. . . the allegorical supplement is not only an addition, but also replacement. It takes the place of an earlier meaning, which is thereby effaced or obscured. Because allegory usurps its object it comports within itself a danger, the possibility of perversion . . . (p. 327)
Well, that’s always been the problem and possibility of allegory, and in particular postmodernism’s use of allegory.
At our last Lab session we watched the film Heidi (1937), with Shirley Temple, juxtaposed with Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy’s film Heidi: Midlife Crisis Trauma Center and Negative Media-Engram Abreaction Release Zone (1992) which appropriates the Heidi mythos, subverting it with violent and sexual references.
The discussion afterwards gave us the opportunity to rehash the old arguments about a work being the sum of itself and it’s history, context and whatever else we know about it. No longer do we have the luxury (?) of divorcing the piece from the situation in which it was created, shown or received. As much as I think this was only ever an intellectual exercise in the past, it’s become more or less unacceptable to even consider this now. So we have TJ Clark’s social art historical interpretations, the postmodern view of the artwork as text, with its ‘true’ or final meaning forever deferred, etc. all of which encourages us to see the work not just as an ideal object, but as the catalyst for our further creation of meanings for it.
So really this changes the nature of ‘the meaning’ of the work from a potential fixed point of reference, to a transformative space, adjusting itself to our knowledge and understanding and biases. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, as long as these are recognised and drawn out at the same time.