Posts by Adrianna Mathew
Art: Beyond the Experience of the Individual and it Role in Society
“Art and Civilization” by John Dewey
In this this chapter author John Dewey attempts to delineate the role of art beyond the experience of the individual, its influence on culture and its contribution to “civilization”. He writes, “Art is often distrusted because of its roots in imaginative creativity. A civilization’s art and culture is construed broadly in terms of its morals.” Hence, what Dewey really means to say is that art cannot be used as a source in the study of civilizations because of its inclinency to portray the author’s personal his or her own opinions and their understanding of morals.
- My question to you is whether or not art can be considered a great resource in one’s intellectual arsenal to understand a civilization and its culture?
- Or is it a deterring source, on which we cannot rely because of its strictly individualistic understanding of the civilization?
Author Dewey referred to Shelley’s theory that moral science only “arranges elements that poetry has created.” He also furthers his point by saying that “’intellectual’ products formulate the tendencies of these arts and provide them with an intellectual base.”
- The question that follows this thought is to what extents do intellectual thoughts and theories influence art?
- Is art intellectual or, in theory, an expression of the emotions of the artist and subject?
Was it an “Aesthetic Crime”?
“Moving Pictures – The Barnes Foundation’s New Home” By Peter Schjeldahl
(Questions 1 and 2)
First, let’s take into account the major and minor changes that have been brought forth by the move of the Barnes collection to its new home:
- Minor decorative differences
- Major technological differences in combining natural and automatic lighting
- The repositioning of “The Joy of Life” by Matisse from its original place in the collection to opposite “a great mural of dancing and tumbling nudes that Barnes commissioned from Matisse in 1929”.
Based on these differences let us now look at the effect it has on the original intent of Barnes behind the presentation of the collection:
- Minor decorative difference: non-existent
- Major technological differences in combining natural and automatic lighting: The lighting in the museum changes the artwork slightly in terms of hues and shades of a specific color but allows for better visibility of the artworks.
- The repositioning of “The Joy of Life” by Matisse: Although the repositioning would not have been consented by Barnes, the author notes that the piece seems less “confusing”, more understandable, and its aesthetic geniuses more recognizable and admirable.
It is stated clearly that there have been no major changes to the way the artworks are presented from its earlier home. It is also noted by the author that the integrity of the collection has survived “magnificently”. Now the question is whether it justifies the blatant disregard of Barnes wishes, legally specified in his will, and the move to the Philadelphia Museum?
Is it or is it not an “aesthetic crime”?
“Victory!” by Martin Filler (Question 3) The major preposition presented by the author is the tremendous effort it took to build the building which later house the Barnes collection. The $150 million dollar spendature that the building required and the architectural mounts the building had to surpass can lead us to question the ulterior motive of the move. Although it was political in the sense to make the city of Philadelphia the center of tourist attraction, the money could have been spent to renovate the original location in Merion where the collection was housed. Or, in your opinions, has the collection finally received a deserving location to showcase its simplicity and complexity all in one?
Comments by Adrianna Mathew
"Although it was kind of difficult to understand what Berenson was trying to say, the extent of my understanding of Berenson's work is that he concludes that to have a meticulous and in-depth understanding of a culture where the artwork has originated from is unnecessary as your understanding of the artwork is precisely that, yours. What Berenson concludes is that the notion of understanding artwork subjectively through the understanding of its cultural context limits is... unnecessary to YOUR understanding of the work. To say that I vehemently disagree with Berenson, would be too much but I do disagree with this main point that he brought up.
While I also commented on Ahmed's post of Shamsur Saab's poetry, I would like to bring it up again in order to further my perspective. In order to understand the “freedom” that Shamsur Saab’s words are emphasizing, or even the reason why I regard to him as “Saab”, the reader must have a deep understanding of the Bengali traditions and the socio-cultural emphasis placed behind it. Certain lines mentioning aspects of Bengali culture like Rabi Thakur, Shahid Minar, “flag-draped, slogan-serenaded boisterous processions,” tea shops, kal-boishakhi, etc., etc. is so foreign to someone who’s culture does not have the same social and cultural impositions on any of these. To think of American culture specifically, where do we see conversations occuring in tea shops? First of all there are no tea shops in America; there are Starbuck’s and Dunkin Donuts and other commercialized beverage selling stores but the tea shops that Shamsur Saab is talking about in these poems are tiny little stalls that are run by families who sell a hot cup of chai along side a happening plate of gossip about their neighbor’s daughter’s marriage. There are just no cultural equities in the American culture! So how is it that a reader will be able to understand what Shamsur Saab is referring to without having an in-depth understanding of the Bengali culture? This is why, I tend to disagree with Berenson when he say to understand a work of art of another culture, knowledge of the culture is only needed “on a certain level.”
