Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

18 August 2017

Dr Great Art Episode 18: "Meaning is in Artworks Themselves"


My newest Dr Great Art podcast! Episode 18: "Meaning is in Artworks Themselves." The meaning of every artwork lies in the object itself, not in any commentary concerning it. Embodiment!
http://drgreatart.libsyn.com/episode-18-meaning-is-in-artworks-themselves


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This is the script (not a transcript, as I change elements when recording).


Dr Great Art podcast Episode 18: "Meaning is in Artworks Themselves"

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 18th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast. I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one.

Today my Artecdote concerns Finding Meaning in Artworks.

My podcasts, articles and my dissertation all assert the preeminence of the search for meaning, through metaphoric creativity, in art. I want to make clear, however, that this is not an attempt to restore some imagined, missing hint of a purport preceding the created text or object. It is an affirmation of the quest for meaning as the central struggle in creativity. It is no longer viable to seek to discover some imagined intention of meaning --- the artwork IS the achieved meaning.

Each artwork is a complex of multiple meanings performatively, actively, physically embodied. As everyone who listens to me knows, I am a lover of art history, as well as being an art historian. it is more than a profession. Historical fact is a necessary and enlightening frame of reference to anchor finer associations; nevertheless what a creator principally intended is always for THAT specific object to exist. The meaning lies in the OBJECT, not even in what the artists herself says about it! And not in outside commentary! Art does not exist to serve as illustrations for critical theory. What all artists try to do can likewise be plainly described. They try to show truths — with emphasis placed on the verb and the plural noun ending. Yet these simple-sounding essentials are the bases for immeasurably rich creations.

There is no objectivity beyond this. In the same way, a purely subjective response is of little pragmatic value, only perhaps inadvertently as a direction for a viewer's own thought or as a guide to the thoroughly perplexed. A theory of creative thought cannot be wholly "objectivist," "subjectivist," intentional, structural, paralinguistic, deconstructive, biographical, or even formalistic. I repeat, NOT WHOLLY. Certainly all these can be true of, and thus eye-opening, about specific artworks --- but only IN PART! People who rely on any one of these to give the whole meaning of a work of art, are mistaken --- overuse of each of these methods of interpretation places the weight of the meanings in a text or artwork in some imagined, abstracted camp far from home, or in some cul-de-sac of unrecognized catachresis.

The greatest danger of theorists is that they tend to create situations wherein works of art are arbitrarily expurgated from any living process and from all contexts, (be they cognitive, historical, economic, formal or various others). As a practicing artist and art historian with strong analytic proclivities and the penchant to cerebrate, I have constructed my own theory in resistance to this, an anti-theory of sorts, if you will: one which emphasizes living process, personal struggle, cognition, agency and historical context. I call it Metaphor(m).

I will do a podcast in the future specifically on that, but suffice it to say for the present that my theory of Metaphor(m) is that the formal, technical and stylistic aspects of artists' approaches concretely manifest content in culturally and historically antithetical ways through a particular trope, metaphor. An artist's metaphoric vehicle is based in construction, ON MAKING, yet is also a trope; hence, it is meta-form but also metaphor, thus my neologism, metaphor(m), (spell).

However, that is not the important point now. As I said, I will go into that at another time. The point is that EMBODIMENT is everything. The meaning of the work is in the work, IS the work. Artworks are creations wherein the form and the content are inextricably interwoven, each mirroring the other in its own terms.

If this or any other hypothetical analysis of the arts is worthy of any serious consideration, it is in its usefulness for fuller understanding and criticism of the works before us: as creators, as perceivers and as creative perceivers. Interpretation should seek the transformative through important questions. What does the act of interacting with this work allow me to discover in life, about art, about seeing, about thinking or feeling? How does this change and improve experience, i.e. "reality"? What is it WITHIN this object that does these things?

In short: Look at the artworks. the meanings are before your eyes.

That was "Meaning is in Artworks Themselves."

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 18. If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my painting-installations.

