«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 ...»
Many paintings display tantalizing hints of the record of their making, fused into the meaningful structure of the work itself. This is a version of documentary creativity. In addition to the outright "traces" left, such as the pentimenti of indecision left behind in Abstract Expressionist works, paintings could emphasize more of their xenogenesis through sequentiality. Other aspects of the world of painting could be documented as an important aspect of the piece: handling, hanging, placement, etc. Eye-opening, documentary surprises with metaphoric purport could be realized through the calculated contradiction of viewer expectations of painterly procedure: what should be impasto or not, what is matte, what is smooth, what is foreground, and so on.
Fictional. The "simple text" form of every sort of creative writing lies in what Doelker categorizes as the fictional, the "story." A hyper-realized, virtual form of a novel could be more fictional and aware of its fictionality, expressing this (which expression would then be non-fictional). If the narratives in novels exist today as a progression along an axis from some point x to another point y (usually with many strands doing this parallel), the true hypertext fiction will unloose the strands from their unidirectionality. One strand will travel x to y, another a to b, another c to d, etc. All vectors would crisscross over a given "0" point or points, much like an ever-shifting three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system. Many an axis could feature narratives of real versions of unreal entities which are representations of the real. The future concoction of virtual-reality works that are indeed literature, and not merely experiments or games, will necessarily entail such self-referencing and wit. Ultra-fictionality could be created which begins to accurately model, as well as represent, experienced life.
The role of fictionality in painting has always been something of a quandary. Painting has been accused of extreme fictionality ("through the window" illusionism), particularly in dismissals of it. Although this was true for one or two very short periods of time in the incomparably long history of painting, such incrimination generally betrays ignorance. Even the most "realistic" (i.e. culturally transparent) styles of painting have required antipodal attention. They demand to be seen as images, and simultaneously as creations, even inventions — or there would be practically no joy in perceiving them, notwithstanding or especially in trompe l'oeil. The surface of painting was always one of its prime aesthetic qualities, only emphasized to exclusion in High Modernism. Even those artists who modeled
the picture plane on the window were citing the image. They employed specificities and artificialities of "window," in a tropaic use similar to a conceit. One aspect of fictional text status that could still be expanded on in painting would be the questioning of the definition of so-called abstraction and so-called representation. Both of these fictional categories could be put to the test, put under pressure, by creating works which are both, either/or, or neither/nor.
The paintings of Jonathan Lasker, Stephen Westfall, David Reed, Wesley Kimler and Mark Francis cross-examine these received divisions of thought.
fig. 80 Stephen Westfall, Tunnel Vision, oil and alkyd on canvas, 61 x 76 cm / 24 in x 30 in fig. 81 David Reed, #575, oil and alkyd on polyester, 2007,
101.6 x 406.4 cm / 40 in x 160 in Metaphor(m) and the Expanded Text Concept 206
Ludic. This is a text or other aesthetic object which is a game. Forays into the ludic in the arts have been made using stochastic procedures. This area of text has unfortunately tended to appear only as superficial entertainment or simple-mindedly ironic art. The ludic text variety has had a few successes in multimedia and intermedia work. It crops up in surprising ways when successful, usually, for example in the activities of production itself, which are not always immediately visible as such within the finished piece. This occurs in Boetschi's choices of colors, which he does randomly and spontaneously, without regard to the others already in place. Resolved ludic works are indebted to the antithetical misprision of Dada performed by John Cage. He was the contemporary Emersonian transmitter, and more importantly mis-reader, of Duchamp to the American arts and thereby the literary, musical and art world at large.
In the future the ludic text variety will certainly be an important aspect of virtual, hypertextual art objects, whether predominantly literary or visual. How can this element be used, become an integral aspect of a metaphor(m), something more than a charming trick?
Even the important ludic musical compositions such as those of Iannis Xenakis based on Metaphor(m) and the Expanded Text Concept 208 games didn't fully succeed aesthetically, in some opinions.45 Cage's visual, literary and musical works succeed, but usually as documentation of ludic compositional activities, not as ludic activities by the perceiver in the interaction with the work itself. This is also true of Hans Arp and various contemporary artists applying his use of chance. One fantasy which comes to mind, as a potential ludic creative act, would be paintings which change sequentially, while retaining their metaphorically important iconicity of presence. Another possibility would be novels through which one can playfully cruise, yet which are so thoroughly composed that the experience yielded is an important embodiment of the text's Weltanschauung.
Intentional. These are persuasive texts. This variety has a justifiable presence in design, television production and various forms of advertising, but has not interested literature or fine art very much. This is not to claim that there can be no politics in fine arts. As has been pointed out by many, including most recently the Deconstructivists, literature and art are inherently political. There are good art works and novels which are intentional because of their social criticism. Examples include Thomas Hardy or Nelson Algren's novels, good sermons by black preachers such those favored by Cornel West, and much feminist art, including Barbara Kruger. Often such works are not strictly or solely intentional.
Intentionality is only one of many layers. A strength of feminist culturally-critical art lies in the very laying bare of its own and other's intentionality, thus integrating its persuasiveness into its metaphor(m). Likewise the preachers of the black Christian community clearly use the social-progressiveness they find in their reading of the Bible as a foil for the larger conservative context in which religion in the world, and much of white Christianity, now places itself. This they do with a self-assured aesthetic theatricality, blended with proselytism.
Nevertheless, athough Doelkeresque intentionality exists in art a large number of purely intentional artworks are clichéd, hence boring, hence powerless.
