Davies, Ch. 4, Varieties of Art


1.       Chapter about the ontology of art

          a.       Ontology: Study of the matter, mode or manner in which things exist

          b.       Art exists in a variety of forms and manners

          c.       Examples:

                    i.        How long artwork exists?

                              (1)     Compare spontaneous jazz improvisation that exists for a limited time with a painting that persist and can be experienced on different occasions

                    ii.       Do artworks change over time in response to ongoing interpretation and reception?

                              (1)     Davies says no.

                    iii.      Is the artwork in rock music a recording or a performance?

                    iv.      The hip-hop DJ who scratches and samples other’s recordings creating artworks while appropriating others (while the person who puts cd into stereo system does not)

                    v.       Question 4.4: What is the artwork here? Jean Tinguely's Homage to New York of 1960


2.       Davies’ defends ontological contextualism:

          a.       Artwork’s identity and contents generated in part by relations it holds to aspects of socio-historical setting in which it was created

                    i.        History of production important to artworks identity

          b.       But later contexts do not affect it

                    i.        E.g., How an artwork is interpreted or understood later can’t affect its fundamental characteristics or identity



4.       Davies rejects idea artworks are abstract/formal patterns that are not created (as eternal and indestructible) but discovered

5.       Rejects this “ontological Platonism”

          a.       Artworks are purely formal patterns, distinct from the physical items or events in which they are exemplified

          b.       The square: An abstract/formal pattern that can be neither created nor destroyed but can be (and was) discovered

          c.       Example: Beethoven drew attention to certain note-sequences when he composed his 5th symphony, but the pattern (which is the artwork) pre-existed his efforts

                    i.        He discovered the artwork, not created it

                    ii.       If all copies of score destroyed (along with everything else from which we could get an accurate copy )

                    iii.      We lost our access to the work, but its existence remains unaffected

6.       Davies criticism of ontological Platonism

          a.       If someone destroys a sculpture (or all instances of a cast sculpture and the molds), we don’t think of him as hiding the artwork from us

                    i.        Very different from private collector who denies access to artwork by keeping it locked in vault

          b.       Mona Lisa is not a abstract pattern, because

                    i.        If someone destroys Mona Lisa, the problem is not that we have lost contact with the abstract pattern it exemplifies, for there are thousands of prints of that pattern


7.       Ontological contextualism (artworks’ history of production matters) is incompatible with ontological platonism (that artworks are solely abstract patterns)

          a.       If artworks are solely abstract patterns, then as long as the pattern is instantiated, we have the artwork and so the pattern’s history, origin or context does not matter (for that same pattern could have been produced by a different history of production)

          b.       When we accept that artworks depend for identity and content on relations to art-historical and wider context in which produced (note, not context in which appreciated!), can’t be understood as mere abstract formal patterns

          c.       The formal patterns they present matter to their identity, but that is not the only dimension

          d.       Other relevant factors to its identity include: genre, style, medium, creator’s intentions, relation of work to other works of artists, art-historical setting in which originated and to wider social/political environment



9.       Davies argues that some artworks are singular and others can have many incarnations

10.     Two kinds of art works:

          a.       Works than can have multiple instances

                    i.        Novels, symphonies, cast statues, prints, poems, movies

                              (1)     Each of us can have a copy of same poem

          b.       Singular pieces (can’t have multiple instances)

                    i.        Oil paintings and sculpted statues

11.     Some argue that even statues and oil paintings are (potentially) multiple

          a.       If we could make identical copy of Mona Lisa, should not care if original destroyed

          b.       What we value is the form which can be instantiated in multiple ways

12.     Davies reply: Some artworks, like people, are singular, identical copy not the same

          a.       If you could clone our children or spouse, we would still want the original

          b.       History and origin matter to identity, and the copies/clones have different origin

          c.       David example: Is seeing the copy of Michelangelo’s David in a piazza near the building in which the original is housed enough?



