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Does Rand's Aesthetics Differ from Soviet "Art"?

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My impression from reading Ayn Rand on art was that I would be as unmoved by what she finds aesthetically proper as what the Soviet's commissioned as "art". That is, if I understand correctly, Rand believed art must be "heroic". This reminds me of Soviet statues. Or of Maoist plays where the hero must be a worker, peasant or solider. For my part, I particularly love the anti-hero movies of the 1970s, such as Taxi Driver, Godfather and the like. I doubt very much Rand herself would like these. Must you hate them to be a "true" Objectivist?

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The Romantic Manifesto and the works of Victor Hugo are a good place to go if you want to understand her ideas about writing and her style. I think the closest thing outside of literature that I can find to Ayn Rand's works is Law and Order, due to the focus on ideas and ethics in the show. I don't understand where you get the propaganda connection.

Edited by Hairnet

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For my part, I particularly love the anti-hero movies of the 1970s, such as Taxi Driver, Godfather and the like. I doubt very much Rand herself would like these. Must you hate them to be a "true" Objectivist?
I vaguely remember Rand making some positive comment about "The Godfather". She did almost do a deal with the director of "The Godfather" to do "Atlas Shrugged".

Anyhow, there's definitely no implication that liking certain art makes you less Objectivist.

There are quite a few threads on this, including many in which you'll find people who are pretty familiar with Rand's works argue that she did in fact have very restrictive views on what type of art was compatible with good psychology (perhaps even good ethics). So, try searching the relevant sub-forums for both sides of the argument.

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@hairnet, thanks for the reference to the Romantic Manifesto, I will certainly look it up. My impressions of Rand's views on art are based on very limited references in Atlas Shrugged and the Value of Selfishness.

@softwareNerd, I am glad to hear I am not too far offbase, given your comment about Rand's "restrictive views". Can you give me any suggestions of keywords to search for the type of threads you refer to? I thought about it before posting, but came up dry.

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After my last post, I came up with two keyword searches: Romantic Manifesto and Heroic. Found some good stuff. I was particularly interested in this post: http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=22430&#entry281687 where Johnathan13 explains how his painting based on a paint splatter satisfies Rand's aesthetic criteria, including the "heroic" criterion I referred to in my OP. If one agrees that he has properly applied Rand's criteria (which I am inclined to do even as I seriously wonder Rand herself would have), then I am satisfied that Randian aesthetics is quite different from the authoritarian Soviet approach to art.

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If one agrees that he has properly applied Rand's criteria (which I am inclined to do even as I seriously wonder Rand herself would have)

If the author didn't apply a principle she formulated the way you did, then there are only two options:

1. you're wrong

2. the principle is useless

The notion that someone came up with a good principle that she doesn't understand is preposterous. If Jonathan wants his own aesthetics, he should come up with it, not misuse Rand's in ways she didn't mean it.

Edited by Nicky

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@softwareNerd, I am glad to hear I am not too far offbase, given your comment about Rand's "restrictive views". Can you give me any suggestions of keywords to search for the type of threads you refer to? I thought about it before posting, but came up dry.

Well, it is pretty offbase, but it is also a common misconception.

Re Search: I suppose things like "Romantic Art" in the Google box (bottom-right) would pull up some threads. Jonathan13 usually jumps in to threads like that, so you might add his name to the search criteria. he fights his mostly lone but tireless battle for his interpretation of Rand's aesthetics, which most other posters disagree with. The real source to go to is "The Romantic Manifesto".

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Jonathan13 usually jumps in to threads like that, so you might add his name to the search criteria. he fights his mostly lone but tireless battle for his interpretation of Rand's aesthetics, which most other posters disagree with. The real source to go to is "The Romantic Manifesto".

I think that SoftwareNerd is correct that most other posters disagree with my views of Rand's aesthetics, and, since this is an Objectivist site full of Objectivists, I think that's alarming. I think it reveals how little most Objectivists know about Rand's actual views on aesthetics, how willing they are to misrepresent Objectivism, and how hard they cling to mistaken views when clearly shown to be wrong.

