Davies, Ch. 4, Varieties of Art



2.      Ontology: Study of the matter, mode, or manner in which things exist

3.      Art exists in a variety of forms and manners (has a diverse ontology)

4.      Examples:

         a.      How long do artworks exists? Compare spontaneous jazz improvisation that exists for a limited time with a painting that persist and can be experienced on different occasions

         b.      Is the hip-hop DJ who scratches and samples other’s recordings creating artworks in the process of appropriating others?

         c.      Question 4.4: Jean Tinguely's Homage to New York of 1960

                  i.      What is the artwork here?

                  ii.     The sculpture, the event of its destruction, the film of the event? All?

         d.      Is the artwork in rock music the song itself, the recording, or a performance?

5.      Topics addressed

         a.      Are artworks abstract formal patters?

         b.      Are artworks multiple or singular entities?

         c.      Is an artwork constitutively thin or thick?

         d.      Do artworks evolve over time or stay the same?

         e.      Are colorized movies new artworks or defaced versions of the original?


6.      DAVIES’ VIEW ABOUT ONTOLOGY OF ART: ONTOLOGICAL CONTEXTUALISM                                   

7.      Davies’ defends ontological contextualism:

         a.      Artwork’s identity and contents generated in part by the relations it holds to aspects of socio-historical setting in which it was created

                  i.      History and context of production important to artwork’s identity

         b.      But later contexts do not affect it

                  i.      How an artwork is interpreted or understood later can’t affect its fundamental characteristics or identity

                  ii.     Artworks do not change over time in response to ongoing interpretation and reception



9.      Davies rejects idea artworks are abstract/formal patterns

         a.      Such abstract formal patterns would be

         b.      Eternal and indestructible

         c.      Discovered and not created

10.    Rejects this “ontological Platonism” which claims that

         a.      Artworks are purely formal patterns, distinct from the physical items or events in which they are exemplified

11.    Examples of abstract formal patterns

         a.      The square: An abstract/formal pattern that can be neither created nor destroyed but can be (and was) discovered and exemplified

         b.      If music is an abstract formal pattern, then Beethoven drew attention to certain note-sequences when he composed his 5th symphony, but the pattern (which is the artwork) pre-existed his efforts

                  i.      He discovered the artwork, not created it

                  ii.     If all copies of score destroyed (along with everything else from which we could get an accurate copy )

                           (1)    We would lose our access to the work, but its existence remains unaffected

12.    Davies criticism of ontological Platonism (He denies that artworks are abstract patterns)

         a.      If someone destroys a sculpture (or all instances of a cast sculpture and the molds), we don’t think of him as simply hiding the artwork from us

                  i.      Very different from private collector who denies access to artwork by keeping it locked in vault

         b.      Mona Lisa is not a abstract pattern, because

                  i.      If someone destroys Mona Lisa, the problem is not that we have lost contact with the abstract pattern it exemplifies, for there are thousands of prints of that pattern

         c.      Platonism clearly does not apply to sculpture or painting

         d.      Does it apply to music?

13.    Davies’ ontological contextualism (artworks’ history of production matters) is incompatible with ontological platonism (that artworks are solely abstract patterns)

         a.      If artworks are solely abstract patterns, then as long as the pattern is instantiated, we have (access to?) the artwork and so the pattern’s history, origin or context does not matter

                  i.      **Same pattern could have been produced by a different history of production

                  ii.     If Leonardo had not existed and a different painter 100 years later had painted the pattern that Mona Lisa instantiates, Davies’ ontological contextualism denies it is the Mona Lisa and Platonism claims it is

         b.      When we accept that artworks depend for their identity and content on relations to art-historical and wider context in which produced (note: not context in which appreciated!), can’t be understood as mere abstract formal patterns

                  i.      The formal patterns they present matter to their identity, but that is not the only dimension

                  ii.     Other relevant factors to its identity include:

                           (1)    Genre, style, medium, creator’s intentions, relation of work to other works of artists, art-historical setting in which originated and to wider social/political environment

                  iii.    Parallel criticism to Davies’ criticism of aes formalism in the previous chapter



         a.      Davies argues that some artworks are singular and others are multiple (they can have many incarnations)

15.    Two kinds of art works

         a.      Works than can have multiple instances

                  i.      Novels, symphonies, cast statues, prints, poems, movies

                           (1)    Each of us can have a copy of same poem

         b.      Singular pieces (can’t have multiple instances)

                  i.      Oil paintings and sculpted statues (and Jazz improvisations)

16.    Some argue that even statues and oil paintings are (potentially) multiple

         a.      If we could make identical copy of Mona Lisa, should not care if original destroyed

         b.      What we value is the form which can be instantiated in multiple ways

17.    Davies reply: Some artworks, like people, are singular, and so an identical copy is not the same

         a.      Copy of Michelangelo’s David in piazza near the building in which the original is housed; To see it is not to see David

                  i.      Facts about the replica of David in a piazza in Florence

         b.      If one could clone one’s children or spouse, would we not still want the original rather than the clone? Is the clone just as good?

