«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 Chapter Two: The Theory of Central Trope: Metaphor and Meta-Form, my notion was set forth distinctly, yet broadly. Using the process of painting itself as the extended trope within the chapter, I textually painted a portrait of the nature of metaphor(m), delineating how it is a theory of trope, as the basis of human thought, pressed into the tangible stuff and processes of creativity. I discussed some of the terminology used in the dissertation and described and presented the chart, based on Fauconnier and Turner's diagrams of conceptual blending, which I use as a basis to analyze the production of central tropes by artists. Finally, I applied my theory illustratively to the oeuvres of the realist, Modernist novelist Ernest Hemingway and the expressionist, Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. This was to exhibit the utility of the theory in clarifying the nuts-and-bolts of artists' and authors' achievement of "style" in two differing, distinctive creators whose bodies of work display substantially realized metaphor(m)s. The closing sequential art page reiterated and graphically visualized van Gogh's metaphor(m).
("Artist-theorist, theorize thyself" might be an alternate epigraph.) Professor Langlotz concurred; he had, after all, suggested the scheme of utilizing conceits corresponding to their contents in chapters. After overcoming my trepidation, I realized how right they were. I certainly could not write a dissertation claiming that performative embodiment is the heart of art and not perform and embody my theory within the text! This chapter thus became a sequential depiction of our travel interwoven with my internal and external discourses, at once a tropaic conceit and an actual comic depicting a real event. The painting-installation that resulted from this self-examination was described and reflected on in Chapter Five.
Chapter Five: My Metaphor(m), a Painting Installation is, in truth, not the text, but rather the large painting-installation that I created and exhibited that summer. I concretized my ruminations on central trope and my own work in a piece of art, polysemically embodying, not simply illustrating, an analysis of my own metaphor(m) within a Panels painting-installation artwork. This was an experiment I could not resist, yet which was highly challenging to me. ("Painter-theorist, paint thyself" might be the parallel alternate epigraph here.) I then wrote a textual reflection on the piece in an improvisatory series of vignettes scrutinizing the finished work as well as my thoughts while making it. The structural device of a principal extended metaphor, which I used in the text of many chapters, is therefore even more tangibly embodied in this chapter than elsewhere.
The process of working out my metaphor(m) is the content of Chapter Three; the result of this is the artwork comprising Chapter Five. Between the two of them I inserted Chapter Four: Conceiving Metaphor(m)s. I wrote this chapter while simultaneously painting My Metaphor(m), (the title I finally gave to the painting-installation comprising Chapter Five). It was included before the presentation of my own work both to reflect the biographical fact of its creation and because I wished to broadly outline a picture of the realm of formal possibilities accessible to a creator for realizing a central trope before physically utilizing this thought process. Furthermore, I wanted to emphasize the cognitive performance all artists go through while constructing a work: actions, thoughts and decisions which consist of struggles, brainstorming, fantasies, revisions, critiques and discoveries.
The conceit I applied to this chapter was a type of sketch in which the essential imageflow of a comic is roughed in. This is called blocking out a sequence. Chapter Four blocked out, in broad forms, the potential which metaphor(m) offers in use. I brought the theory of central trope directly into play with a variety of invented visual artworks and alluded to similar speculations on possibilities in other media. This was in order to suggest how a central trope works in and through the specifics of tropaically envisioned formal elements. Such a panoramic view revealed the importance of form as meaning. In particular, central tropes were displayed in action by imagining model specimens of image and image schema mappings. This was to suggest the further potential of the theory and to properly locate each more lengthily discussed creator within his or her own agonistic world. Future uses of the theory of metaphor(m) can include deeper appreciations of other artists, but also analyses of single drawings, periods of artists' careers, hypermedia, films, series of paintings, installations
In Chapter Six: Central Trope in Two Contemporary Painters' Works, I traced the significance of realized metaphor(m)s in tangible detail by studying a single painting by Charles Boetschi and the most recent body of paintings by Leonard Bullock. I explored the application of the theory of central trope to a geometric, abstract painting by Boetschi and to a series of abstract, painterly works by Bullock. This served to subject the theory to close, practical examination through using it to scrutinize paintings by two seemingly stylistically antithetical artists. In Boetschi's case we saw how his conceptions of color and form viewed through foundational metaphors of irregular and regularity resulted in startlingly fresh geometric yet irregular compositions with unconventional, evocative colors. In Bullock's art we observed how opulent haptic aggregations of allusions to history and personal experience, when seen through foundational metaphors of life as a journey, map our phenomenological experiences of being. Both of these artists' metaphor(m)s (and the image-mappings which comprise them) displayed antithetical postmodern complexities.
The form of Chapter Seven: Artistic Ground: Cultural Inheritance, Struggle, Respect, Material and Identity was not only an applied conceit, but also the shape of its actual first presentation: a PowerPoint-illustrated speech I gave in Istanbul as part of a cultural exchange.
Throughout this dissertation I have found inspiration for the integration of form and content in Giuliana Bruno's Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film and Philip Ursprung's Grenzen der Kunst: Allan Kaprow und das Happening, Robert Smithson und die Land Art. This chapter demonstrates this through the fact that I kept as much of the original form of the lecture as possible in the final version of the chapter.
