Aesthetic Cognitivism - further definitions, some issues...
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Aesthetic Cognitivism - further definitions, some issues...

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  • Can we compare the Vermeer with what life was really like in mid C17 Amsterdam?
  • Hunter lived with squatters in East London. Is the photograph real or posed, though?
  • This is an actual photograph of an actual person actually doing something they liked doing, actually. Would you know this by looking?

Transcript

  • 1. Aesthetic Cognitivism Information about the aspects of this account you are required to know about. Critiques of these aspects
  • 2. Art as information – the syllabus • Knowledge and Understanding: Art informs us by – illuminating our experience (allowing us to see what was not visible before) – revealing ‘truths’ (in a fashion that other media cannot) – articulating a ‘vision’ (an ideal or highly individual view of how man/society could or should be) – being epiphanic (showing us immediately the whole of an entity, making possible a flash of ‘spiritual insight’) – portraying authentically (being a genuine representation) – imitating or representing its subject convincingly or faithfully (taking the viewer in, standing in for something real)
  • 3. Art informs us by ‘illuminating our experience’: • light is shone on a mutual experience: we notice something that we did not notice before about an experience we share with the artist • so our view of a shared experience is changed in a ‘transformation of the commonplace’; • we re-examine our own experience ‘in a new light’; • our eyes come to see our world more clearly. • (But is art the only or the best way this might happen? Don’t we best share insights through language of a transactional kind? (Consider: being instructed…))
  • 4. Art informs us ‘by revealing truths’ • in ways other media can’t – Moral truths (e.g. Homer’s heroes in the Iliad and Odyssey reveal moral truths about traits the virtuous character must cultivate (bravery and cunning); – Universal/timeless truths (Michelangelo’s ‘David’ as portraying eternal youth, the timeless and universal beauty and perfection of the human ‘form’, revealing the universal in the particular); – Psychological truths (Hamlets ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy as confronting the question of whether existence is preferable to non-existence); – Religious truths (Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ as revealing the truth of genesis and creationism; Dante’s depiction of the inferno, purgatorio and paradiso); – Practical truths (cave-painting as a a means for communicating hunting skills) • (But isn’t truth a quality of propositions, and so best expressed in propositions? i.e. in statements, in language?) • (Yet language is spoken and written – and in the past, many could not read…)
  • 5. Art informs us because it reveals a ‘vision’ • It shows us a version of the world that is particular to the artist, unique to them, but which we can ourselves appreciate. • We see the world anew through another’s eyes. • What if, though, this vision is so unusual we cannot appreciate it? • What if we can only see the world through our own eyes?
  • 6. Art informs us because it is ‘epiphanic’ • Great art is revelatory. It shows, it manifests. It does not explain. • Great art shows us all of a thing in its essence, and our perception of that thing is immediate and total (Joyce). • Hopkin‟s „instress‟ and „inscape‟ are relevant ideas here. • But what exactly is being conveyed in an epiphany? • A conceptual insight? (Why not put it in words, concepts, then?) • Some other kind of insight? (Does a non-conceptual insight make sense?) • So can we (always) communicate what an epiphany is?
  • 7. Art informs by revealing an epiphany (nicked from Wikipedia) • from Greek „to manifest‟, „to show‟ • An epiphany is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. • In ancient Greek drama and poetry: art would ideally move the audience into states of catharsis (a sensation of pity of fear) or kenosis (the 'self- emptying' of one's own will in becoming entirely receptive to God and his perfect will). • James Joyce expounded on its meaning in the fragment Stephen Hero and the novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) – see next slide. • Mid-late C20: the writer William Burroughs (after a drug-induced epiphany) described it as “a frozen moment when everyone sees what is at the end of the fork.” (This gave him his title Naked Lunch.) • In modern times, then, the meaning of „an artistic epiphany‟ may have come closer to „a moment of shocking realisation‟. • Some modern art tries to shock in this way.
  • 8. Joyce on Epiphany First we recognise that the object is one integral thing, then we recognise that it is an organised composite structure, a thing in fact: finally, when the relation of the parts is exquisite, when the parts are adjusted to the special point, we recognise that it is that thing which it is. Its soul, its whatness, leaps to us from the vestment of its appearance. The soul of the commonest object, the structure of which is so adjusted, seems to us radiant. The object achieves its epiphany…my glimpses [at a beautiful object] are as the gropings of a spiritual eye which seeks to adjust its vision to an exact focus. The moment the focus is reached the object is epiphanised. It is just in this epiphany that I find…the supreme quality of beauty. (Extract from ‘Stephen Hero’)
