Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Role of Intent : Open Thread

Yesterday's post emphasized one section of the quote from Roberta Smith's review that included the coinage "curator's art," but even within the comments on our thread (and over at Conscientious as well) there seems to be equal interest in another statement Smith put in print: "artists don't own the meaning of their artworks."

Joerg goes on to comment on Conscientious:
This is tremendously important - especially so, I think, in the area of photography where so many people still talk about "the artist's intention", or the "meaning" of a photography (and where it might come from) - with the idea that the intentions (by the artist's fiat it would seem) automatically overrules all possible interpretation. No, they actually don't.
I don't disagree with the notion that artist's don't own the meaning of their artworks (being a firm believer in the type of work, among other types, that artists know it takes a viewer to complete), but I think it's also important to make a distinction in this context and pull Joerg's text apart just a bit.

Not everyone who discusses the artist's intention (something I do professionally) does so with the idea that the artist's intentions automatically overrules all possible interpretations. To be quite honest about it, discussing the artist's intention from a sales point of view is sometimes merely a way of continuing to engage a potential collector until they decide whether they love (and must have) a work of art. There are plenty of sales discussions in which I know to leave it out altogether. Some times it's entirely unhelpful.

Of course, we don't hide the artist's intention. It's generally the focus of our press releases, knowing that some collectors and most arts writers are generally happy to read about them (even when they disregard or disagree with them for any review they may write). But I am fairly sure we have never sold a work of art over someone's otherwise reluctance because of the artist's intentions.

So what is the role of the artist's intent in presenting artwork, whether in a gallery or museum? For me, that question seems a bit disconnected from the entire studio-to-collection process, as if the work is supposed to have somehow magically appeared installed in a space, without a history of any consequence to the viewer. In the extreme, the question seems to feed from a sense that a viewer is insisting "Don't tell me how it got here, just let me take away from it what I want to, based on my pre-existing preconceptions and beliefs." And if that's all someone wants from art, I suppose that's fine (but you see, I'm the kind of person who researches the working process of writers, musicians, filmmakers, and other artists I like as part of enjoying their work, so it's a bit of a forced experience for me to purposely ignore the history or intention behind a work of art...it's not my nature).

Of course, I have a different overall experience than the average art viewer. The topic of intention is consistently a fairly big part of the discussion I have with artists during a studio visit. We also discuss aesthetics, breakthroughs, failures, materials, and technique, but what the artist was thinking when creating this or that artwork is certainly covered in depth.

Now I know that the essence of the central complaint here isn't that intention is entirely irrelevant, but rather that it doesn't compensate for otherwise dis-interesting work. But I think the two do tend to get muddled, and so I wanted, again, to pull them apart a bit.

Consider this an open thread on the role of an artist's intention.

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45 Comments:

Anonymous Randall Anderson said...

Great topic! One I wrestle with daily. Over time my intent has reached a complexity that I don't think a viewer can tap into right away. The intent is one of the tools I use to make a work and I get very excited when somebody enters the work on that level but there are many other ways in. I, too, believe in the idea that the viewer completes the art, and as such, they bring their own complexity into the equation. But once I'm finished the making part I really let go of the work, I have no attachment, thus I can move on to the next piece. By sending the work out into the world it's available to be used by a viewer in whatever way they should chose. If they're interested in getting to the intent, and discovering more about my practice, that's great. But as for the question of intent, it really is just a complex methodology I've created for myself that gets me from point A to point B. Ultimately the work has to stand on its own and be open enough that others are invited in. If they want they can meet me and my intent in the work, or they can turn it into something completely different.

11/11/2009 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

An analogy: I make contemporary furniture. Recent work has been inspired by the Japanese tea bowl - a useful object that carries high art and calligraphy - to me a kind of "perfect object." A recently completed piece includes painting, drawing and sculptural elements. I continued painting on the interiors of the cabinet but a friend said that maybe I should have left the interiors unpainted so a buyer could put their own things inside - in other words, leave room for the collector/user. I just wonder if this is ever a concern - that the artist leads the observer - the consumer - too narrowly and should remember to leave room.

