Sunday, October 27, 2013

Reader Response: George Kubler from "The Shape of Time"

George Kubler’s “The Shape of Time”, selections from pgs. 4-8 and pgs. 44-48, discuss art’s relationship with history and time.  The reading assigned was divided between two separate passages of the same text, although they both address the same topic of time and history’s unavoidable influence on artistic creation.  Kubler’s notion of time is linear, as he describes the history of art as “railroads,” and uses this metaphor to describe perspective of artist biographies’ place within the study of art history of a whole.  He believes that studying a single artist, and using his or her story exclusively to explain or illuminate an entire art movement or period is inaccurate, as doing so would be similar to describing a “railroad” from the perspective of a single passenger.  It may be accurate in technical terms, but it will be severely limited in scope.  Biographies, according to Kubler, are important as a “provisional way of scanning artistic substance” but do not “treat the historical question in artists’ lives, which is always the question of their relation to what has preceded to what will follow them.” 

This analogy of art history acting as a linear “railroad” track of sorts is built within another point which he makes, regarding the time period in which an artist functions, as a section of this track.  This section, he argues, is inherent to the work produced by the artist, and also others’ reception of it.  Added to the usual attributes of “temperament and training” that come to determine an artist’s “position” within Kubler’s track of history, the artist should also establish a “tradition”—the type of art he pursues—that appropriately aligns with his “entrance”—when he enters this track of history.  He then theorizes that this “entrance” has as much to do with an artist’s critical and public acclaim as natural talent does.  There are many other factors, but the “entrance” into an appropriate artistic environment is crucial.

In the next sub-section, appropriately entitled The Invisible Chain, Kubler asserts that all art is interconnected in the way that rival artists and previous works often inspire and motivate new works, generating a sort of recurring cycle, and giving the ancient tradition of the artist’s muse as an example.  Through repetition of a certain form the artist hones his/her skill, but once done, the artist moves on—Kubler asserts this is what artists usually disguise as periods, but may also stem from not being able to push certain aspect or form any further due to such intense repetition.  Kubler ends by asserting that the modern-day artist is lonely, since usually the impact of an artist’s work won’t be fully known until long after their passing.  His or her works exist in the present primarily as “wonderful and frightening surprises for [the artist’s] immediate circle.” 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

3 Artists + Mid-Semester Report

So far in the semester, we have covered an array of time-related readings, exploring artistic expressions of time, and having the opportunity to create our own two-dimensional works.  We have joined theory with practice, and pursued live-model charcoal drawing, as well as pastel drawing to music, and our first Time Visualization project.

All of these assignments have greatly expanded my horizons and artistic skills, as I'm mainly a photographer, and rarely tackle drawing of any sort, unless on the most basic level.  However, this class has encouraged me to not only leave my comfort zone, but to try to excel in it, and I'm motivated more than ever to put in hard work that will hopefully eventually lead to a proficiency in drawing.

I felt my Time Visualization project was a success for the most part, although I had originally wanted to use more recent negatives, instead of the older ones that I was forced to use due to time/equipment restrictions (lack of film, camera batteries, etc.)  In spite of this setback however, I felt that my intent was mostly unimpeded, as the process of developing the image, and the formal qualities of the image (e.g. repetition) became more important to the project's outcome than the subject within the photographs--I chose the negatives that I did purposefully, but certainly not strictly subject matter.

Although the project was a general success, I'm looking forward to the next assignment, which will be photography-based once again, but will be a time-lapse, and inherently time-based, unlike the static quality of photographs.  This, although somewhat familiar territory, is significantly less-traveled, and I'm looking forward to experimenting with this assignment.

The three artists I am considering for my project are all sound-based, as I find sound-based art interesting in not only its use, but its dependence upon environment to function--differing environments will completely change the acoustics of the sound, or how it expands within a space.

The artists I'm considering for my presentation are, so far (this will probably be subject to change) :

- Arnold Schoenburg

- Alvin Lucier

- John Cage

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Reader Response: Ways of Seeing, John Berger

In his essay, Berger addresses the growing commodification and availability of art, and how this changes interpretations, perspectives, and the decreasing value of images, stressing that a new way of viewing visual art must be adopted within our contemporary society.  The crux of his argument centers around the statement, "seeing comes before words."

Although his assertion of the decreasing value of imagery initially sounds demoralizing, he also compares it to the transcendental and accessible properties of languages, stating, "they [artworks] surround us in the same way that a language surrounds us" which implies not only the growing importance, but the growing influx and accessibility  of visual art within our society.

Essentially, it is hard to deny his argument, which seems to contain the prophesy of both a blessing and a curse: "The art of the past no longer exists as it once did. Its authority is lost. In its place is a language of images. What matters now is who uses that language and for what purpose."

He initially begins by stating that "the relation between what we see and what we know is never settled", moving towards his exploration of a work's meaning, and how it is changed and shifted between existing contexts that the viewer may have--"we never look at just one thing, we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves."  This, he says, is rapidly increasing within our information-fueled society, and drastically shifting the manner in which art is viewed.

Information, he says, is wildly prevalent in society, and growing more so day by day.  This is apparent everywhere: the Google mail I am currently signed into was allotted a single gigabyte of data when I first signed up for this service: I am now allowed 30 gigabytes of data, and this is for a single email account.  Information, and our contemporary society, is never still, always in constant flux.  He contrasts the constant fluctuating aspects of information to painting, which he states is still and static by nature.

He then introduces the relation of this particular aspect of modern society to visual art, asserting that "visual arts have always existed within a certain preserve" and "during all this history the authority of art was always separate from the authority of that preserve."  The continually shifting property of information, specifically the "modern means of reproduction" has functioned to "destroy the authority of art" and to remove it from any "preserve," or separation from society.  This is what leads him to ultimately state that what remains of visual art is a "language of images" that "if used differently" could lead to "a new kind of power".  His urgent message is one of mobilization, pressing us to figure out how to use this "language" and for what purpose--this will lead society to a greater awareness of not nostalgic worship of the past, but a understanding of how we exist in the present.