Re: private references (was: That sneaky intentional fallacy fallacy)

From: Steve Polta (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Mar 28 2009 - 14:07:11 PDT

This is interesting——I never heard of the Richard/Foreman reference in WAVELENGTH. Interesting that it opens to space depicted in the film to reference the spaces of Foreman's performances, which, to my understanding took place in spaces similar to that seen in WAVELENGTH. Of course, my chronology could be way of but there was definite back-and-forth (so to speak) between the work of Foreman and the contemporarneous work of NY-based filmmakers of the period in discussion. Such private references are all over the place, then and now, in film and in much art in general. Such private references abound in the writings of Ginsberg, Karouac, etal; in the art of, say Wallace Berman, George Herms, et. al.; in almost all Fluxus art (sometimes to the point of the work——think Ray Johnson——being almost entirely meaningful only within the subculture, or within the individual relationship.

Winks and nods appear in films between filmakers going back at least to early early Brakhage/Deren/Mass/Menken networks and seem to appear continuously throughout the genre's history up to the present day (including in works by me which very rarely screen publicly anyway). Since———let's face it———much A-G film is made to circulate within its community (such as it may be), this makes sense.

Another good Snow/film example is Frampton's use of Snow's narration in NOSTALGIA, noting the point in which Snow voices Frampton's regrets over something in his relationship with Snow. Knowledge of this meaning is completely outside the literal text of the film, but certainly juices up the "storyline" and adds "meta" info on the artists in question, on their relationship, as artists and as friends.

I think it's totally "legit" for writers to make reference to these references, especially in the creation of histories. This is done *often* in regards to the Snow/Frampton thing and is central to Fluxus histories and to writing on the Beats. The idea of A-G film being part of subcultural discourse and community as opposed to the creation of externally-focused artistic statements or cultural "texts" (which is basically a given in the above-mentioned fields as well as say, underground music of various genres, and poetry in general, at least as I understand it) has a lot of appeal to me.

