Lecture: Outlines of The Margin: O`Doherty and Derrida on the Theory of the Frame and the Seeing of the Border
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Pictures begin to appear that put pressure on the frame. The archetypal composition here is the edge-to-edge horizon... Formal composition is gone; the frames within the frame (coulisses, repoussoirs,the Braille of perspective depth) have slid away. What is left is an ambiguous surface partly framed from the inside by the horizon. Such pictures are poised between infinite depth and flatness...The powerful convention of the horizon zips easily enough through the limits of the frame.
These questions of wood, of matter, of the frame, of the limit between inside and outside, must, somewhere in the margins, be constituted together. Between the outside and the inside, between the external and the internal edge-line, the framer and the framed, the figure and the ground, form and content, signifier and signified, and so on for any two-faced opposition. Neither simply outside nor simply inside.
What is the Frame, and how does it speak within the production of meaning for art? Framing for the Modernist was a methodological constraint to give determinate boundaries to the reading of the artpiece. The inside of the frame would always indicate the where the exact location of the semiotic meaning of the artwork would reside. This Border would reduce, or totally obliterate, the confusion of where, and how, the meaning of the artwork was to be understood. Knowing the exact perimeters of the artpiece, as detailed by the frame, was the definitive means of severing inexact and loose meanings which could be wandering about the work, but not meaningful to its sense. The Frame was a clarification of the locale of meaning for the artwork.
As opposed to this, for the Postmodernist, there can be no singular place to locate the meaning of the artpiece. Every artwork will operate in multiple frames each of which will be differently determinate in constructing the ideas, meanings, thoughts, and representations of the piece. A physical frame around a painting will never be able to indicate an absolute inside reading to a artwork as any understanding is culturally and socially determined at multiple layers. Each different environment in which the artpiece finds itself will trigger diverse framings giving multiple readings dependent on culture, site, architecture, situation, physical supports, etc.
As O'Doherty notes, starting in the modernist era: the only true stability for a artpiece is by acceptance of a singular and determinate frame. The limiting frame gives up the experience as total and generates a select number of meanings for the artpiece: "For this process, the stability of the frame is as necessary as an oxygen tank is to a diver. Its limiting security completely defines the
experience within. The border as absolute limit is confirmed in easel art up to the nineteenth century".
Yet, the outside begins to haunt the inside margins of the artwork as postmodernism enters the scene and the frame now begins to relinquish its hard status and becomes a fuzzy and unsettled glance: "As modernism gets older, context becomes content. In a ppeculiar reversal the object introduced into the gallery.... ,,frames,. the gallery and its laws."
The Frame, as this new era recognizes, begins to become unsettled and multiples and expands. All circustances, situations, cultures, ideas, and locales are a "framing" of the artpiece, The Frame, the inside and outside, is more question than boundary.
In `The Parergon` Jacques Derrida critiques Kant`s notion of the universal value of beauty. This critique, however, is not motivated by an inquiry of the Beautiful itself, but by a questioning of art as its relation boundaries, i.e. the frame of the artwork. The frame of the artpiece is seen by Derrida as coming "against, beside, and in addition to the ergon, the work done [fait], the fact [le fait], the work, but it does not fall to one side, it touches and cooperates within the operation, from a certain outside. "Neither simply outside nor simply inside". Derrida pushes the frame further to the outside suggesting that the frame exists in a detach realm where it " does not belong to the whole of the representation", yet at the same time "Art" becomes "art" through the Frame. The boundaries that exclude its other --- the Not or Other Art.
This lecture will explore the notion of the frame, how frame delimits and expands meanings in artwork, how frame is integrated or rejects the art situation, the hidden frame of the environment, and how the Idea of the Frame has changed from easel painting to the new abstraction. Special weight will be giving to looking at the concepts of Brian O'Doherty in his "Inside the White Cube" and
Jacques Derrida's "Truth in Painting"