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[Xmca-l] Re: discussing "Posing the question"



Rolf asked me to elaborate a little on why I think that treating gestures
as iconic or deictic circumvents the ideal content of an artwork. I
am assuming that a deictic is a pointing gesture; for example, standing in
front of a Munch painting and pointing to it, so as to direct the attention
of the viewer to the painting and away from myself. I am also assuming that
"icon" means what it means in the work of C.S. Peirce; that is, a kind of
firstness, a presentation of the art object as mere object and not as
a signifier pointing to some other meaning for some other person.

I realize that in the work of David McNeill it means something slightly
different, something closer to an icon on the desktop of my computer.
It means that a gesture has meaning because of some physical similarity to
an actual action, as when I lift my hands to indicate standing up, or
I reach with my hands to indicate reaching, or when when I portray a wolf
by using a shadow puppet of my hand with a prehensile pinkie as its jaw and
my thumb as its ear. But McNeill is using the term "iconic" to contrast
such gestures with "beats" (which really just have a textual function,
ordering the stresses of what I say) on the one hand, and with
"metaphorics" (which have a more symbolic relationship to meaning, as when
I "give" you a box to suggest defining a particular subject). I have always
read this as a kind of cline, going from "beats" which have very little
ideal content (they really do order stresses in speech, according to my
data anyway) to metaphorics, which are essentially symbols (there isn't
really any "up" in "thumbs up").

It seems to me that in both iconic posing and deictic posing the emphasis
is on the artwork as object, the way that, for example, it might be listed
in the catalogue of an auction house rather than the way it is displayed in
a museum. In both cases the object is a physical object, in more or less
good condition, something that can be owned or sold, pointed to or
imitated, but which does not have to be interpreted or even appreciated.
It's in that sense that I think that pointing and reproducing an art work
does not necessarily include its ideal value and may even exclude it. Of
course, I realize that the distinction I'm making is a relative one, but so
is the distinction between a child who is scribbling and coloring (that is,
repeating an action for the sake of the action itself) and a child who is
doodling or drawing (that is, allowing signs and even symbols to arise in
his or her artwork). A relative distinction is still real.

In an earlier thread, Andy argued that intellect was the most finished form
of human consciousness, despite the fact that it is monologic. Of course,
in a sense, he is right, but I think it is in a rather tautological sense:
it is only in a monologic form that (one) human consciousness can be said
to be finished (in death). I prefer to think that Kozulin's distinction
between consciousness and intellect means two different poles inherent in
all communication, e.g. from the more narrativistic (but still
dialogic) mode of writing to the more dialogical (but nevertheless
narrativistic) mode of speaking. In that sense, the iconic and deictic
treatment of an artwork is more or less an acknowledgement of its existence
as an object but a refusal of existence as an act of human communication,
while, say, a more parodistic treatment at least  acknowledges the
intention to communicate on the part of the artist and the very best of
Rolf's data does indeed show the museum viewer interrogating and obtaining
a dialogic response from Munch the man.

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies


On 30 May 2014 00:13, Rolf Steier <rolf.steier@intermedia.uio.no> wrote:

