Well, I finally got the book and I’m power reading through it now, and I think I have a similar reaction to everyone else to it, but for an entirely different reason.

McGann keeps discussing aesthetics and how deformation can help us to somehow create and shape old media. What I don’t understand is: is he basing this purely on its aesthetic beauty? Is it really that shallow? This reminds me of what Takashi Murikami calls the “superflat,” something that is both meaningless but gives the illusion of depth. On a similar note, doesn’t this sound a lot like what advertisers do, remixing narrative elements in order to sell products rather than tell stories? Is this what we want from all media from now on?

The same thing seems to be happening to those of you who tried deforming works. We see a lot of interesting interpretations, but they are only that, interpretations. Is there actually any substance there, or is this one big Rorschach test?

Maybe I’m missing something, but McGann’s discussions are so materialistic that they leave me feeling hollow. It makes me think of Walter Benjamin and John Berger, and how art’s surroundings mean just as much as the art itself. For Benjamin and Berger, mass production is a liberating experience, allowing individuals to find their own meanings in the work of art outside the elitist realm of the museum and the art gallery.

I wholeheartedly agree with this, and think the idea of the “one true meaning” of art is at its core a very elitist notion not unlike the representation of the old academic Hitler from the YouTube video. However, what McGann is creating is a system in which meaning is entirely subjective, where meaning isn’t even tied to the work of art anymore (it may not even be in the pieces of the work of art that we play with).

So then, where is the meaning of the work of art? If the answer is solely in the audience and their deconstruction, then why do we need art at all? Anything can trigger an emotion, and any attempt by a poet or artist to trigger a specific emotion is just going to be deformed by the whims of the audience, so what purpose does a work of art then have?

Advertisements