Elizabeth Telfer, Food as Art
● Most think that while food/drink can produce aes reactions (aes exp), they cannot be an art form or involve works of art
● Telfer thinks food can be a work of art and type of art form, but it is minor rather than major art
● Anything viewed: Anything can be viewed aesthetically: Can be aes reactions to most anything, including pieces of machinery
● Non-neutral: Aesthetic responses are non neutral
○ (Urmson) Not neutral responses, but a species of pleasure
● Aes not = Pleasure: Are aes reaction a species of pleasure? (No)
○ Telfer: Aes reaction need not be favorable, and even when it is, pleasure is often not the right way to characterize it
- Intrigued by pattern of clouds
- Excited by lightening
- Awed by the falls
- Pleasure is not a good way to describe these feelings
○ Judging presence of aesthetic value is not nec based on pleasurable response
- In “Terrible Beauties,” Korsmeyer makes a distinction between aesthetic value that sometimes presents itself as pleasure but other times other things, like arousal of discomforting emotions, or being riveted by something; or the experience of the sublime isn't pleasurable (as it might involve fear); "aesthetic pleasure is better understood as a kind of affective absorption"
■ Descriptions of the suffering of loved characters in novels.
■ Art genres that emphasize the grotesque, the shocking, the morbid, the horrifying, and the ugly
● DI: Aes reaction are disinterested
○ Telfer takes this to mean: non-instrumental
○ Not aes reaction if we react favorably to a play because
- Earn money for us
- Teaches fine moral lesson
- Successful venture for a playwright we know
○ Must appreciation play for its own sake and these are instrumental valuings
● Aes and sensual appearance: In simple cases, an aes reaction if based solely on how object appears to the senses
- More complex cases (app of a novel) not necessarily sensual
○ Food example: Aes if like way cottage cheese contrasts in flavor and texture with th rye bread; not aes if pleased with combination because low-calorie and high fiber.
● Need intensity to insure that non-instrumental liking of sensual phenomenon is aesthetic
○ Weak “that’s nice” reaction doesn’t merit name aes
● Intensity need not involve
○ Actively paying attention or concentrating (can’t do this with short-lived lightening flash)
○ Nor analyzing what seen/heard (enjoying blue sky)
● Objectivity often involved
○ Object is warranting or meriting or deserving of one’s response
○ Has qualities others would (and should) appreciate too (or come to appreciate)
○ Aes judgments (often?) claim to be valid or well-founded and are such that it makes sense to argue about them, even if the arguments often can’t be resolved
● Can make aes judgments in absence of non-neutral reactions that usually go with them
○ Landscape that normally would delight leaves me indifferent today, but still see it as beautiful (it’s the kind of thing that ought to delight people and normally would delight me too).
● Summary: Aes reactions are
○ Have a degree of intensity
○ And often accompanied by judgment that claims a kind of objectivity
● Can be aes reactions to food:
○ There can be aes reactions to tastes and smells (of food) in all the above ways
○ Dist liking taste and smell of food from approving of it instrumentally (nourishing)
○ Distinguish the person who enjoys her food but does not notice what she eats from person whose awareness is more vivid; only later aes exp
- Former lacks, latter has intensity? Or is it awareness/notice?
- Is this how she distinguishes food/eating that is aesthetic from non-aesthetic food/eating?
○ Can also have objective judgements that not only do I like the food, but believe taste is a fine one which other people ought to like too
- Even if some don’t like it at present
- Or even if I don’t
- So get detachment from non-neutral (positive in this case) reaction
● Taste in ice cream, paradigm of non-objective? Not even an aes response because of this?
○ Taste in ice-cream is standard example of non-rational, nonobjective preference
○ If food taste is objective we loose this contrast (between rational/objective and non-rational/non-objective judgments)
○ Are folks who don’t like chocolate or coffee or wine having a mistaken reaction?
○ More objectivity in other art forms than food?
WORKS OF ART
● Works of art
○ Not all objects that give rise to aes reactions are works of art
○ Works of art are man-made (even if just putting it in a gallery and giving it a name)
● Two senses of “works of art”
○ Classifying: about how the object is regarded
○ Evaluative: does it merit the label “work of art”?
● Classifying sense of work of art:
○ Something is a work of art if it is intended or used wholly or largely for aes consideration
● Urmson: Work of art is an artefact if primarily intended for aes consideration
○ If maker intended it to be looked at with intensity and for its own sake then it is a work of art
- Pile of metal pipes in museum: its art if it was so intended
○ “Primarily” (some utilitarian uses okay): Allows for objects to be made for aes app but also utilitarian uses (a chair is art if maker primarily intends it to be looked at, rather than mainly sat in)
○ Telfer extends the classifying sense to allow something being a work of art even if its maker did not intend so, if its use is primarily aes
- Buildings or bowls from native peoples
● Evaluative sense of work of art
○ Claim about whether the object is worth aes attention; Does it merit or repay aes consideration?
