Interpretation and Evaluation
- Noël Carroll: Criticism and Interpretation
- James Grant: The Aims of Art Criticism
- Simon Fokt: A proposal for a dualistic ontology of art
- Iris Kapelouzou: Conservation, value, and ontology
- Dorota Folga-Januszewska: Museum vs. Neuroesthetics
- David Carrier: The World Art History Museum
- E.M. Dadlez: Poetry Is What Gets Lost in Translation
Art and Philosophy from Poland
- Alicja Kuczyńska: The Paths of Early Pluralism. Polish Aestheticians Between Eras
- Wojciech Włodarczyk: Why not national? (“Novelty” and nationality in Polish art of the 20th and 21st centuries)
- Ewa Izabela Nowak: Magdalena Abakanowicz
- Krzysztof Musiał: Collection and Its Meaning
Criticism and Interpretation
In “Criticism and Interpretation”, I will introduce several new arguments in favor of moderate actual intentionalism. Some of these will be based on a close reading of H.P. Grice’s theory of mean‑ ing. Other arguments will be based on making a distinction between two questions about artistic meaning that are often conflated: the question of what constitutes or determines meaning versus the epistemological questions about the best ways of identifying that meaning. “Interpretation” will also discuss the relation of the interpretation of an artwork to its embodiment.
The Aims of Art Criticism
Criticism of the arts is a major part of our cultural life. Critics decide to a large extent which films and plays get seen and which books get read, and criticism commonly affects our experience and evaluation of paintings, poems, music, the urban environment, fashion, and much else. Philosophers and other theorists of the arts have long disagreed, however, about what the aims of art criticism are. Is the point of criticizing an artwork to evaluate it, to explain or interpret it, to modify our responses to it, or to achieve something else besides? In this paper, I argue for a new answer to this question. I argue that art criticism has a constitutive aim. Part of what makes a remark or a piece of writing an instance of art criticism is that it ought to (be such as to) achieve this aim. My view, I shall suggest, incorporates what is right about the other principal suggestions that have been made about criticism’s aims (for instance, by Arnold Isenberg, Arthur Danto, and Noël Carroll), while avoiding their shortcomings. It enables us to see what unites the various things critics do.
A Proposal for a Dualistic Ontology of Art
While pluralism in ontology of art improves on various monistic views, through its eclectic approach it lost a lot of their simplicity, parsimony, unity and intuitiveness. The dualistic theory presented in this paper offers an alternative – it shares the advantages of the monistic views while retaining the wide scope of pluralism, and thus should be preferred for methodological reasons. On this view all artworks are at the same time abstract universals which are called recipes, and particular physical objects – realisations. The fact that various artworks seem to differ in their ontology is due to certain fairly consistent culturally determined biases which cause people to prioritise the above compounds differently in cases of different arts. Thus the diversity of arts should not be considered on the level of ontology, as the pluralists would hold, but epistemology, or even further – socially determined phenomena concerning customary perception of various artworks.
Conservation, Value, and Ontology
Art conservation and ontology are linked in that the latter informs the theory and ethics framing the former. Ontology investigates how things, such as works of art, exist. Conservation intervenes in order to ensure that things, such as artworks, continue to exist. Therefore, almost by definition, art conservation presupposes knowledge of art ontology. A question that immediately arises is whether this link is mutual or one way. The small amount of literature written by philosophers referring to conservation1 suggests that the input conservation can offer to philosophy is very small or non-existent. Against this, I will argue that the link between conservation and ontology is mutually informative and reinforcing, in that conservation can raise novel and challenging questions of ontology which can feed into the discipline and contribute to its development. I propose to illustrate this mutuality by considering conservation challenges thrown up by contemporary art.
Museum vs. Neuroesthetics
The development of neurosciences, including neuroesthetics, at the end of the 20th century and after the year 2000, compels one to apply their experiences to modern-day museology. What forms the essence of these changes? It is being aware that the emotional and sensual perception of the form (its shape, movement, and place on the space-time continuum) of an object in a museum is inseparably tied to the meaning and understanding its message. Neuronal esthetics helps to bear the divisions maintained in artistic studies through the entire 20th century which inclined reasearchers to deal independently with form and the message of works of art, artistic happenings or histori‑ cal objects. Neuroesthetics encourages us to revise our experiences and our understanding of the essence of the “pursuit of pleasure” – which is the essence of creativity – where the senses and the intellect are led down the same path, while nevertheless the context in which these perceived occurances occur is taken into account. If we apply more widely the experiences of neuroesthetics to museology, museums of the 20th century will no longer merely be storage rooms for the past, but they will become the predomi‑ nant venues of multi-sensory education. They will become places that stimulate the development of perception, understanding, and cultural intelligence. We will slowly begin to see that in the world around us, many sectors which “produce” tangible goods are nearing their end of unlimited growth – the great era of objects is coming to its end and what is beginning is a new epoch of imagined, virtual activities, and scenarios which use historical artefacts (collections, anthologies) creatively in order to provoke the world to a visual (also on a neuronal dimension) revolution. In this sense, the museum must confront neuroesthetic experiences, while the studies of the changes taking place in our perception and our understanding of the surroundings should be conducted in laboratories called museums.
