Production Process and Artistic Networks – Yingxin and Ojas

Artworld as a network system, connecting the audience, artwork and the artists
The interaction experience at the interface: coloring the painting.

When getting upstairs in the Phillips Collection, my eyes were immediately caught by Toulouse-Lautrec’s lithographic painting exhibition, since I felt as if I’ve ever seen the similar style of paintings or decorations for the book covers, paper cutting and movie posters, especially when in my childhood. The lithography art has become an iconic art form since the 18th century, and has been widely spread and applied to various fields for the use of art, economy and entertainment. The symbolic value with vivid reflection of the time have made this art and technology everlasting and popular even in nowadays – from high arts to pop arts, more and more people are able to see and enjoy the lithographic posters. Additionally, from these lithographic artworks, one could also see the remix of art forms around the world, for instance, the Japanese ukiyo-e prints.

Henri de Toulouse-Loutrec, Divan Japonais

Divan Japonais

Before coming to the exhibition, I’ve never been so close to the lithography and printmaking process though I’m familiar with the style of book covers and posters. The key stone which captures the whole image, is a crucial foundation of the painting and printmaking. Different colors can be incorporated before putting the paper and dipped brushes onto the stone during the lithographic printmaking. In this way, the foundation of image can be reused to print multifarious posters capturing various situations of the same image, and even make a fascinating combination along with them. Most interestingly, certain versions of the lithographic paintings with different colors are put together on the same wall so that people can easily make a visual comparison, thus appreciating the artworks with individual understandings.

Jane Avril

Jane Avril

Moreover, the artworld as a network system, connects the audience, artwork and the artists. Therefore, how to get the audience involved into the artwork and so as to enhance the understandings and increase the interactions, is becoming more demanding for the curators. I was relatively impressed by one of the interactive sections in the exhibition – the coloring games. Since people are more likely to notice the different coloring of the lithography paintings, the curator has set up a space for people to color Lautrec’s classical paintings with color pens in hand, so that it’s just like a hand-on simulation of the process of lithography printmaking, where paper with only black and white image serves as the key stone, while coloring is like creating a poster. In this interactive section, the audience will get more experience in the preliminary lithography printmaking as well as enjoy the exhibition along the way.


Consider the following song and subsequent Youtube comment:


Yvette Guilbert was a popular singer/performer in Montmarte at Moulin Rouge and the subject of many Toulouse-Lautrec pieces. The comment is the first comment in the comments section under this video. Also notice the highlighted thumbs up indicating that I liked the comment. That’s because Henri de Toulouse-Loutrec brought me there too. While we’re not focusing explicitly on how museums fit into the digital networks of cultural knowledge, I think the confluence represented by the above scenario speaks volumes about how museums interface to cultural knowledge. nafsika pappa and I shared a common cultural experience, and traveled a similar path to that cultural experience. Not only did our museum exhibit interface to the art world and cultural production, but the cultural world in which he existed. Toulouse-Lautrec brought me to a fascinating moment in history, namely the peak of late 19th century Parisian nightlife in Montmarte. And this is because his prints played a notable role in the creation of this culture, which is why his art and name hold such gravity in the Artworld even today. Though Bourdieu’s treatment of art in relational thinking deals with a network of artists and actors in the art networks that reinforce art as an institution, I’d like to expand this to the cultures that artists live in, as much of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work is inextricable from the cultural world of Montmarte. His position in the representation, circulation, popularization of performance productions in that era is reinforced even today by my deep dive into French cabaret.

In Dr. Irvine’s treatment of Remix, he argues that recursion is an important tenant of dialogism (along with combinatorial generativity). Though Toulouse-Lautrec interfaces to a fascinating, artistically fruitful era of history, who is Toulouse-Lautrec now? One answer lies in the following image:

Spongebob Squarepants

Spongebob Squarepants

Squidward is a self-absorbed, mediocre “tortured artist” type. Throughout the show, he tries bringing culture to bikini bottom through a talent show, he tries to start a marching band to play the bubble bowl, and generally elevates himself above the work-minded, fun-loving interests of his neighbors, Spongebob and Patrick. In the episode from which the above image comes from, Squidward pretends to be a ghost after Spongebob and Patrick mistakenly think they killed him (in fact, they just destroyed a wax sculpture of him). Spongebob and Patrick must fulfill the biddings of Squidward, and part of that is finding a comfortable spot to settle. In each spot they propose, Squidward says “too hot,” and then “too dry,” and then when they reach the above spot, he says “too-louse-Lautrec.” Even for Squidward, perhaps Toulouse-Lautrec might be a bit stuffy? Might be too high art? The best way to consider this is in the scope of who the audience of Spongebob Squarepants would be. I would say cartoons fall under the category of abject media, meaning it is generally looked down on (among video games and cheap romance novels). This shot at Toulouse-Lautrec represents a dialogic model in which cartoons are trying to gain recognition, a model in which Toulouse-Lautrec already holds significant recognition. Also love the remix of La Troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine:

La Troupe de Mlle Eglantine, 1896 Chalk lithograph with brush and spatter, in three colours, 61,7 x 80,4 cm

La Troupe de Mlle Eglantine, 1896 Chalk lithograph with brush and spatter, in three colours, 61,7 x 80,4 cm

1. The exhibition introduction on the website of the Phillips Collection:
2. Bourdieu, Pierre. Introduction to The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1992. Excerpt, pp.29-40.
3. Irvine, Introduction to the Artworld Network System and the Institutional Theory of Art
4. Irvine, Marin. “Remix and the Dialogic Engine of Culture: A Model for Generative Combinatoriality.”
In The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies, ed. Eduardo Navas, et al. (New York: Routledge, 2014), 15-42.