11/11/2009 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

For starters, "meaning" does not reside in the artwork. "Meaning" is the result of an action performed by the viewer, the viewer assigns "meaning" to the artwork.

11/11/2009 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

What do we mean when we speak of the "artists intentions?" The artist has some reason or purpose for what they are doing, their actions are directed towards some end. Intention can be related to meaning if the artist is assigning their own personal "meaning" to the artwork during the process of its creation. In this case the success or failure of the artist may depend on their ability to effectively encode the artwork with the signifiers which will elicit the desired response in the viewer.

11/11/2009 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

FWIW - on Art Vent, Carol Diehl has been tracking this topic as well.

11/11/2009 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yes, cjagers noted that as well, but my big fumbling fingers accidentally rejected rather than published his comments....hate my iPhone sometimes.

11/11/2009 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger pelacus said...

I think Ed was getting at the heart of the matter: if you want to be an intelligent, open-minded viewer of art, an important piece of the puzzle is the artist's stated (or hidden!) intention. It seems to me that people who entirely disregard it are inclined towards formalism and lean away from conceptualism. I like em both!

11/11/2009 10:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Larry said...

"Intention" is always tricky because it is anticipatory, whereas the work is the only thing the viewer, reader, listener, etc. has available as a means of interpreting or judging the work. Many decades ago in literary criticism the term "intentional fallacy" was invented, as a means of suggesting that "the design or intention of the author [or artist, composer, etc.] is neither available nor desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of literary [or other] art." For example, Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame), a non-Anglican Protestant (or Dissenter), wrote a pamphlet in 1702 arguing for the extermination of all Dissenters, and though he claimed his intentions were ironic and meant the exact opposite of what his language conveyed, he was actually arrested for sedition and libel and put in prison for several days. (There is also Jonathan Swift's more famous "A Modest Proposal," which I'm skipping over because most readers have recognized it is ironic, though some readings propose it's not quite as ironic as may at first appear.)

Maybe this sounds far afield from art, but not necessarily. The problem is that a creator's intention is inevitably only a part of what actually results in the work as it is experienced by its audiences. A work may lead to multiple and even contradictory interpretations in the minds of various readers, viewers, etc. Perhaps the creator would side with one or another of these interpretations. But that may mean also that the creator is blind to implications that may be present for other viewers in the work and which the creator prefers not to recognize, and hardly invalidates other interpretations.

Which is not to suggest that all interpretations are equally valid. Many years ago when I was teaching English, a student suggested that Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill," his marvelous poem about growing up only to become more aware of one's own mortality, was not a reflection of the thoughts of a young boy playing in an apple orchard, but was actually the thoughts of an apple tree itself. I think this student suggested this far-fetched interpretation because he felt all of my interpretations were similarly far-fetched and that was the right way to do things. But some interpretations are simply untenable because they show no attention to the context, detail, or design of the work. Still, even if Thomas had "intended" my student's meaning, it would not matter a bit if that was not what he wrote into his poem.

11/11/2009 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

There are really 2 intentions at play in this topic: the intention to make fine art, and the intention behind creating objects, architectures and events.

If you can have access to that information, every intentions should be considered when apprehending a work (of art or any work). Everything is communication. There is always an intended message, in each and every objects, architectures and events ever created.

But saying that you "should" consider the intention doesn't imply that you must, and the last thing a human being should do is blindly agreeing to any foreign intention. The rest is left to the powers of cognition, knowledge and sensuality. As George mention, the receiver creates meaning with the help or regardless of intention. This is what Joseph Beuys meant
when he said we are all artists. We all create the art in our head if we can perceive it (and not just with objects intended to be art). It's a mindly construction. Objects, architectures and events are merely prismas for communications between capable intelligencies who either succeed or fail to (b)reach similar ideas and emotions.

