Davies, Ch. 4, Varieties of Art


1.       Chapter about the ontology of art

          a.       Variety of forms and manner in which art exists

          b.       E.g., one shot deals of spontaneous jazz improvisation as opposed to works that persist and can be experienced on different occasions

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


2.       Davies’ defends ontological contextualism:

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

                    i.        Note: Later contexts not relevant

                              (1)     e.g., how it is interpreted or understood later can’t affect its fundamental characteristics or identity


3.       Artworks are public objects (or events, like performances)

          a.       Directly experiencable by senses

          b.       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


4.       DAVIES ARGUES THAT ARTWORKS CREATED, NOT DISCOVERED (rejects Ontological Platonism)


5.       Idea that artworks are discovered (Ontological Platonism)

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

          b.       Multiply-instanced artworks seem to support this

                    i.        A novel or a symphony is an ordered combination of narrative elements or notes

                    ii.       These are abstract patterns (whose instances can be located in many places) and not concrete instances of a book or performance or score

          c.       Like “the square” which is an abstract object, eternal, indestructible, not created, but once discovered when someone instantiated the first one

          d.       Example: Beethoven drew attention to certain note-sequences when he composed his 5th symphony, but 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 )

                    iii.      We lost our access to the work, but its existence remains unaffected

                    iv.      This is Peter Kivy’s view about musical works in general

6.       Davies replies to platonist argument

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

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

          b.       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


7.       If ontological contextualism succeeds, then ontological platonism can be rejected (that artworks are abstract patterns)

          a.       For if they are abstract patterns, then as long as the pattern is instantiated, we have the artwork and so the pattern’s history, origin or context does not matter

          b.       When we accept that artworks depend for 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 abstract formal patterns existing in pure realm of atemporal relations

          c.       Because they are contextual, artworks identity is tied to concrete reality of space time world of objects and events

          d.       So they can be created and destroyed

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


8.       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.     He believes some artworks are singular and others potentially have many incarnations

          a.       Two kinds of art works

          b.       Works than can have multiple instances

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

                              (1)     Each of us has a copy of same poem

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

                    i.        Oil paintings and sculpted statues


11.     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

12.     Davies reply:

          a.       Some artworks, like people, are singular

          b.       If you could clone our children or spouse, we would still want the original,

          c.       History and origin matter to identity, and the copies/clones have different origin

          d.       Important differences between sound played by a trumpet versus sound played by pushing a button on preprogramed synthesizer

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

          a.       Damien Hirst created works that contain dying butterflies and rotting meat

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

          c.       What these works are made of matter (not just abstract patterns)

          d.       Question 4.3


14.     Faithful copies vary in how similar they must be

          a.       How similar copies of multiple artworks must be to be faithful instances of the artwork varies

          b.       Two copies of novels or movies need be very similar (same word order and same visual appearnace0

          c.       Performances can vary widely and be fully faithful

                    i.        Two performances of King Lear or Beethoven’s 5th symphony

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

                    iii.      Designed to be interpreted

                    iv.      More than one way to legitimately fill them out.


15.     Faithful reproduction or interpretative performance?

          a.       Hear performer whose CDs one knows by heart and she/he doesn’t sound like the CD

          b.       Would it be better is she mimed her CD?

          c.       Okay for pop stars whose studio CDs used electronic intervention to

                    i.        Lip sink her performances

                    ii.       Rely on backup singers?

          d.       Opera star does not sing all the parts she cheats


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

          a.       Most importantly, new interpretations and new meanings for audiences don’t change the artwork (in any important ways)


17.     Davies argues art-historical context of creation affects artworks identity

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

18.     Does work’s context continue to affect its identity after its creation, so that it remains self-identical, yet crucially altered

          a.       Margolis yes

          b.       Davies no

          c.       There is also a view out there that says artworks are not self-identical over time as new interpretations change their identity.


19.     Are artworks like living things (people–blond then bald, or oak trees–acorn to a tree) which change in crucial ways over time and retain identity?

          a.       If gardens are artworks, then some artworks to change importantly while retaining identity

          b.       But this only applies to artworks that have living things in them


20.     Consider physical changes in artworks

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

          b.       Completed in 1512

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

          d.       Centuries of candle smoke and pollution darkened the ceiling

          e.       Work cleaned at close of 20th century

          f.       Critics questioned long accepted idea that it was Titian who was master of color and Michelangelo master of form

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


21.     Changes in art not important to identity:

22.     Artworks change in many ways (acquire new properties) over time and none of these affect properties crucial to its identity (none are significant alterations)

          a.       Older

          b.       more influential,

          c.       interpreted in new ways

          d.       thought about by different people,

          e.       banned, neglected

                    i.        That an artwork was banned in later times might be crucial information to our understanding of it

          f.       water stained

          g.       digitized

          h.       sent into space

          i.        Exist when the President of China sneezed

          j.        Fetch millions at an auction

          k.       Culmination of a stylistic tradition

          l.        Last of its kind

                    i.        Endangered species get special value suggests that properties crucial to its identity are changed

                    ii.       True also of artworks?

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


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

          a.       E.g., Viewing Mona Lisa, we can’t 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

25.     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)


26.     Davies allows that significance of a work can be affected by its later treatment and reception (interpretation)

          a.       Why isn’t significance related to identity?

          b.       If significance is related to a work’s meaning, then since meaning is related to identity, signficance affects identity


27.     Davies considers some possible counter examples

28.     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?


29.     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; (Davies thinks this is a mistake)


30.     Why can’t meaning (and therefore content) of a work be different when the audience changes over time, so the work changes?


31.     EXAMPLES

32.     Recordings of Jazz improvisation are likely to damage if not kill the music

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

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

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


33.     Colorization of movies originally made in black and white

34.     James Young defense

          a.       A transcription of the original

                    i.        Transcription: work that is new by virtue of how its medium differs from its source

                    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

          c.       Colorized movie is a new and separate work

                    i.        Just as Duchmap took image of Mona Lisa and created LHOOQ (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

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


35.     Arguments against colorization

36.     Ok a new and separate work may be created

          a.       But harms still occur

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

                    ii.       Disrespect shown to original artist

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

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


37.     Or 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.       Doesn’t alter or undermine its identity


38.     Does the change produce a new work or merely a version of the old one?

          a.       Is the absence of color essential to preservation of movie’s identity

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

                    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

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

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

                              (1)     So probably its absence reflects works identity

                              (2)     So colorizing these films 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

                    ii.       Can’t say this for earlier films where no choice besides black and white

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

          d.       But changes in color can affect a film’s mood and mood is part of content

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

          e.       True, but change in mood need not undermine print’s status as instance of original movie

                    i.        Alteration of original mood might count as a flaw in colorized print, but not rule it out as instance of original

                    ii.       Colorized print can be a performance interpretation and these can have dif moods while still being instances of a work

          f.       Overall

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

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

                    iii.      All relevant factors

                              (1)     Is it a movie that claims to be an artwork or not?

                              (2)     Does it impact availability of B/W version?

                              (3)     How impact audiences appreciation of history of cinema?

                              (4)     Motives of movie-makers and colorizers

                              (5)     Consider toleration we show to adaptations of movies for screening on TV


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


Michelangelo’s statue David


Ansel Adams photographs