art qua art

or why everyone else is wrong
or the adefiniton of art

Several years ago I was had an interesting discussion about what exactly IS art. The members of this discussion included a DMin, a working painter, an accomplished classical musician, an accountant, a multi-post-graduate degreed film expert, some jackass from Ireland, and me. Unfortunately, the idea and backgrounds of this group of individuals was far more interesting than anythign that was said. In fact, I left the conversation CONVINCED that art did not exist – mostly in reaction the DMin’s insistence that Jonathon Edwards was right in saying that “anythign that points to or reminds one of God is art.” Thank you Incredibles making this point so damn clear – if everything is art, nothing is art.

So, I’ve been musing and shaping my definition of art for the last 6 years. But, before I educate, inform, and entertain, let me say this: theology does NOT have the right, priveleage, or pleasure of defining art. Feel free to have a theology of “art” – but don’t try to define it – in the same way we don’t let scientists use the scientific method to define “love”.

Rewind to late 90’s. I’m sitting in a sculpture class during a critique with guest artist/instructore from NYC, Terry Atkins. One of my fellow students grabbed a piece of bent metal siding, hung it on th wall, and stood back. After several students commented ont eh beautiful form and shape of the bent and rippled piece of metal, the presenting “artist” admitted that he had just found it on the side of the road and then hung it on the wall. So, I asked, “well, then, yer not the artist – nature, the elements, and history are the aritsts which have worked on this piece of metal to make it what it is.” The class did not like this.And, I decided to become a designer (where good and bad, or success or failure is measurable based on communication goals).

The next thign we need to do, agree on the common misconceptions we hold deeply about art. And, trust me, I’m right about this:

1. “art” is value statement
“Reservoir Dogs is reallllly damn good, but Apocaluypse Now – man, now THAT is art.” No creation hold more or less value because it is or is not “art”.

2. “art” is simply or complexly objective and/or empirical
“Thomas Kincaid is an artist, everyone agrees.” Art can not be empirically agreed upon – or we wouldn’t be blogging about it.

3. “art” is subjective
“That record reallllly moves me, it’ such an amazing piece of art.” No, your reaction and/or feeling has nothign to d with defining a creation as or as not “art”.

Art: Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.

Now, if you weak/strong minded philosopher/theologians are ready to have an artist break it down for ya, keep reading…

Art is masterbation: it is the expression of self FOR self. It is a creative act entered into simply to enjoy the act of creation. Art exists outside of the observer AND the creator. Art becomes the “third”.

Expression for any other reason than the satisfaction of the one’s need for creation is very simply defined as something other than art: pop music, interior design, graphic design, light reading, entertainment, etc. We get deep in the mire when we suddenly “feel” something based on our interaction with one of these other of communciation and want to protect our experience/feeling.

Pulp Fiction (which I adore, btw) holds some very powerful truths and metaphors. Our experience of those do not elevate it to “art”. Once again, our experience does not chang ewhat it is. And, calling it “art” does not give it more or less value. The movie kicks fuckin ass – but it is a movie which was created to entertain (and make Q a lot of money).

Any desired communication negates the work as “art”. I LIKE this, it’s why I am a designer, not a sculptor today. I LIKE communicating ideas. When I feel like simply “creating” I paint. The painting may have meaning (to me) but if it is created with the express intent to communicate an idea or feeling it is graphic design created with paint and canvas instead of mouse and monitor.

But, Jim, you say, we can’t get inside the artist’s mind and determine if their intent was pure, whole, or unblemished in order to define every created thing as “art” or “not art”, you say. To you, I say: Exactly. Now, stop worrying so much about what is or isn’t art and trust me as the ultimate expert.

Final Analysis: Art is important and we wrestle with the idea of it becuase, ultimately, it is community/relationship. It is the visual experience of the Imago Dei. THIS is why it is so important, etheral, concrete, and exhilirating. If a self’s representation of that self’s feeling, thought, or self touches another’s self, the second self feels a universal connection to other, beauty, idea, abstraction. An experience of art is an interaction with an other that transcends the self and the other.

PS: Yes, I know I used all three misconceptions in my response to the misconceptions. It’s called irony (pointing at you, brannon).


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  1. one more thing… michelangelo was not an artist… a high paid, very talented production artist for the pope, yes. artist, no.

