Dyske Suematsu
Since the beginning
Works in United States of America

I think, theorize, and write about highly irrelevant matters.
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Re: The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts

Hi Curt,

From my perspective, this is what happened to our discussion:

I chose a location and built a house on it. I am not sure if it makes sense
to build a house on that location but I did it anyway because I cannot prove
the legitimacy of the location even if I tried. Rather than wasting time
trying to prove that the location is legitimate, I decided to go ahead and
build a house.

Now, I would like to discuss the house, not the location, but you decided to
pick on the legitimacy of my location, because you cannot accept that fact
that someone would build a house on a location other than where you believe
to be legitimate.

You accuse me of wasting your time, but from my perspective, you are the one
who insisted on getting into this pointless discussion about the assumptions
we cannot prove.

However, "pointless" as it may technically be, I enjoyed this discussion.
Until you actually play with a real opponent, you cannot see where your true
weaknesses are. There is only so much you can read ahead in chess without
actually making a move. Your move was unexpected.



Re: The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts

Hi Curt,

My comments follow:

> c:
> The meta-perspective which you've adopted that allows you to so
> easily slip from perspective to perspective is based on
> relativism. You've committed to being situationally
> non-commital. Rhetoric as play. But how do you feel about what you say?

I feel fine.

> c:
> I haven't really attempted to present or defend a view. i'm just
> deconstructing your view. But yes, if I wanted to write an
> essay, I could write one, and it would be based on assumptions
> I've made (and hopefully presented as such by way of disclaimer),
> and those who agreed with me would agree. Those who disagreed
> would make their points, and we'd begin to dialogue. My argument
> wouldn't necessarily have to withstand rigorous empirical Kantian
> skepticism, because it's just dialogue between people trying to
> learn from each other and reach some sort of conclusion.

This is true for me as well. My perspective does not prevent me from
"dialogue between people trying to learn from each other and reach some sort
of conclusion." Relativism is just another argument based on a different
assumption. I'm doing exactly what you are saying above.

> c:
> I understand you perfectly. I just fundamentally disagree with you.

The reason why I raise the question of you not understanding me is because
you repeat questions or arguments that I've already answered.

> c:
> Do you believe what you say? Do you not? Does it change from
> day to day? Do you believe in anything? Can you honestly not see
> the point of consistently believing in something? Why are you
> even talking? Why am I listening to you? Your speak is play. I
> speak to say.

I can write both negative and positive reviews of Damien Hirst. It depends
on the perspective I take. Especially for something like art, or a person,
there are different ways that you can see it that contradicts one another.
It is like the Chinese proverb about three blind people touching parts of an
elephant. That is why art is fascinating to me. Otherwise I would prefer
science or math.

So to answer your interesting question, "Can you honestly not see the point
of consistently believing in something?" No, I am full of contradictions if
you compared my argument based on one perspective with another based on a
different perspective. But within each, I try to be as consistent as I can.

> c:
> Why are you so stuck on proof? What kind of proof? Proof by
> whose criteria? Is poetry proof? Is music proof? But both
> communicate legitimately enough.

I am not stuck on proof. The idea of proof came up because you brought up
the fact that my arguments are based on assumptions, and therefore wrong. As
I said, I do not bother "expounding" or "justifying" my base assumptions
about my perspectives, because providing proofs to such assumptions are not
only impossible, but also boring. If you didn't bring up my assumptions, I
would not have spoke about proofs.

> c:
> so your suggested means of communication is to adopt a position
> that you don't believe in personally, make a bunch of assertions
> based on that position, and then when someone asks you to defend
> your position, you admit that your position is impossible to
> defend, but so is their position, and that's your defense. Nobody
> was able to incontrovertibly prove you wrong, and so that
> satisfies you intellectually?

You might find it difficult to believe in two things that contradict one
another, but I don't. I personally and sincerely believe them both. I am not
lying to myself. If someone accused me of something that they themselves are
guilty of, what is wrong with pointing that out? It's a perfectly legitimate

"so that satisfies you intellectually?" Not really. It is not particularly
interesting to argue about the fundamental assumptions that we all have. If
you write an objectivistic essay, I would rather argue within that
perspective and assumptions, not question the assumptions themselves. I
think it would be more fruitful. If I start pointing out your assumptions,
we would go nowhere because neither side would be able to prove anything,
and the argument would simply stall.

> Is such shifting, semi-commital rhetoric beneficial to the
> communities in which you're involved?

Yes, it allows me to see from the perspectives of others who fundamentally
disagree with me, and helps me to live in peace with them.

