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A Hierarchy of the Senses or of the Arts?


robert brown
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...the "rests" or "silences" between dishes.  of course, this assumes that one is having multiple dishes in the first place, but if this were the case, then. . . no, i don't think that the "silence" would be the same.  for one thing, cage intended there to be sound during 4'33", but it was ambient sound (the sound of the performer, the sound of turning pages [of the musical notation], the sound of the audience, and so on].  when one is not tasting food, there is no "ambient" taste to speak of.  cage's intention was to show that everything is music, really, since noise is always present.  second, cage was trying to allow for there to be a sort of interactivity between performer and audience, ultimately trying to snuff the line between the two.  i'm not sure that the space between dishes does the same, that it would elevate diners to the role of creator (in fact, i know it doesn't).

To be clear, I did not suggest that the "silences" in a meal are the same as those experienced while listening to a piece of music. How could they be?

By the same token, I would support the idea that a meal in a restaurant, which, with certain irrelevant exceptions, always includes more than one course, is a sensory - and a sensual - experience in which the diner is very much a participant who both interacts with the suppliers of the experience and is capable of affecting its progress and outcome. The diner is not, and should not be, passive.

I've commented before that it is the complete experience of visiting a restaurant that is most important to me (as opposed, say, to those who focus exclusively on the food). In the context of a "fine dining" meal, I have referred to this as "my three hours". The spaces of time between courses are not simply empty, they are full of sensory - and sensual - stimuli, all of which contribute to the completeness of one's visit.

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On a separate subject, if we are going to discuss art in relation to the culinary world, may I ask, what is the work of art? I don't think it's "the food", nor "the cooking", nor the "the meal". I think the closest thing to a work of art in the culinary world is the chef's conception of an original dish. Or is it a design or a work of craft? Was Chanel an artist? Chippendale? Why is it acceptable that a sculptor - take Henry Moore as an example - uses artisans to produce finished works from his maquettes, and not acceptable that Vongerichten, for example, uses skilled labor to reproduce again and again his original work? Or is it? Could it have something to do with the final product and the function it has in our world?

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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Fundamental questions, Robert. Assuming for a moment that cooking is indeed an art form, my inclination is to say that the recipe isn't the art work, just as the score isn't the art work in the case of music. Maybe you mean something different when you refer to the chef's "conception". I should have thought that if anything was the art work, it was the final dish.

However, I observed earlier that it's much harder than people to think to identify "the art work" when it comes to established forms like drama, and even painting. Is a reproduction an art work, and if not why not?

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However, I observed earlier that it's much harder than people to think to identify "the art work" when it comes to established forms like drama, and even painting.  Is a reproduction an art work, and if not why not?

Could it have something to do with the first full bodied realization of the work, perhaps after some artist's proofs? Actually, this could get Platonic--the "form" of the dish/meal, etc.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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"Is a reproduction an art work, and if not why not?"

that's easy: there's no way of reproducing a piece of "plastic" art without there being discernible differences. take rembrandt, with his multible layers of transparent paint creating shadows glowing with an inner light. impossible to reproduce in print. and this does make an important difference in the overall impression of the work, so much so that i could only start to understand his paintings when i first saw some of them "live". same goes for dürer's etchings. toscanini held the same view on recordings, but then, he didn't know how advanced the recording technique would become, and perhaps recordings can't even be seen as reproductions...but that discussion could prove too long for now!

" the score isn't the art work in the case of music"

i think it can be agreed upon that for us to be able to speak meaningfully about a certain piece of art, it has to be

1) concieved by the artist

2) delivered in a medium

3) percieved by us.

doesn't much confusion stem from narrowing the term "art" to one of the three links in the chain?

also, i think it makes sense to say that the aestethics of an art form is the craft part of it, and for us to be able to understand the ideas of the artist, we must share his knowledge of the craft with him? and further, that the goal of artists is to make us wiser (as contrasted to knowing, the goal of science...), or to put it, perhaps a bit pathetical, better. of course, much art today is on a meta-level - commenting mostly on it's own aestetics - but even then it's about refining our perceptions (which is then supposed to have the once-removed ethical effect).

perhaps one could make a hierarchy of the art forms based on the ease with which it will reach our feelings or move us:

music

gastronomy

story telling

plastic arts

this is not the same as saying that these art forms are actually cultivated by the individual or society in this sequence.

now what does "move us" mean, or rather, why does "art" move us? well, one by one:

music is basically a cultivation of singing or even humming. a parent who does not soothe an infant by humming to it is considered abnormal, i think! so, music plays on our feelings with sequences of anger, sorrow, joy etc., making us live through these feelings as a sort of make believe.

and gastronomy - basically it's food, which is pretty basic as it is a matter of life, death and power, but as we know, it's also the cultivation of sensations. and it's mighty powerful as it can play on our memory in the way described by, say, proust.

story telling - that's been covered by a numberless amount of critics. suffice it to say that it's probably the most powerfull art form, as it's able to tell us in a very direct way who we are, why, how etc.

plastic arts. oh dear. they have changed so much over time, but perhaps one could say they are really the most magical of the art forms, as they can make mortal objects and moments seem immortal. sure can tell stories, too.

is this a mess? i'm not sure. it seems to me that all art forms have in common that they work on our fears of death or loneliness, and longings for immortality or understanding who we are - that, and the joy of playing intricate games with (or cultivate) those issues. and the greater depth of experience of feeling and aestetics it can unite in a whole, the greater the art.

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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Without agreeing with everything Oraklet says - and I think that hierarchy is somewhat idiosyncratic - I think that's not a bad stab at identifying some of the qualities which are common to these very different art forms. They have the potential to move us, to stir our memories, to reflect our identities as individuals and as a culture, and to remind us of the dialectic of mortality and immortality. I would want to broaden the concept os being "moved" by art, because I always feel that key genres like comedy, farce and the picaresque are too easily overlooked. Can't find the right words just now.

I do think some of these potentialities are plainly shared by gastronomy. Perhaps the important disanalogy is that gastronomy cannot in any real sense be curated.

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Perhaps the important disanalogy is that gastronomy cannot in any real sense be curated.

I'm inclined to stay out of the attempts at definition and more willing to accept some kind of artfulness somewhere in gastronomy. That said, I'm not sure in a knock-down-drag-out that I wouldn't come down closer to craft than art.

Curation has these fundamental tasks:

collection

conservation and preservation

education

publication

exhibition

If we define "the work of art" most broadly, then we might be able to curate some aspects of gastronomy. The menu exhibiton - or a better one - is a possible example. If we define it most narrowly - the finished dish, say - then it would be considerably more difficult, but still worth talking about. I won't argue, though, that collecting tastes and smells is possible. That would be something, wouldn't it?

For me, the question still remains: what is the thing we are talking about? If we can't say what the art (as opposed to craft, for purposes of this discussion) is, then how can it be?

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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To people who are not used to drinking tea one blend may taste exactly like the other. But if they have the leisure, will and opportunity to search out such refinements as there may be, they may develop into true 'connoisseurs' who can distinguish exactly what type and mixture they prefer, and their greater knowledge is bound to add to their enjoyment of the choicest blends. Admittedly, taste in art is something infinitely more complex than taste in food and drink. It is not only a matter of discovering various subtle flavours; itis something more serious and more important. After all, the great masters have given their all in these works, they have suffered for them, sweated blood over them, and the least they have a right to ask us is that we try to understand what they wanted to do.
E. H. Gombrich on art, or, rather the consumption of art. His great masters sound like most of the chefs I know.

What if we bracket the critic/connoisseur's role for a second and concentrate on art-making as performance. Was Maria Callas an artist? After all, she followed recipes... And what about Duchamp, the great anti-artist, who I believe had a weakness for belon oysters... and orgasms.

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For me, the question still remains: what is the thing we are talking about? If we can't say what the art (as opposed to craft, for purposes of this discussion) is, then how can it be?

Answering your question with another: what is the art here?

gate4.jpg

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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Hollywood, yours is easy: the art is both the drawings and the gates. It would be more difficult to ask where it is for a piece like Yoko Ono's "Breathe".

Wilfrid, no, because it's not my field and I'd be speaking off the cuff. If it's your point that it's no more or less difficult to find the work in gastronomy than in drama, then why don't we talk about what it might be in gastronomy? Just guessing here, but could it be that the artwork exists in more than one place in certain disciplines? Could it be that a kind of horizontal integration is required to realize the work?

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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At the risk of hair splitting and wallowing in semantics, perhaps excellent meals are not art but are poetic nonetheless. Someone who knows Greek can explain the broader meaning of the term poetry as used by Aristotle in his Aesthetics.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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Hollywood, yours is easy: the art is both the drawings and the gates. It would be more difficult to ask where it is for a piece like Yoko Ono's "Breathe".

