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musings on art

From some discussions at a photography site. I might not know what I'm talking about, but that rarely has stopped me in the past...

One point of contention Eric. "Universal" is often loaded with Western-centric fodder. While there are some constants to the human condition, the beauty is often in the diversity and specifics. Art speaks to different people different ways, and the lowest common denominator is often just that. When we engage a piece we bring our baggage to the table and it flows over the experience. An artist can't really account for that...if they try to anticipate they will generally fail (or make a fluff Hollywood blockbuster).

Discussions like this are relatively new for me because I am not classically trained in the arts, and instead stomped my way into things along the way. I find that artists are generally insecure and selfish (I know I am). I don't say that pejoratively....everyone is to some degree, artists are just more up front about it. They want people to react to their work. Unless it is shown, it doesn't exist. It is a fine line though of having to create for one's own needs, but require that others consume it lest it have no meaning.

There is no inherent meaning...that is an overlay generated by the person who engages the piece. The level of engagement depends on myriad factors, and the reaction can vary from day to day or hour to hour. It is the proverbial moving target. Therefore an artist has to be true to their own vision and damn the torpedos. The trick is figuring out that internal truth, and experimenting with how to realize it. Luckily my "formal" training is as a chemist, so the concept of experimentation is ingrained in me. And thankfully due to a bunch of other life experiences, I realize that there is more to life than calculation. And so I shoot...and write...and play music...and try to get a good night's sleep every once in awhile.

Mitch's images often resonate with me because I am essentially an "egg". I resonate strongly with Asian culture and themes, and get a visceral response when I see iconography from the east. Having been to China a number of times, when I see some of the shots of Bangkok, I'm transported to another time and start to smell the claypot, hear the cacophony of dialects, and feel the humidity on my brow. But not all of his shots do that to me. Some have other effects, and others just pass over me.

While I consider myself to be a member of the human race and certainly am susceptible to all the various common conditions, my unique set of experiences will cause resonance with certain stimuli. And those frequencies may or may not jibe with others. And that's ok. As they say in the auto industry, "there's a butt for every seat."

(responding to a comment that a person's "critique" that consisted of a description of how the shot spoke to him along with a sketch he made of the photo wasn't really in fact a critique): I think that he did just that in the sketch. Instead of using text, he used image to communicate the elements that struck him.

The more I think about it, the more I am struck about the profound sense of visual literacy that was transmitted in the exchange. All mediums are inexact at describing the analog world. Text has enjoyed primacy as the de facto "learned" way of analysis. But we are in different times, and it is essential that people can read and write with multimedia. By sketching, the author conveyed his critique in an efficient and rich manner. I often wish I could do that...


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 18, 2008 5:13 PM.

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