An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art

By Richard Eldridge | Go to book overview

2
Representation, imitation,
and resemblance

Representation and aboutness

Art products and performances seem in some rough sense to be about something. Even when they do not carry any explicitly statable single message, they nonetheless invite and focus thought. Marcel Duchamp's readymades, Sol Le Witt's constructions, Vito Acconci's performance pieces, and Louise Lawler's conceptual art are all put forward, in Duchamp's phrase, “at the service of the mind, ”1 in that they are intended to set up in an audience a line of thinking about a subject matter. Most literary works clearly undertake to describe an action, situation, or event. Works of dance typically have a narrative-developmental structure, and even works of architecture seem both to proceed from and to invite thoughts about how space is and ought to be experienced and used. Works of textless pure or absolute music have beginnings, middles, and ends that have seemed to many listeners to model or share shapes with broad patterns of human action.2 The abstract painter Hans Hoffmann in teaching used to have his students begin by putting a blue brush stroke on a bare canvas and then asking them to think about its relations to the space “behind, ” “in front of, ” and around it, as though the mere stroke were already a means of

____________________
1
Marcel Duchamp, “Interview with James Johnson Sweeney, ” in “Eleven Europeans in America, ” Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art (New York) 12, 4–5 (1946), pp. 19–21; reprinted in Theories of Modern Art, ed. Herschel B. Chipp (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), p. 394.
2
See for example Fred Everett Maus, “Music as Drama, ” in Music and Meaning, ed. Jenefer Robinson (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), pp. 105–30, and Anthony Newcomb, “Action and Agency in Mahler's Ninth Symphony, Second Movement, ” in Music and Meaning, ed. J. Robinson, pp. 131–53. The fullest treatment of how music came historically to be understood as being “about” something, but indefinitely, is in Carl Dahlhaus, The Idea of Absolute Music, trans. Roger Lustig (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1989).

-25-

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An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments viii
  • 1 - The Situation and Tasks of the Philosophy of Art 1
  • 2 - Representation, Imitation, and Resemblance 25
  • 3 - Beauty and Form 47
  • 4 - Expression 68
  • 5 - Originality and Imagination 102
  • 6 - Understanding Art 128
  • 7 - Identifying and Evaluating Art 150
  • 8 - Art and Emotion 183
  • 9 - Art and Morality 205
  • 10 - Art and Society: Some Contemporary Practices of Art 231
  • 11 - Epilogue: the Evidence of Things Not Seen 259
  • Bibliography 264
  • Index 277
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