On not owning the meaning of one’s artworks


Art, General Photography

I found an interesting quote on Ed Winkleman’s blog. What struck me about it was that while Ed emphasized the first sentence in a paragraph of a review by Roberta Smith (this, of course, because of his subject matter), I thought the last sentence needs to be looked at, too (independent of subject matter): “Ms. Horn’s work has both benefited and suffered from being what might be called “curators’ art.” Curators’ art is indisputably, even innocuously, elegant — with clear roots in Minimal and Conceptual Art and not much else. It tends to be profusely appreciated by a hermetic few, curators, artists and theorists, who fetishize its refinements and often take its creators pretty much at their word. Ms. Horn has always had a lot to say about what her work means and how it is to be viewed, and some of it is quite interesting, but artists don’t own the meaning of their artworks.

There it is, and I’m glad to see it in print: “Artists don’t own the meaning of their artworks.”

This is tremendously important - especially so, I think, in the area of photography where so many people still talk about “the artist’s intention”, or the “meaning” of a photography (and where it might come from) - with the idea that the intentions (by the artist’s fiat it would seem) automatically overrules all possible interpretation. No, they actually don’t.