Too often there is an expectation that a piece of art can be “explained,” that its meaning must be expressible with words. There is a sense that a piece of art is somehow invalid if the question “what does it mean?” can’t be easily answered. As one artist responded to the question: “If I had wanted to express it with words, I would have written it down.”

The most interesting art communicates something other than ideas per se. It communicates things which are much deeper and more innate to human consciousness than verbal structures. I don’t attempt to put words to what these things are, because I don’t think there are necessarily words for these things, to reduce them to words is to reduce their actual meaning, to sacrifice their meaning for the sake of having a manipulable symbol-system.

Art that is easily reduced to a coherent “message” is at best kitsch or commercial art and at worst propaganda (such as “social realism”). There need be no expectation of this sort of mundane messageering from fine art.

At the most basic level, a work of art can only actually communicate what it is, what the eye sees. (For convenience’s sake, I’m considering only art in the visual media, though all these thoughts apply to art of any kind.) These shapes, colours, forms, are then resolved within the viewer’s consciousness, where they set off a series of associations, sensations, memories etc. In some cases, these will mirror the artist’s consciousness in creating the piece, in some cases they won’t. A work of art can be considered successful if it has an effect on the viewer, regardless of whether it is the effect intended or, indeed, whether any particular effect is intended.

One part of this problem is in the persistence of the notion that communication (such as art) can be charted on a sort of Cartesian coordinate system where one axis is called “form” and one is called “content”. This is a parallel dichotomy to that of “form and function” where content is considered as the function of a communication. Following this erroneous model, the ease with which the content can be extracted from the form is a measure of how effective the communication is. In art, these two are inseparable. I make a tentative definition of “art” as “that medium of communication in which the content is at least partially comprised of the form.”

Why is it so appealing to think of visual/tactile/auditory art forms in verbal terms? There are a couple reasons I can think of. One is simply that it's easier for our minds to manipulate orderly groups of symbols, and hence we get the sense that we understand a piece of art by dealing with it verbally; this as opposed to trying to apprehend a complicated set of associations that we are perhaps only vaguely aware of on a conscious level.

The second reason is the desire for an artwork to represent a narrative. In this sense, a piece is seen to be some sort of exposition of the psyche of the artist; this desire emerges from the myth of The Artist as Special Person. The reality is that artists are distinguished from other people only in that they make art! It may be that in some cases, good art is made by people with interesting psyches, but the reason why their psyches are noticed in the first place is that their art is itself compelling! We should hardly expect them to neccesarily also be eloquent or even to neccesarily have any idea why their art works as well as it does! Anyone who's read interviews with Damien Hirst cannot escape the impression that, while he can be a brilliant artist, his thoughts on the subject (as expressed verbally) are largely confused. Art seems to be something we can, at best, talk around, and never really talk about.

I find the best art to be that which makes a powerful impression on me, without revealing its methods. If the mystery is successfully violated by analysis, the art loses its power. One can come to an “understanding” of art history, of technique, etc., but this knowledge seems to never bring one closer to understanding the experience of art itself.

etouffee: I'm not saying that art can't be talked about; anything can be talked about! I myself have been known to discuss art on many an occasion. My point is that it can't be translated into prose, that the question "what is the artist trying to say?" presupposes that the artist is in fact trying to say something, and they generally aren't, other than in the exceptions I mentioned above.

NinjaPenguin: Oh, I don't mean to exclude writing from the realm of art. Certainly not! But the problems interpreting writing are different from the problems interpreting visual or other art forms; that is, the impulse to deal with writing verbally is appropriate. What I'm attempting to address is the common attempt to reduce a painting or other non-verbal art piece to a coherent (verbal) "statement." As for graffiti, calligraphy, etc., my above argument does not conflict with these as art forms; their artistry is not in their verbal-ness but in their visual form. Can visual form intersect verbal meaning in a piece of art? Yes! Concrete poetry is a great example of this. I'm not trying to reduce the meaning of the term "art," rather I'm arguing that verbal analysis isn't useful in the experience of that communication which takes non-verbal form...
.. unless the art is text. Is art only something that involves paint and canvas? What about poetry and prose, calligraphy, Japanese and Chinese writing? Arabic calligraphy was, is, and can be made into the shape of animals and other figures, as seen in many Islamic texts and pictures. That is art, that is writing, and if it couldn't be explained then there would be no literature classes. Graffiti art is words represented creatively, even. It's a matter of the perception of what exactly art is, and whether words are less of an artform than visual representations. Is there also art in the process of creating art? Explaining how someone made something or what it is made of can have meaning, as well. If anything, "art", in this case, is a word that is being used reductively.

"Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible." - Paul Klee

It is not possible I could disagree with this MORE.

To make the argument that art is not "reducible" is tantamount to say that art cannot be discussed and cannot be analyzed. HUH?

