Shelves: art-history-books , phd I think it goes without saying that this is one of the capital works in the field of the theory of art. However, what I found most valuable were the examples Danto provides in his unique, creative yet extremely logical and well-founded manner. By concentrating on several controversial artworks and giving a philosophical background, he challenges the definition of art but also provides acceptable alternatives. And he manages to do all of this in an entertaining way! Nov 25, Drenda rated it really liked it Danto is asking an interesting question in Transfiguration of the Commonplace: what is it that we are responding to when we have an aesthetic experience?
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Shelves: art-history-books , phd I think it goes without saying that this is one of the capital works in the field of the theory of art. However, what I found most valuable were the examples Danto provides in his unique, creative yet extremely logical and well-founded manner.
By concentrating on several controversial artworks and giving a philosophical background, he challenges the definition of art but also provides acceptable alternatives. And he manages to do all of this in an entertaining way! Nov 25, Drenda rated it really liked it Danto is asking an interesting question in Transfiguration of the Commonplace: what is it that we are responding to when we have an aesthetic experience?
He pursues this question by investigating two identical objects, ones an art object while the other is not. In the history of art, artists have asked similar questions by dragging everyday objects into the museum, think of Duchamp and Warhol, but Dantos imagined examples make the question even purer. We have three art objects, all art object Danto is asking an interesting question in Transfiguration of the Commonplace: what is it that we are responding to when we have an aesthetic experience?
Then there is the canvas in our garage since my high school art class, that I primed with red paint but never committed to painting. While this last looks exactly like the other three, it is not an art object, just a thing in the world. These examples nicely make the point that an art work is what it is because of the traditions surrounding it, what the world was like around it, all this knowledge building to our attitude toward it.
How much difference does the object itself make? If we carry this example far enough, it makes no difference at all. He would say that anything that was ever considered art was embedded in the viewpoints and possibilities of its time: a portrait always says more about the artist and his milieu than the sitter. Moreover, Danto would maintain that all art, representational or not, has been tending this way since before, but especially since, the time when a main theme of art became the investigation of itself, what some would call the onset of Modernism.
One of the essential statements in Transfiguration is to the effect that one must know that something is art before you can respond to it as art. What is this saying? The way I translate this statement is to say that once you have said everything that could be said in everyday, non-aesthetic discourse about the art object, it is still not fixed by such language, that no one who enjoys the art object finds it described by such language. In order to adequately convey what the art object presents, one must learn when to drop everyday language and adopt the language of the art world.
I think of Redon. One would never say of an actual flower that it was powerful but a picture of a flower can be. Consider a youngster from a rural background with a relative who wishes to introduce him to the city.
When taken to the museum, the child can only supply the language of everyday objects to the artwork, and the only pictures to which he can apply the word powerful are those with imposing contents: Titians, battle scenes, Hudson River School waterfalls. But slowly, after many examples supplied by his aunt, the youngster learns that pictures of nonspectacular things can be powerful, things like a wilted flower.
When he stands in front of an object, he is beginning to be able to choose which language to use; another way to say it, whether to use an aesthetic attitude or an everyday attitude. Danto has a great deal of regard for Andy Warhol-his latest book being entirely about that artist-and he has described how he experienced something of an epiphany when first viewing Brillo Boxes.
These look, of course, exactly like the boxes in the cleaning section of our local supermarket. Indeed, Danto tells us that Warhol truly liked Campbell soups. But whether Warhol was conscious of it or not, Danto suggests that he helped to make art and philosophy conscious that the art object could be whatever the artist wished to make use of, because it is how the art world receives it that makes that production an artwork. Reading Danto was made especially interesting by having read The Sovereignty of Art by Christoph Menke not long before.
Certainly, the two books share many basic premises, the autonomy of art from everyday discourse being the most basic. Menke, p. Danto does not appear to share this concern but builds, instead, to the sense of equalitarianism that results from placing the emphasis on aesthetic experience rather than aesthetic production. Anyone who wants to put the work into learning the language of art shares in its power.
It does not depend on talents or any other gift but the ability to learn. In this there is some irony, as an essay by Danto provided the fodder for what is termed the Institutional Theory of Art. Roughly stated, this argues that anything is art that museum directors and academics say it is, the job for the rest of us to supply the adulation. Gaining entrance to the art world demands socialization into its form of life, into a new language. Moreover, to a unique form of life, the only one that allows and perhaps encourages semantic deferral.
And is not that tradition mostly created by, and based on the assumptions of, white males with enough socio-economic ease to produce the canon? Any critic who relies a great deal on that canon, Harold Bloom being an obvious example, might be open to outsider criticism without the concession that the features of the art object, which the tradition has polished and analyzed to ultimate refinement, is yet not the basis of its status as an art object. If, in the last analysis, the result of aesthetic responding is an attitude, a stance, then the features that helped to produce that stance can be rejected.
This makes it ppossible, for example, that many feminists were produced by absorbing male dominated literature. These same works, however, could encourage sexist rigidity in any reader fixated on its content.
Non-conventional definitions take a concept like the aesthetic as an intrinsic characteristic in order to account for the phenomena of art. In terms of classificatory disputes about art , Danto takes a conventional approach. His "institutional definition of art" considers whatever art schools, museums, and artists get away with, regardless of formal definitions. Danto has written on this subject in several of his recent works and a detailed treatment is to be found in Transfiguration of the Commonplace.
The Transfiguration of the Commonplace