In the thread, Is the Loss of Silence and Stillness a Threat to Art?, Greg X made some comments about films and art made in this"noisy and frantic" (read: saturated by electric media) world. This made me want to explore the movies and art made today and compare it to movies and art made in the past.
Here’s the Greg’s quote in bold, followed by my questions and comments:
One of the things, I think, the sort of media saturation and art that comes form it suggests is that there is something of a sort of secondhand nature to the emotions under consideration in much of it as art is responding to the emotions at least partially created by someone else, and then perhaps referencing yet another layer beyond that and so on, so we are sort of conditioned to respond in a way which is based on multiple layers of response, removing the experience from a more “personal” or simple give/take of understanding. Art, of course, has always referenced other art, but the environmental base or cultural conditions now I think are different, and that effects both the creation and criticism of art as well as helping to shape the sort of snark and “irony” responses so common to the internet.
So I wondering….would you consider some of this art to be exceptional? What would be some examples? I’m partly asking this because if the art is so mediated as to make the experience impersonal or less personal, I’m wondering if such a work of art could be very good.
I’d also be interested in hearing you flesh out what you mean in more concrete terms. Basically, you seem to be talking about Post-Modern art (or extreme examples of it). If not, how is the art you’re describing different?
I also would be interested in hearing more about the nature of one’s experience with this type of art.
We not only experience time differently than those from other eras, just think of how frustrating something like a couple of extra minutes to boot a computer feels for example, but we also, I think, look towards different sorts of experiences in art that match our feeling for the world than we might have otherwise. Something like a ballet or opera no longer “feels” right to the experience many people seem to have now, What is asked of them is alien to their day to day living. When looking at movies, it is not sufficient to respond to what is onscreen alone, but to some knowledge of wider forces like the expectations of the genre which come from lives spent in consuming media. Movies, like the so-called CCC ones offer something of a different mode of experience, but we quickly become habituated to it and look for the same sort of layered response there. Fantasy and science fiction flourish as they can sort of “ape” a sort of dissonance associated with art by dint of the surface of the work being removed from the “now”, it is usually a limited or “naive” form of emotional response though as the dissonance it provides is only skin deep.
I’m not sure what you mean by “not sufficient to what is onscreen alone…” Are you saying that viewers have to go beyond what’s on the screen to find some value in the film? And how is what you’re saying different from films and art in the past? I mean, looking for layers in a film isn’t something that only applies to the films made now, right?
It is looking beneath the surface where some less mediated art finds its resonance, and to appreciate that, reflection, memory, and time are required. Do I mean to suggest by this that art today isn’t as meaningful as some of it may have been before? No, not exactly, I am just trying to suggest that the way we understand or appreciate it and where it is coming from has changed and that has had an effect on how we understand it and what art “means” in some ways.
But let me press you a bit: is the movies you describe less meaningful, less substantive?
And I’d love to hear you go into how our understanding and experience of films and the meaning of art have changed.
…less mediated art finds its resonance, and to appreciate that, reflection, memory, and time are required.
…movies you describe less meaningful, less substantive?
You might get something if you combine Walter Benjamin’s withering of aura and Michel Foucault’s temporal and invisible with the fog of the present.
Sorry, busy night, I’ll try and think about this and get back to it later.
“would you consider some of this art to be exceptional?”
How far are we willing to extend the periodicity on this?
Most of what Greg says just screams Godard to me.
there is something of a sort of secondhand nature to the emotions under consideration in much of it as art is responding to the emotions at least partially created by someone else, and then perhaps referencing yet another layer beyond that and so on, so we are sort of conditioned to respond in a way which is based on multiple layers of response, removing the experience from a more “personal” or simple give/take of understanding.
it is not sufficient to respond to what is onscreen alone, but to some knowledge of wider forces like the expectations of the genre which come from lives spent in consuming media.
I bet you could make a good argument about Godard foreshadowing internet culture before it was around. OR MAYBE HE INVENTED THE INTERNET. I mean, he’s already the best Swiss filmmaker, French filmmaker, bald filmmaker, and person ever. But from what I remember, you don’t care that much for Godard, do you, Jazz?
A lot of that also applies to Tarantino, if you say it with a less intellectual and more fanboyish tone. Just sayin’. ;)
^Yeah, a lot of critical street cred Tarantino receives is for his ‘pastiche’, the amalgamating of various other movie references and genre tropes into his own unique world.
