On this page I would like to post the bibliography I referenced in the course of the development of my methodology and thesis in this program.
1. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. 1958. Trans. Maria Jolas. Boston: Beacon
Press Books, 1994. Print.
Gaston Bachelard offers a cross-cultural analysis of structures and objects that comprise a universal vocabulary of space. He probes the impact of human habitation on geometrical form and the impact of the form on human inhabitants. He analyzes how the space of the house being the universe for young children affects and shapes all subsequent knowledge of other spaces they experience later in life. He views the house as a “shelter” for imagining. The philosopher interprets the concept of space in poetic hypervision.
He takes recourses to the phenomenology of imagination in order to clarify the problem of poetic image philosophically. He speaks of an appeal and communicability of a poetic image.
In the introduction to this book Bachelard proposes to consider imagination as a major power of human nature. He claims that space that has been seized upon by imagination cannot remain indifferent space. It has been lived in, “not in its positivity, but in all the partiality of the imagination” (xxxvi).
Bachelard examines what the dialectics of large and small offer for a poetics of space; how imagination benefits form the relativity of size. He investigates concepts of “openness” and “being closed”, immensity and intensity; intimate spaces and roundness. He exposes the ‘intellectualism’ of metaphor as an activity characteristic to imagination.
Bachelard offers that the true resourses of imagination are great lasting realities and fundamental, material images – “nothing, in other words, that is either chimerical or illusory” (207). This aspect in particular ties this work to my practice and my research. So does his statement that “elsewhere and formerly are stronger than hic at nunc. The being-here is maintained by a being from elsewhere. Space, vast space, is the friend of being” (208). Bachelard also mentions that immensity can be translated into intensity, “intensity of being”. In the chapter “Intimate Immensity” Bachelard describes what Edward Singerland would classify as a case of voluntary synaesthesia, and Ellie Epp would ascertain as an incident of half-ascribing -of translating the immensity of the desert into the vastness of the sea. In probing this Gaston Bachelard comes close to the recent studies of neuroscience and the ways of cognition described by it. Also to what Ellie Epp calls “the ways by which artists know and come to know”.
2. Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon. The Logic of Sensation. 1981. Trans. Daniel W. Smith.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Prints, 2003. Print.
Gilles Deleuze wrote this work on the oeuvre of one artist, a painter Francis Bacon but this fact does not make it a piece of art-criticism. It is a philosophical investigation because the author creates new concepts that are applicable not only to the practice and paintings of Bacon but to the genre of painting. The philosopher argues that painters and Bacon in particular, produce ‘logic of sensation’ and develops Kantian ideas of aesthetic comprehension, rhythm, chaos, and force to elaborate on the concept. Unlike Kant Deleuze does not think that the faculty of ideas is identified with Reason; he places them within sensibility itself and defines them in terms of their immanence to experience itself. Deleuze distinguishes sensation from “the facile and the ready-made, the cliché”, and also from “sensational, the spontaneous, etc.” (31). He also separates figure and figurative by identifying two ways of going beyond figuration (both the illustrative and the figurative): “either toward abstract form or toward the Figure”. He uses Cezannian name for this way of figure: Sensation. For this argument he quotes Valery: “sensation is that which is transmitted directly, and avoids the detour and boredom of conveying a story” (32). Deleuze claims that to achieve secondary more directly transmitted figuration a painter has to neutralize all primary figuration. He illustrates that phenomenon with Bacon paintings. The author’s departure from Kantian logic can be justified by his very definition of the status of contemporary painting: “Modern painting begins when man no longer experiences himself as an essence, but as an accident. The form begins to express the accident and no longer the essence” (101). Deleuze presents color as Force in which all the three elements of painting – structure, Figure, and contour – converge. The author supports his argument with the evidence provided in Bacon’s paintings, where there is indeed a “rich communication of colors” (117).
The innovations of Francis Bacon’s painting as analyzed by Deleuze constitute a new philosophical approach to painting resonating with my research and my practice. Deleuze’s leitmotif of “rendering invisible forces visible”, modified after Klee, is a part of my aspiration as a painter. Conceiving of painting as an “analogical language” (96) assists in describing of my own practice. Finally, interesting phenomenological findings in the last chapter of the book “The Eye and the Hand” correlate with and build upon Merleau-Ponty’s ideas in Eye and Mind.
