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artofbonsai.org • View topic - Does art exist?
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 Post subject: Does art exist?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 12:59 am 
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 8:05 am 
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Michael,
Your scenario is one I have mentioned in the past. Would "critics" be influenced by the "artist" more than the "art"? In some cases, I would say yes, but not always.
There is a limit. I hope Walter will allow me some leeway to make this remark:
Walter Pall is a professional. He is not going to display a stick in a pot and dub it as "art". His personal high level of taste and style is inherently "married" to the bonsai he publicly shows. This is the attribute discussed earlier about how a personal style is linked to subtle nuances that the artist's bonsai show because the artist has developed them over years of experience. Because of this, anyone who knows his (Walter's) work, will not be fooled. Granted, an example of a specimen bonsai that has its own noteworthy attributes could be inferred as Walter's, but then the true critiquing skills come to light. I have to think that if the known artist of a bonsai has world-wide acceptance as a true leader in the field, the pedigree of the individual bonsai tree will increase. That's a positive by-product of having a great reputation in a certain field of endeavor. Your work is viewed as superior, but if you try to dupe people into thinking "junk" is great art, your reputation will start to suffer, and then your work will not be viewed in the same light as it was before. Sort of like a child's slide; the climb up is a whole lot slower than the quick slide down. That's the key to professionalism; it's not just a matter of attaining a high level of competence, it's being able to consistently show that same high degree of quality.
I'm sure what I wrote is already known, but I felt it was important to post it here. I hope Walter was not offended by my remarks, as I have the highest regard for his skill. I meant no inference as to him trying to "tanuki" anyone. Quite the opposite.
Lastly, any critique is influenced by the critics' own personal beliefs/likes. It could be slight or great, but a strict, narrowly-determined set of rules for judging bonsai will also rule out too many great specimens that "break the rules". Since bonsai is such a visually-based art, the beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. That's very simplistic, but, in my opinion, the more we try to rationalize the art, the less attractive and moving it becomes. Bonafide "overall" critics of bonsai are not very numerous, to say the least. Lots of amateurs though. I am knowledgeable enough to know that I fall in the latter category.
A very nice post on your part. Well done.
Warmest regards,
John


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 1:38 pm 
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Hi Michael,
Interesting subject and nice essay to present your question as to "does art exist?"
But you start and end with a false premise: subjective phenomena do not exist because cannot be observed objectively. This is not true, and I will show you later why.
But first, a step back to whether art is subjective or objective.
This should be a non-issue. Art is clearly subjective, and anybody who would claim otherwise is absolutely ignorant about art matters. A piece of rock lying on the surface of the moon is not art. It has nothing to do with art. But if a suiseki artist picks it up, puts it on a tray and declares that this is an exceptional suiseki, it instantly becomes art. All he did was to declare it a piece of art and present it as such. A textbook example on what is subjective.
Your next question "Is subjective real?" brings me to an example that can be very persuasive: Fear.
Is fear subjective? Yes. It is clearly in our mind, the next person standing next to us can observe the same thing and have absolutely no fear.
Is it real? It is very real to me, so real that it can stress me to the point of killing me. Psychosomatic diseases can do the same thing. Calling it unreal or non-existent something that can kill you would be foolish.
Subjective phenomena are part of us. Our mind is part of us. It is part of what we do and how we function. And we ARE real. Therefore, everything that's part of us IS real. If observing great art makes me jump up and down in ecstasy, the jumping is real. It is the result of my subjectivity that has an objective manifestation.
So, again, subjective is part of me, and I am real. Therefore, art is part of me, and it is real (has objective manifestations).
The influence of art has interesting implications on bonsai, though. As you've said, depending on who created it, bonsai can be high art or just a knock-off. As Walter said, with painting this is more obvious, the value of the same painting can change from a fortune to almost nothing just as the result of some new research deeming the work a clever copy.
So, clearly art is more than just the work itself. It also has to be the materialization of the original idea , a concept that is independent of the physical work itself. Copies are never looked at as works of art, just good craft. The work itself has to be the original one, created by the artist.
It looks like the formula of art is a function of three elements: f(actual work), f(original idea), f(artist) = work of art. All three elements are necessary for a work of art to be perceived as such. Forgive me the mathematical representation, it looks silly.
When we talk about bonsai exhibits, we often say, "it is all about the tree and not about who created it". But, if we look at the ingredients that makes art an art, we may have a problem with viewing bonsai this way. Because bonsai can change year after year, bonsai can be art today and an artless piece of plant tomorrow. Depending on who maintains it day after day.
The "Last Supper" by Leonardo is a mural that was renovated endlessly, since it is inevitably falling apart. Because it was renovated professionally and with great care, it is still perceived as a great piece of art, although pretty soon none of the paint on the wall may be the original one. The renovators painted practically all the painting.
I guess bonsai can be very similar. If maintained with skill year after year, it can remain a great piece of art. If changed by an artist, it can become a different work of art. But it can also degrade into nothing. It all depends on who is working on it.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2005 1:02 am 
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I was once told, by a man (an artist in my eyes) that, "anything created by an artist, with artistic intent, is art."
He then explained, a person is a person, a rock is a rock, a tree is a plant growing in the ground. But if an artist (an artist being, essentially, any person creating any thing with artistic intent) comes along and paints that person, polishes that rock, or pots that tree with artistic intent, that person, rock or tree, become 'works,' thus becoming a work of art, by an artist.
To explain how this ties into the conversation. If I go to my nursery, field or tree farm, searching for a tree, with the intent of copying another artists (in this case Walter) tree, in the end, when I am satisfied with it, it will be a copy of Walters tree, not art, a copy. To me, art is all about intention, if you replace the intent to copy, with the intent to artistically create, the finished product will be a work (tree) of art by an artist (me).
This means that those horrible people on ebay who scavenge for dwarf alberta spruce, boxwoods and cheap pots, then sell that crap for 10x the material cost, are not selling art. They are selling plants in pots. But if some poor soul came along, purchased the overpriced plant in a pot, and nurtured it into creation, with artistic intent, it becomes art.
crabs><>


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