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You know, I took a class on aesthetics back in college, and it left me with the same sense that this discussion and all others like it do: Art is subjective, not objective. The best you can ever do is define what art means to you, not what art means To The World. And since the quality is subjective, its authenticity can never be verified. So, beyond trying to refine one's own personal definition, what's the point of having the discussion?

Posted by Rebecca | December 26, 2007 2:39 PM

I could not agree with you more Rebecca. This post leaves me asking: What does "authentic" mean to you Jen?

Posted by Timothy Wind | December 26, 2007 2:58 PM

Rebecca, I'm interested in the way you are linking quality with authenticity. By this logic, the only "real" work of art -- if such a thing were measurable -- would be a good work of art. But what about the bad ones (again, if this were measurable, and let's just for argument's sake say that subjectivity can be measured in broad terms)? Is bad art less real?

Tim, authenticity means to me basically what it means to anyone: that something is real. But I think you're asking me what I think real art is. I've never been able to police this boundary very well -- I've accepted things that other people have roundly rejected, simply because I haven't found the category of "art" in need of defense. (Am I wrong? Sure, maybe.) I do find the category of "good art" in need of serious defense. It seems to me a better question -- though not as popular by half -- to ask what is good art rather than what is real art.

Posted by Jen Graves | December 26, 2007 3:19 PM

I think you are misunderstanding my use of the word quality, Jen. The original post said, "it raises questions about what makes an authentic artist -- or an authentic person, for that matter." I was trying to make the point that when the quality of being art (not of being good art or bad art, but of being art at all) is subjective, then how can anyone judge if something is "real" art. Subjective things are opinions, not facts. Authenticity is for verifiable facts.

Posted by Rebecca | December 26, 2007 4:36 PM

These videos seem like great art criticism, but not so much like art.

Yet their value as art has been measured and validated by acceptance as such in the market and presentation in MoMA. The aesthetic judgment of any single person will not alter that fact in the slightest.

So, while not necessarily being either "good" nor "real" they are most certainly "authentic."

Art is truly subjective, but not in any individual sense. The recognition of artistic value is a societal prerogative that supersedes personal taste. Both art and the discussion of it are important precisely because it's definition and manifestations are reflective of the whole and not of personal aesthetic affinity.

Thus we are free to discuss what constitutes art and despise or enjoy it as we wish. But what you or I or anyone considers art matters little except in relation to our ability to experience it, create it, fund it or influence the thinking of others.

At any rate, I look forward to reading an impassioned defense of "good art" by Jen Graves, as it seems the only type worthy of the effort.

Posted by jimmyolsen | December 26, 2007 7:26 PM

I probably should not respond with this much bubbly in me, but I will anyway.
Well done, Jimmy, for giving me a response that at least seems like a coherent defense of the discussion of what constitutes art to a drunken Rebecca.
However, I would argue that inclusion in MOMA does not necessarily indicate that society at large considers these pieces to be art, but merely that the members of the board of directors or jury or whatever they have at MOMA considers them to be art. I'm not at all certain that the people who make decisions about what will be included at MOMA are the bellwethers of societal taste. On the contrary, I would be very tempted to argue the reverse, that MOMA is not an indicator of societal taste in art, but rather a highly elitist establishment which frequently chooses things that the general public finds to be incomprehensible rather than artistic.
I don't necessarily disagree with the concept that the quality of being art is determined more by the society than the individual -- if I did, I'd have to discount numerous works currently considered Great Art -- but I do disagree that the people in charge of selection for MOMA are the arbiters of that quality for our society.

Posted by Rebecca | December 26, 2007 10:24 PM

hey, thanks for the bubbly.

I, too have a real hard time giving in to the idea that the Board of Directors at MoMA are the arbiters of taste for our culture. They aren't. And I agree with their characterization as a highly elitist establishment whose choices are suspect for a variety of reasons.

But I posit that regardless of their inability to comprehend much of what is presented, the general public still readily accepts and supports as art much if not most of what MoMA collects and shows. So that either by direct support or by abdication, MoMA becomes not THE arbiter of artistic quality, but certainly an arbiter of artistic quality that carries considerable weight.

Far from being bellwethers of taste, institutions of that scope are in the business of validating artistic merit in what they already define as art and in business because they can.

Similarly, the market is comprised of a relative few that have inordinate sway in both what becomes accepted as art and when it becomes accepted.

Societal taste can evolve, thereby expanding the possibilities of art and altering the institutions but what art "is" will still be codified and expressed by museums and the like and generally accepted as Art.

What art can be is still up to us. But I'm afraid that what art was and what art is has been decided by imperfect structures and forces somewhat reflective of, but larger than the individual.

Anyway, my mind says this is true, but my guts still say that The Rite of Spring was art even when the audience rioted, the critics hated it and Stravinsky was despondent.

anyway, yeah, I suppose it's worth talking about at least for a little while, cheers.

Posted by jimmyolsen | December 27, 2007 12:10 AM

occupation: artists

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