Thursday, June 13, 2019

789: Against Interpretation...

It is 1964 and men like Pollock and Warhol had defied the possibility  of interpretation of their work.
In "Against Interpratation" (1964), Susan Sontag (1933 - 2004) fights against the classical separation 
between form and content of a work of art, where content and its interpretation become more important than form.
-quote-"Directed to art, interpretation means plucking a set of elements (the X, the Y, the Z, and so forth) from the whole work. 
The task of interpretation is virtually one of translation. The interpreter says, Look, don’t you see that X is really— or, really means—A? That Y is really B? That Z is really C?"-end quote-
It is that peculiar situation in which someone means to know by interpretation, what the author really meant or what the painting really means.
According to Susan Sontag "..the effusion of
interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities."
-quote-"It is always the case that interpretation of this type indicates a dissatisfaction (conscious or unconscious) with the work, a wish to replace it by something else."

"Interpretation does not, of course, always prevail. In fact, a great deal of today’s art may be understood as motivated by a flight from interpretation. 
To avoid interpretation, art may become parody. Or it may become abstract. Or it may become (“merely”) decorative. Or it may become non-art."-end quote-
Then she comes to her main question: "What kind of criticism, of commentary on the arts, is desirable today? 
For I am not saying that works of art are ineffable, that they cannot be described or paraphrased. They can be. 
The question is how. What would criticism look like that would serve the work of art, not usurp its place?"
And she concludes that "...a vocabulary - a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, vocabulary - for forms" is needed.
Her conclusion is: "What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more. 
Our task is not to find the maximum amount of content in a work of art, much less to squeeze more content out of the work than is already there. 
Our task is to cut back content so that we can see the thing at all. The aim of all commentary on art now should be 
to make works of art-and, by analogy, our own experience-more, rather than less, real to us. 
The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means." -end quote-
In this conclusion you read the typical attitude of the 1960s: a kind of anti-rational and think-with- your-feelings attitude,  an anti-intellectualism.
Did we inherit this from her? I don't know, but I happen to run into James Reich. He is a writer and  the founder and publishing editor of Stalking Horse Press, 
and a professor of philosophy and literature. He was born in England in 1971, and has been a resident of the US since 2009.
The tittle of an article by him tells the story: "A Dangerous Method: Susan Sontag's 'Against Interpretation'." November 2017.
Just a few quotes and you'll have content enough to dig into:

"It is by deliberate rejection of context that she strips the creative act of ritual, renders artists mute, depoliticizes, neuters, 
and demeans notions of depth and deception, implication and interrogation, makes the reader, the viewer, the listener a bland consumer, and susceptible to manipulations...
The greatest danger of Against Interpretation is that Sontag is willfully blind to the coercive facts of culture, to semiotics, propaganda, the insinuations of power in culture.
Against Interpretation encourages a laissez-faire laziness disguised as radicalism, and presumes that criticism is a burden to the mind.
It was a dangerously naïve essay then, and is more dangerous now. We must always be suspicious of the text." -end quotes-
Does art has form and content and can we describe the form and interpret the content? As you see the question is still alive...
Thank you for your attention again ...

