From: John Matturri (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Mar 28 2009 - 13:02:33 PDT
Well, I think there's a bit of a distinction between the intentional
fallacy, which defines the work by what the artist intended, and the
issue of information external to the work, like the identity of Sirius.
Brakhage might have made the film to work out his emotions concerning
his dog's death, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he intended the
film as a work of art to be about that specific dog.
Obviously a strong reliance on artist's stated, or even private,
intentions is a mistake. Pasolini may have stated that the use of a
bottle cleaning factory in Accatone was a reference the paintings of
Morandi; not sure if his statement was that strong but if not imagine he
did say that. But given that the shots of the bottle factory are
compositionally nothing like Morandi paintings -- unless I'm especially
dense I can't imagine an audience making a reliable connection without
specific knowledge of Pasolini's intentions -- I don't think you can say
that the filmmaker's intentions here have much to do with the
significance of the scene in the film. Pushed too far, however, the
intentional fallacy itself becomes a fallacy. Having this knowledge of
Pasolini's intentions could possibly lead the viewer to attend to the
scene in a certain way and pick up things that are actually in it that
otherwise might have been missed. To suggest that the viewer must
totally ignore what the artist says is unreasonable.
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.
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> 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
> 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. ;-)
> CHUCK KLEINHANS
> __________________________________________________________________ For
> info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.