Friday, June 08, 2007

Public Debate #1

The following writings are the beginnings of a critical debate between two artists and Myartspace members, John Gargano (profile) and Sten Are Sandbeck (profile).

When you've finished reading, leave a comment (or comments) to keep the ball rolling! This debate is open for everyone to flesh out.

Also, if you have an idea for another open debate, or would like to submit a critical writing for posting, please feel free to send an email to luke@catmacart.com

Now here it is, for your consideration:

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John Gargano:

What has become of us and our art?

It has been evident from the time of the cave paintings that humans have been compelled to express themselves by taking that which originates from somewhere deep within their psyche and manifesting it in visual fashion. Visual art has been, but for the last 30 or 40 years, the realm of creative aesthetic expression which, if done with the utmost of concern, has provided viewers with a dimension of experience far above and beyond one’s everyday encounters. Art of merit has been the realm of the soul, which, for purposes of this discussion I will define as the instrument of one’s perception. Clearly, art has evolved from the mimetic illustration and representation of objects and events to the impressionistic rendering of same to the point where artists began to render feelings and other concepts through abstract visual compositions. With the emergence of the avant garde, artistic expression began to encompass not only that which was abstract, but found objects, performance, installation, and many other art forms.

My view is that we artists have made a significant error in logic about the field of visual expression in the last 30 or 40 years. As abstract art began to emerge, the public was clearly at a loss to comprehend what was being created. At this point third party endorsements took on a much greater significance because many in the public, while trusting the earnest intent of artists, simply had no idea what the new abstract art was about and they had no means by which they could evaluate its merits. From this point, the public became vulnerable to the purveyors of all manner of infantile visual expressions made in the name of art. This phenomenon has now expanded beyond the visual arts and has become the very substance of many areas of performing arts and literature. It has infected our entire culture.

As the public began to expand their tolerance for that which they did not understand, artists began to misinterpret their forum for acceptance and it became de rigeur to produce things that defied understanding – for better or worse. At this point many of us lost track of the horizon. It was commendable that people began to understand that something could be of merit even if they didn’t like it or understand it. At this point we could then bestow respect upon that which we thought had merit even if it didn’t meet our own tastes. We called this “appreciation” and it was admirable to have a broad sense of appreciation. Many people looked upon a sense of appreciation as a means to elevate their social class status. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with expanding one’s horizons, we subsequently failed en masse to follow through with critical evaluation and judgment because we continued to grant respect to that which did not deserve it – because we had allowed our tolerance for that which we did not understand to expand beyond reason. And art, not being entirely within the realm of reason or logic, made us vulnerable to committing this unfortunate error.

It was at this point that we began to see the immense proliferation of the banal being placed upon a pedestal, the unsightly elevated to a status it did not deserve and the wholesale absurdity of phenomenology and cognitive expression being raised to the status of “art”. We continued to consider these not-art objects to be within the realm of that which was previously reserved for art. We went so far as to even consider expressions of attitude, including contempt, to be aesthetic artistic compositions. We allowed social and political commentary devoid of any aesthetic merit, if expressed visually, to be called art. We allowed any form of linear scribble, scratching, or smearing of paint or any other substance including fat and feces to be called art. And the time honored cliché began to become a badge of honor – “we were simply trying to find the boundaries.” Problem is, we failed to follow through by asking, “the boundaries of what?” And further, we failed to consider that the merit of expanding the boundaries would cease when we came upon logical limits. Reasonable limits became anathema. They were perceived as inhibiting our creativity.

I submit that the overwhelming majority of us began to willingly share and even glorify our collective denial of the obvious facts, despite the truth that deep within, many of us recognized at some level the absurdity of what was occurring. Of course we had recently learned in the 60’s and 70’s how awful we all were because we had, up until that time, engaged in genocide, racism, violated the civil rights of others, repressed our feelings, harshly disciplined our children, severely suppressed our sexuality and failed to tolerate the differences between many disparate types of people and their practices. What had we become but the scum of civilization? What atrocious deeds were we not capable of? This seems to have precipitated a collective guilt from which we needed relief.

And so we began to purge the daemons and cleanse our moral and intellectual transgressions by elevating nearly everything in sight and nearly every human practice to the level of art. Not just art, but aesthetic art. And wasn’t it just admirable of us to collectively be so open, liberating, tolerant, forgiving, and above all, understanding? No, I must submit, it most certainly was not.

We became so accustomed to being challenged that we even considered that which challenged our sensibilities to be art. What holier grail could there be than to see the works of an artist that challenged us? If we were such despicable cretins, our only route to salvation was to be confronted with our deficiencies to the point of discomfort. Well, believe it or not, there is an even holier grail. It would place many of us in rapture these days to see an artist challenging him or her self to the extent the public has been challenged over the last 30 to 40 years.

