Bonsai IS art - Ha!

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hello all!

Post  Ross on Fri Mar 06, 2009 2:23 am

Hello everybody! I was registered on the old site, and haven't been online here at all since last spring I think. This thread makes me feel like I haven't missed a beat!

I don't think the question at hand has a right or wrong answer, but I do like to consider bonsai an art because that's how I feel in my gut (how's that for logic!). When I get out and water or work on my trees I know I am satisfying some basic need to create and express myself.

my trees : Walter's trees
as
finger-painting : Picasso

Would you go into a elementary art class and tell the kids that they are not really making art? No! Then don't tell me that my trees aren't art (you can think it but please just don't tell me.) Smile Anywho...just wanted to say hi and drop my two cents. Happy repotting all you Northern Hemispherians!

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Paul Landis on Fri Mar 06, 2009 3:14 am

Ross wrote: Anywho...just wanted to say hi and drop my two cents. Happy repotting all you Northern Hemispherians!

Greeting and thanks for reminding me about all the repotting I have to do!!!! LOL

I'll be screening several bags of various components this weekend in preparation.

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Will Heath on Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:08 am

Ah yes, the season is upon us. We are a little later here in Michigan, collecting is not possible most years until April, as the ground up north is frozen until then.

Meanwhile we clean pots, sift, and start early defoliation on the indoor tropicals.



Will

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Lee Kennedy on Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:27 am

Will Heath wrote:
Your logic is based on a falsehood. I not only practice the art of bonsai, I teach classes on it at a community college, I give demos and workshops at shows, I also write about it. I currently have articles in 18 print publications, in multiple languages, and I have just finished editing Robert Steven's new book. My own creations have won ribbons at local shows, and I have posted many of my own trees on this and other forums.

How's that for real world?

All that aside, my personal collection of bonsai have absolutely nothing to do with the discussion at hand, any more than your collection does. I don't have to be a drunk driver to tell you that drinking and driving is a bad idea.

What you have done here is attack me. Could you discuss the actual subject matter here and not me please?


Will
Maybe it's a constructive criticism? You've summed up what i thought,bonsai is not a virtual art. study
My logic can easily be summed up by show us what your creating? You do talk a bloody good game,and contrary to what you may think i find you to be at times a entertaining read,but i personally think to debate art in it's highest form there has to be more creating.
I do think the very best examples of bonsai are art,but conversely some of the best examples of bonsai are formulaic,but is e=mc2 art?
This then leads you to the big debate what is and isn't?
Great deadwood could easily be equated to great sculpture,but the very best deadwood is formed in nature,mainly by wild animals,so are sheep and deer artists?
The whole genre of bonsai could be defined as a scale model:-do model railway enthusiasts term themselves artists? i have been blown away by there creations but is it art?
if i take wire scissors and a plant,and make it into scale model of a dolphin going through a hoop is that art?
if i take wire scissors and a plant and make it into a scale model of a tree is that art?
if i take wire scissors and a plant and make it a smaller shrub with larger gaps between the branches could you term that art?
You could answer yes/no to all the above,but who really cares anyway,I'm off outside to get my tree's ready for the best of British lol!

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  JimLewis on Fri Mar 06, 2009 1:21 pm

What is it about discussions of aesthetic values that riles up the Bonsai community so much???

It's not just "the Bonsai community . . ." 50 years or so ago, I was making a "living" as a newspaper reporter - photographer. The photographic community was full of discussions about "is photography an art?" Jackie was still doing pots, and the ceramicists were blithering about the status of their work. The photography question has, I think, been solved. I've not heard the consensus on pottery. But I think only time will tell, in any event or discussion.

It is an absolutely essential discussion to have and completely appropriate.

It certainly is appropriate. I'm not sure it's "essential." It matters not what WE think. It's the Great Unwashed Public who will decide.

For instance: I think the Mona Lisa is the absolute most boring painting in the world. Apparently, the world (public) doesn't share my opinion. So, I don't belabor it.

I wasn't going to get involved in this the 4,876th time I've seen this topic come up here, but the discussion was getting a bit uncivil . . . (and maybe that portion of it can continue -- if it must -- privately???).

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Lee Kennedy on Fri Mar 06, 2009 3:04 pm

Just out of interest Jim,what was the final analysis on photography,art or not?
Roll on the annual cut paste/soil/feed debate cheers

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  JimLewis on Fri Mar 06, 2009 4:46 pm

The consensus is that clearly photography can be a fine art.

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Will Heath on Fri Mar 06, 2009 10:48 pm

Ansel Adams would be one artist who uses a camera....

By the way Lee, google argumentum ad hominem.



Will

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  JimLewis on Fri Mar 06, 2009 11:12 pm

Ansel Adams would be one artist who uses a camera....

Used. He is, alas, dead. In 1984. It may have been his death that did the most to resolve the argument.

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Lee Kennedy on Sat Mar 07, 2009 12:40 am

Will Heath wrote:Ansel Adams would be one artist who uses a camera....

By the way Lee, google argumentum ad hominem.



Will
Sorry Will no time,too busy styling tree's

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Will Heath on Sat Mar 07, 2009 4:05 am

Lee Kennedy wrote:
Sorry Will no time,too busy styling tree's
And yet, you have time to respond...no problem, let me save you some time and google it for you...

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=argumentum+ad+hominem


There ya go!


Cheers,


Will

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  bonsaikc on Sat Mar 07, 2009 3:25 pm

Will Heath wrote:
paradi wrote:
So WHO will decide what is art, WHO will decide what is a bonsai?
Are we going to endow or delegate some priviliged individuals with that task? Moderators or censors? Or are we have a committee to decide it? Are we going to award degrees or design tests? Universities already award BA in Art degrees.
Or are we going to say "I know art when I see it!" and by extension "I know bonsai when I see one!"
As much as many do not what to hear the truth, I will state it again anyhow. What is or isn't art is decided by those who make such decisions, call them the powers that be, the critics, the journalists, the curators, the gallery owners.....whatever you call them, they decide what is or isn't art. Period.

You may not like this, you may fight against it, you may pull out your hair, gnash your teeth, tear at your clothing, but in the end, this is the truth, it always has been, it always will be.

I have heard the cries that art is in the eyes of the beholder, that it is a personal thing, that one mans art may be another man's garbage, but these dogs don't hunt. One man's opinion means nothing in the world of art, who cares if Phillip the farmer or Joe the plumber doesn't think the Picasso piece shown here is not art? Do you think they will take it down and hide it in shame because of a commoners opinion? Do you think the value will drop because Mary the quilter doesn't get it?

Those that are in the position to decide what is relevant, what is important, what expresses the soul, are the ones who can promote the work and raise it to the level of art.

More important than these people are the big named artists, the great living artists of our time can dictate what direction art follows with there own creations.

Don't like it? So what, that is just the way it is. The common man has no say in the matter.

Awhile back I asked a renowned New York art critic if bonsai was art, linking him to the AoB galleries of Pall, Lenz, Zaoh, and others. Keep in mind that this guy had no past experience with bonsai, but has critiques and wrote about art over the last decade and is well versed in art and art history. Here is what he said....

It is certainly art, clearly one could argue a form of organic sculpture, where the artist shapes and forms a living entity into a particular presentation.

The postmodernists, in their zeal to make everything into art, curiously have a high degree of disdain for a lot of the established forms of art -- such... possibly as this one; tradition is not their forte.

And yet, say a big name in the art world, such as Damien Hirst, suddenly decided that he'd wanted to do a project and exhibition of bonsai sculptures... then suddenly it would be given the artsworld mafia seal of approval and it would become "high art" in an ironic sense.


Hope this helps...

Lenny Campello


So, to make a point, if a major art critic says it is art, if the top bonsaists of our time says its art, if museums are displaying it as art, if it is promoted as art, and if it is accepted as art, then bonsai is an art.

Disagreeing does not change it. Not accepting who decides such things does not change it. Just accept it and move forward.


Will

Without gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair, or any other extremities, I will just say that I have a deep philosophical difference with Will in this matter.

I believe that art is, that it is art whether or not any critic or body of critics agrees or appreciates it. Critics do not create art, which is the power you give them if only they can decide what is art.

The philosophy of art is a tricky subject, but I disagree with Will's concentration of all eggs in the basket of the critics' opinions. I think it does a disservice to those who struggle to produce something great that may be out of fashion or subject to political finagling.

