Philos and Expression
What art is not
Trying to define “art” will lead to a deep investigation of human creativity. Understanding what art is will help better understand what is to be accomplished, and why someone is making art in the first place.
There are many creative activities to choose from. Be it painting, music, literature, dance, etc. One can’t merely equalize all these disciplines as one mission. Each discipline relies on a different skill set and personality. Some artists can do many things at once, but one faction is always inferior to the other. If art is stripped down as just an application of the imagination or the medium of expression, what are the intended results?
Production never had an ideology to begin with. One produces food, and the food is consumed to sustain life. If one produces art, it has to serve a function. The function isn’t ideological or political either. The function can serve nothing. An audience always assumes the art in question must serve the function to be appreciated for the art’s beauty, emotional power, or intellectual inquiry. Then again, the individual can produce without an audience in mind. And like a beaver building a dam, a bee creating honey, or a squirrel finding acorns, humans are no different from animals in their innate behavior to produce and survive using the environment around them. Humans “working” for something is an instinctual drive to produce.
Art serves as a pastime, a ritual, and an intellectual effort to create something and to envision it in reality. Art has an individual connection to the activity because the art that is created always has a personality attached to it, marked by the artist’s craft. The art is reflective of the artist, and this becomes a dialogue between the artist and the viewer. The viewer can also be an artist, and when two artists communicate, they have a discourse on the meaning of materialism and aesthetics. This is what the word “philoi,” or “philos,” means to the artist. There is a bond between person to person, where a friendship is developed, and where art gives the power of wisdom, like in philosophy. Philos is “the pursuit of wisdom.” Art, with its dialogue around beauty, matter, and expression, is a pursuit for philos.
Expression is the process of showing one's thoughts or feelings. The expression in the art communicates to the “friend” what are those thoughts and feelings, and if those things meet the condition of philos. This inquiry is art criticism, and it is the basis for understanding art, meaning, and the intent of the artist.
Anyone can be an art critic. No normal person is going to delve deep into the case of ethics or the purpose of metaphysics. But philosophy does create better artists and art critics. How art is made should align with the meaning of the artist or the logic of the art. It is a great fallacy among many popular artists to associate expression with liberal autonomy or emotional therapy.
The American CIA funded the art of Jackson Pollock because it represented liberal democratic individualism against the shallow and collective nature of the soviet union. Art can serve a political purpose and deludes the artist from knowing philos. The artist becomes a byproduct of many forces that hurt this friendship. There is memetic desire, or the animalistic urge to copy one another, which ignores philos. There are some artists who are only famous because they belong to a powerful family. And then there is the state that cuts off any capital interest in the arts because it serves no purpose to them. A population of philistines means no one can be smart. How can the artist grow as an intellectual in this kind of society?
Hungarian philosopher György Lukács was right to argue that there was a movement of “philosophical irrationalism” brewing in the 19th century, which would later influence everything today. The attack on German Idealism was motivated by the self, why the self could defy nature, and why one’s oneself could distort and destroy external reality. The urge of transhumanism was beginning, which took its first form as “liberalism.” The rejection of logic leads to the rejection of art. This becomes the rejection of philos.
Irrationalism celebrates Jackson Pollock because it puts him over everyone else. His messy painting is abstract, without form, without logic, and is subjective to any viewer who wants to get lost in their own world. The irrational artist creates for no reason other than out of randomness. The random art is projected, the anti-humor is shown, and there is nothing to say. There is no philos in this expression. Expression like this becomes a feeling only, deracinated from any intellectual growth or maturity. The irrational artist is not interested in how a computer works, why there is science, or how a different language is spoken. Philosophical irrationalism is about making people stupid, all while upholding the liberal state.
The irrational expressionist relies on randomness because he doesn’t know his self. It’s not like Erik Satie playing his Gnossiennes where the piano is played without structure or velocity. It’s more like John Cage and his pretentious and know-nothing “compositions” of prepared pianos and silence because he assumes the listener is smart like him. The young artist creates the fallacy of pursuing randomness in hopes someone smarter than he will “get” and intellectualize his art that he doesn’t understand. Another excuse is that ideology (and a long pablum) are injected to make sense of nothing, where the subjective viewer can pick up what sounds nice, and leave the rest as incoherent. The semantics follow lines of ideological interest that conflate what is being presented and are used to trick the viewer into liberal ideology. Expression alone is not sufficient for art. Philos is ignored at all costs.
