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ARTH 1220 Ch 2 Study NOTES.docx

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Department
Art History
Course
ARTH 2220
Professor
Susan Douglas
Semester
Fall

Description
ARTH 1220 STUDY NOTES - EXAM 1 PRACTICES OF LOOKING CHAPTER 2: VIEWERS MAKE MEANING I. Content Summary The meaning of an image is produced in three ways: through codes and conventions, by the viewers and their interpretations, and from the contexts in which the image is viewed. Instead of considering audiences, (groups conceptualized by the media industry), this text examines viewers (individuals who look). Viewers are interpellated by images; that is to say, an image requires viewers to know that the image is meant for them to understand, even if they feel that their understanding is unique or goes against the grain of a meaning that seems to have been intended. Viewers and Producers An image has a viewer and a producer. A producer can be an individual or a whole team (such as an art collective group or an advertising agency). In terms of an image’s meaning, however, theorists hold different viewpoints on who holds power and authority to determine an image’s (or a text’s) meaning. Roland Barthes claimed that the text allows for an undetermined space in which the reader or viewer can interpret and decipher the work. The viewer is always interpreting and critiquing every text; there is no author to hold authority or power over the viewer. Michel Foucault disagreed and argued that the “author function” (adapted by the authors to become “the producer function”) is a set of beliefs that leads us to have certain expectations about a work with regard to the status of its producer. As the authors state, “. . . a producer may make an image or media text, but he or she is not in full control of the meanings that are subsequently made through their work.” Add the global cultural flow to the interpretation of images, and the result is that the producer can only produce a text or an image but cannot control the meaning it evokes for others. Aesthetics and Taste Pierre Bourdieu states that good taste and bad taste are socially constructed—what is held to be good taste is usually a result of middle-class education and notions of aesthetics associated with “high culture.” What is understood to be bad taste can be the result of an ignorance of these standards, or it can be a deliberate rejection of the notion of good taste. In the case of avant-garde and kitsch (where avant-garde is art and kitsch is inauthentic and mass produced), kitsch became more widely appreciated in postmodernity and has even served as a reaction to the elitist taste revered by modernity. Collecting, Display, and Institutional Critique The value of art is mainly influenced by the collecting of private owners and museums. Collecting provides a means to measure appreciation and creates a market for art. The act of viewing collections itself evokes meaning. Encoding and Decoding Stuart Hall posits one theory about how viewers decode images that are encoded with meaning by the creators. A viewer can decode in one of three ways: (a) dominant hegemonic reading—accepting the dominant meaning of an artifact in an unquestioning manner; (b) negotiated reading—negotiating an interpretation of the image and its dominant meaning; and (c) oppositional meaning—completely disagreeing with the meaning or ignoring it completely. Reception and the Audience Hall’s theory has been critiqued because most viewers fall somewhere on the continuum between dominant hegemonic reading and oppositional reading; however, it is still helpful to us especially when understanding oppositional readings of works. Negotiated readings are another matter; Michel de Certeau offers one negotiated reading through “textual poaching”: taking a text and “inhabiting” it with new or altered meanings as a form of cultural bricolage. De Certeau argues that in this case negotiating is a struggle for possession of the text. The term bricolage comes from the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and means adapting commodities (or cultural texts) to different uses outside of their usual context. In this case, bricolage means creatively making use of cultural texts for oppositional or negotiated meanings. Appropriation and Cultural Production Cultural appropriation is the process of “borrowing” and changing the meaning of cultural products, slogans, images, or elements of fashion. Examples of appropriation include the many recreations of Grant Wood’s American Gothic, political art, and fan subculture. Reappropriation and Counter-Bricolage Reappropriation and counter-bricolage are not always part of oppositional readings of texts. These terms also refer to the process by which the counter-hegemonic bricolage strategies of marginal cultures are reappropriated by mainstream designers and marketers and then parlayed into mainstream designs that signal “coolness.” ]This is counter to the intent of the bricolage strategy. II. Key Figures and Terms Artist/Creator/Producers Theorist/Scholars Key Terms Group Material John Ellis Viewer RTMark Roland Barthes Audience James Cameron Michel Foucault Interpellation Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid Nicholas Mirzoeff Bricolage Jean-Michel Basquiat Pierre Bourdieu Intervisuality Shepard Fairey Clement Greenberg Producer David Teniers James Clifford Kitsch Gabai Baaré A. J. Greimas Avant-garde Thomas Struth Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Taylor Aesthetics Marcel Duchamp Karl Marx Taste Hans Haacke Louis Althusser High culture Fred Wilson Antonio Gramsci Low culture Barbara Kruger Stuart Hall Quentin Tarantino David Morley Makiko Kudo, Yuko Marada, Janice Radway Tabaimo, and Chiho Aoshima Gordon Parks Ien Ang Grant Wood Michel de Certeau Gran Fury Claude Lévi-Strauss Copper Greene Dick Hebdige Angela McRobbie George Lipsitz Steven Biel Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson ARTIST/CREATOR/PRODUCERS Group Material: Art Collective They display their public art throughout the streets and subways of NY in the 1980’s. The “producer” widely noted for generating this category or ‘brand” of work was the collective itself, and not the individual artists who designed each work. RTMark: Art Collective They play up the anonymity of the individual artist in the manufacture of goods in postindustrial capitalism by presenting itself as an anonymous artist collective structured like a corporation and using corporate language and investment strategies to make a parodic critique of the mass visual culture of commodity production and branding James Cameron: Director of the movie Titanic. In reference with the fact that a producer may make an image or media text, but he or she is not in full control of the meanings that are subsequently made through the work. E.g. China had an unexpected and overwhelmingly positive response to the movie in its entry on “cultural globalization”. The meanings that invested in China were different than the meanings produced in the film by its western viewers, and the movie’s producers did not anticipate it. - Viewers may make meanings that are not intended or anticipated by its producers, and that viewers are active agents in the production of meaning. Vitaly Komar And Alex Melamid: Artists originally from the former Soviet Union, who have worked in the U.S. since 1978 Created “The Most Wanted Paintings on the Web”, which is an excellent project through which to examine questions about taste in an international context. The artists, who have worked in the medium of painting to parody and critique forms such as Soviet realism, commissioned a professional market survey in which people in the United States and Russia were asked about their recreational preferences, their politics and lifestyles, their knowledge of famous artists and historical figures, and their preferences for or reactions against paintings with angles, curves, brushstrokes, colours, sizes, themes and styles. They then tallied and computed the results of the survey, using their findings to arrive at a formula for the creation of paintings showing each country’s most and least wanted image. Each painting represents a composite of the dominant answers from each group. These paintings were exhibited under the rubric of “The People’s Choice”. The point of the project is to make joke about the degree to which the art market is not immune to consumer values and taste uniformed by the avant-garde aesthetics represented in some museums and galleries of modern art. The project also points critique to the ways in which opinion polls and statistics about collective opinions carry so much weight in contemporary society and in the media, even as it uses those statistics to render its works. The project posed the question about what art would look like if it were produced by audience ratings and opinion polls. Yet at the same time it is also a visual manifestation of just how shallow opinion polls can be providing an image of the tastes of viewers, here made into a mockery of the conglomerate concept of “the people.” Jean-Michel Basquiat: Graffiti producer Graffiti was brought from the streets to the galleries in NY in the 1980’s Reference to the idea that categories of taste and distinction trickle down from the upper, educated to the lower, less educated classes does not account for the dynamics of taste and judgment in the evaluation of those valued cultural forms that began as the expression of a marginalized culture or class, such as jazz in the 1920’s and hip- hop in the 1980’s. In the case of forms such as these, taste and distinction can trickle up to more affluent, culturally dominant groups. Shepard Fairey: World renowned street artist, founder of Swindle magazine, designer of the loading screen for Guitar Hero II He stenciled and postered his Andre the Giant logo in urban public spaces in the 1980’s. Gets people to think about the messages of images on the street by using Obey stickers and stencils. Their meanings are often ambiguous, what Fairey calls an “experiment in phenomenology”. Not only is that countercultural values and tastes may trickle up or may develop differently among members of a politically and culturally minoritized diaspora but also that cultural values and tastes are increasingly subject to movement in a variety of directions, as markets diversify in kind laterally, as well as to globalization. David Teniers: Painter in 17 century “Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in his Picture Gallery in Brussels” First visual cataloging’s of an art collection. The Duke was imagined standing among his many paintings as a means to both illustrate the collection and affirm the importance of the archduke’s role as collector. The painting functions both as an actual catalogue of the archduke’s collection (as an affirmation of his taste and role as a connoisseur) and as evidence of the value of his large collection. Ownership is a key factor in establishing value I art. Gabai Baare: West African merchant who trades in woodcarvings produced by members of his village and surrounding communities. It was revealed that artists like Baare who produce the reproductions of religious artifacts that he peddles to art galleries in NY’s Soho and to tourist emporia alike are neither naïve nor beholden to the Western value system. They actively engage in the irony of a process in which they recognize that their mythification by Western consumers can bring profit. Their products have, since the era of colonialism, included iconic “Colon” figures, hand- carved parodies of the colonial authorities and the very connoisseurs who covet their “authentic” reproductions of religious iconography produced exclusively for the tourist and art trade market. Thomas Struth: Photographer Took a series of photographs of people viewing art in museums in order to capture the complexity of these kinds of art-viewing