There's ideas that we stick into a piece of Art. I make a bunch of pictures, I pick some out, and shuffle them around thoughtfully, and I shovel them into some sort of portfolio or booklike thing. Then I give that away. And it's all intentional, there's ideas and meaning that I intend in there, usually quite a lot of stuff.
Then there's the ideas that we get out of a piece of Art. You find a booklike thing in a coffee shop, let's say in Bellingham, WA, USA, just as a sort of randomly selected for-instance kind of a deal. You crack it open and poke around. Some of you buggers probably read it back to front. Maybe you toss it aside, having gotten nothing. Maybe you see some stuff. Maybe some of the stuff you see overlaps with the stuff the artist put in there.
In an ideal world, I think kind of the best we can hope for is that you get a subset of whatever I put in there, and you get it at an angle I never imagined, and then you get some other stuff I never intended, and you put it together into something that pleases you. If it's one of mine, you might flip it over and read the note that says this is a free book and you can take it home if you want.
It might even occur to you to think "if I take it home, does this mean my visitors can take it away to their own homes if they like?" and I'm just gonna leave that as an open question.
Anyways, that's kind of a practical best case. If I don't write a detailed artist's statement, it's totally unreasonable to hope that we're going to communicate any better than this.
Now, I have a theory, an idea, a feeling. It is this: Even if what you get out does not overlap with what I put in, the fact that I did put things in, that I made this thing with ideas and intent, somehow translates into a more accessible and rich object, from which you are more able to draw your own, unrelated, result.
This is based on nothing much at all. It's basically sympathetic magic that I am proposing here. But I can't shake the feeling. I happen to feel like I see it in other work. Stieglitz' Equivalents have this for me -- I feel like he's getting at something, but I can't find it. It's well known that he shoved a lot of intention in there.
Possibly there is something about density of idea-fragments. You can imagine that if I just thoughtlessly chucked together a bunch of crucifixes, melting clocks, and watermelons, people would probably read some stuff into it simply because of the density of symbols. Perhaps if I put enough ideas of my own in, I produce something with a similar sort of density, albeit a less obvious one. Perhaps the pieces can be re-assembled into your own ideas.
This begs the question, then, of which am I doing? Am I simply larding it up with a jumble of symbolism and hoping for the best, or am I actually executing coherent ideas? Michele Sons pictures of pretty girls in gowns standing in the middle of nowhere could go either way. I can read a ton into it, if I want, but I have no idea if she's actually got an idea, or is just thoughtlessly chucking a girl into the frame to spice up the otherwise 100% social-media-compliant landscape. Who knows? Does it really matter, in the long run?
Ya got me!