February 10, 2004

The Art Object As Toggle: Part II

In my last entry I had described how the art object conducts the various currents of artist, viewer and culture. I metaphorically described the art object as being like a comet whose tail has gathers the thoughts and ideas of all those who have looked at it. I am once again including the chart that I had included Sunday because it shows how the currents generated by artist, viewers, and culture are conducted by the art object. I have used the passive form of the verb to describe this process, though I wonder if over time the art object doesn’t acquire the ability to control the flow of energy to an extent. Not that the art object has agency, but that the acquisition of so many layers of human thought gives to it a weight that in itself becomes a force like gravity and performs as agency. However, that question might be best explored in another entry.

First, the artist’s intent is invested in the art work. Once the art work is placed in the art world, various viewer’s understandings based in the artist’s culture are constructed about it. However, the art object is able to travel forward in time, leaving artist and viewers behind. As the art object makes its journey through time, the culture and the viewers that are a part of it change. New viewers look at the art object and form new opinions about it. These are acquired and altered by the viewer’s culture and reflected back to the object. It is as though the art work itself acquires a memory, except that the memory is altered by new layers of viewer experience. And, so it continues. Catastrophic events might break this reflective process of acquisition, and thus alter the currents of perception drastically. Such an event or series of events might also despoil the object of the originator’s intent for a period of time, or permanently. However, the art work still retains its ability to perform as a toggle or switch governing the currents of perception between viewer’s and culture. This process will end only with the destruction of the art object itself.


To recapitulate, It is as though this art object / toggle becomes a shuttered eye that opens and closes to expose the surface of the artist’s creation like film in a camera to the varied spectra of light created by a myriad stars placed in the piceous black of the Earth’s night time sky. Thus, the art object acquires a memory and animus of its own, though these change, even as my own faulty memory and intent change over time so that new configurations and meanings are acquired and lost as I travel forward through time and space.

But, Why Is This Important

Stay tuned for an entry that will detail my conclusions and discuss the importance of my idea that the art object is a toggle through which energy generated by artist, viewer, and culture is conducted.

*Danto, Arthur. “The Art World.” Journal of Philosophy 61 (1964):

*1 Image acquired from John Bittinger Klomp

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Betty Bower’s Miracle Cards for wonderful political commentary you can send to your friends. She plays the part to the fullest!=

Holty’s blog for great political comentary and much more from an Australian point of view.

Mark Harden’s Artchive. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the best place to find excellent images of artist’s works on the WWW.

Gay Artist’s Galleries

Oku’s Surotic Gallery, an erotic art site.

Arts and Letters Daily, ideas, criticism, and debate, a service of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

ArtsJournal.com, the Daily Digest of Arts, Culture, & Ideas.

the Advocate, the GLTB news magazine.


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