  2. Okay, these are the things I do agree with: 1) art is not constituted by the intention of the artist, 2) art is not constituted by the experience/feeling of the observer, 3) art cannot be objectively/empirically qualified, and 4) art isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) a value statement.

    If this holds, though, you cannot say, “so-and-so is not an artist because ______” (“I don’t like their art.” – “They make too much money.” – “They’re tryin’ too hard to communicate a point.”) You can say that the “meaning” or “truth” of a work of art isn’t bound to or limited by what the artist intends to convey, but you can’t say that to have that in mind in creating the art negates it as art or else your whole argument falls apart – i.e. “it’s not about the artist him/her-self.”

    You say it yourself: “Art is masturbation: it is the expression of self FOR self. It is a creative act entered into simply to enjoy the act of creation. Art exists outside of the observer AND the creator. Art becomes the “third.” – the problem is that you are conflating the act of creation and the artefact itself, which you yourself say becomes something else beyond both artist and observer. I might agree that the act of artistic creation is masturbatory – i.e. the artist, if it is truly art, isn’t doing it for the purpose of ‘changing the world’ or any such rosy, utopian ideal, but simply for the sake of creation itself. And this is where I think it is impossible to talk about human creativity apart from Divine creativity, and how we as creatures created in the image of a creative Creator participate in the life of our Creator when we create, however feebly and frail-ly we do so. God creates because it is the nature of the Creator to create, without end – God loves because God is Love and it is the nature of Love to endlessly pour out Love. Of course we can never quite do this like God does it, but if we are the imago dei, called to live imitatio Christi, then we are by nature artists – God is the Grand Artiste, and we are les petits artistes.

    But wait a minute…I agree with your final analysis in toto. What’s going on here? Are you just being ironic that we should just stop worrying about it? Or are you being ironic about being the ultimate expert? Or about your definition of art? Or about being ironic? Or am I being ironic?

    Certainly you are wrong, though, about Michelangelo. Again, exterior conditions are irrelevant to the qualification of Art. (This becomes a sort of definition by negation, à la Aquinas, doesn’t it? Perhaps we can’t say/know/qualify what Art is but can only say what it is not.)

    Bring it… 🙂

  3. Very random thoughts here:

    If art is masturbation why are you linking it with creativity? Onanism is decidedly not creative; just self-centered. I think the Catholic church has a lot to say about this.

    If commissioned art is not art, that disqualifies a whole lot of art out there; actually most of the stuff done for about a thousand years in Europe. Not to mention primitive art because most of that had a functional nature. Not to mention all music that’s been written with the intent performing or recording.

    I think reducing art to self expression really reduces art to art-therapy. The closest def. I can come to regarding art is that it does touch a universal; probably not for all people but for a lot of people. There is something in art that is accessible for at least one other person out there.

    What happens if you change Webster’s definition from “Nature” to “God”? I don’t think a theist can ever be happy to use the word nature in any important conversation.

    What is really odd though Jim is that you contend that art must be accidental. If someone sets out with an intent, a vision, a message, an idea…then that disqualifies it. Art becomes a kind of gnosis of one…or maybe solipsism.

    I agree with you Brandon regarding the via negativa; esp. because that approach is not meant to be skeptical but rather humble. When we approach Creation, creation, creating, and art humbly we become much more discerning.

    Sensei, would you invite sister Wendy to this conversation?

  4. Matt… I would invite Sister Wendy to any and all TKF dojo activities…

    Back to JWS’s post and the string developing here:

    I concure whole heartedly with Brannon’s corrective that ‘art is not constituted by the intention of the artist’ and ‘art is not a value statement’

    I am not sure Jimmy why you see theology as trying to ring fence a definition of ‘art’ separate from other areas of human reflection… as a theologian qua ‘theoblogian’… I dont see theology even attempting that. Theology has as its task ‘thinking about the nature of God’ and certainly ‘art’ is part of that reflection (both as a tool and as a methodology…but I digress)

    I would suggest, rather strongly, that ‘true art’ is always a form of erasure – it eliminates category and subject completely and leaves only the trace of ourselves – we are ‘removed’ from ourselves and dwell only for and with beauty grafted to the divine.

