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Lecture 2

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Visual Arts

VISA 1Q98 – Introduction to Visual Culture Week 2 January 14 and 16 2013 Viewers make meaning: The production of meaning involves at least three elements besides the image itself and its producer. 1. The codes and conventions that structure the image and that cannot be separated from the content of the image 2. The viewers and how they interpret or experience the image 3. The context in which an image is exhibited and viewed The Viewer – An individual who looks  The elements that come into play when we look may include not only the image but other images that are displayed or published, our own bodies, other bodies, built in natural objects and entities, the institutions and social contexts in which we engage looking.  By focusing on the viewer, we emphasize the practices through which images and media text reach out and touch the audience members in ways that emotionally link them to past experiences.  To feel touched by a mass image is to harbor a mistaken understanding of oneself as the individual for whom the image’s meaning is personally intended Interpellation – Interpret a procedure in order to question someone or something formally, as in a legal or governmental setting. To describe the way that images and media texts seem to all out to us and catch our attention. One does not need to like or appreciate the dominant images or message to be interpellated by it or to understand the message. It is to know that the image is meant for me to understand, even if I feel that my understanding is unique or goes against the intended meaning of the image.  In the process of interpellation we are describing an image or media text that can bring out in viewers the experience of being “hailed” in ways that do not always promote a sense of being exactly the subject for whom the message is intended  The process of interpellation is inevitable Olay ad, 2008  Interpellates the viewer with the promise of an idealized future self  Draws the viewer in as a spectator, interprellating me, even though I know I am not the person for whom it is meant John Ellis  The term “Audience” is a unifying concept that is so important to media marketing experts  Even the most personal images, I may feel that the photo Interpellates, or speaks, to me and only me, but it does so through the photographic codes and conventions of “the personal” that we used to convey in such images  Photos can use close ups to give the sense that the subject is looking directly into the viewers eyes and soul Producer  In advertising, refers to the advertising agency, the lead designer, or the company whose product is represented in the ad  The individual maker  Most if not all images have a meaning that is preferred/intended by their producers Provenance  A place of origin; history of ownership Nicholas Mirzoeff  “Intervisuality” or the interaction of a variety of modes of visuality is a key aspect of visual culture. Thus any experience of viewing may incorporate different media forms , networks, and intertextual meanings.  Viewers themselves bring cultural associations that will effect their individual interpretations of an image  Meanings are created when, where, and by whom images are consumed; the producer is not in full control of the meanings that are made through the work. Aesthetic – What we consider naturally beautiful or universally pleasing and is culturally determined Taste – Culturally specific, informed by experiences relating to ones class, cultural background, education, and other aspects of identity Pierre Bourdieu  Captured the century’s changed understanding of taste as something that is always connected to social identity and class status  When we say that people have “good” taste we may mean that they participate and are educated in middle-class or upper-class notions of what is aesthetically pleasing; whether or not they actually possess these class positions  Taste can be a marker of education and an awareness of elite cultural values  “Bad” taste is regarded as a product of ignorance of what is deemed “quality” or “tasteful” within a society. Taste in this understanding is something that can be learned through contact with culture, but also something that can be defied.  In Distinction, established through extensive survey, taste is used by individuals to enhance their position within the social order and that distinction is the means through which they establish their taste as different from that of other, lower classes of people.  Taste is learned through exposure to social and cultural institutions that promote certain class based assumptions about correct taste  Museums, determine what is valuable and what is not, what is “real” art. People then become discriminating viewers and consumers of images and objects. They “learn” to rank images and objects according to a system of taste that is deeply steeped in class based values.  All aspects of life are interconnected and unified in what he called a Habitus; a set of dispositions and preferences we share as social subjects that are related to our class position, education, and social standing. This means that our taste in art is related to our taste in music, food, fashion…and is in turn related to our career, class status, and education level Connoisseurship  A “well-bred” person, a “gentleman” who possess’ good taste and knows the difference between a good work of art and a bad one, who can afford the “quality” work over the reproduction.  