Is bonsai art? I think some bonsai are art. Most are not. I have not produced any that would rise to that level, because for me, the definition of art has to include the knowledge that the art produced reflects the intellectual, moral, and ethical makeup of the artist. It moves the viewer for good or ill, but to tell the "common man" that his or her opinion matters less than those who are their superiors is highly offensive to many people.

My two cents.
Chris


Edit: I wanted to discuss this part of the quote and missed it before I sent the post.

The postmodernists, in their zeal to make everything into art, curiously have a high degree of disdain for a lot of the established forms of art -- such... possibly as this one; tradition is not their forte.

And yet, say a big name in the art world, such as Damien Hirst, suddenly decided that he'd wanted to do a project and exhibition of bonsai sculptures... then suddenly it would be given the artsworld mafia seal of approval and it would become "high art" in an ironic sense.


Hope this helps...

Lenny Campello[/i]

So, to make a point, if a major art critic says it is art, if the top bonsaists of our time says its art, if museums are displaying it as art, if it is promoted as art, and if it is accepted as art, then bonsai is an art.

Disagreeing does not change it. Not accepting who decides such things does not change it. Just accept it and move forward.

I think Will's critic is making quite a different point than Will is with this statement. His reference to "the artsworld mafia" and "art in an ironic sense" seem to say that he doesn't like that aspect of the art society, but that it's a de facto situation. I don't think he'd celebrate it as Will does.


Last edited by bonsaikc on Sat Mar 07, 2009 3:48 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  jgeanangel on Sat Mar 07, 2009 3:45 pm

Here is a question Will!!

If I understand you correctly you believe that the critics hold the final say as to the determination of art.

We all know that critics disagree... When this happens, who do you believe? Whose opinion is correct????

For me, art will always be something that is totally personal.... I cannot define it for you, anymore than you can for me!

John

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Paul Landis on Sat Mar 07, 2009 3:47 pm

Chris--although my heart tells me that your argument about the common man makes sense--my head disagrees.
That is what I was alluding to when I asked if many people found the aesthetic discussion elitist--and you have answered my question.

I don't think it is elitist to have people who have devoted their whole lives to one art form of another to stand in judgment of what is and isn't.

I'm a musician. I've been involved in music for over 30 years. If a person was to pick up the guitar--play it for two weeks and declare himself a virtuoso--he would be ignored.

I don't think it's elitist to defer to expertise, IE people who have years of experience and study in a subject.

If we were to have true democracy where everyone's opinion mattered, educated or uneducated, we would have anarchy. We see many examples of this on the web.

I am a complete bonsai novice---I would not think for a minute to question anything a Kimura, Pall or other bonsai master has to say on any subject(I'd have them bested on playing guitar though!!LOL). And yet today many think the have the "right" to question these folks after a few weeks of study--or because they have read a few books.

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Paul Landis on Sat Mar 07, 2009 3:49 pm

jgeanangel wrote:Here is a question Will!!

If I understand you correctly you believe that the critics hold the final say as to the determination of art.

We all know that critics disagree... When this happens, who do you believe? Whose opinion is correct????

For me, art will always be something that is totally personal.... I cannot define it for you, anymore than you can for me!

John


But art is defined. Is a childs fingerpainting the equal of the Sistine Chapel???

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  bonsaikc on Sat Mar 07, 2009 3:53 pm

Paul Landis wrote:Chris--although my heart tells me that your argument about the common man makes sense--my head disagrees.
That is what I was alluding to when I asked if many people found the aesthetic discussion elitist--and you have answered my question.

I don't think it is elitist to have people who have devoted their whole lives to one art form of another to stand in judgment of what is and isn't.

I'm a musician. I've been involved in music for over 30 years. If a person was to pick up the guitar--play it for two weeks and declare himself a virtuoso--he would be ignored.

I don't think it's elitist to defer to expertise, IE people who have years of experience and study in a subject.

If we were to have true democracy where everyone's opinion mattered, educated or uneducated, we would have anarchy. We see many examples of this on the web.

I am a complete bonsai novice---I would not think for a minute to question anything a Kimura, Pall or other bonsai master has to say on any subject(I'd have them bested on playing guitar though!!LOL). And yet today many think the have the "right" to question these folks after a few weeks of study--or because they have read a few books.

