Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Why? Why explain the context of your work?

The short answer:

Because if you don’t, somebody else will.

The long answer:

An artwork is typically the tip of an iceberg. It is like the punch line of a joke: it concentrates the energies of an existing context. Folk/Traditional/Folk/pop musicians typically don't have to explain their work, because their work usually sits in a context/history most people are familiar with. On the other hand, anybody doing conceptual/”avante-garde”/new work is usually trying to make a point in a different context. Perhaps he is even trying to invent a new context altogether. Such an artist naturally has to contend with people looking for things in his work that he was trying to leave out on purpose, and so on. --For instance, many modernist composers deliberately did not write harmony into their pieces, because they were trying to find musical structures ASIDE from harmony. Unless the listener understood the context ("I am trying to compose a new music without harmony") it is possible that the listener might think that the composer a) didn't know how to write harmony b) was joking, c) was insane, and so on. If you are an artist working in a new context, would you rather have a hand in making that context known, or would you rather hope and pray that somebody else does that task correctly?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I agree with all of you (Tad, Trevor, Fats) about the issue of articulating one's ideas. I think I didn't make myself clear, or
probably I'm just playing devil's advocate?

I appreciate all your thoughts on the subject, and eventhough I am convinced that articulation brings forth a dialogue and removes the mystery behind an artist's work, I still hold the position that it is an artist's prerogative. This may seem laziness on my part, that is, me being an artist who refuses to explain my work. I think this is primarily based on my (little)
experience dealing with art critics or other artists. I just find it a waste of time explaining my work to someone who expects
a different explanation. Someone who is "smarter" than the artist who did the work. Please note that here lies the difference
between art practitioners and art theorists: practitioners spend most of the time working on stuff, and only intellectualizing on limited time. Theorists spend most of the time reading and formulating obstacles for practitioners to stumble upon. Those who succeed the obstacles are deemed significant - while others, less so. Of course there are also practitioner theorists and vice versa.

Personally, I'm ready to discuss my work/s with other people, especially people with sincere interest (hard to tell, eh?). I
also agree that it is important...But when I feel that someone is just trying to either bully my ideas, or just show-off their intellectual might, I tend to shy away. Not because I'm insecure, or afraid that I will "lose" in the artistic argumentation, but rather, I abhor this competitive nonsense.

We all came from different backgrounds, and we are in one way or another capable of articulating on the level of our idiosyncratic artistic experiences.