12-Noon Questions

Please post any questions below you would like me to answer in class (if you have a question, usually multiple classmates have a similar or related question ;-), or you would like to hear input from your classmates. Please keep your post to LESS than 100 words.

54 thoughts on “12-Noon Questions

  1. txq says:

    Hi Prof Greg,

    Sorry if you have mentioned this in class but I would like to clarify a doubt.
    For the quizzes, is the quiz on the upcoming (wk 2) Monday for the materials on wk02 (Tolstoy) ? or wk01’s materials (Introduction)?

  2. Iskandar Zulkarnaien Bin Suhaini says:

    Hello Friend,

    I believe it should be for wk02 (Tolstoy). Prof Greg mentioned that the quizzes are a way to ensure we read up on the materials before class. Apologies if I gave the wrong information though.

  3. Iskandar Zulkarnaien Bin Suhaini says:

    Good Day Prof Greg!

    What is your opinion on Tolstoy stating that imitation, particularly in the case of writing (ie: what is to him, an “excessive” description of the setting) is merely a simulacra of art? I personally disagree, I find that if a writer manages to craft his sentences such that readers are able to translate those words into vivid images and place themselves in the described setting, that in itself is a work of art.

    1. Travis Chan says:

      I agree with this — who is to say that isn’t the true intention and experience of the artist?

      My suspicion is that it’s because in thinking descriptively it requires the mind to begin curating what details should be put in and left out to tell the story, hence making the writing all about technique and potentially following a set “recipe”. But how can we ascertain for sure that whatever presented was indeed a calculated effort, ergo bad?

  4. Lew De Yi Norvin says:

    Happy Sunday!

    I have a different opinion to Tolstoy’s statement “A work of art may be poetic, imitative, striking, diverting, but none can replace the chief property of art — feeling experienced by the artist”. Were the artist’s original works the best method of portrayal? Were they limited by resources available in their time? Eg. development of instruments. Could younger artists have better materials to portray those feelings? Then again, this could be argued by asking what is the “best” method. What do you guys think?

  5. txq says:

    Hi Prof Greg!

    Tolstoy mentioned that Beethoven’s later works were unfinished and therefore meaningless as he was growing deaf. You have posted supporting details, Piano sonata opus 8 and opus 101 on the blog and there is a clear difference in the two, however I do not think that the later piano sonata is any less and meaningless compared to the earlier work. I would like to know What is your opinion on Tolstoy’s statement? and why did you post those two specific ones to show the difference.

    1. e0011912 says:

      This is rather interesting as I was thinking about Art in the form of music. In Tolstoy’s “What is Art” he mentioned the 3 conditions “Particularity, Clarity and Sincerity” of how infectious an Art is. However, Tolstoy did not resonate with Beethoven’s later works when he was growing deaf. When I looked it up online, Tolstoy mentioned that Beethoven, having gone deaf, was creating patterns devoid of feelings. Yet, based on his 3 conditions, “sincerity” is the most important condition. By disregarding Beethoven’s later sonatas as “bad art”, does it mean to say that Beethoven had no sincerity when composing during his later years or was he assumed to be composing based on gut feeling or simply he was compelled to because he needed the money and fame? I would like to know what Professor or anyone else thinks with regards to this! Also, just a thought. As I was listening to the symphony: “Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique”, I was thinking about how, as regular patrons of the arts, do we really appreciate music, or how do we determine if a musical piece is a “good art”? Is it really just purely based on emotions? Our understanding of each movements? Or simply the popularity of the composer? Would like to know some opinions! 🙂

  6. Seth says:

    (On Chapter 1 of Tolstoy) Am I the only one who finds Tolstoy’s opinions too cynical to the point of being repulsive? If not for not wanting to fail the quiz I would have dropped the chapter by the middle of page 8. Perhaps, could it just be that the current purpose of art and hence treatment in rehearsals etc is completely different that I, as a modern day arts student in Asia, cannot relate with Tolstoy and his observations? Or has nothing innately changed, just that everything is more sugarcoated in light of supporting one another in the industry?

  7. Seth says:

    (Part two) If Tolstoy’s observations are to be correct, art should not still be (arguably) thriving today. In the modern context is it fair to say that art and its practitioners exist because of the need or lust for //recognition// (eg in the performance of new music, recognition for the composer, for the genre, for the performer etc)?

