January 19th, 2013

Is there progress in art?

[NOTE: There was a great deal of interesting back and forth in the comments section here about how art has developed over the centuries, and what our greater ability to create lifelike representational art means. That’s what sparked this post.]

There’s art I like better than other art, and art I don’t much care for. There’s good art and there’s shlock, and there’s even good art I like better than other good art.

But each style of art (except for some recent art that is little but a series of ironic statements or commentary) is a self-contained, fully-developed thing, at least when at its zenith. There are trends—for example, towards more realism for a while, and then away from it—but the best artists of each era were masters of a certain esthetic that characterized that particular era. Is one “better” than the other in some objective way?

The first time I ever saw reproductions of the Lascaux cave paintings from about 17,000 years ago, I was stunned by what I considered their sophistication of form and beauty and even elegance, and especially line. These were not “primitive” in any sense of the word that I could understand, except perhaps the medium (cave walls, ground natural pigments, limited palette) and subject matter. But otherwise it astounded me how these very early humans were able to conjure up the movement and the essence of an animal with just a few strokes, while illuminated by torchlight in a damp, dark underground hole.

Lascaux Cave Paintings - horse


You think it strange that I call them “sophisticated”? Do you think they look like children’s drawings? Well, not to me. They are deceptively simple, but not childlike. In Altamira, where the paintings have been dated to around 14,000 to 16,500 years ago:

The artists used charcoal and ochre or haematite to create the images, often diluting these pigments to produce variations in intensity and creating an impression of chiaroscuro. They also exploited the natural contours in the cave walls to give their subjects a three-dimensional effect.

The paintings were so astoundingly wonderful and of such “supreme artistic quality” that they initially were met with profound skepticism, and thought to be forgeries.

The cave paintings have long reminded me of these Chinese ones, although no one could ever call the latter primitive:


Note, by the way, that the Chinese artists have made the error (or was it an esthetic choice?) of artists everywhere (before photography, anyway) in painting the running horse with feet flying, the perception discussed here (it was only when a movie was made that the error was corrected). Here is a flying-footed horse from Lascaux (although I’m not sure if it’s showing the horse’s back feet to be completely off the ground):


And here is that very first film of a horse. Note that all four of the animal’s legs are off the ground at one point, but in a furled rather than outstretched position. However, the back legs then touch down while the front stretch out—very much as in the above cave painting, rather than the Chinese ones. Of course, as I said earlier, that does not mean the cave painting is better art:

Each type of art is complete in itself, with its own esthetic and purpose, and yet universal in its appeal. If the criterion for greatness is near-photographic lifelike resemblance, then of course later developments would be greater. That’s not my criterion, although others may differ. One sense in which I think later art is “greater” is in its tremendous variety of purpose, subject, and style—if “greatness” is measured in variety. I’m not so sure it is, however; when I look at those cave paintings, they seem undeniably great, although the artists focused on a very narrow number of themes and styles.

I’ll close with a relief I studied in my college Introduction to Art History class. I found it very memorable, and so I remembered it. It’s another animal, interestingly enough—the wounded lioness, an Assyrian work of the seventh century BC. Pretty realistic, and pretty great, and pretty early in time, although compared to those cave paintings its realism is positively futuristic:


51 Responses to “Is there progress in art?”

  1. Qae Says:

    Paleolithic art and ‘Terminator’ movie references – 2 of my favorite things mentioned in one day by Neo. I guess the universe will balance itself again as soon as we see a ballet post followed by a fashion one…

  2. sergey Says:

    One of the recent surprises in study of cave art came when researchers developed a method to tell age and sex of the artists by size of their fingerprints abound in these paintings (they were drawn by fingers, mind you!). Almost half of the pictures were drawn by 4-6 years old! So it was literally children’s art to a large extent.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    sergey: doesn’t seem correct at all. I know children’s art, and that’s not children’s art, nor does it make sense in terms of what would be necessary physically to make the art.

    The claim that children did this art seemed so preposterous that I looked it up, and I think I found what you’re referring to—absolutely not the Lascaux or Altamira works, or anything like them:

    The drawings, known to researchers as finger flutings, are “almost like finger paintings, but without the paint and done in clay,” archaeologist Jessica Cooney told PRI’s The World. Lines and zig zags cover the walls, and some of the drawings depict symbolic symbols and possibly anthropomorphic figures.

    “The cave’s been known for a really long time, and these lines and drawings were just kind of mysterious figures,” Cooney explains. Some 10 years ago, however, researchers were “able to get thousands of children and adults today to recreate finger flutings in clay and plaster of Paris.”

    They used that information and compared it to the cave drawings. “By measuring the width of your three middle fingers, you can actually get a very individualized number,” Cooney says. “People who had a measurement of 34 mm or less are actually children who are 7 years old or younger,” and some of those people contributed to the cave drawings.

    There’s a photo at the link. More here, too.

  4. LTEC Says:

    Were the ancient Egyptians unable to draw proper perspective, or did they just not care to? I believe that any culture possessing the engineering ability they did was capable of understanding perspective. Similarly, I’m sure they knew that everyone has one left foot and one right foot, but they chose not to draw things that way.

  5. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Perhaps the ancient Egyptians viewed the left foot somewhat akin to the Muslim view of the left hand…;-)

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    LTEC: If you look at the discussion on the earlier post, you’ll see a lot about that, particularly this one by commenter “T.”

  7. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    What’s your view of modern, abstract ‘art’?

    I gave up on it, when in the 70’s an artist got noteworthy national reviews on a ‘painting’ in which using a house painting roller, he had simply and evenly rolled out black paint on a canvas.

    Then framed it and declared it meaningful.

    It seems to me that to be ‘art’ worthy of public display and/or discussion, it must possess two qualities; insight and some degree of skill in rendering the medium used. The more profound the insight and/or extraordinary the skill displayed, the more exceptional the art.

    Just my current view, open to further input from those more knowledgeable.

  8. blert Says:

    Age and genetics point to the proto-Basque culture as being the sole source of the famous cave paintings.

    Genetics indicates that this gene pool also led to the Solutreans, of American fame, circa 20,000 years ago.

    And, genetics indicates that the same gene pool migrated north into France, then England and the rest of the British Isles — to include Ireland, particularly.

    Their continental bastion was overrun by farming cultures emanating from the Fertile Crescent — bringing their Indo-European language groups with them.

    Against all odds, it was the Vikings/ Norse that overrode the language of the Isles. One of their tribes, the Angles introduced a law-dominant written language. Having thoroughly trashed the locals in brutal warfare — their rulers proclaimed that ONLY written contracts would be sustained, at law, in ALL real estate matters. An exception was made for short-term rents. (Less than a year)

    Hence, our Common Law, to this day, requires all real estate dealing to be written dealing — down to real estate offers. Even those are not offers until placed in writing.

    At first, the losing locals used the ancient tongue. But, business is business: the Angles language was picked up.

    Next thing you new, the whole area became known as the place where Anglish is spoken — Angle-land. a/k/a England.

    The Normans were peripateic. They founded the Russian Court in the Eleventh Century – by marrying local Slavic babes — at Kiev and Moscow. Their burials have been examined by Moscow State University; this is now the orthodox view.

    They made it to Wisconsin around the same time. As in Russia, they put their genes and language to good, and permanent use. Milwaukee, itself is an old Norse word.

    They made it to Constantinople, too. They did get rebuffed in Canada. Solutrean memories were still very much alive in the Americas. Their genes are found from Yakima to Canada.

    Is it any wonder the Basques want their own turf?

    And, after a fashion, this dynamic tells us what happened to the Neanderthals. Their last hold out location was — the Iberian Peninsula. What a coincidence!



    The 3-D nature of the cave paintings is astounding. It does not come across in 2-D renderings. It’s a jaw-dropper.

  9. blert Says:

    Dang typos!

  10. T Says:

    Geoffrrey Britain,

    If I may respond to your question about abstract art; it depends. Don’t lump all non-illusory art into one pile. Take a look at the work of an artist such as Constantine Brancusi (see his Kiss. or Bird in Flight). Both (IMO) are beautiful and evocative works.

    In you example, who knows? We live is a world replete with individuals producing visual art products. Not all of them are artists; some of them are “wannabees,”some of the are shills just looking to make a quick buck on the ignorance of the consumer. Just like publishing (and now self-publishing) there’s an increrdible amount of junk out there. Unfortunately (again IMO) it’s going to take quite some time to separate the important and meaningful works from an overwhelming amount of chaff.

