Instigator / Pro

Resolved: Art, if separated from the artist, will bring more good than harm into this world


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After 5 votes and with 10 points ahead, the winner is...

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Contender / Con

BoP is shared: Con must prove that the separation of the art from the artist is worse for the world.

"Separating the art from the artist": To ignore the origins of the art piece and judge the art based on itself

Also, we are talking about ideals. saying "Separating the art from the artist is extremely hard" should not be a point.

Round 1
Argument: Leading into More objective judgments towards arts

Does this painting look good to you? Don't ask who made it. Just say what do you think about it. A response using the quote block would be nice. Can you draw it better? I think the answer would possibly be no. Please refrain yourself from reading the next paragraph if you have yet to give an opinion at the painting.

Now, what if I tell you that the painting above shown is made by this guy? Yeah! The racist fascist German dictator. Look back to the painting, I can assure you that your feeling about this painting is drawn towards negativity. This is what happens when we don't separate the art from the artist. Should George Washington have painted it, you would feel more positive about it than you are probably now. This leads to one benefit of the separation between the art and artist: More objective judgment. Before we move on, let me give another example. Steve Jobs, who invented the thing you are probably using less than an hour ago, was, personality-wise, a jerk. Nevertheless, it is too insufficient for a reason to boycott iPhones. This is what cancel culture is and it is just awful. Cancel culture exists because we do not know to ever separate the art from the artist. Because Steve Jobs is a jerk to people does not make iPhones dysfunctional as a product.

Bad behaviors from the person do not make his art bad

Unless this person is credited to have consistently made mistakes on his art(bad artists throughout), the reason one is credited as a "bad artist" has nothing to do with his quality of the art. Committing murder is a quality unrelated to his quality of making art and thus if a murderer made a good piece of art, the art is good regardless of who made it, even if whoever made it was a total jerk. The only reason an art would be bad is that the art itself is either of horrible quality or conveys bad messages. Of course, these "bad" pieces of art could just be experimental satires from good artists. However, that still makes the art bad no matter who made it. Static is music to very few, and it would be a bad song no matter who posted it.

Unrelated credited qualities do not make the art bad

Speaking of static, Taylor Swift accidentally released a "song" that is just 8 seconds of noise. Without any tangible meaning, this song became a hitter in iTunes. I am pretty sure if anyone else made a song with just 8 seconds of noise, they will get little views, let alone becoming a hitter.

Well, Taylor Swift is a famous modern musician. No arguments about that. However, if we aren't separating the art and artist so that 8 seconds of noise from a famous artist is music to my ears and 8 seconds of noise from an anonymous channel isn't, then the society is basically in inequality: Whatever the famous person does become good and whatever the racist does become bad, no matter what other aspects were done in accompany. This would mean we are no longer judging anything objectively.

