examines the fourteen conditions constituting Levinson and Alperson’s taxonomy
of conditions for temporal arts. It
claims that some of the conditions and several of the lists of arts exemplifying
them need revision. It recommends adding
a new condition concerned with the effects of the passage of time on gardens,
environmental sculpture, and outdoor installations. The article concludes that gardens may be a
model for understanding and appreciating other arts sharing the same bi-(multi-)
In “What Is a Temporal Art?,”
Jerrold Levinson and Philip Alperson answer the title’s question by proposing a
list of conditions, one or more of which is sufficient to classify an art work
as temporal. They situate their argument in the context of
well-known claims by Gotthold Lessing, Victor Zukerkandl, and others that some
arts, such as music, are temporal and others, such as painting, are not, and
they aim “to cover all that might conceivably be meant in predicating
temporality of an art form.”
Their article has four sections. Section one is a short introduction. Section two is a descriptive list of thirteen conditions
qualifying an art work as temporal. Section
three assembles those conditions into object-, experience-, and content-focused
groups and, acknowledging the groups' interconnectedness, proposes a fourteenth
condition that encompasses the other
thirteen. Section four addresses the question of whether one art is the most
temporal of all.
In this paper, I first offer a
general critique of the intent of Levinson and Alperson’s article and the
assumptions it involves. Second, I
examine critically the fourteen conditions for temporal art to assess the
validity and relevance of those individual conditions and the implications for membership, or
non-membership, of the
category that each condition brings. After
a brief consideration of the questions
Levinson and Alperson raise regarding the aesthetic values of different
manifestations of time and temporality I suggest, finally, that an
understanding of how gardens function may lead to a better understanding and
richer experience of works in some other art genres.
2. General critique
I will now clarify what I mean by
the word 'time' because my use of that word has a bearing on my analysis of Levinson
and Alperson’s paper. I adopt the
meaning of time from Thomas Clifton in Music
as interpreted by Jonathan Kramer. This meaning is concise, uses
straightforward language, and emphasizes the evental, processual, and temporal
aspects of the art experience with which Levinson and Alperson are concerned. According
to Kramer, “[t]ime is a relationship between people and the events they perceive.” Time,
therefore, is not a thing that exists independently. It exists only by way of our personal or
communal experiencing of objects and events. Nor can time flow. It is, instead, our experiences of objects and
events that flow, and in this way an apparent time appears to flow.
Understanding time in this way means
that what is commonly thought of as chronological time is “little more than a
social convention [for ordering the relationship between people and the events
they perceive] agreed to for practical reasons.” Chronological time tells us nothing about the process of the
relationship between people and events; it
merely allows us to agree when and for how long the process occurred.
The relational process of time
encompasses what we perceive and experience happening to, in, and between
objects and events before they begin, as they persist, and after they have
ceased. In art works that unfold
temporally, the process of this relationship is a complex, continuous process
of framing, reframing, remembering, and anticipating features of the work that
are organized at different hierarchical levels.
In music, for example, we pay attention to pitches, rhythms, dynamics, meters,
and formal elements organized into phrases, melodies, sections, movements, and entire
works. That chronological time is
meanwhile passing is irrelevant (although not by all accounts) to the evolving
musical piece except as an aid to, say, coordinating our watches to agree about
the length of the process, synching tracks in a recording studio, or identifying
a historical period when the work was composed or performed in the past.
The authors use 'time,' 'temporal,' and
'temporality' in ways that require the words to stand for different concepts in
different sections in their article. I
refer to this in more detail below. Briefly,
in conditions 1, 2, and 6, 'time' refers to something commonly thought of as
chronological time. In condition 7 'time'
and 'timelessness' refer to something like experiential time; and in condition
9 'time' refers to “a kind of time that is peculiar to the [work]”
and is presumably neither chronological nor experiential, in the
commonly understood senses of those terms.
I believe it is a shortcoming of
their article that the authors do not venture any definition of what they mean when they use the terms 'time,' 'temporal,'
and 'temporality.' This is perhaps
understandable given that the point of the article is to define by way of
conditions what everyone means when they use these terms. I hope to show, however, that their unstated
biases regarding the meaning of these terms lead to unsatisfactory inclusions
and omissions from the lists of art works and genres exemplifying each
condition, as well as to other problems. I believe (a) that the authors' use of 'time,'
'temporal,' and 'temporality' to refer to different, unspecified concepts within
their article is confusing and (b) that these same terms have meanings other
than those implied, meanings that, were they to be recognized and included,
would affect some of the conclusions the authors draw.
