Part Two – Assignment 2: Reflection on tutor’s feedback and tutorial

I received from my new tutor my annotated essay back with some heads-up questions to discuss in our upcoming tutorial.

It seems that I improved my assignment  work and approach. Mostly good points but also open questions related to Modernist, Post-Modernist. I summarize here my reflection on annotated essay received as well as key bullet points from our tutorial. Overall, I am satisfied with the feedback and the discussion in out tutorial. I received new perspectives on how to address and write critically.

The good points mentioned by my tutor:

  • Good introduction and conclusion
  • Good points made throughout my essay
  • Good grasping of the underlying ideas relevant to the assignment brief

Bullet points from tutorial 11 July:


  • Writing an essay is also a conscious decision to leave parts or arguments out e.g my reference to Barnett Newman’s Wild, 1950 that I explored more in my preparatory work but mentioned just briefly in the essay.
  • Relevant for my essay is the meaning as sign of totality of painting and as placeholder for social interaction, personal experience in a gallery and the self-referentiality that falls back to the viewer. In summary, I do believe that the title does not add that much into the way the work is perceived. In this sense, the title could be regarded as a self-referential title.
  • Frame and its relevance to pictures. McCollum relates his Surrogates to the totality of pictures, not explicitly to paintings as it is often related to. In my essay I argued of the contemporary relevance of frames in painting (often presented unframed). Whereas, in photography the frame is a key aspect of photographic critical theory. Photographs exists only in relation to its delineation. Further questioning the relationship of photography as medium.
  • Length of essay: To stay within requested target count +/- 10%. Direct citations can be deducted, but those should not make up more than 10% of total word count. I had total word count of 2279 versus target of 1500 words. Net count 2040, without direct citations (section header quotes and inside the text)
  • It is good to keep a general reader in mind, not the assessors. Also good idea to post for critique in the discuss forum.


  • Exercise works not discussed, no questions from my end
  • Question on how to handle the course-reader: Written from a post-post-modernist perspective and more relevant for current topics. Struggling on finding relavant articles to coursework. Best to keep it open and flexible and look inside when the occasion occurs. This also relates to the question which direction Visual Studies in general will go and which place it will take – not answered yet.


  • No sketchbook but rather use of notebook, kind to scrapbook with images and annotations. Some pages copied into my blog. This approach is quite appropriate.


  • Considered as deep exploration of the topic in question
  • Discussion around Greenberg and Modernism and which ‘Greenberg’ one should relate to (the earlier to the later one). Typically, in context of Modernist art the agreement is to refer to the ‘Greenberg’ of High-Modernist Art (1950-60)


  • My exploration the subject matter and handling of my blog was appropriate and effective. Overall, good and easy to navigate through.
  • Referencing own preparatory work: Better to keep those aside in the blog under research and reflection and not to refer explicitly in the essay
  • Question on how to place my essay writing learnings e.g my rationale what I left out and where I out focus on can be answered that best to keep in in the blog under specific category ‘Reflection’. Important to get an insight on my learnings throughout the course from a meta-perspective.


  • One aspect that I couldn’t answer yet on why and what makes galleries more and more to present pictures in clusters at the wall. Various sizes. On the one hand it resembles to me like an appropriation of As this relates to my personal artistic work I put this up in the Discuss forum for further discussion. Another perspective is to relate this in context of social media and the way images are presented as galleries on smartphones or tablets. An example discussed from art history is Rubens Samson and Deliha where the artist painted the light source from the bottom foreseen the place of instalment above a fireplace in a home. This kind of referentiality of realities are quite contemporary.

Reflection on tutors comments on assignment essay 07 July:

Essay (with my comments added)

  • Crossover between disciplines as critique of High Modernism?
    => yes, but also a logical evolution in context of art history
  • How is the exact relationship between Surrogates and the blank canvas and the readymade? ‘A simple one’?
    => The process of making rejects the notion of readymade, the notion of blackness on flat surface is extending through the bas-relief form
  • The question what ended the depiction of ‘pictoral reality in painting’: The zero point with monochrome paintings or perhaps the invention of photography?
    => In case of photography (popular use already in the 19th century) as the trigger one need to ask why it took so long to change?
  • Hypothesis: Is art what you see in galleries?
    => I would say that this was a mainstream notion, see my recent research on Ex 3.2 and the discipline based art education as argued by Brent Wilson
  • My point related to the discussion around Barnet Newman and Wild, 1950 and whether this need more discussion in the essay
    => I contextualized this in a separate blog post, that either I should have related to in the bibliography or my conclusion as a footnote
  • Is my reference to M Fried notion of theatricality of Minimal Art required in the essay in order to state ‘Fried’s adherence to Modernist ideals’? => not sure at that time
  • Andrea Fraser performance work related to Surrogates: I should have added the title explicitily in the essay, not merely as reference in the bibliography
  • Value of art in context of McCollum’s notion to critique ‘high art’ or is price and what is the difference?
    => I thought of value, but see that McCollum himself was referring to the ‘affordability by the mass’, what would possibly relate more to price. Nevertheless, to extend my argumentation that collectors and galleries are setting the ‘value’ or ‘price’ I would see the price as the economical aspect of exchange of goods or commodities. Value is rather as subjective perspective in the beholder’s eye, although it is strongly mediated by society.
  • I raised the question that McCollum made his Surrogates based on moulding process and not based on stock frames from department stores
    => I can see that moulding relates more to the aspect of mass production process (reference to capitalist and marxists ideas), stock frames relate to readymade and more to the aspect of consumption. Now, I can see the subtleties in the way an artist is approaching a theme.
  • I argued that the conception of framing is less relevant for contemporary painting, but my tutor made the good point that framing is still highly relevant to photographic criticial theory.


Other salient questions not specifically discussed during the tutorial:

  • Name of Surrogates and whether I thought about it sufficiently
    => I thought about it and researched the conception in the preparation for the assignment – click here.
    (= dominator for sign; sign for painting and total quality of paintings; representation as arbitrary object; substitute aka Imitation; picture-objects; literal content as its own depiction, signifier standing ‘in the place of social relations; objectifying in a displaced way, absence of content brings the viewer’s attention to the meaning of content in general; fake, a place-holder, facilitating engagement and discourse; placeholder for all framed objects e.g family photographs, a certificate of merit; satirizing painting as fetish commodity).  Mc Collum appropriated his conception later with Perfect Vehicles, 1985, considering ‘jars and vases as hugely culturally symbolic as collectibles’  and his objects as ‘symbol for symbols’
  • How much are Surrogates a ‘critique of Modernist Art and how much an affirmation of Post-Modernist thought’? Are both similar or different?
    => Further remark (embracing knowledge from part 3): In context of Post-Structuralism: I would consider Surrogates as fitting into the following Peirce sign class II.4. (Noth, 1995, p.45): sinsign’ or token related to representamen, ‘index’ in relation to the object (considering that the picture element is hand painted), ‘dicent‘ related to ‘interpretant’ as it is neither true or false, it can be seen as a painting of just as a placeholder, copy (my reading: Surrogates as representamen, totality of pictures as object, personal experience as gallery goer as interpretant)


  • Nöth, W. (1995) Handbook of Semiotics, Advances in Semiotics. [Revised and enlarged ed. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

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