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Interesting question re:artists' relationship to their works

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SapereAude
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I ran into this question elsewhere online (I can't recall where) and thought it interesting:

"Is it possible for an artist to misinterpret their own work"?

My knee jerk thought was- of course not. That a viewer chooses to interpret the piece in a manner other than its creator doesn't change the intention.

But a couple other things come up as far as self-delusion, subconscious imagery, mental illness and the like that made me reconsider.

I'm walking a dangerous line of getting all Freudian, I know.

Lets say an artist creates a painting fraught with meaning :P

Reflecting on his creation he declares "this means A!"

Years later as a more self aware man he says "actually I only thought that my rage was against (B), now as an older wiser man I realise that my rage was against © all along".

Does that mean that the artist misinterpreted their own work originally? Or is the artist trying to redefine something post-facto?

If the artist was feeling rage against B (unaware that the source was actually C) when the art was created isn't the work defined by what was at the moment, not new information the artist comes by later?

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I dont think it would be a misinterpretation, a situation like this would only highlight the contextual nature of knowledge. Being older and wiser wouldnt necessarily negate his previous interpretation, it could simply give him a different grasp of the facts that gave rise to the emotion/inspiration for the work.

j..

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Does that mean that the artist misinterpreted their own work originally?

I would say yes. Considering that a lot of making art has to do with sense of life, it is possible to misunderstand why you made what you made. The misunderstanding may be due to evasion, rationalization, or simply not having fully understood all of your underlying premises. On top of that, a lot of art has to do with sense of life, so in a real sense, everything about you is laid bare, regardless of if you realized or intended to reveal certain ideas. There certainly would be an objective interpretation of a piece of artwork, but that is still very difficult to figure out, and not even the artist can simply say "that interpretation is wrong because that's not what I intended". Intention is separate from objective evaluation. An artist subconsciously expresses certain metaphysical values which are unaffected by intention, or at least at the time of creation.

Edited by Eiuol
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I dont think it would be a misinterpretation, a situation like this would only highlight the contextual nature of knowledge. Being older and wiser wouldnt necessarily negate his previous interpretation, it could simply give him a different grasp of the facts that gave rise to the emotion/inspiration for the work.

j..

I agree with JayR. His later, deeper identification wouldn't contradict his initial one. The painting (or whatever) represented both. I guess the logical following question is How does an artist put meaning into his work without realizing he means what he is expressing? He had to possess the context that makes that meaning possible, from the beginning. However, he had not necessarily identified that deeper message to himself.

-- Mindy

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"Is it possible for an artist to misinterpret their own work"?
Do you think it makes any sense to "interpret" a natural object, such as a tree, a rock, or a fish? It makes sense to represent such a object, but not to interpret it. I think it makes sense to interpret a text, and it means specifically "discern the meaning", where "the meaning" specifically means the creator's intention. Therefore, there is a gargantuan industry of making up stuff, errh, interpreting what an author's meaning is, and likewise interpreting what an artists meaning us. It's almost impossible for an author to not be aware what his meaning is. The artist may delude himself regarding the true nature of the subject that he is trying to portray, or he may have not thought out what he was really trying to say so he really had no meaning. But he can't be unaware of his intention.

Unless he's actually is severely mentally ill, and is actually unaware of the other person living in his body. Or, is he was stoned out of his mind and have no recollection of his intent. Thus it is likely that most modern art can be misinterpreted by the artist.

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Do you think it makes any sense to "interpret" a natural object, such as a tree, a rock, or a fish? It makes sense to represent such a object, but not to interpret it. I think it makes sense to interpret a text, and it means specifically "discern the meaning", where "the meaning" specifically means the creator's intention. Therefore, there is a gargantuan industry of making up stuff, errh, interpreting what an author's meaning is, and likewise interpreting what an artists meaning us. It's almost impossible for an author to not be aware what his meaning is. The artist may delude himself regarding the true nature of the subject that he is trying to portray, or he may have not thought out what he was really trying to say so he really had no meaning. But he can't be unaware of his intention.

Unless he's actually is severely mentally ill, and is actually unaware of the other person living in his body. Or, is he was stoned out of his mind and have no recollection of his intent. Thus it is likely that most modern art can be misinterpreted by the artist.

Au contraire! Take musical composition, for example. One can write with various degrees of explicit intention to express a meaning or message, but the fine decisions come down to how the music makes you, the composer, feel. Musical meaning is not easily put into words, in any case. Some of those legions of "interpreters" are making sense and enhancing the experience of their readers.

-- Mindy

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