    I will never forget the first ‘true art’ experience I have as an adult. It was seeing “Night Watch” in Amsterdam – it was that move out of body and out of time – I stared at the painting for a full 5 minutes without thinking about myself ‘thinking’ about it… I was ‘lost’ in wonder. In this way, I believe that true art ‘kills’ the self and defeats times hold – we are still and in motion at the same time.

    I dont agree that ‘art becomes a third’ – I dont think ‘true art’ has to conform to a category of being any more than God does (ie. Jean Luc Marion’s argument for a God without Being given God is metacategorical) and certainly is not a sentient ‘other’ that I am ethically responsible for in any way… perhaps more on this Jimmy would be helpful

  5. i replied this last night, but in my tiredness, it did not “get posted”…

    SO, some clarifications:

    1. let’s not synonymize “art” and “creation/creativity”. If we do, then merely thinkking and typing this is “art’, and all existence is art, so art no longer exists.

    2. let’s not confuse “communication” with “purpose”, “meaning”, or “intent”.
    Communication, by definition, requires 2 parties: the speaker and the listenner. Whereas, purpose, meaning, and intent can take place with an individual selff in a vaccuum. I would never say art is accidental.

    3. brannon:
    If this holds, though, you cannot say, “so-and-so is not an artist because ______” (“I don’t like their art.” – “They make too much money.” – “They’re tryin’ too hard to communicate a point.”) You can say that the “meaning” or “truth” of a work of art isn’t bound to or limited
    This is exactly what i am NOT saying. I would however, say:
    A. Thomas Kincaid paints the same damn bridge over and over and over – any creativity or expression that was originally there is now long gone.
    B. They made a killing off that record, they really know how to deliver what people want. And, that is not to say there isn’t some great musicianship on the album.
    C. That visual communicates the designer’s message very clearly to such a large audience.

    On to the irony: the irony is that the only way to define art is in the exact way we agree it can’t be defined: subjectively AND objectively.

    Commissioned work: I never said that commissioned work could not be art. However there is MAJOR distinction between:
    A. Michelangelo, here’s $1,000, could you paint a picture about God reaching down to man for me?
    B. Michelangelo, here’s $1,000 to paint a picture, I can’t wait to see what you want.

    Michelangelo’s function was to communicate theological notions through visual means so the masses could understand and appreciate.

    Truth, truth, truth… FORGET “truth” and toss “true art” right out the fuckin window. UNLESS, you want make a definitive quality of art “expressing truth”, but that is just absurd. You can certainly experience truth through art, but they are not synonymous.

  6. on to the sensei…

    “I am not sure Jimmy why you see theology as trying to ring fence a definition of ‘art’ separate from other areas of human reflection”

    I didn’t know I did. What did I say that suggested that? I’m seperating art from theology so that we can begin to discuss art and theology.

    And, I think our notions of “erasure” and “the third” are the same, just expressed differently. Or, at the very least, they are DAMN similiar in that in the end, the art remains and neither the viewer nor the creator matter.

  7. “allow me to retort…”

    I would argue (and have on many occasion) that ‘theology’ qua theology doesnt exist… theology is a symbotic, at time parasitic, discipline in the human sciences. To use DJ jargon – theology is a ‘mash up’spin. In that respect, while I understand your desire to create an objective distancing of ‘art’ and ‘theology’… in the end the categories are just plain false. Hence my questioning of your statement “I’m seperating art from theology so that we can begin to discuss art and theology.” In this regard I suppose I am resting on the notion that art *and* theology (reflection upon practice if you will)are Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon in the epic tale of human levity and tragic hope…”Stuck on You” – goofy brothers stuck forever at the hip desperately trying to (1) pretend like the other isnt there, and (2) always trying to score on the same chicks…

  8. jimmy, you did say: “theology does NOT have the right, priveleage, or pleasure of defining art. Feel free to have a theology of “art” – but don’t try to define it.” this does sound as though you see theology as “encroaching” on art’s turf.

    while i’m not completely comfortable with jfk’s formulation of theology as a purely parasitic discipline (or at least that that’s all there is to it – but this might be a reduction of what you’re saying, jeff, so forgive me), i am quite happy with the understanding of theology as reflection on all aspects of human experience and praxis, including the creative and including art. theology can comment on art – it cannot define it – that’s not it’s job – it can’t adjudge what is and what isn’t art – but it can point to the ways in which art expresses truth, lends meaning, gets at the essence of our being…and so on.

    likewise art can, and does, comment on theology – enlightens it, corrects it at times (many times), reflects it…perhaps this is what you mean, jeff – that the relationship is symbiotic (I guess w/ my work on MCT, seeing a/theology as theology’s parasite, i’m uneasy w/ seeing theology as a parasite on other disciplines – I want a more mutually-beneficial relationship of constructive critique).

