Final Dissertation FAL 300

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Fine Art Dissertation Daniela Cordi University College Chichester 2008

What you see is not what you getAnalysing the critical function of art through an interpretation of the roles of creativity, image and object as reflected in the works of Marcel Duchamp and Sigmar Polke.



List of figures Introduction Chapters 1 Creativity 2 To see and to look 3 Image and object 4 Marcel Duchamp 5 Sigmar Polke Conclusion Bibliography

3-4 5-6

7 - 12 13 - 18 19 - 26 27 - 35 36 - 47 48 - 49 50 - 53



List of figuresCave painting of a bull in Lascaux Grotto, near Montignac, France. Image [online] available from: Accessed: 10/10/07 Pablo Picasso, Head of a Bull, 1943, assemblage of handlebar and saddle of a bicycle (16 x 1/8" high) Image [online] available from: Accessed: 3/09/07 Reversible vase, 1977, created for Queen Elisabeths Silver Jubilee. (maker unknown) Image [online] available from: Accessed: 10/10/07 Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917, porcelain urinal, sat on its back on a pedestal, signed by the artist under the name of Richard Mutt. As photographed by Alfred Stieglitz for P.B.T. The Blind Mind, No. 2 May 1917 (From plate No. 37 of The Dada Reader, A Critical Anthology, ed., 2008, exhibition catalogue, Tate Publishing.) Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1964, replica, assemblage of a bicycles wheel and a wooden kitchen stool (50 high). The original was assembled by the artist for the Exhibition Climax in 20th Century Art, in 1913. (From plate No. 154 Duchamp Manray Picapia, ed., 2008, exhibition catalogue, Tate Publishing) Sigmar Polke, Rasterzeichnung (Portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald),1963, Poster paint, pencil, and rubber stamp (37 5/16 x 27 3/8"). Collection Raschdorf (From plate No. 7 Sigmar Polke: The Three Lies of Painting, ed., 1997 Thames & Hudson) Sigmar Polke, Bunnies, 1966, synthetic polymer on linen (58 3/4 x 39 1/8 ) Joseph H. Hirshhorn Bequest and Purchase Funds, 1992 Image [online] available from: Accessed: 01/11/07



Sigmar Polke, The Axis of Time, 2007, mixed media on polyester fabric (10 x 16 ft) Venice Biennale: Think With the Senses - Feel With the Mind. Art in the Present Tense. Image [online] available from: Accessed: 01/10/07 Sigmar Polke, The Axis of Time, 2007, (paintings jointly titled), mixed media on polyester fabric (10 x 16 ft) Venice Biennale: Think With the Senses - Feel With the Mind. Art in the Present Tense. (Photographed by the author)




The aim of this dissertation is to examine processes behind the making of art and to assess how they provide us with vital explorative and adaptive means that aid our critical abilities.

It will show how creativity, generally assumed to be a merely gratifying interest, hides a forceful imaginative ability that serves two purposes: firstly projecting the subjects inner images (conscious and subconscious) onto the outer world and secondly establishing connections between visible things. This can have therapeutic effects as well as a cognitive function, originating unconventional associations that at least offer an evaluation of reality alternative to mainstream canons; if not an altogether revolutionary approach that opposes what is commonly perceived as the only possible truth.

In a visual world such as ours, where power/knowledge - the discourse in Faucaldian terms - is produced through (artificial) images, creativeness assumes a new decisive role in counterbalancing control. The thesis will show how inventiveness is strictly entwined with the act of seeing, allowing for a pondered understanding of what surrounds us. The fundamental principle behind any creative act, in the realm of the visual arts,



lies in the ability to use sight as a vehicle for providing information about our surroundings. It will also be shown how visual perception could be deceptive. Although reliable enough to still offer a crucial survival instrument, our sensorial observations are not absolute but relative in the sense that they can be subject to various interpretations. It is the plurality of attributed meanings that allows finding more than one solution to a specific problem. We also come to recognize the importance of context in the reception of images/objects. These can become symbols (signifiers or codes) for abstract concepts. The decoding of those signs are subject to the altering of our cultural points of views, making us conclude that there are multiple ways of seeing.