Thankfully we invented language to try to make sense of it all.

Cedric Caspesyan

11/11/2009 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher Quirk said...

I wrote on this exact topic with regard to painting in January. Don't want to tax your patience here but if interested you can find the post via this link.

...and would add only that intent and meaning can't be equated because the former is a function of the artist and the later is created by the audience. They can, for better or worse, approach equivalence, depending on how literal the artwork is. (See also Duchamp's "art coefficient," which dictates that the art becomes less interesting in direct proportion to the degree the artist's intent is achieved.)

11/11/2009 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

What if I see something represented in every purely abstract painting I look at? I'm not dense - I can guess what the artist intended I should see (or rather shouldn't see). But my brain can't help itself. What do an abstract artist's intentions matter to someone like me, who has what might be called "inkblot syndrome" (think Rorschach test).

11/11/2009 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

It think "curator art" is like certain literary works -- Finnegan's Wake, Wallace Stevens's poetry, The Wasteland, etc. -- that require a lot of effort to understand and appreciate.

As a writer, I've always hated the argument that the reader/viewer is the one who determines the meaning of the work. It's always seemed like academics trying to puff themselves up, jealous that they don't know how to create anything beautiful or meaningful out of nothing.

That's especially so in the case of conceptual art, since the art is almost entirely the idea. If you discount the artists intention, all you have left is a pile of sticks or whatever.

11/11/2009 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intentions can be lost, found, altered, discovered and hidden from the maker during the process. Perceptive viewers can have a better handle on intentions than the artist. They deal with the end result rather than the history, the accretions and they can see the character and concerns of the artist that the artist is oblivious to. The result from missing the mark can often be a lot more complex and interesting than original intention. It's the raw stuff that bubbles up rather than the spit shined stuff on the surface.

Do the work and get out of the way.

11/11/2009 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

"I like to surprise myself" - was a common catchphrase amongst modernist artists. Is there any room for that in the "curators art"?

"Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea."

Who has not seen a tree sinking in chains of Ivy or Kudzu? Larry? If the Dissenters or Ranters ever get organized, god help them, for it is not in their nature. Buncha knownothings.

I enjoy knowing about an artist, but I also enjoy not knowing. Art should let you escape - it's harder to do that than to make painfully self reflexive work, or work with an iconography, ideology, philosophy or otherwise - in fact theory is often only a scaffolding to reach the cockpit.

Many poems speak with multiple voices, changing in mid sentence, even.

Must an author stick to one voice one tone one personality and one brand? As if we don't all wear masks and perform our identities!

Yahweh has many faces, as does Janus!

Many people who are not good or simply lazy readers (hung over) - fail to take in the nuance - the "notes" in a whiskey fermented in Irish kegs! but if you are given milk and told it is lemonade, it will taste sour at first. Try it on a friend. Tell an enemy your 15 dollar bottle of wine is actually a fifty, and watch them closely. Do their eyes dialate? Do they sink towards syncophantic mewlings? Or are they critical, informed, and above all, objective?

On the other hand, if everything was poetry and the multitude shouted from every sentence, I should have exhausted my goodwill and generosity of spirit a long time ago. NYT: Hegel's work is so dense it inspires multiple and equally appealing interpretations! And he was a Nazi!

Paul De Man, a disciple of Derrida wrote for the Nazis without irony! And then he used deconstruction to hide in a mental maze of shifting mirrors and slippery slides!

Politicians say one thing and then do another! Hyocrites! Is there no authentic voice, a clarion call? Maybe Mark Kostabi is the mediocre voice of truth. A deadpan actor reviled by all! Genius! Truth!

Yes artists can be blind to their interpretations, and the best ones are.

11/11/2009 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

I have found that much contemporary art's comprehension hinges upon "inside knowledge." Much of the time, this context is not made plain to an average museum-goer. Many artist statements I have read appear difficult to understand as well.

