Monday, November 30, 2009

Proper Appreciation of Art

Recently in class we have been discussing the changes that technology has brought to the idea of art. Specifically, Benjamin argues that new means of production have resulted in a new perception of art in which unique existence is substituted for a mass existence. Does this change in perception mean that we must interpret all works free from historical context? John Fisher and Jason Potter in their article “Technology, Appreciation, and the Historical View of Art”, asks how we can reconcile the rift between the two perceptions of what work is.

In order to bridge this gap Fisher and Potter first set out to demonstrate how this divide has formed in the manner of our appreciation of art in the modern world. Museums’ remove murals from the walls of churches and I-pod players remove music from their live production and in doing so they help to destroy the arts authenticity, which is essential to its identity. Anyone who has witnessed the works of art in person will agree that the identity of the work itself is undoubtedly bound to the being in the presence of the art or the performance. Modern pop music is a perfect example of how the loss of aura has lead to a shift in how we view the music itself. Most pop songs lack many links to context, there are released as singles with no other music and are intended for the mass consumption of the song on radios and mp3 players. The public takes in this music with the intention of passing time or making the song fit their mood while driving in the car and this fundamental shift in music reduces it from a spiritual experience with its own aura to just “sound patterns”. This type of appreciation changes the way in which people come to interpret all works of art because the existence of true historical works of art are drowned out by market demand for easily available works of art. Godamer suggests that this kind of reduction has reduced the world to equipment in which we look as art like a pop song, asking question like how can I incorporate this picture or song into my life for my purposes.

Fisher and Potter suggest that three different theories exist for looking at art. The “presentational theorists” argue that art is free from context and history while the “historical reductionists” argue that the artwork is completely reliant on their historical context. “Historical contextualists” bridge this continuum by suggesting that the artwork has value historically as well acontextually. The method of appreciation that has been introduced by modern art is equally as valid as appreciation with consideration for history. Both ends of the contextual continuum fail to fully describe what it is that a person can gain in the experience in art. That is why it is only possible to fully gain an idea of a work of art by considering it as a Historical contextualist standpoint. It is much like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle which suggests that position and momentum of an electron cannot be know at the same time. The more one interacts with the electron to determine its position the more it interferes with its momentum and vice versa. Likewise, the more one views an artwork historically the more they devalue the relevance of the work outside of that context.

Fisher, John and Potter, James. Technology, Appreciation, and the Historical View of Art, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Vol. 55, No2 Spring 1997

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