CLASS SIX (3/7/16 – 5pm)

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This was our Rehearsal/Performance Class — led by David Levine



This session we dug in on “Art and Objecthood” — and began experimenting with what it feels like to try to “perform” sections of this essay. Though the plan had been to run the whole session as a kind of acting-practicum under David’s leadership, the reality was we spent a lot of time just trying to make sure we understood Fried’s argument — the line of the argument itself, as well as its “mood” and “motives.”  As we paired off to work on communicating bits of the essay, the emphasis was on giving voice to specific sections, and to issues of articulation and pacing in the expression of the ideas.  Just trying to memorize a sentence or two, and to say that to another person in a way that felt “felt” (that felt “inhabited”) gave us plenty to do and think about for the last hour of the class.  It will be interesting to see these problems worked out in action at “The Best New Work” in two weeks…



LHP: Fried – Diderot – Street as Theater

Michael Fried’s “absorption” shall we say with the theater and theatricality is certainly apparent in “Art and Objecthood.” I recently read this article on some of his top/favorite books, the first, no shocker, by Diderot, Salons. Fried explains:

“Diderot is a great philosopher and arguably the best-ever art critic. My own work as an art historian has engaged closely with his, especially Salons (the art-critical texts) and his related writings on painting and the stage. In my early book, Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot, I discovered something about Diderot previously not recognised: the importance he placed on the relation between the painting and the viewer. That issue was also central to the development of French painting in the mid-18th century – between Chardin and Greuze – and Manet and his generation over 100 years later. It’s a topic with resonance beyond the modern period. The basic idea is that painters inevitably construct a certain sort of relationship with the viewer. In the 1750s, Diderot put forward a set of claims as to how that relationship was supposed to work for a painting to be successful. I argue in my book that those claims and imperatives turned out to be foundational for modern painting and modern art generally.”

The relation between the work of art and viewer is a point of particular interest for Bridget Alsdorf (Princeton Art and Archeology professor, currently teaching a course on Manet and the enormous amount of literature his work has garnered, including dear Fried’s Manet’s Modernism: Or, The Face of Painting in the 1860s (1996), steeped in notions of theatricality) in her catalogue essay “Vallotton’s Theater of Death” (p. 20-25) in The Avant-Gardes of Fin-de-Siècle ParisShe focuses on prints by Swiss (active in Paris), Nabis artist Félix Vallotton that “explore death as a form of theater for idling crowds,” relating them to contemporary discourses on crowd psychology and mass behavior as well as spectatorship and “badauderie” or gawking.

The suicide (Le Suicide) 1894. Félix VALLOTTON

Félix Vallotin, The suicide (Le Suicide), Woodcut1894.

This notion of moving through the street as if it were a theater (can we consider modes of interactive/immersive theater like Sleep No More?) may be seen in Vallotton’s prints, which position the viewer of the work as a spectator. I just took a look at an amazing publication Badauderies Parisiennes: Les rassemblements physiologies de la rue (1896) (cover pull-out image below) at Rare Books at Firestone in which Vallotton’s prints are centerstage.



From Alva Noë’s Strange Tools. Art and Human Nature about Fried’s Art and Objecthood (pp. 78-79, 241-242, 261-262)


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