Saturday, February 14, 2009

art and psychological research

it's been a while now, but recent musings have brought it back to mind. we went on a trip last year to visit good friends of ours. he's a pilot, and had changed jobs and moved from atlanta to new york, so we were looking forward to catching up with them while we were in n.y. for other reasons. she is a choreographer.

she had just finished a choreography workshop with someone who is apparently very respected in that field, and fortunately the name meant nothing to me and was promptly forgotten, because now i can safely talk about the ideas without attaching them to anyone specific. i'm certainly not interested in a big argument about art.

my wife being a singer/songwriter, i end up in a lot of discussions about art, and some pretty well developed opinions. ironically, not being an artist, i have zero credibility about it. what was interesting in this trip was that her workshop leader crossed over into other areas in which i do have a fair degree of credibility and knowledge.

it was a hard workshop for our friend, because she has a more traditional approach to her choreography. she has an idea or mood, or .... whatever choreographers start with, and she wants to communicate it to her audience, and she wants to see that they "got" it. of course, if it were something you could just say, you would, but just as there are multiple verbal languages, some things can be "said" with dance that simply can't be said in another way, they don't translate.

he was arguing against that, holding that art wasn't about trying to get a message across, but about giving input, and then seeing what the audience did with it, where they went, what meanin they added to it. to his credit, he routinely went out and discussed his works with his audiences after performances to understand their interpretations. but i would argue that he is actually doing psychological research. that's just like the ink-blot tests. meaningless input that the patient/subject/audience applies an interpretive scheme to and injects meaning into is simply the essence of psychological research. i would strongly contend that art, from the same root as artifice or artisan is the skill of communication, which implies content. the methods he espouses are useful for determining success, but he is simply an artistic researcher with nothing to say. he may be the best in the world at that, but i wouldn't even consider it art, or would argue he lucked into creating some of it through an imperfect understanding of himself.

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