Week 7 – Einsteins’s dreams

Review of Einsteins Dreams

Time is a pretty abstract concept. It is not a visible thing but is rather a concept that exists and reflected through different events. Time exists in history and can be presented or shown in the format of a time calculator (a clock, a watch, etc..).

In part four of Einsteins Dreams,  Lightman writes five different dreams in which time is defined differently. In dream 18 June 1905”, there is one and only clock on the Temple of Time which represents time. In this dream, time exists in nature and the behavior/attempt of trying to mechanically represent time is to produce limitation to peoples movement(like the pilgrims). In another one, time is a local phenomenon, for that different places have different time  In these dreams, time is also the memories of different people.

It is interesting that even if it seems that time is depicted really differently in these dreams, they all make sense to each other. time is a vague thing if you think about it but it can also be precisely measured. It produces history, memory, and culture. It frees people yet limits people when they start to pay attention to its existence. Isn’t that one of the best illusions?

Week 7 – MoMA Visit

My major question after I visit MoMa last week is that “should art be self-explanatory?”, especially for contemporary art. As far as I am concerned, one of the significant differences that stand out for me between traditional art and contemporary art is that contemporary art is more conceptual. I might be wrong but for me, contemporary art is not so limited in terms of format. The conceptual expressions of some contemporary art pieces make them especially hard to understand when viewing at the first glance.

I start to question, if one is not able to understand a contemporary art piece, is it because of a lack of art knowledge of that person, or is it because the art piece does not express itself enough. Or it can be both? How do we value a contemporary piece, are their specific standards? Do fine arts belong to only a small group of people (meaning the so-called art circles)? And why do we feel certain that something is art while being very skeptical towards something else?

These questions were echoing back and forth in my brain when I was at MoMA. There are some pieces that are especially memorable for me. 

This first piece is called Shovel or In Advance of the Broken Arm(1915) and is created by artist Marcel Duchamp. To be honest, this stands nothing like an “art piece” for me. It seems like it is just a shovel that anyone is able to hang onto the ceiling and call it an artwork. Feeling super curious, I did some research on this piece and according to what I read, “Shovel was the first Readymade to be made by Duchamp after his move to the United States. It seems a rather direct result of this relocation; the American snow shovel was something that Duchamp had never seen before, having moved from France where no such thing was in production. In a sense, this proves quite ironic. This core Readymade was supposedly meant to be an everyday, ordinary object”(http://www.toutfait.com/unmaking_the_museum/Shovel.html). So it seems that the artist was trying to juxtaposing the supposedly familiarity one should have with this tool and his unfamiliarity towards it. And he achieved to deliver this message by displacing the shovel where it normally does not belong to — the ceiling. But isn’t it the “correct” placement(in an art museum) that actually approves the status of it being a “qualified” artwork? If it is just a shovel hanging from a random ceiling, what would people think about it?

I feel like after reading some of the critique about this work, it starts to make sense to me. However, I feel it does so only because I feel the art critics who wrote reviews on this piece has made some great arguments. As for the work itself, I remain skeptical.   

I kind of have the same feeling towards these above two pieces as well. I can feel something artistic about them, but am more curious towards the exact meanings behind.

I feel these three are the most hard-to-understand pieces that I have encountered during my visit to MoMa this time. And I feel like my major thoughts towards them are like “What do these artwork mean?” “Am I wrong if I do not consider them as art?” “But wait, what exactly is art?” I feel I was struggling with “feeling nothing” and the idea of “should feel something”.

This one, for some reason I like it though I could not find any deeper meaning behind besides its apparent “cat sitter” message. Probably the font is cute and it is just so random that it becomes cool.

The last one is also cool because it is one of the examples that show why contemporary art is so popular.

Week 4 Midterm Ideas


Tong Wu, Chengchao Zhu

Three ideas:

  1. We would like to create a sculpture whose appearance is going to vary based on where the user is standing. Therefore, the ideal location would be at a corner of the building.
  2. A projection mapping project which can turn one element into a much more sophisticated one. Ideal Location would be a pillar on the floor.
  3. A live performance in which we are able to create certain illusions.




seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees

I was quite confused by the book’s title “seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees”. After reading the chapter about Robert Irwin’s journey as an artist, I kind of got an answer.

Irwin started his artistic journey as a painter. At that time, when he was creating, he was always trying to break a limitation. For instance, when he painted on a canvas, he was intrigued by the question “how can I paint a painting without limited by the edge of the canvas?” He wanted his audience to position themselves in a particular environment when viewing his artwork, which is an experience beyond a pure painting but dissolved in space. And I guess that is why he went from being an experimental painter to an installation artist.

I think Irwin’s artworks are interesting to me in the way that they are not purely products in which Irwin stores or expresses personal feelings, but also “tools” which Irwin utilizes to ask and answer questions. I think the article makes an interesting point that human beings look at things in the world, expecting a meaning or an answer to certain facts. Often science takes a logical approach to serving that goal. However, the artist, “as a reasoning being, deals with the overall complexity of which all the logical subsystems are merely segments, and he deals with them through the intuitive side of his human potential”. An artwork can become a result of such intuition, which can be less logical to interpret.

I guess my only problem is that when art and science both provide certain solutions to “answer” facts in the world, while science provides a more logical answer that might be easier to grasp, art often can provide an answer that is even more obscure than the original question.  How should the artists connect his art with his audience? Or does it even matter? How should we understand the case when the audience fails to understand what the artists original intend to express?

After watching “F For Fake” By Orson Welles

In The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin argues that artwork  have its own “aura”, which is the speciality of that very art piece as a result of the space and time the work is created. In that sense, an art piece is a product of not only the artist’s efforts, but also a product of history and space. Therefore, an artwork seems to be unreproducible in the sense that any attempt of copying an art piece, despite how perfect it could be, will lead to a difference in time and space. In that sense, a reproduction of an existing artwork can become harmful for the original work. But what does reproduction mean to the reproduced work? A fake work is only being recognized as a forgery when the real original work is recognized at the same time. Otherwise it is just a work by itself, potentially gaining the same kind of reputation as the original work.

So it seems that our understandings of “real” versus “fake” also lie heavily on our knowledge and perspective. When one knows something is fake/unreal, but still cannot help but being persuaded by it, that thing creates an illusion.  However, when someone is being cheated and believe in something, that thing becomes a pure lie.

I feel like films fall into the former category. Films, even documentaries, despite how “real” they  seem to be, are still fictional worlds created by the artists. The director is kind of like a magician who is trying to amuse his audience with the best illusion he could create. An art forgery falls into the latter category as a totally lie.

Interestingly, Orson Welles’s film “F for Fake”, while revealing the fake aspect of the  great forger Elmyr de Hory and his biography writer Clifford Irving, also is an great “illusion” itself. That means, the content provided by the film itself is not totally liable as well. An non-liable work telling a story about the fake, how much should we believe?

In addition, does fake remains existing because people have not realized?  In the film, when a lady is talking to Irving, she mentions that the fake exist because there is a market. Even if people know something is fake, they long for it because they want to see “the excellent’s talents made fun of”. It is interesting to me that not only forgers have the intention to create fake projects, but the audience might also have a desire for that.