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The capacity to be understood in more than one way. In art, a word, phrase, or image can be ambiguous if it contains multiple meanings to the artist and/or the viewer. (SEE: Robert Adams, Vija Celmins, Ann Hamilton, Arturo Herrera, Roni Horn, Martin Puryear, Robert Ryman, Richard Tuttle)
The act of borrowing imagery or forms to create something new. (SEE: Ellen Gallagher, Arturo Herrera, Jenny Holzer, Pierre Huyghe, Paul Pfeiffer, Fred Wilson)
How the figures and their setting are composed.
A critical review or commentary, especially one dealing with works of art or literature. In art, criticism is a review or a discussion of a work of art. In addition, a work of art itself can criticize a specific idea or express a critical idea or opinion.
Any standard or convention, as in the “western canon” referring to books, music, and art that have been the most influential in shaping western culture.
A working arrangement between an artist and another person, group, or institution. Present throughout art history, collaborations are considered unusual today when artists tend to be valued for their individual voice and contribution to society. Some artists even form long-term working partnerships with other artists—these are seen as distinct from collaborations which are often temporary. (SEE: Eleanor Antin, Matthew Barney, Mel Chin, Oliver Herring, Theresa Hubbard/Alexander Bircher, Judy Pfaff, Matthew Ritchie, Laurie Simmons, William Wegman, Krzysztof Wodiczko)
A practice of domination which involves the subjugation of one people to another. It is similar to the term imperialism, which refers to the way that one country exercises power over another. The establishment, exploitation, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. Colonialism is a set of unequal relationships, what we have referred to throughout this course as a “gendered” relationship.
A thought or idea; a frame of mind that can include imagination, opinion, logic, etc. Concept-based art emphasizes that the idea is equal to, if not more important, than the finished product. Conceptual art can take many forms, from photographs to texts to videos, while sometimes there is no object at all. Emphasizing the ways things are made more than how they look, conceptual art often raises questions about what a work of art can be. Conceptual art is also often difficult to collect or preserve, as it can be the artist’s own experience that is the work of art. (SEE: Janine Antoni, Roni Horn, Alfredo Jaar, Maya Lin, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Gabriel Orozco, Richard Tuttle)
A social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts
The location, information, or time frame that informs how a work of art is viewed and what it means. Works of art often respond to a particular space or cultural climate. If the context for a work of art is changed or recontextualized, the way in which the work is understood may change as well. (SEE: Jennifer Allora/Guillermo Calzadilla, Mel Chin, Mark Dion, Roni Horn, Pepón Osorio, Jessica Stockholder, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Andrea Zittel)
A critique of any theoretical system is not an examination of its flaws and imperfections. It is not a set of criticisms designed to make the system better. It is an analysis that focuses on the grounds of that system’s possibility. The critique reads backwards from what seems natural, obvious, self-evident, or universal, in order to show that these things have their history,
An ancient kind of literary composition that became the most common form of art criticism well into the 20th century. An ekphrasis is a verbal description of a painting or other visual work of art.
Style – how the composition is finished in its details
Mother-of-pearl inlay technique used in painting and decorative arts projection.
The suggestion that something is short-lived or endures for only a very short time. In visual art, performance art or environmental art viewed outdoors is often created with the understanding that it will be viewed for a finite amount of time. (SEE: Robert Adams, Janine Antoni, Tim Hawkinson, Gabriel Orozco, James Turrell, Krzysztof Wodiczko)
That which is intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.
A system of morals or judgments which govern one’s behavior, ethics often intersect with a work of art or the process of its making. Artists often feel that they have an ethical responsibility to voice political concerns or make changes to society. (SEE: Ida Applebroog, Cai Guo Qiang, Alfredo Jaar, Nancy Spero, Kara Walker, Fred Wilson, Krzysztof Wodiczko)
Working with new or unfamiliar materials or media and experimenting or reconceiving their form and/or function to create a work of art. (SEE: Janine Antoni, Matthew Barney, Cai Guo-Qiang, Oliver Herring, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Judy Pfaff, James Turrell, Andrea Zittel)
Refers to the indication in an artifact of its having been made. We may, for example, infer from a wooden panel that a tree was felled, sectioned, planed, transported, cut into a specific format, and prepared for painting; before the painting on the panel was finished in one or another style, pigments were gathered, brushes made, and so forth.
