As a Human Amongst Other Humans and The Immanence of Potentiality: On Separating Art from Artist

Cameron Maltwood and K. J. O’Meara

One of the more recent characteristics of the modern age is the effect that social media has on public discourse and opinion. Politically, social media has had an effect beyond that which could have been imagined. This we can see clearly in a global political context through events such as the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, or even the focal position Social Media has held throughout inquiries into data harvesting. We truly believe that it is safe to say that Social Media now constructs our social discourse, in the material world, as we equally construct the discourse within it in the digital world. Even the language that we use on Social Media has begun to drip slowly into the material world, posited in terms such as to say that something is ‘trending’, for example.

Of all the topics ‘trending’ for some time, one really highlights the effect that Social Media, as a whole, can have on our social discourse in the wider world. In early 2019, the documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’ aired publicly on television, exposing Michael Jackson (the musician), as a potential sex offender and child molester. Although the documentary centres itself around the testimony of two individuals who provide a graphic and vivid recollection of their time with Mr. Jackson as children, the Social Media ‘backlash’ divided the public as to whether or not Mr. Jackson’s accusers are (a) recalling a truthful account, and, (b) justified in accusing a deceased superstar of such a crime – accusations he is, of course, unable to refute. Now, despite that he cannot defend himself, it appeared as if the spectre of Mr. Jackson lingered over the defence offered by his devout online fan-base. Such a rigorous rejection of the claims made in the documentary went as far, in some cases, as to slander the two men and their testimonies, or funding a public campaign on London busses directing onlookers to the online platforms of the #MJisinnocent campaign.

As far as this particular debate is concerned, we are certain that the passage of time will reveal the truth as to the deeply secretive sexual escapades of Mr. Jackson, be they innocent or otherwise. The more interesting phenomenon at play here, however, occurred in the response to the topic becoming popular online conversation. By this we are talking about those increasingly contemplative queries that arose out of, and antecedent, to the public discourse that unfolded on Social Media in the days and weeks after the documentary aired. One of these, specifically, became a popular topic of after its appearance in the online realm. Namely, this concerned the extent to which art can be separated from the artist. The following is a series of thoughts concerning precisely this notion – the extent to which art can be separated from the artist.

Sadly, most commentary on the subject discussing the intricacies of such a question have been lost to a journalistic impulse, and the philosophical discussion concerning the matter requires some training to get to the centre of its grasp, and as such erodes a public understanding. This piece shall attempt to discuss this question on a plane of thought that is relevant and can be understood by the many. Although the journalistic work on the matter tends to present a clear answer to the question, there is little appreciation for what is at stake in the character of an answer. Irrespective of the answer, what is it stake is our capacity to interpret and understand the output of human creativity itself, and the extent to which it remains anchored to its creator, or becomes an entity in and of itself. Although our topic will remain unchanged, the purpose of this piece will be to sketch out a number of thoughts concerning the extent to which art can, or cannot, be separated from the artist, before presenting our answer to the question at hand with some concluding thoughts. Before we can even begin to address the question of art’s ‘separability’ from the artist, we must first address the nature of ‘Art’ itself and the relationship between ‘art’ and the ‘artist’.

THE PROXIMITY OF ART AND ARTIST

Creator / Creation

‘Art’ is not like dust or diamonds, it does not merely come into natural being found lying on the ground or having to be tediously mined for – art must be created. Creation stipulates that the objects of the natural world are taken from their organic setting, treated in some manner, and acted upon to create something anew. Think of a beautifully carved chair; wood has to be sourced, chopped into timber and then fashioned by the labourer into a new object of human artifice. As a creation, art is therefore (a) created out of naturally existing substances at the material origin of the artistic object (be it wood, water, earth, clay etc.), and thus this means that (b) art is not natural an example of human artifice.

As the output of labour, art is dragged into the world by an artist, and in this way, from the moment of the first brush stroke, written word, chisel strike or line recited, the art begins to exist in the world between humans. In this sense, we are already beginning to see a separation between the artist and their creative output. The artist is the subject, and they create art as an object to be engaged with by their fellow community of humans. What of the nature of art in itself however? If art is merely creation, does this postulate reduce any distinction between a Van Gogh and a plastic water bottle produced a thousand times an hour by machine?

In 1917, the now famous artist Marcel Duchamp submitted a sculpture to an exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York. Playing on the very nature of the essence of art as creation, Duchamp’s sculpture was in fact a wall urinal, turned upside down, signed “R. Mutt 1917” and entitled ‘Fountain’. In this moment Duchamp affirmed that even the ‘ugliest’ of human functional creations is still precisely this, a creation, and as such is art. This art may be produced by machine, in its millions, performed to millions, or holding only a practical and instrumental function – but this means that nonetheless, such a creation is art.

Interestingly, at a time of mass-society, mass-industrialisation, and consequently, mass-politics, Duchamp was not alone in deducing that the mechanisation of production removes very little from the essence of human creation as art. Georges Sorel, in his Reflections on Violence, translates Duchamp’s artistic rebellion onto a revolutionary plane of syndicalist political action. Here, by utilising the philosophy of Henri Bergson, Sorel indicates the same notion as Duchamp but begins from a different vantage point, namely class politics. Sorel affirms that art is “the anticipation of the highest form of production”, and through such a connection between artistic creativity and production, the proletariat resemble either (a) artisans, reproducing creative work based upon the model of another’s innovation, or (b) artists, who innovate, as those “who exhausts himself in pursuit of the realization of ends that ordinary people generally regard as absurd and who, if he has made an important discovery, is often thought to be mad”.1 In this manner therefore, Sorel associates the artist with the inventor, the trailblazer of production – and art as the product of their labour.

If we take the perspective offered by Duchamp and Sorel to its total extent, we can see that there is no difference between a Van Gogh, Picasso, Bruegel, or Turner and a Bic ballpoint pen, a water bottle, a roll of toilet paper, or a computer – they are all Art. What connects them all is that they are produced by artisans and inventors alike, all creating the objects which furnish the world between us as humans; it is this very furniture than we can consider to be art.

As interesting a curious social metaphysics of production as this is, there is a quality which does not appear in the objects and output of modern production and yet appear in the works of all artists, from Andy Warhol to Augusto Boal, from Quentin Tarantino to Frederic Chopin. This mysterious characteristic is a lack of function. A ballpoint pen is created to write with, a water bottle is created to hold water – what function does a surrealist work by Dali have, or an aria by Dvořák.