The fact that art (small a) of any kind elicits reactions may or may not be a definition of its validity, but if a certain piece of sculpture or drawing leads people to think/feel, etc. it certainly takes on a life past it's dimensions (be they one, two or three).

At that point, when one or more persons are seeing, listening, touching, thinking, feeling, etc. they are interacting with this thing, this thing that may or may not be art. When they take the next step, which is inevitable with animals that communicate, they share these feelings about this "thing" with other people. Generally they use words, sometimes not. Right there, at that precise moment people are using words (be they printed text or vocalizations) to express their reactions to this thing art is being reduced to conversation. To argue, as Ms.Eliot has done above, that ART (capital letters here) is somehow estranged from this conversation and other conversations, and cannot really be discussed in any context borders on the delusional. It is denying reality to say that art cannot be debated; cannot be discussed.

Art, whatever it may be to whomever experiences it, often elicits. Period. No matter what our opinion may be, any experience we have in life effects us, and sometimes in profound ways. It is insane to imagine we are somehow unable to discuss something because of the depth of that experience.

In Nomine Nihilo

patrilineal descent what!

So I says to 'em, I says, "Hey" And he was all: "Fuck you"
So we left.

This is my poem, and the lyrics to a song by my band.

And I'm getting to know you.

And it's cut and pasted, and there are even spelling errors.
It will make me friends.
I will gain stature.
And softlink insults.

How do you like that?
I win at everything2
I win the best!
Champion of winning supreme.
The end!
We win!
Together, with our internet (e-)community
My engagement with theory.
What is it about theory that attracts me.
Divorced from the world.
here are some things i would like to write about, and, in writing, connect: graffiti

Dromological, son.
It's not about beauty or the sublime at all. Destruction, creation, location, movement, motion, rapid, violent, quiet, hidden. It can't be discussed in terms of economics (perhaps in the vaguest of terms: waste? excess? I don't know...). It's outside. Criminal and disgusting.

art theory">>>>

              Why theorize art?  
                  ((Why not?))
  • Theory as objectifying its object? Terrible.
  • Theory as erasing the distinction? Maybe.
  • Theory as furthering goals, opening new avenues? Yes.
  • Theory as a rail: limited transportation, to be supplemented? Certainly.

The thing about it is: theory, aspects of theory at least, can offer up new planes, new avenues, new escapes, new avant-gardesqueness for the artist-theorist. But if adhered to, dogmatically or otherwise, theory becomes a rail, a protracted, prolonged, argument. It becomes less art more debate. It becomes meditation on what is and what is not. Noise is not music, music is just noise, harmony is not music, anything that is not 12 tone is not music, etc. etc.... Leads to eclecticism? Maybe, but not necessarily...and anyway: inherent evil in eclecticism? I don't know.


301. An image is not a picture, but a picture can correspond to it. (LW, PI)

Similarly: our expression of pain is not the pain, but can correspond to it. The problem for 'philosophers of pain' (and other unsavory types) just is this correspondence. The problem of other minds, even. How do we 'know' that someone else is in pain? Well, they tell us (OW! AHHHHH! I am in great pain, sir, etc. etc.). And how do we know they aren't lying? Well...isn't this less about pain than it is about our definition of the word 'know'? It's hard to doubt that someone is in pain, in a real case... And this (right here) is where I understood the walls of philosophy.

303. (...) Just try-- in a real case-- to doubt someone else's fear or pain. (LW, PI)
You can't. Philosophy is so many hand gestures describing a sculpture, it can only ever assymptotically approach reality.

(Look at me, with my assured attitude, how about we replace "it can only ever" with "in my limited readings, and with some (many) exceptions". That would be more 'realistic' and I'm nothing if not a diehard realist...right?)


310. I tell someone I am in pain. His attitude to me will then be that of belief; disbelief; suspicion; and so on.

Let us assume he says: "It's not so bad." --Doesn't that prove that he believes in something behind the outward expression of pain? ----- His attitude is proff of his attitude. Imagine not merely the words "I am in pain" but also the answer "It's not so bad" replaced by instinctive noises and gestures.

