23 votes

If the Louvre was on fire, should we rescue the art first or the people?

41 comments

  1. [3]
    Cycloneblaze
    Link
    I'm surprised that both of the other comments here (as I write) are choosing the art over the person. I wouldn't have thought that would be a very common view. It may be in some utilitarian sense...

    I'm surprised that both of the other comments here (as I write) are choosing the art over the person. I wouldn't have thought that would be a very common view. It may be in some utilitarian sense that saving the art is preferable to saving a few hundred people, because the art has greater value to the remaining billions of people than the few hundred did. I take the view that that is a cold and neglectful outlook that wrongly de-emphasises our desire to care for our fellow humans. I tried for a while here to articulate why; I think it's some combination of the idea that "you can't care about anybody without caring about everybody, because all lives have an equal intrinsic value", which I hold to, and that considering people as replaceable seems heartless and unnerving to me. Even in the face of sacrificing great cultural works for them.

    That being said, what I found weird was the author's conclusion. Obviously art has value beyond and apart from the monetary value we (or rather, the rich) assigned to it. It has cultural value which, in large part, informs its monetary value. That value is worth something to humans alongside other important things like healthcare or mitigation of climate change and I think it does merit spending money to display such artworks. It's important that people get to experience art and culture just as it's important that they get access to a hospital. It's weird that the author discounts that and says that we only consider such artworks important because they're old and unique and sold for a lot of money at some point. Although our heritage as preserved in old, unique pieces of art is important too.

    28 votes
    1. [2]
      moocow1452
      Link Parent
      I mean it is a stupid trolley problem, but I agree entirely, and it falls into the argument of I Don't Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People. Regardless of the piece...

      I mean it is a stupid trolley problem, but I agree entirely, and it falls into the argument of I Don't Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People. Regardless of the piece being blunt or "not understanding the situation of the aggrieved," more than enough people have burned alive in the name of culture for me to make the argument that we shouldn't add to that number.

      That being said, what I found weird was the author's conclusion.

      I mean, is it? We pour a shit ton of money into military theater and propagandizing ourselves into thinking the world is a safe place to grow up and succeed in whatever your fancy is, and a lot of people pay for that illusion with their quality of life if not their lives out right. We place value on illusion, and if Covid taught us anything, it's that a lot of people placed more value on their illusion of freedom than some other people's lives.

      16 votes
      1. Cycloneblaze
        Link Parent
        Yeah, that's pretty much how I feel. Not surprised to find that I've read that article before!

        I Don't Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People

        Yeah, that's pretty much how I feel. Not surprised to find that I've read that article before!

  2. [24]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. [4]
      culturedleftfoot
      Link Parent
      It wouldn't matter to literally the majority of the world population if the Mona Lisa were to go up in flames either. Would it make a difference to you who those people are, then? Even aside from...

      It wouldn't matter to literally the majority of the world population if the Mona Lisa were to go up in flames either.

      Would it make a difference to you who those people are, then? Even aside from your family and friends. What if we supposed the Louvre happened to be packed to capacity with Richard Feynman, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, the Dalai Lama, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and whoever else you might consider humanity's brightest luminaries to be? I'm interested to hear how exactly you'd measure the value of either option as well.

      12 votes
      1. [4]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. [2]
          culturedleftfoot
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          This still doesn't sit well with me, because you're focusing on the potential average value of a human life instead of questioning exactly if your priorities are justified in the first place. I'm...

          This still doesn't sit well with me, because you're focusing on the potential average value of a human life instead of questioning exactly if your priorities are justified in the first place. I'm sure that, if you actually think about it, you will never arrive at the tipping point of this hypothetical humanity-art exchange rate.

          The bigger issue is that when your society teaches you that abstract human suffering or loss of life is an acceptable cost of the status quo, it's easy to see this as a matter of price instead of a matter of principle... which is why the "political" bit at the end is hardly out of place, it's a natural extension of the experiment. It's something that's often brought into focus when you're actually face to face with reality, when it isn't so abstract and impersonal anymore, when you have to look into the eyes of the people you condemn to die. That you don't notice your Starbucks barista when you're at the till shouldn't be justification, it's part of the problem.

          4 votes
          1. [2]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. culturedleftfoot
              Link Parent
              In all of those situations, the distinction that @Rez pointed out applies: sacrificing your own life and sacrificing others' are two very different propositions; don't conflate the two. Another...

              In all of those situations, the distinction that @Rez pointed out applies: sacrificing your own life and sacrificing others' are two very different propositions; don't conflate the two. Another way to think of it so that it hits closer to home would be, how much torture would you be willing to withstand to ensure that all the artwork at stake is preserved for posterity? A year? Five? The rest of your life? I am positive you won't be so magnanimous after a week, much less a month. Again, it is very easy to think in abstract statistics when the cost is not personal, and the danger there is that the greatest crimes against humanity are committed with that mindset.

              Can we justify the loss of innocent lives in such a scenario?

              IMO, we cannot, which is why we must make the decisions as best as we can when faced woth thosr scenarios, but also do our best to ensure that we don't create those situations where we have to make those choices on the behalf of other people to begin with. Know better, do better.

              All of this is without even examining the many biases and assumptions underpinning the whole "pinnacle of human endeavor" value statements your stance is predicated on. You do not consider that all you know about mankind's greatest achievements has been taught to you with essentially zero accounting for cost, because history is written by the victors with little perspective for alternatives.

              If you want to think of it like this, my position is that human capital is routinely the most undervalued resource we have, simply because of its near infinite supply. There is nothing that can compare on ROI. My specific answers to the individual questions you posited can more or less all be inferred from that.

        2. NoblePath
          Link Parent
          How is the physical manifestation of the art piece required to perpetuate the idea and significance of the art?