18.    (For Davies) History and origin matter to identity and the copies/clones have different origin so they are not the same

         a.      Question 4.3: Damien Hirst‘s Away from the Flock (a sheep suspended in a tank of formaldehyde) was vandalized (black ink was thrown into the tank and it was re-titled “Black Sheep”) and instead of simply putting another sheep in a tank, they tried to restore it (which was probably more difficult and expensive)

                  i.      Treated it as singular artwork and not just a pattern

                  ii.     For interesting details see Wiki Hirst entry section on “Career in contemporary art,” 2nd para

19.    Manner and matter of production important (not just abstract form)

         a.      Manner: Important differences between perceptual equivalent sound played by a trumpet versus sound played by pushing a button on preprogramed synthesizer

         b.      Matter: What a work is made of is important (not just abstract patterns)

                  i.      Sandy Skoglund used 80 pounds of raw hamburger meat as medium for Spirituality in the Flesh (a portrait of a seated woman)

20.    How similar must copies of multiple (non-singular) artworks be in order to be faithful instances of the artwork? (It depends)

         a.      Copies of novels or movies need be very similar (ontologically thick)

                  i.      Same word order and same visual appearance

         b.      Performances can vary widely and be fully faithful (ontologically thin)

                  i.      E.g., Two performances of King Lear or Beethoven’s 5th symphony can vary a lot

                  ii.     Work leaves open some details (vague in parts)

                  iii.    Designed to be interpreted

                  iv.    More than one way to legitimately fill them out (such works are "thin" in constitutive detail, as opposed to others that are “thick")                                    

21.    When it is permissible for singers to lip-sink might depend on how we understand nature of the relevant artwork (its ontology)

         a.      Faithful reproduction (okay) or interpretative performance (not okay)?

         b.      Is it okay for pop stars (whose studio CDs used electronic intervention) to lip-sink their performances and rely on backup singers (for disc was multi tracked)?

                  i.      If one hears a singer whose CDs one knows by heart and she/he doesn’t sound like the CD. Disappointing? Would it be better is she mimed her CD?

                  ii.     Bob Dylan Blowing in the Wind?

         c.      Beyonce lip-sinking inaugural “performance” of Stars Spangled Banner

                  i.      Inauguration

                  ii.     Interview of Beyonce

         d.      If opera star does not sing all the parts she cheats

         e.      One an instance (play back?) of a recording, the other an interpretive performance?



23.    Davies argues art-historical context of creation affects artwork’s identity = Davies ontological contextualism

         a.      If two perceptually identical artworks differ in this regard, they are not the same artwork

24.    Does an artwork’s context continue to affect its identity after its creation, so that it remains self-identical, yet crucially altered?

         a.      Do artworks have an evolving identity?

                  i.      Like a given person, young and blond and later old and bald

         b.      Philosopher of art Joseph Margolis says yes

         c.      Davies says no (with a very few exceptions)

                  i.      Exception: if gardens are artworks, they do have an evolving identity as they are intended to change with growth of flowers and seasons

         d.      Some argue that artworks are not self-identical over time as new interpretations change their identity completely!...Davies rejects this too

25.    Davies believes (for most part) identity of artwork fixed when created and do not evolve over time

26.    Most importantly, new interpretations and new meanings for audiences don’t change the artwork (in any important way) says Dav9es

         a.      What about Paul McCartney's "When I'm 64" (he recently turned 64!)? McCartney today

27.    Consider physical changes in artworks

         a.      Michelangelo’s ceiling and Judgement Wall in Sistine Chapel

                  i.      Completed in 1512

                  ii.     Clothing painted over the loins of many naked figures at a later date

                  iii.    Centuries of candle smoke and pollution darkened the ceiling

                  iv.    Work cleaned at close of 20th century

                  v.      Critics questioned long accepted idea that it was Titian who was master of color and Michelangelo master of form (because the colors were so powerful after cleaning)

         b.      Would Davies say that these artworks have not changed in significant ways?

