Wednesday

Week 1, Notes from "Art Theory" by Cynthia Freeland

Blood
- like paint
- human essence
- can be holy/noble
- can be contaminated/dangerous
- can indicate loss of virginity/adulthood
---> many expressive and symbolic associations

Art as ritual
- art can create symbolic value through ceremonies, gestures, artifacts; many rituals of world religions use rich colour, design, and pageantry
- BUT modern artists do crazy things with blood
---> ritual is to reinforce community's relation to God/nature through gestures everyone knows and understands
---> audiences who see and react to a modern artist don't enter in shared beliefs and values, SO how valid is the theory of art as ritual?

Maybe using blood for $ gives them edge - being eccentric, shock value, provoking controversy
- Damien Hirst "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living"
- Chris Ofili "Virgin Mary"

Controversial work involving body fluids and religion
- symbols of pain/suffering central to many religions; can be shocking when dislocated from their community
- if they mix with secular symbols, their meaning is threatened

Hume and Kant
- basis of modern aesthetic theory
- both thought some works of art really are better than others and that some people have better taste

Hume
- men of education/experience would agree on 'the best' thus creating a universal 'standard of taste'
---> skeptics criticize - values acquired through cultural indoctrination

Kant
- beauty - good judgments in aesthetics are in features of artworks themselves, not just in viewer/preferences
- we label and categorize the world to function and for things to have purpose
*this reminds me of what we were talking about in anthropology, how we create categories to classify and understand the world, like "food" or "not food". in some cultures guinea pigs are categorized as food, and in others, they are categorized as pets.
- beauty has 'purposiveness without a purpose' - Kant's saying we label something beautiful because it promotes a feeling of 'rightness' or internal harmony for the mind
- special kind of pleasure - to appreciate beauty, our response must be disinterested
---> so if a viewer responds to Botecelli's "Venus" with sexual desire like a playboy bunny, they are not actually appreciating her beauty
- making beautiful art requires human 'genius'

Kant's 20th century successors
- aesthetic formalists
- Bell - 'significant form' particular combinations stir aesthetic emotions
- Bullough - sexual and political subjects block aesthetic awareness
- Greenberg - form - painting/sculpture refers to its own condition (flatness, boundaries of the canvas)


Serrano's "Piss Christ"
- a photo of crucifix bathed in golden fluid (artist's own pee)
- highly offensive to many
- critic Lucy Lippard attempts to explain/defend by emphasizing the art's content and Serrano's emotional/political commentary (contrasts Kant's followers like Greenberg)
- Serrano shows how contemporary culture is commercializing and cheapening Christianity and its icons, so it seems "Piss Christ" isn't denouncing religion, but its institutions
- ties to beautiful/violent Spanish art tradition

Goya
- secure place as 'genius' in Western art canon
- witnessed and depicted atrocities - American and French revolutions, French and Spanish Peninsular war
- made people confront the possibilities of human nature in moments of extreme crisis
- a moral perspective that Serrano didn't have?
---> no, because Goya supported the French revolution and so its assumed he has Enlightenment values, however, in works like "The Horrors of War" he makes clear there were no moral winners in the war, thus rejecting Enlightenment ideals of progress/human improvement
- Black paintings - REALLY disturbing
- Serrano not as good as Goya cause Goya showed violence to condemn it, not sensationalize it?
---> no, hard to compare a contemporary artist to a 'great master' - we don't know the ultimate judgment of history
- Goya may not be asserting a morally uplifting message, but rather saying human nature is dreadful
---> Serrano may insult religion, but coming from a moral motivation - photographing corpses to offer victims moments of human sympathy, not wallowing in own decay. So, Serrano's work has precedents in Western European canon, like Goya. Art includes works that are ugly/disturbing with negative moral content.

* Note to self - it will take way too long if you do such detailed notes, underline in texts and jot down main points and own ideas

Geometry ruled design of the church - form of cross
* I never really realized the symbolic significance of this, whoa! The place of worship actually was in form of an icon of worship; most important symbol of Christianity, the cross! Worshipping inside an item of worship!
- the square illustrates moral perfection
* everything is made of squares! ah! - a connection between everything being squares and showing moral perfection?

Danto
- argues that in each time and context, the artist creates something as art by relying on a shared theory of art that the audience can grasp, given its historical/institutional context
---> Andy Warhol's "Brillo Boxes" couldn't have been 'art' in the Middle Ages

George Dickie
- institutional theory of art - an object is baptized as 'art' if accepted by museum and gallery directors and purchased by art collectors

Information and knowledge of context helps enhance our experience of art
Dewey - experience art of other cultures; experience will be enhanced

'Primitive' art
- loses original context when displayed in museums or collected
- the idea of the 'exotic'
- MOMA exhibit (1984) 'Primitivism' and Modern Art
---> had no info about artists, eras, cultures, or original uses - just look or form

Anthropologist, Richard Anderson
- art as 'culturally significant meaning, skillfully encoded in an affecting, sensuous medium'

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