Posted by: HAT | May 9, 2009

Dreaming About Art

This front-loader looks a lot like the one where we go to buy mulch, but our place doesn't have this picturesque landscape

This front-loader looks a lot like the one where we go to buy mulch, but our place doesn't have this picturesque landscape

Dreamed about the Women’s Center all night long. I hardly ever dream that I remember, so I notice whenever I do. And then to have several dreams, or maybe one long dream, with recognizable content makes the case that much more remarkable. Then, this morning — just before the alarm would have gone off, if we had set it, which we hadn’t, since we don’t need to get up this morning like we did yesterday for Giant 4th Grade Field Trips to Indianapolis, Packed Hospital Schedules, and Preparations for the Celebration of Women Grads of the Class of 2009 — I woke up dreaming about the “Bob” monologue in Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, and a discussion I was having with a disembodied and invisible Conservative Critic.

Most of that qualifies as straightforward dreamwork, since the woman who performed the “Bob” monologue came to our reception/celebration yesterday, and since we talked a lot about The Vagina Monologues that having been one of the Big Events of the Year, and even the Presbyterian Layman Online article about our performance of them — OK, take it back, not so much about our performance, but rather, that mentioned our performance of them.

But in the dream I realized that the Bob monologue really has as its subject matter interiority, that what Bob likes to do is encounter this woman’s depth, inner reality, and in fact, Bob’s desire to see, to encounter this woman’s inner reality apart from an immediate sexual relation makes this relationship “a good relationship with a man,” constitutes the reason why the relationship is a good one. The language of the script has Bob looking at the speaker’s vagina for hours, but in my dream I identified this as a metaphor for dwelling with the person, encountering the person’s complexity and interiority. [And for that matter, as I think about it, the same applies in reverse to the speaker and Bob, since Bob on the surface is unremarkable, and her satisfaction with Bob begins with learning this hidden dimension of Bob’s personality, that Bob “loves vaginas”, or in other words, in the act of Bob’s encountering her, she encounters Bob. She falls in love with Bob, because Bob loves her.]

So in my dream I say to the Conservative Critic (the voice who has labeled Bob a pervert in print and on the Internet) that this constitutes reading the work only as a literal, surface work. And I said “Every work of art points beyond itself, to a world beyond itself. A work of art that doesn’t do that fails as a work of art.” That is, I claim, — in my dream, mind you — that every work of art worthy of the name has a metaphorical dimension.

[I have to leave aside the question of whether in christening something a work of art one has performed a positive ontological evaluation. All my classmates know — I say it all the time — I HATE ART.]

So I woke up thinking about whether I agree with what I said in my dream. I think I was quoting Adorno in AT, but I won’t be able to finish this post before my family wakes up if I go looking for the citation. I realize further that I am quoting myself in a paper I wrote for the class on metaphor, in which I argue that [author of The End of Art]’s “is of artistic identification” is the “is” of metaphoric identification. Not metaphor, not art.

But that amounts to saying “not depth, not art,” so what does that say about postmodern art and the famous “play of surfaces” and “no depth, all surface” phenomena of postmodernity? Does that mean postmodern art is not art?

I don’t know and I don’t have time, because we are about to have to go get two loads of mulch and start weeding. However, I was thinking about that work –damn! I can’t remember anything this morning!! It’s an early conceptual work of collage with advertising images, something like Green No. 5, has food and sex images both in it as advertising-promises — which would qualify, I think, as an early example of the kind of postmodern pastiche/surface phenomenon that raises that objection, we would have to call that “a work of art” I think, it definitely qualifies as “reflection” in the specular sense, which makes it superficial, but — double damn! do not have time to work this out. It reflects back to the world in which the encountering subject lives, to that world and to that subject.

Either it hits or it misses. (Sorry about the binary there.) If it hits, if it connects with something in the world/the subject/the world of the subject

[this has something to do with Irigaray, btw, don’t forget — the creation of space between two]

then it both locates some depth and reveals some depth, and at that point it assumes the status of metaphor — the subject completes the work as a work of art by recognizing its metaphorical quality. If it misses, well, not art.

That’s a little relativist for my blood, but I have to leave it at that maybe will have to get down to dreaming more often.

Although when I told Devi about this, she said I was sick. (And she probably knows, since she’s a doctor.)



  1. OK, the answer to the Jeopardy question “The author of The End of Art, who also wrote an influential paper on the “is of artistic identification” is “Who is Arthur Danto?”

    The answer to “A collage using advertising images of Charles Atlas, pie, and a diagrammatic penis, forming an early postmodern pastiche, which appears in the textbook After Modern Art 1945-2000 by David Hopkins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) p. 96 as an example of the work of the IG and of pop, and turns out to have been created by Eduardo Paolozzi ca. 1952 — before I was born, note” is “What is ‘Evadne in Green Dimension’?” So I had the Green part right, at least, but wouldn’t have gotten it right on a test. There’s an image of the later silkscreen print of Evadne in Green Dimension online at

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