> David and Ed, I'm going to think about this a little more but first thank
> you for these thoughtful responses,
> rolf
>
>
> On Wed, May 28, 2014 at 8:16 PM, Ed Wall <ewall@umich.edu> wrote:
>
> > Rolf
> >
> >        Thanks for giving me an opportunity to think more about mimesis.
> > Some rambling follows:
> >
> >      Gebauer and Wulf in Memesis (around p315 there is a summary of much
> > of what I am paraphrasing/interpreting) suggest that mimesis concerns the
> > making  [I think here about your conversation with Huw about 'discovery'
> > and 'making'] of symbolic worlds with, for instance, gesture, Such worlds
> > have an existence of their own; i.e. they can be understood from within
> in
> > their own terms. These symbolic worlds are transformations of a prior
> world
> > (the world of 'Others') into the world of 'I/we.'  Mimesis is realized,
> in
> > essence, as a dialogic activity (I don't think this necessarily excludes
> > narration, but I could be wrong) taken by participants, a deed or doing.
> In
> > this frame Mimetic Gesturing is one way of transforming the 'Other';
> > however depiction (as distinct from Mimetic Gesturing) seems another.
> >
> >     So, perhaps (and this is complete speculation) the girls have
> > purposively intertwined their depiction of the body of the figure in the
> > work with its title to produce/make, in their eyes, a 'standalone'
> > dialogical event (or symbolic world). Perhaps, the gesturing is for the
> > self and/or friend (I mean I/we). In any case, in this framing the
> > transformation has its roots in the object of representation and is
> > realized in the gesture and its uptake by the recipient. So your
> questions
> > below are critical.
> >
> >     I hope this makes some sort of sense as I am still thinking about
> > mimesis and depiction.
> >
> > Best
> >
> > Ed
> >
> > On May 27, 2014, at  4:24 PM, Rolf Steier wrote:
> >
> > > Hi Ed,
> > > Thank you for asking this because I had been reflecting some after
> > sending the previous email and thought this topic might need more
> > discussion. I view mimesis as one form of gestural depiction. Streeck
> > defines Mimetic Gesturing as “the performance of gestures to depict
> > physical acts or behavior” (p 144 of Gesturecraft).
> > >
> > > I absolutely agree that posing with an artwork can be interpreted as
> > mimesis. Where this becomes more complex (and I think interesting!) - Is
> > when we ask what it is that is being depicted? If we use Episode 1 from
> the
> > article (Figure 6 on p160) - it might be that the girls are depicting the
> > body of the figure in the work. Another interpretation could be that they
> > are depicting the painting itself (with the implication that they are
> > acknowledging the intentionality of the artist in forming her own
> > depiction). I believe that at some point in this interaction, the girls
> are
> > implicitly acknowledging the intentionality of the artist because the
> girl
> > on the left incorporates the title of the work (Four Artists) into her
> > interpretation. I chose to use the term ‘posing gesture’ as a form of
> > gestural depiction that is distinct from mimesis. I think that
> > relationships between the artist, figure, artwork, and visitors are
> complex
> > and that some aspect of these relationships might be lost if we interpret
> > it only as a gesture “depicting a physical act.” There is also the issue
> of
> > who the gesture is for (the self, the friend, or both). Perhaps this
> > contradicts my previous email a little, but thank you for asking me to
> > reflect on it again.
> > >
> > > Ed - what do you think? Maybe there is a broader question here about
> the
> > object of representation.. what a gesture is of? and who it is for?
> > >
> > >
> > > On Tue, May 27, 2014 at 9:15 PM, Ed Wall <ewall@umich.edu> wrote:
> > > Rolf
> > >
> > >       If you would, could you say more why you think 'depiction' rather
> > than 'mimesis' better captures the dialogic relationship between the
> > participants. An example from your paper would be helpful.
> > >
> > > Ed Wall
> > >
> > > On May 27, 2014, at  8:14 AM, Rolf Steier wrote:
> > >
> > > > Hello David,
> > > >
> > > > Thank you for your comments and for sharing your book as well.
> > > >
> > > > You noted that you found the idea of young people posing for Flickr a
> > > > little depressing - and I can certainly understand this. Not to add
> to
> > this
> > > > depression, but remember that few young people even visit museums at
> > all
> > > > outside of school visits! I don’t think that ‘flickr’ was a
> > particularly
> > > > large motivator in the end. The most surprising finding that led to
> > this
> > > > study was that visitors “pose” naturally. Many many people when
> > approaching
> > > > Munch’s “The Scream” would bring their hands to their faces to
> > “scream” as
> > > > a part of normal museum practice. I think the exciting thing is
> > building
> > > > off of this natural tendency to create richer engagements and
> > conversations
> > > > with and about the art- Not to replace interactions with the works
> with
> > > > photo taking activities. Although it is also interesting to see what
> > > > expectations youth bring to these experiences.
> > > >
> > > > You also provided a few questions that I wanted to follow up on. You
> > > > mention a distinction between “mimesis” and “depiction” that I think
> is
> > > > really interesting. I actually spent a great deal of time debating
> the
> > > > appropriate concept to use to describe these activities and I think
> > both
> > > > are appropriate and share subtle distinctions. I agree that ‘mimesis’
> > > > implies a dialogic relationship between the participant and the
> > artwork -
> > > > but I would also argue that ‘depiction’ better captures the dialogic
> > > > relationship between the participants. I used the concept of
> depiction
> > to
> > > > be consistent with Streeck’s framework.
> > > >
> > > > You also mention that assuming gestures are either iconic or deictic
> > > > suggests that artwork does not have ideal content? Maybe you can
> > elaborate
> > > > on what you mean by ideal content? I hope that I didn’t give the
> > impression
> > > > that I feel visitor gestures are limited to these types (A goal of
> this