For exceptionally good movie noise art, Jazzahola, look toward a filmmaker named Craig Baldwin. His Spectres of the Spectrum and Mock Up on Mu (and he’s made others but I haven’t yet had an opportunity to see them, there’s Tribulation 99 and Sonic Outlaws ) are conspiracy theory-laced found footage documentaries using public realm film footage and science fiction narratives to appeal to some crossed-signal worldview that’s incredibly compelling and entertaining to watch. Spectres of the Spectrum is one of my favorite movies.
His label, Other Cinema DVD, also contains a German movie called Das Net that draws out the military industrial installation we know and love as ‘the Internet’ and examines it in light of a political ‘noise’ that is built from its undercurrents. It’s sort of stylistically similar to Thomas Pynchon: a Journey into the Mind of [p] except it’s actually good (the Pynchon documentary makes two big errors that cause it to tumble down: 1) it forgets the writer has this thing we like to call a sense of humor, and 2) it forgets that that sense of humor is honestly sailor humor from his Navy days, the combination of which means it mythologizes Pynchon’s conspiracy theory appeal without recognizing that that’s the joke Pynchon is playing on his characters).
Some filmmakers are good at being ‘noisy’ in what I would call an exuberant way, where just the extreme amount of overstimulation is a large part of what they are doing in their work. Shinya Tsukomoto, Ken Russell, Nicolas Roeg, and Andy Warhol are all completely different ways of looking into that idea of overstimulation as an aesthetic in and of itself. Warhol’s Vinyl is one part A Clockwork Orange mixed in with five parts hair of the dog, and is literally fascinating in the sense that you are looking at a crew of people who just woke up from a binger and were told to stand in front of a camera and act.
That’s all I have for now.
You might get something if you combine Walter Benjamin’s withering of aura and Michel Foucault’s temporal and invisible with the fog of the present.
I’m unfamiliar with those terms.
I don’t know. Let’s say the past twenty or thirty years?
But from what I remember, you don’t care that much for Godard, do you, Jazz?
Yeah, although I would say I have no idea what he’s doing.
Jirin, A lot of that also applies to Tarantino, if you say it with a less intellectual and more fanboyish tone. Just sayin’. ;)
Actually, I agree with this.
(@DiB, I’ll try to respond later.)
“I don’t know. Let’s say the past twenty or thirty years?”
Ok, for the sake of simplicity let’s call it since 1990. That still leaves me Godard (and Tarantino), Kiarostami’s Close-Up, Life, and Nothing More…, Through the Olive Trees, Taste of Cherry, and The Wind Will Carry Us, Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day and Yi Yi, Wong’s Days of Being Wild and Ashes of Time, Tarr’s Santantango, Tarr’s Santantango, Jarmusch’s Dead Man and The Limits of Control, Todd Haynes’ Safe, Hou’s The Puppetmaster and Goodbye South, Goodbye, Sokurov’s Elegy of a Voyage, Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, Body Snatchers, The Addiction, The Funeral, and New Rose Hotel, Denis’s Beau Travail and Le Intrus, De Palma’s Femme Fatale, Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Jia’s Platform and The World, Lynch’s Lost Highway, Fincher’s Zodiac and the The Social Network, Tony Scott’s Domino, Hellman’s Road to Nowhere, Porterfield’s Putty Hill< Johnnie To’s Running Out of Time, Fulltime Killer, PTU, Breaking News, Election, Triad Election, and Mad Detective, . . .
In the world of literature, there’s DeLillo’s Mao II and Underworld, Roth’s American Pastoral, The Human Stain, Operation Shylock, The Plot Against America, and Sabbath’s Theater, McCarthy’s Border Trilogy and The Road, Murakami, Bolano, Coetzee’s Age of Iron and The Master of St. Petersberg, Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest . . .
I wonder if Greg would agree that these are all examples of the type of films he means. Greg’s description makes me think films that are hyper-mediated—the content of these films are mediated expressions like other films. And some of the films you mentioned have that quality for sure, but perhaps not as much as I expected, based on Greg’s remarks.
I also had the impression that one’s experience with these works would not be personal—and some of these did affect me in a personal way….I can see what Greg means, though, when he talks about “multiple layers of response”—in other words, viewers would respond not to emotions or experiences on screen, but the mediated expressions of these (e.g., the references to films and other aspects of culture). Greg’s description made me think of meta-movies—i.e., sort of a movies about movies phenomenon.
Hopefully Greg will weigh in on this. (Btw, fwiw, I do think some of these films are very good, if not great.)
“I wonder if Greg would agree that these are all examples of the type of films he means. "
I’m just throwing out films from the period. Some of them are more like what I think Greg has in mind, some less.
‘In the world of literature’
White Noise and Infinite Jest are indeed good pieces of art about the noise of modern existence.
