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4 Contemporary Art Concepts

February 9, 2011

Meshes of the Afternoon

I saw what I believe is the use of many metaphors in Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon.  At the beginning of the film, when the young woman and protagonist is seen walking up stairs to a door, a key (a prediction and indication of where one is going) falls down the stairs showing where the woman’s alternate path could take her instead of inside the house into a warped mockery of events that ultimately leads to her demise. 

Another metaphor presented is the flower being extended to the participants of the experiment by a long and ownerless arm.  The flower represents that catalyst causing all following events to unfold which leads to the recurring torment and death of the protagonist.

The knife makes several code-switches.  Beginning as having the purpose to cut bread, the knife switches purposes later to indicate urgency as the woman runs up the stairs, and later dilemma, as she goes into a fit of gravitationless vertigo.  Eventually, the knife changes to a key and each doppelgänger takes one as a ticket to experience the house.  Finally, the knife becomes a tool of death as the woman’s throat is slit.

Both the black mirror-faced phantasm and the man at the end replicate many of the woman’s actions several times creating a sort of palimpsest or shadow of the woman’s movements.

TV as Contemporary Art

My contemporary art of choice, the one that I am exposed to the most often, is the television.  I believe most of the contemporary art concepts from the glossary of A ED 813 can be seen through viewing TV.  I will highlight some of them below.

  • Intertextuality – can be seen through story retelling in cinema or on TV.  An example of this would be Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories of Sherlock Holmes that were recently made into a move under the same name.  Many of the characters, Holmes, his partner James Watson , Inspector Lestrade, Mary Morstan and others are included in the film adaptation; however, new characters are introduced by the screenwriter such as the villain Lord Henry Blackwood.
  • Another example of Intertextuality on TV would be Patricia Highsmith’s book The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was also converted into a movieWhile the primary characters (Tom Ripley, Dickie Greenleaf, and Marge Sherwood) and basic storyline remained, several new characters (Meredith Logue and Peter Smith-Kingsley) were introduced solely for the film and resulted in changes to the story. (wikipedia)


  • Palimpsest – occurs anytime a filmmaking technique (camera angle, zoom effects, camera follow, establishing shot, voice-over, close-up, sound effect) is borrowed from a previously-made film or show.  The original movie-maker invented the technique, and the duplication, reversion, reference, or permutation is a glimpse at the former piece of a film.


  • Code-switching – can be seen in the television’s many uses.  At times, as while watching the news, the TV is an informer.  During a sporting event, movie, or sit-com, it can be an entertainer.  Many times without the viewer knowing, it is a social commentator.  During advertisements, it becomes a seductor.


  • Double-coding – happens any time a newer TV show or film is being watched on an older TV set, or any time an episode of ‘I Love Lucy’ or a silent film or viewed on an iPhone.


  • Subversion – The TV’s different uses becomes the perfect tool for subversion.  Showing what’s happening through documentaries or the news can be cause for action to take place that upsets the status quo.


  • Installation – Rooms in many houses have the furniture arranged around the central TV.  Sofas and chairs are sometimes aimed toward the fireplace or windows, but most of the time… the TV.  This room becomes an installation to stare at the magical picture box.


  • Liminality – The viewer finds themselves removed from the situation (drama, action, problem, mystery, etc.) physically, yet their emotions are being toyed with.  They feel for the characters.  They desire resolution, bringing them between the reality of life and the fictitious story being relayed on screen.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2011 7:43 pm

    I’m a big believer of Visual Culture (and all it implies) as art. Thank you for picking out some TV specifics and sharing. What are your favorite programs to watch, and are any particularly visually stimulating? What attracts you to these shows?

  2. February 9, 2011 11:08 pm

    Thanks for the comment, March. The shows that I watch on school nights (when I am home) include Seinfeld, Jeopardy, the Food Network, and football during the season.

    Seinfeld, I think is a brilliant concept: a show about nothing. The jokes are subtle and well-crafted. Jeopardy is on at the gym each night, and it’s challenging. I watch that while on the tread-mill. I do not watch it during the summer and spring when it’s warm enough to run outdoors. I love food (an art form unto itself) and am a self-proclaimed foodie, and have learned to cook over the past several years. The Food Network is a learning tool. And I watch Steeler’s football during the season for entertainment.

    Seinfeld = tranquilizer
    Jeopardy = challenger
    Food Network = educator
    Football = entertainer

  3. Rodney Draughn permalink
    February 17, 2011 3:49 am

    I have always been a tv fan, so I appreciated your views related to this medium. We recently cut off our cable, so I’m rediscovering the “joys” of network television. I tend to watch a lot of public television, just like when I was a child.

  4. February 22, 2011 1:49 am

    Interesting self-knowledge about your seasonal and situational tv viewing. Jeopardy is a moment in your day when you decide to challenge and keep intact your knowledge and stamina.

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