fallacy fallacah

From: David Tetzlaff (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Mar 28 2009 - 17:39:55 PDT

> Barbara Rubin says "Chirstmas on Earth is about the life of Abraham
> Lincoln"

Wow. I always wondered what the top hats meant. Now I know. Thanks!!

> To suggest that the viewer must totally ignore what the artist
> says is unreasonable.

Of course. Where the Old Criticism may have fetishized the artist's
(presumed) intent, the problem with New Criticism is that it
fetishizes an abstract concept of 'the work', and does discount
everything outside of 'the work.' Like the societies and cultures in
which the work is created and received. A caution against the
intentional fallacy may be part of the New Critical attitude, but the
two are not equivalent. Simply observing that artists may be
unreliable sources about the meanings and effects of their work, does
not mean that their public statements have no concrete influence on
how various audiences experience or interpret that work. The
reception of creative work is rarely a monologue. Art enters complex
'conversations', we talk about it with friends, read stuff about it,
makes comparisons with other things we've seen or experienced.
Insight that enriches a work, or raises questions about it, can come
from lots of places, even posts on FRAMEWORKS, and certainly things
we may know about artists' biographies or statements of their goals
is one of those places. It's just not the only one, or the definitive

For example, how I read Hollis Frampton films is influenced by
certain things I know about him that are not directly evident in the
films themselves. (I think there's a lot of wry humor in HF that most
people don't get). Were I to assert categorically that my readings
were more accurate than yours because I know these things and you do
not, I would be partaking of the intentional fallacy. However, since
interpretation is itself a creative act, I might make an argument
that my interpretation is qualitatively 'better' than yours: more
interesting, more enriching, whatever -- which is a different
question entirely than it's accuracy. And in support of that, I might
urge a wider distribution of those intertextual or contextual
elements that work in line with my interpretation - I might want more
people to know about the Snow/Frampton in jokes, or "Studies in
Vegtable Locomotion" etc. etc. Even in this, I'm not making an
assertion about intent. Frampton may have been meaning to be as sober
a hyperformalist as some folks think. In the last analysis I don't
care. Whatever I may find that helps me construct interpretations of
the _films_ that are more enjoyable/enlightening/thought-provoking to
me is all good.

I think there are two main functions of criticism. One is descriptive/
evaluative. It attempts to discern what the work does --
aesthetically, culturally, whatever -- and make judgments about it.
For example, a feminist critic might read Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as
a rewriting and reinforcement of patriarchy due the many analogies it
contains between women and property, and decry it for subtly
perpetuating these evils within the public seeking comic
entertainment. Another function of criticism is prescriptive/
evaluative. It attempts to intervene in the conversation and
encourage audiences to interpret/experience works in ways that are
productive -- aesthetically, culturally, whatever. For example, a
feminist critic might celebrate Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for the
textual elements that open the work to alternative feminist, even
lesbian-feminist readings.

In the last analysis, my problem with James Cole is far less that his
insistence that the film must have been intended to shock people just
doesn't fit the facts (dude, about the only place she showed the film
back in the day was The Factory...), and far more that it's just a
lame frame of mind through which to view the film.

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