Art in the twenty-first century.
February 8, 2002 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Art in the twenty-first century. Twenty-one artists who are defining the visual arts for a new millennium discuss their life, their work, and their vision in Art:21 - Art in the Twenty-First Century, a four-part series premiering Fall 2001 on PBS. Art:21 offers a unique glimpse into 21 artists' personal experiences, sources of inspiration, and creative processes. The last episode played last night, but the site has a wealth of information on some amazing artists. Did anyone catch this?
posted by mad (8 comments total)
art has always been about the same: expression of the artist's ideas. the media, tools and techniques to make art is what really changes in time. as aristotle said, art has to deal more with action rather than knowledge (as different from science). if you consider this point of view, whatever you're doing only for the simple reason of performing that action, is more than enough to call that "artistic".
posted by trismegisto at 7:29 AM on February 8, 2002

i saw it a few months ago(?). i discovered otis redding on the segment on michael ray charles! i also liked that one guy who built stairs on the hills and filmed rats in his studio at night :)
posted by kliuless at 7:32 AM on February 8, 2002

anybody happen to know where the good art world weblogs are? ArtFilter, so to speak. Tracking general interest and general weirdness stuff is easy, and so is finding decent political/current events blogs, but I haven't had as much luck with art. I know of a few digital art forums and the like, but other than Arts Journal, which doesn't have a discussion feature, i got nothin.

Something on the order of I Love Music, but for the visual arts, would be perfect.
posted by techgnollogic at 7:44 AM on February 8, 2002

excellent link, mad. Will definitely spend a few hours there today.
posted by clowersayshaw! at 8:03 AM on February 8, 2002

Great idea, techgno, if it doesn't already exist.
posted by rodii at 8:03 AM on February 8, 2002

Before art was art it was ritual and/or ceremonial in existence (ie. the Venus of Willendorf or the Lascaux cave paintings). It had specific uses that we could/can only make assumptions through educated deductions to its purpose (you know since none of us were there to experience it). The point being is that it had uniqueness, and an understood purpose that made it special to the group. We now consider it art because it eventually begot art.
When art became art it was shifting from group ownership (clan or tribe) to wealthy individual, the controlling/ruling power, or church ownership (ie. patrons). It became a political or religious tool about power and status. There was still something that made art more special than normal ordinary things.
Art was craft (as in craftsmanship not Elmers and popsicle sticks) made of techniques, formulas, and standards. Like building a table you follow a certain order of steps. Some could do it better than others, so their work was more prized. Apprentices studied under Masters for a reason: to learn and hone techniques to one day be a Master. Refinement of techniques, processes, and new technologies or mediums pushed art further. Releasing art production from the confines of patron ship gave artisans more self expressive input. It also gave us the stereotype of the romantic impoverished misunderstood artist wishing to communicate to the world. Art is to express. Art is to share. Art is to save the world or us from ourselves. Art is to control (Agit-prop).
Discontentment with the imputes of the “movement of the time” leads to new movements. In hindsight the connection between movements is rather obvious, reactionary. With movements running longer spans of time more non-artists can learn what makes the current state of art so special. They still might not like it or agree with it, but it would lead to a possibly better understanding of why it is. Things get messy after Ab Ex when there was not one main movement. There were multiple movements happening at the same time or in shorter durations. That was the freest moment in art: anyone can do anything. If you don’t like this style or dogma or manifesto make a new one. There is nothing wrong with that freedom. The thing is when you splinter or fracture you narrow your focus. Thus narrowing your audience and limiting the possibility of being “understood”. If you want to make clay figures depicting insider jokes from your freshman year go ahead, but don’t be surprised when outsiders dismiss your work because their focus is on Peruvian frescos of the late 1970’s sub sect Red Devil house paint.
The 60’s and 70’s also happens to be when academia began offering degrees in Art History and Criticism. Showing people how to follow steps to sterilize and dissect art to find its meaning. Lay multiple templates over the work until you find a match. Then you will know by a configured format exactly what the artist was thinking and their motivation for the work in question. When you are learning about the old and how it orderly built upon itself in the midst of the splintering modern you can’t make sense of everything.
Put on top of that a public audience who might have gotten their understanding of what art should or is supposed to be from some place other than art school (which as already stated has all of the magical answers), and you are a little bit closer to where art is today.
Art is both subjective and objective. Objectivity is for classification purposes, based on standards, to aid in arts understanding. Subjectivity is so everyone can criticize, based solely on personal preference regardless if the viewer and artist have the same focus.

Shows like Art:21 are a great way to learn new ways or expand your own ways of looking at art. Hearing the artists explain and not just someone else telling you their interpretations of the artist is always better. Of course it is always best if the artist can actually explain themselves and not just phone it in.

Action without a certain level of knowledge will lead to repetition and wasted energy. Think about how MeFiers jump on double posters, and then think about how that would play out in the Art World.

I suggest David Macaulay’s Motel of the Mysteries for a humorous look at the sometimes problems of our powers of deduction and assumptions.
posted by sailormouth at 11:18 AM on February 8, 2002

wow, sailormouth that was beautifully put.
I don't know exactly what trismegisto meant in the action comment, but I don't think the intention was too say that one should act w/o knowledge. (Now, if it was, then I apologize and bow out) It seems to me that too much classification or analysis of art sometimes prevents the artist from being able to create it. Some knowledge is necessary, but the action of actually getting your hands into a project and creating something that did not exist is extremely difficult to describe and analyze.
Creating is also something that I think all people who propose to criticize art should try to do. Politicians and members of "community art committees" would gain some serious critical understanding and appreciation of art if they actually went through the creative process
posted by ajayb at 12:38 PM on February 8, 2002

Techgnollogic, deviantart is an arts based community, but maybe not what you're refering to. Judging by your artsjournal link, deviantart's application art focus isn't what you have in mind. It's a fine looking/working community though, one similiar to what I have in mind for a wider arts focus. I'm in the process of developing this community using a php app. If anyone with php, design and/or experience wishes to get involved contact me at giantkicks at This is in the early stages of development. Very early.
posted by giantkicks at 4:29 PM on February 8, 2002

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