Presentation on theme: "Monday 27th February 2006 Stage 1 Semester 2 Week 5 Dr Ken Neil What Is the Contemporary?"— Presentation transcript:
Monday 27th February 2006 Stage 1 Semester 2 Week 5 Dr Ken Neil What Is the Contemporary?
TODAYS FOUR SECTIONS: 1.Charles Baudelaire and the authentic moment. 2.Arthur Danto and historical contemporary art. 3.When is now? 4.Embodying the now and enacting the contemporary.
1 Charles Baudelaire 1821-1867 Baudelaire, the great poet translator and critic, is for many one of the most prescient authors of Modernity. His poetry and criticism seemed to capture the spirit of the modern age, and looked forward perceptively to 20thC culture.
1 For Baudelaire - the artist had to be of his own times before he could legitimately claim to be a Modern artist. It was a mistake, he said, for the artist to look to antecedents within the history of art if one wanted to paint aspects of the present. Woe to him who studies the antique for anything else other than pure art, logic and general method! By steeping himself too thoroughly in it, he will lose all memory of the present; he will renounce the rights and privileges offered by circumstance - for almost all our originality comes from the seal which Time imprints on our sensations.
1 Be very sure that this man Constantin Guys, this solitary, gifted with an active imagination, ceaselessly journeying across the great human desert - has an aim something other than the fugitive pleasure of circumstance. He is looking for that quality which you must allow me to call modernity. He makes it his business to extract from fashion whatever element it may contain of poetry within history, to distil the eternal from the transitory. By modernity I mean the ephemeral, the fugutive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable.
1 Modernity, for Baudelaire, was all about the spirit of the age. To be a Modern artist one had to keenly observe and generate work from the wonderful sights and sounds of the immediate world. The authentic Modern artist does not seek to move out with the time in which he finds himself. 1 Baudelaires Modern art is forward looking and positivist - it assumes responsibility for pushing art into new, uncharted futures, apprehending the eternal from the transitory as it proceeds.
2 Arthur Danto (and the German theorist Hans Belting) put forward arguments (in the 1980s) to suggest, however, that Modern art, as described by Baudelaire and others, is different across time from Contemporary art. This might mean that, Boccionis or Pollocks Modern art for example or the work of Constantin Guys, although obviously once upon a time contemporary, should not be seen as Contemporary as we might understand that term now after having read Danto and Belting. Why so?
2 Contemporary art has no brief against the art of the past, no sense that the art of the past is something from which liberation must be won. It is part of what defines Contemporary art that the art of the past is available for such use as artists care to give it. Danto
Umberto Boccioni Elasticity 1912 2 Boccioni, practicing authentic Modernist philosophy, saw the art forms of the immediate past as forms from which the present, dynamic, contemporary (with a small c) artists must liberate themselves. In short, he exercised himself over producing artworks which spoke to a Baudelairean philosophy of the unfolding progression of art, both in terms of its forms and in terms of what it paid attention to.
2 Contemporary for Danto requires the artist to break free from the antagonism towards the artistic forms of the past, something which Boccioni did not do. In breaking free, the Contemporary artist also breaks free from the idea that the present is destined to be better than the past.
2 Jasper Johns Perilous Night 1982 Jasper Johnss work, for example, is frequently constructed by present pasts - and resembles Dantos conception of Contemporary. It embraces a post-historicity.
Edouard Manet Dejeuner Sur LHerbe 1863 2 But Dantos idea of the Contemporary, logically, can also be seen in examples of historical art. Manet here famously incorporated a composition from a painting by Raphael as seen through an etching by Marcantonio Raimondi.
2 As we saw in the first lecture, Gavin Turk here famously appears as Sid Vicious, dressed as Elvis as seen through a screenprint by Andy Warhol. Gavin Turk Pop 1993 Warhol Elvis 1963
2 Martin Creed might be said to share Turks Danto-like attitude to art of the past - and possibly negatively so, as no future improvement is promised - a danger inherent to Dantos concept
3 So - when is now? Now is of course now (I think) but now involves then, and it is the attitude towards the then that Danto concerns himself with. And perhaps our Contemporary attitude to then has resulted in a superficial and spectacular version of culture, progress and development has been forgotten and style and posturing has taken the place of positivist art making?
4 Danto sets out a difference between capturing the contemporary spirit of the age of this now (which is akin to Baudelaires Modernity) and producing artwork which is actually Contemporary. This might be summarised by saying that there is a difference between embodying the now and enacting the contemporary.
4 Ralph Goings, an American Photorealist painter, can be seen to be an artist who embodies the now, utilising new departures in painterly technique in the process - not unlike Degas and Guys.
4 Perhaps Tracey Emin can be seen to be an artist who enacts the Contemporary, by being an artist whose styles are historical and contemporary (with a small c); she does not seek to take art beyond the past into its new future, like a Guys or a Boccioni, in fact, she darkly revels in the past as if to make the very point that her present moment is constantly wrestling with the past, and the two elements are made visible as part of that struggle.