  8. Seth says:

    On Page 90 Tolstoy refers to “new musician(s)… alternatively intensifying and weakening..”. Rich orchestral works come to mind, including the sentimental later works of Wagner (whom Tolstoy earlier mentioned), as well as Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (three years before Tolstoy published this work). Are these Tolstoy’s contemporaries and the subjects he is being influenced by when he writes this work, or is he under the impression of much earlier musicians?

  9. Travis Chan says:

    Hi Prof! It has been said in recent years that there’s no longer such a thing as “original” works of art, and that any form of contemporary art created today is to some extent borrowed or imitated from past pieces of work, sometimes consciously and subconsciously. If Tolstoy’s opinions still hold relevance to today’s context, wouldn’t this essentially mean all forms of art created today are bad / counterfeits of art?

    I’d love to hear your take on this.

  10. e0191738 says:

    Hi Prof Greg, I hope you had a good rest over the weekend. Tolstoy wrote that for the creation of a true object of art it is necessary for “the man to stand on the level of the highest world outlook of his time, that he experience a feeling then want to transmit it and have a talent for some kind of art”. on page 90. I just have 2 questions about this:
    1. What did Tolstoy meant by only “the man to stand on the level of the highest world outlook of his time”, does that mean even if an art that is created to express the artist’s strong emotions, it won’t be considered a true object of art;

    2. Since Tolstoy believe that art is created solely for the purpose of expression and should not be influenced by any outside forces like remuneration or personal gain then what would that make some of history’s greatest works of art that were commissioned?
    Thank you for reading this 🙂

  11. Hanwen says:

    1. Tolstoy has mentioned in ‘What is Art’ that novels and stories which are “garnished with well-observer and recorded details” are just counterfeits (through imitation). He also believes that real art will evoke the same states or mind in the audience as the creator of this art piece. However, wouldn’t it be hard to transfer the feelings experienced by the creator to the audience if without any vivid description of details?
    2. People with different background and life experience may naturally look at and understand a piece of art differently. And a lot of great art works (as I believe they are), are open-ended and encourages different interpretation. Would they not fit the definition of a real piece of art by Tolstóy?
    3. In page 86 of the exerpt, Tolstoy mentioned that “the very sound which in real ife accompany that which it wishes to portray” when he was talking about imitation as a way to produce a simulacrum of art in the form of music. I don’t really understand clearly what kind of sound in music he is refering to. Examples, anyone?

  12. nurulsaidah says:

    Hi Prof! I am still confused about the distinction made between borrowing and imitation. The following is what I understand: Borrowing is the wholesale taking of an idea and posing it as your own while imitation is including details which may be necessary or unnecessary in conveying the message such as sounds or the way a certain character acts.
    So… Is imitation borrowing with attention to detail? I guess the confusion is that the notion of what is imitation is similar to the definition of borrowing in this context.

    1. Iskandar Zulkarnaien says:

      Hello Friend,

      From my understanding, borrowing is literally copying ideas from other sources.

      Imitation however refers to imitation of real life. Eg: Realism in painting, which makes it more a photograph than a painting. Excessive description of mundane details of the setting and characters in written works. And music that imitates sounds heard in nature.

      This is just my understanding of Tolstoy though, feel free to disagree. Hope this helps!

  13. Iskandar Zulkarnaien says:

    Hi all, I just had a thought about the way we enjoy music. For many, we enjoy songs that much more when the lyrics resonate with us (ie: “Oh the artist understands me! / This song encapsulates my feelings perfectly!”).

    Is this the art work infecting us? Or is it distraction, as one analyses the deeper meaning of the lyrics and finds pleasure in being able to relate to them.

    Conversely, when we enjoy music with lyrics written in a foreign language (eg: popularity of K-Pop, Despacito, etc), are we merely amused by the distraction of deciphering the lyrics? Or for those who say they “feel” the song despite not understanding it, can it be said to be infection?

    Would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this, especially since I think most of us do enjoy at least a song or two that’s not in any language we understand

    1. nurulsaidah says:

      Foreign music particularly kpop actually came to my mind when I read Tolstoy’s statement, ‘The stronger the infection, the better the art is as art, regardless of its content – that is independently of the worth of the feelings it conveys’. What I understood from this statement is that good art should not be merely understood aesthetically but mainly if the author’s feelings can be felt by the reader without understanding the author explicitly. I think this kind of infection is not a distraction because music is not just the lyrics but the sound and thus we can still relate to the author/singer from his way of singing the song, the range of the song, etc. I think the same cannot be said about books and movies where you actually need to know what they are really saying to understand the message they are trying to convey.

