Academic journal article CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture

Intersubjectivity and Intermediality in the Work of Serra

Academic journal article CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture

Intersubjectivity and Intermediality in the Work of Serra

Article excerpt

The elements of intersubjectivity in visual and plastic arts are "artwork, artist, and perceiver," and these are essential for the multidirectional communication process to take place (Derrida, Positions 23). Art "mediates a dialogue, not between human beings and nature, but among persons in society" (Ingold 351). The said elements are integral in the work of Richard Serra, as his sculptures and films are conceived in the context of process: "the decision to work with 'processes' . was also behind Serra's early films Hand Catching Lead (1968), Hands Tied (1968), Hands Scraping (1968), Hands Lead Fulcrum (1968), Frame (1969)" (Buchloh 5). Serra's list of verbs of action, "to roll, to crease, to fold, to store, to bend, to shorten" is sculptural, graphical and time based, all at once (Buchloh 8-9), and these procedual elements locate Serra's work in the context of intermediality. In other words, through written language (i.e., list of verbs) the process, the action in which artist, artwork, and perceiver are participating is made apparent. Rosalind Krauss identifies in Serra's work this constant process as temporal but not narrative "since there is no terminus, no proper destination" (16). Serra's work does not produce growth, progress, or development: "it is a time during which the action simply acts, and acts, and acts" (Krauss 16). In the context of intersubjectivity I agree with Krauss that there is no destination or narrative and that the artwork acts and acts as an intermedial continuum, but somehow this continuous action produces in the perceiver internal growth, a change, so that it actually achieves something, to engage and to reflect, as Jacques Derrida proposes (Edmund Husserl's 5-6). Art results from the necessity to communicate and to translate concepts into something graspable within a particular context. The background of the artist influences the resulting creation and so does the context for which the work is produced. Serra's early work is influenced by site specificity and by the sociocultural context for which it is conceived.

In a similar way to spoken and written language, in art the medium chosen to express, explain, or transmit concepts is fundamental to understanding the idiosyncrasies of a particular creation. Walter J. Ong suggests that "human communication, verbal and other, differs from the 'medium' model most basically in that it demands anticipated feedback in order to take place at all" (176). In the analysis of the language of art the term "medium" is used as it "suggests that communication is a pipeline transfer of units of material called 'information' from one place to another" (Ong 176). But, are the different visual and plastic languages of art merely pipelines and channels of transmission? The language of art, like any other language, is adapted to suite new situations and contexts and is reinvented and subverted (Lyotard 17). Following Jean-Frangois Lyotard's notion, I postulate that artists like Serra tend to push the boundaries of media. In Serra's Hand Catching Lead and Frame, the black and white film is used in conjunction with the framing technique to experiment and explore the medium, thereby creating a different language. In other words, medium and concept need to communicate with each other, but both elements can still be distinguished and analysed separately: the medium is analysed from within in the action in the process of communication. In Hand Catching Lead the pieces fall vertically and rhythmically reflecting the filmic medium, the action is perpetual and self-referential, and the medium catches 24 frames per second in a vertical continuum. In a similar way, Frame refers to the filmic medium by framing the scene, reducing and compressing the space to a mere window opening in front of the viewer (i.e., perceiver), and converting space and time to bi-dimensional animated images: "At that time I was also making a sculpture called Base Plate Measure in which I was using measurement, it didn't seem to be very difficult to go from one measuring device in one material to another device in film" (Serra qtd. …

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