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Post 40

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 3:12amSanction this postReply
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Well, I'm glad that everyone's good will brings us back from the brink. :)

Michael does say something ~very~ important: "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?"

I agree with you ~completely~. I think that there are ~plenty~ of theoretical, intellectual, and philosophical lessons to be gleaned---not only from THE FOUNTAINHEAD but from virtually ~all~ of Rand's fictional writing, including the
unpublished stuff. You will get no argument from me at all. In fact, whether one agrees or disagrees with Barry Vacker's work, he has developed some very creative theoretical implications from THE FOUNTAINHEAD in FEMINIST INTERPRETATIONS OF AYN RAND, and in our "Aesthetics Symposium" (Spring 2001, JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES). He locates in THE FOUNTAINHEAD an anticipation of 'chaotic' (as in 'chaos theory') factors in Rand's work---long before such theory was fully enunciated in the sciences. I, myself, have gleaned and integrated important precepts about the nature of power relations in the interactions of Rand's characters---which I've used in the construction of a "tri-level model" of Rand's analysis of how power functions on personal, cultural, and "structural" (political/economic) levels.

There is ~nothing~ wrong with viewing ~any~ of Rand's fictional works as philosophical works with important philosophical messages. This is a woman who defied the philosopher/novelist dichotomy quite explicitly, and anyone who ignores her fiction would be in deep trouble.

~But~. As in everything, you have to weigh what she does in her fiction and what she enunicates in her nonfiction---and you have to navigate between them. Several philosophers---e.g., Roderick Long and Neera Badhwar---have seen very different portraits of "reason" and "happiness" on display in her fiction and nonfiction; the fiction, say such philosophers, tends to be---for lack of a better word, "dialectical", while the nonfiction tends to be "linear."

I've long argued that if people were to ~just~ look at INTRODUCTION TO OBJECTIVIST EPISTEMOLOGY, they'd get a much more one-dimensional, "linear" view of Rand's theory of knowledge. By not integrating the lessons of her fiction, and her lectures on fiction-writing, nonfiction-writing, and aesthetics, one would lose a whole dimension of Rand's understanding of mind, especially the so-called "tacit" or "implicit" factors that are operative.

In any event, the approaches I've outlined above---Vacker, my own, and others---almost all involve an act of ~interpretation~ that ~might~ depart somewhat from Rand's formalized, articulated, philosophical statements on any number of subjects. And when those tensions are introduced between, say, her fiction and nonfiction, one has to do a lot more work to pull out the theoretical implications and to ~integrate~ them into a seamless whole. I'm not saying it is impossible; I'm just saying that it is an act of interpretation, and by its nature, it will involve us in a discussion of who is more ~consistent~: not only with Rand, but with reality---which, for Objectivists, is the guiding principle.

When all is said and done, it may be that Michael and Peter have gleaned principles from THE FOUNTAINHEAD that help us to "dialectically transcend" any utility/art dichotomies on display in Rand's nonfiction writings. But that does ~not~ erase the fact that Rand ~did~ introduce those dichotomies into her nonfiction writings, which Torres & Kamhi, whatever their virtues, whatever their flaws, have highlighted.

In the end, I don't think that even T&K mean to denigrate architecture. They may argue over its status as "art", they may hammer away at "problematic" and "conflicting" statements in Rand's corpus, but Michelle has written: "This is not to depreciate the importance of architecture or to deny its power to affect human experience."

On that, none of us is in disagreement.

Cheers,
Chris



Post 41

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 4:37amSanction this postReply
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For the purposes of further discussion or contemplation, I was forwarded this link to John Gregory Wharton's site. Wharton is an architect who argues: "Architecture is not art."

http://www.axiomatic.net/ragnar/architectureisnotart.html

Food for thought...

Cheers,
Chris



Post 42

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 9:17amSanction this postReply
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After reading Wharton’s piece, I retract my former post regarding two species (utilitarian and non-) of art. His article made it clear to me why “utilitarian art” is an oxymoronic phrase.

This has been an excellent discussion, and the link to Wharton’s essay provided the strongest argument for why art/utility is ~not~ a false dichotomy. Instead, non-utility acts as a necessary differentia separating art from all other man-made objects.



Post 43

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 9:47amSanction this postReply
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Let me continue to be unfair and “unfair” in the sense that I hold a different context than our “master of context keeping” does. In this discussion about aesthetic issues Sciabarra subjugates sculpture to a secondary position to the primary of the craft of furniture-making and further on he uses “the chair” to negate “almost “anything” in the Museum of Modern Art”, i.e. the postmodern art works which includes such titans as Christo and Duchamp. If we switch from aesthetics to philosophy an analogy would be using Anthony Robbins as a foil to dispatch Emmanuel Kant instead of using a philosopher like Aristotle who is related to Kant in the same field and comparative depths of inquiry.

Filling out the context a little more I introduce Rand’s true observation that art and romantic love share the similar values, this aspect speaks to scope of the all-encompassing nature of the metaphysical nature of art. Again harping on the chair, to bring it up in this context is like glorifying perfunctory masturbation over a dark and hopelessly negative though hot relationship. Where the proper contrast to the negative relationship would be an exalted, healthy, and erotically romantic coupling. (pant, pant.)

