Thursday, 4 December 2008

Chelsea MA Lectures: Culture, Taste and Identity

MA Cluster lecture at Chelsea - *think* it was by Frank Cartledge but not sure.

Started with the 1980s Ferrero Rocher advert. Artifacts as signifiers. John Brewer - Consumer Society. Raymond Williams - Culture & Society (1958)
keywords - vocabulary of culture and society. historical semantics - meanings not fixed.
Culture has been defined as having the most complex meaning of any word in English!
Etymology - meaning of a word, route over time. Culture is derived from the latin word colere meaning to honour, to worship and to tend to natural growth, cultivate. In religious meaning, honour, special treatment.

Matthew Arnold -

"Social criticism

He was led on from literary criticism to a more general critique of the spirit of his age. Between 1867 and 1869 he wrote Culture and Anarchy, famous for the term he popularised for the middle class of the English Victorian era population: "Philistines", a word which derives its modern cultural meaning (in English - the German-language usage was well established) from him. Culture and Anarchy is also famous for its popularization of the phrase "sweetness and light," first coined by Jonathan Swift. [21]"

Think the point I was making here was that as the inspector of schools he developed the idea, special treatment, medium in which minds grow - primary way for this to happen was through education.

There are three contextual definitions of 'culture':

1. The 'IDEAL' pursuit of perfection, 'the best that has been thought in the world'. Matthew Arnold. Body of knowledge. 18th -19th century - colonialism, superiority of UK/Germany thinking. Snobs, the reason they have time for all this reading is because they are the bourgeoisie and have all the time in the world to read books and become intellectual as they don't have to work and do chores etc. Believed in the high points of human social evolution - Egyptians, Mesopotamia, Rome etc. Hierarchical structure largely responsible for the volume of Museums and Public Galleries now in the world, in major cities to expose people to the best that has been...to become a better society. Critics would say whose taste is the best and who should decide? This filtering linked to institutions - mainstream acceptance etc.

2. DOCUMENTARY - the works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity. Most museums collect significant artefacts to culture - ignoring others. Mostly happening in the 19th C they were distinguishing between high culture and non culture.

3. SOCIAL - whole way of life, complex whole. Darwin, evolution - simple to complex (they used 'Darwin' but this is not what he was saying). Chauvinistic, Imperialism. E B Tylor - Primitive Culture - led the way for anthropology.

Social - small c
Ideal - big C

Pierre Bourdieu - Ideal Culture, elitist, imperialist is needed to bring back to everyday life social practices - to rejoin these ideas. He introduces new concept - Cultural Capital. What you acquire by being educated and born in a particular social class - culturally conditioned.

It is a myth that only naturally gifted individuals (bourgeoisie) can appreciate high culture. Pompous "I just have a feeling that this artist is good, I just know!"

Habitus - body manners, way in which we speak, walk, talk, formed by where you grow up.

Pyramid of Capitalist System. Adverts for commodities are perfect texts to show cultural object signs and as a viewer you have to know these. Kantian formulation of the aesthetic. Paradoxical ways in consumer societies fixed onto objects that aren't posh at all, short cuts to higher class. Raymond Williams - this magical system of advertising that you know the Sherry isn't high class but we are somehow still seduced by it! Subliminal?



Vulgar and Refined tastes

Ideology - ruling beliefs of the ruling classes.
Naturalisation - saying the rulers opinion should be everyone's.

By expressing your own view you are revealing your own background - taste.
In post-Kantian Europe there was the Ideal definition of Culture, sensations of the body are seen as the poor relation to sensations of the mind. This is a Western tradition. Body seen closer to animal, body, corporeal, taste (mouth) food. Kant (enjoy at a distance - not led by urges). Bourdieu - this appreciation distance puts you on a higher intellectual plane than the profane.

As mentioned above the Bourgeoisie developed the mystification of artistic appreciation - denying that their taste is acquired its just a natural thing - 'I just know its a Pollock!'

Formalism - Clive Bell

he claimed that nothing else about an object is in any way relevant to assessing whether it is a work of art, or aesthetically valuable. What a painting represents, for example, is completely irrelevant to evaluating it aesthetically. Consequently, he believed that knowledge of the historical context of a painting, or the intention of the painter is unnecessary for the appreciation of visual art. He wrote: "to appreciate a work of art we need bring with us nothing from life, no knowledge of its ideas and affairs, no familiarity with its emotions"

Member of the Bloomsbury Group. Which possibly led to abstraction in arts. Arguments against this by Herbert Marcuse in One Dimensional Man 50s.

Cultural Codes

Works of art are encoded products like a language. Communication vessels from sender (artist) to receiver (audience). Encoding/decoding 70s. Now Formalism would say that you just 'know', snobby and you would be vulgar if you don't 'get it'.

George Kubler - The Shape of Time
Adam Curtis - films for tv


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