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Extra Credit

                                                                                                Jonathan Parker
Critique of “Video Dog Star: William Wegman, Aesthetic Agency, and the Animal in Experimental Video Art” by Susan McHugh and “Chamelionesque: The shape-shifting art of William Wegman” by Robert Enright
            In both the articles “Video Dog Star: William Wegman, Aesthetic Agency, and the Animal in Experimental Video Art” and “Chamelionesque: The shape-shifting art of William Wegman” by Susan McHugh and Robert Enright respectively, the authors describe the art of William Wegman. The medium in which they do so varies dramatically. Susan McHugh focuses her article on Wegman’s artistic pieces involving Man Ray, the Weimaraner-breed dog that catapulted Wegman to national recognition. McHugh focuses on various aspects of Man Ray, including both the love and dislike Wegman held for the dog. For example, “it is interesting to note that although I used [Man Ray] in only about 10 percent of the photographs and videotapes, most people think of him as omnipresent in my work. It irked me sometimes to be known as the guy with the dog, but on the other hand it was a thrill to have a famous dog” (Wegman 19 as cited in McHugh 233). Wegman enjoyed the effect the dog had on his career, but dislikes the typecasting effect it had on his work. It is quite ironic that McHugh’s article followed this trend, and focused solely on Wegman’s dog artistry. One need look no further than the title of McHugh’s article.
 The majority of Robert Enright’s article consists of an interview between himself (Border Crossings) and William Wegman himself. Though his interview discusses the entirety of his artistic life, it nonetheless returns to Wegman’s work with dogs. However, unlike McHugh, Enright does not restrict the interview to the sole subject of dogs. Enright makes it quite clear that Wegman has much to offer to the artistic movement besides his work with Man Ray and other associated dogs.  

Extra Credit Assignment

            Originally Sarah McHugh’s article didn’t particularly strike me as something different than what we have been reading all this semester. Although it was an insightful analysis into the psychological aspect behind William Wegman’s works and it’s uniqueness in video form, I didn’t find anything particularly phenomenal with his works simply because anthropomorphic representations of dogs have been so common. Countless artists such as Cassius Marcellus Coolidge and his Dog Playing Poker painting series have been portraying dogs as humans since the early 1900s, proving Wegman’s work to be just another addition to the genre.

After seeing his videos on youtube.com, however, I completely changed my perspective. Having never viewed Wegman’s video works before, aspects of McHugh’s article suddenly made sense. For example, McHugh emphasizes the fact that despite the fact these video creations are scripted, they are, at the same time, completely random and subjected to the human-animal interaction that arises during the filming. The participation from the dogs is completely sporadic and unpredictable unless prompted by a human action that causes a reaction.

Although humorous and comical, these video anthropomorphic representations essentially release a sense of false advertising. The so called ‘humanistic’ reactions from the dogs are simply consequential behavior provoked by Wegman. For instance, to make dogs appear as if they are ‘reading’, Wegman would smear cheese on the pages of books, causing their noses to ‘follow’ the lines of the book and make it seem as if they were ‘reading’ the text. Similarly, to make the dogs seem ‘happy’, Wegman would take out a bag of treats or approach them to play. While Wegman’s works are intended to be comical and in some ways, ironic, their displays on children’s show such as Sesame Street have surely invoked some type of mindset amongst children to believe that animals truly possess human emotion. At the expense of exploring new mediums of art, does Wegman’s works become damaging to our perceptions of animality through these falsified understandings?

Extra credit assignment

            Since I have had no experience of seeing William Wegman’s arts, I had to look up on internet to find out what he has done so far.  As I found more of his art on it, I more likely thought of the art as a symbol of anthropomorphism and it was my first impression on him to explain. 

            The article of Enright was attractive to read because most of it was interview with William Wegman.  Compared with our former readings, I felt more convenience to get to know the artist of whom the author analyzes.  The fact that William Wegman’s first art was made at 5 years old was really surprising and has progressed to drawings, videos, and photographs.  His photographs of dogs are very simple and have strong impressions.  These impressions are sometimes very funny.  By looking at his pieces, I felt that his unprecedented photographs have something indescribable attractions to draw people into his pictures. 

This article gave me a chance to learn of one of the best artists of whom I might not know forever in my life.  His art is as remarkable as simple to give thought to people.  And I thought those works could have been done by others for fun or by accident, but Wegman is the only one who made it to one piece of art.


Extra credit Assignment

        After reading Wegman articles, my initial reaction was, "wow, really?". I was familiar with his art since when I was young, though I did not know of his name. His most famous art videos involved humans with heads of a dog that did everything that humans did except talk.
        It was a bit weird reading the interview manuscript of Wegman and Border Crossings. Instead of explaining art pieces and analyzing the motive of the artist, it goes further into author's life and how it has affected his forms of art. It was a new way of thinking about Wegman's varying forms of art; instead of looking at individual pieces, I could link his life to how his art has evolved.
        Then I read McHugh's article again in more detail. It's very interesting how a piece of art can affect people's minds in different ways. I very much agreed with Wegman's explanation about the car salesman; it would make total sense that having a big, friendly dog on your lap will also make you seem friendly as well. It all depends on what kind of breed of dog it would be though, because if the salesman had a yapping poodle or a big bull dog, I wouldn't see the salesman as friendly.