Speaking of romanticism, another thing that has gone by the scholars unnoticed and unacknowledged and the thing I find the most important from this entire thread is that Peter Cresswell is building an architectural structure on what sounds like a paradise site. Note the romantic nature of both my congratulations to him and his quote from the client who said it gave him a “boner”. This romantically charged element which is fused with knowledge is the meaning of art on its deepest level. From this context is it understandable that I wince when the discussion turns to “cookie jars” and “trade”?

Teets in a virtuosic manner exclaims how he doesn’t want to be a Randian brown noser, I don’t know if he implies that I am or not but here it is: “I find the Fountainhead, a novel, A PIECE OF LITERATURE [emphasis mine]...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 CHAO’S SAKE [emphasis mine]. The way I hear Objectivist 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!”

Notice three things here:

1) The condescending voice in calling a novel “a piece of literature” and “it’s a fucking novel, for chao’s sake”. This again confirms my view that the scholars here, Teets in this case, relegate art to some lower level. By inference it is a dismissal that the works of Shakespeare, Hugo, Puccini, Michelangelo, Rembrandt are not the spiritual beacons or the zenith of human creativity that raise our vision of ourselves and mankind, which they in fact do, but they are somehow merely lowly forms in which non-fiction writers and scholars ride upon.
2) Earlier I commented that “Teets tosses it [Rand’s ambiguity] around just to toss it.” Notice that he does this in fact again. He does not address directly any ambiguity of Rand’s much less one of any fundamental importance.
3) Then we come to the obvious dig towards my distaste about joining art with crafts by the variations on the theme of “trade”. The subject of which is Rand’s stint at an architectural firm to do background research for the Fountainhead. What is glaringly missing from this tirade is an understanding of the aesthetic concept of “working from life”. This is what keeps artists connected to reality so that they do not fly off into rationalism. I get wonderful visions in my head but I need to glean visual information from reality. I need to really see how the light falls on her elbow or how the mountains flow through a landscape in real life so that can translate the reality of that into my work. It’s one of the things that make art come “alive”. Rand did the same things aesthetically by, in real life, experiencing how an architectural firm works and used that experience to give the feeling a real life touches to her fiction. Peter will study how people use or misuse their environment.


What is coming across from the scholars is an attitude/perspective/stance that art is indeed a craft and not an equal sibling to philosophy. What might confuse them is that aesthetics is a branch of philosophy, it is the study of art. But art is not a branch of philosophy. Art stands on its own with equal breath and scope to the universe of philosophy.

In an unpublished interview with Carolyn Ray I commented that: “On a fundamental level the subject matter of philosophy and art is the same--their concern is with an integrated view of humanity and its context. The difference is that philosophy analyzes this phenomenon and
art represents it.

…art is the representation of an artist's view of humanity and its context. When I say "humanity and its context" I mean that holistically, looking at everything to do with humanity and the universe. Art communicates the artist's emotions, thoughts, and visual perspective, looking outwards at the rest of humanity and its universe. Incredibly, when an artist creates a representation, all of these aspects automatically come together.”

One thing I have been trying to do in this thread is to show that these scholars and T & K do not understand Rand’s meaning about metaphysical value-judgements, which aesthetically speaking is an elemental principle which rests at the base of further conclusions. I don’t give a fuck one way or the other about Rand’s fallibility or the things I don’t agree with Rand about such as her condemnation of Rembrandt for painting “Side of Beef” but if you want to hack away at her brilliant revolutionary, and universal, theories of art get it fucking right, zip it, or rise a level or two in your inquiries.

Michael



Post 44

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 12:12pmSanction this postReply
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Chris said"For the purposes of further discussion or contemplation, I was forwarded this link to John Gregory Wharton's site. Wharton is an architect who argues: 'Architecture is not art.'
http://www.axiomatic.net/ragnar/architectureisnotart.html
Food for thought... "

Well, not really. He asserts baldly: 1)A comb is art only if it is a useless comb.
Then, by analogy he derives: 2) A building is art only if it is a useless building.
He then concludes: 3) Therefore, useful buildings are not art.

Call THAT an argument?! Sheesh ... again! My favourite part is when he says "a building is much like a comb." Yeah, right.

Not much food here.

PC



Post 45

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 12:14pmSanction this postReply
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Addressing Chris Sciabarra's observation that scholars who look first at Rand's fiction tend to see mainly the dialectical aspect of her ideas, while those who address her explicitly philosophical writings tend to get locked into the linear aspect: very true, and very unfortunate. Rand transcends the linear - dialectical dichotomy. As I point out in my soon-to-be-published article in JARS, Rand's epistemology requires a rich logic that combines syllogistic (linear) techniques with contextual (dialectical) techniques such as scope-tracking and inheritance. You can't get the full range of Rand's ideas from her non-fiction alone. For example, in her non-fiction she never states anything analogous to Leibnitz' monadic metaprinciple, but she gives something entirely analogous with that metaprinciple to Howard Roark in _The Fountainhead_.

