«Thesis presented to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Zurich for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Mark Staff Brandl of USA and ...»
The brushstroke was discussed closely in the section of Chapter Two concerning Vincent van Gogh, color and geometric composition will be considered below in the chapter detailing a painting by Charles Boetschi. Instead of such real-life examples, at first fancy will reign for a few paragraphs in order to better serve as illustration of central trope. As in the discussion of literature, let us randomly choose a single formal, technical ingredient of art, improvise a somewhat whimsical image-mapping, and see where this leads.
One of the aspects of video art installations that seems the most unquestioned, hence most clichéd, is the placement of the monitor. In many museums or galleries, it seems inevitably to be positioned on the floor, without any base. The unacknowledged and unconscious derivation of this from Brancusi's and Minimalism's enlightened questioning of the base in sculpture is momentarily beyond the focus of this discussion. It is sufficient to note the fact in order to draw a bead on this constituent of form as a potential metaphor(m).
The television cabinet itself has been creatively utilized by many artists, especially Nam June Paik. Now and again the placement of a monitor has contributed significantly to the meaning of a work. Bill Viola's Heaven and Earth pairs two horizontal monitors, one hanging above and facing the other below it. Each is stripped of everything but its cathode-tube screen. This is an integral complement of the video images the monitors play: one of a child being born, the other of an old woman dying.
Where else could monitors be placed? They could be on or sunk into the wall (both painting-like); they could be hung in the corner (as in a bar); monitors could be buried in the floor, swung on cables, buried in other materials, carried by animals, mounted on the museum guards, worn as hats, replace door knobs, be distorted into odd shapes, wander about the room robotically, be mounted on huge springs, sail by on boats, bounce on trampolines, float about with helium balloons, show through the zipper of a pair of pants, fill desk drawers, spin on turntables, float in magnetic fields, be put in living-rooms, be mounted in surveillance-room rows and banks, etc. Each of these suggests a wealth of promising tropes.
What images or image schemas could be mapped onto such placement in order to achieve a metaphor(m), making the location eloquent rather than simply arbitrary? The idea noted in the list above of putting monitors on large springs could be used to call up the image of a jack-in-the-box. Envision typical household-sized televisions appearing to have leaped from Minimalist-like boxes, atop human-scaled springs. This could be a powerful, almost frightening presence, calling forth various associations and tropes. The boxes become a critical metonymy of the museum/gallery world, as well as a hyperbole of the toy on which it is based. The "idiot box" assumes the position of the slightly horrific jester's head, an ironic conceptual pun. The whole piece plays with time in two interesting ways. It would seem to ask, "Is this what the avant-garde has evolved (or leaped) into?" It also would seem to imply that the basis of all such new media work lies in the childish desire for ever newer toys. This analytical, yet anachronistic combination of forces in time — one moving forward, one back — could be a delightful metalepsis, both because of its temporal play and its reinterpretation of the metaphors behind Minimalism and video art. Beyond artworld concerns, the piece also suggests that we should question how an overblown toy has become "king of the living room" in most homes. What appears on the monitor would have to be a contributing force to this central trope. The metaphor(m) summed up is the equation: "Base is an enlarged toy" thus yielding "television and (certain )art are linked to childishness." This is reliant on several foundational metaphors including: "GENERIC IS SPECIFIC," (a particular toy, a jack-in-thebox, is childishness), "IMPORTANT IS BIG," (the human and TV-sized toy which is Conceiving Metaphor(m)s 115 ordinarily hand-sized), "IDEAS ARE PERCEPTIONS" (notice the similarity of a video monitor, and Minimal art, to toys), and probably most important, "STATES ARE LOCATIONS," (the positioning of the monitor examines a condition in society).
Another idea would be to place monitors outside a space such as a museum, mounting them on brackets outside each window, facing inward. They would be perceivable only through the windows, thus emphasizing their presence outside. This would metaphorically mimic the positions of air-conditioning units in many cities, but more importantly would allow development of metaphor(m)s from image schemas based on OUT. As Lakoff and Turner write in More Than Cool Reason, "it is important to distinguish image-metaphors from image schema-metaphors. Image-metaphors map rich mental images onto other rich mental images." Furthermore, "image-schemas, as their name suggests, are not rich mental images;
they are instead very general structures, like bounded regions, paths, centers (as opposed to peripheries), and so on. The spatial senses of prepositions tend to be defined in terms of image-schemas (e.g. in, out, to, from, along, and so on)."10 In an application of "STATES ARE LOCATIONS," the location of the monitors becomes a significant state, or at least evocative of important states of art, the art world, electronic media and society. This state is a schema of OUT LOOKING IN. Lakoff and Turner discussed OUT as a portion of image schemas.
What do we know about "out"? We know that the basic meaning of "out" is being exterior to a bounded space which is regarded as having an interior. If a house is the bounded region, one may go out of the house and into the garage. If land is taken as the bounded region, one may go out to sea.... Since life is regarded as presence here, bounded by birth and death, one may be metaphorically snuffed out, rubbed out, taken out, and so on.
A bounded space with an interior and an exterior is an image, but an extremely skeletal and schematic image.... [W]e can also map this image-schema onto abstract target domains that themselves do not inherently contain images, such as wakefulness, alertness, and living. 11 This image schema could be correlated with other tropes through the relationship between "out" and "location" as concepts. Thereby one would be able to point the metaphor(m) of "location outside" in evocative directions. Since "EXISTENCE IS A LOCATION (HERE)," then these monitors would be perceived as not having existence in the same way that viewers have it. Viewing them through closed museum windows would have the effect of highlighting the monitors' presence as not here, rather over there, ostracized.