My question: If a piece of conceptual art is lacking in explanation, and the artist statement/explanation is dense and incomprehensible, would the two pillars of an art exhibit (art and curator) relinquished their rights of owning the interpretation?

11/11/2009 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I think this viewpoint reduces the artist to nothing more than idiot savant.

11/11/2009 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I agree with Lisa but leave off "savant"

11/11/2009 08:56:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Davey said...

Intent only goes as far as pressing the button. The photograph exists on its own merit after that.

11/11/2009 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Clive said...

Furthermore, sometimes (often?) intent is invented or "expanded" well after the work has been produced. On her photo site, one relatively well-known photographer even goes as far as to suggest she discovered a process, took the photos, and only then sought to find the reasoning behind what she had produced.

11/11/2009 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

In the words of Dylan Thomas: I've just had eighteen straight whiskies. I think that's the record.

Blind birds of a feather flock fuliginous foul underneath the sour apes cowl!

11/11/2009 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Clive's response points out we can make a distinction between conscious intent, subconscious intent and no intent.

Conscious intent results in conscious actions which are directed towards some end. [the definition of intention]

Subconscious is similar but the artist is not consciously aware of why the actions are being taken or what the precise result may be.

No intent, is random or lawless action which produces some result which is then examined after the fact in order to discover some structure of reason

None of the forms of intention above are necessarily better than the other for the creation of art. They may also hinder the process by deflecting the intuitive or creative process by reducing its conceptual or psychological flexibility.

Intention is not as important as attention. Regardless of ones intentions, paying attention to the results reveals more about the perceptual processes in the creator-viewer. It is these subtle signifiers which allow an artwork to exist in a way which engages the viewer in a meaningful way. This is a more interesting issue than intention.

11/11/2009 11:41:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Malcolm Gladwell is on Charlie Rose talking about choking in golf - chocking is when "what is unconscious becomes conscious"

Are artists idiots for not wanting to think about formal stuff while they are making art? Shouldn't it be automatic?

Back to Blavatsky - shouldn't art be more of a medium, and less of a subject?

Maybe it's all the mediocre artists for whom art is a challenge that turned art into a "conceptual" hell hole.

As James Elkins says "Why are our pictures Puzzles?" - because, he says, artists make work for critics.

To what end? Eagle? Birdie? Why do artists tend to whiff balls and send them into the rough, carving a string of divots, curses and calamities into the landscape. But not at your country club, I suppose.

11/12/2009 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger tony said...

Intent seems such a hard and fast word when it comes to enmeshing it into a creative process. How many times does one have the intention to start off in one direction & during the process of making something occurs in the work which leads to a modification of the original impetus & introduces its own momentum.

Again the word 'meaning', when it comes to an artwork, suggests more than it can either cover or deliver.

I am not trying to be pedantic, although that may be the case, but I believe when talking about or trying to clarify too finely an issue within the visual arts the inadequacy of language tends to break down & leads to statements which seem far too solid and brittle to take account of the nuances, paradoxes and subtleties which are essential parts of art; which is not to say, however, that I don't appreciate the expression of such thoughts.

11/12/2009 02:52:00 AM  
Blogger The Reader said...

I agree with Lisa in that I think intention is crucial to any conceptual practice. To make good conceptual art you really do have to be clear about your ideas and how they are going to be expressed.

I also think working through ideas in writing is an imperative for the conceptual artist (particularly if you look at Kosuth's definitions of conceptual art).

The question then is what is the relationship between the work and the writings and statements that artists make about it.

On this subject I subscribe to Joseph Beuys' position in considering anything that the artist says or writes about their work as being part of that work. In that way such statements by no means overrule other interpretations but are rather parts of the work that must also be interpreted if the work is to be considered as a whole.

