Define Michel de Certeau's term perruque found in "The Practice of Everyday Life" in the chapter Making Do: Uses and Tactics
In Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life he outlines ways in which individuals can imply tactics, making their current employment situation better fit their needs. In order to do this, one must subvert the discipling powers at work. For Certeau, tactics are dependent on time, since space is primarily controlled by the disciplining powers. With tactics, workers divert their time away from producing profit for the disciplining forces. Workers return the time back to themselves, appearing as if they are still working for the employer. This is not to be confused with diverting goods, or not working at all. In order to go undetected, tactics must be employed in cautious and intelligent ways with the most crucial element being the time at which they are implemented. This process is what Certeau terms a perruqe which in french translates to wig.
Throughout the first three decades of the 20th century, artist have been turning to abstraction for a wide variety of reasons. Two reasonable conclusions to non-mimetic painting will be, Malevich’s monochromatic work which subverts traditional understanding of a painting as an opening or mirror through which we see a world or some version of ourselves reflected back at us. Similarly, Mondrian’s grids provide no narrative, blurring relationships between figure and ground, line and color, motif and frame. Summarize the progression to these two concluding figures, from Post-Impressionism to Neo-Plasticism and articulate both their formal and contextual significance.
To better understand how artist get to pure abstraction it is best to start with Post-Impressionism, a movement that required the artist to “organize ones sensation”. The artist’s associated with this movement celebrated the formal elements of painting such as color and line in order to achieve a more expressive work of art. Color and line start to become independent of the object, a crucial step towards abstract art. One example of a Post-Impressionist artist who starts to utilize color independent of the object he is representing is Paul Gauguin. His bold use of color can be seen as expressive, often abstracted, and not concerned with local color. This work would then have an influence on younger generations such as the Fauvist’s who start to work more with abstraction in order to achieve more personal expression. Another artist celebrating the formal elements of painting is Paul Cézanne. The artist observed what he was painting from more than one viewpoint allowing his perception to combine with materials which lead him to produce what he called “a harmony parallel to nature”. Cézanne in his later years would go on to testify to the ending of impressionism, stating that the painter no longer depends on nature, instead uses nature as a catalyst to realize what is within them. This idea was crucially important to generations to follow, especially artist such as Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso. Following the Post-Impressionists, a younger generation of artist’s influenced by their ideas labeled the Fauves or “wild beast”, had their own ideas about how to introduce abstraction in their painting. The artists working within the Fauvist movement utilized highly saturated colors, independent of representation as well as simplifying forms, drawing attention to the flatness of the canvas. Henri Matisse who lead the Fauvist movement was more interested in personal expression and intuition than he was subject matter or theory. Matisse’s system of working consisted of working allover laying pure non-mimetic color side by side to form harmonious layered compositions. An example of this method can be seen in Matisse’s The Woman with the Hat. The foreground of the work consists of a woman rendered with disregard to local color; the background appears to be almost purely abstract spots of color. Matisse then shifted his main focus onto color and color relationships. One example of this can be seen in works such as Dance II, a canvas extending almost thirteen feet long of pure saturated color. This work confronts the viewer with such large amounts of color, they become perceptually puzzled, finding it difficult to take in all the figures and color. Matisse’s focus on expression, working allover, and the flatness of the work being emphasized are ideas that will be present throughout the rest of modern art and abstraction. In 1908 the German critic Wilhelm Worringer published Abstract and Empathy, in which he discusses his correlations of a primitive worldview with abstract art. In addition, he explores the art of “empathy” which consists of most mimetic painting since the Renaissance. His defense of abstraction influenced more artist to work with the ideas of empathy and abstraction in their work. Worringer advocated for the German Expressionist as an embrace of elemental form, an interest in tribal art, and a rejection of rationalized sight. For Worringer, abstraction served to ease the stimulation provoked by the chaos of the world. These ideas lead to the publication of Blaue Reiter in 1912 by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. The Blaue Reiter artists wanted to overcome human isolation, leading them to abstraction as empathy with nature and spirit. Wassily Kandinsky moved towards abstraction in pursuit of a more transcendent art, attempting to connect with spirituality. Kandinsky saw music as the ideal aesthetic example for what he wanted to achieve. One example of this is Composition VII, the work rejects representation and is highly expressive providing a window onto the formal elements of painting itself. A slightly different approach was applied by the Blue Reiter artist Franz Marc who expressed the natural world as a place of essential continuous change. Contrary to Worringer’s view, Marc moved towards abstraction in pursuit of a connection with the natural world. Marc saw natural suffering as something that united all creatures, this led to an attempted to find a middle ground between abstraction vs. empathy, proposing abstraction can lead to empathy. This is best shown in his work The Fate of Animals which still holds on to representation but utilizes abstraction as an expressive and emotional quality attempting to evoke an empathetic response from the viewer. Similarly, the Die Brücke artists of Dresden in 1905 were a part of the German Expressionist movement influenced by Worringer’s ideas of abstraction and empathy. Die Brücke artists, led by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner saw nature as hostile disorder, turning to abstraction as a way to express this. Struggling to filter through the constantly changing nature of the modern world, Kirchner is driven by “inner unrest” and fear of space. He introduces abstraction in his work in order to heighten the stimulation provoked by the chaos of nature. An example of this would be The Street, Dresden, which disregards local color and abstracts shapes to be quite flat while also holding onto traditional perspective in other areas creating unease within the viewer. Another movement exploring and utilizing abstraction lead by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque were the Cubists. Influenced by Cézannes ideas of painting from multiple viewpoints, Cubism sought to challenge the conventions of pictorial space that had dominated painting since the Renaissance. The cubist were interested in how they could separate sensory information and join it back together in a unified way through a work of art. This naturally lead them towards abstraction as an attempt to better understand how we make sense of space and sensory information. Picasso always opposed pure abstraction and would change the course of a work if he felt it became non-representational. This is something I find crucially important when considering the work, it helps the viewer to better understand that he is not trying to transcend the real world. As the Cubists were exploring new methods of working they coined the term collage. During this time Picasso abandon the idea of the picture as a window, instead seeing it as an arrangement of signs. An example of this is his mixed media collage Glass and Bottle of Suze, consisting of pasted paper, charcoal, and gauche. The work combines abstracted geometric shapes, drawn lines, newspaper, wallpaper, and language onto one picture plane. This work attempts to provide the viewer with a mediated experience of place utilizing abstraction to include information beyond traditional perception. Some of the most radical artist working with abstraction would be the Russian avant-garde, such as Kazimir Malevich, founder of the Suprematist movement. Malevich found inspiration from the ideas of poets, linguists, and literary critics. The poets which influenced him pushed to free the word from common rules of language, attempting to create a set of associations and meanings in the mind of the reader. The poets found it necessary to point out how sign and object have no identity. Instead, underlining the significants of the relationships between the sign and referent, attempting to de-automatize it. The poets experimented with 'zaum', linguistic exercises in sound symbolism and language creation. Similar to 'zaum' ideas and Cubist painting the creatives saw a conflict between form and content. They sought to lay bare the aesthetic devices used to de-automatize perception pointing out that signs have an existence of their own. This pushed Malevich’s belief that each art had to define its essence by getting rid of unnecessary conventions. He also sought to explore what happens when things are devoid of function, encouraging his desire to create a zaum version of painting. His idea of this was reaching the “zero” of painting, or its irreducible core. What he considered these works to look like was flat, defined, and deductive. This is displayed in his attention to the surface and materiality of his works. The series of purely abstract works he produced from this were not inspired by his mood or life but took a logical deductive structure. This meant that the marks and paint applied only deducted from the structure of the painting itself. An example of this kind of painting would be his Suprematist Painting (White on White) which consists of a white square on a slightly different white background. This type of pure abstraction transcends all traditional ideas of what a painting is and for Malevich is the conclusion to the “zero of painting”. Similarly, another artist seeking pure transcendental abstraction was Piet Mondrian. Initially a landscape painter influenced by the Cubist movement, his work evolved to become purely abstract. As one of the founders of the De Stijl movement, based on reductive theory, Mondrian had a great influence on a wide variety of arts. He then went on to develop a purely abstract form of painting which he called Neo-Plasticism. This style is what he is best known for, taking a logical approach, utilizing grids of geometric shapes of primary colors with horizontal black lines, on a white ground. An example of this is Composition with Yellow, Red, Black, Blue, Grey, which completely dissolves any push-pull relationship, as all of the elements appear on the same plane. He regarded the works as spiritual which is a common characteristic of many artists working with pure abstraction. However, he restricted himself to the essential formal elements of painting in an attempt to create a universal picture that established it’s expression with primary colors and straight lines. In conclusion, abstraction is a very present idea in modern art and almost every artist working during this period, to some extent involved abstraction in their work. What is most beneficial to know, is not if a work is abstracted or not, instead to what degree is it abstracted and why. For many artist abstraction became a platform to celebrate the more formal qualities of art. This allowed them to be more or less expressive, empathize with or confront the viewer, transcend context with a more universal art form, as well as challenge the traditional notions of aesthetics and ontology of art.
What impact did the invention of photography have on medium specificity,, specifically as it relates to the conditions modernism and postmodernism. Following your response, list one key term you came across and define it.
According to Osip Brik, photography's precision, speed, and affordability quickly made the medium "the most appropriate contemporary mode of realism". This left the objective of painting to reinterpret nature as opposed to representing it. This helps one understand some of the conditions which call for an art with a "self-critical tendency", This art that "makes use of the characteristic methods of the discipline to criticize the discipline" is what defines Modernism. In Clement Greenberg's article 'Modernist Painting' he explains how the arts need to justify their separation from other activities, in order to demonstrate the valuable experiences obtained by them. As stated by Greenberg, this called to issue the idea of medium specificity. Art needed to demonstrate its value, additionally, each particular art (painting, sculpture, ect.) had to demonstrate its unique and irreducible characteristics. This idea of making art in order to define art characterizes much of Modernism. For Greenberg, to "make pictures" means to create or choose a flat surface and deliberately limit that surface. This raises challenges of the arts becoming so self defining and negating, there is no longer freedom. A model solution for this dilemma is provided in Rosalind Krauss' essay 'Sculpture in the Expanded Field'. In modernist sculpture, we see a similar dilemma arise, as sculpture attempts to operate in relation to the absence of its base and place. As stated by Krauss, this left the works to be mostly self-referential, their "inverse logic became pure negativity". Then came the realization that sculpture's definition of what was not architecture and not landscape lead to another realization. If the "pair of negatives" are inverted the "two binaries transform into a expanded field" (see diagram p.37 Krauss). With the expanded field and broader definition of sculpture the situation was no longer characteristically modernism. The idea of postmodernism is proposed by Krauss as a more appropriate term, Krauss states that postmodernism is practice not defined in relation to medium, instead by relation to the logical operations on a set of cultural terms, in which any medium is suited for, artist would proceed to make work utilizing a wide rage of them. This shifted the arts focus from defining itself to dealing predominantly with issues of culture. KEY TERM Postmodernism- Art that contradict aspects of Modernism regarding low vs. high art, originality, authenticity, and medium specificity. Artists defined in relation to what they do with cultural terms as opposed to what they do with a medium.