«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 ...»
Such an artwork is probably sought more often than it is found, as even Hallmark cards are multifaceted technically, albeit not intellectually. One lesson of TV has been learned, perhaps inadvertently, even in such quasi-art as greeting cards. Everything becomes multiple — by placement, material, arrangement, experience or reference. Allusion is unavoidable. In advanced art, the search for significance stipulates it at this point in history. Painting and the novel are especially ripe with multiplicity, as will be shown. In the interactive CD-ROM Medienbildung: Kommunication, Fernsehen, Medienpädagogik, based on Doelker's work, painting, photography, silent films, letters, noise, and signal tones are presented as examples of simple texts.19 Although I am happy that one of my own paintings from an abstract series is used as the illustration for simple text in this CD, I cannot concur with the authors, a team with project directors Frank Haase and Christian Doelker, that it is one. The obvious intentionality and allusiveness inherent in painting and photography make these media, especially nowadays, additive at the very least. This is not always immediately or clearly the case, yet I find it always true. A simple example would be a representational painting or photo wherein a billboard with words occurs. One step subtler would be Eugène Atget's photos of or Richard Estes's paintings of reflections within reflections in shop windows.
montage and "straight" image-making is far foggier than it at first seems. This argument could be advanced step-for-step, through ever more subtle incarnations until we arrive at Kazimir Malevich's White on White. It is important to make this distinction of simple text, but anything not self-consciously transparent, cannot be simple in the way Doelker intends. Take for example an abstract photograph. That so goes against our mundane assumptions that it is clearly an additive if not integrative text by its mere existence. Our common expectations and knowledge of this kind of image-making are based on assuming an "impersonal" photochemical process "imprinting" the real world. An unrecognizable photo throws this in our faces. Presentation and expectation have become part of a conceptual collage. A snap-shot is a simple text almost always, an "art" photograph seldom. This is not simply to attribute intention to a creator. The artist may have intended to make something simple or transparent, but within the dynamics of the object itself and its reception this is often not the case, not even possible. Paintings often flirt with the appearance of being simple texts, occasionally through their so-called "aura of presence."20 This is generally purposeful subterfuge.
Michelangelo destroyed notes and sketches, as suggested by Vasari, to further public opinion that he was a directly, divinely inspired (not slowly maturing) genius.21 There are artists who have painted the same painting over and over on successive canvas, finally keeping only the last one, to make it seem as if the work simply flowed out of their hands, perfect in every nonchalant mark.22 In the composition of complex artworks, especially painting and the novel, there is such an inherent multiplicity that neither of these entities can be included in this category. Such multiplicity is not always positive, I must add. Out of control it often makes for bad art. That is one reason why there is no stain which is not "right," not aesthetic, but much art which is unaesthetic, a failure. A stain on the wall as the result of a quarrel is a simple, indexical text. Why, if painting is a simple text, isn't the novel included here as well?
It uses, analogous to painting, only one medium — it's all words. Or perhaps more to the point in this context, why not count the essay as a simple text? As can clearly be seen, I swerve from this category in a variety of ways within my dissertation. There are not only traditional chapters of scholarly text, but also comic sequences, paintings, speeches, an entire installation and so on. Even within the blocks of traditional text, though, I have often veered off the path of "simple" text, as do two inspirations for my dissertation, Giuliana Bruno's Atlas of Emotion23 and Philip Ursprung's Grenzen der Kunst.24 The Bruno text does this noticeably through the author's intertwining of travel, cinema, architecture, maps, the atlas and the house;
Ursprung's does so less explicitly, yet also undeniably so, in areas where his manuscript suggests the event-like structuring of Kaprow's Happenings or the geological, archeological allusiveness of Smithson's Land Art works (and the artist's own prose). Most of all, as Ursprung writes, Ich habe mich in diesem Buch auf der Spuren von Allan Kaprow und Robert Smithson begeben, zwei Künstlern, die sich zwar kannten, aber weder zusammenarbeiteten noch einer gemeinsamen künstlerischen Richtung oder Gruppierung an gehörten. Der äußere Anlass, See Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, trans. J. A. Underwood (London: Penguin Books, Great Ideas, 2008).
Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, trans.
Gaston du C. de Vere, Modern Library Classics Series (New York: Random House, 2006).
This is an interesting technique, seemingly born of a claim frequently repeated by young artists, yet unattributable — probably apocryphal — ascribing such an approach to Henri Matisse.
Giuliana Bruno, Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film (New York: New Left Books, Verso, 2002; paperback, 2007).
Philip Ursprung, Grenzen der Kunst: Allan Kaprow und das Happening, Robert Smithson und die Land Art (Munich: Verlag Silke Schreiber, 2003).
Metaphor(m) and the Expanded Text Concept 197 ihre beiden Geschichten sich überlagern zu lassen, war mein Waten entlang Smithsons halb aufgetauchter, mit Salzkristallen dicht überwucherten Spiral Jetty im Herbst 1996. Spiral Jetty wurde zum Ort, wo Fakten und Fiktionen untrennbar verwoben sind.
(In this book, I have followed the tracks laid by Allan Kaprow and Robert Smithson, two artists who, although acquainted, neither worked together nor shared a common artistic direction or belonged to a group. The experiential cause of my method of superimposing their two histories was when I waded along Smithson's Spiral Jetty in the autumn of 1996, when it was half re-emerged and thickly overgrown with salt crystals. Spiral Jetty became a site where fact and fiction were inextricably interwoven.) 25 Ursprung goes on to describe how this led him to the structure of his book, which unites performative writing with thick description. This inspired me, much like Bruno's book, to abandon any simple text approach and create a plurogenic object and text reflecting its contents while reflecting on them.26 I would assert that painting and other non-electronic arts are simply more subtle and pervasive in their multi-layeredness, especially in recent years. Along the lines of my discussion here, this would make them even more of a success in terms of metaphor(m). I refer the reader back to the W. J. T. Mitchell quotation above. The central trope in a simple text must be either non-existent, close to that, or culturally transparent. In light of the theory of metaphor(m), this category would have to be reworked.