Levinson and Alperson present a
taxonomy of thirteen conditions, plus one additional overarching condition,
having a bearing on an art work’s temporality. Their conditions are presented as sufficient,
but it can be argued that some of them, including conditions 1, 2, and 3, are
indeed necessary for an art work to be temporal. The taxonomy is presented as a
straightforward classificatory tool. The
authors say they aim “…to make sense of familiar intuitions about the arts…,”
and it is therefore reasonable to assume that by using such a taxonomy, we can
work out what artists, performers, the public, and even philosophers mean when
they use the terms 'time' and 'temporal'
in relation to the arts.
Because it is a classificatory
taxonomy, the authors generally avoid normative terminology, although 'proper,'
'properly,' and 'centrally' make occasional appearances. They do, however, refer to normative claims
made by others, including Susanne Langer, Susan Sontag, Gerald Mast, Victor
Zukerkandl, and Gotthold Lessing.
The authors claim to be interested
in the possession and expression of time and temporality by standard or
paradigm works in the genres of an art form. And they add further, “… that avant-garde or
self-consciously experimental instances of the art might not meet the condition
would not count against its adequacy as a characterization of the art form’s
I believe their exclusion of the
avant-garde and experimental is problematic for three reasons.
First, few philosophers (including,
I imagine, the authors) would consider devising a set of conditions to define
art on the grounds that the avant-garde need not be included. For example, Levinson's intentional-historical definition, “… an
artwork is a thing that has been seriously intended for regard in any way
pre-existing or prior artworks are or were correctly regarded” seems generous
in relation to avant-garde genres and objects.
Second, the avant-garde often becomes
conventional in time. What was cutting edge
when Levinson and Alperson published their paper is by now old hat and even, in
some cases, established. In recent times
this has been especially true of progress and possibilities in the fields of
computer and video arts, the scale and rate of which developments the authors,
to be fair, could not reasonably have foreseen.
Third, their exclusion of the avant-garde
and experimental is problematic because some of the most important artistic
manifestations of time and temporality are to be found in progressive and
avant-garde art. For example,
Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (1913), Beckett’s Waiting
for Godot (1953), Dali’s Persistence
of Memory (1931), and Joyce’s Ulysses
(c. 1920) are all works that have progressed from being avant-garde to being
classic in the last century. These works
were avant-garde because of their temporality, among other elements, and it
seems unreasonable to assume that temporality will not continue to be an
important, even constitutive element of some avant-garde art.
So while I recognize the authors’
qualification about avant-garde and experimental art, I will refer to such
works in this paper because not to do so means that important areas of temporal art will
remain unaccounted for.
3. The taxonomy
In this section I quote Levinson and
Alperson’s fourteen conditions in turn and consider each of them in the
paragraph(s) following its quotation.
(i) Objects of the art form require
time for their proper aesthetic appreciation
I agree with the authors that this
condition is so widely inclusive that it is not useful for their project. I agree with them that all art objects and
events, and our experiences of them, have a durational aspect and that “[t]his
temporal aspect is … not likely to be what anyone has in mind in thinking of
the temporal arts as a special group.”
Unlike the authors, however, I believe that this condition usefully
describes three nontrivially temporal
aspects of what could be considered a “proper aesthetic appreciation or
comprehension” of works of art.
First, as already noted, it is
generally accepted that activities such as looking at a painting or sculpture
are durational activities even though painting and sculpture are not commonly
thought of as temporal art forms. Some claim,
however, that our experience of all
works of art is nontrivially temporal
because it inevitably involves our own past and our past experiences of art,
including previous experiences of a given work. This particular
temporal aspect of our experience enables us to assess, compare, and,
potentially, understand better and experience more deeply a given work of art. Moreover, because our experiences of art are
to a degree communal, they are in this way open to being constituted not only by
our personal past but also by our shared communal past experiences of art and
the culture from which it arises.