One cannot be true to Rand by planting oneself firmly on one side of the linear-dialectical dichotomy that she transcended. That is one reason why T&K's treatment is, to my mind, pedestrian and ugly. T&K fail Rand's Razor in the statement you quote: "This is not to depreciate the importance of architecture or to deny its power to affect human experience." "The power to affect human experience" is the reason _why_ humans invented art; Rand identified the communication of metaphysical value judgements as the essential spiritual force that gives art this power. A "theory of Art" that pushes these facts off-center may be interesting for many reasons, but it cannot be true to Rand's insight or method.



Post 46

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 2:32pmSanction this postReply
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Client: We've decided. We definitely want to commission you to paint your vision of what existence is all about.

Artist: Great. I'll get started right away.

Client: Well now hold on a second. First we have to discuss the details.

Artist: I thought that we had. I am to selectively recreate reality according to my metaphysical value-judgments, right?

Client: Sure, sure. But there are also non-selective, non-metaphysical factors to be included. You need to be aware of the environment in which the painting will hang. The room is done primarily in yellows and greens with a sort of creamy white trim. I'll send you some photos and swatches so you can select a pallet of colors to complement the joyous architectural expression of the room. And then there's the problem of the electrical outlet...

Artist: Huh? Electrical outlet?

Client: Uh, yes, didn't I tell you? Your painting will cover an outlet that we will be using often, so we're going to need you to find a way to allow cords to pass through the canvas. We were thinking that you could maybe incorporate a cute little door into the painting, you know, one that actually opens but looks like it belongs in the scene. But that's entirely up to you. You're the artist after all, a real pro. You don't need us civilians telling you how to incorporate access to an outlet into your work!

Artist: Um, look, I don't work like this. Like a man, a work of art must have integrity. I'm not going to alter or limit my vision so that the image will complement the decor and comply with your electrical access requirements. This is absurd.

Client: Whoa! Down boy! What's the big deal? Architects do it all the time. It's not like we're asking you to use only non-mimetic shapes or something. If an architect can deal with all of the non-selective utilitarian limitations involved in making an inhabitable space, while complementing the building's surroundings, and not compromise the meaning and integrity of his expression, surely you can do the same. Hell, we're not asking you to make your painting load-bearing or weatherproof or anything.

Artist: The "big deal" is that a true artistic vision of existence can't be subservient to another purpose. I see an image of man rising into the clear blue sky. What would you have me do, make him rising into a yellow-green space toward an actual power source?

Client: Damn you're good! You've already taken up the challenge and have found a solution that's just bursting with symbolism! Accidental external considerations have ~enhanced~ your expression. You already see the painting's environment and utility problems as integral parts of the artwork.

Artist: Oh, okay. Then I'll do it. When you send the color swatches, make sure that you include a blueprint of precisely where the outlet will need to be positioned.

Client: Okey dokey!



Post 47

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 3:18pmSanction this postReply
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Jonathan: BRILLIANT!

Peter writes, "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 ... "

I think one of her reasons is stated in The Psycho-Epistemology of Art: "One of the distinguishing characteristics of a work of art is that it serves no practical, material end, but is an end in itself; it serves no purpose other than contemplation..."



Post 48

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 3:30pmSanction this postReply
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Jonathan--my stomach is still aching from laughing so hard!!! I 2nd the BRILLIANT.

Michael



Post 49

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 3:51pmSanction this postReply
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Eric says that he thinks "one of [AR's] reasons [utilitarian objects cannot be classified as art] is stated in The Psycho-Epistemology of Art: 'One of the distinguishing characteristics of a work of art is that it serves no practical, material end, but is an end in itself; it serves no purpose other than contemplation...' "

Yes, she did say that as we all know. But that's not a "reason"; it's an assertion, offered without argument.

In making this assertion, she is in my opinion relying on Aristotle who made a similar observation regarding art. But in this respect I have to submit that both A and AR were not being Randian enough. Why can't an art work serve other uses than contemplation? No answer.

I'm beginning to feel like I'm repeating myself here ...

PC



Post 50

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 4:29pmSanction this postReply
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Look, I know Jonathan's piece is intended as humour, but it contains the nub of the problem. The problem with understanding the point is rationalism, specifically IMO Platonist rationalism..

The 'nub' is contained in Jonathan's line "If an architect can deal with all of the non-selective utilitarian limitations involved in making an inhabitable space ..." which to me smacks of Platonism; specifically, the Platonist idea that things of this earth - particularly nasty utilitarian things - are low, degrading and 'non-spiritual.'

Now, Plato was nothing if not consistent. Plato's view of art is that by virtue of its earth-bound nature it is likely to lead us astray, evoking powerful emotions that can "overwhelm the dictates of reason." And by reason of course, he means access to a 'higher realm.' Plato was consistent: his 'Republic' has no place for Homer, whose stories will only encourage "moral and intellectual corruption." ['Bloody poets! No sense of the fitness of things! Out, now!]

In throwing off his Platonist beginnings, Aristotle took the contradictions inherent in Platos's view of art and transormned them, asserting that by virtue of its earth-bound nature that art (art, you remember, is a selective re-creation of REALITY) is likely to offer a penetrating perception into the nature of reality. This was what Aristotle called katharsis, the very purpose of art.

