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Lecture 4

Week 4.docx

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Clayton Childress

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Week 4 American Sociological Review: Art As Collective Action - a distinguished tradition hold sthat art is social in character,this being a specific instance of the more general proposition that cultural products have a social base. - Much literature on art aas a social product doesn’t reference the collective activities, or reference the action of people doing things together which creates structures. - Howard Becker experiences and participation in several art worlds has led him to the conception of art as a form of collective action - Think with respect to any work of art, all the activities that must be carried on for the work to appear as it finally does. For a symphony orchestra to give a concert, intruments must be invents, manufactured, maintained, a notation must be devised and music composed, people have to learn to play these instruments, times and place of rehersal must be provides, tickets need to be arranged and sold etc. - A similar list can be compiled for any performing arts. - Generally speaking, the necessary activities typically include conceiving the idea for the work, making the necessary physical artifacts, creating conventional language of expression, training artistic personnel and audience to use the conventional language to create and experience and providing necessary mixture of those ingredients for a particular work or performance. - All the arts we know involve elaborate networks of cooperation. A division of labour required takes place. Typically many people participate in the work without which the performance or artifact could not be produced. A sociological analysis therefore looks for the division of labour. How are the various tasks divided among the people who do them? - Nothing in the technology of any art makes on division of tasks more natural than another. Consider the relations between the composition and performance of music. We recognize no necessary connection between the two and see them as two separate roles which may occasionally coincide in one person - In no case does the character of the art impose a natural division of labour the division of labour. The division of always results from a consensual definition of the situation. Once that has been achieved of course participants in the world of art regard it as natural and resist attempts to change it as unnatural. - Participants in art would regard some of the activities that is necessary to the production of art as requiring some special gift and the remaining activities as business acusment or some other ability that is less rare or less necessary to the success of the work. They define these people who do these special activities as support personnel. - How little of the activity necessary for the art can a a person do and still claim the title of artist? - The amount the composer contribute to the material contained in final work has varied greatly - Artists need not handle the materials from which the art work is made to remain artists, architects seldom build what they design. The same practice raises questions, however when sculptors construct a piece by sending a set of specification to a machine shop, and many people balk at awarding the title of artist to authors of conceptual works consisting of specification which never actually embodied in an artifact. - Marcel Duschamp outraged many people by insisting that he created valid art work when he signed commercially produced snowshovel or signed a reproduction of the Mona Lisa with a mustache drawn on it, thus classifying Leonardo as support personel along with the snowshovel designer and manufacturer. Outrageous as it sound something like it is standard in making collages, in which the entire work may be constructed of things made by other people - The point of these example is that what is taken, in any world of art, to be quintessential artistic act, the act of whose performance marks one as an artist, is a matter of a consensual definition. - Whatever the artist does not do himself must be done by someone else. The artist thus works in the centre of a large network of cooperating people, all of who’s work is essential to the final outcome. It creates a link, people who the artist cooperates with may share in every particular idea of how their work is to be done. This consensus is likely when everyone involved can perform any necessary activity so that the division of labour exits and no specialized functional groups develop. This situation might occur in simple communally shared art forms like the square dance or in segments of society whose ordinary members are trained in artistic activities. - When specialized professional groups take over the performance of the activities necessary to an art work’s production, however their memebers tend to develop specialized aesthetic, financial and career interests which differ substantially from the artist’s. Ochestral musicsion, for instance are notoriously more concerned with the how they sound in a performance rather than the success of particular work. - Aesthetic conflict between support personnel and the artists also occur. - Specialized support groups develop their own standard and interest. For instance a guy went to printing company to print his designs. But when printing solid colour area, it was going to leave roller marks. Although the designer was okay with this the printing company said they wouldn’t allow it to leave their shop because it was a sign of poor craftsmenship. This individual was at the mercy of the printing company because he didn’t know how to print lithographs himself. - His experience exemplified the choice that faces the artist at every cooperative link. He can do things the way established gourps of support personnel are prepared to do them, he can try make them do it his way, he can train others to do it his way, or he can do it himself. Any choice but the first requires additional investment of time and energy to do what could be done less expensively if done the standard way. The artist’s involvement with and dependence on cooperative links thus constrains the kind of art he can produce. - Similar examples can be found in any field of art, eg. Cummings had trouble getting his first book of poetry published because printers were afraid to set his bizarre layouts. Producing a motion picture involves multiple difficulties of this kind: actors who will only be photographed in flattering ways, writers who don’t want to change a word in their scripts, cameraman who will not use unfamiliar processes. - When artists go beyond the capacities of existing institutions, their works are not exhibited or performed: that reminds us that most artists make sculptures that are not too big or heavy for existing museums, they compose music with a comfortable number of players and write plays which run a reasonable lenth of time. - By accommodating their conceptions to available resources, conventional artist accept the constraints arising from their dependence on the cooperation of members of existing art world. Wherever the artist depend on others for some necessary component he must either accept the constraints they impose or expend the time and energy necessary to provide it some other way. - However, although artist must have the cooperation of others for the art work to occur as it finally does, does not mean that he cannot work without cooperation. Although a poet depends on printers and publishers once can still produce poetry without them. The poetry does not circulate in conventional