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Instead, he turns his attention to the features of tragedy that are specific to the art form by analyzing the experience that structures the form. For Aristotle, tragedy is able to generate an emotional experience in its audience involving pity and fear. His name for this experience is catharsis. The precise nature of this Aristotelian catharsis has been and continues to be a matter of great debate: it has been taken to be an experience of emotional discharge, of emotional purification, and of moral education, to name just a few interpretations.
Fortunately, we do not need to determine what exactly Aristotle took catharsis to be in order to note the general shape of his reasoning about tragedy as an art form. That tragedy aims for catharsis, a specific emotional experience for those who watch the drama, defines the nature of tragedy as an art form for Aristotle and organizes his analysis of how tragedies are structured.
Most importantly, for Aristotle, tragedy can best achieve an experience of catharsis in its audience because it, unlike history or epic poetry, has a dramatic form. The events of a tragedy unfold as the audience watches; the audience apprehends events as they unfold, constituting the unity of the plot as a single action.
The audience of a history or epic poem, on the other hand, learns of many actions and events, and their interrelation and history, by means of a narrative rather than dramatic form. Because the audience members for a tragedy witness the events of the drama as they play out in front of them, they are able to understand how those events, on the one hand, have an inexorable logic and, on the other, arise from choices that the protagonist makes that could have been otherwise. This tension between the contingency and the inevitability of the events depicted in a tragedy arises because the audience witnesses the protagonist make a choice and come to live with, or be destroyed by, its consequences.
Beginning in the Renaissance, Europeans began more extensive theorizing about art and art forms and they relied on Horace and, to a lesser extent, Aristotle, in order to justify a variety of accounts of art forms and the characteristic experiences that establish their norms and standards. For example, literary theorists such as Lodovico Castelvetro and Julius Caesar Scaliger, writing in 16 th century Italy, both defended poetry as an imitative art following Horatian principles and argued for the legitimacy of literature produced in popular, vernacular languages.
Such arguments were soon adopted across Europe by theorists such as Joachim du Bellay and Philip Sidney, who developed largely Horatian-style defenses of vernacular poetry as an imitative art.
By contrast, theorizing about music, both in the ancient world and in the European tradition prior to the 18 th century, did make appeal to what we might think of as the medium of music in articulating the norms underlying musical practices. The earliest theories about the nature of music within the Western tradition held that music is the expression of a set of natural ratios that are equally expressed macroscopically in the movement of the celestial spheres and microscopically with the harmonies of the human soul.
Pythagoras and his followers placed mathematical and musical knowledge at the center of their studies and influenced Plato and other ancient philosophers. One prominent example of this ancient tradition of theorizing music as an expression of natural harmonies is Boethius, a Roman statesman and Neoplatonist philosopher from the 6 th century C.
In his De institutione musica , Boethius distinguishes between three types of music: music of the spheres, music of the human spirit, and instrumental music. As the musical possibilities within the European tradition developed from monophony to polyphony in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance and then, during the Baroque era, to more complex contrapuntal forms of composition, theorizing about the nature of music also changed.
Much medieval theorizing was directly inspired by Boethius and oriented around practical instructional concerns for composers and musicians. Indeed, much of the history of Western musical theory is bound up with theories of tuning. By the 16 th century, there emerged in the work of theorists such as Gioseffo Zarlino, a new theoretical category—temperament—which made possible accounts better suited to describe the innovations in polyphony and counterpoint composition.
Another strand of European music theory that emerged during and after the Renaissance drew on concepts from ancient rhetorical theories in order to describe the space of musical possibilities. By the end of the 18 th century, such rhetorical analysis had largely been supplanted by a new type of analysis of musical forms, such as the sonata, in the work of Heinrich Koch and others.
These theoretical developments around the nature of musical experience were responsive to the evolving nature and increasing complexity of music composition and performance in the 18 th and 19 th century. The preceding is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of theorizing about art and art forms in the ancient and European traditions prior to the 18 th century. Importantly, theorizing about artistic medium did not have the central place in theorizing about art forms more generally that it came to occupy beginning in the 18 th and 19 th centuries.
As art established itself as a relatively autonomous region of experience, the concept of medium emerged as a critical means of understanding distinct types of artistic experience. As Europeans began to conceive of art as a distinct region of experience, the Aristotelian and Horatian model for articulating the norms of an art form by reflection on its overall aim was fundamentally modified with the introduction of sustained consideration of the medium as the means for achieving a particular type of artistic experience.
