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The two readings I found most relevant this week were Criticizing Art, by Terry Barrett, and The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, by Walter Benjamin.
I had read Benjamin’s work in my own language at least three times before, but I found it made more sense to me in English than it ever had in Spanish. I also found the writing much more beautiful and less convoluted. Because of my previous research on photography, I had read this essay specifically focusing on the parts that pertained to this discipline. This time, however, I tried to read it from a different perspective and was pleasantly surprised to find parts I didn’t remember reading before. I found the author’s thoughts on film interesting, although there were parts that bothered me, particularly when he referred to its public as absent-minded and distracted.
The definition of the aura of a work of art is to me the central part of this work. Benjamin talks about the aura not only as distance, but as a concept that originates in the very beginnings of art, when its purpose was to serve as a sort of ritual. When art was first conceived, it was considered in a sense magical, and its beauty was not a relevant factor. Benjamin uses cave paintings as an example, but points out that not even photography can completely distance itself from this cult value.
I found the chapters of Criticizing Art to be a good first reading to get into what this class is about. I like that it gives the basics and explains key terms and that it uses examples of actual artwork and artists, because that makes the concepts easier to understand, particularly because there is a variety of examples from different disciplines.
The one thing that struck me most about this reading was when the author asked if art that is easily enjoyed by the public needs interpretation, and if this interpretation is worthwhile. She comes to the conclusion that “even art that can be enjoyed on the Tonight Show can be interpreted seriously by professional critics.”
This can be applied to my research because it had been something that had been bothering me for some time, especially when what I plan to write about is film and TV. The part where the author explained in detail how to go about this was also helpful, particularly when she explained how to write about more than one work of art, which I believe could be applied to writing about a TV series as well.
As for Benjamin, I found that the last couple of pages, which he dedicates almost solely to writing about film, touched upon some interesting points which I could definitely visit in my research, like his views on technology and equipment, particularly because what I have read on the subject up to this point is somewhat limited.
What is Art, is a great question. For many years it seems as though people have tried to sum up art into one thing or one way of thinking.
I really enjoyed and agreed with this article because to me it felt as if we(as the viewer or audience) seem to only recognize the performance or display as “art” and never really consider the process in which the end result has been accomplished. We often times tend to critique the actor or director for their role in the piece but almost always forget about the ones who help these people get prepared. For example in plays, we never really give a lot of credit to the makeup artists or the hairstylist or even the lighting designer. Everyone who is contributing to the overall visual is an artist in their own right.
As graphic designer, I definitely feel like the beauty in the process of my work is almost always overlooked. When creating a logo or website, the client almost never wants to see the process development of what they are paying for. To me, It almost seems as though they are missing out on the journey of what became of their logo. To have that understanding of how that logo or website came to be is almost remarkable in itself.
Another thing I noticed the author talking about was why incorporate all of the theatrical clothing, extravagant makeup and overly dramatic undertones in theater.
Theater is completely different from cinema in the sense that the audience plays the role as the camera man which is completely opposite in cinema. In cinema, The actor has very little responsibility in making that scene believable. The camera and editing style pretty much picks up where the actor or director has failed.
This is also true of graphic design v.s. cinema. In cinema for example, Television ads have sound and movement to advertise there products. Graphic design usually only has text and imagery to support that advertisement. I think that’s why Television ads can be so much more successful because it has a way of targeting more than one of the 5 senses( sight and sound) as opposed to 2d graphic design ads that only trigger sight.
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
I found this reading particularly interesting especially in regards to originality and producing original work. Honestly, I don’t think there is a such thing as fully original work. Everybody in my opinion has been inspired by an idea or concept that they’ve learned in the past. Like the history of printing for example. Printing didn’t just come about out of nowhere like ” Here everybody, I created this newspaper on the first try, without there being any previous forms of printing ever”.
I do however think that there are artists that tend to think outside of the box and merge old ideas together to create something new. A lot of times when I’m creating I’ll reference other artists that I admire or piggyback ideas and concepts from them. But I think for some people that’s when things start to get a little tricky. Like in film for example, I feel like creating an adaptation of a previously made film is okay but to flat out copy the whole idea, is stealing. Your work then loses authenticity and moral. Like Akira Kurosawas “Yo Jimbo” v.s. Sergio Leone’s “Fistful of Dollars” for example. “Fistful of dollars was clearly a rip off of “Yo Jimbo”. Leone wasn’t only admiring Kurosawas work, but he had shot it scene by scene. I’m sure he was a talented director, but to recreate something that had already been so beautifully done was just tasteless and not to mention illegal.
