Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

10 February 2019

EAR Magazine East, New Music Chicago 82-83

A blast from the past. A friend on Facebook, Marc Fisher, wanted to read this, it came in the 80s before the internet was anything. So I scanned my bad photocopies in. An exciting time in experimental New Music and in Chicago. First as whole vertical jpeg, then each page follows separately, 4 of them, hopefully making it easier to read and / or print out.

EAR Magazine East, Nov. Dec. Jan. 82-83, New Music Chicago
"Report from Middle Ear" by Mark Staff Brandl and Th. Emil Homerin

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01 February 2019

Dr Great Art Podcast Episode 47: Braided Rope Model of Art History


The new Dr Great Art podcast, Episode 47, "The Braid Model of Art History." The future art might is not posthistorical, but rather polyhistorical, plurogenic (multistrand), not monogenic (single strand). There are various models and/or master narratives of art history, from the immensely limited discussion of the traditional narrow canon to timorous avoidance of any timeline due to postmodern guilt, treating artworks as mere stand-ins for particular ideologies. The late art critic John Perreault and I have created a new, more transparent model: the Braid, or Braided Rope. See additional content for an image of the Braid Model.
Link to podcast: http://drgreatart.libsyn.com/episode-47-braid-model-of-art-…
Link to mentioned artwork version of the braid: http://traffic.libsyn.com/drgreata…/Brandl_Braid_18_pdf.pdf…
#arthistory #braidmodel #MetaphorM


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Dr Great Art Podcast 47

Braided Rope Art History

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 47th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast. I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one.

Today my Artecdote concerns something most near and dear to my artistic heart: The Braided Rope Model of Art History.

As I am doing this and podcasting it the first time, it is around January 1st, the New Year. Thoughts turn to time and its passage.

There are various models and /or master narratives of art history --- which, by the way, are NOT the same thing, a common logical error of identification made by Postmodernist thinkers! See my Dr Great Art podcast number 27, "Models are Not Master Narratives."

Most are teleological, meaning they assume and predict some ultimate goal to art and postulate a development of art aimed at that goal.

As I began applying my theory of central trope, metaphor(m), to various artists and artworks, in my PhD dissertation and elsewhere, I asked myself how it could also be employed to consider broader questions. One outcome of this speculation was a chapter, where I used metaphor(m) to address painting as a whole, the novel as a whole and Christian Doelker's notion of the extended text. Then, I asked myself what a model of art history itself could look like if I treated the standard timeline as an artwork of sorts, and attempted to create a new one which would embody a central trope incorporating a contemporary conception of history while retaining heuristic use as a learning device. The mere hubris of challenging traditional and current models of art history and endeavoring to construct a new one is highly agonistic. Once again, I feel this is Bloomian, yet not Oedipal. I am not aiming to utterly dismiss the timeline, as some have done, as I discuss below. In a dialogical fashion I am answering back to the calls of the models of art history now in use, trying to improve upon them by shaping a new and better trope for understanding the discipline.

Art history, like anything else, has its own history, as well as the history of teaching it. And it has a history of trying to understand it. Trying to create models that help understand it. I delved into this deeply in chapter nine of my dissertation, and in a presentation to the CAA, the American and International Art Historians' Association, so if you want more, both of those are online. I will dwell on only my final creation here.

Much of art history has unfortunately become limited to discussion of the traditional narrow canon, or, worse, abstract and feckless conceptualizing about so-called conditions for judgment, timorous avoidance of any timeline due to postmodern guilt, treating artworks as mere stand-ins for particular ideologies. There is the standard straight line with a misty beginning and no idea of an end. There are the terrible Peak or "End of Art" timelines of Vasari (Michelangelo), the ancient Greeks (Hegel), the pendulum of Wölfflin, the End of Art in Realism for Gombrich, or in self-philosophy for Danto (Warhol and Duchamp), and so on. Or the Postmodernist avoidance of any model, seeing art as simply symptoms of an illness everywhere and doing desultory psychoanalysis, making the critic and curator simultaneously king and prosecuting attorney.

To make a long story shorter for podcasting, I sought a workable model that also had a bit of self-doubt, questioning, and possible expansion and alteration intrinsic to it. Using metaphor(m) to transform the model. Weighing heavily on my mind was the fact that practicing artists with completed degrees, in addition to beginning students, had been repeatedly approaching me requesting that I conduct some sort of remedial continuing education class in general art history --- something which turned into my first Dr Great Art Performance-Lecture, the entire history of art in an hour and a half.

