[Debate] Creation and Creators

Scope of discussion includes perceived merit of created things (artistic, economic, policy) in the context of the perceived merit of their creators. In situations where the creator is accused or believed to have committed a crime or other undesirable action, the discussion does NOT include debate as to whether this is true or not. However, this does not preclude observations based on beliefs about a creator, whether verified or not.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

Art is political because art does not exist outside of the political context in which it was created.

This is so broad as to be meaningless. By this measure, my decision to make a cup of tea is political because it doesn't exist outside the reigning political context. If you think that's a silly example, now change it to me carving a pretty wooden horse in my garage. Is that suddenly political? Isn't it art?

Coldstream wrote:
MilkmanDanimal wrote:

Art is political because art does not exist outside of the political context in which it was created.

This is so broad as to be meaningless. By this measure, my decision to make a cup of tea is political because it doesn't exist outside the reigning political context. If you think that's a silly example, now change it to me carving a pretty wooden horse in my garage. Is that suddenly political? Isn't it art?

Well, the specific examples I gave on the last page sure felt pretty specific, but, to continue . . . is my decision to make a cup of tea political? No. My ability to? Well . . . I just made a cup of tea. I used loose-leaf tea from China that was ordered from Upton Tea's online site, used a pot and filter ordered from Amazon, and did so while taking a break from my work-from-home job that allows me to largely effortlessly avoid the devastating impact of a global pandemic. All of those things? Yes, I'd call those "political", though I understand that term can be misleading. Call it what you want; my tea exists in the mug on my desk because I inhabit a particular place in society and have access to things many others don't, and, yes, this would extend to me having a garage to carve a horse in. Whether it's art, well, that's an entirely different discussion, and, yes, the definition of what makes something "art" could not be more political.

Going back to the earlier Tolkien example, whether or not he wanted to write an allegory of the carnage of WW1 that was laced with white supremancy and all his concerns about industrialization and the loss of an ideal life, he did just that. The Sistine Chapel is not just a pretty painting; it is a representation of what powerful political figures wanted people to think of as a pretty painting.

I guess I'm confused as to what your line in the sand is as to what "political" means, and, yes, this has spun off from the original question from "can I support crappy people" to a more general discussion of aesthetics, but, regardless, pretending artistic expression isn't political in some way doesn't make any sense.

You can’t be neutral on a moving train.

Ignoring the realities of the world is in essence supporting the status quo.

What about Twain and his use of the inward in Huck Finn? I know where I stand on this, but I was wondering what the thread thinks. (homophone intentional)

MilkmanDanimal wrote:
Coldstream wrote:
MilkmanDanimal wrote:

Art is political because art does not exist outside of the political context in which it was created.

This is so broad as to be meaningless. By this measure, my decision to make a cup of tea is political because it doesn't exist outside the reigning political context. If you think that's a silly example, now change it to me carving a pretty wooden horse in my garage. Is that suddenly political? Isn't it art?

Well, the specific examples I gave on the last page sure felt pretty specific, but, to continue . . . is my decision to make a cup of tea political? No. My ability to? Well . . . I just made a cup of tea. I used loose-leaf tea from China that was ordered from Upton Tea's online site, used a pot and filter ordered from Amazon, and did so while taking a break from my work-from-home job that allows me to largely effortlessly avoid the devastating impact of a global pandemic. All of those things? Yes, I'd call those "political", though I understand that term can be misleading. Call it what you want; my tea exists in the mug on my desk because I inhabit a particular place in society and have access to things many others don't, and, yes, this would extend to me having a garage to carve a horse in. Whether it's art, well, that's an entirely different discussion, and, yes, the definition of what makes something "art" could not be more political.

That just waters down what something being political means to the point of uselessness.
I imagine Coldstream is using the term the way most people would, in that it has an obvious political message. Being absent of an obvious political message can be a political message in itself (supporting the status quo), but it isn't inherently one. My 6-year old's drawing of her & her sister playing isn't inherently political. It could be used to assume some political infornation about us, but that's not the same thing.