This business about redefining aesthetics has become nothing more than pure nonsense. Simply doing something differently, for even a few decades, does not elevate us to the position of lexicographers who can edit the dictionary and change the meaning of words and concepts. The word aesthetic means something. I recently observed some art in MyArtSpace.com by Sten Are Sandbeck that I feel is not art by any means. While I would make the distinction between my criticism of Mr. Sandbeck’s art and his person, I must express my opinion that Mr. Sandbeck’s “compositions” include work that is poorly executed, sophomorically conceived, devoid of aesthetic merit and absent of anything that either inspires or moves me. To Mr. Sandbeck personally I say, you can do better! To all of us who are doing this type of work in hopes of “restructuring of the subject-field of aesthetics”, I say – please, stop this nonsense! If you consider art to be the signature of a society I would grant the last 30 or 40 years of banal expressions to be a valid mirror, however, I must ask - to what extent are we the purveyors of fine art if all we are doing is mirroring a junk culture which poisons our own citizens? Have we nothing better to say or do? Have we not come full circle back to mimetic art when we mimic the putrid substance of our banal culture. Has this not created a vicious cycle? Is this the extent of the contribution we are able to make? To what new lows will we succumb by challenging the public as opposed to challenging ourselves?

The misguided practices of non-artists, making non art, are far from expanding the subject field. Searching for the boundaries of what is acceptable is the work of infants, toddlers and immature adolescents – or heaven forbid – children grown old. I hope the practice of lowering the standards by which aesthetic compositions are evaluated will implode. The sooner the better. This is the manner in which obsolete technologies, out of date products and infantile ideologies die. It is time we draw a line and begin a new era that ends the last 30 years of the dark age in contemporary art. We can do much better!

John Gargano
www.garganoart.com


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Sten Are Sandbeck:

Response to John Garganos letter “What has become of us and our art?”:

I will go straight to what I consider to be a core problematic in Garganos text: what is art and why and how did it get there, do we want it and what’s going on. The idea Gargano puts forward that something has gone really wrong in the arts lately and specifically the claim that “redefining aesthetics has become nothing more than pure nonsense” points to some very important aspects of the processes of art.

Although I am somehow excluded by Gargano from being willing or able to make true art, I find this attempt of exclusion to be an important part of how art comes into being. It is my view that processes of exclusion and acceptance are quite necessary for the dynamics of the art discourse and for arts very existence. I do not think it is possible to agree on what art is and then we can all concentrate on making it.

In my opinion art cannot be a fixed situation of correct communication defining what can be done and what not, and subsequently who is in a position to act. On the contrary I think of art as a constant process of moving the very conditions of thought and visibility. Utterances that do not fit in the already existing idea of art are put into the world and if they are engaged, they will change the given context of visibility, the pattern of communication through which we view ourselves and the world.

All communication is based on an equality principle and the surplus of artistic expression apparent in myartspace is a consequence of the egalitarian nature of art. This equality is made out of structures of knowledge and language that also govern who can say what, what can be said,

what is visible and even what is thinkable. In its very nature, these structures cannot contain all: To make sense out of something means something else will remain or become nonsense, to render something visible means something else will remain invisible, if someone has their say, someone else will not be heard aso. Thus the equality needed to communicate is also that which suppresses what does not resemble, excluding it from having a say, of being visible, of existing.

Hence there is a need for dynamics both in art and democracy: It must not and cannot come to a standstill. It is precisely from within the ongoing processes of changing the structures of though and communication - the speakable, visible and thinkable - that art emerges. Art is therefore exactly the denouncing of a “correct” principle; it is always trying to bring into being the principle that is missing for its own existence, the principle the established does not contain.

The art-scene is where visibility as art is established. It is constantly moved and redefined by alterations and disturbances caused by artists forcing that which was not included into existence as art. This is not automatic: nothing becomes art before it has been accepted onto the scene and not rejected, it must be accepted into the discourse, the substance carrying the idea of art. But an acceptance of what is different changes the

principles of the discourse: it is altered by the new visibility it now embraces. The logic of the art-world, what makes sense and what is visible is therefore ever-changing.

The role of the art-object is to relate two systems: that of the established meaning and order, and that of the senseless and nameless. If such relations connect that is what we call art – we get a glimpse of it whenever that which did not exist suddenly exists. However it is not so much a question of what is being seen but what its visibility means or presupposes of thought.

