Hi, my name is Marija

My name is Marija and I live in Split, Croatia. I am on a learning path to gaining a degree in BA (Hons) Fine Art at OCA.
OCA is giving me an opportunity to deepen my understanding of art and it is a place where I get support in developing my own artistic voice.
This blog is meant to be a learning log where I will be posting my progress of exercises and assignments of the course Understanding Visual Culture.

You can see my drawing progress on Instagram: magic_lines_and_dots

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Reading Progress – “Video Art Theory: A Comparative Approach” by Helen Westgeest

My second Part 5 book related to moving images was “Video Art Theory: A Comparative Approach” by Helen Westgeest.

I found the book to be very interesting and easy to read. The author has made a very good structure of the content and chapters with clean examples. Even though I am merely starting to learn about Video Art and having seen such artwork in a handful only I felt guided through the material with understanding.

She juxtaposes examples from Video Art history and contemporary library so one can see that it comprises of different styles but can cover similar subject matters.

The book covers the topic of how Video Art deals with time and space. E.g. real time, compressed time, expanded time ….are all terms that are mentioned in the book.

The spectator’s perspective is covered as well. Interesting conclusions are drawn from the fact that the spectator has been bread and educated in the manner of TV material. Therefore Video Art has a challenge to occupy this type of a spectator or challenge their notions of reality.

p 41

Private television viewing experience in one’s living room was simultaneously a public event, shared with millions of others.

I found an interesting point on how many artists that produced performance videos, usually filmed themselves. This was not rooted in narcism but rather they are accustomed to working alone. Another point here is that they have a firm control over themselves and there is no need to convey the idea to another person when you are the origin and the executor of the work.

There are many types of art discussed. Depending of artists intention, level of spectators involvement, subject matter and other. In addition to these there is also a discussion on the notion of boredom, often linked to video art.

Video Art is compared to drawing and painting – both in the context of technique but more importantly in the philosophical aspect.

All in all it was a very good read, I have now a collection of quotes to build from for my assignment 5 and more importantly a better understanding of how to approach video art in general.

 

The feminist view of The Warriors directed by Walter Hill

A few weeks back The Warriors were broadcasted by the Croatian national television. It was a part of a movie critique show that has an introduction with 3 different movie related professionals and a moderator. This time the 3 guests were all men (as most of the time they are). All three but one especially was very excited that the movie Warriors will be shown and they were commenting on the costumes and music in the movie as most important aspects.

The storyline and basic information can be read e.g. on wikipedia (here) so I will not linger on that part. The movie itself is a shallow story about power and tribal identity.

What caught my attention was the image and presence of women in the movie. The men are shown as stereotypes of power, pack mentality and sexuality. However in that you can see a diverse range of stereotypes. Women however are reduced to sexualised, I would not even say beings….rather silhouettes of images.

 The men in the movie spray paint their marks where they pass (as if tomcats pissing in the streets). Every gang in the movie has a special “dress code” to identify belonging to a tribe. Most of the movie there are only male gangs and hardly a few women are shown at all.

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First women shown in the movie is the radio host. She is represented throughout the movie by a sensual voice, with only a part of her face showing, zooming in on the mouth leaning towards a microphone (a silhouette of a phallic shape).

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The second woman shown is a shop or news stand clerk. The gang led by the murder is having a aggressive conversation in front of her shop. One of the gang members steals stuff from the stand. During that she is quiet and passive like a child would be when scared. The gang basically ignores her presence. Just before they are about to leave she says with a timid voice “What about the money you own me?” and the murder answers “For what?” as if there has been no transaction. Here the image of the woman has been reduced to a servant of some sort. But that is even too present, as a servant is someone of use and someone we can consider when judging who is the master and who is the slave. Here the woman is taken of the board and not even judged, as if so low that there is no need to bring her in to the equation.

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The third woman appears as the main female character. Her name is Mercy. Let’s link the name and the Urban Dictionary to reveal in short what is the image this character is depicting.