Second, T. S. Eliot described how,
when composing a new work, the creative artist responds to and is correctly
influenced by an awareness of the implications of the unique temporal location
of the new work within its own creative tradition and chronology. And similarly,
Eliot argued, an “accurate” experience of a given work requires attention not
only to any temporal relationships within that work but also to the temporal
relationships between that work and its precursors and successors in the genre.
There is a third way of
conceptualizing our experience of all art as nontrivially temporal. According to a view promoted by Hans-Georg
Gadamer, all art works, whether commonly regarded as temporal or not, have
their own unique “time.”
Gadamer compared that time to
the temporal features and qualities of recurring feasts and festivals. He argued that an ideal encounter with a work
of art involves tarrying with the work in its own time world and that, in this
way, all (ideal) artistic experience is unavoidably temporal.
None of these three interpretations
of Condition 1 is referred to in Levinson and Alperson’s article, and I believe
the paper is therefore an incomplete survey of what constitutes a temporal art.
That said, the introduction and
application of three additional interpretations would have increased the length
of the study to something far greater than could be presented in one article. Perhaps their overarching Condition 14, Objects of the art form are such that their
proper appreciation centrally involves understanding of temporal relations
within them, deliberately and retrospectively limits the scope they had
envisaged for their article.
(ii) Objects of the art form require a significant
interval of time for the mere perception
or apprehension of their full extent.
I accept this condition to describe a
work as temporal. The authors, however, omit two arts from their
list of qualifying art forms. One
omission is minor, and I deal with it first.
Painters sometimes create
horizontally or vertically extensive works, or exhibit groups of paintings that
are to be “read” as one composite work. In
such cases a “significant interval of time” is required merely to absorb them. An example of a composite work is Sidney
Nolan’s Ned Kelly series, and an
example of a horizontally extensive painting is Colin McCahon’s Walk, measuring over twelve meters in
overall length. (The latter work’s title refers punningly to its content and,
possibly, to a desirable way of appreciating it.)
Second, contemporary philosophers
have claimed that some gardens can qualify as works of art and that gardens as
diverse as André Le Nôtre’s for
the palace at Versailles and Martha Schwartz’s suburban Bagel Garden are paradigms of such gardens. Although Levinson
and Alperson don’t mention gardens here, or indeed anywhere, in their article,
I claim that some gardens are candidates for being the most extensive art works
and therefore they make the highest durational demands for the “mere perception
or apprehension of their full extent.” Several
large gardens exceed in this regard the demands of, say, the cathedrals of
Chartres and Notre Dame, which are noted elsewhere in the article for their
“extraordinary size and scale.”
(iii) Objects of the art form require time in
presentation, i.e., they require
performance or exposition of some sort over an interval of time; the parts of the artwork are not all available
at any one moment, but only consecutively.
I accept this condition to describe a
work as temporal. Once again, however, gardens
constitute an important omission from their list of conforming arts. I claim that gardens have a greater potential
than any other art form to exhibit noticeable nonaleatory changes while still
retaining their ontological identity. But unlike the other arts the authors refer
to, gardens are not performances, as the condition deems alternately necessary, because they do not have performers.
Gardens’ most important constituents are
living plants, and plants are not performers; sweet peas do not perform, they
simply do what sweet peas do. But the
ways in which a garden designer arranges the garden elements result in certain
temporal (and visual) events being exposed, juxtaposed, and counterpointed, and
in this way the garden can be seen as an exposition, as alternately required by this condition.
Finally, a garden is never the same;
it is always perceivably changing. So,
in this additional sense, the time of the “presentation” of the garden is limited
only by the garden’s initial installation and final destruction.
Similar claims can be made for
installations such as Damien Hurst’s Thousand
Years (1990) or his Let’s Eat Outdoors
Today (1990-91), which feature living and decomposing elements, such as
items of food, maggots, flies, blood, and a cow’s head. Such works require time for their presentation,
and not all aspects and stages of the component elements are available for
viewing at any one time.
(iv) Objects of the art form consist of elements or
parts arranged in a linear
order, with definite direction, from first to last.
I accept this condition to describe a
work as temporal and generally agree with the authors’ list of conforming arts.