Some recent ones were on the entire history of Postmodernist Art from 1979 through today, on Metaphor(m) in Art History, and on Mongrel Art. Once again, I'd like to thank Chloe Orwell, Brad Elvis, and the rock band the Handcuffs for composing, performing and recording my theme song, "Shut Up and Paint," a tiny portion of which begins and ends every Dr Great Art Podcast.

You can find or contact me at

www.drgreatart.com/
book me at www.mirjamhadorn.com
or find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all as Dr Great Art.



30 July 2017

Dr Great Art Episode 17: Provinciality in Art





The newest "Dr Great Art" podcast. "Episode 17: Provinciality in Art." Times have changed drastically. Now, what provinciality is has been turned completely around. It is a state of mind, not geography.
http://drgreatart.libsyn.com/episode-17-provinciality-in-art

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This is the script (not a transcript, as I change elements when recording).

 Dr Great Art Podcast 17: Provinciality in Art

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 17th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast. I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one.

Today my Artecdote concerns Provinciality in Art and the Artworld.

Yes Provinciality. A word that commands fear in the artworld.

The standard definition of 'provinciality' in our context is the character of artists or art(sub-) worlds to lack the sophistication of some urban center deemed better, or of having the styles, viewpoints, etc., considered characteristic of unsophisticated inhabitants of a province; rustic; insular. Not knowing or following what is considered currently by the consensus "in" or au courant. Say, painting in an Impressionist style in Russia a 100 years after its halcyon days in Paris.

Times have changed drastically. In our time, the situation has been upturned.

Provinciality is now best construed as a state of mind, rather than one of geography.

Once upon a time, provinciality consisted of knowing nothing of the world-at-large, only looking at local art and culture. Now that has inverted. The new provinciality is a form of consensus globalism, where you are always looking elsewhere, copying New York or the Biennale or documenta and never really looking at the great art occurring around your own corner.

Before I left Chicago, I saw such an attitude kill much of the creativity of the local art scene, driving the city into spot 3 after New York and Los Angeles in the US. LA did the opposite. Looked at and appreciated itself and rose to spot 2 in the US. London finally did it with the YBAs as well, and rose to spot 2 in the world. Berlin is closing in now by being itself! And New York City has ALWAYS looked at itself, its local artists, it has had curators who show those artists, critics who write about them SERIOUSLY and so on. So do not blame THEM, I have also heard such complaint, for doing it right!

In Chicago, I saw that NOT looking at your LOCAL art, produced copyist work, and I saw that the clique behind this thereby actually shrank, not widened, the horizon of a then burgeoning Chicago scene. Under them, the city was firmly provincialized into a receptor fiefdom under a small oligarchy, soon proven fact when LA vastly overtook it. Believe me. I was there, showing with a gallerist, now long gone, who actually told me about the whole "arrangement" going on to achieve this reprehensible goal. This happens regularly in many if not most other places, in our current art situation. Simple minds like simple situations they can lazily understand and which they hope to pigeonhole and control.

I have seen it elsewhere as well, particularly in Switzerland where I now live, with its love/hate relationships to Germany and the US. The new self-induced form of provincialism is a result of NOT being aware of the art creativity around you, of always looking with longing eyes to some distant "center." One should look at artists, curators, critics and art historians involved in the international artworld, of course, yet also primarily interact with ones own (supposedly) peripheral communities. Artist Alex Meszmer has opined (opEIned) that behind this lies the attempt to achieve "a little piece of Documenta, or New York, finally in every backyard." While ignoring your own neighbors.

First, there is no real single artWORLD. As Paul Klein has said, it is a conglomeration of artVILLAGES. Making one or two of those villages unnecessarily sovereign is the new provincialism --- and in your head.

Second, Simon Deakin has written that you can still manage to avoid knowing anything of the world-at-large regardless of where you go or what art you look at. Even in the centers.