3. Kuspit, Donald. Redeeming Art: Critical Reveries. New York: Allworth Press, 2000. Print.
This selection of Donald Kuspit’s writings and interviews reflects several concerns and presents a “synoptic survey of the evolution of Kuspit’s multifaceted thought” (vii). The articles “Art at Odds with Itself” and “Craft as Art, Art as Craft” as well as “An Interview with Donald Kuspit – The Art of the 1990s” by Mark van Proyen seemed of the most relevance to my thesis.
The main argument if it could be determined for this anthology is a “reminder” as the editor Mark Van Proyen puts it, that art needs to have some kind of “psychomoral consequence if its claim on our time and attention will be a deserved one [sic]” (vii).
The central argument of “Art at Odds with Itself” is that the contemporary art world is fragmented and “it is not a division of artistic labor it looks like but fight to the death for control of art history” (154). For justifying this statement Kuspit offers some perspective on the conflict illustrating it with concrete events where interests of two different art movement groups collided and a trendy exhibition of mid 1990-s. Kuspit’s comments on these events are highly critical, emotional and sum up as a general (rather bitter) critique of contemporary art that became highly institutionalized and capitalized and often “not art” (155). Critic claims that “there is almost no maturity and humanism in contemporary art” (156), he uses epithets like “ongoing adolescent” and “regressive” for describing the prevalent themes of the British conceptualists of the 1990s (156). The author announces the need of the restoration of the boundaries of art and a rejection of “anything goes” (157). He concludes that the events point to a need for a change in the emotional atmosphere of art, as well as in the way art is made and conceived.
This article sheds some light on the ‘predicament of contemporary art’ which will be touched upon in my thesis in relation to the predicament of painting.
“Craft as Art, Art as Craft”describes the needs of contemporary art in more positive tones. As a constructive suggestion Kuspit offers the newly spotted emphasis on the craft involved in the making of a work of art. The critic welcomes it as a sign of an attempt to “return to the traditional conception of the artist as an expert in a particular medium” (158). This aspect will be touched upon later in Wet by Mira Schor and Subversion and Subsidy by Rainer Rochlitz. It also ties the discussion to the philosophical concept of embodied mind (Merleau-Ponty).
4. Epp, Ellie. “Being About: Perceiving, Imagining, Representing, Thinking”. 2002. http://www.ellieepp.com/theory/beingabout/being.html
In this PhD dissertation paper Ellie Epp, (an artist, a film-maker, and a scholar) investigates whether there is a way of talking about mind that can make sense of the way artists know and come to know, and the means by which an artist brings others into knowing states.
In the author’s account, there are “two projects interwoven here”. The first is a revision of dualist remnants in the ways we talk about mental function and an effort to see what difference it would make if we understand perceiving, imagining, and representing as embodied. The second is a description of the recent neuroscience of spatial function. Ellie Epp argues that instead of ‘forming inner representations’, whole bodies are oriented and structurally responsive to their environments, and that whole bodies (and not isolated internal parts of persons) refer and are about things in those environments.
Knowing as experienced, Epp opines, does not fall into columns in accord with classical contrasts of mind and body, sensing and perceiving, thinking and feeling, language and the nonverbal, concrete and abstract, literal and metaphoric. Nor does it support hard divisions of perception into separate senses. If we make the unified single body and its widespread network of integrated neural function the sites of aboutness and knowing, we have a means of thinking that these functions may happen simultaneously and may include one another necessarily.
When Epp describes artists’ ways of knowing she includes the remarkable fact of recognition knowledge, “by which we know but do not know how we could know”. She proposes that some forms of recognition knowledge may be like blindsight.
Recognition knowledge is related to the experience of symbolic force. An artist’s ability to recognize resonance or unusual emotional force in some situation, or to invent situations that communicate such force, is sometimes called imagination or vision. Objects, events, or situations felt to be inexplicably or unusually charged have traditionally been called symbols, emblems, or the like. They may be encountered at random; they may be emphasized in scenes intended to promote cultural transmission; they may felt in dreaming or daydreaming; and they have often been thought to be the primary business of art.
Ellie Epp offers that a good landscape painter has to be “formed by this landscape” – in stating this she insists that there is a different kind of intelligence which, while being grounded in ”the natural world”, is the very opposite of being primitive.
