The Grice Club


The Grice Club

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Is Grice the greatest philosopher that ever lived?

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Köpcke's Implicature


A woman filled in the blanks in a piece by Köpcke based on a crossword puzzle. Let me explain.

Under German privacy room, the woman has not been named, but I shall here refer to her as "Ms Grice".
Ms Grice was questioned under caution, after she filled in Köpcke's object d'art at the Nuernberg "New Museum".
Köpcke's object d'art is valued at €80,000.
Ms Grice filled Köpcke's object d'art with a biro she had in her purse.

"Reading-work-piece" (if we must translate the piece to English) a is a Griceian collaborative object d'art by renowned Griceian conceptual artist Arthur Köpcke, of the "Fluxus" movement (if you heard of it -- even if you haven't -- this is a biscuit conditional, as Austin called them: "If you are hungry, there are biscuits in the cupboard").
Köpcke's object d'art essentially looks LIKE an empty crossword puzzle, but it isn't:
1. Regular crossword puzzles are attached to list of 'definitions'. You cannot just insert ANY WORD you please, but the definiens of the definiendum.
2. Therefore, it's not THAT easy.

Next to the Köpcke's object d'art (or part of it, strictly) is a sign Köpcke Griceanly added -- a caption, as it were -- with the order “Insert words!".
In "The Language of Morals", R. M. Hare analyses
i. Insert words!

ii. Words are inserted, please.
This, an imperative, Hare distinguishes, at the neustic level, from the corresponding indicative -- same phrastic, different, neustic:
iii. Words are inserted, yes.

The female, our Ms Grice, explained to the German police that she was simply following the instructions, "in the most Griceian, cooperative way."
Ms Grice "told us she had taken the Köpcke's Griceian instruction as an also cooperative invitation to complete the crossword," a police spokesman said -- "so we cannot assume criminal intent on Ms Grice's part".
Ms Grice was indeed visiting the art gallery not by herself but as part of a more amusing group visit to indeed Nuremberg’s Neues Museum (it means new museum in German, to contrast it with the old which is across the street) and where Köpcke's genial work, on the second floor -- (now with added value as someone may cleverly implicate) is displayed.
Ms Grice is clear about this.
"If the museum didn’t want people to follow Köpcke's instructions, they should put up a sign to make that clear "or perspicuous," Ms Grice told the German police.
Let us consider that conditional more formally:
iv. If the exhibitor of Köpcke's object d'art did not want any potential addressee to follow the utterer's intention (reflected by the imperative, the utterance "Insert words!"), the exhibitor should put up a sign to make this perspicuous.
v. Otherwise, the idea is that the order NEED be followed.
------ And that's what I did. Therefore: I was acting, as the Germans say, 'righly' -- richtlig.
But who called the German police? The museum director.
The museum director explains, alla Grice:
"We do realize that [Ms Grice] did not mean any harm." The museum director is using "mean" as per Grice's analysis of natural meaning ("mean to" as mean-NN, mean to harm -- vide Grice, "Meaning" in "Studies in the Way of Words: "For convenience, I will classify uses of 'mean' in phrases like 'mean to' as a "natural" usage of the verb").
The museum director also added added: "A state museum, such as the Nuernberg new museum is, could not avoid making a criminal complaint, though  -- even if this goes against the Griceian spirit. But we Germans are not anarchic."
The museum director does not sound too Griceian when the museum director said the "damage" (as Grice, Ms Grice, or Köpcke would NOT call it) is not permanent and would probably be relatively easy to repair -- erasing the alleged 'added value,' as it were -- unless Ms Grice's inserted words were recorded before being erased. Did she use, e.g. the word, 'pig'. The caption was in English.
"Also for insurance reasons we HAD to report the incident to the German police", the museum director added. (Germans love to 'add' and use 'also')
As it happens, the German eccentric collector who presented Köpcke's masterpiece to the new Nuernberg art gallery (who lives in Oxford -- where Grice taught -- and who has therefore read Grice, -- talk of  'reading-work-piece'!) took the incident in good humour,  the museum director said -- "even Griceian humour, if you mustn't."
Restoring the work is expected to cost a few hundred euros, and the Nuernberg new art gallery will bear the expense, not Ms Grice, the museum director promised.
“We did let the Ms Grice know that the collector took the alleged "damage" to the work in good Griceian humour," the museum director added.
"Although I still cannot Griceianly think what kind of a crossword puzzle could be filled by 'inserting' any word. Granted, the piece was  what Grice in "Retrospective Epilogue" to Way of Words calls an iconic representation of a real crossword puzzle (such as as gets published in The Telegraph), but not in itself real -- hey, it was an object d'art."
"So there was an openness in Köpcke's implicature that Ms Grice merely cleverly flouted." By posing her conditional (iv) to the police, it poses a problem first presented by Catherine Lord in her Griceian aesthetic theory in The British Journal of Aesthetics (But what do Germans know about the proceedings of the British Journal of Aesthetics?)
The museum said that, in compliance with Ms. Grice's conditional -- which now becomes no less than a Kantian imperative, in future Köpcke's object d'art will have an attachment that makes it clear that m-intended addressees (to use Grice's jargon) ARE NOT permitted to ;insert words' by filling in the blanks, in spite of the blatant order to the contrary.
As Popper would put it, "Irrefudiable!"
Popper would say 'irrefudiable' because we have a case of

v. !p & ~!p
v. Insert words! Don't insert words!