Third, an ex-curator of a Kunsthalle told me in discussion when I brought up this idea, that I had forgotten that it is the duty of curators in provincial areas to educate the local artists through confrontation with influences from outside. This is completely idiotic. Such "instruction" is totally unnecessary in our globally networked society. WE HAVE THE INTERNET, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND TRAVEL! Times and information-flow have changed. In much of the 20th century and earlier, one needed to live in Paris, or Florence, or New York City or wherever in order to quickly keep abreast of stimulating arguments and activities. That is no longer true!

Most of the people who live and work outside the few urban centers for culture immediately know everything that occurs in them. Normally, I have seen what is happening in New York City, Berlin, London, Zurich, Chicago, LA, and other centers, directly THERE. And then 8 years later I am "instructed" about it in St. Gallen, near where I live?! This teaching consists mainly in telling us which curatorially-correct and momentarily accepted tendencies we should kow-tow before — something of a "Top o' the Pops" for the artworld, or even more banal, an "Art World Star Search."

There is indeed a small residue of the old-fashioned form of provinciality in the cliqueyness of some insecure artists. Something Switzerland, where I live, is unfortunately world famous for. (Other than THAT it is a wonderful art scene.) Critic Peter Schjeldahl is correct in saying that artists operate best in small packs, like wild dogs, but packs of artists, curators, critics and art historians who have clumped together because they share highly similar world views, art interests, artistic goals. Not just because they want power or to brownnose those with power and to serve as ersatz Fisherman clubs for the semi-artsy.

I recently was doing a Dr Great Art performance-lecture on Community-Based Art, Social-Practice. One artist said to me, "well, we are community-based because we have a tight little clique!" That is NOT SoPra, not what I mean, not really even a community, but rather an in-group, usually one of copyists, as I have already bemoaned.

What is the answer? I gave some pointers in Dr Great Art Podcast Number Seven Titled "What Can We Do? Art Beyond Complaint." Please go back and listen to that.

A few pointers in short: ignore these uninformed ideas of provincialism. Offer and create constructive alternatives, construct your own local artworlds, venues and so on. Encourage others who do the same. Help build up critics, curators, students and especially other artists who pay attention to what is around them, who have independent minds. Network in a POSITIVE sense --- and WELL BEYOND just artists! With your whole local community, as best as you can. The artworld drastically needs expansion, stronger artvillages linked to the rest of the community will be an important part of this!

Provinciality is now a state of mind, not geography. The new provinciality is a form of consensus globalism, where you are always looking elsewhere, copying. Look at yourself, at those creating great art around you, discuss it seriously and critically. Be tough and open. Expand art's audience. It begins at home in ones own neighborhood.

That was "Provinciality in Art."

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 17. If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my painting-installations. Three recent ones were on the the entire history of Postmodernist Art from 1979 through today, Metaphor(m) in Art History, and Mongrel Art.

I'd like to thank Chloe Orwell, Brad Elvis, Mike Hagler, and the rock band the Handcuffs for composing, performing and recording my theme song, "Shut Up and Paint," a tiny portion of which begins and ends every Dr Great Art Podcast. More about them in a future podcast.

You can find or contact me at
www.drgreatart.com/

book me at www.mirjamhadorn.com

or find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all as Dr Great Art.









15 July 2017

My Metaphor(m), a free e-book, art documentation



Get your free e-pub version of the documentation book (called "artists' catalogues" in the jargon) of my huge painting-installation at Jedlitschka Gallery in Zurich, Switzerland based on my PhD dissertation.

I recommend NOT using Microsoft Edge to read it (which Windows computers tries to use immediately), as it eliminates the cover and puts the double page spreads wrong. MY favorite for its visual effect is the program "Cover" (also free), originally intended for comics. (http://www.frenchfrysoftware.com/cover/)

Here is the publication! (c), tm and all that 2013, 2017 Mark Staff Brandl
I hope you enjoy it! Right click, download, then read in your viewer:
http://www.markstaffbrandl.com/my_metaphorm_install/Brandl_My%20metaphorm_e-book.epub

Dr Great Art Episode 16: Postmodernism Exists


My newest podcast! Episode 16: Postmodernism Exists.This artecdote concerns the beginning of the period, or transitional subperiod, of art in which we now exist: Postmodernism. It cannot be talked away or ignored, nor should it be worshipped. But we are in it since 1979. It is a transitional period, true, but it is here. How it began and what it is so far.
http://drgreatart.libsyn.com/episode-16-postmodernism-exists

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This is the script (not a transcript, as I change elements when recording). 


