Lyotard on artists, writers, and so forth

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Deckard
 
Reply Thu 29 Apr, 2010 12:29 am
Quote:
The only responsibility of artists, writers or philosophers as such is a responsibility toward the question What is painting, writing, thought? If anyone says to them "Your work is for the most part unintelligible," they the right, they have the duty, not to take any notice of the objection. Their addressee is not the public and, I would say, is not even the "community" of artists, writers, and so forth. To tell the truth, they do not know who their addressee is, and this is what it is to be an artist, a writer, and so forth: to throw a "message" out into the void. Nor do they have any better idea of who their judge is, because in doing what they do, they also question the accepted criteria of judgment in painting, literature, and so forth. And the same goes for the limits that define recognized domains, genres, and disciplines. Let us say that they experiment. They in no way seek to cultivate, educate, or train anyone at all. Anything that pushes them to locate their activities within the game quite rightly appears as unacceptable.


I think "philosophers as such" means philosopher as artist or writer.

So, Lyotard is setting up the creative calling as a calling that has no duty or even intention to actually communicate "a message" to the audience but rather only to just throw a message into the void indifferent to whether or not it is understood or even whether it is considered to be art. If the artist, writer, and so forth communicates what he meant to say it is only by accident. Yet it would be strange indeed to assert that creating and displaying a work of art is not a communicative act. I'm not sure how I feel about Lyotard's idea. On the one hand it establishes a radical creative freedom that is attractive to me and on the other hand it seems to undermine an important purpose if not thee purpose of creating a work of art.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Thu 29 Apr, 2010 02:55 pm
@Deckard,
It sounds about right to me. Although I think the word "void" is poorly chosen and doesn't communicate his idea. That implies that no one reads the book or views the painting, but that's clearly false.

But the point that someone not getting is ok, and that the works don't need to be pointed towards a definite group of people, or even towards artists and judgers of art is a good one I think. Saying that there doesn't have to be a target audience isn't to say that no one needs to like it. Scientists experiment as well, and many experiments fail, but ultimately they do try for a successful experiment.

Maybe this is not the point he was making. But it's what I thought when I read the quote.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 8 May, 2010 09:44 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;157830 wrote:
I'm not sure how I feel about Lyotard's idea. On the one hand it establishes a radical creative freedom that is attractive to me and on the other hand it seems to undermine an important purpose if not thee purpose of creating a work of art.


Good point. I think Lyotard is over-correcting, but I can see the value of his idea. I would counter that it's hard if not impossible to ignore the tradition. Otherwise one is starting from scratch. Would we get the drawings that children make? It seems to me that historical inheritance is crucial. And if one makes it ones purpose to transcend this, one is still dependent upon that which must be transcended.

I would personally reshape the Lyotard notion into something like this. Pursue your personal sense of beauty to the utmost, without systematically rejecting influence.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Sat 8 May, 2010 10:22 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;161959 wrote:
Good point. I think Lyotard is over-correcting, but I can see the value of his idea. I would counter that it's hard if not impossible to ignore the tradition. Otherwise one is starting from scratch. Would we get the drawings that children make? It seems to me that historical inheritance is crucial. And if one makes it ones purpose to transcend this, one is still dependent upon that which must be transcended.

I would personally reshape the Lyotard notion into something like this. Pursue your personal sense of beauty to the utmost, without systematically rejecting influence.


Lyotard is all about discontinuities and I this includes discontinuities of history. Does say impressionism really share some common language with say surrealism? Well a case could be made the history could be filled in the family tree could be filled out and impressionism could be shown to be the great aunt of surrealism or something of that sort. But Lyotard might say that the art historian is forcing some grand narrative of art and fooling us into believing that both impressionism and surrealism were part of the same story when in fact they are two completely different stories and we don't need to understand impressionism to understand surrealism anymore than we need surrealism to understand impressionism.

The message that is thrown out into the void is by no means necessarily an answer to some previous message that washed up on the shore. Transcendence is an answer to that which it transcends. Lyotard is talking about spontaneous message. Art has no history. The artist may question, the artist may proclaim but the artist can never answer...that is the job of the critic.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 8 May, 2010 11:16 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;161978 wrote:
But Lyotard might say that the art historian is forcing some grand narrative of art and fooling us into believing that both impressionism and surrealism were part of the same story when in fact they are two completely different stories and we don't need to understand impressionism to understand surrealism anymore than we need surrealism to understand impressionism.

That's a good point. But it's a double edged sword. L could also be accused of an allergy to continuity. I see both sides. A person could argue it case by case, if they so desired.