          How is the physical manifestation of the art piece required to perpetuate the idea and significance of the art?

    2. [13]
      p4t44
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I think this leads on to another question, is the art physical paint on canvas or the image on the canvas? Surely, with all the digital images of the art in the Louvre, the art would not actually...

      most culturally significant output human (western?) civilization has produced

      I think this leads on to another question, is the art physical paint on canvas or the image on the canvas? Surely, with all the digital images of the art in the Louvre, the art would not actually be lost, rather just the original form of the art. The art, with all of its cultural significance, could still be reproduced and enjoyed.

      The 'paper daubed in paint' surely is not of any significance for the paper used, nor the paint on the paper. It transcends such by the image which the paint created, an image which would not be lost by the loss of the original.

      I believe that, with the benefits of extreme digital scanning, an almost indistinguishable replica of the Louvre could be created were the art to be destroyed. Would any cultural significant be lost?

      The same cannot be said for a person. If a person is burned, the persons consciousness cannot (yet) live on without their body like art can without its canvas.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        pvik
        Link Parent
        I am not very knowledgeable in art, but I think a case can also be made that the depth of paintings are not really captured by digital copies (yet?). I think This article about Who’s Afraid of...

        the art physical paint on canvas or the image on the canvas? Surely, with all the digital images of the art in the Louvre, the art would not actually be lost

        I am not very knowledgeable in art, but I think a case can also be made that the depth of paintings are not really captured by digital copies (yet?).

        I think This article about Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III by the American post-war artist Barnett Newman is an example of that.

        Edit to add: I want to say that the emotional response that a lot of people have when viewing original art seldom happens when viewing digital copies. I have not personally experienced this, but I have heard/read about it enough times to thing it may be true! This is to just highlight that digital copies may be lossy formats for art.

        6 votes
        1. p4t44
          Link Parent
          Does the depth of a painting, especially one only publicly visible behind bullet proof glass and at a distance, have a significant impact on the cultural significance of such painting? As someone...

          Does the depth of a painting, especially one only publicly visible behind bullet proof glass and at a distance, have a significant impact on the cultural significance of such painting?

          As someone who has barely visited any gallery, and would loath a visit to the Louvre, I can hardly answer this question. But, assuming that depth would be the only loss to art were it to burn, I would think that to be the decisive question.

          3 votes
      2. [8]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. [2]
          ohyran
          Link Parent
          Ok so this is from art history lessons but we DO actually have them documented. The classic art pieces are extremely well documented, with everything from exact 3D recreation, photos from...

          Ok so this is from art history lessons but we DO actually have them documented. The classic art pieces are extremely well documented, with everything from exact 3D recreation, photos from different angles, exact research in to materials etc etc etc. This because we KNOW that they are breaking down.

          The Mona Lisa doesn't look like it used to look. It's been broken, broken down, destroyed by overzealous restoration etc. Hell even the statues are simply not at all looking like they used to. Ignoring the physical damage, we have attached figleaves and chopped off genitals, we have paint that was removed because when they where collected the ideal was to have white statues instead of actually painted statues.

          The old masters are just history. Its awesome, but its just history. As long as its documented it doesn't matter as much as potential future. Humans are potential future. Art is brilliant and have a value of its own BUT as someone who's been to the Louvre several times few art experiences there will ever hit me as much as the little girl surrounded by old masters who's places in history is clear and just sat there on the hardwood polished floor drawing with crayons on a slip of paper. While dead people, recreated in a dead material, by dead artists, stared down at her.

          Art has a right to exist and be preserved but HER and the art she created and will create is way more valuable.

          7 votes
          1. [2]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. ohyran
              Link Parent
              But its not. "Peak" I mean. Take the last supper, a sloppy job, made by someone who didn't have a blessed clue what he was doing with the medium chosen. There's a reason that room was converted to...

              But its not. "Peak" I mean. Take the last supper, a sloppy job, made by someone who didn't have a blessed clue what he was doing with the medium chosen. There's a reason that room was converted to a stable. Paint falling off - but since it was made by Da Vinci its relevant.

              The worth of it is high, but its not as high as someone looking at it. Even at the very base of this, art without a viewer is meaningless. Its just slag sitting in a corner.
              The viewer makes the art.

              Even in this discussion personally I'd say that you are a higher example of humanities peak than say The Last Supper. Easily. Hell, screw that I would like to upgrade you to a The Nightwatch and Fragonards the Swing rolled in to one!
              The point isn't that art is worthless or meaningless to preserve in its originality BUT that its not as relevant as its often described. Notre Dame was just a building. It was relevant to Parisians as a symbol of the city and therefor relevant to rebuild buuuut... their not dying without it.

              6 votes
        2. [2]
          p4t44
          Link Parent
          If a high quality digital copy of it exists, could it not be printed in the original 40 foot long format?

          How do you appreciate Monet's Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond on a computer screen? It's 40 feet long.

          If a high quality digital copy of it exists, could it not be printed in the original 40 foot long format?

          4 votes
          1. [2]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. archevel
              Link Parent
              Alternatively... You could redo the painting as accurately as possible. Given that restorations have probably already altered a lot of these works I'm not sure if there would be much difference.

              Alternatively... You could redo the painting as accurately as possible. Given that restorations have probably already altered a lot of these works I'm not sure if there would be much difference.

              5 votes
        3. [3]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          Well, there is that Japanese temple that gets rebuilt every 20 years. It's not like a 40 foot reproduction can't be made. But the question is not "can we exactly reproduce the original" since...

          Well, there is that Japanese temple that gets rebuilt every 20 years. It's not like a 40 foot reproduction can't be made.

