ARTH 2220 Study Guide - Final Guide: Clement Greenberg, Michel De Certeau, Cultural Appropriation
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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
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
Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid
A. J. Greimas
Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Taylor
Makiko Kudo, Yuko Marada,
Tabaimo, and Chiho Aoshima
Michel de Certeau
Robert Goldman and Stephen
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
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
- 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
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
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 17th 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
The meaning of an image is produced in three ways: through codes and conventions, by the viewers and. An image has a viewer and a producer. A producer can be an individual or a whole team (such as an art. Pierre bourdieu states that good taste and bad taste are socially constructed what is held to be good taste 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 and producers 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.