Yvonne Junya Yuan
Before I started the Course called Appreciation of Visual Art when I was a sophomore, I knew nothing about Andy Warhol. Until the teacher led us to the exhibition titled ‘Andy Warhol in China’ in the 798 Art Zone, I began to realize what a vanguard this guy is! The exhibition showed photographs of Andy when he first visited China in 1982 taken by his personal photographer Christopher Makos. Lost and liberated at the same time as appeared in the photos, Warhol was far from the glam and commercialism that made paparazzi and autograph-seekers follow him and his glitterati friends in New York. He was a stranger here, unrecognized, unremarkable, just another curious tourist in a city devoid of any of the commercial trappings of his home in New York.
Iconic sights of a vastly different Beijing form as much the subject as the backdrop for Makos' stunning black and white photos documenting Warhol's brief visit: a rented Red Flag limo, a Beijing Hotel suite, Mao's portrait in Tiananmen, wide streets empty save the odd bicycle, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City. Another of the great ironies of the series of photos of Warhol in China was that a man who so embraced popular commercial culture could be found in what was at the time on of the world's least commercial cities. There were no brand names, luxury cars, restaurants, movie stars, none of the trappings that characterize Beijing and Shanghai today. But what I think is the most ironic thing is that when he came to China in person, nobody knew him; after he's gone, people deify him as the greatest leader of modern art. In 2006, Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau purchased Andy Warhol’s silkscreen portrait of Chairman Mao for $17.4 million at a Christie’s auction, while the work was supposed to sell at the price of $5000 in 1978, according to The Andy Warhol Diary. As I understand it, China entered the consumption society decades later than the West, only when people entered the so called "silmulation world", could they feel the awkward dilemma they are confronting, where people are encircled with products, oppressed under products, relied on products and enslaved by products.
Andy Warhol, Mao in 1972
Andy Warhol, Mao in 1972

“Earlier artists, like Monet, had painted the same motif in series in order to display minute discriminations of perception, the shift of light and color form hour to hour on a haystack, and how these could be recorded by the subtlety of eye and hand. Warhol’s thirty-two soup cans are about nothing of the kind. They are about sameness (though with different labels): same brand, same size, same paint surface, same fame as product. They mimic the condition of mass advertising, out of which his sensibility had grown. ” (From “American Visions” ) Whenever we talk about Andy Warhol, we cannot avoid his remarkable repeatitive images. We can tell that he has no intention to express the aboriginality and authenticity of the subject, what he cares about is the representing mode. Audiences are overwhelmed at the sight of the picture frame that consisting of massive same visual symbols, without regard to the object.
Marilyn Monroe, electric chair, Coca Cola, Mickey Mouse, Chairman Mao, Empire State, Einstein… nobody knows exactly how many works Andy has left since they are extremely extensive and highly hybrid, almost covering everything and every figures of his time. He has blazed new trails of artistic expression as well as techniques and set foot into different fields as many as possible: design, painting, sculpture, sound recording, movies, video recording, advertising etc.. He intended to counter traditional culture and create the commercial, consumptive, civic and global art. He asked models to pick out their favorite colors to paint; he made his mother sign his works; he recorded sounds and videos at anywhere and at any time. Values marked by profound, elite, historical, eternal, mature, unique, absolute are replaced by labels such us practical, superficial, instantaneous, sentimental, equivalent, straightforward, massive, repeated, mechanical and popular. These concepts have refreshed the quality of liberal and democracy. Inadvertently, United States has created its hero or anti-hero. As Jean Baudrillard said in his book Simulation and Transaesthetics: Towards the Vanishing Point of Art,“making commodity sacred as commodity – he (Baudelaire) made Warhol the hero, or antihero, of modern art. Warhol went the farthest in the ritual paths of the disappearance of art, of all sentimentality in art; he pushed the ritual of art's negative transparency and art's radical indifference to its own authenticity the farthest. The modern hero is not the hero of the artistic sublime, but rather the hero of the objective irony of the world of commodity, the world that art incarnates in the objective irony of its own disappearance.” Andy spent his whole life to implement his disdain and irony towards the traditional artistic value and social order. He armed the deceptive and illusory representation as his weapon to fight against the cold-blooded world. The reason why people are crazy about Andy, I suppose, is that his works reflect the reality of the world accurately yet rentlessly, just like an mirror.