All these text varieties described by Doelker can be converted into one another in certain conditions. For instance, by "zapping", the constant clicking through channels on television using a remote control, many viewers turn other text varieties into a ludic one. They play their TV. If this were done live, one might be able to compose works analogous to the current music created by DJs with scratching and sampling techniques. It would then no longer be only ludic, but also fully artistic — fictional to an extent, yet more appropriately music-like, an integral text. Integral, mixed, and hypertextual versions of these varieties could conjoin to metamorphose each of them into authentic art or literature. A composite of several might yield a visual-textual music of sequentiality, capable of being developed to excitingly Joycean dimensions in broadened versions of painting and the novel.
There could be several more entries added to this list of varieties, continuing Doelker's line of analysis. I suggest four further categories of my own creation.
Presentational. This is a text or aesthetic object-form which dramatically shows what exists and how it came to be, in a kind of pragmatic-documentary combination and elaboration. I envision this as a kind of radical pointing, a prescription for an actual event.
According to Roar Schaad, and avant-garde composer in Illinois in the US, he and many colleagues who treasure Xenakis's music did not find the game-structured pieces such as Duel and Stratégie aesthetically appealing. According to Schaad, the works in concert felt too contrived rather than musical or philosophical. Personal conversations with Schaad, 1979-1981.
Metaphor(m) and the Expanded Text Concept 209 Allusive. These are texts and objects which are a cross between fictional, documentary and ludic text varieties. Happy, meta-textual play creates a hypercognition or hyperimage of cultural reference. While I see flirtation with this idea in various postmodern novels, installations and other works, perhaps such an aesthetic work can only become fully realized when the interface possibilities between computers and users has reached a much more technically sophisticated level.
Philosophical. This is a variant of the intentional variety. These are texts which are analytical, i.e. persuasive, but not preachy. I think such works already exist. Doelker would most probably simply include them under the category of intentional works, but I think they need to be separated, as persuasiveness is secondary to inquiry in some artworks. Arthur Danto perceives Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes in this light.46 Composite. I am certain that texts in the extended sense exist, and will come to be, combining all or many of the above listed varieties— the many and various specific works with which creators surprise us.
In this chapter painting and the novel, my theory of metaphor(m) and Doelker's innovative idea of expanded media literacy, in the particulars of his extended text concept, have prodded and goaded one another in a protracted dialogue. Each reveals intriguing characteristics of itself in attempting to interact with the others. Their conversation as a whole is a reminder that rather than worshiping each new toy as it appears, or bemoaning each one's potential wickedness, we must concentrate on analysis and effective use of our new discoveries. We should also play with our toys, remembering that toys may not be "real," however they are tools for thought, learning, fun and art.
Extended text notions derived from electronic, popular, mass or niche media grant opportunities to consider new forms of interaction. The concepts, not the hardware, are what are important. This was displayed in our discussion by how well these concepts functioned when manifested in a dialectic with painting and the novel. What do we do with these thoughts? How can we integrate them in indispensable ways into the metaphor(m)s of literature and art — and thereby in the antithetical and creative understanding of life? The answers each of us finds to these questions will bring the simply technological dimensions of our inventions to profound and essential ones.
Likewise, we can reconceive any and all of our concepts by analyzing and judging the tropes upon which they are built. We may even wish to actively invent a new metaphor(m)al model for our core ideas at various levels of culture. I do this in the following chapter by studying various models of the art history timeline and then constructing a new one.
Models of Art History As I began applying the theory of central trope to various artists and artworks, I asked myself how it could also be employed to consider broader questions. One outcome of this speculation was the preceding chapter, where I used metaphor(m) to address painting as a whole, the novel and Christian Doelker's notion of the extended text. Similarly, in this chapter I asked myself what a model of art history itself could look like if I treated the standard timeline as an artwork of sorts, and attempted to create a new one which would embody a central trope incorporating a contemporary conception of history while retaining heuristic use as a learning device. The mere hubris of challenging traditional and current models of art history and endeavoring to construct a new one is highly agonistic. Once again, I feel this is Bloomian, yet not Oedipal. I am not aiming to utterly dismiss the timeline, as some have done, as I discuss below. In a dialogical fashion I am answering back to the calls of the models of art history now in use, trying to improve upon them by shaping a new and better trope for understanding the discipline.
fig. 85 Cartoon concerning Arthur Danto's discovery of Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes sculpture, David Carrier's interpretation of that and my response.
Post-His-Terakal ink on paper, 2001, 20 x 20 cm / 8 in x 8 in 2 I believe I have discovered a useful metaphor(m) in the image of a braided rope: a simple, yet evocative image which allows one to teach art history as a developmental succession, yet avoid teleological inferences; to retain a core focus, yet eclipse the illusion of exclusivity; to clearly indicate that there is a wealth of art not being immediately presented in the standard survey, yet maintain a pragmatically serviceable picture. I began my considerations originally by searching for an adequate model of a timeline with which to teach the history of comics and sequential art. Thus, I present and scrutinize the handful of models of both art history and comic history I found to be most widespread. I compare and contrast them, evaluating each for strengths and weaknesses. Some of these models are openly proclaimed, some are unacknowledged, even unrecognized by their proponents. Yet I am certain they ring true; I assessed a wide variety of publications, panel discussions, and interviews with scholars, teachers and creators in my search to locate these models. Finally, I present my own trope for the timeline and explain why I believe it is an improvement.