Although it’s not made clear in this
condition, I assume that the authors mean to imply that the elements within the
work are arranged by its creator in an immutable sequence. If this is the case then, with a small
extension to the implied meaning, the condition can also accommodate some
established contemporary works with a linear order that start and finish but do
not have an invariable sequence of parts or sections within their overarching
structure. If the condition’s implied
meaning is expanded so that the arrangement of elements can be done by the
creator, the performer, the recipient, or some combination of these agents,
then a number of previously excluded works can be included.
One such work is Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch. It is an early example of a literary work in
which the reader is free to order the sections as he sees fit or as his fancy
takes him. In such works the reader
organizes the structure of the narrative for himself. 
This is different from, say, skipping ahead to
read the ending of a novel before it appears sequentially according to the
author’s ordering. In the former case,
the ordering of sections constitutes part of the work’s aesthetic interest. In the latter case the reordering of sections
results merely from the reader’s impatience or indifference.
(v) Objects of the art form are
properly experienced in the order in which
their elements are determinately arranged, and at a rate defined by, or inherent
in, the artwork itself or its prescribed mode
of presentation or performance.
I accept this condition to describe a
work as temporal and generally agree with the authors’ list of conforming arts.
I have, however, two comments to make.
First, the authors ignore the fact
that poetry is, first and foremost a performance art. Spoken poetry certainly conforms with this
condition, but poetry is listed, along with the novel, as an art that is not
accommodated by the condition. The authors
do, however, admit that the way the poem is written may influence the rate at
which a silent reading of it proceeds. Somewhat
surprisingly, given their earlier comments regarding experimental art, they
support this latter claim by referring to the work of the (then) experimental
Second, just as in the case of Condition
4, a small alteration of intent in the text of the condition allows the
accommodation of established contemporary works. The authors' qualification “determinately
arranged” means, I assume, "arranged by the creator of the work." If the intent can be broadened to mean "arranged
by the creator or performer of the work," then a significant group of
other works can be included.
An example of such a work is Karlheinz
Stockhausen’s 1956 "Piano
Piece XI," in which the ordering and the manner of performance of
the composed sound segments are at the same time free in their sequencing and
highly determined in their articulation. The performer is free to choose the sequence
of sound segments, each of which finishes with a meticulously specified set of
written instructions about how to play the next segment, which will be the
segment, in the extra-large musical score, on which the pianist’s eyes next
This work is one example
of aleatory and quasi-aleatory music that appeared during the third quarter of
the twentieth century. While much of it
proved ephemeral in its appeal, some, like the Stockhausen piece, have endured
and are now considered classics.
(vi) Objects of the
art form are such that non-temporally extended parts
of the object do not count as aesthetically significant units of it. That is to
say, such parts are not isolatable for study in a way that contributes significantly to the full experience
of the object.
I do not consider this condition
useful in achieving what I take to be the authors’ aim of distinguishing
between two different genres of temporal art. They compare music and films and decide that
music is temporal in a way that film is not, explaining that music is not
divisible into small units “isolatable for study in a way that contributes
significantly to the full experience of the object,” whereas film is.
The authors’ comparison of
“freeze-framing” a film or video and “pausing” a music CD is unhelpful. Their claim that you get a complete but brief
sense unit when you freeze a film and nothing when you pause a CD is, of
course, true. But while the claim does
tell us how the two arts and their modes of reproduction are differently
constructed, it tells us nothing about how the arts (a) can be similarly
experienced and (b) have similar content with respect to this condition.
Both film and music require the
perceiver to combine and organize discrete sensory inputs into larger sense
units. In the former case, because its
technology limits it to a fast-moving succession of mechanically presented,
discrete images, a film can be dissected to expose one or more of the
constituent discrete sensory inputs. In the
latter case, music, as perceived when it is performed or heard live, is not
experientially separable into a series of discrete, minute, isolated phenomena in
the way that, analogously, film is when it is projected.
But this does not mean that a temporal slice of music
is either inaudible or not “isolatable for study.” A single chord, for example, can certainly be an
“aesthetically significant unit” of a musical composition.
