The Labyrinth of Interpretation: On Cathy Gere’s Knossos and The Prophets of Modernism

At the core of Knossos and The Prophets of Modernism lies the problem of historical interpretation. The excavation and reconstruction of the palace at Knossos—paid for and overseen directly by Evans—unveiled extraordinary murals and colorful columns to the public. But as Gere makes clear, the palace was in fact rebuilt in modern concrete, the first such structure on the island. What at first glance appears to be the oldest monument on Crete, turns out to be one of its most modern. Similarly, modern artists simply reimagined many of the famous artworks in the palace taking small fragments of originals as their inspiration

Fiction: A Dialogue

…we can reason our way out of a deontological stance into a utilitarian one. In fact we moderns are called on to do that every day. But the cognitive load required to apply the brakes on our fast and frugal heuristics is intense. So the stories I love most offer some kind of relief from the rational self-restraint I’m forced to exercise all the time—on the road, in the office, at home.

Two Problems with a Neuroaesthetic Theory of Interpretation

…if we’re thinking like Mark Johnson, we can simply add these examples to our bucket of evidence that the human mind is structured by our bodily orientation in space, and hence so is our art. Put that way, the difference between having an account of the meaning of the work and having an account of its causes is not only easy to see, but, I would argue, an easy strike against the kinds of neuro approaches I’ve been describing thus far.

Response to Ashton, “Two Problems”

Cognitive scientists have found out quite a lot about the psychology of intention. We humans are intentional to our core. Do we come into the world trailing clouds of glory? Maybe. But we definitely come trailing clouds of concepts. Far from experiencing the world as “one great blooming, buzzing confusion,” babies start detecting patterns only […]

Carl Einstein, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Cubism, and the Visual Brain

On this question Einstein and Kahnweiler held diametrically opposed positions. Moreover–and this is my main interest–their respective positions correspond to successive phases in the developing neuroscientific understanding of the visual brain. Kahnweiler’s interpretation of cubism was shaped by the neuroscience of his day while, remarkably, Einstein’s account of seeing, as he believed it to be embodied in cubist paintings, anticipates by half a century a fundamental breakthrough in the neuroscientific understanding of vision.

Music, Image Schemata and “The Hidden Art”

…I could agree with Mark Johnson, if his claim were simply descriptive in character. That is, I would find nothing objectionable if he were only claiming that we require multiple, often inconsistent structures (or habits, or preferences, or norms) to describe musical works. But Johnson’s claim is not intended to be descriptive; image-schematic theory is intended to explain how such experiences are conceptualized in the first place, i.e. how they are structured.

Three Poems

Nonsite presents new poetry. Three prose poems by Michael Fried: “The Divergence,” “An Essay in Aesthetics,” and “Akhmatova Looks Up.”