         c.      Yes? Artwork not changed its identity, but these changes may make it difficult/impossible for present audiences to see it as artist’s contemporaries did

28.    Changes in artwork that are not important to its identity or content (according to Davies)

         a.      Artworks acquire new properties over time but none (of the below) are crucial to its identity or involve significant alterations

         b.      What I’ve called “door stop values/properties” (properties of the artwork that are not relevant to appreciating the artwork as an artwork)

         c.      Examples

                   i.       Older

                   ii.      More influential

                   iii.     Interpreted in new ways

                   iv.     Thought about by different people

                   v.      Banned, neglected

                            (1)    That an artwork was banned in later times might be crucial information to our understanding of it?

                   vi.     Water stained

                   vii.    Digitized

                   viii.   Sent into space

                   ix.     Existed when the President of China sneezed

                   x.      Fetch millions at an auction

                   xi.     Culmination of a stylistic tradition

                   xii.    Last of its kind

                            (1)    Given that we place special value on an individual of an endangered species does this suggests that properties crucial to its identity have changed?

                            (2)    True also of artworks?

         d.      Davies: None of the above changes seem central to its identity, in way in which its creator, genre, time of creation and content are

29.    Changes can make it very difficult for us to appreciate the work as audiences did when created

         a.      E.g., Viewing Mona Lisa, hard to forget that it is most reproduced art image in history, worth a fortune, once shot at

         b.      But these new properties don’t alter factors crucial to its identity

30.    According to Davies: All properties of artwork crucial to its identity are fixed when it is created (including fixed by relational properties of context of creation)

31.    Davies allows that significance of a work can be affected by its later treatment and reception (interpretation), but this does not affect its meaning, content, identity

         a.      An artwork’s significance (=“what we make of its meaning given our values and concerns”)

         b.      What determines the meaning of an artwork?

                   i.       Not significance to latter audiences?

                   ii.      To audiences when produced?

                   iii.     To artist and art experts when produced?

         c.      What role do audiences have in determining meaning, content, identity of art?

         d.      Can meaning (and therefore content) of a work be different when the audience changes over time, so the work changes?

                   i.       Davies says no....

32.    Davies worries about trilogy counterexample

         a.      A book is finished

         b.      Later the author decides its part of a trilogy and writes the following two books

         c.      This seems like a case were later events effect identity of the earlier book

         d.      Davies argues that it’s a case of making a mistake about when the first book was completed

                   i.       I guess he’s saying the first book is not completed until the later books are written

         e.      Consider Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the character of Bilbo Baggins

                   i.       Altered by the Fellowship of the Ring Trilogy?

                   ii.      Altered by the movies?



34.    James Young’s defense of colorization of movies

         a.      Colorized film is a transcription of the original (not a defacing of original artwork)

                   i.       Transcription: Work that is new by virtue of how its medium differs from its source (but retains a close connection to and reflects on its model)

                   ii.      E.g., Bach piece electronically synthesized

         b.      It is a movie of a movie, like a movie of a play or movie of a novel (all are “transcriptions”)

         c.      Colorized movie is a new and separate work

                   i.       Just as Duchamp took image of Mona Lisa and created LHOOQ (the postcard with mustache and goatee was a new and separate work)

                   ii.      Colorizer takes images of old movie and makes a new one

         d.      Colorization is not destructive of original

                   i.       Like the Duchamp case, original work not damaged

                   ii.      Differs from other examples of making new works from old

                   iii.     Robert Rauschenberg created Erased de Kooning by erasing a line drawing by older and then more famous artist

                            (1)    That destroyed the original

                   iv.     Might object to creation that involves destruction of another artwork especially when the result is of lower merit

35.    Arguments against colorization

         a.      Even if new and separate work is created, harms may still occur due to colorization of old black and white movies

                   i.       Availability of black and white is likely to be reduced

                   ii.      Disrespect shown to original artist

                            (1)    Forgive Duchamp his cheek, given wittiness of his work and how far removed Leonardo is from us

                            (2)    Colorizers are not artistically clever and are driven by profit

         b.      Colorized print is a defaced version of original; not a new and separate piece

                   i.       Colorization is messing around with the work, not creating a new one

                   ii.      Colorization alters movie for the worse (like scratches on film), but does not change it enough to undermine its identity as an instance of original work

36.    Does the change due to colorization produce a new work (transcription) or merely a version of the old one?

         a.      This depends on whether the absence of color essential to movie’s identity

                   i.       If it is, colorized movie is a different piece

                            (1)    So a new and derivative work

                   ii.      If it is not, colorized movie is a version or print of original

                            (1)    A defective version, just as a scratched version is

                            (2)    Might also argue improved version!

