Art as Curated
For the final session of this course we looked at the Louis Bourgeois: Works on Paper exhibition at Tate Modern.
Bourgeois's art transforms autobiography, and particularly childhood trauma and tension. It is replete with symbolic representations that hark back to the betrayal she felt at her father's long term affair with her English tutor. There is an excellent introduction to Louise Bourgeois' major work featuring Frances Morris (and Louise Bourgeois herself) here (much of this work was shown at the 2007 Tate Modern retrospective):
If you're interested in Louise Bourgeois, see also notes and many links from my 2007 Tate Modern course 'Transformations'
We considered the curator's share looking for invitations to focus on
Formal aspects (including patterns of hanging, juxtapositions, pairings, framing etc)
Artistic Intentions (particularly in relation to captions e.g. re 'Birth' - an ambiguous picture, with an unambiguous caption, the decision not to say anything about 'Maman' the giant spider sculpture)
Material Qualities of the objects (e.g. the fabric book, the effect of displaying it in frames rather than as a book etc.)
What was depicted (the hands, the body).
Thanks for coming to the course, if you did. I really enjoyed discussing these topics with you.
I'm hoping to be teaching a new 6-session course from 23rd February 2015.
Other Philosophy courses I'll be teaching - at Conway Hall (near Holborn tube station) on Thursday evenings from 4th September 2014:
Machiavelli to Mill (an introduction to Political Philosophy)
Art as Realistic
This week we talked about pictorial realism in both painting and photography.
The word 'realism' is used in many different ways. Sometimes it refers to a specific movement in art, particularly the nineteenth century movement exemplified by Gustave Courbet (described, for example in Lina Nochlin's book Realism); at other times it is used to describe images which are especially convincing as depcitions of real places or things (even when those things aren't real) - in other words, it can used to refer to a general style (or group of styles) of depiction.
Some features shared by many so-called 'realistic' styles of depiction in painting include
Photography is often taken as a touchstone of realism. Yet a number of writers have argued that photographic realism gets its force from more than its attention to detail and inclusion of the incidental. Photographic realism is often thought of as the product of automatism, which is alleged to make it more objective (the lack of complex intentional control over the picture-making process - in the sense that photography is subtractive where painting additive) combined with the distinctive optico-chemical (or, these days, optico-digital) causal link back to subject matter, the fact that photographs aren't just pictures, but are simultaneously traces, and as such can yield special kinds of evidence if enough about the circumstances in which the images were taken is known (we can decide a 1oo metre sprint using a photofinish - no painter, however quick with the brush, could purport to give such objective evidence about who crossed the line first). Even if a photograph is blurred an indistinct, it is more 'realistic' than a painting because it is (in C.S. Peirce's terms) an indexical sign, as well as an iconic one, for its subject matter. (For more on C.S. Peirce's division of signs into Index, Icon, and Symbol, see these notes). A death mask or hand print might achieve this sort of direct link with reality, but most paintings cannot.
Some writers have gone even further. The contemporary analytic philosopher Kendall Walton (his webpage has some downloadable pdfs) has even gone so far as to claim - counterintuitively - that we can quite literally see through photographs - they are transparent. We see through glass, or via mirror reflections, and would see if we looked at miniature cameras as a kind of prosthetic eye, why then not say that we see via the direct causal chain that links a photograph with its object. I look at a photograph of my now dead grandfather, on this view, and quite literally see him. Photographs allow us, on Walton's view, to see into the past. And that is what gives them their distinctive quality as a type of picture. (There are plenty of philsoophers who disagree with this view...).
The relation of a photograph to the reality it apparently depicts may be less than obvious. We considered a range of cases including the photograph 'Corridor' by Thomas Demand. Listen to an 18 minute podcast discussion of Demand's work from a Tate Modern symposium on photography 'Agency and Automation' where I address the question of whether you make a photograph of an absence.
Another, photograph we discussed, was 'Top Withens' by Bill Brandt, an image that turns out to have been made from several negatives, a technique that David Hockney attacked as 'Stalinism'. My essay 'Brandt's Pictorialism' includes a discussion of this image and Hockney's criticism of Brandt's manipulation.
In the gallery we looked at Robert Mapplethorpe's Self Portraits, and in particular the ways in which photography revealed his playful manipulation of roles. Since Hippolyte Bayard's self-portrait as a drowned man (1840), photographers have exploited the medium's capacity to reveal role playing and something of the actor acting the roles when it comes to self portraiture. In Mapplethorpe's case, the staged self images are significantly different from most of his portraits of others - there he seems to be attempting to reveal something of the character of the sitter. We also discussed Erving Goffman's notion of the presentation of self, and his dramaturgical analysis of human interaction.
