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Post 20

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 12:55amSanction this postReply
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Peter writes,
"Jonathan suggested if we somehow 'removed the utility' from the cookie jar it would only then become a work of art. Pardon me, but ????? What sort of work of art would it then be? And far more important, what sort of cookie jar?"

I think that my point has been missed. Perhaps my post was an example of too much art and not enough utility. :-)

Eric's example began with an artwork, a sculpture which he proposed to convert into a sculpture/cookie jar. My point was that if we were to take a sculpture/cookie jar and remove the cookie jar qualities (the utility) a recognizable artwork (a sculpture) would remain. The same cannot be said of architecture. Remove the utilitarian function from a building and the aesthetic disappears with it, ~unless~ arrangements of non-mimetic shapes, colors and textures can communicate metaphysical meaning without reference to utility. If they can convey such meaning, Objectivist aesthetics crumble, and Rothko, Mangold, Kapoor and Deacon (etc.) are promoted to the rank of artist.

Peter writes,
"Fourth, Jonathan rather snarkily tells me that "architecture does not recreate reality, it IS reality." Ouch! Oops, no scar. :-) Well the second part of that statement is certainly true, but tell me Jonathan: from what elements is the architect creating that reality? If he is not RE-creating those elements, then from whence do they come? Another dimension? Sheesh!"

I think my concerns can be addressed by referring to something Michael Newberry wrote: "To Rand the primary purpose of her fiction was to create the ideal man to an architect it is to create the ideal living environment..."

Rand did not create an ~actual~ ideal man, she created the concept or likeness of an ideal man. An architect creates an ~actual~ living space. The space is an ~achieved~ ideal, what ~is~, not what "ought to be." If realized ideals are art, anything man makes can be art. For example, despite the specific utilitarian content of a discussion, its ~tone~ can express an ideal. Does that make our current conversation (or at least your end of it :-)) art?

Peter continues,
"And if you admit (as you surely do) that a ~painting~ of a building is a work of art, then why on earth would the ~actual~ building not be a work of art?"

A painting of a person can be a work of art, does that make the ~actual~ person a work of art?

Peter writes,
"And further, if a utilitarian object has a sufficient level of complexity, why should that object NOT be a work of art - is it just because Rand baldly asserted that to be the case?"

I'm not primarily concerned with the instances of compatability of utility and art, but with the instances of inseparability.

Peter concluded,
"It seems to me your questions answer themselves. But then, perhaps your question was not a serious one."

Well, it was serious but certainly somewhat snarky.

Jonathan



Post 21

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 4:51amSanction this postReply
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Peter asks the Supreme Sciabarrian:

>>I note that Chris Sciabarra - who is of course perfectly and almost permanently Sciabarrian - is challenging economists with his inability to reach a conclusion. Just how many Sciabarras need to be laid end to end in order to form a conclusion? :-) You respond to Michael by saying "Ultimately, you may judge [the claim that architecture is not art] to be wrong, you may even judge Rand to be wrong, but the debate itself owes its origins to Rand's ambivalence---and it is ~that~ ambivalence that needs to be examined, questioned, and ultimately resolved." <<

First, let me say that I'm appalled that Sciabarrian is now being used as a synonym for indecisiveness. I THOUGHT it was a synonym for impenetrability due to academic jargon! PLEASE keep your synonyms in order, Peter! LOL This Sciabarrian is anything ~but~ indecisive---on this, I'll trust my rabid critics to set the record straight. LOL

Second, let me say that there is a reason why I addressed the issue in precisely the way that you note: Because throughout the discussion, the blame has been put at the feet of WHAT ART IS and its authors, when, in my view, the blame belongs to Rand herself---whose ambivalence has not been resolved to my satisfaction.

And that includes WHAT ART IS. My reply to your question: I don't know. Fortunately, Sciabarrian is not a synonym for omniscience. But I honestly don't know. A part of me sees that certain architecture is inspired by the artist's soul. A part of me sees the deeply spiritual artistry of Howard Roark, Master Architect. I've always had trouble with this utilitarian distinction in Rand's formulations, and this applies to many phenomena beyond architecture. (And because I have difficulties with Rand's formulations, I've spent a bit of time here focusing on ~those~ issues---which, for me, go far beyond anything that might be "flawed" in T&K's book.)

There are plenty of artistically sculptured wooden chairs that I've seen from the Middle Ages. They might be viewed as purely decorative according to Rand, but their design is pure art to me. I'd take a Middle Age chair, whatever its utilitarian functions, over almost ~anything~ in the Museum of Modern Art.

Such is the dilemma I face.
Cheers,
Chris



Post 22

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 5:23amSanction this postReply
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Interesting conversation!

I wanted to add something about the way I view utility versus art. I've been struggling with an article on music for several months, with the question in mind about how music moves from a jingle to 'Art'.

It occurred to me this morning that all that we now consider art had a utilitarian beginning and perhaps there is a point in which something moves beyond strict utilitarian function to Art.

Look at writing -- it began as a simple way to count sheep, eventually write down some laws, and slowly, over time expanded and grew until Literature was a product of writing, purely non utilitarian as such but an outgrowth of something that is still today very utilitarian, writing.