13.     Manner and matter of production important (not just abstract form)

          a.       Manner: Important differences between perceptual equivalent sound played by a trumpet versus sound played by pushing a button on preprogramed synthesizer

          b.       Matter: What a work is made of is important (not just abstract patterns)

                    i.        Sandy Skoglund used 80 pounds of raw hamburger meat as medium for Spirituality in the Flesh a portrait of a seated woman

                    ii.       Damien Hirst created works that contain dying butterflies and rotting meat

                    iii.      Question 4.3: Damien Hirst’s sheep cut in half and suspended in formaldehyde was vandalized (ink thrown into the tank)


14.     Faithful copies vary in how similar they must be

          a.       How similar copies of multiple artworks must be to be faithful instances of the artwork varies

          b.       Two copies of novels or movies need be very similar (same word order and same visual appearance)

          c.       Performances can vary widely and be fully faithful

                    i.        Two performances of King Lear or Beethoven’s 5th symphony

                    ii.       Work leaves open some details (vague in parts)

                    iii.      Designed to be interpreted

                    iv.      More than one way to legitimately fill them out (such works are "thin," in constitutive detail, as opposed to others that are ‚Äúthick")

15.     Faithful reproduction or interpretative performance?

          a.       Hear performer whose CDs one knows by heart and she/he doesn’t sound like the CD

                    i.        Would it be better is she mimed her CD?

          b.       Okay for pop stars whose studio CDs used electronic intervention to

                    i.        Lip sink her performances?

                    ii.       Rely on backup singers (for disc was multi tracked)

          c.       If opera star does not sing all the parts she cheats

          d.       One an instance of a recording, the other interpretive performance?



17.     Davies argues art-historical context of creation affects artworks identity

          a.       If two perceptually identical artworks differ in this regard, they are not the same artwork

18.     Does artwork’s context continue to affect its identity after its creation, so that it remains self-identical, yet crucially altered

          a.       Do artworks have an evolving identity?

                    i.        Like a given person, young and blond and later old and bald

          b.       Margolis yes

          c.       Davies no (with a very few exceptions)

                    i.        Exception: if gardens are artworks, they do have an evolving identity as they are intended to change with growth of flowers and seasons

          d.       There is also a view out there that says artworks are not self-identical over time as new interpretations change their identity completely!

19.     Davies believes (for most part) identity of artwork fixed when created and do not evolve over time

          a.       Most importantly, new interpretations and new meanings for audiences don’t change the artwork (in any important way) (What about Paul McCartney's "When I'm 64?")


20.     Consider physical changes in artworks

          a.       Michelangelo’s ceiling and Judgement Wall in Sistine Chapel

          b.       Completed in 1512

          c.       Clothing painted over the loins of many naked figures at a later date

          d.       Centuries of candle smoke and pollution darkened the ceiling

          e.       Work cleaned at close of 20th century

          f.       Critics questioned long accepted idea that it was Titian who was master of color and Michelangelo master of form

          g.       Would Davies say that these artworks have not changed in significant ways?

          h.       Yes? Artwork not changed its identity, but these changes may make it difficult/impossible for present audiences to see it as artist’s contemporaries did?


21.     Changes in artwork not important to its identity (according to Davies)

                    i.        Artworks acquire new properties over time but none (of the below) are crucial to its identity or involve significant alterations

          b.       Older

          c.       *More influential

          d.       *Interpreted in new ways

          e.       Thought about by different people

          f.       Banned, neglected

                    i.        That an artwork was banned in later times might be crucial information to our understanding of it?

          g.       Water stained

          h.       Digitized

          i.        Sent into space

          j.        Existed when the President of China sneezed

          k.       *Fetch millions at an auction

          l.        *Culmination of a stylistic tradition

          m.      *Last of its kind

                    i.        Endangered species get special value suggests that properties crucial to its identity are changed

                    ii.       True also of artworks?

22.     Davies: None of the above changes seem central to its identity, in way in which its creator, genre, time of creation and content are


23.     Changes can make it very difficult for us to appreciate the work as audiences did when created

          a.       E.g., Viewing Mona Lisa, hard to forget that it is most reproduced art image in history, worth a fortune, once shot at

          b.       But these new properties don’t alter factors crucial to its identity

24.     According to Davies: All properties of artwork crucial to its identity are fixed when it is created (including fixed by relational properties of context of creation)


25.     Davies allows that significance of a work can be affected by its later treatment and reception (interpretation)

          a.       Why isn’t significance related to identity?

          b.       If significance is related to a work’s meaning, then since meaning is related to identity, significance affects identity

          c.       Why can’t meaning (and therefore content) of a work be different when the audience changes over time, so the work changes?