The World Art History Museum
In 2011 Professor Philippe de Montebello asked a number of scholars to participate in his New York University graduate class on the art museum. Because of his long-time association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was near to our classroom, many of my examples were drawn from exhibitions at that museum. My assignment was to discuss my writings about museums and world art history in ways that would appeal to both art historians and curators. This is a heavily edited and revised version of the presentation given October 18, 2011.
Poetry Is What Gets Lost in Translation Robert Frost
I will argue, not very controversially, that it is not possible to translate a poem into another language and retain the full impact of the original. Because excellence in poetry involves a fusion of form with content, an alteration in the means by which such content is presented cannot provide an adequate approximation of the original. Thus the original work lost in the course of translation.
The Paths of Early Pluralism. Polish Aestheticians Between Eras
Early artistic and aesthetic pluralism is not an accidental phenomenon in Polish aesthetic theories. This article shows its nineteenth and twentieth century origins and various theoretical considera‑ tions, and brings to the foreground the philosophical motifs entangled in the historical events of Poland. Cited documentary material focuses on two selected topics. They are: the philosophized version of history, in particular the multicultural history of aesthetics (W. Tatarkiewicz) and the extended categorization of the active site of subjectivity (R. Ingarden).
Why not national? (“Novelty” and nationality in Polish art of the 20th and 21st centuries)
The author discusses the issue of national art after Poland’s regained independence in 1918. That period saw no unequivocal definition of what national art – art related to national identity – should be, despite the nascent country’s need for such art, especially that which was inspired by rural life. The chief proponents of this idea did not perceive it in strictly national terms but were open to cutting-edge art and formal experimentation. Evidence to the above can be seen in the positive rec‑ ognition bestowed on the Polish pavilion at the 1925 International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in Paris. The author believes that controversy surrounding national art (i.e. a Polish style) began to arise in the 1930s. At that time, the term “novelty” [nowoczesność] in the vocabulary of Polish art criticism began to take on a meaning that reflected a common contemporary style, one that referenced the avant-garde and was stripped of its original ideological underpinnings. For the elite, “novelty” became the de rigueur worldview and a symbol of civilisational and progressive change. Meanwhile, Polish painters returning from Paris in the 1930s spearheaded an emphasis on Colourism and a concept of autonomous modernist works which relied on timeless artistic princi‑ ples. Consequently, the idea of national art receded into the peripheries of critical discourse along with the emergence of a fundamental semantic opposition in the form of national versus “novel”. This opposition was further enforced by the authorities during Poland’s communist era (1945-1989). Paradoxically, this was the case not only during the height of Socialist Realism (1950-1952) but particularly during the Post-Stalinist thaw and in the 1960s and 1970s, as avant-garde tradition dominated the arts and critical discourse in Poland. Thus, the national–”novel” dichotomy was compounded by a subsequent opposition: painting (having unequivocally negative connotations) versus “novelty”/avant-garde tradition (as an undisputedly positive phenomenon). Political events and the involvement of the Church in the 1980s (the decade of Solidarity and martial law) set the stage for a reversal in the negative attitude towards the idea of national art and the issues associated with it (for instance, we see the emergence of previously unbroached subjects such as German and Russian issues and an interest in Church art). After Poland regained her independence in 1989, however, we see a return to the erstwhile opposition among artists from critical art and oppositional art circles. Matters of national identity and national art (along with painting) were not considered modern or progressive and were thus rejected or even attacked. In more recent years, there has been mounting interest in art addressing national concerns in the wake of, for example, Poland’s accession to the EU (2004) and the Polish plane crash in Smoleńsk (2010).
Ewa Izabela Nowak
Magdalena Abakanowicz, along with Tadeusz Kantor, Roman Opałka and Krzysztof Wodiczko, finds herself among the limited number of Polish artists who have managed to overcome the world’s long-lasting political division into the East and the West, winning recognition beyond the former communist bloc. Nevertheless, their art has been deeply influenced by the culture of their home country and its socio‑political situation. The statement repeatedly uttered by German painter Anselm Kiefer: “The biography of my country is my biography; had I not been born in 1945, my work would have been entirely dif‑ ferent”, might as well be ascribed to any of the aforementioned Polish artists. Yet each of them has created works that address the imagination and sensitivity of any viewer regardless of their personal cultural experience. This is particularly true for Magdalena Abakanowicz, who in her unique way has managed to reach vastly differing cultural environments. Her early works – large sculpture forms made of natural fibers – have permanently transformed the concept of fiber art worldwide. For years she had remained a role model for its disciples, and her art appeared to speak in an understandable, expressive and universal language. Later, when Abakanowicz was slowly but consistently evolving from monumental three-dimensional forms of fiber to monumental sculpture, her works gradually started to emanate with an existential message, delivering her reflection on the condition of man in the contemporary world.