This work of Ellie Epp will take one of the central spots in my thesis as it exposes the fact that “institutions and individuals still “go on having reasons” to maintain dualistic ideologies praising ‘the mind’s transcendence’ of the ‘tyrannies of matter’, as if there could be minds by means other than matter”. And as painting is habitually placed within the realm of the matter – linked to the inner psychology (as opposed even to drawing – which is closer to writing, mathematics – and reason, hence, to mind) – this paper views practice of painting in an opposite way, granting it intelligence and possible contribution to our knowledge of cognition.
5. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1964. “Eye and Mind”. The Primacy of Perception. Trans. Carleton
Dallery. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1993. Print
Merleau-Ponty investigates the phenomenological connections between ‘eye’ or body (or Being) and mind. This work draws our attention to art and painting in particular because the philosopher insists that “especially painting [,] draws upon this fabric of brute meaning” (32). Merleau-Ponty poses the thesis question in the following way: “… incontestably sovereign in his rumination of the world, possessed of no other “technique” than the skill his eyes and hands discover in seeing and painting, he gives himself entirely to drawing from the world… What, then, is the secret science which he has or which he seeks?” (32). The author traces the connection between body and mind and points out that a painter “takes his body with him”, that it is by lending his body to the world that a painter “changes the world into paintings” (32). He argues that a painter’s world is nothing but visible no matter if he paints from nature – he paints because he has seen; because the world at least once “emblazoned in him the ciphers of the visible” (35). He further explains that it is impossible to say where the nature ends and the human being or expression begins, and this is also the reason why “the dilemma between figurative and non figurative art is wrongly posed” (48). He claims that the image no matter how representational is still not the actual object and no imaginary painting no matter how abstract cannot get “away from Being” (48). The author places vision at the crossroads of all aspects of Being. Merleau-Ponty concludes by saying that “no painting completes painting” and that for the painters “the world will always be yet to be painted” (49).
This article presents a positive outlook at the role of painting in visual arts. It justifies the constant search painters are involved in and the urgency they experience. The idea of ‘embodied mind’ or painting with the body resonates with the idea of actual ‘making art’ as opposed to ‘thinking art’. This interpretation seems highly relevant to the nature of my practice and my thesis; it is present in Gerhard Richter’s interview in Wet by Mira Schor and Subversion and Subsidy by Rainer Rochlitz.
6. —. The World of Perception. 2004. trans. Oliver Davis. New York:
Routledge Classics, 2008. Print.
The main goal of this series of lectures for the radio Merleau-Ponty formulates as the need to rediscover the perceived world. He insists that it would be wrong to suppose that the world of perception can be dismissed as mere ‘appearance’ in contrast with the actual world revealed by the natural sciences. In these lectures the philosopher complements the account of philosophy he gave in Phenomenology of Perception with the discussion of modern art in which he suggests that painters as Cezanne aim to make apparent to us the ways in which the emergence of the ordinary world in visual experience is strange and paradoxical. Merleau-Ponty explains his often “recourse to painting because painting thrusts us once again into the presence of the world of lived experience” (69). He claims that a philosophy of perception “aspires to learn to see the world once more” and “will restore painting and the arts in general to their rightful place, will recover their dignity and will incline us to accept them in their purity” (70). For this noble purpose the author elaborates on the role of painting which is not simply to serve as trompe l’oeil. One of the most powerful statements of Merleau-Ponty here is that painting “is a world of its own” (71).
Several points made by Merleau-Ponty in these lectures are of importance for my thesis: his account of perceiving a landscape as opposed to conventional arrangement of a traditional landscape painting is tying it to the often “forenzic” movement that is characteristic to my own imaginary landscapes. Merleau-Ponty presents us with the idea of the space that emerges over time; space which is “no longer a medium of simultaneous objects capable of being apprehended by an absolute observer” (41). He declares “the space of modern painting is space… in which we too are located… and with which we are organically connected” (41). The metaphor of this last statement allows multiple interpretations some of which will be discussed in my thesis.
7. Mitchell, W.J.T. “Holy Landscape: Israel, Palestine, and the American
Wilderness”, Landscape and Power. Chicago: The University of Chicago
Press, 2000. Print.
