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Fine Arts Cultural Studies
FACS 1900
Robert Gill

FACS 1900 C Arts and Ideas Instructor: Robert Gill Room: ACW 206 for lecture, ACE 006 for tutorial Time: Friday 11:30 to 1:30 PM for lecture, 2:30 to 3:30 for tutorial October 03, 2008 We will do language and aesthetics this term, memory probably the next. Today we will see first a video about Gabriel Orozco, a Mexican artist, make sure you get the spelling of his name correctly. Then a lecture on language with reference to Hall, then we will watch another film about the design of an object by a French architect, Philippe Stark. An established language, the language of furniture, how it was transformed into something new. We will discuss about this in a moment. Think about one question while watching the film. What do you think are some of the media, materials, languages that the artist is using in this film. It’s not easy to say that he is using a certain material, he is using a number of materials. Relate that to other ideas that you have seen in this course up to this point. This artist’s work, what does it tell us about some of the themes so far? Video presentation: Gabriel Orozco, Loss and Desire • The artist uses the camera as a way of awareness. He doesn’t have a studio, which he considers to be an isolated, artificial place, like a bubble. “You have to be confronted with reality all the time, be outdoors.” • He tries to be intimate with everything around him, needs trust. He has no technique, just different ways to work. “When I finish something I need to invent a new thing in a different place.” • He is using bicycles and cars, remaking them. He worked for a month in a garage with a technician to reconstruct this car which is half distorted. • Artist is shown going to the supermarket, such a perfect world. He disturbs its perfection rearranging potatoes on top of notebooks, cat food cans on top of watermelons. • He also reconfigures games, such as chess. He populates it entirely with knights. Chess is a world in itself, designed to perfection. Or the ping pong game, he makes it so that four people are playing, the net is open, there is a new space in between which he transforms into a small pond. He calls this new game ping pond. 1 • The Foucault pendulum proves that the earth is rotating. The artist modifies the billiard game so that one ball on the table is a pendulum and the table is oval. This way we play close to the laws of the universe. • “I try to use the tools that everybody can use.” He is shown doing ceramic. Like a hobby for him. He likes to be a beginner in a variety of techniques rather than a specialist in one. Interested in pottery as a mass, needs a specific clay. • “The thinking process is related to the body in many ways. Moving in a train, looking at the ocean, working with the hands, you are stimulating the brain and thinking. I feel that when the shape is ready, it represents what just happened before. Pottery can be related to anything in the world, it is part of history.” • “The space between work and life is hard to negotiate for everybody. The important thing is to work and sustain life, all the spaces in between are a bit lost. Every person has to fight for those spaces. When you live and work in the same space, everything is about work.” • He is shown working with things in the environment, plants and metal pipes. “Building bridges of communication with other people.” What are some other media that the artist is using in his work? Think about that for a few minutes. ---plant life and nature. ---the movement of the earth itself in Foucault’s pendulum. ---cars and bikes. ---old things transformed into artistic things. Found objects, objects that already exist and have their own reality. ---he uses photography to document to interaction with the objects. He is using photography to document experience and process. The importance of process as a medium. His art is not about clay, paint, drawing, but about the process you engage with as a creative person. ---everyday objects, stuff you can find anywhere. He sees things that exist in the world as having a process. He is keeping track of his own experience of what objects mean. He likes to generate chaos in relationship to these everyday things he finds. 2 ---he likes to choose the environment of objects. He is engaging with the environments that objects are in, that is he engages with space. ---he is playing with our cultural concepts of what is normal, what is surprising. He has this attitude about our taken for granted concepts of what things are. A good list of possibilities. ---he tears down old structures and creates new functional structures. He is redesigning things that have already been designed to have one purpose, he is transforming them to make new designs. ---he is giving meaning to things like garbage. He is taking what we might disregard as marginal things and values them. ---he uses material anyone can use. He has a democratic attitude about media. He doesn’t want to be an expert in any particular media. A democratic attitude about things. A different sense of what it means to be an artist. ---he is focused on symmetry. He is interested in juxtaposing universal concepts with notions of chaos. He recognizes the world is both ordered and chaotic at the same time. A paradoxical quality. ---he uses the light itself. He is documenting the interplay between the space and the way light falls on objects. He is interested in the force of life around us. A very spiritual approach to art making. A sense of the life in things, how life is a process of exploring things and having seen new things emerge. There is this tension in language which is so ordered that we might be interested in introducing chaos in that order. We have to understand the patterns, the organization of language on the one hand. How we actually experience language can be chaotic, difficult. Cat food on melons, he is suggesting there is a patterned language in a grocery store, a vocabulary. Stores have a grammar. The perishable stuff are all around the perimeter, you can walk around just to pick up that stuff. Inside are the canned goods and the displays are all structured. He is running interference on that universe. That’s at the core of this course, this idea that you can take what is taken for