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Posts tagged "taste"

Aug 05, 2014
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Painting by Numbers: Komar and Melamid’s Scientific Guide to Art

In December 1993, the Russian emigre art collaborators Komar and Melamid began a statistical market research poll to determine America’s “most wanted” and “most unwanted” paintings. Since then, the whimsical project has spread around the world. Polls in the United States, Ukraine, France, Iceland, Turkey, Denmark, Finland, Kenya, and China revealed that people wanted portraits of their families and always “blue landscapes.” After conducting research, the pair paint made-to-order works that meet the wanted (landscape) and unwanted (abstract) criteria; they follow up with town meetings as virtual performance pieces. This intriguing and serious volume documents issues raised by the conflict between high art and popular taste.

I read this after devouring Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey To The End of Taste, which quoted several bits.

The book was published in 1997, so it’s almost 20 years old, but, in this age of Instagram likes and Tumblr reblogs, I read it mostly as a cautionary tale about artists looking to their audiences for direction as to what they should produce for them. As Diana Vreeland said, ”You’re not supposed to give people what they want, you’re supposed to give them what they don’t know they want yet.”

The best part of the book is the beginning interview with Komar and Melamid. I’ve quoted some of my own favorite bits, below.

On collaboration:

Everyone works collaboratively. That is why society exists. Even artist who imagines himself to be like God, a solitary creator, is working in collaboration with his teachers, his predecessors, craftsmen who created his canvas and paints, and so on—just as God created world with help of angels. Old romantic view of artist is a travesty of monotheism.

How modern artists have lost their way:

We have lost even our belief that we are the minority which knows. We believed ten years ago, twenty years ago, that we knew the secret. Now we have lost this belief. We are a minority with no power and no belief, no faith. I feel myself, as an artist and as a citizen, just totally obsolete. I don’t know why I am here, what I am doing. What is so good about me doing this, or any other artist?

The difference between European and American culture:

I’m stunned by the differences between the European culture and the American culture. In America, the best which has been produced in culture came from the bottom of society. Like music—the greatest musicians of the twentieth century were illiterate; they couldn’t read music.

Why artists should look to hip-hop for inspiration:

People really want art, but we, the elite artists, we don’t serve them… What we need is to create a real pop art, a real art of the people, like the music… And the hip-hop, rock, that’s the greatest thing in the world. We need to make art like these people. We have to learn how they work. That’s what is an artist.

How, in Russia, “Sunday painter” was actually a good thing:

In Russia, “Sunday painter” had a very pure, simple dissident flavor, because to paint on Sunday meant to paint for yourself, not for government. I knew a few very professional artists who made a living painting socialist realism for money all week and painted abstract art.

But how that changed when they moved to America:

Now we paint differently. You know the propaganda cliche: we emigrate and become free, and now we can paint all week, without interuption, without weekends. Every day became Sunday, but you’re working every day. No free time, that’s because you’re free.

And whether their work is serious or not:

No one would ask of life, “Is it all serious or all a joke?” because tragedy and comedy coexist in one life. You cannot separate and say it is all one or all the other. It is same with this work, with all our work: it is serious and humorous at the same time.

Thanks to @mulegirl for the recommendation. Here’s a website with some more of the paintings.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Jul 22, 2014
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Carl Wilson, Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste

This was great. I picked it up because of Mark’s review.

mlarson:


  I read Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, and it’s probably my favorite book of the year so far. Like Wilson, I never cared that much for Céline Dion’s music, and hadn’t tried to care, but I came away with a new appreciation for where she came from and some of her shrewd business moves. But it’s not just about the music and industry angle, the good stuff is how he uses Dion as the pivot to talk about taste, and all the baggage that informs our opinions.
  
  
    Much of this book is about reasonable people carting around cultural assumptions that make them assholes to millions of strangers.
  


There are tons of great quotes from the book, many of which Mark already pulled out. I particularly liked this one—


  Punk, metal, even social-justice rock like U2 or Rage Against the Machine, with their emphatic slogans or individuality and independence, are as much “inspirational” as Céline’s music is, but for different subcultural groups. They are just as one-sided and unsubtle.


—which reminded me of the Neil Young vs. Billy Joel section of Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music.

It’s a really fun read. I kept misplacing it around the house and asking my wife, “Have you seen my Celine Dion book?” Which was pretty hilarious. Recommended.

BTW: there’s a new edition of the book that includes essays from other writers on the topic of taste.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Carl Wilson, Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste

This was great. I picked it up because of Mark’s review.

mlarson:

I read Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, and it’s probably my favorite book of the year so far. Like Wilson, I never cared that much for Céline Dion’s music, and hadn’t tried to care, but I came away with a new appreciation for where she came from and some of her shrewd business moves. But it’s not just about the music and industry angle, the good stuff is how he uses Dion as the pivot to talk about taste, and all the baggage that informs our opinions.

Much of this book is about reasonable people carting around cultural assumptions that make them assholes to millions of strangers.

There are tons of great quotes from the book, many of which Mark already pulled out. I particularly liked this one—

Punk, metal, even social-justice rock like U2 or Rage Against the Machine, with their emphatic slogans or individuality and independence, are as much “inspirational” as Céline’s music is, but for different subcultural groups. They are just as one-sided and unsubtle.

—which reminded me of the Neil Young vs. Billy Joel section of Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music.

It’s a really fun read. I kept misplacing it around the house and asking my wife, “Have you seen my Celine Dion book?” Which was pretty hilarious. Recommended.

BTW: there’s a new edition of the book that includes essays from other writers on the topic of taste.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Apr 19, 2014
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Mar 06, 2013
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The first mistake of Art is to assume that it’s serious

Jan 26, 2013
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I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it. That’s what’s wrong with our generation: that residual punk rock guilt, like, “You’re not supposed to like that. That’s not fucking cool.” Don’t fucking think it’s not cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” It is cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic”! Why the fuck not? Fuck you! That’s who I am, goddamn it! That whole guilty pleasure thing is full of fucking shit.

Apr 27, 2011
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Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.
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