something introductory: Intermediality vs Multimedia

February 4, 2008

One hundred years ago the modernist tendency thrust itself upon western society through one keen shift in the way the act of creation was approached. Modernist artists discovered the uniqueness of the media in which they worked and exploited those differences in order to define their styles. With the trend of self-criticism, artist such as Pablo Picasso were able to approach three dimensional presentations through a lens that only a painting can recreate, cubism. Music saw composers like Igor Stravinsky who sought to redefine musical composition by experimenting with dissonance and narrative composition. Lastly in literature writers like Virginia Wolff and Franz Kafka used the narrative form of expression itself to aid their narrative styles of storytelling. From an observational point of view cubism and Kafka share very little, but when looking at how both Picasso and Kafka approached their work, they become similar in that they used what makes the medium unique. Medium specificity established the course of art for the twentieth century, paving the way for the convergence of media in the internet age of the twenty-first century.

The modernist course of art has evolved into the contemporary, postmodernist art world of today. Speaking generally, and utilizing postmodernist tendencies, the walls erected by modernism in exploring the specificity of media are being knocked down as the focus of exploration shifts from what is unique to what is shared. New works of art are exploring the relationship between media rather than the characteristics unique to each medium. Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book best emphasizes this new exploration. The film can be described as a visual representation of literature. The film uses literary tools to communicate while also transforming language into a visual art. The premise of the film revolves around a fledgling writer seeking to stake her claim in the publishing world. Frustrated by the rejection from her late father’s publisher, and lover, she seeks to use the publisher’s new lover in order to manipulate the publisher into publishing her work. She manipulates both the publisher and the lover by seducing the lover and using his body to transmit her text to the publisher. Thus the audience is given both a cinematic narrative between the three characters as well as secondary references to this literary narrative being created and distributed via a human body. The film uses, as its language of communication with the audience and with the characters, the written form in multiple languages. This form is presented visually, not aurally, and does not provide translation when presented in a foreign language. Ultimately the text in the film is not presented to be read by the audience but rather to be viewed. The characters, however, see the visual text as literature and seek to own it as quickly as possible. Were a text made cinematic it would not be interpreted for cinema like the multiple adaptations of classical literature currently popular in American cinematography, but rather it would be transformed into the cinematic image. Joy Sisley in an essay on the intermediality of The Pillow Book suggests “that as a radical mediation of writing The Pillow Book not only upsets a conventional separation of word and image as two separate entities and mutually exclusive media, but also figuratively closes the conceptual gap between word and image by reminding us that writing is a visual medium” (Literary Intermediality, 36).[1]  By closing the gap between word and image The Pillow Book skates the line between literature and film. Now it is very apparent as to which side of the line this “film” falls on, but nonetheless there are elements of the film that are more reflective of a literary narrative, such as the lack of any one character describing that which is written on numerous bodies throughout the film. The film’s inspiration is a real book written by Sei Shonagon at the end of the 10th century in imperial Japan. Shonagon’s pillow book was a journal of sorts where she kept detailed lists, comparisons, poetry and various other entries she felt a need to remember. The movie pays homage to this text through paying homage to the literary tradition. By emphasizing the visual aspects of literature, this film acknowledges the intermediality between the two forms of art. The essence of the book is preserved literally through the words on the body, while the film narrative seeks to create a relationship between text and image.