Thus the artwork includes (among various participators) its onlooker’s thoughts, that is the changes of thought that must be made to really “see” the piece. So art can never establish itself as consensus, nor go back, as every art-incident exists only in the moment it is absorbed into the established and the established is changed (However it might be (re)discovered by anyone at any time). Due to the complexity of the art-world, this slow floating process might take considerable time, so works

of art can stay living for quite a while, being in process of moving from the excluded to the included. (Moreover I think what we normally would consider to affect works of art in this sense goes for series of works or even the whole of the artists production). Art-objects will thereafter remain as remnants of a process passed, turning into objects of history.

This way art is a kind of drama, but with aspirations to the real, a staged conflict of that which already has its place, and that which must build its own space or rather invent its own reason as it does not fit within a system of rules and regulations. From this understanding new work will and must destabilize the existing set of relations to come into visibility. And the established order of identities which is being disturbed must redefine itself to accept the previously undefined. Here the established run the risk: That which is not willing or able to go through the process of redefinition stands a chance to be excluded in the other end.

This is then what we might mean when we talk of aesthetics in art. It is not a question of the shape of the object but rather which forms and principles it takes to accept its very existence, which forms of thought it demands to put it into context. What the piece might point to as theme is then also part of this aesthetics. And this creating of an object from the formless requires a certain amount of fiction.

So existence of art is not a fact: The making of objects as pieces of art is simultaneously a break with the established logic and a reinvention of that logic; it is more making up art than making it. Art is then first and foremost a discussion about if art actually exists.

Sten Are Sandbeck
www.stenaresandbeck.no

3 comments:

John Gargano said...

It seems the essence of this issue is that Mr. Sandbeck believes anything someone creates may be called art. On the other hand I completely disagree. Others may see this issue as a matter of extent. Mr. Sandbeck can have his own opinions, but he cannot have his own facts. To provide a context for this debate, I would encourage readers to first examine the works shown on our respective web sites. One of the benefits of being an artist is that far beyond any words one may put forth, one’s work speaks for itself.

In response to Mr. Sandbeck, I am not suggesting that art be “a fixed situation”. Clearly, my work in machined metal sculpture employs a technique that is being used by vanishingly few people on the planet. I am not saying that some objects of art are correct and others are not. What I am saying is that some objects are art and some are simply not. At the core of my statement is the principle that the term art means aesthetic. While the arts certainly cover broad areas, there are indeed boundaries. Since the last few decades have seen a vast departure from an aesthetic orientation for works of expression, I am proposing that we now draw a line of demarcation. When I look at Mr. Sandbeck’s piece, Refuse Use, I say, call it contemporary cognitive expression or any other number of acceptable terms and allow practitioners of this type of work to flourish, but lets stop the denial. It is not art. That which is banal is never art.

It is precisely through the type of obtuse logic employed by Mr. Sandbeck that people come to produce the type of work he is doing and then go on to make an error in logic and call it art. I submit Mr. Sandbeck employs vague theoretical terminology when he speaks of “context of visibility” and “structures of knowledge”. This type of dialog, which is now so pervasive in academe and has become detrimental to the students, serves only to obscure reason in its attempts to rationalize the irrational. Terminology such as this revals an underlying theme of justification. By all means, go ahead and challenge reason, go ahead and express a thought or concept or examine a phenomena but such an activities have nothing to do with art. Challenging reason is an intellectual exercise. It is cerebral whereas art is visceral. I reject that which requires rationalization and justification and I encourage others to do the same. That which stands on its own merits requires no rationalization or justification.

Mr. Sandbeck goes on to state, “Art is therefore exactly the denouncing of a “correct” principle. The role of the art-object is to relate two systems: that of the established meaning and order, and that of the senseless and nameless”. I totally disagree. Art has no such role. This is art speak, which is unfortunately a commonly encountered phenomenon whereby people employ an obscure body of words to identify themselves as a member of the specially initiated. Art speak is designed to exclude those that speak in a straight forward manner from the realm of the elite. Engaging in art speak only serves to isolate its practitioners from the greater community of human kind and it unfortunately leads one to engage in the practice of contemporary cognitive expression – as opposed to art.

Art has no social, political or intellectual agenda. Art is not about intellectual meaning. Art is about aesthetics and while we may debate the aesthetic merits of a given piece, there is a moment when an object is so totally devoid of an aesthetic orientation that it ceases to be art. I am not talking about rules. I am talking about looking at something and realizing what it is and what it is not.

People that make compositions such as Mr. Sandbeck’s seem to be very nice people in my experience. That said, contemporary cognitive expression is a field of endeavor unto itself and entirely different from the field of art. To try to equate it with art is to engage in the practice of alchemy. There is no base metal that will ever be become gold. There is no structure of knowledge that will make that which is not art, art. We’re not talking about context of visibility. We’re talking about that which is and that which is not. To confuse and commingle the two is nonsense. Some things are made of base metals and some things are made of gold. Each have undeniable properties and attributes. Yes, they are both material substances. Yes, they are both have similar properties – but so do plants and animals.

Intelligent observant people have the means to distinguish between things that are completely different from one another. In this case I am saying that most objects made by Mr. Sandbeck are so vastly different than objects of art, that they are so devoid of an aesthetic component, that we can no longer reasonably equate the two. There is no amount of logic one may employ to transmute a given thing into something else. This is not an argument about rules, it is an argument about principles and properties.

I am proposing that we draw a line of demarcation between that which is art and that which is not. Mr. Sandbeck can create anything he wishes, however, he does not by virtue of having put forth effort, earn the right to place his work in any domain of his liking. Said in another way, I submit that it is not only possible, but necessary, and urgent at this specific time to be honest about what is aesthetic and what is not. To say this is not possible is absurd and serves only to lower the standards by which compositions may be evaluated as being of artistic merit or not. What purpose does this serve but to deceive those seeking an art education and the art buying public.

I believe the creators and purveyors of contemporary cognitive expression may create and sell whatever they like. That said, the moment they attempt to equate such work with art they reveal their desire to be considered amongst the population of people that have talent, creativity and the ability to create compositions of artistic merit. And for all their wishful thinking, they do not belong in this group.

Teachers and others that foster the view that contemporary cognitive expression is art are just plain wrong. To students who are the victims of this tired ideology I encourage revolt. You are being used, not served. You are paying the wages of charlatans. The failure to recognize the truth of this issue has been the core of the degradation of the world of contemporary art for at least a few decades now. We need to recognize this. It needs to stop.

John Gargano

Sten Are Sandbeck said...

That art is not one consensus, one meaning or one sensibility, does not mean anything goes. It is simply a consequence of a process where the boundaries defining certain practices as artistic are drawn and redrawn. Contemporary art is art defined by the erasure of medium specificity and consequently the erasure of a certain visibility of art as a distinct practice. This does not make art extinct, it means that the artist must know what one is doing in a particular system of exchange, that the artist is constantly finding ways to create other places within that system. Attempting to inscribe art within given roles, possibilities and competences works against this process.

What is sensible to us depends upon a given system of divisions and frames defining what we see and how we think of it. Art operates in the aesthetic field as a discourse relating to what is visible and what makes sense. Within this framework artists construct surfaces that disrupt the topography of the given; intervening established divisions of identities, activities and spaces. Art resists pinning down by constantly trying to make the inaccessible accessible.

Art is not so much about putting forward illusions, but preparing for intelligible structures: the reorganising of signs and images as relations and connections between what is done and what can be done, what is seen and what is being said. In short it is about telling stories about and into other stories. The relation to the onlooker is not a pedagogical relation, but based on an idea of equality where looking is understood also as an action, the interpretation a transforming and reconfiguration of the seen. There is no artwork without an active spectator, without a process of observing, selecting, comparing and interpreting. The construction of an artwork presupposes this process but cannot anticipate its effects. The spectators see, feel and understand something in so far as they reinvent the artwork in their own terms. The artwork serves as a mediation between artist and viewer, separating them and linking them at the same time.

The presupposition of what art is always runs ahead of the artwork and its effects. In this way the individual experience is based on a collective understanding which in its turn is coloured by the former. This stream of associations and dissociations is a story in which both artist and spectator act and react to, linking what we see to what we have seen, heard, told, done, thought, dreamt etc. The artist, spectator, theorist and other participants are individuals and members of a collective body configuring relationships between doing, seeing and saying. Being an artist means both being a product and a co-producer of a discourse in where translations constantly intermingle and roles interchange. In this drama artistic competence steps out of its own field and exchange places with all others.

Artists build the stage where their own competence becomes uncertain as they construct outlines for stories told in unknown languages. In their turn the interpreters will invent their own translation to make their own story.

Anonymous said...

Article about LUCORE hits AP PRESS
by Anonymous
Article About LUCORE hits AP PRESSArticle about LUCORE hits AP PRESS

Rising star in the digital art world
Posted: Friday, Jun 08, 2007 - 10:53:09 pm MDT
By CANDACE CHASE
The Daily Inter Lake


Dale Lucore proves that great art springs from the quality of the artist, not the value of his equipment — even for producing digital art.

“I have an ancient computer: a Pentium 3 and an old Gateway I bought for $10 at a garage sale,” Lucore said with a laugh.

