E. Dannielle Slaughter

Ringling College of Art + Design
Fine Arts- 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Susan Sontag Article: Against Interpretation



Art is:

An instrument of ritual- earliest experience of art

An imitation of reality- earliest theory of art

It is interesting that Susan Sontag immediately separates that experience of art and the theory or conceptual understanding of art by saying that the earliest experience of art is that it is used as an instrument of ritual and the earliest theory of art is that it is an imitation of reality. I don’t however agree that the imitation of reality causes a need for that artwork to justify itself; it seems more likely that there is an innate justification because all artwork derives from that artist’s reality, at least in the beginning of the creation process.

Plato- art is a lie and useless

Aristotle- art is a lie but useful as a therapy

(This doesn’t account for decorative or abstract art)

When Susan talks of the need to defend art, I feel like that really only applies in an academic setting. I have rarely encountered an instance in a gallery setting where I have not viewed others taking in my work who can not simply take it in without a need to argue a statement the work is making, it is however that way during critiques; although, this could be simply because we are in a gallery. I am sure the unspoken viewer in the gallery would have something to defend or argue in a critique setting. Not all are analyzing it, some simply view and enjoy the work and take from it that moment of being in front of it.

In regards to interpretation of history and art: “The situation is that for some reason a text has become unacceptable; yet it cannot be discarded”. Modern interpretation is searching for the sub-text, this seems to relate to symbols for me. It is just that the amount of symbols we have available now, even the amount of words as symbols has led us to search for that sub-text. The sad thing about it is that although we have more available to us, we feel a need to define more. As soon as we do so, we put limitations on what it actually is or can be.

“Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.”

“By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art.”

Not only does it tame art, making it manageable and conformable but also it completely LIMITS the possibilities that are in the work!

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