Fluffykins Vs Lucifer, Defining Art Might be Fucked Up, Pt 1

Fluffykins: What the fuck is this?

Lucifer: The Miss Universe Pageant, want to watch?

Fluffykins: Not really… I don’t know how I feel about this sort of thing.

Lucifer: Maybe it’s problematic, I don’t know, but it’s a guilty pleasure so hush or I’ll damn you n’ stuff.

Fluffykins: That’s not what I was getting at. Do you think it counts as art?

Lucifer: What do you mean? Certainly I think a beauty pageant can count as art, if we are speaking in terms of lower case art. At its core, a pageant is gathering of “beauty” among other things and whether or not it is judged, there is certainly lowercase art at the least to be found, do you disagree?

Fluffykins: No, but that’s the problem. Other controversies that surround a beauty pageant such as this include its effects on young women who look up to these figures as symbols of beautiful people and try to imitate them. Women performing can have a size 0 waist-line and despite whatever they have to do to keep that, there are younger viewers who see them and strive for the same size stomach. It’s no giant step to consider the eating disorders sparked from this display among the viewers, those who would do anything to participate, and the participants themselves. However now we’ve encountered the problem of distinguishing the eating disorder from the art.

Lucifer: Surely you aren’t suggesting that a person with an eating disorder qualifies as a form of art? That would be super fucked up…

Fluffykins: I don’t want to, but to play devil’s advocate for a while, there are forms of performance art that include self harm. I’m referring to lower case art here, without trying to define “Art”, allow me to reference some examples that I believe should be included as art. To start small, think of tattoo artists using a tattoo gun to sear patterns into flesh. Surely tattoos count as art and the process does involve intense pain, so we’re willing to accept some pain in our definition, but then does that mean there is a threshold of harm included in art? If so, when would it something stop being art and start being plain dangerous?

Lucifer: Well before I’ll allow your query, I’m hesitant to accept your example with harm in art. While tattoos may be widely accepted as art, I’m not so sure the process of getting a tattoo does. Tattoos themselves don’t hurt anyone, it’s the process of carving out skin that evokes pain.

Fluffykins: An interesting point, I’ll address it later, but to satisfy you now let me reference body suspension, the performance art. This art form originates from the Mandan tribe of Native Americans from what is now called North Dakota. While contemporary influences have changed it slightly, this practice still involves skewering segments of skin with large hooks in order to suspend the body in the air. Practitioners claim that it alleviates stress, but the blood dripping from the wounds lead me to believe that at least some pain is involved, no matter how stress relieving. I just finished taking a Native American Art History class which covered Navajo blankets among many other things, but it doesn’t seem like body suspension would be any different. Do you disagree that body suspension either counts as art or is not painful?

Lucifer: Without defining “Art” it’s not obvious that anything at all can be considered art, but for sake of discussion I’ll agree to both counts.

Fluffykins: Well if we allow some forms of performance art that includes self harm like body suspension, then it’s not clear when the line can be drawn from something that is just blatantly dangerous like an eating disorder and something that may be performance art that includes self harm like intense fasting for slim waist. To put my question clearly, when can we say someone is not eating as a form of performance art as opposed to someone who is not eating because they have an eating disorder?

Lucifer: It’s obvious from your question. If someone isn’t eating because they have the intention to be slim or a performance artist, then it’s art, but if there is no such intention then it is an eating disorder.

Fluffykins: You don’t mean to say that if someone doesn’t eat for a bit they may have an eating disorder? I could skip meals for a day as part of a healthy diet–

Lucifer: Do not miss the point of our discussion idiot. I simply mean that someone who undertakes severe fasting can be either a performance artist (I’m including someone who wants a slim waist for beauty’s sake in here as well) or someone with an eating disorder, distinguishable by intent.

Fluffykins: Thank you for clarifying, but nonetheless a fool’s mistake. Art cannot solely depend on intention to qualify, while artists may have purpose for producing their work, it isn’t necessary to call things art. Consider the Native American clay sculpture “Horns of Dilemma” by Peter B. Jones; its purpose according to him is to comment on the negative effects that western influences had on Native people. Take away the purpose from the consideration, assume that the piece now means nothing, would you say it no longer counts as art?

Lucifer: I’d still like to say that it’s art, but I think you’re wrong in assuming that art could have no intention. All art is made by an artist and where there is an artist, there is intention, no matter how whimsical. A person with an eating disorder is not an artist and there is no intention, therefore it can’t count as art.

