… we put things in words and don’t much notice how they have altered that bit of the world for us forever. (Susan Rethorst, A Choreographic Mind).
Susan Rethorst is talking about dance. But she could as well have been referring to art. I used to have a piece of art that said: “Art is for when you have something to say and words can’t say it.” Something liked that.
But then art school, especially – blame, blame – art grad school comes along. Academia is all about words. And now, I understand that many of the major museums in London have lengthy explanatory plaques as well. The danger is that the words narrow the experience of the art.
Words don’t merely give voice to whatever we are seeing, they alter it and determine how we see (the art)…
Susan Rethorst expresses a concern I share with her. That art is so much more than any description of it. That words interfere with the whole experience and valid personal interaction that each viewer might have with the art, including – and importantly – responses that are not verbal.
I just hung my work in the gallery in DC. I included a three sentence verbal description, as was requested. I wonder, now, if I had waited a week or two or three, the range of responses that might have arisen? What would have come into the space of not-knowing that I closed down, just in those three sentences?
It’s something that matters to me: that the art stay open to as many ideas and responses as it invites. I know some viewers want a “way in”. But I wonder if I’m helping them? Or getting in their way?