Field Theory by Hadyn Green

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Field Theory: The Undertaker is Hamlet

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  • Paul Litterick,

    To be cruel but fair about this, Sport is not Art because it is not accepted by the Art World as Art; the Art World comprises all those who have a stake in the creation and exhibition of art. The Martin Creed event was a sporting activity made into a work of art by changing its purpose from a competition to an artistic activity and by exhibiting it in an art gallery.

    Sport also is not Art because it is not presented to the Art World as being so. In order for a work to be accepted as Art it must first be presented as such by the artist. Sport's purpose is not artisitic - its purpose is the winning of competitions of physical skills.Some sporting contests might appear artistic or akin to forms of art, such as gymnastics and dance; but the sporting activity and the art form have different purposes.

    Some sporting activities are beautiful; but then so are trees, which are neither Sport nor Art. There are different forms of beauty, which is an entirely relative concept that changes over history and geography. What is certain is that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder; that would make the concept of beauty meaningless. Beauty is something that is agreed upon by groups, by society as a whole or elites in society. It is not the same as personal preference.

    The Olympics used to include contests of singing and poetry, in accordance with its Greek origins. The works created for these contests were recognisible as works of art, and would be so recognised by the Art World. They were not like sporting activities except in the one aspect of being created for competition.

    At New Zealand universities, and maybe elsewhere, the activity of debating is considered a sport. It is a competitive activity which is administered by university sports organisations and forms part of sporting festivals. Debating is not a physical activity but it is a contest. Debating is not artistic, although it may have qualities in its execution that are shared by works of art, such as eloquence. Debating is similar to other activities, such as parliamentary debate, but not identical to them. It is essentially a game, although it shares features with other activities that are not games.

    So, if debating is not physical, is it a sport? Yes, because the Sport World considers it so, at least in New Zealand. Is it Art? No, because it is not presented as such by its participants and because it is not recognised as such by the Art World.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • richard nichol,

    this is a really interesting question here Hadyn

    can art be like sport too? the set pieces, the rules, the structures of play, yes they do have elements of creativity and spirit about them that liken them to art, however bound by the same over-riding goal: a result and the test of human spirit.

    in a sense sport is like a mix of maths and creativity. a science and an art maybe?

    in a lot of ways art already is like a sport: painting uses its own gear, conventions, motifs. the commentary assumes a level of knowledge and understanding of its audience, and yes the test of the human spirit.

    wellington • Since Aug 2008 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Speaking of professional wrestling and art: When Keith Johnstone invented Theatresports he was thinking of bringing some of the popular excitement of pro wrestling to a slightly more 'legitimate' stage.

    Off the top of my head a lot of what you mention would be mroe closely analagous to 'craft' rather than 'art'. The first being (for msot people) necessary but not sufficient for the second.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    I would hope that someone would come along and say "no, fuck off, sport is not art".

    Well, y'know, if I must...

    Is sport art? Don't be so bloody silly. I move in both circles and the very notion is just spastic to the nth degree.

    I was at an exhibition opening at the DPAG last Friday. If you'd asked anyone there if sport was art, they'd have laughed you out of the gallery.

    The next day I went to harriers (I'm a long-distance runner). If I'd turned it around and asked them "is art sport ?" they'd have laughed me out of the clubrooms.

    Sport is a competitive event, in which people seek to achieve the fastest or most of something.

    Art - the arts in general, in fact - is about expression and creativity.

    One is a physical event, the other more a mental event.

    Regarding the cursed question of how to define art, I always say that art is defined as "something that is designed or created to be exhibited for the viewing pleasure of others".

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I move in both circles and the very notion is just spastic to the nth degree.

    Is what now?

    Sport is a competitive event, in which people seek to achieve the fastest or most of something...

    I always say that art is defined as "something that is designed or created to be exhibited for the viewing pleasure of others".

    And yet I promise you I can get a lot more people to watch Ronaldinho perform than Jackson Pollock. Fancy.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Hi Paul! Fancy seeing you here.

    As far academic credentials go, if you have a look you may find the 'performance' field has gotten quite broad. I recall my theatre lecturer remarking that some journals were as likely to include papers on the logistics of stadium events (including sporting) a legitimate theatre.

    Going down this path one could argue (I don't) that a sporting event might be art even if the actual sports aren't.

    Another crossover I think of is something like the new circus - something like Traces at the arts festival where the show turns on the spectacle of what a human can achieve as much as anything else.

    One thing I do think is important is intention. People don't accept as art something that wasn't in some way meant to be such by it creator. Sports people are generally trying to win.