11/12/2009 06:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

As much as intent imbues meaning, I think the significance of art isn't found in the signal that the wave carries.

11/12/2009 06:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Randall Anderson said...

I don't think we want to figure it all out... I had the good fortune to do a residency once where I met Mark Strand. He read a new poem then that had a profound impact on me. I'll share:

Man and Camel, Mark Strand

On the eve of my fortieth birthday
I sat on the porch having a smoke
when out of the blue a man and a camel
happened by. Neither uttered a sound
at first, but as they drifted up the street
and out of town the two of them began to sing.
Yet what they sang is still a mystery to me—
the words were indistinct and the tune
too ornamental to recall. Into the desert
they went and as they went their voices
rose as one above the sifting sound
of windblown sand. The wonder of their singing,
its elusive blend of man and camel, seemed
an ideal image for all uncommon couples.
Was this the night that I had waited for
so long? I wanted to believe it was,
but just as they were vanishing, the man
and camel ceased to sing, and galloped
back to town. They stood before my porch,
staring up at me with beady eyes, and said:
"You ruined it. You ruined it forever."

11/12/2009 08:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful poem to start the day. Thanks for that Randall.

So agreed you can't create a conceptual piece without first having the concept firmly in mind. But how do you get the concept? Could it possibly be that at some point you say 'I don't know where that came from (while acknowledging your historical debt to other conceptual artists)? In terms of knowing our own minds, we're all idiots.

When you look at yourself in a mirror can you see your inner nature more clearly than an outsider can? Or rather, since it's part of you, is it invisible to you and knowable to others? Does that inadequacy make you an idiot?

As we think about ourselves and others, so we can think about art - what's the true intention of hermetically sealed art?

Cathy

11/12/2009 09:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Gazed Moon said...

Nobody's Fault But Mine

11/12/2009 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

To make good conceptual art you really do have to be clear about your ideas and how they are going to be expressed.

I think this is the case when one is having an artwork manufactured for you, like say Koons or Tyson. Otherwise, this type of rigidity frequently results in bad and boring conceptual art.

Creative thinking is not programatic, A does not leas to B which results in a good work of art. The flaw here lies in the predictability of work for the viewer who is excluded from the creative process by being led by the nose through a series of hoops.

Hopefully we have left reductive Conceptual Art (1970's stuff etc) behind as another historical artifact of late 20th century thinking. Really folks, most conceptual art pieces are the equivalent to the plethora of bad nudes by painters.

11/12/2009 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Nobody's fault! I like that formulation. How many artists would rather not be owed anything? How many have disavowed a supposed connection? I would like to thank god, who recently made some excellent neon signage sculpture. For thine is the light!

Some of the best art lacks clear intent, while the worst is full of certainty.

I owe a debt to Dylan Thoms, Bob Dylan, Thomas Edison. Off the top.

A good artist today might owe a debt to many people. Do you just name the most prominient? Most do.

Generally naming "debts to" amounts to a form of marketing-name dropping akin to using mini skirts to sell drinks. Great idea.

11/12/2009 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Because, of course, art at its greatest is fantastically deceitful and complex." V.Nabokov

11/12/2009 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah Zip but the more of the concept you purport to consciously own, the more it becomes a tidy, marketable product. Naming is good for branding but acknowledging puts it back into the thought category.

Cathy

11/12/2009 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Tony and Clive:

Intention doesn't need to be pre-calculated. Even when a creator is being accidental or "letting emotions" do the work, there is intention when the creator decides that an object/architecture/event is ready to "exist", be given to the world (or not). This is why I prefer to speak of the intention of the object (or architecture or event)rather than intention of the artist. An object cannot think, but it can reveal intentions that its creator or maker is unaware of ("I have a large ego", for example). We only need to make sure when we are apprehending these intentions that we are not mixing them with our own.



Zip-a-deh-doo-dah:
++I would like to thank god, who ++recently made some excellent ++neon signage sculpture.

