Sunday, March 18, 2012

Peering in the Mere of Mimesis

Two quotes struck the lobster and canary this week:

"As museums continue building mobile devices into more exhibits--the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston now offers multmedia tours on 750 rentable iPod Touches--staffers are debating how to incorporate the technology without turning their visitors into what some in the business call 'gallery zombies,' guests who stand inches from a masterpiece while glued to their screens. [//] London-based art collector and art adviser Lauren Prakke says digital gadgets already fill art events. 'Sometimes you think, wow, you've got some of the most incredible art in the world in the room and someone's staring at the telephone,' she says. 'I'm like, "Am I the only one looking at the art?" ' "

---Ellen Gamerman," The Art of the Tablet," The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2012, pg. D2.

"...curators in this city...need to pay a lot more attention to exhibition design, on- and offline. [//] The performance section of the show [the Whitney Biennial] ... is a sad example. It's left without any sort of livestreaming or video documentation...Surely, if we've learned anything from Marina Abramovic's blockbuster 2010 performance The Artist is Present, it's that more online documentation, not less, draws visitors."

---Paddy Johnson, "Witless Biennial," The L Magazine, March 14-27, 2012, pg. 46.

Puts us in mind of Goethe engaging with Aristotelian aesthetics in "On Truth and Verisimilitude in Works of Art" (published in the first issue of his Propylaen in 1798). Conducting a dialogue within a fictional theater about illusion and the imitation of nature, Goethe pronounces on the value of artful deception and the de-layering of reality. Which matters more: the appearance (Schein) of truth, or truth itself? What is the "thing itself" (die Sache selbst), and how would we know it if we came upon it, as it sleeps, dines, walks and soars within a carved frame or the flicker of pixels? Art imitating nature...

...and imitating itself in auto-mimetic gazings...

...representing a representation...

...imaging images of a truth whose origin may or may not surge from the thing itself?

As Wallace Stevens has it:

"When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles."

Further readings:

Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1936).

William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930).

Stephen Halliwell, The Aesthetics of Mimesis: Ancient Texts and Modern Problems (2002).

Robert Motherwell, "The Modern Painter's World" (1944).

Erwin Panofsky, "The Problem of Style in the Visual Arts" (1915).

Barbara Maria Stafford, Good Looking: Essays on the Virtue of Images (1998).

Wallace Stevens, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" (1917).

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