Jack Ma said that knockoffs made in China could be better in quality, with lacking only the brand. These "knockoffs" cost less than the real deal, and they are better in solid quality, so why are we still trying to buy the real deal? Well, that is the problem we'd need to solve.
I’ll start with a couple of overviews.
OV1: Burdens Analysis
While burdens are shared, that does not mean that we have equal grounds. Pro must argue that we should separate the art from the artist by completely ignoring the origins of the art piece and judging the art entirely based on itself. Meanwhile, as Con, all I must show is that any amount of scrutiny channeled through art and incorporating knowledge of the artist is preferable to none.
OV2: Definitions
Pro defined art contextually, but I will clarify. Basically, anything that is the result of creative skill and imagination is art. So, whether we are talking about music, paintings, literature, dance, science, engineering, private or commercial products, they all fall within what is art.
Additionally, the resolution states “if separated from the artist”, and while the definition is clear, how this is achieved is not. Pro says this is about ideals, i.e. whether this should occur rather than whether it can, but the ideal world needs to be defined as well. In Pro’s world, everyone can completely and totally compartmentalize upon perceiving a work of art. These people are functionally incapable of forming connections between the art and the artist. This necessarily diminishes our capacity to link art to the means by which it is made.
1) The Human Mind
Restricting our ability to make connections between art and its source has important repercussions. Imagine if our interpretation of scientific discoveries entirely excluded any concerns regarding the researchers involved and how the research was conducted. For example, in Pro’s world, we would fundamentally divorce our assessment of Nazi experiments from both the people who conducted them and the means they used to do so. Each of these datasets is soaked in the blood of Holocaust victims, and while those results may have some value, failing to recognize their context effectively makes “the Nazis our retroactive partners in the victims’ torture and death.” Our use of that data validates their efforts, and consequently, validates similar efforts by present and future human rights abusers that pursue objective data without consideration for the victims they create. Pro effectively makes all of science complicit in these criminal acts.[1] This applies to any creative output that results from abuse; “that work of art is tainted as a tool of an abuser. No work of art, no matter how ‘great,’ is worth more to me than the lives destroyed by the abusive artist.”[2]
Pro’s world divorces humanity from essential connections. If we fully separate art from artist, we facilitate the worst possible transgressions against humanity. It does not matter if the art comes because of theft or murder because we cannot make those connections. Pro’s world also prevents us from making positive connections. For Pro, a painting produced in captivity with limited access to necessary resources is judged based on the same criteria as one generated freely in a studio with excess resources. Pro reduces works of art by excluding any interest in who they were and why they created it. To fail to recognize these differences fundamentally invalidates struggle and determination against the odds as integral parts of the creative process. It reduces people to what they create by utterly divorcing those creations from who they are and the process they used to make them.
2) Art as a Weapon
To argue that art should be entirely separated from the artist ignores the fact that the two are intimately linked, with the former readily wielded by the latter. There are several ways that art functions as an extension of the individual(s) who created it. The money and influence gained by creating a work of art that garners notoriety are the weapons wielded by these artists, and there is ample evidence that these can be and have been turned on others.
“The fact of the matter is, in our capitalistic, fame-obsessed culture, being a critically or commercially successful artist gains you a significant amount of influence. This influence, when in the hands of certain unfortunate individuals, can be leveraged to do harm to others.”[3]
There are numerous examples of this occurring.
R. Kelly used his wealth and skill at songwriting to physically abuse minors and avoid the consequences of his actions for over a decade. This played out in incredibly brazen ways: “even through his legal battles and worrying statements, like when he responded to the journalist Touré asking if he had sexual interest in ‘teenage girls’ with ‘When you say teenage, how old are you talking?’ or his insistence on referring to himself as the ‘Pied Piper of R&B,’ Kelly’s fame and musical success remained constant — during the six years between the discovery of the sex tape and the singer’s acquittal, he released five platinum-selling albums and 26 top 40 singles.”[3] Only far more recent accusations resulted in negative outcomes for him, and in the meantime, he was able to continue exercising control and power over others without any meaningful control. “Both parts of this story follow the twisted logic of the music industry’s implicit policy on sexual predators. R. Kelly was only able to build his ‘sex cult’ because of his fame — the girls around him willingly, at least at first, entered into relationships with him to pursue fame, only to be trapped in something much more sinister. On the other end, the (relatively minor) professional consequences suffered by R. Kelly are reflective of not only the gravity of these accusations but also the singer’s waning starpower — his most recent album, 2015’s ‘The Buffet,’ is by far his worst selling release. Yet even a diminished Kelly is still a commanding figure in the industry — when Buzzfeed asked 43 of the singer’s former collaborators if they would work with him again in light of the allegations, none returned a response, and the only pop musician with any degree of relevance to condemn him was Chicago rapper Vic Mensa. In the music industry, it seems, abusers have nearly infinite leeway as long as they can still make a hit.”[3]
What’s more, R. Kelly’s story demonstrates the importance of linking the artist to their work. “There is no separating R. Kelly’s music from his crimes because he himself interjected his crimes into his music. The DNA of rape and anti-Black woman violence is splattered across every lyric about sex he’s ever uttered… Who we are as people will always impact the energy we put out into the world whether directly or not. Louis CK’s award-winning TV show, ‘Louie,’ is largely focused on his inability to detect or respect women’s boundaries, which deserves more attention in light of the fact he would routinely masturbate in front of women against their wishes. Woody Allen’s films are full of older men who date younger women. And so on. There is no such thing as separating art from the artist because the artist themselves seemingly can’t even make such distinctions.”[4] If we create an environment where critical evaluation of a given piece of art utterly excludes the individual who created it, that still can’t remove the individual from the work.
“Separating the art from the artist would be a perfectly sound critical school among many in an ideal world, one where the power dynamics and imbalances fueled by fame and industry influence did not exist and were not vital tools used by sexual predators of all stripes. That is not the world we live in, though. The choices we make in media consumption matter in a certain material sense — playing an PWR BTTM song on Spotify or buying a Woody Allen movie on DVD literally funds them, and even modes of media consumption that don’t involve spending money still grants artists the influence and celebrity they can use to abuse others and evade consequence. This isn’t, strictly speaking, a moral matter — you aren’t a bad person for watching ‘Annie Hall’ — but merely a matter of tracing cause and effect. By creating a culture that excuses the misdeeds of the powerful, talented or rich, we make it harder for their victims, from fellow celebrities to anonymous teenagers, to retain their dignity in society.”[3] Essentially, we as a society are complicit in their abuse, further punishing those victims with our support of their abusers.

