The art which is most successful in the short term is seldom great art

June 6, 2015, 1:49 pm

Agree27 Disagree9

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The debate "The art which is most successful in the short term is seldom great art" was started by I_Voyager on June 6, 2015, 1:49 pm. By the way, I_Voyager is disagreeing with this statement. 27 people are on the agree side of this discussion, while 9 people are on the disagree side. That might be enough to see the common perception. It looks like most of the people in this community are on the agreeing side of this statement.

I_Voyager posted 4 arguments to the agreers part.
PsychDave posted 5 arguments, I_Voyager posted 3 arguments, SalonY posted 1 argument to the disagreers part.

toughgamerjerry, Upbeatethan, kay_joey1101, invincible_01, Turtle, theQueenofdebate, xbulletwithbutterflywingsx, ReadyToBegin and 19 visitors agree.
I_Voyager, PsychDave, SalonY and 6 visitors disagree.

its perhaps right..bt nt always true...A great piece of Art or work come to Life in the Last End

2 years, 4 months ago
I_Voyager
replied to...

I'm actually highly optimistic. I think art thrives under pressure and withers when it is too focused. Funds are less important I think and only relevant to production quality. But if there is a pressure of competition due to the quantity of artists, the best artists will become naturally those who love to produce great art for it's own sake. I think the universal access to knowledge and art will over time increase the overall competence of artists.

I've got my own theories as to why I think music is in the decline, where-as I think television has always suffered under the same problem and is only over the past few years starting to be liberated. The problem is control. If you have an agency whose sole goal is to provide preferred entertainment for money, they will focus on funneling interest through the paths of least resistance. I see this as pop music and television... The economic movements important to those are the investments of high-money sponsors, royalty opportunities and viewership, but consumer control is not a factor. So long as the agencies have the power they produce art according to formula which become better informed over time by the prevalence of knowledge of psychology and the availability of public data.

But Netflix is proving when you give people options, they will appreciate good art. And piracy is showing when you give people the ability to access any art freely, people who are inclined to support art financially will support what they love first and more. Neil Gaimon is good evidence for this, who found the rampant piracy of his works a major boon increasing overall sales and introducing his art to people who otherwise would have no access to it. This is the general rule of thumb, with most citings of financial hurt on the art industry being exaggerated and/or completely made up. The old theories of mass-appealing art are based on a more inhuman approach, the belief that people are fools and consume what's easy. The new approach is at it should be - artistic anarchy.

Now if you want that shitty common romance novel you'll get it free on Wattpadd, but the people who'll be able to make the best use of Kickstarter services, of whipping up money for art using the internet and phone stores will be those who earn their way by producing quality art for its own sake.

4 years, 5 months ago

I think the perception came from the can't that never before in history had it been as easy or inexpensive to produce art. It used to require at least patron to pursue art as the materials were expensive and otherwise time had to be spent making enough money to get by. This meant that only those with talent or connections could seriously pursue art.

As time progressed, things like recorded music and film were added to the possibilities, but both required expensive equipment like recording studios and cameras and film to create, meaning still only those with skill and vision could afford to create art. At this stage, the cost of paint, paper and other, more traditional supplies became cheap enough for many more people to try their hand at it, so we see more art, but much more of lesser quality.

Now I could use my phone to record a movie, and my computer to edit it and within minutes of completion have it distributed through the Internet. In my apartment I can record a guitar, edit it with free software, and post it to YouTube. What used to require a substantial budget and expensive equipment can now be done at home with almost no additional costs than the time used. This means we have seen an explosion of art, but much if it is of lesser quality.

In the future, we may not see art of the quality we can see in the past. There will be much more put there, but most of it will be of much lower quality. It is like the difference between buying a painting and a print. Most people are fine with a print because they can look at the same picture without the cost, but something is lost. Music, film and literature are, from my experience, moving in the same direction. There is more music available than ever in history, but so much of it is nowhere near the quality of older bands, and much of it ends up sounding the same. Even if the older music is not a form I personally enjoy, Elvis Presley, Jonny Cash and Frank Sinatra had much higher quality than modern artists.

If you post this again in 10 years, you may get a very different response.

4 years, 5 months ago
I_Voyager
replied to...

To expand on film too, there are many movies which were both very successful at the time and of lasting success such as 2001: A Space Odyssey. And today some of the best films are the most successful, such as Interstellar.

4 years, 5 months ago
I_Voyager
replied to...