26.     Davies considers some possible counter examples

27.     Davies worries about trilogy counterexample

          a.       A book is finished

          b.       Later the author decides its part of a trilogy and writes the following two books

          c.       This seems like a case were later events effect identity of the earlier book

          d.       Davies argues that it’s a case of making a mistake about when the first book was completed:

                    i.        I guess he’s saying the first book is not completed until the later books are written

          e.       Consider Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the character of Bilbo Baggins

                    i.        Altered by the Fellowship of the Ring Trilogy?

                    ii.       Altered by the movies?


28.     EXAMPLES

29.     Recordings of Jazz improvisation are likely to damage if not kill the music

          a.       “If musicians intend their music to be evanescent, can it survive being canned?”

          b.       Difference between hearing a live performance where artist is taking a risky chance (tactical masterpiece or dismal failure?) and listening to the recording afterwards

          c.       Is like the difference between watching a sporting event and viewing the replay later when one knows the outcome

          d.       Okay to listen to a recording of a symphony intended to be heard on more than one occasion but a recording will corrupt the experience most apt in appreciating jazz



31.     James Young defense

          a.       A transcription of the original

                    i.        Transcription: work that is new by virtue of how its medium differs from its source (but retains a close connection to and reflects on its model)

                    ii.       E.g., Bach piece electronically synthesized

          b.       It is a movie of a movie, like a movie of a play or movie of a novel

          c.       Colorized movie is a new and separate work

                    i.        Just as Duchmap took image of Mona Lisa and created LHOOQ (a new and separate work)

                    ii.       Colorizer takes images of old movie and makes a new one

          d.       Colorization is not destructive of original

                    i.        Like the Duchamp case, original work not damaged

                    ii.       Differs from other examples of making new works from old

                    iii.      Robert Rauschenberg created Erased de Kooning by erasing a line drawing by older and then more famous artist

                    iv.      Might object to creation that involves destruction of another artwork especially when the result is of lower merit


32.     Arguments against colorization

33.     Ok a new and separate work may be created

          a.       But harms still occur

                    i.        Availability of black and white is likely to be reduced

                    ii.       Disrespect shown to original artist

                              (1)     Forgive Duchamp his cheek, given wittiness of his work and how far removed Leonardo is from us

                              (2)     Colorizers are not artistically clever and driven by profit

34.     Or colorized print is a defaced version of original; not a new and separate piece

                    i.        Colorization is messing around with the work, not creating a new one

                    ii.       Colorization alters movie for the worse (like scratches on film), but does not change it enough to undermine its identity as an instance of original work

35.     Does the change produce a new work or merely a version of the old one?

          a.       Is the absence of color essential to preservation of movie’s identity

                    i.        If it is, colorized movie is a different piece

                              (1)     So a new and derivative work

                    ii.       If it is not, colorized movie is a version or print of original

                              (1)     A defective version, just as a scratched version is

                              (2)     Might also argue improved version

          b.       Some films absence of color is part of what makes it the movie what it is

                    i.        Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull and Woody Allen’s Manhattan deliberately rejected option of color

                              (1)     So probably its absence reflects works identity

                              (2)     So colorizing these films can’t be criticized as messing with a given work for they are creating a wholly new one

                                         (a)     Seems strange that when absence of color defines a movie and is essential to the work, colorization is less problematic in one respect!

                    ii.       For earlier films where no choice besides black and white we can’t so easily conclude that absence of color was part of work’s identity

                    iii.      Only if black and white medium affects the works content does lack of color affect its identity

                    iv.      Ansel Adams

36.     Changes in color can affect a film’s mood and mood is part of content

          a.       Colored print is less stark and somber in emotional feel than black and white original

          b.       But colorized print can be seen as a performance interpretation and these can have different moods while still being instances of a work


37.     Davies summary of views on colorization

          a.       Reject defense of movie colorization that argues it results in new work; rather we have a version of the original film

          b.       Do these changes disfigure original (and does it matter)?

          c.       All relevant factors

                    i.        Is it a movie that claims to be an artwork or not?

                    ii.       Does it impact availability of B/W version?

                    iii.      How impact audiences appreciation of history of cinema?

                    iv.      Motives of movie-makers and colorizers

                    v.       Consider toleration we show to adaptations of movies for screening on TV