In this essay W.J.T. Mitchell is questioning Edwin Norgate’s assertion that landscape “is of all kinds of painting the most innocent, and which the Divill himself could never accuse of idolatry” (Edwin Norgate, “Miniatura”). Mitchell is of the opinion that, on the contrary, “every holy landscape seems to be shadowed by evil”.
The author starts by exploring the concept of holy landscape, with special emphasis on the paradoxical relation between landscape and idolatry – by latter he means the human sacrifice ‘holy lands’ generally claim. Mitchell views Holy Landscape as a potent ideological representation that serves to naturalize power relations and erase history and legibility. He supports his point by collecting evidence: he recruits and analyzes relating concepts such as ‘tourism’, ‘nomadism’, and ‘desert’. Tourism-nomadism in his understanding is closely tied to ‘gastarbeitership’, to wilful unknowing, which purifies any land into a visual image devoid of content or seen out of context. The author also relates this ‘purification of the landscape’ to the habitual act performed by all the major religions (religions of the Book): their deliberate visualizing and representation of holy lands as deserts (emphasis mine), or vacant places that are waiting for the chosen people to come and ‘free and develop it, make it bloom’. This habitually entails conquering and ‘educating’ the natives. ‘Educating’ and ‘developing’ in turn bring in the Modernist lament of “the white man’s burden” quoted by Mitchell.
While Mitchell offers a brief excurse into his “own desert” – the desert of western Nevada, his main focus is, as is stated in the title, Israel, Palestine, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of many decades. The ugly result the official Israeli government politics have on the representation and presentation of the land are viewed in detail here. As I view most of W.J.T. Mitchell’s statements made in this essay as plausible and insightful, I believe that much was overlooked in the generalization e.g., (“all the religions of the Book”).
My main argument that will be touched upon in my thesis and somehow manifests itself in my work, is that Jewish people/religion might deserve a closer look and some discriminative (meaning ‘different’) treatment.
The first reason I see for this is the fact that while other religions (religious official bodies of people) were comfortably sitting on their own lands while ‘dreaming of’, ‘plotting’, and ‘composing’ documents that would encourage military (or missionary) invasions into the conveniently ‘vacated’ holy lands, Jews had been in exile for 1000 – 2000 years. Marginary and subaltern, devoid of right and any considerable power, “wandering Jews” in any place, they only pronounced the state of Israel in 1948, when the world community offered that land to that people as an option after the Holocaust.
The second reason is I find it particularly hard to collectively view all Jews arriving at the Holy Land after the Holocaust “conquerors”. Emaciated and disillusioned, half-dead these shadows of people defy this term in my opinion.
The third reason I cannot agree with Mitchell’s theory fully is that amusement I experienced when he mentioned “the white man’s burden”. Even born and raised in Europe and educated at the best universities they were always viewed as outsiders and ‘others’; were discriminated against as lower race and persecuted in times of political and economic crises in the hosting countries. Since when have Jews been considered “white”? As far as the history of the US goes, Jews had the same status as coloured people and dogs up until the middle of the last century in some places.
W.J.T. Mitchell’s essay is closely linked to the other two publications my thesis will make use of: Irit Rogoff’s Terra Infirma, 2000, and Edward W. Said’s “Invention, Memory, and Place”, 2000.
8. Peterson, Anne Ring, Mikkel Bogh, Hans Dam Christensen, Peter Norgaard Larsen, eds.
Contemporary Painting in Context. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2010, Print.
