This is what inspired me to write this paper, but my intention is not to directly address, in depth, any of the many and various issues concerning arts.
2For more on the convention at Seneca Falls, its participants, and the larger movement it spawned, see Ellen DuBois, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978). For an overview of the period from the Civil War through 1920, see Nancy Woloch, , 2nd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994): especially 326–363.
Is art there to excite a feeling for beauty? To appreciate beauty people have cultivated taste, but taste is superficial, and cannot grasp the real profoundity of art. Art scholarship is too often concerned only with externals. Art therefore is not just for the senses. The mind is intended to be affected as well and to receive some kind of satisfaction in it. The creative imagination of a true artist is the imagination of a great mind and a big heart, it grasps the profoundest and most embracing human interests in the wholly definite presentation of imagery borrowed from objective experience.
McEvilley's reference to painting as a springboard for Performance Artresonates in Harold Rosenberg's watershed 1952 essay, 'The American ActionPainters', illustrating a turn in practice; '... what was to go on the canvas was nota picture but an event [...] The image would be the result of this encounter.Performance artworks are events that have at their core a living, breathing bodypresented in an art frame.
Other writers have sought to use language for its most subtle and complex effects and have deliberately cultivated the ambiguity inherent in the multiple or shaded meanings of words. Between the two world wars, ambiguity became very fashionable in English and American poetry and the ferreting out of ambiguities from even the simplest poem was a favorite critical sport. T.S. Eliot in his literary essays is usually considered the founder of this movement. Actually, the platform of his critical attitudes is largely moral, but his two disciples, I.A. Richards in and William Empson in carried his method to extreme lengths. The basic document of the movement is Charles Kay Ogden and I.A. Richardss a work of enormous importance in its time. Only a generation later, however, their ideas were somewhat at a discount.
In some literatures (notably classical Chinese, Old Norse, Old Irish), the language employed is quite different from that spoken or used in ordinary writing. This marks off the reading of literature as a special experience. In the Western tradition, it is only in comparatively modern times that literature has been written in the common speech of cultivated men. The Elizabethans did not talk like Shakespeare nor eighteenth-century people in the stately prose of Samuel Johnson or Edward Gibbon (the so-called Augustan plain style in literature became popular in the late seventeenth century and flourished throughout the eighteenth, but it was really a special form of rhetoric with antecedent models in Greek and Latin). The first person to write major works of literature in the ordinary English language of the educated man was Daniel Defoe (1660?-1731), and it is remarkable how little the language has changed since. (1719) is much more contemporary in tone than the elaborate prose of nineteenth-century writers like Thomas De Quincey or Walter Pater. (Defoes language is not, in fact, so very simple; simplicity is itself one form of artifice.)
Art is not meant to be a mere imitation of Nature – if it attempts a mere copy it will always lag a long way behind. Nevertheless the artist must learn the laws of Nature; of colour and chiaroscuro; of line and form. So what is the true content of art, and what is its aim? One opinion is that it is the the task of art to bring before us everything that the spirit of man can concieve. Is it the task of art to enflame man’s passions and set them staggering about in a Bacchantic riot?
The second factor; art is addressed to man’s senses. Writers have asked what feelings art ought to excite. But feelings are subjective and passing, although powerful at the time, which is why people are so proud of having emotions. The trouble is that they do not attempt to study their emotions, which would help by creating thereby a distance from them. Art can give this distance, because by depicting emotions, it helps the onlooker towards the study of his own emotions.
Hans Namuth's 1950 documentary film of Jackson Pollock at work is alsoinfluential, aligning the medium of film with an artist's action. Performativepractice is extant in the contemporary art world. At a cursory glance wecan cite Matthew Barney's mammoth Cremaster series and Cindy Sherman'sUntitled Film Stills, with the artist taking on different guises, staging (orperforming) images of feminine stereotypes.
Thomas McEvilley, in a less historically-focused trajectory, suggeststhree fountains of interest as noteworthy in the development of PerformanceArt practice:
Certainly, William Blake or Thomas Campion, when they were writing their simple lyrics, were unaware of the ambiguities and multiple meanings that future critics would find in them. Nevertheless, language is complex. Words do have overtones; they do stir up complicated reverberations in the mind that are ignored in their dictionary definitions. Great stylists, and most especially great poets, work with at least a half-conscious, or subliminal, awareness of the infinite potentialities of language. This is one reason why the essence of most poetry and great prose is so resistant to translation (quite apart from the radically different sound patterns that are created in other-language versions). The translator must project himself into the mind of the original author; he must transport himself into an entirely different world of relationships between sounds and meanings, and at the same time he must establish an equivalence between one infinitely complex system and another. Since no two languages are truly equivalent in anything except the simplest terms, this is a most difficult accomplishment. Certain writers are exceptionally difficult to translate. There are no satisfactory English versions, for example, of the Latin of Catullus, the French of Baudelaire, the Russian of Pushkin, or of the majority of Persian and Arabic poetry. The splendor of Sophocless Greek, of Plato at his best, is barely suggested even in the finest English versions. On the other hand, the Germans insist that Shakespeare is better in German than he is in English, a humorous exaggeration perhaps. But again, Shakespeare is resistant to translation into French. His English seems to lack equivalents in that language.
A boy throws stones into a stream, and then looks with wonder at the circles which follow in the water, seeing there something of hs own doing. This need runs through everything up to the level of art.
Man satisfies his spirit by making explicit to his inner life all that exists, as well as further giving a realized external embodiment to the self thus made explicit. And by this reduplication of what is his own he places before the vision and within the cognition of himself and others what is within him.