“Struggle and conflict may be themselves enjoyed, although the are painful, when they are experience as means of developing an experience…” (Dewey 41)
This brings me again to my idea that all art is based on the manipulation of expectation (as yet a theory not fully formed). As music and art have developed, we have become more accepting of a variety of experiences, we have developed expectations for a wider variety of experiences. How do we create truly new experiences? Why are we so hung up on creating new things, rather than appreciating already established “good” experiences? This seems to speaks to humans’ desire to be surprised (is this biological determinism?) as we discussed in relation to horror movies’ inspiration of genuine fear responses in a viewer. I am certainly interested in having new experiences, and for that to happen it seems that my expectations must be challenged.
“…the conception of conscious experience as a perceived relations between doing and undergoing enables us to understand the connection that art as production and perception and appreciation as enjoyment sustain to each other” (Dewey 46)
“Art denotes a process of doing or making. This is as true of fine art as of technological art…Every art does something with some physical material, the body or something outside the body, with or without the use of intervening tools, and with a view to production of something visible, audible, or tangible.”
“The word “esthetic” refers, as we have already noted, to experience as appreciative, perceiving and enjoying. It denotes the consumer’s rather than the producer’s standpoint.” (Dewey 47)
”Writer, composer of music, sculptor, or painter can retrace, during the process of production, what they have previously done. When it is not satisfactory in the undergoing or perceptual phase of experience, they can to some degree start afresh. This retracing is not readily accomplished in the case of architecture – which is perhaps one reason why there are so many ugly buildings” (Dewey 51)
Feedback loops. Something is done, the artist steps back to perceive, consume and evaluate esthetics, then returns to doing with new perspectives and objectives.
If making art is “doing”, a physical action, then where does thinking, conceptualizing fit in on the spectrum of doing-undergoing? Thinking would seem to fall solidly into both doing and undergoing, though I suppose we could make a distinction between conceiving/conceptualizing and perceiving/evaluating
“If the artist does not perfect a new vision, in his process of doing, he acts mechanically and repeats some old model fixed like a blueprint in his mind. “ (Dewey 50)
In my copy of Dewey, the previous owner has written: “This was the problem with Mozart” –ha- This bit also reminds me of John Cage’s interest in perpetually finding new things in his compositional process. Creating art as an exploration, a process of discovery, a playful etude is to me the most fulfilling, whether or not this produces meaningful or worthwhile art is not clear, though I’d argue that my own enjoyment of the process makes it both meaningful and worthwhile. Dewey claims that the beholder must create his own experience and I’m fine with that as it relieves me of the responsibility of creating something that means something to someone else. What do I know about their experience or how they think?
“ Each work of art follows the plan of, and patterns of, a complete experience, rendering it more intensely and concentratedly felt.” (Dewey 52)
Dewey is looking at art from the artist’s perspective, regarding the process of creating the finished product essential to the whole. It’s different than process art in which the process takes on more importance and weight than the finished product. Dewey is proposing a holistic and conscious process of producing art. It seems to be quite a lot to ask an artist to pay attention to so many details throughout the process of creating art, it’s a way of imbuing the work with intention. On the other hand spontaneous, thoughtless creation can be extremely meaningful and structured as well. I think Dewey goes to far in assuming that a work of art, the summation of an experience, will embody an experience, but I’m not sure that this summation communicates the feeling of the experience. And (see below (and above)) I’m quite certain that communication of experience is quite difficult.
“ For to perceive, a beholder must create his own experience. And his creation must include relations comparable to those which the original producer underwent. They are not the same in any literal sense. But with the perceiver, as with the artist there must be an ordering of the elements of the whole that is in form, although not in details, the same as the process of organization the creator of the work consciously experiences.” (Dewey 54)
“ Bare recognition is satisfied when a proper tag or label is attached, “proper” signifying one that serves a purpose outside the act of recognition – as a salesman identifies wares by his sample. It involves no stir of the organism, no inner commotion. But an act of perception proceeds by waves that extend serially throughout the entire organism. There is, therefore, no such thing in perception as seeing or hearing plus emotion. The perceived object or scene is emotionally pervaded throughout.” (Dewey 56)
I very much appreciate this idea that the beholder creates his/her experience. The creator has some influence if one takes into account social constructs/norms, linguistic cues, but ultimately perception is in the -hands- of the perceiver. The perceiver comes to this situation of beholding with his/her own lifetime of experience, education, biases, etc. This is a quite an issue, untangling the connection/responsibility an artist has to his/her viewing public. In order for expectations to be challenged there must be a common set of expectations to work with/against. So, an artist cannot be free of society’s influence, he/she cannot begin from a blank slate (canvas –ha-) and have an audience that perceives his/her work and creates, entirely on their own, an experience. These experiences are colored, shaped by society and art history.
“The form of the work is therefore present in every member. Fulfilling, consummating, are continuous functions, not mere ends, located at one place only. An engraver, painter, or writer is in process of completing at every stage of his work. He must at each point retain and sum up what has gone before as a whole and with reference to a whole to come. Otherwise there is no consistency and no security in his successive acts. The series of doings in the rhythm of experience give variety and movement; they save the work from monotony and useless repetitions. The undergoings are the corresponding elements in the rhythm, and they supply unity; they save the work from the aimlessness of a mere succession of excitation. An object is peculiarly and dominantly esthetic, yielding the enjoyment characteristic of esthetic perception, when the factors that determine anything which can be called an experience are lifted high above the threshold of perception and are made manifest for their own sake.” (Dewey 57)
Right on, brother. I’m not sure if this is true but it sounds great.