The Passenger

Art works usually appear unified to their audience, at least broadly speaking. Yet strong works invariably contain moments, passages, elements, which have little cognitive or structural impact on the spectator or listener. Conversely, weak pieces of art might contain moments of no great offense in themselves, but taken as part of the whole are not enough to counter a negative judgement.

In other words: art works are rarely fully integrated. Or, at the level of form, they are taken to be transcendentally integrated, but are experienced a moment behind or ahead of that movement of unification as a series of disparate events of varying quality. Art works are full of asignifying elements which could be substituted into works of a much lesser or greater character without much qualitative discrepancy being noticed. I’m not even sure that the greatest of art works are those in which poorer moments are minimised: inconsistency or inelegance can be more than made up for by vivid moments or unexpected juxtapositions. These things should be judged on a case by case basis.

The point remains that art works are constituted by a constellation of figures and grounds, and that the efficacy of those works depends on the judicious arrangement and organisation of that constellation according to whatever problem or set of needs is set out in and by that work.


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