I am presenting a paper at Cyber2008 in Stockholm next week. My talk is entitled Information and meaning: complexity, surprise and context in telecommunications and art.
I did a practice presentation to colleagues yesterday, and this unearthed some issues that I will need to emphasise or that will need further explanation. The paper builds partly on some the issues I've been exploring here, and I intend to develop the ideas further in later posts.
I am using a layered model of communications to provide a framework for understanding art. (One of the issues I need to emphasise immediately, is that I am not claiming to be contributing to the content of the framework: my contribution is the framework itself.)
Here's the starting point:
Fundamental is the assumption that the artist is communicating something to viewer. I think that must be the case, if the artist is doing anything. A couple of points about that:
1) A tree is not art by itself. A painting of a tree is art. A photograph of a tree is art. Maybe a tree can become art by someone pointing to the tree and saying it is art. Maybe the tree even becomes art whenever someone points at it and just says "look at that tree", but I think there has to be someone to be the 'artist'. (See my related post on intentionality.)
2) The artist need not be conscious of what he or she is communicating. Indeed, my belief is that art works because it comes from the subconscious. I see the subconscious mind as huge compared to the conscious mind (the iceberg analogy). The reason that poetry, music, paintings etc do things that prose does not, is that they are communicating the subconscious. (Though actually I think prose can do the same, by communicating 'behind the scenes'. Well-crafted prose can move us just that same as poetry.) (See my comments on Solomonoff talking about Freud.)