Music was actually one of the first 'art' forms as far as I can tell from my research, appearing 20-30 thousand years before the first cave paintings in France. Why music first?

Music has had a similar evolution over time. It could have been utilitarian like animal calls or it could have been instrumental in helping to create and maintain an oral tradition of history, and day to day transactions and sharing information. Maybe they made rhymes of all the new words. However, music too has evolved (despite Linz's assertions to the contrary, I'm sure he thinks it has devolved :) to the point of moving past strict utility to something non-utilitarian ...

Painting and drawing as well had it's origins in utility.

Which leads me to question this whole utilitarian thing anyway! I need my music! It isn't something superfluous in my life nor is any other kind of art. It is of utility to me, to keep ME running smoothly. It's like a maintenance plan that insure proper functioning of me! :)

Okay, I obviously haven't had enough coffee yet but I wanted to say that Architecture, like Literature, like Painting, like Music is something that has clearly evolved from strictly functional to being Art just as Literature, Painting and Music have done. All these things had their roots in utility.

Joy :)



Post 23

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 5:41amSanction this postReply
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Hey Peter,

Congratulations on the new project! Wow! I wish I was there now to walk through it, smell it, look at it, touch it!...and talk about it with you. Perhaps next year...maybe even sleep in it. Ha ha.

Michael



Post 24

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 8:15amSanction this postReply
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Peter writes: "Essentially, there needs to be a sufficient level of complexity within the nature of the object to allow the artist to integrate and communicate a view of the world by means of that object. Architecture does it by the way in which the architectural object is inhabited; music does it by the way in which musical tones are related in a melody; how, I wonder, might a swimming pool, truck or car do it?? That's the issue really."

A swimming pool, a car or a truck would function as architecture does; by the design and by the way in which they can be inhabited.

If a building is a work of art, then why can't a mobile home be a work of art? And if a mobile home can be a work of art, why not a truck or car?

Once objects made for utility are referents to the concept of "art", just about anything with elements of design can be included; Boats, planes, silverware, furniture, computers, musical instruments, etc.

Though I admire architecture and fine furniture, I'm having a difficult time figuring out how to include them in my concept of art, without ending up with a concept so large it includes all man-made objects.



Post 25

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 1:52pmSanction this postReply
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Chris: Just to make it clear, Sciabarrianism is unquestionably and demonstrably a "synonym for impenetrability due to academic jargon" as you say (with uncharacteristic clarity I might add), but I've always thought that a subset of the topic is an overrarching indecisiveness.

I submit, as just one example, a six page article on Eminem which failed to come to any firm conclusion about the 'artistic' value of arhythmically chanted words which would be out of place on a building site. Or, look at your indecisiveness over this issue we are discussing here. I suggest 'indecision' be added to your purview of the topic. :-)

Jonathan: Now Jonathan says (rather politely this time, I note :-) ) that his "concerns can be addressed by referring to something Michael Newberry wrote: "To Rand the primary purpose of her fiction was to create the ideal man; to an architect it is to create the ideal living environment..." "

This is certainly true - for the most part. For implied in this statement are two things: the first is that we can create an 'ideal' living environment for a particular context; the second is that the living environment we create is a living environment for the architect's idea of the ideal man(a slightly more accurate way of saying what Michael said). Now, unlike the novelist, the architect is not creating the ideal man, he is instead creating the habitat of that man. If you like, you might say that he is making a context for the ideal man - and qua artwork, we might say of architecture's home for the ideal man, 'by that context shall ye know him.'

Eric: You say: "Though I admire architecture and fine furniture, I'm having a difficult time figuring out how to include them in my concept of art, without ending up with a concept so large it includes all man-made objects." Fair point. I think the answer lies in part in what I said above. Architecture creates a home for the ideal man, and qua artwork it tells us the architect's conception of that ideal man.

A home can do that because it sets a complete context for the ideal man - "we are building a whole universe" in which that man can live. But a pool, car or truck do not do that much, they relate to to a particular context of a man's life, not to the ~entire~ context as architecture does.

On the other hand, if any of these objects are brought together as part of an ensemble - which might perhaps include the fine chair Chris talks about - then the ensemble selected can certainly tell us something about the man for whom the architect is creating a space in which to live; in that case, the objects can then be ~part~ of an artwork, and each element contributes its own nature to the artistic unit.

The important thing qua art is that the ~unit~ that makes the artwork is the ~complete~ architectural ensemble - the individual items are (or should be) subordinate to that unit. The objects are like musical notes, or perhaps snatches of melody, which the architectural composer brings together to make the complete symphony.

The unit which we examine qua artwork is the whole - the whole architectural symphony, not just the notes - and that is what is meant when we say that architecture is the master art, because it has the potential to include all the arts within it in order to make a new artistic unit.


It is by selectively re-creating the elements of what, to the artist, are the important elements of a home for an ideal man that the architect gives these objects artistic meaning.

PC



Post 26

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 2:05pmSanction this postReply
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If, when re-reading what I've written above, anyone finds themselves asking the question: "But surely most clients aren't ideal men?" then as answer I point you to a scene from 'The Fountainhead.'