3) Art Represents the Artist

Removal of the outside influences that played a role in a given piece of art damages our appreciation of said art. If we cannot appreciate the source of that art (the artist) or other contributing factors, then we necessarily limit our understanding of the work. “…every work of art is deeply imbued with a number of outside influences, from the geopolitical situation of the world to the sordid personal details of an artist’s life. The artists themselves don’t separate themselves from their work, so a critical approach that refuses to consider outside factors is limited and foolish, blinding us from a full consideration of any creative work…

“In modern pop culture, persona and identity so deeply intermingle with art that the artist themselves often becomes impossible to fully disentangle from their art… every creative work is inherently the unique product of the person (or persons) who made it. The same mind that pioneered the depiction of Black Middle Class families on primetime television through “The Cosby Show” also conspired to sexually assault over 60 women. There are not two Bill Cosbys, two Woody Allens, two R. Kellys or two Mel Gibsons — the personal elements of their crafts are powered by the same people who have done despicable things.

“…The celebrity musician (and most musicians you know are celebrities of some scene or another) sells two cultural products. The first is their songs, but the second is their persona. This persona, the carefully crafted identity of a pop singer like Lady Gaga or a rapper like Drake, is as much a work of art as any of their individual songs. In this case, then, the misdeeds of the artist inherently affect their art. The loverman personae of Chris Brown and R. Kelly are rendered unconvincing, ineffective craft by the revelations that they, respectively, assault and molest women in their private lives.”[3]

Pro’s world removes integral elements from consideration for all pieces of art. This has three impacts. First, the artist becomes harshly limited in what messages they can send with their work. By reducing art to only those pieces one experiences when interacting with it, Pro’s world puts it in a vacuum, suppressing any deeper messages that the artist seeks to send and reducing any interpretation of art to its most obvious elements. Second, it scrubs art of the association with persona. Musicians, in particular, are highly reliant on concerts (whether in person or streaming online) to earn a living.[5] Pro’s world removes any association between music and persona; consequently, the purpose of attending a concert – to see the two displayed together on stage – is also lost. Pro might argue that the persona is part of the art, but he will have to explain what separates the persona and the artist – both from the perspective of the artist and that of the audience – to do so. This makes it impossible for many of these musicians to make a living, reducing their output and harming their outreach, while simultaneously reducing their creativity with the art they produce. Third, even if we assume a persona is possible, it is utterly divorced from the individual presenting it, allowing artists to utterly vanish behind their personas and leaving those captivated by those personas vulnerable to continued abuse.