Paul,
I agree with you completely, but this is not the argument Mr. Heath puts forth. While deferring to those with years of experience and study in a subject is a good thing ( I do the same with bonsai folk in that position), setting up a "literati" who decide your music is art or not is just nonsense. You make music for many reasons. And your music critics are those who become your fans. Just because certain music critics like Jimi Hendrix more than Alison Krauss doesn't mean one is art and one isn't.

Setting up critics as the final arbiters of what is or isn't art is like setting up the dictionary as the final arbiter of the proper use of language. The dictionary isn't a rulebook. It's a descriptor. When critics are understood as descriptors and are seen as a way to broaden our understanding of something, I think we hold them in their proper place.

Thanks for your excellent comment!

Chris

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Will Heath on Sat Mar 07, 2009 10:36 pm

bonsaikc wrote:
I think Will's critic is making quite a different point than Will is with this statement. His reference to "the artsworld mafia" and "art in an ironic sense" seem to say that he doesn't like that aspect of the art society, but that it's a de facto situation. I don't think he'd celebrate it as Will does.
My point was exactly the same as Lenny's point, what is or isn't art is not decided upon by those "out of the loop" so to speak....the unwashed, the ignoranti, the commoners. As to your other point, even if Lenny does not like it, he freely admits it is real, his dislike does not change the fact. As I said, you may not like it, but that doesn't change the facts. The truth is that this is how what is or isn't art is decided, by those who decide what to exhibit in their galleries, by those who write about it, by those who who influence those who spend the money, by the critics, and by the greats who have already been proclaimed as being great by the forces mentioned here. This is the art world, it has always been such, it still is, and all the gnashing of teeth here or elsewhere will not change it.



jgeanangel wrote:Here is a question Will!!

If I understand you correctly you believe that the critics hold the final say as to the determination of art.

We all know that critics disagree... When this happens, who do you believe? Whose opinion is correct????

For me, art will always be something that is totally personal.... I cannot define it for you, anymore than you can for me!
No, I said that "the powers that be, the critics, the journalists, the curators, the gallery owners.....whatever you call them, they decide what is or isn't art."

This is simple truth.

bonsaikc wrote:
Just because certain music critics like Jimi Hendrix more than Alison Krauss doesn't mean one is art and one isn't.

Music also makes a good comparison here. You mentioned two musicians who have already been proclaimed artists by the powers that be. At one point both were struggling and still would be if not for some critic, or the like deciding that what they offered was worth promoting. Someone decided that these artists were relevant and in so doing, made them so.

Paul Landis wrote: And yet today many think the have the "right" to question these folks after a few weeks of study--or because they have read a few books.
Sadfy, this is all too common on the web.


Will

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  bonsaikc on Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:41 pm

The two artists I mentioned aren't artists because they were deemed so. Critics have simply climbed on a bandwagon led by fans. Their music is popular, they are well loved, and they also push the envelope. I would suggest there are many artists out there who have never been recognized by your establishment types.

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Will Heath on Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:22 am

bonsaikc wrote:The two artists I mentioned aren't artists because they were deemed so. Critics have simply climbed on a bandwagon led by fans. Their music is popular, they are well loved, and they also push the envelope. I would suggest there are many artists out there who have never been recognized by your establishment types.

The two artists in question never would have been heard by the number of "fans" require to make them famous if they were not accepted and promoted by the music industry, which includes critics, promoters, record companies, etc etc etc. Again, this is the simple truth, you can not escape it.

I agree that there are many artists that have not been recognized, they are also basically unheard of and will continue to be so until they are recognized. This only furthers the truth, it does not challenge it.



Will

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  fiona on Sun Mar 08, 2009 1:53 pm

It seems to me that Will's 'simple truth' is writ large across many walks of life, and my own profession as teacher of English Literature is a good example: Why is some Literature called Art and why do some writers get the tag of "great"? Answer: because the critics say so!