          But the question is not "can we exactly reproduce the original" since there will be some loss, but whether that loss makes a difference. I an suspicious of people who obsess over the aesthetics of tiny details in art. I wonder if this isn't rooted in snobbery, like insisting on the importance of fine distinctions in the taste of wine or listening to music with very high-end audio equipment. Such things may be nice to have but I don't think they are worth the premium over cheaper alternatives. People with too much money can drive up the prices of status goods to absurd levels, but often it's just signalling.

          I think this is a closer question for scientific or historical artifacts since scientists and historians can answer new questions as the techniques for scanning artifacts improve. As an example, canvas was sometimes reused and new scanning techniques have been found to read the hidden originals under old manuscripts.

          Art is a historical artifact too, and very high-resolution scans only started to be done recently, so perhaps new techniques will be found to uncover more hidden information. That can be a good reason to preserve originals, but there is probably a point of diminishing returns when you won't find much more.

          3 votes
          1. [3]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. skybrian
              Link Parent
              There are details and then there are details. Some art is famous for showing off the craft of the artist. But this can be memorialized with pictures and recordings, much like many other things...

              There are details and then there are details. Some art is famous for showing off the craft of the artist. But this can be memorialized with pictures and recordings, much like many other things that don't last (like live performances). And high-resolution scans are good at recording details.

              One way to think about this is that sometimes researchers need to travel to see the original, and sometimes going online is good enough. As more stuff goes online with higher resolution, the need for travel becomes less, and this suggests that the value of the original is less.

              But varies a lot. The showpieces that attract the crowds are extremely well documented. But museums are also archives, and often most of the collection isn't even open to the public. And a lot of the stuff they have isn't even cataloged properly, let alone digitized. Every now and then there is a story about a scientist making a discovery when digging through the drawers of a museum, because something was kept without really knowing what it is.

              Similarly for archives of old papers that historians need to travel to look at. Often they're not well sorted and it takes some digging to find stuff.

              I wonder about the cases when archives are lost without there being a fire, just due to losing funding. Or, there was a flood when the archivists have been warning for years that the archive was in a basement that wasn't well protected, and yet nothing was done. These things suggest that many people don't place a high value on archives.

              Archivists are concerned about fires but this is why money should be spent on prevention.

              6 votes
            2. archevel
              Link Parent
              Starry Night by Van Gogh is special from other similar renditions in that it was made by Van Gogh. Even an almost indistinguishable replica would still not be considered as valuable I imagine....

              What makes Van Gogh's Starry Night so special, in respect to any other night sky painting, if not the composition?

              Starry Night by Van Gogh is special from other similar renditions in that it was made by Van Gogh. Even an almost indistinguishable replica would still not be considered as valuable I imagine. However, our ability to appreciate the two works doesn't depend on if it was "touched by the master" so to say. Normally I think it is rare for people to be able to scrutinize a painting in a way as to ascertain it's originality. If you found out that all the paintings you've seen at some exhibition was just elaborate "fakes" would that diminish the impression they rendered in you when you saw them?

              For me I don't think that is the case. Which seem to mean that the cultural significance of a work isn't tied to the original in any meaningful way.

              1 vote
      3. [3]
        CALICO
        Link Parent
        I think I would take the stance that part of an arts value lies in its place in our shared cultural mythos. Humans are an abstracting species. A great deal of the modern world is abstraction and...

        I think I would take the stance that part of an arts value lies in its place in our shared cultural mythos.
        Humans are an abstracting species. A great deal of the modern world is abstraction and the value we place on it (e.g. money, laws, morality). To discount the value of the abstract would be to discount the value of concepts such as money, laws, or morality.

        When something has a place in The Human Story, it gains the same kind of value. If the Louvre burned and the Stele of Hammurabi was destroyed, even though no information was lost, The Human Story would forever lament its destruction. Its value is more than the information it conveys; the physical thing is a symbol of antiquity and our ancient past. It derives some value merely of virtue of being so old, of being made at the instruction of a notable man, at a notable time.

        If an items value comes only from the information that can be extracted from it, then—extending the idea to an extreme—the mass destruction of cultural heritage by the Islamic State is not a tragedy, because much of it had already been studied and noted at one time or another.

        Humans make an effort of preserving that which is valuable to our story, and they're valuable because enough people have collectively decided they're valuable.

        Placing a great deal of value on an individual consciousness is—I think—the right thing to do. But I don't think we can ignore the value of symbols; symbols carry meaning to those who share a culture.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          p4t44
          Link Parent
          I don't follow: is art abstract or physical? If art is abstract, surely it can enjoy a life and continuation through The Human Story beyond its original physical manifestation. If the Federal...

          I don't follow: is art abstract or physical? If art is abstract, surely it can enjoy a life and continuation through The Human Story beyond its original physical manifestation.

          If the Federal Reserve burnt down, should we save the money or the people inside? Surely the people, as the existance of money within The Human Story is not reliant on their physical existance. Same goes for copies of laws etc.

          If art is a symbol within our shared culture, I fail to see how the continuation of a physical copy of such symbol is required to maintain the symbol and meaning the symbol provides to culture. When classic art eventually inevitably degrades beyond recognition, will the symbol be lost?

          2 votes
          1. CALICO
            Link Parent
            It's possible to be more than one thing, and value doesn't have to come from only one place. Don't mistake my argument for my position. Perhaps I wasn't entirely clear, but only the first sentence...

            I don't follow: is art abstract or physical? If art is abstract, surely it can enjoy a life and continuation through The Human Story beyond its original physical manifestation.

            It's possible to be more than one thing, and value doesn't have to come from only one place.

            If the Federal Reserve burnt down, should we save the money or the people inside? Surely the people, as the existance of money within The Human Story is not reliant on their physical existance. Same goes for copies of laws etc.

            Don't mistake my argument for my position. Perhaps I wasn't entirely clear, but only the first sentence of my previous post is a position, I have not stated a position on the question posed in the title.

