Saturday, August 6, 2011

Modern art in classical cinema...Susan Felleman's essay

In general, it must be observed, movies tend to subsume and diminish art. Mapping and theorizing this diminishment or decay is one part of my larger project—a book length study I am calling Real Objects in Unreal Situations: Modern Art in Fiction Films—of which this essay presents some preliminary findings. The larger study is interested in identifying different kinds of modern art objects (primarily, but not exclusively, paintings, drawings and sculptures) as they enter and appear in fiction films, from objects that appear to be playing “themselves” (e.g. numerous examples of “Degenerate Art” in Venus vor Gericht, 1941, a National Socialist romantic-comedy and polemic set in the early 1930s; the content of OK Harris Gallery in An Unmarried Woman, 1978; the neoclassical marbles in Pride & Prejudice, 2005, or the Corots in Summer Hours) to objects playing parts (e.g. figurative works by at least seven different contemporary sculptors as the work of fictional sculptor Richard Waldow in The Song of Songs, 1933; paintings by John Ferren, and possibly also Stanley Marc Wright, as the work of fictional painter Sam Marlowe in The Trouble with Harry, 1955; works by Elisabeth Frink as those of fictional sculptor Freya Neilson in The Damned, 1963; Paul Jenkins’ paintings playing Saul Kaplan’s in An Unmarried Woman). In every case, the study is interested not only in the part played by the art, but the “back story,” too: the social, economic and material details of how the art came to be in the film, and its recognition or reception thereby, along with the larger context of film’s institutional and aesthetic engagement with art and artists.

"Decay of the aura: modern art in classical cinema" by Susan Felleman

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