Episode 42: What Art Ain’t

The overthinkers take on Crank 2, the meaning of pretentious, and the nature of art (topics more closely related than you might imagine).

Matthew Wrather hosts as the panel (Matthew Belinkie, Peter Fenzel, and Mark Lee) overthink:

  • Crank truancy
  • Rage (the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus)
  • Pretending to be pretentious
  • Our Sean Connery impersonations
  • Dragonball
  • What Art Ain’t

Tell us what you think! Email us or call 20-EAT-LOG-01—that’s (203) 285-6401. If you haven’t yet, take the very short survey! And… spread the overthinking by forwarding this episode to a friend.

Download Episode 42 (MP3)

As promised: Hitler is mad about things.

Ottawa Public Transit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU5X7m9kUio

The Dragonball Movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYltu4usfXk

11 Comments on “Episode 42: What Art Ain’t”

  1. stokes #

    The trilogy I constructed was “XXXXXXXXX: the box set that is three damn copies of Vin Diesel’s Triple-X.”


  2. stokes #

    Re: Art.
    1) Pete – you wildly underestimate the crappiness of the “Scifi original pictures” movies. They vary wildly… some seem to be made by, as you say, competent professionals, but many seem like they were shot in some dude’s backyard. And not even by that dude: by another dude who is trying to get it all done before the first dude gets back from his weekend trip to vegas.

    2) Matt – people have often made a distinction between creative artists, like writers and composers, and recreative artists, like actors and singers. So you could kick her out of the creative artist club… but it would still be kind of heartless.

    3) Everyone who was arguing with Matt – you all have a lot of good points that are hard to argue with. But I’d suspect that if we all sat down with a list of 100 movies and made a good-faith attempt to decide which ones count as art, we would end up with very similar lists. Rather than insisting that the word “art” *does* refer to things like the Thong Song, it might be more profitable to see what we can learn from the fact that it *doesn’t*.

    Or to approach it from a different angle: if you use logic to convince someone that the term “art” has to apply to the Thong Song, that won’t make them value the Thong Song more. It’ll make them value the word “art” less. And everything they used to keep in the “Art” bubble will now go into the “Good Art” bubble, or the “serious art” bubble, or something like that. Changing the terminology is no substitute for changing the value structure.


  3. mlawski OTI Staff #

    Stupid boys! Stop mischaracterizing my views on the podcast! (In other words, I don’t think you heaaard meee!)

    For the record, my definition of art is extremely broad. I consider the stories on the sides of shampoo bottles art. Actually, doesn’t the fact that we are able to subject a piece of entertainment to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn’t deserve mean that it is, at some level, art? Or do we have to start worrying about creator intention? (In other words, if the makers of “Crank 2” said outright they weren’t trying to make art, should we take that at face value? What if they said they were attempting to create art?)

    Now, where you put the line between good art and bad art (and mediocre art and pretty decent art) is an interesting question. My comments about Oscar-worthiness were obviously subjective. I personally feel that the best movies (and thus the ones that should be nominated for best picture) should be both well-crafted in terms of story, character, dialogue, special effects, costume design and so on AND reaching for a higher level of artistry or thematic importance. While I love love love Harry Potter, I personally do not think the movies were good enough on a craft level nor an art level to be Best Picture-worthy. Atonement was also quite flawed, I agree.


  4. stokes OTI Staff #

    Why does everyone beat on Atonement so much? I thought it was great. But then, my standards are pretty low…


  5. Mark #

    Arthur Danto has some great insights in the old “What is Art?” question. You should check him out…I’m just sayin’.


  6. Equinspire #

    Good stuff. I love discussions about defining art, but my thoughts are way too long-winded for me to post them here, so I’ll just say “it is what it is” and be done with it.


  7. Equinspire #

    Oops, forgot to say – great song Fenzel :)


  8. perich OTI Staff #

    The debate on What Art Is went swimmingly without me, so I don’t feel obligated to add much.

    I will add this as a follow-up question: what does it profit us to build a fence around Art? We put a lot of effort into defining what Art is, and coming up with examples of things that are Art and things that aren’t. But what’s the worst thing that happens if we’re wrong?

    What if we accidentally let “Oops! …I Did It Again” into the club and it turns out that it’s not actually Art? What’s the downside? Are future generations going to be confused if the definition of Art is too broad and lose (what little) interest they might otherwise have? Will the National Endowment for the Arts get swamped by bogus requests? Will a B.A. in Art History become even more worthless?

    I ask partly tongue-in-cheek, but partly because I think it’ll steer the debate in a more fruitful direction. As creative people, we tend to get a little het up over What Is and What Ain’t Art. But I think it’d be useful to know why it’s so important that we draw that distinction.


  9. Mark #

    perich – isn’t that Pascal’s (Art) Wager?

    I say it does matter. By definition, art “matters”.


  10. perich OTI Staff #

    Mark: I’m not doubting that it does matter – what I want to know is why it matters.


  11. Equinspire #

    I’d like to see someone take the “Tomatometer approach” to defining art.

    Say 99.9%* of people might consider the Mona Lisa art, perhaps 20% for something like Duchamp’s readymades, and 2% for “Oops I did it again”.

    My percentage estimates are probably way off, but I’d be interested to see what the outcomes of a real survey along those lines would be.

    *Because there are always going to be people who love to be difficult.


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