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The Radical Eye

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by RovingMike, Apr 16, 2017.

  1. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Went to the Tate Modern exhibition of about 100+ 20th century modernist pics from Elton John's collection. So hard to appreciate some of the things that people judging it as "Art" see great merit in. Some simply look banal. Lot of Man Ray there if you like that kind of thing.

    For me the documentary stuff, including Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother was great, but I kept juggling with the certainty that much of the rest would get bombed in the beginners section of a club comp. Is that due entirely to lack of perception on the part of judges? Are they utter Philistines, or are art fanciers extraordinarily easy to please when faced with a tiny blurry snapshot in a big frame, done by someone famous in 1918?
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2017
  2. lfc1892

    lfc1892 Well-Known Member

    The latter, I would say. It also makes for more classics to sell.
     
  3. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    I don't think the question is any different from the same questions of any art form. Art has an objective technique and a subjective impact. The objective techniques are made up of loads of subjective rules which appear to form a cohesive objective whole but probably don't stand up to too careful a study and are often 'broken' by 'true masters' to prove they were never really necessary anyway.

    I don't think art fanciers is a single group of people, any more than group club judges are. However, club judges invariably have a set of rules they're applying, to introduce some element of standardisation, something art tends to resist.

    If we agree that art is about communicating something to the viewer, or experiencing something as the viewer, then club competitions are doomed to fail when selecting good art, because it's utterly subjective.

    It's okay not to think the Mona Lisa is worth a visit. It's okay to laugh about how much it's apparently worth as well. But it's still art.
     
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  4. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Tony,

    Only for a given value of "fail".

    Cheers,

    R,
     
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  5. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    I do accept of course the subjectivity of art and the overriding role of effect over objective rules. I don't think judges ever choose winners entirely based on following rules. But I saw non-photographers, including my wife, asking how anyone could see anything in that, or that. It did seem that the subjectivity Elton was applying to much of it in his video http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tat...dernist-photography-sir-elton-john-collection applied only to himself and a few others. Did raise the question whether he was genuinely seeing something others couldn't, or had gone through some hallucinatory process in which it was all imagined. Incidentally some of what was on the walls in his home behind him seemed to be a mite more interesting, but whoever curated the show was trying to use the works to show the development of photography as art, from quite primitive beginnings that would naturally be laughed at today.
     
  6. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    I like that phrase, and I use it, because it's funny and makes me feel clever. However, it's ultimately useless. Club competitions do one thing - they make people better at club competitions. Written exams do one thing, they make people better at written exams (or, like club competitions, they crush people's souls and teach them they're no good at photography, when in fact, they're just no good at winning club competitions).

    I'm not a great lover of art, I have very little artistic bent myself (just look at my 'matter of fact' 'presenting reality' style photographs), but I firmly believe that art is about delivering an emotional response in the viewer, and is pretty much out of the hands of the actual artist. As such, a hundred people viewing the same piece of art may experience or not experience a hundred different things. I don't see how a club competition can do anything other than judge objective elements consistently, and judge artistic merit utterly subjectively. In which case, two judges are as likely to rate the same thing differently as they are the same.

    Anyway, people who've done art history or art theory degrees can probably answer this better than me, so I'll let them.
     
  7. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    I think saying 'seeing something others couldn't' somehow elevates his perception, unnecessarily. I think it's better, and easier to say, that his preferences are just different. He likes stuff you don't. His celebrity means that his preferences are then elevated, but that's not a problem with his preference, it's actually a problem with our view of celebrity.
     
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  8. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    You'll also never really know how much of Elton's subjectivity was influenced by people around him telling him that he has good 'taste', or a good eye for quality art. He admits that when he started collecting photographs he knew nothing. He doesn't tell us how or if he became 'educated'. The man has leopard print bedding for crying out loud.
     
  9. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    That was the key point for me. I got the impression he found a new fad and hadn't the slightest idea what he was looking at. But it sounded good to his acolytes.

    There's a lot of zeal of the late convert about it.
     
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  10. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    It's not that new though is it, I thought he'd been collecting for quite a while? I saw an interview with him a year / two years ago describing his love for photography and thought it described it starting a while back - I could be wrong? I think a bigger question might be - why does he pay so much for 'original' prints, in an art-form that is essentially repeatable without any loss in quality?
     
    Geren likes this.
  11. SXH

    SXH Well-Known Member

    Depends on the print. iirc, Ansel Adams put as much work into making his prints as making the original negative, so a print made by him ( presumably a limited number) would be nearer to his original intention than one made later by someone else?
     
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  12. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Tony,

    This leads to an infinite regression. Your declaration that the phrase "for a given value of fail" is meaningless is in itself meaningless...

    Or it isn't, because if it were, you couldn't have replied as you did. Or again, the concept of "failure" is meaningless.

    We can learn whatever we choose from whatever we are told. If you choose to learn nothing, or to imagine that "Club competitions do one thing - they make people better at club competitions", those are your choices.

    Many years ago, Frances decided to a club competition at a club we'd just joined. She came first, second and fourth -- and decided she had learned all she needed about club competitions. For the last few years, she's sold several prints a year. Does that mean that selling prints does one thing - makes people better at selling prints? Hardly.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  13. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    That's exactly what it does. Does it additionally improve other areas? Perhaps, perhaps not. But if you sell prints, and work at it, then you get to better know what will and won't sell, and you focus on the things that will. You get better at selling prints. Mike's point was that prints in the mentioned exhibition wouldn't score well in club competitions, my point is that it isn't surprising because club competitions aren't about art (and can't be). I've not yet seen a response which dissuades me of that view.
     
  14. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Tony,

    My argument is with your reductionist "one thing". If you can only learn one thing at a time from any activity, it's your problem, and may explain why you say, "I have very little artistic bent myself"

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  15. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    You are, as always, free to impose upon me any belief you wish, I choose whether or not it's true.
     
  16. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Yes but he describes his sudden epiphany as if it appeared in a flash to him.
     
  17. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Ah okay. It's hard to deny that Elton is artistic, perhaps he is emotionally moved by things more readily than some? Not a bad thing, but perhaps an explanation? I'm not defending his choice of art, I'm just musing on the idea that there is no definitive measure of good art outside of technique, and hence, it's almost impossible to debate.
     
  18. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Remember also that art being 'good' and art being 'valuable' are not necessarily the same thing. A terrible early photograph by someone who went on to later become famous, which is not so well known and has not had multiple prints made, sold and reproduced on tea towels the world over, might still be a terrible early photograph, but one that's worth a lot of money to collectors. Rarity, celebrity, and association can and do pump up the price almost irrespective of any notions of 'good'.
     
    EightBitTony likes this.
  19. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Tony,

    I don't think you quite understand the words "impose" or "true".

    Cheers,

    R.
     

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