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Communicating Art

What's in the ellipsis between "art" and "com" in artdotdotdotcom? This article, and this journal, are built on the answer to that question.

Art and artifice continually compare and contrast with communications and commerce.

Compare art and communications: art is a way of communicating. A priest, a cultural anthropologist, and a political leader all know this. We know it too. So when is it that we decide to call a communication "art"? For the most part, the more a communication emphasizes the way it was made, the more likely we are to call it art. Conversely, calling it art is a way to request looking at the way it was made.

Compare artifice and commerce. Clearly, here, the subject matter is Products. Not just production, but Products. When is something not a product? It isn't a product when it isn't already ready to use without the need for the intended user to make it. But where does the product come from? It comes from artifice, the way it was produced as generally distinguished from natural growth.

When is art not a product? When is creation not artifice?

When is art not artifice? When is communication not a product?

These kinds of questions typically come up mainly when people think there is a difference between what they want and what they get, or what they expected and what they are offered.

But as we analyze the probable answers of the comparisons and contrasts of meanings, we find out that there is only one fundamental that applies across all cases -- the matter of intent.

And what intent invariably does is propose context.

Looking At Photographs

I have a photograph of a building that can be interpreted in a half dozen different ways. It might be an realtor's ad; a crime scene shot; a historical certification; a designer's model; a personal memento; an architect's note; or more. What we know about this image is that "what it is" is determined by any combination of the presenter and the viewer, not the maker -- except -- that the maker psychologically assumes the role of presenter and/or viewer when the maker says what the image is about.

"Art" is a status -- the status given when the intent of the item's production represents a certain purpose of the viewer -- that purpose being to gain meaning from the expression of the way something is made.

If we put that idea into similar words, we say that meaning is gained from the presentation of the mode of production. Finally, the experience of gaining that meaning is what we have always called appreciation. What happens as we take the image and move it from the police station to the museum to the highway billboard to the library to the sidewalk to the personal diary is that we try to adopt it for our purpose -- somehow between a celebration (easy) to a disruptive revelation (hard).

What we require of "artists" is that they design it for our adoption, knowing that sometimes this will also mean we are surprised to discover what we want and, in that way, who we are. That means the artist

What The Critic Saw

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