In that essay, he articulates the standards by which painting and poetry should depict bodies in action through an analysis of the spatiotemporal conditions under which the art forms are experienced. By the mid th century in Europe, art had become its own distinct realm of experience, the culmination of a long and complex process in which artistic creation gradually decoupled from religious expression.
Johann Winckelmann, for instance, developed the first comprehensive account of ancient art, distinguishing between Greek, Greco-Roman, and Roman art, and explicitly took up the Greeks in particular as a model for contemporary artists. Denis Diderot, among his many other accomplishments, began, in , writing critical reports on the biennial Paris Salons for a German newsletter, offering evaluations of particular artists and paintings and, equally, developing a critical account of the experiences at which painting should aim.
Lessing, like Winckelmann, held that art, inasmuch as it was distinct from religious experience, should take beauty as its ultimate aim. Later Christian artists were, on this view, required to maintain a sort of double allegiance to the demands of beauty and the teachings of the Church, to the detriment of their work artistically. Both Diderot and Lessing believed that painting, for example, can show moments of beauty that are not exclusively visual in nature by encouraging audiences to imagine moral and spiritual possibilities that we do not ordinarily encounter or recognize in our everyday lives.
The aesthetic aim means that painters should choose a revelatory moment within the action depicted that offers the chance to think through the nature of that action. Lessing characterizes painting and poetry in quite abstract and capacious terms. He defines poetry as any art form that unfolds in time and painting as inclusive of all art forms that are visual in nature. This stands in contrast with later analysis of artistic medium, which often centers on the particular matter out of which works of art are made.
In fact, though often rightly credited as the first critic to offer an analysis of artistic medium, Lessing himself does not describe painting and poetry as artistic mediums. It is worth noting that there was no widespread appeal to a concept of artistic medium until the middle of the 19 th century, when a term that had its home in scientific contexts was extended into artistic contexts. So, although Lessing is correctly credited with the first developed medium analysis, he describes painting and poetry as different methods for achieving a particular artistic experience.
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That Aristotle-inspired mode of analysis developed an account of the norms and standards governing an art form by identifying the experience characteristic of the art form and generating an account of the features of the forms in light of their contribution to the overall experience aimed at. Unlike Aristotle, Lessing has in mind a general type of experience, the imaginative apprehension of bodies in action as beautiful, achieved by two different methods. Lessing is able to offer an account of the different artistic norms governing painting and poetry because he takes them up as different means by which a kind of artistic experience can be achieved, where each means is constituted by a distinct spatiotemporal structure.
Lessing argues that the material conditions of the method determine what is appropriate to that art form:. If it is true that in its imitations painting uses completely different means or signs than does poetry, namely figures and colors in space rather than articulated sounds in time, and if these signs must indisputably bear a suitable relation to the thing signified, then signs existing in space can express only objects whose wholes or parts coexist, while signs that follow one another can express only objects whose wholes or parts are consecutive.
Objects or parts of objects which exist in space are called bodies. Accordingly, bodies with their visible properties are the true subjects of painting. Objects or parts of objects which follow one another are called actions. Accordingly, actions are the true subject of poetry. Some subsequent critics and theorists have read Lessing here as offering two distinct tasks for painting and poetry, depicting bodies and depicting action. But Lessing considers these to be two different methods for achieving a single effect; namely, getting the audience to imagine bodies in action. Poetry also depicts bodies, but only by suggestion through action.
Poets should construct their descriptions of actions by referencing each body participating in the overall action in terms of a single characteristic as it makes its contributions to the action. Painters should, according to Lessing, choose to depict the single moment of an overall action that encourages the audience to best imagine the action and one that offers the audience particular insight into what is at stake in the action.
Instead, they show his resistance to his suffering, the way in which he is enduring the pain and suffering that will inevitably overwhelm him. In this way, the audience is able to imagine both the enormity of his suffering and the spiritual beauty of his resistance in the face of immense suffering. He is able to articulate a set of critical norms and standards for the art forms by reflecting on their different underlying spatiotemporal conditions.
Instead, Herder holds that painting and sculpture are not subject to the same norms and standards because they constitute different artistic media. Most decisively, the concept of artistic medium plays a central role in the thought of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, arguably the most influential philosopher of the early 19 th century. But if this is case, then the question arises: Why are there different art forms, given that they all are structured around a shared, if at times inchoate, desire? In thinking of art as a general field of experience within which we can distinguish distinct art forms, the concept of artistic medium is critical in allowing Hegel to maintain the unity of art in general while still distinguishing clearly between particular art forms and the norms and standards that govern them.
