The Entropy of Knowledge:
Criticism and Analysis of Historical Art
First, I must explain a little about the paradigm to view my thoughts and theories. I believe we are a triune being; Mind, body, spirit. That is our nature. Each one of those aspects of our nature; mind, body, spirit, has its own unique set of information and knowledge that is subject to its place in history, as well as, possessing their own set of defining characteristics; that then have both pros and cons, that produce benefits and consequences.
I believe to perfectly understand another person’s art you must understand who that person is at the time of creating said art. In a perfect situation we would have a completely self-aware artist documenting every single aspect of their creation. Absent of that, you would need to know the inspiration for the piece, the worldview of the artist (and its state of evolution,) their level of knowledge of the subjects they wish to “discuss”. What their obsession is at that moment that would illuminate what they would desire to, perhaps even couldn’t help but, communicate to the world. I do not believe it is possible to truly know this information, but only glimpse it.
The analysis of Art is an attempt at understanding what we can only glimpse in the best of situations.
In line with the nature of the series, I am going to discuss how there has been a retardation of the knowledge required for art analysis.
It’s a warm autumn day with only the most charming of white puffy clouds in the sky as you walk the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You stroll to your latest painting of interest, stand in front of it and reach in your bag. From within you retrieve your, Art Deciphering Goggles, and place them on your head.
When you face the painting the goggles identify it and download the data file containing all the known information about the artist. The artificial intelligence of the goggles will institute an algorithm to decipher and understand the work. But, even this marvel of modern technology can only inform your interpretation and not give you a definitive interpretation of the work. So, you have three lenses that represent the mind, body, spirit of the artist and you must adjust each lens’ overlap of the others to get just the right ratio to see the art as it was meant to be seen.
You can’t seem to get any focus or understanding at all. You adjust the lenses a little this way, a little that way. You can see the overall effect is nice. The artist clearly knows how to apply paint to canvas. Colors are pleasing and yet bold. “Lots of little symbols and items I don’t understand,” you think to yourself as you move closer to the painting. The main character is shirtless and maintains a sort of ideal in his body. So, you form the opinion you will share with your readers and followers that, “it’s a conversation about the pleasing form of a man as opposed to the dominant female form in traditional art. Thus, being a construct asking us to explore reverse sexism and both its influence on society and its lunacy.”
You pull your goggles off your head and place them back in your bag, and realize you spent more time than expected and start heading for the Petrie Court Café where you will be meeting your friends.
You will come back next week and do it all over again. As time passes you begin to write books and give lectures on the meaning of masterpieces throughout the world. You have wealth and influence and help a generation understand the art around them.
When your friends place your goggles, with their comfortable and celebrated patina, in your coffin they slide off your belly and the lenses spill out, revealing the lens that represents the spirit is completely missing.
And, that is that state we are in today… Sadly, the only goggles you can buy at the goggle store, all have the same problems. One set is missing the spirit lens, and another has only half the mind lens. But, they all look amazing from the outside.
I know people will say that art is subjective, and it is, to a point. As I stated earlier, there is a perfect (unattainable) level of information one could have to literally see the work through the mind of its creator. That perfect place is the zenith and everything else is below it and still in sight.
Now the paradox.
Who has goggles, that can see the flaw in the other goggles, to let us know they are broken? How do we identify them? And if we do, will we even listen?
Good news, everybody! Nobody cares.