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Lesson Plans

Re: meaning/size/lipstick

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Henry Taylor (taylorh)
Sun, 7 Feb 1999 09:14:45 -0700

>3. Someone asked about the pathetic fallacy: Some people believe that it
>is a mistake to atttribute emotions(e.g. pathos) or other mental traits to
>the physical objects making up an artwork. Since paint on a canvas can't
>feel or think or say anything, they argue, we shouldn't say that a painting
>expresses sorrow or joy or says that nature is endangered, etc. Obviously
>such statements are literally false, but I think that when we say such
>things we are aware that we are speaking metaphorically. Still it is a
>tough problem to say precisely exactly what we do mean. Do we mean the
>painting makes us feel sad, that the painter was sad when she painted it,
>that the content is sad. None of these substitutions works in every case.

But, we still love solutions which we CAN apply in most if not every case.
Maybe we would get in less trouble if we could manage some enthusiasm for
case by case, relatively unique, solutions. One thing about art is that it
allows us to express that which is, or would be, ineffable in text. The real
problem may be when we insist on finding words and understanding in terms of

Yes, it' s a tough challenge. It is, however one of the primary things I
value in art and work to gain fluency with. Sometimes -maybe- the best
response to art, the clearest statements about art, can be OTHER ART. We
tend to shy away from that. It is, I think, in part the dominance and
success of the scientific paradigm.
But science has other languages to call on where words fail. The art worlds
may be caught up in a glamour, as yet unable to rely on modalities of
understanding unique to art and the realm of the senses and apart from text.

>4. Someone mentioned the fact that big buildings make statements about
>privelege. Certainly they do. Just the fact that some things get built or
>made and others don't carries a message, doesn't it? The point was also
>made that going into a large or elaborate building makes one feel a sense
>of power or even privelege perhaps. I agree---though it might also be
>intimidating. What is it that makes some public spaces evoke a sense of
>nobility or community and others evoke a sense of alienation or even anger?
>Best, Marcia

Maybe it is the incorporation of recognizable human elements and values and
scales in architecture that makes the difference. Pure cold rationalism can
be inhuman and alien... uncomfortable, provocative in painful ways. The user
needs to be able to unravel the puzzle offered by the architect. Pure
intellect is not always an easily accessible tool for us. A "machine for
living in" was an interesting notion but who (now at least) wants to live in
a machine? Christopher Alexander, incidentally, is a good resource for
understanding human qualities in architecture. His "Notes on the Synthesis
of Form" might be a nice document on a possible postmodern kind of