After much study, analysis and debate, both with others and myself, came the real work: proposing a solution for the problems I critiqued. This began with the contemplation of models for the history of comics and the concomitant comparison of them to those in the history of fine art, which brought up the question, what kind of model could I create? What form would this take if it incorporated history as I have described it, characterized by ruptures; simultaneous paths; aspects coming in and out of focus; hidden roads; ignored elements; mainstream currents; discontinuities where a path ends, yet begins again later; non-teleological — and yet with forms of development, not a static mass; where there is indeed historical change, movement and direction.

In particular, with my notion that the future of both fine and comic art might not be posthistorical, but rather polyhistorical. I discovered online that art critic John Perreault had been making many of the same analyses and conclusions as I had been! We interwove our two linked ideas into a model: the Braid, or Braided Rope model.

A braided rope instead of a straight, single timeline

I believe we have discovered a useful metaphor(m) in the image of a braided rope: a simple, yet evocative image which allows one to teach art history as a developmental succession, yet avoid teleological inferences; to retain a core focus, yet eclipse the illusion of exclusivity; to clearly indicate that there is a wealth of art not being immediately presented in the standard survey, yet maintain a pragmatically serviceable picture.

This image incorporates history as I have described it, characterized by ruptures; simultaneous paths; aspects coming in and out of focus; hidden roads; ignored elements; mainstream currents; discontinuities where a path ends, yet begins again later; non-teleological — and yet with forms of development, not a static mass; where there is indeed historical change, movement and direction. In fact multiple directionS.

This is a highly evocative image which inspired in me a new metaphor for the timeline. I picture, in a very Wittgensteinian manner, an interwoven mass of filaments, some longer, some shorter, each a "history," each independent to an extent, yet touching on various others, some ending only to begin again farther on, all travelling nonetheless in a certain concert. We could have an art history which is plurogenic (multistrand), as opposed to all those, especially Greenberg or Danto's, monogenic (single strand) conceptions. This is an image of history as a cable of integrated stories; we have simply focused far too long on only one strand.

More thoughts on the images evoked by a braided rope. A rope can be made of various intertwining plaits of strands, sometimes even in opposite rotations, it can have strands of various thicknesses, and even have some frayed filaments, yet retain much of its tensile strength. Most of us have bodily experiences of working with thick ropes, know how they are linear, yet can be coiled, knotted and so on. All of these properties are metaphorically useful for a promising model of art history.

Let me list what I feel are a few of the strengths this metaphoric model adds to the teaching and study of art history. Following cognitive metaphor theory, it allows us to access a variety of cultural metaphors to focus on, yet critically regard, our subject. We retain something of the "CAUSES AND EFFECTS ARE LINKED OBJECTS" which dominates most standard timeline models, but it becomes only one helpful trope among many, not the central one. Metaphors of weaving and construction become more important. "IDEAS ARE CONSTRUCTED OBJECTS" comes to the fore, with its important corollaries, "The mind is a builder" and "Thinking is building/forming/shaping." We become keenly aware that our idea of art history is an object built by us, thus one that is not beyond reproach (or praise) and can be altered at any time. A braid is generally felt to be a very handmade object as well, re-establishing metaphorically the personal body-based experiences and embodied reasoning that most artists feel is too absent from art history instruction. The braid metaphor helps to thus humanize a trope that sometimes appears all too predetermined.

The various strands that form the braid are also path-like, giving us access to those foundational metaphors and their implications. "Reasoning is following a path" is one such trope. "Arguments are paths on which thought travels" is another. Both assist the viewer of such a timeline to conceive of following the strands, jumping between them, looking for hidden ones and so on as actions involving working out history itself in one's mind, placing the emphasis on personal interpretation rather than simple memorization. The braided-rope timeline still has a "mainstream" main strand, which helps anchor the students' knowledge as they first learn facts.

Oppositely, it helps to draw attention to the fact that much is occurring outside the traditional Eurocentric area of focus, such as Chinese art, which we could, and later should, study as well. The braided strands display how very much is taking place simultaneously in a variety of locations. They highlight the existence of long, unbroken lines of tradition in areas and fields that appear to have come and gone in the normal timeline, such as icon painting.

In later additions, often brought by students, hopefully it will be clearer that Africa is not just a site for so-called primitive art, that it has long and often sophisticated traditions, but also ruptures due to colonialism and wars. Supplementary strands focusing on women's handicrafts, folk, popular and vernacular culture have been added.

Transformations can be displayed, such as that from handicraft into design. It becomes clear that ideas continue on past their peaks of influence, disappearing temporarily, perhaps even ending (such as Dada), only to start up again in a new fashion later. Crossovers and mergers can be shown, such as women into the mainstream of artists, popular elements into fine art, and the like.