The late 20th century saw an increased focus in this intermediality with the rise of adaptations as well as new original works. It is very easy to brush off adaptations as unoriginal works of art reflective of a financially driven industry, but it is naïve to suggest that these reinterpreted narratives do not provide their own “original” elements. Take for example A Charlie Brown Christmas animated short, the first animated version of the famous Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. Today the film and its soundtrack, composed by Vince Guaraldi, are seen as synonymous with Charlie Brown himself. But the original Peanuts comic strip was only a comic with no musical accompaniment. Once the Peanuts characters were combined with Guaraldi’s music, a relationship formed that transformed the narrative for a new medium, television, giving it a whole new depth and perspective. This new version is not a stand alone television special however, its style of story telling is completely reflective of the comic strip character that originated the story, thus it is a hybrid animation created through the combined processes of comic narrative styles and animated. auditory elements. The idea of retelling a narrative through a new medium is not a new concept; artists have been visualizing mythical narratives for centuries. But the way in which these different medium interpretations are interacting is. For example when the NBC television drama, Heroes premiered in the fall of 2006 it was accompanied by an online graphic novel that was published once a week, with the airing of every new television episode. The comic described back stories to the characters featured in the series while foreshadowing events to come. The comic was not a retelling of the show but rather it added additional narratives to the ones featured on screen. While it helped to advance the narrative it also reflected the intermediality of the show itself, a cinematized comic strip. Though the show’s narrative was completely original, it was inspired by earlier comic strips such as Superman and X-Men. Thus in the late age of modernism or rather in the age of postmodernism, media are integrating to evolve the narratives they are telling; giving The Lord of the Rings trilogy a cinematic equivalent complete with theme music or showing the tragic hero behind the wicked witch of the west from The Wizard of Oz in Wicked.

On the other side of this push towards intermediality is the immersion of a new medium of artistic expression, the computer and more specifically the internet. Thus far the medium of the internet has been mostly used to present preexisting art to a wider audience. The medium specific art for such a tool is still be debated, the argument of the artistic merit of video games and websites has not come to a close just yet. But it is important to understand that too many who are exploring the artistic potential of blogs and the internet at large do believe to a certain extent that the creativity behind the creation of a webpage deserves the same kind of respect as the artists who use brushes and canvas to express themselves. What can be agreed upon is the artistic potential of such a tool. The internet, using the computer as its tool for communication, acts as a fully interactive virtual space where anything from a painting, song to even video clip can be transmitted. This versatility allows it to be extremely adaptable to our growing desire for intermediality. As mention above, the NBC television show, Heroes, used the internet to publish its graphic novel that accompanied the show’s weekly airing. This novel could have been put into print, in fact in its online form it used many of the signature characteristics of graphic novels in print, such as the thought bubbles and organizational structure, the latter of which does not aide an internet reader in following the narrative. Because they placed this graphic novel online there were able to present it in multiple forms: a printable version, an interactive version, and an animated version. Each version of the comic told the same story but used different attributes to tell it, attributes that before the internet would have been considered medium specific. The internet as it is being used in the year 2008 (this distinction is extremely important as the uses and design of the internet are very rapidly changing in its ever growing popularity) has defined the idea of multimedia. Therefore the concept of an internet based artwork utilizing multiple media to present the creative idea is neither unique to blogs nor does it originate from them. But as we will see blogs have served a crucial role in expanding the concept of the internet’s multimedia capabilities.


[1] Literary Intermediality, 36


Who owns the art?

December 18, 2007

I have been very distracted lately with finals and my thesis and have not been able to continue the discussion I and Everett have engaged in recently. Well I have time now and here is my response to his most recent post on the ownership of art.

 

Everett concludes his thoughts with:

“So what is left? The reader is not useful for the Art, for whatever personal growth he gains from a work, it is useful only to him; the Artist is only useful while writing– and only limitedly then, because he knows only partially what he is doing, sometimes less than that– leaving behind… what? In the end, all we are left with is the work itself, with its vast ambiguities and questions. And really, here is a central aspect of Art: ambiguity. It’s one of the significant distinctions between Art and Entertainment: Entertainment is inherently reductive. If we are to escape, we do not want to think about complex items: we want life simplified into a compact story, whether it is a comedy, a romance, an adventure. Entertainment succeeds when it does not challenge us: it may surprise us, but the surprises occur in a frame, so to speak. Spiderman is shocked– as are we– by the sudden arrival of an enemy, but it’s not that we didn’t expect an enemy….”