In the introduction to this anthology Anne Peterson, one of the editors of the collection assesses the effects of the opposing views on the state of painting which were inherited from the 1960s on the ‘ambivalent position’ of the discipline (10). Appearing simultaneously exhausted and inexhaustible, painting, by its “continued presence” raises a series of questions (10). The essays focus on how various social, economic and cultural factors have shaped practices and discourses of painting. Painting is looked at as an art form bound to the cultural meanings, spaces, media, and modes of perception that characterise our time. One of the articles in the first part of the anthology, “Painting in the Common Culture” dwells on the subject of ‘ambivalent position’ of painting which, though it lost ground to new visual technologies, uses visual culture and consumer culture as its sources of the ongoing renewal. The claim of Peter Weibel the author of “Pittura Immedia: Painting in the Nineties between Mediated Visuality and Visuality in Context” is that post-medial painting is a second-order painting that is capable of outdoing and transcending the mass media. He examines the ways in which abstract painting became a “meta-language, inserting and elaborating the historical styles” (45). This meta-linguistic codification in Weibel’s opinion is what will allow contemporary abstract painting to find itself in “polyphonic relations with the history of art and modernity itself” (45). The second part of the book devoted to the ontology of painting offers Barry Schwabsky’s article “Object or Project?” which deals with the fact that since most of the contemporary paintings are conceptual, the public and the critics should try to see the project of the artist behind the object. One of the most interesting for my investigation articles offered in this anthology is “The Poise of the Head und die anderen folgen” by Katharina Grosse in Part 3, “The Expanded Field”. It offers an example of a revolutionary practice which, staying within traditional media of painting claims to manipulate the space around it. She blends the syntax of painting with the syntax of site-specific installation. Grosse’s practice could serve as the best proof of the vitality and inexhaustibility of painting. Rune Gade’s article “Matter and Meaning: ‘The Slime of Painting” gives a critical account of complex relationship between the post-conceptual painting and gender-specificity. Gade questions a narrow reading of the role of contemporary painting as a discipline that relates to contemporary media culture in an appropriative and conceptualizing manner only while dealing with ‘safe’ example of Gerhard Richter’ paintings of photographs (169). This issue is also reviewed by Rochlitz and Schor.
It is easy to trace the connection of Merleau-Ponty’s ideas on the perception of a natural landscape and Katharina Grosse’s intention of forging drifting points of view of a mobile spectator that her installations presuppose. The altogether positive attitude and hopeful perspective the authors of the essays demonstrate could be seen as the continuation of the discussion started by Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze.
My thesis will adopt some of the terminology used in these essays, e.g. ‘meta-linguistic codification’, ‘drifting point of view’, ‘space manipulation’, etc.
9. Robertson, Jean, and Craig McDaniel. Themes of Contemporary Art. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2010. Print.
The authors of this volume question the ‘old school’ linear or chronological arranging of events in the contemporary art history proclaiming that since art of the postmodern scene is “in flux” and ever-evolving (11), they choose to discuss examples from virtually all the major media within the structure of a thematic focus. They assert that a “thematic approach… provides a judicious balance between discursive thinking and careful looking” (xii). In their view this method provides a context for examining an assortment of the issues and practices that are currently vital. The authors support their statement by analyzing links between separate artworks within each theme and their art-historical references and influences. It allows the readers to assess importance of a particular theme for the contemporary art.
There are at least three themes covered by this survey that I can identify as relevant to my practice: Identity, Place, and Language. There is also some interweaving between the themes of Space and Time and Body and Place in my thesis. The authors’ exploration of the art world expansion in the first chapter of the volume implying the dynamic nature of contemporary art and its openness to multiple new media parallels Peter Weibel’s report on the art scene of today. It also offers a proof of Rainer Rochlitz forecast for the non-linear development of old media and disciplines alongside of forging new ones: “Artists freely mix media or may practice a medium with a long lineage in an unconventional way” (11).
10. Rochlitz, Rainer. Subversion and Subsidy: Contemporary Art and Aesthetics. London,
New York, Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2008. Print.
The author summons the facts of recent art history and the history of aesthetic theory to investigate the “breaks in the modernist logic” (13). He examines the model of perpetual ruptures which has become a “tradition of breaking away from tradition” (20), stating that this is an “empty rupture” (20). Rochlitz evaluates writings of Donald Judd and Therry de Duve and determines that considering the return to painting a sign of ‘political and moral regression’ means treating the history as linear and ‘progressive’ and thus contradicting the principles of the Postmodernism (16). The theorist poses a question of “why government and private investors support a culture that by definition can come to no peace with its patrons nor with the public in general” demonstrating how this situation disoriented criticism and undermined the status of art in the eyes of the public (50). Rochlitz analyzes the failure of criticism which he attributes to the “emancipation of contemporary art from all traditional criteria that has opened up a field of limitless possibilities and total freedom, but has also helped to discredit it” (51). He re-establishes the artist’s right to choose the medium claiming that “making a degree of political consciousness a criterion of quality… should entail no aesthetic obligation or constraint binding upon all” (214). The author concludes that the autonomy of art does not mean bracketing-out the extra-artistic issues of shared historical experience, but the filtering transformation and re-evaluation of such issues by the rules the artist imposes on him/herself and that it is “through their coherence that the maximum effectiveness of artistic language is achieved” (215).