> > > > article was to introduce posing as a unique gestural activity).
> > > >
> > > > Thank you!
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > On Tue, May 27, 2014 at 12:18 AM, David Kellogg <
> dkellogg60@gmail.com
> > >wrote:
> > > >
> > > >> I think I'd like to try to tie the discussion of Rolf Steier's
> > intriguing
> > > >> article to a book we published in January here in Korea, a book
> which
> > is
> > > >> also related to the discussion of Vygotsky, the Imagination, and
> > > >> Creativity.
> > > >>
> > > >> Since we are discussing posing and artworks, let me provide the
> cover
> > of
> > > >> our book, a painting by the Russian children's portraitist Nikolai
> > > >> Bogdanov-Belsky.
> > > >>
> > > >> http://www.aladin.co.kr/shop/wproduct.aspx?ISBN=8994445536
> > > >>
> > > >> The book contains three very different works by Vygotsky on
> > creativity and
> > > >> imagination, which we translated into Korean: his "popular science"
> > account
> > > >> ("Imagination and Creativity in the Child", which was published in
> > JREEP in
> > > >> 2004), "Imagination and Creativity in Adolescence", which was
> > published in
> > > >> "Pedology of the Adolescent" and which can be found in the Vygotsky
> > Reader
> > > >> (Blackwell, 1994) and "Imagination and its Development in
> Childhood",
> > part
> > > >> of which appears in Volume One of the English Collected Works.
> > > >>
> > > >> But the cover painting really says it all in gesture: Vygotsky
> > asks--and
> > > >> answers--the question of why one form of creativity after another is
> > > >> exhausted, when the child's imagination is still developing
> > vigorously. The
> > > >> child poses. Then, at a certain point, the child becomes
> > disillusioned with
> > > >> mere posing and becomes interested in drawing. The child draws.
> Then,
> > at a
> > > >> certain point (usually right when the child appears to be making
> real
> > > >> progress), the child becomes disillusioned with drawing and takes up
> > > >> writing. The child writes. Then, at a certain point (usually, as
> > captured
> > > >> by Bogdanov-Belsky, right when the child begins to learn how to
> write
> > > >> compositions in school) the child becomes disillusioned. The now
> > powerless
> > > >> and disillusioned daydream, which we extravagantly call
> > "imagination", is
> > > >> all that is left.
> > > >>
> > > >> I liked the article. I loved the idea that recreating a painting as
> a
> > > >> "tableau vivant" includes both an external plane (dialogue) and and
> > > >> internal one (narrative). I thought the ability of the author to
> > recover a
> > > >> kind of underlying structure of pose, comparison, focus, and
> > adjustment
> > > >> from the careful analysis of two incidents was actually very
> > convincing and
> > > >> shows the power of a theoretically informed analysis over a
> > statistically
> > > >> equipped but merely empirical one. I also find this underlying
> > structure
> > > >> far more helpful than the usual vague talk about extra-corporeal
> > artistic
> > > >> experience and reflection that we get, even in the work of Bakhtin.
> > > >>
> > > >> But I confess, I found the idea that children spend their days in
> > museums
> > > >> recreating paintings with their bodies for a Flickr account a little
> > > >> depressing. I wonder if there is any evidence that the evident
> > > >> understanding that emerges leads to any actual creativity or even
> any
> > > >> posing outside the museum. Perhaps, if it doesn't, that is a good
> > thing:
> > > >> Munch, in addition to being a smoker, was a notorious depressive.
> > > >>
> > > >> Some specific questions:
> > > >>
> > > >> a) On p. 149, the author says that "meaning is embedded in the
> word".
> > > >> Doesn't this imply a conduit metaphor? Isn't it more likely--on the
> > basis
> > > >> of the author's own argument--that the way in which words carry
> > cultural
> > > >> meaning is by forcing the hearer to re-enact the meaning making
> > itself?
> > > >>
> > > >> b) On p. 151, the author appears to confuse the concept of metaphor
> > with
> > > >> Lakoff and Johnson's "conceptual metaphor". Also, I can't see how
> > children
> > > >> can develop concepts from metaphors, because it seems to me that in
> > order
> > > >> to have a metaphor you need a concept first.
> > > >>
> > > >> c) On p. 152: if we assume that visitor gestures are either iconic
> or
> > > >> deictic, doesn't that suggest that artwork has no ideal content at
> > all?
> > > >>
> > > >> d) On p. 152, the bottom: isn't "depiction" more of a NARRATIVE
> > stance,
> > > >> while mimesis is a more DIALOGIC one because it places us inside the
> > > >> artwork? Just a thought.
> > > >>
> > > >> I remember taking part in an art exhibition in my wife's hometown of
> > Xi'an
> > > >> in China twenty years ago where we left a huge canvas by the exit
> and
> > > >> invited all the viewers to try to paint something. It was at a big
> > > >> university and some of engineering students tried gamely, until the
> > art
> > > >> students came along and painted everything black. Interestingly,
> > though,
> > > >> neither the engineering students nor the art students tried to
> > reproduce
> > > >> any of the artworks--they were more interested in looking out the
> > window
> > > >> than in looking back at the exhibition.
> > > >>
> > > >> David Kellogg
> > > >> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> > > >>
> > > >>
> > > >>
> > > >> On 23 May 2014 01:09, Vadeboncoeur, Jennifer <j.vadeboncoeur@ubc.ca
> >
> > > >> wrote:
> > > >>
> > > >>> Dear XMCA,
> > > >>>
> > > >>> Rolf Steier is now on XMCA, and his article "Posing the question"
> is
> > open
> > > >>> on the T and F website:
> > > >>>
> > > >>> http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/.U3zs4Sjsq24
> > > >>>
> > > >>> Just click on the green button to the right side of the article.
> > > >>>
> > > >>> There is loads to talk about, and one question that comes to mind
> is
> > in
> > > >>> relation to the museum installation as a design experiment. In what
> > sense
> > > >>> is it a design experiment? What does it make visible? How is
> learning
> > > >>> shaped by access to this experience in a museum?
> > > >>>
> > > >>> More questions?
> > > >>>
> > > >>> Best - jen
> > > >>>
> > > >>
> > >
> > >
> >
> >
>