Friday, 17 December 2010

Art is the objectification of feeling

Here's what Susanne K. Langer thinks of art:
The artist's eye sees in nature and even in human nature betraying itself in action, an inexhaustible wealth of tensions, rhythms, continuities and contrasts which can be rendered in line and color;a nd these are the "internal forms" which the "external forms" -- paintings, musical or poetical compositions or any other works of art -- express for us. The connection with the natural world is close, and easy to understand; for the essential function of art has the dual character of almost all life functions, which are usually dialectical. Art is the objectification of feeling ... Natural forms become articulate and seem like projections of the "inner forms" of feeling, as people influenced (whether consciously or not) by all the art that surrounds them develop something of the artist's vision. Art is the objectification of feeling, and the subjectification of nature. [Langer, Mind. An essay on human feeling, 87]
I like the emphasis on 'feeling' here, and I'm prepared to go a certain part of the way along with the Wordsworthian 'nature' stuff. But all the 'exterior' and 'interior' talk strikes me as too crude; a questionable binary at the best of time, and one, even if we take it as a longstanding metaphor, that is deployed with too clunking a binarism in this instance. Surely part of the point of art is precisely its capacity for threading together a 'pong'-style bounceabout between 'inward' and 'outward'?