  14. Hannah says:

    Hi there:-), on the purpose of art, Tolstoy believed that art should be enriching and morally useful and not done purely for its own sake or aestheticism. And so, I was curious about the “shot gun” approach in relation to the purpose of an artist’s art. For example, couture designer Rick Owen, whose work is renowned for its grunge glamour take on fashion. His pieces however, are seen as absurdity and even insanity to the vast majority of today’s crowd.

    Would this sort of response toward his work be because the “art” is simply “bad” as it was unable to infect the public with the artist’s intended feelings? If so, are social norms distracting us from relating to the art hence, appreciating the uniqueness and originality that is in Rick Owen’s designs because, these norms do form the standards that we use to judge the appropriateness of our own, and the actions of others. Would love to hear you guys’ thoughts on this and/or the creation of art that upholds and applauds social norms to garner patronage 🙂

  15. Seth says:


    On page 6 the value of painting reproduction is discussed. I had an additional thought: By showcasing copies in a more accessible venue, can it actually act as a method of encouraging true enthusiasts to go out of way to view the original?
    This also links back to Tolstoy’s simulacra concept although in this case we are dealing with duplicates. Although in the same vein will it then be better to showcase art inspired by the original instead of the above?

  16. Seth says:

    Sorry for the spam but thinking of that made me think of a more foundational point, in comparison to music.
    Why is it that in paintings, there is a tendency to hunt down the artist original but in Western music even professionals rely on printed editions (versus original manuscript publications) and in fact call them “originals”?
    Of course for music we care more of the end product which is physical interpretation but I’m sure technology exists (hello forgery) to legally replicate the brushstrokes, canvas etc of paintings for study or for viewing and hence they should be as representive of the original

  17. Evangeline says:

    The most pressing question I have is whether from looking at the economics of art, and how individuals (both artists and the audience) act, that art in the 21st century and in the future will become increasingly similar and thus the scope of ideas and feelings art bring/convey also reduces. This is under the assumption that without monetary gains, or even without the demand for art, the artist will not survive, and his/her art disappears. Thus, art that society knows about exists because of either the presence of demand for the art or the ability to garner government/private subsidies.

  18. Tan Xin Qing says:

    On page 6, the book states that philosophers argue that copies of art do not have the same aura as originals. But what retouching of paintings? I have seen videos of other artists retouching and reconstructing the art back to its original. Are philosophers able to tell and say:” Oh wow, that spot there doesn’t have the same aura”. Does retouching a piece of art drop the value of the art piece or does it increase the value as it is fully restored?

  19. Kimberly (E0191738) says:

    The SAW booklet brought me to a very interesting exhibition and that “Art on the streets”.
    Which leads me to my questions:
    1) Is street art selling well in Singapore and if so , why?
    2) Is the original spirit of street art lost as the artists work towards gaining legitimacy? Especially since street art was intended to be seen, or experienced in raw, gritty, urban environments by artists that felt the need to deliver high-impact messages that ranged from simple signatures to political statements.

    Alec Monopoly did say “I just care about artwork and graffiti. But what I realized is, to be a successful graffiti artist you need to be all over the world and traveling is not cheap. You have to do gallery shows as a vehicle to bring you to these other countries. If you’re just doing street art and not galleries, one day you’re going to be gone. That wall’s going to be painted over or that building knocked down. But when someone’s spending US$30,000 on a painting, they’re never going to throw it out.”

    However, the problem comes in when many works today are no longer created in, or for the streets.

    What do you think?

    Thank you for reading this post:)

  20. Travis Chan says:

    Not sure how relevant this question will be to this week’s topic, but when an art piece is put up for auction there is usually a “minimum bid” before a, say, painting gets sold to the highest bidder. How do the original owners decide how much this “minimum bid” should be (which I assume will be somewhat pegged to its value)?

  21. Hanwen says:

    1. In page 11, the concept of “Market-produced art” is mentioned. Does it refer to the process of shaping the “original art form” through interaction of different parties in the market (eg. Consumers, producers etc)? In this case, will the true “artistic value” be compromised since the changes are not dictated by the artist himself? Could you please explain a bit more about this concept?
    2. According to the part about”the supply of art”, everyone can call himself an artist in most societies. Since art economists recognize the individualism in the public appreciation of art. Does it mean they also accept the notion that everyone can be considered an artist in society? Otherwise, who are considered as artists in the art economists’ point of view?

  22. nurulsaidah says:

    From the LeMay reading, philanthropists can also be those who dedicate their time (not just their money) to help the less fortunate or to be a part of a great cause. Thus, does that mean that those involved in the art scene (musicians, artists, writers, stage performers, etc.) without pay are philanthropists?