In any case Ms Grice's case is reivindicated, as it should. She interpreted Köpcke's imperative
i. Insert words!
at face-value.
She could be criticised for not cathing Köpcke's implicature that (i) means "Don't". But Ms Grice is right:
Köpcke wasn't there when we needed him!


"fill: with own imagination and …&C (and continue)”These two basic principles run through all works of the artist Arthur Köpcke, which still today challenge the beholder to face everyday life in an inventive fashion. With both humorous as well as serious intentions, they present us with a challenge: “Use your own imagination in an infinite process.”

The life of Arthur Köpcke, born in 1928, was marked by the questioning of his very existence and surroundings, as conditioned by his biography. Traumatic experiences at the end of World War II left Köpcke with the sensation of living in a permanent state of emergency. A self-taught artist, his work included literature, painting, object art, conceptual art, and action art. When he failed to make a living from his art in the 1950s, he decided to make the best of his situation in Denmark: Köpcke discovered like-minded individuals in the international Fluxus movement, which had the fusion of art and life as its goal. An issue was no longer creating works to be sold, but making art that fed on everyday life. The focus was on the customary, not the exotic, the event and not the pose, the process and not the artwork.

Köpcke seemed to direct his entire attention towards the media image and the consumer articles of his time, in so doing developing a new respect for things otherwise only perceived in passing. Köpcke ironically and humorously reflected upon mass-produced items, affordable, quickly used up, and then often carelessly discarded, in his collages and montages, developing them into something else by integrating written elements into his images, later having his texts read, and then releasing recordings of readings, he emphasized the importance of the relationship of text to image: characteristic for his visual language was the alternating use of empty spaces and textual or visual signs. With textual and visual questions and instructions (‚Fill: With Your Own Imagination’) he tried to remove the beholder from a passive attitude.

In late 1957, together with his wife, Köpcke opened Galerie Køpcke in Copenhagen, originally to secure his Danish visa. With his roots in futurism, Dadaism, and surrealism, the focus of the gallery lied in Fluxus and Nouveau réalisme, and for the following five years of its existence the gallery became a center of avant-garde art in Denmark. Köpcke thus became a key figure in bringing Fluxus to Denmark and ultimately to all of Scandinavia. Not only did he move among the media with ease, but among roles as well—as an artist, gallerist, and art educator. As an organizer and participant of many Fluxus events, Köpcke developed to an independent figure of the scene. In his spectacles with actionistic character, artists such as Piero Manzoni, who exhibited his Merda d’artista in his galleries, Niki de Saint Phalle, Daniel Spoerri, and many others took part.

Köpcke’s Piece No. 1, Music While You Work, performed during the first Fluxus concert at Nikolaj Church (Köpcke’s new gallery location as of 1962) is a very complex fusion of music, poetry, and visual art. This piece represents what is very characteristic for the two legendary Fluxus events Fluxus Fluxorum (1963) and Festival of Misfits (1962): the destruction of barriers between music, poetry, and visual arts—or any other discipline. Between 1963 and 1965, the key work reading/work-pieces-manuscript emerged, a simple collection of 127 (resp. 129) pieces that marked a turning point in Köpcke’s oeuvre. While up until this point the artist had taken up impulses from outside, from now on he began creating his own unforgettable style that transported the thematic core of Fluxus (but without adopting its typical layout).

The exhibition at Georg Kargl BOX shows a selection of twelve works by the Fluxus artist. The collage from 1973/1974 Time (&) [plus] yours. combines many of the elements mentioned: on the Köpcke advertising board are bits of paper plates, paper, porcelain tiles, and ribbon, in part painted. The elements form in their light and playful character a contrast to the rough material aesthetic of the beer keg cover. The hourglass placed on the lower part of the picture, together with the text, implies a reflection on the general and subjective cycle of time and fugacity. The work Treatment of a Canvas, + You: Play Chess with Money: Each Team Its Side of the Coins from 1965 with framed by two wooden rods on both sides, reminiscent of a map, challenges the beholder to a game of chess; coins replaced the various chess figures, depending on their nominal value.

Köpcke inspired Danish art with his own actions and by promoting new currents. In his famous quotation (“I think every night about Addi Køpcke, Joseph“) Joseph Beuys expressed his respect for Arthur Köpcke as a person and an artist, underscoring the importance of the artist, who died in 1977 at the of 49.

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