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Art capital-T Theory blogs

Post #816 • June 22, 2006, 8:26 AM • 54 Comments

I present to you Image, Truth, Art, by Marcus Silverthorne, and Theory Now by M. Cameron Boyd. Why my sudden interest? One of these blogs, dear reader, is a parody. You know how I like parody. And you know how I like Theory. See how long it takes you to figure out which one's which.

Related: PORT's 1st Annual Pretentious Art Writing Contest has a winner. (Via Tyler).




June 22, 2006, 9:38 AM

As often noted before, there is no difference. Read any of it any way you want to.



June 22, 2006, 10:03 AM

F. You missed my parry with MCB on the Waveform of Meaning, where I suggest that taking a quantum statistical approach to "meaning" is a possibly path out of the current philisophical miasma.

Gee, a new topic for the Cafe. :-)



June 22, 2006, 10:45 AM

Precisely, OP. Which is "real" and which is parody is a moot point. I'm definitely not about to waste my time bothering with either.



June 22, 2006, 11:29 AM

George, leave "meaning" out of it. Art, as art, is apprehended intuitively, like music and lots of other things, and meaning is word-specific. Virtually all writing about art that does not deal directly with what is there and what it is doing is worthless, that is, worthless in regard to the art as such. Until this is generally understood it will be hard for the art world to talk realistically about it's basic product. I am not holding my breath.



June 22, 2006, 12:03 PM

"... art, is apprehended intuitively, like music and lots of other things"

Like falling in love?

"... Until this is generally understood it will be hard for the art world to talk realistically about it's basic product...."

OK, so lets start a topic over at the Cafe and see if what you suggest can be framed in words.


Marc Country

June 22, 2006, 12:39 PM

...path out of the current philisophical miasma.

Of course, if one's not IN the miasma, then, happily, one doesn't need to search so desperately for a path out of it.

OP and Jack are correct.
The absurd is the absurd is the absurd.



June 22, 2006, 12:52 PM

Yes, George, like falling in love, and just about everything we do. We just happen to be obsessed with making sense of art and we end up making verbal and intellectual "miasmas" out of something very simple.



June 22, 2006, 12:56 PM

Like falling in love with someone who looks like your mother?

Context makes a difference



June 22, 2006, 1:09 PM

You spoiler, George. You gave F.'s riddle away in the first six words of your comment. Unless you were unwittingly parrying with the parody.



June 22, 2006, 1:20 PM

Ahab, sorry about that. I used the word "parry" as a joking reference to MCB's comments on JL's blog. I took exception to his position and I invented the "Waveform of Meaning" hypothesis to counter his position in his own context.

The question of how signs contain meaning is an interesting one. Leaving the art object out of the issue, and just considering sign systems, current philosophical thinking has a problem because the conclusions do not match the experimental results.



June 22, 2006, 1:40 PM

Sure, George. Like falling in love with someone who looks like your dog, if you will.

Meaning always follows experience, if at all.



June 22, 2006, 4:02 PM

The experience follows perception, no?

What do we see?



June 22, 2006, 4:08 PM

So what exactly is the point? That some art theory doesn't make any sense to the layman seems redundant to me. I certainly don't require a parody blog to confirm it. Someone could just as easily make a parody blog of to illuminate how upset aesthetic conservatives are with the current status quo of the artworld. If that were to happen, I don't think the status quo would therefore be validated by the parody.

Or am I missing something here?



June 22, 2006, 4:22 PM

What is an "esthetic conservative", Craig?



June 22, 2006, 4:25 PM

Insert "people" instead of "aethetic conservatives" if it gets your panties in a knot there Pappy. I think you know pretty well what I mean.



June 22, 2006, 6:25 PM

My panties are doing just fine, Sonny. No, I really did not know what you meant. I tend to be a little too literal when it comes to words.

So I guess "aethetic conservative" and "people" is just about about the same thing, one way or the other, right?

OK. Whatever.



June 22, 2006, 6:42 PM

Ah, yes, laypeople, the poor creatures! Like those blind fish who live at extreme ocean depths. Of course they don't understand. I mean, how could they, sadly retarded as they are? But never fear, Rosalind K and her ilk are here! Rejoice and be grateful, all you lowly ones! For elightenment can now be yours--if you can just manage to endure through tedious, labored, ever more arcane and pretentious constructs. I'm ashamed of my perverse ingratitude to the illuminati. I'm sure OP is too, even if he's too stubborn to admit it.



June 22, 2006, 8:03 PM

O but I AM grateful Jack! I didn't think I was sufficiently "with it" to deserve your attention, much less your derision. But thank heavens you've lowered yourself enough to speak with me, a mere mortal, my cheeks are absolutely flushed with excitment. But then again, when you're feeling generous (as you must be today) everyone is always subject to mighty Jack's scalpel wit, aren't we? Even if he never has anything new to say, we're all still very thankful for his wisdom.

So sorry if my use of the word "layman" offended you, Protector of the Masses, do let me know if I break another Commandment. So yeah, thanks for adding something new to the discussion big guy, you're a peach. A real doll.

OP: I just meant that someone could parody with a cast of characters who hate "Postmodernism" but it wouldn't render the arguments of yourself and others on here as silly, just because somebody out there on the net thought so.



June 22, 2006, 8:12 PM

Ah the illuminati again,
Your average dim wit
Be grateful,
You lowly ones

Ah the illuminati again,
You average dim wit
No reed to read
No need to think
You lowly ones.



June 22, 2006, 8:38 PM

You're very welcome, craigfrancis. I'm touched by your graciousness, but really, you needn't put yourself out with so much effort. "Thank you" is quite sufficient. Besides, you do me too much honor. Being a layperson myself, I'm speaking, as usual, primarily for me. The masses are presumably composed of individuals who can each do likewise, unless, of course, they like to be led about like sheep. As for my not saying anything new, sorry if my consistency bothers you, though I expect it wouldn't if I were consistently of your opinion. For better or worse, however, I am what I am, and I'm hardly inclined to change on your account, or anybody else's. My sincere apologies for any possible attendant discomfiture. I know, pluralism can be so difficult.



June 22, 2006, 9:03 PM

I thought you might make it without using italics once. Oh well.



June 22, 2006, 9:05 PM

Hey Craig,

good to hear from you again.

Sign up for the Cafe,
Come on over to Open Table -> The TAP

It's FREE but BYOB



June 22, 2006, 9:10 PM

what's the Cafe?



June 22, 2006, 9:26 PM


At the top of this page, just below the Artblog logo there is a new link Cafe
Click it and poke around.



June 22, 2006, 9:38 PM

Once again, Craig, the general rule around here is: if you characterize, back it up with examples and be prepared to defend your position.

I will be more than happy to discuss with you any "silly arguments" I have put forth here.



June 22, 2006, 10:03 PM

Oh God, Pappy. If you read what I wrote, you'll notice that I wasn't calling anyone or their arguements silly. In fact, quite the opposite.



June 22, 2006, 11:11 PM

I guess it could be read that way.



June 22, 2006, 11:14 PM

I'm not sure what we're talking about here, and I don't have the strength to catch up. I spent this evening scrubbing a silkscreen that had been fouled with ink, prematurely exposed, and gacked up with some kind of residue from the light table. Another freaking learning experience. Today I learned: 1. Make that silkscreen shine after you use it; 2. Don't take a screen with a coating of photo emulsion out into the light until you're ready to expose the goddamn thing; 3. Assume that a herd of barn animals used the light table for frolicsome coupling before putting your screen on it. What a night.


Marc Country

June 22, 2006, 11:36 PM

Not that you can really blame anyone... something about those light tables make you wanna screw on them, don't they?

CF, I think the problem with your #13 is your implied notion that the "layperson's" incomprehension of "some art theory" has to do with the very fact of their "laiety", that they are uninitiated, and therefore ignorant. But of course, this is not always the case, and is simply OBVIOUSLY not the case with someone like oldpro, Jack, or others like them, who are arguably more informed than any of the professional lay-confusors out there...

People "parody" the "aesthetic conservatives" all the time, right here on artblog, although it's often surely unintentional... usually, it takes the form of Straw-man arguments, supposedly characterizing those "people's" positions, but in reality, it just illustrates their own misunderstanding (a little like you suggest with your 'laymen' remark).



June 23, 2006, 6:37 AM

George, re your #12, I would assume perception and experience are simultaneous, but I am not sure what you are driving at.



June 23, 2006, 8:13 AM

OP re#30

See my comment at the Cafe.



June 23, 2006, 8:28 AM

Off Topic but interesting,

Ancient bling pushes back frontier of intelligence 25,000 years

"Making and wearing beads requires an ability to understand symbols and a concept of beauty, both of which are considered hallmarks of the modern human brain. It is also probable that the ancient jewellers spoke a form of language, scientists said, and as some of the shells were found hundreds of miles from the coast, they may even have been trading with one another.