Programming is one type of cure against this meaningless expression. Programming requires logic at its core, and its purpose for philos is in the results. Programming requires composition, and like a science, every aspect of the music is meaningful. Programming is what makes sense of a writer.
There are noise musicians who want to make the loudest noise ever to show something, and nothing is ever achieved. Some electronic musicians try and dabble in programs they do not understand, and achieve the same kitsch mimicry as their peers. There is no programming here.
What is the purpose of the object-oriented program languages of Max, Pure Data, AudioMulch, or Bidule, if nothing is learned from their operations? The so-called artistic technique of “doing what sounds right” keeps the artist ignorant of their surroundings. Object-programming, like written articles or words in poetry, compound orders and actions down. And like in a painting, there are shapes and forms that are exactly like the command objects in the programming.
Programming is like drafting cards in a game of Android: Netrunner. It’s a draft of what you can say or do, like words in a language, or actions in a game. If what the expressionist wants to say is meaningless noise, how is that a choice? With all the object-oriented commands one can say and sequence, the expressionist does not want to understand. He would rather “play” with his toys, with no goals in mind. Programming is learning a new language, speaking it, writing what can said, and what is allowed in it's limits. The same could be said about all the arts.
To game design, play is an essential part of the game, but not the entire function. A game is defined as a single or limited session of uncertain play, determined by rules, where players pursue a possible end condition that determines winners, losers, draws, or rewards. A toy can be an object where there is play, but there are no conditions or results to end the session. A game is not a puzzle, toy, or playground, as it relies on these rules to create a unique play experience in each setting. The expressionist disregards the game as a child’s escapism, resorting to hedonism. It seems to think that a game and a toy are the same thing.
There is constant self-insertion in the text. “Here comes another 16-bit indie platformer or Earthbound RPG game that’s an allegory about abuse and/or depression, and the expressionist thinks this is him.” It’s the same self-insertion found in the fad of autobiography comic books of the late 80s to 90s. The expressionist deracinates the medium from its origin, it makes it about liberal autonomy. They say, “Art has no borders.” It refuses to acknowledge constraints and limitations because they are afraid of logic. Again, the conflation of “art” with expression is apparent.
It’s like a Matryoshka doll, where the smallest doll is the artist, the medium-sized doll is the expression, and the biggest doll is the art that is presented. The art can easily be opened up, and we can discover the ideology, and under it, the perverted individual behind it all. For the art to be sincere, philos has to be inside expression.
The Matryoshka doll is like working with a visual programming language. The sequence of objects must connect so that the art makes sense at the end. If the viewer does not understand, the art is obscured by its ignorance, and why should anymore care? But if the viewer can understand, and everything makes sense in clarity, then anyone can understand the art. What is “good” is usually about how a stupid person feels, while what is “good” to an intellect is about the objects that make up the modular sequencer. By understanding what makes art possible, can we also understand ourselves. The art we create is also a pursuit of wisdom. We make art not for an audience in mind, but what we want to achieve and accomplish that we couldn’t do before.
Before we can express something, we need to pursue philos. Art cannot be defined as something non-productive and wasteful. Art can enlighten the soul by critically analyzing why we pursue creation. Questions arise about structure, form, performance, and composition. If we can create the dream we always had, art can accomplish that vision. We must address whether the art we make defines us as people with intelligent arguments and points that cannot be rebuked. Our opponents fear rules because they feel that it is “oppressive” or “harmful” to the egalitarian whole. Good art is backed with good arguments. And like a language, good art can communicate, persuade, and argue, and it can pursue wisdom.
Beauty isn’t just in the eye of the beholder; it’s the crux of virtue ethics and how we can change the world for good. What is beautiful aligns with philos, and something is beautiful because it is good. If one is creating art for the sake of beauty, one is irrationally ignoring that philos makes the meaning of beauty. Arousal, happiness, placement, nostalgia, and even humor are related to beauty, and beauty needs philos to operate.
When expression in art is conceived, it reaches out to philos. Art is meaningless without philos.