About the Authors Gene Mittler Gene Mittler is one of the authors of Glencoe's middle school art series, Introducing Art, Exploring Art, and Understanding Art. He. Mar 11, Download [PDF] Books Understanding Art (PDF, ePub, Mobi) by Lois Fichner-Rathus Complete Read Online. Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Lois Fichner-Rathus is professor of art in the Department of Art and Art History of The College of New Jersey. She holds a.
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To perform it on a cello, for instance, would exclude the standard property of being performed on a piano, and this absence would be noticeable. The variable properties of a work are those that are different from one work to the next, giving it uniqueness or individuality. The particular arrangement of notes varies from one musical work to another. The subject of a photograph, the size and shape of a sculpture…all of these are variable relative to a particular category.
Moving to a third level, a work of art may also exhibit what Walton refers to as contra-standard properties: qualities that, if present, may serve to exclude a work from a particular category. It is a standard property of paintings to be flat; were an artist to create a painting with spikes of metal protruding from the canvas, the work would no longer be flat and might cease to be included in the category of painting.
The presence of a contra- standard feature in a work of art causes the viewer to engage in evaluation of both the work and the category. Thus, in the case of the painting with protruding metal spikes, either a new category must be established—that of three-dimensional painting—or the category of painting must be modified to include both two- and three-dimensional objects, subsequently enlarging the variable properties of paintings.
History has shown that properties which are initially contra- Understanding Art 18 standard, and often highly controversial, may become variable and even standard with the passage of time as viewers become accustomed to the presence of these properties. The standard properties of a work of art are comparable to the static level of analysis: in each case, these relate to the basic elements of the work of art. The variable properties of a work of art correlate with the dynamic level of MIC analysis: qualities that change from one work of art to another within a given category.
The contra-standard properties of a work of art demand evaluation, which is also the third level in MIC analysis. Walton represents a work of art as W and a given category as C, giving four considerations by which it is correct to perceive W as being a member of C, all of which relate to the four levels of MIC: First, W possesses a significant number of standard features with respect to C.
This corresponds to the static level of analysis in MIC in that it identifies the standard features of W. Second, W is in some way better, or more interesting or pleasing aesthetically, or more worth experiencing when perceived as C than it is when perceived in alternative ways.
This corresponds to the dynamic level of MIC, analyzing the variable properties of the work. Third, the artist who produced W intended or expected it to be perceived in C, or thought of it as a C. Fourth and finally, C is a well-established, commonly recognized category within the society in which W was produced. In this case, we reach the fourth level of MIC—identity.
We recognize the category within society and identify the work as belonging to this category. In order to analyze the work of art, the viewer must personally possess the requisite knowledge about the standard, variable, and contra-standard properties of the work of art, and must also apply this knowledge within a framework of prior learning about the history and society surrounding the work in order to form a correct judgment about the work.
Danto also uses a four-level method of evaluation, but his levels are not hierarchical as in MIC. If an artist creates a new style—S, then all other works of art are either S or non-S.
Not every artistic predicate is relevant to every kind of art; but on the other hand, there have sometimes been artistic predicates—call one of these G, for example—that are widely believed to be a defining trait of artworks simply because no one has ever created a non-G artwork before.
If a non-G artwork is created, then G cannot really have been a defining trait of that particular class of artworks. For instance, it was assumed that all works of art must represent an identifiable subject—the presence of a subject was taken to be intrinsic to being a work of art. The chart format is highly flexible, and the descriptors chosen for the categories can be adjusted to a given situation.
Documentary photographs Understanding Art 21 portray factual information and are also examples of artistic quality. Works of photojournalism also convey factual information, but are not produced with the same attention to artistic quality.
Cindy Sherman is most famous for her Film Stills—self-portraits in staged situations. The photograph is artistic, but the image is fictional. Advertising photography, even though it is intended to convince the viewer that it is factual, is actually staged and misleading just think: did you ever open the box of your Whopper and see a burger of the glorious perfection shown in any Burger King ad?
The print quality of advertising photographs is certainly not museum- worthy in most cases, either. Walton and Danto, on the other hand, would start from the theoretical level and work towards the specific object: the context into which an object is placed determines its status as art more than any intrinsic features of the work itself. The object in question the Brillo Box was placed in a museum and was intended to be seen as art. Therefore, the Brillo Box is a work of art.
