Monday, September 21, 2009

Reception Theory: The Three Positions for Interacting with Art Work Continued


“Multiple Toggle Switch Panel”

*2 The Betrayal of Images, Rene Magritte (1928-9)

Five days ago I discussed the three positions; artist, viewer, culture
, in relation to Michael Anne Holly’s book  Past Looking:  Historical Imagination and the Rhetoric of the Image (1997).  Holly is a proponent of  reception theory and she compares and contrasts the various forms of reception theory in her book.   Today I continue with the comparison of these theories.

First, Jauss’ reception history, in which an “explicit reader”  reads the historic text through the author’s use of jargon, conditions, and concepts from within his/her culture as signifiers to cue the reader’s perceptions of the art object/literature.   Is it a purposeful technique used by the author?  Holly carefully avoided such an implication.  Secondly, she described Iser’s “implicit reader”, a “fabrication of the text” itself (Holly 201).  The implicit reader allows the recipient of the text, “me”,  the first person singular, to give up my anchor to my present cultural conditioning, a possibility that many a cultural theoretician would claim is difficult if not impossible.  Holly stated that the expurgation of the reader’s current cultural anchor can be accomplished because of, “The looming presence of the work of art, with its own controlling expectations of its implicit reader’s role, cast[ing] a long shadow across the receiver’s horizon of expectations” (Holly 200).  She had previously defined “horizon of expectations” as “a stage set” constructed by each reader that transmogrifies as it migrates through time.  She enlarged upon the visual properties of the horizon of expectations by emphasizing Iser’s philosophical antecedents in phenomenology, specifically, Husserl and Gadamer, and opposed it to the more thoroughly developed notion of mis en abyme  of Foucault.  Thus, this mechanism of intercepting entities, explicit or implicit, whether constructed by the reader, the art object, or the time and place in which the “looming presence” of the art object was located  provided for the restoration of the creative act to fundamental importance. 

Because Holly chose the word “looming”  she implied a predetermining presence of the art work.  Among the possible synonyms for looming are the words; impending, approach, and make up.  “Impending,”  from the Latin pendere means to hang, weigh, or pay.  According to such a definition, a strange reversal of the idea of consumption, the viewer receives payment, cash, from the object produced rather than paying for it. The noun “pendant,” also derived from the Latin pendere implies an image of the artist’s intent dangling from a chain that hangs about the viewer’s neck.  The pendant conjures still another image in which the viewer is forced to look at himself / herself in a mirror wearing the art object in order to see the art object.  In this image, the art object becomes the vehicle through which the viewer is able to gain some understanding of himself / herslef.  “Approach,” also by way of Latin, through French, and middle English means to draw near, or, almost the same as. 
Any and/or all of these meanings and images are possibilities, though they all point toward the importance of the act of origination.  Holly herself  unwittingly points toward the originator of the art object as the creative force behind it, and therefor, the most important of the trio of determining positions; artist, viewer/reader, and culture. 

However, I would also posit that all of these meanings and images demonstrate the importance of the art object itself.  It is the switch through which the artist’s intent is conveyed to the viewer who interprets that intent based on his/her position in time and place (culture).  Thus, the artwork is the toggle through which all three currents must flow.

*1 The multiple toggle switch is an image found at the Mosler Auto Website, The use in “The Art of John Bittinger Klomp illustrates an educational article about art criticism, and it is not replaceable with an uncopyrighted or freely copyrighted image of comparable educational value. (09/21/09 9:57 A.M EDT.)

*2 The Betrayal of Images by René Magritte, 1928-9.
This image was restored and enhanced by Shimon D. Yanowitz, 2009 for Wikipedia..  The use in “The Art of John Bittinger Klomp illustrates an educational article about art criticism, and it is not replaceable with an uncopyrighted or freely copyrighted image of comparable educational value. (09/21/09 9:51 A.M EDT.)

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