I will save my rebuttals for the next round. Back to you, Pro.

Round 2
Sorry for responding so late. My opponent's argument is well-structured and I am to the point of almost concession several times before I could even construct points in this argument. I respect Con's arguments and Con himself personally, with a link that may or may not necessarily be in between.

From here on, S-A/A will mean "separate the art and the artist".

Recap of Con's R1

Con's R1 has logic that can roughly be summarized as follows:
  • Art weapons will be made with the maker getting away
  • S-A/A is useless if the art is as bad as the artist, vice versa for do-goodness
  • Art represents the artist and Art is meaningless without the artist
I. Leading towards more objective judgments towards the arts

I feel like the argument introduced in R1 is overall not very a strong one but the idea is nonetheless not defeated at all. I will be refuting each of the 3 major points presented by my opponent.

Art weapons?

Con is misinterpreting my title: We aren't seeing all art the same way. My opponent's interpretation is equivalent to saying that Black Lives Matter is the same as All Lives Matter. We are judging art as true to itself without any external influences that alter its quality, not seeing the masterpiece the same as the offensive art with the maker of the latter getting away. So yes: We are not criticizing the maker for making bad art. We are criticizing the art of being bad. Bad art is bad regardless even if some famous person made it. Just look at this abomination[1]. This abomination is made by someone who has millions of people supporting her[2]. Again, just because the art is made by someone people cherish, it doesn't mean it is good automatically. Art as a weapon will be rather quickly be noticed compared to the system we have now considering we are seeing it as solely a weapon instead of art made by a famous artist. Having bad art made by famous artists would be more quickly noticed considering we are just seeing it as bad.

  1. Art weapons will be discovered quickly because people judge will judge it as "art weapons", not as "art made by a famous artist". It is more objective the first way.
  2. My opponent seems to be misjudging the resolution personally. 
Bad art is as bad as the bad artist

Refuted above. See above. Again, this claim supports the Pro side of the tale, because it is obviously better to judge art as "good" or "bad" or "meh", instead of "being made by someone good" or "being made by someone bad", etc.

  1. Good art and bad art will be judged solely by their appearance itself instead of who made it. That is good.
Art represents the artist

Well, that isn't the case. Art represents itself, as well as the style. For the "concerts" point, we are merely looking at songs of similar styles, which would make sense. Picasso's art and Picasso's other arts look roughly the same, while Eminem's raps and Eminem's raps sound similar. We are merely looking at someone who 1) can express the style of the music, or 2) someone who can explain the sorrow or joy of the painting. Either way, we are not fangirling towards someone who only has the tendency to make decent art, but we are appreciating art itself, which is art's purpose. Art represents itself: There is nothing like it. No two pieces of art are the same unless they are copies of each other. Game developer Toby Fox specifically said it[3]: "If you played "UNDERTALE," I don't think I can make anything that makes you feel "that way" again. However, it's possible I can make something else. It's just something simple but maybe you'll like it." Well, that is the case. Art is art and art is not the artist. Art makes the artist great, but the artist can't make good art all the time. Saying that Art is the Artist means you are expecting them to do more and more and more work when they make better art, in other words, putting unrealistic expectations on the artist in the first place. Artists have lives other than making art and saying "art represents the artist" is not correct.

  1. Art is unique and it represents itself
  2. Concerts and galleries and presentations can still indeed exist if we are appreciating the art itself
  3. "Art = artist" is not correct


Thanks to Pro for his responses and his kind words about both me and my arguments. I've enjoyed debating this so far, and I appreciate Pro's continued diligence and strong arguments in this debate.