            Invoking the concept of money was more to illustrate abstractions and their value. Money does not exist, not outside of our heads. The things that exist are—in the US—pieces of a linen/cotton blend, and rounds made from copper-plated zinc & nickel-copper alloys. What is the value inherent in any of that?

            Money is a myth*. If I give you some paper, and the number is right, you will give me stuff.
            This only works because we all play by the rules.

            * that is, an abstraction that plays a fundamental role in a society

            And in much the same way that money—an abstract symbol—can hold value, so can art hold value as a symbol.

            A more visceral example of what I'm trying to illustrate might be a copy of a Bible.
            If I were to go inside of a church during a Sunday service, walk my way up the pews to the altar, and burn that Bible in front of the whole congregation, well I imagine they would be rather upset.
            It doesn't matter to them that there are billions of copies of the thing, and preserved eternal on the internet. I have desecrated a symbol that holds meaning among them, and by doing so I have committed offense towards them.

            Let's go further. Perhaps I burn the Codex Vaticanus, c. 300 A.D., one of the oldest Bible's in the world. Not only would I piss off everyone inside that church, I would enrage many thousands of people across the world. Even though no information has been lost, a unique and historical artifact that holds value as a symbol among Christians no longer exists, through the actions of a person who could have prevented its destruction. I would receive threats upon my life.

            Is it so hard to understand that the Codex had a value beyond the text it contained? The informative value was not destroyed, but rather I have done violence to its cultural value.

            Art is not very different. Some of its value comes from the arrangement of specific pigments in specific quantities in specific locations on a piece of canvas; some of its value comes from the time in history it was made, who made it, what that person means to us, and what it represents. If violence came upon Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (I'll attack this one with knives), or Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night (I smear human shit on this one), their abstract or symbolical would be forever tarnished or destroyed, even if their informational value remained intact. Agree with me or don't, but am I making sense to you?

            Again, I am not answering the question posed in the title. Rather, I'm rejecting the Materialist Reductionism vis-à-vis the value of art.

            1 vote
    3. [4]
      ohyran
      Link Parent
      Hmmmm... see I have to disagree. The Louvre is well documented, and all art in it is equally documented. You could do a complete recreation of everything in there and all they have on the...

      I believe I fall somewhere towards cold utilitarianism in the matter. As much as I hate the term "virtue signaling", prioritizing the life of random humans over centuries of the most culturally significant output human (western?) civilization has produced is a form of virtue signaling. We don't want to seem callous about the reality that faces most of us.

      Hmmmm... see I have to disagree. The Louvre is well documented, and all art in it is equally documented. You could do a complete recreation of everything in there and all they have on the recreation is "time".

      [personal gripe] And as a personal opinion - considering how the most fascinating pieces in the Louvre are hidden away next to the damn toilets I don't really know if it can be considered a library of relevance anyway [/personal gripe].

      Humans on the other hand are unlimited potential not able to recreate OR not documented individually to the level needed.
      Venus de Milo exists in several exact recreations for study, and tbh the only level left to be studied on the original is the inner core of the statue and we can't really do that without taking a hammer to it anyway.

      4 votes
      1. [4]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. [3]
          ohyran
          Link Parent
          The point is not getting the full effect though but as historically relevant pieces of art. There are plenty of recreations impossible to discern from the original and there are plenty of...

          The point is not getting the full effect though but as historically relevant pieces of art.

          There are plenty of recreations impossible to discern from the original and there are plenty of recreations methods who can, with the exact documentation, be made. Documentation is the core duty of all art museums as I see it.

          There is little value to originals beyond as historic artifacts and if they can't be recreated. What is important is what they bring to a culture. Say the rock cuttings here, or rune stones. The relevant bit is what they bring, not what they are. Their own worth is measured in what they currently have, not what they can create for the future. Humans are in comparison measured not in what they where, but what they can be.

          Art is, just art. Its more important than a lot of things, but less important than you for example. You are a thinking, creating, human - impossible to document to the level needed. Unlike basically all art.

          I've never been to MFAH (had to look up where it was and if I searched correctly its in the US, in Texas) - will have to go some day in the future.

          3 votes
          1. [3]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. [2]
              ohyran
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Well I wouldn't suggest a similar trip here... well ok I have some suggestions if you get to Sweden. the Vasa Museum. Not for the craft - but for the story and what a story it is. WHAT a story!...

              Well I wouldn't suggest a similar trip here... well ok I have some suggestions if you get to Sweden.

              1. the Vasa Museum. Not for the craft - but for the story and what a story it is. WHAT a story! The craft was built as a warship, during our "lets kill as many people as possible for funsies" era. The king at the time Gustavius II Adolphus (the dude who invented the modern system for armies) wanted something BIG. Something scarily big. Like a damn armed palace for the ocean.
                The ship builders kept coming back with designs and via letters the king kept saying "No no BIG! Bigger!". When the shipbuilders complained he basically went "Bigger or its your life you fekker" so the dude in charge ordered the flemish builders to just keep going. So they built this monstrosity of a thing. Gold trimmings, statues, cannons everywhere. When the ship was at dock you could run 10 men from side to side and it waived so much they worried it would capsize then and there.
                It went out for its first sailing - a symbol for the militarized Sweden. Grand, symbolic carvings and statues everywhere. An insanity.
                It capsized after a few minutes after setting sail a few kilometers away. It was so quick to sink that even though it hadn't even left Stockholm islands with land easily swammed to it dragged between 30 to 50 people down with it.