The first 136 bars of the
prelude to Wagner’s Das Rheingold are
built on a single chord (harmony) introduced gradually at the start, and that
chord’s varied appearances in, for example, bars 1, 5, and 11 could well serve
as aesthetically significant units isolatable for study. And further, to reintroduce the avant-garde,
Stockhausen’s "Piano Piece IX" begins with 184 repetitions of a
single chord. Individual chords taken
appropriately from these two examples surely constitute aesthetically
significant units. Likewise, in poetry a
single monosyllabic word, or in dance a frozen movement or gesture, or in a
garden a “frozen” view may all be aesthetically significant units. That “sound bites” of music, poetry, dance,
and gardens are not, like film, convenient segments, mechanically extractable
at the rate of twenty-four divisions per second seems irrelevant. Furthermore, a sound bite taken from an
instance of these arts may also reasonably be any (shortish) length, it need not necessarily equate to the length
of a single frame of film. It would be
difficult to argue that such extracts “are not isolatable for study in a way
that contributes significantly to the full experience of the object.”
(vii) Objects of the art form are about time, or our
experience thereof, in some significant
I accept this condition to describe a
work as temporal, but I claim that music, some minor exceptions
notwithstanding, should not, for the reason I now introduce, feature on the
authors' list of conforming genres.
If the preposition about in the condition is taken to mean
something like “having as its subject” or “concerning,” then the paintings and
film they cite are nicely accommodated by the condition. Although they do not cite a novel, Proust’s In Search of Lost Time or Joyce’s Ulysses would be appropriate examples. These works are all representational. We know they are dealing with time because the
words or images they contain make this clear. Thus they are about time or our experience of
it. But the same cannot be said of music,
which is not representational in this way. Although I claim that music cannot be about
these things, an ideal experience of listening
to music may entail a particular temporal encounter that is triggered by the
music, or by the title of a piece. For example,
“Regard du Temps,” from Messiaen’s Vingt
Regards sur l’enfant Jésus, may suggest
that that piece has a temporal content. I
return to this claim under Condition 9 below.
It is possible that the preposition about in the condition references Arthur Danto’s notion of “aboutness”- that is, the quality of an
object or event that distinguishes it as an art work from other things. If this is the case, then music, and
theoretically any other art, potentially conforms to
(viii) Objects of the
art form use time as a material, or as an important structural feature.
It is hard to know what the authors
intend with the wording of this condition.
I agree with them that, in a weaker sense, all art making, performing,
and reception are unavoidably temporal, but, that said, it is not clear why
this condition, even in its stronger sense, needs to exist at all. It overlaps with Conditions 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7,
and I’m not convinced that it accommodates or excludes any genres or
combinations of genres that the other conditions don’t accommodate or exclude.
Another problem is that the authors
here link novels with four performance arts to make up the primary list of arts
conforming with this condition while, at the same time, they fail to
acknowledge that a novel’s approach to temporality differs fundamentally from
that of the performance arts. In whatever
way they conceptualize “time,” its presence in a novel is quite different from
its presence in a performance art.
If the condition is to be retained,
then I think its stronger claim can be better served by rewriting it as
follows: “Objects of the art form use change, including rate(s) of change, which we necessarily
perceive and attend to, in temporal successions, as a material or as an important
structural feature.” This new
formulation sidesteps the problem caused by the authors’ not defining “time”
and by that concept’s notorious slipperiness.
Finally, the authors name
architecture as a genre that may fit this condition on the basis of what they
claim to be the durational and sequential aspects of our experience of large
buildings such as, in their examples, Notre Dame and Chartres cathedrals.
Their claim is only partially true
because our temporal experience of such architecture is structured and formed
by us primarily and by the building only secondarily.
(ix) Objects of the art form generate a kind of
time that is peculiar to them, that exists
for a perceiver only in and through experience of the work.
I am interested that this condition appears
in the taxonomy because it seems to be in conflict with Alperson’s earlier
position. In his excellent paper of
1980, “’Musical Time’ and Music as an 'Art of Time,'" he concludes “…that
the use of the phrase 'musical time' to delineate a special kind of time
created by music is a mistake.” By itself, this earlier comment does not mean
that the particular condition should not be included in the taxonomy. It is simply evidence that there can be
confusion about these matters and that working definitions of time and
temporality might have been included in the paper and been useful in explaining
the apparent volte-face. While Condition 9 may be taken to apply to a
range of temporal arts, I would now like to pursue it further simply in
relation to music and Alperson’s quoted comment.