Here's an example of softwareNerd disagreeing with my presentation of Rand's views. Read it and the next few posts that follow it, then read the The Romantic Manifesto and the various entries on art and aesthetics at the online Ayn Rand Lexicon, and decide for yourself which of us is accurately presenting Rand's views.

J

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My impression from reading Ayn Rand on art was that I would be as unmoved by what she finds aesthetically proper as what the Soviet's commissioned as "art". That is, if I understand correctly, Rand believed art must be "heroic".

Morally, Rand thought that art should be heroic to be considered good. Aesthetically, she thought that it had to artfully present the artist's views (whether they were heroic or not).

This reminds me of Soviet statues. Or of Maoist plays where the hero must be a worker, peasant or solider. For my part, I particularly love the anti-hero movies of the 1970s, such as Taxi Driver, Godfather and the like. I doubt very much Rand herself would like these.

Rand's art included some of the "Bad Boy" elements that you find in Taxi Driver and The Godfather. You might be interested in this discussionfrom over on OL on the subject of bad boys in fiction and Rand's aesthetic views on rebels and "noble crooks."

Must you hate them to be a "true" Objectivist?

I would think that to be a "true Objectivist," one would have his own judgments of art, and wouldn't believe that he "must" hate or love something.

J

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If the author didn't apply a principle she formulated the way you did, then there are only two options:

1. you're wrong

2. the principle is useless

The notion that someone came up with a good principle that she doesn't understand is preposterous. If Jonathan wants his own aesthetics, he should come up with it, not misuse Rand's in ways she didn't mean it.

It's an intriguing question similar to the issue of "original intent" in law. In law, there is a doctrine that the "plain meaning" controls even if the original drafter of the law disagrees with the reading. However, this is arguably very different because a law is enacted by a body of legislators and not by the single person (or persons) who drafted it. So, the "original intent" inquiry really shoud try to "get in the minds" of all the legislators (or, I suppose, a majority of them). Where a principle is developed by a single person - i.e., Ayn Rand - it is presumably only her intent that matters.

But, a separate question is whether one has to reach the exact same conclusions that the original creator of the principles would have reached - as opposed to just applying the principles in a logical and rational way. To be an Objectivist, assuming Objectivism is defined by Rand and Rand alone, does one have to agree with every one of her opinions about what she likes and what she does not? Rand was extremely opiinionated. It is hard for me to imagine her accepting someone else's analysis as reasonable even where they reach a different conclusion. Moreover, I strongly suspect that she believed that all of her opinions were based on her principles, leaving no room for the notion that she just happens to like one thing and dislike another due to a personal emotional reaction but she could accept that the things she doesn't like are equally valid as "art". Although, certainly, I could be wrong.

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postscript: one of Jonathan13's statements in the threads he linked to above seems particularly apt to me. It seems quite contrary to the Objectivist spirit of heroic individualism to say that all Objectivists need to reach the same conclusions about what art is good, and what is bad.

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... ... does one have to agree with every one of her opinions about what she likes and what she does not?
Most definitely not.

... ... she could accept that the things she doesn't like are equally valid as "art".
She was very definite and explicit that there was a lot of art that she did not like; but she never labelled it "non art". Rand has a very specific view on why man needed art, the role of art, and so on. However, when it comes to referents of the concept she did not offer any radical view. When it comes to what is and is not art, she may not agree with every modern expert, but most lay-folk would have a very similar set of referents in their concept of art.

It seems quite contrary to the Objectivist spirit of heroic individualism to say that all Objectivists need to reach the same conclusions about what art is good, and what is bad.
Well, you would expect people to differ a lot in what art they like, but -- as Rand pointed out -- one can say that some art is good even while saying one does not like it. Or are you saying that it is completely subjective or arbitrary to say something like "He writes well" or "He draws well" (i.e. as opposed to "I like his writing" or "I like his sketches")?