Many of the movies listed ( Satantango ?) are like the exact opposite of noise, so I guess we could see Contemporary Contemplative Cinema as reaction (opposite and possibly equal) to modern noise.
…sort of like how noise music and post-rock (contemplative/zone-out) sort of thrived simultaneously and then lead to drone, which is both mixed together.
Right, I think you probably get sort of a waveform above and below the baseline
I suppose there’s some technical based metaphor whereby there’s the clipping part of the waveform and the drop-away part of the waveform (in sound, levels too high or low are both clipping. In lightwave monitors, levels too low are dropped pixels, literally less than black). Drone is mostly harmonic sinewaves. In this metaphor I don’t find Contemporary Contemplative Cinema to be any of these things, but retro classical music.
I think I’m losing track of what I’m talking about here.
Jazz, I need to restart at zero. The thread title is “an examination of films and art made in a noisy and frantic world and the movies that came before it.” Assuming the noisy/frantic world is ‘today’, that means ‘An examination of films and art made today and the movies that came before it’. Are we dealing with movies with what I called ‘aesthetic noise’ or are we dealing with movies that operate in relationship to modern day noise as a specific aesthetic concern? In other words, are we dealing with movies that are a part of the noise or the movies that confront it?
Are we dealing with movies with what I called ‘aesthetic noise’ or are we dealing with movies that operate in relationship to modern day noise as a specific aesthetic concern? In other words, are we dealing with movies that are a part of the noise or the movies that confront it?
Greg should probably answer this (and hopefully he will), but I don’t think he’s talking about the movies like the Shinya Tsukamoto, but I could be wrong about this. My sense is that Greg is essentially talk about films that heavily reference other films or media—to the point where the media replaces story, or characters as the main elements of the content.
Jeez Jazz, way to narrow down a topic! Basically what it sounds like you are asking for here is something like the history of the relationship between art and society, or how we understand culture. Needless to say I’m a little hard pressed to know how to begin to address this, even with my own quotes to act as guides, since there is such a large body of connected assumptions or observations undergirding the claims made. Thankfully, much of what I was trying to suggest isn’t new exactly, though my take may be somewhat idiosyncratic, so I’m hoping that some of the outlines of my statements are already apparent. From what has been mentioned in the thread already, that seems to be the case, so what remains, I guess, is trying to figure out what isn’t clear or more generally accepted, and discuss those points while trying to link them to what is accepted to provide some sort of perceptual overview. (Yeah, like that’ll happen.)
The relationship between art and society is a complicated one because art makes up part of the culture it comes from and, therefore, helps to shape the society in which it exists while also commenting or otherwise responding to it. (By the way, for purposes of this discussion, I’m hoping to use the term “art” in a very broad sense, referring to the broad expressive forms commonly felt to make up categories of art, rather than trying to segregate works within those forms into different camps based on some perception of success or intent or whatever. In other words, all music, movies, television shows, books, and paintings and so on and so forth is what I mean by the term art in this discussion.)
Basically, I would assert that one of the things art does is to, in essence, create a separate “world” from the one we live in. This “world” responds to our own, but is somehow distinct from it. The world in itself, or any part of it, unmediated is not art as it is simply “reality” or normal existence. Art, at the least, puts a frame around some part of the world in order to separate it for our contemplation. Art essentializes the real in order for us to be able to take it in, to focus on something, to call awareness to our existence or perceptions in a way which demands a different sort of attention than “normal”.
In saying that art creates a separate world from our own, what I am suggesting is that what we value in art is a sort of dissonance, a tension between the “real” and the created, but that this dissonance has to also be consonant with our expectations, interests, and knowledge of the “real”, which, even more confusingly perhaps, also includes art as a part of it. Without dissonance the experience of a work would be flat and uninvolving, expected or, in a way, already “known”. Without consonance, a work would be “noise”, confusing, unable to find purchase in our imagination or thoughts, it would be meaningless to us.
Art, then, is limninal, it exists on the border of these two states. It is a kind of forced perception or, as I sometimes think of it, a shared madness, where we inhabit an experience of the world which is not our own but which feels as if it is. it is simultaneously “real” in that it clarifies our experience of the world, and “not real” in that this experience is distinct from our solitary perceptions. It is a tension which cannot be unravelled, for it is the experience is lost.
In the aethetics thread, and elsewhere, I have been somewhat enthusiastic about the idea of aesthetic emotion and/or nondiscursive logic as descriptive terms for our experience of art, this is because they avoid one of the issues which often, I think, mistakes our experience of art which is in trying to understand our relationship with an artwork in rational terms, or in trying to rationalize what we are responding to by attempting to force it to conform with our already held beliefs, thoughts, or feelings. To “straighten” it out, basically, and to thereby rob the experience of what makes it significant, which is that it isn’t our own or “knowable” in those wholly rational terms.
