* When is Climbing Considered Art?*


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
This thread has been locked
Messages 1 - 20 of total 94 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>

right here, right now
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 10, 2006 - 10:28am PT
When is climbing considered art?

John Bachar once quoted some artistic maxim:
“If it is art, it is not for everyone and if it is for everyone, it is not art”.

Buried deep in those WOS threads was a statement by Jaybro and pointed to the WOS guys, not at all meant as damaging, but it was probing: he said, to paraphrase,
“An artist does not explain her work, are you guys artists?”
(this is not BTW, meant as an extension of the WOS threads).

I would suggest that rules in climbing plus the movement skills, are the basis for implementing the craft. And if you are familiar with one of the definitions that has been around for a long time about art, it is that there is a distinction between craft and art. And it goes something like, first, you master your craft, you are technician. At some point, you turn a corner and begin to implement an intuitive synthesis. Statements are made, and quite often not understood, except by the few who may or may not be deeply engaged in a particular movement.

So, I submit there is this highly codified (craft) and somewhat flexible form of expression (art), which follows and does evolve in terms of our climbing.

For me, there is a personal sense of satisfaction I get from implementing expression within "constraints",
those constraints being:

1) My intuitive and physical limitations.
2) A few "rules" imposed perhaps arbitraily by the "artistic" community, as to the form of the craft.
3) The structural rigor imposed by the natural environment, ie, "the canvas".

Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Aug 10, 2006 - 10:53am PT
I am a little hesitant to respond since the definition of 'art' supports whole PhD departments in big universities. But...like, what is the alternative.

As a starting point, if we define art as an expression that moves someone else, then the there are only a few things in climbing that can be considered.

Can the linking of the features--excluding the rock itself--of a climb be considered art? I cannot think of any examples off hand, where the rock features were raised to 'art' on the basis of the climber's moves across them.

Can the movement of a climber over rock be considered art? I would say it can be just like dance--art--to me.

Can the concept of a style of climbing be art? Trickier, in my opinion. Sort of like performance art. Bachar's style of climbing taken in total might qualify, as would most extreme climbers who have mastered a cutting edge of style.

160+ words—long enough.
goatboy smellz

up a peak without a paddle
Aug 10, 2006 - 10:54am PT
Duchamp once said, and I'm paraphrasing...
"An artist creates half the work the other half is brought by the viewer"

Anything that inspires... in my eyes is considered art.

oobbala schmoobala ooga booga boogly booo....


Ice climber
Aug 10, 2006 - 10:56am PT
When one finishes a climb/FA, shakes off the sweat and tears, packs up the gear, walks off down the approach, stops, then looks back at the route with a grin on their face and smile in their heart and says, "Thanks"!.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 10, 2006 - 11:00am PT
Nice start.

To cut to it personaly,
For me there are movement skills which are mastered (craft).
There is a highly nuanced internal experience, much like dance, which feels to me like art.

At the least, it is a highly refined form of good kicks!

Social climber
The West
Aug 10, 2006 - 11:09am PT
Once upon a time in Texas, a bunch of climbers were swinging around in one of hueco's jug haul roof Caves (the name escapes me today in my dotterage)
A reiterment age couple, replete in bermudas, fishing hats, cameras, etc walked up and peered in.
"any Rock art in there?"the man asked hopefully.
I scanned for 'glyphs,and seeing none said,
"Nah, just performence art."
The couple squated down for a better look,
"Strenuous performences art!" one of them said with a laugh.
"good luck." they smiled and wandered off.
goatboy smellz

up a peak without a paddle
Aug 10, 2006 - 11:14am PT

If it's not "FUN" why bother? Why start up? Why put body to stone, canvas, film, to anything...

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Aug 10, 2006 - 11:23am PT
I suggest that climbing is a form of poetry, which of course is one of the arts.

(Not a true/false question.)


Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Aug 10, 2006 - 12:26pm PT
Is dance art? If it is, does it require viewer to be considered art?

My feeling is yes, and no.

I like climbing best when I feel like I'm dancing.

But having danced my whole life, I know that dancing doesn't always feel like dancing. Maybe at those times, it's bad art or a work in process, but it's still part of an artistic process.

Although I can appreciate the idea of a route as art, the 'real' art in climbing for me happens when someone starts up a route and is gone when the route is over.

Reminds me of one of my favorite route names in the Valley: Ephemeral Clogdance on GPA.
Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Aug 10, 2006 - 12:33pm PT
I am a little hesitant to respond since the definition of 'art' supports whole PhD departments in big universities.

LOL Roger

Good story Jaybro.

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Aug 10, 2006 - 12:50pm PT
route setting with plastic is an artform, imho. It's like creating the art of motion.

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Aug 10, 2006 - 12:56pm PT
An important part of my statement was "for me". I also said that I appreciate the route as art, but I don't connect with memories of routes and details of the rock as tightly as many. It's a matter that's independent of what 'should' be, and simply is about what naturally resonates within me. And I am first a dancer.

Once a dance has been done, you can think about it, remember it, take away what you learned, etc, but you can't get that precise moment back.

Others can visit your route, look at your pictures, hear your stories, and try to envision what it was, but the best parts of that moment, IMO, are gone, and a new one is in its place for the latercomers to fill with their own experience...even when I happen to be the latercomer or looker-back on my own experience. I guess I have a poor memory for intense feeling.

Dance companies all over the world will do Balanchine's Swan Lake, and everyone involved with probably be filled with a sense of the history of the work, including those who have danced it before them. Nonetheless, it is a new work every time it gets done.

I'm certainly don't mean to come off as though I'm poo-pooing the idea of pulling art out of history.