This work helps to restore the rights of the artist for a medium, in my case the medium of painting which has been repeatedly challenged since 1960s. It relates to the ‘predicament’ of contemporary art and that of painting and addresses several specific practices that are relevant to my practice.
11. Rogoff, Irit. Terra Infirma. Geography’s Visual Culture. London and new York: Routledge, 2000. Print.
In this work Irit Rogoff is asking whether contemporary art can challenge and transform the authority (for which geography is the source) in the fundamental questions of inclusion and exclusion. Terra Infirma explores how geography writes relations between subjects and places; it examines the signifying practices of geography as a “language in crisis”, unable to represent the immense changes that have taken place in the post-colonial, post-migratory, and post-communist world. The author takes a closer look at how geography defines the concept of belonging viewing it through visual significations as presented in contemporary art. Rogoff focuses on contemporary art practices from around the world and examines them through the lens of the themes she builds her study around: “Luggage”, “Mapping”, “Borders”, and “Bodies”.
This book on ‘geography’s visual culture’ will be viewed in my thesis in relation to the works of Edward W. Said and W.J.T. Mitchell, as it deals with the science of human space and its meaning for the identity formation.
12. Said, W. Edward. “Invention, Memory, and Place”, Landscape and Power.Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press. 2000. Print.
In this article Said draws our attention to the overlapping areas of memory and geography – or the “study of human space”. He analyzes the meaning of ‘collective memory’ and ‘extended reflection’. He offers a ‘bitter inquiry’ into the authenticity of certain memories. The author believes there are controversies not only in what is remembered, but how it is so, and in what form, thus blaming not just the content but the very “fraught nature of representation”.
Said defines the study of history as to some extent, a “nationalist effort premised on the need to construct a desirable loyalty and insider’s understanding of one’s country, tradition, and faith” (242). He dissects narratives which shape national identities. Our times, he claims, is an “era of a search for roots, of people trying to discover in the collective memory of their race, religion, community, and family, a past that is entirely their own, secure from the ravages of history and a turbulent time” (243). The author introduces a new term: “imaginative geography”, – for the concept of invention and construction of a geographical space, e.g., Orient.
As a concrete historical example for his theory Edward W. Said offers “the creation of Zionist scholars and historians of a geographical image of ancient Israel that is shaped by ideological needs of the modern Zionist movement” (251).
In the conclusion on a more positive note Said suggests a way to solution for the “two peoples’ suffering”: “…what the interplay among memory, place, and invention can do… if it is to be used for liberation and coexistence between societies whose adjacency requires a tolerable form of sustained reconciliation” (257).
Edward W. Said’s writing is interconnected with two other sources in my bibliography list: Terra Infirma, by Irit Rogoff and “Israel, Palestine, and the American Wilderness” by W.J.T. Mitchell.
13. Schor, Mira. Wet: On Painting, feminism, and Art Culture. 1996. Durham and London:
Duke University Press, 1997. Print.
Schor proclaims this collection of her essays a “survival strategy” of a painter during the last decade of the twentieth century (vii) which immediately establishes her position as a political activist. She identifies this position as being at “intersection of politics and art” (viii). Her essays on painting are informed by a feminist viewpoint and organized chronologically which allows the reader to follow the process of growing awareness on the subject in the art world as well as the maturing of the author’s attitude and opinions. Schor admits that one of her central concerns as a ‘painter who writes’ has been to posit relevance for painting in the face of interesting and even convincing critique of its validity in contemporary art practice (xiv). The author emphasizes that she advocates painting as a still vital site for conceptual art within a field of visual interest.
These essays are of interest to me for several reasons: Schor addresses the ‘predicament’ of painting from a feminist position, tracing it back to the fact of being associated with feminine craft and femininity itself, while presenting it against a wider background of the Postmodernist world and culture. She analyzes the specificity of abstract painting practised by female artists as well as the rise and fall of critics’ interest to the subject and its reasons. She investigates different practices of male and female painters pointing out the vital tendencies and proposes new visual strategies that are viable and worth to explore. Her writings echo the works of Merleau-Ponty, Deluze, and Roshlitz.
