ANST - authenticity vs aesthetics

dennis grace amazing at
Mon Aug 18 15:22:06 PDT 1997

Greetings, Cosyns,

Lyonel aisai.

In response to Karl von Augsburg's
>>Art evokes beauty.  An artist brings out the beauty.

Baron Bors insists
>  I must disagree with you on this point.  In any beggining Art appreciation
>course, the first thing that is taught is that "ART" is anything that causes
>an emotional reaction or response upon the veiwer.  Under that criteria,
>graffitti on a wall is as much Art as an Ansel Adams photograph.

And I must disagree with His Excellency.  An Art Appreciation class that
teaches affect as a criterion is promoting a single aesthetic theory.  I'm
not saying it's a "bad" theory, but it's only _one_ theory.  The moderns
(Beardsley, in particular) called this the Affective Fallacy and looked for
universal attributes of form and composition.  A later school looks for the
echo of archetypes in a given work of art.  Yet another school looks for the
communication inherent in a work of art.  Technically, the word "art"
derives from the Latin "ars" meaning something like "work," "craft," or
"skill." Thus, in the beginning, the idea of so-called "found art" would
have seemed oxymoronic.  As for the idea that graffiti can be as much a work
of art as an Ansel Adams photograph, I believe that was the theory behind
much of the work produced by Schnabel, Basquiat, and Haring.

His Excellency further opines:
>      If you veiw a simple un-adorned box and think, "That is crap- I hate
>it", that simple reaction constitutes it as art.  

*IF* the box produces this reaction just by its existence, I'd agree.  Such
is seldom the case, however.  If, as I think is more likely, entering the
box in an Arts and Sciences competition evokes the response "That is crap--I
hate it," then the box alone has not evoked the response--the *act* of
entering it has.  Thus, the box may simply be unworthy of notice, but the
act of entering it into an A&S competition is a work of art--concept art,
perhaps, possibly even performance art.  Such an artform is, I believe,
inappropriate to a Medieval Re-Creation A&S competition.

Personally, however, I'm not too big on the affective school, anyway.
Stepping in a pile of dog doo evokes an emotional response from most folks,
as would seeing your dog run over by a Suburban, as would any dealings with
the IRS.  None of these strike me as particularly artistic.

>I do understand what you
>are saying as far as construction techiques but that box may be "loved" by
>another individual because of the texture or roughness or crude
>construction. This other person's interpretation would thus place the box in
>a position as "Art" also.   True, most art does evoke beauty, but a full size
>catapult, hurling styrofoam rocks at a pretend castle, is not a pretty thing
>but does invoke a favorable response from me and I would deem the builder as
>a true artisian and the catapult as a work of art, thus not all art is
>beauty.  So too, may a simple un-adorned box be construed as Art.

I concur with His Excellency's analysis of the catapult, but the catapult is
usually judged on its merits as a bit of siege engineering.  I would
classify this as a science. (Note, His Excellency refered to the catapult
builder as an "artisan," not an artist.)  I know--this is a difficult call.
A brilliant bit of engineering can be a work of art in and of itself.
Generally, though, I think we're talking about a bit of mechanical
engineering--the straightforward application of physics--a subject pretty
well rooted in the sciences.

Of course, if the catapult in question is adorned with scrollwork or covered
in tooled leather, you just might slip across the boundaries.

lo vostre por vos servir

Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace
Dennis Grace
University of Texas at Austin
English Department
Recovering Medievalist
amazing at

Micel yfel deth se unwritere.
                           AElfric of York


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