In my view this insight is crucial to the formation of Rand's own view of art, but IMO there is still one step Aristotle (and Rand) failed to take: to realise that 'art as pure contemplation' was one remaining element of Platonism they had failed to throw off.

But guess what? Frank Lloyd Wright realised the error. He threw off the final scales of rationalism inherent in this view of art with his conception of Organic architecture - which has itself been characterised by some commentators as 'a penetrating perception into the nature of reality.' Wright made the common-place observation that reality for humans involves acting, that life as she is lived - the good life - requires action, and that architecture should not only support those actions and be a home for 'acting man' it should also EXPRESS what it means to BE a home for acting man.

Thus, as Wright called it, the 'higher truth' of Wright's statement that form does not simply follow function, as his mentor Louuis Sullikcan had said - as if function was some lowly element to be brushed over ASAP - but instead that FORM AND FUNCTION ARE ONE.

In other words, form and function are equal partners, without any dichotomy between them. Divorcing function from form or vice versa would be as foolish as owning a cookie jar that couldn't hold cookies.

Wright, as I said in my article, was a revolutionary. And like all revolutionaries it takes some time to understand all the implications of what he said.

I politely suggest you take the time.

PC
[Who is still doubled over laughing about a building being 'like a comb'. :-) "Tell me again why the world is shaped like a banana." Hahahaha :-)) LOL ]



Post 51

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 4:44pmSanction this postReply
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Without wanting to labour the point or to repeat myself unduly, but on the point of the so-called beauty/utility divide you might find it helpful if you ask yourself why I chose to begin my article with a quote from Keats' 'Ode to a Grecian Urn.'

If you can understand that, I'll wager you'll get the point.

PC



Post 52

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 5:16pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you Eric and Michael. I'm happy that my little attempt at humor was appreciated. :-)

And thank you Peter for the great article and discussion. You've given me much to ponder, and I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

Jonathan



Post 53

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 6:51pmSanction this postReply
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Just a couple of very quick points in reply to some of the comments made today:

1. I'm glad Michael called me "master of context-keeping"... rather than Master of My Domain... though, he does also mention Mastur-bation... and now I'm getting thoroughly Freudian.

2. On this "chair" example: I was simply trying to make the point that some "utlitarian" objects have "artistic" value---which is the exact same point, I believe, that Peter Cresswell has been making in an attempt to transcend the utilitarian/art divide. But yes, I do understand much better now the primary-secondary issue that has been raised here.

3. I'm not a fan of the Museum of Modern Art, but I'm not denigrating every work on display there. My tastes are fairly traditional in sculpture and painting; I prefer NY's Metropolitan Museum of Art and I love Renaissance art, and Michelangelo and Da Vinci, and that's just my taste. I was rather distressed some years ago when the Brooklyn Museum put cow dung on the wall and called it art, and placed carved animals on the floor and called it art... so I just couldn't help taking swipes at this... crap... literally.

4. Let me make one thing perfectly clear, however: I am not one of those scholars who "relegate[s] art to some lower level." In AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL, I made a point of placing a chapter on "Art, Philosophy, and Efficacy" SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK. I got tired of seeing Objectivists treating Rand's aesthetics ~and~ art as some kind of asterisk or after-thought. Some kind of thirteenth lecture given after a 12-lecture course on "Objectivism." Ayn Rand was ~an artist~, and anybody who refuses to understand the centrality of ~art~ in the corpus of her work does not understand Ayn Rand. Period. I agree completely with Michael when he speaks of "the works of Shakespeare, Hugo, Puccini, Michelangelo, Rembrandt [as] the spiritual beacons or the zenith of human creativity that raise our vision of ourselves and mankind."

5. Nice points raised by Adam Reed; I agree that it is very unfortunate to focus on one or the other aspect of Rand's thought. But, "master of context keeping" that I am, I believe that dialectics, as the ~art~ of context-keeping, reciprocally presupposes the "linear" and "logical" aspect. I think Adam's article, by the way, is a terrific exploration of how Rand "combines syllogistic (linear) techniques with contextual (dialectical) techniques such as scope-tracking and inheritance," and I can't wait till we start discussing ~that~ around these parts. :)

6. Thanks, Jonathan, for a CLASSIC. And like Jonathan, I thank everybody for a most fruitful discussion. Thanks too for making the editing of JARS' Spring 2003 issue take twice as long as it should have.

Cheers,
Chris



Post 54

Friday, January 24, 2003 - 6:54pmSanction this postReply
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Oh, and, of course, thanks Peter---for the provocative article and all the great discussion.



Post 55

Monday, January 27, 2003 - 2:29amSanction this postReply
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Hi Peter!