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It is unclear to me has Mercy from The Warriors influenced the definition in the Urban Dictionary, but her character is in a constant chase as a cat in heat. This is challenged by the main male character Swan in many scenes. He even says “I don’t like the way you live. I am hoping to find something better.” and she responds “I want something now.” meaning she wants to feel immediate pleasure to feel alive and not live a mediocre boring life. Swan shows disgust, pitty and eventually attraction towards Mercy. At some point he tries to protect her from the violence they are about to experience but Mercy fights it with “I can take care of myself, I proved that“.

Some scenes before this one Mercy joins the Warriors but when she realises they are going to go miles away from her home she asks “What about me?” and one of the Warriors reply “What about you?”. As she is a woman and has no say in the matter. She is now in their ownership. However that somehow shifts throughout the movie as Mercy wants to be in control of her own path.

Mercy is emancipated, she takes care of herself. The male gaze of the movie allows that path to be only a sexual one. She chooses to have sex with whom ever not being owned by any man. What is interesting is – she has to prove that she is independent and able to take care of her self, while no other man had to pass that challenge to be part of the fight.

The Lizzies

At some point a part of the Warrior gang end up in a female group. At first it seems like they hit the jack pot. A group of very attractive women take them into a party where there are only women. “Take your pick” says the apparent leader of the female pack to the Warriors. All waiting for them and their young fresh bodies. Like a modern urban harem. It turns out they are a gang as well, the Lizzies, that lures them with erotic appeal into a trap. These women it seems are their peers, they are a gang as well as the Warriors. However they are reduced to a erotic, seductive and sexual presence whereas other male gangs are identified by a variety of other symbolism: sports, colours, hobbies…and a female gang is merely sexual.

The 4th individual female character shown is a woman in the park on a bench. As interpreted by one of the Warriors, she is sitting there and waiting for a sexual offer. She is seductive and she tricks the Warrior into a sexual encounter. He becomes ruff and comes on too strong and that reveals that she is in fact a police officer baiting sex offenders to make an arrest. She manages to cuff him to the bench and with that act overpowers him. But her power is castrated by the fact that the actual arrest is then performed by a male officer that comes in with a police car. A woman who is in power, she represents the law and manages to overpower a man – but how? Again by being reduced to a sexualised object.

In a highly aggressive male movie where men are stereotypical, women are reduced to one dimension of sexual objects no matter what their role, job or goal is. From a feminist perspective  it is clear that there have been deliberate cuts and scenes to emphasise this and bring forth the male as the warrior and power owner.

Reading Progress – Film Theory (The Basics) by Kevin McDonald

A few weeks ago I started my reading journey for Part 5 with the book Film Theory The Basics by Kevin McDonald.

As found in the book film theory has its complexities rooted in:

  • it is developed as part of a broader history of ideas
  • aims to understand what is not immediately self evident
  • conspicuous in combining elements from different practices and disciplinary rubrics.

The book covers film theory in a chronological order of its development, maturity and contemporary post-theory.

It was interesting to read how film was not understood as a category in it self at first. Very visible in Vachel Lindsey’s work where film genres are compared to sculputre, painting and architecture in motion. This seems to be the natural process when we are facing something new – to first compare it to what we know well. However Lindsey takes it further (see page 12):

Just as the sculptor is trained to accenture the materiality of a given medium, Lindsay believed that film should draw into relief that which “can be done in no medium but the moving picture itself” (From Art of the Moving Picture)

Several theoretics were exploring and confirming that film is obeying the laws of the mind and not the real world. I.e. it is leaning more on the psychological aspect of the spectator than depicting who things appear in real life.

An amazing quote that made me think about art in general was:

…it becomes art just in so far as it overcomes reality, stops imitating and leaves the imitated reality behind it.