The discussion

[13:20] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman
[13:20] oola Neruda: book by Ben Shahn... Form and Content...
[[13:21] oola Neruda: ooops  mThe Shape of Content
[13:21] herman Bergson: What I like of this subject is the hippie like approach of Sontag of looking at art....
[13:21] CB Axel: I can't help but interpret the content.
[13:22] herman Bergson: Brain turned off....all senses wide open.....experience.....feel....
[13:22] herman Bergson: The artist is, whatever he makes, working within a cultural context....
[13:23] oola Neruda: there were a lot of different kinds of approaches to art at that time...which meant that it was very difficult to have one approach....
[13:23] herman Bergson: The idea of Sontag looks like the "L'art pour l'art" principle from the 1880s
[13:24] oola Neruda: it helped to be part of the circle that is creating a certain style... for there will be a lot of talk that is just between people with that group or environment... "inside? ideas
[13:25] herman Bergson: I am no art critic, so I don't know what the mainstream of today is, but I don't think it is the "against interpretation" approach
[13:25] CB Axel: Her approach isn't dangerous when applied to art, but people (or at least people in the US) seem to be taking that approach with politics and news.
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed there are so may type of art and how it is meant to be seen
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): interpreted or not
[13:26] oola Neruda: a LOT of experimenting with style and media at that time... each direction took on different ideas or challenges
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:27] herman Bergson: Maybe it is interesting to look in some history of art of the 20th century and see what all happened then
[13:27] oola Neruda: YES
[13:27] herman Bergson: And it might be interesting to keep this form vs. content debate in mind then
[13:27] oola Neruda: one was rebellion against the gallery owners and their "rules".... taking advantage of artists
[13:28] oola Neruda: so they made art that could not be bought....
[13:28] oola Neruda: like environmental art....
[13:28] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): as i get it one of these (Sonntag) says interpretation is bad and the other that it is definitley not and that she is all wrong. I say it depends on the art, how it is meant to be seen
[13:28] oola Neruda: spiral jetty
[13:28] oola Neruda: yes
[13:29] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): as said there are sooo many types of art
[13:29] oola Neruda: some people were just pushing the boundaries on a certain medium
[13:29] herman Bergson: Yes could say that indeed
[13:29] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and warhol is definitely an interpreted one
[13:29] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): meant to be
[13:29] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): its not definite or distinct as other art forms
[13:29] herman Bergson: actually the opposite, Bejiita
[13:30] herman Bergson: his soup canns.....
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i mean what does a soup can on a painting mean, its pop art but can it be seen as more then just a can of soup or a box of brillo
[13:30] oola Neruda: others reacted to the history of ar art... certain work with specific meanings... extended into the present... or the progression of the use of color or flat pictures... or reaction to space
[13:30] oola Neruda: they all take off in different "new" directions
[13:31] herman Bergson: That was the WAS just a soup can...
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): common items as art
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i think of hidden messages and such
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes.....which content was just to be a common item......
[13:32] oola Neruda: it was a statement about corporations and advertising... .... commercial reasons for advertising and making art just a PRODUCT
[13:32] CB Axel: But why was it a soup can? Why didn't he paint a box of Brillo?
[13:32] CB Axel: That's where the interpretation comes in for me.
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes
[13:32] oola Neruda: anyone can be famous for 5 minutes... via commercial art
[13:32] herman Bergson: Simply because he didn't CB :-)
[13:33] oola Neruda: soup can was the symbol for making money with images... commercial art...
[13:33] herman Bergson: And that is where Sontag says that you make a translation of the artwork, change it into something else
[13:33] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i wonder however if i took a box of our Swedish version of Brillo - Svinto and made that an artwork would that become just as famous?
[13:34] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes Bejiita:)
[13:34] herman Bergson: Give it a try Bejiita :-)
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i have thought of that for a long time
[13:34] oola Neruda: portraits of mao... or marilyn...etc..... just products like soup
[13:34] herman Bergson: Plenty of time in the comming Summerbreak :-)
[13:34] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): now is the time toralize it:0
[13:35] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): to realize
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): Bullens pilsnerkorv and Armens Ärtsoppa (the Armys peasoup) could be 2 more items to try here
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:36] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): :)))
[13:36] herman Bergson: Well, I guess plenty of homework for you all regarding modern art and what makes art art :-)
[13:37] oola Neruda: graffiti as "art"
[13:37] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ill go continuing combining all forms of art together again in my game engines
[13:37] herman Bergson: Some are specatular
[13:37] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): that's an art-form too
[13:37] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): well it is art if made well, not just tags but actual paintings
[13:37] oola Neruda: yes
[13:37] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): then they are awesome many of them
[13:38] oola Neruda: but the one that was doing the graffiti... made images that were threatening....
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and being in the street dance culture i  of course have to appreciate it
[13:38] oola Neruda: were base and violent
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hmm ok
[13:39] herman Bergson: I guess we may conclude our trip into the world of art and art criticism then
[13:39] oola Neruda: Banksy was different with his street art ...he was making comments on society and values
[13:39] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i our nearby town we have beautiful art walls with graffiti
[13:39] herman Bergson: conclude
[13:39] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): speciale made by artists
[13:40] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): no violent  at all
[13:40] herman Bergson: Unless you have the final remark or question, I'd like to thank you again for your participation
[13:40] herman Bergson: Class dismissed....
[13:41] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman
[13:41] bergfrau Apfelbaum: Thank you Herman!
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): nice again
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:41] oola Neruda: thank you...very much
[13:41] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.


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