○ Sure “Metal Pipes” were intended by maker and gallery owner to be looked at, for own sake, with intensity, and public will probably oblige, but that’s not a work of art, it’s a pile of junk
● Does not follow that all works of art (in this evaluative sense) are good ones
○ Something could be a work of art (in evaluative sense), even if not very good
○ As long as it deserves to be appraised aes, although it might be found wanting
● Is food art in classifying sense?
○ A thing intended or used wholly or largely for aes consideration
● Answer: Some is and some isn’t
○ Run of mill food is not
● But many meals intended by their cooks to be considered largely in this way (aesthetically)
○ Savored, appraised, thought about, discussed
● Many eaters consider them in this way
● Although they have instrumental uses like nourishment and reliving hunger
○ Some are such that this is not the main point
● Meals claimed to be works of art are too complex and long-drawn out to be seen simply or mainly as feeding
● Cook not satisfied if eaters don’t notice what they eat
○ Cook aims to produce certain kind of pleasure, that depends on discerning appreciation of flavors and how combined and succeed one another
● Cookbooks show desire to design dishes, courses and whole meals which present patterns of harmonious or contrasting flavors and textures: they are designing a work of art
● Question: Some dishes clearly are works of art in classifying sense but do they merit aes attention (are they works of art in evaluative sense?)
● ART, CRAFT, CREATION, INTERPRETATION
● Food, not art (in evaluative sense), but craft?
○ Because it is not creative and art must be creative?
● Art/Craft distinction: A distinction in kind of work (not products of work)
○ Art is original creation
○ Craft is carrying out instructions, following a convention or employing a technique
○ E.g., Architect who designs church is artist, masons and woodcarvers who carry out his instructions are craftsmen
○ Painters and composers often follow conventions and use technique; create according to a set of rules that define a genre (e.g., sonata form)
- Does this make them craftsman?
- No, because unlike exact instruction of mason, conventions leave room for choice, so there is some creativity here
● Distinction based on degree of creativity?
○ If lots of creativity will be art, if modest amount will be seen as craft
○ Where no room for creativity (as with mason), the person is a craftsman and not an artist at all–a technician
○ So-called crafts of pottery and furniture making (are really art) because leave plenty of room for creativity alongside convention and use of technical skill
● Blend of craft/creation in interpretation/performance as well
● Are interpreters artists?
○ Interpreters include:
- Performance artists, who take instructions and carry them out using techniques
- Piano player, actor, or cook following a recipe
○ One idea is that composing and writing are creative, while playing music and acting are interpretive
- As if interpretation is not creative and therefore not art
○ But interpreter is like a composer or writer using a genre with strict convention
- Not exact plan, so choices have to be made and they have to be creative
○ So each performance is a work of art (to some extent)
● Cookery an art or a craft?
○ If degree of creativity is criterion, some cookery can qualify as art
● Cook who creates a recipe and assembles it in an ordered and structured way for the purposes of aes response is a creative artist
○ Even producing variations on someone else’s recipe is creative, like a jazz composer arranging a standard tune
● Even those who produce the dishes (rather than create the recipes) can be artists
○ If recipe is rigid and cook follows it completely with no creativity, then no artistry involved
○ But usually there is a good deal of flexibility (“season to taste” “a pinch of ginger if desired”), choices about combinations and sequences of dishes in a meal
● So the cook is normally a “performing artist” rather than a technician
○ So a particular cook’s version of a recipe is an interpretative work of art, like a musicians performance of a piece of music
- Will require some technique too (make white sauce w/o lumps)
● Is it true that skill and technique take one away from artistry?
○ Portrait painter: If (pure) technique is craft, not art, then a good portrait painter/drawer is a technician and not an artist
○ Pure creativity with no skill or technique likely to produce bad art (evaluative sense) or none at all?
● Original recipe and actual dish (performance of the recipe) can be works of art if regarded aesthetically
● Central analogy: compare the creator of a recipe to a composer and the cook who follows one to a performer
OUGHT FOOD TO BE AN ART FORM?
● Some say there is not an art of food like there is the art form of painting or poetry
○ Since food is treated as art, it is art in classificatory sense
○ Must be saying it is not art in evaluative sense
ARGUMENTS AGAINST FOOD AS ART FORM
● One: Too usefulness: nothing useful deserves to count as a work of art
○ But traditional art forms include architecture and it concerns useful objects
○ Usefulness is relevant to art in that to appraise an object aes is to consider it in abstraction from its usefulness
- Is this true? Building?
● Two: Too bodily: Not art because app of food is too physical, bodily, and thus crude and disgusting and these senses are not worth dwelling on
○ See and hear at a distance (nobler senses) but taste only what actually touches our bodies and this is too crude to be art.
