Intentionalism and the Arts


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Forum Home > Nicholas Penny and 'effective history' > Can a painting have a mind?

Vittorio Pelosi
Posts: 21

It's a creative thought, isn't it? Anthropomorphism is often employed by art critics who want to distance themselves from the intentions of the art creator. "The painting intends to..", "the sculture debates with.." Indeed artists themselves often use parental language about their creations. When we give artwork the characteristics of a living, thinking being, we delve into fascinating literary territory where parallels and metaphors open up fresh ways on understanding how we all interact with our inanimate world. 

However, does a painting really have a mind that can intend?

Does a painting need a mind in order to dialogue with its audience?

July 27, 2010 at 1:54 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Vittorio Pelosi
Posts: 21

Surely one important property of a mind is that when it engages with an object the mind has changed in some way from the experience. Every experience we have has an affect upon our minds, consciously or unconsciously. It is the nature of experience.

If that is the case it follows that if 2 minds engage with each other then two way change must take place. 

Here is a puzzle?

The Curious Flatmate

I have a painting in my bedroom. My flatmate is forbidden from entering my room.

Every morning and evening I look at my painting. 

This morning I looked at my painting then I went out. 

When I come back this evening will I be able to tell whether the painting has been looked at?

Do I experience the painting in exactly the same way whether my flatmate has looked at it or not? 

The painting would have left an impression on my flatmate, but has my flatmate left an impression on my painting purely by listening to it 'speak' to him/her?

July 27, 2010 at 2:09 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Dr. Sardonic
Posts: 3

Perhaps after years of viewing the painting (accounting for misc. spilt beers, repeatedly clandestine polaroids, etc.) your flatmate may make his indelible mark upon the piece. Or he may copy it, refer to it in conversation, compose a blog entry upon it, parody it, which -- if it comes to your attention -- will inevitably influence your concept of the piece. However, outside of the many potential transcendental, pseudo-zenist interpretations of your flatmate's retinal intrusion into the existence of the work itself... does it really matter who raised, fed, and nurtured Damien's cow?     

October 28, 2010 at 7:15 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 68

Hi there!

Thanks for your posts!

Your comment here is thought provoking.

I'll make a couple of comments. I think Luciano is discussing the Hermeneutical Circle; that when we come to a work we have various baggage that means the work will effect us in a certain way. Then subsequent to this change in us, if we return to the work, not only is our baggage different but the work will now effect us in a slightly different way and hence the meaning of the work has changed.

If I understand Luciano here correctly, I think he is taking the position of the hermeneutical spiral. He would therefore agree with everything that is aforementioned but would say that when we return the work's effect on us will be slightly different, but the 'meaning' of the work is always fixed and can never change. What does change, according to guys like ED Hirsch Jnr is its significance to us.

So, I think Luciano would agree that a person's concept of a work can be defintely influenced by a blog etc.

October 31, 2010 at 1:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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