---------- Post added 05-09-2010 at 12:20 AM ----------

Deckard;161978 wrote:
Lyotard is talking about spontaneous message. Art has no history. The artist may question, the artist may proclaim but the artist can never answer...that is the job of the critic.


I suppose I can't help but see an unavoidable relationship to the past. Man is such a social being. Even if he is only playing to amuse himself, which I highly respect, he has still got generally the same nature around him, and almost inevitably images around him that he did not create. Of course, a sophisticated attempt could be made to start from zero, and the color field painters are pretty radical this way. But now that too has been done, and so has the urinal. Hell, I've got a sculpture in the Louvre. I call it "Invisible Conceptual Graffiti." I had it installed about 2 years ago, as soon as it was finished.

I see what you mean by the critic. I can only think to note that I view the critic as yet another artist, except this time a poet and not a painter/sculptor.
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Sun 9 May, 2010 12:10 am
@Reconstructo,
I'v always understood it as the artist has no control over the experience the addressee has with the work in question. Any work once it has left the creator is subject to endless polyvocalism and so the artist should feel no binding obligation to an audience, only an obligation to project oneself out for interconnection.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Sun 9 May, 2010 12:21 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;162009 wrote:

I see what you mean by the critic. I can only think to note that I view the critic as yet another artist, except this time a poet and not a painter/sculptor.


I actually really like the idea of blurring the line between the critic and the artist such as we find in the "novel of ideas". There is also the option of keeping them separate. A piece of artwork as an object of study. The artist produces the object and the critic studies, explains and theorizes about it. I like this too. But I think I'm more inclined to the novel of ideas approach. For me keeping a piece of art or writing as an object only requires me to bite my tongue too much (and if I do that too much I can't say anything at all). Actually I think I'm moving beyond Joyce's artistic ethic of "cunning, exile, and silence" or rather rejecting it. It has been quite a stumbling block (and the stone that at least this builder is rejecting though it may serve as the keystone for others like Joyce and Lyotard.) I don't think the artist need be cunning, I don't think the artist need be an exile, I don't think the artist need be silent. Perhaps even the exact opposite can be the case - honest, integrated into society, and speaking. Lyotard's definition of the artist is really very similar to Joyce's (or Stephan Dedelus's anyway). I've really just been trying on Lyotard's definition in this thread to see how it fit and I don't think it does.

(Actually this post is an final articulation of a sort of breakthrough for me. Enough with those 20th century definitions of the artist. Philosophy Forum is good stuff.)
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 10:29 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;162038 wrote:
Actually I think I'm moving beyond Joyce's artistic ethic of "cunning, exile, and silence" or rather rejecting it.


Well, I never liked that part of Joyce's aesthetic. But I did like the idea of the artist paring his fingernails, having attained dramatic objectivity, so to speak. And also he speaks of the framing of an art object. Or rather he quotes Aquinas (if memory serves.)

I think the peak of Joyce is Night Town or whatever you want to call it. That chapter at the whorehouse in Ulysses. THat's like 8 1/2 or something. Still seems reekingly modern. Cinematic, etc. The last chapter is OK but the run-on sentence is hardly as impressive as the kaleidoscope in Night town. I digress.

---------- Post added 05-10-2010 at 11:37 PM ----------

Deckard;162038 wrote:
I don't think the artist need be cunning, I don't think the artist need be an exile, I don't think the artist need be silent. Perhaps even the exact opposite can be the case - honest, integrated into society, and speaking.


I agree with you here. "The weak in courage is strong in cunning." Sometimes it's the fresh eye that prevails. I suppose this ties in with unlearning. (Tao)

I can also relate to a turning back toward society. The universal is the social. Of course the "universal" isn't easy to define. I know that I want to transcend the usual obsession with contingent personal details. Someone witty made a joke about all the writers who consider their autobiography the Great American Novel. I was once a big fan of Kerouac, and he's definitely good at what he does, but that's not my bag, let's say. And being a writer has always been an ambition of mine. It's just that I found myself writing philosophy or let's say abstractions rather than narrative. Or if I wrote narrative, it would be condensed plot, as condensed as myth. I feel that movies have done something to my notion of story telling, just as photography must have effected painting.

---------- Post added 05-10-2010 at 11:38 PM ----------

Deckard;162038 wrote:

(Actually this post is an final articulation of a sort of breakthrough for me. Enough with those 20th century definitions of the artist. Philosophy Forum is good stuff.)


Yeah, I keep coming back because communicating with others is a sort of midwife, isn't it? I find it helps me think, forces me to clarify. This reminds me of McLuhan.
 
 

 
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