by Edwin Stirman
1. a state of disagreement
3. lack of parallelism between adjacent strata,
as in an angular unconformity
It is only necessary to make war with five things; with the maladies of the body, the ignorances of the mind, with the passions of the body, with the seditions of the city and the discords of families.
- Pythagoras (582 BC – 507 BC)
One of the topics we, the curators, encountered through our studio visits was a focus on a state of agitation within the work as a tactic for rendering reaction in a viewer. Creating a state of discordance within a piece can cause confrontation, confusion, and even a setting for dark humor. Discord does not mean that a work is unsuccessful, but rather that the artist is pushing the boundaries of aesthetics. However, by focusing on the rift or the discomfort of the message, the artist calls attention to stale and uncomfortable emotion in the hopes of providing larger meaning. This broad concept works well for describing some of the artists developing their visual vocabularies in the MFA studio art department at UT.
These artists use various methods when creating their works. Regardless of the intensity, a current of discord runs through these works to invoke genuine responses from the viewer.
Kurt Mueller deals directly with the socio-political dimensions of discordance through his A History of Ultimatums. He has collected a body of quotations and statements with direct reference to the broader history of social maelstrom.
Jill Pangallo's performance art keenly explores dry humor and social satire. Her performance, Focus Group, explores corporate culture through the creation of mock research and training videos.
Joshua Welker's multi-media work takes as its subject the boundaries of architectural formation, change, and destruction. His work has a tactile sense of residue from both focusing on buildings and destroying his architectural designs from within.
Amelia Winger-Bearskin's video work reveals dissonance by reconfiguring three alto parts to create an unsettling and provocative recontextualization of both sound and the meaning of harmony.
Joseph Winchester's films focus on the stillness of an instant in time. By focusing so exclusively on tight spaces and moments, he extends the meaning of these small spaces of time, and this work becomes an arena for contemplation and readjustment.
Discordance works in a variety of levels of intensity for each of these artists. Either literal or figurative, discordance results in an environment, a theme, or an underlying tone that has some effect on the viewer; agitation can range from the subtle to the very literal and direct. Literal discordance comes through in these works in the form of an aggressive stance, confronting social aggressions and tendencies in order to remind the viewer about subversive aspects of society. Other literal works create disharmony with sound or action. Furthermore, and perhaps a more subtle approach relying on artistic license, the curators have taken it upon themselves to begin to interpret for the audience how a piece can represent change, visual rationalization, or irony. The resulting actions present a look at the unattractive or the mundane. In the end they aim to create something aesthetically beautiful.