Term Paper: Narrative and Craft

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Narrative and Craft

On a world history scale, written narrative is a fairly recent phenomenon. It only developed after human beings had existed for thousands of years. No written narrative of the ancient past is therefore available to the investigator of history, and different means of narrative construction becomes necessary. The discipline of archaeology has brought about a connection between the visual and narrative, fusing the two to become object-based narrative. By examining ancient objects found during excavation expeditions, it has become possible to create a visual narrative, particularly of ancient history. This is not however limited to ancient history, and has also become a prominent part of art history in more recent terms. Indeed, art is deeply integrated in the object-based paradigm of narrative. Both modern and historical art objects are used in a narrative that contextualizes the art object to evolve beyond its immediate physical nature. In this way, an art object becomes a signifier for several meanings, depending upon the observer and the context of the object and its creation.

According to the Transformations Web site (2008), the idea of craft as narrative was developed during the late nineteenth century. Art and craft presented as narrative allowed artists not only to find new expressions for their work, but also to display it to a wider and more comprehensive audience. Object-based narrative also allows the audience to experience and interact with the art object primarily through the senses. On a deeper level, the initial physical experience of the art object then relates with the inner world of the observer in terms of preconceptions and experiences through narrative. This contextualizes the art object for the observer. The artist provides the initial context of the art object via narrative, which the observer uses in conjunction with the art object itself. In this way, the art object becomes something unique and something beyond itself for each observer. Whereas the artist intends a certain meaning for his or her art object, this meaning is dynamic and fluid as it is presented to observers with their individual contextualizing experiences and preconceptions.

Karen Bassi (2005) particularly addresses the way in which narrative art provides the observer with a historical account of the ancient past. Bassi (2005: 1,2) relates this to artistic influences for contemporary works of art and their relation to the narrative paradigm. The author points out a fundamental obstacle in using ancient works of art, and even texts, as evidence of the ancient world and their way of life: it is impossible, as mentioned above, to separate the observer from his or her own context when interpreting art. Specifically, Bassi cites Rosalind Thomas in noting that the observer should not assume that he or she will see the same things that Herodotus saw at the time when he wrote. The ancient author's own context would have provided its own meaning to the texts that he created. Not being able to interview the initial creator of the ancient work of art, the investigator can at best make an educated guess regarding the time during which the art object was created.

Bassi notes that there are two types of distance in this regard (2005:2): the first is the distance of time; the ancient Greeks lived far too long ago to determine their exact circumstances with any certainty. The second is the research disciplines of the time: the use of writing and observation might have differed significantly from those of contemporary investigators. This makes it further difficult to determine the accuracy of writings and other art created at the time, and also the extent to which symbolism and reference played a role. The Greeks would for example most likely not have experienced reality and its context like the modern American. Bassi uses this as a basis for the further question of whether art objects mentioned in ancient literary texts related differently to the narrative than those mentioned in nonfiction texts such as works of history.

Bassi (2005:3) ascribes these questions to the general Western paradigm of photographic accuracy in terms of historical context and narration. She suggests that it is not necessarily a worthy aim to desire to see and understand exactly the contexts within which ancient art objects were created. Indeed, the contemporary contextualization of the visual "autopsy" of the materialization of the past. This is not a context that can be applied to the artistic narrative of the past. In interpreting art objects from the ancient past, the effect of different social contexts should therefore also be taken into account, not forgetting that each art object and narrative work is nonetheless rooted in the actual events depicted. This is so despite the fact that ancient artifacts resists logical narration and delineation. Rather than seeking to coax from the art objects a specific narrative history then, it might be a more worthwhile effort to search for the historic roots of each object.

In this context, Bassi (2005:17) goes on to address material objects and their contextualization in history writing. Visual objects in historical narrative have the function of providing starting points for the historical investigation not only in terms of its own presentation, but also in terms of what it refers to beyond itself. As such, Bassi (2005:27) notes that art objects do not only refer to context and history, but also themselves have histories or "lives" in terms of how they were created. This is particularly so in the narrative context, where a story or text refers to art object, its creation, and the context within which it exists. In this way, contextualization beyond the art object itself can provide clues to the culture and time from which it emerged.

In using object-based narrative, the historian can therefore use the combination of art work and contextualization in order to determine the nature of the work of art in combination with others of its time. According to Bassi then, the art work cannot be separated from its context in terms of narrative or in terms of other art works.

Caterina Albano (2007) relates art objects with their capacity to serve in a biographical capacity. By addressing the biographical role of the narrative art object, Albano personalizes the related concepts by contextualizing it not only with society and the artist's intention, but also with the artist him- or herself. In her introduction, Albano (2007:17) notes that objects are inseparably part of human life. In interacting with such objects, the human being personalizes it to him- or herself and the object becomes biographical in signifying a specific part of a unique human life. This is also true of art objects and their narrative.

Art objects, in terms of their biographical narrative, are contextualized primarily in terms of the person. From this viewpoint, Albano (2007:17) notes that biographical art objects serve to delineate both an individual life and its collective contextualization. The artist is inspired by something in his or her cultural collective, and as such contextualizes the work of art. Understanding this can also help to construct history form artifact.

Biographical object-based narrative is in a position to contextualize not only the art involved, but also the artist and the observer of the narrative relating to the life. As with individual art objects and artifacts, narrative and biographical displays also influence and contextualize the observer, as already mentioned above. Here also, Albano mentions the personified "life" of the art object and display, which are directly related to its contextualization. Relationships between people and those between people and their environment can for example be displayed by relating art objects with each other in a visual display. In this way, the visual "autopsy" of what is seen becomes more than the physical and finds contextualization within the mind of the observer. The art object becomes not only more than itself; it also becomes more than even the potential ascribed to it by the contextualized artist. What the art object means to the artist is unique, whereas each observer also ascribes his or her personal meaning to the art object and display.

In terms of contextualization, people will make different connections with different images, depending upon the life of the observer. Here contextualization is individualized and current, with a projection into the future. The current artist contextualizes the biographical art display to him- or herself, but also in terms of the collective culture from which he or she operates and works. It is the artist's personal comment not only upon life in general, but also upon one life in particular. The collective culture forms a connection that closes the distance between artist and audience. In terms of historical record, the biographical art object created serves as a connection between current art and future historical study. By contextualizing individual life and collective culture, the artist leaves for the future historian clues to the current climate in art, culture and society.

Albano (2007:17) mentions the Scientific Revolution as one of the major influences on the status of art objects. This also… [END OF PREVIEW]

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