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Books in Review The Cubist Film. Standish Lawder. New York University Press, 265 pp., $18.50 (cloth); $11.75 (paperback). Richard Foreman: Plays and Manifestos. Edited, and with an Introduction,by Kate Davy. New York University Press, 229 pp., $18.50 (cloth); $9.75 (paperback). Video Art : An Anthology. Edited by Ira Schneider and Beryl Korot. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 286 pp., $19.95 (cloth); $9.95 (paperback). Daryl Chin In this century we have witnessed the codification of a concept vis-a-vis art - the concept of "modernism." The ramifications of this concept are too complicated to be discussed in detail, although it can easily be said that the situation of art in view of modernism is one of deliberate assertiveness. This assertiveness is concerned with the engagement of consciousness. In its attempt to proclaim uniqueness, the modernist artwork assumes a belligerent autonomy. The modernist artwork becomes, in short, a model of consciousness. The claim -of any one consciousness to attention over another is a claim which is at the essence of modernism. In order to claim that attention, the modernist artwork must be present in a public arena. The ways in which criticism, artistic intention, the artwork, appreciation, and art history mutually sponsor and support each other provide the discourse of modernism; this discourse, necessarily volatile, creates that forum, that debate, that symposium conditioning the format of modernism, which is undeniably "theatrical." This theatre is, as it were, 103 the theatre of consciousness: that arena wherein the artwork must assert its claim to attention. The means by which this assertion is made are many; one way is through the rigors of asceticism, another is through the invocation of an evolving history. In any case, the artwork comes prepared to enter public existence with the paraphernalia of self-consciousness.Art addresses itself, assuming, through the apparatus of criticism, that such an address suffices to stipulate the most committed attention. Perhaps in recognition of this contradiction, there has been an interest in performance evinced by much of modernist art. The extension of that theatre of consciousness where art and appreciation culminate in the actual permutation of performance represents a radicalization of the modernist aesthetic. These three books, The Cubist Cinema, Richard Foreman: Plays and Manifestos, and Video Art: An Anthology, represent particularly pertinent examples of the concept of modernism in performance modes. Although divergent in detail, they share a uniform subtext. Attempting to redefine the arena wherein aesthetic discourse convenes, the artists represented by the books under discussion have assessed the conditions of their respective media through the congruity, access, and proximity of other artforms. Establishing sensibility as the imaginative basis, these artists are able to transverse the boundaries of definition, thereby rendering their respective artforms as "Art," the generic term proclaiming the seriousness of modernist aesthetics whereby consciousness transforms and is transformed by the medium of its communication. In their own ways, these books have as their subject the nature of modernism in performance: one a critical study assaying an art historical performance mode (The Cubist Cinema), one a contemporary theatre artist's writings (RichardForeman: Plays and Manifestos), one a compendium of material by artists and critics on a contemporary performance mode (Video Art: An Anthology). The nature of modernist aesthetics, concerned with consciousness, has allowed for the promulgation of self-consciousness, provoking an extensive literature to which these books contribute. Beginning with The Cubist Cinema is especially apt, for it is in the area of the visual arts that the doctrine of modernism has established a clear domain . The mode of "historical painting," that model of modernism, finds its first instance in the movement of Cubism. What Lawder is concerned with is how artists, engaged in the selfconscious aesthetic of modernism, viewed the cinema. In The Cubist Cinema there is a discussion of the ambitions of such artists as Pablo Picasso, Leopold Survage, Vassily Kandinsky and the composer Arnold Schoenberg with regard to film. The intensive theorization which accompanied the advent of modernism as a viable premise already had established its precedence. Granting this theorization its status as a given, Lawder proceeds to examine the ways in which the avant-garde attempted to align itself with the potentialities and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 103-108
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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