Affects are moments of intensity, a resonation, causing a response by both our mind and body. It’s the engaging quality of an artwork, responsible for initiating our collective and personal experiences. In its self, an artwork is produced of multiple affects that await activation through viewer’s participation. Affects are infectious, an involuntary response, forcing one body’s suffering onto another. Each artworks affect is passively experienced, however, is created in different ways. Through a comparison of Agesander’s, Anthenodoros and Polydorus’s Greek sculpture, “Laocoon and his Son’s” with “How it Is” By Polish artist Miroslaw Barkla, then engaging qualities of affect will be clarified.
The marble eight-foot tall Ancient Greek sculpture, “Laocoon and his Sons” is an emotionally rich depiction of a mythological tale. Its date of creation is arguable, but estimated to be between 40-20 B.C.E (Farrell and Putnam 2010 pp.332-33). Being figurative and anatomically correct, it realistically depicts a progressive defeat of a father and his two sons as serpents strangle their helpless figures. Through such depiction of an almost real and resonating struggle against pain and suffering, the sculpture’s become historically praised, even being described as a living object (Van Eck 2010, p.652). Laocoon, the historically preserved artifact, contrasts with Miroslaw Barkla’s ephemeral architectural installation, “How it is”, a piece temporarily located at Tate Modern Museum, London from 2014-2015. Resembling a large steel chamber expanding 13 meters high, 10 meters wide and 30 meters long, “How It Is” was designed to create absolute darkness, an interactive experience where the viewer is abandoned by their visual senses and witnesses blin...
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...r” affects the viewer, as the Tate Modern’s description (Tate Modern 2010) explains, the work mirrors holocaust scenes, Alluding to images of Jews being packed into a confined space being transported to concentration camps for their uncertain future. As a viewer, we witness the fear of this unknown. Both artists manipulate their mediums to emphasise affects, which ultimately engages audiences with a critical inquiry towards what’s being perceived.
Through a critical discussion of affect in the works of “Laocoon and his Sons” and “How it Is”, it’s clear that these resonating intensities are crucial to an artwork. Although their affects are not created in the same way, both still create an involuntary response to our mind and bodies. Due to the ways both artists create affect, we are able to experience their pieces, engage with it and see from a whole new perspective.
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