Dr. Daniel A. Siedell wrote an interesting piece here called “5 Things Art is Not.” Here are my favorite parts:
Art is not a visual illustration of the artist’s worldview. We often presume that a work of art represents the “worldview” of the artist. This is simply untrue. No human being possesses a unified “worldview” that is manifest in and through each of her intentional acts or artifacts she produces. We don’t need art critics to tell us this. We can read the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “the heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable, who can know it” (Jer 17: 9)? Why then do we presume that every work of art is the product of a particular, distinctive set of “ideas” or a “philosophy” that the artist consciously possesses and that we as viewers can discern? An artist does not paint a picture to express what she already knows or believes. She paints to learn something about herself and the world—something she doesn’t already know. Oscar Wilde wrote that the work of art “has an independent life of its own, and may deliver a message far other than what which was put into its lips to say.” A work of art does not point back to its maker, but looks out to you the viewer. It’s not concerned with beliefs or thoughts of its maker. It’s addressing you and your heart.
Art always pushes against the pragmatism, moralism, and utilitarianism that shapes life inside as well as outside the church. It starts with our weakness, desperation, and brokenness in its search for hope and beauty and stakes its existence and relevance on the belief that all appearances deceive. Art is not a megaphone. It is a dog whistle. And only those who suffer and hope can hear it.
Art both points back to the maker, for it is born out of him or her and contains many parts of the artist that the artist is unaware, and is transformed by the viewers context, cultural references, and mood. Art is an interactive process from the beginning through consumption.
I like the idea of art as a process, and particularly as an interactive one. An artwork is inert unless and until someone’s consciousness observes it.