From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Medium specificity is a consideration in aesthetics and art criticism. It is most closely associated with modernism, but it predates it. According to Clement Greenberg, who popularized the term in the 1960s, medium specificity holds that "purity in art consists in the acceptance ... of the limitations of the medium of the specific art" ("Towards a Newer Laocoon"). For example, in painting, literal flatness and abstraction are emphasised rather than illusionism and figuration.
As early as 1766 Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in his essay "Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry" argues that "painting and poetry should be like two just and friendly neighbors, neither of whom indeed is allowed to take unseemly liberties in the heart of the other's domain".
Medium specificity suggests that a work of art can be said to be successful if it fulfills the promise contained in the medium used to bring the artwork into existence. Much debate can remain as to what a given medium best lends itself to.
Art dialogue in the post-modern period has tended to steer away from medium specificity as a particularly relevant principle.
- Schilderen over schilderen is onmogelijk. Musiceren over muziek kan niet. Maar schrijven over schrijven kan helaas wel. --Willem Frederik Hermans
- One can look at seeing but one can't hear hearing by Marcel Duchamp
- Writing about music is like dancing about architecture, attributed to Martin Mull
- Ekphrasis, the verbal, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art.
- Paragone, a debate from the Italian Renaissance in which one form of art (architecture, sculpture or painting) is championed as superior to all others.
- All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music, a maxim by Walter Pater
- The medium is the message, a maxim by McLuhan
- Classificatory disputes about art
- Conceptual art
- Form follows function
- New media art
- Ut pictura poesis-- Horace
- Ornament and Crime
- Truth to materials
- "Painting is silent poetry, and poetry painting that speaks", Simonides