As noted above, Lessing does not describe his analysis of painting and poetry as an analysis of artistic medium. He talks about painting and poetry as different methods for achieving an experience. The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the earliest use of medium in an artistic context, signifying the raw material out of which a work of art is made, is from This new use of medium in an artistic context grew out of an earlier use that describes the substance such as oil or water that painters mix with pigment to create paint.
We still speak of oil paint as a distinct medium that differs from watercolor; this use is an extension from an earlier one that identifies oil and water as media in which pigments are mixed. While the first uses of medium in artistic contexts often referenced the material out of which paint and then paintings were made, the timing of this development is likely connected to a radical problem that gripped the art world of the 19 th century; namely, the emergence of technologies that reproduced images: first lithography, and then photography, which reproduces images of our world now past. By the end of the s, both Talbot and Daguerre had publicly debuted their technology for mechanically capturing and reproducing images from the world.
The invention of photography was widely felt as a challenge to the received understanding of what could be art and what artistic experiences were proper to painting specifically. But the debates surrounding photography and painting in the 19 th century largely centered on whether or in what ways photography could serve as the means of artistic expression. The new photographic technology was, in many cases, quickly distinguished from processes by which works of art were produced and dismissed as being incapable of producing art. The most prominent argument made against the possibility that photography could be art was based on the mechanical nature of the photographic process.
William Fox Talbot, for example, claims in the introduction to his Pencil of Nature that photographs are drawn by nature using light. If the photograph is made by the interaction of natural processes of light and chemicals, then it cannot be a work of art, any more than a tree or a sunset could be. The 19 th century debates about the possibility of photographic art seem, from our 21 st century vantage point, hopelessly misguided.
But this is largely because we are the recipients of an understanding of what can count as art that has been altered by the development of reproductive technologies like photography and film. Throughout most of the 19 th century, it seemed obvious to a large number of critics that the mechanical nature of photography excluded it straightforwardly from consideration as art.
Charles Baudelaire for example, in his Salon of , worries that the public is starting to confuse photography for art by mistakenly taking a mechanical means for image reproduction as capable of inspiring imagination. Photographers, on this view, were mere technicians, only capable of reproducing natural images by exploiting the laws of nature. Because there was no human creativity at work in producing the photographic images, those images could not be art and the photographers were not artists. Those who argued that photography could be art generally took two lines of response.
On the one hand, many held that, while photography was ultimately a mechanical process, it could be artistic inasmuch as it is able to mimic painting and the artistic experiences of which painting is capable. On the first line of response, photography was artistic by the extent to which it was able to look like painting or otherwise reproduce it. Photographers attempted to imitate painting in several ways. One of the earliest uses to which photography was put was the reproduction of paintings in order to disseminate widely what would otherwise require a pilgrimage to see.
Further, some early photographers took photographs that were essentially reproducing the subject matter of earlier paintings by staging scenes reminiscent of those paintings. Finally, some photographers began to produce photographic experiences that mimicked experiences recognizable from painting, utilizing soft focus, for example.
On the other hand, many photographers and critics, beginning with the earliest instances of photography, emphasized aspects of photographic production that were taken to be unique to it and therefore unlike painting. During the 19 th century, photographic practices evolved to capture moments and aspects of the world that are fleeting.
The problem posed by photography and its relation to art generally and painting specifically led to an approach towards questions of artistic medium distinct from the approach pioneered by Lessing. Photography instead presented itself as a problem: the question is not how best to achieve a particular artistic experience with a mode of expression or set of material conditions, but instead, to what extent, if any, can this new mode of expression be artistic?
The emergence of this new technology raised a pressing question: Can it serve as the basis for artistic creation and, if so, what aspects or features of it are most appropriate for creating art? This approach to medium analysis begins by identifying a particular medium and its unique features or characteristics and determining what artistic experiences artists using the medium should pursue. First, the critic identifies the medium the photographic technology that constitutes a new mode of expression and determines its unique features.