In her 1958 work, ‘The Human Condition’, the noted political thinker Hannah Arendt discusses the lack of instrumental function that art intrinsically possesses at some depth as the distinguishing factor between works of art and ‘the other durable things of the human artifice’.2 Here she contends that:

 “Among the things that give the human artifice the stability without which it could never be a reliable home for men are a number of objects which are strictly without any utility whatsoever and which, moreover, because they are unique, are not exchangeable and therefore defy equalization through a common denominator such as money; if they enter the exchange market, they can only be arbitrarily priced. Moreover, the proper intercourse with a work of art is certainly not “using” it; on the contrary, it must be removed carefully from the whole context of ordinary use objects to attain its proper place in the world. By the same token, it must be removed from the exigencies and wants of daily life, with which it has less contact than any other thing. Whether this uselessness of art objects has always pertained or whether art formerly served the so-called religious needs of men as ordinary use objects serve more ordinary needs does not enter the argument. Even if the historical origin of art were of an exclusively religious or mythological character, the fact is that art has survived gloriously its severance from religion, magic, and myth. Because of their outstanding permanence, works of art are the most intensely worldly of all tangible things; their durability is almost untouched by the corroding effect of natural processes, since they are not subject to the use of living creatures, a use which, indeed, far from actualizing their own inherent purpose – as the purpose of a chair is actualized when it is sat upon – can only destroy them. Thus, their durability is of a higher order than that which all things need in order to exist at all; it can attain permanence throughout the ages. In this permanence, the very stability of the human artifice, which, being inhabited and used by mortals, can never be absolute, achieves a representation of its own. Nowhere else does the sheer durability of the world of things appear in such purity and clarity, nowhere else therefore does this thing-world reveal itself so spectacularly as the non-mortal home for mortal beings. It is as though worldly stability had become transparent in the permanence of art, so that a premonition of immortality, not the immortality of the soul or of life but of something immortal achieved by mortal hands, has become tangibly present, to shine and to be seen, to sound and to be heard, to speak and to be read…In the case of art works, reification is more than mere transformation; it is transfiguration, a veritable metamorphosis in which it is as though the course of nature which wills that all fire burn to ashes is reverted and even dust can burst into flames. Works of art are thought things, but this does not prevent their being things. The thought process by itself no more produces and fabricates tangible things, such as books, paintings, sculptures, or compositions, than usage by itself produces and fabricates houses and furniture. The reification which occurs in writing something down, painting an image, modelling a figure, or composing a melody is of course related to the thought. which preceded it, but what actually makes the thought a reality and fabricates things of thought is the same workmanship which, through the primordial instrument of human hands, builds the other durable things of the human artifice”.3

In this, Arendt stipulates three qualities that characterise art: (a) its ‘uselessness’, (b) its durability, and, (c) the centrality of thought.

The first quality that Arendt draws attention to is the ‘uselessness’ of art. Art is unlike any other object precisely as it is not used. The claim of the ‘uselessness of art objects’ is not to propose that art holds no place in the human artifice, but rather that it holds a peculiar position. Unlike other objects created by humans, art it not created with an inherent instrumental function. A Canvass panel, for example, is created for a purpose – to be painted on. Oil paint is created for a purpose – to be applied. Nonetheless, the canvass with paint applied has no purpose beyond itself, or rather, it has no pre-ordained instrumental function like the canvass and paint independently of their union.  If we think of the objects in the human artifice like the cogs within a clock, each providing some small function in correctly keeping and displaying the time of day, works of art stand independent of these micro-functions, lacking a specific ‘cog-like’ instrumental utility. Some indeed may argue that work has a purpose – to be sensed somehow. Nonetheless, this is not pre-ordained in the way that the function of a water bottle is. Art is created for itself, no more, no less.

The second quality that Arendt discusses is the notion of art’s durability. As art holds no inherent instrumental function, it is not worn by utilisation. Even if we prescribe the purpose of art to be that it is sensed (still falling short of a clear instrumental function), a painting, performance, work of literature etc, does not fade by being sensed. With the passage of time and consequent use, objects created with a function engage in a constant process of self-erosion. As Arendt stipulates, the actualisation of the function of a chair (its being sat on) leads ultimately to its destruction with the passage of time. Precisely as Art is not strictly utilised like other objects it does not undergo this process of actualised erosion. In this sense, Arendt argues that art is the most durable of human-made objects – its permanence is ensured through the fact that its actualisation does not lead to its destruction in usage. For this reason, where we produce disposable objects in our era of mass society, the artist holds a position of some importance as the creator of cultural and durable objects – forging the space between peoples across space and time.4

Of course, this is not to say that the work of art is itself materially permanent – to make such a claim would be to ignore the temporality of all objects in the world itself. An essential part of the human condition is that we exist in a temporal world – everything becomes dust and worm feed in the end, even Michael Jackson. Nonetheless, this being said, a priceless portrait may be destroyed by mould, a performance of theatre, music, or dance may exist only in the moment – but it is not by its utility that it ceases to be, it is by the law of temporality which governs everything in our world. In this manner, art is distinct from all other objects in the human artifice precisely as its durability becomes a central characteristic – only the nature of the temporality of all things can cause its destruction.

The final quality that Arendt associates with art is the centrality of thought at its inception. All objects require to be thought into existence. In order to create a chair, for instance, one has to contemplate its design, material construction, assemblage and so on. At the outcome of this process of contemplation is the leap from pure thought to praxis – translating thought into action. Objects of the human artifice do not just simply pop into being out of thin air, but are first discussed in the silent dialogue between one and oneself, and as a result of this discussion one begins to act. The human artifice, is peculiar to the natural realm in that it is comprised of natural materials, but these have been tempered and tampered in accordance to the rationality and praxis of some individual. In this vein, Arendt claims that the work of art stands in no opposition to other objects of the human artifice, as it too is also the outcome of some process of thought; dragged into being through the interconnectedness between contemplation and action.

Nonetheless, although the third quality of the work of art is shared with any other object made by humans, it comes into its own when placed against the notions of ‘uselessness’ and ‘durability’. Ultimately, a joy of total unadulterated human potential is broken open in the tension between these first two qualities, and the third. Arendt’s tripartite characterisation of the work of art shows that although all objects of the human artifice are past thought reified through the action of creation and construction, the work of art’s lack of functional utility and durability reaffirms that the thought which brought it into being is not concerned with needs but something more complex..