Comics have of course been expanded, thus I can use the same timeline, beginning where comics have their own, separate history, yet showing at what points this artform comes close to fine art, perhaps now beginning to merge with it, as photography did before.

Best of all, it is a learnable, understandable heuristic image that frankly exhibits that art history is also a question of where one is focusing ones attention.

I believe I have discovered a useful metaphor(m) in the image of a braided rope: a simple, yet evocative image which allows one to teach art history as a developmental succession, yet avoid teleological inferences; to retain a core focus, yet eclipse the illusion of exclusivity; to clearly indicate that there is a wealth of art not being immediately presented in the standard survey, yet maintain a pragmatically serviceable image. The Brandl/Perreault Braid Model of Art History. You’ve got to see the full, drawn version which I use to teach, and exhibit as an artwork, but also constantly alter with new information and ideas. It is a beautiful, complex mess. Also made as a limited edition print!

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 47. 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 painting-installations.

Some recent ones were on the entire history of Postmodernist Art from 1979 through today, on Mongrel Art, Women Artists, and Ferdinand Nigg. Coming up is a taster of many of my themes and one on Jan Ptr Brandl, the Prague Baroque artist and my distant relative.

You can find or contact me at

www.drgreatart.com/ (spell)

book me at www.mirjamhadorn.com/ (spell)

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

Dr Great Art Episode 46: Color in Art




The New Dr Great Art Podcast. Episode 46: Color in Art. Some scattered reflections on the complex role of color in art including several things that bother me regularly in purportedly theoretical discussions of it. Color is wonderful, and necessary, but it is a happily difficult entity for theory.
http://drgreatart.libsyn.com/episode-46-color-in-art
#arthistory #color #drgreatart

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Dr Great Art Podcast 46

Color in Art

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 46th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast.

This episode's artecdote is some scattered reflections on the complex role of Color in Art

Several things bother me regularly in purportedly theoretical discussions of color in art. First, the absolute incorrect science of such people as Goethe, where there is often no understanding of the difference between physics and physiology, and in his case even incorrect physics, but that is for another podcast. Second, most discussions of color seem to be very lame attempts to yoke it, fence it in, bind it to some, often literary rather than visual, idea. The joy of color is that it defies all us-intellectuals when we try to confine it!

Color is a happily difficult entity for theory in general. This may be because particular colors are so insistently real, so sensual. Although it may be forced into a symbolic role, color does not mimetically represent anything in itself and it cannot be abstracted.

It is always a sample of itself. Even stronger than indexical. It is indeed THERE, an embodiment and a corporal reality.

Nonetheless, in many visual artists there is a mix of metonymy and metaphor in their central trope in their art, which thereby allows the incorporation of color in a felt, somewhat theoretical manner.

A piece of something, a sample of color, may be utilized as either synecdoche or metonymy. This trope may then be further manipulated as a metaphor or other trope leading to foundational metaphors. As a simple example, one might exactly match several of the multitude of colors of "white" people's skin — none of which one can in any real fashion describe as actually white. The various yellows, browns and pinks are a synecdoche of humanity, i.e. "pieces" or details of humans, which become a metonymy of societal division, and are a clear metaphor for the falsity of racial definition.

Obviously, color must come into play in visual art as, well, visual, not only as trope. Much of painting throughout history has revolved around color-formed space. Light and color are inextricably linked for visual artists. Representations of light are thus often intricately manifested in color, especially in painting.

The most important factor is the orchestration of relationships among the various elements of a painting through the continuous changes and adjustments that are made while painting. For example, each color affects the colors near it. The whole affects each part. The haptic qualities — thick, thin, glossy, matt, glazed, scumbled, flat — must be drawn into careful accord. Paint as material. But this is also true of the hues themselves. These are all coordinated in a give-and-take with the intentions of each artist, those aspects planned and those discovered, within the action of thinking-in-things, thinking-within-the process, a dialogue that is highly dialectical. What do I want? What can I get the colors to do? What does the evolving object want or force me to do? What can I accept and use of color's efficacious energy?

Tied to color, paint-as-material and its haptic qualities are the tools and manner with which color is applied. Something less interesting in 2nd hand, digital or printed media.



For instance, the fact that I, like most contemporary artists, have all but abandoned the palette as an object. In his book Working Space, Frank Stella writes that abandoning the palette was one of the most important events in contemporary art production. "What we failed to see is that it was the loss of the palette, not the easel, that changed the face of what we see as painting." Most of us now use a table top or similar larger surfaces, or alternately jars and cans, mixing colors in larger fluid quantities, in effect accomplishing the important mixing and combination directly on the artwork itself. This is a performative, almost existential placement of the act of mixing, making it a process of operational discovery analogous to the way I suggest artists discover and form their central trope and its extensions within the course of the action of creating their work, not aforehand.