Then, the theorist or critic evaluates the ways in which those unique features can generate artistic experiences. There are two ways this evaluation can happen. One can reflect on the nature of the medium and the unique features of its productive process and try to deduce an absolute a priori claim about its artistic possibilities independently of critical examination of the works produced; this approach generates confusions or, at best, tendentious critical prescriptions. Alternately, one can engage in a critical investigation of work that utilizes the unique features of the medium in order to articulate how new artistic possibilities are being generated.
As modernism transformed almost all traditional art forms more or less simultaneously during the first half of the 20 th century, artistic medium became one of the crucial art critical concepts not just for theorists and critics but for artists as well. For modernist artists, inheriting traditional art forms meant querying the conditions of possibility underlying the art form in order to determine, through discovery and exploration, the necessary conditions for contemporary instances of the art form.
For this reason, modernist arts often seemed to critics and some artists to be exercises in shedding, as some things taken to be essential to the form earlier in the tradition are discovered to be mere conventions and thus no longer conditions for contemporary instances of the art form. There are too many important modernist artists across a wide variety of traditional art forms to give a comprehensive survey of them here.
However, it is worth identifying a few of them in order to emphasize the modernist concerns that were deeply shared by artists across a broad swath of different art forms. In literature, the work of Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Franz Kafka, to name only a few, all differently exemplify modernist commitments. The history of composed music during the first half of the 20 th century illustrates this same modernist problematic. By the s, a number of composers began to explore new and unconventional forms of composition, including serial and atonal composition.
Among the most prominent of these modernist composers was Arnold Schoenberg, who developed twelve-tone technique or row composition. Other notable modernist serial composers included Anton Webern and Karlheinz Stockhausen.gidrobur23.ru/includes/azithromycin-500mg-pills.php
Interpretation and Transformation
These new forms of composition were theoretical accomplishments and also new ways of organizing musical elements such as melody and harmony. Rather, the composer moves through a series of distinct relations between pitches. Usually these rows of related pitches do not get repeated but explored once, and then a new row is generated.
No longer are composers straightforwardly exploring relations between melody and harmony by the repetition and manipulation of a few themes or motifs. Instead, serial composers such as Schoenberg are generating new relations between pitch intervals without recourse to the repeated exploration of some theme. In other words, modernist composers no longer took for granted compositional techniques or assumptions that had for prior generations seemed obvious or unproblematic. Instead, modernist composers aimed to generate an entire system of composition and so too a theoretical articulation of the constraints and rules by which their particular system of composition operates.
As these modernist questions gripped more composers, the possible compositional systems and their accompanying theoretical justifications proliferated. Why modernism should have taken hold in a number of traditional art forms more or less simultaneously in the early part of the 20 th century remains an important question, one that cannot be answered directly in this article. We will simply note that it did happen and that although many artists and critics embraced the modernist moment with traditional art forms as the promise of clarifying what was truly necessary for those arts, the modernist moment also clearly marked a kind of crisis for those traditional art forms, in which that which had previously been accepted as the possible basis for serious work within the form no longer satisfied artists or audiences.
This article will focus on one clarifying example, the critical discourse analyzing and justifying modernist painting in the s and s, in order to bring out the characteristic structure of reasoning about medium in artistic modernism. Three critics in particular, Clement Greenberg, writing in the s and s, and Stanley Cavell and Michael Fried, writing in the s, championed the modernist project in American painting and sculpture; their work offers a perspicuous example of the logic of modernism as an exploration of artistic medium.
The work of the modernist artist, according to Cavell, is to find the criteria for an instance of an art form in the act of inheriting that form. The dominance of this modernist problematic was challenged in the s as minimalist or conceptual art on the one hand and pop art on the other developed alternative artistic possibilities to be explored. These alternative artistic programs competed with modernist painting by rejecting painting and sculpture altogether as forms for artistic expression.
For example, pop art was interested in exploring the image and contemporary experiences of images as such, rather than posing the image as a problem situated merely within the history of painting. This confrontation between modernism on the one hand and pop art, minimalism, or conceptual art on the other was felt as a crisis involving the very existence of painting and sculpture as art forms by a number of artists and critics.
Fried identifies recent developments in painting as responding to a conflict between minimalists and modernists about how shape should function as an artistic medium:. What is at stake in this conflict is whether the paintings or objects in question are experienced as paintings or objects, and what decides their identity as painting is their confronting of the demand that they hold as shapes.
