Is bonsai art and are you the artist ?

Canada Bonsai

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The quintessential examples though are the Lascaux cave paintings (and other neolithic works). Vibrant, amazing works, yet no market potential because there was no such thing as an art market when they were made.

Interesting topic! Do you tend to think of cave paintings/carvings/drawings as art, and if so, in virtue of what? Intention? Human creation? Subjective interpretation and/or representation of world?

I have read discussions approaching this topic from 2 different chronological perspectives:
  • some look at so-called 'cave art' from our current perspective, wondering what it is about these works that allow us to view them as art (we ask: do they 'qualify' as art?)
  • some look at so-called 'cave art' from a perspective leading up to the work itself, wondering how it is that 'art' might have emerged from the human from a precedent that is 'not art' (let's assume that we're talking hypothetically about the earliest possible work that we might want to call 'art')
I find it entertaining to think about the latter perspective. If we were to place that 'first' form of 'art' or 'artistic expression' on a sliding scale, and view it as something that emerged from the human in virtue of what we had become as elements of the natural world, could we view that first form of art as something closer to a weaver bird's nest than Botticelli's Birth of Venus? I am overstating the case of course but what I mean is, if in some sense 'cave art' emerged naturally from the momentum and direction that our form of life was moving, what makes the Birth of Venus any different from that? To my mind, an important difference would be the accumulation of skills, knowledge, and practices over time, and this is how I bring it back to bonsai:

We tend to think of bonsai as a fine art; it is common to hear people compare bonsai to sculpture. But, today, isn't bonsai a lot more like film- or wine-making in at least two ways?
  • The first part of the analogy: Our efforts rely heavily on tradition and the accumulation of skills, knowledge, and practices, as well as familiarity with prior works. When we act, innovate or deviate we are building on, or working in reaction to, past practices and works, similar to the way a film- or wine-maker inevitably proceeds.
  • The second part of the analogy: the patterns with which our plants react to our interventions and environmental control are in some sense 'programmed' in the life form itself, very much like the wine-making process. It might initially feel like we are forcing the analogy onto film, but the chemistry and physics of the mediums (from the actors and objects to the light and sound) all have a range of natural patterns and limits of behaviour (not to say predictable behaviour) very much like the process of grape fermentation or the way that a tree responds to pruning. When a bonsai tree finally emerges from this process, we have successfully manipulated material that has a momentum of its own, which makes bonsai very much unlike paint or marble, and much more like grapes.
This morning, it feels to me like we can make progress with the question 'is bonsai art?' by thinking about the question 'is wine art?'.

What are the limits of the impact we can have on the art form? Consider the 2 attached images. Is the range of 'artistic freedom' in bonsai comparable to that of wine-making?

Images taken from here: https://www.instagram.com/kokufu_maples/
 

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rockm

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I think bonsaiists, for the most part, don't consider themselves "artists" for fear that term makes them pretentious and obnoxious. That's a shame, since, yeah, bonsai IS an art, IMO. Just because you don't want to be perceived as an "Arteest" doesn't mean you're not doing art.

Bonsai serves no other purpose other than being seen for its beauty or having an emotional impact on a viewer. The bonsaiist manipulates a medium (a tree) to achieve a visual, and ultimately, emotional goal. That is kind of a definition of what artists do. While this entails an understanding of horticulture and craftsmanlike techniques, the main objective is to create an object of beauty.

Bonsai has nothing really to do with trees. It has to do with people expressing human emotion through a tree. Ask any bonsaiist why they do bonsai, I'd bet its because they want to make a tree that "says" something either to them or others. Bonsai can speak to a wide range of human conditions, including endurance, strength, sorrow and others. Since trees aren't human, they don't express those things themselves.
 

hinmo24t

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in discussion of art, value, free market principles, etc. i was also reminded of how
the nature of art, blanket subjectivity, when unmeasured against objective thresholds, is kind of like participation
trophies, and how it actually undermines or can hurt. ya, everyone gets a reward for participating (everyone is an artist)
but in realty it takes real value away from those who excel. if everyone got a free (no such thing btw) college education,
employers wouldnt be able to differentiate useful skill or ability among everyone holding a piece of paper, or a flood of them.
people have stumbled on the value, importance, and core concepts of competition as a driving factor in free markets, the combination of economics and quality of life. this can all be applied to what is considered quality art and bringing out great, recognized art. otherwise, everyone can just create garbage that themselves and their mother's consider special, and it doesnt really get anyone anywhere.