I was thinking about it because we are traditionally thought to draw, paint, photograph things that are from our reality and surroundings. So it leads you to imitations. Not to mention imitation of style by “more famous” artists. However, that is just learning the skill…and when you apply that skill to communicate something that is beyond the mere objectively real – is when you transcend into art. I guess this one will be stuck with me for a while.

Back to film, as with other arts the influence of psychology and semiotics was evident in the development of theories.

What was most revealing to me in the book was the focus on the spectator. Duality of the spectators necessary presence and deliberate exclusion from the work of art is very intriguing.

p77 (from Althusser and the Return to Marx)

  • The viewer is not only denied access to the means of production but these means are entirely suppressed by the false impression of spatial and temporal continuity.
  • The viewer is largely powerless to do anything other than briefly identify with an ideologically determined surrogate.

From a semiotics point of view, I find that “no way to isolate film’s smallest discrete unit” is both contradicting the pattern of grammar in language and allowing for new ones to be formed. For there is a language of film as we all get exposed to it we find patterns and symbolic in it specific to film and its production.

In “Deleuze and the Return of Philosophy” we can see a shift to the questions of time: “movement-image” and “time-image” as two distinctive types of imagery in the first and second half of the century. Time is an essential, multi-dimentional and multi-faceted  topic when speaking about film and video art.

With the development of new media the borders of film and other art media are blurred, especially with introduction of digital art. We are emerged in a world of images and the media of the image becomes illusive.

I enjoyed reading this book and found it like a very good start of my reading progress for Part 5.

A4 – Tutor’s feedback – Reflectons

Some weeks back I got my tutor’s feedback for Assignment 4. I am including images from the feedback and adding in my reflections as text below.  While waiting for the feedback I was very nervous and was really looking forward to hearing some more thoughts of how to take this course further.

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This assignment was a real pleasure to do. It was a combination of art practice and philosophy. I am happy my hard work and efforts have paid off and that my tutor graded my work as good. I am without exaggeration surprised that I am left with only Part 5 to finish this course.

Previously I sent her my changes in Assignment 3 posted here.  Seems the adjustments were good as well.

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This is the standard part of the tutor’s feedback I usually get with every assignment. I try my best to incorporate her feedback into my further work and I will do so again. I remember when I got feedback for Assignment One or Two that I was still feeling that this course and studying is a bit surreal. Today when reflecting on Assignment Four and planning on which course to take next I am completely emerged in the work and hope to pass the assessment. Still not 100% when will I submit as I still need to see how will Part 5 go.

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I remember being drawn to this painting – Rene Magritte’s The Human Condition when reading about Modernism. Now that I was intuitively drawn to two different images that share a similar subject matter it makes me wonder why am I drawn to these subject matters. But this is not the topic of the current post so I will leave that for later.

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Yes, I found the title to be very thought provoking. As my tutor said if you are “in the know” you would connect it to the art movement, but even if you were not aware of it, the painting is showing action and painting and it draws you in to think about speed, time and production. I am not sure that I can ever again look at a painting and now spend some part of my attention thinking about the artist – even if his attention was to make me think that way or not. This is a consequence of my studies in UVC and trying to understand what am I looking at. However during my research on Tansey I got a distinct feeling that his aim was not to draw attention to himself. Even though he is drawing attention to his thoughts and ideas he is dwelling on.

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When I wrote about the post I was aware that Pollock’s wife was not really in the spotlight (nor other women artists at the time). I consciously did not reflect on that to avoid a cliché. I wanted to bring in femininity as a more complex subject than mere gender. I am glad it worked. This part of the picture could have been the whole essay. However my investigation took me further so I mentioned it, and then moved on to share more words on temporality.

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When I saw his picture I was sure he painted it from scratch. I had no notion that it was a collage of any sort (not even a repainted collage). The fact that he used this approach is logical as he is using the heritage other artists have left behind. I found this tread of thought about originality very powerful as he was truly creating something new even if he used existing signs. The signs are taken out of their regular context and used to create a new context but keeping the link to the old one.

