«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 ...»
In Jazz, individuals express themselves in soloing, yet must also listen to one another and communicate in order to create a progression, a conversation, with harmony and accord.
Beyond this, (and syncopation, blue notes and more), the startlingly important invention in this music, useful to a new intercultural art, is the kind of communication between players known as a call-and-response pattern. This is a common element in the African-American Church and its Gospel music and preaching, where there is interaction between speakers and listeners in which all of the statements (calls) are answered by expressions from the listener (responses) — they talk to one another. My suggestion is that we in visual art should too. If there were African-Americans here in the audience, you would hear open agreement or disagreement with me now. Hopefully, supportive calls of "word" or "amen," thus my epigraph above.
We need this form of conversational, perhaps even argumentative homage and transgression. The relations among cultural aspects can be seen as not oedipally belligerent, but not as untroubled either: a model which presents the possibility of a productive transmission of culture, grounded in modes of vernacular interchange. This authorizes, in a sense, successors who also alter the traditions without being obliged to symbolically slay them. This is not a burden of tradition —when you examine the world of Jazz you will find a culture and a model that has been, and remains a hot bed of innovation. Rock carried that on in open loud passion and interracial influence. Hip-hop now continues cross-generational cultural transmission by providing new lyrics to older tunes, quite literally. We in the visual arts can do likewise with our cultures.
fig. 75 Paintings and painting-installations of mine.
Artistic Ground 184 In my opinion, as an artist, one can do whatever arises out of the true experiences of your own background. Your sources must be personal and "earned." As an example, my own artwork is something of a "mongrel" or "creole" combination of installation, painting, signpainting, philosophy and comics: all important parts of my biography. The word creolization is no longer employed exclusively to describe Caribbean Creole culture. A broad anthropological term, it now describes any coming together of diverse cultural traits or elements to form new traits or elements — thus a complex process of cultural borrowing and lending in an area with many different influences.
I am against purism in all forms. I find it morally and politically questionable. It is a trope of fascism and racism. Comics and many other demotic, vernacular, or "street" art-forms are inherently impure entities offering emancipation from narrow reductivism. This is a trait to applaud and emulate in the fine arts, and one that in the call-and-response form I advocate could incorporate Bloomian agon. I am trying to make art that is radically technically nonexclusive, even expansive. The in-betweenness of my art has important social, cultural, psychological, even ethical implications — as well as historical-philosophical ones. The future of art might not be posthistorical, but rather polyhistorical. Not "global" but polycultural: a braided rope instead of a straight, single timeline. Let's allow ourselves the vanity of hope in this direction. I have a chapter in my dissertation addressing such models of art-historical time, how they affect our thought. In it, I proselytize for this braided rope image.
Artistic Ground 185
In short this intracultural as well as intercultural call-and-response is our material in the coming post-postmodern world. It could allow us to form truly democratic, dialogical approaches, yet based upon the theory of misprision — answering and purposefully misreading our cultures, as I described. Let us look to our situations, our cultures, both respecting and questioning them. Yet not look to any imagined, ethnic truisms. In particular, let us look at our minorities. They are both inside and outside the culture, giving them a acutely critical vantage point. Just as the best of US culture derives from the merger of various cultures and religions, as in Jazz, Rock and comics, so can visual "fine" art reach new, unimagined creativity by this method. For example, I feel Germans should look to the Turkish-Germans, Switzerland to the ex-Yugoslavians, Tamils and so on (as well as their own original four cultures), Turkey to the Laz, Kurds, Alawites, Armenians and so on. And each minority should look more purposefully to its own minorities as well as to the mainstream culture — and all of us to each other. A dialogue with many, many voices, disputing as well, yet complementing one another in new ways — not unifying, harmonizing!
I am not promoting a so-called "multi-culti" approach, which advocates various cultures tolerating one another, but retaining their differences. I believe a complex, dialectic merger is important. Yet, this ought not to be insipid fusion, which is sentimental; this is a struggle, as outlined above, and must bear the marks of this scuffle. It should be an allusive yet affirmative struggle of reversals, performed with resolute discontinuity on a stage of one's
own knowledge, with psychological and spiritual desire. The artwork itself is central in this:
the way it is made, not just its idea — for the way it is made is the true idea, hopefully the embodiment of the complex creolian, dialogical approach I have described, as personalized from your own unique life.
Identity Do we lose identity in this openness to others, even others within us? No, rather we gain. I never feel more American than when I am in Europe, nor more European than when I am in the US. Being me means being American, Chicagoan, German, Swiss, African, Christian, Buddhist, Midwesterner, big city, small town, working-class, intellectual, Rocker, street-kid, professor, lover of comic books, painting, art history — expressing all of these and questioning them — an artist. Being you may mean being Turkish, Ottoman, Istanbulian, Anatolian, Muslim, Christian, secular, religious, Sufi, Laz, Armenian, Kurd, Sunni, Byzantine, Alawite, big city, small village, European, Asian, Middle-Easterner, middle-class, multi-lingual, whatever, — expressing all of these and questioning them — artists.
Cultural inheritances are plural, and are necessarily perceived and colored by the individual. Let us pay homage to them, transgress upon them, criticize them, be informed by them, blend them. Be culturally dialogical artists.