              2. the runestone in Old Town. Stockholm grew quickly and building materials where scant. So everyone just took whatever was at hand. A nice flat stone was a beatiful little thing to find and you slapped it in the foundations. So this one. A small runestone that was later uncovered in the corner of a house in old town, now sitting there unprotected at knee height in a small backstreet in the many winding alleys of the Old Town.
                On it is a story. The story of two parents who've lost their beloved child and so distressed that they carved these runes, a magical and costly thing, especially as late as it was produced when Christianity became more and more common. A small story of two parents about the death of their child, right there next to splattering wagon wheels, then tourist sandals.

              3. The West Goethia cliff carvings. Thousands of years ago my ancestors came here. They came on boats and wrote their stories in the cliffs. Carved it in to them about how they travelled, who they preyed on and prayed to. They filled the carvings with red paint. The paint overgrew and faded at times but was cleared up and are cleared up to this day.
                You can go there, and with your finger you can trace the carvings, the little bumps and ridges where the carver slipped while trying to show a god in the cliff, a death at sea, or an animal to be chased. You can feel the very edges of a lost unwritten history in a forest in west Sweden.

              I got plenty more.

              EDIT: have to add some modern examples - "The Little Boy" behind the Finnish church in Old Town. A modern statue, tiny next to a pond, with a small bronze boy sitting on a table looking up at the sky. Since it was built about 100 years ago kids and adults have left offerings under the table. No one knows why. Little shiny pebbles collected by kids in the little pond next to it, sometimes candy, sometimes coins, cigarettes or notes. The only reference of why I know exists is a kindergarten kid who was asked why they did this and who the candy and rocks where for in the newspaper in the 70's and the kid replied "Its for those who have no-one".
              Protip, do not under ANY circumstances take the candy, coins, and cigarettes. Sometimes homeless people clear it out at night, eat the candy, pocket the coins and smoke the smokes and dump the pebbles back in the pond. Sometimes others, but only those who "have no-one"

              EDIT2: for Swedes and Stockholmers. I've met Kenta ( https://youtu.be/mpCRj-pOR3o ) at Little Boy and talked about his planned revenge at a local chinese restaurant who didn't want to sell him beers.

              3 votes
              1. [2]
                Comment deleted by author
                Link Parent
                1. ohyran
                  Link Parent
                  If you ever get here - ping me I would love to buy you a costly beer if nothing else as an excuse for just barfing a list of things to see :D (sun is shining here and husbands vacation has started...

                  If you ever get here - ping me I would love to buy you a costly beer if nothing else as an excuse for just barfing a list of things to see :D

                  (sun is shining here and husbands vacation has started so gonna go outside and read a book)

                  Edit: as for touching it, I know you could back when I saw them. Don't know now but I think so. Their not exactly protected by someone.

                  2 votes
    4. ShroudedMouse
      Link Parent
      My intuition was 'save the person' and I'm struggling to accept that you'd have us let you burn. However, since I also support people's choice to harm themselves (with some caveats), your...

      My intuition was 'save the person' and I'm struggling to accept that you'd have us let you burn. However, since I also support people's choice to harm themselves (with some caveats), your signalling that you'd burn for important artworks potentially alters my intuition in such a crisis.

      I'll add that the choice of saving you rather than some artwork isn't just about you individually. In saving your life rather than the artwork, your savior would be generating a signal that has immense value to many people - 'your life is worth more than a painting'. And frankly, that's what most of art is in the first place, cultural signalling. Seems bizarre to support a position that values the signal more than what it represents.

      Ehh, hope that made some sense and I appreciate you giving such a rich account of your position. I'm still processing mine.

      2 votes
    5. babypuncher
      Link Parent
      Presumably, everything in the Louvre has been scanned and "backed up" in amazing detail. If the originals all disappeared tomorrow, it would be a great loss, but the 8 billion people in the world...

      Presumably, everything in the Louvre has been scanned and "backed up" in amazing detail. If the originals all disappeared tomorrow, it would be a great loss, but the 8 billion people in the world would still be able to appreciate those works of art. To the overwhelming majority, it would make no difference, as they already only ever got to experience these works via scans, photographs, and reproductions.

      1 vote
  3. [2]
    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link
    I'd like to make a slightly more nuanced argument: if this "fire in the Louvre" situation were to occur, the destruction of the museum's artwork has the capacity to extend the art's meaning...
    • Exemplary

    I'd like to make a slightly more nuanced argument: if this "fire in the Louvre" situation were to occur, the destruction of the museum's artwork has the capacity to extend the art's meaning postmortem. It further allows for the creation of completely new meaning in later works influenced by this event.

    I recognize the abstract value that we hold in originals, and I believe that the value of a work is substantially altered if the original is destroyed. My clarification would be that the value does not disappear in such a circumstance; I think it would even be misleading to say that it is diminished. Rather, it is changed. Any iteration of that work, a copy or otherwise, does still have value in and of itself. Of course, its value initially derives in large part from its connection to the original, but after the destruction of the latter, by virtue of being for all intents and purposes "the new original," the replica or iteration takes on a form of meaning that is unique to it and not the original. It has a life of its own, too, and knowing what we do about the history of the original piece, the replica synthesizes both the past and present in a way that the original necessarily never could. This is the power of the postmodern.

    The "meaning" of a piece of art is the sum of its contents, the context that surrounds it, and the subsequent experiences that it has undergone, not just the object in and of itself. Thus the charred remnants of a famed painting are actually still art, just in a form that we aren't familiar with. Because we recognized it as art prior to its disintegration, the work's history is still embodied in every aspect of its being, and thus has substantially more value than some random pile of ash that was not formerly a renowned painting. One of my favorite works of art is The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons by J. M. W. Turner, the first canvas of which is held in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It absolutely dominates the room that it's placed in, and has a certain amount of symbolism in regard to the upending of the status quo in favor of something new. The painting should of course not overshadow the architectural changes to the Palace of Westminster resulting from the fire, supporting the rise of neo-Gothic architecture in England and eventually worldwide, which have had cultural impacts too broad for me to effectively summarize.