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This is becoming classic – mistakes in the referencing system. I remember what happened. I used an automatic reference builder from the ISBN number. The system excluded the author’s last name. I placed the reference in and then added the last name afterwards when I realised it was missing. At that point I should have changed the order. Once again it is proven that a written work required a review by another pair of eyes – always! 🙂

Action Item: Fix reference list.

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My tutor complimented my research and reflection on the topic of ‘difference’. After writing 3 essays, the 4th one was a sum of all experiences and feedback prior to it. So I took into consideration several aspects: reflecting on the topic of the essay, researching the author and dwelling on the subject matter (which was lacking in my Assignment 2).

What made a huge difference with this assignment was also a very intrinsic motivation to learn about Tansey and this Action Painting I. Being interested in it beyond the  course and the essay my reflections were deeper and my research was more thorough. I do think there is more to be said about Tansey and his painting(s) and I have merely scratched the surface – but scratching it was really fun and intriguing.

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I am happy my title (with all pun intended) had a positive impact on my tutor. I was not sure would I be crossing any boundaries of polite writing but the words were there, staring at me….and what other choice did I have but use it?

The interdependence is at play here. I am sure I could have gone further with more research to come up with more examples of it. What I find in these exercises is an opportunity to figure something out as a concept and then use this new consciousness in the essays.

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This comment form my tutor was first puzzling and I was not sure what she meant. But after reading it a few times and rereading my exercise I realised that one could take on creation as something negative. What if creation was a negative, how does that relate to affirmation. E.g. I can create a big burst of energy by firing a gun. If the bullet hits another person this person would be wounded or could die. With this creation of energy (more precisely transformation of energy, but this is not a physics discussion) I am denying another being. I am not being affirmative, rather very negative. In that case, creation and affirmation stand on two opposite sides.

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Ah, the dreaded Derrida. If I saw a text as unreadable as Derrida’s on a t-shirt used as a patter for the fabric, I might think it is a cool idea to play around with words as patterns. Being that it was a book, course material and more importantly a philosopher Tansey examined for years – I was puzzled with the text and my own role in reading it. Does this text even need a reader or is it self sufficient?

I agree that one can debate to argue for anything even something scientifically and objectively wrong. In this sense it is a play of words. I am all for experimenting and finding new ways of expression – but I would rather look for authentic inspiration than playing the devil’s advocate.

Nevertheless, I would not be the version of me at this moment if I had not exposed my self to Derrida, nor would have I written the essay in this manner. So, maybe it’s more like “no pain no gain”?

I will think very carefully before ever reading another text from Derrida, that is all I can say now.

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Here I found my tutor’s words “implication that any such development is necessarily an improvement”. This reminds me of neural network based computer algorithms or where the inspiration comes: the human brain, evolution and similar patterns. We have an open ended exploration of the world, sometimes you take on a path that is prosperous and it takes to miles away from where you started. Sometimes you end up in a dead end. I am digressing because the comments inspired me. I am glad I am making myself clear in my exercises and my tutor finds my analysis to be sound.

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I took this exercise to write up what Newman said in a shorter format. I did not get into critique of his writing. We could argue that there is no art before a message to be communicated so that first comes information (what ever it might be) and then comes the media (in this case painting or sculpture). Who created the first piece of information? I think the question here is: is all creation art? Or is art just a channel of communication?

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As my tutor commented, it was not in the requirements of the exercise to reflect on the author’s life and motivation. However I do agree that it is an important part to consider. When I read Griselda Pollock’s Differencing the Cannon, I got the similar notion. There is a need to understand where is the painter coming from, how he approaches his work, what it the painter’s condition and context. This allows for a deeper understanding of the work. Art can be appreciated, enjoyed and even critiqued without this understanding. I do feel it is closer to scientific research and less to mere debating when such information is included.