Of the five readings, I enjoyed Barrett and Benjamin the most. I felt a little silly reading Barrett because so many seemingly obvious things were pointed out (“interpretations of art are often based on a larger world view”) that had never occurred to me before.
Also, I was surprised to discover that anyone had written serious criticism of the glass artist Chihuly.
I was excited about Benjamin’s idea that part of what makes an original piece of art unique (as distinguished from reproductions) is evidence on the artwork of changes in physical condition and ownership. This got me thinking about my relationship to my own work. I have been assuming that when I’m done with a piece that means it is finished. But, if part of what makes a work original is ownership and changes in physical condition over time, then maybe my pieces are not finished until they are owned and changed by ownership.
I was also excited about the idea that “technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself” and the related idea, “the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition”. I immediately thought of the realm of traditional music, that is, songs and tunes which have been historically passed on directly from person to person by word of mouth only. The advent of recording technology (“technical reproduction”) both preserves and destroys the song. The first ever recording of a traditional ballad preserves that song as it was sung that one time. But it also changes the nature of how that song is passed on which changes the song itself.
Walter Benjamin- The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.
The writing is showing the brief history of how the work of art became reproduce massively (woodcut-engraving/etching- lithography- photography- film), and then when the film making is happening the work of art (or film) starts to get a strong relation to politics. Benjamin agrees with the film makes the art can be more open to the public (the public can see and feel the work of art than before), but at the same time he is thinking about the film can be used for politic use to instigate the public.
Q: I think these days the media like TV news or shows are used for instigating the public. I am wondering what Benjamin would think about current situation of media if he is still alive. And also in the reading he mentioned about only the visual fine arts (printmaking, photography, film) but I am wondering can craft can be discussed as the same note.
Immanuel Kant –The imagination
– Honestly it was hard to understand the reading when it goes to the “Beautiful is the art of genius”. If I understand well, it feels like uncomfortable for me that Kant seems like he is thinking that the art have to be beautiful, and also the beautiful work of art are coming out from the genius who have the talent. Kant’s prospective would be controversial to the contemporary art these days.
Edward Casey- Imagination: Imaging and the image
– Some of my work related to “time” and “memory”, and in this reading Edward is mentioning memory as one of the examples about the imagination based on real life, and I really enjoyed this part, and also I might think about more about the relation between imagination and personal memories. After reading Casey’s article it was easy to understand the kant’s idea of “imagination”. Casey explained “imagination” using Kant’s prospective but talked about more related to memory, or experience rather than instinctive nature (talent).
Tolstoy – What is art?
Q: Tolstoy mentioned the word “beauty” means only “the thing pleased the sight”, and because of that he didn’t understand “beautiful music”, “ugly actions” in Russian when he was young. I am curious what social (cultural) or historical background of Russia create the definition of “beauty” was more visual oriented concept.
Walter Benjamin -The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
In this work, Benjamin describes the loss of the “aura” in art when it is mechanically reproduced. He then goes on to describe the progression of the tradition and relationships art has with its audience, in either a cult or exhibition context, as a result of said mechanical reproduction. I’ve always liked his breakdown of the authenticity of a live stage performance, comparing it to a film performance. As an artist, I’ve often utilized digital media that I’ve appropriated from downloaded films. In an attempt to slightly preserve the aura of classical filmmaking, I’m thinking of working with actual reels of film in some of my next projects.
Tolstoy – What is art?
I appreciate the great urgency in which Tolstoy wants the answer to his titular question. He seems to realize it is a daunting task with his lamenting on the complexities of defining beauty, but it comes across as an obligation for him to define art in order to save humanity from the laborious evil of banal, bad art. I also enjoyed his inclusion of different nationality definitions of beauty (specifically more the Russian perspective) and the subsequent inscrutability of these definitions coexisting.
Barrett – Criticizing Art
This bit of writing came across as not like the others this week. Should judgment be a component in artistic critique? Barrett seems indecisive on the importance of negative critique, citing an artist’s possible defensive resentment. I realize that when I write movie reviews I specify a judgement on the film in question, but I’m not actively insulting filmmakers as the lowly critic that I am now. I understand that one should choose a certain set of criteria in order to accurately critique something on either in its own terms or yours, but the final judgment call seems like a murky endeavor. For me, art critique should circumvent judgment to a certain extent.