This brings us to our second point – if art is created, this means that its origin rests with a creator. The notion that the work of art is brought into existence through the mental capacity of contemplation, like any other manmade object, by this logic means that ‘the art’ forms through the consciousness of a subject (the artist). Using Arendt’s three qualities of art we can discern three key peculiar stages of life for a work of art: Contemplation, Reification and Immortalisation. The artist is concerned primarily with the first two, i.e. the coming into being of a thought and its reification into an object.

In such a manner, this is what has led many devout, and often dogmatic, theologians to declare that we are the almighty God’s greatest masterpiece, as he created us ex nihilo and a posit of his grace and very being rests within us, created ‘in his image’.5 Perhaps this is why some theologians prefer to state that God (of all and any persuasion) did not create us with a functional purpose – as this would rescind the position of the universe as a work of art? Nonetheless, as man is not a species of immortals, we utilise the natural world around us in order to create the world between us.

Thus, if our central question is ‘can art be separated from the artist?’, our first propositional answer is – Yes – art can be separated from the artist as it is through the reification of a thought originally contemplated by an individual that art comes into being. From the vestiges of an artist’s mind a thought becomes an object – there is creator and creation. This presents us with our first distinction – art and artist are separable in that art is the creation (object) of artist’s (subject) creativity. The process of reification makes concrete such a division.

Creator ↔ Creation

Although the separability of art from the artist (as creator and created) holds some merit, one cannot help but feel to be left with a sour taste in one’s mouth when acknowledging that there must be more to it than such a simple division? The fact remains that through contemplation and the reification, some posit of the author is left within the art, as a residue. This shall be the topic of discussion in this section.

Throughout the twentieth century, many continental philosophers dedicated their time to the aesthetic discussion of experiencing art, and more broadly, the world of meaning itself. For some such as Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Paul Ricoeur, to name but a few, such a discourse took place through the examination of hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is a branch of philosophy concerning the ‘art of interpretation’, or as Judith Shklar phrases it in her ‘Squaring The Hermeneutic Circle’: “Hermes carried the messages of the gods, and hermeneutics is the art of reading them”.6 Thus, hermeneutics concerns the art of interpreting artworks – chiefly texts – in order to ascertain some understanding of their meaning. As a branch of philosophy, there are a number of important points to make about hermeneutics – enough to fill volumes of works on the topic. As such, Hermeneutics itself shall not be discussed here in order to spare the reader several days of time.7 Nonetheless it must be stated that, as the art of interpreting and understanding meaning, hermeneutics has concerned itself (practically since its formal inception into philosophy with Schleiermacher) with interpreting art-works, and understanding the meaning a work of art discloses to its interpreter.

Herein lies the first point that must be made: Art is experienced via interpretation. When one is in a gallery, at a theatre or even watching a band play at Brixton Academy, one is more than just part of a wider audience, but rather a gaggle of interpreters – finding meaning in the art that discloses itself to you. This implies, to some degree at least, that to engage with an artwork is to experience its gaze interpretively. We should never forget that to stare at oil on canvass, or performer on stage, and so on, is to have our gaze mirrored by the art we interpret. For instance, we may often stare at Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, but we often forget that it screams back. None other than DaVinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ best embodies this alltogether-forgotten fact of interpreting and experiencing art – that for as long as it is in our gaze – we are in its. We must experience art by surrendering the time to interpret its meaning.

As interesting as this is, our concern here is the extent to which such an interpretive experience effects the separability of ‘art’ and ‘the artist’. Before we can discuss this however, it must also be remembered that to create art is itself an experience.

In his magnum opus ‘Being and Time’ Martin Heidegger tells us that the essence of art lay in a process of poeticising life, engaged in by the artist. Amongst so many other utterances, here Heidegger tells us that as the operation of art is to poeticise life, the experience of creating art that the artist engages with is a “disclosing of existence”.8 The posit which exists within an artwork, as the residue of the artist’s creation, is their own existence and experience transplanted onto a canvass, sheet of paper, or a stage, and comes to the fore as the shadow of the contemplative moment the artist has prior to and during reification – taking up its own existential form as the posit within the newly reified object itself. This requires some more thought.

In his essay ‘Heidegger’s Later Philosophy’, Gadamer reaffirms Heidegger’s claim that the essence of art is in the poeticisation of life. Here, he states that:

“Heidegger asserts that the essence of art is in the process of poeticising. What he means is that the nature of art does not consist in transforming something that is already formed or in copying something that is already in being. Rather, art is the project by which something new comes forth as true. The essence of the event of truth that is present in the work of art is that ‘it opens up an open place”.9

Gadamer’s explanation of Heidegger’s claim is important for our investigation, as he tells us that the poeticisation inherent in art, as the disclosing of existence, becomes an evental truth – opening up the space for open-ended disclosure and interpretation of the work of art itself. This is significant for us as Gadamer reveals that the space for the interpretation is opened through the artist’s act of disclosing existence to us by creating something new – making the interpretation of art indebted to the artist, and as such, making them inseparable. In order to discuss this we must return to Heidegger.

In an essay entitled ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, Heidegger fleshes out the very manner in which art is inseparable from the artist. Here he argues, “The artist is the origin of the work. The work is the origin of the artist. Neither is without the other”.10 Thus, Heidegger shows us that the process of simply dividing the artist and the art as ‘creator’ and ‘creation’ is too logically causal. Rather, what he explains in the essay is the manner in which the work of art and the artist construct one another, amongst other notable concerns about the connection between ‘art’, ‘being’ and ‘truth’.

Although ‘Art’ and ‘The Artist’ exist as separate entities, as creation and creator, they can never be truly separated. The posit of the artist cannot wholly be extracted from the art, and the abstract notion of the art’s contemplation can never be equally wholly extracted from the artist. In this sense, the experience of poeticising, in order to disclose some existential meaning to an interpreter, is a constant discourse between creator and creation – one always informs the other and vice versa. Heidegger affirms to us that at works and artists exist because ‘art’ resides at their origin, that “Art essentially unfolds in the artwork”, going on to claim, “What art is should be inferable from the work. What the work of art is we can come to know only from the essence of art. Anyone can easily see that we are moving in a circle”.11 It is through this circular motion that we cannot simply interpret art in a vacuum, sealed off from the world. The work of art and the artist are within the world alongside us, and as such, the world outside of the creator-creation relationship feeds into the essence of art itself.