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Jasmine Wee
Warhol and Lady Gaga: A study in Camp

Warhol started off as an advertising and fashion illustrator before venturing into “high art”, although the nature of his work was heavily disputed due to its decidedly “un-high art” lowbrow subject matter and, later when he moved on to using silkscreen and house paint, undesirable use of media. But fast forward to 2012 and there will hardly be any art critic or connoisseur, much less the masses, who would say that Warhol’s work is trashy and common. Unknowingly to some, in 2008, there was a similar character in New York City trying to make it big in mass media. This person is Stefani Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga. For my generation, Gaga’s image, music and persona parallels what Pop Art and Warhol’s legacy. She reminds the audience how Pop Art and the theory and ideas behind Pop never left our society. Just like how the people have now accepted Warhol’s ironic commentaries on consumer culture and the cult of celebrity, the masses have (to a great extent) accepted the theatrics and message of Gaga’s music. In fact, this is a reassertion of the inevitable truth that American society, and increasingly global society as a whole, is a materialistic culture that simultaneously idolizes and denigrates brands, celebrities, sex and money.

Warhol and Gaga: when pop culture supernovas collide
Warhol and Gaga: when pop culture supernovas collide

Belting commented, “Contemporary art manifests an awareness of a history of art but no longer carries it forward.” This trait of contemporary art is featured prominently in Warhol’s works, whose most famous works are all reference to objects and people that already exist; he did not create these characters or forms, but merely innovated the method in which they can be stylistically represented on a canvas. Similarly, Gaga’s sound and image is a pastiche of everything that preceded her: a good dose of Judy Garland-esque vocals mixed with Freddie Mercury-and-Bjork theatricals plus a dash of Madonna and early ‘80s NYC gay club scene sexuality, and some girlified punk and glam rock for good measure. However, I would not be surprised at all if Warhol was one of Gaga’s dozens of “inspirations”, or people she plainly ripped off from. Perhaps this Susan Sontag quote best summarizes Warhol’s work and Gaga (the character and her music) as a whole: “To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theatre.” Ironically though, Gaga insists that her character is not a fake persona she created, but is in fact who she really is—other than the fact that she is not as crazy and wild as she is back at home with her Catholic Italian-American parents than say, in front of thousands of screaming teenage and/or gay fans at Madison Square Garden. However, one thing that is undeniable about Gaga is the quality of extravagance in her music, her costume and her shows. Sontag dubbed extravagance “the hallmark of camp”, and that the extravagance is put on the aesthetic experience as opposed to intellectual: “It incarnates a victory of “style” over “content”, “aesthetics over “morality,” of irony over tragedy.” This point may not necessarily be adaptable to Warhol or Gaga. While Warhol’s works may seem to be extremely superficial upon first glance, one needs to understand the background and deeper meaning of his work to grasp that only by creating works in a mechanical, flat, mass-produced style could he provide commentary on America’s consumer culture. For Gaga, she certainly embraces the irony and visual extravagance of camp, but arguably she doesn’t do it just to be campy, but rather to draw attention to certain underlying social issues through her music and lyrics (such as her song “Born This Way”, which advocates acceptance of self and others) and the negative effects of materialism on youth ("Beautiful Dirty Rich"):
We got a redlightPornographic dance fightSystematic, honeyBut we got no money/Our hair is perfectWhile we're all getting shit wreckedIt's automatic, honeyBut we got no money/Daddy I'm so sorry, I'm so s-s-sorry yeahWe just like to party, like to p-p-party yeah
Visually, however, it cannot be doubted that Gaga is camp all the way. One only has to watch her mini-film/music video for “Telephone”—again, peppered with more pop cultural references and wacky high-fashion outfits than you can count—and see that visual extravagance is one of the hallmarks of Gaga, and probably the most important thing of all that makes her such a success. Susan Sontag’s swooping generalizations of definitions of camp, therefore, cannot be established with either Warhol’s works or Gaga, but perhaps just as public feeling for Warhol has changed from negative to positive, the question of whether the masses will continue loving Lady Gaga has yet to be answered.

Lin Lu

Andy Warhol is recognized as one of the most famous pop artists in the world and a leading figure in the visual art movement, but I don’t know reasons behind these stories until I read this week’s readings. Probably, I would say the awareness of modern and contemporary art, and pop arts made Warhol’s work become famous and label his work as parts of pop cultures. Reasons for this scenario can be traced back to 1950s and 1970s. As Danto pinpointed that, the contemporary art had “no brief against the art of the past, no sense that the past is something from which liberation must be won, no sense even that it is at all different as art from modern art generally.” Based on Danto’s perspectives, I am keeping thinking of contemporary arts and pop arts are similar in some ways that both of them are challenging fine and traditional arts because its central focus and representations. Representations of pop arts and contemporary arts are no longer focus on objectivity or objective realism. On the contrary, both of them are using existing techniques and forms to think and express organized and subjective features.