 

This has been a topic of our discussion for some time now, the role the artist and the reader play in defining art. Everett is of the opinion that the reader does not play a role in making it art, that is not to say that the reader is not important, far from it, but rather that the reader or viewer in the world of visual arts, is a critic following the establishment of the piece, therefore he does not partake in leveling it up to the world of art (if I am misunderstanding you let me know Everett). Here is where I have a problem with his argument. I agree that the artist is fundamental to the creation of the piece, but then we are left with that good old tree in the forest question. If the artist creates art and no one is around to see it, does it exist as art? My answer is no. It cannot be art without a viewer. At the same time I can easily be persuaded to say yes, especially if someone was to say that if they placed Guernica in the middle of the forest is it still art, yes obviously, but its artistic merit was already established before its placement in the forest. To me this goes back to when I was a physics major: you can’t measure what you can’t observe and by observing, you are altering what you observe. Thus I see the same in art, when we observe a piece we add to it, when we comment on it; we alter its existence and therefore redefine it.

Everett earlier brings up the interesting element of works of art that are “open” that is works that were or are never finished. But he suggests that they become finished upon the death of the writer, an obvious fact. However if I may suggest here that this the new power of blogs, here we have works of art that are both timeless in that they exist as long as there are contributors and interactive in that they are expanded upon by the involvement of the readers.

 

So for me as Everett did mention, art exists on its own, even the artist passed creation doesn’t own his art, he simply become another critic. But at the same time I return to my original idea which comes from the Reader-Response idea that Everett brought up; that art really exists in its interaction between the object and the observer, because each time that interaction happens it is different and when you replace either party, the interaction is different. Thus with this understanding we lose the categories of art and entertainment, it is up to each person to decide whether something falls in one or the other category, or neither.

Just some earlier (should be studying for my test) thoughts, sorry it took so long Everett to respond,

 

Huysmans


Manifesto of Artistic Artistry Relevance

December 7, 2007

Yet again I feel the need to address the role of this discussion. The why, if you will. Why should we engage in defining art, or more generally why should we even engage in the discussion of art? Perhaps I feel the need to defend this on account of the numerous friends I have who by attending art schools have become rather elitist in their opinions, believing that they are the only authorities on which art can be discussed. I want to say to them here and now that that couldn’t be further from the truth. I could spend much more than one post and my beliefs on these institutions that call themselves art schools but that isn’t the purpose of this post. For today I want to state clear and simply my manifesto as an artist and in homage to other artists who realize what art really is.

 

Me Manifesto of Artistic Artistry Relevance:

 

1.      Art is in everything and everything is in art. Artists do not create Art, they create art. We the spectators, the viewers, the readers, the observers, the audience, the listeners, the society in which this cult is supported are the creators of Art.

2.      Art cannot exist on its own.

3.      Art is not a person, place or thing and it is definitely not a noun!

4.      Art is an interaction!!!! An experience, a conversation that communicates what some call the ineffable, what I just call art.

5.      Artists are everyone!

6.      A self identified artist should never be trusted!

7.      Art schools are just bricks and mortar.

8.      Manifestos are works of art, not political statements.

9.      You are an artist.

10.  Art does not live.

11.  Art can turn a profit. Art should turn a profit.

12.  To talk about art is to acknowledge your own existence in this world.

13.  To not talk about art is to live passively.

14.  As we describe art as being active and challenging, so is the discussion, anything else is entertainment.

15.  Dali is a sell out!

16.  The Mona Lisa is no longer art!

17.  Fountain is the greatest experience of the twentieth century

18.  Disney has brought us the twenty first.

19.  This should cost $2.67

20.   

21.  art is worthless and does not bring us anything to better our society.

22.  Ignore statement twenty and refer to statement five when dealing with liars

23.  Periods should not exist.

24.  Is this Art?

25.  no


Categorizations as reduction.

November 30, 2007

Recently I have engaged Everett Scott in what has become a very interesting conversation into how and why we organize art, looking at why there is Art and art and where entertainment plays a role and how Art acts differently. What has come from this are some very interesting notions as to entertainment and art being on separately playing fields and ultimately incomparable as to effect and purpose on society and culture. This may not be false in the end. And I being one who loves adapting and utilizing arguments contrary to my own brought this up in a recent conversation in a Mystical class I am currently in being taught by Professor K. The conversation was on the mystical merit of Dali. I being of the mind to challenge even my own beliefs on art decided to take the opinion that Dali was a “sellout artist” and one not deserving of any merit; in the end I used this distinction to place Dali as an entertainer rather than an artist. My professor, Professor K, stated rather bluntly that such distinctions were reductive and closed minded.