I don't take full responsability for my intentions. I'm very esoteric. I cannot say wrether God or the devil speak through me, or my genetic history, because I cannot know that. I cannot know how the universe brought me here (if God exists or not). But it gave me some abilities and disabilities to explore. Edward recently mentioned Gaia's intent of survival, but I'm not sure Gaia (homeostasis) has created intelligence and emotions for mere means of survival. What would the powers of intelligence and emotions
exceed basic survival so much? I'd like to think we are also here to play. And dialogue (or maybe all together it's just one big monologue). Whatever resulted in the presence of the Universe meant something ought to "exist", and we have the possibility to make things "exist", so we are merely continuating the purpose of the great U.


Cedric C

11/12/2009 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Cedric [2:20] Intention doesn't need to be pre-calculated. You are misapplying the word, or missing where the intention lies. Intention means one has a determination to act in a certain way. The performance of an action directed towards a specific purpose. This definition encompasses the concept of "pre," the intent exists in advance of the action.

But, ok, I get what Cedric is getting at. One can say that "intention" results in a decision to act (perform an action) in a certain way. The action doesn't need to be carried out and it may give a different result than anticipated. The intention, result, correction sequence is part of the creative process on a micro level, and describes what the artist 'thinks' they are doing. Macro level intention can encompass micro level intentions in order to affect a result (with the same consequences) Random or mindless activity can also be encompassed in the sphere of intentionality by accepting the results.

If it appears that I am overcomplicating the point, this is intentional. Intention in an artists working process is problematic. Creativity is the result of finding a way to act outside the known boundaries or structures of the given inquiry. Intentionality requires an assumption of knowledge which negates this.

So again, I suggest that "intention" is only marginally relevant but that "attention" is critical. Regardless of the how the inquiry process is conducted, by paying close attention to the results, one will see what actually occurred, either by accident or by intent. What actually occurred is what the viewer, initially the artist, later the audience, will see or experience.

11/12/2009 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Debby Luzia said...

People like to understand and the more complex the language - the more dependent they are on titles and the stories that go with them.
But as I see it, intent only goes so far because, as written above, meaning is created by the viewer and that is so beautiful.
Meaning is also created by the curator - who expands and invents new meanings in each different context. A work is always influenced by the other works in the room.

11/12/2009 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

with regards to overcomplicating the issue - branding (closure) vs communal action (open ended system) provides the continuum of intentionality - and many artists (I believe) use a general idea but arrive at a specific object.

If you are too specific you get boring objects:
Death +huge ego=jeweled skull.

On the other end you get unfocused energy.

For example , OJ might have thought, "I am going to go teach them a lesson" and through lack of rational intention arrived at a bloody mess.

Never underestimate the power of self sabotage to create drama.

11/12/2009 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Exactly what I meant, George: "accepting the results", from the eye of the maker, is intention. In fine art it implies deciding when a work is ready to be presented "as is", aka fine art.


"Attention" sounds to me like leaning toward a deeper topic about cognitive process, and what our mind intakes or rejects from information that it receives. It's almost a scientifical debate.


Either way, Intention and Attention apply to the large realm of creativity, not just fine art.



Cedric C


I feel like this blog is on loop because we discussed these topics many times. I remember when it was about Richard Prince.)

11/12/2009 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger The Reader said...

So perhaps my original comment of being-clear-about-your-ideas-AND-how they-are-going-to-be-expressed, was a little too prescriptive, but a clarity of ideas is something that I think is invaluable to the conceptually-minded artist. And yes perhaps the most interesting art is still open to chance, flexibility and the opportunities that attention provides in the process of expressing an idea.

The reason I made the original comment is because I think the clichéd position of "simply leaving your work open to the interpretation of others" is totally bankrupt if you wish to consciously engage with the conceptual legacy.

Even if art is only partly idea then an ability to articulate your ideas clearly, in writing and speech, is surely not only a useful thing to have in your "toolbox" but also a mode of expression that you might want to be thought of as part of the work you produce.