Extracts from Nigel Warburton Ernö Goldfinger: the Life of an Architect (out of print - copyright Nigel Warburton)
The cinema consisted of an auditorium with a single bank of seats with space for 1044, replacing the 4000 seater Trocadero, which Goldfinger declared was only ever full for Bingo. The problem set by the site and the project was to achieve an unobstructed view for every member of the audience given the relation between the beam thrown by twin projectors and the size of the giant screen. Goldfinger used a wooden mock up of the interior of the cinema to assure the sight lines worked – lengths of blue string and elastic bands allowing him to test these aspects of the design. The cinema also needed to be soundproofed against the noise of nearby trains. Beyond that, Goldfinger, an enthusiastic filmgoer himself - ‘Westerns, nouvelle vague, and damn silly films incredibly well-made in Hollywood’[i][ii]– felt that the only other essential factors were the comfort of the seats and the film showing.
His solution to the architectural problem was a concrete cinema that wasn’t disguised as something else. When it hasn’t been hidden inside the shell of a larger complex of buildings, cinema architecture has for the most part aped or exaggerated theatre architecture. This is particularly true of the interior of cinemas. Yet cinemas don’t have live performers, so there is little rational justification for the elaborate proscenium arch and the multiple curtains that have so frequently been used in them. The focus of a cinema should surely be the screen, not irrelevant allusions to theatre design and lavish parodies of rococo. Ernö refused to dress the building up as something else – at last, as Reyner Banham wrote, ‘a cinema that is not castrated theatre’.
Even from outside, the shape of the auditorium was apparent as was its supporting structure. The roof was supported by a visible reinforced concrete beam running across the building. Two lesser beams supported by the main beam followed the shape of the diverging rays of the projector’s light. Thus the whole building, inside and out expressed and also depicted its function. It was a constant reminder of the projector and the light it casts. The open space underneath the auditorium could, if necessary, provide queuing cinemagoers with shelter before entering through the single entry point. Inside, the projection booth appeared suspended above the auditorium. The large screen was a screen and not a quasi-stage and it was deliberately made the dominating element in the interior so that the filmgoers were always aware of it, even during the interval. When the lights were dimmed it appeared to float in front of the viewers without visible support. Rather than curtains closing across at the interval in that strange theatrical ritual that still persists, a kinetic light display was projected, much like a present-day screensaver. True to the spirit of Loos, there were no ornamental intrusions to distract from the point of the cinema.
Architectural historians have an unfortunate mythologizing tendency: they rarely mention the flaws in their heroes’ designs. Perhaps this is a reaction to the popular press’ habit of demonizing architects. Yet any major building is likely to be imperfect in some respects. Here the new screen design proved attractive to children for the wrong reasons. They had easy access to the stage and soon discovered that they could run round and hide behind the back of the screen. Worse, when Goldfinger located indirect lighting under the handrails leading down the auditorium, he hadn’t anticipated that children would discover how easy it was to unscrew the unprotected lightbulbs. During one day fifty bulbs disappeared leaving fifty live sockets at hand height in a darkened room. This was a far from ideal situation.[iii] The carpet that Goldfinger had designed for the auditorium had worn out in less than two years and was swiftly replace with aesthetically inappropriate but hardwearing coloured plastic tiles. Yet these were relatively minor problems once recognised, and for the most part the cinema functioned effectively, though, not, as I will explain in Chapter Ten, for as long as he would have hoped.
The bulldozing of Goldfinger’s cinema at Elephant and Castle, less than a year after his death, had symbolic signficance. It was a powerful expression of a rejection of the doctrines of Perret and the aesthetics of undisguised concrete building. The building’s demise was almost inevitable since the shuttered concrete exterior relied on an aesthetic that was not widely shared. In 1988 (several years after Goldfinger’s death) the property developers Imry hung a ‘closed for refurbishment’ outside the cinema, despite there being no planning application for this. Southwark Council wanted to issue a Building Preservation Notice so that the building might remain intact long enough for the listing committee to meet and decide whether or not to save it for posterity. But the council, fearing the financial penalty of having to compensate the developers for incurred costs if they issued a notice and no listing of the building resulted, a cost which they would have had to bear personally, backed down.
A photographer from English Heritage perhaps unwittingly triggered Imry’s fears that the building was about to be listed. One Friday afternoon, only days after the cinema had officially closed, and before any listing could take place, Imry ‘Let a little light into the building’ as one of its demolishers put it.[i] Andrew Saint, a research historian for English Heritage, described the building as ‘one of the most important, if not the most important, of freestanding postwar cinemas’.[ii] In contrast Bryan Martin, spokesman for Imry, revealed his dislike for it: ‘I find this mania for buildings nobody wants standing round beyond my understanding’, he declared, ‘it could have been designed by the people who designed Hitler’s concrete bunker’[iii]. This last comment is revealing. Even in the late years of the twentieth century, for many in Britain the connotations of exposed concrete were of the bunker, the pill-box, the tank trap, the gun implacement if not the grimy multi-storey car park and the graffiti-covered walkways of poorly-constructed shopping centres and tenement blocks. Such associations have coloured the public reception of numerous modernist buildings. For those who see concrete in this light, there is little hope of understanding Goldfinger’s enthusiasm for the medium, his pleasure in juxtaposing different textures and patterns of bush-hammering. For such people the use of exposed concrete may be a temporary if oppressive necessity, like brieze blocks, but ultimately something to be eradicated wherever possible.
For purists, though, the complete destruction of the building may have been a better fate than its partial reconstruction – the sort of distortion by modification reserved for the rest of Goldfinger’s Elephant and Castle complex. Much of the exterior of Alexander Fleming House has been so disguised that it is scarcely recognisable as a Goldfinger design.
(from Nigel Warburton Ernö Goldfinger: The Life of an Architect - copyright Nigel Warburton)
[i] For details see ‘Astragal’ Architectural Review 1988
[ii] Quoted in Deborah Thorp ‘Cinema rescue bid beaten by speedy demolition work’ Building Design, August 19, 1988.
[iii] See Deborah Thorp ‘Cinema rescue bid beaten by speedy demolition work’ Building Design, August 19, 1988. Also quoted in Elwall, p.89.
Art as Material
Many works of art are physical objects. Their materiality affects us. In this week's session of the '6 Ways of Thinking About Art' course at Tate Modern we focussed on some of the psychological associations of particular objects, their textures, and their scale.
Two theorists of sensed space, the architect Ernö Goldfinger and the philosopher Gaston Bachelard have made interesting observations about how rooms, the textures of materials, the sounds, smells, shapes, and evocative objects contribute to our experience of real, imagined and remembers spaces.
Goldfinger on The Sensation of Space
In a series of three articles published between 1941 and 1942, Ernö Goldfinger gave his account of our experience of enclosed space - a sense that begins in the womb. For him architecture is not a sculptural practice, but rather an art of enclosing. Architecture has to be experienced to be understood. The skilful architect can enclose space in such a way as to evoke a particular kind of emotion in the person experiencing it from within. Goldfinger's account is in some ways a gloss on his mentor, Auguste Perret's comment:
Architecture masters space, limits it, encloses it, circles it. It has this prerogative to create magical places totally the work of the intellect.
For Goldfinger our sensation of space is largely pre-conscious (i.e. we can bring ourselves to be aware of it). Like music it can affect us without our being aware of its details, or how it achieves its effects. Many different features contribute to our experience of space:
‘Memories and experience, not only of visual sensation but also of sound and touch and smell enter into it. The sound and vibration in a hall; the physical touch of the walls of a narrow passage; the atmosphere and temperature of a stuffy room; the smell of a damp cellar; all are, in various degrees, components of spatial sensation. Every element, plastic or pictorial, partially obstructing the view, and people in the crowd rubbing against you, are part of it’ Goldfinger ‘The Sensation of Space’
So for Goldfinger the skill of the architect lies in his or her ability to enclose space in various ways in order to evoke emotions.
Bachelard on the Poetics of Space
For Gaston Bachelard, in Chapter One of his quirky and jumbled The Poetics of Space, the early experience of a house, a bedroom, is rich and important. Our first house becomes a source of emotionally charged symbolic imagery that we revisit in dreams and daydreams and carry into every experience. Inhabited space is the non-I that protects the I (in contrast with the usual formulation where the child distinguishes itself - the I - from a more impersonal non-I - the external world).
‘We comfort ourselves by reliving memories of protection’
As he puts it:
‘Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those of home and, by recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams; we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.’
Bachelard is surely right about how our early experiences of space and of objects permeate our present experience.
