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The Arts Room General Philosophical Musing on Art and Context
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Philosophical Musing on Art and Context
The following is a social experiment that explores the epistemology of beauty: 

At 7:51 am, on Jan. 12, 2007, a young man in jeans, a long-sleeve T shirt and a baseball cap arrived at the DC metro station at L'enfant Plaza, he stopped at the entrance, took out his violin and started playing Bach's "Chaconne". 

He played for 43 minutes, during which time more than a thousand people passed by, 6 of them stopped briefly, about 20 dropped money into the case on the ground but didn't slowed down the pace of walking, at the end, he collected $32.17 and no applause.

No one knew this was Joshua Bell (except the woman who recognized him at the end of the video), one of the world's top musicians, who had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with his 1713 Stradivarius, a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days earlier, he was sold out at the Boston Symphony Hall with seats average at $100.  He would a few months later win the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize, the highest honor for a musician in America.

I've been pondering about these questions and wondering what are your thoughts:

Once taken out of context, are beauty and talent still recognizable? Without a frame, is art still art? Do we have to recognize an artist to admire his/her work? When it comes to art, are you ever influenced or confused by hype?  Can the arts and artists thrive without the curatorial support?

Once taken out of context, are beauty and talent still recognizable? Without a frame, is art still art? Do we have to recognize an artist to admire his/her work? When it comes to art, are you ever influenced or confused by hype?  Can the arts and artists thrive without the curatorial support? QL

Art can be hard to appreciate if you're rushing about your day focused on mundane necessities like earning a living, missing your train or scraping the gum off your shoe.  Art is always art though, beauty is always beauty.  It's easier to concentrate on them in a gallery or a concert hall and if you have enough money in your pocket to have dinner afterwards.
I don't think artists can survive without support.  People don't think they need art and it's the first thing to go when the money is tight.
Art is at the tippy top of Maslow's hierarchy and gets sacrificed to other needs although I think we continue to yearn for it.

In response to Linda OReilly
I’m not so sure, Linda, so I’m thinking out loud here -- to use the artists as an example, is it possible that Maslow placed them in the pathological category and therefore left them out of his “healthiest” 1% that his hierarchy was built upon? Contrary to his presumption, we’ve perhaps all seen people in the real world totally driven by their “being needs” BEFORE their “deficiency needs” are met. 95% of the artists in NYC will never have a single solo show in their life time, many of them living without any sort of security, relationship wise or finance wise, they must be all “outliers” for Maslow. (Imagine, however, a world inhabited entirely by his qualified human beings, it must be an immensely boring place!)

 For the time being, I’m willing to entertain the idea that the first man was an artist. In western Sichuan, my home provence, there are many ethnic minority groups, including Yi, Tibetan, Qiang, Miao... etc., nestled away in the remote west and miraculously kept their traditions and cultures intact. It always amazes me that some of these minority people living in a truly subsistent condition would devote so many of their waking hours to artistic pursuits. Qiang woman, for example, spend early morning hours singing and the whole village would spend more hours singing and dancing in the evenings, ignoring the more urgent (to me at least) survival tasks. As for the Yi people, they are all born artists. They would decorate their eating utensils with such elaborate patterns in red, yellow, and black, the most common natural colors locally available. It seems to be such a waste of time given that they barely have enough to eat! ... You see, Linda, I host double minds -- on one hand, I assume Maslow must be right about the type of “healthy” people he studied, on the other hand,  I can’t help wondering: how could anyone decide who are “healthy” and who are not? what are exactly the basic human needs? can such needs be ranked universally in a hierarchy? which, in turn, only leads me to more questions than answers:

Was there such a thing as the primitive art impulse? If so, has civilization erased it from modern man? if not, where do we find the modern counterpart of such impulse?

Was man’s first fantasy or expression for an aesthetic purpose or utilitarian one?

Does man turn to art only after the day’s labor is finished?

Is it only possible for man to pursue and appreciate art whenever there is surplus of material resources in his possession?

Was man’s first speech an emotional outburst or an attempt for exchanging farming tips with others?
Interesting topic.  In my uneducated opinion, which amounts to nothing but recreational speculation, art is on a value scale that decreases in proportion to the distance each simulacrum rests from its origin. 

Art is only original.  A framed painting hung on a wall has less value than it did in progress, sketched in, paint still wet.  And, less value still is the material, or even the form, than is the physic process, the interior dynamics, the whole of the first seven days of creation, all within the artist as the image gained materiality from (a qualified) nothing, almost a Self-less nothing into presence.

Now, listening to Bach are we experiencing art, even so far removed from its conception?  The answer can be yes when the music provokes movements of creativity, sparks replacing provokes would afford a better analogy, sparks lighting across the night of personality in ways previously unimaginable, literally unimaginable.

When a new participant is drawn by the work to a place original, then there is art.  It is proportionate in quality to the ability of the listener to approach, say, Bach as the music formed in his, Bach’s, body.  That’s true because no two origins are comparable, each is a new beginning against a (and again, qualified) nothing, not quite an oblivion, but an absense, a state potential with something always on the verge.

A highly publicized art, as in the requisite public relations, can ride on a neutral vehicle if the originating artist is serious about origins rather than transportation.  If the artist is serious only about transporting the art to the market place, then the origin occurs in the mechanisms of transportation, while the substance, the painting or score, etc. looses original significance.

So, if the musician in question was sincere in the context of his music itself during the performance in the metro station, then he would have been playing musical art.  But it was probably a mix… he was probably equally sincere in the social experiment, which itself became the art.  The passersby were the unwitting participants in a work of art that required their distraction, and the performer’s work became ironic, rather than… whatever in the world is the opposite of irony?  Sincerity? 

It the music hall everybody agreed.  The issue of irony may have been present, but so subaltern that only a probing cultural critic could construct (rather than find) it (the construction a work of art in itself).  It was a situation where all the audience members as well as the performer were given the maximum opportunity to experience the stupendous first seven days of creation, be artists, each according to just measure.
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