The findings push back the confirmed origins of modern thought by at least 25,000 years — the previous oldest example of jewellery, from Blombos Cave in South Africa, dates from 75,000 years ago. The Blombos discovery, reported in 2004, showed that early Homo sapiens was behaving in modern ways much earlier than the previously accepted date of about 40,000 years ago."



June 23, 2006, 9:50 AM

One for Jack (swallow your coffe first)

Hirst's diamond creation is a small, delicate object: a life-size human skull. Not just any skull, mind, but one cast in platinum and encased entirely in diamonds - some 8,500 in all.... bla bla bla.

Gag me with a spoon



June 23, 2006, 10:06 AM

Thanks, George, but I wrote off this clown some time ago. This stunt seems as desperate and pathetic as Madonna trying, yet again, to be controversial. It's beyond boring. The saddest thing is that there is still a forum for this utterly predictable and brazenly cynical nonsense, and sure enough, some rich moron will buy the thing. At least the diamonds won't lose their value, which is something. Way to go, Damien; you're now a cross between Versace and Faberge. Somebody call Donald Trump.



June 23, 2006, 12:06 PM

Are you trying the examine the temporal progression of the process of apprehending art George? I guess I don't quite get the point.



June 23, 2006, 1:26 PM

I hesitate to give the matter any further notice, but this diamond skull BS makes it ever more clear that Hirst was just a stuntmeister all along, a purveyor of pretentious and empty gimmicks. He was clever and lucky enough to be able to exploit a highly propitious time and milieu, and he did it spectacularly well, but the game is wearing thin, and he's slipping into very shaky ground--even for him. I know there are still plenty of suckers, not to mention opportunists, out there, but how much cheesier can he get? To paraphrase Mr. T, pity the fools who still can't see through this sort of tripe.



June 23, 2006, 3:06 PM

I think it said that he was covering every inch of the skull with diamonds except the teeth. For some reason this is even more ghastly than the shark.

It also sounds a little crazy. I mean, actually crazy.


Marcus Silverthorne

June 23, 2006, 4:15 PM

Though I agree it's generally ridiculous to attempt to explain yourself on another website's forums, I do feel that I ought to at least respond to the suggestion that "Image, Truth, Art" is superfluous or, much worse, nonsensical. If you take a look at my original post (, you'll see that my purpose is to vindicate art writing by engaging it on its own terms.

Furthermore, just because it might be incomprehensible to people who have not been trained in the field doesn't mean it's incomprehensible in itself. It's the purpose of my writing to demonstrate that it is perfectly comprehensible... only that's not necessarily a sufficient condition for something to be worthwhile. That is the next question, the more difficult one.



June 23, 2006, 5:42 PM

He's not crazy, OP. Terminally cynical, yes. Overconfident, quite probably; he's been given every reason to be by the slew of ding-dongs who've been throwing piles of money at him for years. He's entirely worthy of the system that made him what he is, and he knows how to play its games extremely well. But yes, I think he may be losing his grip due to increasingly tenuous contact with reality. This skull thing is unbelievably lame, not to mention exceedingly vulgar. He's treading on Dali territory. Next he'll be selling limited edition rhinestone versions. Truly offal.

Oh, but wait. He could talk the hedge fund guy who bought the shark into buying the skull, putting it inside the formalin tank, and renaming the combo "To be or not to be." The shark as the metaphorical Hamlet and the skull as Yorick, of course. There would no doubt be those who'd call it a brilliant transformation of a classic into an even greater masterpiece. Think of the reams of artspeak that could be generated over it. The mind boggles. And the stomach churns.



June 23, 2006, 6:05 PM

Marcus, I am somewhat confused by Franklins post and by your response. I assume your piece on Ape Art & Michael Snow, which comes up from the link, is not, then, a parody, and it is that to which Franklin refers.

I read the piece, The matter of art quality in relation to art-making methods could be an interesting one.

I would suggest, first of all, writing in clear black lettering on a white or near-white ground. Tiny light type on a black ground is just irritating to read.

Second it is "Pollock" not "Pollack"

Third, it is not necessary to use words like "diegetic", particularly with reference to "past"; I have a hard time ideating "diegetic past". And can we use "tactile" instead of the overused "haptic"? And what in the world could you mean by the "haptic dimension of vision"? There are other examples of this kind of thing.

Fourth, I do not think it appropriate to express an artist's intention unless the artist himself has clearly expressed just such an intention.