    My suggestion to each personal observer. Assess your reaction to what it is you see. Do you like it (even if you can’t verbalize exactly why)? Does it have an imact on you or does it leave you cold? Does it evoke images or thoughts for you? If so, then perhaps it is worthwhile for you; if not pass on it. Remember even in the art investment world the basic rule of thumb is to buy what you like because it may be hanging on your wall for a long long time.

  11. SteveH Says:

    I don’t think we can help but consider the context of where, when and how a piece of art was created when rendering judgements about it. It’s why we find exceptional art created by children to be more special than if the same art were created by an adult.

    The Laxcaus cave paintings seem to me a near perfect example of how creativity can get amplified by the circumstances associated with their creation. The great pyramids are another fine example.

  12. LTEC Says:

    GB says: “It seems to me that to be ‘art’ worthy of public display and/or discussion, it must possess two qualities; insight and some degree of skill in rendering the medium used. The more profound the insight and/or extraordinary the skill displayed, the more exceptional the art.”

    Actually, I think the “insight” is everything, because the skill can usually be reproduced by a large number of people. For example the insight of Jackson Pollock was that splattered paint can be visually appealing. In spite of some art experts who believe that no one else can splatter paint just like him, I think that many people can splatter paint just like him. Van Gogh made a huge contribution (insight), but the number of excellent forgeries of his work shows that many people can reproduce his technique.

  13. T Says:


    I suggest that Pollock was about painting the act of painting itself. (How does one freeze an “act” on the surface of a canvas in pigment?)

    FWIW a story that you might find meaningful: Years ago one of our art majors was discussing Pollock with me. She said that she was trying to do “spontaneous” action painting a la Pollack and had been very disappointed with her results. She went on to say that she found out that the more deliberate she was (carefully choosing the layering of colors, carefully orchestrating the method and sequence of her application) the more she started to produce something that she liked. She quickly admitted “it was not Pollock,” but she was pleased with the visible improvement over a purely spontaneous approach.

  14. vanderleun Says:

    Lascaux and day-care cave drawings are both fairly late on the scene. I think you have to drill down to the 40,000 years ago plus level to start closing in on origins. In this case the relationship of the hand of man, even be he a Neanderthal, and the surface on which art is to be made and measured.


    It really is all in the wrist… or in this case that wrist extension,the hand.

  15. Jim Nicholas Says:

    It seems probable to me that over time the artists in a culture would improve in their ability to achieve a goal. For example, I imagine the goal of the Greek sculptors was to capture the magic of the human body. If so, I think the dynamic body and expression of a David was an advance over the static bodies and archaic smiles of the earlier kouroi.

  16. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I have a friend who began a chapter of Enemies of Modern Art (ENEMA), whose motto is, “If it doesn’t have fat little angels, it’s not good art.”
    Wandered around a Thirties German exhibit at a university and was unable to determine which was the art and which the detritus of a work crew out for lunch. Presuming there was one of the latter, I mean. No telling.
    Note the photographed horse. I think three of four hooves are flexed and one is indistinct. The last cave painting shows no flexion. Perhaps, according to one commenter, the horse is lying down dead.

  17. Qae Says:

    Seems obvious to me that most modern art (or at least the versions idolized by the cognoscenti) has achieved a sort of perfection – where art used to inform, edify, reinforce, educate, awe or otherwise allow its viewers to participate in the sublime, its current appreciation is now only a status indicator.

    Subversion and distinction are the watchwords; the more a modern piece disgusts, confuses, annoys or befuddles the masses, the more highly the cognoscenti regard it. Because only *they* are superior enough to appreciate it, which is exactly what they like to think.

    Our best and brightest visionaries these days aren’t painting or sculpting – they know the modern art world is an incestuous, closed-loop cannibal orgy. Instead, they’ve all gone to film school or are designing video games and CGI masterpieces.

  18. SteveH Says:

    “”Subversion and distinction are the watchwords; the more a modern piece disgusts, confuses, annoys or befuddles the masses, the more highly the cognoscenti regard it.””

    Excellent line. Doesn’t this also describe how Obama gets so highly regarded by much the same people?

  19. Don Carlos Says:

    I think this all puts the lie to progressivism.
    Thanks, Neo.

  20. Groty Says:

    I recently saw on PBS the Werner Herzog documentary about the Chauvet Cave art in France. The art is dated to about 32,000 years ago.

    The only thing the artist was interested in drawing is animals. No trees, flowers, grass, sun, moon, stars, or water. And what I found most odd of all is that there were no depictions of other people. A couple of handprints, as if to say, “I was here”, but no depictions of the artist’s mate, children, or other members of the “tribe”. It occurred to me that since the artist was only interested in drawing animals, maybe he did not include other humans in his drawings because he did not consider humans to be part of the animal kingdom.

    The art is accomplished, too. By that I mean you can clearly tell the horse, from the bison, from the rhino, from the lion. These are not stick figure-like drawings you’d associate with a preschooler. So he had to practice to hone his skills. How and where did he practice before he made these drawings? And why did he have so much leisure time to practice drawing? Were ice age folks such skilled hunters with their weapons of stick spears and rocks that they never had to worry about providing lunch and dinner for the family? As baffled as I am about hwo he lived in his world, I bet he’d be infinitely more baffled by how we live in our world.

    Here’s a clip:


  21. T Says:

    Richard Aubrey,
    @ 6:30 wrote: “The last cave painting shows no flexion. Perhaps, according to one commenter, the horse is lying down dead.”

    One of the theories about that is that these early hunters never saw the flexion of the hoof because when alive these animals were standing in grasslands and the contact of hoof to ground was concealed. The only time hunters got to actually examine these animals up close was when they were dead and then there was no hoof flexion.

    If intended to be living animals (whose spirits were killed in ritual hunts) then it is possible that these paintings are composite images (animals seen from a distance while alive but up close only at death).

    Qae wrote: “where art used to inform, edify, reinforce, educate, awe or otherwise allow its viewers to participate in the sublime, its current appreciation is now only a status indicator.” I don’t disagree; I’ve always called this attitude “snob art.” It’s like the Manhattan cocktail set looking down their nose at bowling.

    One observation, though, much art of past societies that we now hold dear was not ever intended to be public art. Obviously Egyptian tomb art was never meant for public edification. Neither were Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling or Last Judgement. Likewise Leonardo’s Last Supper was painted on the wall of a monastery.

  22. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Couple of decades ago, Tom Wolfe did a lacerating piece on the Manhattan art world.
    If only the cognoscenti could see themselves from the outside. No, that would be too cruel

  23. T Says:

    Richard Aubrey,

    If only the cognoscenti could see themselves from the outside”.” They still wouldn’t get it.

  24. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I suspect you’re right.

  25. blert Says:

    Well, since Pollock’s art has come up…

    Belatedly, it has come out that the CIA was his biggest patron — going back sixty-years ago.

    Many of his originals are still displayed at Langley. That doesn’t make them public, of course.

    The project was part of a cultural war campaign that had the CIA as super-patron vs the KGB as super-patron.

    By using cut-outs, the art world was blinded as to who ‘the new buyers with taste’ were.

    That this or that particular artist was Left of center was a plus: so was the CIA.

    It’s now a running joke — but the CIA never employed a Conservative or a registered Republican since the start. It was founded at a time of FDR-HST. Though nominally ‘stood up’ by Truman — the CIA merely picked up the game and tools established under FDR. A president that liked being his own agent controller.

    There is plenty to suggest that FDR ‘ran’ Lindberg all during his ‘Isolationist’ phase. FDR initiated the entire campaign, not Lindberg. Because of this ruse, Lindberg was given Nazi access (Goering) to every manner of secret KLM/ Luftwaffe facilities. So much for the secrecy!

    Lindberg reported, in astonishment, KLM production facilities buried underneath Tempelhof air port. This particular war plant ended up producing FW-190 fighter-bombers right through the end of the war. By that time it abused 4,000 war-slaves along with 8,000 Germans to assemble countless planes in a suitably sized tunnel.

    That tunnel is still there. It and the rest of the plant have made any current plans for the ex-airport troublesome.


    The hidden factory appears about 34 minutes in. It’s an eye-opener, for sure.

