Wednesday, January 20, 2010


You Saw What in ‘Avatar’? Pass Those Glasses!

by Dave Itzkoff

This article is about the movie "Avatar" and about how different interest groups are protesting the movie because of "its message (as they see it), its morals (as they interpret them) and its philosophy (assuming it has one)."  

Itzkoff reflects an aspect of art that I have been thinking about recently.  I remember that during English classes in high school--as a general rule, I have avoided English classes since then--our teachers would often make comments beginning with, "This author is trying to say..." or "It is clear that this author means to...".  I wondered then--and since--how we can know for sure what an author or the creator of any piece of art (including music, paintings, film, etc.) really means to say without actually talking to them about it.

I began to consider what we could learn if we were able to interview Dickens, Mozart, or Monet and ask them exactly what message they were trying to get across to their audience.  Would it make the art better?  I think that much of the beauty of art is actually lost when we try to assign one particular meaning.

When I was studying film, we took time to discuss all the elements that go into forming a single shot.  These can include subtleties in production design, musical score, camera angle, costume design, etc. and even small subtleties can change the entire feel of the film.  I was told that good film directors make all of these minute decisions intentionally.  I am admittedly not a good film director, but I have found that whenever I attempt to create some form of art (a short film, a drawing, a song, or a blog post for that matter), I generally stumble across something good inadvertently much more often than I am able to actually produce something according to a master plan.

I believe that the value of any form of art is the ability to help us to better understand ourselves as well as that part of the universe that cannot be explained by reason alone.  Artists create something that has meaning to them because of the way that it resonates either with their subconscious or with some ethereal truth.  As we receive the art (read the book, watch the film), it takes on certain meaning for us depending on how it then resonates with our subconscious.  In this way, one story or a single picture can convey unlimited messages to different individuals, especially when individuals come from different backgrounds.  Perhaps one way of seeking for truth may involve an analysis of similar meanings that are conveyed to people of different times and cultures.  Examples of this may include Carl Jung's analysis of archetypes.

Are there any artists out there that can corroborate my ponderings, or else provide further insight in a different direction?

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