I can't thank you enough for that brilliant analysis of a real rat's nest that has plagued the arts for far too long. In the natue of true scholarship, I am going to do a really scholarly thing, that is, I am going to give YOU the credit for thinking beyond Frank Lloyd Wright himself!!!:) As so often happens when people reflect on problems presented by great historical figures, the resolution of the problems comes generations (sometimes centuries) after the original ones are presented. I think we can therefore give you credit for having mapped out a synthesis, by rising above the proffered solutions. As Sciabarra might say, you are Mr. Cresswell, articulating an "Aufhebung":)

I believe Frank Lloyd Wright was working PAST his mentor Ruskin. Perhaps you, with your knowledge of Rand, are working PAST Plato, Aristotle, Ruskin, Frank Lloyd Wright AND Rand herself!!

I find it interesting however, that what you say about Wright rings true for Aristotle:

"Wright made the common-place observation that reality for humans involves acting, that life as she is lived - the good life - requires action, and that architecture should not only support those actions and be a home for 'acting man' it should also EXPRESS what it means to BE a home for acting man."

I can't help but think about Anthony Hopkins acting as C.S. Lewis in 'Shadowlands" who instructs his pupils at Oxford on how to think as Aristotle: "Forget about the insides of men's heads, judge them by their actions!"

I am interested in discovering why T & K have written that for Rand, pure contemplation of the beautiful (as in "art for art's sake), and acting, are incompatible. They say that such notions are foreign to Rand (WAI, 115) who is "properly critical of Western formalist notions of "art for art's sake," which claim that the significance of art is detached from life, belonging instead to a pure realm of aesthetic contemplation". They do quote Leonard Peikoff as having formulated "art for man's sake" to replace the former.

Can contemplation itself not be an act? a manner of isolating particular entities and creating metaphysical value judgments (MVJ) by that act? Does the object of the MVJ itself not become the focus of contemplation? I don't think that Michael would disagree here, for surely if a MVJ is that which is important and it is derived from reality, then it is worthy of an act of contemplation! If we use Aristotle's notion of theoria in the NE as it is applied to art, then does this not make aesthetic contemplation the highest activity that man is capable of achieving? I think that what you are saying is that the Platonism in Aristole precludes action, i.e. it precludes the act of creating MVJ, by substituting reality with a theory of forms or some such. Is that correct? You wrote:


"...there is still one step Aristotle (and Rand) failed to take: to realise that 'art as pure contemplation' was one remaining element of Platonism they had failed to throw off."

If we then apply Aristotle's ethical concept of "theoria" to art and dismiss the eighteenth century developments of "taste" (Hume), "disinterestedness" (Kant), and "aesthesis" (Baumgarten), might we not move towards a theory of art that does not disallow values, but rather puts the artist and the art back into the picture as the locus parentis of all aesthetic values? I hope you are following me in my train of thought:) There are several levels on which this discussion is operating and I hope I am not throwing in a monkey wrench by bringing up historical theses that have created more problems than solutions.

It just seems to me that Rand herself was attempting to de-Platonize Aristotelian aesthetics by repossessing the concept of contemplation as the presentation (an act) of man as the ideal. This is perhaps a key to her affinity for certain Romantic artists as well.

I think you have the essential grasp on Wright's organic architecture! When I visited Taliesen West I was amazed at how he wielded his genius, that of turning real problems into art. The use of linen canvas to diffuse extreme desert light was not only practical, but it served an aesthetic purpose as well, i.e. how to make light best serve the needs of those inhabiting the interior space. Since the interior spaces of Taliesen West tend to be almost a meditation on the civilizing force of man taming the harsh outdoor reality to conform to man's need for interior space, Wright's work is an ACT of contemplation. I think my understanding of contemplation seeks to discard the false dichotomy utility/beauty as well.

How to solve these problems in the realm of the "fine arts" I humbly leave to our very own Renaissance artist Michael Newberry!

By dint of unreasonable expectations required of our resident Objectivist scholars, I find myself obliged to offer a humble apologetics for what otherwie might appear to be pure philistinism! I offer this reply. A scholar by definition, is one who systematizes learning, and exhibits accuracy, critical ability, and thoroughness in presentation, as well as consummate literacy. It is not incumbent upon the scholar to be an artist or even a philosopher. His primary aim (one that is very misunderstood among Objectivists) is to accurately portray (to the best of his ability) the ideas of a thinker. I say this in order to clear up some of the ridiculous assumptions and assessments made of Sciabarra's contributions in posts above. I myself have suffered the untoward remarks of racial discrimination displayed by some such, and I do object most courageously. For being compared to "a Philistine with six fingers on every hand and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number: a Philistine, the staff of whose spear is like a weaver's beam" (M. Arnold)-makes me rise all the more swiftly to unparalleled heights of loquaciousness in the act of rescuing those members from the heavy stepping of some resident artist. Only do not forget that whilst you step on other's sixth toes such fate and worse has fallen upon great artist's themselves. Was Lully that great court artist of the age of Louis XIV not the dying victim of a gangrenous foot occasioned by his own misplaced stomping staff and footless fancy? A greater artist yet, the virtuoso Paganini was accused of having six fingers and Anne Boleyn was beheaded for possessing similar attributes. So I beg you Michael to take back your heavy-handed comments:)

To inject a little humor into what would otherwise be a topic growing green, one wouldn't expect a master chef to be a specialist in dressing a table with fine wines, five cheeses, and culinary accoutrements, neither should we expect a maitre de table to perform a "coup de maitre" in the kitchen:)



Post 56

Monday, January 27, 2003 - 9:43amSanction this postReply
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A poster on the list alerted me recently to the fact that an article I had written a couple of years ago ("Architecture is Not Art") has once again become a subject of discussion on the SOLO lists. In the ensuing discussion, Peter Cresswell (with whom I have had this discussion before, to no resolution) disagrees with and attempts to belittle my points on the subject. In particular, he presents the statement that form and function are not separate, but integral (a position with which I most wholeheartedly agree), as if this is opposed to my own positions (which it most definitely is not).

