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Lesson Plans

Re: MEANING: Intention

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Henry Taylor (taylorh)
Tue, 16 Feb 1999 21:30:39 -0700

>Re the idea of intention that has been discussed some lately--I had an
>artist friend spend the weekend. When I told him I was puzzled by what
>some of his work meant, he said that was irrelevant.

True----from his (the artist's, THIS SPECIFIC artist's) personal context.
You Can (If you want) accept it at face value and go no further... but, YOUR
context is probably asking for meaning. One nice possibility is that it
doesn't have to be "either/or" it could be "both/and"... side by side and
contradictory. Contradictions exist in a complex, mathmatically chaotic,
world and you can choose to resolve contradictions or not... as you wish.

> I said it didn't mean anything to me at all--that I didn't have any point
> accessing is work--that I needed some sort of handle--that it didn't seem
>interesting or worth bothering with otherwise.

This is, of course, true also. It's you. You know that it's important to be
this way, right? Without meaning there is meaninglessness and
meaninglessness can be a pretty unacceptable situation. It appears to be so
for you. It may NOT be so for me. Your artist friend may not be obliged to
provide for you the meaning that you need for your own personal reasons.
...that may be one of the simplest ways to look at it.

You are a pattern-seeking and a meaning generating organism... most
organisms are pattern-seeking and even need to be at some level just to
survive, to recognize nourishment and threat. You have the capacity to
derive your own meaning. The artist's cooperation is always nice and VERY
ratifying but unnecessary unless you choose to insist on it and I think you
can see the problem that could put you in.

There are people out there who will tell you that the artist is the last
resource you should turn to in order to understand or find meaning in a
work. (Yeah, there are) I figure we each get to decide how much authority
is goinfg to be alloted and where that authority best resides... for

Personally I'm very resistant to just handing authority, or control of
authority, over to "experts." Sometimes its the best choice, of course but I
get to decide when its appropriate. The big difference between Art and
Oncology is that its usually very safe for me to make the BIG decisions in
Art and to rely on my own efforts to learn and understand and thereby, my
own 'expertise'. Cancer on the other hand seems to me to demand something
more clinical and hard-edged. I'll seek out and listen to the experts...even
when they disagree.

> He said he didn't care if the work succeeded in reaching anyone or not--he
> was happy with the way he had expressed himself.

I'd say he's entitled to make that decision (inconvenient tho it might be).
Here, however, I don't count... it's YOUR decision. right?

AND, he can change his mind too ... in 5 minutes or in 5 years. We grow and
develop. Sometimes we go back and forth over important things. Final
decisions are hard.

>I've run into this with students from time to time and usually
>convince them to provide some sort of cue. Has anyone else run across
>this? What do you do?

Have this same conversation or more accurately a variant of it--if there's
time. ;-) (It's easier to do with a keyboard I note. Probably has
something to do with my learning styles, intelligences, and predications.)
All I can really do is point out options along the road. There are parts of
the artworld, and fairly 'high-order' ones at that, where cues could be seen
as counter productive. Still there is no universal rule... only individuals
with rules that they choose to cling to with varying degrees of certainty
and dependence.

I really want students to make decisions on their own. Sometimes they aren't
ready. Sometimes they just can't. They still need to know that there are
(possibly at least) decisions to be made at some eventual point. and maybe
even that it might not be fair to always rely on others to make such
decisions for us. Sometimes you get to this part sometimes you don't.

Any way Ayesha, Look at your friend's work. Find some meaning (maybe he
doesn't know he left very subtle clues) Decide how helpful or useful it is.
Use that insight or not. You can change your mind later too. We're all
growing, eh?

Oh, and possibly it could be a good idea to NOT share your perception of
meaning in his work (if you find something. and, why shouldn't you?) with
your friend--or at least do it gently and carefully. If it's REALLY
important to him not to address this aspect he might not thank you for
confronting him with it! Well, it's a thought.

take care...
Tucson AZ