    Not withstanding FDR’s intel, the USAAF couldn’t knock it out. It had — still has — too much overhead concrete.


    Which brings me back to systemic manipulation of the arts and media by masters of the dark arts.

    The Leftward tilt of Hollywood and the media didn’t happen by chance — was not a suis generis theme. The KGB – First Directorate – placed a financial magnet nearby our cultural compass and pulled the polity Leftward.

    Slow and steady on the helm — this Direct Action has now gifted us the Grifter in Chief. And all Washington is now Chicago.

    Look to Chicago to see where the nation is trending: split caste public schools, pay to play… and gamed ballots.

  26. Ymarsakar Says:

    Masters of the dark arts, an apt description for human puppet masters.

    Recently I’ve been looking into the essence of martial arts, and why it was deemed so.

    In many parts of the world, martial arts is exemplified as a sport which you follow someone else’s rules and regulations. Your artistic license, so to speak, is restricted to how you train and how hard you compete. Ultimate validation comes in the form of the victory or merely the work put in.

    In places where it is neither a sport nor used for practical applications, what I see is a duplication or sketch work of the craft and techniques. Someone great in the past, the founder of a style or ryu ha, did something interesting and his techniques were then passed unto the next generation and then the next, until modern day. Thus you were said to be a graduated student once you were able to copy all of the moves in the school, and the inheritor was tasked with the goal of learning, preserving, and passing on the techniques themselves. Philosophy, self-expression, and modification were neither talked about nor allowed if someone did bring it up. This method of transfer is often exemplified in traditional Japanese dojos, traditional as in 1820s morality. Although the Korean TKD and American importation of such schools, also exemplify a depressing greater reliance on technique, copying, and sketch over techniques. Artists can either draw what’s in their mind’s imagination or use a realistic model to imagine off of while drawing. But often times, in order to start off an artist must first learn the techniques, thus they put a thin semi transparent paper over the work of a better artist, and mimic the shapes. From this, one is supposed to learn “art”, “techniques”, and to draw forth one’s imagination. But I doubt that’s how it actually works. Merely copying someone else’s great work, even if the forgery is 100%, implies a waste of talent. If one is capable of such feats, then one should devote one’s life to creating original products, not forgeries. And if one lacks the talent, then they should work on perfecting their techniques, not their copying skills.

    In many martial art styles and schools, the new guy will be told to mimic, with as perfect an accuracy as they can, the movements of the dojo head, instructor, or founder. Bio mechanical principles, physics, different body types, and original expression are shunned if not outright nullified. I suppose such a methodology might be acceptable when teaching children and pre teenagers, but when I see such practices continued on for 10-30 years in an adult… I cannot help but sense an immense waste of time, talent, and opportunity. This is the “art” in martial arts? Is the Art of War simply reading the book and doing exactly as it tells you?

    As a result of this research and experience, I wasn’t too impressed with the various training and teaching methodologies of many modern martial arts schools. Even if they knew how to make use of their own techniques, did that mean they could duplicate the same feat in a female student that lacks the upper body strength and body shape to mimic the moves, irregardless of their talent? No, as that didn’t happen, even though many tried.

    “Art” as I came to understand it, is the manifestation of one’s own will, creativity, and imagination unto the surface of this world’s reality. It is literally creation at work, the opposite yin yang power of destruction. Yet… in martial arts, often times the noted goal is merely destruction or the ability to unleash destructive power. Much of it is cloaked in euphemisms like self defense, art, culture, ideals, morality, and what not, but the reality of how it works is that all those things are imposed from without, external sources. Where is the tamashi, the soul, involved here? They don’t talk about that much. I cannot quite believe that a lineage of whatever, passed on down through the generations with somebody modifying this and somebody else doing that to the instructions, is going to be able to produce destructive power in a student while at the same time denying the student creative writ and imagination. If all you are doing is copying the works of the ancient masters, you are not adding anything to the repertoire of human knowledge, and without the life and death experiences of those ancients, your “copy” is going to be foolishly incomplete too. And yet, people expect to unleash “destructive energies” when they can’t even create reality from their own imagination. Those who are master healers, automatically gain the power to be master killers, they just don’t choose to use it for that purpose. The opposite can also be true. Supreme killers are knowledgeable on human anatomy and can at least provide first aid, because they know what definitely will kill someone and why, so they know how to avoid it, at least. The sun and the moon, creation and destruction, hand of creation and hand of destruction, one is less complete without the other.

    Manifesting one’s imagination and will unto reality is much like when an artist imagines an image and then uses physical techniques and tools to manifest that image unto the surface of a real object so that “it exists” for those of us observing the real world. We cannot observe another person’s thoughts and imagined images, for one thing. There must be an intermediate conductor. A lens through which light is bent and rendered understandable/clear to human brains.

    I imagine 5 heavily armed and armored opponents dead in a school tactical environment, dead beyond any hope of resuscitation. Techniques thus flow automatically, tools are automatically acquired and used, to achieve this goal. Without any delay, hesitation, or “well, how will this work” thinking. If one is not in the “zone” and thus a master of their own cognitive and physical functions, I’m not sure why they think they can master and end the life functions of other people around them, the reality that the rest of us acknowledge as being objective, and not a fantasy. The art of killing humans. The art of hunting for food. The art of manipulating humans into being slaves. There are plenty of arts which have significant effects on the real world, which aren’t just fantasies someone came up in their heads. Or perhaps, they aren’t “merely” fantasies, since someone found a way to manifest their will unto the fabric of reality. The manifestation of one’s will does not depend upon the technique, or WAY. If there is the will, there will be a way. Not the other way around.

    If you train in a hand to hand art, style, school, science, whatever one might call it, yet have to “think” consciously of the “method” and “way” in which you will accomplish your goal, instead of acting immediately once you are aware (OODA) of the threat, you might have questioned your own competency and ability to act correctly in high combat stress situations once or twice. Even those with training, if they received the bad kind of training, can get themselves killed. Disarm the knife, hand knife back to attacker, because that is what the guy drilled to do successfully 10,000 times. He just didn’t think about it. Now being dead, he doesn’t need to think about it any more. Police officers hearing a gunshot, then dropping, and only afterwards realizing that they weren’t shot at all, they just thought they were and felt pain. Psychosomatic societal shackle training, to induce stimuli purely from the imagination/instincts of the brain. Then there are LEOs who train to pick up their brass (because the red tape book says so) at ranges, so that’s what they do in an actual fire fight. Art? Are those artists? Have they individually manifested their will and are inflicting the reality of that will unto an objective perspective? Or are they just puppets doing as they are told by the Powers that Be. People train to punch and kick at stationary or predictable targets in dojos all the time. What happens when that target you trained 10,000 times to hit, doesn’t move the way you thought he should? Isn’t there going to be an OODA type jam then, which is an opportunity to get killed? Of course there will be. If you expect something to happen because you’ve “seen it happen” 10,000 times, you have essentially fooled your instinctual brain components into thinking this is how you can survive. Even the ancient hunters painted on cave walls what they “expected” to see as the solution to hunger and famine. They didn’t have a problem since their expectations and what they saw were “real”. What you are seeing however isn’t “real” but merely a simulation of a “fight” somebody came up with. Whether you can actually tap into your instinct, will, and imagination by training to operate like a robot in expected conditions, is not something I would bet my life or anyone else’s on.

    Too many people lack the patience to get to the goal. They are too busy arguing about who is tough, smarter, and stronger. Gun control is the solution? No, it isn’t the solution, my solution is better! What actually mattered, and this was always the case, is the process, the journey, not the destination. One cannot achieve enlightenment or “solutions” in reality by traveling the wrong road. Not going to happen. Good cannot happen by evil methods for evil methods by definition steer one towards evil, not good, goals. The greatest intentions cannot evade the road to hell, because “intent” is not “technique”. You can intend to fly all you wish, but if you think martial arts chi power will get you there, you might or might not be wrong. But you’re probably not going get there any time this millenium.

    The technique, or way, is only a conduit for a person to express his own thoughts and ideas and will, into the reality the rest of us see and interact with. Both the conduit must be soundly engineered as well as the intent be healthy and sane, before one can get to a necessarily sound and sane goal.

    Mass murderers these days know better how to achieve their goals than the US government “safety patrols” and US Martial artists, these days. Which is not a comparison of people’s morality, since violence is not defined by right or wrong, but merely a comparison of people’s COMPETENCE.