This is Namrata’s post:
MCMA 531: Week #2
I found two of Terry Barrett’s ideas in this week’s readings insightful: one, that the context of an artistic work aids its analysis; and two, that description is an important part of critiquing an art work. I always thought that both were extraneous and would make my analysis unnecessarily lengthy. But now I am encouraged to use both these aspects of critical analysis in the research work that I do.
Walter Benjamin mentions in his article that technology has made it possible for art works to “travel”, fundamentally changing the ways in which they are distributed and exhibited. I find this interesting as one of the aspects of my research is to study the transnational/ global reach of Hindi cinema. As of now, I was only considering finance as the major factor which helps films to “travel” to other countries, but now I could look at technology as a secondary factor as well.
In the same article, I found it interesting how the meaning of “cult” operates in the context of “cult films”. Benjamin says that an art work has cult value when it is in a unique position, and is the only one of its kind. But when we talk of “cult films” we are talking about films that are popular mainly because they can be mechanically reproduced and seen in various cultural and social contexts and viewed several times.
I have to say, I struggled with Kant, but reading Casey made it easier to understand some of Kant’s ideas.
In Kant and Casey article, I found the concept of three subjective of sources of knowledge interesting: sense, imagination, and apperception. In my opinion, I agree that these are a priori elements that are precursors to imagined realities. The individual’s prior experiences are what makes sense and puts into context the possible meanings to representations. Knowledge of and acceptance or subscription to certain ideologies is what shapes or idealized self.
Kant’s, The Imagination, states that, “we are conscious a priori of the complete identity of the self in respect of all representations which can ever belong to our knowledge, as being a necessary condition of the possibility of all representations,” (p.198). I related this statement as if our identity is not really our own. Our culture and identity is shaped by media representation, which helps us to create our imagination and molds a culture. Casey’s, Imagination: Imaging the Image, explains it as “complex ideas” and “simple ideas” which lead to an impression or sensations to what people want to believe about themselves and other by viewing media (p.246).
In Walter Benjamin’s, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, also pointed out some theories ideas that work well with my thought. Benjamin states, “during long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence… the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well,” (p. 5). This is a good example of how media representation is viewed when a social issue, such as identity issue, is introduced to a culture.
1.) Since Walter Benjamin wrote The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in 1936 Germany, his purpose was to make his audience aware of the political agenda behind the images that media was feeding them. Does Benjamin see the potential for art to be free from authority (whether ritual or political)?
1.) If Benjamin does see a potential of “freeing” art, could it be political without?
Benjamin’s examination of reproductive nature of media holds the authority behind the images accountable, as well as the audience for the accepting the images as reality. My focus as an artist is theoretically based in feminism. For my installation “The Bedroom” I cut a video of a woman’s body with shots of the replicated body parts of a sex doll and projected it onto the bed. My intention was to use cinema as a tool to make the audience aware of their gaze.
1.)If Immanuel Kant is arguing a product of a human is considered art through the act of planning, how come Kant does not consider science an art? If the scientist does not know the outcome of his experiment, shouldn’t he be considered an artist?
2.) Where is Kant drawing the line on who is considered artist? Is a paid artist considered an artist? Is an unpaid handicraftsman considered an artist?
As an artist, I relate to Kant’s emphasis on the act of making art rather than the finished art piece itself. During the process of creating playpen, I wasn’t sure what exactly was driving my work. I started by taking photographs and then progressed to making smaller pieces representing the message I was trying to convey. By the time I showed playpen at the symposium, the piece was nothing like I originally imagined. I view playpen as a continuous work in progress, and every time I continue to work with the piece it changes form.
Tolstoy had suggested how artwork is for the other and not the artist. That is an interesting notion, though it make artistic practice seem to be more of a commodity than anything to me. When producing something, there are multiple lives the work exists within. The first life is the production and moments with the creator. The reason for its initial construction. For myself and my performance and recording work, this is the most important. Therapeutic art is interested in the processing and the connection of the creator and the work. While, the second life of an artwork is the component that is interacting with the other. The second life is the existence beyond the reason for creation. So the gallery for a painting or iTunes for music is the public second life. Work has to be for the creator at some point, otherwise it is nothing more than a product for consumption.
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