MSB brainstorming

18 August 2017

Dr Great Art Episode 18: "Meaning is in Artworks Themselves"

My newest Dr Great Art podcast! Episode 18: "Meaning is in Artworks Themselves." The meaning of every artwork lies in the object itself, not in any commentary concerning it. Embodiment!


This is the script (not a transcript, as I change elements when recording).

Dr Great Art podcast Episode 18: "Meaning is in Artworks Themselves"

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 18th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast. I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one.

Today my Artecdote concerns Finding Meaning in Artworks.

My podcasts, articles and my dissertation all assert the preeminence of the search for meaning, through metaphoric creativity, in art. I want to make clear, however, that this is not an attempt to restore some imagined, missing hint of a purport preceding the created text or object. It is an affirmation of the quest for meaning as the central struggle in creativity. It is no longer viable to seek to discover some imagined intention of meaning --- the artwork IS the achieved meaning.

Each artwork is a complex of multiple meanings performatively, actively, physically embodied. As everyone who listens to me knows, I am a lover of art history, as well as being an art historian. it is more than a profession. Historical fact is a necessary and enlightening frame of reference to anchor finer associations; nevertheless what a creator principally intended is always for THAT specific object to exist. The meaning lies in the OBJECT, not even in what the artists herself says about it! And not in outside commentary! Art does not exist to serve as illustrations for critical theory. What all artists try to do can likewise be plainly described. They try to show truths — with emphasis placed on the verb and the plural noun ending. Yet these simple-sounding essentials are the bases for immeasurably rich creations.

There is no objectivity beyond this. In the same way, a purely subjective response is of little pragmatic value, only perhaps inadvertently as a direction for a viewer's own thought or as a guide to the thoroughly perplexed. A theory of creative thought cannot be wholly "objectivist," "subjectivist," intentional, structural, paralinguistic, deconstructive, biographical, or even formalistic. I repeat, NOT WHOLLY. Certainly all these can be true of, and thus eye-opening, about specific artworks --- but only IN PART! People who rely on any one of these to give the whole meaning of a work of art, are mistaken --- overuse of each of these methods of interpretation places the weight of the meanings in a text or artwork in some imagined, abstracted camp far from home, or in some cul-de-sac of unrecognized catachresis.

The greatest danger of theorists is that they tend to create situations wherein works of art are arbitrarily expurgated from any living process and from all contexts, (be they cognitive, historical, economic, formal or various others). As a practicing artist and art historian with strong analytic proclivities and the penchant to cerebrate, I have constructed my own theory in resistance to this, an anti-theory of sorts, if you will: one which emphasizes living process, personal struggle, cognition, agency and historical context. I call it Metaphor(m).

I will do a podcast in the future specifically on that, but suffice it to say for the present that my theory of Metaphor(m) is that the formal, technical and stylistic aspects of artists' approaches concretely manifest content in culturally and historically antithetical ways through a particular trope, metaphor. An artist's metaphoric vehicle is based in construction, ON MAKING, yet is also a trope; hence, it is meta-form but also metaphor, thus my neologism, metaphor(m), (spell).

However, that is not the important point now. As I said, I will go into that at another time. The point is that EMBODIMENT is everything. The meaning of the work is in the work, IS the work. Artworks are creations wherein the form and the content are inextricably interwoven, each mirroring the other in its own terms.

If this or any other hypothetical analysis of the arts is worthy of any serious consideration, it is in its usefulness for fuller understanding and criticism of the works before us: as creators, as perceivers and as creative perceivers. Interpretation should seek the transformative through important questions. What does the act of interacting with this work allow me to discover in life, about art, about seeing, about thinking or feeling? How does this change and improve experience, i.e. "reality"? What is it WITHIN this object that does these things?

In short: Look at the artworks. the meanings are before your eyes.

That was "Meaning is in Artworks Themselves."

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 18. If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my painting-installations.

Some recent ones were on the entire history of Postmodernist Art from 1979 through today, on Metaphor(m) in Art History, and on Mongrel Art. Once again, I'd like to thank Chloe Orwell, Brad Elvis, and the rock band the Handcuffs for composing, performing and recording my theme song, "Shut Up and Paint," a tiny portion of which begins and ends every Dr Great Art Podcast.

You can find or contact me at
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or find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all as Dr Great Art.