How do you deal with problems like the following (none of which are
originated by me):
Intention is not what art necessarily reveals or expresses. Consider Eliot's
claim, for example, that the artist has something to get off his chest and
does not know what it is until he does (paraphrase) or the notion of the
"intentional fallacy" or the claim that language is always slipping (or in
Eliot's words "Words strain,/ Crack and sometimes break, under the
burden/ Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,/ Decay with imprecision, will
not stay in place" so that poetry (and by extension, art) cannot exactly
represent intention? Or in the terms of deconstruction, it is always
subverting itself and representing more or other or contradictions of what it
The three "communities" you describe are not necessarily separate except
theoretically. Eliot was both poet and critic, and he was a Ph.D. who
lectured in universities. In the US, where there is no other way to support
art, artists are very often academics. "The rest of us" may well create or
And my question would be, "How does this tell us what 'art' IS as opposed
to how we agree on it or not?"
Date sent: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 19:11:59 +0000
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From: "Steve Morse" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Definition of art
To me it seems there are two roads to "art"-- intention and acclaim.
Sometimes these two roads converge and run along the same harmonious
like an interstate and a state highway sharing the same concrete and
traffic for the most part flows smoothly. The artist and the audience both
agree THIS (whatever "this" is) IS ART!
At other times these two roads are estranged and may intersect at various
angles whereupon traffic signals, or "definitions," are thrown up as
defensive necessities. The artist says "This is art because I intended it
to be so" and the audience disagrees because it does not like or
understand, or it feels threatened by, the intention of the artist.
The audience in this case has three main components: the artists'
community (yes you CAN be on both roads at once), the academic
(those who study and arbitrate but do not produce art), and the market
(the rest of us who may or may not like what we are told by the other two
communities). It is in this tripartite mix that definitions will be born.
The artist's intention alone stands no chance of survival and achieves
only minimal survival if but one of these three audience communities
acclaims the intention. If, however, the artist's intention can garner the
acclaim of any two of these three communities the intention will prosper;
and if all three communities acclaim the intention IS "art," then the
intention will thrive and become a definition of "art," where the roads
have converged. Not all this acclaim may happen smoothly, nor even with
one conscious mind toward that end. This is the way we recognize art,
large-scale subjectivity, as a process of politics and communications,
never defined but always being defined, roads we are willing to travel.
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