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What is the relation between emotions and art?
What is the relation between emotions and art?
What is the relation between emotions and art?

I decided to separate the question and my (first) attempt to deal with it.

When reading Christopher Kagy’s post  attempting to define art by means of emotions, I was thinking about the relation between the two.

First, to show a pure emotion – anger, fury, joy – that is art and it is hard. It’s hard to transmit these pure emotions, not to mention mixed ones. Yet the emotion itself, even love, is far from art. Art is a representation, whether it is abstract art or figurative art, and it has to have the form of representation. That is, art can’t be X but has to transmit X, it can’t be fury but needs to transmit fury.

But, does art have to include emotions? Can there be an emotionless art? My first reaction is yes, but my second reaction is hmmm don’t know. Let us take the example of Bach. Everyone would agree that Bach’s music is art, yet he is often performed as to be emotionless. Of course Music has the added complication of interpretation, so when reading the notes of Bach, is there emotions there?

(Edna Stern plays him with a lot of emotions, but Bach is rarely played that way. Perhaps we could describe it as Bach through Romanticism eyes through modern eyes.)

Is Cezanne about emotions? Do all of his paintings have emotions or just some of them?

Do Yves Klein’s paintings have anything to do with emotions?



Movies, on first thought, seem to be filled with emotions, but are emotions what makes them great? Even thinking about the films of Orson Wells, are emotions what they transmit to us or something deeper, something stronger?

The more I think about it, emotions seem to inhabit only a small part of what makes art art. They are often part of it, like part of our lives, but our lives are more than our emotions, they are a world and that what art needs to transmit. That’s what art needs to create.

To look at further examples, what about John Cage’s 4’33” (a silent piece)? Is there any connection to emotions in that piece? Of course, I would definitely call it art but many may disagree.

What are further examples you may think of of artworks with a questionable relation to emotions?

What though can we say of the relation between the two?

Caveat emptor (buyer beware) – I may change my opinion of anything I wrote here in 5 minutes time, or less, or more. It’s a tough topic.
Tough question indeed, Chris.
An important point to add is that the transmitting of emotions does not equal art. Watching the news transmits a lot of emotions - sadness, anger - and those are easily manipulated by the producers of the show, yet it is not art.

What are emotions is another complication to the question. When we reach an understanding we feel Joy, Enlightenment comes with emotion, Restfulness comes with emotion. When encountering a work that transmits an understanding we have emotions appear in us, but what then is the relation of the work itself to emotions? For some reading a mathematical proof, or a philosophical essay is full of emotions, yet we wouldn't say the work is supposed to transmit emotions. In the same way we may ask ourselves when looking at:



are emotions what this work is about. Or, is there something else at play and emotions are just attaching themselves to it like flies around an elephant.
Firstly, to Chris, I am honored that my thoughts inspired you to write down more details of your own thoughts to counter my own on this topic.

In defense of my position:
 As I understand it, both Chris and Jessica's post have taken my definition, which I expressed as, "Art is any form, created by a person, which seeks to express an emotion which can be equally expressed by some mathematical equation, or combination of equations" and looked at each individually. Jessica I think rightly pointed out that merely expressing emotion does not equal art. I agree fully. Chris seems to have taken the other side of the definition and looked at it from the perspective of varying degrees of emotion in a piece of art. This is interesting to look at, but I dont think it has any impact on the definition.

The first point I would like to make is in relation to Jessica's observations, and that is this: By my definition, art is emotion which has been refined into a representative form. A pure display of emotions is just noise, or rather, a block of granite that has yet to be carved into a bust. For emotion to be considered an art it needs to be turned from its raw form, into something intellectual. The intellectual form, which we'll say is the bust inside the block of granite, can be defined by mathematical equations, if we only knew what those equations were from the outset. For something to be considered art the two sides of the definition, emotion and math, must both be present.

In response to Chris's positions and to give my answer to Jessica's final question, the level of emotion in a piece is irrelevant in deciding whether something is art or not. As long as both sides of the definition exist, then something can be recognized as art. Cage's piece, 4'33" could be described mathematically, in terms of notes, as Y=0. The piece is perfectly linear in its silence, yet we somehow know that Cage had some thought or emotion which drove him to pick that form. I have never heard the piece played, but I'm assuming that it successfully draws some kind of emotion out of the audiance; though that is really also irrelavent to my definition of art. Which brings me to Jessica's final question. A piece of art doesnt need to be about emotions to be considered art, given my definition, as long as the artist had a thought or emotion when painting it. However, I would say that when looking at your example of the last supper, it is clear that emotions are trying to be conveyed through the facial expressions of the folks in the work. But again, that is also irrelevant as long as we have some notion that DiVince was trying to portray something without using emotion in its raw form.

I just had a thought. I'm not sure if I have clearly defined what I mean by emotion in its raw form. When I say that I mean spurr of the moment human reaction to stimuli, e.g. a kid crying after being yelled at, or being struck by another person accross the room.

I hope I have defended myself... but please keep attacking it if you think I havent! :-D
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