Of course the attempt to discuss the experience or to understand it is no less useful for this as long as the limits of the attempt are recognized. Writing well about art is to be suggestive or to point out what cannot be resolved. If not directly, then at a remove, which is why, I think, so many critics spend time talking about how others respond to a work as that, indirectly, recognizes the ambiguities even as, in the end, they might demand there is a single “right” point of view.
Now that lays out a little of my underlying assumptions about art in general and how it relates to society or the “real”, and from there it might be easier to look to particulars or address something of the differences between contemporary works or experiences and those which came before.
In my previous comments, some of which are quoted above, I wasn’t intending to limit them to simply talking about the nature of referencing or cultural saturation or anything like that, so Matt and Polaris’s points also fit in quite well with my thinking on the larger relationship between art and society or culture as a whole, as those comments too show something of the locus of interaction which I’m claiming lies at the heart of the issue at hand. Now, obviously, I’ve gone rather beyond what may have been expected in the scope of the original questions, but since that narrower discussion depends a great deal on these more encompassing beliefs, I present them in the interest of clarity and simply to see where they might lead, since, as a final thought, not only can we look at art in terms of our response to it, but as a way of reflecting the understanding of the world from time and place which it came, and that, in itself, is just one more significant property of the overall experience.
@Jazz I’m unfamiliar with those terms.
My response was intended for Greg.
You read Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction right?
The withering of aura comes from there in that reproduction separates art from its time and place
(Greg: …reflecting the understanding of the world from time and place which it came…)
The reference to Michel Foucault’s notion of knowledge coming to be temporal and invisible is perhaps a
dissonance if it is experienced as time separated from place. ( Music is temporal & spatial, but doesn’t need a sense of place, does it?)
(Greg: … a tension which cannot be unraveled(sic), for if(sic) it is, the experience is lost.)
Imo, this is one of the most important attributes: ambiguity that is centrifugal i.e. the more attention spent the more meanings spin out from the center. (Btw, one of the problems with analyzing crap movies is that they encourage the self-congratulatory centripetal thought process.)
The fog of the present – I’m not sure where Matt got that, but I believe that it explains feelings of liminality (impression) re contemporary work, but is found within the expression itself in objects from the past.
(Greg: … Art, then, is limninal…)
From the OP: would you consider some of this art to be exceptional? What would be some examples? I’m partly asking this because if the art is so mediated as to make the experience impersonal or less personal, I’m wondering if such a work of art could be very good.
art is so mediated as to make the experience impersonal or less personal
All art is mediated:The carpenter makes the object – he knows most of the object. The owner uses the object – he knows the object. The artist imitates the object – he knows least of the object.
I think Greg answered the mediated-impersonal conundrum: consonant with our expectations, interests, and knowledge…
For contemporary art, interests and knowledge can be weighted more heavily than expectations.
That is one reason I see Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction as reactionary. It would be interesting, to me at least, to look at how he was wrong about photography.
What Robert is speaking of as the centrifugal process is something which I find important for a couple of reasons. One is that, I believe, we are in an era which is placing ever increasing emphasis on centrifugal appreciation or apprehension. The idea of any sort of “center” is losing importance or hold both in the appreciation of the individual and due to what I see as a loss of belief or belief in or ability to grasp a center to society and culture as a whole. The experience of the latter helps to direct the former I suspect as the “feel” of the times helps shape our attention and appreciation.
The second thing Robert hints at, and where he and I slightly disagree I think, is in how our various interests help shape what we deem meaningful simply by dint of our investment in whatever it is we are scrutinizing. The amount of time and energy we put into something will effect how we think about it. This seems obvious enough, but, in practice, isn’t very well delineated and becomes a difficult area to parse as increased attention will provide greater “meaning” no matter what it is one is looking at, so evaluative differentiation becomes difficult.
“I’m not sure where Matt got that”
OK, I’m trying to get my bearings here. I guess my being totally off the mark isn’t really a suprise. heh.
I haven’t read Walter Benjamin.
All art is mediated.
Right. When we watch In the Mood for Love, our experiences of the characters and what they go through is a mediated experience. But the subject of the film isn’t really a mediated experience. Contrast that with something like Pulp Fiction, where the content is film and culture—mediated experessions. This is partly what I thought Greg was getting at. I also thought he was referring to the way much of our experiences in the “real” world is mediated and the way this would impact the making of art.
(Man, I’m really lost right now with regard to this conversation—and I’m not sure if I can get back in it.)
