Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

02 December 2018

Dr Great Art Episode 45: Hope in Art




The newest Dr Great Art podcast: Episode 45, Hope in Art
Hope against all hope. What is the role of hope in art? To me, it is all important for new developments.
https://drgreatart.libsyn.com/episode-45-the-role-of-hope-in-art
or Apple podcasts, Sticher, etc.
#arthistory #hope #drgreatart #markstaffbrandl

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4 November 2018

Hope in Art
Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 45th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast.

This episode's artecdote concerns the The Role of Hope in Art

I am recording this right before the US Midterm elections of 2018. This could be a partial turning point away from hate, or the beginning of a rapid descent into disguised fascism. I know this well as an art historian; I study and teach the times under Mussolini, the Nazis and for that matter, even the end of Ancient Rome, all of which have bearing here. And in Switzerland we have a referendum which is an isolationist attack on accepting international human rights laws. I hope the TrumpChumps and the rightwing SVP lose. Let us hope and see. This vote in the US is probably do-or-die for democracy.

The future isn't looking hopeful. Climate destruction; mass migration due to hopeless situations; wars in the middle east; manufactured slides to the right in Europe, South America and the US; financial instability; the destruction of the middleclass by the super wealthy (with a chunk of the middleclass voting against their own interests in the name of hate); the rise of nationalism constructed to twist the desire for democratic socialism; the acceptance of lying and propaganda by politicians, etc.

It’s difficult to look into the future with any hope.

What IS the role of hope in art? To me, it is all important. As Dr Cornel West says, and I concur heartily, "I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope."
Much art and many artists need hope. As Cornel also says, "I must feel the fire of my soul so my intellectual blues can set others on fire."

And yet I hear time and again that "crisis is necessary for change." Perhaps. But usually NOT, AND "crisis" is not the same as disaster! Was a thousand years of the almost-destruction of civilization in Medieval times necessary for the couple hundred years of the wonder of the Renaissance (which had its own great faults and problems as well)? No. If you believe a thousand years is a crisis, you need more perspective.

It was the flicker of hope that never fully went out in the Medieval times, which was fanned into a great (if flawed) fire in the Renaissance. A sense of new hopes is what triggers revitalizations and leaps forward in culture, especially the arts.

And I feel this is generally true of individual artists and artworks as well.

I am old enough to have been conscious and active in the 60s. At the end mostly, but THERE. (And in truth it went on through about 1973 or so, being killed by Neo-Liberal Reaganomics.) The 1960’s, in the US most of all, but also the UK and the rest of Europe and elsewhere, for all its horror of the endless Viet Nam War and battles in the streets, was a decade-plus of energy, prosperity, increasing social justice --- and yes, HOPE! It was, in many ways, a mini-Renaissance.

This time period was full of positive changes and advancements, --- the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, the SDS, the beginning of what is now called second-wave Feminism, the battle for women's rights, the bits of social-system improvements, of JFK and LBJ's Great Society Dreams based on FDR's New Deal, Eisenhower's taxing of the wealthy and great improvement of the infrastructure, European healthcare systems, the general belief in the pillars of progressive society--- that is, Liberty, Equality and Brother- and Sisterhood.

Heck, even the great new color and joy of popular culture, art, music, dance and fashion beginning in the UK and spreading to the US and elsewhere was positive. Nations even began to deal with many heated movements as well. Debates as well as intense wars caused times of turbulence. However, we all felt a sense that no matter how difficult it was, things were beginning to improve and would continue to do so. Little did we know, this would be purposefully, expensively, and hatefully inverted within a few decades.

But while it was there, this hope and openness fostered some amazing works and movements of art and music. They are indeed too many to quickly list!

My point, is that this was engendered by HOPE. The aspects of crisis were the brakes, not the accelerator of that time.

From my studies, I can only imagine the Renaissance as that times 100! And aspects of the Enlightenment and the Reformation and the advent of Socialism, all of which had their downsides as we see so well now, but the initial spark was positive and one of hope for the future. AND the belief that humans could improve and master their societies.

Do any of us feel that positivity now? Be truthful. When I ask my young classes that, there is seldom even a single person who truly believes that. The most positive among them tend rather to be stoics, thinking it is all going to hell, but PERHAPS we can work and barely get through it.

The Trump era is actually the era wherein politicians got bought and pushed radically right by the Koch Brothers and their ilk, and supported by the nonstop hate-filled lying of Murdoch-owned media including FOX TV and UK newspapers. Sinking the slight taste of hope we had with Obama. Trump et al. mirror Mussolini in many ways. And we know what THAT lead to. Truthfully, this might be the end of democracy. Slowly but surely, for ages. So hope IS hard to believe in.

