Art and imitation


In the essay "Art and imitation", Gadamer defines the ideology that art is imitation of life, nature or human experience. This ideology is quite lucid in objective art that was created prior to modern non-objective art. However, Gadamer's greatest question in this essay is how we can apply aesthetic ideology to both modern non-objective and classical objective or figurative art.

We return to the idea that nature is the most beautiful, the beauty that cannot be entirely defined, the most universal. Therefore depiction of objects and figures of nature are easily recognized as works of art, easily recognized as representation of something, a thing that exists. Gadamer does state that this representation is a reflection of the permanent infinity of humanity and/or nature, as the individual thing or person has temporality and from its genes springs forth yet another incarnation. The representation is the imitation of the perpetual being or nature. It is in reflection of this nature that we appreciate the representative. However the imitation is not required to be identical to the object or thing or the ideal to be recognized and appreciated as the representative. In this form the representative allows the liberation of interpretation.

Recognition is the acknowledgement that we now judge the being/work/creation independently from the initial encounter. It is not solely recording the familiar. Gadamer gives the example of the use of effigy in festival, our joy in recognition of these and describes the a social inclination towards the imitation or mimesis. With this in mind, Gadamer refers to the fact that the concept of modern non-objective art seems to be to not explicitly represent nature and the familiar. He explains that modern art is seemingly done for love of experimentation, almost purely. Gadamer also refers to modern atonal music, experimentation in theater and literature in example. Yet however abstract or atonal, there is some recognition that we find in these creations as well.

After imitation, Gadamer refers to the concept of expression. He regards its rise into dominance in the eighteenth century due to the inability to apply the ideology of imitation to the media of music. With the nature of sound or rather sound of nature there are some apparent limitations and so expression grew to reign in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Gadamer describes how expression could be most fulfilling for the artist or composer as they give such a unreserved and absolute contribution to a work/creation that the potential for interpretation is assured.

Then we proceed to the concept of sign, in which the suggestion that modern work can be read as a collection of signs. As perhaps we read or interpret language and literature, the signs being likeable to the characters of an alphabet. Gadamer states that the reading of language has profoundly influenced the manner in which we view a work of art, how we may view an image from left to right, down the image ending in the bottom right. He suggests that we must decipher an order of events in a figurative work so that we may decide the separate elements relation to one another and interpret the meaning of the interaction of those elements, e.g.: Malevich's "Lady in the city of London". Gadamer, returning to the idea that modern non-objective art has a quality which is unreadable, states that it is disallowing the concept of sign, in reference to the works of Picasso or Juan Gris. If we view each of the works of these artists, initially identifying the elements, we are driven back to the work as a composition; therefore we cannot decipher the elements and composition with the theory of sign or the idea of reading of language.

Gadamer finally refers to Aristotle divination of Plato, in which he declared that mimesis is reflection of the order of the universe, of numerical order in which we can apply to harmony, etc., that all things are mimesis or imitation according to numerical relation, perhaps that mimesis is the sum of the order of the apparent miracle of the universe while Aristotle himself suggests that mimesis is the attainment, "fulfillment", that we may look to the mimesis to encounter the universe. Gadamer considers further the doctrines of Pythagoras, which suggest that numerical order is determined by celestial force or visa versa. Since music was a means for cleansing of the soul, Pythagorean idea implies that the concept of imitation encompasses "the order of the cosmos, the order of music, and the order of the soul". Perhaps we can conclude that imitation depicts such order that we recognize as the representation of divine order above the representative of factual sum of the divine order in modern non-objective art.

Gadamer concludes with the concept that with the shift to modern industrial times we have reduced the significance of the "thing", object or perhaps even nature. With the fervent rise of consumption, all things have become disposable (including nature itself). There is the suggestion that production and more precisely marketing have deemed these things for lack of real significance. One can imagine that the desire to possess such a thing is not based on existent need due to marketing. Yet one might consider the other theories of Gadamer from the essay "The relevance of beauty; art as play, symbol and festival" in application to the evaluation of the mass-produced object. There is the possibility that the mass-produced thing may symbolize the absence of "thing", effigy, figure, beauty of nature.

Gadamer finally rests his dialogue with the proposition that Pythagoras' doctrine includes the celestial order, universal order which licenses us to portray the world as we know it, in it's mutable form, with suggestion that art restores order to an endangered culture. 


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