Thursday, July 17, 2008

summer reading

It's summer and I have been amped about getting through a ton of books if possible. Not having worked since April, I've plunged into studio life but also some 'home-schooling" of my own. In short, finishing the myriad books I've had my nose in for months - if not years :(

So here's my report on where I am so far at the mid-summer point.

Books finished:

  • Storm World - Chris Mooney
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
  • Seeing is Forgetting The Name of the Thing One Sees (Robert Irwin) - Lawrence Weschler
  • The Aesthetics of Decay - Dylan Trigg
  • A Theory of Cloud/Toward a History of Painting - Hubert Damisch
  • The Emigrants - W.G. Sebald
  • The Rings of Saturn - W.G. Sebald
  • The Emergence of Memory, Conversations with W.G. Sebald - Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Books currently trying to finish:

  • Austerlitz - W.G. Sebald
  • Searching for Sebald, Photography after W.G.Sebald - The Institute of Cultural Inquiry
  • The Fate of Place - Edward Casey
  • The Accursed Share - Georges Bataille
  • Confessions of Nat Turner - William Styron
  • Francis Bacon - Gilles Deleuze
  • Holy Terror - Terry Eagleton
  • Sticky Sublime - Bill Beckley
  • What Painting Is - James Elkins

Books I hope to at least get started on by fall:

Feeling and Form - Susanne Langer (owned this for years and never cracked it)
Pictures and Tear: A History of People who have Cried in Front of Paintings - James Elkins
On the Road ( The Original Scroll) - Jack Kerouac ( a re-read of sorts)

The Purple Cloud - M.P. Shiel

Archeologies of the Future - Frederic Jameson

Presence of the Past - Rupert Sheldrake

It's a tall order for sure and I don't expect to get through all of these texts but I really want to. I'm not a particularly fast reader, I'm prone to underlining and re-reading pages. Still it seems doable despite my own reading idiosyncrasies. Of course, new things always come your way so this list is at best an ambling walk through the thicket


CAP said...

Not too many laughs in there.

On a run down -

Sheldrake - tick
Jameson - null
Kerouac - Always
Langer - Always - but if F&F is a struggle go back to Philosophy in a New Key - her first and boldest. If not that - Problems of Art
Elkins - null
Deleuze - null
Bataille - null

For more overlooked but necessary aesthetics -
John Dewey - Art as Experience
R. G. Collingwood - The Principles of Art - This roughly a contemporary of early Greenberg rants against Socialist Realism and kitsch, but from a far more informed and sophisticated scholar.

highlowbetween said...

thanks for the tip - yeah not many laughs for sure but I get those on the subway

Steven LaRose said...

I found A Theory of Cloud hard, and yet it, I refer to it more than any book in the last couple of years. It is one of those that I over-hi-lit so the yellow steaks mean nothing.

CAP, Couldn't Dewey be the beginning of the end for quality? Experience, poo-shaw. That leads to "consciousness" and the next thing you know, people will be painting their Impressions.

CAP said...

Steve – No, actually he argued for ‘experience’ (a certain kind of whole-hearted engagement with representation) as the basis of excellence, or ‘quality’. It’s not really a subjective or indulgent thing for him at all. –

‘By Dewey’s mature period, the term ‘experience’ had come to mean for him not what it connotes to the tradition of British empiricism (the subjective, discrete, static mental image somehow ‘representing’ an ‘external world’). Rather it signifies the shared social activity of symbolically mediated behavior which seeks to discover the possibilities of our objective situations in the natural world for meaningful, intelligent and fulfilling ends. And the skill at doing this Dewey calls ‘art’.

- Thomas M. Alexander (his italics) from Companion to Aesthetics (Blackwell 1995)

‘Experience’ was a kind of on-going process, involving intuition, feelings, thinking and doing stuff as a result. Basically he wanted to refute ‘the aesthetic attitude’ view of art – derived from Kant and stretching throughout the 19th century- which tried to codify a certain frame of mind as the basis of art. Dewey took a more holistic view of psychology you could say, but this also greatly diffuses what he took to be art (as opposed to say, just communication or knowledge, science or politics).

Dewey’s advocates (like Alexander) would argue he was not concerned with ‘fine art’ – but just excellence of communication or representation, in that it promotes a certain kind of ‘experience” (or conduct). But this then makes art synonymous with craft for many. This is a distinction Collingwood (who follows Dewey, but takes the Idealist road rather than the Pragmatist road) famously takes on vigorously, contrasting art with advertising and kitsch.

It’s all old stuff now, but still worth touching base with a few principles I think.

Incidentally, did you get my email + attachment to your gmail address?

highlowbetween said...

hmm, that's interesting on Dewey,I like it. The thing with Damisch, Steven for me was getting accustomed to the style of writing. Perhaps chalk it up to translation but it often felt bulky. It was hard to maintain fluidity while reading but that text is jammed with fascinating histories and insights. I do want to read his rebuttal to Panofsky at some point but his history on perspective is out of print and way expensive. Glad to know you've read it though :)

highlowbetween said...

anyone read any Adrian Johnston?
I'm curious

Steven LaRose said...

I didn't receive the email CAP, I was wondering.

Thanks for the Dewey refresher. I started palpitating when it occurred to me that I read that book 25 years ago. Then, my heart sank as I recalled which ex-girlfriend I left it with (along with my favorite old sweatshirt that belonged to my Grandfather). Darn.

Christopher, are you saying Damisch wrote a response to "Perspective as Symbolic Form"? I have a hardback copy of that if you want to borrow it.

highlowbetween said...

yes - that is basically his "response". Maybe at some point in the future. It's quite valuable so you may want to hold onto it :)

what attachment?

highlowbetween said...

I mis-undertood you. I meant that the Damisch book is valuable - The Origin of Perspective.

I have the Panofsky book.

CAP said...

I'll try the email again with greatly reduced attachment (of jpegs of some of my stuff) - I've worked out how to do that in CS3 now.

Elkins' take on perspective is I think his best book, BTW.