I did not really thing about Van Gogh as someone who is in the pattern of Postmodernism. Now that my tutor has stressed it out – I am intrigued to recognise postmodernism in works that are not labeled as such.

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I am extremely happy to have successfully completed this assignment. It was such a joy and thrill to work on it and I am happy that energy was with me till the end of it. The reading was intense but very rewarding. I was worried that maybe I was missing something since I did not research the other works much. After sending in my assignment, I continued with reading about the other works, and I find that other works bring with them very exciting art stories. Still, I am happy I choose Action Painting I as it was the one that intrigued me personally the most.

My tutor’s words are very comforting when she writes: “quotes that you choose to use to construct your argument”. I feel more empowered to continue on this path. If you imagine quotes as LEGO brick then I guess I was not happy with just “playing with LEGOs” I wanted to create my own LEGOs.

Maybe I can continue exploring this drive and wish in one of the practical courses related to drawing and painting.

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I’ve acquired 3/4 of the books above. One is just waiting to be downloaded to my reading device. So I am all set to embark the journey to Part 5.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 00.18.08 Thanks to my tutor I know what are the essentials to focus on for the next assignment. I am very much looking forward to thinking and investigating site-specificity. I feel it has more than one dimension to it which is very inspiring.

 

Reading Progress – Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction by Julian Stallabrass

Yesterday I completed reading Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) the Kindle Edition by Julian Stallabrass.

Since I know very little on contemporary art I started with this book to get an intro and then move on to the books my tutor recommended.

The book is as announced at the beginning of it a very very short introduction. What was interesting and different then the books I was reading on e.g. Modernism is that it was mostly focused on the economical and political situation from the end of the 90ties till 2000s.  There are a few art works reviewed but shortly and without depth.

Some knowledge about installations that I got from the book and I found relevant for my work in Part 5:

  • Installation art – came to be as a form that firmly resists buying and selling.
  • The roots of this form are in 1960ties.
  • Installation art is not a medium, rather a form that combines different mediums like video, painting, sculpture and so on.
  • Installations are usually site-specific i.e. they make sense and can be experienced fully only in a specific surroundings. Therefore they are to be bought and moved around.

There are reflections on Biennale as a concept of an event and how they were/are more focused on addressing the international population than the local crowd.

Towards the end the book, I learned a bit about Danto, McEvilley and Hickey as art critics from different backgrounds. They all come to a similar point of art being very diverse and also all of the diversity is right.

In the last chapter there is an interesting quote that I will leave my brain to absorb and think around it some further:

Through little service rendered, artists fill in the cracks in the social bond!

(Loc 1783)

This is going into the direction that artists create connections among people with their art. This was not in the book but it reminds me of the feeling when you speak to some stranger and a familiar song comes up on the radio and everyone who like it (or dislike it) and agree it to be so have an immediate feeling of connection.

A4 Exploration – 3. Michael Asher, Claire Copley Gallery

Michael Asher was interested in the relationship between the art and the space where art is exhibited. His interventions involved changes in galleries or moving around art work to produce an effect of contrast.

In Claire Copley Gallery, Asher juxtaposed the art space, i.e. exhibition space with the business space.

https://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/magazines/michael-asher/

For instance, at the Claire S. Copley Gallery in Los Angeles in 1974, Asher removed the partition wall that separated the office space from the exhibition space, exposing the art gallery’s backroom business operations.

The work reminisces of Minimalists, e.g. Yves Klein and his The Void where we have interventions into the exhibition space as art work. These interventions are to put more emphasis on the observer and their presence in the space. With Asher’s intervention we have another dimension to it where the gallery owner can gaze the observer same as the observer gazes at the gallery owner.

We have two sides of “art consumption”, on one side we have the the “buyer” and on the other side we have the “seller” joined by the “manufacturer”. Now here we have the “manufacturer”  who is actually a “deconstructer” as the barrier, the wall dividing two differences has been brought down both literally and figuratively.