So you’re saying if the subject/content is culture or cultural objects the film is meta-mediated?
Well, that’s what I thought Greg was talking about, anyway.
Re: Greg X: “Basically, I would assert that one of the things art does is to, in essence, create a separate “world” from the one we live in. This “world” responds to our own, but is somehow distinct from it. The world in itself, or any part of it, unmediated is not art as it is simply “reality” or normal existence.”
Art as virtual reality….
“Art, at the least, puts a frame around some part of the world in order to separate it for our contemplation.”
Art as frame of reference…
“Art essentializes the real in order for us to be able to take it in, to focus on something, to call awareness to our existence or perceptions in a way which demands a different sort of attention than “normal”.”
Art as essence.
I enjoy the first two approaches to art. The third not so keen on. Not that my personal preference on the matter is significant to the broader discussion of the thread.
“Without dissonance the experience of a work would be flat and uninvolving, expected or, in a way, already “known”. Without consonance, a work would be “noise”, confusing, unable to find purchase in our imagination or thoughts, it would be meaningless to us.”
Art as search engine and filter, a longer conversation I’ve been having with a lot of different people a lot lately, a new media-based metaphor for media-based cognition.
Anyway, Peabody responds and brings in Foucault and music, I had a conversation with a music theorist in Tokyo who was having a debate with some other dude re: taste versus objective critical analysis (woops, got Jazz’s attention there, eh?) and he mentioned the consonant and dissonant notes one can strike on a guitar, the interplay between those notes, and how to use them for ‘drama’, defined: the tension between. If you strike only the good sounding notes the music is boring, banal. If you strike only the bad sounding notes, music is irritating, banal. Mix the two and you have ‘music’. You can have taste for different types of music, but there are sounds that are just not harmonic.
Re: Peabody: “Btw, one of the problems with analyzing crap movies is that they encourage the self-congratulatory centripetal thought process.”
And yet you bump my Bad Movie Defense Attorney thread.
Re: Greg X: “The idea of any sort of “center” is losing importance or hold both in the appreciation of the individual and due to what I see as a loss of belief or belief in or ability to grasp a center to society and culture as a whole.”
The postmodern was the recognition of the decentered art from directional media. I have only recently come to realize that postmodernism becomes passe because there’s no need to locate the decenter when you have the web, indirectional media. Since nobody searches for the ‘center’ of the Internet, postmodernism ceases to be a theory and becomes a truism, not worth the mental effort.
Is something I’ve been noodling around with. The larger critical theory implications are, the whole encoder — message — decoder signifier — sign — signified thing is going to need some new metaphors.
Re: the topic as a whole:
I really am disappointed that the thread is about meta critical constructions and not about noise-based or noise-reactionary based works specifically.
_ really am disappointed that the thread is about meta critical constructions and not about noise-based or noise-reactionary based works specifically._
Sounds like a good reason to start a separate thread. :)
Mayhaps. I’m just still confused as to why intertextuality (what this thread is actually about) has anything to do with noise (what I thought it was about).
“In communication theory, “noise” is the term used to indicate the part of a … In addition to mechanical or audio interference, noise may result from too much or too little information, or information that is too surprising or too predictable" — Robert C. Spires
. . . but the principle is not completely dissimilar. Noise reduces information-carrying capacity
For what it’s worth, the reason I posted that big block o’ text was only to sort of set up how I look at the relationship between art, society, and the individual, which I felt was important given the rather broad historical scope of the initial inquiry. If you want to compare the changes in the relationship, I think it’s useful to lay out the general outline of how you see the interaction working before looking at specifics or comparisons. That, to me, will be central whether talking about shifts in meta construction or “noise”, so I’m willing to go whichever way people would like from here.
Regarding Polaris’ mention of postmodernism being a truism, I think I can agree with that as that sort of theorizing usually is based on looking at a perceived direction the culture might be headed in by focusing on forerunners or the advance guard at the leading edge of the culture. Now the main body of troops has arrived to make the discussion less about where things are going than the way things are and how these ideas are manifesting themselves in wider application. As Polaris also sort of suggests, one issue theorists have now is that in a decentralized culture it isn’t quite the same thing to talk about the avant garde as the cohort is not being led in any one direction, but all of them at once in a way. That in itself is interesting to me and I think leads to the interest in noise itself, as that is the cultural environment writ large. And while the metacultural approach itself is no longer anything new or particularly noteworthy as a concept, that doesn’t suggest that there isn’t anything to gain by looking at the specific applications of it since it is how the works are made and interpreted and there are plenty of interesting variations on how it is playing out. I also agree with Matt’s quote and take on it just above, which is where I was seeing the connection.