Any inanimate object worshipped for its magical powers. [Commodity fetishism is a term of Marxian economic and political analysis, It is the perception of the social relationships involved in production, not as relationships among people, but as economic relationships among the money and commodities exchanged in market trade.]
From the Latin “formare,” means something like “having been shaped,” and refers to culturally specific conditions of presentation. Any format is already a significant artifact before it is used in one way or another. Wooden panels and canvases are familiar formats in European art, as are screens and scrolls in Far Eastern art. Murals, paintings on walls, are less specific, and, as we approach natural objects and surfaces, we move away from formats toward more nearly universal conditions of presentation.
Function is simple use. Purposes are culturally specific; they may involve functions shared with other cultures, but in specific forms and ways. Purpose is a much broader category.
Referring to the structure or design of a composition and how that design can be adapted to a particular function or use. Often pertains to design but has broader connotations for thinking about art and its relation to popular culture and media. (SEE: Mel Chin, James Turrell, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Andrea Zittel)
Culturally, hegemony refers to the means by which language and media are the official source of information for the people of a society. In selecting particular information to be communicated to the subordinate populace, the language of the hegemon thus limits what is communicated; hence, the source practises hegemonic influence upon the person or people receiving the given information — how the messages are presented thereby determines the value of the information as “reliable” or “unreliable”, as “true” or “false”, for the recipient reader, listener, and viewer.
In science, a hybrid is a unique form created from the combination or offspring of two animals, plants, or other organic species. In art, a hybrid form combines two or more distinct media to create a new form, thus redefining traditional categories of art. critics of this term suggest that the term presupposes a mixing of two pure cultures. Culture purity is a myth and “hybrid forms” represent the confluence of many cultures and histories. (SEE: Janine Antoni, Mark Bradford, Cai Guo-Qiang, Mel Chin, Oliver Herring, Elizabeth Murray, Matthew Ritchie, Catherine Sullivan)
Cultural hybridity encompasses:
A work of art created for a specific architectural situation, installations often engage multiple senses such as sight, smell and hearing. The placement of individual works of art in a gallery is also commonly referred to as an installation. Installations are generally temporary and stationary, but some installations travel to different locations and exist over longer periods of time. (SEE: Janine Antoni, Ann Hamilton, Jenny Holzer, Tim Hawkinson, Roni Horn, Alfredo Jaar, Pepón Osorio, Judy Pfaff, Jessica Stockholder, Do-Ho Suh)
Any structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given community — may it be human or a specific animal one. Institutions are identified with a social purpose, transcending individuals and intentions by mediating the rules that govern cooperative living behavior.
How the assigned subject is interpreted by the artist.
The state or position of being placed close together or side-by-side, so as to permit comparison or contrast. Visual artists often use juxtaposition to reference existing images or ideas, but suggest new meanings. (SEE: Mark Bradford, Michael Ray Charles, John Feodorov, Walton Ford, Barbara Kruger, Ann Hamilton, Raymond Pettibon, Shahzia Sikander)
Systematic transition of the surfaces of virtual forms from light to dark, as if light from a source were illuminating actual three-dimensional forms.
Derives from the Greek optike, meaning something like “how vision works.” Optics since ancient Greek texts involved the analysis of vision, according to the elements of light, dark, and color. The development of Western naturalistic painting parallels the development of a modern science of optics based on the visual angle, that is, the point of view from which a person see
Since the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism in 1978, the term “Orientalism” is used to refer to a general patronizing Western attitude towards Middle Eastern, Asian and North African societies. In Said’s analysis, the West essentializes these societies as static and undeveloped—thereby fabricating a view of Oriental culture that can be studied, depicted, and reproduced. Implicit in this fabrication, writes Said, is the idea that Western society is developed, rational, flexible, and superior.