The business side of the gallery is not “artsy”, it is paperwork, organisation and coordination. The observer’s part of the gallery is a space of exploration, inspiration and inspection.

http://www.mit.edu/~allanmc/asher1.pdf

For his exhibition at the Claire Copley Gallery, Asher followed a similar procedure of objectification through removal when he took away the internal, free-standing partition of the gallery, which the owner had built to divide the exhibition space from its business area. During the course of the exhibition the owner at her desk and the gallery’s storage were in full view. Asher thus disclosed the inner “works” of the exhibition space by exposing its operations behindthe-scenes. Through the picture window separating the gallery from the street viewers could see the contents of the gallery as the content of the work. From inside the work/space they could observe the external reality outside. Furthermore, because he exposed the day-to-day functions of the gallery in its commercial capacity, Asher simultaneously brought the normally unseen economic underpinnings of both the gallery and the work to the fore. “Just as the work served as a model of how the gallery operated,” the artist has pointed out, “it also served as a model for its own economic reproduction.”

By exposing the business side of the gallery, the difference between the observer and the gallery manager is evident. By the simultaneous gaze they become the same. They become “the observed” i.e. the artwork itself. The individuals seize to be themselves. They become a metaphorical sculpture of “removing the difference”.

Assignment Four – Self Assessment

Assignment introduction

 

This assignment represents the final work of Part 4 of Understanding Visual Culture course as part of OCA studies of student Marija Agić (516770).

 

It is a study of difference in the case of Mark Tansey’s Action Painting I.

Assignment Criteria

Demonstration of subject based knowledge and understanding

 

Broad and comparative understanding of subject content, knowledge of the appropriate historical, intellectual, cultural or institutional contexts.

 

Assignment 4 required me to get acquainted with some of the most complex reading material I’ve encountered so far (Derrida being the leader at this). I spent some months understanding the philosophical aspect of the assignment which I reflected on in my learning log. In the essay I applied concepts like the Other discussed in the course materials as well as the parergon (frame) and différance I learned about from Derrida. I do not think I covered all the angles possible due to the limit of the essay format and size. I aimed to show in my essay that a piece of artwork can have many layers and that difference can be explored from different perspectives. I covered the following:

 

  • Difference created with the title juxtaposed to the image
  • Difference as the Other reflecting on the female sex of the painter in the picture
  • Difference of the real and the representation
  • Difference as deferrance i.e. temporal aspects of time

 

To help support my reflections I used The Picture in Question : Mark Tansey and the Ends of Representation by Mark C. Taylor. This helped me show how Tansey’s creative progress was equally supportive of above mentioned difference aspects as his final work was.

 

Demonstration of research skills

 

Information retrieval and organisation, use of IT to assist research, ability to evaluate IT sources, the ability to design and carry out a research project, locate and evaluate evidence from a wide range of primary and secondary sources (visual, oral, aural or textual).

 

Since the topics in assignment four were very heavy I relied very much on what my tutor and the course materials offered by reading:

 

Bennington, G., 1987. The truth in painting. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1987.

 

Taylor, C., M., 1999. The Picture in Question : Mark Tansey and the Ends of Representation. Electronic book. University of Chicago Press.

 

Descombes, V., 1981. Modern French Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.

 

Pollock, G., 1999. Differencing the canon: Feminist Desire and the Writing of Art’s Histories. Electronic book. London; Routledge, 1999.

 

Rees, A. and Borzello, F. (1986). The new art history.

 

The above I used as references in the essay and as my main literature.

 

My tutor advised to research all the offered artists and artworks regardless of what I choose to take as my essay subject matter. Unfortunately I got into a philosophical spiral that I did not complete this segment of her instructions. I covered Mining the Museum and Action Painting I. Since I do realize the benefit of such an exploration I will aim to complete that in the time while I await my tutor feedback.