Granted, no matter which of these methods we are examining, there is a back-and-forth between example and theory, and the path of logical reasoning can be traced in both directions. Danto began by thinking about the Brillo Box specific , formulated a theory about it general , and then applied the theory to other objects to show that they are also works of art specific.
There are compelling reasons to use all three of these methods, depending on the situation and the object or type of objects under consideration. In my studies, I begin from the standpoint that nearly any object can be a work of art. My definition is: A work of art is a physical phenomenon object or event that is created for appreciation.
This is an unusually liberal definition of art, but contemporary artistic practice has shown that there are no intrinsic limits to what may be classified as works of art. Each object can be traced along this root system back to the main trunk of the tree, to be shown as belonging to the greater conceptual whole.
Dynamic The act of placing the fixture in a gallery and exhibiting it AS a work of art caused people to re-evaluate their ideas of what constitutes a work of art. Additionally, placing the fixture on its side created a new point of view from which to consider the object as being something other than its original manufactured purpose.
To understand a work such as Fountain, it is necessary to begin by identifying it as a work of art. The static level of Fountain does not offer much insight by itself, but when seen in light of a previous identification of the work as art, it can be understood according to the same terms as the static level of other, less controversial, works of art.
To invert the MIC chart in this way can often lead to a more comprehensive understanding of a work of art. Inductive reasoning follows the pattern of observation static , recognition of patterns in the observation dynamic , generation of a tentative hypothesis evaluative , and formulation of a theory identity. Inverse fractal analysis reverses the process according to deductive reasoning. Beginning with a theory identity , it follows through the generation of a hypothesis evaluative , observations dynamic , and confirmation as found in specific data static.
Particularly in the evaluation of problematic objects presented as works of art, it may make more sense to begin with a theory: this object IS a work of art, and then to proceed to prove this theory by evaluating the dynamic and static aspects of the work. In other cases, it may be more logical to examine the specific static and dynamic components of the work and formulate a theory at the end of the process.
For instance, a close examination of the Understanding Art 25 artistic elements static and subject matter dynamic of a given Renaissance painting may lead to the identification of the artist who produced the work even if a signature is absent. Positivism and Constructivism in MIC: Family Resemblances and Historical Narration A longstanding debate in epistemological circles concerns the philosophies of Positivism and Constructivism, a debate that is also played out in the identification of works of art.
Positivism teaches that we can only fully understand that which we experience through direct sensory input—what we see, hear, touch, taste, or smell for ourselves. According to this point of view, knowledge is only found in what can be directly observed and measured.
Watching any given episode of Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel offers excellent illustrations of the scientific method in action.
Wimsatt, Jr. Constructivism, on the other hand, is the view that knowledge has a social basis—that human beings construct knowledge within a particular societal context. While Positivism would maintain that Truth can be known through objective observation and measurement of data, Constructivism views Truth as being relative to an individual within a given society. Taking a larger view, Constructivism is the view that knowledge is, literally, constructed, whereas Positivism would suggest that it is discovered through empirical means.
Understanding these ideas involves a series of examples and explanations rather than an overall general definition. Just as in the case of games, there is no single quality or essence shared by all works of art; instead we can understand these terms by looking at how particular examples either are, or are not, works of art by examining the ways in which they resemble other items that are already known to be artworks. Understanding Art 27 Sometimes, there really is not much to see—the truth about a work of art must be found in other ways.
The narrative approach to classifying artworks establishes the art status of a candidate by connecting the work in question to previously acknowledged artworks and practices. In this regard, it may appear to recall the family resemblance approach. However, the narrative approach is not merely an affair of similarities between past and present art.
The pertinent correspondences must be shown to be part of a narrative development. Such historical narratives track processes of cause and effect, decision and action, and lines of influence. Carroll, , p. This approach is compatible with Constructivist thinking, in that it grounds a work of art in a particular social and historical setting.
To perceive these works as art, it is essential to be familiar with the conversation about them, a factor that is not at all apparent in their outward appearance.
Duchamp determined that ready-made objects could be seen as artworks—his intention that this was so, and his subsequent action in placing these objects in settings in which they demanded attention as works of art have had far-reaching consequences for generations of other artists and the products of their creative actions.
Fountain opened the door to conceptual art and to conceptualization of artworks in general, because it was the concept, not the object, that was truly significant in that work.
