R. G. Collingwood
In Stecker and Gracyk, Aesthetics Today (2010)
The technical theory of art says that all art is a means to some end. Knowing that end, the makers of art are practicing a craft, because they are making an artifact in order to satisfy a pre-determined end. (An artifact is a material thing that is designed and made by a human being.) Many people think that artworks are made in order to cause ("arouse") emotions in the audience.
Collingwood rejects this "technical theory" because it puts artworks into the same general category of things as furniture, garbage cans, and computers, as things we design for predetermined ends. But artworks are not really like these other things.
Art has something to do with emotion, but not that.
THESIS: Art expresses the emotion(s) of the artist. This is the expression theory of art.
If we understand why artists want to do this, we will have a better idea of what it involves. Artists want to unburden themselves of emotions that bother them. How does the production of art help with our emotions? By making them (1) conscious and (2) clear, and thereby becoming able to deal with it. What was merely felt is now understood.
Does expression have any essential connection to arousing emotion? NO. When I express anger with angry words, I do not do this as a means of making other people angry.
Individualization: DESCRIBING an emotion just puts it into a general category, e.g., anger. We want to express anger when there is a particular situation involved; the artist wants to become clear about her/his particular anger.
In expression, artists "find out what their emotions are in the course of finding out how to express them." The creation of the artwork and the discovery/clarification of the emotion are one and the same process. It is not the artwork that is a means to an end. It is the process of creating art that is a means to an end.
The singer Van Morrison has said, "I do not consciously aim to take the listener anywhere. If anything, I aim to take myself there in my music. If the listener catches the wavelength of what I am saying or singing, or gets whatever point whatever line means to them, then I guess as a writer I may have done a day's work."
The audience: By understanding what an artwork expresses, the audience expresses it, too. The artwork shows them how to express it.
Art as Imagination
Creating an artwork does not require creating a physical artifact. EXAMPLE: A musician can "make up a tune" without writing it down or playing it or humming it. The externalization of what's "in the head" can be useful, but it is not necessary.
If this is true of a tune, it is also true of a painting.
Artworks are externalized so that they can have an audience.
Paintings as an example of imaginative experience. Cezanne is less concerned with the look and color of things than he is concerned with showing their solidity, inviting us to imagine the TACTILE (felt) experiences. Many paintings of the human body are meant to get us to imagine how the body feels in that situation. of actual motor-sensations.
Conclusion: The homogeneous imaginative experience (e.g. looking at a painting gets us to imagine looking at the thing it visually represents) is meant to be supplemented by heterogeneous IMAGINED experiences (e.g., we imagine feeling it, too).
Last updated Jan. 11, 2011 ~ All text © 2011 Theodore Gracyk