Wilfrid, no, because it's not my field and I'd be speaking off the cuff. If it's your point that it's no more or less difficult to find the work in gastronomy than in drama, then why don't we talk about what it might be in gastronomy? Just guessing here, but could it be that the artwork exists in more than one place in certain disciplines? Could it be that a kind of horizontal integration is required to realize the work?

I despair of dealing with questions of this complexity in this format. Drama perplexes me: I just don't know where the art work known as "Hamlet" is, when we have numerous versions of the play from Shakespeare and his editors and countless interpretative performances of it.

However, Robert, I think if there is an art work in gastronomy it has to be what's on the plate. However, one could doubtless construct an intricate analysis of the aesthetic experience as an intersection of the cook's intentions and execution, the flavor of the food, and the nature of the diner's physiological and phenomenological responses to the food - Wollheim's analysis of the aesthetic experience of painting is similarly multi-faceted. But not today (sigh).

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Hollywood, yours is easy: the art is both the drawings and the gates. It would be more difficult to ask where it is for a piece like Yoko Ono's "Breathe".

What happens when the Gates get taken down? Are they like the meal that's been eaten? Once down, do individual Gates hanging on walls count as art, or are only the drawings art at that point? If so, are the individual deconstructed gates merely souvenirs? I'm thinking of the scene in Blowup when someone is walking by a club where the Yardbirds (Beck, Page, Relf & McCarty) are playing and the neck of an intentionally destroyed guitar gets tossed to the frenzied crowd. Then the finder examines it and tosses it aside as I recall.

18968a.jpg

You probably saw the news item about the artist who made and erected on an LA Freeway a facsimile freeway direction sign in a spot where he thought it was needed. I think CalTrans (once they figured it out) took down his sign and replaced it with one of their signs. You really couldn't tell the difference but I'm thinking only his sign was art.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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I think if there is an art work in gastronomy it has to be what's on the plate.  However, one could doubtless construct an intricate analysis of the aesthetic experience as an intersection of the cook's intentions and execution, the flavor of the food, and the nature of the diner's physiological and phenomenological responses to the food - Wollheim's analysis of the aesthetic experience of painting is similarly multi-faceted.  But not today (sigh).

At least we've reached a concensus of a sort that it's not a simple matter.

I would go so far as to agree that the work consists at least partially of what's on the plate, but I fear that leaving it there does the form no service. We may have to continue this over a long meal, perhaps in a remote Spanish village...

PS: Wherever else it may lie, I can tell you that when I saw Burton in Hamlet on Broadway, I knew I was watching a work of art. I much regret not having seen Daniel Day Lewis in the role, and would still like to know if it exists on tape.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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What happens when the Gates get taken down?  Are they like the meal that's been eaten?  Once down, do individual Gates hanging on walls count as art, or are only the drawings art at that point?  If so, are the individual deconstructed gates merely souvenirs?  I'm thinking of the scene in Blowup when someone is walking by a club where the Yardbirds (Beck, Page, Relf & McCarty) are playing and the neck of an intentionally destroyed guitar gets tossed to the frenzied crowd.  Then the finder examines it and tosses it aside as I recall. 

There is certainly such a thing as transitory art, which would allow the meal and its participants into the aesthetic matrix Wilfrid and I are going to build one day. Not today, though, as he said.

The individual gates, however, like the neck of Beck's guitar, are souvenirs, unless the artist specifically proposes some afterlife for them. The drawings remain as works of art.

Blowup. Talkin' 'bout my generation.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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I was thinking about these issues the other day while hiking around the neighborhood. Sometimes it feels like I'm on a Harley doing donuts in some lost philosophical cul de sac or maybe driving around L'Etoile trying to get to the right avenue so that I won't be too late for dinner. Anyway, speaking of transitory art, we came upon a pink ceramic sculpture by Rita Takoi which had been moved some distance by its owner to the Hollywood Hills where it stands today looking phallic but purportedly being a representation of an elongated barrel cactus. As we were leaving, I looked up at the Hollywood sign. Is it art like The Gates? Or, just the equivalent of a billboard? It used to say Hollywoodland and be made of rotting wood. Now, it's steel and very sculptural, and one could argue conceptual. Then, what of Ed Ruscha's lithos of the sign? Those surely are art. So, what manifiestation of a meal or dish is the art? Wilfrid, is today the day?

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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