Additionally, Chapter Seven was meant as something of an aside. In it, I temporarily decentered cognitive linguistics, the chief inspiration for my theory, and concentrated on the nature of the struggle I believe artists undertake when creating their metaphor(m)s. This I base on Harold Bloom's notion of creative misprision. Nevertheless, I used the process of rethinking core tropes which is at the heart of metaphor(m) theory to alter Bloom's notion. I described the possibility of a non-Oedipal variation on Bloom's antithetical revisionist theory of agon in artistic creativity. I lobbied for a call-and-response-styled misprision of Bloom's theory of misprision. In my version, this struggle is a performative dialogue. The "replacement of the father" is eliminated. Bloom's metaphor of Oedipus is supplanted with a creolian combination of two images: Jacob's wrestling with the angel (or God); and Eshu, the African spirit of the crossroads, trickery and maturation. On the road, crossing the River Jabbok, each artist struggles with his angel, who is Eshu and God. When the dispute has been carried through, Eshu renames "our Jacob," Israel (he who struggles with God) but most of all, gives him his own name, Eshu.
Conclusion 262 Conclusion 263
Conclusion 264In Chapter Eight my dissertation took what might appear to be a heavily literary and electronic media bypath. This was an exploration of a multi-genre and cross-disciplinary application of the theory of central trope. The expanded text concept from literary theory, most evocatively used in the media theory of Christian Doelker, was analyzed under the lens of metaphor(m), focusing in particular on the interaction of these suppositions in the fields of painting and the novel. The theory of central trope and Doelker's idea of expanded media literacy were thrust into a dialogue in order to fully wield the assertions of metaphor(m) in an expansive fashion. Indeed, the conceit of Chapter Eight was a dialogue, as I applied ideas from cognitive metaphor to Doelker's topology and taxonomy of categories, types and varieties of extended texts. New, broadened Kulturtechniken from such sources as TV, video games and, most of all, the world-wide web were shown not only to necessitate more, not less literacy, but also to bring new, potentially fruitful opportunities into play for creating works of art. This was demonstrated by how well these concepts functioned in dialectic with painting and the novel. It was advocated that artists will be able to use these fresh possibilities by integrating them into their metaphor(m)s, thus into their antithetical and creative considerations of life. The chapter ended with a sequentially illustrated imaginary squabble between two parts of my personality.
After 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 Chapter Eight, as just described, where I used metaphor(m) to address painting as a
whole, the novel and notions of the extended text. Correspondingly, in Chapter Nine:
Timelines, Comics and a Plurogenic View of Art History, 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, critical conception of history while retaining a heuristic use as a learning tool.
To culminate my dissertation, I sought a metaphoric model for the teaching and study of art history informed by cognitive metaphor theory: an image that would allow us to access a variety of cultural metaphors to envision our subject, both clearly and questioningly. I discovered a beneficial metaphor(m) in the image of a braided rope. This is a straightforward, yet expressive image which supports art history's diachronic development, yet avoids teleological abstractions. It also is an image that maintains a learnable core, yet defeats illusions of exclusivity; it clearly reveals that there is a wealth of art not being immediately discussed in the standard survey, while remaining a practical, utilitarian illustration. I gave the first draft of this chapter as a presentation at the College Art Association's annual conference of art historians in Chicago in February of 2010. My speech outlined my hopes for this tropaic model as well as my process of inventing it through my considerations of other major timeline models in the histories of both fine art and comic art. Accordingly, the conceit of this chapter was the form of an illustrated lecture.
My dissertation has asserted the preeminence of the search for meaning, through metaphoric creativity, in art. This is not an attempt to restore some imagined, missing hint of a purport preceding the created text or object. It is an affirmation of the quest for meaning as the central struggle in creativity. It is no longer viable to seek to discover some imagined intention of meaning — the artwork is the achieved meaning, through its metaphor(m). Each artwork is a complex of multiple meanings performatively embodied. Historical fact is a necessary and enlightening frame of reference to anchor finer associations; nevertheless what a creator principally intended is always for that specific object to exist. What all creators try to do can likewise be plainly described. They try to tell truths — with emphasis placed on the verb and the plural noun ending. Yet these simple-sounding essentials are the bases for immeasurably rich creations. There is no objectivity beyond this. In the same way, a purely subjective response is of little pragmatic value, only perhaps inadvertently as a direction for a viewer's own thought or as a guide to the thoroughly perplexed. A theory of creative metaphoric thought cannot be wholly "objectivist,", "subjectivist," intentional, structural, paralinguistic, deconstructive, biographical, and most of all not formalistic. Each of these methods of interpretation places the weight of the meanings in an artwork in some imagined, abstracted camp far from home, or in some cul-de-sac of unrecognized catachresis.
The greatest danger for and from theorists is that they tend to create situations wherein works of art are arbitrarily expurgated from any living process and from all contexts, (be they cognitive, historical, economic, or various others). As a practicing artist and art historian with strong analytic proclivities and the penchant to cerebrate, I have attempted to construct a theory in resistance to this, an anti-theory of sorts, if you will: one which emphasizes living process, personal struggle, cognition, agency and historical context. I suggest only in passing other contexts, which may be subjects for the future. My aim was to clearly present, employ and test the theory of central trope, pursuing its use through several forms and strata of creative practice. The Prelude gives personal and contemporary historical context; Chapter One supplies philosophical and theoretical context; Chapter Two elucidates my theory;