    You don’t have to be an angel of light to be competent…. for one thing, Lucifier was both an angel of god as well as the ultimate traitor/rebel. He who is brightest, falls the furthest.

    Much of the reverse engineered martial applications rests upon the premise of tapping into one’s mind more than tapping one’s physical power and stamina. If I can get someone to actually “think” and not merely “copy” what I do, they can start to begin. If they are playing with the techniques and the scenario solutions by their own desire and intent, they are well on the road, for “playing” is one of the best ways to unlock genius mental faculties and to instill true knowledge through practice. The flexible spirit and mind of a child isn’t so bad either for learning new things.

    When you find yourself doing movements of your own will and imagination, in the day or night, just because you find it “fun”, then you are well on the road to mastery. Similar to people who love shooting at ranges suddenly discovering that they become a better shot over time. A new person may need to know how to “stand like this”, “fire like this”, and “move like this” but if you’re still doing things like that in your training 20 years after you first started… you have a problem. Rules were made to be broken by masters and those who have achieved super human results.

    To choose to be bound by rules or not, is a keystone of being a thinking, self sufficient, individual in the species of humanity. (jinrei)

    The fact that there are certain religious and ideological factions in the US that wish to make it so that people Obey and Die like enslaved animals… is perhaps another problem, but it won’t become any easier when our own manpower resources are full of zombies and robots. The Left is and was never a political alliance (anti gay blacks together with homo lovers? Feminists together with rapist Kennedy family and Clintons?). Guess what that leaves… To defeat evil, one must first defeat one’s own weaknesses. To kill others, one must first kill oneself. To achieve nirvana and enlightenment, one must first kill the desire to achieve enlightenment. To meet the Buddha, one must kill the Buddha. Stuff that doesn’t make much sense to those of a lower capability, make a great amount of sense to those with more wisdom or experience. Often times people found out how much their fathers and the wise elders “knew” when they got to be 20, 25, or 30 years of age. Amazing, isn’t it.

    P.S. Shu Ha Ri or tetragramation are interesting subjects to begin looking at. I wasn’t never particularly interested in visual art, so to speak. I like beauty and aesthetics, but my instincts preferred a more substantial cause to bring justice to. Painting the walls with the blood of serial killers, rapists, mass murderers, corrupt thugs and bureaucrats, seemed a much better use of my personal time over all.

  27. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gender Bïgǒt Says:

    Neo, a primary issue is the ones of perspective and proportionality, that is a “missing part” of the primitives. Look at your Lascaux images, the heads of the animals are much smaller than their bodies.

    Not all artists USE these things in more modern stuff, but, for them, it’s a matter of CHOOSING to not use them — typically in the form of exaggeration for effect. For the primitives, they had no CONCEPT of those ideas.

    It’s much like the semi-modern concept of geographical maps. That’s closely related to art, and the very concept of a “bird’s eye view” of the land is a moderately recent one, starting ca. 700 BC in terms of what has survived. Many human cultures did not have them until others exposed them to the idea, though. There’s no evidence the early Egyptians had any kind of idea of a map. Part of that, of course, is the inability to fly — but it’s like drawing something from an angle you can’t get to. There’s no reason you can’t TRY to do this yet no one did for a very long time after they first did “pictures”.

  28. SteveH Says:

    ““Art” as I came to understand it, is the manifestation of one’s own will, creativity, and imagination unto the surface of this world’s reality.””

    Good description. Fits well with the saying that an artist is “coming into his own”. What do we mean by that? I contend it is a creative breaking of the rules often presented as unbreakable in any craft.

    A master of any art knows the rules of the craft inside and out. But he threw off some rules at some point that he found inhibiting, and knows he can’t possibly tell the next guy which rules to throw off that are inhibiting him.

  29. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gender Bïgǒt Says:

    In many parts of the world, martial arts is exemplified as a sport which you follow someone else’s rules and regulations. Your artistic license, so to speak, is restricted to how you train and how hard you compete. Ultimate validation comes in the form of the victory or merely the work put in.

    This seems an unfair assessment. You place yourself under the tutelage of a Master, who teaches you his knowledge and skill via the forms you speak. But — and this is a very big but — you still need to implement that on the fly in a real world situation of combat — “kumite” in Japanese. This requires considerable on-the-fly assessments of what to do and how to best respond to your opponent’s moves. For my brown belt, I was sparring with another brown belt who had a black belt in Judo — he rushed me, all offense, no defense, and my unthought response was a sweep, which my style did not use in any of its forms. I surprised him sufficiently that I actually had to grab onto him to keep him from falling down. And this is, as I mentioned, a Judo guy who had plenty of practice in maintaining his balance while sparring.

    While some teachers might take issue with using something “out of the style”, that is the sign of a bad teacher. Effectiveness is all that matters in combat. The forms are simply to make the teachers’ ideas go to “muscle memory” rather than require thinking about them**. Some teacher yells at someone for actually taking someone down using an atypical technique is basically teaching their student to lose — because the easiest way to lose is to be predictable.
    ** Most styles use all sorts of colors, the closest thing to a consistent scheme I’ve seen is that of White(10th-7th) Green(usually 6th-4th) Brown(usually 3rd-1st) and then Black(1 through 10 increasing) . Other colors can be placed between those but there’s no consistency. Some styles don’t use belts at all, of course.

    My own experience is that you’re Green when your muscle memory begins doing the work in sparring. You’re Brown when you start to be able to put real power into the sparring. And you’re Black when you’ve really gotten the whole Zen element of it together and don’t even think of what to do but react and counter-attack. The OODA loop is still there but your rational thought/response process, a very slow, ponderous thing — the part that not only does things but watches itself doing things — is no longer a conscious part of the loop. That thinking mode has a very important purpose but during combat against a skilled opponent it is deadly.

  30. SteveH Says:

    “” For the primitives, they had no CONCEPT of those ideas.””
    Smock Puppet

    This reminds me of how architecture made and created by peasants in the distant past gets copied by professionals in the modern world because of its breakthrough aesthetics.

    The Mexican peasant for example put a simple and rough hand hewn beam with angle cut ends over his fireplace for a mantle, because he lacked the resources and knowledge to get much fancier. Now it’s not unusual to walk into a 2 million dollar home and see that same look being captured.

    It’s almost like we often times admire rudimentary art in the ancient past precisely because of what they didn’t know how to do.

  31. thomass Says:

    I wouldn’t use the word progress but it changes to express the world view tools (memes?) in use at the time it was created. It especially clear in western art over the last 300 years (a short period which makes it easier to notice). You have your pictures where everyone is the same size regardless of position (non relative) and then this changes in several ways. Spacial relativity starts getting in, personal impressions become important, and the inner thoughts / ‘depth’ (a new idea in itself) of the artist become important and in some cases are linked to the state of the outside physical world…

  32. thomass Says:

    so we have people who don’t understand where they start or end / project themselves onto the outside world (even other people being mere objects for them to manipulate via their will)… and we wonder why we have so many problems with collectivists and wanna be totalitarians in the west in this period. 😉

  33. Ymarsakar Says:

    “You place yourself under the tutelage of a Master, who teaches you his knowledge and skill via the forms you speak.”

    Historically, these forms and methods were passed from father to son, and perhaps from father to daughter or close friend of the family. It was a very private, individual based teaching method. It’s very similar to ice skating coaches and personal coaches for sport athletes in that sense.

    In the modern day, and this is true even of Japan which many consider the martial arts mecca of the world (which is somewhat true), a student goes in and learns from teachers who are themselves barely familiar with modification of the forms let alone any true creative methodology. Many students will find themselves working, not with any so called master, but with their peers, who are only slightly better or worse than themselves. There’s just too many students for any one person to pass on the knowledge. This is an issue tackled with mass education. The more students there are, and the less teachers that can transfer the information, the more degradation the information suffers to the point where it is like a telephone game. Every new generation learns less and less. And this is even true absent any malicious intent on brainwashing people to believe in the wrong things.

    However, none of those solutions to training methodology and instruction quality, comes from studying martial arts, traditionally or re-interpreted. That’s not what people spend their time improving, so it doesn’t improve. Over the generations, data loss becomes packet dropped.