A social system in which the male is the primary authority figure central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination.
Refer to the treatment of an image on a format in such a way that hierarchical relations (centrality, equality, subordination) are maximally clear.
Public, private, or videotaped, performances often involve the artist performing a creative, visually compelling action. Performance art is normally created by people with a visual arts education and relates more to the history of painting and sculpture than to theater or dance. Often taking place in a gallery or on video, performance art rarely involves trained actors or directors. (SEE: Laurie Anderson, Eleanor Antin, Janine Antoni, Cai Guo Qiang, Pierre Huyghe, Oliver Herring, Laurie Simmons)
Literature, broadcasting, music, dance, theater, sports, and other cultural aspects of social life distinguished by their broad-based presence and popularity across ethnic, social, and regional groups. Popular culture has increasingly influenced visual artists who often respond to or critique its influences on society. (SEE: Mark Bradford, Michael Ray Charles, Mel Chin, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen, Paul Pfeiffer, Lari Pittman, Catherine Sullivan)
A term that has come to describe the stylistic developments that depart from the norms of modernism. Postmodernism questions the validity of modernist emphasis on logic, simplicity, and order, suggesting that ambiguity, uncertainty, and contradiction may also have a valid place.
Refers to relations of relative size: in images, proportions may be qualitative, in which case they stage essential, hierarchical relations (the head of the figure is more important and therefore larger); or quantitative, in which case proportions are descriptive. Proportions may also be normative or ideal, in which cases they attribute harmony or unity to an image.
Is a relation of units irrespective of size. A statue may be life-size or colossal and be made according to the same ratios.
Religion (from O.Fr. religion “religious community,” from L. religionem(nom. religio) “respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods,” “obligation, the bond between man and the gods” is derived from the Latin religiō, the ultimate origins of which are obscure. Modern scholars favor the derivation from ligare “bind, connect”, probably from a prefixedre-ligare, i.e. re (again) + ligare or “to reconnect,” which was made prominent by St. Augustine. What is called ancient religion today, many other societies would have called “law.” Many languages have words that can be translated as “religion,” but they may use them in a very different way, and some have no word for religion at all.
A sign is something that can be interpreted as having a meaning and therefore able to communicate information to the one interpreting or de-coding the sign. The advantage of thinking of art as signifying is that it is much broader than the modern idea of European origin that a work of art “represents” something – usually nature.
Any system of signs, made up of signifiers and signifieds, is a signifying system.
Works of art that are tied to a unique place, site-specific art is sometimes impermanent. For people unable to visit site-specific works, an experience of the piece is often limited to photographic documentation and word-of-mouth. (SEE: Mel Chin, Jenny Holzer, Judy Pfaff, Martin Puryear, Richard Serra, Jessica Stockholder, James Turrell, Krzysztof Wodiczko)
The treatment of the lower edge of a rectilinear format as if it were the beginning of a virtual coordinate plane.
In this usage, style refers primarily to evidence of individual hand and to local traditions of craft related by instruction and emulation.
A substitute stands for something else; all images have substitutive value, always under social spatial conditions of presentation.
Bilateral symmetry means equality of position relative to a central axis. Circle symmetry is seen in many forms of ornament. Technically it means the rotation relative to axes formed by radii equally dividing a circle into four parts.
Local skills associated with a broader technology.
The available means for transformation of given nature.
Tibetan Buddhist religious painting.
An indication of former presence and contact.
Alternative to stage space; in viewer space, the lower edge of a planar format serves as a limit of a field of vision, so that the virtual space represented seems tp be continuous with the actual space in which the viewer stands.
An apparent third dimension on a two-dimensional surface. Virtuality refers to this effect of three-dimensionality, and t the cluster of devices by which it is achieved.
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