. The last panel showed the other people in the room looking at the man in disgust, while he hung his head. It was an excellent, meaningful comic strip, and it's totally true."

Argumentum ad populum. Whether or not something is art is not dictated by majority rule. Art is in the mind. If the man felt such an emotional connection to the frame, does that not reflect the purpose of art? Did he not feel an actual connection and was he not uplifted?

***************
To sum up, I have offered a contrary definition that I think is more acceptable. Art is art when someone sees it as art. Art is not a thing. It is a description. To call something art is to give it meaning, and meaning is an arbitrary outgrowth of man. Things mean things only to us.

Each and every single one of the examples my opponent provides can be seen as art. The Virgin Mary in a container of urine may be a statement on how religion is disregarded in our secular, cynical world. I already gave my interpretations of the tree hanging in the frame, the blank frame, and scratches on paper.

My opponent has conceded 2 out of the three requirements. I need only respond to the last one, which is that art must elicit some sort of emotional response. I have done so, and have simplified it to "Art is art when someone sees it as art". Those pieces elicit a response in me, at the very least, so they are must undoubtedly art.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by British_Guy 9 years ago
British_Guy
This was an excellent debate - and a classic one. I have had argued for both sides of this resolution with many friends. (It's actually a notorious topic of contention in these parts.)

I like this topic because it raises some interesting questions. What is art? Is everything art? Does everything have the capacity to become art? Does all art have to be artistic or require artistic skill?

And I must say, both sides were presented well in this debate. And though I share SolaGratia's frustration with Modernist and Post-Modernist art, I must, within the context of this debate, concede that it is indeed "art," and that I must vote Con.
Posted by Danielle 9 years ago
Danielle
Great debate!

I thought SolaGratia nailed it, however, Kleptin really made some good points in Round 3. It's nice to see dialog vs. dialog every once in awhile instead of just people copy and pasting cited facts and quotes. We're all guilty of it, but I think Kleptin used creative thinking and reasoning to take the win in this debate. I voted Con, but Pro did an excellent job as well.
Posted by theantianarchy 9 years ago
theantianarchy
Good debate, people. this is a good topic but i happen to personally agree with Kleptin. Speaking of, Kleptin your profile says your a 115 year old monk in hong kong. Right On Brother!!
Posted by Kleptin 9 years ago
Kleptin
No problem :D comments are for tying up loose ends.

Yeah, I said you conceded two points and I needed only respond to the third one. The wiki-definition had 3 parts to it. You conceded the first two, and I proved the third one by showing *my* emotional response to the pieces.

And I liken the term "This is art" to "this is liked". If something is liked, it only needs one person to like it. It can be hated by the rest of the world, but it is still liked.

However, it is possible that some things are not liked by anyone. Improbable, but possible. Hence, you can't really equate "Everything is art" with "Nothing is art" by that definition.

And assuming that the artist truly did wish to convey the messages I gave as examples? If the man nailed a tree to a frame in order to depict something ironic or how nature is the most basic type of art? Let's say the artist truly intended to send that message. That would be considered art. , most definitely. You can't dichotomize it by saying "oh, it's subjective art but not objective art". It's art.
Posted by SolaGratia 9 years ago
SolaGratia
You say I have conceded two points, which I have not. What I said was that the subject--specifically meaningless "art"--met two of the three qualifications given in the Wiki definition. However, if a climber only makes it two-thirds of the way up a slope, he has not achieved the summit. "Art" that meets two of the three requirements for artfulness is similarly not art.

I don't know if the pieces DO elicit a response from you, but I find it hard to believe. Your basic thesis is that art has a relative definition--it is different to each person. Perhaps, but it also has a objective one. And anyway, as I have said, if art is relative then this debate is moot and you or I cannot claim victory.

Sorry for bringing the debate into the comments, and I won' begrudge you for responding. There's just so much to say! What a vast subject.

Thank you, for a great debate, Kleptin.
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