    A recent example would be the degradation of merely Okinawan karate into Japanese karate and Korean Tae Kwon Do. All it takes is one generation not paying attention, and the whole thing collapses in on itself. Sort of like 1960s America. The Soviets may not have won the Cold War, but their weaponized programs sure did a lot of damage. Still are doing damage, even. In the sense of karate, much has been misinterpreted because the instructors themselves didn’t learn quite what they should have back in the day, when karate was originally transfered from the island of Okinawan into a purely Japanese system. The fact that the kata was designed to hide things (and wasn’t the manual to anybody’s style at all), didn’t help.

    Many people know of black belt factories, that advertise and sell black belt ranks in return for money. The quality is much akin to that of stainless steel “authentic sharp” katanas on those infomercials back in the day. What they don’t know is that the lack of quality in what most people consider the “secrets”, started dropping off in Japan, at least, more than a century ago. (Mao was responsible for some of the drop off in Chinese kung fu, cause he sort of burned and killed off a bunch of martial artists and their family scrolls) It was originally an idea by Itosu implemented wrongly through Funakoshi, for one generation, that more or less did it. But other places have produced the same degraded results, motivated by different things (money, fame).

    On the topic of skill: there are namely 3 broad categories or levels that a martial artist can aspire to. 1. the beginner, self explanatory. 2. what might be deemed muscle memory or proficiency, acting quickly at the right time. 3. mastery

    If all person wishes to do is to “react” to the right stimuli, they can do 10,000 repetitions against said stimuli in order to develop the right response. That’s what people did back in the past when surviving battles was the first priority, but they had no schools of martial anything to learn from. “Mastery” is, however, different practically speaking. Those that have faced certain situations may be familiar with a certain condition I would describe as “altered states of consciousness”. It’s when their brains start thinking in weird fashions. Time sense gets distorted. Either too short, or too long, or memory of events doesn’t even exist afterwards. A personality detachment can also occur, where a person feels like they are thinking and looking at himself doing what needs to be done. Out of body experiences. Not everyone is the same, but it tends to cycle itself over the same broad generalizations.

    When a person simply does what he was trained to do, this can be deemed proficiency. But that user is still trapped in a behavior that was someone else applying power to them externally. It wasn’t something internal in source. When a person has a dilated sense of time, so that for example he chooses option A and option B, and takes his time examining the pros and cons of them, as he is actually fighting for his life, that person has transcended previous limitations of ‘muscle memory’. Which is purely that if you fight as you train, then unless you train for everything, there’ll be something that defeats you because you didn’t expect it. Thus mastery transcends the normal limitations of proficiency, by allowing a person to use his rational mind, at the same time the body is moving based upon the motor control section of the brain and the instincts alone. Your body is on auto pilot, yet you as the driver is still in control, merely watching and waiting behind the wheel. You can turn it off whenever you want to or deem it necessary to.

    What scares a lot of people who have tapped into the instinct to survive through killing, is that they worry about not being able to “turn it off” once they are amongst peaceful folks. It’s not a state of mind that is easily explained, even to family and friends. Because people don’t get it until they experience it.

    The Easterners have explained this as the “Void” or the “Zen”, but none of it makes much sense unless a person has some kind of life experience to adapt it to. It’s one reason why people trained in the martial arts from South Africa (not technically a Western state any more), have better fighting abilities, merely because their state of violence necessitates that they “understand” some things that peaceful nations don’t want to understand. They get a lot of these Eastern techniques and their practicality a lot faster.

    If people in the West or the modern world, believe that black belt is the level at which they achieve mastery, they are mistaken. If people in the West or the modern world believe proficiency and muscle memory is what mastery entails, that is the nature of the mistake.

    Being merely proficient is rather easy. Military boot camp can instill the right reactions to orders in a person in less than a year. The time scale required to teach a person to make the correct tactical and strategic decisions, rather than following a manual, is a bit longer than that. Yet it is the very “degraded” nature of modern H2H training (civilian programs are actually better than the military ones, surprisingly) that has led people into thinking that because it took them 30 years to achieve proficiency, that this actually means they are now unto mastery. Which doesn’t happen to be the case.

    They may have spent the time, but they didn’t progress in the right order so to speak.

    And the reason why sports dominate, is because of a lot of reasons.

    1. Japan loves sports because it’s a peaceful way to compete and maintain old traditions in a new world.

    2. Because it brings in the kids and kids=money to people in the West.

    3. Because people don’t like violence, guns, lethal force, school shootings, but do like “sports” and “games” and “youth activities”.

    Kumite is not a real world combat situation. In fact, no training is. Otherwise it wouldn’t be training. The fact that people often times skip over the exact nature of what their training fails to simulate, is part of the issue. People who think they are seeing the “reality” of violence when they repeat an attack and counter attack 10,000 times, is training for the wrong things. When their muscle memory fires, it will fire, and then not do much in the result category since the issue was somewhat different than expected.

    In WWI, the standard for an ace in air combat was 5 kills. Why not 2 kills? Why not 4 kills? At the time, a sentiment I heard was that after action reports from pilots that were able to score 2 kills without being shot down, were that they didn’t remember what they did correctly. They just did. They were acting more on their instincts than on their training, since that training was the same training as all the other pilots who got shot down. So why was this one ace different. When this person survived that X minutes of death, then they were past this psychological hurdle and could now apply their training in a conscious fashion. This combination of mental control, physical ability, experience with adrenaline and death, as well as instinct, made them into fearsome opponents that shot down many newbies… who somehow got the same level of training, but never did apply it. So after 5 kills was the normal limit, where a person became able to consciously control their actions and combine it with training. Miyamoto Musashi spoke of a similar thing too, when he said his early victories in duels were more the result of luck than any kind of skillful mastery that he obtained in his later years. He said either his opponents were unlucky, slow, or just not as good, which is why he survived and they didn’t.

    In a peaceful Western world, it is very hard to get those “5 kills” in a legitimate fashion (well, there’s always PMC and Merc work on this planet). Thus many seek to compensate it with repetition and training. I’m not sure if that was possible though. Repetition absent live battle experience. The best that people can probably get is by hearing the stories of the veteran warriors, although not even they can adequately describe what was going on in their heads. Because it’s not something meant to be put into words. It was just meant to be used.

    I’ve seen a couple of martial arts dojos that did transplant or transfer martial knowledge in an applicable format. But that was merely the technique branch itself. The psychological, how to deal with cops and criminals, societal backlash, whether violence is right or wrong, and PTSD after shocks, isn’t dealt with much, if at all. “Testing” it for the real, may be hard, but even the theoretical lectures aren’t covered on these subjects.

    The Japanese have an overall advantage on this, since they easily recognize the absence of live combat experience and how it detriments people’s skills. Jiken. Those in the West, don’t seem to care too much about live battle experience, though. I’ve even heard Americans of a certain social clique say that the army will be fine without any actual wars to fight in, so long as we reduce the “man/woman” divide and so long as we divert funding from milops to socialized care… that is. But it is those experiences that account for the predominant supermajority of the effectiveness of any warrior’s skills.

    To touch on a previous topic, the logical thought process. Originally, it tends to be very cumbersome, as mentioned by others. It was not designed to let someone react to danger, but to simply alert them that danger is coming. Adrenaline will even pull blood from hearing, and sink it into the prefrontal cortex to process visual signals faster, showing up as a “time dilation” effect ala matrix. Human reflexes use the motor control processes of the brain, which is in the mid brain, rather than the front so to speak. Having to route commands through the logical frontal cortex and back again, is pretty slow. When beginners try to “see” attacks to react to them, they freeze or often times just fail to catch it in time. The time lag is too enormous. They get behind the curve. But when someone who has gone beyond proficiency uses the visual processing center, they are able to do so while at the same time letting the hind and mid brain take control. The front is just watching the action and making observations, and if there is time, adjustments are made. Some have called this type of thinking “the Machine”, because it is very logical and cold. Some have even noted that it is like a different personality of themselves. “Detached personality disorder”. Or in this sense, it’s not a disorder, because it’s what nature intended for us to use in a very good order.

    As a personal Art, I would’t classify what a person does as art if he merely responds to a stimuli that he practiced to respond to. That’s the same thing I can do with a monkey or dog with adequate training. Totalitarian regimes may perhaps prefer training dogs and monkeys, since it gets rid of the whole “re-education camp” issues. Large organizations are also resistant to initiative and creativity, since it tends to rock the boat and a lot of people get into power and then try to CYA or evade responsibility.

    The old Okinawan masters and Chinese masters would often say weird things like “make up your own mind” or “I won’t tell you the answer, find it yourself”. I’m not sure if I agreed with those methods, especially given how it turned out (Bruce Lee and Hawkings Cheung’s teacher was like that). A lot of students were left in the dark and had to figure stuff out, which is good, but then they started teaching other people before they figured it out, which is bad.

    It’s not getting techniques from outside the style that is the issue. It is that most of the students, if not all, in a school don’t have their own personal style, and have no conception of what real world tests they can use to test what they know. Funakoshi and some other people, who knew their own path but somehow didn’t transfer that to enough of their students, didn’t want a name for their school to begin with. Because a name “splits” off a body of knowledge into its segmented and incomplete pieces. It was just karate to them, in whole and in part. But other people wanted to call it Shotokan. A name for a style that separates it from others. There was a reason why the students lobbied so hard for it, whereas the instructor didn’t like the idea.

    Once someone uses a base human language to “name” something, it is no longer that “something”. The first time a human named the Wu, the origin of creation, it was no longer the Wu, it was now Finite, not Infinite. The first time Democrats named a bill caring for the children, it was no longer about caring….. for children.

  34. Don Carlos Says:

    Ymarsakar, the new Artfldgr. I’m sure there’s some good stuff in his comment, but puhlease….Funakoshi? Who? What? Why?

  35. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gender Bïgǒt Says:

    I’m bringing T’s comments about the Egyptians forward to here:

    }}} You’re essentially saying that the Egyptians, who possessed the skill and precision to build a pyramid very precisely oriented and inches within the measurement of a perfect square base over ~700+ ft were not equally technically capable of developing a Renaissance-like 3-d illusionistic style of representation. This is non-sense.

    LOL, GEOMETRY does not translate to perspective. Your argument is akin to claiming that because the Greeks understood mathematics so well, they clearly had a concept of what ZERO was.

    No, not really. Not as a “righteous” number in and of itself. Their concept of zero was much like our concept of infinity. We know it exists, we can detail some of its more interesting properties (such as the idea that there are different “values” of infinity), but we still really don’t have a full and complete understanding of it. That’s why Roman Numerals have no “zero” in them. It had to wait for the Arabic mathematicians, back before they reverted to barbarism under their religious zealotry, to create THAT. And the system (place notation) is so much more vastly improved over Roman numerals it’s not even funny. It’s generally argued that, had the Greeks had place notation (with its inherent concept of zero), they almost certainly would have developed The Calculus.

    Clearly, the Greeks understood Logic, yet their systems for detailing it were incredibly primitive. The modern systems for dealing with it are an amazing improvement over what preceded them, and they — Boolean notation — date back only to about 1880**. So someone from today with knowledge of Boolean logic would SHRED most mathematicians of the Classical Greek time, simply because he’s got a mental TOOL available to him that the Greeks had no concept of.

    That the Egyptians were masters of geometry is not in dispute. But geometry does NOT translate into an understanding of how perspective works.

    And the simple fact is — if they DID understand it, then SOMEONE would have chosen to use it in their art. Show me that art, dated earlier than 1000 BC, and then I’ll give you your presumption. Because the notion that NO ONE would have used it despite understanding it is ludicrous. Once someone has spread a meme around, there are ALWAYS people willing to play with that meme — especially in ART. Because getting known in art is always tied to using some concept to do things no one has seen before.

    To make Qae’s day, once Cameron had the whole “liquid” effect worked out in The Abyss, he came up with a background in which to use it impressively. Hence the T-2000 in Terminator 2. Similarly, once the whole “bullet time” thing had been worked out for those Timex commercials (among other things), it fell onto the Wachovski brothers to figure out how to use it inventively in The Matrix. Create a meme, someone is going to play with it to try and make something that WOWs people. There is no better reward for a true artist than to create something that makes people’s eyes bulge.

    }}} Their perception of the world around them was quite keen.

    Oh, this argument and what follows is just flat out ludicrous. Human perceptions build and progress over time. Why the hell would you think this doesn’t happen in art as well as philosophy, science, technology, and mathematics?

    The notion that Egyptians COULD have had the same world view we have, they just “didn’t” is preposterous. The world they lived in was radically short on excess wealth, and the idea that what excess there was belonged to one person by some ludicrous divine right shows how VERY different it was. In that primitive time, life was Rousseau’s “nasty, brutish, and short”. Infant mortality was ridiculously high. Nothing changed for decades at a time, and what changes there were were minimal.

    People of that time could not begin to imagine the VELOCITY of life we have nowadays, and an adult could almost certainly never come close to adjusting to it. And this massively shapes not just our own world view but our capacity to CONCEIVE of new ideas and adapt to them.

    You have to have an attitude towards change which allows you to accept new ideas and new things, and the Egyptians did NOT have that. They weren’t as immutable as a Chinese Water Economy, but they were close.

    ** Interesting side note: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, of Alice In Wonderland fame, created a massive improvement in logical notation himself, and published it in the 1880s. It would have taken over academic papers using Logic, but Boole’s notation was even simpler and better still, published very shortly after that, and now Dodgson’s work in this area — groundbreaking and seminal in its time — is utterly forgotten. Luckily, he had a backup means to ensure his name continued into posterity.

    }}} Botanists and zoologists have looked at Egyptian illustrations and can easily identify and type species; that’s how accurate they are.

    So freaking WHAT? Gosh, they accurately depicted it had ‘x’ petals. They accurately depicted it had spines. They accurately depicted it had such and such a shape. Clearly, that means it’s “y” — that does not make it ACCURATE. You want to know what would make it ACCURATE?

    If you did not NEED to be a specialist to say “Yep, that’s THAT thing all right!” If I could give neo a set of 100 picture of flowers and the painting in question, and she could identify the species without any further help.

    I can show you a drawing I did when I was 10 years old. You would recognize the flowers in it as tulips. That does not make it a particularly capable, effective, and artistic rendering of a field of flowers, much less tulips.

    }}} They were not inferior rules and precepts, they were just different than what we’ve been told is the norm (cultural chauvinism).

    Look, I realize this whole PC meme about cultural relativity is real, real popular right now, but it’s still BOVINE EXCRETA. The notion that the Egyptians of 4000 years and more ago weren’t barbarians by modern standards is idiotic. They had *slaves*. They used humans as pack mules to create giant tombstones. It never occurred to any of them to create anything other than massive amounts of misery and strife towards the end of creating giant tombstones. Remember those drawings? Remember seeing the guys standing over the slaves with whips in hand? Did you think those whips tickled people into working harder?

    Yes, the Egyptians created something amazingly impressive with that physical labor, but the notion that they were “as good” as our modern culture is just flat out ludicrous.

    The biggest problem a modern American would have with being dropped into that culture would be not getting killed by the authorities when they didn’t demonstrate proper subservience right away (they’d quickly adapt and figure things out). Then it would be adapting to the primitive surroundings in terms of sanity and food/water quality (i.e., “Montezuma’s Revenge”). It probably would not take them all that long to get an understanding of what had happened — they already have sufficient memes to explain it — the notion of time travel is sufficiently widely spread in our culture that they’d be able to process it.

    OTOH, take someone from THAT culture and drop it into the middle of ours, and they’d likely go insane within hours from all the magic and inexplicable things going on around them in a world quickly overpowering them with one impossibility after another. Planes? TV? Radio? Cars? MP3 Players? Phones? Flush Toilet’s? Frozen Food? *FRESH* ICE IN SUMMER?

    The problem is not *MY* “cultural chauvinism” — it’s YOUR “cultural myopia”. All those things you see as so “obvious” because you’ve had ALL of them for your entire life, or seen them develop from earlier forms, yet, in fact, are anything BUT obvious in how they work and interplay with one another. You even have an array of memes granted you by SF to DEAL with interpreting change you don’t fully understand. So if you were dropped into a FUTURE culture, rather than a past one, you’d have at least a decent chance of being able to figure things out with a lot less help. Some “magic” concept like a “replicator” would be “no problem” even though nothing really quite like it exists in this time (though we are getting real, real close, with modern “printing” technology).

  36. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gender Bïgǒt Says:

    }}} Remember a 3-d illusion is also a distortion. It distorts true shape in order to render relationships in “space.” It is neither more nor less valid than an art which opts to represent a purer truer form and is willing to distort spatial relationships to achieve that end.

