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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Art and Communication

Painting, dance, music, etc...are forms of communication that are not verbal. Artists are attempting to communicate via means besides the spoken word. Anyone who comes to art as a deconstructionist ("it means whatever the viewer/listener wants it to mean") destroys the communicable genius of the product and cheapens the communication ability of the artist. If one was to approach the spoken word (another form of communication) as a deconstructionist ("I can interpret what you say however I want"- "it means whatever the listener wants it to mean") you and I would not be able to communicate effectively with one another (what's in my mind would not effectively or accurately be transmitted to your mind).

Since we do not approach the spoken word form of communication as deconstructionists, why would we approach other forms of communication as deconstructionists? I propose that this is tied to emotions (funny how they keep showing up to screw us around- read my Psychology Class Series). We have prior commitments to what we want the artist to say, so our emotions guide us to interpret it in that way. If the communication is communicating what we want, we allow ourselves to interpret it as the communicator (or artist) intends; however, if it is not communicating what we want, we force ourselves to interpret it as we intend. When deconstruction is applied to the spoken word, it is an advanced, but subtle and common foundation of a "strawman" in argumentation. Setting up a "strawman" is the most academically dishonest and insulting way to interpret (thus guiding our response) with regard to the spoken word form of communication. Why would we allow ourselves to do the same to art and its creators?

Whether we realize it or not, our art communicates. Art therapy in Psychology demonstrates that we communicate without knowing. The fact that music can stir the same emotions in other people as the composer intended when he/she was composing demonstrates that music effectively communicates (ever watched a movie with a powerful musical score, or played a video game with music that reflected the situation?).

All forms of art trigger the emotions, to help the viewer/listener to connect on a personal level with the artist. If we wish to connect authentically with the artist, we cannot relativize the meaning of the piece.

The ability to create and interpret art are part of the Image of God that is found in all humans. The Christian God appreciates beauty and longs to connect with man on a personal level. The fact that man creates, interprets, and personally connects via the arts is powerful evidence for such a Creator. The Creator, Himself, is responsible for creating some of the most beautiful art we can behold. We marvel at the cosmic scenes captured by interstellar telescopes. We gaze in wonder at sunsets. We close our eyes and take in the sounds of the rain forest. We enjoy the scents of flowers and the tastes of plants. Many scientists see beauty in the equations of the laws of physics and the complexity of the living cell. We know that art exists all around us, we even attempt to replicate it in our own art. Yet many of us are unwilling to acknowledge the existence of the Artist, and if we don't recognize the existence of the Artist, how can we enjoy the personal and emotional connection the Artist is attempting to make with us?

As a Christian, I can look at nature and recognize more about the nature of the Creator. The awe and wonder I feel when I experience the creation compels me to thank someone. My God is a personal God who can accept and understand my gratitude. Knowing that God created the universe and everything within it, allows me to enjoy and show humble appreciation for it in ways those outside the Christian worldview do not have the ability to.

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