In the Eye of the Beholder

I recently had an interesting discussion with a friend of a friend on the subject of abstract art and the interpretations and meanings that the audience of such art might bring into it, versus the original intention that the artist brought into the piece at its creation. Having been raised in an analytical setting, I have always been keenly aware of that anecdote, where a university professor is analyzing a novel and the author comes up to the front to correct him. The professor then turns to him and says, "With all due respect sir, what do you know? You're just the author." I've always been of the opinion that once art is released, it ceases to be the auteur's. The creator no longer has any power over it, or over how it is received. Every person that looks upon it will see something different, for both biological and psychological reasons. This applies to every kind of art; paintings, photographs, poems, stories. while they are being created, the artist retains some control, choosing specific colors, using subtle allusions and allegories to at least try to direct the inevitable interpretations in a direction. But once the piece is shared, even if only with one person, the artist must surrender control over it or go mad, because one simply cannot control the meaning that different people, with different backgrounds, having had a different combination of influences upon them, will draw from the piece. For example, take Malevich's black square. When I first saw it, my attention was drawn to how the paint is cracked in the center, but not evenly. If you look closely at the paint that isn't cracked, you start to see shapes, as if Malevich put on a second coat of the paint in those specific places. I see a house in those shapes, an old, wood cabin in the middle of a forest in the dead of night. The reason I see that is because of who I am as a person, because of the influences that were had on me in my childhood, because of secret, subconscious fears and dreams and wishes. Someone else might look upon the black square and see the withered remains of a flower lattice, gone black with age, or a shadow cast by a statue, or the darkness inside of humanity, or whatever else. There's seven and a half billion people on this planet, which means that there are, currently, seven and a half billion versions of the Black Square, originally by Kasimir Malevich. While many of those interpretations likely share quite a few of the traits that Malevich meant to project with the project, no black square will ever exist in anyone's mind exactly the same way as it did in Kasimir's mind as he sat down in front of a blank canvas with a paint roller and a bucket of Vantablack. I guess what I'm trying to say is that every human being is different, and this makes it so that there's no way to predict or manipulate how your audience will receive your piece, because once you've sent it out into the world, there will be no one single [name of piece], but rather a million million versions of it, each version existing safely and cozily in a different person's mind. To try and influence your audience, as an artist, and tell them the "correct" answer, is to, simply put, try to change all of these human beings into copies of you. Because, the fact is, there is no "correct" answer. It's not your piece anymore; you've given it to them, so whatever they define as the one true interpretation of it becomes absolutely true and "correct" - for them. As artists, we must learn to step aside and let our works grow and expand and make babies. We must stop trying to rearrange people's heads to make them like our own, and we must give people the space and freedom to add on to our creations. We must stop trying to plug meaning into them, but rather to let our audience draw out the meaning that was already there. Maybe that's the key to world peace.

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