14. Singerland, Edward. What Science Offers the Humanities. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print.
In this work Edward Singerland makes a strong argument against “rigid dualism” to which the field of human inquiry still adheres. He states that by embracing the “confines of an ontologically divided world” and vigorously opposing anyone who dares to question this divide, humanists make a “serious mistake” (4). He opines that if there is a common structure to human phisiology, there is no reason to think the same is not true for the mind. His book argues for an integrated, “embodied” approach to human culture. Singerland proposes that to take the humanities beyond dualistic metaphysics, the human-level structures of meaning need to be seen as grounded in the lower levels of meaning studied by the natural sciences, rather than “hovering magically above them” (9).
Speaking in practical terms, Singerland calls humanists to take seriously discoveries about human cognition being provided by neuroscientists and psychologies, which have a “constraining function” to play in the formulation of humanistic theories – that will call into question such dogmas as “blank slate” theory of human nature, strong versions of social constructivism and linguistic determinism, and the ideal of disembodied reason.
For building his argument Singerland summons research findings of recent movements in the study of perception, AI, psychology, cognitive science, linguistics and behavioral neuroscience. He points out that perception is not simply passive representation of the external world inside the individual’s head, but is inextricably bound up with embodied action in the world.
Quoting Margaret Wilson (2002) who identifies six different ways in which the claim that cognition is “embodied” can be understood:
1. Cognition is situated
2. Cognition is time pressured
3. Cognitive work is offloaded onto the environment
4. The environment is part of the cognitive system
5. Cognition is designed for action
6. Offline cognition is body-based
where Wilson argues that even abstract thinking and imagination is structured by the body and its interaction with the environment (NB!) – Singerland focuses his attention on claim 6. He believes that claim 6 most directly calls into question traditional objectivist and social constructivist views of the self. Singerland sees the belief that we are nothing until inscribed by the discourse into which we are socialized, and therefore nothing significant about the way we think or act is a direct result of our biological endowment – the core of postmodern relativism. (If we have no direct cognitive access to reality then things in the world are meaningful to us only through the filter of linguistically or culturally mediated preconceptions). Singerland explains why liguistic or cultural constructivism is false. In Chapter four he shows how cultural variations are grounded in the body, summoning research data and experimental evidence for voluntary synaesthesia and the cognitive reality of conceptual metaphor. He dwells upon the embodied approach to aesthetics in the conclusion chapter of the book, arguing that human taste is not completely contingent social construct, but is grounded in a set of “fairly robust” innate dispositional properties and perceptual capacities. There are important commonalities underlying human taste – both literal and metaphorical.
15. Ziady DeLue, Rachael, Elkins, James eds. Landscape Theory, 2008. New York: Routledge, 2010.
For annotating purposes I will focus on “Introduction to Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape” by Denis E. Cosgrove and “The Art Seminar” conversation recorded in 2006 at the Burren Cllege of Art, Ballyvaughan, Ireland.
The first work is polemics and response to criticism of the first publication of Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape. While the title immediately positions the book theoretically – “social formation” is a Marxist formulation, this formulation is ”discussed in detail and promoted as a conceptual escape from the tendency within Marxism to subordinate both material and imaginative cultural expressions to the imperatives of political economy” (22). Cosgrove stresses that in all fields of learning the collapse of confidence in the grand theories or “master narratives” has forced us to recognize that no single, coherent set of theories, concepts and methods can provide a certain and progressive path towards truth.
The author offers a brief glance at the history of the concept of landscape; he attributes the origins of landscape idea to the experience of bourgeois citizens in the Italian city states in relation to land, and to the humanist culture generated out of their experience, paying specific attention to the spatialities connected to new technologies of vision and representation. He also mentions Timothy Mitchell elaborating on Martin Heidegger’s insight that modern societies characteristically represent the world to themselves as a picture and his relating this fact to the West’s “picturing” of other societies and their landscapes. “European male”, the central figure of the progressive narrative of human achievement, was conceived as a universal subject and exercised rational self-consciousness within a ”largely disembodied mind”. The past ”viewers of landscape” were uniformly male, and appear and ”communicate to us as eyes, largely disconnected from any other corporeal or sensual aspects of their being and existence” (24). Changes in the working landscape and in landscape painting … were consistently connected into cultural and economic circuits of the European colonial projects, Cosgrove explains. They may often be read as a cipher for the complex interchanges it entailed. Literary and philosophical debates on landscape mediated individual appreciation. Landscape had “simultaneous appeal” as subjective experience and pleasure and its role in as social expression of authority and ownership. Later on the author mentions “some of the most enduring of Europe’s landscape images … exploring the spatialities and the environmental relations of modern life” (29).
