Poll

Choose one.

True
0 (0%)
False
7 (100%)

Total Members Voted: 7

Author Topic: Art criticism/discussion should exist in a vacuum: True or False?  (Read 144 times)

AliceGuyBlache

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 233
  • Take my views with a few gallons of salt
    • The Alice Guy Blache Show
Research.

Before I get the jokey "taken literally" replies (get it cuz it's a vacuum cleaner), I mean vacuum as in:

Quote
In general speech the phrase is used to mean something that it is isolated from outside factors. E.g. saying that a book "does not exist in a vacuum" is sometimes used as a way of stating that the book in question is influenced by culture/society at large and not just the pure imaginations of the author and that must be taken into account when examining it.

Teproc

  • Elite Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2067
Re: Art criticism/discussion should exist in a vacuum: True or False?
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2018, 04:34:46 PM »
No... but I think there is value in looking at a film in a vacuum as well. I think there are two ways to discuss a film: for itself (which is the one literally anyone watching it is qualified for) and within its cultural context. That second one has nothing to do with appreciation though, and requires actual knowledge, which is why I tend towards the first one.

AliceGuyBlache

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 233
  • Take my views with a few gallons of salt
    • The Alice Guy Blache Show
Re: Art criticism/discussion should exist in a vacuum: True or False?
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2018, 04:37:52 PM »
No... but I think there is value in looking at a film in a vacuum as well. I think there are two ways to discuss a film: for itself (which is the one literally anyone watching it is qualified for) and within its cultural context. That second one has nothing to do with appreciation though, and requires actual knowledge, which is why I tend towards the first one.

Why do you believe the cultural context needs knowledge? Aren't we all part of culture? Furthermore, couldn't the knowledge you believe is required for cultural context be possibly endless?

Teproc

  • Elite Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2067
Re: Art criticism/discussion should exist in a vacuum: True or False?
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2018, 04:43:11 PM »
No... but I think there is value in looking at a film in a vacuum as well. I think there are two ways to discuss a film: for itself (which is the one literally anyone watching it is qualified for) and within its cultural context. That second one has nothing to do with appreciation though, and requires actual knowledge, which is why I tend towards the first one.

Why do you believe the cultural context needs knowledge? Aren't we all part of culture? Furthermore, couldn't the knowledge you believe is required for cultural context be possibly endless?

Well, yes. It requires knowledge of the cultural context... and no, we're not part of the same culture, all of us. Just look at Three Billboards: part of the discussion is centered around it being a foreigner's view of America, and how that informs what some argue (I haven't seen it yet) to be at the very least a tone-deaf vision of America.

But my point was geared more towards older films. Take Citizen Kane: if someone arguing it's their favorite film of all time is saying "it invented this and that", it seems to me that they are confusing the two approaches I described above. What it invented is irrelevant to the experience of watching it. It is, however, very relevant to any discussion of it as a piece of art history.

AliceGuyBlache

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 233
  • Take my views with a few gallons of salt
    • The Alice Guy Blache Show
Re: Art criticism/discussion should exist in a vacuum: True or False?
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2018, 04:57:53 PM »

Well, yes. It requires knowledge of the cultural context... and no, we're not part of the same culture, all of us. Just look at Three Billboards: part of the discussion is centered around it being a foreigner's view of America, and how that informs what some argue (I haven't seen it yet) to be at the very least a tone-deaf vision of America.


That discussion seems to be more about how Americans are represented as opposed to the points the film makes about culture. That one could also be an endless dissection (this is how he sees Americans versus his need to represent Americans accurately OR only people who live in small town X can make films about small town X, suggesting that filmmakers can only make films about their hometown). I would still say there's some globalized ideas of how societies/culture should be run, this is evidenced in the crossover cultural appeal to films by Ozu, Truffaut, or (Satyajit) Ray.


But my point was geared more towards older films. Take Citizen Kane: if someone arguing it's their favorite film of all time is saying "it invented this and that", it seems to me that they are confusing the two approaches I described above. What it invented is irrelevant to the experience of watching it. It is, however, very relevant to any discussion of it as a piece of art history.

Okay, before I say anything, I would like to specify that this discussion will split: one towards older films, one toward modern films. I say that for onlookers of the discussion. Let's not ignore the latter option. Okay, my response:

This seems to be a more stylistic approach than anything, which seems to be related more to how a film relates itself to film history aesthetics rather than culture as a whole. Perhaps my question should be more specific (or perhaps onlookers could follow the discussion to this thread where the discussion, I guess, has to pivot). Tasha made an important observation on MASH on THE NEXT PICTURE SHOW awhile back that the film is extremely dated because of its gender politics, which made for discussion if an older film can be judged by today's societal/cultural/moral standards. I think they should (hence the word "dated"). Do you agree with this assessment?

Teproc

  • Elite Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2067
Re: Art criticism/discussion should exist in a vacuum: True or False?
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2018, 05:22:28 PM »
I'm not sure what "they should" means here, I think you mean "they should judge it by today's standards" ? I wouldn't say that exactly, but I'd certainly say it's not in any way wrong to do so... any discussion is enhanced by knowledge of the context of the time, but that doesn't mean a film "gets a pass" because "it was the 70s man".

To put it another way, I think it's different to say "The way women are treated in MASH made me uncomfortable" and "MASH is a sexist film that exemplifies how the counterculture could be just as sexist if not more" (I think that's part of it right ? Still haven't seen that either). The first is a discussion of one's experience (entirely subjective), the second is a comment on the film's place in history and indeed on its morals. This is what I mean when I say there are two different ways to speak about a film (and both very valid).