I’ll start this round off with some rebuttals and then shift into case defense and extensions.
Pro’s case
P1) Objective Judgement

Pro asserts that removing associations between artist and art improves art assessment, effectively cancelling cancel culture. Two responses.
First, associating art with related factors like the artist and the time period should be encouraged. Art shouldn’t be assessed in a vacuum – doing so robs us of the full experience. The artist, the time period in which those individuals live, the art movements that preceded it, political upheavals, and technological advances all necessarily morph our understanding of a given work of art. Art is more than just a “collection of shapes, textures, colours and ideas to which we can have a personal reaction… At the center of the field of art is the constant flux between the acts of the individual artist and the meaning given to and by those acts within the specific historical conditions… artworks are prisms through which light flows: they are events that give rise to new realities, and through the ripples of those events, into and also shaping our own subjective spheres.”[6] By severing art from the contributions of the artist, Pro destroys one of these essential connections, diminishing our understanding of works of art and making us incapable of recognizing many unique and affecting pieces.
Second, cancel culture is good for society. It functions as a “way for marginalized communities to publicly assert their value systems through pop culture” and to demand that artists demonstrate that they have learned from their actions. “What’s important to consider is that these social media callouts are, often, the only space for the general public to hold public figures accountable.”[7] Those who are directly abused must be able to exercise this power, as it becomes their only means to prevent their abusers from abusing others. Pro’s world strips the abused of their power. Contrast this with Pro’s impact of… boycotting iPhones? No matter what is cancelled, innovation will continue, and companies will still profit. Victims of abuse can never get their sense of normalcy back.
P2) Persons Don’t Make Art Bad

Cross-apply my second contention, Art as a Weapon, here. Art, no matter its quality, can be used as a weapon to further the abusive efforts of the artist. It does not need to convey a bad message or be poor quality to facilitate horrible actions.
P3) Unrelated Qualities

Pro’s efforts to de-link the quality of an artist from their art fail to address the inherent links between the artist and their art, particularly in the music industry, as described in my third contention, Art Represents the Artist. Cross-apply those links – the presence of some unrelated qualities does not erase the related ones.
Pro presents two cases for which he gives no impacts. Despite his claims, the Taylor Swift song isn’t considered high quality, as it has only been reviewed sarcastically.[8] It does show that there’s an association between celebrity and audience purchases, but Pro’s world does solve for this. Those who sell more copies can better afford to distribute future songs more broadly those who sell few, so unknowns will always struggle to be heard. As for the Jack Ma point, Pro’s link lacks any meaningful support for his claim that knockoffs are better than brand names and the article cites others who disagree with it. Consumers know that “quality is not on par with the real product” when they purchase a knockoff product.[9] And, once again, Pro does not solve. Pro is not separating products from the companies the manufacture them, just the artists that designed them.
Onto some case defense and extension.
Con’s case
Pro drops both the burdens analysis and the definitions. The burdens show that this is an all-or-nothing game for him, as he is arguing that no level of scrutiny is better than his world without scrutiny. Similarly, the definitions show that Pro’s whole case relies on a world where humans lack the capacity to make connections between art and how it is made, so he’s defending a world in which humans lack an important source of insight. For all of Pro’s revelatory impacts (none of which are substantial), he supports diminishing our understanding of art to engender these revelations, which is the ultimate irony of his position.
As Pro did, I will combine my first two arguments.
C1) The Human Mind/Art as a Weapon