Dr Great Art Podcast Sixteen
"Postmodernism Exists"

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 16th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast. I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one.

Today my Artecdote concerns the period, or transitional subperiod, of art in which we now exist: Postmodernism.

Yes PoMo exists. "PoMo" is, by the way, artists' slang for Postmodernism.
Postmodernism began in the artworld about 1979. As always, there were philosophical texts prefiguring the idea before that, stretching back to the 1960s mostly. That is indeed where the term 'postmodernism' itself came from. Such prefiguring in philosophy is quite common in art and art history, nevertheless these texts do not count as any real beginning of any trend itself. It is not part of art until it is manifested IN artworks themselves, and regularly. Furthermore, once an entity or direction of art and thought clearly exists, we always go back in time looking for antecedents. That is one of the most significant uses of history. It does NOT, however, replace actual activity and embodiment.

Therefore, as a clarification, two of the preferred precursors of Postmodern art, frequently cited by PoMo artists, are Dada, particularly Marcel Duchamp, and Pop Art, particularly Andy Warhol. That fact does NOT make them themselves "postmodern." rather "proto-PoMo."
Conflating retroactively acknowledged forerunners of a thing with the actual historical engendering of it is a logical fallacy. That, together with simple chauvinism is why Germans are wrong in claiming Postmodernism is anything after 1945. 1945 was the end of THEIR (and Europe's dominance) of art, not the end of their important participation it must be added, and certainly not the "End of Art" or anything similar. The dominance went to New York. To ignore or try to rewrite that is simple Nationalist, Continental and Cultural Chauvinism, even unacknowledged jingoism.
And while I have learned that surprisingly many do not know the term 'chauvinism' let me quickly define it. It is excessive or blind nationalism or partisanship, undue partiality or attachment to a group or place to which one belongs or has belonged. Something linked to but separate from racism. It can turn up in sexism, but that is a topic for another podcast.

All endings and beginnings are actually fuzzy. They overlap other cultural entities. History is inherently messy. Late Modernism, for example, has continued on through Postmodernism; artists doing that have produced many great works. But it is the slow ending of an important cultural and art historical period, Modernism,--- no longer the dominant force.

That said, to clearly conceive of when something begins, one needs to plainly determine operative determining properties, principles  --- or paradigms. (For that listen the last Dr Great Art podcast about fuzzy categories and paradigms.) When these are tossed overboard, contradicted, countermanded, --- something has changed drastically. When the largest group of creators do this, a new period of culture is at hand. Such as the change from Renaissance over Mannerism to the Baroque, which was slow but sure, ending in a period which at the first was as powerful as the Renaissance, yet contradicted many of its mainstay ideas --- clear, stable geometric compositions become spirals of activity, lucid color and light become dramatic chiaroscuro and so on.
But FIRST there was the transitional period of Mannerism, which I discussed in Dr Great Art podcast Nr. 9. That too, was a clear shift, one closer to our topic today, Postmodernism's beginning: irony, exaggerated spectacle, capricious "shoddy-chic" structure, unresolved technological borrowings, overly fashionable poststructuralist theorization, and so on replaced the avant-garde experimentations, solidity, revolutionary drive and so on of Modernism.

Most importantly, the rejection of sincerity and reductivism signals Postmodernism's turn away from Modernism. I welcomed the rejection of the latter, but still rue the loss of the former.
What is Postmodernism in art? Over-superficially described, it is a purposeful departure from Modernism, flavored by skepticism and irony, often associated with theory such as deconstruction and post-structuralism; it is anti-reductivist, anti-sincere, playful at best, academicist at worst. Jeff Koons and others. It is clearly a transitional period.

