Articles for 2-10-10
Adolf, Loos “Ornament and Crime”
Osip Brik, “Photography versus Painting,” “From Picture to Calico-Print”
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reprodution,” “The Author as Producer”
The readings from this past week focused on comparing and contrasting different methods of art making. These articles are exploring the boundries between different artistic medium and how the evolution of new artforms in the mechanical age affected people on a social level. Benjamin poses this question in “Author as Producer”. What is the position of a work in relation to the production of its time? Throughout this article Benjamin explores many different methods of work, such as photography, Journalism, literature, and theatre. Then there is an examination of how these works relate socially in its own time, and to their similar contemporaries. Starting with literature, it is described that it must be proved to the writers of the time that they must write in the service of certain class interest. Now putting an end to his autonomy the writer must produce what is beneficial to the proletariat class struggle. To explain this point further Benjamin uses the term “operating writer” which means the functional interdependency that exists between correct political tendency and progressive literary technique. In 1928 Sergei Tertiakov is an example of this type of writer because he “actively intervenes” in what is being reported as opposed to just give an observation or account of the struggle. His Book “Characters in the Field” had considerable influence on the development of collective agriculture because he became part of this community and to the best of his ability shared his knowledge for a better operation.
When Benjamin mentions the newspapers method of reporting in Soviet Russia he shows how the line between reader and author is blurred. The readers of Soviet newspapers become collaborators due to the publishers opening up facets of the paper for the reader. This comes from the publishers “exploiting the readers longing for daily nourishment, who believes that he has the right for his opinion to be expressed.” So the reader becomes a collaborator who gains access to authorship, which then becomes the producer. This means that the playing field is leveled because a polytechnic education of the proletariat becomes a literary qualifier to authorship.
Photography becomes a moment of focus for Benjamin when he mentions “A Beautiful world” a picture anthology by Renger-Patsch. He states that “New Matter of Factness”, a German-politico movement reached its highest point with these photos of poverty, recorded in a fashionable manner, became an object of enjoyment. “New Matter of Factness” was a way that supplied a political power without changing it, and these photographs are an example. The barrier between image producer and author must be overthrown. The picture caption, as Benjamin states, is what is required so that it wrenches itself from modish commerce and gives it revolutionary value. Political progress for the author as a producer is founded in his technical progress. Author as producer must discover his solidarity with that of a photographer in order to have his solidarity with the proletariat class.
In “Ornament and Crime” Adolph Loos describes his views of social progression due to the role ornament in our culture. He describes how the modern criminal or degenerate is much like that of the Papaun due to the ornament of tattoos that they both posses. The Papuan is again compared to that of a modern day child in regards to the scribbling of erotic images on lavatory walls. Any modern man that partakes in this act must be a degenerate as well. He states that a country’s culture can be assessed by the extent to which its lavatory walls are smeared. So what comes out of this is the evolution of a culture is in direct correlation with the removal of ornament from utilitarian objects. So Loos uses a society’s use of ornament as a barometer for its cultural growth. In this argument there seems to be no way in which a cultivated person can get joy out of an ornamented object. If anything it is a signifier of a waste human labour, money, and material. It is then stated that we have Art and it has taken the place of ornament, in which he then brings up Beethoven, but I still think his examples are lacking. What then is the definition of art and that of ornament?