Pro’s argues that art should be, as he put it, “judg[ed]… as true to itself without any external influences to alter its quality”. He argued this in R1 and it still has no clear impacts. I have already shown that even removing associations between the artist and their art cannot remove other associations. Pro’s world will not result in everyone having a unified view of how good a given piece of art is; there are simply too many subjective factors involved in assessing art for that to occur.[6]
Meanwhile, Pro makes it impossible for anyone to recognize that supporting a given piece of art can also support any terrible acts in which the artist may be engaged. In Pro’s world, these connections cannot be noticed because they physically cannot be established. Yet, the actions of these artists are inextricable from their art, even if our minds refuse to link them. Pro says that we can somehow prevent all malevolent uses of art by seeing art for what it is, but art isn’t physically like a normal weapon, nor can we tell if it’s being used as a weapon simply by looking really close at it; you need to see who is wielding it, how it was made, and for what purpose.
We should not separate the experiments the Nazis did from the people that did them and the means they used because we become partner to their tortures and killings. The results of those Nazi experiments don’t tell us about the people they harmed in the process of getting them. Much as R. Kelly’s songs contain lyrics that connect to his crimes, we only know they were dangerous because we can make that connection. These examples illustrate connections that Pro’s world makes it impossible to form. In Pro’s world, the victims of the Nazis are no impediment to using their research and R. Kelly continues to wield his money and power to abuse underage women. Their art is weaponized because of how the artist wields it, not because of what that art is.
So, by dropping them, Pro concedes all the resulting impacts. He makes humanity complicit in the vile acts of those whose art is drenched in blood and misery. Whether it’s the findings generated from victims of Nazi experiments or R. Kelly’s use of the money and influence gained from his art to abuse others, Pro’s world empowers abusers by leaving their audience in the dark. Finally, Pro drops the capacity to make positive connections, which necessarily ability to raise up artists who have had to struggle greatly compared to others. These stories empower us by showing the tenacity of those who create, and in Pro’s world, these role models cease to exist.
The remainder of Pro’s points here do not accomplish anything. He tries to relate my points to a false equivocation between BLM and ALM, but fails to designate where I employed this fallacy. Pro also dismisses a music video as demonstrative of bad music, a point he never warrants nor impacts. Who cares if one singer has developed a following like this? What harm occurs because of her having millions of followers? This point fails to gain him any offense.
C2) Art Represents the Artist

Pro talks about how art is unique and represents itself. If anything, Pro’s argument that individual works of art can speak to people in unique ways only furthers my point: Undertale wouldn’t have been Undertale with someone other than Toby Fox at the helm, and dismissing or ignoring this connection undercuts why they games like this are worthy of praise. I also presented several warrants connecting art to the artist, including both the unique style of the artist (artists don’t separate themselves from their work), and artists often sell themselves as part of their work, e.g. the personas of musicians. Pro’s only response is to argue that sound is all that matters, which is utterly absurd. Will Pro argue that personas like that of Weird Al Yankovic [10] or Lady Gaga [11] in no way contribute to their performances or staying power? From Ziggy Stardust to Slim Shady, alter egos litter the music industry.[12] These personas are inseparable from the music they create, yet Pro would have us believe that, in a world where they were entirely divorced, nothing would change. None of these personas could appear on stage, many musicians would be absent a living, and their work would suffer as a result. Pro drops all of this. He also drops my first and third impacts, which show that Pro’s world dramatically limits the messages artists can send by restricting them to the pieces themselves, and that his world actually facilitates continued abuse as those who use their personas could entirely vanish behind them.
Pro does present a new argument here, saying that fans put unrealistic expectations on artists. Best case scenario for Pro, this is non-unique. In Pro’s world, these artists would still have to produce lots of work to make a living (except for the musicians, who straight up cannot make a living without concerts). The expectation is still there, it is just absent a connection between the fanbase and the artist. If anything, that is worse. At least if you are a celebrity, you can make money by doing interviews, appearing in ads, or making cameos in movies. Pro’s world removes celebrities entirely, making their identities pointless and forcing them to rely on far more limited means to make a living in their profession. Wondering if your next work will be popular enough to keep food on the table sounds a lot worse than having a fanbase hungry for more content.
Back over to you, Pro.

Round 3
Ah, I concede, as I think I cannot trump my opponent's points. I thank Con for participating in this debate.
I accept my opponent's concession, though I still encourage those who are interested to read through the rest of the debate. Thank you, Intelligence, for the debate over this very relevant and important topic.