Instrumental to this study is the brief analysis carried out on two of the most famous ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp, whom, with his playful and mischievous attitude, offered an anarchist approach to the making and the reception of art. This threw the seeds not only for the majority of the art-movements that followed him, but also for post-modernism. Sigmar Polke displays an equally inquisitive stance, shifting his interests from arts to politics, to the creative act and the magic involved in it, and thus relying on the interconnectedness of all visible things. The three key elements of creativity (here analysed through the lens of Anthony Storrs study), seeing and object will provide a matrix to sustain and contextualise the argument. The work of Duchamp and Polke will be juxtaposed to highlight how perception is subject to intuitive, spontaneous processes as well as cultural modes.



This is important in order to form a critical comprehension of how reality is narrated.


CreativityHow to understand the world through the act of re-creation Creativity as play From sublimation of instinctual urges to a survival tool



According to psychoanalytical theories, creativity responds to a basic human instinct that allows the sublimation and projection of subconscious urges, as well as enabling a basic cognitive act. Starting as a need to grasp the world, a playful act through which we aim at replicating the visible around us, we use creativity to produce original outcomes, which are nonetheless copies of pre-existing models. This skill to re-create what is seen relies on the capacity to attribute meaning to the visible. This means the more open or uncertain the attribution of significance is, the higher the possibilities for interpretation. Regardless of the media or modes chosen, the making of art as an extension of creativity does not only express aesthetic desires or therapeutic needs but, a reflection/response to reality, it aids humans to analyse and criticise what constitutes the real as well as making the world a more manageable and desirable place to inhabit.

In his Dynamics of Creation (1972), Anthony Storr gives an account of the various reasons for creativity, and of the many possible reasons investigated, one view relies on the human need to understand the world where depicting it is a way to reach this aim. The activity of drawing executed by Palaeolithics primitives, of which the Lascaux cave is a famous example (fig. 1), embodies a practical rite designed to help the primitive in his pursuit of the animal (Storr, 1976, p.177). Facing a great amount of potentially fatal risks, man extended and deepened his perception of the world by representing it. Extrapolated by Herbert Reads Icon and



Idea, Storr quotes a fascinating account of a ritual perpetuated by African Pygmies.

Q uickTim e and a TIFF (U ncom pressed) decom pressor are needed to see this picture.

Fig.1 Cave painting, Lascaux, France

The ceremony is described by the anthropologist Frobenius, and recalls the activity of drawing as a passage to realize the object upon which magical powers were to be exercised and which was later to be pursued in reality (Storr, p.178). The rite culminates when an arrow is shot into the neck of an antelope drawn on the dirt, while pronouncing words of auspice. Moments later the men leave for the hunt. Drawing becomes a tool to put into view the object of desire; creating a likeness of the object would give the pygmies the impression of having a power over its



materialization. Acting out a performance that involved the figurative presence of the animal, helped the tribe to have more control over their emotions once they would have to face the real creature. Emphasising the limits of an argument that sees the creative attitude responding exclusively to a neurotic impulse, Storr addresses Freuds thesis on creativity as an activity of sublimation of instinctual urges. As Storr highlights, pre-genital desires are thought to be the drive behind the artists activity: according to Freuds point of view, the artist must presumably suffer from some unusual overemphasis of his infantile sexuality, or some degree of failure to attain genitality (sexual maturity). Or why would he need the special sublimation implicit in the artistic impulse? (Storr, pp. 20-1) Storr finds this thesis reductive: if a work of art is merely conceived to be a surrogate of sexual or self-preservative urges, then art, as well as play, cannot be seen as an adaptive, cognitive act, but one which works against survival. Ernest Jones is quoted to oppose Freuds view and to propose that not only sublimation, but the most extreme denial of infantile enjoyments is realised by bringing out orderliness out of chaos. Storr sees the playful aspect of art much more than just a fulfilling activity that offers a refuge from the world. Both art and play en