Sunday, February 7, 2010

Formal Essay Proposal

The essay will discuss the 'authenticity' of Graphic Design and the 'authenticity' of Art, asking the question can contemporary fine art be judged as more authentic than contemporary design? Topics it will cover:
-What makes Fine Art Authentic, what makes it devoid of authenticity as argued by Adorno.
-In relation to the above point, does this make Graphic Design strictly pop culture?
-Traditional roles of design
-The triad of thesis, ant-thesis and synthesis set out by Hegel in relation to pop, neo-pop and lowbrow art, how design elements are potentially elevated to 'authentic' status
-the emergence of pop culture in fine art, i.e. The School of Saatchi on BBC that used X-Factor like talent scouting and varying audition phases to find the new artist.
-Socially aware design and whether it's purpose can elevate it's authenticity or not.

I intend to focus on Marxist theories on culture and communication theory specifically focusing in on the works of Adorno and Hegel.

Working bibliography:
Adorno, T.W, (2004) Aesthetic Theory, London: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.
Adorno, T.W, (1954) How To Look At TV, The Quarterly of Film Radio and Television, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 213-235
G. W. F, (1975), Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T. M. Knox, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Massey, W.E, (1990), Highbrow-lowbrow: Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America,
Boston: Harvard University Press
Swirski, P. (2005) From Lowbrow to Nobrow, Canada: McGill-Queen's University Press,
The School of Saatchi, episode 1. (2009). The British Broadcasting Company, Channel Two. 23 November 2009. 21:00.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Books I need to look at.

Adorno dealt in music as well as art, I want to look at his theories on Art and Design, so I'm going to look at Adorno's Aesthetic Theory, which deals with the relationship between art and society.

I also need to look at Hegel's triad of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. I think that theory is applicable to fine-art, consumer based design and it's synthesis into pop art, neo-pop art and the lowbrow art movement. I need to as Richard what would be best to read in order to grapple with this theory.

I want to look atpop-art, neo-pop art, low brow art and design as art in general, so a few books about these movements might be useful such as Weirdo Deluxe, EdgyCute, Highbrow-Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America that all deal with these subjects, particularly the last one that seems more like a critical thinking approach to the subject than the others, though they will be useful in terms of quotation of the artists themselves.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Informal propsal for 2,000 word essay:

The most personally intriguing subject, from all those covered in the lectures, is Adorno's theories on pop music. I want to look at the equivelant in design and art... though that doesn't necessarily mean pop-art, however, that will most likely be covered within what I talk about. Primarily, I want to focus on the subversion of pop-culture in art,design and illustration. I'd like to explore areas such as counter-culture, DIY ethics etc. And artists such as Robert Williams from the low brow art movement.

I think after a conversation with Richard Miles, I can probably clarify this a little bit more and generate a question to be answered.

Baudrillard: Reality, Virtuality and Hyperreality.

Baudrillard's theories were based upon principles established by Marx (‘critique of political economy',‘labour theory of value’ etc.)

Theories established by Sassure (particularly his theory of the sign): etc.

Plato's Cave Allegory:
Basically it goes: If people are strapped to their seats and shown shadow puppets against the cave wall, all they know as reality is the shadows. The reality is in fact the fire and the manipulation of their of.

This becomes a metaphor for the reality we are presented with through mass media and the actual reality of a situation.
‘mundum simulacrum aeternum esse alicuius aeterni’
Cicero’s translation of The Timaeus
Plato, The Timaeus

Simulacra and Simulation

Types of Simulacra:

1. where the image is clearly an artificial placemarker for the real item.
2. Second order, associated with the industrial Revolution, where distinctions between image and reality break down due to the proliferation of mass-produced copies. The item's ability to imitate reality threatens to replace the original version.
3. Third order, associated with the postmodern age, where the simulacrum precedes the original and the distinction between reality and representation breaks down. There is only the simulacrum.-Hegarty, Paul (2004). Jean Baudrillard: live theory. London

The origins of Simulacra:

1. Contemporary media including television, film, print and the Internet, which are responsible for blurring the line between goods that are needed and goods for which a need is created by commercial images.
2. Exchange value, in which the value of goods is based on money rather than usefulness.
3. Multinational capitalism, which separates produced goods from the plants, minerals and other original materials and the processes used to create them.
4. Urbanization, which separates humans from the natural world.
5. Language and ideology, in which language is used to obscure rather than reveal reality when used by dominant, politically powerful groups.