In the second part of “Introduction” Cosgrove points out that in the book he claimed that from today’s perspective landscape ”resembles a flickering text displayed on a screen whose meaning can be cerated, extended, altered, elaborated and finally obliterated by the merest touch of the button”(32). He says that such virtual landscapes represent the furtherst extension so far of the idea of landscape as a distanced way of seeing: moving beyond even symbolic landscape, in some representations to landscape simulacra. Cosgrove stresses that he is treating “symbolic” iconically, through a Warburgian approach that emphasizes the contextual interpretation of symbolic symbols. “This seems particularly suitable to the idea of landscape as a way of seeing…” (33). Another strong point the author makes further is the connection between landscape and literary hermeneutics: “Various tropes used in rhetoric and literary hermeneutics, such as metaphor, metonym, and simile, are significant not only in understanding literary representations of landscape but in their material construction and their communication of social meaning” (33). Yet another aspect of treating landscape symbolically brought up in this article is treating landscape as a theater. The author insists that “such conceptual elaborations of the relation between landscape and symbolic discourse … indicate the theoretical fertility…of the idea of symbolic landscape”(35). He quotes Kenneth Olwig’s critique of his book which emphasizes the continued significance of landscape as a context for socio-political identity and community action. In the final pages of his “Introduction”, Cosgrove dwells on the social and historical specificities of landscape, touches upon the subject of mythic dimensions of it and explores the concern of rootedness, ideas of home and belonging, of locality and identity, and of the social and environmental dangers of change and modernization.
The idea of ”Art Seminar” – a symposium - came as a realization of the need to have a “cross-section”of opinions, a “reasonable sample, of the degree of coherence of talk about landscape” (88) and its rendering in contemporary society and art. James Elkins and Rachael Ziady DeLue invited a diverse range of scholars and practitioners to take part in the discussion. I will try to summarize the two discources together in their vision of the role of landscape in life and art and their interconnectedness, the way they appeal to me and to my interpretation of a landscape as I see it in my (still developing and transitional!) practice:
Brief Outline of Various Conceptualizations of Landscape
1. Landscape as “embedded ideology”, being “fundamentally engaged with ideology”.
2. “Body inside landscape” – landscape resists the illusion of an observing subject (69). Like the body, landscape is something we all feel ourselves to be inside (88). + the idea of “scape”, not “scope” – as in German landschaft meaning “partnership”, “collaboration”.
3. Presence of empathy in landscape: the projection of one’s own consciousness into another being, thing, or place.
4. Body and mind: sensuality and desire cannot be ignored in response to landscapes… They are powerful motivation aspects of imagination.
5. “Rootedness” (38) (and rootlessness) – ideas of home and belonging, of locality and identity, and of the social and environmental dangers of change and modernization.
6. Myths, aesthetics: the belief deposited deep in myth and memory – that the good, the true and the beautiful, as well as threatening, the awesome and the disgusting, are inscribed in the contours of the land. (37, 90)
7. Symbolic landscape and treating landscape as theater; conceptual elaboration of the relation between landscape and symbolic discourse. (34)
8. Landscape as a way of seeing.
9. Significance of landscape as a context for socio-political identity. (35)
10. Significance of literary hermeneutics for landscape and its understanding, as well as its material construction.
11. Significance of new experiences (speed, technology, and aerial view) in an explicit dialogue with the picturesque tradition. (27, 30)
12. Landscape and identity.
13. Radical re-conceptualization of the old landscape tradition. (124) As a cure to Romanticism here come:
- indexical abstraction – indexicality and the traces of landscapes,
– installation (presentation)
– land art (direct intervention in the site)
14. Landscape in the “predominantly unmappable world” (borderless flow or globalization). (131)
15. Landscape as “mediated experience” – landscape as “already known”. (137)
16. Landscape as “animated force” – cultural or national landscape. (147)
Benjamin, Walter. 1936 “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”.
Source: UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television. Web. 2 Aug. 2010
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