My attitude: "It's not so bad"

I'm overly centralized, and desensitized to the pain of others. Oh, you have a headache? Well, let me go buy something for myself. What do you think of that? I'm selfish? How's that? Sorry, my new cd was playing too loud from the speakers of my new auto-car. Terribly sorry, perhaps you can medicate yourself? It's terminal? Have a good day, madamsir.
see also: pain

social hope

Why am I socially unhopeful? Mostly it's a dogmatic theoretical stance adopted from my reading of Michel Foucault and the feminist critique of science. It's like this: things change, quickly, slowly, however you want. Things change dramatically (French Revolution, the printing press..etc.) but things also change slowly (evolution, the English political system)... but none of these changes can be seen objectively, outside a particular, and situated, socio-political framework. So.... whether or not we think these changes are beneficial. Who is to say whether something is better or not? But...recent leanings of mine: of course certain things are good and certain things are bad. Just because you can't say (categorically/absolutely) that something is progressive or better for society (in part or as a doesn't matter) does NOT mean that it isn't progressive or better.. it may be that it is situatedly/historically/temporally better or progressive... but that doesn't make it any less so. But... (here comes my Nietzshce/Feyerabend tangentiality) the situatedness of any particularly 'progressive' social goal/movement, etc. means that it comes from a particular perspective, which means that it is not 'progressive' for a number (large or small) of other perspectives. So... if say... privatized health care (to use a poor, and mundane, example) is good for one group (rich, white folk) it is bad for about a million other groups (oh...everyone else, for instance). So...really I'm no more satisfied that social hope is 'possible' with a good conscience than I am that it is not.

The end.

structures, large and small
micro politics
the connection between theory and my life
educational institutions
the history of books, and of writing
my disinterest in religion
my need to feel engaged by certain things, structuralism for one, christianity another

there is evidence you exist
And it involves stealing from pop machines.

other people people and things windows staring police pornography the disconnection between most aspects of my life


What does it mean to look at someone. Everything we do or say is surveillance. We're always prodding and poking, with our eyes or our words. We stab around in the dark, looking for what we know is there...

We walk down alleyways and hop up onto window ledges. Peering inside, getting a grisly look into a grisly scene. We steal other peoples lives jam them in our pockets and run away to count their experiences. Our lives are piles of dust; collated, stored, but never dwelled upon.

Everything we look at, we steal. We are so much filth silting through fine grained cotton, left at the bottom of a sewer drain. The first time you caught us looking was the last time we did it, in a lengthy series. The serial GAZE. We've become insane with our appetite for self-divorce. Remain in my own company? What would I do that for? I can lose myself, sell myself, destroyo myself. It's miserable, but I'll never know, I'm detached, yes yes: OBJECTIVE. I'm everything you've wanted to be, but couldn't build foundations for.


Window Seat

Window Sill
Window Ledge
Window Dressing
Window Pane


Join a Violence Gang!

It's taking all the deconstructionist theorizing, all the self-effacement, all the impermanence of hypertext, and putting it into action, it's all that talk about the death of the author, it's killing the author, killing the viewer, it's a confrontation with the utterly meaningless.

Above all that: it's such a shocking indifference to signification that the 'outsider' would be surprised.

Why do you write graffiti?
"I don't know"
What does it mean?
Is that your name?
"It's a name I gave myself"
"I don't know"

In the face of this, what can you SAY that will change anything? The thing about it is: it's only about the 'art' or 'beauty' of it for about 30 percent of writers, even the 'fame' aspect of it doesn't determine everyone's motive. It's almost amotivational, there is no reason. It's writing to survive.

Why don't you stop?
"I don't know"

Stop what and why? It's like: "You don't know me! (with head roll) and a barrel of fucking punches to the dome. Grills and ice, makes icy grills, if you ditint know! Shot clocking: We clock all these shots on YOUR time, and you're still sleeping. While you were sleeping, we painted your windows cold shut, sucka.

You will get arrested.

"I know"

2002.08.02 No, I'm not in school. It might be safer if you don't know much about me... Safer FOR YOU I mean! How about you? Are you a student? I'm so irritated by the paternalistic attitude of so many of the editors here! It's bunk! I'm all pissed off again at this stupid place!

Why still do it?

"Because I have to"
It's not political, it's almost apolitical. Nihilistic? Maybe, but it's not completely empty. Contradictory? Entirely. Buddhistic? No. It's tilted towards the destructive, it isn't seeking a middle path. It's an attempt to destroy all the paths while allowing all paths to remain. It's destroying the equation, but letting everything remain. It's a system of remainders.
More stealing:

2\002.08.01 at 13:13 kareneliot says I'd be interested to know your take on Art is not reducible to text if you feel like it. -K.

20\02.08.02 at 10:53 kareneliot says don't knock mishmashed quotations and poorly written pseudo poetry; they're the lifeblood that lubes the gears of everything2 after all!

