Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Elephant art?

No, I'm not referring to art incorporating elephant dung.

Bioephemera considers the claim that some animal species - elephants, chimpanzees, and others - are producing artwork. Her perspective is well presented, but the verdict is open to interpretation; like most "arty" debates, this one is fuzzy.

A few floaters:
What distinguishes the trained elephant from the trained violinist (performing a composer's opus)? Elephant X might use a more fluid stroke than Elephant Y; is that the makings of style? And what, really, is the role of ego in art? Is self-consciousness the fulcrum in this conversation?

Read the post here.

8 comments:

bioephemera said...

It's wide open because I so don't even begin to have an opinion on this. There's not enough data. :)

Hungry Hyaena said...

Bioephemera:

Thanks. I edited my blurb for clarity. As for the data, I'm not sure that there isn't enough. Just this morning my cat, Mr. Misi, pushed all of his shit to one side of the litter box. I was transfixed. If that's not performance art, then I don't know what is.

Michael said...

Wouldn't the non-representational elephant be the embodiment of abstract expressionist ideas? By painting the notion of 'bird' without attempting depiction, the elephant would be relying on pure aesthetic judgement and the characteristics of the medium.
I think those ideals are about as useful as a fart in a bag, but I couldn't help but see the similarity. Elephants smearing stuff around... primates smearing stuff around... not so different perhaps.
Also, is it stealing if I co-opt Mr Misi's performance?

Hungry Hyaena said...

Michael:

While I appreciate your argument, I'd pit you against the likes of Mark Rothko. He made a very convincing case, time and again, for the primacy of abstract expressionism and experience over narrative. Keeping his perspective in mind, Mr. Misi's pawiwork is more complete than any Poussin landscape. (And, for the record, so long as you "own" the performance, or in some other way make it your own, I don't think you could "steal" Mr. Misi's scatological study.

Michael said...

Yeah, I suppose... I haven't read too much of Rothko's theory. I have, however, learned to enjoy his paintings a great deal. Without any back theory, however, I would argue that his paintings are primarily about space and are non-representational landscapes, pure and simple. I think that narrative is an intrinsic part of the way that we animals experience the world. To me, Rothko's paintings engage with narrative in the same manner as an empty stage does. Though no action may be taking place, the stage itself suggests the potential for action.
While I happily accept 'the primacy of abstract expressionism and experience over narrative' in Rothko's work, I balk at any assertion of that as a general rule. Rather it seems to me that in any piece or body of work the artist makes decisions (conscious or unconscious) about what the primary element will be. Many contemporary works, for example, place theoretical relevance over both experience and expression. While I don't personally care for the results, I do feel that they are as valid as Rothko's work or that of an artist that relies heavily on narrative or representation.
Also, to clarify, my comments regarding the elephant were in no way meant to belittle the ideas (my stinky bag comment was, however, and probably a bit too strongly). I hold elephants in the highest esteem, and think that we are hubristic in our desire to hoard all that we consider virtuous.

bioephemera said...

Like so many spouses and loved ones of artists, Mr. Misi is clearly subjugating his own artistic talent to your despotic narcissism, HH. Or so says my cat Einstein, who regularly creates cloudlike smears of fur in abstract patterns on the one room in which I have carpet. And then vomits. Such is art.

Michael said...

I hope you two are at least documenting your pets' work. I once saw a Seattle show that consisted entirely of debris chewed by two dogs. The best part was that they were listed as the artists. No one else was mentioned. Photos. Bios. Artist statement. The works. I damn near fell over laughing. It was brilliant.
You could be witnessing some of the great works of our time. You owe it to history.

Michael said...

Oh, and all the prices were in food items and toys (ie. 25 Milkbones).