Just finished my first TMA - OU (Open University) speak for Tutor Marked Assignment aka essay. Had to explain the change in meaning of a work of art in 20th Century by comparing three works:
Duchamp's Bottlerack - a ready-made
Newman's Eve - a fully abstract work
The Yuendumu Community (indigenuous Australians) Yarla - an installation
Prior to the starting the course I would have dismissed them as..Well, yes now what?
I couldn't find any meaning in them. I was looking in the wrong place - at the work! With 20th C works it's the discourse - the dialog outside the frame - what the artists, curators and critics say about the work which is as important as the work. We need mediation. We need someone to explain what's going on. Having said that it doesn't say we should like or admire it simply that before a work of the 20th century is dismissed or ignored attempts need to made to understand the (artists, curators and critics) discourse, the context - what's the artist trying to say , what could it mean? 20th century art is about questions - raising and answering them usually at the same time.
Here’s my conclusion:
To conclude, the twentieth century removed the constraints of the Academic heirarchy in defining what a work of art was, the discourse associated with the work became part of the work. Each of the works created and sustained its discourse mediated by artists, critics and curators: Bottlerack created new thoughts on the work; Eve raised questions about a painting’s objecthood ; Yarla raised questions on how ‘other’ work’s of art were to be understood - ‘etic’ or ‘emic’. Some measure of the decline in the importance of the Academic heirarchy with its demands for pictorial mimesis and the development of the artist’s and critic’s need to explain these new ways of considering the concept of an art objects that a book on twentieth century art theory of over twelve hundred words contains no pictures, reflecting the importance of discourse in creating the concept of work of art in the twentieth century.
I really struggled to keep within the word count as there was so much to say particularly about Yarla carried with it the history of the indigenuous Australians rights to be considered as human beings. In the end I don’t think I did them justice. Nevertheless a very useful exercise for me and great step on the way to understanding 20th century art.