Otherwise they are experienced as nothing more than objects. This can be summed up by saying that modernist painting has come to find it imperative that it defeat or suspend its own objecthood, and that the crucial factor in this undertaking is shape, but shape that must belong to painting—it must be pictorial, not, or not merely, literal. Fried here identifies the minimalist project as taking what he terms a literal approach to shape, for example, in which shape on its own is apparently explored for its artistic possibilities.
By contrast, for Fried the modernist project takes the art form itself as an artistic problematic or a contemporary question and the medium exploration is in service of the exploration of that problematic: What now are the conditions of painting? Painting and sculpture aim at the production in their audiences of a shared moment of judgment, a moment of judgment that audiences together take pleasure in extending and contemplating.
The literalists, on the other hand, construct for their audiences experiences that cannot be shared in a single moment of judgment but are necessarily individual explorations of objects within a space over some duration. Fried thinks conceptual and minimal artists offer audiences theatricalized experiences, unfolding for each individual in time without the possibility of a shared moment of aesthetic judgment.
For Fried, it is not possible to arrive at the unity of an aesthetic experience simply by the exploration of material conditions in themselves, cut loose from any artistic problematic or aim. In contrast, modernist artists committed to the traditional art forms are interested in discovering the material conditions for experiences that demand aesthetic judgment. The modernist worry, articulated by Fried and Cavell, is that the possibility for authentic experiences of art are lost when the questions of artistic medium no longer arise in relation to an existing art form and its traditions.
Substituting theatricalized experiences for serious artistic experiences will mean that people no longer have experiences that are both aesthetic and ascetic. In contrast to aesthetic literalism, the modernist project thus involves the cultivation of aesthetic judgment; through contemplation, better understanding of the relation between the present instance of the form and the history of the form is achieved.
For those artists and critics committed to modernist art, the task at hand was the survival of traditional art forms through a radical exploration of what is most essential to a particular form. In so doing, the modernist artist aims to continue the art form by an original contribution to the tradition and creating work that discovers artistic possibilities on behalf of the art form. But to those artists and critics that emerged in the wake of the modernist moment, this stance of the heroic artist revealing possibilities for an art form through creating new instances of the form came to seem inappropriate and a bit self-aggrandizing.
Postmodern critics and artists in the s and after developed new approaches to the history of traditional art forms. Such modernist artists continually rediscover a few prominent automatisms, forms of repetition, as if they were the essence of painting and their discovery were an act of artistic originality.
Krauss argues that rather than discover the essential material conditions of the art, modernist artists returned again and again to a fundamental form of repetition activated throughout the history of painting; namely, the grid. Avant-garde and modernist artists from this point of view do nothing but treat the various forms of repetition and automatisms that constitute the history of the art form as original individual discoveries of the grid and its possibilities for painting.
Rather than discarding all that is unnecessary, the postmodern artist juxtaposes or exaggerates disparate conventions and so hopes to rediscover possibilities within forgotten automatisms that modernism would have discarded. Because postmodern artists return to the history of the form to discover its discarded conventions and automatisms rather than discarding them, they no longer think of media in terms of the essence of an art form.
But although medium is not central to postmodern art, it is nonetheless still useful in critically evaluating works of art. Postmodernism emerged in the wake of modernism; the break with the history of traditional art forms that constituted the modernist moment was a break from conventions that no longer provided conviction for artistic expression. The 20 th century saw the emergence of a succession of new forms of popular art, including movies, comics, and video games.
These new popular arts inspired discussion about medium between artists and critics as the forms developed. Especially early in the lives of new popular art forms, questions of medium and medium analysis seem pressing to both artists and critics. This is because new art forms grow by borrowing artistic problems and aims from related earlier forms and by exploring a different material basis that makes new forms of artistic expression possible and in which artistic questions and interests can be pursued, critiqued, or otherwise engaged.
Movies and film criticism are an exemplary instance of a new form of popular art generating elaborate and often productive discourses about medium. Much of the early history of film criticism and film theory is marked out by exploration of a number of questions related to film as a medium. As film theory began to establish itself as an academic field of interest in the early s, interest shifted away from questions of medium. His own movies, such as Battleship Potemkin and Ivan the Terrible , have elaborate montage sequences and editing choices that encourage political recognition.
Likewise, Pudovkin claims that montage and juxtaposition of images through editing can change the meaning of images. For both, the emphasis on montage as a unique and characteristic feature of film being central to its possible artistic experiences stems from their interest in the ways in which juxtaposing images can generate both abstract judgments and strong emotional responses. Similarly, popular movies offer the opportunity to develop new habits of perception that allow audiences to recognize fraught meaningful gestures.
