ITP blog · content-and-its-discontents

Week 5 medium specificity & genre

13 October 2018


medium specificity

related: purity, materiality

[Clement Greenberg] Music, he contends, is inherently pure and abstract because it cannot be described in terms of any other media.

[W.J.T. Mitchell] representational and abstract painting both have a dependence on language, the former always involves narrative, and the latter has historically been dependent on theory.

[Michael Fried] The work should present itself whole at every instant, and not depend on the viewers’s relation to what is being seen.

As noted later in the definition, these theories of critique are somewhat limiting; they fall short when considering:

  • Conceptual art. One form in particular that stands out to me is performance art—of course the viewer's relation to what is being seen must be taken into account (both in time and space). I'm a bit confused too, since Fried is a critic & historian of modernist art, and surely he's considered this category of art forms?
  • Mixed media. The shortcomings here are self-evident.

I had a hard time deciphering Rosalind Krauss' argument for "different specificity" in rejection of Greenberg and Fried:

The successful art of this post-medium age will reflect on its own practice in relation to the past, and through such contemplation escape absorption into capitalist modes of production. Such reflection must involve an acknowledgement of the medium specific practices that are being replaced or combined, and an intent to use art as an exploration of the idea of art. In this way, medium-specificity is continued through its subversion into “different specificity.”

Does this mean that successful art should push the boundaries of its medium while still remaining pure (non-mixed)? Does she agree with Fried that mixed media art is not art?


related: form, code

[Ducrot] Where one might have established genre either inductively, “on the basis of the observation of a given period,” or deductively, “on the basis of a theory of literary discourse,” now one defines genre by the inductive practice and type by the deductive process.

I agree with this; I've often contended that genre is hard to put a finger on unless you step back and reflect on a given period of works in retrospect. Placing a work into a genre prematurely is speculation.

In the context of Weird Type

Reflecting upon medium specificity, I believe there are a few specific aspects of Weird Type which I haven't given enough consideration.

  • The AR experience can be very physical. Once you "set" type in the world around you, you can walk around and view it from many different perspectives.
  • The medium of the experience isolates viewers because they cannot directly share the objects in the AR world with another viewer. Attempts to document & record the experience (as I have been doing in my content iteration) bring it out of the original medium and into the medium of computer-manipulated video. This is ok for the purposes of this course, but it is important to acknowledge in the critique of the project.

Reflecting upon genre, in WT, the most obvious genre distinctions are made by the different type effects available in the app:

  • Break
  • Ribbon
  • Explode
  • Stamp
  • Photo

Thus far my work in WT has been within the photo genre, but I think it would be worthwhile to break out of this category and try some other approaches. I think it might be easier to achieve emotional responses with the "break" and "explode" type effects.