What's form got to do with it? : a discussion of the role played by form in our experience of art, viewed through the lens of modernist formalism and conceptual art
My thesis explores the role played by form in our experience of objects of consciousness as art. In doing so, I look at the concept of form as it was understood by prominent philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, as well as form in Immanuel Kant’s aesthetics in The Critique of the Power of Judgment. My method is phenomenological and rooted in my experience of making and writing about art, as a student of studio art and of philosophy. To connect philosophical understandings of form to the experience of art in a way reflective of my experience, I show the connection between and influence on art critical understandings of form by philosophical understandings of form. In particular, I focus on Modernist formalism as Clive Bell, Roger Fry and Clement Greenberg articulated it. Modernist formalism played a role in the teaching style and content of art studio classes I attended. The role of form in our experience of art was problematized by Conceptual Art, which movement also deeply impacted the teaching style and content of my studio art classes. The tension I experienced between these two movements in art and its criticism led to my interest in this topic and informed my choice to limit the scope of my investigation to Modernist formalism and Conceptual Art. In particular, I focus on philosophically trained Conceptual Artists such as Adrian Piper and Joseph Kosuth. Changes in the way art was made and understood impacted the understanding of the concept of form not only for art critics, but also for philosophers. I include contemporary philosophical discussions of form by Bernard Freydberg and Rudolphe Gasché to show the movement and interrelatedness between art and philosophy about the concept of form. The conclusion I reach is that form in our experience of art is constructive of that experience if our consciousness of art objects is conceived of as an engaged, rather than disinterested. My rejection of disinterest in favour of engagement is adapted from Arnold Berleant’s account of the aesthetic experience. I retain a place for the object as it is given, using H.J. Gadamer’s terms “changing” and “unchanging aspects.” The object’s properties are its unchanging aspects while the shifting contextual ground on which art as an experience is built is the changing aspect. I conclude that form is a way of seeing that requires both of these aspects.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteePfeifer, Karl; Dayton, Eric; Shantz, Susan
Copyright DateJune 2014