In the galleries we explored how in a range of work in the Arte Povera displays the physical substance of the materials affected us and frequently encouraged us to become childlike in our relation to the pieces. (Some of Freud's comments about the creative writer and play are also relevant here - see for example these extracts on the Brainpicker site). We ended by looking at Richard Serra's Trip Hammer, thinking about how the phsyical material (rusting steel), it's sense of weight, its industrial associations, it's harshness, and its scale (taking us back to the sense of being a child under a table perhaps), all contributed to our experience of it, as well as the obvious sense of danger from the apparent (or actual?) precariousness of the balance - it also combines the childlike desire to balance objects with, at some level, perhaps, the desire to know them down. You can watch Moby talking about this piece from 2.25 in this video:
This week we looked at the question of how relevant an artist's intentions might be to interpreting a work of art. I was not attempting to give a conclusive argument in favour of one or other stance, but rather to map out alternatives informed by philosophical aesthetics.
Anti-Intentionalists see the principal appropriate activity of an art critic/viewer as scrutiny. That is, the viewer looks to see what is there, is not unduly influenced by art historical detail, facts about the artist's life, the subject matter, and so on.
I presented Clive Bell's views in his book Art (1914) as an extreme example. Bell believed that what all art has in common is that it possesses Significant Form. Not all form is significant, but when patterns of lines, shapes and colours (and some depth) combine they can produce an aesthetic emotion in a sensitive viewer. For Bell, we should bring nothing of life to art. All art through ages has achieved its status as art from these formal properties. The emotion they produce, aesthetic emotion, is not characteristic of everyday life. For Bell its power almost certainly came from its potential to put us in touch with the noumenal world (a Kantian term), that is the world of deeper reality that lies behind the veil of everyday appearances and is not usually available to us.
Another famous defence of anti-intentionalism was Wimsatt and Beardsley's famous paper 'The Intentional Fallacy'. ('Fallacy' in this context is simply an unreliable way of arguing) There they argued that we shouldn't treat the author of a poem as an oracle about its meaning. Rather, readers should focus on the words on the page, and not get embroiled in author psychology. Their main argument was that appeals to authors' intentions were either misleading or unnecessary. If the poem failed to achieve the poet's intentions, then it was misleading to refer to the intentions as the source of its meaning; if the poem did achieve the aims, then appeals to intention were redundant since the meaning was there to be discerned in the poem.
The philosopher Stanley Cavell used a knock-down argument to make the first of these two points:
'...it no more counts towards the success or failure of a work of art that the artist intended something other than is there, than it counts when the referee is counting over a boxer that the boxer had intended to duck' (in 'Music Discomposed').
Difficulties with the anti-intentionalist position include the fact that as Ernst Gombrich often pointed out, there is no innocent eye. Also it is hard to appreciate irony if you don't have some access to the artist's or writer's intentions. Extreme anti-intentionalists would say that to appreciate a Rembrandt self-portrait the fact that the artist intended (if he did) to potray himself ageing, is irrelevant to our appreciaton of it as art - this seems wrong. Subject matter has to be part of some art. It also seems a bit perverse not to find out as much as you possibly can about the circumstances in which a work of art was produced.
For more about Clive Bell and why is theory of art fails, see Chapter One of my book The Art Question. Wimsatt and Beardsley's paper 'The Intentional Fallacy' is reprinted in my book (ed.) Philosophy: Basic Readings, 2nd ed.
In contrast, intentionalists, such as Richard Wollheim, argue that the job of the critic or viewer involves retrieval, retrieval of an artist's intentions, motivations, historical milieu, and so on. Understanding a work of art involves understanding how it came to be as it is. Obviously information is incomplete in many cases, but this does not prevent it from being a worthwhile goal where we do have access to background information. Nor would Wollheim want us to forego spending time looking very closely at the work itself; it is just that the history of how it came to be as it is, its aetiology is important for understanding it.
For more on Intentionalism see Richard Wollheim 'Criticism as Retrieval' supplementary essay in the second ed. of his book Art and Its Objects.
A third position, which we didn't discuss has been taken by Jerry Fodor in his article 'It's Deja Vu All Over Again' (a quotation from the accidentally brilliantYogi Berra - my favourite quotation of his is 'When you come to a fork in the road, take it') is what might be called Virtual Intentionalism. Here the facts don't matter so much about what the artist's actual intentions were. The point is to try to reconstruct what they might reasonably have been. The artist can't overrule your interpretation here.