37.    Some films absence of color is part of what makes it the movie what it is

         a.      Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull and Woody Allen’s Manhattan deliberately rejected option of color

                   i.       So probably its absence reflects works identity

         b.      For earlier films where no choice besides black and white we can’t so easily conclude that absence of color was part of work’s identity

                   i.       Only if black and white medium affects the works content does lack of color affect its identity

         c.      Ansel Adams’ photography About Ansel Adams

38.    Changes in color can affect a film’s mood and mood is part of content

         a.      Colored print is less stark and somber in emotional feel than black and white original

         b.      But colorized print can be seen as a performance interpretation and these can have different moods while still being instances of a work

39.    Davies summary of views on colorization

         a.      Reject (general) defense of movie colorization that argues it results in new work; rather we have a version of the original film

         b.      Do these changes disfigure original (and does it matter)?

         c.      Relevant factors

                   i.       Is it a movie that claims to be an artwork or not?

                   ii.      Does it impact availability of B/W version?

                   iii.     How impact audiences appreciation of history of cinema?

                   iv.     Motives of movie-makers and colorizers

                   v.      Consider toleration we show to adaptations of movies for screening on TV

40.    So colorizing films for which absence of color is essential to identity can’t be criticized as messing with a given work, for they are creating a wholly new one

         a.      Seems strange that when absence of color defines a movie and is essential to the work, colorization is less problematic in one respect (can’t be charged with messing with the work)


Study questions for Davies, Ch 4: Varieties of Art


1.      What does Davies mean by “ontological contextualism,” “ontological idealism,” and “ontological Platonism?” Which view does Davies hold and why?

2.      What are Davies arguments against ontological Platonism, that is, the view that artworks are abstract formal patterns (like “the square”) that can neither be created nor destroyed?

3.      Davies argues that there are two (ontological) kinds of artworks: works that can have multiple instances and singular pieces. Give examples of each and explain how they are examples of these kinds.

4.      If we could make an identical copy of the Mona Lisa, should we care if the original was destroyed? What does Davies say about this? Hint: Consider his ontological contextualism. What do you think?

5.      Does Davies believes that artworks change in important ways when they are given new interpretations and new meanings by audiences? That is, does the work’s changing context continue to affect its identity after it has been created?

6.      List four or so (changing) contextual features of an artwork that don’t affect its identity and content (according to Davies). Now mention contextual (or relational) factors Davies does think are central to the identity of artworks.

7.      Davies thinks that all properties of an artwork crucial to its identity are fixed when it is created. Explain how the existence of literary trilogies (like Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring and The Hobbit) support or cause trouble for this view.

8.      According to Davies, does colorizing a movie involve “messing around with a given artwork” or does it involve creating a new artwork? Use examples to discuss this issue.





1.      4.1 Tolstoy’s War and Peace when translated the same or different?

         a.      Like musical transcription (changes the work) or does it produce a version of original work not dif one?

                   i.       Transcription of music: the act of arranging a piece of music for an orchestra and assigning parts to the different musical instruments

         b.      Depends on how good translation is?

         c.      Poetry is different,

                   i.       For the words their sounds and shape matter much more than with language of a novel.

2.      *4.2 Restoration of artworks (like sculptures)

         a.      Restore a sculpture to original condition

         b.      If have to recreate lost or damaged parts, should one indicate the restoration or try to integrate them into the original

                   i.       I’d say integrate and then have a note explaining it

         c.      If restoration over the years replaces the material with entirely new material, does that mean artwork been destroyed?

         d.      Is the issue any different from replacing a table piece by piece? Material matter more with art?

         e.      Depends on if the matter was important

         f.       Destroy Michelangelo’s David and recreated it with different material?

                   i.       Difference between over the years and immediate

3.      *4.3 Damien Hirst’s sheep cut in half and suspended in formaldehyde was vandalized (ink thrown into the tank)


         a.      Gallery spent lots of money to restore the work to its former appearance

         b.      Simpler and cheaper to start over with new sheep carcass

         c.      If done that would it have been Hirst’s?

         d.      Would it have been Hirst’s if they had gotten his approval?

         e.      Consider Michelangelo’s statue David: the copy in the plaza versus the original in a museum

                   i.       https://www.cofc.edu/hettinger/images/Michelangelo_David.jpg

         f.       Point 12 (matter and manner matter)