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But, a separate question is whether one has to reach the exact same conclusions that the original creator of the principles would have reached - as opposed to just applying the principles in a logical and rational way.

Rand created a philosophy. That doesn't mean that she was necessarily the best at applying that philosophy to all phenomena, especially when it came to art forms that she wasn't an expert on, or even much interested in. Her interpretations of certain art forms were not as informed or seasoned as others' interpretations, and knowledge of the subject at hand is vital to making an objective judgment. In interpreting art, she was as much capable of error, subjectivity and judging beyond her knowledge as anyone else.

To be an Objectivist, assuming Objectivism is defined by Rand and Rand alone, does one have to agree with every one of her opinions about what she likes and what she does not? Rand was extremely opiinionated. It is hard for me to imagine her accepting someone else's analysis as reasonable even where they reach a different conclusion. Moreover, I strongly suspect that she believed that all of her opinions were based on her principles, leaving no room for the notion that she just happens to like one thing and dislike another due to a personal emotional reaction but she could accept that the things she doesn't like are equally valid as "art". Although, certainly, I could be wrong.

Rand was definitely strongly opinionated, and some of her judgments of art were highly subjective. Some of her published reviews of visual artworks might sound, at first blush, to be objective, but they are actually examples of her smuggling in, intentionally or not, her own subjective tastes and speaking of them as if they were the standard, established, objective criteria when they were most definitely not. To uncritical laymen, such judgments can sound reasonable. To the erudite, not so.

As for disqualifying art based on her disliking it, I don't think that's quite accurate. I think she disqualified certain art forms because she, personally, got nothing out of them. They did not evoke any meaning or emotion in her, and were therefore classified as non-art, even though they evoked meaning and emotions in others.

J

Edited by Jonathan13

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To be an Objectivist, assuming Objectivism is defined by Rand and Rand alone, does one have to agree with every one of her opinions about what she likes and what she does not?

I believe that the answer is, respecting the writings of Rand - as opposed to what you or I think she "really" meant - keeps Objectivism from splintering into small groups, each claiming to be "true" Objectivists. Such splintering has always tended to dilute any movement. If you don't agree with a position of hers, fine - but that doesn't mean that you have to re-define what Objectivism "really" is. Respect what she wrote, but think for yourself.

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I believe that the answer is, respecting the writings of Rand - as opposed to what you or I think she "really" meant - keeps Objectivism from splintering into small groups, each claiming to be "true" Objectivists. Such splintering has always tended to dilute any movement. If you don't agree with a position of hers, fine - but that doesn't mean that you have to re-define what Objectivism "really" is. Respect what she wrote, but think for yourself.
It is not clear what you mean by this, but I don't see you making any distinction between "things Rand liked" versus Objectivism. It would be false to say that Objectivism includes liking what Rand liked.

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It is not clear what you mean by this, but I don't see you making any distinction between "things Rand liked" versus Objectivism. It would be false to say that Objectivism includes liking what Rand liked.

I frequently make that mistake myself, I confuse Ayn Rand with Objectivism.

The fact is that I'm one of those who arrived at Objectivism because I fell in love with Ayn Rand and the THINGS she liked, not the other way around. I'm talking about America seen as a foreigner, skyscrapers, bridges, the emotional value of skyscrapers, bridges, and inspiring cityscapes. The profound disdain for pretentious out of place ornamentation, the sin of the wasted opportunity of modern technology when one gazes at the Woolworth Building.... etc.

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When first reading Rand's nonfiction, I remember being suprised at the idea that 'art' needed a definition. After reading The Romantic Manifesto, I felt I had 'got it'.I think I can appreciate the difference between Greek sculpture and say soup cans a la Warhol. The former being what Rand considered works of art by her definition , while the latter would fall into the catagory of creative decoration.