food for thought

any other business majors out there?


good read
excerpt:
Competition in the marketplace is good for consumers and good for business. Competition from many different companies and individuals through free enterprise and open markets is the basis of the U.S. economy. When firms compete with each other, consumers get the best possible prices, quantity, and quality of goods and services.
One important benefit of competition is a boost to innovation. Competition among companies can spur the invention of new or better products, or more efficient processes. Firms may race to be the first to market a new or different technology. Innovation also benefits consumers with new and better products, helps drive economic growth and increases standards of living.


portion:
There are four types of economies: traditional, command, market, and mixed (a combination of a market economy and a planned economy). A market economy, also known as a free market or free enterprise economy, is a system in which economic decisions, such as the prices of goods and services, are determined by supply and demand. Command economies, on the other hand, utilize central planning by a central authority to make all economic decisions.
In a truly free market, all resources are owned by individuals, and the decisions about how to allocate such resources are made by those individuals rather than governing bodies. This economic theory, known as laissez-faire, believes that governments should have no hand in business and if they do, it most often leads to market inefficiencies. Because governments always have some involvement, there are no recognized economies that are 100% free
With the existence of competition, a business tends to do whatever is necessary to lower its costs and achieve a higher number of sales to increase profits.
Because businesses compete with one another, they must determine ways in which to have a competitive advantage so that they can capture a larger market share for their product or service. This leads them to figure out how to reduce costs, improve their product, and so on in order to capture that extra market share.



^ this can all apply to how to define quality Artistry, to empower and differentiate
vs everyone smearing fecal on a board and being called an artist.
Essentially, competition and objectivty bring out THE BEST of a good or service


have a good one

time to receive some checks for work, taxpayer life, yewww
 
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hinmo24t

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i should have included this source as well, notice the second paragraph.
the parts about decreased quality and falling standards is what i was pointing to, in particular, as it relates to blanket acceptance of art
 

rockm

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So, um define "quality" art...Others have tried and failed miserably, sometimes brutally...
 

hinmo24t

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So, um define "quality" art...Others have tried and failed miserably, sometimes brutally...
thats my point. it has to be measured against free market criteria. sales, views, contest wins if democratic (no connections involved or bias like the hunter bid art)
what you referenced was totalitarianism/socialist/collectivism, the opposite of my point for defining art outside of full subjectivity; free markets/enterprise being the only way to bring out objective measure
 

Joe Dupre'

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I'll argue.
There was a conversation here a little while ago on whether you could learn creativity or if it was just innate in some people. I firmly believe that some people have an innate talent for creative work, but almost anyone can learn and develop creative skills.

Now, as you said, giving a reason based on some rule or other- maybe generally accepted concepts of visual balance, or traditional standards of presentation, etc.- you align with craft, while just doing it by feel is an art.
If creative thinking can be learned and developed, then getting, "a feel," for something versus having a reason is not the determining factor.

I mean is portraiture not an art?
Just because the person is recreating an image of the person in front of them, and thus has a reason for every motion, are they then automatically no longer an artist?
If so, then The Mona Lisa is not art, and Da Vinci was not an artist when he created it.

I'm no stickler for the rules or traditions of bonsai, but applying them for their own sake doesn't mean it isn't art.
Well, I've read that creativity is inate and CAN'T be learned. It can be cultivated IF it's there.

I don't think portraiture is an art. It IS a great skill and should be applauded for that. That's like the art of illustration used in print media. Painting pictures that are exact copies of reality is not considered very highly in the art world. It's definitely a skill, just not a very creative one.

The thing is, there's no general conscensus on what art is.......even by true artists. There's a sort of vague definition in dictionaries, but that can be interpreted in many ways.