    If you take a step back, the Louvre burnt to the ground is still the Louvre. Indeed, we cannot literally appreciate the pieces that it held in quite the same way that we could before—they are now in an unrecognizable form. But if you believe that a work has particular value because it is the original, then you are implicitly accepting a historical value to the work as well (i.e. deriving meaning from a work over time, necessarily including change). It is incongruous to later wish to freeze the process of ever-changing meaning that affects all art—believing that a work as it exists at a certain point in time is the only iteration of it that can have True MeaningTM—because doing so rejects the process of historicism that you believe gives the work meaning to begin with.

    People often lament the loss of past wonders, and although I sympathize deeply myself, I feel it is incorrect to equate the physical absence of something with an end to its ability to provide meaning. The memory of a work of art that we have in our minds—an iteration of the original—is just another perspective of "the real thing." I also feel that it is incorrect to state that a memory is somehow an inferior piece of information to the object as such. A memory or another physical replica is indeed an iteration and therefore not necessarily faithful to the original—but as established above, iterative work can result in something better or more interesting than the original in many circumstances. Who are we to deny it that opportunity?

    People often seek permanence while fearing destruction because they believe that anything that does not last forever is not worth pursuing or maintaining. Not to get too off-topic, but Alasdair MacIntyre's 1981 After Virtue describes this as a deeply ingrained nihilistic perspective emanating from the failure of our system of morality to produce inherent and unassailable value to our lives, as past systems have to some extent succeeded in. i.e. as the educated Western world has slowly rejected God as the giver of purpose (see the Enlightenment), and the writings of Nietzsche et al. have subsequently torn down the social contract and rationalism in general as an alternative provider, the response of many is to cling hopelessly tightly to that which exists in the present with the expectation that these things that they do have the ability to understand will provide value to their lives in the future. (If there is no God, and Enlightenment morality has been shown to be completely subjective, then the only thing I can rely on is what I can see: the objectivity of the present and the objects around me.) The undertone of such a philosophy is that the loss of these objects will result in the Apocalypse and an End to Their Generations, or something to that effect, Biblically inspired or otherwise. The loss of any particular object is simply a step toward that point.

    The book contains more than a few questionable conclusions, and I am not a communitarian per se, but it does do a good job of explaining why our culture has been invaded by this irritating manifestation of nihilism, a philosophy that I think has substantial value on its own. It also presents an adequate solution by re-emphasizing the historical perspective of epistemology and by extension of the self. It places within the scope of a person's life a narrative structure culminating in a telos, meaning something like "purpose." I have some issues with MacIntyre's strong embrace of the neo-Aristotelian worldview, but no doubt this telos could be interpreted more broadly to represent a sense of personal finality compatible with an acceptance of the changing nature of the universe. i.e. while fastened to an understanding of oneself in the "bigger picture," as an ever-changing narrative playing out continuously, a person can understand that seeing the same change in art, society, and culture is not something to be resented but in fact appreciated, or at least understood and likewise accepted.

    The humanity within a person's being is worth more than any given object, even a work of art. They are impossible to compare in any level of specificity because they are operating on completely different planes of existence. However, just as it is possible to "create more people" in the event that they are lost, it is very much possible to create more art. It is misguided and contradictory to deem valid the historical narrative present in a work of art (in itself, its context, and its experiences) while not doing the same to a person, whose life absolutely has a similarly evolving "meaning"—or purpose, or telos. And when compared in the general way that they necessarily must be, I see no reason to prioritize the continued narrative of that which cannot experience pain and trauma over that which can. Art may have some immense level of emergent meaning when appreciated by society as a whole—meaning that is more influential or widespread than some random person's beliefs might be—but it is fundamentally still a reflection of its author and audience. Even when viewed reflexively, as art should be, the effects of art on a person are informed by human interpretation, not by the art itself. There is a definite hierarchy here: the life of a person capable of creating art is worth more than the existence of a piece of art incapable of creating a person, and there is no getting around that dynamic.

    7 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      I think you make some excellent points, but I would caution against seeing it as binary. I would expect that sometimes firefighters do sometimes take (smaller, calculated) risks to save property?...

      I think you make some excellent points, but I would caution against seeing it as binary. I would expect that sometimes firefighters do sometimes take (smaller, calculated) risks to save property? I mean, just getting to the fire means driving faster than usual and there is some risk in that.

      Maybe we should look at what sort of risks firefighters take and why. What do they think? I haven't looked into it very far, but a quick search on philosophy of firefighting there are some interesting links.

  4. nothis
    Link
    If this is just an analogy for a larger argument, it's a poor one. Nobody would seriously choose the art. Maybe in answering an abstract question, but if you were a security guard, having to press...

    If this is just an analogy for a larger argument, it's a poor one. Nobody would seriously choose the art. Maybe in answering an abstract question, but if you were a security guard, having to press the "open the fire door to save this crying human" or "lock away some tacky-ass Delacroix painting" button, unless you're an actual psychopath, you'd save the human being. Not that it even matters at this point, but I'm sure every single piece of art in the Louvre has been scanned to such absurd detail that it could be reproduced to a point where, without a microscope, you couldn't distinguish it from the real thing. The value lies in the choice of colors and composition, not the physical paint craquel-ing on the canvas.

    The more interesting conclusion is the tangent in the last paragraph, which might as well be the real inspiration for the article. As you put more distance (physical or conceptual) between the act, you start to see more examples in the real world where people choose abstract things over life. But that distance is the point. Illustrating with an example where that distance no longer exists doesn't really help.

    10 votes
  5. culturedleftfoot
    Link
    "Art is empathy given form." - Denzel Washington "The goal of art is to create conscience." - T Bone Burnett I would argue that anyone who advocates saving artwork over people is missing the point.

