June 2008 Archives

Pixelopia

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Here we are again, not visible even to Google yet, but running around shamelessly without a trademark.

If this image below proliferated to 30 million actual viewings and became "common", what most likely would still be missing  is attribution to the initial source. But even with such attribution, most of the 30 million viewers would still not know whether the "initial source" was the distributor, the producer, or the developer. And for most of them, the feeling would be "who cares!"

This pits the property-based idea of a value chain against the knowledge-based idea. In the knowledge-based arena, a network that engenders commonality of awareness brings a "Darwinian" brutality to the assessment of what something is worth, beyond the control of property-owners.

artdotdotdotcom logo 2008 B.jpgThis image (the artdotdotdotcom logo picture), which is close to being a "commercial", is a case of something currently rare (the logo) representing something not known to be special (this website). Through some conventional treatments, the same picture could be marked with something extra that would then mean "this picture officially represents something intended to be special".

At that point, some question would arise as to whether the mark-enhanced picture would itself be more valuable too, because it has a job if not also perhaps an owner.

Some people answer yes; but these marked things tend to come with restrictions. And ironically, just when the picture's exposure and distribution has become most useful through the mass reckoning and propagation, one is usually required to have permission to display the picture. Permission is imposed in order to prevent "mis-use" of the representation -- although it really isn't representative unless the viewers decide to agree that it is -- by not using some other image in its place -- which amounts to granting the picture an artificial "respect".

Without commercial law, web-based networking, or netcasting, typically promotes the notion that anyone is allowed to show something, and that anyone is allowed to see something. But then, property law puts something in between the originally unfettered show-ers and see-ers .

When a picture is provided that has a primary purpose of representing limited conditional access, it is militant if not ironic that this same picture then rides the very network that it wants to constrain. The picture really means that there should be a privileged relationship between a provider and a receiver; and meanwhile, the picture doing the representing is not even offering itself as the desirable deliverable, but instead merely a sign. I think it would be inevitable that eventually network audiences would decide that they don't like some official logo, and decide as a crowd to replace it with one of their own choosing -- just like we have already chosen to call Canon or Minolta photcopiers "xerox" machines just because we prefer to.

Naturally, this makes me want to take that unmarked picture and use it mainly just to represent itself before someone else gets their hands on it. The project, then, would be to legally and graphically trademark the picture, and then distribute the marked picture as widely as possible with intent to represent the immediate availability of the same picture without the trademark (in other words, the way you already have it here on your copy of the webpage).

And, I further thought, "then, charge people a fee to, in effect, remove the trademark" by taking paid orders for non-trademarked copies. To shore that up, the unmarked picture would of course have to be removed from the page you're reading now.

But on final thought, let's forget the whole thing.

The aesthetics of labor

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Why do we use the term "art work"?

Essentially, this is a marketing term aimed at a community of consumers and producers with two objectives: one, to have a conventional means of attributing value to something they want to have as an asset or resource; and/or two, to advertise that they are interested in promoting it. (An asset is property; a resource is property put to a specified use.)

But what makes art a type of work is not the essential concern of those who do art. Instead the core matter is what makes work "art".

Art is a mode; a mode is a way of doing something. Work is artistic when the decisions being made during the invention and construction in the work are driven by the experience of how the effects of the decisions generate the options and requirements for the next decisions. The key contrast, then, is between the work using itself as its framework for generation instead of using external requirements of production or consumption as its framework.

This is not at all the abused notion of "art for art's sake" -- another marketing term. Instead, a correct and useful notion is the term "state of the art", in which "the art" is a body of identified outcomes within the labor's disciplinary technique, discovered through the ongoing labor of the practice and considered highly informative and valuable to the future labor.

Audiences may take it (art) or leave it, and in taking it (through commissions, appropriation or purchasing) may package it with a capital "A". As part of an ecosystem that generates cultural support for art, this is always potentially a good thing, but the danger in it is that the commerce it engenders will obliterate the basic meaning of the art mode in work. Art does not predict or dictate the motive of work; work is begun and continued for many reasons. But when the work is being done, art may direct its progression.

(the following: copyright 2008-2010 Malcolm Ryder)

By 1995, legendary photographer Frederick Sommer had collaborated with writer Stephen Aldrich to produce the text, the Poetic Logic of Art and Aesthetics. (working brief copy as of this article's most recent update: click here.)

Mainly, the gist of this notoriously elusive yet collectible text is as follows: that art-making allows us to investigate the explanations of life-as-observed, by creating art works as metaphors or demonstrations of the logic that governs how the observed life’s form results from its basic generative inspiration, theme or force.

The text doles this out in very difficult fashion, coming close to a fusion of logic and poetry -- an auto-homage to itself. This makes it fun and interesting to recite but frankly very difficult to understand -- most similar to a literature of ritual. Over time, it has acquired  a limited mythic stature. This adds to the attraction of reading it, but except for the added desire, it doesn’t offer much help to the reader. That's unfortunate because it is most often used to teach.

Luckily, it can be deconstructed, which in our case means that we can account for our claim of what is its “gist”.