> To you personally?

Yes, for the same reason.

> Does it make sense in your daily life?


> Is it practically workable/defensible on a day to day basis?

Yes, I live a perfectly normal life every day.

> Does it endear you to your peers?

Yes, because I can sincerely respect others who fundamentally disagree with
me without feeling like I am lying to myself.

> Do they trust you because they know where you're coming from?

Yes, why not.

> Does it inspire you and fill you with passion?


> Do you enjoy the dialogue it engenders? Do you learn from it?

Yes, as long as the dialogue does not lead to a pointless argument over
fundamental assumptions for which we have no way of proving.

> Personally, all I get from talking with hardcore situationists is
> wasted time.

Because you believe there is only one truth, and anything else is a waste of

> They perpetually insist that I don't understand
> them, as if they've discovered some higher, post-aristotelian
> WAY, and the fact that I disagree with them is evidence that I
> must not get it. But I do get it (and then some), I just find it
> a convenient excuse to keep from presenting one's true face and
> entering into the fray with the rest of us.

The only reason I said you don't understand me is because you bring up
issues that have already been explained. That is a reasonable sign that you
didn't understand what I said.



Re: The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts

Hi Curt,

'I believe in right and wrong. Am I right or am I wrong?


Re: The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts - addendum

Let me add to my last comment, which I believe would summarize our
disagreements here:

Both Curt and Ryan seem to believe that relativism leads to a circular
logic, therefore it is inferior. What I am saying is that both would lead to
a circular logic. Since I have no problem with accepting circular logic, I
can write from both perspectives. You two seem to believe that one side is
flawed and the other side isn't. That is what I call "myth".



Re: The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts

Hi Ryan,

I think my response to Curt addressed much of your comments, but here are
some more specifics.

> if you're wanting to use the surface of the economic system
> underlying the art trade as the 'real' framework for artistic
> visibility, you get stuck with "i show this art because it sells
> well," and you never get to 'why' it sells well. it's circular,

Now, this is an interesting point. It forces me to refine my argument. The
point of my essay can be framed like this: Why do we need to ask why it
sells well? What drives us to find a justification for an artwork to sell
well, or for an artist to be famous? My answer is: because, deep down, we
believe in meritocracy. We have a natural urge to find a justification for
someone receiving rewards such as money and fame, because we want life to be
fair. This urge is what I am criticizing to be misguided, because there is
no fairness in fine arts; you do if you want, you don't if you don't.

Both you and Curt seem to misunderstand me on one critical point. I am not
proposing an alternative standard of measurement, or "framework". In
meritocracy, there are two separate components: a standard by which
achievements can be measured (e.g. winning a competition) and rewards
appropriate for the level of achievement (money and fame). I am arguing that
the former does not exist in fine arts. That is, the art world operates on
the assumption that X and Y exist. What I am saying that X does not exist
and only Y does. I am not trying to replace X with Z.

> and takes classical economics at face value (as if supply and
> demand are real Natural forces). there are whole bodies of
> criticism that look at the intersection of subconscious desires
> and economic rationality to try to make sense of this. there are
> ways of looking at popularity/success outside of the dualist
> question of "for love or money?" one might even say that it's
> more complicated than that - what of Curt's remaining 80%? ;)

> the desire to use sales(wo)manship as a benchmark for artistic
> success is merely a desire to replace one myth of meritocracy
> with another, i.e. who's a good artist is replaced with who's a
> good salesperson. and a very social darwinist position, in my
> estimation. (is there really a need to compete for resources
> through cultural production? how much can we waste?)

I am not proposing any "benchmark for artistic success". I have no desire to
replace X with Z. I am simply saying that only Y exists. Both you and Curt
seem to be projecting your own desire to replace X with Z.

How do you gauge a good salesperson? How much money he makes. In this,
achievement and reward are one and the same. There is no meritocracy here.
It's a circular logic. It would be silly to say, "He is a great salesperson,
but he does not make much money." What I am saying is that the same goes for
artists. There is no measurement of achievement independent of fame and
money. The trouble is, despite the lack of an independent standard, the art
world still operates under the assumption of one existing. As you said
yourself, there is a strong frustration in the art world because "you never
get to 'why' it sells well." What I am proposing is that you must ask why
you ask that question. What is driving you to ask that "why".

And even if you think you explained why it sells, you'll never prove it. So,
you will end up again with a circular logic of "It's good because I say so."
I have no problem with living with a circular logic, but you two seem to
have a problem with it. You seem to have a strong urge to want to point to
something logically concrete. That is the point of my criticism.