“Instances When a Work of Art Shatters the Limitations of its Medium,” A Response to the Post of the Same Name by Cristian Mihai

(Go To: http://cristianmihai.net/2013/08/04/suspension-of-disbelief-2/)

Wrapping my mind around this concept: Medium. I think you mean this denotation: Artistic technique or means of expression determined by materials/method. (Taken from: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/medium)

This is interesting to me in terms of the (perhaps) limiting perspective I have of an “eloquence of the idea,” a concept provided to me by Stan Tomita, Professor/Instructor of Photography, University of Hawaii, where one chooses a medium to express the idea in mind. The idea comes with the medium implied/provided, and where that which seemed to “shatter” the limitations of a medium, could extend to the inclusion of another medium, such that multimedia becomes the vehicle for production.

But, I don’t think that is what you mean. A work, for example, drafted in a particular medium could dwarf its utility.

Let’s consider the word “limitation.” I think you mean to limit your definition to the denotations: Restriction, shortcoming or defect. (Again provided by http://www.thefreedictionary.com/limitation).

Let us consider a work of art that is restricted within it’s medium or where the medium has a shortcoming or defect.

Also, let us note the word choice “shatter;” A work of art that shatters the limitations of its medium. This assumes media have limitations.

We need examples of media, but first I would like to offer a definition of medium as a way of communicating.

As I sit here and contemplate the idea of shattering the limitations of a particular way of communicating, I tend to think in terms of the opposite, which is where the artist is contained within the means of communicating, implying a discipline in using the particular medium he has chosen or as has been chosen for her.

I am staring at a painting I did, simply white paint on black paint. The lines of white form the idea. It is line travel, shape and form impression. Within the context of the painting, I followed an inner, emotional guide to first draw the lines by putting tracing paper over the black-painted surface and the tracing paper made yellow lines, while I drew in a manner befitting my inner direction or mood. I would close my eyes and push the pencil over the paper, which would then produce a yellow line that I later painted white. I call these works skeleton paintings, which are a step above the pencil-on-white canvases, and a step below the color field paintings that make up the collection of some 10 paintings. One is as large as 10’ x 6’.

I don’t think in terms of a medium limitation but rather my limitation to use the medium in an artistically worthy way. It is my skill-set that I question, not the medium. And with images of photography, I am often amazed by the results, which are often not what I planned, mainly because of the results of exposure and the medium as a compositionally limiting and also compositionally unlimiting medium. I think we compose in the camera, but we also see the images as compositions after we take them, both as negatives and as the images we produce at various sizes and through different means: Papers, canvas prints, etc.

There are burning and dodging issues. I once did a series where my focus was on the effect that various exposure times had on the moments I was depicting. I would go from least exposed to most exposed only to find that, in one case, I argued that the person, where two were presented, was more in the white in a composition that was about the “gray area.” The image was about truth and that there are no blacks and whites in this world, but that in such a world, one side had to be better than the other, which of course was not true if the manipulation of exposure had anything to do with it.

I think the word “shatter” implies that this is the operable desire of the artist to “shatter” the limitations of the medium she works in. But, I am just glad that I can use the medium to create a work that communicates the thought I had in mind. I am not interested in shattering but rather in being true to the muse, who would have told me that I needed to use more than one medium or even to use the medium that would over-extend it. I think it is then that the muse’s directions are more important than the medium of expression and that the concentration should not be on the medium but upon the muse, who is giving direction and one should not see the making of art as having a personal ambition to be the best, but rather to be humble that the muse is even speaking to you. I think this is what is wonderful about being an artist. You realize these ideas are not yours. They come to you and it is your job to depict them as exactly as they have been provided. The medium just seems the appropriate vehicle within which to present them.

You are talking in terms of a television show that defeated your rational mind, where you became so involved in the story that you lost all sense of reality and felt something. I love this. This is a great work of art that can do this. As you know, it is catharsis you felt, having gone into yourself and felt rather than concerned yourself with the noise of the communicative vehicle or incompetent use of the communicative vehicle.

You said the author planned this. As an artist or writer, I never think in terms of planning, but in adhering to the story line in my mind as the muse, God, or me, who gets these ideas.

You talk about the difference between movies and books when it comes to being more visual. You say they offer different experiences. Movies provide more to make it easier to get involved but it limits the imagination.