Artistic Ground 187 fig. 78 Cover Chapter Eight: Metaphor(m) and The Expanded Text Concept oil, acrylic and ink on wood, 2010, 40 x 27.5 cm / 16 in x 11 in Metaphor(m) and the Expanded Text Concept 189
CHAPTER EIGHTMetaphor(m) and the Expanded Text Concept
An alternative title for this chapter could be "Metaphor(m) in Painting and the Novel — After TV and Internet — After Christian Doelker." This would be more precise, if more longwinded. The new extended Kulturtechnik from such sources as TV, video games and, most of all, the world-wide web brings the demand and necessity for more, not less literacy. One of the gifts to scholarship of Christian Doelker, especially in the German-speaking world, is the awareness that there is any literacy in the media in question, that it may be necessary to teach this new development in literacy, and that it demands analysis. My contention is that this new literacy is already so thoroughly a function of thought, a Denktechnik, that it can be present in any medium and is often most fruitfully and effectively now embodied in the so-called traditional media of painting and the novel. In particular, Doelker's analytic subdivisions of his extended text concept apply enlighteningly to both these implements of creativity and communication (the original sense of media) as well as to internet and to television, the last of which was the medium he first examined.
A solid basis for discussing the cultural and artistic changes currently being wrought in the realm of media can be anchored in the terminology and categories invented by Doelker in
the books Kulturtechnik Fernsehen; Analyse eines Mediums, "Wirklichkeit" in den Medien, and Ein Bild ist mehr als ein Bild: Visuelle Kompetenz in der Multimedia-Gesellschaft, his many articles, TV series, CD-ROM and other publications.2 This chapter applies my theory of central trope to paintings and novels in a direct dialogue with Doelker's "extended text" topography of text categories, types of texts, and varieties of texts.3 Each vector of my tripartite dialectic hopefully nudges new insights out of the others.
The necessity for greater literacy is evident in relation to a wider topology of media.
Nevertheless, in conservative incarnations of the "ignorance is bliss" notion, some have called for less when faced with assertions that certain entities such as the internet, hypertextual documents, TV and even comics are indeed disciplines wherein creative expression occurs.
There is no freedom from the burden of literacy (commonly jokingly termed in English "RRR" – Readin', (w)Ritin' and (a)Rithmatic, hence the subheading above). This "burden" is in fact less a hindrance than a moneybag one may carry, stuffed with riches for use. My contention may conjure up shades of E. D. Hirsch's conservative campaign for cultural literacy, or perhaps, oppositely, raise suspicion of some rootless hermeneutics of cultural criticism. However, I see it as a call for comprehension, for radically hopeful and purposeful mis-understanding. This reflects, in particular, my readings in cognitive metaphor, Harold Bloom, Cornel West — and Doelker. These thinkers offer cultural reconnaissance which can be pragmatically analyzed, taught and applied, but most of all antithetically disputed. Viewed transumptively, Doelker's implied extended cultural literacy would include Hirsch's list as only a small subset: an erudition of interaction and analysis as well as of common reference points. Important questions are suggested by this notion of extended cultural literacy. How do these things we use cause us to think? What can we think with and against them? How can we use them to think new things which will improve the status of our lives? Literacy in this expanded form is a metonymy, if not synecdoche, of creative democracy.
Painting and the Novel: Antithesis
Whereas both Doelker and I have been known to claim that new media "demand" a certain learnedness, this is exaggeration. Rather, they offer opportunities. "Demand" makes these technological developments sound all-important and dictatorial. Such language is symptomatic of a common affliction: the adoration of new media. We must stop worshiping or reproaching our tools and begin to use them. Their importance is in their application — the philosophies and expressions they embody. Significance can often be better thought through in conditions of self-imposed circumscription, testing and transgressing the boundaries of received deliberation. In this light the traditional media of painting and the novel are the major league of discourse. There are many other reasons to chose to work in or study these two: slightly more resistance than newer forms to the vagaries of trendiness, self-reliance in production, proven philosophical openness, sheer presence, anti-Puritanical sensuality, a tradition of shedding the skin of tradition itself, a confidence in redefinition rather than cultural amnesia and ignorance. As I discovered after moving to Switzerland from the US, one reason often cited in Europe for painting or writing novels, or alternately for not doing so, See the bibliography for reference information concerning each of these publications.
The elements of Doelker’s extended text analysis discussed here have been assembled from a conflation of all these sources, including an English translation of Ein Bild ist mehr als ein Bild in manuscript.
Footnote references will be made only when specific quotations are used.
Metaphor(m) and the Expanded Text Concept 191 is simply stated as "tradition." I fervently take exception with this. "Tradition" used so abstractly has no identity other than that of a bothersome insect. The standard street myth is that Europeans are borne down creatively by their (wonderful) tradition, while Americans are freed to be so creative by their total lack of one. This is self-imposed self-aggrandizement by both continental groups. Citizens of the New World have tradition — many traditions, almost all European ones and more. They are the descendants of the Old World, not from another planet. If Europeans have it, so do they. Additionally, North America is concomitantly not "freer," no matter how frequently they assert that. For most minor artists and authors I have met on both these continents tradition today seems to mean only a feeling of a burden, loaded with little actual historical knowledge at all. What is needed is knowledge without a debilitating sense of a weight — dialogue with and against tradition, as I discussed in Chapter Seven. Painting and the novel offer good conditions for this in the sheer opposition they present to the creator. True, earlier in the century there was too much emphasis placed on these two media and this was exploited to be dismissive of many others. Yet, as noted, there is an equally contraproductive inversion at work now. Early photographers honored painting to an extreme. The best found their way out of this. Peter Halter describes the solution to this problem for photographer Paul Strand.