Having just begun living in his new house, Gail Wynand turns to Howard Roark, his architect, and says that Roark should not be surprised when he tells him that he feels he needs to live up to his new house.

~That~ is exactly the emotion that a good architect strives to have his clients feel when they begin living in their new house - the idea that they have been presented with life as it could be, and should be.

Cheers
PC



Post 27

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 5:24pmSanction this postReply
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Peter writes: "Just to make it clear, Sciabarrianism is unquestionably and demonstrably a 'synonym for impenetrability due to academic jargon' as you say (with uncharacteristic clarity I might add), but I've always thought that a subset of the topic is an overrarching indecisiveness. I submit, as just one example, a six page article on Eminem which failed to come to any firm conclusion about the 'artistic' value of arhythmically chanted words which would be out of place on a building site. Or, look at your indecisiveness over this issue we are discussing here. I suggest 'indecision' be added to your purview of the topic. :-)"

Well, now, that's what I call overwhelming evidence. :) One article and an "I don't know" on the matter of architecture.

Thank goodness I have a high sense of self-esteem around SOLO HQ. I guess all those Rand and Branden books paid off.

Cheers,
Chris

===
http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/update.htm
===



Post 28

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 10:41pmSanction this postReply
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Hello everyone! Alas, my treatise:)

I am glad I can join in at least one comment session that hasn't turned into a St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre:) I would like first to congratulate the author for a wonderfully written article. Secondly I would like to take the opportunity to offer my defense for Michelle and Lou's book. I see in it, along with Sciabarra, a step toward a clarification of certain unanswered and often misunderstood questions about aesthetic concepts in Objectivism. A note of thanks to Lindsay as well for allowing me this opportunity to voice my dissent from Rand. In this case, the fault belongs to Rand, as Michelle did not fail to mention. It would be an unpardonable breach of manners to blame the translator for faults encountered in the originator's ideas. What Michelle and Lou have contributed is a wonderful exposition of Rand's main ideas. If there is error in it, then certainly it would lie in more substantive matters and hardly in their exposition of an ambiguity in Rand's treatment of architecture.

The epithet "form follows function" historically (in this context) belongs to Louis Sullivan. Rand derived it from Wright, who we may presume knew more about architecture first-hand than Rand. Sullivan had relatively little to say about the arguments voiced in the comments here, the primary one being that raised by Jonathon:

"My point was that if we were to take a sculpture/cookie jar and remove the cookie jar qualities (the utility) a recognizable artwork (a sculpture) would remain. The same cannot be said of architecture. Remove the utilitarian function from a building and the aesthetic disappears with it, ~unless~ arrangements of non-mimetic shapes, colors and textures can communicate metaphysical meaning without reference to utility."

Indeed this is a very substantial observation and one I believe is central to the work of Rand's preferred architect, Wright. Although he admired Gothic architecture, it was not the delapidated old fragmentary buildings (commonly called ruins) that arrested his attention, but the concept of architecture they embodied. It is relevant to discuss the matter further. Michelle and Lou treat this topic in "What Art is", but it arises in the larger context of aesthetic evaluation. They raise questions about Rand's contributions to the philosophical discussion of beauty which improve on her original ahistorical approach. Again we cannot blame them for exposition.

They rightly observe that the great false dichotomy of beauty (Jonathon prefers "aesthetic") and utility came to the front of nineteenth century debates over architecture. Those debating were Pugin, William Morris, and John Ruskin. The latter claimed that Gothic architecture was superior to the Neo-Classical designs of the eighteenth century. This conclusion relied on the premise that industry (by which Ruskin and Morris meant "raw industry" or "craft") led the artist (craftsman) to the full glory of the artistic experience.

Pugin was merely emphasizing the superiority of Gothic architecture as a plea for England to return to the Church of Rome (so you think we have problems today? HA) Architecture became a means of reshaping the social life with an overt agenda to critique the effects of the Industrial Revolution and the factory system. Yes this is a far cry from Rand, follow me.

Frank Lloyd Wright learned his morality from Ruskin and his trade from Louis Sullivan. He believed against Rand that architecture could improve and shape the structure of society. Rand disagreed by disallowing any social function to the artist's work. Curiously, Ruskin remains one of the strongest proponents of functionalism in architecture and one of its most articulate representatives. He refused to rest his argument on aesthetic premises alone. He wanted architecture to be a supremely moral achievement one that would last for ages to come. Now he sounds more like Rand. The Louis Sullivan part of Wright (and consequently part of Roark) was to add to this, a peculiar indignation at the notion of being "bought out". A man is not for sale! especially if he has moral principles! What Rand fails to articulate is the criteria upon which she may speak of a moral architecture.

Now the concept of utility was clearly eminent in the Victorian ethos that Ruskin debated. He was certain that architecture need not be understood as the argument for utility against that of beauty, each pitted against one another. It was certainly clear to him that neither should seek to dominate the other. He derived a master concept from Aristotle, (a principle derived from the NE, 'theoria', contemplation) and insisted that this was the ground from which all aesthetic notions were derived (Modern Painters, vol. II). The concepts of "Organic Form" (Ruskin, Seven Lamps) and "Organic Architecture" (Wright, Essays) are derived from this philosophy. It is an attitude toward existence that insists that nature and art are a harmonious pair, not a perpetually dueling dyad:-)

Rand turned Ruskin on his head by supposing that Renaissance concepts of individualism are the proper basis from which to derive our concepts of archtecture. Rationalism. I am not the first to notice this supreme error on her part. Was this a conscious effort to undermine Wright's work AND his philosophy? or was it merely an error of omission? Once again, Rand's amiguity on this matter plagues Michelle and Lou's work, but it is not their error. It properly belongs to Rand, and it will belong to anyone who tries to speak for Rand unless her ambiguities are first clarified. In this, I am glad to see that both Cresswell and Sciabarra rush to admit fallibility:-) Even so I agree with Sciabarra that the only way we can counter this tangled web is by situating Rand within the context of her knowledge synchronic and diachronic.



Post 29

Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 6:15amSanction this postReply
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OK, I am going to draw a line. You scholars do not get IT! I am including Teets, Sciabarra, and T & K. All you show you do not understand, do not have a clue, what the fundamental nature of art is. Teets refers to it as a “trade”, Sciabarra a “craft” (art to him is a chair), and T & K (they horrible mangle Rand’s meaning metaphysical value-judgements). Craft deals with handicrafts and things made by hand, creative hoppies, and trades deal with skilled labor, etc. Writers might use those concepts differently but I can tell artists do not. And, of course, you won’t understand my point…the fine arts deal primarily with the communication a whole soul’s take on the meaning of the universe. Really, try to take in exactly what that means, if you stop and take that in your brains should be fairly overwhelmed, might cause you a headache, or explode it…that is what artists deal with when they approach a blank canvas, page, or site. Your use of the words and meaning of “craft” and “trade” make you philistines and compartmentalists. Compartmentalists in the sense that need to shrink a huge concept like metaphysical value judgement into a trade or craft.

Normally when these kinds of words come up in conversation, I bite back my tongue, and allow people to be unintentionally rude. But I find it pompous, arrogant, and pretentious.

Coming to Rand’s aesthetics all of you toss around the word “ambiguity” with Rand. Sciabarra biggest point so far is the point is Binswanger’s comment on what Rand said to him personally (?) as if that balances out against the entirety of the Fountainhead. Teets tosses it around just to toss it. I think the truth is that you simply project your own confusion about the meaning of art onto Rand, i.e. over your head.

Now please take me to task and argue on CONCEPTUAL grounds.

Cheers,

Michael



Post 30

Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 6:40amSanction this postReply
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P.S.

My idea of conceptual argument concerning Rand’s ambiguity in architecture would be to quote an aesthetic passage in the Fountainhead and defend why that is ambiguous in the broader picture of Objectivist aesthetics. One problem though, if you do not know what Metaphysical Value-judgements are none of this will make any sense to you.



Post 31

Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 11:35amSanction this postReply
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I'm going to draw a line here, too, because I think there is a definite problem with ~communication~, and yes, we are probably talking past one another.

First of all, I know what the fundamental nature of art is. My use of the word "craft" on ~other~ occasions is not meant to denigrate art---any more than it is to denigrate writing, my chosen field. "Craft" simply implies: "to create with consummate skill and careful attention to detail," and it pertains to a wide variety of man-made objects, the arts included. Nobody here is arguing that this is the ~essence~ of art, because if it were, then ~everything~ would be art---and as others have argued here, the very word would lose its meaning. (All the more reason to be very careful about what we see as constitutive of that concept.)

I think you're being very unfair, Michael, to say that for Sciabarra, "art to him is a chair." I was referring to the fact that many wooden chairs from the Middle Ages have remarkable sculptures in them---hand-crafted designs of human figures and angels and what-not---and I made the comparative statement that I'd take ~that~ chair as art "over almost ~anything~ in the Museum of Modern Art," which has taken to displaying cow dung or human excrement on walls and calling it "art." Believe me: I know what art is. And what it isn't.

I was simply suggesting that some things that are ~not~ art, per se, e.g., that medieval chair, can have artistic elements in them. Even "photography," which Rand rejected as art per se, can have artistic elements in it. But that doesn't make it ~art~ per se. So too with architecture: some of it embodies Rand's definition of art (and I would hope that we're clear to distinguish between, say, the architecture of the Acropolis and the box design of Joe's Deli and the row of stores up the block from me). But there is a tension in Rand's discussion that has not been resolved to my satisfaction.

I know that "the fine arts deal primarily with the communication a whole soul’s take on the meaning of the universe." Insofar as I respond to music, literature, and other art forms, I am responding precisely on that very deep level. I know what inspires me, what moves me to tears, and I have great respect for those who are genuine artists, and who so move me, and who reach my soul in a way that is unrepeatable.

Rand offered no ~philosophic~ analysis of architecture. She presented her views of the spiritual nature of creation in her moving portrait of architect Howard Roark, and it is one of the most profound pictures of human creativity that I've ever read. But it is not a ~philosophic~ analysis of architecture and its place in the broader Objectivist aesthetic theory.

She fully recognized that architecture combined "art with a utilitarian purpose." But she also maintains in THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO that "utilitarian objects cannot be classified as works of art."

