A few paragraphs into “Understanding Art: The Play of Work and Spectator” I’m thinking that this article is not so playful. Still, I told my girlfriend about the article and she acted out a bit of a playful interaction with one of the pieces of art on my lounge wall and communicated back and forth with the painting, which was definitely a fun event. I’m not sure what shared understanding she and Mr Wallinger have reached though. Maybe I should read on.
In all seriousness
“It is only in the total mediation of meaning that the work of art reaches its completion and the phenomenon of play we’ve been tracing finally has “the character of a work, or an ergon and not only of energia.”
Reading Vilhauer’s chapter “Understanding Art: The play of Work and Spectator” I was interested in the idea that firstly “human play reaches its ultimate consummation in the work of art” secondly that this process of consummation or completion seems to require the arrival at shared understanding.
This first idea of art as somehow the zenith of human play (the zenith of play might be over stating things I admit) interrogated my limited interpretation of play. To me play seemed to be about exploration regardless of outcome, but the outcome of any play seems to be inevitably an evolution in understanding of some kind.
This ultimate consummation seems to be related to the idea that the meaning represented in the artwork is recognized by the viewer. Is this different from how meaning is recognized in other forms of play? Doesn’t the child make meaning and reach shared understanding with other participants in a game of house? Don’t players of monopoly share common understandings about human emotions, and how the world works? Is art better than this? Or, just different?
Secondly, the idea of art being completed through the process of the interactive event engendering a shared understanding made me consider whether it was possible for art to be unsuccessful. What if nobody wants to engage, or no shared understanding is reached. This seemed to me an interesting subject that resonates with students who want to know what makes a piece of art successful and whether an individual artwork can rely on universal understanding.
The Gadamer engaged audience section brought to memory a piece of my own artwork and unexpected audience participation. Which probably questioned not just the engaged audience but highlighted the unwritten contract of behaviour in public, museum or gallery
A song for the unhappily happy.