    Related to this is what I think of as framing. People might start thinking of something as art if somebody puts it in a good camera shot or make a narrative of it or just calls it art; in such a case I'd say the art arises from the person doing the framing rather than the original thing.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    Wouldn't you say that sport fits quite nicely under:

    something that is designed or created to be exhibited for the viewing pleasure of others

    Also when I watch sport I marvel at the physical ability of the athlete. Their ability to control their body and/or apparatus with precision. I'm doing the same thing when I look at a painting or reading a book, marveling at the skill with which the artist is controlling their brain and their apparatus.

    Perhaps it is all art and we're just debating the medium?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    in such a case I'd say the art arises from the person doing the framing rather than the original thing.

    Totally, like Paul said about trees (above). A pretty photo of sport doesn't make the sport into art, just the picture.

    So if it is intention, does that mean the people who play for fun or the entertainment of the crowd (see Chad Johnson above) or even just to increase their fanbase, are artists?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    <i>Going down this path one could argue (I don't) that a sporting event might be art even if the actual sports aren't.</i>

    Two words: Professional Wrestling.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    And yet I promise you I can get a lot more people to watch Ronaldinho perform than Jackson Pollock. Fancy.

    Shouldn't be any trouble seeing as Pollock's dead. ;)

    I said "exhibiting" not "performing". I agree with you, however. Fitba is popular around the world through all socio-economic classes. Art, unfortunately, tends to be relegated to the middle classes of the western world.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • st ephen,

    ...I'd say the art arises from the person doing the framing rather than the original thing.

    Exactly. Sport is now packaged and delivered as entertainment, with an eye to the 'viewing pleasure of others'. Sometimes that deliberately veers into the art world. But the game itself is just a game.

    Which is not to say that performance artists can't infiltrate sports for their own artistic purposes. I reckon you could spot them though...

    dunedin • Since Jul 2008 • 254 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    Hey Lyndon. Yes, it is all about intention. Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will was intended by by its director as a work of art and by its patrons as a work of propaganda; it has been received by sportsfans as a record of events and by cinemafans as a work of art. It is all these things. The director's intention to create a work of art and the art world's acceptance of her work as art are what matters.

    Sporting events can be great performances without having to be classified as art. After all, the medium of film has been used for many things besides art cinema: comedies, westerns, instruction films etc. The sporting event might be a form of performance or a new, emerging category.

    And some sports are less like Sport than other things: gymnastics and pool events that are judged by subjective criteria such as artistic merit, rather than objective criteria such as goals scored; beach volleyball, which is more like a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition than a sporting contest; Dressage, which is like taking a majestic animal and making it perform tricks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    After all, the medium of film has been used for many things besides art cinema: comedies, westerns, instruction films etc

    What?

    Comedy isn't art now?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • LegBreak,

    The sports where you are most likely to see the best artistry are the ones that are not judged on it…

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1162 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Art is an order of magnitude less profound than sport. To classify sport as art is to denigrate sport.

    Art is scripted, controlled and predetermined at the behest of the artist. Art is like wall paper, you choose the pattern you want to your preference. Art at its absolute best is can be a catalyst around which human interaction may occur.

    Sport is so much more, sport is the human interaction. Sport is variable, unscripted and always surprising. As such it is profoundly more alive than any mere art.

    If a man runs the 100m in 9.69 seconds is that art?

    Yes. A man running the 100 m in 9.69 seconds is art. A man racing the 100 m against 7 others is sport.

    If in London 2012 the 100 m final were to consist of 8 men performing a 100 m in 9.69 seconds - each knowing that they were to be rising in unison, running together and crossing the line together - this would be art. A very boring performance piece.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Rowe,

    Art is scripted, controlled and predetermined at the behest of the artist. Art is like wall paper, you choose the pattern you want to your preference. Art at its absolute best is can be a catalyst around which human interaction may occur.

    Come off it Angus, art is different for every viewer, and is (in my experience) different with every viewing. Why else watch a film more than once, or listen to a record over & over. Even viewing a painting changes as you understand more about its context, history etc.

    Sport is not art, cos as the esteemed Dr Litterick says, it is not intended to be so. To choose from a favourite example of Craig's, a Mapplethorpe photograph of one bloke with his fist up another's fundament is art, because it was intended to be so. One of the reasons sport is so popular on TV is because of its repetitive nature. not a repetitive outcome of course, but the patterns tend to be similar game to game, and the notions of derbies or grudge matches give the conflicts a pattern.

    Lake Roxburgh, Central Ot… • Since Nov 2006 • 574 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    Sport is not art, cos as the esteemed Dr Litterick says, it is not intended to be so.

    Yes, but (with all due respect) Paul said comedy wasn't art. And if comedy isn't art then I'm really not sure what is.

    but the patterns tend to be similar game to game, and the notions of derbies or grudge matches give the conflicts a pattern.

