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Art and Sense of Life - Explained

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KyaryPamyu
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Sculptures, symphonies, novels and paintings are time consuming to make, just like any other human value. What exactly does an artist choose to sculpt, compose, write or paint? Obviously, there's only one thing you can represent in art: things from reality. But what exactly? Just beautifuly rendered objects, people and events for no reason whatsoever? What separates sculpture, painting and theater from toys, photographs and soap operas?

The meaning of fine art is not the objects portrayed in it. It's also not about politics or morals or the weather or the stock market, but something much, much, much more important. In fact it's so important that it needs to be present in your awareness at all times. I'm referring to the reasons and causes of your actions. For example, if you're generaly scared of the world and you don't like to take much space etc. this isn't a causeless fact. It's because you sincerely believe deep down that the universe is a dangerous place to live in, that man is always in grave danger. This is life-and-death information that is essential to remember in the backdrop of all of the irrelevancies of life - as the facts that cause, explain, give meaning to, and tie your disparate, confusing daily experinces into a coherent mechanism (the overall nature of the universe).

Is the universe antagonistic or auspicious? Am I good or bad by nature? Am I in control of my inner and outer life? Is this a knowable world, subject to identity and certainty? The answers to this category of questions are called metaphysical value judgements, and for a great deal of people they're arbitrary and implicit, not objective and consciously held.

Without seeing perceptual instances of the most important facts of life - of the foundation of everything else - your view of life quickly loses its reality and power of conviction. After all, if you believe that the essential nature of man is a heroic being, but life is filled with cowards and corrupt politicians and irrational people, your worldview can quicky collapse, you can forget what you believe in the first place, and you can become confused.

More than that, this crucial, underlying perspective of the whole of reality (not merely contextless bits and pieces) cannot guide people because it can't be held in the mind (crow epistemology). A worldview is made up of endless, scrambled and seemingly disparate metaphysical value judgements - 'it's important to fight for what you want', 'it's important not to stick your neck out' etc. Only condensation into perceptualy available concretes can do the job and show you the conclusion, the payoff, the cashing-in of all of your value judgements, i.e. your worldview at a glance. To see what I'm talking about, compare those two sculptures: one and two.

This type of conretization is like language, except instead of condesing concepts into visual-auditory tags (words), you condense a worldview into a concrete in order for it to be operative as a guide. Like metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and government, art is the only other need of man within the province of pure philosophy.

Another crucial effect of art is the emotional fuel it provides. The work that goes into achieving your material and spiritual values can sometimes get tough. Seeing the full, immediate reality of your distant goals, experiencing the sense of your completed task, of living in your ideal world (a universe where your values have been successfully achieved) can replentish you spiritualy. The fuel comes not from what you might learn from the artwork, but from experiencing a moment of love for existence.

This is why art is ruthlessly selective - not journalistic; integrated - not full of irrelevant elements that compromise the theme; clear - as opposed to the opaque or non-objective. It must have an abstract meaning, pertaining to the nature of the world in relation to man (or the reverse, which is the same thing). An artist selects what he considers to be important in life and integrates it into a mini-universe, a man-made universe.
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Sense of Life
As soon as you become able to make generalizations about the world, you make them. You have no choice, because they're absolutely crucial for knowing how to act, i.e. for your survival. Based on conscious or randomly formed conclusions about the world and man, your guiding philosophy is formed, and it's usualy implicit until you identify it in conscious, philosophical terms, and correct it if necessary. 

Emotions are not causeless - they spring from conscious (or automatized, subconscious) evaluations of things. A man with a ghastly worldview might, as a consequence of his basic premises, negatively evaluate a lot of the things that confront him on the street, on the television, at his workplace and so on. A person with a benevolent view might generaly evaluate the exact same things in a completely different manner, a more positive one, and the negatives might not strike him as worth focusing on. The pessimist might get most of his pleasure from safety; the optimist, from seizing life by the horns.