Art has academicized itself, closed itself into a little consensus-clique of social-climbers, sold-out to the speculators and power-coteries; music has split into islands of either capitalist-servants or ignored sub-cultures. Literature is largely ignored. And so on. So once again, it is hard to hope.

When I hear talks of how we artists and artworldians will lead into a new future, I have to laugh a kind of gallows-chuckle. Things in society have to improve, especially economically, drastically FIRST. Then progressive tendencies have to return. THEN artists will begin to assist in all that. We have historically been children of the working classes, artisans, supported by insightful "lower" rich, the upper, even upper-upper middleclass. This no longer holds. Corporations and grant agencies and international curator-stars are not replacements for a real artworld. They are in fact counterproductive to that.

Perhaps positive change will occur through the so-called Millennials. I teach them, worked with them politically in the US and Switzerland, and am far more impressed with their values than any group since the 60s. But the Powers-That-Be have them in their sights, and may also twist them with their American Idol/Deutschland sucht der Superstar idiocies. We shall see.

However, what I clearly see, is that we will make no serious headway out of the malaise and morass of Postmodernism until we have a sense of culture-wide HOPE. We can assist in that through Social Practice Art, Eco-Art, Mongrel Art, Democratic Art and others, but the economics and politics must be changed first. In all countries I am connected to, go out and VOTE for progressives. And ignore the media-manipulated propaganda of hate and despair.

Art cannot really lead, but it can be an important facet of such action. Let us create and build and support things which bring progress and HOPE.

I, in my actions and my art, shall try to "hope against all hope."

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 45.

The Role of Hope in Art

If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also, I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my room-filling painting-installations with accompanying paintings.

Some recent ones were on the entire history of Women Artists throughout history and a taster of many of my presentations.

You can find or contact me at

www.drgreatart.com/

book me at www.mirjamhadorn.com/

or find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all as Dr Great Art.

Dr Great Art Episode 44: Mikhail Bakhtin, Dialogic Form and Metaphor



Dr Great Art Podcast. Episode 44: Mikhail Bakhtin, Dialogic Form and Metaphor

Meaningful Escape from Endless Oscillation between Dead Abstractions
Bakhtinian notions which could serve as great inspiration for visual art include his sense of the living fluidity of expression; his concepts of heteroglossia, polyphonic form, and dialogic form; his insight that these may engender the liberation of alternative voices; and his presentation of the carnival as a suggestive metaphor.
http://drgreatart.libsyn.com/episode-44-mikhail-bakhtin-dialogic-form-and-metaphor
#arthistory #theory #Bakhtin #drgreatart

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6 October 2018

Mikhail Bakhtin, Dialogic Form and Metaphor

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 44th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast.

This episode's artecdote concerns the wonderfully liberating ideas of the Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, which he created when discussing novels, but which could also be useful for visual art.

A literary theoretician who has served as an inspiration behind my metaphor(m) theory in particular and my thought in general is Mikhail Bakhtin. This theorist, perhaps unfortunately, has been claimed by everyone Theorists of every bent seem to find him a compatriot. This may be a result of "confusion," as Gary Saul Morson suggests in his essay “Who Speaks for Bakhtin?” due to Bakhtin's "peculiar, elusive, even weird biography and style, not to mention his breadth of interest."

However, Bakhtin is important because he invented several genuinely remarkable ideas; ones which are insightful and serve as necessary solvents for unproductive philosophical notions gumming up current theorizing. More positively stated, Morson goes on to assert that reading Bakhtin encourages us to make a "meaningful escape from an endless oscillation between dead abstractions." This is a better explanation of why he has such importance to me and so many others.

Bakhtinian notions which have helped inspire me include his sense of the living fluidity of expression; his concepts of heteroglossia, polyphonic form, and dialogic form; his insight that these may engender the liberation of alternative voices; and his presentation of the carnival as a suggestive metaphor.

In Bakhtin’s view, language is not a neutral static object (à la Ferdinand de Saussure). Language, especially creative language, is an "utterance," a social act of speaking, involving struggle, ideology, class, speakers and listeners. I see this as describing the socio-political context of the development of artistic tropes, the metaphors artists use. Therefore works of art are not "uni-accentual." That is, they are not limited to having simply one of a small range of possible meanings. Rather, heteroglossia defines the state of meaning in all discourse. By this, Bakhtin means that a multitude of voices naturally resonates within each utterance. This is the chief source of richness in all expression and, prescriptively speaking, should be emphasized and built upon by artists by being fully aware of the artwork's social situation (how it is exhibited and discussed), and through consciously multiplying the layers of visual reference and meaning within the work.