    Hmmmm, this reminds me, I must see if I still have my "mathematics is art" essay.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    Paul said comedy wasn't art

    Paul L not Paul R, just to clarify

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    Sport is not art, cos as the esteemed Dr Litterick says, it is not intended to be so.

    Not yet a Dr but it is nice to see it in writing; not likely to be a Dr if I spend too much time on forums as compelling as this one.

    Yes, but (with all due respect) Paul said comedy wasn't art. And if comedy isn't art then I'm really not sure what is.

    My bad. I should have chosen a better example. I meant that comedy wasn't art cinema, by which I had in mind gloomy European films in black and white and sub titles. But even some comedies are accepted as art cinema, so I should have cited something else, like porn; but that would have started the "is porn art" debate over again. So lets stick with uses of film as a medium which are not intended as art: training films, that sort of thing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    Sport is so much more, sport is the human interaction. Sport is variable, unscripted and always surprising. As such it is profoundly more alive than any mere art.

    ROTFLOL
    Winner takes all* slurp*

    Art is an order of magnitude less profound than sport. To classify sport as art is to denigrate sport.

    You got that persecution thing going on real well I suggest an Abrahamic religion for you.
    You guys crack me up.
    *gluck*

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • davesparks,

    I'd have thought something along the lines of:

    Art (capital A): An abstraction of actual experience that seeks to present some truth about that experience.

    Sport: An actual experience.

    art (little a): A sly little word that bends to fit context. Strip off its black turtleneck and it just means 'something people do'.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Okay how about this:

    Some call tragedy as fictionalised human sacrifice; we might suggest that drama and gladiatorial combat share something too. Not that I've seen the latter, but what I'm heading for is that this would also apply to sport.

    Of course that doesn't necessarily, logically, mean they're all art. In fact the abstraction involved in art versions mentioned above might be (I could probably think of some exception) a necessary though not sufficient requirement for artness.

    But it might help explain why we felt the need to ask the question.

    I do tend to be fairly flexible about what is art - perhaps because I'm more of a performing arts guy and when you boil that down all the way there's a sense in which you only need an audience. But while many things can be considered as art, they are often pretty crap art and are better considered in other terms.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    I’m probably taking this waaaay to seriously however…..

    Depends on whether Art is solely in the eye of the beholder, or the intent of the performer counts for something.

    I can get with that and I would qualify it with this misquote from someone whom I can’t fully recall.

    Art is what exists in the dialogue between the art-moment and the individual exposed to it. As such, each exposure is a unique art product. Unconstrained by specific intentions the artist may stimulate the process without necessarily defining it. Viewing with artistic intent is as important as viewing a de facto artwork or artist; this sees art as only requiring the intent of one or other of the involved parties. Hence art is what we experience where artistic intent exists on one or both sides of the dialogue; in this way the question is not who the artist is, but where the art is to be found or experienced.

    I like this idea as it allows for art to be incidental and for distinctions between art, sport and craft to be largely irrelevant.

    Randomness

    For example it makes no sense to me at least, to draw an artificial line between the absorbed, involved manipulation of chaos demonstrated by Jackson Pollock and the absorbed liberation of action from apparent chaos demonstrated by Ronaldinho. There is a clear dyad between these artists and the complex changing forms that surround them, both of whom seem to be able to capture something sublime from apparent randomness.

    Culture

    Compare Picasso’s Guernica with Jesse Owens performances at the 1936 Olympics, you cannot separate these actions from the politics and complexity that surrounded them. Each in its own way was beautiful, profound, historical and dare I say it misunderstood at times.

    Theatre

    I challenge you to say the Valerie Villi’s actions in Beijing were not pure theatre; creating a micro-climate around her in order to elevate performance and its eventual outcome. She manipulated those around her as effectively and indeed beautifully as she propelled the shot, keenly interacting with the act, the audience and the occasion. So too does Damien Hirst appreciate his role as art creator, manipulator and marketing man. Not only does he create the work but he deliberately manipulates media around him to create a context for his work; performance and theatre as a subtext for an artistic act.

    Perfection

    Here’s the one that clinches it for me. Look carefully at the deliberate, determined perfectionism of Yves Kline in his creation of IKB and that of a sprinter, thrower or diver. They seek perfection in clearly identifiable form through deliberate repetitive search only then to explore those forms in different contexts. More compellingly Klein wrote quite early in his career on “le Vide” (the void) an ethereal sense created by an artistic act. Compare this with accounts of “being in the zone” or “flow” and you get the sense that our artists and sportsfolk can and sometimes do occupy the same intellectual space in pursuit of particular goals.

    So to be quite contrary Art is because I say so and that is what really matters.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    @81stcolumn
    ...I got nothing, that is pretty awesome.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    <blush>

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

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