Additive text. This is the Doelkerian category in which side-by-side combinations of other texts occur without any planned interaction. It must unfortunately be admitted that although most media are multi-media, too large a percentage are merely additive. Additive texts, in Doelker's sense, is simply a descriptive not a judgmental phrase. Many objects in the world are adequately or appropriately additive, such as textbooks or the newspaper. In certain situations we want the delivery of specific information in non-conflicting units. We wish to see them divided, as TV commercials are better separated in some fashion from the narratives, rather than integrated into them (as they originally were in old-time radio or as they are beginning to be once again in so called embedded advertising or product placement).
In creative work, though, additive form is primarily a mistake, lazy thinking, works with no individual metaphor(m). Purely additive works tend to be unresolved collages of the inherited. This is tradition at its worst. There is no further will, nor any strong, individual desire evidenced. The best creative texts or aesthetic objects are integrated as well as additive, thus falling into Doelker's next category. Integrality is not always achieved quickly. As Michael Heusser points out in his book on E. E. Cummings, the poet began with an additive notion of poetry: "poetry + painting." Cummings managed to forge this raw idea into an unprecedented unity of effect as the "poempicture." In addition, Cummings had an additive conception of the self, which he was able to work into a multi-stranded yet integrated and constructed self/ves: "The Self as Text."27 One sees in this evaluation the personal and ethical virtues for many creators of one's own metaphor(m). It becomes the very vehicle of living. It is the lens, the activity, and the philosophy through which authors and artists discover and interact with experience. It is their tool for accomplishing H. G. Gadamer's "fusion of
horizons," the important concept this philosopher outlined in Truth and Method.28 Without his metaphor(m) of self and work Cummings would not only have had no poetry, but no being, no Dasein as such.
Kurt Vonnegut is a novelist who all too often remains additive when he should be integrative. His collage-like texts and black humor can be beguiling, yet slight when a book remains too purely in the genre of science-fiction, e.g. The Sirens of Titan. In SlaughterhouseFive his personal investment in the broken narrative is evident and his techniques of disruption and distancing begin to come together as a central trope.29 By and large, he has not fully achieved this feat. Perhaps as Bloom would say, he is an adequate, even a good writer, but not always a "strong" one.
A merely additive painter of immense fame is the New Yorker David Salle. He paints in what might be called a "montage" form: a hodgepodge of images from "How to Draw" manuals, soft-porn, disruptive abstract shapes, patterns, assorted citations or allusions to antecedent abstract art, and screwed on found-objects such as 50s chairs. This barrage conforms completely to the accepted structural criteria of modernism, which he claims to challenge. This patchwork may be discussing contemporary issues such as emptiness, disunity, and absurdity. However, more probably it is simply an unconscious result of the same. His art delivers an additive mode with no effective metaphor(m).
Integral texts — According to Doelker, this is the category of works that combine various technical forms which then, importantly, coalesce into an organic singularity. This is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, the most important text form to develop in contemporary art and literature. In the CD ROM Medienbildung, examples of integral texts are advertising posters, illuminated manuscripts, comics, and post-produced radio interviews.30 The determining characteristic in each of these is that the parts interact to engender the whole. The result is not one location containing many different aesthetic objects, but one aesthetic object with many different parts. This has been the great lesson of installation art in modern and postmodern visual art and of intermedia in the literary world.
The most obvious form of integral text consists of older text forms laid side-by-side, yet contributing to one entire work. A fascinating member of this category is the comic book, which unfortunately as of yet has not come close to realizing its full promise, but is on the way. In painting and the novel, integral effects are actualized within a bracketed modality, or such linked modalities as to be canny — that is, comely and attractive yet shrewd. This is a contemporary version of "transparent surface style," yielding accessibility along the lines of realism, while denying the existence of such a creature. This can be seen in the creative writing of Daniel F. Ammann or in readable, yet writerly novelists such as David Lodge, (the later) Philip K. Dick, Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, or Glen Gold. In such novelists, below the surface of the seemingly accessible interface the real activity is occurring. The superstratum is important, playing to cordiality, yet it remains a skin, much like the Windows program on which I first began writing this dissertation years ago. It was not truly a system at all, being a kind of face-lift on DOS modeled after Macintosh; Windows NT and the following are indeed
systems, yet retain the user-friendly Steve Jobs-inspired visual interface. The differences in these notions of interaction with the user/perceiver parallel the various approaches of individual postmodern writers. All computer interfaces now are much different than the troublesome white-on-blue, commands only, user-unfriendly DOS of not long ago — a metaphor for purist Modernism if there ever was one.
Salmon Rushdie is an author of thoroughly integral-text novels. His central trope is born of the mishmash of cultures to which he is heir: England, India, Pakistan; West, East, Middle East; etc. He is inheritor of all, truly subject to none — not even under a death threat. As an author, he focuses on these cultures metonymically, concerning himself with their literatures, stories and vocabularies. These cultures are, though, opaque or at least semi-translucent to Rushdie. Rather than collage, the image that comes to mind to describe Rushdie's mixtures is an arrangement of a complex number of particles.
Tom Marshall has written an excellent short comment on Rushdie's novel Midnight's Children. This stirring description is itself a metaphoric evocation of the novelist's central tropes. It could serve as an ideal, tropaically analytic incarnation of metaphor(m) in criticism.