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Re: [BKARTS] bookart

Text & Context

When I use a word ... it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less. ...    Alice In Wonderland

Text: noun: the words of something written (Example: "There were more than a thousand words of text") noun: the main body of a written work (as distinct from illustrations or footnotes etc.) 

Text: noun 
  1 a written or printed work regarded in terms of content rather than form. 
  2 the main body of a book or other work as distinct from appendices, illustrations, etc. 
  3 written or printed words or computer data. 
  4 a written work chosen as a subject of study.
Text: words that have been written down, typed, or printed
written version of something: a written, typed, or printed version of something such as a speech or a statement

Context: noun: discourse that surrounds a language unit and helps to determine its interpretation 
             noun: the set of facts or circumstances that surround a situation or event

Con·text [ kón tèkst ] (plural con·texts) 
  1. text surrounding word or passage: the words, phrases, or passages that come before and after a particular word or passage in a speech or piece of writing and help to explain its full meaning
  2. surrounding conditions: the circumstances or events that form the environment within which something exists or takes place
Context: noun 
  1 the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea. 
  2 the parts that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning. 

The entire argument claiming that plastic arts contain text has confused the definitions and the concepts of "text" and "context."

Everything that you call text in your argument is actually context, and not insignificant in that it is not only necessary to the understanding of the work, but the unstated reference to external context is what accounts for much of the power of such works. It is not, however, contained in the work.

The issue here is not what is a book and what is plastic art, but the use of language. The reason we have commonly agreed upon definitions is so that the act of communication works as intended; that is clear, unambiguous and precise. Only then can language be reliably employed in discourse to arrive at some meaningful conclusions.

The danger is not that some individual may feel insulted by having their freedom of expression curtailed, it is that when an individual uses words that are privately defined he fails to communicate at all. This leads, in turn, to the real damage that is done by confusing media, functions, markets, and the general muddiness of discourse, leading ultimately to its failure to function at all..

So, when a term such as "text" is redefined and applied to objects to which it does not properly apply, then the discourse becomes chaotic and allows for erroneous conclusions to be drawn, for example, those concepts and qualities that belong to text such as words, analytical thinking, true/false logical distinctions simply do not apply to those objects that are defined by concepts of context.

In other words, The Burghers of Calais does not contain texts that describe its cultural ramifications, it infers them. That is its context.

It appears the terms true and false as defined and used in discrete, linear, analytical systems such as logic, language, words and text are being redefined and erroneously applied to non-linear, non-discrete, holistic media such as the plastic arts.

One media is read, the other is viewed.

True and false are logical terms that are applied to logical argument, not to a landscape. In that sense a landscape cannot be true or false. It can be representational, a good likeness, a poor likeness, abstract, accurate or inaccurate, or as referring to some cultural item, etc, etc.. All of these appreciations or judgments are external contexts and while such contexts may be true or false themselves, the object itself may not.

To say that the definition of plastic arts do not deal in terms of true and false is false seems to be based solely on the word "blatantly." I see no rational argument in that statement. Simply a statement by fiat.

Unless the term "blatantly" is a code word for irrational faith, blind assumptions or knee-jerk reactions.

All plastic art does indeed suspend critical thinking as a medium. The medium itself does not employ logical systems that rely on the true/false ( the excluded middle ) values and functions of critical thought such as logic, language, words and text. The medium of critical thinking in this case applies to the context, not to the object. Value judgments are after the fact and external to the object. What the object may or may not demand is not contained in the medium of the object itself. And so, it is viewed, not read.

Perhaps the confusion here is related to literature which is comprised of text, but the text is used in the way a painting is executed, by avoiding the critical thinking and logical discourse that invites a true/false judgment. The Iliad is not a critical essay on the issues relating to war, it invites the reader to draw conclusions that are not contained in the text itself. When Achilles kills Hector the portrayal of the scene is not a matter of true/false rational conclusions. It simply is and, as such, invites the reader to form his own opinions which may or may not be true or false. In this way literature behaves the way painting does, by avoiding the direct use of rational value judgments. A poem does not function the way a computer language manual functions. This difference of function in two different uses of the medium of text may lead to some confusion about the true/false nature of textual objects and those confusion are then magnified by applying them to plastic arts

Ultimately, the injury done to language and to aesthetics both is when the definitions of a term that belongs to one medium is erroneously applied to another. Concepts that belong to text do not necessarily belong to concepts that belong to context.