In positing contemplation through its reification, art is the disclosure of existence, and as such, “a becoming and happening of Truth”.12 Heidegger continues to discuss the experiential process of disclosing ones being as a truth by stating:

“Truth, as the clearing and concealing of beings, happens in being composed. All art, as the letting happen of the advent of the truth of beings, is as such, in essencepoetry. The essence of art, on which both the artwork and the artist depend, is the setting-itself-into-work of truth. It is due to art’s poetic essence that, in the midst of beings, art breaks open an open place, in whose openness everything is other than usual”.13

Essentially, although Heidegger’s writing is rather complex and difficult to reduce, his central point is that art forges an open space for interpretation as a disclosure of being, and as such, the disclosure of some form of truth. “Art is in it’s essence an origin: a distinctive way in which truth comes into being”.14

This relates to our question of separability because Heidegger introduces an emphasis not only on the mutual construction of ‘the artist’ and ‘the work of art’, but connects them through his grasp of the essence of ‘art’, namely, the pulling into being some truth by the experience of disclosing one’s existence creatively. This goes on to open the space for interpretation, forcing us to ask questions about the Being which has been disclosed to us in the work of art itself. Thus, through Heidegger’s existential grasp, we can see that ‘the work of art’ and ‘the artist’ are in fact inseparable precisely because of their connection to what they share – the essence of ‘art’ itself.

Through the experience, or performance, of reifying contemplation, creator and creation are intrinsically forever connected as two parts of a single whole, informing and re-informing one another in their disclosure of existence; opening the space for interpretation. Nonetheless, although this highlights the experience of forging art as the disclosure of truth and Being – interpreting art is itself an experience, which, with further consideration, might adapt the extent to which work of art is or is not separable from the artist. This will be the focus of the next section, centring itself on a new agent – the effect of the interpreter.  

Creator ↔ Creation ↔Interpreter

   Although in a rather complicated fashion, the previous sub-section criticised the notion that ‘the artist’ and ‘the work of art’ are totally separable as merely creator and creation. Rather, through Heidegger, we saw that the two are always interconnected by their relationship with the essence of art, as the poeticisation of existence and disclosure of truth. The posit of existence in art is what is experienced by the onlooker – turning them from a mere spectator into an interpreter. Thus, the role of the interpreter has a potentially important role in discussing the separability of the work of art and the artist – as the interpreter is the mediator of the work of art. In order to discuss the pivotal role of the interpreter, we shall turn to the work of the noted literary theorist and semiotician Roland Barthes. 

In one of his greatest essays ‘The Death of the Author’, Barthes deals with the question of the author’s role in relation to, and authority over, text. In this, we can transpose Barthes’s work to discuss our own topic, namely, the relationship and separability of art and the artist – understanding the author and the text as but one incarnation of this relationship.

At the beginning of his work, Barthes seems to suggest that interpreting and explaining a text is always sought though the narrative voice of the author, as if the author confides in us a sacred meaning of the text at hand.15 The immanent problem with this is that as the author (artist) is thought of as confiding in us a certain meaning, the very language they use to mediate meaning is thought to be their own. Barthes claims, rather:

“It is language which speaks, not the author; to write is through a prerequisite impersonality (not at all to be confused with castrating objectivity of the realist novelist), to reach that point where only language acts, ‘performs’ and not ‘me’”.16

The ‘impersonality’ that Barthes speaks of seems itself to be language, as it is through language that the author constructs utterances to be mediated. In this sense, we interpret that Barthes’s objective is to shift the hermeneutic discussion of how we interpret meaning away from privileging the horizon of the artist and, ultimately, emphasise the horizon of the interpreter as constructing the meaning of a text (art) through a linguistic framework.

Barthes, it appears, emphasises the linguistic role of the author. It is worth, briefly, highlighting that an author, although they mould a text through their skill of ordering language, do not sit outside of language itself – the author does not sit anterior to their linguistic horizon but, rather, speaks through it. In his ‘Philosophical Hermeneutics’, Hans-Georg Gadamer discusses precisely this notion. Here, Gadamer affirms that language is essentially human and that man is a linguistic being, implying that there never was a pre-linguistic era where man was without language.17 Thus humanity and language are constituent of one another.

The problem we face, as Gadamer affirms, is that language is in itself inescapable. To contemplate language is to contemplate and exist within its horizon. He argues that:

“The appearance of the concept of ‘language’ presupposes the consciousness of language…all thinking about language is already once again drawn back into language. We can only think in language, and just as this residing of our thinking in a language is the profound enigma that language presents to thought…Language is by no means simply an instrument…we are always already encompassed by the language that is our own”.18

For the existential thinkers in the mid-twentieth century, the all-encompassing nature of language appeared as an enigma precisely as they affirmed its inescapability. All meaning, all thought, all disclosure and mediation of life is done through language and how we grasp that language. Through the creation of new language, new entities are brought into existence, and through the extinguishing or fading of language, entities themselves fade. Language is thus the cloak that shrouds our Being, all Being.19 Further in the essay, ‘Man and Language’, Gadamer stipulates that:

“Learning to speak does not mean learning to use a pre-existent tool for designating a world already somehow familiar to us; it means acquiring a familiarity and acquaintance with the world itself and how it confronts us…In truth we are already at home in language, just as much as we are in the world”.20

Language is how we construct, mediate and disclose every entity within the world itself, and language, we must never forget, is not created by us, but by our ancestors. It is in this vein that all existence, as language, exists within a historical horizon; the language we are using now was not created by us, but rather, by the past, and as such, discloses a connection to meaning from another time. In this manner, all being is historical because of the all-encompassing nature of language, or as Gadamer states in his magnum opus ‘Truth and Method’: “In fact history does not belong to us; we belong to it”, precisely as we belong to language and all the ‘experience’ this incurs.21

As language is created by humans, and equally forges how we humans grasp the world, the very act of experiencing and mediating the world is a social experience because we engage with one another and mediate our common world through language, both by discourse in the present and with the past through historically posited meaning. Thus, as Gadamer states:

“Hence language is the real medium of the human being, if we only see it in the realm that it alone fills out, the realm of human being-together, the realm of common understanding, of ever-replenished common agreement – a realm as indispensable to human life as the air we breathe”.22

Through Gadamer, we can see that meaning is disclosed, posited, and interpreted through language. In this way, the interpretive experience of art is itself a linguistic one. To state that: “moreover, the theme that dominates the later Water Lilies, of lily pads floating on the water surface is common in Japanese prints”23; or  even that: “Ranging from the desperate and loveless landscapes of ‘Taxman’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, and ‘A Day in The Life’, to the anthemic tribute of ‘All you need is love’, the Beatles explore the many faces of love”24, is to clearly demonstrate that, like any other experience, the interpretation of art is done within the all encompassing horizon of language. Therefore, the manner in which we grasp linguistic meaning, as social individuals, adapts how we interpret a work of art as an individual interpreter-subject. This takes us back to Barthes.

