Tag Archives: theory

Book Review: The Ground of the Image by Jean-Luc Nancy

Cover of "The Ground of the Image"

Jean-Luc Nancy’s exploration of the image in relationship to the sacred feels slightly uneven compared to the other two books of his I’ve read (“Listening” and “The Fall of Sleep”). Two of the nine chapters — the first, “The Image — The Distinct”, and the fifth, “Distinct Oscillation”, contain some of my favorite writing of his, while the rest of the book hits a combination of high and low notes for my tastes. One of those high notes is his critique of violence in chapter two, which becomes so impassioned that his language becomes as coarse as the violence he seeks to shun; similarly, his keen eye for compositional analysis shines in the chapter eight’s analysis of a painting of the Visitation by Pontormo. The low notes tend to come in what I can only describe as needlessly murky writing, as in the meandering exploration of visual Nazism in chapter three, “Forbidden Representation.” Continue reading

Book Review: Victorian Soundscapes by John M. Picker

Victorian Soundscapes book cover

One of the most engaging books on sound I’ve read this year, “Victorian Soundscapes” examines the changing attitudes toward sound throughout the Victorian era by concentrating on the literature of the time. While previous knowledge of the written works referred to would obviously make this book’s conclusions even clearer than they already are, prior knowledge of the texts discussed isn’t necessary. Some of the works analyzed include Dickens’ “Dombey and Son,” George Eliot’s “Daniel Deronda,” Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Voice of Science,” Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” and Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” Along the way, other writings and events woven into the analysis include the writings on acoustics by Hermann von Helmhotz; the anti-immigrant cartoons of Punch magazine’s John Leech; the far-fetched theories about sound and the atmosphere put forth by father of the computer Charles Babbage; the saga of Thomas Carlyle’s attempt to design and build the first soundproof study in London; the histories of the development of the telephone, phonograph, and gramophone; and the origin of the painting “His Master’s Voice” featuring the Victor Dog. Continue reading

On Intuition and Art

Many young artists, particularly those embroiled within an MFA program, struggle to defend their art making decisions. If their decision can’t be backed up with a snippet of Deleuze, a paragraph of Baudrillard, or a chapter of Benjamin, they feel, it has no meaning. Many artists drown themselves in theory, using it as the sole inspiration for work that signifies the signifier of art theory, bouncing around an echo chamber of ideas that, regardless of how well-intentioned those ideas may be, are more than likely obscure if not downright irrelevant to a large portion of their work’s audience. Continue reading