The Writing On The Wall
“The audience, as ground, shapes and controls the work of art.”
Jackson Pollock’s painting “No. 5” was originally titled “Bacchanalia” by Pollock – How does the image of Bacchus change the reception of this painting, perhaps invoking the image of a dancer or festivities? Does it change how you perceive this painting?
Roland Barthes wrote, in “The Death of the Author” that a work of art (or anything creative) no longer belongs to the creator when they are finished it. We look to the author or the artist for an explanation of the work of art when they are usually the least equipped to offer such an explanation due to their lack of objectivity. The artist only knows his intent, and very rarely sees the actual result of his labours. It is the audience who controls what becomes of the work of art, the artist only offers the project to the public.
Take, for instance, Ylvis’ hit song “What does the Fox Say.” This song was created as an advertisement for a new season of the Norwegian TV show, “Tonight with Ylvis.” The writers never meant for it to be the sensation that it became, saying of the song, “This song is made for a TV show and is supposed to entertain a few Norwegians for three minutes – and that’s all.” This was the intention, the reality was quite different. In America the song was taken out of context and made into a hit, how many people have seen “Tonight with Ylvis.”
The point is that you never really know what you have. When an artist says “I like to let my art speak for itself” it’s because they really don’t know what they have, and I think any honest artist would be willing to admit this. The history of the painting (the process) or the intention of the artist may be interesting but the creator never has the last word when it comes to critical analysis of their own work. Jackson Pollock numbered his paintings to avoid people projecting the title onto his image but, since his numbers weren’t in sequence, people tried to decipher the meaning of the numbers to understand his paintings.