It is the same thing, that's the entire point. Political information ABOUT the artist and their state of mind and the life they lead is absolutely why all art is political. And even if you intend your art to convey one message, it could convey something else entirely because it is also subjective. I could find specific political meaning in something that you don't see. But it's there for me and real.

Meaning isn’t derived just from the relationship between art and artist, but also from the relationship between art and audience. That’s arguably even more important since the artist has little control over how their art resonates in society. There are countless examples of the public image of art being wholly divorced from the intended purpose- take Fight Club, for example. It was intended as a screed against toxic masculinity that has been largely interpreted by the public as a celebration of toxic masculinity. Or how so many of Orwell’s works became practically totemic icons against socialism by conservatives despite Orwell himself being a socialist.

b12n11w00t wrote:

It is the same thing, that's the entire point. Political information ABOUT the artist and their state of mind and the life they lead is absolutely why all art is political. And even if you intend your art to convey one message, it could convey something else entirely because it is also subjective. I could find specific political meaning in something that you don't see. But it's there for me and real.

And that waters down "political" to have no real utility. My 6 year old's drawing would never be considered to have a message beyond "I played with my sister," let alone a political one. To insist that all art is political either uses "political" in a meaningless way or excludes many things from being considered art.

This is a legitimately fascinating debate that (unfortunately) only has relevance in a historical context outside the most overt examples. Trying to parse the argument in a contemporary setting is fraught with observer bias as people are too close to the subject and either bolstering or pushing against the meta context that the art, the artist, and the audience are all beholden to. Given a decades-long lens or more, the true power of historiography comes to the fore and collation, collaboration and cross-referencing provide the tools to extract the politics from the art much more dispassionately.

This isn’t to say that historians aren’t subject to their own culture of course, which is where Stengah’s point comes in that it’s probably all vomit anyway and there is no such thing as objectivity, etc. etc., but I think studying the past to safeguard against it’s return is a vital function of society, and art provides a unique and enormously important frame through which to view it.

To me this also gets into the question of art being valuable as a way for the public to escape and relax. Burnout from constant political pressure is a real thing, and I personally appreciate being able to escape for a few hours in a good book, movie or game that’s not focused on the real world.

There are also examples of political art that went horribly wrong and did more harm than good. I have a couple critic friends who watched Cuties and said it had some interesting things to say about both conservative religion and modern adolescence. But all that was lost in a culture war and freakout about pedophilia.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

I guess I'm confused as to what your line in the sand is as to what "political" means, and, yes, this has spun off from the original question from "can I support crappy people" to a more general discussion of aesthetics, but, regardless, pretending artistic expression isn't political in some way doesn't make any sense.

That's a reasonable question, and I think we're still well within the bounds of the thread (he says, as the creator) because we're still discussing my original question, which is to what extent artistic endeavours can be separated from their creators.

First, I'll confess to a knee-jerk reaction whenever I hear some form of "all X is Y" because I find in the real world such absolutes are very rarely true. Stengah's point about his child's drawing being art for the sake of simple enjoyment is an example I'd agree with wherein any "political" element is purely a projection of the so-inclined observer.

Which brings me to what I mean by "political". In the simplest sense, it hews to the accepted general definition of politics, which is concerned with power and status; primarily within the spheres of government and formal organisations, but also more generally within society. To this end, art that is political in nature is that art which either is deliberately making a statement or taking a position regarding a political position, or art that is commissioned or otherwise deliberately used for political purposes. In this view, hiring a famous painter to make a public work as a demonstration of wealth and influence would be political art, while the same artist who sketches a flower on a napkin at a bar simply because she finds its beautiful would still be creating art, but this time devoid of political content or context.

My objection, and perhaps where we diverge, is the sense that all art must intrinsically be political simply because it exists in a society where politics exists. If we accept that premise, then *everything* we do is inherently political, and that way lies madness. The sort of thing that results in Political Officers and people having anxiety attacks because there's no escape.

