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The Performing Arts in Western Civilization

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Title: The Performing Arts in Western Civilization


1
The Performing Arts in Western Civilization
  • New York University

2
Housekeeping (2/8/05)
  • Quote(s) of the day
  • Police arrested two kids yesterday, one was
    drinking battery acid, the other was eating
    fireworks…
  • They charged one and let the other one off.
  • Tommy Cooper
  • The trouble with a kitten is that eventually it
    becomes a Cat.
  • Ogden Nash
  • Start every day with a smile…
  • and get it over with.
  • W.C. Fields

3
Agenda (2/8/05)
  • Mimesis
  • Intentional Fallacy
  • Eclectic Analysis

4
Mimesis
  • Nature creates similarities.  One need only think
    of mimicry.  The highest capacity for producing
    similarities, however, is mans.  His gift of
    seeing resemblances is nothing other than a
    rudiment of the powerful compulsion in former
    times to become and behave like something else. 
    Perhaps there is none of his higher functions in
    which his mimetic faculty does not play a
    decisive role.
  • --- Walter Benjamin, "On the Mimetic Faculty"
    1933

5
Mimesis (contd)
  • The term mimesis is derived from the Greek
    mimesis, meaning to imitate.
  • The OED defines mimesis as "a figure of speech,
    whereby the words or actions of another are
    imitated" and "the deliberate imitation of the
    behavior of one group of people by another as a
    factor in social change.
  • Mimicry is defined as "the action, practice, or
    art of mimicking or closely imitating ... the
    manner, gesture, speech, or mode of actions and
    persons, or the superficial characteristics of a
    thing.
  • Both terms are generally used to denote the
    imitation or representation of nature,
    especially in aesthetics (primarily literary and
    artistic media).

6
Pre-Platonics
  • Pre-Platonic thought tends to emphasize the
    representational aspects of mimesis and its
    denotation of imitation, representation,
    portrayal, and/or the person who imitates or
    represents. 
  • Mimetic behavior was viewed as the representation
    of "something animate and concrete with
    characteristics that are similar to the
    characteristics to other phenomena.
  • Plato believed that mimesis was manifested in
    'particulars' which resemble or imitate the
    forms from which they are derived thus, the
    mimetic world (the world of representation and
    the phenomenological world) is inherently
    inferior in that it consists of imitations which
    will always be subordinate or subsidiary to
    their original.
  • In addition to imitation, representation, and
    expression, mimetic activity produces appearances
    and illusions that affect the perception and
    behavior of people.

7
Plato (contd)
  • In Republic, Plato views art as a mimetic
    imitation of an imitation (art mimes the
    phenomenological world which mimes an original,
    "real" world) artistic representation is highly
    suspect and corrupt in that it is thrice removed
    from its essence. 
  • Mimesis is positioned within the sphere of
    aesthetics, and the illusion produced by mimetic
    representation in art, literature, and music is
    viewed as alienating, inauthentic, deceptive,
    and inferior.

8
Plato and Aristotle on Art as Imitation (Mimesis)
  • Plato in The Republic - Art is imitation, and
    thats bad.
  • Problems with imitation
  • Epistemological An imitation is at three removes
    from the reality or truth of something.
  • Theological Poets and other artists represent
    the gods in inappropriate ways.
  • Moral and Psychological A good imitation can
    undermine the stability of even the best humans
    by making us feel sad, depressed, and sorrowful
    about life itself.

9
Plato and Aristotle on Art as Imitation (Mimesis)
  • Aristotle in Poetics - Art is imitation, and
    thats all right…even good.
  • Imitation is natural to humans from childhood.
  • Imitation is how children learn, and we all learn
    from imitations.
  • Tragedy can be a form of education that provides
    moral insight and fosters emotional growth.
  • Tragedy is the imitation (mimesis) of certain
    kinds of people and actions.
  • Good tragedies must have certain sorts of people
    and plots. (Good people experience a reversal of
    fortune due to some failing or hamartia.)
  • A successful tragedy produces a katharsis in the
    audience.
  • Katharsis purification through pity and fear.

10
The Intentional Fallacy (1946)
  • For Wimsatt and Beardsley, attention to intention
    leads to no good criticism.
  • They argue against what they see as the
    traditional reliance upon authorial intention as
    a standard for critical judgment of poetry, which
    may be extended to include literature as a whole.
  • Rather than looking to the author as an "oracle"
    of truth and knowledge on his/her own work, or
    establishing and upholding a necessarily
    arbitrary evaluation of authorial intention as
    the measure for a literary work's degree of
    "success," Wimsatt and Beardsley locate the
    critic's role in an analysis of the inner
    workings of the literary work.

11
Finding Fault
  • Once created, they contend, the poem assumes
    primary importance over its maker as a literary
    artifact, and is not to be reduced to the status
    of simple expression of a writer's psychological
    state or biographical clue.
  • Without directly invoking "science" as a means to
    explain Formalism, Wimsatt and Beardsley
    implicitly fault intentionalists for an
    unscientific approach to literature that indulges
    in arbitrary and unfruitful speculation on
    authorial intentions while losing sight of the
    work - the poem.