print because the artist would not accept the censorship or rewriting imposed by those who would publish the work. The poet either has to reproduce and circular his work himself or not have it circulate. But still he can write poetry. This argument thus differs from a functionalism that asserts that the artist must have cooperation, ignoring the possibility that the cooperation can be foregone, however at a price. - Conventions - Producing art works requires elaborate modes of cooperation among specialized personnel. - How do these people arrive at the terms on which they will cooperate? - People who cooperate to produce a work of art do not decide things afresh. Instead they reply on earlier agreements now become customary, agreements that have become part of a conventional way of doing things in that art. - Artistic conventions cover all the decisions that must be made with respect to works produced in a given art world, even though a particular convention may be revised for a given work. Thus conventions dictate materials to be used as when musicians agree to base their music on the notes contained in a set of modes. Conventions also dictate the abstractions to be sued to convey particular ideas or experiences, as when painters use the laws of perspective to convey illusion of three dimensions or photographs use black, white and shades of gray to convey interplay of light and colour. Conventions suggest the appropriate dimensions of a work, the proper length for a musical or dramatic event, the proper size and shape of painting a sculpture. Conventions regulate the relations between artists and audience, specifying the rights and obligations of both. - Humanistic scholars found that artistic conventions have an ability to produce an emotional response in audiences. By using such a conventional organization of tones as a scale, the composer can create and manipulate the listener’s expectations of what is to follow. Only because artist and audience share knowledge of and experience with the conventions invoked does the art work produce emotional effect. There are also visual conventions artists use to create the illusion for viewers that they are seeing a realistic depiction of some aspect of the world. - In all these cases, the possibility of artistic experience arises from the existence of a body of conventions that artists and audiences can refer to in making sense of the work. - Conventions make art possible in another sense. Because decisions can be made quickly, because plans can be made simply by referring to a conventional way of doing things, artists can devote more time to actually doing their work. Conventions thus make possible the easy and efficient coordination of activity among artists and support personnel. - Ivins for instance shows how, by using a conventionalized scheme for rendering shadows and other effects artists could collaborate in producing a single plate. The same convention provides made it possible for viewers to read what the marks and shadowing and modeling. - The concept of convention provides a point of contact between humanist and sociologists, being interchangeable with such familiar sociological ideas as norm, rule, shared understanding, custom or folkway, all referring to one way or another to the ideas and understandings people hold in common through which they effect cooperative activity. For instance musicians who are total strangers can play all night with only the mention of a title and count of beats to give tempo. - Though standardized, conventions are seldom rigid and unchanging. They do not specify and inviolate set of rules everyone must refer to in settling questions of what to do. A tradition of performance practice, often codified in book form, tells performers how to interpret the musical scored or dramatic scripts they perform. Performers read their music in the light of all these customary styles of interpretation and thus were able to coordinate their activities. - Even where customary interpretations of conventions exist, having become conventions themselves, artists can agree to do things differently negotiating, making change possible. - Conventions place strong constraints on the artist. They are particularly constraining because they do not exist in isolation, but come in complexity interdependent systems, so that making one small change often requires making changes in a variety of other activities. - A system of convention gets embodied in equipment , materials, training available facilities and site, system of notation and the like, all of which must be changed if any one segment is. - Consider if musical scale of twelve tones change to one including forty-two tones between the octaves entails. Then you would have to produce new instruments, train players how to play them and learn how to read it, it requires more work, time, effort and resources. - Similarly, conventions specifying what a good photograph should look like are embodied not only in an aesthetic more or less accepted in the world of art, but also in acceptance of constraints built into the neatly interwoven complex of standardized equipment and materials made by the manufacturers. Such as lenses, camera bodies, shutter speeds, apertures, films and printing paper that can be used to produce acceptable prints. - The limitations of conventional practice clearly are not total. One can always do things differently if they are prepared to pay the price in increase effort or decreased circulation of one’s work. However at the same time it increases the artist’s freedom to choose unconventional alternatives and to depart substantially from customary practice. For example Ives who experimented with polytonality and polyrhythms and was told that his the instruments could not make that sound, but he continued to make such music anyways. - If this is true we can understand any work as the product of a choice between conventional ease and success, and unconventional trouble and lack of recognition, looking for the experience and situational and structural elements that dispose an artist in one direction or the other. - Although sometimes art experience stasis doesn’t mean there is not change or innovation occurs. Small innovations occur constantly, as conventional means of creating expectations and delaying their satisfaction becomes so well know as to become conventional expectations in their own right. For instance at one time string players didn’t use vibrato, however introducing it on rare occasions as a deviation from convention created emotional responses because of its rarity. - An attack on convention does not merely mean an attack on the particular item to be change. Every convention carries with it an aesthetic, according to which what is conventional becomes the standard by which artistic beauty and effectiveness is judged A play which violate classic unities is not merely different it is distasteful, barbaric and ugly to those whom classical unities represent a fixed criterion of dramatic worth. Therefore an attack on a convention because an attack on their aesthetic beliefs, which is viewed as natural, proper and moral to them. - If we focus on a specific art work, it proves useful to think of social organization as a network organization as a network of people who cooperate to produce that work. WE see that the same people often cooperate repeatedly, even routinely, in similar ways to produce similar work ways to produce similar works. They organize their cooperation by referring to the conventions current among those who participate in the production and consumption of such works. - Conventions make collective action s
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