Re: Extropic art: symbolism, interpretation & association

Gregory Houston (
Mon, 17 Mar 1997 08:40:54 -0600

The following are responses to TOMorrow, Kathryn Aegis, and Sarah Marr: wrote:
> I think that trying to define art accomplishes embarassingly
> little. Far better to just create it, share it, and enjoy it.

You have just defined it then. You have defined art as something to be
created, shared, and enjoyed. This definintion corrollates directly with
my subjective definition of art: the manifestation of our pleasures, and
ignores my objective definition: that art is the status of our
condition. Specifically, the collective art of an individual reflects
the individual's condition, and the collective art of an organization,
nation, or society, reflects the condition of that society. You may deny
the latter definition, but in so doing, you deny arts scientific
usefulness; you regulate art to the ephermeral only.

Objectively, it does not matter what an artist intends when they create
a work of art, they may intend nothing in particular, or they may intend
something specific and not attain it, but either way, that art still
expresses their condition. It is difficult to see this in contemporary
art because we do not have the distance in time to be very objective.
Hoever look at art of any other period, start with the cave art of
20-25,000 years ago, and work your way up. In the same way that we can
look back at this art today and determine the general psychological
condition of those civilizations, people in our near future will be able
to look at our art today and do the same thing, and better than we are
now able to do with art of the past ourselves, for the people of the
future will have even better understanding of psychology coupled with a
great deal more data to make objective corrollations with.

Kathryn Aegis wrote:
> Your above statement represents only one definition of art, and it is
> one that I as an artist do not subscribe to.

The fact that you do not subscribe to it does not make it any less real.
It only shows a determinism to deny that facet of art. I don't have to
subscribe to a definition of the earth which says the earth is round. I
can hold tenaciously to a belief that the earth is flat, but that does
not change the reality of what the earth really is.

Kathryn Aegis wrote:
> As an artist I am fully
> responsible for my own visions, and they do not necessarily stem from
> the particular society that I live in,

Not true. It is fine to believe this, but it is wholly untrue. You
cannot *fully* escape the conditions of your time, and the very attempt
itself to escape or deny the conditions of your time is a response to
your time in itself. You are by degree, perhaps less than some,
determined by the limitations of your era. Even striving not to be
limited by your era is a response to your era itself. As much as you may
wish to avoid the truth of it, when you make art, you are making a
statement of condition about yourself, the institutions you are member
of, the nation you are member of, and the era itself you are member of.
And people of the future, and perhaps people from other worlds also,
will be able to look back on your art, and make objective observations
on it.

Kathryn Aegis wrote:
> and to accept those types of
> boundaries would prevent me from exploring the transhumanist ideas I
> am interested in. Moreover, I do not accept transhumanism itself as
> a criterion for what I write--rather, my transhumanist orientation
> frees my mind from barriers imposed by other ideologies. To that
> extent, I consider myself a writer who happens to be transhumanist.

This is fine. If you do not consciously create boundaries for your art,
which few people do, and I do not personally recommend or discourage it,
the boundaries on your art will be set unconsciously. Either way, your
work can still be analysed objectively as a statement of condition.

As artists we like to imagine we are absolutely unique and uninfluenced
by outside forces. But this really is not the case. Some specific
boundaries that are set by an era, techniques that are possible,
technology that can be employed, ubiquitous concerns, conditions of
life, limitations of our current degree of knowledge. We can only
imagine things so far beyond what currently is and what is currently
possible. This itself is a limitation of any era; it is a limitation on
your art.

>Art, like its proper subset writing, has no particular purpose beyond expressing ideas.

Art can also express feelings, and conditions of existence.

Sarah Marr wrote:
> They respond just as subjectively: their subjectivity is merely more
> informed, and more in line with majority thought (which, of course, itself
> differs from culture to culture).

No, not "just" as subjectively. Trained scientific professionals are
trained not to act "just" as subjectively. Trained scientific
proffessionals base their observations on collected scientific data.
There is a major difference between interpreting artwork subjectively,
"What do I personally think or feel about this work?", and interpreting
it objectively, "How do the qualities of this work corrallate with the
collected data at my disposal?"

I can look up at the stars and say, "Wow those are beautiful," and then
continue to make up all kinds of astrological fairy tales about those
stars, or I can seek to become more objective in my interpretation of
the stars and create a science called, astronomy. Again, if you chose to
believe in astrological fairy tales rather than astronomical facts, that
will not detract from the astronomical truth. You do not have to believe
in an objective definition of art for such to exist.

Sara Marr wrote:
> Do
> you define art as that which pleases us in any way (e.g. by saving our
> lives)?


Gregory Houston          Triberian Institute of Emotive Education