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January 10, 2009

The title of the picture suggests the intention of the maker of the picture. But how can we detect precisely what the photographer intended?

subverting modernism, originally uploaded by poodly.

The intentional fallacy in aesthetics questions the assumption often made that the meaning intended by the author of a visual work is of primary importance. It is argued that the meaning of the image does not belong to its producer, but rather, once it is published, it is detached from the picture maker and is beyond their power to control its meaning.

Each picture contains multiple layers and meanings that come into play when the picture resides in a flow of images in the mediascape that constitutes constitutes "a multi-dimensional space. Signifiers in a visualscape or language refer to other signifiers in the same system. (Think of a dictionary, which constantly directs the reader to other signifiers.) This discloses the disjointed nature of pictures, their fissures of meaning and their incongruities, interruptions, and breaks and opens up the way that the process of ‘re-viewing art through a prism of contemporary concerns’

An earlier version of the post can be found on the altfotonet blog.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:54 PM | | Comments (7)


This reminds me of Barthes “The Death of the Author” in which he announced a metaphorical event: the "death" of the author as an authentic source of meaning for a given text. Barthes argued that any literary text has multiple meanings, and that the author was not the prime source of the work's semantic content.

Barthe's death of an Author flows into poststructuralism, which presupposes that the author's intended meaning, such as it is (for the author's identity as a stable "self" with a single, discernible "intent" is also a fictional construct), is secondary to the meaning that the reader constructs.

This displacement is often referred to as the "destabilizing" or "decentering" of the author. Without a central fixation on the author, post-structuralists examine other sources for meaning (e.g., readers, cultural norms, other literature, etc.). These alternative sources are never authoritative, and promise no consistency.

I've always thought PM is prescriptive and political, rather than merely descriptive. Other than academic elitism, I don't see the authority they have for dictating how we ought to interpret books. I suspect their authority is based on their success in obfuscating and ridiculing any other approach to interpretation, such as those which place emphasis on authorial intent. PM provides us with an objective literary metaphysics which is utterly forgetful of the way in which humans form consensus in regards to how we interpret.

Ecce Homo,
your claim that poststructuralism (which you reduce to PM by the way) is prescriptive and political and dictates how we interpret books( and presumably pictures) is undercut by their "intertextuality" argument and the disjointed nature of pictures, their fissures of meaning and their incongruities, interruptions, and breaks.

How do you know the intention of the person who made the above picture? You must infer it surely and so you are offering an interpretation of the picture that is different from the intention of the photographer.

To me the picture falls into the group "purposely strange" and no underlying meaning is presented by the artist/ photographer. The viewer then owns sole rights to what it means.
Did you take a picture with the bottle smashed?

modernist minimalism is undermined by graffiti, or street art. informed by punk. That's one reading.

The meaning of any work will always exceed what its author intends, because of both the author's own unconscious and the differences between readers.