Fifth, we are all pretty well "trained in the field" of understanding English. I have been writing about art for many years and I really cannot comprehend a lot of what is on that page, particulaly the quotes from Artaud, which are suffused with the sour odor of academic jargon.

However, as i indicated, I am not even sure we are talking about the same thing.



June 23, 2006, 6:15 PM

Jack, there should be a soap opera called "As the Stomach Churns", starring Hirst.

The opening scene, at the grave, "alas, poor Damien. I knew him well, Horatio: A fellow of infinite disgust but of most excellent diamonds. Where be your sharks now? Your circle paintings? Your pharmacies?..."


Marcus Silverthorne

June 23, 2006, 6:58 PM

Oldpro, thanks for the Pollock correction. I made the same error in two posts.

"Diegetic" and "haptic dimension of vision" are Arnaud's phrases, which I picked up according to my promise to respond to art writing on its own terms. To translate Arnaud's admittedly tortured prose:

Arnauld: "creates the illusion of continuous action between a diegetic past and the viewer’s present within the diaphanous space that brings them together"
English: "it seems like we're part of the story told by the pictures"

But you must admit the latter sounds a lot less profound. And I didn't mean to insult anyone's intelligence. Sorry if it came off that way. A previous commenter had said that this kind of writing was incomprehensible to the layman and I meant to say that this doesn't necessarily mean it's intrinsically incomprehensible to someone familiar with the jargon.



June 23, 2006, 7:24 PM

Jack, It goes like this

(As Arnaud explains,) it started here, the red paragraph fallows.
You can see your reflection in the framing glass and if you tilt your head the right way you can pretend you are in the (space of) the photograph.

(George paraphrases it another way for Joe and Jane sixpack)
It's just like looking at pronography, you imagine you are there, and get all excited.

I have a serious problem with this type of writing because it distortes the facts.
Further, I think the followsophers or lingamists have dug themselves into a meaning hole which does not stand the test of everyday reality.

Now, I happen to think some of these questions are interesting, and would be interested in following up the investigation starting from the ground up. No quotes from "authorities" just raw thinking bantered back and forth to see where it goes.

So, Mr. Silverthorne, if you are interested in tossing these ideas around, there is an open table at The TAP at the Cafe, sign up and grab a beer, I'm all ears.



June 23, 2006, 7:28 PM


I posted my last comment before I read yours, you seem to have an inquiring attitude, sign up for the Cafe and test drive your thoughts



June 23, 2006, 7:46 PM

Ah, yes, OP, the pharmacies...a triumph of concept in the absence of actual artistic talent...except, perhaps, as an artsy stock clerk. We're fortunate to have an impressive (read large) example in one of our esteemed local major collections; there may well be others, but one is more than enough. A veritable paean to the incredible lightness of nothing much, even when loaded to the gills with tons of Meaning.



June 23, 2006, 7:46 PM

Marcus, yes, of course it sounds more profound, and it gives away, painfully, the insecurity and the anti-intellectualism of the writer. When you say it simply - "it seems like we're part of the story told by the pictures" - it engages the art object and immediately not only becomes more interesting but drops the barriers to communication.

There is absolutely no good excuse for this kind of writing, except, possibly, academic advancement, and I have little sympathy for that. I do not want to translate English into English, and, as so often happens, watch the what sounds "profound" evaporate before my eyes.



June 23, 2006, 7:49 PM

Pronography, George? The study of lying face down?



June 23, 2006, 8:03 PM

Doze big wurds cunfuz me


Marc Country

June 23, 2006, 8:10 PM

No no, oldpro, that would be Pronology, wouldn't it?
I think George is talking about pictures of people lying face down... or, maybe the pictures themselves are face down...


Marc Country

June 23, 2006, 8:13 PM

I believe the models for such photos are known as 'laymen'...



June 23, 2006, 8:26 PM

Laymen... Ouch... I think I'm bleeding...



June 23, 2006, 9:07 PM

I seldom use this acronym, but



bruce schiefelbein

June 23, 2006, 10:29 PM

The thinner the reed, the louder the brass. I think that art criticism is most comfortable playing in the gaps. The less that the art says explicitly, the more room is left for speechifying. The critics art is words after all. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance then baffle them with bulls**t.
Sorry, but I lost the thread of high art critism in the 80's, trying to decode Artforum.



June 24, 2006, 12:25 AM

You a funny guy, MC. Oldpro nearly emoticon'd hisself.



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