The audience joined artists on stage in Dekelboum Concert Hall Monday night to engage in a conversation about confusion, chronology and constellations in art.
“Does the Audience Need to Know? The Role of Narrative and Meaning-Making” was part of the 2014-2015 Creative Dialogues, sponsored by the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House.
The discussion featured a panel of five artists, who hail from all ends of the artistic spectrum – dramaturgy, or drama composition, visual art, directing, choreography and writing.
Moderator Lawrence Weschler, a veteran staff writer for The New Yorker for more than 20 years, began the conversation by talking about confusion in art. He referred to a Kurt Vonnegut quote, saying art is “a conspiracy with millionaires to make poor people feel stupid.”
Weschler said he felt similarly with Vonnegut upon viewing a “monolithic, beautiful object” at the National Gallery of Art several years ago. He said he could not understand how the artist created the monolithic object from cedar and graphite and that he felt the curators at the museum were in on an inside joke.
Visual artist and director Doug Fitch addressed the confusion many face in identifying the narrative of artistic works and performances.
Some abstract art, he said, invokes more feeling because of an apparent lack of narrative and argued that, in dance, an unconventional narrative exists in the chronology of the performance.
As a professional dramaturg, Faedra Chatard Carpenter said she creates narratives when she moves outside of chronology, viewing the past, present, and future of the characters she works with.
Fitch discussed his constellations metaphor, featured on a TEDx Talk he presented over the summer titled “Mindscapes and Constellations.”
In the metaphor, he compares narratives to constellations, describing them as “dramaturgical glue” that connects art to its intended meanings.
An audience member spoke about a project he once had at an abstract art gallery that required him to ask guests about what they thought the piece meant, or if they enjoyed the piece. The majority of the people, he said, refused to respond to the art because they “wouldn’t know how.”
To the panel, although art implementation can be positive, the meaning of it has become obfuscated.
“We gave up the feeling that art had any function,” Fitch said. “We constantly tell people this, and yet, it’s such a mixed message in our country because if you ask any developers how they’re going to change the neighborhood, they say, ‘We have to bring in the artists’… So we value it, on one plane, but we don’t really know how to use it or what it means or even how to think about it anymore.”
Daphne Pellegrino is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.