Are wedding cakes & photos commodities, or are they art?

When atheists object to a monument of the Ten Commandments, I have argued that it should be defended as a work of art.  And to the reply that non-religious people find it offensive, say, “art is supposed to be offensive.”  As we see in the futile attempts to ban controversial art works, art is pretty much sacrosanct and courts have ruled that it is thoroughly protected under the Second Amendment as “free speech.”

Those Christian bakers and photographers who object to taking part in gay weddings are being charged with discrimination, as if creating culinary sculptures and expressive photographs were commercial commodities, on the order of selling products in a grocery store.  But what if the cakes and photos are works of art?  Artistic expression, even when it is paid for, cannot be coerced or constrained.

This is the argument now being made in the courts.  So far, unsuccessfully, though bakers and photographers have long insisted that their work is a creative, expressive, and aesthetic art form.

I wonder if a composer, or a portrait painter, or a poet would have to accept a commission from a gay couple.  Would gay artists in any of these forms be required to provide their services for a group they deem homophobic?  As I’ve asked before, does a rock musician’s refusal to allow his music to be played at a Donald Trump rally constitute discrimination against someone for his political beliefs? Would an atheist filmmaker who refuses to make promotional videos for a church be discriminating on the basis of religion?

At any rate, the legal debate over “what is art” is just getting started.  Can anyone help in drawing the lines?  See the legal wrangling after the jump. [Read more…]

Music composed by artificial intelligence

Google engineers are trying to see if Artificial Intelligence can generate works of art, thus morphing into Artificial Creativity.  The company’s Project Magenta is working on algorithms that would allow computers to compose music.  See Can machines make music? Google tests creative boundaries of AI. – CSMonitor.com.  

The first composition has been released.  It consists of only four notes.  (The drums are human additions.)  Hear it after the jump.

Then discuss:  Do you think machines with Artificial Intelligence will be able to create art?  What’s the difference between the Artificial Intelligence of a machine and the Actual Intelligence of a human being? What else is needed to create a work of art besides “intelligence”?  Can machines ever have those things?
[Read more…]

Day Jobs

Scot McKnight has a post from an Australian source on the Day Jobs of 20 Famous Writers.  Most of these seem to be what the writers were doing before they were able to make a living just from their writing.  I could list more examples of day jobs that writers held even after they became successful:  Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive; Geoffrey Chaucer and Nathaniel Hawthorne were both customs officials; countless writers today are teachers or pastors or manual laborers.

Day jobs are not just for authors.  Artists and musicians often support themselves primarily by teaching.

The fact is, it’s hard to make a living by writing or artistic pursuits.  That’s the nature of those particular callings.

We’ve got to remember that the doctrine of vocation is NOT primarily about making a living, despite the secular uses of that term.   It’s mainly about the various neighbors that God puts into your life and calls you to love and serve. [Read more…]

“I will make melody with all my being”

Still more from the Bible on the arts from passages I’ve always skimmed over!  In the first verse of Psalm 108, a psalm of David, we read “I will sing and make melody with all my being!”

So singing and making melody (I suppose that would include composing) are done with “all” the artists’ “being.”  Creating a work of art takes everything that the artist is.  Imagination, yes, but also the intellect, all of the artist’s memories, beliefs, personality.

The literal rendition of those Hebrew words is “my glory.”  I suppose that would include the artist’s talents and gifts.  But the point seems to be that the creation (“I will. . .make melody”) or performance (“I will sing”) of a work of art is a holistic effort on the part of the artist, rather than the exertion of a single faculty.

Does such close reading of a text violate the Law/Gospel hermeneutic?  Not at all!  This word is Law to an artist, who is often tempted to work superficially, tossing off something just for commercial reasons, being fake, insincere, and inauthentic, imitating someone else for fashion’s sake rather than being true to oneself as an artist.

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“To you, O Lord, I will make music”

More aesthetics in the Bible, from passages that I had never noticed before:  Psalm 101, identified as “a Psalm of David,” reflects specifically on singing and making music.  It begins:

I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
    to you, O Lord, I will make music.

Elsewhere, David also refers to singing and making melody “to the Lord” (Psalm 27:6; see these other places).  So the Lord is the audience of the music.  The artist is addressing not other human beings but God Himself.

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The artistic freedom of musicians and bakers

Liberal musicians have long objected to their work being used by conservative politicians.  And, as the link shows, they usually get their way.  After all, artists should have the freedom not to have their creative work employed in a cause they do not believe in.

So why don’t the culinary artists who make wedding cakes have that same freedom? [Read more…]


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