I no longer subscribe to the lists, so this will likely be my only post on the subject, but I want to clarify this important point so that there is no doubt about it at all:

Form and function are not opposites, nor are they in any way exclusive of one another. When Sullivan uttered his now-infamous syllogism "Form follows Function," he meant it in a way far different from the way in which it has been taken. His original meaning was something akin to "Form follows Function in much the same way that your head follows your body when you walk down the street." In this sense, I agree with him one hundred percent.

The close relationship of form and function, however, does NOT mean that architecture is art. Nor does it mean that no useful distinction can be made between art and utility. In fact, in order to avoid the problems of Nietszche in treating every human artifice as art and thereby destroying the concept of art through overbroadening, we MUST differentiate between the two.

Finally, a brief word on Frank Lloyd Wright. His work has been implicitly presented here as an example of architecture as art: proof positive that architecture per se IS art, with FLlW as magnificent artist. I do not think this follows, and in fact the example of Wright indirectly supports my position that, to the extent architects succeed in being artists they cease to be architects.

Let's take one of Wright's masterpieces for an example: Fallingwater. Fallingwater is an extraordinary work of form, space, and order. It's location on the site, its overall spatial arrangement, and its detailing are all of a high order of fineness and emotional evocation. It is, quite literally, breathtaking. If you haven't had the opportunity to see it, you should do so--soon.

The reason you should go see it soon is that the structure itself was grossly underdesigned in service to the desired aesthetic and is falling apart rapidly in spite of the herculean efforts being undertaken to save it. Quite frankly, it leaks like a seive and those majesticly soaring cantilevers are cracked all the way through and sloughing off into the stream. They are reaching the point where they cannot even support their own weight. Whether it survives another twenty years (now very much in doubt), one thing is sure: the repair will make it a different place from what it was. The work, as art, may have suceeded to some limited effect, but it is failing as architecture.

It should also be made clear that, like many of Wright's works, Fallingwater was something of a failure with respect to usability. Wright had a tendency to design everything in his structures down to the silverware--programming the lives of the occupants to a degree only fantasized about by statist tyrants. Built-in solutions are quite common in his structures, denying the need for flexibility of response to changing human activity patterns (shearing layers of change). As anyone who has ever lived in a Wright house can tell you, being a part of his environments can be a monumental challenge. If you don't fit the mold, the place will be alien and hostile.

And, of course, it should also be noted that he was a very short man, so he had a tendency to design in very low ceilings. I have to stoop in many of his houses, and I'm only six foot five inches tall. Some of them are downright claustrophobic.

At any rate, Wright is regarded with mixed opinion in the trade. He had a very powerful vision, and pursued it with a sort of monomania that demands respect simply from the singularity of that same vision. Many of the spaces he created are extraordinary to say the least. However, his seeming disregard for utility and practical function have made him the object of wide derision. Currently, and with some substantial justification both in the architectural and construction professions, Frank Lloyd Wright's legacy is regarded as more of a nuisance and curiosity than the legitimate subject of admiration. That should change, but it will NOT change by upholding Wright as an example of something which is a contradiction in terms.

Frank Lloyd Wright was largely responsible for creating the myth of the maverick artist-architect in the United States. With his own personal focus on the mystical aspects of creation, the success of that uber-creator myth would probably please him. However, the myth belies a falsehood, and the profession has suffered greatly for having accepted it.



Post 57

Monday, January 27, 2003 - 4:36pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks for your comments Anthony. I'll work to make sure I can earn them, even as the scholars have been working to earn theirs'. :-))

As for being an 'Aufhebung' my dictionary gives me the choice of that being either a 'lifting up,' or a 'dissolution' or 'abolition.' Perhaps you simply meant 'dissolute'?


And now to respond to Greg. Isn't it interesting that to make the argument that architecture is NOT art you first have to besmirch the reputation of possibly the greatest architect who ever lived. I wonder, shouldn't that make you want to check your premises?

I'm not even going to respond to your self-serving sneeering about FLW (see on that topic my review of the FLW film elsewhere on the SOLO site), but I will say a word about Fallingwater.

Now, you say that Fallingwater
is a 'failure with respect to usability.' As you have previously argued that only by being useless can a building become art, I was looking forward to seeing you follow up your 'proof' of Fallingwater's 'failure' by making the claim that by virtue of being a failure, it is then by your standards a great work of art. You surely see that by your published argument the latter should follow from the former?

But you surprised me by doing neither of these things. In fact your proof of Fallingwater's failure is as empty as your deriding of Wright. And as a failure Fallingwater just ain't so.