Another early theorist committed to a medium analysis of film and photography is Siegfried Kracauer. The World Viewed offers a medium analysis not of film as such, but of popular Hollywood movies. In analyzing the medium of movies, according to Cavell, prior to the s popular movies explored the possibilities and tensions within a problematic of modern action that emerged in the 19 th century concerning the possibilities for urbane, stylish, and productive action, but by the late s, a new problematic concerning the contemporary possibilities for action simpliciter was emerging.
The World Viewed was written in observance of this transition within popular movies and draws on the conceptual tools of medium analysis in order to register the fact of this transformation. If the beginning of the s saw the emergence of a new problematic for popular movies to discover and explore, it also saw the establishment of film theory as an academic discipline. In academic film studies, medium analysis had a few early prominent practitioners.
However, soon after film theory and criticism found an academic home within film studies in the s, theorists and critics moved away from sustained medium analysis of film or the film arts. Instead, academics developed alternative interpretative frameworks, prominently Lacanian, feminist, and Marxist ones, that displaced the prominence of medium analysis within film theory.
In analytic philosophy, as philosophy and film established itself as a domain of inquiry, instances of medium analysis gave way primarily to cognitive science approaches to theorizing film and film experiences. Medium analysis depends on the unity of the aesthetic experience to which the medium in question is able to contribute. A cognitive science approach to the effects possible in certain modes of filmmaking need not concern itself with the unity of aesthetic experience.
In the mids, Carroll adjusted his view and acknowledged uses for the concept of medium, especially in describing the practices of certain experimental or avant-garde film artists.
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Regardless, for many years since its inception, indeed until the mids, one prominent form film theory has taken is medium analysis. Comics, as they have developed as an art form, have also developed critical and theoretic discourses that participate in some form of medium analysis. Much of the most prominent medium analysis has been by artists adopting a critical and theoretic stance with respect to their own artistic practices. Both Eisner and McCloud offer paradigmatic instances of medium analysis, in that both are theorizing the particular ways in which comics, as an art form, are able to achieve forms of aesthetic unity in relating image and action.
Video games and 21 st century gaming offer another instance of an emergent popular art form that has inspired early practitioners, critics, and theorists to engage in medium analysis. Much of the academic discourse analyzing gaming grows out of film studies and necessitates some medium consideration as terms and interpretative frameworks are applied in new contexts or, alternatively, theorists attempt to distinguish clearly between experiences that are proper to movies and other narrative visual forms and experiences that are proper to games and gaming.
Medium analysis has been an important aspect of developing theoretic and critical discourses about gaming in which game creators and theorists are in conversation. Currently within academia, medium analysis is largely pursued in media studies and disciplines exploring the emergence of new media. In philosophy, medium analysis has recently been utilized in numerous ways within the philosophy of gaming and video games.
Given the ways in which screens and screen technology continue to interpenetrate contemporary reality, we can anticipate further recourse to medium analysis in theorizing these new forms of experience. Even if the collapse of interest in modernist projects in the arts has moved contemporary theorizing about art away from medium as a central concept, academic theorists of new media and new popular arts still participate in a discourse of medium analysis. Artistic medium continues to be a productive critical concept as well for working artists and critics interested in articulating the means by which an artistic experience is structured and organized.
That theorists and critics attempting to theorize medium should run into characteristic confusions in defining and theorizing medium stems from the picture they share of medium as an object. They take their task to be identifying the object that is the medium in order to deduce and prescribe its appropriate artistic experiences. But working critics and artists are less likely to think of artistic medium as an object to be studied for its own sake.
For such critics and artists, thinking about medium is thinking about how something functions in creating a particular effect or in structuring a particular form of experience. What photography, for example, can be is to be discovered by artists as they pursue particular projects or lines of exploration. In this sense, artistic medium is a critical concept; we can only say what media are constitutive of an art form by critically examining instances of the form. These capacities for organizing artistic experience are forms of repetition or automatisms that have significance as the means by which a form of artistic experience is structured.
Medium analysis emerged with, and has developed in response to, modern art. As critics and theorists began to argue for art and the aesthetic as a distinct form of experience in the 18 th century, independent of its former subservience to religion and able to dedicate itself to aiming only at beauty, medium analysis developed.