Likewise, as "EMOTIONS ARE LOCATIONS" the televisions and their contents would be seen as outside, where it is uncomfortable, unprotected, "out in the cold, "perhaps even mistreated. If the videotaped imagery on the screens were of exotic scenery, the first interpretation would be strengthened. On the other hand, if the images shown were of fragile objects, the second inference would hold sway. Playing tapes featuring such marginal figures as the homeless would combine the two perceptions. In contrast, the images might represent enemies attacking. These evocations would vie for power with a perception of the televisions as replacing natural landscape scenery, augmenting the impact.
After the discovery of one's central trope, the standard Late Modernist "expansion" of this has been in fact its opposite, reduction. Creators often suppressed many qualities and elements of the work found to be outside the central trope. In light of the concept of pervasiveness in my theory, this can be revealed as a potential yet rather simplistic form of achieving such an extension of one's metaphor(m) throughout the work — eliminating all locations where it does not occur, as I discussed in Chapter Two, pages 74 and 75. A more sophisticated and more impressive method is to do the hard thinking required to push the metaphor(m) into as many aspects of the art work as possible, in either close equivalents of the central trope in a specific quality of the object or reflecting it in an analogous vision.
Meaning and Form
In Chapter 20, "How Metaphor Can Give Meaning to Form," of Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson give some suggestions of simple operations that embody metaphoric meaning in the physical form of expressions. They trace only a few possibilities at the morphological and syntactical levels, that is, words and sentences. Three rules are presented for how this occurs.
These explanations are then exemplified in three instances. First, "more form is more of content" ("He is bi-i-i-i-ig!”); second, "closeness is strength of effect" ("I taught Greek to Harry" as opposed to "I taught Harry Greek"); and third, "the ME-FIRST orientation" (up and down instead of down and up).13 In certain ways, the theory of central trope may be seen as a vastly expanded and more particularized exegesis of this chapter in the realm of the creative arts. Metaphor(m) subsumes this idea under a broader rendition of the interaction of form, trope, reasoning and creativity. Lakoff and Johnson's spatialization hypothesis is a logical corollary of the theory of central trope, in application to common speech.
This chapter of my dissertation has blocked out a portion of the potential which metaphor(m)s offer their creators. Central tropes were displayed in action by imagining model specimens of image and image schema mappings. This small sample of applications displays how tropes offer us opportunities for the comprehension of our experience and how they can lend a hand in changing it. Art is essential because it originates new metaphorical concepts or devises critical interrogations of those taken for granted, through the pragmatic, tropaic use of form.
Autooptical und Autographical The paintings, comic sequences and studies accompanying the first two chapters, Prelude and Chapter One, were presented in a small exhibition titled "Prelude" in a gallery in Switzerland. References to them and the visual art additions to other chapters were also included in works in my installation titled Carried Away, which appeared in two museums in the US as well. These experiences convinced me that I should tie this dissertation into my always continuing artistic oeuvre and career, as had been suggested by my professors. As fate would have it, just as I was beginning to consider Chapter Three, I was invited to make a piece in a group show in a converted, closed-down dyeing factory in Switzerland. This venue has a major exhibition once a year, so is something like a summer Kunsthalle. The organizers offered me the largest and most interesting wall of the space. I decided to create an extremely large Panels painting-installation, make it my chief work of the year, and conceive of it as a chapter in this dissertation. Moreover, I decided to have it be concerned with my own metaphor(m): not an illustration, but rather a full-fledged embodiment of my thoughts about applying my theory to my own art. The process of working this out is the content of Chapter Three. The resulting exhibition is the work comprising, and discussed in, this chapter.
This chapter, however, was not written in the order its number "five" implies. I resisted working on it until almost the very end. Like many artists, I hate to write about myself. I dread those horrid little paragraphs we are often forced to write for exhibitions called "The Artist's Statement," whether written by me or by other artists. I also have genuine anxiety about limiting the understanding of a work by writing about it myself. I feel such commentary implies that my thoughts are the sole correct ones about a work, when I have in fact always struggled very vigorously to make my artworks polysemic, to carry a deliberate diversity of meanings open to the interpretation of others. I do this even to the point of being playfully, wantonly allusive, for which I coined a term which I have used in several titles, alluscivial. It combines allusive and lascivious, both in form and meaning. This, of course, reflects my personal definition of art and artworks, alluded to in Chapter One. To write it out in the form
of a philosophical assertion, I would state it so:
Art is embodied multiple meanings. Artworks are objects of perception (whatever the media) created (formed, presented, chosen, etc.) for multiple interpretations; ones which were furthermore wrought, offered or viewed as falling within the context or history of previous entities called "art." These are creations wherein the form and the content are inextricably interwoven, each mirroring the other in its own terms.
Additionally, in my own art and much of what I see since the Renaissance, I believe artworks are agonistically made to be regarded as art-as-before and not as-art-as-before. Due to my trepidation about writing about my own artwork, I postponed composing this chapter until I had finished final drafts of most of the rest. Then, on the island of Elba, I began to bemoan my inability to tackle this chapter. I discussed this with my fellow guests at the Casa Zia Lina foundation. I realized that the painting-installation itself was the chapter. This would be fine for the art exhibition which I intend to mount in addition to the book as the final dissertation form. However, what would Chapter Five look like in the book? Simply a series
of photographs of the work? That would not satisfy me. The other creators made suggestions: