Salvage Art and Design

Asking us to solve the disparity between art and design--Eric, that is a powerful pitch.
Although it's a difficult question, one that certainly overwhelms my usual allotment of intellectual energy per issue, I'll take a swing, and at the very least, I'll be taking one for the team

What you've offered us is a tough question that breeds heavily. In order to get where you want to be, we have to locate all the larger ancestors and solve for their children as well. Here are the initial steps, as far as I can see them.

a) What is the nature of the relationship between the producer (artist and/vs. designer) and product? How is a topic rendered and approached?

b) What is the relationship between producer and audience? Does the process of creation include a sense of audience, or does audience follow creation?

c) What is the relationship between product and audience? Is the product rendered with intent and purpose, or can meaning be ascribed by the audiece in a myriad of ways?

Once we solve for these, we finally reach and can solve for Grandad Questions A) What are the roles of the artist and/vs. the designer? B) How are these roles inherent in the process of creation? and C) How is product enhanced/corrupted/altered by these roles, and how is it perceived by an audience?

And once those are answered we are in the right direction to understand, and perhaps mend, the real or imagined disparity of art and design. Clearly, the terms intent and perception will have to be addressed and assessed throughout.

Are you ready? Here I go!

a) What is the relationship between producer and product? How is a topic rendered and approached?

There are various, perhaps endless, approaches to product, and reasons behind creation. I will refer to models of artistic thought through literary examples. But first, I'd like to start this with the Decalogue of the Artist by Gabriella Mistral (translation by Stephen Tapscott).

I. You shall love beauty, which is God's shadow across the Universe.
II. There is no atheistic art. Even if you do not love the Creator, you will affirm Him, creating in His likeness.
III. You shall offer beauty not as fodder for the senses, but as the natural nourishment for the soul.
IV. Beauty should not be a pretext for lewdness or vanity, but a spiritual exercise.
V. You shall not seek beauty in the open-air markets nor bring your work there, for Beauty is virginal, and what you find at the markets is not Beauty.
VI. Beauty shall rise from your heart into your song, and it shall refine you from the start.
VII. Your beauty shall also be called compassion, and it shall console people's hearts.
VIII. You shall deliver your work as a child is offered: from your heart's blood.
IX. Beauty shall not be an opiate that causes you to sleep, but a full-bodied wine that inspires you to act, for if you stop being man or woman, you'll stop being an artist.
X. You shall issue each creation with humility, for it was inferior to your dream, and inferior to that marvelous dream of God that is Nature.

I feel the Decalogue is in ideal way to begin this analysis, because it represents several models of artistry. Note that models may, can, and should overlap in many instances.

The most obvious model presented here is that of spiritual development. The artist's work is a conversation between the individual soul and the soul's creator. There are many examples of this model, and since we are all familiar, I will not waste time with further examples.

Another apparent mode within the Decalogue is privacy. The artist is engaged in a private pursuit which does not consider the factor of audience, or the idea of audience does nothing to change the private expression. Any work we have access to which was not meant for publication certainly fits into this mode, including such contributions as the works of Emily Dickenson, or posthumously published manuscripts ranging from poetry to diaries. See also; every closet writer who pushes a pen for theraputic or personal reasons.

We can also say that Mistral communicates through the philosophical mode. She has an idea for which the Decalogue is a vehicle. Ayn Rand is another such writer, as are the existentialists. They have a distinct view of the world that they seek to communicate with others, and their writings are the prefered method of issuance.

She loosely adheres to the call to action/engaged mode as well, by telling us not to sleep--to live through our art and let it be a way we communicate with and engage the world. There are, of course, much better examples to be found--political poems (Neruda), social change poems (Barret-Browning), and any work which depicts the world in a way that is accurate to the artist and leaves a question of action lingering. In this mode, the artist and the paper are social activists; they have a shared goal and vision. In call to action works, it is nearly impossible to avoid a relationship with audience, as these are generally imbued with the intent of pushing an opinion/commentary that is meant to be shared. (A fascinating conjecture--as I scour my mind and library for these artists, I am realizing that their works are rarely written in the first person voice, favoring instead third person naration)

Now, let's delve into modes beyond the Decalogue. Because The Lady of Shallot offers such a fine contrast, here is a link to direct you to some good ol' Tennyson. Read if you are able.


Tennyson's view of the artist (the lady) is clearly different from the Decalogue. Where Mistral asks us to view and be of the world (if we lose our humanity, we lose our ability), Tennyson presents us with the removal model. The artist must view the world through a filter, at a safe distance, and to engage the actual world is to commit artistic suicide by tainting the artistic perception/lens. The artist and the paper form an allegiance separate from the world, and an audience will, at best, misunderstand the artist and at worst, ignore or corrupt the artis's vision.

In some of these models, the relationship to audience is more or less inherent. This should simplify our pursuit of question b. I'll not delve into that batch of discourse tonight--I consider this a longer term project, and I want to gauge other reactions/interests before I blow my smart wad all over the screen.

So far, so good, so there.

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