○ Taste and smell are too bodily and to cultivate their more physical kind of perception is to concentrate on unworthy objects
○ We should try to get away from the body and focusing on these bodily senses is disgusting
● Three: Lacks complexity: Not art because not sufficiently complex
- Limitation is either in us or in the food (or both)
○ Food and drink do not repay being treated as works of art
○ Taste and smell senses can’t achieve the finer discriminations that eye and ear can (which can also recuperate more quickly and are sensations that are easier to remember)
○ Why no “taste symphonies or smell sonatas?” (Beardsley)
- Symphonies/sonatas are very complex and taste/smell lack this complexity
● Reply: (Claims of limitations are exaggerated)
- To extent this is true, it does not show that food is not art only that it is simple art form
○ But it is not true that taste and smells don’t allow for fine discriminations
○ Although our sense of smell is less than other animals
○ We can still recognize huge range of different smells and tastes
○ We can develop and train these capacities (wine taster)
○ If our culture paid more attention to tastes/smells, people would cultivate a palate
○ A discerning diner–like an expert listener–can pick up the reference if a flavor in the savory recalled a note in the hor-d’oeuvres
● Concerning the supposed limitations in the tastes themselves (as opposed to in us)
○ Is it true that tastes cannot be arranged in systematic, repeatable and regular combination?
○ Not true no sequences in tastes: arrange sequence from sweet to sour, least to most salty
○ Diner eats a rotation mouthful of duck in orange sauce, new potatoes with cream and garlic; then broccoli
- systematic, repeatable and regular combo
○ Not claiming that form in food can be as complex as form in music, but there is definitely form here in combinations of tastes:
- Salty biscuit, spread with unsalted butter and topped by anchovy or olive
○ Balance and climax in food too: Cook planing a dinner does not put most striking dish at beginning, leaving rest for anticlimax
- “However humble it may be, meals have a definite plot, intention of which is to intrigue, stimulate and satisfy”
● Concludes: no limitations in tastes themselves or in us that prevent food from being a work of art in evaluative sense, though it will be simpler
IMPLICATIONS OF FOOD AS ART FORM
● If food deserves to be treated as simple art form, what follows?
● Arts are important in our lives
○ State spends resources to support arts
○ Education tries to inculcate some kn of and concern for arts
○ Individuals cultivate aesthetics and regard someone with no regard for them as defective, philistine, and boorish
● Should art of food find place among these?
● Should people cultivate art of food?
○ Some do think that one should cultivate art of food, eat elegantly and discerningly, “take trouble” with one’s food
- Critique of fast food culture
○ Part of being civilized; person who thinks it does not matter what one eats is “at best boorish” (crude insensitivity)
● Even if agree that everyone should cultivate the arts, does not follow that everyone should cultivate this (or any) particular art
○ Some people will get no meaning from some art form and so can’t force all to cultivate one particular art form
○ Given time/resources are limited and that food is a simple and also minor art form, reasonable for person w/o much time/money to focus on the major arts first and leave food out as an art form in his life (even while realizing the aes claims of food)
- But we all eat and cook everyday and so it can come in to some extent
● Should state subsidize art form of food so it would be less expensive and so that everyone could indulge in it?
○ No; money is limited; subsidize major art forms first
○ Also, unlike opera which might die out w/o subsidy, the art of food will survive without subsidy
● Not all eating is an aesthetic activity
○ Aesthetic eating, eating with attention and discernment food that repays attention and discernment
○ Might take practice and some instruction
○ But art of food is easier to app than arts which require lots of background knowledge
○ Art of food as a people’s art
● A MINOR ART
● Because simple? (No)
○ It is not true that only complex things (and not simple things) can support sustained aes contemplation, for aes contemplation need not be analytical (distinguishing between and paying attention to different parts)
- Abstract sculptures of simple shape can sustain non-analytical kind of aes contemplation
● Because transient?
○ Food art is minor because it is nec transient, can’t have meaning, and can’t move us
○ Transience makes art less important as
- Not around long to be contemplated
- Can’t speak to different generations and so can’t get stature
■ Can a recipe speak to different generations?
● Lacks meaning?
○ Food has meaning in the sense that it, e.g., can symbolize a nation’s way of life and traditions
○ Food does not have same kinds of meaning as major art forms
- Some arts (unlike food) are representational–painting and literature–they tell us something about the world and ourselves and see these in light of ways depicted in rep arts
○ But some major arts don’t represent: E.g., music does not rep the world
○ And music has meaning in that it can express emotion (and communicates), and
○ Food does not do this (express emotion)
○ Cook can express emotion, but the food can’t, whereas music can
● Food can’t move us in way music and other major arts can
- Lacks a earth shaking quality (and this constitutes a limit to the significance it can have to us)
○ Great building can move us w/o expressing emotion
○ Good food can elate us, invigorate us, startle us, excite us, cheer us with a kind of warmth and joy
○ But can’t shake us fundamentally (as shown by tears or fear)
○ Not in awe of good food and hesitate to apply the word beauty to it, however good it is
● Problem of paying too much attention to food as art
○ Treating eating as precious
○ Treating it as of more aes importance than it has
- “Avoid looking for Schubertian profundity in a folk song”
○ This could make us disappointed
● Still we should not ignore what can be a satisfying and rewarding aes exp.
- And miss other values in the occasion of eating (social values)