    "Art is empathy given form." - Denzel Washington
    "The goal of art is to create conscience." - T Bone Burnett

    I would argue that anyone who advocates saving artwork over people is missing the point.

    9 votes
  6. archevel
    (edited )
    Link
    One could argue this with a kind of subjective argument. If I was one of the peopt inside the burning Louvre I'd want you to save me. Whereas if I was one of the paintings I would be incapable of...

    One could argue this with a kind of subjective argument. If I was one of the peopt inside the burning Louvre I'd want you to save me. Whereas if I was one of the paintings I would be incapable of making such a judgement. I think there ought to be cause to follow the whishes of the people capable of judgement over the non-judgment of inanimate objects. Now some of those people might opt for saving the paintings and some might have other criteria... So maybe not the most practical solution.

    Another aspect is if what is burning can be faithfully recreated or if it is unique. Again people and their experiences can't be replaced. The Mona Lisa OTOH is just some brush strokes and we have very detailed scans of it along with faitfull replicas. Any cultural significance it has doesn't go away just because the original is destroyed.

    6 votes
  7. [3]
    NaraVara
    Link
    Looking through this thread and the article itself I’m noticing a lot of the discussion takes the position of a arbiter making the decision on behalf of others. But I wonder if anyone has...

    Looking through this thread and the article itself I’m noticing a lot of the discussion takes the position of a arbiter making the decision on behalf of others. But I wonder if anyone has considered what the people in question might think?

    Consider this. You can absolutely convince people to sign up to go to war on behalf of their culture and way of life. In many cases people may even be willing to go on suicide missions for the privilege. And it’s not only out of desperation either. People like John McCain and John Kerry we’re sons of privilege and signed up out of a sense of honor and duty.

    So how far away is asking people to burn on behalf of the Louvre vs. engaging in a war? For the purposes of this exercise we’ll assume a war of self defense against a conquering foe. We have stories of real wartime where people have risked life and limb to save art. In the Siege of Stalingrad scientists literally allowed themselves to starve to death to save the seeds in a seed bank. People risked life and limb to secure the art in places like the Hermitage or The Shrine of the Spilled Blood from shelling.

    In fact, if I happened to be there while the place was on fire the only thing stopping me from helping save the art would be worry about getting in the way of the people who know what they’re doing and the fact that my family needs me around.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      Cycloneblaze
      Link Parent
      Eh, that is, as you point out, a different question. If you turn the premise around and we're now asking for volunteers to run into the Louvre, rescue as many paintings from fire as they could and...

      Eh, that is, as you point out, a different question. If you turn the premise around and we're now asking for volunteers to run into the Louvre, rescue as many paintings from fire as they could and surely die in the attempt, it starts to look more like heroics than psychopathy.

      There's still the value question of comparing lives to the artworks there - if you weigh lives a lot more heavily, then it goes from courage to stupidity to see someone sacrificing their life willingly for bits of canvas and paint. But in this case, that's kind of immaterial. The choice is down to the person making the sacrifice of their life. They can make that choice as they wish. It's a personal question.

      The difference with the original premise is obvious - it's one thing to ask others to choose to sacrifice their lives for something, quite another when we decide that we are prepared ourselves to spend their lives. Wars, actually, are kind of a combination of the two (at least for volunteer armies).

      I think, if it's clear that the alternative to sending soldiers off to war is that a lot of people will be killed instead of them, that's one very different thing. This can be the case in the face of genocide or ethnic cleansing or what have you. Sacrificing one's life to save another or others, I think we can say outright is a worthy thing.

      But most wars aren't like that, because if the leadership just surrenders then the foe is likely to come in and take everything, but with a minimum of bloodshed. In that case yes, many people will think it's worth fighting to protect themselves from a conquest; but many won't. Think about it, even today life wouldn't change that much if one country's leadership was replaced by another's by force, for the average person. This was even more true in the pre-modern period when this sort of thing actually happened. There are even more clear cases of the proxy wars during the Cold War where there was basically no risk to the (foreign) soldiers if they didn't fight, and they only fought for ideology. In that case the sacrifice is probably more motivated by propaganda, or by force (e.g. conscription), and its value is much, much more dubious.

      In the Siege of Stalingrad scientists literally allowed themselves to starve to death to save the seeds in a seed bank.

      Wow, I'd never heard of that before! Do you have any links to read more about that? I won't judge if it's a valuable sacrifice or not but it sure is interesting.

      1 vote
      1. NaraVara
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        As a society we do make decisions that support or discourage those kinds of personal choices all the time. We want people to behave honorably or selflessly and we try to promote that by...

        The choice is down to the person making the sacrifice of their life. They can make that choice as they wish. It's a personal question.

        As a society we do make decisions that support or discourage those kinds of personal choices all the time. We want people to behave honorably or selflessly and we try to promote that by inculcating those values at a young age, shaming people if they fail to live up to them, praising people who do, etc.

        I think the difference from the original premise is largely one of how far away and direct your influence over the decision point is. Do we want to live in a society where people would selflessly trade themselves for the art or do we want to live in a society where they don’t? The social norms we teach and the values we imprint people with will depend on the answer, and that answer would influence both the people in question’s choices as well as how ivory tower decision makers would choose to respond to the situation on behalf of others.

        Wow, I'd never heard of that before! Do you have any links to read more about that? I won't judge if it's a valuable sacrifice or not but it sure is interesting.

        There was a 99% Invisible episode about it. I got the city wrong, though. Turns out it was Leningrad.

        3 votes
  8. [3]
    vakieh
    Link
    Taking 'life has [inherent] value' as an axiom blocks off entire schools of philosophy without evidence. There's also makes a bunch of claims presented as some sort of ground truth that are also...