    I, too, fail to see the easy categories, or the dualism. I’m really trying to get a handle on your take on this, jimmy, but i still need some help. However, this is, let me say, some great dialogue, and we should keep it going. we may, in the end, not accept each other’s position on the question of “art”, and this may, in fact, be the truth of the matter.

  9. thank you for reining me in, brannon. I kinda forgot I said that, and your exposition on the thought clarified it to its original intent.

    Theology doesn’t get to define art – nor does it get to define science, philosophy, mathematics, etc, etc.

    Theology relates with and to art, but art is not surrogate to theology.

    Why bother with this? As “art in worship” becomes hipper and hipper, we (the church) need to relaize that art is not our red headed step child that we get to knock around the block whenever we feel like it. If we (the church and theologians) want to meaningful interactions around art in our worship and theology, we need to let art be art, first and foremost.

    Clear as mud?

  10. yeah, i hear ya and it’s a bit clearer than mud, and i think i’m down with where you’re coming from. i, too, get frustrated with the Church’s co-opting of artistic, musical, social forms, especially when it’s done without the proper amount of respect to the forms in themselves, and even more so when it’s just a part of some lame “trend” in worship. but at the same time, we’re kinda stuck (in this discussion thread, and in the worship of our churches) in the ever-present tension between iconophilia and iconoclasm that is part and parcel of Xnty. i don’t think it should be so, but historically, we see this played out over and over.

    so, we can reject the Church’s appropriation of art, or theology’s declaration of it’s sovereignty over art, but we have to at the same time acknowledge that art has always been employed by Christianity to direct people’s attention (gaze) beyond the material world toward God.

    In God Without Being Jean-Luc Marion (his name sure is getting kicked around a lot on TKF!) distinguishes between the “idol” which freezes our gaze on itself as the object of worship/desire (e.g. all i see is this golden calf, and it is my god) and the “icon” which deflects our gaze, points it past itself and toward what is absent in it, what lies beyond it.

    I’m not quite sure how to tie this in with our “art qua art” discussion – it strikes me that any work of art (again, intentionality of the artist is irrelevant) could function as either idol or icon. and, considering the “industry” behind the production of icons, i imagine you (jimmy) being uneasy with considering icons, at least of the ecclesial variety, whether we’re talking about syrupy, sunday-school pictures of the handsome, fair-skinned Jesus, w/ flowing brown locks and a nicely-trimmed beard, walking on water or being baptized by an equally cleaned-up John the Baptist, or the gilded, almost proto-surrealist icons of the orthdox tradition, or renaissance religious paintings, or the stations of the cross, or whatever. (sorry, that was a really long sentence.)

    any further thoughts?

  11. soooo, many more thoughts… first and foremost when are we gonna get some DIFFERENT definitions of art?

    am i the only one anti-manly enough to actually bust out a definition and stand by it?

    and, brannon, i hear where yer comin from and where yer goin… but, this is why and where the theology/art symbiosis has to break down… icons/idols.. what about abstract art? What about deeply disturbing UGLY paintings of human pain and abandonment?

    When is art in worship – or as I am now calling it “visual worship” because i am more interested in the worship then whether or nto the tool can qualify as art – going to move past obvious and theocentric imagery to engage our souls in new ways?

  12. Sensei – I like your definition way more than “art is masturbation.”

    Jimmy, I think you are asking all of the right questions; I’m just afraid that you are limiting your possible answers by making such grand and broad-sweeping statements.