There are some people who claim it doesn't exist. Or better said, they believe that by avoiding or denying the term, they can somehow magically make Postmodernism go away. Sometimes I would love to have that power too, but it is not possible, and is inane denial. Others, or even sometimes the same people, particularly architects, try to confine PoMo by alleging that it is only a simple style tic, and that we will return or have returned to Late Modernism. There is no reverse on this gear box called history. We may later return to certain values of Modernism, but in new fashions. Believing the "tic" theory is blatantly sticking ones head in the sand to avoid an unpleasant change.
Indeed many of us, including me, want to get beyond it, out of it. But not by ignoring or disavowing Postmodernism.

The term 'postmodernism' first entered the philosophical lexicon in 1979, with the publication of The Postmodern Condition by Jean-Fran├žois Lyotard, but reaches as I said waaaay back, to around the 1880s. For artists the beginning can be seen as 1979. Then, the term began to used to describe a turning away from Modernist architecture, an attack on the Modernist International Style. Postmodernism in architecture saw a re-emergence of surface ornament, reference to surrounding context, historical reference in decorative forms, and eclecticism, but not usually syncretism. (For a bit about eclecticism and syncretism, please listen to Dr Great Art Nr. 11 on syncretism and Easter).
At this time, the artworld was in an uproar. It was increasingly clear that Modernism had, surprisingly, indeed been a "period," not the ultimate state of culture, and furthermore that it was slowly coming to a close. Postmodernism seemed a little insipid, even unappealing at first, then later exciting as diverse anti- or retro-styles vied for the pole position. French literary theory of a Deconstructivist bent slowly became hegemonic. Architects were shocked by Philip Johnson's conversion, by Michael Graves and Robert Venturi. Critic-turned-architect Charles Jencks began writing books on Post-Modernist architecture --- then still with a hyphen, not elided in imitation of French until it became trendy.

All we artists read that stuff and the term stuck. It was true enough (it was after all AFTER Modernism in several senses) and yet seemed free and open enough. Then came the second surprise, the right-cross following the left-lead of PoMo architecture: Feminist Art! It had been gaining speed and power since the 60s, but about then it really spread to the art schools and opened all our eyes. Art from Womanhouse from 1971 on, Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago and others, but especially Judy's wonderful 1979 The Dinner Party  --- and "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" by Linda Nochlin, finally being taught and argued over in schools, museums, Kunsthallen, galleries, and studios everywhere! Art that CLEARLY had CONTENT! What our largely Formalist instructors had most vociferously prohibited! It was exciting! Well --- until 1985 when PoMo froze into a New Academicism. But that is a story for a later podcast. Soon.

For now, an introduction. What are the sections or movements of Postmodernist Art until now? Note: This is NOT "Stilkunde" as it has sometimes been practiced --- this is a list, from an eye-witness, of groups of artists who share, or felt they shared, important core concerns and approaches, in the order in which they gained peak attention form the artworld. Most are New York-based, until just recently, which accounts for certain dissent, as mentioned already, but this is little different from looking at the important river of movements in Europe, primarily Paris, from Impressionism through Early Abstraction and so on. True, in many of these from 1985 on, the artists are curators' and speculators' servants, but much of early art was dependant on aristocracy or the church or such earlier European power-brokers. Now the American power-brokers are capitalists, the European ones curators. That is all a theme for several future podcasts.

Let me list the "movements" of PoMo so far. As they gained world-wide "traction," attention.

1.    Postmodernist Architecture
2.    Feminist Art
3.    New Imagism
4.    Pattern and Decoration
5.    Neo-Everything (many 'Neos', "Pictures," Graffiti, etc.)
6.    Neo-Expressionism
     (incl. Neue Wilden, transavanguardia)
7.    Neo-Geo / Appropriation
8.    Neo-Conceptualism
9.    Video-Installations
10.  Conceptual Abstract Painting
11.  Provisional "Bad" Painting
12.  Neo-Conceptualist-Events / Spectaclism (incl. Relational Aesthetics)
13.  Vernacular-Art / Street Art / Sequential Art as Fine Art
14.  Social Practice Art
15.  Sci-Art (Green-Eco-Art, Science-Art, etc.)
16.  Mongrel Art / Democratic Art
17.  Post-Postmodernismus?

