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Art from Start to Finish

Jazz, Painting, Writing, and Other Improvisations

When is an artistic work finished? When the copyeditor makes the final correction to a manuscript, when the composer writes the last note of a symphony, or when the painter puts the last brushstroke on the canvas? Perhaps it’s even later, when someone reads the work, when an ensemble performs, or when the painting is hung on a gallery wall for viewing?

Art from Start to Finish gathers a unique group of contributors from the worlds of sociology, musicology, literature, and communications—many of them practicing artists in their own right—to discuss how artists from jazz musicians to painters work: how they coordinate their efforts, how they think, how they start, and, of course, how they finish their productions.

Specialists in the arts have much to say about the works themselves, which are often neglected by scholarsi n other fields. Art from Start to Finish takes a different tack by exploring the creative process itself and its social component. Any reader who makes art or has an interest in it will value this book.

248 pages | 23 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2006

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Art: Art Criticism

Film Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Music: General Music

Sociology: Sociology of Arts--Leisure, Sports


“This refreshing, invigorating volume contains high quality, relaxed writing by an array of scholars and artists who have thought deeply about questions of framing and finishing in the arts. Art from Start to Finish works as a set of riffs on the theme: each author gets to shine in their own solos while rich cross references underwrite its integrity. It is a wonderful book to think and play with.”--Geoffrey Bowker, Santa Clara University

Geoffrey Bowker

“By making ‘start’ and ‘finish’ analytically problematic, everything in between becomes more interesting. This volume flashes with new clarities and, inspired by the wit of its editors, makes art and society come together in novel ways.”--Harvey Molotch, New York University

Harvey Molotch

"The contributors have produced something akin to ’free jazz.’ They have collaborated on a profound meditation about art that suggests topics even more profound. . . . Beyond opening collective reflection on ’the artwork itself,’ this volume opens a line of inquiry into the nature of beauty and the meaning of life."

Mark D. Jacobs | Newsletter of the Sociology of Culture

"There are many stimulating ideas in these essays. As a whole, the book is an existence proof that we can fruiifully study a single artwork, and it challenges sociologists of art to explore this new domain."

Grant Blank | American Journal of Sociology

Table of Contents

Foreword by Stanley Katz

Preface by Howard S. Becker, Robert R. Faulkner, and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett
Editor’s Introduction: Art from Start to Finish by Howard S. Becker, Robert R. Faulkner, and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

1. The Work Itself
Howard S. Becker

2. Profiles of the Unfinished: Rodin’s Work and the Varieties of Incompleteness
Pierre-Michel Menger

3. "How do I know I am Finnish?" The Computer, the Archive, the Literary Artist, and the Work as Social Object
Michael Joyce

4. Shedding Culture
Robert R. Faulkner

5. What Is What I Do
Scott Deveaux

6. Grasping Shona Musical Works: A Case Study of Mbira Music
Paul Berliner

7. Economic Analysis and Steps toward Completing the Work
Richard E. Caves

8. The Fragment Itself
Larry Gross

9. Object / Shadows—Notes on a Developing Art Form
Larry Kagan

10. "This is a stone from the endless beach": An Interview with Max Gimblett
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

11. Art Works
Michael D. Harris

12. Wallace Stevens’s Jar
Bruce Jackson

List of Contributors

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