I want to argue with you here. Often, the same thing happens to me while watching a story on TV vs. reading a book. If they are both good at what they do, I end up going into myself and thinking about things they bring up. I was mentioning how black and white TVs vs. color or large screen vs. small didn’t matter, if the storyline or the acting, for example, made me go into myself and think or feel something relative. I am often at a loss, for example, when watching a movie simply utilizing special effects as a vehicle for special effects. They don’t have the story I need to feel or to be shown in relation to my life.

I have known this about camera lenses, for example, where what I am shooting is more important than the kind of camera I have. But, the lighting is extremely important too or I have found that I wanted the image to be much bigger but at the time I only had an iPhone, for example, to take the image. I can however, use the image to paint a larger canvas of the content and still serve the role I had envisioned.

I also want to say that the imagination is separate from the communicative device, where when we are in our heads or hearts as an affect of say a movie or a book and it is there that we are at play in the fields. So, I would disagree with you on this point about the lack of imagination as a cause of the vehicle of communication.

I often get ideas from other works of art and have, in fact, created a book called After to illustrate this kind of appropriation or transpiration of feeling/affect. (See: http://www.blurb.com/b/1986861-after)

When I read books, I get ideas. I think in terms of linguistics: “Language form, language meaning, and language in context.” I am interested in grammar as it expresses meaning. I might argue that language is meaning. I don’t think I knew anything until I had the language to describe it. I was only experiencing feelings before I had language to give me the words to describe what I saw and felt. Thoughts are words. I couldn’t relate them to the world until I heard what other people were saying. And my vocabulary grew and my life at this point is so complicated in terms of words that I often forget about reality. Words that crisscross, words that form new ideas, words that are ideas that didn’t exist until I made them up or they were made up for me. I think language is separate from reality. It is a symbolic means to describe reality, which remains out there but we need it to relate to each other so that we have reference points, shared experiences, metaphors we can use to talk to each other. Perhaps we wouldn’t have language if we were alone, but art objects express our inner being.

When I watch movies, I get emotionally sympathetic. Often my writing is about relationships or lack thereof and so the interrelationship between the ideas I get from books is an interconnected one. If I watch movies, I have a lot of emotional experiences, but if I read I can become inspired to put them in words. Well, that’s not exactly true. I can write because of how a movie made me feel.

So, I am not sure I agree with you about freedom coming from books as being enough. I think both media “Tap in the viewer’s resources to compare situations (experience). I don’t agree that a good book or a relevant book takes work to stoke the imagination. Sometimes single words become my focus.

I am not sure I understand the idea of a middleman in a story; the medium is the middleman, who disappears as the motor of the self kicks in.

Certainly, it is like magic in that before we know it, we are transactional. But, again I beg to differ that great investment must be made on the reader’s part to become engaged, relevance and flawless prose, poetry, etc., allows the transfer.

You do agree with me and in effect contradict yourself when you say that scenes (in both movies and books) affected you equally.

I am not one to read scenes over and over, rather, philosophical tomes have caused me long hours of definitive inquiry to know what the author intended (at least if his use of words was intentional), but as for the scenes in novels, I am pretty quick at seeing the forest and the trees.

The broken DVD was probably just cheap, which is not saying much. I used to linger during porno features to get a second look, but usually once the impression was made in a movie, I would close my eyes, proverbially speaking, and sense how that environment and actions made me feel.

I’ll have to look at the trailer for The Artist to see what you mean. As I said, it is usually linguistic issues or meaning coming from words that makes me return until I understand them and not the images of things. I am an artist, that was my first language and things are never as meaningful as relationships between people, and ideas are even more abstract, where it is just the words, the text having no voices, and no imagery to contextualize.

Yes, Gatsby’s description, while pure, describes the less powerful position of the narrator in comparison to Mr. Gatsby, who if truly trembling would have excluded the less confident disposition of the two.

I don’t see how the use of the scene is an “instance when a work of art shatters the limitations of its medium,” rather it proves the capacity of the medium to transpose meaning and shared experience among men and women – readers to understand what was going on between the men, what might have been going on between the men, and what might have been going on with/in the character of Gatsby.

I still think that the medium serves those who can use it well as Fitzgerald proves.


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