If we read Barthes through this part of Gadamer’s thought, we can see that Barthes’s critique is to rid the author of their authority over the reader’s potential linguistic interpretative experience.

“The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past of his own book: book and author stand automatically on a single line divided into before and after. The Author is thought to nourish the book, which is to say that he exists before it, thinks, suffers, lives for it, is in the same relation of antecedence to his work as a father to his child. In complete contrast, the modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text, is in no way equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing, is not the subject with the book as predicate”.25

Interestingly, we interpret this as Barthes’s disclosure of the Creator/Creation relationship we stipulated at the beginning of this paper. The clear-cut division between Creator and Creation leads us to believe that the author (or artist) has a prioritised position in disclosing what the meaning of their text (the art) is, as if it were concrete. Thus, replacing the author with a ‘scriptor’ reduces this authority as it adapts the Creator/Creation relationship in order to open this relation to a third agent, namely the interpreter.

Barthes, in our interpretation, aims at un-anchoring ‘the work of art’ to the single meaning declared by the author as being the ‘true’ interpretation of their creation. By castrating the author of their theological authority, Barthes intends on privileging the interpreter, breaking open the interpretive potential of an artwork and relinquishing it of any interpretive limits. He states:

“We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash”.26

The notion of the ‘Author-God’ that Barthes expounds is a rebellion against the privileged position we give an author in deciding how we as the interpreter understand the meaning of a text. As language is the very fabric of Being, and as language is created within an intersubjective socio-historical horizon, the meaning of language can be interpreted with a multiplicity of differences between interpreters. The famous passage by Charles Dickens “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”, can be interpreted in a number of ways, connected to the manner in which we mediate these terms when they come together as a whole.

This ‘whole’ is a collection of terms which forge a paragraph, page, chapter or book as text, but it must not be forgotten that these collections are exactly that, a ‘whole’ collection of individual ‘parts’. In succeeding the author, the scriptor lays bare the terms to be interpreted that come together as a single whole; forging what Barthes refers to as, “a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred”.27 As a ‘tissue of signs’, a text can be freed of its interpretive limits, as defined by the previous theological author-ity. A ‘sign’ can defer linguistic meaning, ultimately leading the interpreter to an ‘absently present’ meaning; for a simplistic example, in the way that the term ‘torrential’ tends to lead us to the absent presence of ‘rain’.28 This process Barthes referred to as ‘the multiplicity of writing’, in which:

“…everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered; the structure can be followed, ‘run’ (like the thread of a stocking) at every point and at every level, but there is nothing beneath: the space of writing is to be ranged over, not pierced; writing ceaselessly posits meaning ceaselessly to evaporate it, carrying out a systematic exemption of meaning. In precisely this way literature (it would be better from now on to say writing), by refusing to assign a ‘secret’, an ultimate meaning, to the text (and to the world as text), liberates what may be called an anti-theological activity, an activity that is truly revolutionary since to refuse to fix meaning is, in the end, to refuse God”.29

We construe that Barthes forges a revolutionary perspective, by disentangling the artist from their art, by permitting the interpreter to bring it into being meaning through their own linguistic interpretation of the ‘tissue of signs’. As language is constructed by us, and our frameworks of existence by language,  and as language exists within a socio-historical horizon – different societies, cultures, and networks of language place differing meaning upon the same ‘sign’.30

“Thus is revealed the total existence of writing: a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focussed and the place is the reader…a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination…Classic criticism has never paid any attention to the reader; for it, the writer is the only person in literature…it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the death of the Author”.31

We, as readers of Barthes, (avoiding the ironic trap of turning Barthes into an Author-God), interpret the essay as disclosing primarily an insistence that the ‘unity’, or potential meaning, of a text rests ‘in its destination’, i.e. in the meaning the interpreter bestows on the ‘tissue of signs’ placed together by the scriptor. In this sense, to break open the potentiality of an artwork’s meaning is to disentangle it from its creator. This implies that the work’s interpreter is given priority to interpret a work of art without any limits of supposed authority, following the all-encompassing and enigmatic path that the horizon of language presents; the horizon that we as humans sit within all be it at different points and moments.

This concerns our question of separability precisely as through Barthes’s lens, we can contend that there is another agent in the relationship between ‘the artist’ and ‘the art’, namely ‘the interpreter’. To twist Barthes’s final invocation – the birth of the interpreter must be at the death of the artist. In this manner, although the artist reifies thought and brings the work into the world, it is the interpreter who ultimately bestows meaning upon the work of art itself. By introducing this third agent into the formula of art’s separability from the artist, the two become even further separated. The artist and the work of art gain a distance between them, despite the posit of creative poeticising that exists within the art. It is ultimately not the artist who drags the meaning of an artwork into existence, but the interpreter. Through the linguistic, interpretive experience of mediating meaning, the interpreter becomes a second, more important, creator – dragging the meaning of a work of art into the world itself. Thus, as the artist is castrated of their interpretive authority over their art, a distance between them ensues.