Nevertheless, he believes, heteroglossia is generally suppressed, if unsuccessfully, in order for those in power to feel comfortable in their attempts to control others. Bakhtin supplies us with an artistic version of the philosophical necessity of accepting belief in the existence of other minds.

Artists' works interweave multiple social points of view as well as being individual expressions. Likewise, a specific artistic trope is only possible within the confines of the time and place where it is created, thus it reflects the cultural and temporal dependency of all tropes, even Lakoff's foundational metaphors, at least in their concrete manifestations. My theory of metaphor(m) must too, then, be framed by context. Yet I see this frame like the walls of an arena. Within its confines lie the elements with which the thought-game can be played, both in and against the rules.

Heteroglossia may be envisioned as an unsystematic, almost chaotic struggle of a variety of voices. Likewise, the "strongest" artworks (to use Bloomian terminology) are many layered and composed, yet often not truly systematically unified, I contend. I see this in the novels of James Joyce, some of Pablo Picasso’s most important works such as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, and the early installations of Dennis Oppenheim such as Early Morning Blues and many others.

Continuing this line of reasoning, Bakhtin both asserts heteroglossia as a foundational truth and promotes its exploitation in writing. This is approach I used in my dissertation as well. Bakhtin finds an exemplary version of heteroglossic literature in the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky. This author created what Bakhtin terms a new polyphonic or dialogic form. The various points of view which arise in a novel, within or between characters, are presented and utilized, but not hierarchically ordered. These "voices" in visual art can include actual points of view, styles, paint-handlings, mixes of objects, complexes of references.

The invention of a unique self in art, of a central trope, comes about through antithetical struggle, as I have repeatedly asserted, hence I am frequently tempted to use the term dialectical when describing it. However, this term suggests very ordered conflicts between simple pairs of contradictions, which then result in clear syntheses. The formation of artistic tropes, and creative thought in general, I find accurately described in Bakhtin’s terms. An artistic trope is dialogically forged and used. It revels in the interplay of equivocal, interlocked meanings. There are multiple theses and antitheses yielding no synthesis, but rather the opportunity for even more conflict. Such struggle is subversive and liberating. Similar to Bakhtin, I define my theory as being fundamentally true of the arts, and yet I am also propagandizing for its more conscious and proficient application. One version of this lies in the sense of complex PLAY, as seen in Rauschenberg and his best pupil Sigmar Polke.

Finally, Bakhtin’s use of the carnival as metaphor is attractive, albeit perhaps too often cited. Bakhtin asserts that literature can undermine the dominant conventions and rules through jesting and unruliness. In our time such festivities have often disappeared, been commercialized beyond use, or have degenerated into exploitative, sexist, drunken sprees. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri envision plurality itself as a potential carnivalesque arena of liberation in their book Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, one resistant to neo-conservative globalization and homogenization.

I believe the spirit of the carnival, as Bakhtin imagines it, lives on in the creation and enjoyment of tropes, of metaphors. Complexity and dialogue, not reductivism. Raman Selden describes this spirit as "collective and popular; hierarchies are turned on their heads…; opposites are mingled…; the sacred is profaned. The 'jolly relativity' of all things is proclaimed." In my theorizing, the carnival as trope is replaced by the trope as carnival.

Hence, my vision of "Mongrel Art," the syncretistic amalgamating of a variety of artforms, disciplines, tendencies and philosophies, personal and disjunctive dialogues of arbitration.

Borrowing a phrase from Morson in his essay "Tolstoy’s Absolute Language" wherein he describes the novel in Bakhtin’s eyes, we might say that all central tropes in art "are framed by an implicit ‘for instance’."

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 44.

Bakhtin, Dialogic Form and Metaphor

If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also, I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my room-filling painting-installations with accompanying paintings.

Some recent ones were on the entire history of Women Artists throughout history and a taster of many of my presentations.

You can find or contact me at

www.drgreatart.com/

book me at www.mirjamhadorn.com/

or find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all as Dr Great Art.




Dr Great Art Episode 43: Neo-Conceptualism, the Term




The newest Dr Great Art podcast, Episode 43. Neo-Conceptualism, the Term
This episode's artecdote clarifies the historical terminology for the dominant Postmodernist art movement since circa 1985: 'Neo-Conceptualism.' Neo-Conceptualists themselves generally try to refer to themselves with the earlier term as 'Conceptualists,' but this is a political ploy, an ahistorical part of a powerplay, pretending that they are a part of the movement form which they derive.
http://drgreatart.libsyn.com/episode-43-neo-conceptualism-the-term
#neo-conceptualism #conceptart #arthistory #drgreatart

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16 September 2018


Neo-Conceptualism, the Term

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 43rd "Dr Great Art" brief podcast.