I claimed earlier that “[t]ime is
the relationship between people and the events they perceive.”
If this is the case, then music cannot on
its own be said to generate time, and the condition should be modified to
reflect this. We could choose to say
instead that music offers sonic events
tailor-made for our relating to it and that in this way music generates
opportunities for temporal experiences. Now,
if this is the case, then it may be reasonable to claim that certain
compositions present sonic structures, events, and patterns in ways that
manipulate our reactions and relationships to them. And in this particular limited but important
sense, we might say that something akin to musical time does exist.
(x) Objects of the art form represent a series
of events in time distinct from the series of events constituting the art
I accept this condition to describe
a work as temporal, and I agree that film, novels, and theater are strong
examples of genres conforming with it. Still
it is unclear, however, why the authors have omitted poetry from their list,
given that it shares with the listed arts the same characteristics in relation
to this condition.
The authors have here chosen to
restrict the meaning of ‘represent’ (and, later in the text, ‘representation’)
to a version of what might be called manipulated mimesis. According to this view, a sequence of, say, a
car chase can (a) be more or less realistically represented in text or on film
and (b) proceed differently from the sequence of, and take more or less time
than, the time the actual or imagined car chase takes. The authors fairly claim that such temporal
dislocation and “distemporization” is a hallmark of the novel and film in
If they were to broaden the range of
meaning of ‘representation ‘ then one further art would appear to become
exemplary of the condition. They quote Susanne
Langer in support of their Condition 9, and, if they are to take her and others
espousing similar positions, such as Leonard Meyer, at their word, then music
might be said to “represent a series of events in time distinct from the series
of events constituting the art object.”
According to this view, a suitably
qualified listener reacts to music’s elements in a way that involves re-enacting
emotional, psychical events from her “real” life.
Music, therefore, might be said to
represent psychical events in a sequence and time distinct from the way those
events occurred in real life and without reference to the agents and events
that triggered the psychical events. This
would be in accord with Langer’s view that music represents or implies dynamic
inner states in our “real” lives and that we are able to re-experience the
emotions of those events without experiencing the events themselves. Thus music, too, might be exemplary of Condition
Plausible as this notion of
representation may seem, however, I claim that it is in fact not representation
but re-stimulation or re-presentation of emotion that is involved in the case
of music. A listener is not aware of any
process or representation occurring. Instead,
emotions are stimulated in the absence of any representation of or reference to
the generating events because music cannot represent or refer in
these ways. So, tempting as it might be
to think of Langer’s view of music as in some way involving representation,
this is not the case; and therefore the view of music’s potential that I rejected in connection with
Condition 7, that is, that music can be
said to be about something or to have something as its subject, is
(xi) Objects of the art form are created in the act of
presentation, so that the time of creation, time of presentation and (usually)
time of reception all coincide.
I accept this condition to describe
a work as temporal and agree that improvisatory works are exemplary of it. At the same time, I suggest that re-creation be offered as an alternative
to creation in the condition in order
to (a) give greater weight to the role of the interpretive performer of
nonimprovisational works and (b) allow for certain musical activities,
realizing and cadenza playing, in which spontaneous or rehearsed improvisation is
part of an otherwise notated work.
(xii) Objects of the art form
require presentation in a time lived through and by the presenters.
I accept this condition to describe
a work as temporal and agree that live performances and improvisations are
exemplary of it.
(xiii) Objects of the art form lack
relatively fixed identities over time, but are rather mutable and shifting.
I accept this condition to describe
a work as temporal and agree that some folk arts with only oral traditions of
transmission are exemplary of it.
The authors offer a final,
fourteenth condition that, they claim, straddles the previous conditions and the
implications of their grouping of them into the three sub-groups referred to
earlier. It reads:
(xiv) Objects of the art form are
such that their proper appreciation centrally involves understanding of
temporal relations within them.
