Some Notes about Umberto Eco's Open Work (2021, Nov. 21)

starts with description of three aleatoric works, works which involve improvisation or choice on the part of the performer

contrasted with closed form of classical music up to that point

describes the relative nature of aesthetic affective experience therefore every work is an interpretation and a performance, unique to each affectee

open work: unfinished, components of a construction kit, the composer is unconcerned with the manner of the components' “eventual deployment”

leads to a paradox of why an artist would do this, would “feel this is necessary”, which leads us to consider culture and factors

poetics of the open work tend to encourage “acts of conscious freedom” (Pousseur)

a work that suggests, has ambiguity

may be ambiguous in form or related to time (Joyce's Finnegan's Wake)

the listener can choose their own mode of approach, their own determination of the relationship between parts, their own (though possibly guided) meaning (p. 9-11)

more radical when the audience collaborates with the composer in making the composition (p. 12), as well as works which are incomplete and constituted of structural units, “kaleidoscopic”

one purpose for work is as a “pedagogical vehicle” (p. 13)

indeterminacy, observed in quantum physics, reflected into artistic work (p. 14-15)

“incomplete knowledge of the system is in fact an essential feature in its formation” (p. 15)

“[openness] characterizes every moment of our cognitive experience.” (p. 16)

consciousness is an infinitely incomplete experience of the universe (p. 16-17)

from the einsteinian/spinozan view of the quantum universe, “the possibility of numerous different interventions, but it is not an amorphous invitation to indiscriminate participation” (p. 19)

variation based on an original conception, “actualization of a series of consequences whose premises are firmly rooted in the original data provided by the author” (p. 19)

complete openness, as in a dictionary or a collection of physics essays or grocery lists, is not sufficient for being a work, as we still need a kind of underlying structure for determining possibility.

while all works are open in some sense because of how they are consumed, this period emphasizes the openness (conclusion)


croce and dewey

our pragmatic aesthetic theory is described as “transactional” (p. 27) “knowledge is a difficult process of transaction, of negotiation: in answer to a given stimulus, the subject incorporates the memory of past perceptions into the current one and, by so doing, gives form to the experience in progress…”

referential vs. emotive function in messages, the relativity of meaning based on referential content depending on the percipient (p. 29~35)

p. 36 “transactional psychology explains it quite clearly when it defines the linguistic sign as a 'field of stimuli'.”

p. 39 while all works are open by definition, one potential purpose (and a common one in contemporary culture) is the emphasis of an extreme openness

the purpose eco suggests is “the growth and multiplication of the possible meanings of a given message” (p. 42) “This kind of openness is best defined as an increase in information” p. 43


exposition of information theory

the lower the probability, the higher the information? p. 52 high value art increases information by sending improbable messages

p. 57 the larger the amount of information, the more difficult its communication

information as a measure of the number of possibilities 1. “establish an order (code) as a system of probability within an original disorder 2. “within this system… introduce through the elaboration of a message that violates the rules of the code elements of disorder in dialectical tension with the order that supports them (the message challenges the code)

contemporary art deliberately and systematically tries to increase its range of meanings p. 58

Eco quotes Poe as saying (paraphrase) “a good poem is one that can be read at one sitting so as not to ruin its intended effect with interruptions and postponements. Each audience member has their own capacity to assimilate poetic information.” p. 64

p. 65 As intelligibility increases, information decreases. - Moles

p. 74 pleasure in art experience is rooted in the psychological process of integrating information and experience

meyer: a style is a system of probability. p. 77


p. 88 George Mathieu Western civilization from ideal to real, from real to the abstract, and the abstract to the possible

p. 90 art as epistemological metaphor

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