Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Against Interpretation," Susan Sontags 1964

After reading through this essay with a dictionary I whole-heartedly agree with everything Susan had to say. The function of art has changed a great deal since its conception. In some cases it is still used as a ritual/magical tradition, but modern art has evolved into a theoretical monster. This theoretical monster is causing artists to defend themselves as well as their work putting content in the front seat and form on the back burner. So much so that we as artists search out content in pieces that have none, completely choking out form and furthering the idea that all art must have some underlying secret idea. Art is a powerful tool in evoking emotion. By forcing interpretation on everything it is made manageable, comfortable, tolerable by the viewer. What happened to the sensory experience of art? I particularly enjoyed Sontags statement on an old movie scene of a tank rolling down an empty road. “Those who reach for a Freudian interpretation of the tank are only expressing their lack of response to what is there on the screen.” Since the turn in art to become all about content there has been a movement to avoid it. Susan says art isn’t running but it really is. With abstract, pop, and even minimalist art they want no interpretation beyond the literal. A shift needs to be made that all art can be appreciated again from the transparence of the piece.

From this essay I raise my three questions:

1. Why almost 50 years after this article was written are we still struggling with over interpretation?

2. I take a question straight from the essay: is it possible to make art just what it is?

3. Since interpretation is not law, and varies from viewer to viewer, why was it ever elevated to the status it is today?

No comments:

Post a Comment