The most interesting statement that I saw in Danto’s paper was statements about functions of museum, which I would say it also applied to principles of pop arts. Danto described that “a museum in which all art has a rightful place, and there is no a priori criterion as to what that art must look like, and where there is no narrative into which the museum’s contents must all fit.” In other words, what matters is rearrangement and subjective representations. Max Ernst clarified that “there is no longer a plane foreign to distinct artistic realities.” Combing Danto’s words and Max Ernst’s opinions on realities, I tended to believe that pop and contemporary cultures and had less historical or formal connections to other work and the concept of pop and pop and contemporary arts referred to art attitudes instead of art itself. Another theory behind Warhol’s work is explained by Susan Sontag. Susan elaborated the reasons why pop arts referred to artist attitudes rather than art work itself and she said “many things in the world have not been named; and many things, even if they have been named, have never been described.” In pop arts, what matters are values including “high values” and “low values” that are hardly described by words and historical materials.

When I looked back Warhol’s work, I would say values of his pop arts were associated with his attitudes rather than realist objectives. The book, named Andy Warhol 1928-1987 Commerce into Art, presents lots of Warhol’s work, which is collected by Klaus Honnef. I have found out most of Warhol’s work are borrowing objects from others while reading the book. Techniques that Warhol used were similar in most his work. As Klaus concluded “”Warhol acquired the technique of direct reproduction in order to produce his design: with pencil he drew his design on waterproof paper, then followed the outline in ink and printed it on absorbent paper while still moist (pp. 22).” Consequently, most of Warhol’s work challenged and devalued the originality. His success underlies on his attitudes and his representation of arts. The case of Warhol perfected demonstrated Clement Greenberg’s words that “use of the characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself.” For instance, Warhol abandoned traditional delicate and elegant lines in his work. Blotted lines and the blotting-paper techniques are his weapons to attack on the doctrine of the original.

His simply blotted lines and blotting-paper techniques can be seen in this week’s wiki video.


Spindles of human hair. Can they make 'art'?
Spindles of human hair. Can they make 'art'?
According to Danto—and I believe he’s right—the new norm, thanks to the sixties, is that there is no norm in the world of art, no narrative or structure or preconceived point of view from which viewers or experiencers of art have to begin interpreting. “The sixties was a paroxysm of styles,” he writes in Modern, Postmodern, and Contemporary. It marked the first time that “anything could be a work of art” (13). When he distinguishes between the modern and the contemporary—noting that modern art is “marked by an ascent to a new level of consciousness” that he (somewhat sensationalistically) calls the end of art, in which “mimetic representation [is] less important than some kind of reflection on the means and methods of representation” (8)—he basically channels Marshall McLuhan and his famous line. When verisimilitude is sacrificed for the sake of emphasizing the canvas of a painting—its limitations, its rectangularness—it’s safe to say that medium is, in fact, the message.

Unsurprisingly, though, Danto’s contention that anything can be a work of art is an embattled theory. Last week Hal Foster spoke of the slap in the face that pop art happily gave to the classical art institutions that only wanted to recognize certain forms as ‘art.’ A similar mindset emerges in some of the criticism of Danto. Cynthia Freeland in “Danto and Art Criticism” agrees with Danto that art criticism needs to be more than what he called “restaurant reviews,” thumbs up or thumbs down. But she seems to make the argument, in so many words, that Warhol and Duchamp do not give the public works that are pretty enough outwardly for us to appreciate them inwardly. It appears Freeland attempts to disprove Danto with reductio ad absurdum, following his assertion that everything can be presented as art to a conclusion she finds absurd—that art can be any "object with a theory". For Freeland this conclusion is unacceptable because it would mean that the works of Warhol and Duchamp—“so lacking in aesthetic appeal”, which makes encountering them “less fully transformative”—are art simply because they are/were/can be contemplated artfully. The last sentence of her essay says it all, showing her premodernist favoritism toward painting and sculpture:

Theories of art may be striking and original but they will not be able to be truly ‘transformative’ until they are embodied in something real—in something sensuous and skillful, that exists in paint or stone, in a realm more concrete than theories ever dreamed of.