200\2.08.02 at 11:04 re: art text, bla bla: do you think that 'text' is reducible to 'text'? you know what i mean: like is text itself JUST messages from sources and so forth. it seems that even if art is reduced to these sorts of textual-messages originating from a unitary

2002\.08.02 at 11:04 source (the capital a artists..) then those messages are still further collapsible anyway, so you can reduce ad infinitum or something... yakkety yak: ps: disneyland is excellent. ive never been but i heard the tiki room is rather crazy and disconcerting

2002.\08.02 at 11:41 despite yr disclaimer, I think that's true (text is not reducible to text); it has occurred to me that there are similar problems in the interpretation of text... But I think that there is a drive to analyse visual things verbally...>>

2002.0\8.02 at 11:46 there isn't a way to analyse things OTHER than verbally, after all... I think my problem isn't so much with approaching art in that way as it is in the sort of pervasive notion that textual interpretation is somehow the most legitimate way of apprehending

2002.08\.02 at 11:46 the artwork... Frinst in art museums, curators write these pompous little things about what a piece of art "means" etc. Maybe it has to do with a desire to desubjectify the experience so that hierarchical position can be determined? I.e. a reason why a

2002.08.\02 at 11:46 particular person is more qualified to make judgments of the "meaning" of art or its "place" in history... Dunno! Thanks for the compliment on Disneyland . Baudrillard said that theme parks are "reality anchors" serving to demonstrate to the rest of

2002.08.0\2 at 11:46 Los Angeles that it is real (by opposition to their obvious fantasy)...

how is anything related? never. never, never.">

2002.08.02\ at 13:11 no I don't. Thinking about getting one though maybe. It would be a great thing to have... I'm a little privacy-conscious though. I would rather buy it anonymously if possible.

2002.08.02 \at 13:25 It's okay to sound pretentious. Are you feverish?



Always expanding. The sun never rises on the empire of jumping-over-fences. Criminal? Crime is a construct. In the strict sense. Strict as in... draconian? Hardly. Strict as in strictured, tightened, controlling. The tightening vise only holds our shadows, though. It's not that we've escaped, it's that we've always just moved along, hidden behind that last thing you said, evaded your prowling.

re: art is not reducible to text

You said "i like it. but... it seems to rely on a notion of art NECESSARILY as communication, and art as something unitary. i'd like to think of art as something that can't really be talked about not because it is unverbalisable but because it isn't one thing (one way or another, its gonna get ya get ya get ya) i like the way you talk about non-verbal structures: to me it seems to get most of the way there; like the linguistic turn in arts and philosophy of the last 50 or so years seems to make people forget that there is a whole other non-linguistic world out there: we have bodies (some people forget!)" to kareneliot.

This pastoral symphony

you said "i dont know what i think at the moment, im tired and sick but i think the term (and the thing) art both need reworking, and i dont think that 'reducing' art to text is necessarily a 'bad' thing, but it has been done and redone so many times that its", "just BORING nowadays i think people need to get beyond language, well not beyond but just get over it and let it be one of a number of different types of analysis, styles, etc" to kareneliot (sent 2 message parts to 1 noder)

o clouds of noise

goes all the way...

Where to begin?

We begin with the eroticism of boredom. The boredom of art, of art criticism, of language, of language as language, of language as language as language. (Or, indeed, even of language as language as language as language.) When I was a little girl in Siberia I once had a high fever. The water dripping in the other room would make a different word every time a drop struck the basin, and I saw that every word was really a little picture, and that the pictures lined up together in rows like fields seen from an airplane, and in the fields were little specks, and the little specks were men working, and the little men were singing a little song, and the song was about language, and the language was about language, and the language was about language, and the language was about language. It is the purely bourgeois myth of novelty that even allows us the delusion known as

The "avant-garde"

The fact that you make no sense doesn't mean you're an artist. The fact that you make no art doesn't mean you're not an artist. The fact that art makes no sense doesn't mean that you're not an artist. The fact that artists make no art doesn't mean that you make sense. The art that artists know make facts doesn't mean that you sense. The sense that you artists fact doesn't that mean you art no. You the artists sense fact doesn't that mean no you art? The artifacts of sense that don't art you mean? Sentiments are tacit feints offer human't.

Art as something other than communication

The Obscurist movement at its most extreme produces art that isn't even to be seen. X ("X" here representing an Obscurist artist whose "name" is unknown) has for years been producing art pieces which she buries and keeps secret (other than discussing her medium with other artists, much as two painters might discuss what they use to clean their brushes). Perhaps all art is communication. If we define communication as "change taking place in a consciousness by virtue of change taking place outside of a consciousness; this change as a result of a consciousness" we can say that the art of X is a communication from her own consciousness to her own consciousness (can we own consciousness?). That she wishes to effect the particular change in her consciousness that comes about when she becomes aware that she has completed (and buried) a piece of art. When I communicate something to you, the end result is the change in my consciousness effected by the knowledge that I have communicated something to you. My message to you is much like X's buried art piece. I don't care about your consciousness; as far as I'm concerned, it's soil. It's a place for me to put my ideas.

Give me a cheap ephemeris and it'll take me ten seconds to add a profound "Mercury goes retrograde" to the pot-luck platitude assigned to Gemini.

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