————steve polta

> Private knowledge is a hard to define area. Wavelength
> plays in various ways with what is inside and outside the
> frame. At one point after the body is discovered Amy Taubin
> makes a phone call to "Richard". Now I would
> imagine most viewers wouldn't know that she was married
> to Richard Foreman but I've always thought that that
> additional play between what is in the fictional frame and
> what lies in the non-fictional world outside that frame
> adds an additional interesting bit to the film. But would it
> be legit to make reference to this in a published article?
> Would it make a difference if the audience for Wavelength in
> 1967 could be expected to have been so small that the
> marital status of the performer was common knowledge? Would
> it make a difference if the name was in the script rather
> than improvised. If Snow thought of or did not think of this
> relationship? Don't think that there are any answers to
> these questions. Perhaps there needs to be some rough
> weighing of obscurity of the information and the aesthetic
> or interpretive clout that comes from taking the info into
> account. After all, there is no authority behind the notion
> of "legit' I used above.
> j
> Chuck Kleinhans wrote:
> >
> > On Mar 27, 2009, at 6:31 PM, Jim Carlile wrote:
> >
> >> In a message dated 3/27/2009 3:27:01 P.M. Pacific
> Daylight Time, email suppressed
> <mailto:email suppressed> writes:
> >>
> >> The intentional fallacy arises when the maker
> isn't offering an
> >> interpretation, but is claiming that there is
> content in the work
> >> that the work does not really contain.
> >>
> >> Not sure what 'intentional fallacy'
> you're talking about, but the I-F comes into play when
> critics or outside observers assess the artist's
> "intent" when judging the work. The whole
> "fallacy" part is when critics judge
> 'intentionality' (sic) to be germane as to what the
> work is about.
> >> According to I-F theorists (if they still exist)
> what counts is the work itself and 'how' it works to
> do what it does-- even if the artist is unaware of
> what's going on, which is often the case.
> >> BTW, artists can say anything they want to about
> their works, but their words are not the I-F. That can only
> be committed by the outsiders, strictly speaking...
> >
> > A landmark day! Carlile and I actually agree about
> something. The New Criticism literary critic William K.
> Wimsett in his book The Verbal Icon, wrote essays on the
> Intentional Fallacy and the Affective Fallacy (co-authored
> with philosopher Monroe Beardsly). I don't have my
> books at hand, but to roughly summarize, he said that the
> meaning of a work of art is in the work itself, and that it
> is a mistake to think that whatever can be gleaned from what
> an author/artist said they intended provides a definitive
> interpretation. (Artists can lie, and sometimes do; they can
> also be deluded or misleading.) Likewise, it is a mistake
> to assume that because a work of art produced a certain
> effect in the reader/viewer/audience that that was
> "in" the work itself, and offers a necessary and
> sufficient explanation. (One's immediate personal or
> deep psychological situation might shape one's
> interpretation/experience but that doesn't make the
> individual's idea universally true.) The Wikipedia
> entry for Wimsatt has excellent summaries.
> >
> > A pragmatic way of understanding why this was
> important to New Criticism is to think of what they were
> trying to do: get down to the art work itself as the core of
> study and analysis and interpretation and evaluation.
> > Before that, it was often the case in literary studies
> to provide the author's biography as a sufficient
> explanation for what a text meant. In experimental film
> circles, esp. in the 50s and 70s, the privileged form of
> presentation was the visiting artist introducing, screening,
> and then having a q and a about one or more films.
> > Or, whatever personal experience one had with the
> text/film was taken as universally valid. This is, of
> course, often the familiar form of film reviewing in which
> the reviewer reports their own personal reaction/evaluation
> and then assembles some details or arguments to back it up.
> If your reaction was different, you are mistaken, flawed, or
> whatever. When two critics disagree, it's King of the
> Mountain.
> >
> > A simple case in point of the two trends could be
> Water Window Baby Moving. One can "interpret" it
> in terms of Stan Brakhage's writings, statements,
> personal history to that point in his life, etc.
> Sitney's discussion in Visionary Film essentially does
> this. (And quite well.) Or one could take Maya Deren's
> reaction, which was that she was repulsed and disgusted and
> angered at the film as an invasion of women's privacy.
> (Its effect on her, her affective response to it, was the
> last word on the film for her.) Or one could take Jane
> Brakage's writings about the film (in the Film Culture
> reader, as I remember) as another interpretation.
> >
> > Another example: Brakhage's Sirius Remembered is a
> film that depicts the carcass of a dead dog over changing
> seasons. It really 'helps" to know that this was
> the family dog (who appears in Dog Star Man). Sitney's
> discussion of the film in Visionary Film depends on having
> this information. IF you saw the film with no preparation
> whatsoever, your understanding of it would probably be very
> different. (You wouldn't know who or what Sirius was,
> seriously.) You probably wouldn't figure out it was a
> carcass right away, (and maybe not at all that it was a dog)
> and you wouldn't know of the emotional link of maker and
> depicted object. Or that the scene was the Brakhage family
> cabin in Colorado, and that they decided to leave the body
> to open nature rather than bury it.
> >
> > Today, we are often likely to come across experimental
> work on YouTube (Deren, say) or UbuWeb with no information
> about the maker, or intentions, or critical context, etc.
> The Canyon and FMC descriptions do tend to shape
> interpretation in many cases, but they must be known. Some
> masterful interviews, like Scott McDonald's various
> volumes of Critical Cinema, are there to inform and inspire
> and context.
> >
> > (officially) My intention in writing this was to teach
> and inform the members of Frameworks about an important
> aesthetic issue. (sneaky subtext) If it has the effect on
> Cari Machet of making her feel dumb and shutting up, mission
> accomplished. ;-)
> >
> >
> >
> >
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at
> <email suppressed>.
> >
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at
> <email suppressed>.


For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.