"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." -Martin Luther

Monday, February 06, 2006

Content Matters: Description is Art II

In my last post I held that description, in and of itself, has value, regardless of what it is describing, as a means of communication. This medium, however, like all media, must have "good" content to be "acceptable." I added quotations because these words really mean very little to this discussion at the moment. I hope to add context.
Description is art. We can, therefore, draw the parallel between description and the visual and sonic arts. Most paintings are of something. Almost all paintings have a title. All paintings have a purpose.
The fact that most paintings are of a particular thing is obvious. Most artists pick out a physical object, or perhaps an event or emotion, and try to express it on the canvas.
Almost all paintings have a title, given to them by the artist, or, in case of ancient paintings, by popular concent.
All paintings have a purpose. I don't think very many people would have argued with me about this a century ago, perhaps not even half a century back. But today a lot of people would. I will bypass the argument that documents and, implcitly, paintings can have no meaning, since this is, to my best knowledge, still recognized as the ludicracy that it is. But do all paintings, all of them, mind you, have a purpose? Some artists seem to go out of their way to avoid including one. On the other end of the spectrum, some artists simply draw a scene exactly as it appears to the eye. The former artwork has the purpose of appearing purposeless. The latter has the purpose of conveying as exactly as possible a visual scene. Between these two extremes are all sorts of art with all sorts of purposes behind them, but they do have a purpose.
With these preliminaries completed, I will try to show that content has a direct relation to the art itself.
I am laughing at myself. You should be laughing at me as well. Why do I need to prove this? Think about it; if you are describing or painting something, what do you do? You think about, or look at the thing, and then you describe or paint, using the information you got from your looking and thinking. Of course what you are painting or describing has a direct relation to the art itself! Thing -> artist -> description/art. Oh, look, the artist is a function. How interesting...
Anyway, you can see that the only three components of actually making art are the subject ("subject" sounds a lot nicer than "thing"), the artist, and the artwork. The artist, the subject, and the artwork all have different components, of course, but these three hold all the sub-categories.
Why, you may be asking, am I reversing on myself? Last post I said that description, in and of itself, is art. Now I seem to be saying that the subject has just as much input on it. Because there is bad and good art in two different ways. There is art that lacks talent or inginuity. That is art that, regardless of subject, is bad art. It doesn't matter the subject, it will still be bad art. Will it convey it's meaning? Possibly, but not well. Then there is art that can be called good along those lines, but is bad all the same. This is art that has a bad subject, or purpose.
What is bad and what is good? We need a standard if I am going to say this. For the former bad and good I described, the standard was whether the art conveyed its message or subject in an inadequate way, or not at all. But what subjects or purposes are good for art? Who is to judge. Certainly not me. Then how am I to continue?
Every human being knows there is good and evil. He may very well deny or twist it, but he knows it all the same. He is angry, he is sad, he is happy and joyful, at things that are done or seen. He feels guilt and vindication. These things are true. And, though he may deny and contridict this, every man knows which of these two sides of the coin is good, and which is bad. He may call good bad, and bad good. He may love bad and hate good. But he never can switch them. This brings me to conclude that while they may be entirely opposed, they are not opposites in the sense that they are identical. The anti-matter universe is typically portrayed as an alternative. Matter still looks like matter. Everything works the same way. A relection is backwards, but if you were inside the reflection, through the looking glass, it would seem to be the right way around, and the real would seem to be flipped. The dark and light sides are equal and opposite, and need to be balanced. We all have our concious and our sub-concious.
These are lies, when they are applied to good and evil. We are polarized. We cannot flip, so that good is evil, and evil good. Yes, we love evil and hate good, but we know in our hearts that we are wrong, not right!
Good, therefore, is not on a par with evil. It is my belief, from which I will never be shaken, that good is greater than evil, because good has no age, but is eternal, while evil not only had an origin, but no real existence in and of itself. When people deny good, they also deny evil. Why? Becuase evil is -- and here I mean to define evil -- whatever is against, or opposed to good. Good, however, is not whatver is against or opposed to evil, not in a definitive sense. This is true, but it is not the definition of good. Good is the action, evil the reaction. Good is eternal, and has content. Evil merely takes the content of good and rebels against it.
So there are purposes and subjects that are evil and should not be given to art. Obviously, I have not really made any claims as to the conten of good yet, but I have come so far as to firmly state that there are reasons for art, and subjects for art that are wrong, and ruin even good or skillful artwork. This is true not only in visual and sonic, but in the written art of description.
Whew. Perhaps a third installment is in order...

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but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
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