    Taking 'life has [inherent] value' as an axiom blocks off entire schools of philosophy without evidence. There's also makes a bunch of claims presented as some sort of ground truth that are also without evidence. Yes, given the choice to save a Rembrandt painting from a fire and a child I did not know, yeah, I'm saving the painting (personal value over collective for me, so a child I did know would be a different story). No, that does not make me a moral monster (in my eyes).

    Consider the world 300 years from now. Does anybody at all give a flying fuck about the person who died in the Louvre fire of 2021? What about the fact that the only version of the Mona Lisa that exists is digital? To answer that, tell me how many people would care about the 30 people who died in the Whitehall Palace fire of 1698, vs how many might care more to know Michelangelo's Cupid burned. Given the choice to recover the Library of Alexandria or grant 60 years more life to each of the people who died protecting it, who on earth is picking the 60 years?

    People are cheap. This is not a case of global value, this is simply a function of their utter replaceability. It's not necessarily a nice thing to think about for the average person - that's that whole personal value vs collective value. But it's true that more people give a shit about the Mona Lisa than they care about you, and that doesn't make them amoral.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      Happy_Shredder
      Link Parent
      And in a million years humanity won't exist and no one will care about the Mona Lisa. So we might as well just eat all the artwork. Maybe just sit back and let the pandemic roll over us? The...

      And in a million years humanity won't exist and no one will care about the Mona Lisa. So we might as well just eat all the artwork. Maybe just sit back and let the pandemic roll over us?

      The problem with arguing that value lies in timescales is that the cutoff is arbitrary. Over long enough timescales, nothing matters. One can also argue that people have value outside of other people's perceptions.

      1. vakieh
        Link Parent
        It's not about a set point in time, so much as it is value over time. An average human life has a very brief span of time where it is greatly valued by a small group. An artwork has a much longer...

        It's not about a set point in time, so much as it is value over time. An average human life has a very brief span of time where it is greatly valued by a small group. An artwork has a much longer span where it is moderately valued by a large group.

        I'm not saying it is wrong to land on the side of the human (I don't land there, but that's me) - I'm saying it is wrong to claim that anyone who doesn't has fallen for some flaw in logic or is a 'moral monster'.

        5 votes
  9. [2]
    grahamiam
    Link
    This makes me think a lot about A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf and a kind of reverse situation - how we actively prevent large segments of the population from having the opportunity to...

    This makes me think a lot about A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf and a kind of reverse situation - how we actively prevent large segments of the population from having the opportunity to create art worthy of being in a museum. She uses the example of an imaginary Judith Shakespeare who would've never had the opportunity to create Shakespearean plays because of women never being given the time or the space away from domestic obligations to do so (hence them needing a Room of Their Own).

    When I think about that, it's hard for me to even consider valuing the art over the life in this scenario, given that it represents a small slice of humanity's art and that we've already made so many choices to value property over human lives.

    (side note - the above also makes me think of the common refrain that we can't judge 17th-18th century people on their views of slavery/racism towards Black people because "everyone thought like that then" as that statement only makes any kind of sense if you completely discount Black people as being a part of "everyone")

    4 votes
    1. NaraVara
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Isn’t there a literary conspiracy theory floating around that Shakespeare was just a front for a woman who couldn’t get exposure otherwise? By the 18th century for sure. But IIRC for much of the...

      She uses the example of an imaginary Judith Shakespeare who would've never had the opportunity to create Shakespearean plays because of women never being given the time or the space away from domestic obligations to do so

      Isn’t there a literary conspiracy theory floating around that Shakespeare was just a front for a woman who couldn’t get exposure otherwise?

      the above also makes me think of the common refrain that we can't judge 17th-18th century people on their views of slavery/racism towards Black people because "everyone thought like that then" as that statement only makes any kind of sense if you completely discount Black people as being a part of "everyone")

      By the 18th century for sure. But IIRC for much of the early 17th century before the institution of slavery had become as racialized as it eventually got I’m not sure it was unanimous among Black people either. Like, they certainly would have felt like it sucked, but I think it took some time for a consensus to form that the institution was conceptually unjust rather than a bad life situation one finds themselves in. Plenty on manumitted slaves at the time would have gone on to hire slaves of their own.

      The gap between thinking the institution is a situation one doesn’t want to be in and having a generalized ideological position that it’s an evil one that must be abolished would be like people being okay with the existence of sweatshop labor even if they wouldn’t ever want to be in that position themselves. Or even people working in a sweatshop and wishing the conditions were better vs. thinking the structure of exploitative labor relations need to be reforms. They just kind of accept it as a fact of life rather than taking a “change the system” approach. In part, you need to actually have a fair bit of education before you can even conceptualize things In terms of overarching systems that can be reformed or changed. It’s one of the reasons they started passing laws to abolish teaching slaves to read.

      2 votes
  10. [2]
    Icarus
    Link
    Eventually, that art won't be in existence period. Nothing lasts forever. I would happily save the lives of others before saving the art. Life is precious, and a miracle in and of itself. The art...

    Eventually, that art won't be in existence period. Nothing lasts forever. I would happily save the lives of others before saving the art. Life is precious, and a miracle in and of itself. The art is a product of life, and we celebrate it because it did not come out of nowhere, but rather from a living, breathing individual. To save the art over a person's life, is to save an artist's bones over someone else's live. More art will be created. I honestly don't see how anyone could reconcile clinging to their attachment of a non-living thing over saving the innocent lives of others.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. Icarus
        Link Parent
        No, because life is precious. It is a miracle to even be alive, seeing as how there isn't any other planet that we know of that has things like us. The only reason art even has merit is because...

        No, because life is precious. It is a miracle to even be alive, seeing as how there isn't any other planet that we know of that has things like us. The only reason art even has merit is because someone alive has to appreciate it.

        1 vote