    LeMay mentioned the importance of vision statement in philanthropy so as to ensure focus in making a change and to ensure resources are not wasted on shallow gain. Tolstoy mentioned that for the sake of art, ‘it is not only that such enormous labour is expended on this activity – human lives are also expanded on it directly, as in war…’ and poses a question, ‘is it true that… art is such an important thing that such sacrifices should be offered to it?’ Thus, what is the great cause they envision by being involved in the arts?

  23. Iskandar Zulkarnaien says:

    Can all expenditure or commitment (time/talent, etc.) towards the arts be broadly categorized under “patronage” or “philanthropy” or some combination thereof? Or is there a case where it is neither? Going back to the example of a Roman Emperor building a theatre with free admission, if his only intent is political stability (ie: I build this to pacify my people so they wont depose me), can it be considered patronage though he himself does not consume the art produced? If the theatre brings about great benefits to the masses (especially those at the base of pyramid), can it be considered philanthropy though he himself cares not whether there is any benefit at all?

  24. Tan Xin Qing says:

    Hi Prof Greg,

    During yesterday’s class you mentioned how you were a musician before you became an educator. You also mentioned before how you went from school to school to educate students about music. What made you change to become an educator and how did you come up with this module? Was it to help students learn more and become patrons?

    Did you suggest creating this module to the University or did the University come up with this module?

  25. Iskandar Zulkarnaien says:

    Why is it that knowing full well that there was excess supply of the arts that artistic philanthropy still grew and grew? Even as a public good surely they could see there was too much of it and it’s benefit was not reaching most of the masses and society (as evidenced by increasingly empty concert halls)?

  26. Mervyn says:

    Over the past ten years or so, various orchestras have sprung up in Singapore. Organisations such as the reSound Collective, MacPherson Philharmonic, Star Philharmonic (which has since dissolved due to mysterious circumstances) and the ADDO Chamber Orchestra have joined existing ones such as the SSO, MFO, TYMFO etc. With so many orchestras around, what factors determine which one gets the most amount of support/grants from NAC or other philanthropic organisations?

  27. Travis Chan says:

    Banksy’s artwork suddenly “shredded itself” at a live auction: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/11/woman-who-bought-shredded-banksy-artwork-will-go-through-with-sale

    The painting was sold at 1 million pounds before it got shredded, but experts now say this has caused the value of the painting to be at least 2 million pounds.

    However has the act of the shredding actually “degraded” the painting as a piece of art? It was clearly orchestrated to cause shock (Tolstoy – effectfulness). And what happened at the auction house could almost be passed off as some kind of an entertainment too.

    1. Iskandar Zulkarnaien says:

      Heres another interesting idea: What if the painting was instead damaged by accident (eg: during transportation) instead of as a purposeful act to shock the audience? Would the price have increased or decreased due to the damage?

  28. Tan Xin Qing says:

    After the presentation on “Mukbang” by Evangeline on Monday, i understood more about how it affects the viewers positively, but i would like to know about the negative effects of Mukbang which was not touched on.

    Before Mukbangs, there was a “Big-eating” trend called”oo-gui” in Japan, which is similar to Mukbangs, and there were comments from that trend that raises questions like:” Is this person eating this amount just to entertain his/her viewers?”. Which is similar with Mukbangs where sometimes the person overeats without considering the calorie count,or sometimes overeating and adding a larger calorie count in the title also helps with “Click-bait”

    In America, some content creators evolved mukbangs to different eating challenges like “Eating everything on the menu from…” Which some of them don’t end well and the food is wasted.

    Following that,I would like to know what are some other negative effects from Mukbangs?

  29. Aishwarya says:

    Travis’s presentation made me to critically think about the various aspects which differentiates local theatres and western theatres. Based on his assertion, he claims that local theatres comparatively lack support from the local audiences. However, I would like to question few factors affecting the recognition of local theatres.

    1. The marketing and publicity of local performances (i.e. the advertisements of The Lion King was almost ubiquitous specifically in taxis, buses and prime locations of the island) Does the advertising efforts of local theatres reach that level ?

    2. What is the fundamental element which local theatres lack which is conversely the apparent strong point of western theatres or musicals.

    1. Travis Chan says:

      You are right in that foreign musicals tend to have a higher marketing budget, which means they’re able to advertise more widely and in turn attract larger audiences. Unfortunately local theatre has always been strapped for finances and will never attain that level (at least not today without making a loss), which is why local playwright Kenneth Lyen called this budget issue a “vicious cycle”. I think the only prominent outdoor advertising I’ve ever seen is from Pangdemonium, and interestingly always on the pillars along Holland Village.