    No, there are two things you may be referring to, but you’re wrong in both cases. For the Tromp, there IS no distortion — it’s as close to the way the eye perceives things from the controlled, specific angle, that they eye itself is fooled into believing it’s a real, actual object. Clearly, there’s no “distortion” at all, or the eye would pick up on it and say “no, that’s not right”. THIS is one of the shortcomings of modern 3D cinematography — FOCUS.

    For things in true 3d, the things in focus change as my viewpoint changes. In a 3d movie, the focus is fixed on whatever the camera operator/director wanted to be in focus at that moment. So your brain goes “That’s not right…” and steps back subtly.

    For a PERSPECTIVE drawing, no, it’s not a “distortion”, it’s a PROJECTION. It’s a definable mathematical process for creating an effectively accurate representation in 2D of what would be seen from a given viewpoint…

  37. T Says:


    You write: “And the simple fact is — if they DID understand it, then SOMEONE would have chosen to use it in their art.”

    From my comment on the previous thread which predicts precisely your response(emphasis added):

    It is not at all a simply less skilled–more skilled artistic rendering as artfl believes and as you posit here. That latter is the real elementary point of view. It is also culturally chauvinistic; it implies that “if they could have done 3-d, they would have. That they didn’t means they couldn’t.” Again, non-sense.

    You are also misinterpreting my point. I never said or implied that knew how to do this and chose not to. I said their cultural imperative gave them no reason to learn it because their goal was something else. My former comment (emphasis added):

    It’s that earlier cultures were pursuing different goals which did not require the representation of an object in such an illusory three dimensional space. They were not inferior rules and precepts, they were just different.

    You write “Human perceptions build and progress over time. Why the hell would you think this doesn’t happen in art . . . .”

    Human perceptions may accrete over time if they’re recorded but the human experience must be relearned lifetime after lifetime after lifetime, each of us on his or her own. This is not a lot of pc culturally relativistic bovine excrement as you put it. The problem is that your fundamental premise is false. Your premise is based upon the concept that 3-d illusionism is better than 2-d representation; that it took time to develop the point where it was even possible and any other form of representation is now retorgrade. That’s patently false. First of all, Brunelleschian perspective was developed for a particular purpose—to allow the architect Filippo Brunelleschi to draw images of how buildings would look after constrruction; there was no great moral or social imperative here and he did it by looking through a hole in a mirror:


    Now much to your chagrin, the Egyptians had mirrors too (polished bronze). If 3-d illusionism is so easy to create, and so powerful a perception (see the exercise below) the querstion becomes “How could they be so advanced to see beyond our predilictions of seeing three-dimensionally?

    Second, 3-d is very easy to produce because we are so disposed to seeing it; it’s how we see the day-to-day world. How easy is it? Here’s and exercise:

    Take a sheet of copy paper and lay it in front of you in landscape format. Now about half-way from top to bottom draw a horizontal line from side-to-side; this will be our horizon line. Now establish a point in the center toward which lines will converge and let’s draw two railroad rails disappearing into the horizon (you know a kind of cone with it’s point on the horizon line). Now add some railroad ties and remember that as they aporiach the horizon then need to get shorter and more closely spaced together. (Want to get fancy, add some telegraph poles, too).

    Even in this simple line drawing, the illusion of 3-d space is overwhelming. Play with it. The wider you make the cone of the railroad tracks the closer to the tracks you, as the viewer, seem to be. The narrower the cone of the railroad rails, the further away from the tracks the viewer seems to be. It is this easy, really.

    Third, art is a language—it’s a form of communication. To say that English is superior to Latin or German or Inuit or Swahili is a non-starter as an argument. Each of these languages developed in different environments with different cultures and serve some common and many different purposes (is English deficient because it lacks over twenty words for “snow” like some Eskimo tongues do?)

    Likewise, to say that 3-d representation is superior to 2-d forms of art is an equally false premise. To continue the language metaphor, a medical report is not written like a novel which is not written like a poem. The list goes on. To denigrate poetry because is is not a novel or to denigrate a novel because it is not a scientific report is precisely the argument you are trying to defend here. You may prefer one to the other and like it more. Fine. But to insist that it is “better” reveals a fundamental lack of understanding. Before you postulate about what the Egyptians or Greeks could or could not do and why, perhaps you should gain some familiarity as to what they were about. You might be surprised.

  38. T Says:

    “For the Tromp, there IS no distortion — it’s as close to the way the eye perceives things from the controlled, specific angle, that they eye itself is fooled into believing it’s a real, actual object.”

    Trompe l’oeil illusionism is about nothing but distortion. You simply do not know whereof you speak.

    “they [sic] eye itself is fooled.” Precisely. The way the eye sees an object it not the way an object IS. Railroad rails do not converge as they approach the horizon; they are parallel lines along their entire length. Railroad ties don’t get closer together or shorter as they approach the horizon; they’re evenly spaced and just about the same size. THAT is a distortion used to imply a 3-d spatial relationship on a 2-d surface.

    It’s not that one form of art distorts and another does not. They ALL distort. Anytime one translates a 3-d form onto a 2-d surface some kind of distortion MUST be involved otherwise you would have a real 3-d- form, not a 2-d image of a 3-d form. The image of an object is NOT the object itself (that was precisely the point of Marcel Duchamp’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe).

    Different forms of art choose to distort different aspects of reality in order to meet different goals.

  39. Indigo Red Says:

    “Is there progress in art?”

    No. There is process in art and that is improved upon and mastered. Art remains a commentary on the human condition and relationship to our environment.

  40. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gender Bïgǒt Says:

    }}} It’s that earlier cultures were pursuing different goals which did not require the representation of an object in such an illusory three dimensional space. They were not inferior rules and precepts, they were just different.

    LOL. No, T, it IS inferior. One of the reasons for the incredible success of “Western Culture” post Renaissance is the interlocking sets of memes which have allowed us to make MASSIVE progress in pretty much every field of human endeavor.

    2-4% of the people can now feed EVERYONE under our sway, AND have food left over for areas outside our sway.

    And we’re on the verge of doing the same thing with our manufacturing capability, where 2-5% of people can produce all the GOODs we need at a fairly low price. Even IF you argue we don’t completely factor in some of those prices fully, the cost of ANYTHING is down to a fraction of what it was only 100 years ago.

    “Material goods aren’t everything” … right. And the state of humanity under The West is amazingly better now — even with areas outside our direct control, even the POOREST in the POOREST nations, as a result of memes originating in the West, now have both life expectancies and child mortality rates which are below those of the RICHEST members of the RICHEST societies as of 1900 (i.e., the UK or the USA, take your pick).

    In fact, the ONLY thing threatening this culture right now is a cancerous meme abusing that “cultural relativism” BS to make people think that Western Culture is NOT the freaking best damned thing that EVER happened to humanity.

    Q.E.D. — it IS “superior”.

    Note that does not mean the other cultures have no value — one of the GREATEST strengths of the Americanized form of Western Culture is its VALUE of ideas from other cultures. We borrow freely from other cultures, and our culture becomes a bastardized polyglot of everything. Salsa, Hong Kong Action movies, Meatballs (both Swedish and Italian), Anime, you name it, we’ll try it. If people like it, then we adopt it for further use without the slightest hesitation.

    “Mongrel vigor” applies to societies, too.

    }}} Human perceptions may accrete over time if they’re recorded but the human experience must be relearned lifetime after lifetime after lifetime, each of us on his or her own.

    No, it’s NOT. SOME things must be relearned in each and every lifetime, true — they are not fully transmissible. But most of human understanding of things IS written down and expressed and left behind for posterity. I don’t have to personally INVENT the Greek mode of thought for rational problem solving. Some Greek guy wrote it down centuries ago and then some monk re-wrote it in the Dark ages and then someone else re-wrote about it during the Renaissance era and … until finally it came to me, too, along with MILLIONS of other people.

    Robert M. Persig had to go NUTS to have the revelations he wrote about in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He got electro-shock therapy to knock him out of it, and he forgot a lot of “that person” who went nuts… but he went over his own diaries written while that person, re-constructed much of what “Phaedrus” THOUGHT AND EXPERIENCED, and they’ve been transmitted to me. Not fully, but many, if not all, of the functional, important elements have been passed onto me.

