Metaphor(m): Engaging a Theory of Central Trope in Art
Mark Staff Brandl

This is the main page for my PhD dissertation, which I researched and wrote under the direction of Prof. Philip Urspung at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. My second reader was Dr. Andreas Langlotz, at the University of Basel and University of Laussane, Switzerland.

I originally posted the almost-final drafts here one at a time. Links to those versions are still below.

However, as of January 2011 I had a final draft. There were one or two very minor changes, but I put up the whole thing, as a pdf.

The document is rather large, since it has many images. For example, each chapter begins with a painting by me, ends with a sequential comic art page and two chapters are almost entirely in that form. There are many illustrations as well. Each chapter was also announced on internet with a link to this archival location; comments and discussion occurred, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The press release for the dissertation follows below in English and German.

A major painting-installation based on my dissertation occured in the Jedlitschka Gallery in February 2013. Some documentation is here.

All elements are (c) and TM 2008-2010 by Mark Staff Brandl.
 

Brandl Website Home
 

Link to entire dissertation as pdf document; click here.

 

Chapters, in earlier drafts, separately posted:

INTRODUCTION

PRELUDE: Trope, Agon et Quo Vadam as html. As pdf here

CHAPTER ONE: Wandering and Surveying:Links to Literary Theory and Contemporary Aesthetics

CHAPTER TWO: The Theory of Central Trope: Metaphor and Meta-Form

CHAPTER THREE: Excursus

CHAPTER FOUR: Conceiving Metaphor(m)s

CHAPTER FIVE: My Metaphor(m)

CHAPTER SIX: Central Trope in Two Contemporary Painters' Works

CHAPTER SEVEN: Artistic Ground: Cultural Inheritance, Struggle, Respect, Material and Identity

CHAPTER EIGHT: Metaphor(m) and the Expanded Text Concept

CHAPTER NINE: Timelines, Comics and a Plurogenic View of Art History

CONCLUSION

 

Artist and Art Historian Mark Staff Brandl earns PhD with creative dissertation on visual art and metaphor theory

Mark Staff Brandl was awarded his PhD in Art History, magna cum laude, from the University of Zurich Switzerland on 20 May 2011.

He wrote his PhD dissertation on an original theory of metaphor in visual art.

Dr Brandl's book, titled Metaphor(m): Engaging a Theory of Central Trope in Art, presents and embodies his thesis that the formal, technical and stylistic aspects of artists' approaches concretely manifest content in culturally and historically antithetical ways through a uniquely discovered trope. His philosophy, termed metaphor(m) or the theory of central trope, is grounded in conceptual metaphor and cognitive science, particularly that of George Lakoff, as well as Harold Bloom's idea of poetic misprision. Brandl's concept is applied to painting, installation at, electronic media, the expanded text concept, art history timeline models, comics, and artistic cultural inheritance. This dissertation is in the traditional form of a book, but with the addition of paintings and sections in sequential comic form as well as an actual installation comprised largely of paintings.

Brandl's supervising professors, art historian Dr Philip Ursprung and cognitive scientist Dr Andreas Langlotz also awarded him the honor of magna cum laude, praising the work in particular for its exceptional originality.

The famed philosopher Arthur Danto says of Brandl's dissertation that "there cannot be many dissertations that are quite that creative and colorful." Art historian James Elkins concurs, saying "it is the most colorful dissertation ever!"

Brandl's dissertation is now in the process of being expanded and translated into an art exhibition and installation with the curatorial advice of Markus Landert, Director of the Art Museum of Thurgovia Switzerland.

Mark Staff Brandl was born in 1955 near Chicago, where he lived for many years. He has lived primarily in Switzerland since 1988. Before earning his PhD, he studied at the University of Illinois (B.F.A. in Painting), Illinois State University (Art History), Columbia Pacific University (M.A. in Art History and Literature).

He is docent in art history and painting at the Art Academy of Liechtenstein and the Higher Technical College for Visual Art, St.Gallen Switzerland. Brandl is active internationally as an artist since 1980, has won various awards, had many publications and had numerous exhibitions. His shows include galleries and museums in the US, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Egypt, the Caribbean; specific cities include Paris, Moscow, Chicago, Los Angeles, London  and New York. As a critic, he is a contributor to London’s The Art Book, Chicago's Proximity magazine and New York’s Art in America. Works of his have been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Whitney Museum in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the St.Gallen Art Museum, the Art Museum of Thurgovia, The E.T.H. Graphic Collection in Zurich, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the International Museum of Cartoon Art, the Art Museum Olten and others.