As new works of art are created, the roots of the tree go deeper. It could even be imagined that the branches, twigs, and leaves of the tree represent individual theories and philosophies about art, extending upward as infinitely as the specific works continue to grow downward into the Earth. It would be possible to start with a leaf—a particular philosophical position—and trace it downwards to a specific work of art at the end of a root.
Understanding Art 29 Some of those paths would be short and clear, others would be more convoluted, but all works of art and all theories about art exist within this intricate network of connections.
Thus, all ideas about art bear a striking amount of interrelatedness, no matter how contradictory they may seem on the surface. If we view artworks and art theories as all being roots and branches of the single tree known as Art, and if we can see the interconnected nature of these as being various aspects of a single, albeit highly complex, Idea, then the remarkably liberal definition of art proposed in this paper seems to be a nearly inescapable conclusion.
Painting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, photographs, Readymades, found objects, conceptual art, performance art, installation art…the list is necessarily endless because new forms of artistic expression continue to emerge.
There are no Understanding Art 30 limits to human creativity, and there are therefore no limits or boundaries to Art. Likewise, there are no constraints on the theories related to the making of works of art, their interpretation, the various ways in which works of art may be identified or evaluated, and so on. The tree continues to grow in each direction, upwards and down into the Earth, with new theories about art and new works of art continuously emerging. Like a tree, no one root or leaf is more important or more significant than any other, and in this same way, no single work of art and no individual theory about art can stand alone.
They are all interconnected. Grant Wood. Art Access website of the Art Institute of Chicago. New York: W. Bell, C. Carroll, N. Identifying art. Cahn and A. Meskin Eds. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Danto, A. The Artworld. Olson Eds. Gray, M. American Gothic. National Public Radio. Bones [Television series]. Miller, J. National Review Online.
House [Television series]. Stanford, P. Kathy Reichs: The ice queen of crime. The Independent. Research Methods Knowledge Base. Categories of art. In Cahn and A. Warburton, N. The Art Question. New York: Routledge. Wilson, K. Heart-thinking: an archetypical epistemology for the humanities and the sciences.
However, they also point to things outside themselves.
This has been asserted with respect to contemporary conceptual art, such as that by Marcel Duchamp,21 but in my view it is the case for all art. To understand this more deeply, we can consider the work of philosopher Nelson Goodman. Of course, Goodman is only one commentator among many in this realm. His work, now 40 years old, has seen some comment within art history and theory, but in my view it also has important relevance for information studies, and this is why I focus on it here.
Further research may find worth in exploring the question of the document through other theoretical frames. In Languages of Art,22 Goodman presents the general view that humans use symbols in perceiving, understanding and constructing the worlds of our experience. As part of this, artworks do not merely reflect the world, but they help create new ones.
Goodman suggests that humans have faculties for understanding artworks just as for natural language indeed, the same underlying faculties , and these faculties involve a referential system.
Throughout the book, Goodman develops a theory of how this system may work. In one section of the book, Goodman argues that art is a kind of representation, but not one that hinges on resemblance which would be the naive assumption.
After all, an oil painting of a buffalo is a smallish, rectangular and flat assemblage of cloth and oil which resembles very little a living, hulking buffalo. Thus, rather than resemblance, art is representation in the sense of reference, or something standing for something else—what others have called indexation. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, Gorichanaz Preprint 6 Figure 1. Real-life Stateliness, George Washington Presidenthood, etc. Art references in two key ways, according to Goodman see Figure 1.
First, art can denote. In denotation, a work of art functions as a label for its subject. In this case, the reference is rather straightforward. Second, art can exemplify. In exemplification, a work of art refers to a label. It does this by being a sample of or embodying some particular aspects of that label. Exemplification can be not only literal, but also metaphorical. In the metaphorical case, Goodman terms it expression. This concept accounts for how abstract art, such as non-objective painting and instrumental music, can be meaningful even though they do not represent anything that can be described through propositional statements.
With this framework to hand, it becomes obvious that image retrieval systems predominantly organize images according to their denotation, missing their exemplification entirely.
In both denotation and exemplification, artistic reference is a matter of abstraction—in the sense the word is used in information science, referring to a summary or distillation.
In this way, Becker flattens the ontology of the art world, giving visibility to the manufacturers, couriers, shop owners, gallery owners, critics, etc. Networks entail tracing the processes and relationships that link the diverse entities of the worlds. Apparatuses refer to the physical, mediated activities involved in planning and making a work of art, such as using an information system to conduct research and putting brush to canvas.