Here we effectively gave three answers to the question of art’s separability from the artist. The first stipulated that as Creator and Creation, ‘the artist’ and ‘the art’ are by definition wholly separate entities. The second exclaimed the Heideggerian notion that the two are not separate because they are mutually constructive and unified through the very idea of art as a poeticised and disclosing existence, one that is interpretively experienced. The apparent centrality of the ‘interpretive experience’ of art was then discussed through the work of Roland Barthes. This third stipulation exclaimed that when the interpretive experience is given a central position in the relationship between ‘the artist’ and ‘the art’, the interpreter gains agency within that relationship itself, separating ‘the artist’ and ‘the art’ to some degree as the interpreter produces and mediates the meaning of a work of art in the world itself; breaking open the potentiality for how ‘the art’ can be understood and the meaning it could have in the world. This is all well and good, providing three equally valid answers to the question, however, something seems to be lacking – perhaps mere separability is not the true question at hand.

THE QUESTION AT HAND

So far, we have been discussing the nature of ‘Can art be separated from the artist?’. The section above deals with this question and, essentially, provides three responses: (a) yes – as creator and creation; (b) no – as creator and creation mutually construct one another in that they share a foundational connection to ‘art’; (c) yes – as through the utterance of language, as Barthes claims, a work of art escapes the clutches of the artist’s hold the moment it is interpreted, presenting the interpreter with agency. Therefore, it takes no genius to see that there are a number of responses to the question.

However, if we turn back to the cause of this investigation, and cast a light over its inception with the path we have travelled, something else may be illuminated. This investigation began in the wake of the documentary concerning Michael Jackson, reporting on his supposed acts of child molestation and grooming. If we were to use our analysis of the past section in this case, with the question in mind we would see that: (a) Michael Jackson is separable from his music; (b) Michael Jackson and his music create one another, and that; (c) Michael Jackson, this music, and the listener are in a constant conversation concerning how his art is to be interpreted.

As is simple to see, the question of ‘can we separate the art from the artist?’ is rather easy to answer: it can indeed be done, but this might perhaps be neglecting something of the very essence of art itself, namely, the posit of the artist and the interpreter resting within and synonymously outside the artwork itself, not to mention the role of the interpreter.

Nonetheless, this answer really does miss the mark of the real question being asked. In the formulas discussed above, any artist or creator could have been used – but the scandal here rests with Michael Jackson and the extent to which his activities have had an effect on how we interpret his art. To us, this indicates a tectonic shift in how the question itself is framed. The real underlying question here is not really the extent to which such a separation is possible between art and artist. Rather the real question at hand is ‘Should art and the artist be separated?’.

In a single adaptation of the question, we encounter the kernel of what is really being asked in the age of the #MeToo movement, Jimmy Saville, Celebrity Paedophilia, and so on. This indicates a shift away from an explanatory question of intrigue, to a normative question of significance for our age – a shift from Aesthetics to Ethics.

If, as has been discussed above, we can separate the art from the artist naturally – i.e. through ‘the death’ of the author and the rise of the interpreter by the sheer performative fact of experiencing art’s disclosure of meaning – in an age where such discrepancy has been made public, and an artist becomes perceived to be an immoral agent, does the stain on the character of the artist bleed onto their art? This I think can be answered simply – yes – as the posit of the artist always remains somewhere in our interpretive framework, the fact of this enquiry is testimony to that fact. Therefore, should art undergo a separation from its artist, when the artist (like Jackson, Weinstein, Spacey or even Picasso) are revealed to have committed immoral acts? This is the scope of this next section – to answer the underlying ethical question of art’s separation from the artist, namely, should a separation be enforced in certain circumstances?

In order to answer the ethical question at the heart of our enquiry, we have chosen to direct our investigation by asking three smaller questions: (1) Who is responsible for art, and the artist?, (2) Is it more damaging to individuals, and to society, to censor ‘tainted’ art, or to let the transgressions be known en masse?, and finally, (3) Is it wrong to destroy art? Once all three questions have been addressed, some concluding thought will be presented. 

The first step on our expedition towards an answer lies in answering firstly, “Who is responsible for art, and the artist?”

L’art pour l’art. Art for art’s sake is the inherent value of art, divorced from any didactic, moral, or utilitarian function. When “true” art is created without any purpose other than that of its own creation, the answer to the question of who is responsible for art depends upon whether the ‘art’ in question proves to be “true” or not. So firstly, what is ‘art’, and what is not? To be considered ‘art’, a thought or idea must be reified without a function, it must be brought into existence only to exist tangibly and therefore able to be experienced. Let us excuse then the fact that a piece of art brought into being by an artist can become non-art when utilised for a function other than simply existing. For example, if a marble sculpture were to be used as a battering ram, or a painting burned as fuel for a fire, they would gain a function in performance, enacting the process of becoming another object of the human artifice, falling from grace. Simply, a work of art is castrated of its position as such when the object of the work is utilised through performance of humans for some instrumental ends-it is through the performative experience of bestowing upon the object of the artwork some function that equally actualises its fall.

Likewise therefore, you could argue that the opposite is true; that non-art created with a specific function can be considered ‘art’ when it remains unused but is nonetheless experienced. Tracey Emin’s ‘Bed’ is a brilliant example of this. So then, despite the transformable nature of objects and art, for our argument let us consider what the object is at the point of its actualisation. Since anybody could potentially alter artwork by utilising it, we have to realise whom, at its moment of actualisation, has bestowed the object its nature. Of course, this is the artist. The artist being the person or persons whose physical bodies have brought the object into being. If the artist has created this object to be experienced without a function, then we are to consider it art.

Our next question is then, what does it mean to be ‘responsible’ for art? In the very word ‘responsible’ is the implication of action. Does this mean responsible for the act of bringing the art into existence? Alternatively, could it mean the act of those who interpret it? Responsible for arts creation, or responsible for arts effect? Responsible for the art’s existence is the artist. Although, an artist can, and often is, employed or commissioned by another to create art, using the artist almost as a tool. In this process, the commissioner can specify with varying degrees of detail and control what exactly they want the artist to create. In this instance, it could be argued that it is therefore not the artist who is responsible for the art, but the commissioner. However, the artist cannot reify the ideas of another, only their own understanding of another’s ideas. In understanding another’s idea, the idea becomes unique to the artist, no matter how infinitesimally small or unboundedly large the variance in the understanding of the idea is, and therefore the resultant piece of art is always a creation of the individual to whom the hands of creation belong. Since the artist can generally choose whether or not to actually create ‘art’ for or on behalf of someone else, the person responsible for its existence is the artist, and no one else.