practices. They give a sense of the varied responses that ordinary people have to art (the photographs are normally displayed within a museum or gallery). Struth took these photographs in some of the most famous museums around the world, capturing images of people gazing at, scrutinizing, and walking past famous works of art. The museum photographs give us a sense of the range of responses and expressions of taste that can be found in museums. They also convey, in part through their large size, the sense of presence of the large works of art on exhibition in these spaces. Struth has remarked on how art is fetishized by being exhibited in museums as great masterworks. He suggests that in this process, they become dead objects, but that through viewer’s interactions with these works they can regain some of their vitality. At the same time, Struth’s images also point to the central role that museums play in designating which images and objects are of value in any given society by determining what it is that gets displayed and by creating the conditions (majestic, pristine, grandiose, or gritty) under which works of art are displayed. Our taste is influenced not only by what we are taught to seek out and appreciate but also by how those artworks and objects are publicly exhibited. Marcel Duchamp: French artist who challenged taste and aesthetics. Dadaist interventions Dada- a movement that reflexively poked fun at the conventions in art that aimed to critique the art market and its valuing of art for collecting, including political art, guerrilla art, performance art and happenings, and other ephemeral kinds of art that could not be commodified in the form of valued objects Known for the contribution of a urinal, titled “Fountain”. Hans Haacke: German artist Made a number of works that famously revived the strategy of leading the viewer to question the museum’s role in shaping taste. His works included an expose of the business connections of the trustees of the Guggenheim Museum. Artists engaged in institutional critique interrupted viewing practices through strategies that included taking on the role of the curator and reordering or disrupting the logic of display as a means of making obvious, and thereby disrupting, the formerly invisible politics and policies of the institution. Fred Wilson: American artist Used juxtaposition between older pieces in storage and more conventional pieces to make a point about the politics of display, concealment, and assignation of meaning and value in which a museum had engaged. E.g. slave shackles were resurrected from storage and placed alongside a silver tea service that had previously been on display. By shifting his role from the traditional one of artist as producer to that of artist as curator and docent, Wilson was able to make an intervention in the hidden politics of a museum that had remained entrenched in traditions, “neutral” exhibition practices that included the showing of works of material value (the silver tea service) and the hiding of works that made visible the shameful and ugly aspects of Southern culture and politics. Barbara Kruger: American artist “Found” photographic images are taken and adds text to give the images iconic meanings. E.g. “Untitled (Your manias become science)” Meanings of images are created in a complex relationship among producer, viewer, image or text, and social context, and the negotiation of meaning is a key factor in that relationship. Because meanings are produced out of this relationship, there are limits to the interpretive agency of any one member of this group. Quentin Tarantino: Director of “Jackie Brown”. Homage to the Blaxploitation genre The genre has been appropriated, its meanings strategically transformed to create an alternative view of representation of blackness in film. “B movie” film genre is widely noted for its negative representations of black culture during the 1970s with such stereotypes as the black male stud, gangster, and pimp. Yet, more recently, this genre has been revived to emphasize the evidence these films provide of valuable aspects of black culture and talent during the 1970s. Yuko Marada, Chiho Aoshima: “The Rebirth of a Snake Woman” - Depicts the passage of a woman through the digestive tract of a python from which she reemerges anew. Her work is shown in Giant Robot boutique and magazine, that focuses on the identification of an alternative global and transcultural youth market that seeks out independent labels and products as a matter of person aesthetics and a politics of consumption that favours small business and independent expression. Gordon Parks: Photographer, “Ella Watson”, 1942 Grant Wood: Painter of “American Gothic” Appropriation of the well-known 1930 painting “American Gothic” by Grant Wood, of an American farming couple, standing holding a pitchfork before a classic wooden farmhouse. Parks image, taken before the emergence of the civil rights movement, is a bitter commentary on the discrepancy between the codes of a black woman office cleaner, holding her broom and mop before an American flag, and the puritan codes of Americana in the American Gothic icon. Parks points out to the fact that not all Americans were included in its mythic image. It is the strategy of appropriation that allows Park’s image to make this larger statement about social exclusion and inequality. Gran Fury: Art collective formed in 1987 Strategies of appropriation have often been a key to political art. The art collective produced posters, performances, installations, and videos alerting people to facts about AIDS and HIV hat public health officials refused to publicize. “Read My Lips”, 1988 was a poster that refers to the poster’s image of two women about to kiss (appropriated from a much-discussed slogan in the presidential campaign of President George H.W. Bush “read my lips, no new taxes”). The appropriation gives the poster a biting political
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