These concepts are meant to allow different levels of analysis and detail to be possible. As relevant to the discussion here, what they provide is a toolkit for thinking through the broad systems within which art works. Artworks say something about how they reference Information science theorist Ron Day has long championed critical inquiry in information science, on the grounds that such inquiry can expose assumptions and other hidden layers of meaning.
When a document is analyzed critically, Day argues, it reveals how it references, on top of simply what it references.
Examining a given work of art with these systems e. Viviane Couzinet Paris: Lavoisier, , — Gorichanaz Preprint 8 Martin Heidegger, the possibility of this analysis is the highest potential and true value of art. And not only does art illuminate the worthy and true, however; art constitutes it. However, Heidegger laments that too often today we are inclined to see works of art in hermetic isolation, and considered in this way art does not have a chance to work.
That is, art only works when it is woven into the fabric of human life. Modeling Art-Making as Documentation As we can now see, framing artworks as documents reveals the structural similarity between the work of artists and information professionals. Both are concerned with the organization and articulation of aspects of reality, broadly construed. Herewith, information professionals, for their part, can better assist artists by considering art-making in comparison and contrast with their own practice.
The above discussion was an inchoate attempt at sketching the key areas of this sort of consideration. Moreover, examining the work of artists might lead to new insights for information science in general. To extend this possibility, this section explores in more detail how the process of art-making can be conceptualized as documentation.
Beyond information seeking David Bawden and Lyn Robinson suggest, in their textbook overview of information science, that the unique contribution of information science is that it conceptualizes along the entirety of the information—communication chain. William Hemmig provides a review of this research, which allows him to draw several coherent conclusions about the information needs and seeking of artists, but nothing about their information use, sharing, creation, etc.
Though scholars have pointed out the paucity of research on and difficulties surrounding recruiting practicing artists outside educational institutions, few seem to have been troubled by the lack of research on the information use of artists. The work of Tidline, discussed above, is a notable exception, but it is also notable that this work only exists in the form of an unpublished dissertation. Case and Lisa G. Bingley, UK: Emerald, Gorichanaz Preprint 9 artists may not view themselves as information needers and seekers, but rather as joyful, creative and engaged builders of understanding.
This process unfolds in time and is constrained and enabled by any number of factors, from socioeconomic pressures to individual whims.
Figure 2. The documentation process, adapted from Lund. Information mode Seeking Person medium time Document body physical technology mind individual information society socioeconomic culture Each of these aspects and factors of the documentation process can be examined in three dimensions: the physical, the mental and the social.
Lund insists these three analysis must be done separately, but other scholars have suggested that they may be done in symphony. Gorichanaz Preprint 10 person, while technology is the physical aspect of the document. This is meant only as an attempt to locate these various concepts along the documentation process, with the understanding that in reality they cannot be so cleanly separated or aligned.
An example may be in order. Consider a painter who, after obtaining things like inspiration, materials and information on, say, the time of day and season when the setting looks a certain desirable way, stands on the bank of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia to paint en plein air the Columbia Railroad Bridge. As a person, the painter can be described in some detail, if a bit reductively in terms of their physical body e. The process of painting happens in time, through the medium of painting, with particular actions such as mixing and layering paints, and it too can be described in terms of the physical objects paint, canvas, easel, brushes , the individual idiosyncrasies and the socioeconomic costs, value creation.
The finished painting, likewise, can be described in terms of its technology paint, style , its information what it expresses and represents and culture its place in the world of art. It is the purview of information science to point out the synergy among these processes, thereby unifying them and helping the artistic enterprise to advance.
However, as art-making is personally meaningful and often idiosyncratic, phenomenological i. To adumbrate a way forward, we can turn again to the work of Goodman. In the conclusion to Languages of Art, Goodman suggests that there are three intermingled purposes for making a work of art.
Use of symbols beyond immediate need is for the sake of understanding, not practice; what compels is the urge to know, what delights 42 Goodman, Languages of Art.
Gorichanaz Preprint 11 is discovery, and communication is secondary to the apprehension and formulation of what is to be communicated. The physical corresponds to the building of skills, the mental corresponds to the joy of art-making, and the social corresponds to the communication of ideas. Moreover, bringing all these processes under the same umbrella helps show which aspects may be under-theorized and underdeveloped. Conclusion In this paper, we have considered how a work of art can be not only documented, but also a document.