An image (taken with my cell phone) of our home TV on pause on Friday, March 4, 2016.
Our topic this month will be PHOTOGRAPHY.
Can art function as a “religion,” as some people claim?
Can a painting, a song, a sculpture, a performance, even a photograph, give us meaning?
What do representations of the natural world do for our particular species of primate, homo sapians?
Why do we seek them so avidly? Why do they fill us with longing? Make us shiver? Sometimes even change us forever?
“Fence” by Gerhard Richter (2008)
1. Roger Scruton, BEAUTY: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION
2. Susan Sontag, ON PHOTOGRAPHY
3. Erroll Morris (the documentary filmmaker), BELIEVING IS SEEING
I have a hunch that the best approach will be a more narrow one. So I would like to read this month on photography — which is, after all, the most prevalent contemporary form of representation.
I think that, through that lens (!), we might get somewhere. As always, let’s make it personal. What is the meaning of image-making, photographs, video, film to you?
See you at the meeting.
I propose that we pursue the question of BEAUTY more broadly, at a future meeting. With that in mind, would you help me to start gathering possible books to read?
Here are few I have collected so far to get our list started…
HISTORY OF BEAUTY by Umberto Eco
THE ART INSTINCT: BEAUTY, PLEASURE AND HUMAN EVOLUTION by Denis Dutton
BUT IS IT ART? by Cynthia Freeland
THE GOOD, THE TRUE, AND THE BEAUTIFUL: A NEURONAL APPROACH by Jean-Pierre Changeux
STRANGE TOOLS: ART AND HUMAN NATURE by (our own friend and neighbor, who perhaps will join us?) Alva Noë
A BEAUTIFUL QUESTION: FINDING NATURE’S DEEP DESIGN by Frank Wilczek
(Again, these are not for our March meeting, but for later. I’ll keep adding your suggestions as they come in.)
Kristen wrote with some additional titles! Here is what she added:
When I think of the Sontag piece, a couple supplementary resources come to mind:
1. Benjamin, Walter: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (short essay)
2. Salgado, Sebastião: The Salt of the Earth (documentary film)
3 .JR: TED talk (clichéd source, I know) by an artist who crosses lots of boundaries in how he defines himself as an artist, how he understand subject matter, & how he defines authorship.
I don’t yet know the Scruton piece. Anything with Beauty in its title always brings me back to Keats. I’m curious to read this new piece.
Walden wrote with some provocative thoughts too. And a suggested reading: Niklas Luhmann, Art as a Social System.
Here are Walden’s questions going in…
I have been trying to figure out your choice of a narrow focus on
photography, since of all of the art forms, it is probably the one
least associated with a “religious” experience — at least in
comparison to music, literature, architecture, film, and even some
painting. I am sure someone will try to point to a photograph that
contradicts this, but I will still be skeptical. A good question is
why this might be the case? Is even some painting “dynamic” in a way
that most photographs cannot be?
I say this as a consumer, since I am not an artist, but I cannot think
of an example of a photograph that has ever taken me to the same
levels of aesthetic impact as the other art forms I mentioned.
A week later he wrote with another interesting find:
This landscape photographer’s statement suggests that the MAKING of
his photographs is a religious experience. This is different from the
viewer’s experience of the photograph, which I would admire but not be
transported significantly by, the way I would be by being directly in
Rex Naden Photography
Marie-José wrote in to suggest John Berger’s WAYS OF SEEING.
Here is the first of four short (20 minute) videos available on Youtube: