If it's automated, is it still (fine) art?

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jernejk

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As I spend some hours in my new darkroom light night, my brain was kind of chewing the topic.

I'm no artist, far from it. But I've made I few prints I like, and more importantly - I value. They tend to be of my family, as this seems to be the topic I really care about. And frankly, I'm fine with that. Gone are the years of seeking the answer to existential questions, which fuel more open approach to art. So yeah, for me it's just relaxation and meditation. It's incredible really how mindful darkroom work is, specially compared to anything we do with computers.

So back to my prints. There's a print I've made last winter, of my daughter in a street. I spent hours on getting that print just right, as the available light was tricky, plus I want to make it what I envisioned. I have a log of numerous trials what worked and what didn't. Sure, I was very new to darkroom so I spent maybe even more time than many of you would.

But still, when I look at that print, I really look. It's not a snapshot. It's not just a good looking photo. It's something I've created. Spent considerable time, work, creativity in that one print. And it's unique. If you want to see it, you need to come to my place.

This kind of too long overture brings us to the topic: great masters of art, whoever you name... Michelangelo, Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Ansel Adams... and many more... all of them spent a great deal of time and skill working on their creations to perfection. Is this kind of persistence a requirement for true art? Is art in many ways demonstration of personal growth through developing a certain skill?

To approach the question from the other side: if today's Van Gogh used a computer to create his paintings in a fraction of time he needed with paint and a brush... would that still be art? Apparently, Van Gogh was a fast painter and didn't spend "more than a few days" on some of his well known works. But see here, how quickly it can be done today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eXSaJS0Gts

Another example: if todays Michelangelo took a 3d scan of David (yes, such scanners exist) and have it 3D printer, would that still be art? OK, 3D printers are still a bit rough for a masterpiece like David, but how about a CNC stone cutter? Yes, such stuff exists: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3Ff0qwYMyY

How many people would call the robotic sculpture art? And how many would call the digital paint art? (personally, I'd expect none for the sculpture, but some for the painting; would be an interesting research actually).

My hypothesis is, that people inherently value something as Art, when it's hand made by another person.

Certainly, I "like" the photos of my daughter I snapped and "manipulated" with a few clicks, and they do bring the value of the memory they store and aesthetic they have. They do not, however, "contain me". They contain more genius programmers who created the algorithms than me.

That print. That one print, however - there's nothing but me in there. And that's what art is all about, isn't it?
 

ambaker

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What is art? Seriously?

More has been written about what is and is not art, than any of us will be able to read in our lifetimes.

I would like to say that it requires thought, and input, from the human mind, and then some fool mucks it all up with a painting from an elephant, or a monkey.

Does it take long hours of effort and dedication? Is that what makes it art? Then does a copy of the Mona Lisa qualify?

Does it need originality? Then do the monkey and the elephant become artists?

Personally, if the result speaks to me on more than a superficial level. If it stirs something in my supposed soul, then I believe it is art. Whether it was created off a CNC machine, or by a monkey. If it pulls me in deep, and whispers a new message, an unthought word, makes me FEEL something. Then I call it art.
 

Truzi

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Rather than get in a debate as to whether art truly exists apart from a "marketing" term, lets work with the more common idea the word represents in order to address the question as we each interpret it. After all, words are merely signifiers to which we all _believe_ we agree in regard to meanings, and a treatise on any word, such as "marketing," seems too large to tackle in the context of the question.

One may argue a photo is merely a replication, but we could counter by pointing out composition, lighting, manipulation when printing, etc. Art, when representing something real (as opposed to abstract), is not mere replication. It is the process, interpretation, representation, technique/skill, and the process as an whole. I have a good friend who is an artist. She does abstract paintings, and regardless of whether some like her work (I do), it is art. I could not paint anything myself and have it considered art.

Regarding "paintings" using a computer - have you ever seen what some people did with M$ Paint over a decade ago? Yes, it was done on a computer, but essentially "by hand." No scanning or digital capture, each pixel or stroke was added, one by one, manually. What about the scenes some people can do with an Etch-A-Sketch?

I don't know if I'd consider it art if it were scanning and then sculpting via CNC or 3d-printing. There is no real skill involved in letting a computer/machine replicate something exactly; that would be like photo-copying. However, if you hand-programmed the dimensions - each cut to the material - that might be a different consideration; but that's not really automated. Also, this might imply it is art to input x-y coordinates to cut a piece of plywood in half - to which I would NOT agree.