Based on everyting the world makes him feel on a daily basis, man forms an all-encompassing emotional generalization about the world. This emotion, called a 'sense of life' by Ayn Rand, is felt as a sort of vibe emanating from the world, one that is involved in everything you do, think and feel. For example, a pessimist walking on the street might pick up tense vibrations from the air; the people walking past him seem to be out to get him, and even the lampposts seem to be looking maliciously at him. He feels as if the world is one giant concentration camp. But the man with a more positive philosophy might get an entirely different vibe from that same exact street and moment. He might feel inspired by the sights of skyscrapers and blooming businesses. Deep down, he feels that life is auspicious to his goals and full of potential joys.

Of particular importance is the fact that your sense-of-life can strenghten or blunt your joys and sorrows. A pessimistic man might see ice-cream and sex as pointless distractions in a sea of tears. It's tricky to enjoy anything if you fear for your life, either because the world is hell (malevolent universe premise) or because you think that you're unfit to deal with it (low self-esteem). After all, it probably won't last; so why enjoy it? But an optimistic man might see life's inconveniences as irrelevant in comparision to life's joys; since the world strikes him as an amazing place to be in, he feels a pure, unrestrained pleasure when he enjoys his values, a type of pleasure that the pessimistic man cannot even fathom. 

In art, your sense-of-life directs not only artistic creation, but also artistic response. Depressed artists don't paint sunny landscapes and happy artists don't particularly enjoy Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. Of course, for most people a sense of life isn't as black-and-white as I described, but you should get the idea. This fundamental emotion conditions a lot of things in a man, including his body language and how passionately driven or apathetic he is. When he falls in love or forms deep friendships, it's on the basis of equivalence in the sense-of-life realm, which is usually first conveyed indirectly through somebody's personality and mannerisms, and later through their actions and professed convictions. Since your evaluations of people can be wrong, true love can only exist if the loved one's conscious convictions match the sense of life he or she appears to have.

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Not all great art has to be heroic, cheery and up-beat.  The weeping angle sculpture posted by the OP (while not necessarily "great art") is for a tomb.  To say, or imply, that this sculpture reflects somehow a tragic "sense of life" of the relative who commissioned the piece (which I assume is what the OP is doing) is capricious at best.  Sadness and a feeling of loss is not something that should be denied.

I'm an atheist, but I can respect Michelangelo's Pieta as a great work of art.

Michelangelo-pieta-index-new.png.2f87ea855dc5b4fbfcf2f09128305ebe.png

 

 

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7 hours ago, New Buddha said:

Not all great art has to be heroic, cheery and up-beat.

The aesthetic value of an artwork is not judged by the worldview it conveys, only by how masterful it concretizes it. So it's not a contradiction to say 'this is a great work of art, but I don't like it'. But disagreement with the worldview conveyed can certainly curve your enjoyment of it. 

7 hours ago, New Buddha said:

The weeping angle sculpture posted by the OP (while not necessarily "great art") is for a tomb.  To say, or imply, that this sculpture reflects somehow a tragic "sense of life" of the relative who commissioned the piece (which I assume is what the OP is doing) is capricious at best.

The sculpture was created by a grieving artist to commemorate the death of his beloved wife. It was his last sculpture and the only thing he could get himself to sculpt before his own death the following year. It's used as the grave stone for the artist and his wife, though it's wildly reproduced.

While I didn't provide my personal evaluation of the weeping angel sculpture, I agree that it refects a tragic sense of life - but the context in which it was created is irrelevant. Quoting from The Romantic Manifesto, ch. 3, p. 42: "...an objective evaluation requires that one identify the artist’s theme, the abstract meaning of his work (exclusively by identifying the evidence contained in the work and allowing no other, outside considerations), then evaluate the means by which he conveys it". [bolded words mine]

This is why it is possible to appreciate a religious artwork even if you're an atheist.

When picking your favorites, the element of personal meaning is also very important, even if that meaning was not necessarily intended by the artist. Ayn Rand herself is said to have contemplated Dali's Corpus Hyercubus for hours at end. Apparently, it strongly reminded her of the John Galt torture scene in Atlas Shrugged.