I've contemplated your arguments and conducted further research and I've failed to back up my own belief. I don't have the time to go into great detail, but I wanted to at least leave this small summary Although I still think this rule of thumb can apply to certain arts sometimes, there's nothing to say that it is often the case that the popular art of the time is bad art. In the modern age I am dubious about television, literature and music.

I don't agree with your Justin Bieber argument... But I was hoping to make an argument from literature but when I looked at the top selling works of individual decades from 1900-1960 quite often excellent pr good works were also top sellers. Lord of the Rings is a good example, which was one of the highest selling books from 1950-1960, and of the 20th century. As a film this rule of thumb echos too. I would go so far as to say that the rule of thumb which I think is true of modern music and television, is untrue of film and literature.

Therefore it is true when you say "I can certainly agree that the most popular works are not necessarily the best, I just feel that they are independent variables."

4 years, 5 months ago

Also, on a largely unrelated note, your comment about the nature of metal and its fans reminded me of a webcomic that I think you might find amusing.

Xkcd.com/1095

Not relevant to the discussion, but related to the nature of subcultures.

4 years, 5 months ago

I can certainly agree that the most popular works are not necessarily the best, I just feel that they are independent variables. Some fantastic artists never see success in their lifetime (or at all but it is hard to point out amazing artists who are lost to history) and some wildly successful artists are also the most skilled. Likewise many failed artists lack skill, and some successful artists have poor skills. To be successful, generally art has to be fair to good or it fails to find an audience. Success may not always come to the best immediately, but I feel that those with skill and talent generally rise above those who are successful without these things.

While I personally dislike his music, Justin Bieber does possess an impressive singing talent. This talent has allowed him to succeed while his music itself tends to pander to a very specific audience. I would never classify his music as great art, there is skill involved in his work that drove him to succeed. His work itself is not the great art, but his singing talent does set him apart from the auto tuned masses, which is worthy of recognition.

4 years, 5 months ago
I_Voyager
replied to...

I should add that metal tends to prefer that which is underground over that which is mainstream, within itself. I don't know how it's possible. But the more pure something is, the more successful it is while having less interest. Metalheads tend to be divided into camps of purists or experimenters. The purists tend to focus exclusively on one subcategory of metal, while only treating with the others on occasion. The experimenters tend to listen to multiple sub-genres at length (still seldom all of them, given how many there are) and also experiment with other sounds. Which is probably the source of the numerous fusion metal genres (folk metal, neo-classical metal, punk metal, etc...). The worst purists usually find anything that's considered mainstream to be absolute shit, regardless of whether it's metal or not. Where-as many purists and most experimenters don't care about the bulk of the interest. But usually if a metalhead isn't at least partially invested in some sub-genre, without some interest in some obscure bands, they aren't much considered a metalhead or are considered a poser. Metal seems to roll along by the views of its subcultures, and its mainstream elements are perceived as cancers or unwelcome neighbors.

4 years, 5 months ago
I_Voyager
replied to...

This led to the rise of other similarly popular bands whose musicianship was simple, whose lyrics were at best free-form poetry about nothing, but which was often catchy, well produced and eccentric on stage. The best of them were arguably skilled, but the majority of them, including the most popular of them were forgettable. Though I remember knowing many people who enjoyed these bands but whose tastes or intelligences were... Limited, I didn't see these artists accomplish anything other than a brief and powerful economic pull off a generation of children. Meanwhile the movements which were often on the fringe at earlier points in metal history are producing giant waves of influence around the world which are persisting and continuing to reshape the landscape of metal. But don't forget we're talking about a genre where there are dozens, maybe hundreds of signed artists per sub-genre, and another ten-thousand underground bands spread out in every country in the world. I particularly enjoy Tibeten, Finnish, Norwegian and Israeli metal.

Aaah geeze, I can write about metal forever. I ought to stop.

I'll have to get to your last two arguments later. It's getting late. There's a bottle of wine with my name on it and a girlfriend who thinks otherwise :)

4 years, 5 months ago
I_Voyager
replied to...

No backlash will come from me over calling Twilight terrible.

I think your first argument about influence only re-enforces my view that it is not necessarily the most popular work which is the best. I really like the way you phrase the refinement of a style by later artists. It rings true to me that those who pick up the style improve it by having had a standard set for them, where the standard-creator had to experiment and produce failures to get there. It's kind of like how many physicists may take many wrong turns to find the right one, but afterward a hundred physicists learn the right turn and move forward from there. But since these lesser influential, and arguably less popular artists are producing hypothetically better art.