So, in her only mention of architecture in any ~philosophic~ (nonfictional) context, she introduces a seeming ambiguity. Forget the Binswanger stuff, which is relevant to me, but is not relevant to you. A is A. You cannot claim that utilitarian objects are non-art and THEN claim that architecture, despite its utilitarian purpose, ~is~ art... unless you somehow revise the definition of art or reject the characterization of architecture as art.

And if, by chance, you can present a way of transcending this as a false alternative---something that would appeal wonderfully to my dialectical sensibilities: GREAT! The reason I said "I don't know" on this question is because I, myself, have not found a way to transcend this tension in Rand's statements and to navigate to a comfortable conclusion. I haven't thought about this question all that much---and that's why I was genuinely appreciative of those who ~have~ thought about it in their formal writings, e.g., Torres & Kamhi AND Peter Cresswell, even if the conclusions they draw are diametrically opposed.

That does not mean that I don't appreciate the grandeur of architecture, or that I'm a "philistine." I've spent the bulk of my professional life making intellectual ~decisions~ about such things as Rand's intellectual roots, dialectical method, and even her attitudes toward sexuality. I had the intellectual honesty and integrity to say: I don't know---with regard to the status of architecture as art. And yet, I'm now called "indecisive" and a "philistine" on SOLO HQ.

I'm open to discussion on all this. But conversation pretty much ceases with name-calling.

Chris



Post 32

Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 11:37amSanction this postReply
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Hi Michael,

WOW the rage!:-) Notice I wasn't speaking for my own definition of art, but I was speaking about the art theory of John Ruskin. My sentence was:

"This conclusion relied on the premise that industry (by which Ruskin and Morris meant "raw industry" or "craft") led the artist (craftsman) to the full glory of the artistic experience."

"Craftsman" was THEIR way to describe the activity of a person who was involved in the process of creating a specific type of art. In this case I am refering to the making of furnishings for a home as neither was an architect (Morris or Wright).

On architecture as a trade, I had chosen the word because I read an actual sentence from Louis Sullivan where he uses it in the context of his work. Regardless of the deep moral feeling that Wright sustained for his work throughout his life I doubt he would have objected to someone using the word "trade" to describe the business aspect of his work. If you are working with business people you may want use the word trade...that is all. I don't think my use of the word requires any more explanation.

What's this Michael...you call us Philistines and then you want to argue conceptually??? You find the use of the word craft or trade "unintentionally rude, pompous, arrogant, and pretentious" and then you have the audacity to tell us that you think we don't have a clue "what the fundamental nature of art is". Is THAT not an attitude?? Come on Michael!! You describe art as:

"...the fine arts deal primarily with the communication a whole soul’s take on the meaning of the universe. Really, try to take in exactly what that means, if you stop and take that in your brains should be fairly overwhelmed, might cause you a headache, or explode it…"

Was that your attempt to think conceptually, or merely to show off? Well if you admit to art being a brain ache, then perhaps you should go a little easier on those who attempt to describe one aspect of it. Your accusations against scholars are banal, trite, and insipid...if scholars didn't have artists there wouldn't be a reason for art scholars...if artists didn't have scholars to recognize their (insert whatever word you like here) you would be left ALONE to face the Philistines.

By the way, your description of art sounds not altogether different from sixteenth century Florentine Neoplatonists who injected symbolic meaning into every aspect of court art so as to make it virtually impossible for the innocent uninitiated to appreciate the art. No I don't think that art has to be so removed from reality that a scholar can never understand it conceptually. I also want to say that you remind me of analytical psychology (James Hillman) which I find interesting but a little difficult to conceptualize simply because I don't know where your emotions are going. Please forgive me, I am sitting behind a keyboard, no clue when you are saying something tongue in cheek. I am referring to your statement of art as "a whole soul’s take on the meaning of the universe". It is that "soul" thing that sounds like Hillman!


If you want us to appreciate the metaphysical insight you have on art why not present it rather than berate us.

For your latest post, I have curiously, nothing to add. I find the Fountainhead, a novel, a piece of literature...not a treatise on architecture that I want to dissect and understand. I don't take it verbatim. I don't swallow its every line and spout it out in the morning when I rise. I don't go around telling people how many times I've read it with a glazed look in my eyes, and I certainly don't treat it as a Bible. It's a fucking novel, for chaos' sake. The way I hear Objectivists speak of Rand's novels reminds me of the way Catholics take Dante's Commedia!! When I speak of Rand's ambiguities I am referring to the statements she makes in her Romantic Manifesto...and the quite large collections of COPIED statements (which would be the absolute limit of her concept of scholarship!) included in her Journals. The ambiguities are even clearer there and I can begin to see why she had these. She studied sources that were really at odds. With her own very limited knowledge of architecture, Rand decided to enter the TRADE (Michael the TRADE!!) by taking up WORK in an architectural FIRM so that she could better understand the TRADE Michael, which she learned by working in the TRADE...and which she described as THE TRADE in her Journals!