A more capable person of passing judgment on the quality of cultural objects  “Good taste” is associated with the knowledge of “high” culture forms such as fine art, literature, and classical music. Kitsch  Images and objects that are trite, cheaply sentimental, and formulaic  Associated with mass-produced objects that offer cheap or gaudy versions of classical beauty  Recognized as iconic of a historical moment in which everyday life was saturated in cheesiness High Culture – Fine art, classical music, opera, and ballet Low Culture – Comics, television, and the cinema Jean-Michel Basquiat and Shepard Fairey  Graffiti/street art producers  Fairey is the founder of Swindle magazine and the designer of the loading screen for guitar hero II and is known for his Andre the Giant logo in urban public places Clement Greenberg  “Avant Garde and Kitsch” – unlike avant garde art, kitsch is formulaic, offering cheap and inauthentic emotion to the uneducated masses  Embracing the lowbrow aesthetics of kitsch and the “bad” design elements of everyday mass culture became a means of defying modernism’s tendency towards elite, “high” quality design Komar and Melamid, Italy’s most unwanted painting (Peoples Choice) 1995  Project to examine questions about taste in an international context  Commissioned a professional market survey in which people in the US and Russia were asked about their recreational preferences, politics, lifestyle, and knowledge of famous artists and historical figures ; also their reactions to paintings with angles, curves, brushstrokes, colors, sizes, themes, and styles  Tallied and computed results to determine each countries most wanted and unwanted image  Objective: Artists are not unresponsive to the vagaries of a mass public psychology of taste uninformed by the avant garde aesthetics represented in some museums and galleries of modern art  The project was also a pointed critique of the ways in which opinion polls and statistics about collective opinions carry so much weight in contemporary society and in the media David Teniers the Younger, Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in his Picture Gallery in Brussels, c. 1650-51  One of the first visual cataloging of an art collection  Imagined the archduke standing amongst his many paintings as a means to both illustrate the collection and affirm the importance of the archdukes role as a collector  The painting thus functions as an actual catalogue of the archdukes collection, as an affirmation of his taste and role as a connoisseur, and as evidence of the value of the large collection Thomas Struth, Hermitage I, St. Petersburg, 2005  Took a series of photographs of people viewing art in museums in order to capture the complexity of these kinds of art viewing practices  Give a sense of the varied responses that ordinary people have to art; Display a full range such as turning away, listening to audio without looking at the art, and looking at it intently; replicating the experiences of the James Clifford viewers initial response  Wrote about how the practices of collecting and exhibiting art and artifacts contributed to the ways viewers make meaning  Adapted the semiotic square for the purpose of mapping the movement of art and cultural artifacts from one cultural context to another in relationship to changes in their classification and value  Allows us to see how the movement of objects through the collecting practices of museums, scholars, and connoisseurs effects transitions in the meaning and value of works from, for example, not-art (such as religious artifacts) to art or from authentic to inauthentic. Institutional Critique  In the 1990’s scholars looked at studying museums and galleries to determine what is and isn’t art and provide structure through education, taste, routine, what to value, and what our society values  Concept draws on writings by Michel Foucault about the function of institutions, such as asylums and prisons, in the production of particular forms of knowledge and states of being  One of the tenets is that institutions historically have provided structures through which power could be enacted without force or explicit directives, but rather through more passive techniques such as education, the cultivation of taste, and cultivation of daily routine.  Author Function- Seeing the author as a function of discourse, a position of social construction  Social critiques of art and artists concerned with dynamics of power in the art market turned to the museum as a site where viewers could be interpellated with messages that reflectively drew attention to the politics of the museum itself  Can be traced back to Dadaist Marcel Duchamp who challenged taste and aesthetics Dada  Critique of war/racism/nationalism  Happenings Critique that poked fun at the conventions of high art and museum display conventions “Fountain” Marcel Duchamp 1917  Urinal submitted to an open gallery and was rejected  “R” standing for “a rich man” and “Mutt” is referring to a
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