Here's a bonus clip of Wegman with Hardly Boys. I thought this was very funny, though it involved horrible acting and line reading job.

Extra Credit

Robert Enright and Susan McHugh’s respective articles, “Video Dog Star: William Wegman…Art” and “Chamelionesque: The shape-shifting art of William Wegman,” are two different takes on William Wegman and his work.  Enright’s article consists primarily of an interview with William Wegman, but also contains a short analysis of a piece of Wegman’s art.  On the other hand, McHugh’s article goes very into detail with numerous analyses covering Wegman’s different canvasses used, such as drawings to videos.

Although both articles approach Wegman in different perspectives, I think that the same conclusion can be drawn from both – William Wegman ‘s unique approach to art since his younger years has created a venue that is novel and refreshing to the concept of anthropomorphism.  From Enright’s article, we can see that Wegman himself is an interesting figure.  He seems to have a lot to say, and each thing said is somewhat witty.  I found it interesting to read about the artist’s personal perspective that is behind the work done, and I think that William Wegman’s personality definitely shows in his work, which can be seen from McHugh’s article. 

Both articles are really good takes on William Wegman, who is an important figure to consider when thinking of anthropomorphism and animal representation.  Wegman’s technique and work with animals is simply neat and amusing.  I think both Enright and McHugh would agree that Wegman’s personality and work are one and the same: unique.

Extra Credit: Chamelionesque

Robert Enright’s “Chamelionesque: The shape-shifting art of William Wegman” is an article unlike the past ones we’ve read in class. Though Enright does provide a short introduction and analysis of Wegman’s work, the primary focus of the article is an interview of Wegman for Border Crossings, “a magazine of the arts.” While in our past readings, we have turned our attention to the meaning and impact of art, we have seldom analyzed the thought processes of the artists themselves. Here, Enright provides us with great insight into how the artist perceives, and develops his style of art.

Wegman’s style and medium for art has constantly evolved over the course of his lifetime. Though he began his “career” (at five years old) painting watercolors with his mother, he easily shifted to drawings, painting, videos, and polaroids, (the last of which is probably most relevant to this class as many of his photographs depict dogs dressed in human attire). In his interview, Wegman describes the contradictory feelings of self-importance and self-doubt towards his artistic abilities: he recounts that he did not even realize a particular work was truly “art” until John Chamberlain complimented him on it. In fact, this brief exchange highlights the instability of the role of the artist. Paradoxially, the complete control of the work can also remove the artist from it even further, making it hard to see what the work really represents, really “means” to others. The artist and the audience seem to be separated even though the artist truly does struggle to bridge the gap, to let the audience know how he feels. But this has an upside, too. In his photographs of dressed-up dogs, Wegman allows the audience to respond to an image differently than they would if it was seen in every day life. Dressing up pets usually has a more negative connotation than comic one; the addition of a human accessory calls into question the animal’s own dignity and power. Wegman, however, is able to transcend this consequence and instead suggest a “cloaked, guarded aspect and a sense of mystery that is reassuring.” Thus, just like for his artwork, the artist can at once be removed from the audience and manipulate them.

My emory webmail is not working properly.  I sent you my final draft and a question through my personal yahoo mail (mahaleyhessam@yahoo.com).... please keep an eye out for it in case its filtered.

last day of class

If anyone would like me to send a draft of their final paper, or if there is anyone who still needs feedback on their drafts, I'll be happy to comment via email.  Thanks so much for all your hard work in the course.   If there is anything I can do for you now or in the future, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Radio Response

    Charles Bergman presents an article that analyzes the method of radio-telemetry.  From everything that he writes, it appears as if there is no significant reason not to support this practice.  I believe that there are good intentions for the animals it affects, with conservation and the aiding of endangered animals being the two most important ones.  The radios have not been proved to cause any harm to the animals, and neither has the act of keeping tabs on them.

An argument may be made that it is unnatural to carry out these practices, but in this case, it is not a bad thing – that is, just because something is unnatural does not intrinsically mean it is not good.  If our relationship with wild animals indeed changes, I think this practice changes things for the better.  If humans in good faith believe that an animal is becoming endangered, I believe we should feel some obligation to intervene.  We should accomplish this original intent of preservation and then continue in moderation, so not to “over study” or “over control” an animal group.
                I do not see any reason not to continue this relatively non-invasive surveillance if it helps preserve endangered species by providing more information on their movements, migration patterns, and habits.  Since the intentions of this practice are made in good faith, the only thing left to consider is the actual method of applying these devices to the animals.  So far, it appears as if they are completely safe.  In fact, I think we should implement these methods more with humans in policing criminal behavior.