 

I think I could bring the essay to a new level if I used more materials related to Tansey and his practice. I may have understood the topic to be more a philosophical problem then an art history problem which is fine in the sense of producing a written text. Still I would feel better about my supporting materials if I had more of materials related to Tansey himself.

 

Demonstration of critical and evaluation skills

 

Engagement with concepts, values and debates, evidence of analysis, reflection, critical thinking, synthesis, interpretation in relation to relevant issues and enquiries.

 

Being new to a topic it feels strange to come up with one’s own interpretations and critique. I did try to reflect on the female sex of the painter in the picture as the Other (in the feminist sense) but then taking it more into a Jungian direction of an almost archetypical manifestation.

 

By finding 4 different aspects of difference I feel it should show enough of engagement with the concepts.

 

I would find my essay much better in content and in writing if I could somehow move away from linking together ideas from other authors. I do not feel yet that I am writing at the level of creating new content while I do try to incept my own interpretations of the material at hand. I think that I get blocked by the fact that I should not plagiarize so I quote all that I find relevant to say as someone has said it before. In that sense this essay felt more like a combination of ideas and thoughts of others that I sequenced in a way I found pleasurable to read and to match my thinking process.

 

Communication

 

The ability to communicate ideas and knowledge in written and spoken form, including presentation skills.

 

So far in this course I felt that this essay had the best reading flow so far. However I am also too emerged into the topic that it may just feel clear to me and it may not be to another reader. I tried not to complicate the wording too much. The topic of difference was complex enough to start with so I tried to convey my ideas with a relatively simple language.

I divided the essay with different subtitles to group paragraphs into topics. I did aim to link all paragraphs in one flow so even if the titles were removed that it still kind of made sense.

Writing about ideas that are not physical in any way and that move the thinking process from the words into notions, emotions, perceptions felt challenging. Because of this I first wrote several blog posts of raw text to start getting it out of my mind. These were topics I felt personally engaged with. After doing that I started writing the essay which then took its shape in several iterations. There were other aspects I could have covered. When I started writing the essay and reworking it, I had more the reader in mind than my own motivation. I hope this is recognisable in the written work.

Part 4 – Exercise 4.5 – Dialectic

In exercise 4.5 of Part 4 we need to explore antithesis and synthesis.

Antithesis is as in Oxford dictionary: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/antithesis

1. A person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else.

2. mass noun (in Hegelian philosophy) the negation of the thesis as the second stage in the process of dialectical reasoning.

Synthesis is as in Oxford dictionary:
1. The combination of components or elements to form a connected whole.
2. (in Hegelian philosophy) the final stage in the process of dialectical reasoning, in which a new idea resolves the conflict between thesis and antithesis.

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So when talking about art, and speaking of thesis, antithesis and synthesis the problem at hand is not exactly single-dimensional. What could one compare? We can consider different aspects. Let me address just a few.

Memory or observation

Synthesists worked from memory (https://www.britannica.com/art/Synthetism). An example of this would be Paul Gauguin’s  The Yellow Christ. Where one can see evidence of not following observed anatomy but getting closer to depicting of one’s memory of Christ’s body with a use of a strong yellow colour.  Impressionists, like Paul Cezanne in Mont Sainte-Victoire and Château Noir worked by observation inside and outside of the studio, however imprinting their own emotional signature into the work with the brush strokes keeping the colours close to realistic.

Impressionism as thesis and Synthetism as antithesis, are synthesised into Fauvism.

Fauvist André Derain in his The Pool of London uses simplification to avoid too many details not to end up in realism. The colours are bright and obviously as per the artists choice and not completely from observation. Joining representation of the observed and adding one’s own imprint with the brush strokes and colour choice Derain manages to unite “Gauguin” and “Cezanne”.