7 hours ago, New Buddha said:

Sadness and a feeling of loss is not something that should be denied.

Certainly not. But the importance attached to sadness and loss can greately differ from person to person. Is it the metaphysical norm for man, or not? 

An artwork deals with what is important in life. And it might be important that certain courses of action might lead to suffering. For example, see the novel We The Living.

Judging by the artworks I feel at home in, I would say I have a mildly melovolent SoL. I also noticed that changes in mood can influence which types of music I want to indulge in at a given time. But even when I'm in a particularly good mood, I usually pick what I call happy-sad music: upbeat songs or pieces that nevertheless convey a strong air of seriousness or tortured complexity beneath the façade.

Edited by KyaryPamyu
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2 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

The aesthetic value of an artwork is not judged by the worldview it conveys, only by how masterful it concretizes it. So it's not a contradiction to say 'this is a great work of art, but I don't like it'. But disagreement with the worldview conveyed can certainly curve your enjoyment of it. 

The sculpture was created by a grieving artist to commemorate the death of his beloved wife. It was his last sculpture and the only thing he could get himself to sculpt before his own death the following year. It's used as the grave stone for the artist and his wife, though it's wildly reproduced.

While I didn't provide my personal evaluation of the weeping angel sculpture, I agree that it refects a tragic sense of life - but the context in which it was created is irrelevant. Quoting from The Romantic Manifesto, ch. 3, p. 42: "...an objective evaluation requires that one identify the artist’s theme, the abstract meaning of his work (exclusively by identifying the evidence contained in the work and allowing no other, outside considerations), then evaluate the means by which he conveys it". [bolded words mine]

This is why it is possible to appreciate a religious artwork even if you're an atheist.

When picking your favorites, the element of personal meaning is also very important, even if that meaning was not necessarily intended by the artist. Ayn Rand herself is said to have contemplated Dali's Corpus Hyercubus for hours at end. Apparently, it strongly reminded her of the John Galt torture scene in Atlas Shrugged.

Certainly not. But the importance attached to sadness and loss can greately differ from person to person. Is it the metaphysical norm for man, or not? 

An artwork deals with what is important in life. And it might be important that certain courses of action might lead to suffering. For example, see the novel We The Living.

Judging by the artworks I feel at home in, I would say I have a mildly melovolent SoL. I also noticed that changes in mood can influence which types of music I want to indulge in at a given time. But even when I'm in a particularly good mood, I usually pick what I call happy-sad music: upbeat songs or pieces that nevertheless convey a strong air of seriousness or tortured complexity beneath the façade.

Does Art necessarily have to represent the entirety or the whole of a metaphysics?  Must it be THE summation?  It would seem such would imply art cannot be about i.e. depict and explore an "aspect" or "part of life" which is important and profound.  (As for the highest form of art.. I suppose some restrictions need to apply)

A work such as the fallen angel, although it is sad, might not be about sadness as such.  It might be about loss, and by implication, it might actually be about value, and specifically and more importantly about the greatest value one can have in another: Love... by seeing how devastating the loss is, one sees how great the love was and can be, and by seeing how great the love, one perchance sees how wonderful life can be... but with full knowledge and acceptance (not evasion) that neither life nor love lasts forever.  Is this a malevolent view?  I'm not so sure.  Would a sculpture of a woman smiling and dancing in the flowers with a doting husband smiling and watching her conveyed the greatness and the depth of the emotion he had for her and her importance to him?  Only so much can be captured in a sculpture of a smile...


Set backs are a part of life, and dare I say they are important challenges that test people's character and resilience and provide opportunities to grow and flourish in the face of them.  So an artwork which presents a challenge or a disaster or a loss, unless it is clearly shown that there is and can never be recovery (granted another possible interpretation of the fallen angel...) the art can present positive sense of life, one which is psychologically adjusted to the facts of reality which face man but which exalts his ability to adapt and to flourish.