granted in your experience of the world and you can mix it up, you can transform it. 3 A creative person understands the rules and changes the rules. Creative people need to understand how language works in order to understand how it is structured. At the same time we want to be able to destabilize that order, to rethink how things work. It’s a big job. If you want to change the world, you have to understand how it works first. You can’t just be angry, have a temper tantrum, that’s not how things happen. So much of the world today doesn’t work very well for us. The way we produce things in the world is very destructive, exploitative. We want to change the way that’s laid out. We have to figure out how does it work first. We want to learn how to play games. He is using games as a medium. Taking what is the structured, ordered universe of a game, like a landscape that invites you in to play. A landscape is what a chessboard is. He turns all the pieces into knights. The ping pong table, he removes the centre and introduces a new space. He takes the billiard game and introduces Foucault’s pendulum. He is interested in the structure and also interrupting that structure. That’s how we can find new meanings and create new meanings out of what is around us. What I am defining here is creativity, a disciplined response to what is out there in order to create new things. Discipline is about understanding the language that you’re working in and using that understanding to create new universes. A language is a formal and organized system of communication. Formal means it has form to it. It has a formal quality. Painting has the formal qualities of canvas, underpainting, stretcher, paint, the art gallery it sits in. In some ways even more interestingly language also includes informal things. Those everyday things around us that are there as part of our environment and our experience. How we respond to the environments we live in, to the experiences that we have. When you do some ecstasy on Friday night, you can’t say “these are the formal organized qualities of the rave experience.” That experience is also a language. Rave culture has its own thing. That bodily experience, of feeling ecstatic. Language is so much part of who we are that we have difficulty seeing how it works. We have internalized language. Today I will throw you into the deep end. I give you a framework to these ideas and then open them up more throughout the course. At the end of November your job is to tell us what you know about these ideas. Integral stuff to what you will be telling us. For today be patient and trust the process that these ideas will get clearer and clearer. Some questions we will raise today, some questions that the study of language raises. Is language transparent? Like a window that allows us to look at a reality that is there, that helps us name that reality? We take it for granted we can pick up these words and 4 ideas to represent what we know. That is a dog, that’s what it is. Does language have the capacity to represent reality in a straightforward way? Is language a reflection? Something we look at and see ourselves reflected back, it bounces ideas back to us, a reflection of reality? These are questions that we will be talking more about. Is language objective? Does it objectively indicate what is real? You kind of know at some level that it is not. Somebody trying to ask you to describe something, you know what it is, but when it comes time to explain it you don’t know what to say. What is love. I love you, what does that mean for you. Suddenly in some moments of our lives language fails us because we realize it’s not that easy to represent what we know. In this course we want to explore these questions, is language something that gives us the basis to say this is true, this is false. We want to break out of this mold, of putting things in this or that box. Is language able to show the “truth” about the real world? We will challenge this idea that language is simply a representation of what we know and of reality. Language becomes very difficult to study and understand precisely because of this quality of not being black and white. Male and female categories, not as black and white as they appear to be on the surface. If language is simply a window that shows us the truth then we would all be saying the same thing, seeing the same thing, understanding the same thing, being able to represent it through that window and we don’t. We use this language system called male and female but if I were to ask you what male and female means we would have a classroom material to work with until April. We have an idea that is straightforward but when we experience gender it is not that good a tool to represent who we really are. We need to break through these taken for granted things that we use, challenge them. Next term we will directly address questions about gender and sexuality. Why do we put people in a box of gay and straight. The system of thinking of people’s sexuality is largely binary still. One last thing about language. There is an interplay happening here. The problem with the idea that language simply operates as a reflection or a window. The idea that we are standing on one side of reality sets up a kind of separation between ourselves and that reality. We do that a lot in western society, we tend to think of reality as something that is objective. When we say that nature is outside of ourselves, we make this separation. We are human while nature is out there. Language has a similar problem, we sometimes set up a distinction between the language and the user, the text and the persons reading it, the music and how we hear it. We want to understand language in a more integral way. We want to understand language in 5 context, that language is something that is generated by the world and we are part of that process. Language not as a thing but as a process. One thing to remember, language in this course is not a thing, it is a process. Through that process you have experience of the world. Those things that seem to be outside of you are integral to your experience of your life. They are connected to you. We are connected to everything around us. Think about that idea, how it works in the context of our lives. Video
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