4.      4.4 Self destructing sculpture; runs down hill, falls off high cliff above a lake and burning as it does

         a.      Film event under artist’s direction

         b.      What is artwork?

                   i.       One: event of sculpture’s self-destruction and film a mere record of event

                   ii.      Two: artwork is film of event and sculpture’s self-destruction merely medium for films construction

                            (1)    Artwork/film can be screened many times and is not destroyed

                   iii.     Three artwork complex event involving both statue’s self-destruction and filming of it

                            (1)    Not record of event survived unless filming of stature itself filmed in way that showed both.

         c.      How decide?

         d.      Any reasons to think work is ambiguous between them


         e.      Jean Tinguely’s Homage to New York of 1960





5.      4.5 Composers recycling their ideas

         a.      In past, passages first appear in religious music might be used with different words in an opera

         b.      Punk band Ramones reused material from its early songs in later ones

         c.      Show that these musicians don’t have concept of musical work?

         d.      How important is creativity?

         e.      New work based on old one?

         f.       Version of the old work?

         g.      Generate a new work from old one by putting it in a different medium?

                   i.       Symphony arranged for piano

                   ii.      Bach’s music electronically synthesized

                   iii.     Novel into a movie?

6.      4.6 If you have seen Swan Lake on Ice, have you seen the famous ballet?

         a.      If yes, how do you account for fact none of the performers wear ballet shoes

         b.      If not, why does Swan Lake appear in title of show and that show has same story

         c.      How different are ballet moves from ice skating moves?

         d.      Both involve dancing



         e.      Ballet good example of onto variety in single artform

         f.       Some ballet take identity from music composed for them

                   i.       Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring has received many dif choreographic treatments

                            (1)    Work’s identity requires dancers however, so it is not exhausted by the music

         g.      John Cage and Merce Cunningham variations V in which dancers movement trigger the music as bodies brake electronic beams or feet land on pressure plates

                   i.       Music for this ballet differs with different performances

         h.      Some ballet (Jerome Robbins Moves) has choreography and no music

         i.       If call all this stuff ballet

                   i.       Same ballet with dif dancing

                   ii.      Ballet where music dt by how they dance, differs dif performances

                   iii.     Ballet w/o music

                   iv.     Can their be a ballet w/o dancing?

         j.       Ballet is a hybrid artform: unites dance, mime, drama, living sculpture, costuming, decor, and music


7.      *4.7: Movie of a novel an interpretation of it (as well as a new but derivative work)?

         a.      If yes, how differ from a critic’s description and analysis of novel?

         b.      How is adaptation of novel for movies both similar to and different from interpretation of musical work through performance?


8.      4.8: Colorization

         a.      If Ansel Adams photographs of Yosemite were colorized different works?               https://www.sierraclub.org/ansel_adams/gallery/

         b.      If Ingmar Bergman’s (sweetish film director) movies were colorized, what properties would they lose and what would they gain?






9.      For multiply instanced works might one plausibly hold that they are created but can’t be destroyed once created, even if all instances of them are destroyed       


10.    Davies worries about a work getting an important interpretation not possible when it was created

         a.      William Blake’s 1804 Milton uses phase Dark Satanic Mills

                   i.       If interpreted to refer to the textile mills at the end of the 19th century British industrial revolution

                   ii.      And this interpretation is central to the work Milton



11.    Artworks are public objects

         a.      or instanced in public objects

                   i.       E.g, musical performances

         b.      or specified via public instructions or encoding

                   i.       Negative of a photograph or electronic pattern on CD,

                   ii.      Print of a movie is encoding and reel needs to be screened before the work is presented

         c.      Directly experienceable by others

         d.      Rejects Collingwood’s ontological idealism

                   i.       Artworks exist in private minds of people (artist and audience)

                   ii.      Object artist produces is a tool to assist audience to duplicate work in own minds

         e.      Rejects idea that artwork is the private activity of the artist making the artwork, rather than the product produced which is publicly available




13.    Recordings of jazz improvisation are likely to damage if not kill the music

         a.      “If musicians intend their music to be evanescent, can it survive being canned?”

         b.      Difference between hearing a live performance where artist is taking a risky chance (tactical masterpiece or dismal failure?) and listening to the recording afterwards

         c.      Is like the difference between watching a sporting event and viewing the replay later when one knows the outcome

         d.      Okay to listen to a recording of a symphony intended to be heard on more than one occasion but a recording will corrupt the experience most apt in appreciating jazz