But in the continuum of transcendental experiences, reading about Balanchine is pretty academic. Watching a master dance his works can be wonderful. Trying to stomp through the movements myself is better yet. But, for me, the best of all is to crank up the tunes in my head in an open and empty space and just start dancing for the pure joy of it all by myself.

Trad climber
the south
Aug 10, 2006 - 01:01pm PT
Climbing is Vogon poetry-- great for the writer, excruciating for the reader.

Some art is for everyone, art that touches everyone is at its most powerful.

It takes practice to be good at either.

Oh your question, Tar-baby. Climbing is considered art when you consider it as such.

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Aug 10, 2006 - 01:11pm PT
"If that master dances alone in a room with no observers, I think of that as craft, not art.

And of course the 'for me' is explicit, implicit, whatever. I get it. Art is inherently 'for me.' The reception is just as unique to each individual as are the dance steps done by each company."

Although I totally agree w/ your last statment...that even watching someone else is a highly individual experience...It seems contradictory to me to say that you need an audience to elevate craft to art. Perhaps I misunderstand?
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Aug 10, 2006 - 01:26pm PT
Its not "when", it simply IS.
That's not to say that it has to be good.

For me climbing can be both performance art and creative art.

I've put up routes with minimalist sculpting that makes a statement about human interaction with nature. (And don't jump down my throat as my intent is to minimalize SUBSEQUENT human impact, and that too is a statement.)

But art need not be appreciated or even seen (or heard) to BE art.

I've soloed routes that have never been repeated, nor are even known.
Call it art awaiting discovery.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 10, 2006 - 01:58pm PT
hey this is fun.

a bit Off Topic:
that back country stone sculpture of the family; i totally forgot to ask Phil Bircheff (a sculptor/climber) if he knew anything about that when i met him recently.

Truckee, CA
Aug 10, 2006 - 02:13pm PT
Yeah Roy! a thought stretching thread, I was starting to lose faith in this forum.

scuse me for the self referential spray but "my life as an artist"...

"I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile I keep dancing" millel

As a teen Valley dude, I often considered the dance aspect of the climbing craft, I had to, I was too weak to do a lot of what I did back then, when I do butterballs now I still smile at the far flung small footholds I was needing when I was 15 in eb's. I had to dance rather than struggle. Superb models were provided by the technique masters of the day Ron K. and Dale B.
I discussed this dance art aspect with many friends, geologic choreography, interpreting the stone patterns as a sport/art performance in comparison to stage choreography.

11 years later I got to participate fully when climbing became spectator performance in the way of competitions at resorts and in theatres and stadiums. We got to pick our own music, once I made the finals in a fine theatre in Seattle, to groovy new age music and colored theatrical lighting cranking on a piece of sculpture by french artist Jean-Marc Blanche (constructed by Tarbuster by the way). Christian Griffith said only half jockingly that he was moved to tears. art sport?

So I was totally open to exploring when I met and started brainstorming with choreographer Amelia Rudolph. I went from theatre comps to climbing as performance, at Cityrock Gym- turned into a theatrically lit sculpture garden, I got to do a solo up the big wall with a great tabla player laying down the grooves.

Outdoors we sometimes pulled off making a bigger artful political statements, once performing for the delegates at the UN conference on climate change in Buenas Aires. As a celebration/homage to the Peregrine Falcon we created a performance piece called Peregrine Dreams, 6 of us climbed the Shield Route and made a dance adjacent to the groove pitch. Every member of the troupe led at least one big aid pitch, and the dance was cool and the film turned out really well. This was photographed for Life Mag by Galen Rowell, who also set up a lunch meeting with the head of the predatory bird group for an update on the peregrines status. He hung with us in our 3 double wide portaledge camp at the base of the triple cracks for the post dance celebration, then jumared from the middle of the Shield to the summit arriving before midnight then running out to hit his next assignment.

The encounters with Bay Area dancers and the Camp 4 boys culture was classic, Dick Cilley booming across the lot "Hey Mayfield, wheres your tu tu!!" The camp fire female artist vs sexist climber discussion was memorable, we actually felt that minds were opened, and grudginly the "Band o Kooks" gained some respect.

I am considering collaborating on "trails and vistas" a performance installation around a walking loop from Donner Ski Ranch. The loop goes by some good cliffs (Star Walls) and boulders. (Sept. 10th.) And I am trying to finesse my way up a hard steep sport route this week.

the dance goes on.


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 10, 2006 - 03:22pm PT
Love Gas:
Ha! and Wahoo!

Ok, then, now back to a nice tuchy-feely parlor chat, a la the Salons of olden tymes.

Truckee, CA
Aug 10, 2006 - 03:34pm PT
photos to go with my previous post

the shield - Chris Clay, Heather Bear, Amelia Rudolph, Me, photo. Steve Schneider

Nate D

San Francisco
Aug 10, 2006 - 03:44pm PT
Interesting topic, and one that comes up from time to time on this forum.

I've applied my puny little brain to this notion before, so for what it's worth, here are my thoughts:

The rock itself is the ultimate art. It's no blank canvas by any means, but does become a stage on which we perform our little transient dance.

Now in terms of creating a route, this is far more synonymous with design -- which is a problem solving discipline embracing both form and function. A route is not a static work or object to simply gaze upon. It it not the stuff of galleries, but is more like a building or designed product -- it is meant to be used, hopefully with admiration, by others.

Architects and designers cannot really hide their final product, as it is designed for others. It is inherently populist, so to speak.

Great architectural works stand the test of time and become classics. Many deteriorate or become empty shells, as they fall out of fashion or become neglected and lose, to some extent, their functionality. Likewise for routes. The best and classic climbs are a grand collaboration between the first ascentionist and the rock itself -- as it yields a natural passage. They are the most inspiring and useful. They are carefully preserved or restored. They keep us coming back.
Messages 1 - 20 of total 94 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta