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The Value Of Difficulty

I am not an artis­tic per­son. I am not able to ap­pre­ci­ate whole arts (po­et­ry does­n't move me, Lyric Singing an­noys me). But I do have a taste, which is my own, al­though I un­der­stand it is not ex­act­ly good taste.

Now, what do I like?, or rather, why do I like it? Does it say some­thing about me?

I find that I don't like any form of art with­out in­trin­sic dif­fi­cul­ty. Or rather, that I en­joy more if it is some­what dif­fi­cult tech­ni­cal­ly.

For ex­am­ple, I know all the the­o­ry be­hind why this is sup­posed to be a great paint­ing:


Her­mann Nitsch's work draws par­al­lels be­tween re­li­gion and the rit­u­al­is­tic spir­i­tu­al­ism of cre­ativ­i­ty. Heav­i­ly en­trenched in an­cient phi­los­o­phy and a dis­si­den­t, ques­tion­ing Chris­tian the­ol­o­gy, he ac­tive­ly seeks cathar­sis through pain and com­pas­sion, a rig­or­ous­ly dis­ci­plined quest for ethe­re­al re­lease and en­light­en­ment through an em­brac­ing of pri­mal in­stinct and an­cient sacra­men­t.

Er­mm­m... I see most­ly a red blotch, which I sup­pose makes me a philis­tine.

On the oth­er hand, I see this, and I ac­tu­al­ly see a lot more that fits that de­scrip­tion:

I like In­gres more than Rothko, I like Rubens more than Pi­cas­so... maybe I am just old fash­ioned?

I think not. I think I de­spise those who de­cide to mas­ter a game with no rules, where you can de­clare your­self win­ner with­out con­trast­ing your­self to oth­er play­er­s. That's why we watch the foot­ball world cup and not oth­er games, be­cause it's damn hard and you have to do it with your feet. I think mod­ern paint­ing is tak­ing the ball in your hands and declar­ing your­self rev­o­lu­tion­ary.

This out­look, that hav­ing a good tech­nique, a do­main of a dif­fi­cult craft be­fore both­er­ing with art has some strange ef­fects in my life. I don't like the low hang­ing fruit. But then again, I am not re­al­ly tall enough or strong enough for the one that's on the hard to reach branch­es.

That leads to a life of al­most un­end­ing frus­tra­tion and yearn­ing, yet gives me lots of en­er­gy, and I think I have come to do some things I would­n't have done had I set­tled for eas­i­er pick­ings.

I have been work­ing for years on how to har­ness that thrust for my own ben­e­fit, and I am not too good at it yet. Maybe that's the tough­est craft I need to mas­ter, and I am work­ing on it.

debianuser / 2006-06-27 07:21:

i can totally agree with you. now if you like to know, why the first picture is to be considered "art", all you need to read is a book by the french sociologist pierre bourdieu, preferably his work "distinction". hard to read for non-sociologists but afterwards you'll know why you don't have to feel bad about not liking pollock and other stuff...

lippel / 2006-06-27 14:46:

Photorealistic painting might be a great skill and hard to do, but it doesn't make much sense these days: we have photography.While the blot is pointless to me as well, there are many pictures in between: more abstract than a photorealistic painting, but still with a motive.
That's the picture I find interesting (as in: I look at them longer than a minute, I am not an expert on visual art either)

> I think modern painting is taking
> the ball in your hands and
> declaring yourself revolutionary.

I see your point, but one could counter-argue that following old paths and solving the puzzles given by others centuries ago is boring, and one should define new rules and puzzles instead.
Realistic painting is a good example: Why should one optimize his skills in doing something everyone can do with a camera and some basic knowledge about photography? Just for the sake of doing something sophisticated and difficult? Isn't it better then to find new ways of painting?

Roberto Alsina / 2006-06-27 16:00:

Photorealistic painting? I never mentioned such a thing, but I can see where that comes from.

If you figure out how to create a new art, that's awesome. Cinema, for instance, is not painting. Photography is not painting. And I enjoy both.

But saying that because you can take pictures technique doesn't matter is at least annoying, because it leads **directly** to red blotches that need a two page description to be meaningful.

lippel / 2006-06-28 00:24:

> But saying that because you can
> take pictures technique doesn't
> matter is at least annoying,
> because it leads **directly** to
> red blotches that need a two page
> description to be meaningful.

I don't say having artistical skills is obsolete since we have photography, I just say that painting had to change, otherwise it would have become obsolete, at least in parts.
The blotches are nothing we need to discuss, to me it just looks like an over-interpreted graffiti of a three-year old as it does to you.
(Who knows, maybe in 50 years even philistines like us see a difference?). But considering Picasso, I am happy that Picasso created/heavily influenced new styles instead of sticking to the kind of ("realistic") painting he did in his youth. I guess he had a good technique even in the classical sense. But I like the later stuff more, no matter if it is "technically" harder or easier to do than the early works. (just my personal taste, as a philistine I can't give any "argument" here).

My argument is that creativity and innovation in arts, science, society, software, whatever, is often created by people conciously or unconciously breaking the existing "rules" you speak about. Of course the innovator usually has talent and isn't an unskilled amateur, but to create something new, you don't need to be the perfect craftsman with unmet technical skill. That doesn't mean people create something big all the time when breaking the rules. Maybe 99.99% they do not, and the result is even inferior to the "conventional" solution. But it's the 0.01% what it's all about.

However, I think your entry is more down-to-earth about whether us mortals should do something completely arbitrary and uncomparable to avoid competition, or choose the competitive path where rules exist to judge quality.
And then, the 99.99% are a strong argument for the latter.

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