because art was merely a ‘copy of a copy’ (represented a reality which was itself only a pale representation of the true reality of Forms), it could not be regarded as ‘truth-functional’ and thus had no place in a ‘well run’ society.
Platonic view: art merely ‘copies’ ( mimesis ) the world badly.
Aristotle: disagrees. For him, art had the capacity to:
Be morally educative (Homer, Greek Tragedy reinforce our view of the virtues
Represent reality (and truths about it) in a way that other mediums could not (the ability to reveal universals, confront us with timeless beauty etc.)
It thus fulfilled an essential, educative role (remember: the widespread illiteracy of the Athenian demos, who could learn only by listening to Homer, the drama et
Art informs us by ‘illuminating our experience’:
a ‘transformation of the commonplace’;
gets us to re-examine our own experience ‘in a new light’;
shows us something that we did not notice before about an experience we share with the artist
Don’t they show essences? Transform the everyday, the mundane?
In the Vermeer, the background map, the blemish on the wall where a nail has been taken out, have been painted with as much attention to detail as the girl’s face.
In the Hunter, the faded paint of the room and the richness of the child’s clothes bring out the repose of the woman’s face.
In the photograph that Jerusha took, Zizzy reads. Both agree that it is a fair representation of her reading: it was not posed.
These images are authentic because they are realistic
Interpretation, Analysis, Application – Major issues
How is art supposed to stand for reality?
consider the tradition of painting since the Renaissance that makes use of perspective
does all art make use of this convention of realism/illusion/representation?
through intrinsic qualities?
is there agreement about what qualities art might intrinsically possess?
Are all arts equally concerned with representing?
The majority of visual art does seem to satisfy the condition of being informative.
Religious art in particular performed an educative role (the dangers of hell, promises of heaven and of man’s fundamental condition) at a time when the majority of the populace were illiterate.
Cave painting – one of the first ‘forms’ of art – performed a similar function…(can we be sure of this?)
But what about art that has no representative role: Abstract music, for example; the daubs of colour that form the basis of impressionist paintings; Bach Fugues; Rothko’s ‘Orange, tan and purple’? Ben Nicholson’s pieces?
Art made from star maps of the southern hemisphere
‘ The process of composition ran as follows. First, Cage put a transparent strip of about three-quarter inch over the maps. The width of the strip limited the number of stars used. Within this width Cage was able to discern the twelve tones of the octave.
Then through chance operations…he transferred these tones to the available octaves for the left and right hands.
The resulting notes reflect only the horizontal positions of the stars, and not all stars are used, because the maps used a variety of colors, and Cage's chance operations limited the choices every time to specific colors.
In the end Cage would have a string of notes and use chance operations to determine which of them are to remain single tones and which are to become parts of aggregates or chords.’
The record cover, featuring a section of the star map, and some wedges of rubber used to ‘prepare’ the piano…
Let us now hear a section of ‘Etude no.1’
Is there representation?
Is there an idea?
Is there an artist?
Yet is it art?
Must art be representational or inform us?
Even if art informs us, is that why we value it as art?
If we value art because it informs us (a utilitarian view) then it would also seem the value of the artwork itself is lost (the ‘perceptually rich’ or ‘abhorrent’ aesthetic qualities; the intrinsic features of ‘harmony’ and ‘balance’, the emotions that only art can make us feel).
If this were the case, we could substitute an artwork for any other medium which brought about a similar effect (the ‘syringe’ argument – art just injects an idea into us) without loss of value.
And isn’t it the case that we value art for more than just the information it gives us?
Or is the kind of information or the way in which it gives us information important?
As for all the theories we are considering: is it a necessary feature of the value of art that it should be informative? (any example of art with a non-informative element is enough to suggest that it is not ).
Is it a sufficient one? There are many instances of non-art that have an informative function – textbooks and instruction manuals are informative, maps represent the world etc.
For: the majority of art is informative. It requires more than a few counter-examples to cancel out this view (many modern philosophers have appealed to this position in order to deny art status to examples of artworks that do not satisfy this criterion)…
The Middle Way or idea of Explanatory Power as a way of assessing the theory: counter examples do rule out the necessity and the sufficiency of the view that we value art only because of its informative qualities Nevertheless, the majority of art clearly does have informative qualities.
Valuing art in terms of its cognitive value means that the artwork itself – both its aesthetic and its formal and its emotional qualities – must be disregarded.
Yet this is unacceptable, since if we are going to provide an adequate account of why we value art, we need to explain aesthetic, formal and emotional qualities. ‘All Art aspires to the condition of music’, or ‘Art for art’s sake’!