Baudrillard argued that Disney was full simulation, i.e. The Disney castle was based on a Disney castle in a movie, there is no basis for this place in reality. There is nowhere else on earth more real, in that you know in it's entirety it's a simulation. There is no chance of mistaken simulation for reality.

The Gulf War didn't really happen
The crux of this controversial book's arguement was that the truth of the Gulf War is never really seen, it's existance to most was through Radar and images on tv screens, most of the decisions in the war were based on perceived intelligence coming from maps, images, and news, than from actual seen-with-the-eye intelligence.

'The Gaze and Psychoanalysis' notes.

The first significant thing we learned in this lecture was a Freudian approach to the mind: The mind is broken into 3 categories; the ego, which is our conscious mind. The Id, which is our desires and drives and the super-ego which acts as a filter between the two, inhibiting our desires based on a moral compass we develop. This was depicted using an iceberg as a metaphor:

Key Quote:
‘The self, for Freud, is not something which exists
independently of sexuality, libidinal enjoyment, fantasy or
the patriarchal culture of modern society.
Indeed the very distinction between subject and object, self
and world, necessarily involves a mind-shattering
repression of the unconscious imagination.
The human subject, in Freud’s opinion, only comes into
being through repression…….Selfhood is thus
fractured precariously between conscious and
unconscious.’ Elliot, A (2002)

In other words, humans are able to interact with others and the world around them by repressing our sexual and agressive desires, i.e. repressing the instinctual urge to act agressively toewards someone who is emotionally hurtful towards you.

Then we looked at why Psychoanalysis is useful in the art world, primarily it was uggested that Art looks at these desires and repressions. the first example of this is Freud's analysis of Moses by Michelangelo in 1914. He sked, did Michelangelo portray Moses abot to stand or about to sit. Frued suggested that he portrayed Moses about to stand up and act. This portrayal of Moses about to act, Freud would argue, is Michelangelo's way of visualising his own intellectual anger.

Other artists that deal with the unconscious mind and it's desires were the surrealist movement lead by Breton and Dali etc.


A significant part of the lecture was object-relations. This is teh study of how we relate to objects, most signifcantly transitional objects; A transitional object is an object that allows us to move from our maternal connection to the real world by ourselves, for example a blanket, doll or teddy bear, in which we place significant emotional significance. ‘transitional objects’ (Winnicott, 1951) are precursors to our adult appreciation of art. Because we can ‘invest’ emotional energy into an inanimate object, we can also appreciate art and literature.

Advertising preys on this by replacing one feeling or desire with an object, for example we can replace or re-identify objects with sexuality or love etc. etc.

The Abject

The abject is the part of the body that repulses us, bodily-function, fluids etc. such as urine and blood. These acts are natural yet as societ and culture has progressed, there has been a sublimation of these instincts and natural 'things'. Society's progression is based on a 'renunciation of instinct' Freud (1930)

The Gaze
Laura Mulvey
‘Visual Pleasures and Narrative
Cinema’ (1975) Hollywood film is sexist in that it represents the gaze as powerful
and male. Heroes typically are male and drive the plot. Women in film exist as ‘sexual’ objects to be ‘looked at’

Scopophilia is the natural pleasure we get from looking at other's body's in an objectifying way.

‘… the extreme [scopohilia]
can become fixated into a
perversion, producing obsessive
voyeurs and Peeping Toms
whose only sexual satisfaction
can come from watching, in an
active controlling sense, an
objectified other.’ (Mulvey, 162)

Different types of Gaze: intra diagetic gaze – a gaze of one depicted person at another within the image. Degas' La Viol This gaze is ‘intra- diegetic’. It is a
character in the image that gazes at the subject (the young girl).

extra diagetic gaze – this is the direct address to the viewer – the gaze of a person in an image looking out at us – avoided in cinema, but common to advertising & TV newsreaders

Suture is where we're put into the eyes of a character in either a film or a videogame and we experience how they gaze upon the world. Suture can be broken when we realise that the gaze we're experiencing is constructed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

General unsubstantiated thoughts on Adorno's theory...