So, I'll back up and say that I cannot claim to know exactly what is or isn't art. But, really, no one else can. Opinions differ, and that's OK.
 

Cajunrider

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Hi Njamadori,

To me bonsai practice is a combination of art, science, and craftmaship.

From the creativity and aesthetic aspect, I personally think of it as 4D art. 3D as the classic depth, width, height dimensions, plus time; as trees are in constant flux. I like to look at my trees everyday and see them change as they develop, and as the seasons go by; like a long silent film, in which I direct the story, and with a healthy tree (or trees in bonsai forests), as the main character and co-creator.

In order to have healthy trees, and to select species that are interesting to me, I follow scientific principles of botany, plant and fungal biology and physiology, soil chemistry, genetics, etc.

Finally, there is the craft, which mainly from the Japanese tradition, books, blogs, and forums such as this one, which provide guidelines for species specific development, aesthetics, wiring, etc. which allow for the realization of the aesthetic idea.
I don't think it is necessary to say it is a combination. Art always involves science and craftmanship to various degrees. Do you not think that the painters know the chemicals they use for their painting? Do you think the sculptures exist without craftmanship? To me, bonsai is art - No explanation or qualifying statement needed.
 

Joe Dupre'

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Canada Bonsai brought up a good point about "cave art". Whatever was in that cave man's head thousands of years ago that inspired him to "invent" a crude paint brush and painting medium must have been creativity. He felt compelled to capture what was in his imagination in some permanent way. I'm sure there were no art galleries, no art collectors, no customers.............no incentive other than his own wishes. I'm sure others in his group were going "What is Ugg, doing? " Those were the uncreative ones. Ha!
 

rockm

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thats my point. it has to be measured against free market criteria. sales, views, contest wins if democratic (no connections involved or bias like the hunter bid art)
what you referenced was totalitarianism/socialist/collectivism, the opposite of my point for defining art outside of full subjectivity; free markets/enterprise being the only way to bring out objective measure
Your point is very hard to discern.
 

hinmo24t

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Your point is very hard to discern.
i dont doubt that, no worries

a synonym for what im talking about is: supply and demand (free market) dictates what is art, outside of blanket-opinion that everything considered to be art , is
 
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hinmo24t

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if Mach 5 or VP or Clem has 27 likes on one of their maples, i consider that partially objective data
from a free market (bonsainut population) and would consider their work to be art.

thats an example of what im talking about

just calling anything art is not legit to me, has to have something to back it up. likes on here, sales, consensus, value (pots that sell), awards at a bonsaishow.
metrics vs subjectivity. a lesson we have got so far away from, compared to participation trophies, collectivism, and calling all creative works, Art.
id call it hobbyist level or craft level otherwise, like what i consider my bonsai to be

if you get over 20 likes on a single image of your bonsai on here, i consider that to be a work of art ;) ,
making a living from it, id consider you a bonsai artist, like Peter Chan (sales, years, awards, data points, facts)
otherwise its just cheap opinions and subjectivity or dictating (the german reference above); you do have a right to your opinions of course

data, objective data, is how you measure something, put value on it, make a consideration about it, make a decision (data turns into information, and information to knowledge, knowledge to decision making)
statistics 101

all this applies to how life works, how to make a convincing argument or leverage in a negotiation, what is considered art, what is considered profitable, worth doing, rare, unique, etc. etc.

had some time at lunch, sorry for novel. hope everyones work day is going well, assuming youre not all retired or w.e., on a tuesday afternoon. anyone see the thepatriots game last night? 3 passes and a win for Mac Sauce. only 2d time in 40 years there have been so few throws by the Patriotsin a game, wild stat right there. and there was a 15 or 17 yard punt, shortest punt in 15ish years i think i heard. 50mph winds. it WAS windy (objectively compared to average wind speeds of games) it was a short punt (compared to usual punt lengths) it was a unique game, so few throws by one team...see how it works?


great topic OP, and discussion @njamadori
 

Joe Dupre'

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My latest view on art...... art = expression. No rules, no guidelines, no acceptance or cancellation from the public, no labels of good or bad........just the expression of the artist. No expression........no art. If you think differently ......that's OK by me.
 

hinmo24t

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My latest view on art...... art = expression. No rules, no guidelines, no acceptance or cancellation from the public, no labels of good or bad........just the expression of the artist. No expression........no art. If you think differently ......that's OK by me.
respectable opinion, and the cave comments were intriguing as well
 

HorseloverFat

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edit: actually never mind, this is getting too complicated for 3pm LOL
Hahaha!!! SAAAME!