Fodor's article is in Danto and His Critics.
Many writers in this area describe intentions as if artists had introspectible mental events that are the precursors of and causes of their works. But is this so? What of R.G. Collingwood’s account of art (in his The Principles of Art) where he described the artist as beginning with an inchoate emotion that he or she makes clear to him or herself in the process of producing a work of art. On that picture (which rings true with many artists), the idea that an artist has a clear intention that precedes the creation of the artwork is implausible in most cases.
In the gallery we applied some of these ideas to Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals. There's an excellent article about these paintings by Jonathan Jones here. We began by thinking about whether it is possible to see these well-known paintings with fresh eyes - the sort of approach that Bell would encourage. I provided two sorts of contextual information and we discussed the works in relation to these: a) the much-quoted line from Rothko about intending to make diners in the swanky restaurant they were originally commissioned for lose their appetites and feel claustrophobic as if with walled up windows, and b) the idea that Rothko was influenced by Nietzsche's 'The Birth of Tragedy' (and Kierkegaard's 'Fear and Trembling') and was attempting to make Dionysian art. You can listen to a talk I gave at a 2009 Tate Modern Rothko symposium on the topic of Nietzsche's influence here (I'm speaking from 1 hour 12 mins, 05 secs in - but it takes a while to start the audio on the streaming).
Clive Bell's theory of Significant Form was the focus of this week's session of 6 Ways of Thinking About Art. Bell, whose polemic Art was published in 1914, was a passionate advocate of Post-Impression. His book is a polemic designed to demonstrate that Post Impressionist artists such as Cézanne and Matisse were artists in exactly the same way that Leonardo and Titian were, and that a cathedral and a carpet could be works of art in that sense too - for him there was no meaningful distinction between art and craft (and, indeed, he thought many objects traditionally described as works of craft merited the term art).
For Bell it is obvious that art must have a common essence - something that makes all works of art art (this is a contentious assumption - many people have claimed that 'art' is what Ludwig Wittgenstein called a family resemblance term with no defining essence, but rather a pattern of overlapping similarities between the things we call art). Bell believed that if there were no common essence shared by everything that merits the name art, then when we talk about art, we simply gibber (i.e. talk nonsense) The defining quality of art is Significant Form i.e. patterns of lines, shapes and colour (and he allows some depth) that give rise to a distinctive emotion felt only in the presence of art, namely the Aesthetic Emotion. To call something a work of art is to commend it: for Bell it is obvious that many paintings, particularly descriptive paintings such as Frith's 'Paddington Station', were not really works of art: they lacked Significant Form.
The beauty of a butterfly's wing is different from the beauty in art, he tells us (Sebastian, a character in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited disagreed absolutely with this - how do we say who is right?). To appreciate art we need bring nothing of life - art is a separate realm that has the power to move the sensitive viewer. Most controversially, he maintains that what is represented in representational art has no bearing on it as art. Art is timeless - the same qualities in ancient art move us today. Past artists move us for the same reason that present day ones do. We don't need to know art history to appreciate art as art. The main instruments needed are good eyes and sensitivity. Objects all around us stand charged with this power to affect us.
His is a theory that approaches art very much from the stance of the spectator.It is also unashamedly subjective in that it begins with personal experience of the Aesthetic Emotion. That is the way we can tell that a work is a work of art. There is no criterion apart from this for discerning between mere form (everything has this in some sense) and Significant Form. In the section of his book called the Metaphysical Hypothesis Bell suggests that the reason Significant Form has such power to move us is that it gives us a glimpse of how the world really is, the world behind the veil of appearances (a view that mirrors Schopenahauer's account of music) .
As a theory of what art is, Bell's is open to a number of objections (I outline some of these in the first chapter of my book The Art Question ). For instance, defining art in terms of Significant Form and Significant Form in terms of the Aesthetic Emotion is uninformative - it is a viciously circular defnition because we have no independent criteria for identifying either of these things.
More directly, for most of us, the fact that Rembrandt's self-portraits are depictions of the artist is a relevant factor when assessing these as art (on Bell's account, what is represented is not relevant) - true, formal properties are relevant too, but it is going too far to discount representation altogether.
Similarly we might not even understand what an artist was trying to do if we knew nothing of the history of the period and, in many cases, of the artist's other work, and expressed intentions. This does not mean that the artist's expressed views fully determine what a work of art means.