In the opening page of its statements, there appears to be a struggle (won) to contrast and compare the idea of words, grammar, and propositions -- versus, the idea of images, display and states of affairs.

Supposedly, "propositions" in the world of words parallel "states of affairs" in the world of images. To create a proposition, one uses grammar to organize the linkages of words. To create a state of affairs, one uses display to organize the linkages of images,

And supposedly, names can be used to indicate images. We already know that indication is a form of representation, so if a name is a word, then it stands that a word can represent an image. But we know that names are not the only use of words. Nonetheless, the presumption of the text is that words cannot indicate the linkages between images. This would mean that words, even in grammatical constructions called propositions, cannot indicate states of affairs -- whereas displays in images can.

  • Unless we do at least one of three things, we simply have to reject that argument of the text's opening page:
    Allow some magical or unstated properties of the notion of “name” and/or “state of affairs”. They either mean something more than is described, or they mean something different than we assume.
  • Go along with the word play that uses both the word “said” and the word “seen” as synonyms for the word “understand”; that is, accept the argument itself as mainly being poetry.
  • Require no step of the argument to be permanent but instead just as a heat-of-the-moment opportunity to keep moving to the other end of the path.

The end of the path (as offered by the text) says that grammar causes words to "occupy a structure of language", and the result of that is a display (of a proposition).

But despite our intuitive insistence, the argument never says that images are displayed. It does say, in effect, that images can be represented by a display of words. What is never made clear is what it means to pose “names” of images as opposed to that proposition.

A far simpler and less ambiguous notion than all of the above is that “the ‘important’ thing about linkages must be demonstrated (else the importance will not be evident)”. This is not so poetic an argument; instead, it is just frankly “opinionated“, a nearly arbitrary opening for some follow-up . That actually gives it a full range of possible roles stretching from being just a rule for a game to being a major theoretical philosophy.

To go along with that, a more useful working title for the overall discussion would be “Aesthetics and the Artistic Logic of Making Things”.

That keeps us away from problems like the text's following claims.

Nothing can be said for which there is no image.
(If this was true, then "images" are far more than pictorial. They would have to be fundamentally conceptual.)

Images can be named; linkages can only be displayed.
(This is not true, since rhetoric commonly has labels for linkages, while many concepts do not have a name.)

But later in the text, this passage appears:

Life is the most durable fiction that matter has yet come up with
And art is the structure of matter as life’s most durable fiction.

The writing again is tangled, perhaps intentionally, but it seems we can draw this meaning from the passage::

  • “Life is an effect of invention with materials, and art is the invention itself, which makes life an effect of art.”


With art thus generating life, the following line of the text can be decoded:

Aesthetics celebrates art as the poetic logic of form.


At this point in the text, the term “poetic logic” refers to the idea that activity creates a pattern that reflects the activity’s respect for some constant condition (like a force or a rule, e.g., gravity) that provides the motivator, foil or constraint explaining why the pattern came to be the way it is.

Other fields talk about this in terms of a form having a generator operating in an environment. In art circles, this generator is often brought up in terms of an inspiration or theme, with context being the environment. As stated, the text means that art shows the logic of the generator’s influence on the activity, by providing a form that displays the logic -- whereupon aesthetics celebrates the display.

It is important, however, to note that this notion of "celebration" may actually mean “study” or even analysis, not just advocating or highlighting.

Furthermore, staying consistent with the spirit of the text, this is the point where we would pick up celebration as a response or attitude towards the life that art itself generates.

The most important aspect of that thought is the suggestion that aesthetics would study how life is shaped, looking for the mediating influence of art. There are two more interesting ideas associated with that one.

  • In one case, aesthetics might recommend art for the purpose of forming a life.
  • In the other case, aesthetics might concern itself mainly with discovering what "art" might be responsible for the life that is observed.

Said that way, the latter case, clearly more investigative, easily embraces photography; so it makes sense that the principle author of the text, Mr. Sommer, is a photographer.

But staying with the spirit of the text, a more complete understanding of aesthetics has it embracing composition as its primary subject, whether the composition is in photography, sculpture, dance, or other construction.

The text, unfortunately, makes this assignment difficult to pick up, and prior to this point it tries in [passing to introduce the additional idea of “technique” without much pursuing the thought.  Probably what it is trying to say is that "technique" is what we call the discipline of composing the form in interaction with its inspiration, theme or other generator.

It is definitely an important idea that the activity of art has a form itself, as well as the results of art having a form. This positions aesthetics as something that “celebrates” the relationship between the form of the art activity and the form of the art product.

Luckily, that corresponds to the idea of sensibility, in at least one way. We've now said that aesthetics looks at the relationship between the art activity (technique) and the art product. Meanwhile, if art is a mediating influence on the making of a life, then art overall is a metaphor for living. By looking at the relationship of the making of a life and the life that is made, sensibility is analogously related to aesthetics.

This is how the later part of the text intends to make sense. When it says:

Poetic logic is the sensuous apprehension of what we do not yet understand in the presence of reality.

Again, the gist of the full text is that art-making allows us to investigate (and then represent) the explanations of life,  by creating art works as metaphors or demonstrations of the logic that governs how life’s form results from its basic generative inspiration, theme or force.