12
Consulting the Oracle
  • Intentionality is seen as an impossible quest
  • How is the critic to find out what the poet tried
    to do?
  • Even in cases where the author is alive and
    willing to answer questions regarding his/her
    work, Wimsatt and Beardsley find no critical
    satisfaction in recourse to the unscientific,
    subjective pronouncements of this "oracle."
  • By looking to intention as the answer, critics
    fail to recognize that the judgment of literature
    involves not answers but the ongoing, informed
    process of systematic critical inquiry.

13
The Intentional Fallacy (contd)
  • I went to the poets tragic, dithyrambic, and
    all sorts.... I took them some of the most
    elaborate passages in their own writings, and
    asked what was the meaning of them. . . . Will
    you believe me? . . . there is hardly a person
    present who would not have talked better about
    their poetry than they did themselves. Then I
    knew that not by wisdom do poets write poetry,
    but by a sort of genius and inspiration.
  • (Plato Apology)
  • Here, Wimsatt and Beardsley assert that Plato
    recognized a truth about the poetic mind which
    the world no longer commonly sees.
  • They point out that certainly the poets have had
    something to say that the critic and professor
    could not say - that poetry should come as
    naturally as leaves to a tree, that poetry is the
    lava of the imagination, or that it is emotion
    recollected in tranquility. But it is necessary
    that we realize the character and authority of
    such testimony.

14
Eclectic Method
  • An insistence upon openness.
  • Suspension of pre-judgments.
  • Distinctions between explanation, description,
    and interpretation will be maintained.
  • Blends the intrinsic and extrinsic elements in a
    work of Art
  • Bridging all evaluation (or interpretation) back
    to the work itself.
  • This method is largely concerned with openness.
  • An eclectic method need not be considered a
    challenge to conventional methods of analysis
    rather, it can act as an umbrella in which
    dissimilar systems can function independently and
    yet contribute to the overall understanding of
    significance in a particular work.

15
Eclectic Method
  • Open Listenings / ViewingsSeries of listenings /
    viewings guided by Husserls principle of epoche
    (the suspension of the natural attitude). In this
    step, one attempts to bracket out all
    pre-existing judgments (positive or negative)
    related to the work in question.
  • Historical Backgrounda brief description of
    biographical information about the work in
    question. An attempt to place the work within an
    historical framework
  • SyntaxIn this step, a conventional method of
    analysis is applied to the database. Here, one
    would attempt a suspension of hermeneutical and
    phenomenological analysis.
  • The Sound/Image-in-TimeDuring this step, the
    analyst attempts to engage the work from a
    phenomenological perspective. It is well-placed
    immediately following the syntactical analysis,
    since it involves a bridging from technical
    terminology into metaphorical language used to
    describe the sound-in-time.
  • Musical and Textual RepresentationIn this step,
    the analyst reports on the various referential
    meanings that lie in the program or text of the
    work.

16
Eclectic Method (contd)
  • Virtual FeelingThe listener / analyst reports on
    the way the work is expressive of human
    feelings…virtual forms (Langer)
  • Onto-historical WorldThrough the use of
    hermeneutics, the analyst describes how the work
    expresses the onto-historical world of the
    artist.
  • Open Listenings / ViewingsA return to step two
    in which the several levels of significance are
    engaged within a dynamic tapestry.
  • Performance GuideThe analyst makes various
    suggestions that may assist the performer in the
    interpretive performance of the work.
  • Meta-critique - The author provides a detailed
    critique of the strengths and weaknesses of the
    previous analysis. This step includes specific
    recommendations for future research.

17
Pablo Picasso Night fishing at Antibes 1939,
oil on canvas. The Museum of Modern Art, New York
18
Eclectic Analysis of Picassos Night fishing at
Antibes (contd)
  • Historical Backgrounda brief description of
    biographical information about the work in
    question. An attempt to place the work within an
    historical framework.
  • Open ViewingsSeries of viewings guided by
    Husserls principle of epoche (the suspension of
    the natural attitude). In this step, one attempts
    to bracket out all pre-existing judgments
    (positive or negative) related to the work in
    question.
  • SyntaxIn this step, a conventional method of
    analysis is applied to the database. Here, one
    would attempt a suspension of hermeneutical and
    phenomenological analysis.
  • Virtual FeelingThe listener / analyst reports on
    the way the work is expressive of human
    feelings…virtual forms (Langer)
  • Onto-historical WorldThrough the use of
    hermeneutics, the analyst describes how the work
    expresses the onto-historical world of the
    artist.
  • Open ViewingsA return to step two in which the
    several levels of significance are engaged within
    a dynamic tapestry.
  • Meta-critique - The author provides a detailed
    critique of the strengths and weaknesses of the
    previous analysis. This step includes specific
    recommendations for future research.