I have often used color in personally symbolic as well as what I feel are socio-political references. For example, I have many works where I stay close to the CMYK color possibilities of mass-media. This is my reflection of and on my background, having come to fine art through comics, the sign-painting of my father's and linked working middleclass culture. I believe the viewers FEEL that more than intellectually ruminate on it. In my experience, that has often been true and people enjoy it, and yet a few found it even bothersome, not "high-arty" enough.



The painter Paul Cézanne began many artists' concern with color as structure. This painter took the atmospheric touch of Impressionism and created its opposite — an art of solid construction. He forged a style which is clear, simple and avant-garde by making the strokes building-block-like, by forming space purely through structured color (not a play of light as in Impressionism), and by finding geometric simplicity in the essential shapes of objects, landscapes and people. This included, but is not limited to the famous "warm colors advance and cool colors recede" effect we learn from him in school.



Another painter I love did the opposite. Charles Boetschi's abstract geometric paintings have surfaces that are immaculately smooth. The only evidence of the object being hand-painted is the infinitesimally raised edges due to paint thickness where fields of color meet. The choices of hue are unique and playful, not primary and pedantically balanced as in art concret, which we have grown to expect in geometric art.

His choice of quirky color is the essence of irregularity, we almost want to say imperfect, yet actually it is simply not expected, a humanistic surprise. Replete with something most earlier geometric art disdained, allusiveness!

One book which artists and art theorists have frequently cited in relation to color is the 1910 book by Wassily Kandinsky, Über das Geistige in der Kunst, Concerning the Spiritual in Art. The whole book is indeed theoretical, yet Kandinsky found it necessary to emphasize this by including one particular section entitled 'Theory.' In this section, Kandinsky seems to envision theory as a kind of systematic grammar of the visual, for which he yearns, but which he finds at the time of his writing to be not yet achievable. A bit wryly I'd add that herein lies something spiritual: clairvoyant shades of Structuralism and Noam Chomsky! Therein, he proposes a kind of standardized symbolism of color.

Most foreign to any postmodern thinker is certainly Kandinsky's repeated insistence on the unmediated effect of the arts on humans. One example is his likening of the artist to a hand on the piano of 'the human soul,' and there he primarily means color. Our widened range of experience and of societies today makes it impossible to accept such a pseudo-bio-scientific image. His color accounts are wrought from generalizations and fraught with difficulties. Cookbook-like recipes abound: blue is 'profound,' white shows 'harmony' and 'joy,' black is 'grief' and 'death' etc.

And yet he can, happily, doubt himself as well. Kandinsky illustrates this marvelously by citing the anecdote of Leonardo da Vinci's color-spoon-system.

"The many-sided genius of Leonardo devised a system of little spoons with which different colors were to be used, thus creating a kind of mechanical harmony. One of his pupils, after trying in vain to use this system, in despair asked one of his colleagues how the master himself used the invention. The colleague replied: 'The master never uses it at all.' "

The artist and art critic Matthew Collings has some notable observations in his posts on Facebook concerning color: One set is titled "Painters looking at paintings & thinking about colour..."

Matthew states, "Colour theory is always behind art not ahead of it, but art is about all sorts of things, very rarely is it "about" colour, or about colour as opposed to anything else -- consequently it's not always easy to see how colour is being made to work in a painting. Any more than how line is working, or tone. To isolate and highlight these factors as an observer, is an odd thing to do. It goes against what the painting is offering as a whole. But if you're a painter yourself, used to working with the materials of painting, then this odd deconstruction work, in looking, comes a bit more naturally."

He continues, "I'm saying if you work with materials then you're likely to be alert to how others before have worked with them. Colour is a material property of most paintings. Colour relationships are hard to avoid as a task of painting -- how to make them "work." The predella illustrated here alternates red and green in a way that is immediately striking if you're a painter. For those that are not painters, it probably is not even noticed. The Bowling as well alternates red with green. In both cases it's an organic look, not symmetric, it's something arrived at, not predetermined or pre-calculated. Something unrolls. A sensibility makes it happen, allied to experience of having made colour relationships happen a lot, with previous works."

I find his description of color-use as a process, as a process within a discipline, very accurate.

To repeat myself, color is wonderful, and necessary, but color is a happily difficult entity for theory. Colors are insistently real, sensual. Although color may be forced into a symbolic role, color does not mimetically represent anything in itself and it cannot be abstracted. It is always a sample of itself. It is wonderful assistant, adversary and inherent component of art, especially painting.

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 46.

Color 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/ (spell)

book me at www.mirjamhadorn.com (spell)

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



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.