1979 till now. More about dates and such in future Dr Great Art Podcast where I hope to discuss each of these individually.

For now, let's accept it. Analyze it, get hopefully get beyond it by maturing and healthifying it. Postmodernism in Art Exists.

Changes in society and economics usually must occur before art can take up a new course. Great things do not come of terrible disasters as is currently a popular ahistorical trope, but RATHER of HOPE based on the promises of new developments. We are faaaaar from there yet.

That was "Postmodernism Exists."

Thanks for listening. That was podcast number 16. If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my painting-installations. Some recent ones were on the image of Social work in Art History, "Kunstgeschichte in Schnelldurchlauf, Sozialarbeit in der Kunst," the entire history of Postmodernist Art from 1979 through today, and Metaphor(m) in Art History.

You can find or contact me at
www.drgreatart.com
or find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all as Dr Great Art.

11 July 2017

Blues Man in the Life of the Mind, Rocker in Art

I cannot work when sad. For my art I need hope, and that gives me inspiration and energy and ideas.


I think much art, especially American, especially African-American, comes out of a Blues mentality --- but NOT 'melancholy' as thought of in the past!


Dr Cornel West describes himself as a "Bluesman in the life of the mind, and a Jazzman in the world of ideas."


I feel similarly, I am a Bluesman of the mind, a RocknRoller of painting, a sequential-artist/comicbook penciler of art history. West is an amazing inspiration to me.


17 June 2017

Dr Great Art Episode 15: Paradigms and Fuzzy Categories


My newest podcast! Episode 15: Paradigms and Fuzzy Categories.
This Dr Great Art artecdote is about a form of definitional conceptualization, paradigms and fuzzy categories, and how that is important to understanding art. http://drgreatart.libsyn.com/episode-15-paradigms-and-fuzzy-categories

--- 
This is the script (not a transcript, as I change elements when recording).

Dr Great Art Podcast Fifteen                                                    
"Paradigms and Fuzzy Categories"

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 15th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast. I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one.

Today my Artecdote is about a form of conceptualization of categorizing, while holding that impulse in check.
Paradigms and Fuzzy Categories

Most people want to define things by making lists of characteristics, or in philosophical terms, 'qualities,' ---  essential or distinctive characteristics, properties, or attributes which distinguish a thing. Definition as listing the characteristics that each and every object in the category has. The dictionary approach, in a way.

Example --- A fruit: 1. any product of plant growth useful to humans or animals. 2. the developed ovary of a seed plant with its contents and accessory parts.
So, street version---  "a thing hanging on a tree or bush that you can eat. And it does not kill the plant." So that is a list: thing, hang, tree, eat, not kill. 

Not everything works this way. Some of the MOST important concepts indeed do not. And I think art is like this, indeed in the most complex way. Some concepts may even need to include their name in their meaning (art or games, e.g. exempli gratia via Wittgenstein), the big High School teacher no-no. You are told you can't say, "A fruit is anything kind of like an apple, but any other similar fruit." And yet, we often THINK that way --- and about important things. Most of all, the name may designate a kind of game situation, a sort of complex enterprise wherein the designatory rules are provisionally accepted, yet part of their use is adapting or expanding them. 

This has to do with paradigms and fuzzy categories! And that has a strong bearing on ART and how and why we understand it, or even why we sometimes do not!

A fuzzy concept is one in which the boundaries of the concept are vague, or varying, in some way, lacking a fixed, precise LIST-style meaning, without however being actually unclear or meaningless. It has a definite meaning, which we can intuit, but one including a closer definition of the context in which the concept is used.

The best known example of a fuzzy concept around the world is an amber traffic light. Nowadays engineers, statisticians and programmers often represent fuzzy concepts mathematically using fuzzy variables, fuzzy sets and fuzzy values. Since the 1970s, the use of fuzzy concepts has risen gigantically in all walks of life. It is one of the breakthroughs that will be needed for a machine to be really a thinking, AI, artificial intelligence
.
The intellectual origins of the idea of fuzzy concepts have been traced back to a diversity of thinkers including Plato, Cicero, Hegel, Marx, Max Black, Tarski, and more. The consciousness of the existence of fuzzy concepts, has been around a long time.