OK, so this is quite an informal post with just a few words on what I think of this theory:

Firstly, I'd like to point out the hypocracy of Adorno's arguement... he suggests the music he listens to is authentic, however classical music has it's own conformity, elements of the music produce similar automatic response from the listener. The difference is that Adorno feels he belongs to an enlightened elite group, however he, in my opinion is a victim of the same pseudo-individualism he accuses the working class of. Just as I don't listen to 'pop' music, but I am aware that bands I listen to have a similarity to other bands I listen to, just with any genre.

The similarities between The Strokes and Tokyo Police Club are quite obvious... though I love them both.

Secondly, in a modern day setting 'pop music' is at an all time high and it permeates into all sorts of genre's without any of them containing the genuine authenticity Adorno talks about. My opinion is that a modern equivelant of 'authentic' music is lo-fi acoustic music from artists such as The Mountain Goats... basic songs with simple melodies and guitar parts, he writes songs endlessly, recording them even if they're extremely rough or sketchy for the sake of making music and expressing an idea, personally, I eqaute this with the exploration of ideas and poetry, rather than listening to the music for the hooks and the aesthetics.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Task 2- Adorno/Marxism: Popular vs. Authentic.

Adorno's theories regarding what he dubs 'authentic' and 'popular' music concern the way music can be used to create the illusion of individuality or 'pseudo-indivisualisation' in order to reinforce capitalist ideologies. Firstly, Adorno describes what he views to be 'popular music' as a pose to authentic music. The key difference being that popular music is standardised i.e. it uses repetitive harmonies, rhythms and melodies to create a situation where 'the hit will lead back to the same familiar experience' this standard format is put in place to trigger 'standard reactions' i.e. the hooks of popular music all have a resemblance to one another that equates to automatic like-ability. This generates the opportunity for companies to make any song a hit... as long as it fills minimum requirements of what is popular and the company can put in enough money to ensure that the music is repeatedly 'plugged' through media outlets such as radio, television etc. because the standardisation of songs creates a 'multiple choice questionnaire' where the customer purchasing the music selects from 'pre-digested' genre's of music to which he builds an individual personality. The illusion being that he is actually one of many customers that conform to exactly the same 'individual' standards. Not only this but the customer then takes comfort in the fact that he is a member of one of many 'individuals' that recognises the music and accepts this music as good. This system is used to generate capitalist profit but also as a distraction for the working classes who's lives are laborious and monotonous enough to swallow a taste of the arts as a distraction whilst needing something that demands little attention to fulfill the limited hours they have to spend on distractions from their work. (Adorno, 1941, ch. 11, pg. 17-48)

Adorno's theories were written in the 1940's and the pop music he describes refers to the influx of African influenced music such as Jazz and Rhythm and Blues as a pose to the elements of classical music he viewed as authentic. However, their is an applicability to modern music, for example popular music generated form the television show 'X Factor' tends to use extremely similar pop ballads and danceable numbers with similarly typically beautiful people singing them in order to create the 'standard rections' that Adorno talks about. The show it's self is part of the 'plugging' element that creates hits through repetition (Wilson, 2007, pg. 30). Recently, in an interview with the Guardian, Damon Albarn of the band Gorillaz said of their new record: "I've tried to connect pop sensibility with trying to make people understand the essential melancholy of buying a ready made meal in loads of plastic packaging. People who watch X Factor might have some emotional connection to these things, that detritus that accompanies what seems the most essential thing in people's lives these days, the celebrity, the voyeurism." highlighting how X-factor generates the idea of individualism and escapism that Adorno describes as true of all pop music.


Adorno, T.W.,1941, Studies in Philosophy and Social Science, New York: institute of social research, 1941, ch. 11, pg. 17-48

Wilson, R., 2007, Theodore Adorno, pg. 30

The NME website, 2009, Damon Albarn Names New Album, Takes On 'X-Factor', [online] (updated November 30th 2009) available at: [accessed November 30th 2009]