Michael, I really think that the best way to understand Rand's ambiguities is by reading John Ruskin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, and perhaps Le Corbusier. I really think the ambiguities arise in Rand's misunderstanding of Wright as architect. Furthermore I think she did not really know what his philosophy was...she merely liked him and stated repeatedly in the Journals that she liked his work, and that she thought he was heroic. Now how can you not really understand someone's philosophy and yet embrace them metaphysically...and not encounter some ambiguity?? Maybe it's one of the kind of experiences you describe above...you just...know?



Post 33

Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 11:44amSanction this postReply
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OOPS!

In this sentence:

"Craftsman" was THEIR way to describe the activity of a person who was involved in the process of creating a specific type of art. In this case I am refering to the making of furnishings for a home as neither was an architect (Morris or Wright).

"(Morris or Wright)" should read: "(Morris or Ruskin)"

Sorry!



Post 34

Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 1:15pmSanction this postReply
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Michael, Michael, Michael!!!

Thank you so much for an awesome clue by four! My head is exploding and despite your anger, you made something quite clear for me that I've been wrestling with for months!

I posted earlier about the evolution of various art forms, how music evolved over thousands and thousands of years, who writing has evolved, painting, sculpture, etc. I'd been stuck on the point when of when something that began with a utilitarian purpose could suddenly be elevated to Art and despite knowing the words 'metaphysical value judgement' intellectually, I didn't 'get it' inside until you shouted it so loudly that I finally did!

This especially sent me on my way as I was contemplating the state of my frozen water pipes to the washing machine .. :)

"Really, try to take in exactly what that means, if you stop and take that in your brains should be fairly overwhelmed, might cause you a headache, or explode it…that is what artists deal with when they approach a blank canvas, page, or site."

Yes! The process of deciding what is important enough to write about, paint, sculpt, build. To think about the creation process in terms of what is it I am creating, for what purpose, to say what? To narrow down the essentials, their meaning and how to convey a meaning that may not even have words at first or perhaps with the other arts that will never have a finite set of words to describe it. To convey abstractions about our relationship to the universe!

In utilitarian writing, painting, sculpting, building ... there is a utilitarian purpose, you must create something for that specific purpose. That narrows considerably what you will produce.

However, in creating something of your own mind in any of the arts, there is literally an infinite number of choices about which you must decide to include in that work and to select the elements and still be coherent is a daunting task .. especially if you have no basis of deciding what is essentially important or not.

As a writer, I am never afraid of a blank page remaining blank, only of filling it with too much so that it becomes a jumble of nothingness by the sheer volume of words. While I could easily write a manual or non-fiction pieces because my choices are very specific, writing fiction is a challenge in that I must make choices about what to include, what is important, what advances my ideas, my theme.

The difference in moving from utility to art is the lack of direct functionality, whether you are viewing a work of art or living in it. When something is created with the purpose of transcending its utility, it becomes art . I worded that poorly as that sure sounds like a post-modern excuse for art .. LOL! But I don't have the words right now .. my mind is still reeling from making my own connections about what art is, the evolution of art, defining that point between utility and art ... it's mind blowing and I have to let it ferment a bit.

I have to say though, seeing you guys get all passionate about this subject, even with the name calling proves just how important art is no matter who says what about it.

I hope that a bit of unbridled passion and a bit of name calling won't stall this discussion because I for one am learning something very important here!

Thank you all, and most especially you Michael. Your anger actually reminds me of a line from the original 'Miracle on 34th St'.

In referring to a guy that claimed he was Santa Claus, worrying that the man was in fact insane, one character said: 'But maybe he's just a little crazy you know, like writers and artists.'

*grin*

Joy :)



Post 35

Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 2:22pmSanction this postReply
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Chris said: "[Rand] fully recognized that architecture combined 'art with a utilitarian purpose.' But she also maintains in THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO that 'utilitarian objects cannot be classified as works of art.' So, in her only mention of architecture in any ~philosophic~ (nonfictional) context, she introduces a seeming ambiguity. Forget the Binswanger stuff, which is relevant to me, but is not relevant to you. A is A. You cannot claim that utilitarian objects are non-art and THEN claim that architecture, despite its utilitarian purpose, ~is~ art... unless you somehow revise the definition of art or reject the characterization of architecture as art."

Okay, I ~will~ forget the Benswanger stuff, simply because it smacks of 'he-said-she-said' stuff that even scholars should steer clear of [:-)]; because Bonswanger's veracity as a witness is questionable; and because it doesn't actually matter to the point in question.

It doesn't matter because the question whether architecture is art or not can be resolved by repairing to fundamentals rather than to speculation about who said what to whom, and in which question-and-answer session.

We have an apparent contradiction. Great. Let's check our premises then, not the conversational transcripts of an aging hanger-on. Checking the premises is exactly what I was attempting in my piece, but so far none of the critics have really addressed my argument; instead you're all excitedly reprising AR's comments yet again. On that basis I think I'm even more entitled to sulk - or perhaps be driven to drink. :-)

Now (now that I've had that drink), AR said that "utilitarian objects cannot be classified as works of art." So what?! What were her reasons? Um ...

Sure, her assertions are interesting for the AR scholars, but as AR made no attempt to bolster this particular assertion with any significant argument her assertion holds no more water for those of us in the field than her 'argument' that a woman should not be president, that smoking is appropriate for a novelist, that a good steak is the only appropriate power food for rational men, that men with beards can't be trusted*, and that gay men (with or without beards) are psychologically disturbed.

