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Using Negative-Value aesthetics in work?

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emanon
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Hi,

Okay, so I have been considering aesthetics, particularly in their relationship to music, but the concepts apply similarly to other arts in different ways.

Let me take as an example example, one of Rand's better known criticisms from the Art of Fiction on James Joyce:

"He is worse than Gertrude Stein. ...He uses words from different languages, makes up some words of his own, and calls that literature."

(Taken from the internet, not from the book... I was being lazy.)

So let me look at this in a Rand-like way.

All art contains intrinsic values, it is unavoidable. Either they are put there by the artist intentionally, or unintentionally, but either way, they are present for better or for worse.

Then, by this logic, the work of James Joyce, must represent certain values, albeit ones Ayn Rand considered negative. Correct?

Now, lets consider that, for some reason, an author wants to portray the same values as those of James Joyce's works, would it not then make sense to use his techniques etc as a tool to express that value? For example, if one decides the value inherent in an artist's work is destruction, is it appropriate to use the same principal of that artist's work to portray destruction in your own work? (Presumably, destruction is, however, not the supreme value of the art work)

The question is whether or not it is aesthetically appropriate to use the techniques or aesthetic results of negative values, as tools of value expression, albeit even if the purpose of using them is to allow their value to be conquered by another which the artist considers superior?

Edited by emanon
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Hi,

Okay, so I have been considering aesthetics, particularly in their relationship to music, but the concepts apply similarly to other arts in different ways.

Let me take as an example example, one of Rand's better known criticisms from the Art of Fiction on James Joyce:

"He is worse than Gertrude Stein. ...He uses words from different languages, makes up some words of his own, and calls that literature."

(Taken from the internet, not from the book... I was being lazy.)

So let me look at this in a Rand-like way.

All art contains intrinsic values, it is unavoidable. Either they are put there by the artist intentionally, or unintentionally, but either way, they are present for better or for worse.

Then, by this logic, the work of James Joyce, must represent certain values, albeit ones Ayn Rand considered negative. Correct?

Now, lets consider that, for some reason, an author wants to portray the same values as those of James Joyce's works, would it not then make sense to use his techniques etc as a tool to express that value? For example, if one decides the value inherent in an artist's work is destruction, is it appropriate to use the same principal of that artist's work to portray destruction in your own work? (Presumably, destruction is, however, not the supreme value of the art work)

The question is whether or not it is aesthetically appropriate to use the techniques or aesthetic results of negative values, as tools of value expression, albeit even if the purpose of using them is to allow their value to be conquered by another which the artist considers superior?

Regarding using the negative value, I personally think it valid. Hubert Selby Jr. Is a great example. Some of Brett Easton Ellis' work (most garbage, some not).

From what I understand of Rand's thought's on the matter it would only be appropraite to do so if then showing the negative as you say "conqueres by a greater value". If I understand her correctly I cannot say that I agree on that.

Selby's works are hopeless and disturbing, but very thought provoking. I recommend Requiem for a Dream & Last Exist to Brooklyn.

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Now, lets consider that, for some reason, an author wants to portray the same values as those of James Joyce's works, would it not then make sense to use his techniques etc as a tool to express that value? For example, if one decides the value inherent in an artist's work is destruction, is it appropriate to use the same principal of that artist's work to portray destruction in your own work? (Presumably, destruction is, however, not the supreme value of the art work)

Well, the point of art isn't really what values are expressed, but how values are expressed. In a way, if you enjoy expressing destruction in a manner of essentially spewing nonsense and actually *want* to express destruction in that way, it shows a sense of life that probably feels repulsed by reason. It is "appropriate" to use such techniques, the more pressing question is why you are using those techniques and to what extent they make up the main sort of style which you use.

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if you enjoy expressing destruction in a manner of essentially spewing nonsense and actually *want* to express destruction in that way, it shows a sense of life that probably feels repulsed by reason.

I guess there was a secondary question implicit in what I asked which is: Can an artist represent what I'm going to call a "negative-value-aesthetic" without compromising the overall sense-of-life of the work?

I'm thinking here about the Fountainhead and the way Rand dealt with the contradictory aesthetics in, for example Architecture. If I consider it, there was no instance in which, for example, Peter Keating's architectural values were given any worth, even by the characters who operated under them. Rather, she simply laid completely bare the premises on which it was built and let them effectively annihilate themselves.

I'm trying to think how this would relate to (art) music. It is a tricky thing to do, because as Rand says, music is an art which effects directly the sense-of-life without the need for concretizations to first be understood as abstractions.

Thanks for the thoughts. I'll need to give them careful consideration.

- Chris

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I'm thinking here about the Fountainhead and the way Rand dealt with the contradictory aesthetics in, for example Architecture. If I consider it, there was no instance in which, for example, Peter Keating's architectural values were given any worth, even by the characters who operated under them. Rather, she simply laid completely bare the premises on which it was built and let them effectively annihilate themselves.

I think architecture is a whole different context, particularly since I don't think it is art. In any case, how Rand explained Keating's premises is a different issue than the one you're asking in this thread. Nothing really involved the creation of architecture with Keating's premises. Architecture involves taking into consideration the function of the structure, it's not really about art in the Objectivist sense of the term. It would perfectly fine I think to write Joyce-style stuff without showing a terrible sense of life in a context of something like a sort of story that involves a character who views life in such a way and maybe you give examples within the story of the trash that the character wrote. As I said in the last post, it really depends on why. I can't just give a blanket statement like "never use trashy art techniques!" Usually, though, there probably is no reason to use bad techniques (or even non-art techniques).

Edited by Eiuol
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I'm curious, because I found the way Rand wrote about Howard Roark's buildings and their design to mark them as art?

I can't just give a blanket statement like "never use trashy art techniques!" Usually, though, there probably is no reason to use bad techniques (or even non-art techniques).

Of course, I wasn't after anything like that. Just trying to make sure I'm not overlooking anything critical to my conception and creation of art music.

Thanks

- Chris

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Interestingly, the quote that just came up at the top gave me an answer worth considering:

"Beauty is a sense of harmony. Whether it's an image, a human face, a body, or a sunset, take the object which you call beautiful, as a unit [and ask yourself]: what parts is it made up of, what are its constituent elements, and are they all harmonious? If they are, the result is beautiful. If there are contradictions and clashes, the result is marred or positively ugly."
--Ayn Rand
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