Since art is created as a means to express an artist’s contemplation, it can be compared to other ways of doing this. Commonly, this takes the form of verbal communication, but however can also be achieved through body language and so on. If we hold individuals accountable for their views, opinions, and ideas when they present them to us in verbal discourse, then what reason do we have to infract that belief when these ideas are presented through an artistic medium? We have no reason. Art is a communication of sorts and it is up to the artist to decide exactly how they want to communicate their thought or idea. In the same way that expressing thoughts or ideas verbally in certain ways can often cause certain reactions, particularly if the thoughts and ideas are controversial in nature and/or are presented in a controversial manner, so to can artworks.

Alas, although it may be known that particular ideas and methods of presenting them are likely to cause outrage and controversy, it is simply not the artist’s fault that this occurs. It is not the artist’s obligation to present their reified contemplation in such a way that it avoids controversy. If the thought or idea is controversial in nature then the artwork cannot be a true representation of the exact thought or idea if the artist presents the idea in a less truthful, non-controversial manner. How one interprets a piece of art is up to only themself, so if the way they interpret the art causes them to be offended, or upset, hence responding in violence or protest, then that is a result of their own interpretation, not the artists’.

So then, we have an answer to our secondary question. As they are the instrument that brings the artwork into creation, the artist is responsible for arts existence. However, as we’ve concluded, “true” art has no function, meaning that it in itself cannot affect or alter the human artifice in which it now exists whereas an object created with a function, a chisel for instance, can. Therefore, we must conclude that, while they are responsible for arts existence, artists are not responsible for its interpretation. After all it is not the effect of art to change anything about the space in which it exists, in fact it cannot; it is the effects of the actions of those who experience it that alter the world. The fact that the experience of art can help alter the world then is perhaps why the ethical dilemma of whether or not to continue to allow the experiences of art created by artists whose actions have been deemed unsavoury occurs. This implies that the artists work is always naturally tainted by their personal actions, and therefore holds the potentiality to taint those who experience it. Therefore, this then begs the ethical question, ‘Is it more damaging to individuals, and to society, to censor ‘tainted’ art, or to let the transgressions be known en masse?’.

A step, however, has been overlooked. That is to say, how the jump is made from deciding that an artists actions are unsavoury and they are therefore ‘tainted’, and how that in turn also applies to their art. This means we must answer the question then, ‘How is art ‘tainted?’.

Everyone forms their own interpretation of art when they experience it, and what factors they let influence their interpretation are of course up to them. However, when an interpreter takes into account the intentions of the artist, “we’re remaking what Barthes called the ‘Author-God’. We’re giving the author both interpretive power (over how we think about their work) and institutional power (over how they get to treat people without consequences)”. Here, in here article on the topic, Constance Grady argues that actually, because of this, it might be right to separate art and the artist for her own interpretational experience – but it can also be for the sake of justice.32 Separating the art from the artist as much as possible, allowing the art to exist outside of its relation to a subject, permits the greatest possible potential for the interpreter. This means that art only becomes tainted when the artists intentions are taken into account, as to allow somebody to have an interpretational sway over you is to let them co-own the art – your art. However, it is not the art itself that becomes tainted; it is your interpretation of it. It is what you have posited in the art. The artwork as it is to you. The piece of artwork itself can never be tainted. If you yourself choose to posit the artist, to whatever degree that may be, into the art, then it is you as an interpreter who has tainted it.

The question, “Is it more damaging to individuals, and to society, to censor ‘tainted’ art and the artist, or to let the transgressions be known en masse?” then, is redundant. Art that already exists and has already been experienced therefore is unable to be censored. It may be censored so that those who have not yet experienced it will experience it and thus interpret it differently, but this is because it will become a different artwork (‘New Art’ if you will), but for those who have already experienced it as it was created, censorship becomes complex. They can choose to experience the New Art, but that is just it, it is now a different artwork. Their interpretation of the original artwork is not necessarily subject to change. This is exactly why art is difficult to censor. As soon as an artwork is censored in any way it is transformed into a new, unique artwork. Artwork that is censored is destroyed, and a new artwork is born from this of which the censorship is a constituent. In this sense then, ‘censorship’ as it were does not exist. In reality, art is being destroyed. With this, our question becomes not, ‘is it more damaging to the individual, and to society, to censor (or even destroy) ‘tainted’ art and the artist, or to let the transgressions be known en masse?’. This is now secondary. Folding in to our next question, it becomes, ‘Is it wrong to destroy art?’.

However, since ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are concepts constructed by humans and bear no universally agreed credence, for the purpose of answering our question then, we have to solve from whose perspective the question springs and holds importance. We must ask whom is art for?

To experience art is to experience humanity and its creations as a human among other humans. In simpler terms, this is to experience society. We can state with confidence that art that is shared publicly but with restrictions is to limit participation in society. Therefore, an artist, or at least the owner of an artwork, can choose whether or not to exhibit the piece publicly, privately, or not at all, as it is (legally) theirs to do with what they please. Hence, in that sense, art can be private or public. It could be argued that for a significant piece of art to remain unexhibited by the general public is to deny their participation in society, as the artwork may be so important as to contribute towards the advancement of human society. So, artwork that is created and remains solely in the possession of the artist for only their experience, will remain to belong to the artist until such a decision is made that allows for others to experience it. This could be via public exhibition, or if the ownership of the art simply passes to somebody else (via monetary transaction, gifting, bequeathment or other means), therefore allowing them the opportunity to experience it as its owner.

If, then, the decision is made to exhibit the artwork publicly, and through that public exhibition it comes to be of significant societal value, then reasonably it may be decided that to revoke or deny its public exhibition is to hinder an individual’s ability to participate in society. Nevertheless, this bears the question, ‘who decides what artwork is of societal value?’. Of course, this continues to be those who posit anything and everything into artwork, those who make artwork what it is, and that is the audience, being in this case the general public. So I believe now, we have an answer to our preliminary question – Who is art for? Art is for the artist; they create art as a means of self-expression and, once they have expressed what they want, it is for them to decide whom they wish to share that with. Next is the owner. If the artist allows for the continuation or survival of their art through the ownership of another then it becomes theirs to do with what they please. Lastly, if a decision is made by the owner of an artwork to exhibit the art publicly then, if we deem it to be so, it is for society, and in that, the individual. So we edge closer to an answer.

