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The Western Round Table on Modern Art (1949)
Edited by Douglas MacAgy


Burke: "There is the critical function, there is an artistic function. We may treat them as distinct––yet what of an artist who revises his work? What is he doing? Is he not criticizing himself? . . . "

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Duchamp: "You forget that the work of the artist is based in emotion and that the work of the critic is based on an intellectual translation."

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Burke: " . . . I was trying to show that the distinction between the two processes isn't as sharp as it sometimes appears to be when seen through differences of profession. The important thing is to recognize that a critical function is an integral part of the creative act. . . "

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" . . . take Mead's notion of the 'generalized order.' When you criticize yourself, you are 'taking the attitude of the other.' You are making allowance for what Freud might call the 'super-ego.' You are thus taking into account a social character. It is not merely yourself. You are answering somebody.
"There is also an internal process: the artist's interaction with his own work is the course of creating it. The drawing of one line becomes the partial determinate for the next line . . . Now, that is not a purely self-critical process, but it is related to the correcting of the work, and there is a likeness between the two processes . . . "

Duchamp: "It's not criticism then."

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Burke: "I would go back to the Socratic idea of the internal dialogue. Once a complex world has been built up, no one is just talking to himself. Each individual contains several roles of personalities which have been built out of his situation. And he learns how to develop a thought by a process that could be reduced to alternating statements and rejoinders . . . Mead . . . illustrates his point by such examples as this: if you are going to pick up a glass, you anticipate its weight, its resistance in your hand, etc. Thus, there is a kind of criticism implicit in your very act of grasping the glass. The object's 'attitude' will be one of resistance to your way of seizing it. Hence, you grip in accordance with the attitude you anticipate.
"Now, if we apply such a dialectical explanation to account for the producing of a work of art, we find that an artist is not merely expressing himself; he is considering the 'attitude of the other,' he is anticipating objections. There is thus a critical function interwoven with the creative function . . .
"Such a perspective would help bring these two processes together––though I admit that, like everything else in our modern world, they become separated into compartments, through professional specialization . . . "




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