Anti-Intentionalism (1999)

Materials: plywood, maple, acrylic paint

Dimensions: of plywood (48″ x 48″ x 3/4″)

There are two expressions on the side you see in this image:




When looking at Anti-Intentionalism or Anti-Intentionalism Redux, simply try to decide between the mutually exclusive statements. Doing so will require an answer to the question: Is the actual (particular and present) wood or canvas relevant or not to the identity of the artwork before you? Depending on how you answer will help to identify what you think about an artwork’s being mental, physical or possibly something else. The question, stated another way, is whether an artwork is “replete” or not. I am using the word replete to mean that every perceptible aspect is necessary.


Another layer within this piece concerns the debate on intentionalism; the intentionalist position asserts that the artist’s intended meaning is the meaning of a work. The anti-intentionalist position is basically the opposite, that the artwork’s meaning is objective, dependent upon each individual’s actual experience of the piece. In the case of an anti-intentionalist position, the artist’s intended meaning is but one of the possible meanings that can be gleaned from the work. The artist’s intention in this case is no more valid or true of the work than any other simply because of its status as the artist’s intention. If you decide you are an intentionalist, your position establishes in a clearly defensible way the possibility of a correct or valid interpretation of an artwork. So, which position do you find yourself taking? There are many interesting consequences for taking either position and for now I am going to let you work them out. Lastly, as for my intention, I have attempted to reduce the problem to the mere repetition of competing assertions, which you might also recognize as being embedded in a larger debate concerning relativism.

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