I believe this brings me back to my fist paragraph - and to an example.
Look at some of the wonderful photos on APUG that would be considered art. I take snapshots, I have used some of the same film and developers, doing it all myself, and mine certainly don't qualify as art.
The tools and media, and even some of the processes, neither make something "art" nor "not art." I believe art is found in what the artist brings to the process.
 
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Really just the application of one's craft for no other reason than to evoke a pleasurable response in the viewer.Some works may appeal to a very narrow range of viewers (like family photos) or to a vast majority...like Michelngelo's works.
I have an abstract painting at home, done by a local artist, that I never tire of viewing....to me that's art, others have no response at all. Your print of your daughter was wholly created by you, with probably a great deal of emotional input, and this is something that may only be obvious to you, but to you, it is most definitely art.
 

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With relation to “what is art”, I quite like Emile Zola’s definition. Later in life Emile Zola would have a dinner party every Thursdays at his home and regular guests would include people like Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro. I think the question of what is art may have arisen during dinner conversation (but I can’t prove that). However, Emile came out with this quote - “Art is a corner of creation seen through a temperament.”
 

chriscrawfordphoto

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A lot of people who are very highly regarded as artists did not print their own work. The fact is that no one cares how hard you work to make the print. The art world, with its galleries, museums, scholars, patrons, collectors, and artists all simply care about the final image and nothing else.
 

cliveh

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A lot of people who are very highly regarded as artists did not print their own work. The fact is that no one cares how hard you work to make the print. The art world, with its galleries, museums, scholars, patrons, collectors, and artists all simply care about the final image and nothing else.

And what's wrong with that?
 
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"Nobody cares how hard you worked"

Good post about this by Ctein over on Mike Johnston's blog:

http://theonlinephotographer.typepa...2011/05/no-one-cares-how-hard-you-worked.html

"It's a really, really important lesson that all photographers should take to heart. If someone already likes your photograph, how hard you worked doesn't matter. If they don't, telling them how hard you worked is not going to change their mind."
 
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ic-racer

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"Nobody cares how hard you worked"

Good post about this by Ctein over on Mile Johnston's blog:

http://theonlinephotographer.typepa...2011/05/no-one-cares-how-hard-you-worked.html

"It's a really, really important lesson that all photographers should take to heart. If someone already likes your photograph, how hard you worked doesn't matter. If they don't, telling them how hard you worked is not going to change their mind."

And from a collector's standpoint if you don't think a shark in a tank is worth millions, don't bid on it!
 
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jernejk

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"Nobody cares how hard you worked"

Good post about this by Ctein over on Mike Johnston's blog:

http://theonlinephotographer.typepa...2011/05/no-one-cares-how-hard-you-worked.html

"It's a really, really important lesson that all photographers should take to heart. If someone already likes your photograph, how hard you worked doesn't matter. If they don't, telling them how hard you worked is not going to change their mind."

I'm not really sure about that. This is mixing business vs art. Sure, if you are after success, recognition or money, you'd probably want to do the most impact with the least work possible. There's another twist to that of course, as what first might give you the edge, will result in saturated market very, very soon if you don't find a way to diversify.

But Art doesn't care about that. Franz Kafka, for example, only published a little while he was alive. He worked hard - so hard actually, it probably killed him. Not to mention Van Gogh.
 

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Grab a copy of "Art and Fear" from the library. Special points for me are to be pleased and confirmed doing what you see and producing what is in you demanding to come out rather than attempting to do what others think, believe, or comment about. Your art is bringing forth your vision. Be it fixing my car correctly, soldering in the copper plumbing for my darkroom so there are no drips, mowing my lawn when I'm gone and not forgetting the trimming. Art is doing it 'right' when no one is looking. No matter who you are. A friend started working life as a "Track Dog' on the railroad. He thought he was pretty good when he could get a spike down to rail in three blows. That was pretty much the "measure of the Man." Except he was on a crew with a huge old guy called "Dirty Denny". Dirty Denny could do it regularly in one blow. Never measure yourself against some one else's scale. The cartoon is my suggestion. Ignore the others 'education'.
Education.jpg
.
 

thegman

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A lot of people who are very highly regarded as artists did not print their own work. The fact is that no one cares how hard you work to make the print. The art world, with its galleries, museums, scholars, patrons, collectors, and artists all simply care about the final image and nothing else.