In other words, without argument, it's simply a bald assertion that we can choose to accept or not based on our own examination of the question. That examination was what my piece was attempting to do.

Chris says "You cannot claim that utilitarian objects are non-art and THEN claim that architecture, despite its utilitarian purpose, ~is~ art... unless you somehow revise the definition of art or reject the characterization of architecture as art." But I ~don't~ say that utilitarian objects are necessarily non-art (see above). Neither does Michael (see his previous lampshade example). They may be, or they may not be as I've said above, but to my mind simple utility doesn't necessarily rule out an object being art. In fact, in architecture it is the utility that gives the whole built object meaning: it is WHAT utility is built in that is his explicit subject; it is HOW the utility is built in that represents the architect's style. (And as I said in my article, and as Wright said over and over, the IMPLICIT subject - the ACTUAL subject - of architecture is man.)

To put it very, very simply: it is in the 'what' the architect builds in, and in the ~way~ he builds it in that an architect tells us: "~This~ is life as I see it." And ~that~ is what art is for: to give us a unit that allows us to see our worldview AS A UNIT.

The utility/art dichotomy is as false as the art/entertainment dichotomy, the theory/practice dichotomy and the reason/passion dichotomy, and like all of them it should be blasted to hell. It ~is~ a false alternative - in fact it's downright rationalism - and as I said in my article, any Objectivist worth his salt ~should~ be able to hurdle it with ease. In its latest incarnation (that of T&K's assertion that architecture is not art) I continue to consider it as a childish claim made by them in order to court controversy and sell books. It's a shame it seems to be working.

Buy Alexandra York's book instead. You won't be wanting for passion there. :-)

PC

*This at least is undoubtedly true. Men with beards ~can't~ be trusted. Yes, Virginia, ~especially~ Santa Claus. :-)



Post 36

Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 4:59pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you, Peter. I am especially thankful for this statement of yours:

"Sure, [Rand's] assertions are interesting for the AR scholars, but as AR made no attempt to bolster this particular assertion [of the utility/art dichotomy] with any significant argument, her assertion holds no more water for those of us in the field than her 'argument' that a woman should not be president . . . [snip] In other words, without argument, it's simply a bald assertion that we can choose to accept or not based on our own examination of the question. That examination was what my piece was attempting to do. . . . I ~don't~ say that utilitarian objects are necessarily non-art (see above). Neither does Michael (see his previous lampshade example). They may be, or they may not be as I've said above, but to my mind simple utility doesn't necessarily rule out an object being art."

Fine. Excellent. When I read your article, I didn't get the sense that you were willing to put the blame at Rand's feet; you seemed to come in, "guns a totin'," at Torres and Kamhi, whom you regard as having a seriously flawed theory of architecture---with no recognition that the flaw ~might~ be found in Rand's writings. I just had no sense that you were really engaging the origins of this paradox: Rand's own words on the utility/art dichotomy.

It seems clearer to me now that you and Michael are departing from Rand's utility/art dichotomy. Perhaps you are indeed attempting to clarify it, transcend it, show it to be a "false alternative." And there's ~nothing~ wrong with that---especially if it can be shown that Rand was: wrong! I'm not entirely convinced yet, but I do appreciate the acknowledgment of your ~departure~ from Rand.

Your article is a fine read, and I really appreciate the kind of clarification that comes from this sort of dialogue.

BTW, I have read Alexandra York's book, and it will be reviewed in the pages of THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES by literary scholar Kirsti Minsaas. Alexandra will reply, and I hope that Kirsti will write a rejoinder when the time comes.

Anyway, I'm just happy that I don't have a beard. I don't even have a moustache anymore.
But since I was called a Philistine, I guess I should now prepare for the coming of that strong, virile, long-haired Sampson who will, uh, slay me.

Cheers,
Chris



Post 37

Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 6:15pmSanction this postReply
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Ha, ha! God, I didn’t mean to offend anyone, Chris and Anthony I think you guys are wonderful, I just get very bored with dry discussions about aesthetics so I let loose.

BTW, I used “philistine” as “one who lacks knowledge in a specific area” and the area I am thinking about is metaphysical value-judgements. From all of your comments I do not sense you understand it as I do and Chris gives the nod to T & K. But T & K do not understanding how this relates to art in general as they comment: "ethics and moral values [do not] appear to be essential to any art forms "other than" fiction and drama." They do not comprehend Rand’s concept of metaphysical value-judgements as she clearly explains in RM, at least it is crystal clear to me, and which I think I communicate in my article in my JARS article http://www.michaelnewberry.com/soul/essays/metapvaluej/index.html and for the lecture version with pictures: http://www.michaelnewberry.com/studioupdate/2002-10/

The concept of metaphysical value-judgements is HALF of Rand’s aesthetic theory. One’s take on it will color, distort, confuse, or enlighten their understanding of art and Objectivist aesthetics. I hold that if you do not fully grasp this aspect you will not be able, ever, to reach a “satisfying” answer to the so-called “ambiguous” Rand.