I don't think art is limited to the widest presentation of metaphysics.  Specific, selected and important aspects of life, of man's relation to reality can be portrayed.  A work depicting a freak and tragic accident befalling a man and his triumph over it is NOT about the metaphysics of the randomness of reality (which is a fact), it is about the more important fact (also a fact of reality) of the resilience and strength of man, the potentialities possessed and residing inert within every man which perhaps not even the viewer would have otherwise suspected he himself possessed.

A sense of life is NOT about what the universe does to you: Life is not what "happens" to you

A sense of life is about man, about man's place in the universe, his ability to deal with it, no matter what part of it he faces: Life, wherever you find yourself, is what you do.

 

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5 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

While I didn't provide my personal evaluation of the weeping angel sculpture, I agree that it refects a tragic sense of life - but the context in which it was created is irrelevant. Quoting from The Romantic Manifesto, ch. 3, p. 42: "...an objective evaluation requires that one identify the artist’s theme, the abstract meaning of his work (exclusively by identifying the evidence contained in the work and allowing no other, outside considerations), then evaluate the means by which he conveys it".

Not all forms of art are the same.  Sculpture can definitely be commemorative - so taking into account "outside considerations" is perfectly acceptable and adds tremendously to the meaning of the work.  Some examples of this are the Statue of Liberty and the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington D.C.

 

Statue_of_Liberty,_NY.jpg

today-in-1982-vietnam-veterans-memorial-was-dedicated-9.png

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2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Must it be THE summation?  It would seem such would imply art cannot be about i.e. depict and explore an "aspect" or "part of life" which is important and profound.

By virtue of being a single, internally consistent artwork, it does convey the summation. More specificaly, that summation is what Ayn Rand called 'the objectified reality of one’s own sense of life'. To recap, a sense of life is an emotional appraisal of the whole of existence. The artwork is the ability to see that feeling outside of you, in reality. It's common to see a lot of things in life that seemingly contradict your own sense of life, which inevitably leads to self-doubt and loss of perspective and conviction.

When you concretize this all-encompassing feeling about the universe, you must do it via specific means: specific themes, events, people, styles. A theme can be philosophical and universal (e.g. the importance of love/honor/truth) or more narrow (e.g. the injustice of society toward its lower classes, the impact of the Civil War on Southern society). All of the elements present in the artwork add up to a totality which illustrates the artist's sense of life - in a single concrete, which might be a painting or a very long novel.

2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

A work such as the fallen angel, although it is sad, might not be about sadness as such.  It might be about loss, and by implication, it might actually be about value, and specifically and more importantly about the greatest value one can have in another: Love...

The way you interpret an artwork depends on your own sense of life and deeply held values. The above is a way of interpreting it. Similarly, a depressed person can feel affirmed by the Angel of Grief sculpture for a completely different reason: because he applies the sculpture to the whole of existence. The real issue is: would you want to have that artwork in your house, as a way to preserve the irresistible reality of your own sense of life? 

2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

So an artwork which presents a challenge or a disaster or a loss, unless it is clearly shown that there is and can never be recovery (granted another possible interpretation of the fallen angel...) the art can present positive sense of life, one which is psychologically adjusted to the facts of reality which face man but which exalts his ability to adapt and to flourish.

Yes. The key idea is: do you present pain and suffering as the norm, or merely as a foil to the good parts of life?

2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

A work depicting a freak and tragic accident befalling a man and his triumph over it is NOT about the metaphysics of the randomness of reality (which is a fact), it is about the more important fact (also a fact of reality) of the resilience and strength of man, the potentialities possessed and residing inert within every man which perhaps not even the viewer would have otherwise suspected he himself possessed.

This adds to the previous point. For example, Roark in the Fountainhead is attacked on all sides; yet the evil is merely a vehicle to show Roark's greatness and the fact that life's challenges are not the focus in life, but merely foils or preludes to the good.