      For point 2, I cannot give a definite answer that I would also love to open for discussion with the others. My personal belief, however, is that Singaporeans are just more inclined towards big-name shows, which I illustrated in my presentation about how attendance choices are very reliant on show of status. I think our society is very attracted to words like “won 50000 awards!!” “over 100 billion people have seen it!!!” “not to be missed!!!” and maybe to a certain extent, the idea that these musicals are unlikely to return in the near future. Not to mention, my analysis of the media shows that they tend to be biased towards international plays. If you look at newspaper / magazine articles that lists recommended plays to catch at any point, you’ll notice that the majority will always be international plays (we also have to consider “clickbait” and SEO influencing those editorial decisions, which opens a whole other door).

      However, when the media DOES review local productions, they are always raving reviews and I rarely come across a negative press review about a local production. My own friends, whom I’ve managed to convince to give local plays a chance, have never walked out disappointed, and they in fact start looking out for other productions to watch. I have also never seen a play with an attendance rate of less than 50%. So even if we were to argue that local theatre lacks quality, my observations seem to indicate otherwise, and I am therefore very perplexed by this dissonance between what I see and what the larger public seems to think. I really wonder whether the true crux of the issue lies in simply marketing / awareness.

  30. Tan Xin Qing says:

    For this discussion today, when we discussed if the group “YST students” was a social group or a status group. Most of the class answered that the group was a status group.

    That made me wonder, is there a hierarchy in NUS in terms of which faculty to you belong to?
    For example, if you say you are from the medicine faculty, you are thought to have a higher status, however if you say you are from nursing, that is a different story.

    My question is, which faculty has the “higher status” and is there such thing as a faculty with a “lower status”?

    1. Iskandar Zulkarnaien says:

      I think there definitely is a hierarchy and I feel that these are some of the reasons.

      Firstly, faculties have different cut-off points and entry requirements (a use of credentialism) hence those faculties that are harder to get into have a higher status (as it is implied you are “smarter” or “more hardworking” or “gifted” if you managed to enter).

      Secondly, the professions that are associated with each faculty have their own status groups as well (due to differing average income and other reasons) and thus by association, the faculties “borrow” some of the prestige of those professions (eg: if Lawyers are held in high regard in the society, naturally students from the Law Faculty will too be held in high regard)

  31. Iskandar Zulkarnaien says:

    In the coursepack, it is stated that Fascism is anti-socialist, yet the Nazi Party (which is called the National Socialist Party) often preaches of National Socialism as their party’s ideology. What is everyone’s opinion on this? Also, what does everyone think of nations whose names clearly do not represent their ideologies (eg: North Korea is known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).

    1. Travis Chan says:

      I think in both cases of the Nazi Party and North Korea, they’re essentially harnessing semantics to obscure their true political goals, which is like an act of doublethink? Maybe what Hitler was trying to do was to put “socialist” in the name so when people accuse them of being antisocialist, he can be all like, “No what, got socialist in my name”, sort of like an ideological shield I guess.

      For North Korea from what I know they do actually have elections, so technically it IS a democracy, but you can only vote for one party HAHAHA it’s like using the word “Democratic” but not carrying its associated meaning in the truest sense

  32. Kimberly (E0191738) says:

    I have read somewhere before that contrasted political art in the past and how it is now. It said something along the lines of how political art used to be real and urgent but now its just a trend in the art world- like how being angry is hip. What do you think, are artists really just throwing in ideological references that have no real relevance or they are making truly cogent political statements?

  33. Hannah says:

    Why are original works of art worshipped or seen as a “relic”? Is there anything wrong with reproductions of art that are identical to the original? If what matters is the image you look at as created by the artist, does it matter if a painting or an sculpture is the “real thing”? Would this be any different for famous artworks like the Mona Lisa compared to lesser known art pieces

  34. Seth says:

    I read about the whole notion of rebellion against socially accepted norms on the last page and could not resist bringing in the concept of the sturm und drang and the accompanying Individualism movement.

    By this final observation proposed by Nochlin, along with two earlier points: one of women creating works based on “women’s experience and situation in society” and second that females actually “went on equal terms with men” in the literature field, should it not logically imply that the sturm und drang (which started in literature anyway) and subsequently the Romantic movement should have then be championed by women?

    If the author’s arguments are applicable across all disciplines, should the movement not have been dominated by men, who apparently did not have to rebel against societal norms as much, as they were entitled education?

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