8 (2005), Nr.2/June



L’art philosophique

Spelling TV as an art language (Goodman extended). 4802 Zeichen.



Understanding art as technology - who could prevent us from doing so? The arts stem from the technai and artes and do so as an aesthetic kind. Art in this modern and contemporary sense is also meant by Goodman. And we still stick to it today. This gives play to a Goodmanian asking what the language of television might be. Goodman in his „Languages of Art. An Approach to a Theory of Symbols“ (Second Edition, Indiananapolis-IN: Hackett Publishing 1976) did not ponder the question. He did not consider film as art either.


Yes, Goodman mentions the indeterminacy of facial expression in Japanese movies due to custom and culture (p. 48) and the  sensory and emotional qualities“ transpired by the disruptive narrative line of „Last Year in Marienbad“ (93f.). Yes, Goodman touches in passing film writers who, like playwrights, produce scripts even though it is more what they write (199). However, these merely peripheral observations do not lead to a systematic reflection of film, not even of photography, notwithstanding the remark on the distortion of the perspective by cameras (15f.).


What is TV? Acoustic (musical) work and visual (pictorial) work, both transmitted, displayed on screens. That is the short definition. The long version runs as follows. With regard to the specific differences of the arts, as conveyed by Goodman, the symbol system television reveals to be a mixture of autographic-allographic/non-graphic/reprographic arts in the performance mode (repro meaning broadcast repetition video recording). With variable designs there are infinitely multiplificatory televisual works, „texts“, that may or can be denoted (duration) and that can be laid down creatively as realizations beyond the identity of the work as dependent of syntax (with or without prototype). Television proves to be involving all arts or media: show (talkshow, quiz, variété), film (series), news (documentary), music, text (insert, picture text), design (logo, typographic design, studio architecture, animation), opera, play, videoclip, advertisement clip, signation, djingle.


There are two forms of TV that may become art: broadcast sequences including ads, news, shows or movie series as programmed for one day with a certain flow (Raymond Williams) and personally variant sequences selected intuitively from TV programs in a remotely controlled way. The key question for TV as an art seems to be in which way can be drawn minimalist consequences of improvisation and variation, that is to say minimalist consequences of the performative/dramatic arts, of musical, dance and theatre serialism.


With Goodman, the TV aesthetic needs to be seen in two incompatible ways, critically first because TV does not succeed in a three-layer notation that allows to interprete the full structure of the work (of music, theater, dance) which is the program. And what it has to offer as the aesthetic seems to be a mere matter of surface design for tingle & immersion that do not amount or let forget to achieve works of art. In other words, as for the other arts, for TV as art counts that „aesthetic experience is cognitive experience“. (262)


The difference between real and artistic pictures in TV is relevant. Or it would be pure technology of the „real“ as the aesthetic (as the Greeks would see TV). As TV owns perspective in the widest sense there is no innocent eye either (7). Therefore the question for TV is: Can the Goodmanian demand for representation as denotation instead of resemblance (4f.) be upheld? Does TV have a ‘naturalism’ habit before it has description and/or representation? (231) In TV there is a representation of objects and expression of feelings at once. (46) The thing is called „infotainment“. Yet it probably cannot be claimed of TV pictures that „the picture is sad“ for instance (69).


With TV there is a classification of representations by means of genre/time labels (30f.). The program schema consists of sets of time etc. labels (72).


TV is non-metaphorical. Therefore TV is a relabeling organization, not a new organization (80). For instance, as „Live8“ has not been not televised the whole day in most of the countries worldwide it did not organize but only re-organize concert activity by relabeling. Could this be seen as an indication that there is less novelty and instability with TV? (94))


Like music and film, TV is non-autographic, but one-stage and multiple (115). However there may be, in fact there is not a notation because TV works are transitory (121). For TV has not a score as the authoritative identification of a work (128). Is TV a non-notational symbol system with a notational scheme (130)?


The following quote probably applies to TV: „That art is concerned with simulated emotions suggests, as does the copy theory of representation, that art is a poor substitute for reality: that art is imitation, and aesthetic experience a pacifier that only partly compensates for lack of direct acquaintance and contact with the Real.“ (246) A question like „Does TV provide satisfaction?“ (see 244) is to be answered in the negative. So we still don’t know of TV „what purpose such symbolization serves“. (256) Could we conceptualize TV’s „communication as the purpose of symbolizing“? (257)


There remain questions.


What are TV’s denotative, exemplificatory, and expressive shares? (93)


Can TV denote itself? (59)


Goodman says: „Initially, perhaps, all arts are autographic.“ (121) Does this apply to TV?


Has TV the feature that distinguishes „exemplificational from denotational systems“? (253)



Peter Mahr © 2005

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