I agree with the authors that “…
when an art form is described as “temporal,” without any further specification
of what is meant, then [Condition 14] ... provides the best overall default
In the condition, however, the word ‘centrally’
creates a problem. Does it equate to ‘significantly,’
or ’principally,’ or ’is required to?’ The problem is seen most clearly in the
case of arts that have temporal aspects that constitute their aesthetic appeal
and value, aspects that are not the only or the strongest or necessarily the
most obvious claimants to that role in the work. Gardens and environmental sculptures provide
good examples of arts in which aesthetic appeal and value derive from both
temporal and pictorial (spatial) features of the works. I do not mean to suggest, however, that we can
consider or quantify the visual and temporal aspects of such arts as if they
are discrete, independent aspects of a work.
They are complexly interwoven, and I believe the condition would be
improved were this complexity to be acknowledged.
4. A new condition
There exists one inescapably
important temporal feature that is not considered anywhere in the taxonomy. This feature affects some architecture and
installations, all gardens, and some environmental sculpture, and might be
reflected in a new condition reading as follows:
(xv) Objects of the art form are
aesthetically dependent to varying degrees on the transitions, movements,
actions, and patterns of biological, diurnal, seasonal, climatic, and sometimes
geological changes, most of which occur in temporally experienced sequences.
I claim that this proposed condition
is of fundamental importance to the art of gardens. The
proposed “condition xv,” and the
content of Section 5 that follows, owe a significant debt to the important pioneering work in the philosophy of art
gardens carried out by Mara Miller and Stephanie Ross, and by later writers
who have developed similar or related accounts of gardens.
Four-dimensional works of art
In their conclusion, Levinson and
Aplerson suggest that their work could be extended by responding to two
questions: First, which art is the
“most” temporal, and on what basis might that be determined? And, second, do some of their conditions for
temporality carry with them more aesthetic significance than others?
I agree with the authors that an
Oscars-style response, where the winner is the one with the most votes, would
be an unenlightening response to the first question, unless some agreed value
was attributed to each aspect of temporality making up their taxonomy. I further agree with them that to be minimally
useful any such ascription of value would need to be couched in the context of
a single, higher-level conception of art.
I believe their second question is a much more apt one. But, as I suggest in relation to Condition 14,
ensuring that the weighing process produces useful results is not as
straightforward as Levinson and Alperson seem to believe.
There are two reasons why the
weighing process is more complex than the authors acknowledge. First, some art genres, such as gardens,
environmental sculpture, and some installations and architecture, are at the
same time significantly temporal and significantly pictorial. They therefore pose the problem of how their
temporality is to be weighed. Is it to
be weighed as a discrete quality or is it
to be weighed as some sort of composite quality? And then, is it a temporal-pictorial quality or is it a pictorial-temporal quality? Or is it something else again?
And, second, even if and when the
weighing parameters are clarified, there remains a bigger question to address: Is it possible to make useful and insightful
claims about the aesthetic weight of manifestations of temporality in art works
in general without regard to the weight or significance of temporality in a
specific genre and even in a specific work?
My answer to this question is a qualified yes,
and, in particular, I propose that the way temporality is manifested in gardens
may have interesting implications for the way we understand the temporal nature
of some other arts. To this end I will
now restate claims I have made earlier,
here and elsewhere, about the complex nature of gardens, and I will do so using
as a framework Levinson and Alperson’s tripartite distinction of object-,
experience-, and content-based conditions.
As objects, gardens typically display both pictorial (spatial) and temporal
qualities and features. They can be
conceptualized as two-dimensional pictures, as three-dimensional sculptures,
and as four-dimensional environments. Gardens
are also richly endowed with opportunities for olfactory, kinesthetic, and
Because of this complexity I claim that
gardens are, pace Kant, more than “a
kind of painting” with nature’s “products,” and an adequate understanding of
them ought to acknowledge their modal complexity.
As vehicles for experiences based on a
viewer’s awareness of formal qualities and features, gardens offer aesthetic
encounters commonly associated with the visual arts as well as with the
temporal art of music.
Any adequate account of gardens ought to
acknowledge their capacity for providing these two different but interconnected
types of experience(s).
As conveyors of content, gardens can
be about visual qualities such as beauty and grace, they can represent
mimetically, they can in other ways represent concepts such as attitudes to
nature or power and dominion, and they can both
be about and instantiate time and its passage. 
In summary, gardens resist neat
categorization as a pictorial or temporal art. Gardens are both, separately, but they
function as more, or something different again, when considered as
simultaneously pictorial and temporal. Perhaps
this feature of (art) gardens can provide a key to understanding the complex
interplay of temporal and other aesthetic modes in different art genres where
the interplay is significantly present.