2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

A sense of life is NOT about what the universe does to you: Life is not what "happens" to you

Yes - if you're referring to a benevolent sense of life. Somebody who concludes that he's at the mercy of the entire universe will develop a tragic sense of life as a result. A positive sense of life depends on feeling in control of your existence.

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29 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

taking into account "outside considerations" is perfectly acceptable and adds tremendously to the meaning of the work.

Certainly. But those outside considerations are not a substitute for judging the artwork qua art. Even if a statue or musical composition is created for the purpose of commemoration, it must still be a good piece of art in and of itself. Not even the noblest backstory will save a poorly done artwork. 

A good commemorative artwork must show the abstract, universal meaning of what it commemorates. If it meets this requirement, it can be applied to your own life, even if you know absolutely nothing about its backstory.

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2 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

A theme can be philosophical and universal (e.g. the importance of love/honor/truth) or more narrow (e.g. the injustice of society toward its lower classes, the impact of the Civil War on Southern society). All of the elements present in the artwork add up to a totality which illustrates the artist's sense of life - in a single concrete, which might be a painting or a very long novel.

This implies a single work of art need not attempt to sum up every and all aspects of a man's relationship to reality.  In fact to really get at any particular important subject, i.e. any particular aspect of metaphysics and man being dealt with, what is not important to its presentation is eliminated.  Selection implies a work of art does not need to be about the whole of man's metaphysics, but can (and properly) be about some aspect of it.  Now what is presented needs to be provided in a single concretized whole summing up what the artist is drawing the viewer's attention to... but the subject of the work of art can and should be delimited.

An artists sense of life may inform the chosen subjects and what he/she is aying by the art but each piece is not about that single monolithic sense of life, it is about the specific subject it is directed to.

 

There is not but only one painting depicting the metaphysical reality of man but uncountably many possible works showing various particular important aspects thereof.  Does this make sense?

 

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

This implies a single work of art need not attempt to sum up every and all aspects of a man's relationship to reality.

An artwork is concerned with convincingly illustrating two fundamental facts: what the world is like, and what man is like. The specific themes, subjects, events and characters are merely the vehicles by which the artist 'proves', or concretizes, his view about those two interconnected aspects. He does not need to show all aspects of a man's relationship to reality - only enough points to convincingly show the gist of his view. 

Every metaphysics has enormous implications for ethics. For example, if the world is auspicious to human goals (knowable to man, and reshapable by him), and if man is efficaceous and free, those basic facts lead to enough metaphysical value-judgements to fill up all of the world's libraries. 'It's important to fight for what I want', 'My life is important' etc. 

Those metaphysical value judgements are the direct results of your worldview. So when you experience the artwork, you reduce the conveyed metaphysical value judgements back to their roots: the total metaphysics.

To show a man's entire metaphysics, there is very little you need to show in terms of concretes. What man needs is to maintain, in his mind, the reasons why he chose his present course of action. 'My course in life is right, right to the core, because the world is so and so, and man is so and so'. Artworks help him hold that enormous context in mind.

To summarize, an artwork is about two things: the specific themes and events conveyed, and the entire metaphysics implied by those facts.

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On 5/24/2017 at 8:56 PM, KyaryPamyu said:

Depressed artists don't paint sunny landscapes and happy artists don't particularly enjoy Wagner's Tristan and Isolde.

How do you know this? I mean, this is a simplification of symbolism, such that you seem to base this on the connotations you've learned. I don't really like sunny landscapes, while I prefer dark landscapes generally. If a person hated life, and painted a sunny landscape, would they actually love life?

You would be best off saying that what you choose to paint shows something about a person. What it shows, well, depends on your knowledge of art. I can say I really like this painting:  2-reflection-elephants-illusion-paintingI can attempt to give reasons, but I am not a painter or art historian. I would be making guesses. This isn't to say "there is no reason", only that it's really hard besides some really general ones, like "peculiarity is seen as important". What do the swans suggest, the clouds, the weird trees? I don't know. Delving deeper is beyond my ability.

