Freedom and Fellowship, Chapter 1: A Case for Theology (part 4)

It’s not that art does not have a logic which it employs. Of course it does. For art to be effective it must, at the least, suggest a system of understanding which a recipient can reference in their engagement with the work. Art cannot be devoid of this symbolic logic. I’m not saying that it is the wisest course of action to include a system for understanding within the art. I am saying that art cannot be created without such systems. Not every piece of art will employ a system that you know or are familiar with, but it will, by its very nature, employ one because each artist is a product of a cultural context. These cultural contexts predicate the artistic “vocabulary” that an artist uses.

In some cases, the artist is mimicking her context, merely offering representations of the world she lives in – simple and straight forward. Other times she is offering an interpretation of a context using the logic allowed by the symbols she employs.

As modern psychology has shown us, often we communicate things we do not mean to communicate and the same is true for the artist. Even though the intention of the artist is to communicate X, a close observation of the ways in which she uses her symbols suggests that she is (without realizing it) trying to communicate Y. This, of course, can also work in reverse, with an interpretation saying more about the recipient of the art than the artist herself. Regardless, in both cases, even though the “art” is found in something beyond a conscious use of systems of symbolic logic, there would be no art without such systems.

To say that art is uncertain and uncontrollable is also not to say that art neglects form and structure. Form and structure are the bedrock upon which art is built. While art is certainly more than the sum of the pieces and parts that make up each work, there is no art without these pieces and parts. True, while the form and structure of art is (in some senses) “manipulated” by the systems of symbolic logic, these systems would be pointless without the them.

And so, while acknowledging these levels of dependency which make up art, it still must be said that art is something more. Art goes beyond form and structure. Art goes beyond systems of symbolic logic. So what constitutes art? No one knows for certain, but what we do know is that art goes beyond the realm of certainty and control into an uncharted place.

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