11/12/2009 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I too wish "... to consciously engage with the conceptual legacy," however, sometimes it is not so clear as to how to proceed, let alone articulate the anomic abyss one enters when fathoming the void - that "horror vaccui" at the center -who's gravity destroys, but also animates all that surrounds it.

Sure not every tool is as sharp as the shed, however, sometimes it is is not so clever as the cow to succeed, bet one particle the atomic days one centers on when "avoiding the noid" but also agravates all that grounds it.

And down you go, full fathom five.

11/13/2009 12:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Debby Luzia said...

Regarding the Reader's last comment: one of my art teachers used to say - if you can talk about it you should be a writer... That is supposed to be the thing about art - it enables you to portray things that cannot be "said". Language is more limited than art -we can only express things that we have words for. Some things don't have the exact word and can be understood by feeling alone.
When an artist does not give a title to a work he is transferring the interpretation to the viewer.

I agree that an artists toolbox should have theory and depth but I also accept that not everything can be explained and that is the enigma of art.

11/13/2009 12:50:00 AM  
Anonymous kim matthews said...

After all these comments, what really got me about this thread is that no one seemed to take offense at the language of "ownership." It's just that kind of territoriality that takes the joy out of sharing anything, IMO. Although I read plenty of theory and criticism, ultimately I agree with Debbie Luzia. "Talking (or writing) about art is like dancing about architecture."

11/13/2009 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Why take offense? territoriality is just that kind of thing that the whole system is built on at least as far as selling and marketing. that artists can;t be too concerned with ti is important, but somewhere the rubber meets the road - flying for ornithologists is like eating for birds.

11/13/2009 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Dancing about architecture is a great idea and people should do it more. I'll have to mention that to Ellen Degeneres.

Architecture should be apprehended by dance.

Cedric C

11/13/2009 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger The Reader said...

I agree with Cedric. In fact it is often the very difficulty, (and perhaps in some cases the impossibility) of writing and talking, that makes it such a worthwhile exercise. Failed attempts are often as useful as whatever success might be in such pursuits.

11/14/2009 12:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

The spinning in circles might be attributed to the spectrum of operandi. Arts may be considered as if in two poles : the conceptual and the perceptual -experimental. These have been described as perceptual being the turning points in art history, the paradigm shift nodes where an artist opens a new threshold for art. Typically these artists peak young and with a single masterwork of the breakthrough. The idea is key and they “simply” apply their plan. The Perceptual artist is the contrary, their work is usually a body of work where they explore, refine, discover and master their contribution to the art world. They are the movement along arts path and not the turning point. Being an art of constant refinement they rarely have one masterwork that embodies their efforts, but a body of work that rises to heights after much effort in their careers. They process is their forte, the plan only stymies the possibility of discovery and resolution. Most artists fall somewhere between these two poles and will argue for the modus operandi which parallels closest their paradigm of art.

The artwork itself falls into two poles. The resonance that the artist recognizes with the artwork, and so can say that it is complete, and the resonance that the aficionado recognizes with the artwork and so says wow. This resonance for the two is based on two polar extremes as well. The artist reaches his resonance through effects, his understanding of the art being imbued in the artwork. The aficionado achieves resonance through affect, through an internal rapport with the work.

Understanding the artist’s intent will elucidate the effects, but an artwork has no intent, it has no morality, you don’t understand things, you apprehend their significance and understand that’s import on your life. Art falls in that gray zone where the aficionado recognizes a resonance, a rapport that is usually associated with understanding people, so we tend to discuss art in terms of the effects/intent of the originator and not in terms of the affect of the artwork within the user. Similarly we confabulate the two poles of artist’s modus operandi. Obviously being poles there are more grey zones then polarities, but it gives the impression of spinning in circles.

11/16/2009 07:04:00 AM  

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