Week 6, Study Notes and Thoughts for Midterm

The canon cherry-picks history
- Selective
- To support a unilinear, progressive Enlightenment story

Universality – I’m confused about this
Immutable = unchanging through time, ageless, constant
- So the idea that artworks make statements that are unchanging through time
- Relies on a fixed scale to judge works and relies on academics who make their beliefs common knowledge
*So basically critics and art historians make their beliefs seem like obvious common ‘knowledge’ or ‘truth’ even though its their own opinions, supported by a criteria to judge artworks that they made up – that’s ridiculous!
- Universality then cretes a criteria which helps to determine what works are masterpieces, which artists are geniuses and then we can slap a value on it
- So is universality saying ‘this artwork is a masterpiece because it transcends time and space’ ? > I think so

Transparent = clear, easy to understand, obvious
Opacity = hard to understand
*Makes us think! So that we must make sense of it for ourselves
Subjective = subject, the person’s thoughts and emotions
Like someone’s opinions, their own perspective which varies from person to person
Objective = reaching ‘truth’ through formal facts
Like science claiming it can 'prove' anything, ‘knowledge’

Art critics made up a myth that masterpiees should be easily recognized by their aura of worth. They constructed stories and ideologies like universality and objectivity which support their claims. Really seems to be a big conspiracy and art critics have hidden agendas > power and money
-Like Greenberg telling Pollock what was good and what was not. By promoting something specific he can have be the ultimate authority on the subject.

Traditional art history seems very selective and manipulative to prove a point, or fulfill other hidden needs – the ‘mastering gaze’

Relative = in relation to other things, not absolute

In traditional AH, audience is not doing enough active thinking! Not questioning what they are told – they are told what works have value, knowledge as ready to absorb, consensus of opinions about works and what is meaningful
Traditional AH seems fishy… too easy. May be easy for me to say in retrospect from a contemporary eye, but traditional AH was very particular, very constructed to something specific

Traditional AH informed by Enlightenment ideals, just like traditional anthropology
- Categorized, classified, unilinear evolution with the aim to communicate universal meaning that defies time and space
- So, the old AH was informed by concepts of order, development/progress, and rationality

Transcendental = goes beyond, mystical, goes above
dualism? > mind and body division, like Descartes and Cartesians
Bryson – scrutinized art history as a discipline
Artifice = artificial, not real
Telos = moving towards an end, traditional, linear AH

Seems like with new AH we are now aware of how old art history made us think. It gave us the easy way out – reception theory and passivity. Were we just ignorant of the power of discourse and its massive construction of the AH community? Were we just ignorant and unaware we were seeing art as ‘reading texts’ rather than thinking for ourselves and ‘writing text’? looking back on this, seems we should now know better, that we should’ve learned a lesson from this with our new awareness. We should be thinking about art and images and making sense of them for ourselves.
- Or is this new thinking just another construct from a new generation of art
people; making us think this way to fit into their plans?
BUT, as Marshall McLuhan said, MTV culture and fast images condition us to lose our ability to look and think about images and art – ‘image saturation’
- So is our emancipation short lived? Have we now been conditioned to take images for granted? Have we become lazy from image consumption?
- I feel like for the most part we aren’t doing any more thinking than before – maybe we like the easy way out!

Role of theory as a creative force in relation to images
- Theory is a realm of ideas or opinions, a type of approach
- So, it can influence our experience of an artwork by directing our attention to certain aspects of the work – it guides our thinking and experience of images

We used to be passive, forced into an inactive role by the system of AH. Looking back we recognize this and now accept a more active role, asking questions and trying to create meanings - critical theory
- But is the new AH just constructing this view of the old AH to serve its own purpose? It seems like it always comes down to this!
- Are we always selecting and manipulating to support our current views?

People make a bunch of crap up. Then they make up a bunch more crap to prove the crap they made up. Then through a carefully crafted system and community they can perpetuate the crap and legitimize it, eventually convincing the average person this is common knowledge
- I need to make up a new discipline and then a bunch of crap to support it – I could be rich!

Reproductions and information age, MTV culture and fast flashing images condition us to be desensitized to images. Our Western culture privileges images so much the saturation of images is making us not think, puts us in that low, passive position again, or so it seems to me!
- Maybe we are always choosing the easy way out or perhaps we are ignorant or
lazy. However you want to put it, it seems like the submissive role, on the back, thighs spread
Privileging sight as medium – ‘if it work its obsolete’
- Like what Rachel was saying about the quote from McLuhan, as soon as the medium works and you understand it, someone else already has too and moved on, so you’re behind the times

It seems like the structure uses force to put us in a subordinate position. The old AH system promoted a passive viewer, reception theory. The new AH seems to promote an active, questioning viewer. But I feel like the culture the new AH exists in is dominated by advertising, TV, computers, and info using lots of fast images and reproductions that promote a non-thinking, lazy viewer.
- So then how does all this line up? ‘History’ has not taken its toll for ‘truth’ to come out about new AH and its culture. But then what is history but a selected, narrative of past events used to serve some purpose?
- Its all about using information to serve a purpose

Why would theories make art history into nonsense?
- Because everything is a subjective idea that uses cherry picked info to support it and there are no ‘truths’ and art history can’t be one coherent thing. Everything is people’s ideas about things and peoples ideas about peoples ideas about things. AH seems so far removed from art at all it seems more about people. The history of people thinking about peoples ideas about something called art, whatever that might be.

Theory can shape our thinking by focusing around specific questions to understand specific things
Transparency was promoted by traditional AH, the ‘easy’ approach
It is mumbo jumbo cause everything constructed to promoted certain thinking. Now, new AH takes a critical approach by using critical theory to scrutinize traditional AH. Its creative because of its interdisciplinary approach – anthropology, psychology, gender, and social roles provokes an active viewer, reflection theory, writerly text, opacity, complexity


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