I will concede that all art can be viewed through a political lens, and that inferences about social status and power dynamics could potentially be made from it, but that doesn't make art intrinsically political. I'm really, really not a fan of the whole "it's not what you said/made/wrote that's important, it's how I interpreted it that matters." That's sort of how the whole "art is political" thing strikes me. In that view, irrespective of the intent of the artist or the actual substance of the work, the political opinions of the observer are overlaid on the work by the observer as if it's a fact, when in truth it's entirely subjective and could indeed be interpreted entirely differently by another individual with strong political opinions. In the meantime, the artwork remains unchanged.

As an aside--and probably fodder for another thread--I've wondered whether the liberal push for "not what you said, but what I heard" a number of years back inadvertently laid the foundation for the "not what the facts are, but what I choose to believe" lunacy of the MAGA folks we're dealing with now. Both decline the reality of what was said and intended in favour of something that better feeds into their prevailing world-view. I'd be interested in a discussion of that in a new thread if there's interest.

My objection, and perhaps where we diverge, is the sense that all art must intrinsically be political simply because it exists in a society where politics exists. If we accept that premise, then *everything* we do is inherently political, and that way lies madness. The sort of thing that results in Political Officers and people having anxiety attacks because there's no escape.

I think I see your disconnect- it’s not that these things exist in a society where politics exists, it’s that society is politics. Social interactions are political interactions because there is no such thing as an apolitical society. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to sit around fussing over the implications of everything they do, superficial engagement is totally fine and it’s possible to interact with other people without even seeing that aspect, but it doesn’t mean that aspect isn’t there. It’s the building block of all interpersonal relationships and structures.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

Art is political because art does not exist outside of the political context in which it was created. It doesn't exist in a magic aether as a representation of some Platonic ideal of achievement. Artistic expression is just another form of cultural history.

We're getting into "what is art" conversations, but I guess it would help defining what art is in the context of the statement I made. Creativity ≠ capital-A "art." I'm not sure I would still consider children's pictographs as "art" the same way I would define The Death of Marat as art. Audience scope is huge here. The key point folks pointed out here is primarily intention and awareness of audience impact and the scope of work. Depending on your opinion of his work, Goodkind makes art. A child's drawing isn't "art" in the same way, but most people lump all creative works into the domain of art anyway, regardless of subtext, and I think that's where trying to draw conclusions from such a wide encompassing assumption of the definition falls short.

Edit: art is a form of expression. Making a cup of tea for most people isn't a form of expression and if it is, to get to that point in you may be dealing with something more ideological. The history of tea is very much a cultural phenomenon and steeped in politics. There's some really cool rituals and traditions involving tea, and I think that can be done in a way that could be considered an art in the colloquial sense people attribute "art" to mean things they find beautiful. However most people aren't doing that when they make Tea. Tea is often a means to an end (caffeine, comfort, routine, etc), and probably doesn't have the same intent.

I love a good demarcation problem. What is and isn’t art? What is and isn’t political? What is and isn’t political art?

A kindergartner’s crayon drawing is probably not “capital A art“. But if someone finds it in the corner of a filthy alley and presents it as found art, then it probably is “ART”.

If a sculptor carves a dancer out of a block of styrofoam, it’s “ART”. If the artist never shows it to anyone or talk about it then it’s probably not political. As soon as they present it to another person, it can probably be considered political.

Art is whatever a person labels as art. One piece doesn’t have any more or less objective value than others (aside from perhaps the cost of materials involved), only subjective values that people arbitrarily assign to them.

Amoebic wrote:

The history of tea is very much a cultural phenomenon and steeped in politics.

heyy-yo!

When I die I'm going to Uncle Iroh's tea shop.

RawkGWJ wrote:

I love a good demarcation problem. What is and isn’t art? What is and isn’t political? What is and isn’t political art?

I love seeing this come up on GWJ, a site I have long associated with mid/late-2000s wanks about "are games art/what is a game/what is fun"

I feel like all is right with the world.