Fluffykins: It seems that you’re eager to dismiss the idea, but you’re still a dumbass. It may be clear to the person with an eating disorder that he/she isn’t a performance artist making art based on your account of art, however it’s not clear to a 3rd party. Suppose Fred had an eating disorder and sought medication to help him, however because the prices for medicine are absurdly high he asked his insurance company for support. Big Bad Insurance company declined his request, so Fred took them to court, in which a lawyer is trying to prove that Fred is just a bad performance artist. Surely it sounds ridiculous to Fred, who knows he has an eating disorder, but by your account of art we can confuse the case a bit. If Fred were in a coma and couldn’t attest to his intentions or lack there of, it’s not possible to distinguish Fred 1, who wants insurance to pay for meds to abuse, from Fred 2, who wants insurance to pay for meds he needs. It’s not obvious that there is intention in this circumstance. If there is, it has the potential to be art, but if there isn’t then it must be an eating disorder by definition. However without Fred to make his case, the court is left to hear the one sided argument presented by the insurance company who cannot distinguish him from a shitty artist and thus has grounds to decline medical support. If you’re still not convinced, think of Tom, who is in the exact same position as Fred except he is a shitty performance artist who wants the insurance company to pay for pills he intends to abuse and he’s not in a coma. While it’s clear to Tom that he’s not an artist, its impossible to distinguish for anyone else if he says he is in fact an artist. Any fool can see how this is an issue when considering if something should count as art.

Lucifer: I see your point, but does art need to be perceived as art to be art? Consider a world that is entirely red, would its inhabitants need to be able to call it red for it to actually be red? It seems as though a blue dot introduced in that world would allow the people to appreciate red, but nothing would change in the color itself, the world was always red. Regardless if art is called art by the public, it should still be art no?

Fluffykins: I suppose so, but you’ve stepped away from the issue at hand. Your response to the jury is virtually non-existent, but your attempt at defining uppercase “Art” is desperate. The problem with this account is the ontological commitment to “Art”. While it seems that it’s appreciation is irrelevant to its necessary definition, you’ve offered nothing to postulate why “Art” should exist at all. Not that you are to blame, but “Art” poses a heavy burden to one who would desire to define and accept it.

Lucifer: Now aren’t you the one who sounds feeble? Just because it’s weighty doesn’t mean it wouldn’t exist, it’s just a pain in the ass to define. Because I’m infinitely evil and stubborn, shall we begin this arduous task sooner rather than later?

Fluffykins: No, you dick, I have a better solution, but I’d like a day to gather my thoughts. I’m too drunk and too tired at the moment to continue and I don’t want to do something stupid lest I be damned to your place.

Lucifer: Very well, I’ll grant you one day’s time to continue our discussion. Begone knave!

 

*to be continued…*

Why I hate who you think you are

The aim of this argument is to crush who you think you are. I want you to consider who you are, not only in an existential way, but also in a pragmatic one. By the end, unless you comment otherwise, you must learn concede that you are nothing more than an ignorant, hopefully lucky, relatively intelligent mammal and self-proclaimed human. But I’ll love you anyway because I’m trying to be one too.

 

To accomplish this weighty challenge, I’ll attempt to carve out great portions of this thing called an ego from your flesh (not literally, don’t look at me that way). But I’ll try to be nice and start with myself. If I were to begin to think about the things that make up “me” I wouldn’t have a very long list. As Descartes famously put in the Cogito, “I think therefore” I’m using an overly quoted line. While I find his point interesting, the valuable aspect of the Cogito is to demonstrate what you are not. Descartes stripped his identity down to the simple certainty that he “was”, whatever he “was”. Friends and family call me a philosophy major and while it’s fine to say this lightheartedly, I’m just a philosophy major contingent on my university’s records. Let’s say that I’m a neon pink house cat, this would be true based on facts about the universe that include me as a neon pink house cat. My being a philosophy major ends the moment we take away the university from the equation, so it’s not really about me rather a title bestowed upon me.

 

While this doesn’t appear too detrimental for the title of a certain college major, an identical issue occurs in most attributes people commonly use to describe themselves. One of the most apparent fallacious claims to identity are careers. It’s obviously a social construct, contingent on an institution or knowledge that you presume to have by which you may call yourself a professional. Let’s take football players for example, they are “football players” so long as the game of football exists. It’s very easy to imagine a world in which professional football leagues are forgotten relics of the past. In that world there would be no football players, so to identify one’s self as such seems more like a momentary idea. If you don’t believe me, how many gladiators do you see today? Surprisingly few… The gladiator was a socially constructed term used to describe people who fought in the Colosseum, it’s the ego that took it on as part of itself. The same can be said about the concept of football players, it’s quite literally a tool used to describe those who play football. This term, as I see it, is nothing more than any other adjective such as tall or cold. It’s society that has allowed the ego to absorb Football Player with a capital narcissist.

 

Let’s pick on doctors next. This is more interesting because even if there were no hospitals, clinics, health-tents, etc., it seems to me we can still identify the doctor. In this case, the doctor is a doctor based on a particular set of skills and knowledge acquired through study and experience. However, even the knowledge and skills are part of a social demand for them and not really part of the identity.  Imagine a (glorious) world in which universal peace was established and medicine was automated to perfection. Nobody would fall ill from bacteria/viruses/microscopic asshole particles/ etc. and it would be rare for people to get hurt. If they did, thankfully mankind is advanced enough to have the automatic healing machine and if the wound was too grievous, the conscious could be digitized. There may still be doctors in that world, but what do you think that title would mean? No doctor would perform surgery, diagnose patients, prescribe medicine, perform regular checkups, etc. That doctor would be something completely different from what we refer to as a doctor today. My point is that a doctor in today’s world, like a football player, is a term that is used to describe skills and knowledge someone may have, but nobody is a doctor. They simply have the doctor title for as long as that knowledge is necessary.