Joy says: “Yes! The process of deciding what is important enough to write about, paint, sculpt, build. To think about the creation process in terms of what is it I am creating, for what purpose, to say what? To narrow down the essentials, their meaning and how to convey a meaning that may not even have words at first or perhaps with the other arts that will never have a finite set of words to describe it. To convey abstractions about our relationship to the universe!”

And Peter comments: “To put it very, very simply: it is in the 'what' the architect builds in, and in the ~way~ he builds it in that an architect tells us: "~This~ is life as I see it." And ~that~ is what art is for: to give us a unit that allows us to see our worldview AS A UNIT.”

“To convey the abstractions about our relationship to the universe” and “to give us a unit that allows us to see our worldview as a unity” are metaphysical value-judgement issues seem obviously clear to us artists. I still feel the scholars among us have skimmed over this fundamental issue and focused on details of much lesser weight without enlightening us as to the brilliance of T & K and why Rand is painted as a hedger.

Concerning gleaning AESTHETIC theory, i.e. philosophical theory, from the Fountainhead both Teets and Sciabarra dismiss it. Is that dialectic? Or open-minded? Illegal in the scholarly community? Or perhaps it is too difficult to do because it is not spelled-out in non-fiction forms? I really don’t comprehend this. One wants to discuss Rand’s view of the meaning of architecture as art and Rand the novelist/philosopher wrote a book about an architect loaded with aesthetic insights into the field…how can this not be included in any meaningful discussion on architecture and aesthetics?

OK, my brain is fried. Ha ha.
Lastly, my apologies for my approach it would be nice if it were lighter, friendlier, politer, but all those qualities don’t have anything to do with what guides my soul and about issues in art. And there is one thing certain I am after the real, as I understand it. And I am sure that everyone in this discussion is going for the real and I believe that, sincerely, of T & K too.

Michael



Post 38

Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 6:27pmSanction this postReply
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Perhaps the genus Art is made up of two species: Utilitarian and Non-utilitarian. Utilitarian Art would include not only architecture, but furniture design, fashion, and the culinary arts. Non-utilitarian Art would include music, poetry, literature, and the visual arts.

This distinction seems necessary to me, as the former group shares an additional criteria that is not required of the latter; that being, how they serve their non-esthetic functions.

Imagine two glorious sculptures, both identical to the eye. One sculpture is made of clay. The other, however, is made of flour, sugar, and other delicious ingredients; as a wedding cake, it has been created for sustenance and celebration. These two works of art share in common a visual appeal and perhaps even suggest the artists' sense of life.

But the cake must also taste good, something the clay sculpture didn't have to contend with.

In a discussion of art, it seems natural that theorists would want to limit their discussion to the non-utilitarian species, as it would help focus the analysis on aesthetics. Though I haven't yet read the book by Torres and Kamhi, I would imagine that this might account for their choice in defining art in this narrower fashion.

But Peter's terrific article, albeit a little condemning of the aforementioned authors, is a wonderful contribution to the discussion of utilitarian art.



Post 39

Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 6:29pmSanction this postReply
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For the purposes of my upcoming presentation at the SOLO conference, I've been re-reading Michael Newberry's wonderful article on "Detecting Value Judgements in Painting." http://www.michaelnewberry.com/studioupdate/2002-10/

If I may be so bold in making the comparison, it seems to me that in many ways Michael's article and my SOLO presentation are companion pieces - his showing how 'metaphysical value judgements' can be understood in paintings, and mine hopefully doing the same job for architecture.

What is particularly germane to the present discussion are
the guidelines Michael offers for detecting metaphysical value-judgements in a painting; it seems to me that by a little judicious paraphrasing and word-substitution his guidelines are equally effective for detecting value judgements in a building. For example if in his second point we substitute 'house' for 'canvas' and 'building' for artwork' we find Michael making the same point that I employ Claude Megson to make in my present article.

Continuing by a similar process through his remaining points and applying the questions he raises to the examples given in my article should yield for the interested reader a greater awareness of what architecture accomplishes qua artwork, and some of the means by which it does it.

As just one example, if we look at Michael's third guideline:

"3. What is the relationship of subject or person to their environment? This will tell us how important humanity is in relationship to society or nature."

That self-same question applies as much when examing a painting to detect the value judgements of the artist as it does when examining a building to detect the value judgements of the architect. For example, if we ask this question of Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Fallingwater' we can see that the relationship the house offers between the occupant and the environment is one of active and benevolent participation; a feeling that man has enhanced what nature has begun, and is invited out to share in the delightful results; a sense that the universe is open to exploration, and that the effort will be richly rewarded with joy and delight.

Rather than dismissing 'Fallingwater' out of hand as T&K stupidly do BECAUSE of its spectacular natural setting, we should instead see the building's glorious context (which was itself a selection of the architect) and how Wright chose to relate to it as an integral part of the artwork; by doing so we can then detect the value judgements of the architect.

I leave it as an exercise for the interested reader to work through the remaining guidelines for himself, using perhaps the examples I give in my article. :-)

Cheers
Peter Cresswell
ORGANON ARCHITECTURE
~Integrating Architecture With Your Site~
PO Box 108054, Symonds St, Auckland
Ph/Fax: (09) 6310034
organon@ihug.co.nz



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