Well first I’d like to say that I disagree entirely with both sides of that little debate, Dali is an artist to me, and such distinction are most certainly not reductive and closed minded. In fact I would argue that such a statement is the only thing closed minded and reductive in that debate. To refuse to engage in a debate because you believe it to be reductive is the closed minded attitude. I grant that I am not one to revel in categorizations but I do believe there is merit in trying to understand why such works as Guernica or Olympiad or even the Mona Lisa are distinctively different than that of Disney or MGM’s Bond films. But I am not bringing this up to just point out a failure in our class’s ability to discuss openly, rather I want to acknowledge the merit of trying to understand the differences between Art and art and why we should do that. I know that personally I do not believe in such differences but I think in looking at the apparent differences we better understand why we create them. So then I guess I do believe in them I just don’t prescribe to them. I really do not know. But in regards to aesthetics, I do want to delve into how that word applies to art and I will very soon.


Art for Art’s Sake

November 27, 2007

First I must apologize for taking so long to respond to such a wonderful post. I am still new to blogging and am learning just how much time I need to dedicate to it. Everett has introduced an extremely interesting and thought provoking connection between art and a higher mystical/transcendental purpose on his website, POSHLUST. More specifically he has addressed my desire to compare Art or High Art and art or Low Art as to understand why the difference needs to exist. Everett suggests that this difference exists because in reality they are actually two completely different entities with “artists” working towards completely different ends. Art, Everett describes below:  Art exists “for its own sake” in the sense that it cannot serve an ideological purpose. As Robbe-Grillet says, “What [the author] was trying to do is merely the book itself…. And when we ask him why he has written his book, he has only one answer: “To try and find out why I wanted to write it.” This enlightenment, this awareness, cannot be approached cognitively: art must exist free because the very act of creating is a search, a quest, for something that it is not even entirely aware of when it begins. (For all the arguing I have done about “a heightened sense of consciousness,” I could not even begin to describe it; it is beyond me.) Thus to impose any level of direction on Art restrains it. (This is why philosophical works like those of Camus or Sartre or Brecht fail so miserably as literature: they are trying to teach us, but they force the work to fit their ideas, and the work becomes less because of it.) Art for art’s sake does not mean that it is meaningless; rather, it means that art requires freedom to serve its purpose, which is a search for, a desire to understand and communicate, the ineffable.”  

Therefore Art, Everett suggests is not designed for any one specific purpose but rather is an example of one artist’s search to communicate and/or understand the ineffable (a word mystics love to use to defend their experience as being legitimate). He therefore acknowledges his belief in “art for art’s sake” but not to suggest that art is meaningless and serves no purpose but that its purpose is within what Art is. While he calls art, or low art as being entertainment and having a different purpose entirely.

 This is not the goal of Entertainment. The goal of entertainment is to dull our senses to the world, to make us more comfortable with the world as it is. Mythology, Campbell wrote, was designed to make a mysterious and frightening world more acceptable; one cannot help but watch Live Free and Die Hard in the same context: providing our great fears (terrorism, a government incapable of dealing with disasters) and then providing us a comfortable resolution— the idea that these problems can be fixed, that even the great threat of terrorism is weak compared to American determination and ingenuity. Can there be fine works of entertainment? Certainly. David Huddle’s The Story of a Million Years, Chip Kidd’s The Cheese Monkeys, the works of Edith Sitwell, Stephen King (and most other genre writers for that matter), most of the style of French rococo, et&c.” 

With this definition he argues that one should not engage in a difference between the two categories because in the end they are entirely different productions that serve a different purpose and are produced in different ways. Where entertainment seeks to comfort art seeks to understand. This is a very interesting idea and one, I’ll be honest, I haven’t considered when engaging this debate. And I believe that Everett has posed a very convincing argument as to the validity of such a separation. He further argues that these entertainment pieces are:

 

temporal, their goal is, as the word “amuse” means “to divert from serious business,” a pleasant escapism. It is not to say that these works lack beauty or do not provoke thought, but rather that they are not designed to fundamentally change our perception of the world, our relationship with the world.”