Recently a saw a story on the earnings of the current 'artists' of the day, though I don't now have a link to it. I think the highest paid artist currently is Koos(?) , whose works include oversized metallic sculptures in the shape of balloon creatures. If my understanding of what Rand meant is correct, this shows how culturally ingrained irrationality is yes? That the people who define art today and by extension drive the art world's view of itself are either consciously working to obliterate the concept of art itself or they are completely off their collective rockers. Those sculptures may be very innovative works of decoration , but other than the idea of whimsy, they connote no abstractions that can be thematically concretised and contemplated by the viewer of the work.

A work of art then could be designated good or bad on the criteria of whether or not the artist integrated medium with theme and subject is such a way as to represent an idea for comtemplation. And then normative judgements and reactions to the themes would be more subjective on an individual basis, which probably would have a lot to do with the psycology and emtions of the indiviuals.

Btw by 'i got it' just means a better of art as a 'thing', the rest still comes froma very pedestrian aethetic, so all critisms are welcome and probably warranted

Edited by tadmjones

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Recently a saw a story on the earnings of the current 'artists' of the day, though I don't now have a link to it. I think the highest paid artist currently is Koos(?) , whose works include oversized metallic sculptures in the shape of balloon creatures. If my understanding of what Rand meant is correct, this shows how culturally ingrained irrationality is yes? That the people who define art today and by extension drive the art world's view of itself are either consciously working to obliterate the concept of art itself or they are completely off their collective rockers. Those sculptures may be very innovative works of decoration , but other than the idea of whimsy, they connote no abstractions that can be thematically concretised and contemplated by the viewer of the work.

Jeff Koons who created this

jeff-koons-pink-panther-sculpture_Kq8ee_48.jpg

but is getting paid for doing this:

koons.jpg

In Argentina (Which is a pathetic microcosm of 'the West' with a 20 year lag), the situation repeats itself with the highest paid artists being people like Eduardo Pla and his spheres:

pla.jpg

Now the artist in question makes only big balls as big pieces of art pay a lot more than small pieces of art. Naturally, in a time that loves and hates, but gives a lot of importance to scale.

Andy Warhols and his Campbell Soup, like Koons, or even Pla, however, are not just making experimental urban ornamentation.

It is true that this kind of creations can be seen as the obliteration of art, but the rationale of those who foment it is quiet different.

Post Modern Art considers that Art, after being liberated from its religious patrons, with Van Gogh being the martyr of the orphaned transitional generation, has saturated its universe. Technology, prosperity and outright Relativism have rendered 'obsolete' the fine arts (since to the Materialistic mind no image could be finer than a photograph), and now art has to find a new purpose.

By their own admission they consider we are at the very early stages of a new era, of Art 2.0. So even by their own admission this art represents a return to the primitive. The New Primitive.

It begins with childish and very expensive experiments. A balloon made out of metal, a giant topiary dog. But occasionally, thanks to this, in my opinion wasteful and hurtful experiments, something good appears, that otherwise it wouldn't have.

8095d1212722959-christos-surronded-islands-25-year-aniversary-pictures-christo-miami-islands-03.jpg

But is it worth it?

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volco

Post Modern Art considers that Art, after being liberated from its religious patrons, with Van Gogh being the martyr of the orphaned transitional generation, has saturated its universe. Technology, prosperity and outright Relativism have rendered 'obsolete' the fine arts (since to the Materialistic mind no image could be finer than a photograph), and now art has to find a new purpose.

By their own admission they consider we are at the very early stages of a new era, of Art 2.0. So even by their own admission this art represents a return to the primitive. The New Primitive.

Which is to my point , those who try and define art today, reject Rand's view of art. The objective concept of art is seemingly not even considered by such notions as Post Mod, or any other school of art. They consider such things as art, they use the same term but do not objectively define it, where as I believe Rand did. The conceptual consciousness of man is universal , so too should be the concept of art, no ?

And while Kristo's works may be a boon to local material makers and dyers, I can't see it as 'art'.

Edited by tadmjones

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I agree, as I said 'this can be seen as the obliteration of art'. And we could end it there, Ayn Rand made some good points in The Romantic Manifesto. She indeed defined art.

