Today I was thinking about the reasons for art – why it is produced and consumed, and how it can be used and abused. I thought of three reasons, all of them applying to both the producer and the consumer.
I’m a computer programmer, so perhaps it’s only natural that I’m primarily interested in art for its information value – what message I can receive from the author. I’m generally not much of an artist, hence my focus on consumption, but these blog posts are themselves information-dense art. Art can be used to educate or to brainwash; they are the same act except one is honest.
I tried to think of why people, especially those most interested in art, are often so interested in subjective “interpretations” rather than information content. The first reason I could think of is that art can manipulate a consumer’s emotions, and it might manipulate one consumer in a different way than it would another. I decided that consuming art for this purpose is equivalent to taking antidepressants, or less reputable drugs. This manipulation is important to art’s entertainment value, but making it the focus in production or consumption would be intolerably shallow.
Then I realized that sometimes I learn about my personality or opinions by how I understand and react to art. When I understand art in a way that the author didn’t intend, I make a statement about myself rather than the art. (Of course, if the artist is unskilled in conveying the message, I am more likely to make up my own meaning, but this will happen some anyway.) The same applies to production of art; the characters in a story, for example, say something about the author. Perhaps only the author knows enough to understand what the characters mean, but they are a product of his personality and experiences.