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Innovative Metapherntheorie: Künstler und Kunsthistoriker Mark Staff Brandl legt eine beachtenswerte Studie vor

Für seine Dissertation zur Theorie der Kernmetapher in der Kunst erntete Mark Staff Brandls höchste akademische Lorbeeren. Seine Arbeit überzeugt durch hohe Eigenständigkeit, intellektuelle und gestalterische Originalität.

In seiner Studie Metaphor(m): zur Theorie der Kernmetapher in der Kunst entwirft Brandl eine eigene Metapherntheorie für die visuelle Kunst. Ausgangspunkt ist die These, dass Kunstschaffende in formalen, technischen und stilistischen Aspekten ihrer gestalterischen Arbeit besondere Tropen oder Metaphern entwickeln, die antithetisch auf kulturelle und historische Ausdrucksformen reagieren. Brandl nennt sie «Kernmetaphern».

Brandls Theorie stützt sich auf Untersuchungen zur konzeptuellen Metaphorik, vor allem auf die Arbeiten des Kognitionswissenschaftlers George Lakoff, sowie auf Harold Blooms Traditionstheorie und dessen Aufsätze zur «kreativen Fehl-Lektüre» (poetic misprision). Seine Theorie der Kernmetapher wendet er auf Malerei, Installationskunst und elektronische Medien ebenso an wie auf das Konzept des erweiterten Textbegriffs, auf Zeitachsen der Kunstgeschichte, Comics und künstlerisches Kulturgut im weitesten Sinn.

Die traditionelle, auf Texten basierende Buchform wird durch zahlreiche Bilder und Zeichnungen, Comicsequenzen und eine Bildinstallation des Künstlers erweitert.

Seine am kunsthistorischen Seminar der Universität Zürich eingereichte Arbeit wurde als aussergewöhnlich originell eingestuft und von Professor Philip Ursprung (Kunstgeschichte) und Andreas Langlotz (Kognitionswissenschaft) mit dem Prädikat magna cum laude ausgezeichnet.

Der Philosoph Arthur Danto meint, es könne «nicht viele Dissertationen geben, die so kreativ und anschaulich sind» und der Kunsthistoriker James Elkins ergänzt: «Dies ist die farbenfreudigste Dissertation aller Zeiten!»

Brandls Doktorarbeit wird zurzeit mit kuratorischem Beistand von Markus Landert, Direktor des Kunstmuseums Thurgau, als Kunstausstellung und Installation konzipiert.

Mark Staff Brandl kam 1955 in der Nähe von Chicago zur Welt und hat lange Zeit dort gelebt. Seit 1988 ist er in der Schweiz ansässig. Seit zehn Jahren wohnt er in Trogen/AR. Er ist Dozent in Kunstgeschichte und Malerei an der Kunstschule Liechtenstein und an der Höheren Fachschule für Bildende Kunst St.Gallen. Seine Ausbildung in Kunst, Kunstgeschichte und Literaturtheorie machte er an folgenden Universitäten: University of Illinois, Illinois State University, Columbia Pacific, Universität Zürich.

Seit 1980 ist Brandl international als Künstler tätig. Er hat verschiedene Auszeichnungen erhalten und ist mit zahlreichen Publikationen und Ausstellungen an die Öffentlichkeit getreten. Seine künstlerischen Arbeiten wurden unter anderem in Galerien und Museen in der Schweiz, Deutschland, Italien, Ägypten, der Karibik sowie in Städten wie Paris, Moskau, Chicago, Los Angeles, London oder New York gezeigt. Einige seiner Werke wurden vom Museum of Modern Art in New York, dem Whitney Museum in New York, dem Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, dem Victoria und Albert Museum in London, dem Thurgauer Kunstmuseum, dem Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, dem Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, dem International Museum of Cartoon Art, der Graphischen Sammlung der ETH Zürich und anderen aufgenommen.

Als Kunstkritiker schreibt Brandl für The Art Book (London), Proximity (Chicago), und Art in America (New York).