However, the Iranian born, American computer scientist Lotfi A. Zadeh is credited with inventing the specific idea of a "fuzzy concept" in his seminal 1965 paper on fuzzy sets, because he gave a formal mathematical presentation of the phenomenon. Zadeh also developed ideas of fuzzy logic, fuzzy sets and more.

Fuzzy sets have no clear boundaries, in short.

This is tied to the Family Resemblance Concept from Wittgenstein.

This is the idea that things which could be thought to be connected by a list of essential common features may in fact be connected by a series of overlapping similarities, where no one feature is common to ALL. Morris Weitz, an aesthetician, or philosopher of art, applied this idea to art, and I think it is indeed most fruitful there.

First though, let's visualize BIRDS quickly! Or rather a drawing of a big circle with fuzzy edges. In the middle is the bird most of us think of when we say "bird." Something like a Starling or a Robin. Beak, wings, feathers, sings, can fly, etc. But we are perfectly clear about penguins and ostriches. They are clearly birds. Yet closer to the edge of the category. Beaks. Feathers. Cannot fly. do weird things like swim or dig. And Bats are clearly flying mice, not birds, so just outside the category. And cows are nowhere near the circle or edge! Thank God they do not fly! This is overly simple, yet clear, I hope. Such are fuzzy categories with a paradigmatic center.

Paradigm (Paradigma for my German speaking friends) comes from Greek "pattern, example, sample." A concept is a generalization while a paradigm is an example serving as a model or pattern; a template.

Now think of visual art. First the fuzzy-edged circle. In the middle is some highlight of traditional art. A marble statue. A painting on a wall or other carrier. Then as you get farther out, there is installation, still relatively clear, farther performance art. Hmmm, that seems more theatrical than visual art-ish. And yet most of these artists, at least in the beginning, were clearly from the tradition and concerns of visual art --- most of the first even being made by painters! Somewhere also on the edge. Somewhere also on the edge is comics --- sequential art --- that mongrel mix of writing and drawing. Just outside the circle, even just beyond the fuzziness, is much Conceptual Art. It came out of the circle, yet shuns visuality, thus is not visual art, yet sooooo close, and indeed an art. And we are so open in this field we enjoy the near-yet-farness. Way outside is poetry. It can be highly, yet indirectly visual, even painterly. It is AN art, but not art itself, as we conceive of it in relationship to the paradigm. That is why some would insist something is NOT art, and others would insist it IS art. Both are right! and wrong! For they are trying to force a list-form category back into operation --- one expanded, but with clear edges. It ain't so. And indeed let us remember NOT to mix definitional reasoning with QUALITY judgments, the sense of judging superiority or excellence, and taste judgments, whether YOU like it. The three are separate, yet most of us sloppily want to mix them (believing, especially in such Noun-dominated languages as German, that "Art" ("Kunst") means "good art" --- there is also bad art. That whole distinction I will certainly address soon here in a future podcast. It is, by the way, an important logical insight derived from Kant and Goodman.
MANY other things work this way as well. In particular art, and its subcategories such as comics or painting. --- It is a paradigmatic conceptual category with fuzzy edges, and indeed even involves constantly redefining itself as part of its definition, --- more about that redefinition in a future Dr Great Art podcast as well. We will have occasion to refer to paradigmatic, fuzzy categories frequently in the future on Dr Great Art.

Art is a paradigmatic, fuzzy category.

That was "Paradigms and Fuzzy Categories."

Thanks for listening. That was podcast number 15. If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my painting-installations. Some recent ones were on the image of Social work in Art History, "Kunstgeschichte in Schnelldurchlauf, Sozialarbeit in der Kunst," the entire history of Postmodernist Art from 1979 through today, and Metaphor(m) in Art History.

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