The whole disccusion on "dated" on the Next Picture Show was a very interesting one that covers a lot of the same groun we're covering here. I think they end up undervaluing the subjective, personal reaction to a film - not in a vacuum because you bring your own cultural baggage to the film, but one that has nothing to do with the context the film was made in.

AliceGuyBlache

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 233
  • Take my views with a few gallons of salt
    • The Alice Guy Blache Show
Re: Art criticism/discussion should exist in a vacuum: True or False?
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2018, 06:11:23 PM »

To put it another way, I think it's different to say "The way women are treated in MASH made me uncomfortable" and "MASH is a sexist film that exemplifies how the counterculture could be just as sexist if not more" (I think that's part of it right ? Still haven't seen that either). The first is a discussion of one's experience (entirely subjective), the second is a comment on the film's place in history and indeed on its morals. This is what I mean when I say there are two different ways to speak about a film (and both very valid).


If someone would say immediately after viewing the film that the film made them uncomfortable and you didn't feel that way, do you think you should take their opinion into consideration in how you think/feel about a film? Or is your personal visceral reaction always going to be paramount? I apologize if this reply isn't as detailed as you would like, I feel like I could come back around on this point in a different way later.

Teproc

  • Elite Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2067
Re: Art criticism/discussion should exist in a vacuum: True or False?
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2018, 06:23:35 PM »

To put it another way, I think it's different to say "The way women are treated in MASH made me uncomfortable" and "MASH is a sexist film that exemplifies how the counterculture could be just as sexist if not more" (I think that's part of it right ? Still haven't seen that either). The first is a discussion of one's experience (entirely subjective), the second is a comment on the film's place in history and indeed on its morals. This is what I mean when I say there are two different ways to speak about a film (and both very valid).


If someone would say immediately after viewing the film that the film made them uncomfortable and you didn't feel that way, do you think you should take their opinion into consideration in how you think/feel about a film? Or is your personal visceral reaction always going to be paramount? I apologize if this reply isn't as detailed as you would like, I feel like I could come back around on this point in a different way later.

Sure I would. It would make me question it, absolutely. I recently had a discussion with my sister about Dunkirk, and how she was bothered by how the action was presented, how it was actually quite incoherent etc. Not exactly what we're talking about because it has nothing to do with morality, but I will have it all in mind when I rewatch it, and in the meantime it does make me just slightly more skeptical of the film than I was before.

I do think one's personal reaction is sacrosanct in a way, but I don't think it's fixed in time, unaffected by anything else. To stay on the Dunkirk example: I didn't notice most of the things she was talking about, and in a way I think that if I didn't notice them, they don't matter to me, and that she only noticed them because she just wasn't as engaged by the film as I was... but that doesn't make them irrelevant at all, even if I never end up rewatching the film.

valmz

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 305
Re: Art criticism/discussion should exist in a vacuum: True or False?
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2018, 06:55:46 PM »
Taking criticism to refer to close analysis, it borders on ridiculous to say that all art should be evaluated without respect to the real world, since art can reference the real world and therefore is incoherent without reference to the real world.

A more relevant question, then, is, "Is there a context where art criticism is useful without respect to the real world?" The answer to this question seems pretty obvious to me, as well: If the point of criticism is to understand and gain value from art, then if considering it without respect to the real world aids in this pursuit it seems silly to exclude it. I can't think of any reasonable argument for a universal exclusion, anyway.

A third question might be: "If there are two extremely contrasting views of a piece of art, depending on which context you consider it, is one of them preferable to the other?" This question is more complex, but I think the best preference is to think of art criticism as additive, and since neither is coherent stripped of its context then it need not be considered independent of its context. "X means Y in y context, X means Z in z context, but to say B means Y in z context is incoherent." That seems to make sense as a general rule. This is pretty abstract, though, and maybe not all that illustrative.

In general, though, being that criticism is essentially just knowledge and understanding of a subjective work, I don't think that there's any context that should be excluded. One context can certainly be deemed more meaningful or interesting by an individual, and that can differ, but such is subjectivity. Criticism and valuation are two entirely different things.

1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 28397
  • Marathon Man
Re: Art criticism/discussion should exist in a vacuum: True or False?
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2018, 09:12:43 PM »
Among my Essentials is Dixie (1943) starring Bing Crosby. It's a biopic about Daniel Decatur Emmett, an American songwriter, entertainer, and founder of the blackface minstrel tradition. Like it or not, blackface was one of the most popular forms of entertainment well into the 1940s. What elevates Dixie to art is the presentation of minstrel shows without modern hindsight. It presents it like it was and does it as a form of light, popcorn entertainment.

Is the film morally objectionable? Most certainly by todays standards. Does it mean Bing Crosby is a racist? Absolutely not. Am I a racist for liking the film? I'd hope you don't think that just like I hope you don't look down on me for liking Holiday Inn, which has one of the most uncomfortable blackface scenes in cinema history.

Bing Crosby got to remake Holiday Inn without the blackface, but that alone doesn't make White Christmas a superior film. Bing couldn't get Fred Astaire back for White Christmas, so he settled for Danny Kaye. That's such a big drop in quality that even blackface can't keep Holiday Inn from being the superior film. And I hope you don't think I'm racist for saying that.