Hi Chris,
Is that what you believe, or what you think should be true?

I just ask because that would imply that a collector or museum only cares about the final image and therefore places the same value on a JPEG shared on Dropbox as a print made by Ansel Adams. I don't know much (anything) about how museums decide what to purchase, but I'm guessing provenance plays a role in certain purchases?
 

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chriscrawfordphoto

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Hi Chris,
Is that what you believe, or what you think should be true?

I just ask because that would imply that a collector or museum only cares about the final image and therefore places the same value on a JPEG shared on Dropbox as a print made by Ansel Adams. I don't know much (anything) about how museums decide what to purchase, but I'm guessing provenance plays a role in certain purchases?

Neither. It is simple fact, whether we like it or not. Provenance has nothing whatever to do with how something was made. Provenance is a record of a work of art's ownership, an important thing when buying and selling work after it has left the artist's studio. If you can show a paper trail documenting purchases and sales of a piece going back to the artist and showing every owner the piece has had, that proves the piece is authentic, not a forgery (or a modern print from the original neg).
 

thegman

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Neither. It is simple fact, whether we like it or not. Provenance has nothing whatever to do with how something was made. Provenance is a record of a work of art's ownership, an important thing when buying and selling work after it has left the artist's studio. If you can show a paper trail documenting purchases and sales of a piece going back to the artist and showing every owner the piece has had, that proves the piece is authentic, not a forgery (or a modern print from the original neg).

I'm not explaining myself very well. I suppose what I mean is that if the 'galleries, museums, scholars, patrons, collectors, and artists all simply care about the final image and nothing else', does that not imply that collectors, museums etc. would place the same value on a JPEG of Gursky's 'Rhine II' as they would the original negative and print?

I'm not an art collector by any means, but I do buy original paintings, i.e. actual paint on canvas. For me that does provide a certain value over an inkjet print of the same thing, even if the final image is identical. Perhaps in the art world, that is frowned upon, but for better or for worse, I do place value on that.
 

hoffy

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Hi Chris,
Is that what you believe, or what you think should be true?

I just ask because that would imply that a collector or museum only cares about the final image and therefore places the same value on a JPEG shared on Dropbox as a print made by Ansel Adams. I don't know much (anything) about how museums decide what to purchase, but I'm guessing provenance plays a role in certain purchases?

Tell me how many hours Cartier-Bresson spent slaving over a print that he couldn't quite get right....

As others have said, if the viewer didn't know how much effort was put into a shot, would the viewer actually care
 

Maris

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Tell me how many hours Cartier-Bresson spent slaving over a print that he couldn't quite get right....

Exactly zero. Apart from the beginning when H.C-B was a clumsy amateur he made no photographs at all, only exposures. But he screamed, and raved, and threatened, and bullied his darkroom staff without limit or pity until the final pictures supported his own idea of his own legend. And yes, there is grand art in that too; just not the art people imagine. There is nothing in the rules that says a great artist has to be a good man.
 

hoffy

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Exactly zero. Apart from the beginning when H.C-B was a clumsy amateur he made no photographs at all, only exposures. But he screamed, and raved, and threatened, and bullied his darkroom staff without limit or pity until the final pictures supported his own idea of his own legend. And yes, there is grand art in that too; just not the art people imagine. There is nothing in the rules that says a great artist has to be a good man.

That's my point Maris - I am sure that if he could HCB would have had someone else press the damn shutter if he could. I am also pretty sure he would have embraced digital if it was available when he cared about photography.
 

thegman

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Tell me how many hours Cartier-Bresson spent slaving over a print that he couldn't quite get right....

As others have said, if the viewer didn't know how much effort was put into a shot, would the viewer actually care

I somehow feel words being inserted into my mouth. I don't suggest at all that a photographer has to develop film or prints to be an artist, I've never said that. My point is only that I think there is more to value (either money or otherwise) than 'the final image' or indeed the final work of anything.

I would imagine the last roll of negatives that HCB shot before giving up photography would be worth more than 36 scans on Flickr, both in financial terms, and in the sheer pleasure of ownership.

My only point, and this is my only point: I think value comes from other places than simply 'the final image'.
 
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jernejk

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Grab a copy of "Art and Fear" from the library.

Thanks! Got it on my e-book reader, and even the first few pages give very insightful perspective to art and artist!

Art is doing it 'right' when no one is looking.

This is actually something to live by.

The cartoon is my suggestion.

I've seen this cartoon before. I need to print it and hang it in my living room.
I want my children to get this in their heads and not to be manipulated by people telling them any different.

Thank you.
 

I.G.I.

As I spend some hours in my new darkroom light night, my brain was kind of chewing the topic.

I'm no artist, far from it. But I've made I few prints I like, and more importantly - I value. They tend to be of my family, as this seems to be the topic I really care about. And frankly, I'm fine with that. Gone are the years of seeking the answer to existential questions, which fuel more open approach to art. So yeah, for me it's just relaxation and meditation. It's incredible really how mindful darkroom work is, specially compared to anything we do with computers.

So back to my prints. There's a print I've made last winter, of my daughter in a street. I spent hours on getting that print just right, as the available light was tricky, plus I want to make it what I envisioned. I have a log of numerous trials what worked and what didn't. Sure, I was very new to darkroom so I spent maybe even more time than many of you would.

But still, when I look at that print, I really look. It's not a snapshot. It's not just a good looking photo. It's something I've created. Spent considerable time, work, creativity in that one print. And it's unique. If you want to see it, you need to come to my place.

This kind of too long overture brings us to the topic: great masters of art, whoever you name... Michelangelo, Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Ansel Adams... and many more... all of them spent a great deal of time and skill working on their creations to perfection. Is this kind of persistence a requirement for true art? Is art in many ways demonstration of personal growth through developing a certain skill?

To approach the question from the other side: if today's Van Gogh used a computer to create his paintings in a fraction of time he needed with paint and a brush... would that still be art? Apparently, Van Gogh was a fast painter and didn't spend "more than a few days" on some of his well known works. But see here, how quickly it can be done today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eXSaJS0Gts

Another example: if todays Michelangelo took a 3d scan of David (yes, such scanners exist) and have it 3D printer, would that still be art? OK, 3D printers are still a bit rough for a masterpiece like David, but how about a CNC stone cutter? Yes, such stuff exists: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3Ff0qwYMyY

How many people would call the robotic sculpture art? And how many would call the digital paint art? (personally, I'd expect none for the sculpture, but some for the painting; would be an interesting research actually).

My hypothesis is, that people inherently value something as Art, when it's hand made by another person.

Certainly, I "like" the photos of my daughter I snapped and "manipulated" with a few clicks, and they do bring the value of the memory they store and aesthetic they have. They do not, however, "contain me". They contain more genius programmers who created the algorithms than me.

That print. That one print, however - there's nothing but me in there. And that's what art is all about, isn't it?

I am afraid you conflate "art" with craftsmanship. Obviously they are not the same: craftsmanship may be part of your artistic arsenal, or might be not. Artistry is all about inventing your own reality; the more consistent it is the greater artist you are. Respectively, merely registering the existing reality does not suffice, and it doesn't fall in the category of "art" no matter how "beautiful", or "dramatic", or "whatever" it is. I know, major museums exhibit and claim photography (and cars, clothes, etc) is "art". That fact simply reflect the intense market pressure the museum institutions were subjected to a couple of decades ago.
 
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jernejk

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I am afraid you conflate "art" with craftsmanship. Obviously they are not the same: craftsmanship may be part of your artistic arsenal, or might be not. Artistry is all about inventing your own reality; the more consistent it is the greater artist you are. Respectively, merely registering the existing reality does not suffice, and it doesn't fall in the category of "art" no matter how "beautiful", or "dramatic", or "whatever" it is. I know, major museums exhibit and claim photography (and cars, clothes, etc) is "art". That fact simply reflect the intense market pressure the museum institutions were subjected to a couple of decades ago.

By this definition, we can throw most great photographers right out of the window.
More, even Michelangelo's David is just replication of reality. Out of the window it goes, too.
Most of Greek sculptures -> throw them away, worthless replicas.
 

I.G.I.

even Michelangelo's David is just replication of reality. Out of the window it goes, too.
Most of Greek sculptures -> throw them away, worthless replicas.
No, that's plain wrong! Realistic art may bear superficial semblance to real world, but more often than not it is not a replication. Funny as you mention it, Greek sculptures are entirely intellectual construct, and bore nothing even remotely resembling real people. As for "Michelangelo's David is just replication of reality", sorry, but that's tosh.
 
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