By the way, you'd also need to consider the degree of liking when it comes to one's sense of life. Paraphrased from page 33, "one's sense of life is fully involved only when one feels a profoundly personal emotion page". 

I understand you are talking in broad strokes, so here is paraphrasing from page 43 to remind you of some ideas:

"it must be stressed that the pattern is not so gross and simple as preferring happy music to sad music according to a benevolent or malevolent view of the universe"
"it is not merely what particular emotion a composition conveys, but how it conveys the emotion"

I want to remind you that Rand didn't say any two people shared the same sense of life, so there will be many variations of even positive senses of life. Sense of life described here is her theory, so it's worth noting this point. There may be a broad category "positive sense of life" with differentia allowing for variations of individuals in their background experiences.

12 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

I usually pick what I call happy-sad music: upbeat songs or pieces that nevertheless convey a strong air of seriousness or tortured complexity beneath the façade.

Why is this mildly malevolent? Sure, you describe it with these words, but it's hard to say that you aren't missing something or lack the conceptual vocabulary to say the sense of life captured. All you can do is say if you feel good or bad. Rand understood at least in RM how hard it is to judge your own sense of life, and how we can't really judge what sense of life another person has.

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34 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

If a person hated life, and painted a sunny landscape, would they actually love life?

I've never seen a real-life example of this, but perhaps you can provide some? Also, it's tricky to imagine a succesful, happy person reveling in a four hour opera about a man being endlessly tortured by unachievable desires.

35 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

I want to remind you that Rand didn't say any two people shared the same sense of life, so there will be many variations of even positive senses of life.

I mentioned this in my initial post:

On 25.05.2017 at 3:56 AM, KyaryPamyu said:

Of course, for most people a sense of life isn't as black-and-white as I described, but you should get the idea.

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41 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Why is this mildly malevolent?

I'm an avid collector of everything I like. From my extensive experience with art that I feel at home in, I can definitely say there's malevolent streak there. I've picked up and habituated a lot of damaging ideas across the years, and I'm gradually working to correct them.

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2 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Also, it's tricky to imagine a succesful, happy person reveling in a four hour opera about a man being endlessly tortured by unachievable desires.

Sure, but part of that is, perhaps, not knowing a lot about opera. Van Gogh probably is one example:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh#/media/File:Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Wheat_Field_with_Cypresses_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

This is a sunny landscape. There is little reason to suspect he had an overall positive sense of life judging from his behavior and unstable mental health. As a non-painter, I don't know how to judge it besides "dreamy floatiness is important here". As a viewer, there are many unknowns. For a creator, there are fewer unknowns, but even then, how will I get down to what is my sense of life as opposed to an emotion as fed through sense of life? It starts to reach a point where more analysis is draining. It starts to become special science, e.g. psychology.

2 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

From my extensive experience with art that I feel at home in, I can definitely say there's malevolent streak there. I've picked up and habituated a lot of damaging ideas across the years, and I'm gradually working to correct them.

I'll tease this apart. On the one hand, you are speaking of how your explicit ideas have been habituated. On the other, you are attributing your reaction to the bad ideas you held a while ago. Your philosophy sets the criteria for emotional abstraction, that is, classifying things according to the emotions they evoke (paraphrased from somewhere before page 33). But you may still be reacting through largely positive/pro-life philosophy. I believe you when you say there is a malevolent streak somewhere. The issue is if it truly is malevolent per se, or a result of searching for the good in the bad. Maybe it's both. Also, a written interpretation is not one in the same as your feeling and the depth there.

Take this song I like a lot:

I hear many reasons to say it is malevolent, even I can explain the malevolent vibes. But, my reaction to the song isn't a tragic appreciation for the starboy (the character who The Weeknd is singing as in the video). It's more that he fell from grace for doing wrong, the song captures what it means for bad people to get their just desserts. The feeling I get is like one I feel if a bad person has bad things happen to them. I don't feel as if I need to resign myself to living my life through force. What counts is how you feel.

