Friday, February 23

Power OutAge

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Question: Can we find art? Is it just a matter of framing something... Anything... That results in art? And, oh by the way, does art have to be beautiful? Is beauty even necessary?

Look at this old rusting truck. I think it's a Ford from the early 50s that sits along the decaying Lancaster stockyards. Suppose it was a work of art when it rolled off the assembly line. If I photograph it, am I merely replicating someone else's art? Or have I brought something else to the frame here? Maybe the streaks of snow? Maybe the tight composition? Maybe my interpretation of the tonal and color ranges? Can you or I make something we see through the lens into art?

If I bring you a bucket of water from the ocean, is that water art? If I photograph that bucket filled with ocean water, what then? Maybe there's a difference between good taste and art? I mean, what most of us... any group of us consider movingly beautiful will probably be in good taste. If it shocks us by it's astonishing ugliness, if it is innately vapid, if it is a mere reproduction of what is somewhere in nature... is the photographer who takes the picture an artist... or some sort of taker-of-visual-dictation?

I have manipulated this truck image. It is not true to the moment. By adding or subtracting, by shifting or recomposing... by any number of techniques including wholesale creation of parts of this truck... Is the whole greater than the sum?

If the photographer brings nothing more than astonishing craft to accurately capture great beauty in a moment, has he committed art, or is he a plagiarist of nature?

I wonder if art doesn't demand some subjective alteration that manipulates the original moment in order to do photographic art. I wonder if the "unaltered" image can ever lay claim to being art? Is there imagination in tedious replication through the photographic process? Or is there merely great craft?

I wonder if it's the alterations that make my truck here into art (not necessarily good art, or bad art) rather than the original digital capture.

I wonder... at the power this old truck once had... and now it sits there... Out in the elements... Out of power. Power left out and worn out... Power Outage as a double entendre. Are visual entendres, art? Hmmmmm......


Andreas said...

Enhanced, Ted. Not manipulated, enhanced :)

This is not necessarily a new question, but still a deep one. Common answers by traditionalists go like "the act of framing is an artistic decision about what to include and what not, ...", etc, but when that argument is used in an exclusive manner like it often is, it falls apart. It is clear that in photography, as in any other visual art, as in any art, there is an infinite variety of possibilities to express oneself and one's thoughts. But I digress. I understand that your question targets not the high, but the low end. It's about necessary prerequisites that have to be met before anything can be called Art.

Actually I have often wondered myself. When I was a child I invariably defended modern art. It simply was the thing to do. Now I see it a little bit different.

The Arts have shown a constant progression towards realism until there was not much more realism to achieve. This was at about the turn of the 15th century, and from then on we see a steady movement against further and further abstraction.

It began with Titian mixing green and red, thus for the first time consciously producing mud colors, it progressed via the bold strokes of Rubens, it had a first climax in the way Van Gogh transgressed Impressionism, and it culminated in early 20th century with expressionisms and finally the likes of Kandinsky and Mondrian. There were exceptional figures like Goya, who was almost a hundred years too early, but in the big picture that is it. After Mondrian there was nothing left to do that had not already been done, the western shore had been reached.

There were many attempts to breath life into art again, mostly by fusing traditional art with something else, the model being the fusion of art and psychology that gave birth to surrealism, and some were successful for some time, some were not. That's what it means to live in post-modern times.

In all that time we see a an ever changing, but but for stretches of one, maybe two generations quite static understanding of what art is. When art has been all this, then who am I to set my own definition above those others?

Ultimately, I think, art is when an artist honestly expresses his thoughts or feelings through a creative act, and when this act is recognized as art by others, albeit this can be well after the artist's lifetime. Thus if you feel that bringing in this bucket of water from the shore is art, and if others feel that it is art, then it probably is art.

Are the others necessary? Can't art stand for itself? Isn't art a quality that some sorts of expressions have? Actually, yes, but in fact the others are inevitable. Art is communication, and sooner or later it will be recognized and understood.

Does this make sense?


Anonymous said...

So many questions. This image, as presented, and for me, is definitely art. I immediately saw it as a metaphor for the outdated technology, both the process and the end products, which, more than any other, define capitalism at its best or worst depending on your point of view.

Was it art before it was tweaked? It may have made a statement, as do many photojournalistic images, but the creativity of the artist, for you surely are that Ted, has added an extra dimension. The colours, the texture, the framing "...somehow grip your eyes and hold 'em hard like a spell." to quote Robert Service. I suspect that the original would not have had the same impact.