If you are curious however, even to the point of giving them, and yourself, the benefit of the doubt, about Andy Warhol and Kristo and Koons, then you might find a different rationale to it. They destroy the concept of art in order to 'open it'. And these are the results.

I do wonder why people are so much more judgmental, a great thing, when it comes to visual arts, but so libertine when it comes to music, a sphere where, by the standards of this forum's threads on music: EVERYTHING goes.

The Emperor's New Clothes are still in place and highly regarded in the world of visual arts. Somewhat in literary arts, and not even imagined in the musical arts.

Of course those arts all differ in one fundamental attribute: TECHNIQUE

Even a culture that had spitted the atom without becoming culturally relativistic would still have to face the challenges and opportunities of making visual arts with new technology, new non traditional techniques, and unprecedented wealth.

From the distance of time, the Sistine Chapel looks very fine and subtle in its magnificence. When it was built and painted however, far from subtlety, it constituted an opportunity to demonstrate the most spectacular and advanced special effects of the time, such as painting two bright contrasting colors and knowing it will look like a carefully shaded degradé from below.

Now visual arts have been challenged by animation and cinema, and the better results are making us wait....

The conceptual consciousness of man is universal , so too should be the concept of art, no ?

Yes. Evidence of this is how East Asians are currently mastering the Classical European composers, or how Western Youth embraces Anime.

Or do you mean something else?

Edited by volco

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As to music appreciation I agree, it seems to be the medium in which subjectivity plays the largest role. Perhaps it shouldn't even be in the category of art, unless it can be shown that tonal appreciation of a piece of music(fake concept here, more like the idea we all hear the same thing ,everytime) actually evokes the same idea universally.

Edited by tadmjones

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Of course those arts all differ in one fundamental attribute: TECHNIQUE

Even a culture that had spitted the atom without becoming culturally relativistic would still have to face the challenges and opportunities of making visual arts with new technology, new non traditional techniques, and unprecedented wealth.

From the distance of time, the Sistine Chapel looks very fine and subtle in its magnificence. When it was built and painted however, far from subtlety, it constituted an opportunity to demonstrate the most spectacular and advanced special effects of the time, such as painting two bright contrasting colors and knowing it will look like a carefully shaded degradé from below.

.

I think tenique or use of the medium is definately an aspect of a work that can be appreciated almost for its own sake. One of Koos' works is styled to look like giant Hulk mylar balloons, his use of technique , his physical manipulation of the metal and his use of color, certainly produce an object that appears to have the characteristics of mylar balloons when they are actually solid metal objects, but technique does not define a piece as art.

Though the specific work I am thinking about is way more thematic then other pieces of his that I am familiar with.

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Perhaps it shouldn't be (and indeed it isn't) in the category of "Fine" Arts, you mean? Because music is the primal, most universal (check what universal means to you), form of art. Ayn Rand was explicit about its power and the problem with Subjectivity it poises, both in her writings (not only The Romantic Manifesto, but the Foreign Music in 'We The Living' and in Atlas) and in her personal life (Mozart!)

I would personally prefer it if I saw Gratitude by Danielle Anjou in a fountain at the steps of the skyscraper HQ of a major bank. But Aragne Rouge which I like, opened a door when one is more likely to see another metal balloon dog instead.

/ re technique and medium:

That is a point in itself. New techniques have created new media. As I said, or I say more concretely now, Film is the natural heir to visual art. That doesn't close the market of new media, it simply proves that a pandora box has been opened.

Fine arts have not disappeared (as evidence by Quent Cordair) in the New World, but they seem to be very devalued, (a fantastic buying opportunity no doubt!) in the face of all this shooters who think theirs will constitute one of the many new standards.

Andy Warhol achieved that in life. I could begin to explain it, maybe in a separate thread, why Andy Warhol is not valueless but by your explanation of Koons, it seems you already know.

Edited by volco

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