    That’s one of the CHIEF benefits of a literate culture, T. We have the WEALTH of human experience at our beck and call. One can only imagine the explosion of ingenuity possible when the internet finishes creating MAN, the organism of all humanity connected together with its own independent sentience.

    ART, in fact, is one of several forms we use to try and capture things which ARE NOT readily expressed in literate forms, along with Photography, Cinema, Dance, Theater, and so forth. All are efforts to capture and express to others aspects of the Human Condition and Experiences.

    Modern culture has a VAST ARRAY of techniques which it can use — a wealth of TOOLS unavailable to any other culture, even our own predecessors.

    Hell, look at Commercial Art — read an advertisement from the 20s, or the 50s, or even the 80s. Each shows a steady advancement in how the whole activity of sales works. You look at those things now and go “Someone actually BOUGHT anything because of this?!?!? ROTFLMAO!!”

    Yes, you CAN still use “Dancing Cigarette Boxes” on a TV commercial today** — the tool IS still there — but you would use it to invoke an entirely different sales meme than whatever they were used for in the 50s.

    The point is — the wealth of TOOLS available to us for any task is massively greater than that ever available to humanity in the past — and, short of a catastrophe, it should advance steadily into the future, too.

    ** OK, maybe not. Not sure if the ban on advertising cigarettes on TV prevents their usage in selling something NOT cigarettes… But you get the point — pick your 50s TV commercial meme.

    }}} This is not a lot of pc culturally relativistic bovine excrement as you put it. The problem is that your fundamental premise is false. Your premise is based upon the concept that 3-d illusionism is better than 2-d representation; that it took time to develop the point where it was even possible and any other form of representation is now retrograde.

    Yes, it is. I didn’t say it’s retrograde NOW. I said, if you HAVE the option and CHOOSE not to use it, then that IS nothing of the sort. It’s a tool. You have a goal and a purpose. If that tool isn’t the right one for that in your judgement, there’s nothing retrograde there.

    If you lack the TOOL, though, then you have NO CONCEPT of how much easier that tool may be towards the process you intend to form with its end product of “whatever”. That is certainly a less effective and MORE primitive (“retrograde”) situation. Period.

    There’s a huge reason why things Get Better with time — the total summation of human knowledge, tools, and techniques is getting steadily better, greater, more widespread, and functional.

    This leads to literally MASSIVE improvements in human productivity.

    Just not having to get up and go out in the freezing cold in the middle of the night to take a dump in an outhouse is a tremendous improvement in not just the overall human condition, but human productivity — because your chances of catching any disease as a result and being “shut down” (or even killed!) by that disease is particularly lessened. Not having to use a chamber pot, and being exposed to airborne fecal bacteria for the rest of the night is also a massive improvement in same, if you thought to try THAT argument.

  41. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gender Bïgǒt Says:

    }}} THAT is a distortion used to imply a 3-d spatial relationship on a 2-d surface.

    Oh, Geez, you’re not really Getting It.

    No. The way the eyes see thing is a “distortion” — but the VERY POINT of ART in ANYTHING is to capture its ESSENCE, and that ties to how HUMANS EXPERIENCE IT. That’s one of the differences between technical art and “human” art.

    So the fact that perspective does not reflect the “reality” of something is relevant to SOME forms of consideration — topographical mapping, for example – but it has NOTHING to do with “art” for art’s sake. The purpose of ART is to capture the HUMAN EXPERIENCE, and so the MANNER in which it is experienced is clearly NOT to “distort” it away from that manner.

    So the Trompe IS an “undistorted” representation because, in terms of what it is doing, it IS representing it as EXACTLY as possible to the manner in which humans experience it.

    So, yeah, if you really want to weasel it a lot, you can argue it’s a “distortion”, because it mirrors the manner of human experience which is itself distorted from what we TODAY believe as “reality”, but the word “distortion”implies a wrongness or falsehood to it. In the context the Trompe is created for — the process it is intended to produce — it’s not “distorted” at all — it’s exactly right.

    It does not reflect an objective representation of the world, but that’s NOT the purpose of ART. “Art” in the context we’re using it here, is intentionally SUBJECTIVE. It’s about a transmission from the Artist, regarding the Subject, to the Viewer.

    “[Regarding ‘She who Used to Be the Beautiful Heaulmiere’] Attend me. Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl she used to be. But a GREAT artist — a master — and that is what Auguste Rodin was — can look at an old woman, portray her EXACTLY as she is… and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be… and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply imprisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart… no matter what the merciless hours have done to her. Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn’t matter to you and me; we were never meant to be admired — but it DOES to them.”
    – Robert A. Heinlein, ‘A Stranger in a Strange Land’ (Unabridged) –

    In 1884-85, Rodin modeled it after a 82 year old woman named Caira , mother of an Italian model, because he was fascinated by the inevitable decline of human beings with its different mouldings of ugliness and personality.

  42. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gender Bïgǒt Says:

    Hrm. Messed up the link there:
    She who Used to Be the Beautiful Heaulmiere

  43. Ymarsakar Says:

    Don Carlos, for those that know about me from before Neo-Neocon migrated here, they might actually say the reverse. Which is since I was here before Art, Art is the new Ymar.

    I’ve also found that ignorance on the internet isn’t curable, and thus is of little importance to me personally.

  44. T Says:


    I have read and re-read your posts. There is so much that I should respond to that any response would be quite lengthy indeed. I’m sorry to say it would have no purpose because we have reached the point where it is obvious that we are discussing two separate things; we are debating past one another.

    By example consider the equation that 2 + 2 = 5. I am arguing that 2 + 2 does not equal five (a fundamentally flawed premise); you are arguing for the validity of “5” apart from the premise itself.

    There can be no resolution in our two discussions because, as I said, they focus on two different things. The only alternative I see is to allow our respective points to stand as we have presented them and let any readers who are still following this thread take from them what they find of value.

  45. neo-neocon Says:

    Ymarsakar: yes indeed, Ymar was first!

  46. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States and some Canadian provinces Says:

    LOL, T, it is more like your analogy IS that 2+2=5.

    That a previous era had no need of something, because they’d never seen the utility in it, means naught. The utility is still there, their cultural limitations notwithstanding.

    When you argue that there is no way to identify any culture as “better”, you argue from a preposterous contention, to wit — that any culture which does not provide vastly more choices, more options, to individual humans is not better or worse than a culture which prides itself on providing those choices and on the eternal search for more of them.

    One can always not make a choice where one is available. But one can never make a choice where one is not.

    The human spirit ALWAYS chafes at boundaries, at limits… at any LACK of CHOICES. The only humans who ever complain about having “too many choices” are people who’ve never suffered a paucity of them.

    American-Western culture is the current pinnacle of human existence. Flawed thought it is, it offers far more freedom of choice than any other society in history — both in the volume of choices but also in the depth and breadth of choices.

  47. T Says:


    “When you argue that there is no way to identify any culture as ‘better’, you argue from a preposterous contention,”

    No. I never argued that. I am not arguing that one cannot identify a better/worse culture as you say. I am discussing a culture’s art. That is a totally separate item and argument.

    Art is interpretive and is driven by the culture that creates it. Art is a cultural fingerprint and as such is neither good nor bad per se (it may be put to good or bad purposes, but that’s a different discussion than the one we’re having here). You might decry Islamic Sharia culture (and with good reason) but that doesn’t mean that the art it produces is deficient simply because it is non-figurative and non-illusionistic. It is responding to a different set of cultural mores than in the West. Your argument (and smockpuppet’s) requires the determinaion that it is deficient just because it is non-illusionistic and “our” art is better because we know how to produce illusionistic art. Non-sense.

    Your inability to make that distinction renders your argument the same kind of straw-man argument we consistently from the left on socio-cultural issues—“my art is better because I am more evolved. Your art is deficient, retrograde and evil because it doesn’t agree with mine.” Who’s arguing from a preposterous contention?

  48. Ymarsakar Says:

    Technically speaking, if you change the base of the math from 10 to something other number like 8 or 2, you might indeed get 2+2=5.

    It all depends upon one’s premises. But humans are inclined to always choose the path in front of them, which they believe to be right, when examining examples.

  49. Maggie's Farm Says:

    Weds. morning links…

    Sarkozy’s plans to dodge new 75% French tax rate by moving to London Connecticut: Bridgeport Versus Greenwich Only the rich can afford to work? Is there progress in art? Of course not. Just changes in fashion. The Lost Wolves of New England We…

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