19
Open Viewings
  • Series of viewings guided by Husserls principle
    of epoche (the suspension of the natural
    attitude). In this step, one attempts to bracket
    out all pre-existing judgments (positive or
    negative) related to the work in question.

20
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21
Open Viewings
  • One can detect a remarkable dissonance in this
    painting.

22
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23
Historical Background
  • Pablo Picasso was born on October 25, 1881, in
    Málaga, Spain. The son of an academic painter,
    José Ruiz Blanco, he began to draw at an early
    age. In 1895, the family moved to Barcelona, and
    Picasso studied there at La Lonja, the academy of
    fine arts. His visit to Horta de Ebro from 1898
    to 1899 and his association with the group at the
    café Els Quatre Gats about 1899 were crucial to
    his early artistic development.
  • In 1900, Picassos first exhibition took place in
    Barcelona, and that fall he went to Paris for the
    first of several stays during the early years of
    the century. Picasso settled in Paris in April
    1904, and soon his circle of friends included
    Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Gertrude and
    Leo Stein, as well as two dealers, Ambroise
    Vollard and Berthe Weill.

24
Historical Background (contd)
  • His style developed from the Blue Period
    (190104) to the Rose Period (1905) to the
    pivotal work Les Demoiselles dAvignon (1907),
    and the subsequent evolution of Cubism from an
    Analytic phase (ca. 190811), through its
    Synthetic phase (beginning in 191213).
  • Picassos collaboration on ballet and theatrical
    productions began in 1916. Soon thereafter, his
    work was characterized by neoclassicism and a
    renewed interest in drawing and figural
    representation.

25
Historical Background (contd)
  • From 1925 into the 1930s, Picasso was involved to
    a certain degree with the Surrealists, and from
    the fall of 1931 he was especially interested in
    making sculpture.
  • In 1932, with large exhibitions at the Galeries
    Georges Petit, Paris, and the Kunsthaus Zürich,
    and the publication of the first volume of
    Christian Zervoss catalogue raisonné, Picassos
    fame increased markedly.

26
Historical Background (contd)
  • By 1936, the Spanish Civil War had profoundly
    affected Picasso, the expression of which
    culminated in his painting Guernica (1937, Museo
    Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid).
  • While a sort of false peace prevailed in l938-39,
    Picasso painted the monumental Night Fishing at
    Antibes, perhaps the most mysterious and
    mesmerizing of all his works.
  • Painted after a visit to the seaside town with
    his mistress, Dora Maar, the artist presents men
    in rowboats spearing fish at night with the help
    of flashlights.

27
Syntax
  • In this step, a conventional method of analysis
    is applied to the database.
  • Here, one would attempt a suspension of
    hermeneutical and phenomenological analysis.

28
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29
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30
Syntax
  • Design Elements
  • Main compositional strategy…
  • Crowded imagery
  • The scene is painted in greens and blacks
  • Paradox of figures of fisherman and young woman
    set in opposition.
  • Inner dynamic…

31
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32
Virtual Feeling
  • Rage
  • Isolation
  • Tension

33
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34
Onto-Historical World
  • A threat overshadows the scene.
  • - Europelate 1930sbrink of warcomplacency
  • - Displacement of prior ontological world as
    caused by WWI
  • ? Media coverage of war a major factor
  • ? Subsequent discoveries in Math (Goedel) and
    Quantum Physics shatters prior ontological
    assumptions
  • Sooner or later the juggernaut of war and
    technology will eradicate the social order.

35
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36
Onto-Historical World (contd)
  • The meaning of historical and cultural events
    worked their way through Picasso's own mythos
    before they appeared in his art.
  • In the ominous yet beautiful Night Fishing at
    Antibes,'Night Fishing'' can be seen as a
    prophetic image of the blitzkrieg, Germany's
    aerial bombardment of the European allies that
    was soon to begin.
  • Responding, in 1945, to a question about the
    sources of his art, Picasso burst forth with
    what do you think an artist is -- an imbecile
    who, if he is a painter, has only eyes, or only
    ears if he is a musician? No, he is at the same
    time a political being, a constant witness to the
    . . . events of the world.''

37
Open Viewings
  • A return to step two in which the several levels
    of significance are engaged within a dynamic
    tapestry.

38
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39
Meta-Critique
  • The main drawback to our analysis is that since
    we are viewing a reproduction and not an actual
    painting, we are unable to engage the
    Image-in-time. That is, from the perspective of
    Husserlian descriptive phenomenology, we are
    isolated from the work.
  • If we had access to the actual painting, we would
    be better able to ground some of our referential
    observations concerning Night Fishing.

40
Upcoming Assignment
  • Your own strictly formal critique of a live or
    recorded performance one full page (minimum)
    followed by a 1/2 page (minimum) meta-critique
    discussing and assessing the impact of using a
    strictly formal methodology on your critique
    due Thursday, 2/10/05
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