Influence But his work rarely incorporated people as the subject matter. Thus, I was inspired to create something that incorporated elements of landscape photography with a person or people as the subject(s).
Photograph Taken in July of 2012 Location: Kismet, Long Island, NY Digital camera (Canon SD 850 IS)
Susanne K. Langer American Philosopher and educator who wrote extensively on linguistic analysis and aesthetics (Encyclopædia Britannica) Author of “Expressiveness”
In Relation to Langer Langer defines art as, “…an expressive form created for our perception through sense or imagination, and what it expresses is human feeling” (168). A work of art must exhibit expressive form as an extension of logical form, containing symbols and exceeding the scope of language, such that it expresses feeling.
In Relation to Langer Langer’s theory centers about the concept of “form”, which she explains is most broadly used to mean shape, but refers to structure and articulation in a more abstract sense. Logical form is more specific, and is best described as a way of relating parts and wholes. Langer utilizes the example of very different lampshades (a “big violet shade” and a “little green one”) to express the idea that there is some type of a rule of translation, allowing us to see the commonalities among things that appear to be quite dissimilar (169).
In Relation to Langer In my photograph, the position of the hands and the crash of a wave on the sandy shore represent logical form. It is because the ocean crashes that the hands are in fact set into motion, and this moment is captured in the photograph.
In Relation to Langer Much like we can understand the flow of a river based on a riverbed, we as spectators are able to analyze and understand that the hands and the ocean are parts that relate to each other and also relate to the scene as a whole.
In Relation to Langer This logical form, however, is merely a component of the greater “expressive form” that is present in art. Essentially, Langer explains that expressive form is any whole that has a relationship to its parts such that it can be taken to represent another whole that has the same type of relationship to its parts. The relationship with logical form found in my photograph, that is the position of the hands and the crash of the wave, is symbolic of the relationship between people and their respective environments.
In Relation to Langer The environment is the whole, which encompasses various parts such as the elements and humanity. When an individual encounters a stimulus due to the environment, that individual is likely to produce some type of a response, this response is a type of experience.
Pupils become smaller in response to light
Tears occur from chopping onions
Goosebumps develop in the cold
In Relation to Langer Expressive form relates to the feelings associated with human experiences. In these cases, the feelings are responses to changing environments, symbolized by the hands that are set into motion based on the crashing ocean wave.
In Relation to Langer When I look at this photograph, the best word that I could think to use in describing this captured feeling of human experience is excitement. Just as a globe is frequently referred to as “earth” rather than “a symbol of earth”, what I perceive to be excitement is not actually excitement, but rather a symbol of excitement.
In Relation to Langer Unfortunately, symbolism is inherently limited because it operates by means of discourse (patterns of which Langer calls discursive form). While discursive form can be helpful in attempting to convey basic commonalities among symbols, it is important to recognize that it does in fact have “its limits of usefulness” when attempting to address expressive form (171). We can try to use words in an attempt to describe a work of art, but these words can never fully nor accurately describe what a work of art expresses.
In Relation to Langer We could attempt to describe this photo as “an excited girl with her right hand up and her left hand down, standing on the beach as a wave crashes,” but this does not express the same emotion or feelings that we get when we look at the work. Even if we went into paragraph, essay, or novel length descriptions of the photograph using discursive form, our efforts would still fall short of communicating the same feeling that the photo does without uttering one single word.
In Relation to Langer It’s a feeling that captures the experience of the crashing wave; it’s a feeling that combines excitement, amazement, playfulness, courageousness, impulsiveness, liberation, and surprise. But these words, these discursive forms that attempt to allow others to share previously understood concepts, could never express what this work captures. It contains an expressive form that simply communicates a feeling beyond the scope of language, a feeling that is ineffable.
Objections Some may argue that Langer’s theory is incomplete since it lacks a component of audience involvement, and thus some may question her ideas regarding what actually should count as art. While I recognize that Langer’s theory is in fact missing specific guidelines regarding how the audience should behave when observing a work of art, I do not believe that to be a good enough reason to discredit Langer’s argument.
Objections Langer’s ideas regarding logical and expressive form, symbolism, and language prove to have practical application to my photograph, allowing me to consider it to be a work of art. I personally believe that when theorists attempt to dictate how an audience “should” react to a work, it provides a forum for more and more gaps to be discovered in such theories.
Objections That is, when a thinker such as Collingwood explains that the audience and the artist must experience the same emotion when viewing a work, entirely new objections arise. Is it essential for the feeling to be the same between artist and audience? Can a work of art still be a work of art if the feelings are not the same? How does an audience member know if he or she will ever actually experience the same emotion as the artist?
Objections By attempting to dictate the behavior of the audience, theorists actually open their arguments to a bevy of objections. When such objections continue to be raised, it becomes easy for readers to dismiss the theory’s validity because there are simply too many possible loopholes.
Objections Another argument against Langer’s theory attacks her assertion that art (and the expressive form that makes a work of art an actual work of art) is beyond the means of discursive form. Some may feel that all things, regardless of whether or not they are works of art, can be described using language.
Objections These individuals would say that describing this photograph as a picture of a girl on a beach with one hand raised and the other lowered in response to a crashing wave would be adequate. A key component that I feel is missing from this description is the concept of transmission and representation of feeling that art can communicate while words cannot. Thus, these individuals are missing what I believe to be a necessary part of a work of art: expressive form.
To Summarize A work of art must exhibit expressive form as an extension of logical form, containing symbols and exceeding the scope of language, such that it expresses feeling. The relationship with logical form found in my photograph, that is the position of the hands and the crash of the wave, is symbolic of the relationship between people and their respective environments. When an individual encounters a stimulus due to the environment, that individual is likely to produce some type of a response, this response is a type of experience. Expressive form relates to the feelings associated with human experiences (responses to changing environments). We can try to use words in an attempt to describe a work of art, but these words can never fully nor accurately describe the feeling that a work of art expresses.
Discussion Questions Am I right? Is a work of art and actual work of art because of its expressive form and the feeling that it conveys? Do you think it is possible for a work of art to be a work of art without expressing any type of feeling or without containing any type of form? Are there any other theories or theorists that are perhaps better suited to justify this photograph as art? Would any theorists discredit this work and assert that it is not art?
Works Cited "The Iris and the Pupil." Duane's Ophthalmology. Lippincott Williams & Wilkens, Web. 28 Nov Photograph. Langer, Susanne. “Expressiveness.” Art and Interpretation: An Anthology of Readings in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. By Eric Dayton. Orchard Park, NY: Broadview, Print. "Stream, Sea, Clouds, Rodeo Beach." The Ansel Adams Gallery. N.p., Web. 28 Nov Photograph. "Susanne K. Langer." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., Web. 29 Nov "Why People Get Goose Bumps." Today I Found Out. Vacca Foeda Media, 14 Jan Web. 28 Nov Photograph.
Works Cited "You Can Now Buy Salt Made With Human Tears??" KWNR. N.p., 1 June Web. 28 Nov Photograph.