However, trying to understand a culture as well as a native is difficult. Berenson's approach gives relief to this very same problem. If the lines between these two sentences on pages 58-59 are read again "In conclusion, I have argued that in order to understand the art of any particular culture we need to distinguish between three levels of understanding... This brings and understanding of the kinds of feelings, emotions and commitments which play a crucial part in aesthetic experience." we get the answer to an immediate problem in understanding art. But to me, even through Berenson's dissection of understanding art, culturally and subjectively, into three main components of comprehension, still seem incomplete. No matter how much we can try to understand an artwork without understanding its cultural context, our understandings will be incomplete. Regardless, of the little we do care to find out about the cultural context, socio-cultural symbols that are unique to the culture (for example, the tea shop and its consequent emotional symbolism in Shamsur Saab's poetry) will still be un-apprehensible."
--( posted on Nov 6, 2013, commenting on the post Frances Berenson, “Understanding Art and Understanding Persons”
"Before I comment on anything else, I wanted to talk about the notion of "non-translatability" that Berenson mentioned in his work. He talked about language having the this interpersonal method of learning and understanding. He says, "Concepts and thus understanding and meaning are logically dependent for their sense on social interaction." So taking this into consideration, we can use the first line of the translated version of poem "Freedom, you're" in Bengali "shadhinota tumi." the translation, quite literal in its verse takes away from the aura of the line itself in its Bengali version. Even reading it out, I feel as if though there is this hidden sentiment and virtue in the Bengali version of the poem that has not transcended into the english translation of the poem.
This is why, I tend to disagree with Berenson when he say to understand a work of art of another culture, knowledge of the culture is only needed "on a certain level." In order to understand the "freedom" that Shamsur Saab's words are emphasizing, or even the reason why I regard to him as "Saab", the reader must have a deep understanding of the Bengali traditions and the socio-cultural emphasis placed behind it. Certain lines mentioning aspects of Bengali culture like Rabi Thakur, Shahid Minar, "flag-draped, slogan-serenaded boisterous processions," tea shops, kal-boishakhi, etc., etc. is so foreign to someone who's culture does not have the same social and cultural impositions on any of these. To think of American culture specifically, where do we see conversations occuring in tea shops? First of all there are no tea shops in America; there are Starbuck's and Dunkin Donuts and other commercialized beverage selling stores but the tea shops that Shamsur Saab is talking about in these poems are tiny little stalls that are run by families who sell a hot cup of chai along side a happening plate of gossip about their neighbor's daughter's marriage. There are just no cultural equities in the American culture! So how is it that a reader will be able to understand what Shamsur Saab is referring to without having an in-depth understanding of the Bengali culture?"
--( posted on Nov 6, 2013, commenting on the post A poem on Freedom
"The detailing in the artwork is just fantastic! But on another note, this adds to the general message that the Marionette-version of the story was focusing on: the triumph of good over evil. There is no romanticizing of the untold love between the prince and the princess. The works really focus on human emotions, rather negative, like desolation and desperation more so than anything in my opinion. Nothing along the lines of Disney's rendition."
--( posted on Nov 5, 2013, commenting on the post Sleeping Beauty illustrations
"Shimon I don't know whether or not you got the update on the blogging post. Groups 1 and 3 are now together and groups 2 and 4 are together. So depending on which group you were, you have to either post the question (groups 1 and 3 for this week) or comment (groups 2 and 4 for this week). Since you posted questions, I'm guessing you are either part of group 1 or 3. So the way we are going to post is that you comment under the post that Ben posts. So since you posted about William's readings, you have to go find the post by Ben on Williams, and post your questions there. It's going to be like a thread discussing from now on. Just thought I would let you know :)"
--( posted on Sep 22, 2013, commenting on the post The High Cost of Cheap Art