But I must ask the question with this in regards to those well constructed entertainment pieces. What if they fundamentally change our perception of the world or have the influence to affect that change, maybe not fundamentally. But Everett has set up his argument well and stated that they weren’t designed to and therefore their effects do not necessarily influence which category they fall under. My problem with this argument is that it puts too much emphasis on the creator. I believe, as I have stated before , that art is not defined by an object but rather by an interaction and therefore requires active participation by the observer. Thus with this definition I believe that this new distinction between art that seeks to understand and art that seeks to comfort becomes completely subjective based on the relationship with the viewer. I also recognize that I am coming at this from one who believes mysticism and this ineffable thing we try to understand through mystical experiences is simply a euphoric state achieved through aesthetic experience, basically I am saying that art is not designed to explore some higher spiritual existence but rather is designed to explore our relationship with aesthetics. I cannot buy spirituality because I believe it is entirely connected to the “flaw of civilization” that Everett describes in his addendum to his Art as Mysticism post.

 

As always I am running out of time to post this so I leave it with a question. If art is mysticism and its true purpose is to explore this higher spiritual state, then how can those who do not live in mystical awareness and do not acknowledge spirituality interact with art? No I believe that his is one possibility but one that can only work for those who have strong belief in a spiritual world. For the rest of us art must and always be meaningless. It is in its meaninglessness that is thrives on being able to challenge our concepts of beauty, natural beauty, representation, creativity, productivity, style, design, all of these are aspects that in the end are there to entertain. When I have more time and for part two of this post I will dive more into why I believe art is and should be meaningless.

  

Huysmans


Revisiting Journalism with Documentaries

November 22, 2007

For a second post on Thanksgiving I want to expand on the conversation of Journalism and Art. Specifically I want to add a conversation on Documentaries. What is the role of a documentary today and how does that role interact with art and journalism? What is interesting to me is the word itself, I believe it is only applied to film and then when we think of the equivalent in literature we fall into the “nonfiction” category of biographies, historical studies, social studies, and so on. So we have touched upon the artistic value in journalism that it may be art through the way in which this “information” we receive on a daily basis is transmitted to us. That basically journalism and especially photojournalism becomes art because of the way it (being the “information”) is interpreted by the journalist. Well the same can be said about documentaries and I bet one would be hard pressed to find a documentary film director who would disagree with the idea that what they are doing is art. After all it was Buñuel’s film, Las Hurdes, which highlighted the fundamentally paradox of documenting: by observing you alter and therefore influence.

So by this same argument can nonfiction literature be art? I guess the most ironic example of this would be the publication art criticism or history. Is André Bazin an artist like Jean Renoir? The truth is, and I believe critical theory will back me up on this that it is impossible to comment on society without influencing society, therefore all critical thought and philosophical theory plays as much a role in shaping society as it does in describing it. So one could argue that it is the way in which André Bazin writes as well as how he chooses what to write that makes him an artist. But then does art become about form rather than content? Are we suggesting that he, along with journalism, is artists because of how they create rather than what they create? Basically I return to the fundamental question: Is the newspaper a work of art?

 

I expect answers, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

 

Huysmans


Placing journalism in art. Can you?

November 15, 2007

Can journalism be art? And by that I have no intentions as to how to respond to such an open-ended question. But for myself I am asking from a few discussions I have recently partaken in. There is the aesthetic element that goes into reporting the news, but also there is the literary element. How you write, how you express your opinions, how you organize what is written? All of these have aesthetic elements but do those elements make journalism art?

 

The newspaper became part of art with Picasso’s collage. Where is it now and can a journalist be an artist? What about a news reporter? Benjamin wrote that it was fascism that made politics art and thus created Triumph of the Will. But perhaps journalism had something to do with it as well.

 

 

I don’t have answers yet as to the connection between journalism and art, but at the very least I do not think they are completely separate.

 

 

Thoughts?