This is human hair...
This is human hair...
No doubt Freeland would not have appreciated the exhibit that Chinese contemporary artist Wenda Gu erected at Dartmouth while I was a student. Gu’s exhibit was "pure human hair."

For Gu's 13-year "United Nations" project, he had commissioned salons around the world to collect hair for him. As a result, more than 430 pounds of hair had been collected from 28 salons in the Hanover, New Hampshire area, which had seen about 42,500 haircuts given during the spring and summer of 2006. Gu then took all of that hair and turned it into two art exhibits: huge braids that were miles long, in which the hair that had been collected from kids in New England had been combined with the “neon” dyed hair of citizens from every country in the world that was in the United Nations; and an 80 x 13 ft. “hair screen” that he called the green house. Both exhibits were erected in Baker Berry, our main library that is the "physical and intellectual center of campus".

So is this.
So is this.
I was a freshman when the exhibit was erected, but I remember that people generally felt it was an eyesore. There was a popular Facebook group called “Students for a Bald Baker.”
People continually walked into the hair, which hung from the ceilings and in the middle of walkways. Tour guides started intentionally avoiding taking parents and students into our otherwise esteemed library. An article in The Dartmouth newspaper (for which I worked) said the following:

Having been described as "weird," "disturbing" and "disgusting" by various students, the exhibit evoked more reactions based on its medium than on its message.

But the exhibit was justified by the administration in official press:

The green house involved an extraordinary number of people from every racial, social, and economic background at Dartmouth and in the surrounding community, all united in a symbolic kinship by the simple fact that the hair they left on the floor of a salon or barbershop is now remade as a work of art. This sculpture realizes a very special and particular integration of students, faculty, staff, and community members, young and old, and signals that art can be a truly powerful catalyst for community dialogue. It will grow beyond personal, state, or national boundaries in its final form to show us--through innovative artistic provocation--how we all might fit together in the world’s great cultural, racial, and spiritual tapestry.

Danto would likely have sided with our administration. Anything can be art! But Freeland would obviously have been on the side of us students, who were more embarrassed by the creation than compelled to investigate it aesthetically, which ties to Freeland’s point that art criticism necessarily cannot be purely interpretive, as Danto states, but must also be evaluative.

Jen Lennon

Camp is something I’ve been sort of intrigued with and confused by lately, so I was pleasantly surprised by Susan Sontag’s thoughts on the matter. I’ve never completely understood what “camp” meant; it’s something that always seems to get thrown around in a blasé fashion in art criticism. Was camp trying to be funny? Is it a riff on the parody versus pastiche issue we talked about a few weeks ago? I guess for some reason I had always lumped Rocky Horror Picture Show in the “camp” camp, so to speak. Upon a little research I realized that Urban Dictionary actually uses this movie as its example to try to explain what camp means. Their definition states, “being so extreme that it has an amusing and perversely sophisticated appeal. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is considered very campy, particularly to those in my generation.” However, if you keep scrolling through the multitude of definitions on the matter, they get extremely vague, ranging from “something that is completely cliche and artificial and exaggerated” to “cheesy + awesome”, which I think is how people still think of it at times.

Rocky Horror Picture Show satirizes horror movies and science fiction, but it’s also a musical and it also includes a whole a healthy dose of transvestites, sex, and homosexuality. Sontag spoke at length about the role homosexuals played in the idea of camp and that while homosexuals didn’t invent it, a portion of the demographic certainly embraced it. Rocky Horror Picture Show is also associated with the cult classic, which is basically a type of film that garners the attention of a rabid, but specific, fan base. This made me wonder about pop art and if it has achieved this sort of status in the art world. It seems like one of those types of art that can be divisive among people, where they either “get it” or they don’t.

An interesting example of this that I would love to track down to watch is Andy Warhol’s film “Camp” that he made in his factory in 1965. Supposedly it was made as a response to Sontag’s idea and features lots of little vignettes of people “camping”, which is a wide range of things.