D.H. Lawrence (who was not just a novelist and poet, but a painter too) was scathing about the formalists' quasi-religious attitude towards Significant Form: he lampooned it in an essay about painting: 'I am Significant Form and my unutterable name is Reality. Lo, I am Form and I am Pure, behold I am Pure Form. I am the revelation of Spiritual Life, moving behind the veil. I come forth and make myself known, and I am Pure Form, behold I am Significant Form....Lift up your eyes to Significant Form, and be saved.'
Despite these criticisms, Bell's approach has the virtue of giving us a clear guide as to what we should do in the gallery: look closely at what is front of us, try to discount our awareness of what is represented, and focus on form and the possibility that it will move us deeply.
In the gallery we looked at a range of images in the Matisse Cut Outs show (there's a summary of reviews and a short video about the show here). If Bell's approach doesnt work for this highly abstract art which so foregrounds the formal it is hard to see it working for any art...
Art as Personal
The main focus of this week’s session of 6 Ways of Thinking About Art (Tate Modern course, ticket only, sold out) was the tension between treating works of art as catalysts for subjective musing and the idea that they might (or should, to be any good) have definite objective meanings. These may not be mutually exclusive angles to take on art.
The Eighteenth Century philosopher David Hume, in his short essay 'Of the Standard of Taste' recounts the story of two wine tasters one of whom declares that the wine he is drinking tastes leathery; the other says it tastes metallic. When they get to the bottom of the barrel they find an old key with a leather thong, so they were both correct about objective aspects of the wine. We'd like to be able to anchor our interpretations and understandings of art in similarly firm objective ways, but this is impossible for a discussion of David Hume's responses to the idea that our assessment of works of art simply comes down to individual taste listen to this podcast interview with Mike Martin)
A key question is the degree to which works of art are like Rorschach inkblots: stimuli for projective interpretation, where autobiography, mood, and mental set of the viewer play a substantial role and the viewer projects his or her own feelings on to the works (NB Andy Warhol's 'Rorschach paintings' were based on a mistaken view of how Rorshach used inkblots - read about them here). Whilst it is naive to believe it possible to enter a gallery with an innocent eye, the mind cleansed of all associations and expectations, and plausible to think that seeing is, as the philosopher of science N.R. Hanson put it, 'a theory-laden activity' ('There is more to seeing than meets the eyeball' and our mental set, the expectations and knowledge we have affect what we see), there are still limits to interpretation. We can't see absolutely whatever we want to see - our interpretations are based on something out there even if they are idiosyncratic or whimsical. Nevertheless, context and expectation have a significant role to play, as they do in most aspects of our life (read this interesting discussion of the psychology of why we like what we like)
Many appreciators of the visual arts are content that particular works of art should simply stimulate a range of interesting responses, and believe that art should be open-ended. It is an orthodoxy amongst views of contemporary art that didactic art tends to be bad art - it is in ambiguity and the possibility of generating new interpretations that art's value lies. In contrast to this view, Alain de Botton has recently asserted in his book Religion for Atheists, that good art can and should be didactic, that it should teach us through sensuous beautiful creations, to be good and wise.
You can listen to a short audio interview I made with Alain de Botton which includes a discussion of his view of art here.
In the gallery we looked at works on Level 4 West 'Structure and Clarity', particularly miminimalist and abstract works. The idea of focussing on these often austere works was they at first seem resistant to personal interpretations. These included
Ellsworth Kelly's Méditerranée
Frank Stella's Six Mile Bottom
Jo Baer's Stations of the Spectrum (Primary)
and Donald Judd's Untitled (1972)
This last work is a large open-topped box made of copper and painted with a red cadmium bottom that is reflected in the internal sides of the piece. Judd’s work is declared to be about the material objects themselves, and is expressly not meant to evoke personal reflections (certainly that is the impression given by the captioning in Tate Modern: Judd’s art is not about representation or metaphor or suggestion, but rather presents the formed material objects themselves).
Yet the photographer Thomas Demand’s written reaction to the work in an extended caption is deliberately personal and subjective, describing the images the work evokes for him, well aware that this was not the sort of response that Judd would have hoped for... It is interesting in the context of an art gallery to have a contemporary artist legitimizing a highly personal, associative, and to some degree projective response to a work of art, one that goes against the known intentions of the artist.
Next week: Art as Form...(in particular we will be considering Clive Bell's approach to art).
21st June: Street Philosophy
Tuesday evenings from 4th September (6 sessions): Philosophy: the Basics
Street Philosophy - a one day event in Central London led by Nigel Warburton. Further details here.