    What about abstract art? Well, maybe abstract art represents, in a way, some of the most “sacred” art. Abstract art embodies something like the experience of the Divine in the way that it “disarms” my ability to speak definitively about what it “represents” or what it “means,” and thereby might exemplify what art (even “sacred” art) should be about. (Jeff will notice my David J. influence coming through here – e.g. his work on Pollack, Rothko and co.) Abstract (or non-representational) art grabs me, unsettles me, literally incapacitates me, and I am left with no appropriate response but awe-ful quietude. At this moment, my tendency to ask what this work “means” or what it “represents” is useless – it is to get the question wrong – and the only question worth asking is “what is this doing?” What it is doing is dismantling me as interpreter of any essentialist category of “meaning” or “being,” and thereby calling me, commanding me, to fall silent, reverentially silent. (I could and would apply equally to disturbing images, say Serrano’s “Piss Christ” – it may not be “beautiful” and, for most, it may evoke more disgust and anger than awe, but it still forces us into a position wherein we are unable to talk about what it “means” but only what it “does,” which is: unsettle our certainties about what is or isn’t art.)

    Now, I’m not (necessarily) suggesting that such abstract art brings about such an encounter with the Divine. Rather, as such a full-on encounter is impossible in the here-and-now “without somehow destroying me in the process” (to quote Buechner), art incarnates a similar sort of experience and demonstrates what an encounter with the Divine might be like – which is precisely what an icon (but not an idol) does: it directs my gaze beyond itself toward that which it does not and cannot contain within its frame; it points me beyond toward an absence that leaves me without words or knowledge and only with an inarticulable impression that exposes my own inadequacy, my own lack, as a viewer/interpreter. It doesn’t bring to light what I know but only what I don’t know, some ineffable that I cannot quite describe or understand.

    SO…and even now I speculate as to what jimmy’s response to this will be, but here goes…I might say something like:

    Art is that which, in ways large or small, destroys me upon my encounter with it – it is that which strips me of any words with which to discuss what it “means” or “represents,” and leaves me with only a profound sense of lack. Art dismantles my certainty, of myself as much as anything else, and simultaneously points me toward something beyond me and beyond it, and in doing so inspires faith.

    There you have it. And I’ll stand by it. I think theorizing about art in ways like this (or just flat-out creating art that does this) is precisely what we need to “move past obvious and theocentric imagery to engage our souls in new ways.” But we also have to be prepared to help people learn how to “see anew.”

    P.S. Just because it’s worth quoting in full, here’s that entire Frederick Buechner quote that I refer to above: “Not the least of my problems is that I can hardly even imagine what kind of an experience a genuine, self-authenticating religious experience would be. Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me.”

  13. YESTERDAY morning, I wrote a fairly scathing reply to the idea of “faith incarnate”. Thankfully, Thelonioius made a huge mess in the bathroom and I had to go clean it up. Giving me time to reflect (and herangue the sensei for clarification). I also had the chance to speak with mattinballard about the same topic. Then, this morning, I read another of jfk’s posts which convicted me of my current “polemic stroking” stance.

    First, what i appreciate about “art as faith incarnate”… The implication is the act of creating is an act of faith – entering itno the unknown, assured that something valuable or worthy will be reached – maybe not ont he other end, but at the very least, through the journey. I know many will disagree, but, seperating a completed piece of art from the creative process is dangerous ground – and results in the determinant “art factor” beign the quality of the finished piece.

    At the same time, we need to steer clear of over-romanticizing art, the artist, and the process.

    The symbolic references we make in out posts are always to pollock, or michelangelo, or van gogh. I tempted to say let’s throw those knuckleheads out – they skew the discussion and they always lead to a “art is a value statement” front.
    They are the one in the million who possess genius. What about the other 4 million artists who aren’t genius, famous, or even very good?

    Art and Craft are not synonymous – that’s why they are two different words.

    I’m willing to broaden my definition. This is NOT complete or finished, but a new beginning (do I sound like a recovering addict?)…

    Art is the fullness of process realized in completion; created by the self who is driven to create from their own desire and no external force; in the belief and hope that something “other” can come from nothing (jfk can fill that out, change it around – but keep it faith incarnate oriented and not all “a peopel of faith searching for God” oriented).

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it…

  14. “Leci n’est pas une pipe?” So *now* you will evoke Margritte’s “Trechary of Images” in addition to Pollock, et. al.?! (btw – the quote on the painting is “*Ceci* n’est pas une pipe” unless you really did mean that someone named Leci is not a pipe… 🙂 Methinks someone has been listening to a paper on Amos and Margritte lately…roooight…

    Back to Jimmy’s point and furthering of the discussion… I am not sure I am settled with your definition of Art as “the fullness of process realized in completion; created by the self who is driven to create from their own desire and no external force” for a couple of reasons. (1) I dont think authentic art is ever ‘completed’ – that has a terminal nature to it that speaks of essential or foundational understandings/readings/viewings of art – “i.e. the meaning of Jean-Michael Basquiat’s paintings are found in his reading of comic books” or “Keith Haring’s art is a reaction to homophobia in America”.

    To say a work is “completed” cuts it off from interpretation and its ability to continue ‘being art’ as an opening or ‘lichtung’ (clearing; lighting) for generations to come. The response might be “Heck sensei, you are talking about *interpretation* of art – not the work in and off itself!” True, but I am showing my cards here as a reader-response guy and assert that art is only ‘completed’ in the viewing and reflection upon that viewing in lived experience and there never completed… but continually ‘remembered’ in a Eucharistic fashion – art is not art unless it is experienced, consumed and part of our lives fully. (It is here where I do my Michael Flatley “Riverdance” around Heidegger’s “The Origin of the Work of Art” with Scorpian’s “Rock Me Like a Hurricane” blasting in the background – the essay just nails it in regard to Art as a ‘clearing/lichtung’ for true being – dasein – where loss of self and discovery of self merge)

    For example, in this regard, I dont see large desert earthworks that ‘artists’ create then blow up with dynamite so no one can experience it as being ‘art’. This then circles back to my notion of art as ‘faith incarnate’ – ‘faith’ in regard to the Kierkegaardian ‘leap of faith’ that has ‘risk’ (hello MCT…) has the primary aspect and not predicability nor direct consumer correspondence (ie. I dont create art for order – I creat art because I need to, am driven to, etc) and ‘incarnate’ in the sense that we can ‘sense’ and experience the work in our lived experience and not merely idealised/reasoned (back to Jimmy’s distain of Spock and his Vulcan kind…)

    as for smoking pipes…

  15. but this is…

    I’m siding with JFK on the incompletion thing. Again, if the intentions of the artist ultimately do not qualify it as art, “completion” is a moot point. Only the creator can say “okay, this is complete,” but we’ve (somewhat) concurred that the creator is not creating ex nihilo but more siphoning-off of some Divine creative force, and therefore, an artists opinion about when a work of art is “complete” may well determine when it is being released, but that doesn’t mean it’s complete. I’m going with Stanley Fish and co. on this one too (just read Self-Consuming Artifacts, by the way, sensei, per DJ’s recommendation), and even Ricoeur, I guess, and saying that the consummation of art is in an event – not an interpretive or critical event, but in something more like worship, as has been suggested – something sacramental, that unsettles and transforms us (which also unsettles and transforms the work itself).

    As John Caputo is here in Glasgow lecturing, I’m “thinking through” some of his work as well right now (so much like MCTaylor in some ways) – something came out of our seminar today that is relevant here. Caputo describes “the Religious” as the human passion for the impossible. But he also likens this to art, saying (and writing in at least one place) that “being religious” is on par with “being artistic” or “being political”. I pushed him on this a bit (e.g. “if they’re basically the same ‘modes’, what do you say to the one who is sick of religion, but has simply invested herself in art or politics instead?”), and he said that what he means by placing these things on par with each other is that they are an “irreducible feature of human existence – to be without them would to be less than human.” I think he’s on to something here – he says they are irreducible (in an kind of Derridean, “undeconstructable” sense) because of the way that they tend to “bleed over” into each other (good art imagery), into everything – i.e. the Religious shows up everywhere, even where we least expect it (or especially for MCTaylor), as does the Political and the Artistic/Aesthetic. Interestingly, we pressed on a bit more, and I actually (I think) got him to concede that the Religious is in a certain sense the most fundamental of these irreducible features. That is, Religion is most prone to bleed over into everything else in a way that Politics or Art aren’t quite – Art passing itself off as apolitical or areligious, or Politics trying to shield itself from Religion. The way these differ, he thinks (and methinks), is in the modes or practices by which we participate in them – or put otherwise, they differ as techne (making) differs from praxis (doing) – or poesis, I’d add (he didn’t).

    I’m not sure where that leaves me, but I did think of this discussion thread during the seminar today and wanted to toss this out…still kind of working through it myself.