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7 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Van Gogh probably is one example

This is the painting I had in mind while writing about the sunny landscape. It isn't a landscape per se - its focus is the woman, but you can perhaps see what I mean by saying that VG's sunny landscape is not a sunny landscape due to a very striking aspect: his style of portrayal.

7 hours ago, Eiuol said:

The issue is if it truly is malevolent per se, or a result of searching for the good in the bad. Maybe it's both.

It's mildly malevolent, so it definitely both. I can revel in gloomy, sad artworks. I enjoy a dark foil in positive artworks and a positive foil in dark artworks. But I don't enjoy positive artworks without some ironic or gloomy foil. I'm certainly not malevolent all the way. Out of the two paintings mentioned above, I prefer the Van Gogh, though his style is not my cup of coffee.

I agree with your analysis of Starboy.

Either way, to illustrate what I mean by gloomy and happy-sad, here is a song that is malevolent througout (minus the instrumental breaks) and one that is ridiculously upbeat - but with a strong foil (I skipped the long intro). What the latter one betrays is not sadness, but a strong feeling of apprehension.

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I agree that art, both in the creation and experiencing of it, stems from one's beliefs (and experiences). But when someone then tries to assess people morally or with respect to "sense of life" (including themselves) based upon their aesthetic preferences, or to assess the artist of an artwork, or to assess an artwork itself, along these lines, well, I have grown deeply skeptical of any individual's ability to do so.

If I know that a person "enjoys Van Gogh" to use the thread's common example -- or any one of his works -- well, what do I know about that person (beyond the stipulated information) or how they relate to the art? Not a hell of a lot. If someone reads one of my stories and tries to infer my beliefs from it (and I have known people to try to do this), are they very successful? Not usually. Not more than those who try to infer my personality from the fact that I'm Gemini.

Perhaps there is some technique or science here waiting to be discovered, but until such a thing is demonstrated, this all has the seeming of armchair psychology to me.

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2 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Perhaps there is some technique or science here waiting to be discovered

Psychology of aesthetics is a thing nowadays, so it's less mysterious than when RM was written. It's an area I want to study, as in work on profesionally. Anyway, I agree that it starts to look like armchair psychology based on what one is able to project onto another. There are trends, but when figuring out what your sense of life is, you must focus on the emotions you feel. You'd need to look at what you do when you feel that way. You'd need to classify a wide array of emotions you feel. It's nice to talk about explicit interpretations of what an artist creates, and what you see as valuable - but it says nothing at all as to the feeling the artwork evokes.

I brought up Starboy to show that while we can interpret the song, it won't necessarily show malevolent aspects of my sense of life. Regardless of what the song means, the important part is how a variety of people react to the same thing. That sunny painting? It bugs me. It makes me feel torn, as if the scene is fake, as if I'm being lied to. The woman's face feels false.

I sense nothing negative about the song you linked KP, and I saw all of Wolf's Rain a  while back. Even if the -song- were malevolent, it depends on how you react and which part. Sure an artwork has a general sense of life unified for the creator who puts in every small and big detail on purpose. As a viewer/listener, I don't even notice all details, and often only react to portions. Then, the more versed or experienced I am with a medium, the more I seem to take in at once.

Here's some top of the line dark stuff:

 

The thing is, I feel a sense of internal conflict that needs resolution. Solving problems is big to me and huge in my personality. In a song like this, it is as if I see a problem and work to fix it. That is only a partial analysis of my emotion about that song. The degree of malevolence in any artwork does not always correlate with the malevolence the viewer holds if any. Not reliably at least.

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

The degree of malevolence in any artwork does not always correlate with the malevolence the viewer holds if any. Not reliably at least.

Or rather, the interpretation of any 'malevolent' artwork will be different for everybody, according to their own sense of life. For example, I get a mournful vibe from the Wolf's Rain song, but you stated that you don't sense anything negative about it. Similarly, One Hundred Years makes you see internal conflict requiring resolution, while to my ears it's just unlistenable noise. I see Schopenhauer's universe in the Angel of Grief statue, but SL sees a reminder of how important love is, and that it doesn't last forever.

