Against Affective Formalism

Against Affective Formalism

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An SBMA Art Matters presenter, Todd Cronan confronts modernism's dissatisfaction with representation in his book Against Affective Formalism.  He explains, a central tenet of modernist thought turns on the effort to overcome representation in the name of something more explicit in its capacity to generate bodily or affective experience. Henri Bergson was one of the most influential advocates of the anti-representational impulse; his novel theories of memory and freedom gripped a generation of writers, philosophers, psychologists, and artists. Matisse and Bergson worked within and against the context of form and expression that remains in force today.

Writing in opposition to prevailing theories and assumptions about the relation of intention and form - most of which accept the "death of the author" as a basic fact of interpretation - Cronan argues that the beholder's response to art, outside a framework of intentionality, is irrelevant to a work's meaning. Intentions are not a matter of method at all: no letter, biography, document, archive, or key will recover an intention.  What matters is that intentions make works of art different from objects in the world.