The fact is that in regard to the contexts of art media we are saying pretty much the same thing; it is non-trivial and necessary to the function of art.

However, when the definitions of plastic arts are applied to texts it ultimately confuses text with context and then concludes that text is of no particular importance. Ironically it accomplishes the denial of the value and distinction of text by using text itself. Gödel did much the same for logic and mathematics, discursive systems related to language. But no doubt that is beyond the scope of this discussion. 

Actually portraits are not documents. They are visual objects that record visual data about which contextual documents may apply.

The term "documenting" in current usage confuses the idea of written documentation with the idea of visual recording. These too are distinct functions which have been conflated by the term "documenting" and thus giving rise to the confusion between what is a document and what is a visual recording. Mostly the term "document" is used to mean an historical record. But properly speaking an historical record that is textual is a document and an historical record that is visual belongs to the plastic representation of the historical record.

It is apparent that the way some individuals cannot grasp the fundamental definitions of words and concepts, especially as applied to the plastic and the literary arts, destroys the function and potential use of discourse itself with the muddy waters of logorrhea.

A hawk is not a handsaw and text is not context as it applies to the plastic arts. Worse, the function and value of context as it applies to the plastic arts is then applied to the texts of the literary arts. They are not the same. Perhaps the confusion lies in the fact that some context is itself text, for example an essay about the history, meaning and cultural impact of "The Burghers of Calais." And some text, say The Iliad which is itself made of text, has had a plethora of contextual texts written about it. And they too are not the same. The text of the Iliad is the literary object and the texts about the Iliad are external contextual objects.

But the fact remains; the Iliad employs text as its medium, The Burghers of Calais does not. One is read, the other is viewed.

When engaging is discussion, it would be wise to employ a more careful use of dictionaries.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Pickafight Books" <pickafightbooks@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 5:39 PM
Subject: Re: bookart

> Michael,
> I think we can all be guilty of sloppy thinking and miscommunication at
> times, and I'll be the first to admit it. I think you raise some interesting
> points, but we seem to differ.
> Michael said;
> So, plastic arts, just like the poem, rely on referring to external
> contexts, not only for convenience, but for the power of it. There is
> something moving, persuasive and powerful about the terse reference to
> common cultural contexts. For one thing, such references are beyond
> true/false analytical thinking. It is what makes the metaphors and symbols
> so powerful in a poem by Tu Fu and the fact that it would require the entire
> translation of the Chinese culture to effectively render a Tu Fu poem into
> English. That in itself makes translation impossible or, at best,
> approximate. Note that it is not necessary to translate "The Burghers of
> Calais." Perhaps such power has to do with the suspension of critical
> thinking which, after all, invites a value judgment. No one can accuse "The
> Burghers of Calais" of being false. The criticism of the plastic arts rely
> more on emotive terms such as liking, viewing, representation, form, etc,
> and hardly at all on such value judgments of true or false.
> I disagree that sculpture and the plastic arts are merely 'viewed' and not
> read. That the plastic arts don't deal in terms of true and false or contain
> analytical thought is, I think, blatantly untrue.
> Take History painting - a genre of painting where current events are
> commissioned to be painted by an artist. A text. Much great research and
> historical commentary has been conducted pouring over the surface of a
> painting or print. It can be described as being true and false. It contains
> historical information. Portraiture is no different. They are documents. War
> artists do the same job - documenting the realities and events of war. Art
> does contain significant texts. I brought up the Burghers of Calais for that
> reason - there is a text contained in that sculpture - it is not merely an
> illustration. Art is NEVER about suspending critical thinking and demands
> the viewer to make countless value judgments - and it is not just about
> whether we 'like it or not'.
> I think the way some view the Plastic Arts is hindering the current
> discussion.
> Andrew Williams.
> Pickafight Books
> Stanmore NSW Australia
>             ***********************************************
>     Visit "The Book of Origins: A survey of American Fine Binding"
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     Visit "The Book of Origins: A survey of American Fine Binding"
                Online exhibit and catalog order form at
             For all your subscription questions, go to the
                      Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive.
          See <http://www.philobiblon.com> for full information

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