Figure 11.09.03
Sol Lewitt, Floor Structure Black, 1965, painted wood, 18.5” x 18” x 82”.

Terms, movements, ideologies:
[…] demonstrated that “language was not a neutral vehicle…but had a materiality of its own and that this materiality was always charged with significations.” [1] Importantly, for Brecht, Barthes, and many writers and artists to follow, the anti-neutrality of language led to an emphasis of artifice (for Brecht, the lights, set, and material of the theatre, for later Barthes, the Text) always charged with political significations (against the woozy seamless instrumentality of Nazi rhetoric, for example). From this Brechtian formalism, we can derive Barthes’s famous dictum: “a little formalism turns one away from History, but a lot brings one back to it.” […]

Figure 11.09.04
Page spread of Donald Judd, “Specific Objects,” Arts Yearbook, Vol. 8, 1965, 80-1.

[…] ostranenie The Russian term can be translated as “making strange” or “defamiliarization,” and is an important feature of the poetics of RUSSIAN FORMALISM. It is especially associated with Viktor SHKLOVSKY (1917, 1925).

Ostranenie denotes the poetic use of devices such as disrupted metrical patterns, long descriptive passages, METAPHORS and other figures of RHETORIC to produce a semantic shift which makes the habitual appear strangely unfamiliar, rather as though it were being perceived for the first time. The distortion of form produced by the poetic device destabilizes the relationship between the perceiving subject and the object of perception, slowing down the act of perception and making it more difficult. It thus serves the poetic function of promoting seeing, as opposed to recognizing something that is already familiar and known. […]

Although […] making strange is intimately bound up with the poetics of formalism and FUTURISM, it is not difficult to relate it to BRECHT’s ALIENATION-EFFECT or to the analysis of mythologies undertaken by BARTHES in the 1950s. In all three cases, there is an implicit contrast between the AVANT-GARDE or experimental work of art which challenges received perceptions by forcing the reader or viewer to perceive its formality or artificiality, and the conventional work in which the formal devices are concealed in such a way as to make it appear natural and ahistorical. […] [2]
Towards a concerted effort of deferred action. We move back so that we can move forward (or at least to the side a little bit, for some air, for some space to breathe, some room to think amidst all this racket).

1. Yves-Alain Bois, “Formalism and Structuralism,” Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, ed. Hal Foster, Yves-Alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloh, and Rosalind Krauss (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004), 33. This looks like a great book. Thank you, Danny.

2. David Macey, Dictionary of Critical Theory, (London: Penguin Books, 2001), 284-5.

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