    Oh, and no, no papers given on Magritte lately – I actually was browsing at Waterstones today and saw the Foucault book (hadn’t seen it before, thought it was a clever title/cover, looked interesting, not worth £12, etc), but I was apparently in error in recalling the phrase and didn’t bother double checking – not that it was even relevant. so my apologies; I wasn’t being pretentious, it was just the first thing that came to mind after I read jimmy’s final quip. hey, at least I gave our noble sensei a chance to show off the sheer breadth of his (as we say in the South) “book-larnin’.”

  16. My bad, Brannon – didnt mean to be playin’ “gotcha” on the Margritte Leci/Ceci thing… just thought it was fun given the earlier argument against name checking… my French is only sufficient to order a glass of Pinot… if that.. so mea culpa

    Question in relation to Caputo’s definition of the “religious” as “the human passion for the impossible” – why the need to frame things in categories of possible/impossible? This seems to be the phrase d’jour in talking about that which cannot be said… just interested in your thoughts here. I really like your thoughts on this relating back to Caputo’s lecture/seminar – helpful

  17. the thing I hate about blogs?

    Saying something “in passing” that turns into a major deal but had little or no impact on the gerneal gist.

    “Art is the fullness of process realized in completion”

    The creative process I would argue, does come to completion in an eschatological kinda way (I guess, maybe teleological, but whot he fuck really cares). When Chuck Close sells a painting and it begins hanging on someone else’s wall, HIS creative process has been completed. The completion is SIMPLY saying “here it is”.

    Call it completion fot he artist’s process, not the completion fo the work of art, if you must.

    I concur… the piece must be viewable, or viewed by someone to enter intothe realm of art. Goes back to jfk’s “erasure” (i love that band) and my “third”. And, bringing in Brannon’s “does vs is” – art does something to the viewer and the creator that becomes simultaneously greater than and less than the individuals.

    blah blah blah… i kinda think arguing was more fun.

    Have we finished with this? Will you two EVER just concede and admit I was correct all along and art does, and always will begin as an act of creative of masterbation?

  18. Okay, I will concede that as soon as we start spelling masturbation correctly. 😉

    Jeff – yeah, re: possible/impossible…I guess it has become a bit cliche (is that what you mean?), but I do think it is useful, and it seems to be within a certain tradition. I don’t care if we frame it as (im)possible (as I transcribed it in the final sentence of my MTh), or the (un)known, (un)sayable, (in)effable – I think these are all helpful ways of trying to talk about that which we cannot definitively talk about (without doing violence). The possible/impossible thing I just always take as a nod to Aristotle.

    Another tidbit from Caputo that I like – he constrasts the Religious life with the Mundane life. He said, “what is a person who isn’t Religious, who doesn’t have any desire for the Impossible? well, a DUD – a thoughtless, boring person with a sad, pedestrian life.” (I paraphrase.) He likes “mundane” because it has “mundus” in it (world), but implies a pure “this-worldliness” that has no time to be wasted (again, the notion of “excess” in the Religious is a key) on religious thoughts – dreams, yearnings, visions, prophecies, etc. I think that’s a good distinction, another useful one. He actually invokes Tillich on this, the idea of “ultimate concern” but with a deconstructive twist, e.g. we never finally know what our ultimate concern is – more of an impression than a certainty.

  19. “Why should the devil have all the good music?” – Larry Norman

    “To hell with the devil.” – Stryper

    “Devil with the blue dress.” – Mitch Ryder

    “The devil inside, the devil inside…every single one of us the devil inside.” – INXS

    “Devil’s food! Devil’s food! Devil’s food!” – Alice Cooper

    “And everywhere I look there’s a devil waiting…got a devil’s haircut in my mind.” – Beck

    “She’s just a devil woman with evil on her mind…beware the devil woman, she’s gonna get you from behind.” – Cliff Richard

    “Devil digger – unbeliever. Devil digger – unforgiver.” – Judas Priest

    “Devil, devil, devil in my lunchbox. There’s a devil in my lunchbox!” – Marilyn Manson

    “There’s a devil in the bottle, staring straight at me…there’s a devil in a bottle that just won’t let me be.” – Lynyrd Skynyrd

    “Ain’t no mistakin’, my body’s shakin’. My soul’s been taken by a devil with a new disguise. – Aerosmith

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