Working from his cabin in the woods of Eureka, the reclusive artist recently created waves in the abstract art world with his “pure digital creations.” Lucore’s work now rivets visitors in galleries from London to Cape Town, South Africa, and Los Angeles to New York.

Compared by some to the work of Salvador Dali, Lucore’s complex creations feature layers of images, fearsome to joyful, abstract to verging on realism, executed in vibrant color to tone on tone.
Lucore is as unusual as his work.

Rather than wishing for personal wealth and fame, Lucore plans to use his success to open a multimedia art center/gallery in Eureka to expose youths to art. The town has not even one gallery.

This art center idea emerged when he went through a midlife crisis recently.

“I’m going to be 46 on the 17th,” he said. “I stepped back and took a look at what I’d done. What I’d like to do is more for other people.”

Lucore said he dislikes promoting himself except as a means to help his chosen home town. He even shuns having his photograph taken because he said “it isn’t about him — it’s about his art.”

If asked for a photograph, he submits one taken in the 1980s when he joined the Marine Corps — an experience that changed his life.

“I’m a 100 percent disabled vet,” he said. “I was in and out of VA hospitals for years.”

Lucore suffered a major, service-connected head injury. His disability causes him to struggle for words at times.

However, he found a silver lining from the accident related to his lifelong proclivity for art.

“The injury made me more artistic,” he said.

For rehabilitation, the VA sent him to a variety of colleges and universities where he studied oils to acrylics, photography, printing and film making. He chose art over film because it sets the viewer free from manipulation.

“A director producing a movie looks for a laugh here and a tear there,” Lucore said. “I manipulate the context, not the art. I can’t tell you what to see.”

Lucore settled on digital as his art medium. It was an economy move as much as anything else because of the cost of art supplies such as a $30 to $40 tube of paint.

Computer painting eliminates economic barriers.

“I can use as much sienna as I want,” he said.

Using the mouse as his brush set and a computer screen as canvas, he creates striking original art.

He compares it to an architect creating custom designs using AutoCAD. Lucore uses Photoshop software to build the images that flow from his imagination.

“I don’t manipulate photographs,” he said. “I do pure digital art from scratch.”

Because of the Internet, Lucore was able to ply his trade in tiny Eureka. The artist lived in various places in the Pacific Northwest before finally calling Montana home.

“It keeps dragging me back,” he said. “My dad was from here. I love this area.”

His sister Kathy Herres also still lives in Eureka.

From his isolated cabin, he produces about one work a day. Lucore uses Kodak

Labs out of Chicago to reproduce his art.

“I just finished a two-piece thing dealing with Montana,” he said.

He doesn’t feel limited by the age of his computer but he admits he would love to upgrade to a newer machine and software with a 60-inch LCD monitor and a large canvas printer.

His recent splash on the international art scene may soon make Lucore’s dreams come true.

According to Lucore, his breakthrough started with designing cover art for a Montana rock ’n’ roll band’s recording. It started a network of contacts rolling that ended up which him talking with Charles Saatchi, owner of Saatchi Gallery in London.

Saatchi’s online magazine featured the Web site SpreadArt.net. Lucore was one of 10 international artists featured on the site with video links available on YouTube.com.

“It just exploded from there,” Lucore said.

The artist can’t keep his voice mail from filling up each day. He said he used to only get one call a day — from his sister.

With the Web exposure, Lucore hooked up with numerous galleries including two in New York and one in South Africa.

“Gallery people are really utilizing the Internet now,” he said.

He has had several galleries sponsor him into major competitions including a juried competition of photography and digital art in Los Angeles. Lucore also has an invitation to participate in the prestigious Florence Biennale in Italy.

Yet the big time hasn’t eclipsed his pride in taking best of show in art at the Lincoln County Fair. Comments from those judges in a postscript reflect the international reaction.

“All amazed!”

People interested in viewing Lucore’s work online will find his work displayed at SpreadArt.net and Art.com. People may contact him by e-mail at daleinside@yahoo.com.

He makes his work accessible to every budget from posters available for $12.99 to limited editions that cost from $250 to $1,000 to originals for $25,000.

Other Web sites, too, feature Lucore and his art.

“I’m Google-able now,” Lucore said with a laugh. “I thought that was pretty neat. I’m cyber-famous.”

Reporter Candace Chase may be reached at 758-4436 or by e-mail at cchase@dailyinterlake.com

By Anonymous at 2007-06-09 07:24 | 's blog | add new commentCongratulations Lucore!!!

Most deserved.
Continued inspiration to you Lucore!
Cheers,
Rox

By Anonymous at Sun, 2007-06-10 00:04 | reply