Sense or spirit

A group of Abstract Expressionists worked on religious topics, one of which is Barnett Newman. His painting Adam is an abstract representation with vertical stripes. In many of his works Barnett uses the stripes to symbolise the man, vertical creature. Newman is concerned with the eternal question of creation and investigates it through images of Christianity.

Futurism is concerned with the modernity and man emerged into the new world of machines. Umberto Boccioni in his Dynamism of a Cyclist ( Dinamismo di un ciclista ) is exploring the effect of the machine onto the man. He is showing us the united dynamics of machine and man in his picture.

Adam was created by God, the machine i.e. the bicycle was created by man.

Dadaism abandons aestheticism and turns to anti-art expressions. In Marcel Duchamp’s ready made Bicycle Wheel we find elements produced by humans combined and placed with care. A bicycle wheel is erected up side down on a chair as if a person sitting on a bar stool. Duchamp is the creator of the combination, but takes no real responsibility for it. He finds objects by chance or as if “enlightened by God” and uses them as either provocation (trash as art) or celebration (man-made on a pedestal) of the modern life.

Abstract Expressionists as thesis, looking for the origin and the original, and Futurists as antithesis, celebrating the results of modern living, unite in Dadaism and absurdity of non-divine, use of every day objects to celebrate the mundane. By using a copy, they create an original with incorporating an idea into the observer’s mind.

A4 – Exploration – 1. Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum

My tutor instructed me to look into all the works listed for Assignment 4 to learn more about different aspects of difference.

I read an article “How Mining the Museum changed the art” by Kerr Houston to learn more about the author and this work.

It becomes soon obvious that Fred Wilson’s subject matter is racism. In particular slavery of the African-American population in the history of USA. In 1992 Wilson intervenes into the exhibits of Maryland Historical Society. He arranged the artefacts in a way to manipulate and tease the public into realising that how they perceive history may not always be true.

What I found very interesting is how he visualised the development of racism with a Ku Klux Klan robe inside a baby carriage.

From the article “How Mining the Museum changed the art” :

That willingness to deviate from the standard course was visible, for example, in his placement of a Ku Klux Klan robe – which had been donated, anonymously, to the Historical Society – in a baby carriage. Folded carefully into the diminutive stroller, the robe proved to be an especially haunting detail, as it suggested that racism is learned, inculcated, or even nurtured.

I find this visual statement very strong as it is indicating that hatred, racism and intolerance is not a mere spur of the moment. It is not a reaction in affect or some spontaneous  act. It is a process of creating an identity, with clear boundaries who belongs to the Self, and who belongs to the Other. The carriage symbolises caring, protection and nurturing. Quite often in the past babies were dressed in white robes. Here we also have a white robe. A white robe that someone’s child at a grown up age wore during the process of racial crime and torture of a person of different skin colour.

What we can see here is that racism and the definition of Otherness is not just a product of contemporary social circumstances, it is quite integrated into our heritage. We are defined by our traditions. If one’s grandmother or grandfather lived in a certain way and had certain culture, this will be transferred to the individual by their parents. It is not always deliberate, it is not conscious, but people find that “dealing with the Other” is uncomfortable and not familiar. It is sometimes even scary and we find the need to reject the Other as it’s images and presence is violent to our predefined Selves. This does not mean anyone has the right to go into physical or verbal violence toward the Other. So we have our morals to guide us how to handle this encounter with the Other. If your morals are shaken than your also shaken Self will feel the need and will in fact go into violent mode.

From the article “How Mining the Museum changed the art” :

“It was kind of overwhelming for them,” remembered Wilson. “It was a good thing, but they couldn’t stay the same; that was the problem for them. You couldn’t put the genie back in the bottle.” The still surface had been rent; the master’s house dismantled, with the master’s tools.

Whatever the reaction, the interaction of the Self with the Other, changes the Self. We either build bigger walls to guard the Self, or we let the Other in and define a new Self. Leaving the definition of “whites” and “blacks”, we become Human. As Wilson has proven, this is a long process and it is still ongoing.