This episode's artecdote is a little homily from Dr Great Art: I wish to clarify the historical terminology for the dominant Postmodernist art movement since circa 1985: 'Neo-Conceptualism.'
'Neo-Conceptualism' is the correct art historical term to describe the main art practices in the late 1980s, 1990s and up to now that derive from the Conceptual Art movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
The original movement, termed 'Conceptualism' or 'Conceptual Art' crystallized as a distinct art movement, if not form, around 1969 with Joseph Kosuth's early manifesto of conceptual art, Art after Philosophy. (Having had precursors of course in such artists as Marcel Duchamp and Henry Flynt, yet they are prototypes, not "movement members" in themselves).

As in all movements or even epochs, the beginnings and edges are fuzzy, of course, as such entities fade in, reach a peak of attention and then fade out, --- but often linger for a while with interesting works. Originally called "Idea Art" by some, it was renamed with the more resounding-sounding (yet of the same meaning) 'Conceptual Art' from a short text by Sol LeWitt (who, by the way, had a far broader notion behind the term). As an aside for my German-speaking listeners, it has nothing to do with the trendy Neu-Deutsch word 'Konzept' meaning a written up 'plan.' It comes from the English meaning 'idea' as I have said. This is a common misunderstanding here, and part of the problem I will discuss.

In short, Conceptual Art was and is art in which the idea involved outweighs any formal, technical, or material concerns, attempting to approach the unreachable position of being formless. Critical interest and artworld domination by Conceptual Art reached its peak around 1974.
 
Nevertheless, Conceptualism lost "center stage," as is inevitable in the artworld for each leading movement, around 1978. In effect, in many ways, it served as the last and foreseeable phase of reductivist Modernism. There were other Modernist movements or trends that were concurrent with the end of Conceptualism, such as Performance and Body Art, Photorealism, Earth Art and arte povera, and even installation, which began as a movement but ended becoming a genre or medium used in almost all art directions. But Conceptualism was king.

Conceptualism, more importantly, was followed by a chain of rather fascinating reactions against it at the beginning of Postmodernism with the first Postmodernist movements: Postmodern Architecture, Feminist Art, New Imagism, Pattern and Decoration, Neo-Everything (including "Pictures"), and --- hugely --- Neo-Expressionism, and more.

Around 1985, It made a partial come-back in the form of Neo-Geo and Appropriation Art, which quickly became recognized as a reborn version of Conceptualism. This was concurrent with the creation of the international art-star curator, and the transformation from the first, experimental, pluralist phase of PoMo into the second, academicist phase, but that will be the subject of another podcast.

When any art movement returns which is massively similar in approach to an older art, after the former had lost dominance, it is then termed a "neo-something-or-other." 'Neo-' is a combining-form prefix meaning "new," but in art, moreover, "revived," "modified," even "retro" ("Oh that once again," like' 'Neo-Expressionism,' etc. ---hence almost "retro-").

This resuscitated form of the creature under discussion was, thus, correctly quickly identified by art historians as 'Neo-Conceptualism.' And beyond chronological terms, it is indeed a 'Neo,' having far more learned, memorized, derivative and spiffed-up forms stemming from Conceptualism, --- thus an academicist version thereof, I assert.

To the main point of my podcast:

Neo-Conceptualists themselves generally try to refer to themselves with the earlier term (simply 'Conceptualists'), but this is a mere, albeit probably somewhat subconscious, political ploy. I have even frequently seen them teach art history wherein they jump from the 1970s to 2000, as if no anti-Conceptualist or non-Conceptualist movements occurred between Conceptualism and themselves. I made a partial list of these already here.

This manoeuvre is in order to claim a direct, originatory link to the earlier movement. In fact, as this has become consensus-correct, it might even (and has been) termed 'Neo-Conceptual Academicism' as I suggested. Please resist this "small-p" political use of the term  'Conceptualism' for anything but the actual movement. It is an ahistorical part of a powerplay

Don't get me wrong, Conceptualism was a great eye-opener for most artists and very liberating in its beginning. And Conceptual "approaches" may indeed someday become genres rather than movements, as installation did or as still-life and others did centuries before. Nonetheless, the misuse of the terms in this area display a purposeful manipulation and unclarity of thought. People such as Jeff Koons and Co., and their myriad of provincial curator-supported followers, whether good or bad, whether you like them or not, are Neo-Conceptualists.

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 43.

Neo-Conceptualism, the Term

If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also, I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my room-filling painting-installations with accompanying paintings.

Some recent ones were on the entire history of Women Artists throughout history and a taster of many of my presentations.

You can find or contact me at
or find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all as Dr Great Art.