I STARTED typing... even had a neat little “Weird Al” analysis vs. Art.. but i stopped.

Sometimes, It’s better to just observe.

You know what I’m sayin, Bud!

🤓
 

Lorax7

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Interesting topic! Do you tend to think of cave paintings/carvings/drawings as art, and if so, in virtue of what? Intention? Human creation? Subjective interpretation and/or representation of world?
Yes, they're art. All of the above.
 

Njyamadori

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This discussion is very interesting. However it seems like what defines art is very different from every person here. However I feel like some people are comparing the skill sets of bonsai makers to determine if they are making art . That’s like if I claimed if the average person paints something then it’s not art . Especially when there is painters like Van Gogh , Dan Vinci , and Mark Rothko. Still both skill sets are art but just one is clearly better than the other . The definition in the dictionary says art is “ the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” which then would mean bonsai is art . Yeah I disagree with the dictionary because I believe that any animal species is capable of making art but atleast this definition would include bonsai as an art . But back to what I was saying , skill sets wouldn’t determine if something is art or not .
 

Lorax7

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in discussion of art, value, free market principles, etc. i was also reminded of how
the nature of art, blanket subjectivity, when unmeasured against objective thresholds, is kind of like participation
trophies, and how it actually undermines or can hurt. ya, everyone gets a reward for participating (everyone is an artist)
but in realty it takes real value away from those who excel. if everyone got a free (no such thing btw) college education,
employers wouldnt be able to differentiate useful skill or ability among everyone holding a piece of paper, or a flood of them.
people have stumbled on the value, importance, and core concepts of competition as a driving factor in free markets, the combination of economics and quality of life. this can all be applied to what is considered quality art and bringing out great, recognized art. otherwise, everyone can just create garbage that themselves and their mother's consider special, and it doesnt really get anyone anywhere.
I think this argument is a load of crap. Art isn't a competition. Art is fundamentally an emergent expression of our creative agency as sentient beings. I hope we all succeed at following that inner drive to create art. Calling someone an artist takes absolutely nothing away from anyone else whatsoever. Using the term "artist" isn't a value judgment. It's simply a description indicating that a person makes art. Doesn't matter if their art is any "good" in your opinion. It's still art and they're still an artist for having made it. Art isn't a zero-sum game. There's no quota. We don't take away someone else's ability to make art if we call this person here an artist. I find your assertion that this state of affairs is somehow equivalent to awarding participation trophies just for showing up to be an ugly, snobbish smear against people who've done nothing to you, except perhaps to arouse some latent insecurities that you would be well-served to recognize in yourself and work on getting over. Fortunately, there's a really good book on the topic called, Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It's quite inexpensive, a quick read, and really one of the more thoughtful books I've read on the topic of making art. By the way, the title "artist" isn't a participation trophy. Everyone who holds that title earned it, by making art.

If you're looking for objectivity in art, you've lost the plot. There is none to be found. Art is art regardless of whether or not there's anyone else besides the artist around to give a damn about it or not. Markets don't define what is or isn't art (thank goodness!), nor do they define what art is good or bad. Economics is an afterthought. Art existed before there were markets. I would still be making art even if a zombie apocalypse wiped out civilization in its entirety and I was the last man on earth. If the reason why somebody is making art is "for the money", I hate to break it to them, but they're a counterexample to the economic notion that markets are supposed to be rational, lol. The opportunity cost of art relative to the productive economic activities that person could be doing with their time instead.... it's not even a close call.

Your argument about free access to college is also garbage, but I'm not going to take the bait for a political discussion. That's off topic for this site. All I'll say is, you do realize that colleges don't just give people degrees for showing up, don't you? You have to actually learn things, do homework, pass tests, etc. in order to graduate.
 
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