aesthetics and forgeries, cherries and roses, distance and ethics

The NYT is doing a series on two books about the famous Vermeer paint forger Han van Meegeren, Bamboozling Ourselves (Part 1)

To be sure, the Van Meegeren story raises many, many questions. Among them: what makes a work of art great? Is it the signature of (or attribution to) an acknowledged master? Is it just a name? Or is it a name implying a provenance? With a photograph we may be interested in the photographer but also in what the photograph is of. With a painting this is often turned around, we may be interested in what the painting is of, but we are primarily interested in the question: who made it? Who held a brush to canvas and painted it? Whether it is the work of an acclaimed master like Vermeer or a duplicitous forger like Van Meegeren — we want to know more.

I looks like an apple, smells like an apple and tastes like an apple, but in the end it is Van Meergeren’s imagined imitation of what a Vermeer apple might be. If you ate those imitation apples your whole life, looked forward to them, they made your life a little richer, would it matter that what you got, was for all practical purposes the same thing. A commenter of this story or mystery, since you’ll ave to read all the installments to find out the writers final judgment, left this link to a book on the philosophy of aesthetics that mentions art forgery,

The question of the artistic status of good forgeries is a vexing one. If two paintigs are indistinquishable, why should it matter that one is a forgery? Here Alfred Lessin(1936-) argues that what a forgery lacks is a particular kind of originality, one that is particularly valued in the western artistic tradition. Neverthless it makes no difference whether or not a painting is authentic.

One of the reasons that we have that tradition of valuing the original is not simply because the painting is something we value as an end product. An end product, that true enough, if we are not told the difference approximate the same aesthetic experience, but the original came from an original idea. The forger acted as a parasite on the idea. Just as the human eye can be fooled doesn’t make magic real so the ability to fool our aesthetic judgment doesn’t make a forgery as valuable as the original. The author of the book – Nigel Warburton claims that the aesthetic experience cancels out everything else, to insist the original is more valuable is just snobbery. As a society we’ve decided that is not the case – copyrights and patents are about money of course, but they are also about noting artistic merit and quality of  imagination. They differ in degree, but merit is divided into both the execution of the work and the imagination to conceptualize the composition. The forger has only attributed half the value to his best imitation. Even more fundamental is that the truth matters – is it snobbery to think that since an impression of a thing is satisfying enough, it is just as good as the truth.

steel and concrete spiral

I found this in the most popular stories section at Yahoo, Detainee abuse in Iraq & an abduction hoax

Most-read stories overnight: A 2004 report into detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq apparently includes photographs showing sexual abuse, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported. U.S. Major General Antonio Taguba, who conducted an investigation into the incidents, confirmed the existence of the photos and said he supported President Barack Obama’s decision not to release them to the public. “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency,” Taguba said. Do you think the images should be released to the public? Click here to share your thoughts.

Readers were also interested in this AP story about a suburban Pennsylvania mother who allegedly faked her own abduction. Bonnie Sweeten called 911 and said she and her 9-year-old daughter had been carjacked by two black men. Although a nationwide search was launched, authorities soon learned that Sweeten had actually boarded a plane and flown to Orlando, Fla., with the girl. The pair was taken into custody on Wednesday night. Sweeten now faces charges of identity theft and making false reports.

It just seems odd that people have such malleable moral concerns. It seems the further away from their backyard the less Americans – and one would assume other cultures are just as shortsighted – care about improper behavior. Distance seems to make the heart care less; latitude and longitude, culture and language seem to dull empathy and outrage.

cherries and roses

Does this mean that women are obsessed with men, that men have some strange power over women, or that sentiment and a great voice sells records and there is enough ambiguity to internalize and fill in the meaning with whatever the listener would like or its just a nice song so shut up and enjoy it,

And I need you
And I miss you
And now I wonder….

If I could fall
Into the sky
Do you think time
Would pass me by
‘Cause you know I’d walk
A thousand miles
If I could
Just see you

from “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton.