Or, put another way, is communication an essential part of what it means to be art? Far too often, it seems to me that works of modern art are like the proverbial tree in the forest, falling with nobody to hear. Am I being unreasonable here, or should it not be the goal of an artist to communicate, to engage the viewer in some kind of a dialogue? What point is there in shouting into the forest, where there are no ears to hear? Or shouting into a crowd in a language nobody understands? It may make you feel good to express yourself, but is your self-indulgence really deserving of the name "art"?
Here is a piece of modern art that does succeed in communicating. It horrified me when I first saw it. It still does. But that is an entirely appropriate response, seeing as this painting is Salvador Dali's Premonitions of Civil War. Not exactly something I'd want to hang in my living room, but there's no denying that he has effectively captured the agony of a country ripping itself to pieces.
But what was I to make of a piece of art (?) I saw some time ago at the National Gallery - a simple red circle hung on the wall? It had companions further on down the wall, equally simple geometric figures in single colours. I have no clue what they were supposed to say to me. There might have been a message, but it was cryptic to the point of being inscrutable. My only consolation was that the circle and its friends had been donated to the Gallery by the artist and not paid for out of taxpayers' money. My question to the artist (whose name I've forgotten) would be, "What's the point?"
In a conversation about art at Ambivablog some time ago, Annie included a link which sent me to the site of a young Japanese artist, Kana Tanaka, who spoke of her attitude toward art.
In the US I have been taught to attempt to break the ‘set,’ historically accepted concept of "art", and to create something new by believing and following self-motivations and inspirations. What is most important is to develop "artistic confidence." I found this inspiring passage in the book, RAW CREATION -- Outsider Art, that encouraged me to create something without thinking too much about the audience, and to follow my own desire and inspiration.
Talk about art in a vacuum! She might just as well be blogging...
In all seriousness, I think she has expressed very clearly the essence of the problem: art as a self-indulgent expression, with indifference or even active contempt of the audience. It does not seem to me to be an ideal to aspire to.
The title of this post is deliberately cryptic, in the spirit of some modern art. I was about to change it, figuring nobody would understand my draft title, but then I thought, "How perfect! Exactly what I'm talking about!" So I left my self-indulgence in place. If you "get" it, let me know.