You comment that "the structure itself was grossly underdesigned in service to the desired aesthetic and is falling apart rapidly in spite of the herculean efforts being undertaken to save it." Um, wrong and wrong.

Far from being under-designed, the building survived almost everything that could be thrown at it, including the impact of enormous logs and other debri thundering down that stream - above which the building normally sits - as the result of wild storms.

It has survived NEARLY everything. There is one exception. Consider that, like the buildings of Havana Cuba the building has been in the hands of government for over half a century, and - like the buildings in Havana, Cuba - the structure has suffered because of it. Where storms, torrents of water and wishful thinking have not been able to succeed, the distinctly UN-herculean efforts of the government have.

Let's review: Fallingwater was handed over by the owner's son EJ Kaufmann Jr. (once a student of Wright's) to the West Pennsylvania Conservancy in order that 'the public may enjoy one of the Twentieth Century's great works of art.' Over that time, the West Pennsylvania Conservancy has taken approximately $10 per visit per person from upwards of a hundred thousand people per year, and has spent that money on ... well, not on maintaining the house, that's for sure.

They have built a nice gift shop, they have prepared car parks and bush walks, they have given themselves the stature of being associated with the Twentieth Century's finest piece of architecture - and barely a penny has been spent in that time to maintain the structure. A tidy sum has been presented to the State Government each year, but the vast bulk of the moneys received has no more been spent on maintaining the building than Fidel Castro spends his country's money on maintaining Havana's buildings, and the results have been similar in Bear Run and Havana.

But now, like all government departments who suddenly realise they need to ensure that their goose keeps on laying its golden eggs for some time to come, the Conservancy are screaming disaster in order to get the necessary funds to allow them to finally do in one hit what they should have been doing in increments for half a century.

Of course, in so doing they have given fuel to the many mediocrities who have wanted for years to tear down Wright's genius. Frankly, such sneering disgusts me, and I certainly never expected to see such a thing here at the SOLO site. But now we have.

"The profession has suffered greatly" you say because of the mythology surrounding Wright. What I say to that is GOOD! For the most part 'the profession' deserves to suffer, for the simple reason that 'the profession' is for the most part a vast collection of mediocrities who are deservedly overshadowed by Wright's genius, and who wish he would get out of their light.

'E tu Gregory?'

PC



Post 58

Monday, January 27, 2003 - 7:40pmSanction this postReply
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This thread is way too much and like Chris it is taking time away from other things I must do, nonetheless I am enjoying it tremendously. I am honored that Sciabarra and Teets handled my rantings with style and class and they even managed to sift a few of my points out of the barrage of offensive expletives that I hurled at them. To make amends I can’t apologize for my approach; asking an artist to apologize for their rage or their furling of passion is sacrilegious to the order. (Being an artist has its fringe benefits and fuming intensity is one of them!) But what I can is say is that I have tremendous respect for the body of Chris’ work and I say that within the context that I view scholars as the guardians of world knowledge; and Chris must rate as one of the great guardians. And if Anthony’s articles are an indication of his future projects they promise to earn him a place in history.

I would also like to thank Peter for his wonderful contributions and observations...and his nod of acknowledgement. I am also fascinated by the comments made by Adam. And Joy's moment of revelation! I offer to hold a salon at my house. I think that is much better format for hammering out aesthetic points! Wine never hurt, good food, pelicans diving for fish outside in the shimmering reflections of the water.

I should stop here but for a few days something else has been on my mind, both in theory and reality, and Wharton barged in and has given it to me on a platter. The thought regards the concept of form following function. The obvious idea is that bathrooms, dining areas, etc. have their own form in the structure of the house but that doesn’t address the spiritual function of the house. And this leads me to the reality of my new home and studio. As much as I love it there are some elements that I either have to accept or modify to serve my needs. Focusing on only one aspect, the windows, I have some thoughts. Windows are really a two-edged sword: they let light and air in and you can see out but they also let others see in.

The greatest aspect of my house is that the most of it opens up to spectacular view of the water and centrally located is an enclosed glass room off from my studio. Two other big pluses is that two of my bedroom windows and the one in the kitchen also look straight out to the water—it is glorious and it has total privacy except from the gaze of dolphins.

Now the negative aspects regarding the windows is that on the side of the house there are six windows from the two bedrooms and bathrooms that face the neighbor’s bedrooms and bathrooms a little across the way.

The front of the house faces the asphalt driveway, a dead-end street, a stop sign, another street across the divide, and other houses. Facing this dreadful view is the most prominent architectural feature of the house a 9’ x 4’ bay window (this would be the area of the dinning room but is the area where I will actually paint). On the same wall as the bay is an 11’ x 4’ window looking out to a stop sign. There are eight normal windows and two huge ones that look to the neighbors and the street.

Is it possible that I speak only for myself when I say I want to feel free in my own space and I want, simultaneously, privacy? I want to be able to get up naked in the morning, have all the windows open and have my cup of coffee without a care in the world.