Another thing that popped out at me was the notion that ballet is a campy art form. That was something that didn’t intuitively make sense to me at first because ballet is a revered art form, something that is “classy” and expensive. But Sontag explained it more in the way that the form of ballet cannot establish characters with real human complexity. If camp responds to the “instant” character, then that makes sense. One particular ballet that is mentioned is Swan Lake. The story of Swan Lake itself does make instant character issues without really being able to explain the motives behind the actions. Odette is cursed to be a swan by day, but she doesn’t really know why. Unless she gains the love of someone who will not betray her, she will never break the spell. She meets someone and falls in love, but the person putting the spell on her tricks him into declaring his love for someone else who looks like her, while she watches in her swan form. This all leads to a dramatic double suicide scene, which now that I think about it, is a little campy. But Swan Lake has become so ubiquitous to pop culture as a ballet, that it’s shown up in recent movies, most notably the Black Swan. Darren Aronofsky took the idea of the story of both Swan Lake, but also of the idea of a ballet dancer striving for perfection, and wove the story of a ballerina who gets the lead role in an adaptation of the ballet where the black swan is the evil side of the swan queen, so both parts are played by the same woman. She’s forced to address the dark side of herself, which turns into a metaphor for becoming psychotic. It also deals with the idea of having an understudy as a doppleganger and someone constantly waiting in the wings. The main character struggles with the notion that she’s losing her identity to her understudy, which only intensifies as the movie progresses in a way that mimics a horror movie. But the climax of the final ballet scene is where she literally turns into a swan and feels like she nails the role, only to reveal to the audience that a fight scene a few minutes earlier with the “understudy” or black swan, was really with herself and she’s stabbed herself in the stomach. In retrospect, that’s pretty campy. It is a highly stylized and sort of irreverent way of looking at Swan Lake, which is already in an art form that is considered campy.

As a quick side note, I’m not ashamed to admit I recently caught the end of Center Stage, another ballet movie, this week and they also do a riff on Swan Lake in one of the performances. As part of a student workshop for the students of a ballet academy, they show ballet dancers rehearsing Swan Lake and having a bad boy type of figure ride in on a motorcycle to get one of the head dancers to run away with him. So it would seem if you want to make a campy ballet scene, Swan Lake is the way to go.

I thought this all tied in nicely with the idea Arthur Danto brought up about contemporary art going beyond the museum and that people would have to figure out how this works now. While it acknowledges its history, it’s not bound by the same conventions, something that’s evident in the portrayal of Swan Lake in the Black Swan. The ballet community wasn’t exactly thrilled about their art form being portrayed on the movie screen, which is another example of high art mixing with pop culture, but also remixing a lot of ideas and old forms into something that doesn’t fit in the tidy box that it was originally presented.

Alexis Hamann-Nazaroff

In his seminal work Transfiguration and the Commonplace, Danto discusses the phenomenon of two objects, which on the surface look exactly the same, but in fact, one is a “mere” commonplace object and the other is a sculpture, a work of art. There is the goat wandering a hillside full of discarded bits like car tires (commonplace object) and Rauschenberg’s Goat (art). There is the canvas at an art store, waiting to bought and used (commonplace object) and a minimalist white painting (art). There is the urinal in a men’s room (commonplace object), and Duchamp’s Fountain (art). And there is a box of soap (commonplace object) and Warhol’s Brillo Box (art).
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Danto talks about the transformation of art in the post-Pop, Postmodern world. He says that the meaning of a work of art can no longer be determined by its exterior, which may look exactly the same as a non-art object, but is found in its atmosphere, its status, its conception.

It’s not that I don’t agree with Danto’s assertions, but it strikes me that he is leaving out half of the story entirely. He talks about the shift in meaning for works of art when they mimic commonplace objects, but is there an equal and opposite shift in the meaning of the commonplace objects because of their use in the field of art? If not equal and opposite, then what is the effect of this new art on everyday life? When I pick up a box of Brillo soap to do my laundry, has my relationship to this object changed (perhaps unconsciously) because of Warhol’s appropriation of Brillo?

Here’s another way of thinking of this question: the claim is that Pop art is no longer the self-referential dialogue that was modernism, that it is a dialogue instead with the greater world outside itself, the world of commodity and commercial capitalism. So what is it saying about this world? Most of the theorists, Danto included, have been rather quiet on this subject. They argue that Pop is “freed from the burden of Art History” even as their essays discuss mostly pop’s relationship to art history and less the effects it may have had on the objects outside the art world. I don’t disagree that for art, art history, art philosophy and all the rest of these sorts of disciplines, Pop was revolutionary. Warhol, whith his appropriations of daily commodities, changed the world of art. But did the new forms of art post-Warhol change the world of daily commodities?