A study that builds on Levinson and
Alperson’s, while addressing the issues raised above, could investigate more
complex problems and provide more revealing solutions than the original paper managed
John Powell is a Ph.D. candidate at
the University of Adelaide, South Australia. His thesis focuses on developing an art-form-specific
account of the garden’s
ontology, materials, and experiential modes.
Published September 8, 2015.
 Jerrold Levinson and Philip Alperson, "What Is a
Temporal Art?," Midwest Studies in
Philosophy, 16 (1991), 439-50.
 Levinson and Alperson, p. 447.
 Jonathan D. Kramer, The Time of Music: New Meanings,
New Temporalities, New Listening Strategies (London, New York: Schirmer Books, 1988).
Pressing, "Relations between Musical and Scientific Properties of
Time," Contemporary Music Review
7, no. 2 (1993).
and Alperson, p. 441.
 Levinson and Alperson, p. 440.
 Levinson’s definition is quoted in Thomas
Adajian, "The Definition of Art," in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta
 Levinson and Alperson p. 441.
 Gregory Currie, An
Ontology of Art (New York: St
Martin's Press, 1989).
 T. S.
Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent (1919)," in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, ed. Frank
Kermode (London: Faber and Faber, 1975).
 See Hans-Georg
Gadamer, The Relevance of the Beautiful
and Other Essays, trans. Nicholas Walker (Cambridge, New York, Melbourne: University of Cambridge Press, 1986).
concept of garden qua art is explored
extensively in Mara Miller, The
Garden as an Art (Albany: SUNY
Press, 1993); and Stephanie Ross, What
Gardens Mean (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1998).
 Levinson and Alperson p. 444.
expositions of temporality in gardens, see Ismay Barwell and John Powell, "Gardens, Music,
and Time," in Gardening-Philsophy
for Everyone- Cultivating Wisdom, ed. Dan O'Brien (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010); and Mara Miller,
"Time and Temporality in the Garden," in the same volume.
 They also involve significant aleatory
changes, but this is not of interest here.
 For a thought-provoking presentation
of an opposing view, see Mateusz
Salwa, "The Garden as a Performance," Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics 5 (2013).
Cortazar, Hopscotch, trans. Gregory
Rabassa (New York: Pantheon, 1966).
 This structural device is also
commonplace in video- and computer game- art genres.
 Levinson and Alperson p. 442.
 The freedom that "Piano Piece XI"
exemplifies is different from the total absence of restraint found in the work
of John Cage and others. Cage’s work is
aleatory, whereas Stockhausen’s is aleatory and “determinately
and Alperson p. 443.
 For some possibly unintended support of
my claim, see Jerrold
Levinson, Music in the Moment
(Ithaca, London: Cornell University
 Levinson and Alperson p. 443.
Alperson, "'Musical Time' and Music as an 'Art of Time,'" Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism,
38, 4 (1980), 407.
 Levinson and Alperson, p. 444.
See also, Leonard
B Meyer, Emotion and Meaning in Music
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
and Alperson, p. 447.
 See Jan
Kenneth Birksted, "Landscape History and Theory: From Subject Matter to Analytic Tool," Landscape Review, 8, 2 (2003); Miller, The Garden as an Art; Ross, What Gardens Mean; and Salwa, "The
Garden as a Performance."
and Alperson, p. 446.
 For accounts of gardens’ olfactory
dimension, see Miller, The Garden as an Art, p. 32; and Marta
Tafalla, "Smell and Anosmia in the Appreciation of Gardens," Contemporary Aesthetics, 12 (2014).
Kant, Critique of Judgement, trans.
J. C. Meredith (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2007), §51.
 For example, see Barwell
and Powell, "Gardens, Music, and Time."
 For examples of mimesis, see Ross, What Gardens Mean, chapters 4-5. For “nonmimetic” representation, see, for
Kuttner, "Delight and Danger in the Roman Water Garden: Sperlonga and Tivoli," in Landscape Design and the Experience of
Motion, ed. M. Conan (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and
 I am indebted to an anonymous reviewer
at Contemporary Aesthetics and reviewers
at another publication for their helpful comments.