Metal has a uniquely interesting history, I think. I may be bias. But the tendency is for a few bands from one region to pioneer a style of a sound, a number of secondary artists from other locations experiment with that sound and create new sounds. Some come, some go. Many leave small imprints on the music. Some bands experimentation hits metal so hard though that dozens of bands spawn out of the new style, and their experimentation create avenues of underground culture. Death perfected a basic set of sounds which laid the framework for some kinds of death metal, while cannibal corpse set the standard for other branches of death metal, both flowing from Possessed (whose song "death metal" is the root of the term). These early 80's death metal bands influenced the rise of, separately, American and Nordic death metal bands. These two separate styles had cross-influence as well. One branch continued to produce more waves of increasingly brutal death metal, while the other produced waves of melodic or symphonic death metal. In the middle of this, a band called Meshuggah began incorporating algebraic components to their musicianship which for at least a decade was a minor movement in metal, and then which suddenly exploded into wave after wave of technical death metal, deathcore, so-called djent (describing a specific kind of sound made by an eight-string guitar) and even more.

Death themselves were certainly less consistent. I liken them to the Genesis of death metal. Whereas Slipknot was all flash no flare. Lots of heavy sounds with out any real pretense to musicianship or style. This is a band coming from Iowa, feeling all angsty and oppressed by right-wing values that all they want to sing about is the pulse of the maggots.

4 years, 5 months ago

That is a fair point, and I can understand that using historical and examples is by its nature selecting both that which us good, and was popular.

I do disagree with you that art which is good is necessarily that which is influential. Influential art is something different which alters the medium. Others who follow are less influential, but tend to polish the new style as they have examples to follow for what works and what does not. These artists are less influential, but their art is arguably better as it is a more refined version.

I don't know enough about metal, or its history, to have a meaningful debate about specific bands and influences, so I will ask your input. While Death was more influential, was their music as consistent as Slipknot, or did they have some music that remains iconic as an influence on music and some that was not?I ask because often those who are the most influential are those who dare to experiment and, when experimenting, inevitably there are failures.

As to the lower standards of modern pop music, I think that has more to do with the lower cost of distribution than with popularity not being connected to quality. When books needed to be transcribed manually, only the most popular and best literature survived. As printing became cheaper and easier, the overall quality of the content decreased to the point where now anyone can publish an ebook with almost no cost, resulting in a glut of terrible books. There are many successful franchises that are terrible literature (at risk of backlash I will name Twilight), but there are also wildly successful series that are of excellent quality (Tolkien, Asimov).

I don't feel that popularity is a good judge of quality, but generally that which is of poor quality has not remained popular, leading to its eventual disappearance. I don't know that this trend will persist with the Internet to preserve all information, but from my observations popular art of low quality tends to be a flash in the pan while art of high quality has persistent popularity, or even increasing popularity over time.

4 years, 5 months ago
I_Voyager
replied to...

This is why I said seldom. Also, I'd like to note I mean to blanket all arts under the term "art". So we include music, poetry, television, film, etc..

Referring to historical artists isn't a very unbiased way to make an opposing case. Consider that if there artists who were supported at the time by aristocrats or royalty, whose art was too poor to be remembered, but whose art was very successful at the moment - we wouldn't know about it. This is because it was too terrible to be cared about by the next generation and thus forgotten. Without an internet to automatically pass the information on, its left to die. So all we're left with are the few successful pieces which appear to be both successful at the time, and successful in the long-term.

Looking at the evolution of art in the short term, there are many successful pieces which at the time generate a lot of money, but don't influence art to come because they aren't good within the context of good art. If good art is defined by its method of creation and expression and not by our experience of it (something I firmly believe) then too often those arts which are well funded do not achieve the state of good art. This may be Ke$ha, or Jersey Shore, or all those television shows from the past which didn't cut it.

Just as a point from metal music... The works of Death from the late eighties were infinitely more influential than the works of Slipknot from the early nineties. Financially Slipknot was more successful and generated more interest. But the movement of numetal was a fizzle-pop, while Death and its spawn continues to inspire new sub-genres of metal and new bands, which do the same... Change the fabric of the art, evolve the art, express interesting themes musically and lyrically.

4 years, 5 months ago

Whole this is definitely true of some artists, Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci are considered two of the greatest artists in history and both were famous and successful in their time as well.

4 years, 5 months ago
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