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blankism

Post #435 • December 22, 2004, 1:22 PM • 17 Comments

blankism BLANK-izm n. (fr. Eng. "fill-in-the-blank," such as a test) A style of art that relies excessively or exclusively on viewer interpretation for meaning, relevance, or importance. adj. blankist

Usage. "William Stover of the Boston MFA says that the work of Cerith Wyn Evans leaves the viewer to 'interpret and experience the work in his or her own way,' but I find it merely blankist."

See also: Rodriguez, Norberto; et al.

Comment

1.

oldpro

December 22, 2004, 9:45 PM

Good idea, working up a vocabulary to describe the BS, now that we have made the resonance/wonder distinction.

Other isms, off the top of my head:

hiatusism
lapsism
voidism
emptism
nothingism
vacancism
vacuitism
vacuumism
lacunism
cavitism
interimism

I like lacunism. Has a nice ring to it. But Blankism will do.

2.

Jack

December 22, 2004, 9:55 PM

Well, Franklin, I'm glad you finally got done fussing over which kimomo to wear and got the Wednesday post out.

3.

Jack

December 22, 2004, 11:54 PM

So William Stover of the Boston MFA says the work of Cerith Wyn Evans leaves the viewer to 'interpret and experience the work in his or her own way.' Well, DUH. The same could be said of any work by anybody. Where do they get these people?

4.

Dan

December 23, 2004, 1:28 AM

So William Stover of the Boston MFA says the work of Cerith Wyn Evans leaves the viewer to 'interpret and experience the work in his or her own way.' Well, DUH. The same could be said of any work by anybody. Where do they get these people?

Funny, isn't it, how the assertion that all works are open to interpretation is so easily rolled over into an argument in favor of only works that are explicitly so.

...and the iron fist of theory closes ever tighter.

5.

oldpro

December 23, 2004, 3:25 AM

Dan: I don't get the gist of your statement. What does the "iron fist of theory" have to do with what Jack said?

Just asking.

6.

Dan

December 23, 2004, 5:09 AM

Just a little bit of nonsense brought on by a tiring work day.

Please disregard.

7.

Miguel Sánchez

December 23, 2004, 6:17 AM

"Blankism"; yeah, that works.

8.

Oldpro

December 23, 2004, 8:05 AM

Oh, too bad, Dan. Sounded intersting,

9.

vld

December 23, 2004, 9:04 AM

I'm a fan of Artblog.net,

Thought I'd add a reference from my persoanl library -
yet another "ism" to add the mix: "subjectiveism"

from the book: "the new subjectivisim" by donale kuspit -

and finally - my personal perspective:
"Explaining art reduces it to the words used to explain it. Titles can explain. . . "

blankism . . .

10.

Dan

December 23, 2004, 11:47 AM

On second thought, let me elaborate on what I think I was trying to get at...

Funny, isn't it, how the assertion that all works are open to interpretation is so easily rolled over into an argument in favor of only works that are explicitly so.

It's this move from the descriptive to the simplisticly prescriptive that sometimes makes all the difference in the world towards reducing art to an overdetermined and prosaic conceptual formalism.

11.

mr strauss

December 23, 2004, 3:56 PM

I'm commenting on a comment here, rather than on the post itself, which was, btw, interesting.

"Explaining art reduces it to the words used to explain it."

No. More than just reductive. This idea is silly.

Words have no effect on the art itself, but may impact the way that it interacts with persons, and that is a good thing.

We artists must develop substantial cognitive scaffolding on which to hang our understanding of the process by which we create. That process itself should not be explicitly top down, of course, but the depth and breadth of our cognitive schema regarding the practical process of making good art, of understanding what constitutes failed art, and of avoiding the missteps that result in such failure, is crucial.

12.

catfish

December 23, 2004, 5:10 PM

mr strauss has an interesting variation of the "if you want to understand blah-blah you must first understand blooey-blooey"

He says in effect that if you want to make art you must first develop "substantial cognitive scaffolding ... and so on".

I don't think so. You do have to experience good art as good, and perhaps it helps to experience bad art (there is no way to avoid the bad, in any case). But it just isn't as complicated as mr strauss makes it seem.

Then just do it.

13.

alesh

December 23, 2004, 5:32 PM

Mabe you're smarter then all the rest of us, catfish. Or maybe you're leaping to conclusions based on your own experience. I'm sure you've seen a lot of good and bad art in your time, but i'm sure you've also spent lots of class-time learning about art and art history, and probably have read quite a bit about art.

I'm sure it's tempting to believe that you would be just as sensitive to great art, both in viewing and in creating, if you hadn't had all the book-learning. But you'll forgive me for being sceptical.

After all, if witing about art doesn't do anything positive for the art in question, then why are we --why are you-- wasting our time with all this writing?

14.

Phil Isteen

December 23, 2004, 5:42 PM

What 'style(s)' of art do not rely on viewer interpretation to derive meaning, relevance, or importance?

15.

Franklin

December 23, 2004, 6:32 PM

Phil: None. Please note the "excessively" and "exclusively".

Alesh, Mr. Strauss: probably we need at least some conceptual framework ("This flat, colorful thing here on the wall, we call that a painting") but I doubt it has to have the kind of breadth that many people call for. I feel suspicious that much of the so-called conceptual framework amounts to the pedantry about shiitake mushrooms I recently wrote about, and serves as a crutch for the work rather than an appreciation.

vld: thank you.

Dan: you have a point there. The maxim might read, "Describe, don't prescribe."

16.

oldpro

December 23, 2004, 7:38 PM

Now, listen up, folks.

We recently went through an excellent exchange, involving many of our regulars, concerning professor Greebblatt's division of reactions to art to the categories of "wonder" and "resonance". We do not all like these terms (I don't) but we found that they provided a useful way to divide our reaction to art into two categories: the "wonder", which is the direct, immediate, emotive reaction to art, and "resonance", which is what goes on around it.

As I recall, just about all of the bloggers, even those who usually disagree, seemed to go along with this idea, and most of them allowed that the "wonder", was essential, primary, fundmental, and so forth, in other words, if the "wonder" ain't there, the "resonance" is more or less beside the point. (I am oversimplifying, but please bear with it).

it might help our discussions to keep this distinction as a kind of rule of thumb. it certainly would have helped make a bit more sense in the discussions above. For example, I think Catfish would agree that learning about art discursively is helpful, in the long run, to looking at art (he is against interfering with experience, not learning in general), and I don't think Mr. Strauss really thinks that words affecting they way art interacts with us is necessarily always a "good thing" - I suspect that he just did not think that one through.

If we can isolate the "wonder" part from the "resonance" part it will help us talk about their interrelationship moire fruitfully.

17.

catfish

December 24, 2004, 4:30 AM

Theory is way overdone notwithstanding the fact I'm one of those who have helped over do it.

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