Is it possible to objectively evaluate an artwork? I think the answer is unequivocally yes. But even if you objectively concluded from studying the musical vocabulary and the lyrics of a song that its theme is the malevolent sense of life, it might still have a personal meaning to you that completely disregards or even contradicts the actual intention of the composer - or the interpretations of any other listener. And I see nothing wrong with that; artworks are a personal value.

This is an article Ayn Rand refers to in Art and Cognition: Metaphysics in Marble

Edited by KyaryPamyu
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15 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

Objectivity is not something determined by consensus.

The consensus of whom? An objective evaluation would require that you discover the aesthetic principles that apply to all art, then figuring out how they can be applied to each specific medium.

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To expand on the above.  I think I misread your post because in part because I still had in the back of my mind this post of yours:

On 5/26/2017 at 4:23 PM, KyaryPamyu said:

I'm an avid collector of everything I like. From my extensive experience with art that I feel at home in, I can definitely say there's malevolent streak there. I've picked up and habituated a lot of damaging ideas across the years, and I'm gradually working to correct them.

Is it your notion that once you've "corrected" your "damaging" ideas, you will then not like particular types of works of art any more?

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1 hour ago, New Buddha said:

I see that I misread your post.  I apologize.

Nicely resolved.  

Off topic if I might add this might be caused by the all too common conflation ( even when it is very minimal) of "objective" and "universal".  What a work means presupposes a mind providing that meaning ... and it is separately objectively (not universally) due to the identity of the work and the identity of the one contemplating it.

The above of course intended for those (such as NB and KP) who I think actually understand the difference between "objective" and "universal".

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6 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Is it possible to objectively evaluate an artwork? I think the answer is unequivocally yes. But even if you objectively concluded from studying the musical vocabulary and the lyrics of a song that its theme is the malevolent sense of life, it might still have a personal meaning to you that completely disregards or even contradicts the actual intention of the composer - or the interpretations of any other listener. And I see nothing wrong with that; artworks are a personal value.

Well, as far as what a work means, there is meaning as far as what it means that doesn't vary according to who sees it, in the way that a word has meaning regardless of who said it. As long as some mind is able to think about it, of course.

Then there's the meaning as in your emotional reaction to parts or the entirety of the work.

I think we agree here on both, so I wanted to write it down to see if this is what you're thinking, too.

An objective evaluation of art's denotation  - as opposed to connotation of the elements and your emotional reaction - depends a lot on studying which styles and which details in a painting use which sort of focus. Generally, messier composition requires less focus, otherwise there will be detail. But there are so many ways to harness "messiness" that sometimes lead to clarity.

 

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7 hours ago, New Buddha said:

Is it your notion that once you've "corrected" your "damaging" ideas, you will then not like particular types of works of art any more?

There are certain artworks that I used to enjoy, but are no longer appealing to me - because they clash strongly with my present convictions. So I speak mostly from experience.

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I think we agree here on both, so I wanted to write it down to see if this is what you're thinking, too.

Yes.

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6 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

There are certain artworks that I used to enjoy, but are no longer appealing to me - because they clash strongly with my present convictions. So I speak mostly from experience.

Can I just say, to provide my own data point...?

My experience is different. Those artworks I identified with strongly as a child or adolescent or young adult, I identify with still -- even though my conscious convictions have changed. And explicit agreement with my conscious convictions does not seem to be any crucial matter for me, with respect to my enjoyment of art; if there is implicit agreement, through technical or thematic matters that might be beyond my expertise to divine, then there is: but I do not need characters telling one another that "A is A," for instance, to enjoy them.

I'm not trying to advance an argument here. I don't know what the sum of my experience means (if it means anything), only that it is my experience. It is possible that my sense of life was always suited to my present convictions -- and that, in fact, it was such in part that led me on the path I eventually found. But this sounds like a convenient and self-serving explanation to me, and I'm not yet convinced of it, and I don't know how I would suss it out any further.

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