In the dinning area, in the daytime you have the stunning view of asphalt and at night, if you have a guest drive in their headlights shine in straight at you. If your windows are open the whole neighborhood can see you dinning or, in my case, see me painting. Ditto for using the toilet, changing clothes in my bedroom, etc.

Now I am not too worried about these features because I will use outdoor screens, plants, opaque glass, and other tricks so that I don’t have to feel like a fucking goldfish.

I think this is a great example of the inescapability of MVJ, the designer of the house in their attitude, indifference, or ineptitude does not respect or honor anyone’s privacy or sense of freedom, or sense of beauty. The two huge and prominent windows as well as the other EIGHT windows look out to ugliness and rob the occupant of privacy. An architect worth their mettle would solve these window problems as a matter of essential course through the arrangement of the form of the house; respecting the sacredness of anyone living in their design. It is not just good enough to give light and air.
Fallingwater, in contrast to this, has no curtains, everything is open. When I was there I was astounded by the feeling of freedom and privacy, especially since many (or all) the bedrooms have their own decks. I went out on the decks checking to see if I could look into the other bedrooms—nope, it was not possible. It still boggles my mind how Wright, in such a complex house, could achieve this.

I hope to sign off for awhile and turn my energy into light.

See ya all,

Michael



Post 59

Monday, January 27, 2003 - 8:25pmSanction this postReply
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This thread is way too much and like Chris it is taking time away from other things I must do, nonetheless I am enjoying it tremendously. I am honored that Sciabarra and Teets handled my rantings with style and class and they even managed to sift a few of my points out of the barrage of offensive expletives that I hurled at them. To make amends I can’t apologize for my approach; asking an artist to apologize for their rage or their furling of passion is sacrilegious to the order. (Being an artist has its fringe benefits and fuming intensity is one of them!) But what I can is say is that I have tremendous respect for the body of Chris’ work and I say that within the context that I view scholars as the guardians of world knowledge; and Chris must rate as one of the great guardians. And if Anthony’s articles are an indication of his future projects they promise to earn him a place in history.

I would also like to thank Peter for his wonderful contributions and observations...and his nod of acknowledgement. I am also fascinated by the comments made by Adam. And Joy's moment of revelation! I offer to hold a salon at my house. I think that is much better format for hammering out aesthetic points! Wine never hurt, good food, pelicans diving for fish outside in the shimmering reflections of the water.

I should stop here but for a few days something else has been on my mind, both in theory and reality, and Wharton barged in and has given it to me on a platter. The thought regards the concept of form following function. The obvious idea is that bathrooms, dining areas, etc. have their own form in the structure of the house but that doesn’t address the spiritual function of the house. And this leads me to the reality of my new home and studio. As much as I love it there are some elements that I either have to accept or modify to serve my needs. Focusing on only one aspect, the windows, I have some thoughts. Windows are really a two-edged sword: they let light and air in and you can see out but they also let others see in.

The greatest aspect of my house is that the most of it opens up to spectacular view of the water and centrally located is an enclosed glass room off from my studio. Two other big pluses is that two of my bedroom windows and the one in the kitchen also look straight out to the water—it is glorious and it has total privacy except from the gaze of dolphins.

Now the negative aspects regarding the windows is that on the side of the house there are six windows from the two bedrooms and bathrooms that face the neighbor’s bedrooms and bathrooms a little across the way.

The front of the house faces the asphalt driveway, a dead-end street, a stop sign, another street across the divide, and other houses. Facing this dreadful view is the most prominent architectural feature of the house a 9’ x 4’ bay window (this would be the area of the dinning room but is the area where I will actually paint). On the same wall as the bay is an 11’ x 4’ window looking out to a stop sign. There are eight normal windows and two huge ones that look to the neighbors and the street.

Is it possible that I speak only for myself when I say I want to feel free in my own space and I want, simultaneously, privacy? I want to be able to get up naked in the morning, have all the windows open and have my cup of coffee without a care in the world.

In the dinning area, in the daytime you have the stunning view of asphalt and at night, if you have a guest drive in their headlights shine in straight at you. If your windows are open the whole neighborhood can see you dinning or, in my case, see me painting. Ditto for using the toilet, changing clothes in my bedroom, etc.

Now I am not too worried about these features because I will use outdoor screens, plants, opaque glass, and other tricks so that I don’t have to feel like a fucking goldfish.

I think this is a great example of the inescapability of MVJ, the designer of the house in their attitude, indifference, or ineptitude does not respect or honor anyone’s privacy or sense of freedom, or sense of beauty. The two huge and prominent windows as well as the other EIGHT windows look out to ugliness and rob the occupant of privacy. An architect worth their mettle would solve these window problems as a matter of essential course through the arrangement of the form of the house; respecting the sacredness of anyone living in their design. It is not just good enough to give light and air.
Fallingwater, in contrast to this, has no curtains, everything is open. When I was there I was astounded by the feeling of freedom and privacy, especially since many (or all) the bedrooms have their own decks. I went out on the decks checking to see if I could look into the other bedrooms—nope, it was not possible. It still boggles my mind how Wright, in such a complex house, could achieve this.

I hope to sign off for awhile and turn my energy into light.

See ya all,

Michael



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