 

So why isn’t this just semantics? It certainly seems like an arbitrary point whether someone is a title or they have a title. However, we can easily let go of the things we have, but we cling dearly to what we think we are. Being a doctor sounds a lot better than being an ignorant “human”, but it’s simply not the case. It matters because it’s a common scenario to have one doctor butt heads with another over who has the correct diagnosis. Every Law and Order episode seems to include police officers engaging in a metaphorical pissing match to see who has jurisdiction. The fact that it’s a TV drama is irrelevant, it’s the possibility that I’m concerned with. It’s this thing called an ego that engages in the pissing matches, biggest dick contests, and who-is-right arguments. It inflates not only competitions, but also people’s heads. If you couldn’t tell by now, it’s hard for me to hide my annoyance for the inflated ego. I believe it’s important to have as a sense of self awareness, but in today’s society it’s allowed to grow wildly out of proportion.

 

Why does this matter past my own irritation? Why does the thought of a lonely island (lol) sound so wonderful? I’m not a loner and because an inflated ego is a real problem to human progress. It helps to have to get competition going, but that time has past when Europe was able to advance past a shit-hole and catch up with China hundreds of years ago. It was a necessary quality, but now is the time to start cleaning it up or major consequences will follow. I’m referring to the hatred called xenophobia. America is a perfect example of the necessary cycle of an ego. Born in 1776, it has an incredibly short history to rally a people together behind compared to countries like China, England, India, and Egypt to name a few at random that go back a few thousand years. To compensate for a lack of history and culture developed and refined over time, a sense of hyper-nationalism was needed. That’s all fine and good; apparently it worked and America was able to exert it’s authority on the world stage in less than 200 years, but patriotism has its ugly side as well. With so much “American” pride, any threat to the country or people is treated as an unspeakable act of terror. That part is fine. What’s remarkable is converse side to nationalism and how easy it is for these hyper-nationalists to dehumanize non-Americans. Let’s support a minimum wage so that everyone may afford their cost of living… or we can say fuck it and outsource jobs to foreign countries where we don’t have to give a damn about health issues and minimum wages. The 2nd amendment allows citizens the right to bear arms, but if anyone else walks around holding a gun, let’s destroy them with ours. Should we donate to end poverty in America or around the world? I don’t even understand how that can be a valid question. How can anyone consciously judge people’s lives by distance from their toilet?

 

So let me just get a few things straight: you are not any kind of professional because you really don’t know much to begin with. Even something like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, it’s only knowledge if it’s true and there isn’t (at the moment at least) a way to tell if it’s objectively true. We could never know that we are all brains in vats, but as long as it’s a possibility nothing is really known. You aren’t a race or ethnicity, it’s just an adjective that can be used to describe you, it’s the same as being tall/short/blonde/brunette. Things like man and woman don’t even really exist, unless you’d like to provide in the comments section why men and women are correct and transgender, transsexual, and genderqueer are not. You could say it’s a romantic idea to accept them and men and women are evolutionary required, but aside from the not understanding the terminology who is anyone to say that people are wrong for being? I am male based on nothing that I’ve done and by my society classifying me into the “male” category, there’s no reason for me to be proud or feel anything at all about it. It would be like feeling like a lower class citizen because of the color of my skin. Only recently (relative to history) are we beginning to drop skin color a demonstrator of anything. For society to progress as we’ve seen with the decline of racism (not good enough, but not my point), we must drop the concept of being these nationalities and accept that they are simple, arbitrary descriptions. By all means continue to celebrate culture and use history to remember the past, but to give in to the ego and let it assume superiority is reckless.

 

We are ignorant humans at the very end of the day. We are things things that fancy ourselves human, and we don’t know a whole lot about anything. We are lucky in the sense of being born into certain titles that have higher standards of living at the moment, unlucky if we’re not, and we’re intelligent relative to every other living thing on Earth, and that’s assuming  you buy that we’re actually people and not brains in vats. All the titles beyond those are arbitrary; while they may be nice to have for cultural purposes or serve useful as special skills, they’re just things that we have and can be drop. I just ask that you think of a world in which we have tamed the ego and imagine how it would be different from ours.

 

Being an ignorant human is in no way a bad thing. It was Socrates who called himself ignorant because he was aware of the fact that he knew nothing. Striving to fully understand our ignorance in the world should be our goal, I believe the process would be humbling and maturing. It would also lead to a world with significantly less hatred. Think of all the times you may have gotten angry because someone called you immature or an SOB, what if you replied with either, “yea I know, I’m working on it thanks”, or “dude, do you really think my mom’s dog?” Seriously though, with the ego placed in check, nobody’s pride could be wounded. Competition will undoubtedly suffer, but thanks to the information age technological advances are possible thanks to self motivated people around the world that can find the information. If poverty was ended and everyone had Google at their fingertips (a long ways away, but again not the point) would humanity still need to rely on something so reckless as competition to motivate advancements? I don’t know, but I really hope not…