The value of artistic medium in theoretical and critical discourse is realized when medium is approached not as some raw material to be investigated in advance of its possible artistic uses but as a means by which artists discover and explore possibilities within a particular artistic problematic. Theorists can avoid confusion by remembering that medium is an essentially critical concept, in that what is possible within a medium is discovered by artists as they continue to create and explore. Daniel Wack Email: dwack knox.
Artistic Medium Artistic medium is an art critical concept that first arose in 18 th century European discourse about art.
Introduction Artistic medium is a term that is used by artists and art critics to refer to that out of which a work of art or, more generally, a particular art form, is made. The Challenge of Medium Skepticism a. The Need for the Concept of Artistic Medium It is true that much medium analysis essentializes, but critical or theoretical discourse involving medium is not necessarily essentializing.
Theorizing About Art Forms Before the Emergence of the Concept of Artistic Medium Prior to the 18 th century, theorists of art articulated the norms and standards characteristic of a given art form without any reference to a medium or the material conditions that underlie the work of art.
Music By contrast, theorizing about music, both in the ancient world and in the European tradition prior to the 18 th century, did make appeal to what we might think of as the medium of music in articulating the norms underlying musical practices. Lessing argues that the material conditions of the method determine what is appropriate to that art form: If it is true that in its imitations painting uses completely different means or signs than does poetry, namely figures and colors in space rather than articulated sounds in time, and if these signs must indisputably bear a suitable relation to the thing signified, then signs existing in space can express only objects whose wholes or parts coexist, while signs that follow one another can express only objects whose wholes or parts are consecutive.
The Challenge of Photography While the first uses of medium in artistic contexts often referenced the material out of which paint and then paintings were made, the timing of this development is likely connected to a radical problem that gripped the art world of the 19 th century; namely, the emergence of technologies that reproduced images: first lithography, and then photography, which reproduces images of our world now past.
Modernism as the Discovery of Medium a.
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Modernism and 20th Century Music The history of composed music during the first half of the 20 th century illustrates this same modernist problematic. Fried on the Value of Modernism Why modernism should have taken hold in a number of traditional art forms more or less simultaneously in the early part of the 20 th century remains an important question, one that cannot be answered directly in this article. Fried identifies recent developments in painting as responding to a conflict between minimalists and modernists about how shape should function as an artistic medium: What is at stake in this conflict is whether the paintings or objects in question are experienced as paintings or objects, and what decides their identity as painting is their confronting of the demand that they hold as shapes.
Postmodernism For those artists and critics committed to modernist art, the task at hand was the survival of traditional art forms through a radical exploration of what is most essential to a particular form. New Forms of Popular Art in the 20th Century The 20 th century saw the emergence of a succession of new forms of popular art, including movies, comics, and video games. Comics Comics, as they have developed as an art form, have also developed critical and theoretic discourses that participate in some form of medium analysis. Video Games Video games and 21 st century gaming offer another instance of an emergent popular art form that has inspired early practitioners, critics, and theorists to engage in medium analysis.
Conclusion Currently within academia, medium analysis is largely pursued in media studies and disciplines exploring the emergence of new media. References and Further Reading Adorno, T. Philosophy of new music. Hullot-Kentor Ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. First published in , Adorno here analyzes the work of Schoenberg and Strindberg as exemplary of the new possibilities in 20 th century music and identifies the medium of music as a historical phenomenon.
Adorno, T. Current of music. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Polity. Barnes Ed. Arnheim, R. Film as art. Berkeley: University of California Press. Atget, E. The world of Atget. New York, NY: Horizon. This is a collection of the work of Eugene Atget, whose photographs of Paris streets, according to Walter Benjamin, exemplify artistic possibilities for photography as an artistic medium.
Baudelaire, C. Trachtenberg Ed. In this essay, Baudelaire argues that photography cannot be an artistic medium because it does not engage the imagination appropriately. Bazin, A. Gray Trans. Bazin holds that photography satisfies once and for all the desire to preserve reality and thus opens up new artistic possibilities. Benjamin, W. Little history of photography. Jennings, H. Eiland, and G. Smith Eds. Benjamin describes the history of 19 th and early 20 th century photographic theories and practices. The work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility: Third version.
Eiland and M. Jennings Eds. In this seminal essay, Benjamin identifies the transition to technological reproducibility as a fundamental shift in the nature of art and argues that film constitutes a new mode of perception. Blausius, L. Mapping the terrain.