Let me give you another example - this time from the world of sport: in the UK women's soccer is considered to be a "minority" sport, as a result of which few people go to watch, it gets little tv or press coverage and therefore struggles to support itself financially far less promote itself. This means that its own development is unlikely. Yet in the States it is placed significantly higher up the sporting food chain, gets press and tv coverage and is thus able to support and promote itself through having professional leagues and so on. The difference? The establishment in the USA have accepted it, the critics do not knock it but actively promote it and because of this the public are reeled in and the game becomes a major sport. Over here the football establishment not only knock it but in many cases actively denigrate it, passing it off as unimportant and/or meaningless. The public consequently have no other information to go on apart from this biased (and jaundiced) view, and concomitantly the game does not get above the level of minority interest at best and standing joke in the eyes of the most jaundiced at worst.

It is, as far as I can see, the same in the art meets bonsai world. We may think with 100% conviction that what we do is art, but until it is deemed so by those powers that be that Will mentions (and please note that they are called "powers" for a reason) we are doomed to a life of second class citizenship. We cannot change that from within as all we are doing is preaching to the converted. We are to some considerable extent stuck until the first major critics start to build us up as an art form. And therein we have the double whammy of trying to alter the perceptions of the "Bonsai is Cruel" brigade as much as cultivating a few of the more amenable critics.

But please tell me this: are we really all that bothered about who thinks or doesn't think that Bonsai is Art? We know it is, so does it matter if the critics don't? My only concern on this relates to the promotion and development of Bonsai and whether that is inextricably linked to being perceived as an art form. If so, we may have a problem. If not, what's the issue? And, if I might slip my tongue ever so slightly into my cheek here, remember that it could all change overnight if one A-List celebrity decides to take up Bonsai. Then all our problems are solved and our exhibitions will be crammed to the gunnels and the critics will be all over us like a rash. Time to remake The Karate Kid? "Hell yes!" or "Heaven forfend!"?

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Tony on Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:39 pm

fionnghal wrote:
But please tell me this: are we really all that bothered about who thinks or doesn't think that Bonsai is Art? We know it is, so does it matter if the critics don't? My only concern on this relates to the promotion and development of Bonsai and whether that is inextricably linked to being perceived as an art form. If so, we may have a problem. If not, what's the issue? And, if I might slip my tongue ever so slightly into my cheek here, remember that it could all change overnight if one A-List celebrity decides to take up Bonsai. Then all our problems are solved and our exhibitions will be crammed to the gunnels and the critics will be all over us like a rash. Time to remake The Karate Kid? "Hell yes!" or "Heaven forfend!"?

Nicely put Fiona... If bonsai were to go mainstream... the traders would be happy, event organisers happy... as for an A-List celebrity since 1987, of D. Felipe Gonzalez (former-President of Spain) has been a bonsai officianado... is it any wonder that Spain has seen a meteroic growth in the interest in Bonsai.

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Jeremy on Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:10 pm

Nicely put Fiona... If bonsai were to go mainstream... the traders would be happy, event organisers happy... as for an A-List celebrity since 1987, of D. Felipe Gonzalez (former-President of Spain) has been a bonsai officianado... is it any wonder that Spain has seen a meteroic growth in the interest in Bonsai.

hI Tony,
So when are you planning to run for the UK prime minister?
I might even vote. Wink

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  Tony Speight on Sun Mar 08, 2009 7:33 pm

Such strong feelings! affraid

I don't think many of us spend so much time putting trees in pots for any practical outcome - it is usually for some higher level satisfaction. I accept some may create bonsai to make money, a very practical pursuit in itself, but even then they can best do so when their creation touches the heart of someone else or provides an opportunity to be realised by someone else's imagination.

In my opinion a bonsai is a 'creation' that is more than a precise replica of something from the natural world. It will evoke the feeling, in few or many, that it more than a plant in a pot. If it does this it certainly qualifies to be considered art, good or bad.

I am not a competent artist but the artistry I see in many bonsai creations continues to move my soul. Keep up the good work everyone! Whatever you feel is right for you.

Regards

Tony

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  JimLewis on Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:38 pm

I don't think many of us spend so much time putting trees in pots for any practical outcome

But maybe we should spend more time making bonsai and less time spouting all this nonsense???

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Re: Bonsai IS art - Ha!

Post  prestontolbert on Sun Mar 08, 2009 9:38 pm

Paul Soldner, an internationally celebrated ceramic sculptor is also a bonsai artist.

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