  • 9. Art informs us by representing authentically • The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being imbedded in the fabric of tradition...We know that the earliest art works originated in the service of a [cult] ritual – first the magical, then the religious kind... [the] aura is never entirely separated from...ritual function. In other words, the unique value of the “authentic” work of art has its basis in ritual • ...The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity… The whole sphere of authenticity is outside...reproducibility. Confronted with its manual reproduction…the quality of its presence is always depreciated. • One might subsume the eliminated element in the term “aura” and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art. From Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’
  • 10. Art informs us by representing authentically. • Great art portrays authentically …convincingly or faithfully. • But what is „authenticity‟, „fidelity‟? • = a certain realism? • But what is realism…? • Truth to experience? (Whose experience? Isn‟t most experience dull?) • Isn‟t art better than life sometimes? • Is only realistic art worthwhile? • Are the images that follow „authentic‟? How do you know? Woman in blue reading a letter, Johannes Vermeer, 1662-1665
  • 11. Tom Hunter, Woman reading a respossession order, 1998
  • 12. Jerusha West, Zizzy reading a book, 2011
  • 13. Art informs us by imitating or representing faithfully • „Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes, each of them lying deep in our nature. First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood [who] through imitation learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated. We have evidence of this in the facts of experience. • Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. [This is because] to learn gives the liveliest pleasure…the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is, that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring…and if you happen not to have seen the original, the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such, but to the execution, the coloring, or [other formal qualities]… • Imitation, then, is one instinct of our nature. Next, there is the instinct for „harmony‟ and rhythm…[here] improvisations gave birth to Poetry [which then] diverged in two directions…The graver spirits imitated noble actions, and the actions of good men (=tragedy). The more trivial sort imitated the actions of meaner persons (=comedy). • Aristotle, ‘Poetics’, book IV [Imitation is natural and pleasurable]
  • 14. Art = ‘a convincing or faithful imitation’…some issues… Pere Borrell del Caso, Escaping Criticism (1874) • Plato‟s metaphysical arguments aside, is all art an imitation? • (An imitation = an attempt to deceive…) • In most paintings, excepting „trompe l‟oeil‟ works, the artist is not trying to fool us or take us in. • (And „fool-the-eye‟ paintings are not art until we realise the deceit…) • Actors do not imitate the characters they play, they „become‟ them temporarily • e.g. Ion is „possessed‟
  • 15. Art = a convincing or faithful copy…some issues • Is all art a copy? • Copying presupposes an original. • Is there an original, for all art? • Or for any art? Conceptual schema = there is no world without conditioning or interpretation…no original to be imitated… • A successful copy accurately resembles the original. • Can this always be determined? • No original, lost original?
  • 16. Issues with both imitation and copy Matisse’s "Pastorale, Nymphe et Faune" 1906 Constable’s ‘Hay Wain’, 1821 • Should we talk, instead, of ‘better’ and ‘worse’ resemblances? • Which of the two paintings opposite is a better resemblance? • A ‘good resemblance’ could be entirely invented/made up of individual perceptual elements. • Can we always tell if a resemblance is authentic or genuine, or not?
  • 17. Issues with both imitation and copy Claude’s ‘Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba (1648) and Turner’s ‘The Scarlet Sunset’ (1830-40). • Is a good copy or resemblance the same as good art? • Compare the two sunsets. Which is best? • In judging artistic quality, is accuracy or the degree of resemblance to a sunset the point? • Both are stylised depictions... • So arguably a picture‟s lack of resemblance or verisimilitude has no bearing on its power.
  • 18. Issues with both imitation and copy • If resemblance is the main reason we value art, then wouldn't photography always be best? • Does copying actually involve the creative imagination? • A good forgery is a perfect copy…but - a good work of art? art at all? • Is all art imitative? • In the visual arts there is at least the possibility that the artist is copying from reality. • But what about music or poetry or literature? Here, is the artist copying anything at all? Guido Reni, Saint Sebastian, 1615-16 and Tim Hetherington, Injured marine at Restrepo Base, Afghanistan, 2008
  • 19. Summing up • Art informs us by – illuminating our experience – revealing „truths‟ – Articulating a „vision‟ – beng epiphanic – portraying authentically – Imitating or representing its subject convincingly or faithfully. • In a sense these versions of art-as-information could be understood as synonymous • That is, if presented with a question that asks for „two ways in which art illustrates‟ etc – all the versions above might be relevant…