To reiterate,to experience art is to experience humanity and it is creations as a human among other humans. In simpler terms, this is to experience society. Censoring art, thus destroying it, and replacing it with a ‘more appropriate’ artwork, is to alter the reality of the society that is created by humans amongst other humans. Hence, to censor art is therefore not just to allow the participation in a false society, but to propagate it. It is to build a wall in front of the expressions it deems to be inappropriate, despite the fact that these expressions originated from within the very walls it built to keep them out. To further advance society would depend upon the ability to acknowledge ‘issues’ or ‘problems’ with it and work towards ‘correcting’ them. Instead, censorship prohibits us from advancing society by making it impossible for us to experience the problems with it. It is because of this reason that the censorship, and resulting destruction, of art is indeed damaging to society, and therefore the individuals that constitute its existence. It is personally limiting, socially limiting, and it is for these reasons that the destruction of art proves problematic.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

This paper sought out to answer the question ‘Can art be separated from the artist?’. Through our investigation, we discovered that there are a handful of answers to the simple separability of art from the artist. The first determined that as Creator and Creation, ‘the artist’ and ‘the art’ are wholly distinct entities. The second exclaimed the Heideggerian idea that the two are not separable as they are mutually constructive and unified through their relation via art as a poeticised and disclosing existence, one that is interpretively experienced. The centrality of the ‘interpretive experience’ was then examined through the work of Roland Barthes. This third answer contended that when the interpretive experience is set a central position in the relationship between ‘the artist’ and ‘the art’, the interpreter becomes an agent within the relationship itself; breaking open the potentiality for how ‘the art’ can be understood and the existential meaning it could be granted in the world. To this extent, ‘the artist’ and ‘the art’ are at quite a distance from one another, with the interpreter-subject taking the privileged place the artist once clung on to, disseminating authority amongst multiplicity.

In this manner, we presented three frames through which one could judge the separability of ‘the art’ from the ‘artist’. Nonetheless, although the basic separability was addressed, something was lacking. This was located in the structure and manner of the question itself, shifting our emphasis from an aesthetic analysis, to an ethically normative questioning. This manifested itself in the rewording of the question to ask: ‘Should art be separated from the artist?’, grounding the remainder of the piece on the ethical queries at the heart of art’s separability from the artist, and whether or not such a separation should be imposed in certain cases.

Overall, we would like to end this piece by affirming that – no; we should not enforce or recommend a widespread separation of art from artist. If we do, it is to choose what is deemed worthy to be an interpretational experience. By separating one from the other, we neglect the interpreter and the meaning they attach to the connection between an artist and their art, as a part of their interpretive experience. For some, Picasso may be no more than a domestic abuser, and the ‘tissue of signs’ flooding from his artworks cannot escape that fact. For others, the very same signs may, could, can and do disclose alternative meaning, viewing his art as distinct from himself – standing alone as an independent entity which is not corrupted by the man who once applied the paint.

 It is not our collective role to determine in what circumstances, and for whom, art must be separable from the artist –  however it is our role to ensure, entrench and enshrine the open-ended possibility for what is, and what could become. In order to sustain the immanence of potentiality, cutting off no single interpretive experience so to make any and all interpretation possible, we must refrain from such restrictive action. It is the role of the interpreter, however, the individual being who breathes life into a work of art through their interpretation of its disclosure of meaning. The interpreter, in this manner, becomes their only master of restriction, as self-restriction of interpretation and in this process settles on an interpretive understanding of the world at hand that lacks the suffocation of stifling the open-ended potentialities of interpretive experience as a whole.

We must save the capacity for the individual to judge, interpret, choose, or acknowledge the transgressions of an artist when experiencing their creative output, as to experience art is to experience the creations in the world as a human amongst other humans.


NOTES

1 Georges Sorel (2004) Reflections on Violence, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p.244.

2 For those who are unfamiliar with the term ‘human artifice’, it denotes the totality of the artificial, world that we have created across generations of a single species. Into this artifice falls every single settlement we have built, all the ideas, knowledge and judgements which govern our behaviour, and most importantly for this discussion, all the objects we have created.

3 Hannah Arendt (1998) The Human Condition, 2nd Edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 167-169. 

4 Hannah Arendt (1993) “The Crisis in Culture: Its Social and Its Political Significance”, in Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought, New York: Penguin Books, pp. 197-226, p. 200.

5 For more information see: Lorraine Peterson (2004) God’s An Artist and You’re a Masterpiece: The Mind-Boggling Science of an Awesome Creator, Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications; Bob Kilpatrick and Joel Kilpatrick (2010) The Art of Being You: How to Live as God’s Masterpiece, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

6 Judith N. Shklar (2004)” ‘Squaring The Hermeneutic Circle”, Social Research: An International Quarterly, 71(3), pp. 655-678, p. 656.

7 For a better grasp of Hermeneutics, I would suggest reading: Hans-Georg Gadamer (2004) Truth and Method, London: Bloomsbury; Hans-Georg Gadamer (2008) “On the Scope and Function of Hermeneutical Reflection”, in David E. Linge (Tr. and Ed.), Philosophical Hermeneutics, Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 18-43; Hans-Georg Gadamer (2008) “Man and Language”, in David E. Linge (Tr. and Ed.), Philosophical Hermeneutics, Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 59-68; Paul Ricoeur (1981) Hermeneutics and The Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action and Interpretation,  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; John B. Thompson (1981) Critical Hermeneutics: A Study in the Thought of Paul Ricoeur and Jurgen Habermas, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Jens Zimmermann (2015) Hermeneutics: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

8 Martin Heidegger (2010) Being and Time, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, p. 157.

9 Hans-Georg Gadamer (2008) Philosophical Hermeneutics, Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 228. Emphasis added.

10 Martin Heidegger (2011) Basic Writings, London: Routledge Classics, p. 89.

11 Ibid, p. 90.

12 Ibid, p. 127.

13 Ibid.

14 Of course, Heidegger’s main argument here, as in ‘Being and Time’, is that through the disclosure of meaning as language, truth as being is essentially historical; in that art exists alongside other objects in time of course, but that the language we use to signify meaning does so too, and so “art lets truth originate” – Ibid, p. 131.

15 Roland Barthes (1977) “The Death of The Author”, in Stephen Heath (Tr. And Ed.), Image – Music – Text, London: Fontana Press, pp. 142-148, p. 143.

16 Ibid.

17 Hans-Georg Gadamer (2008) Philosophical Hermeneutics, Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 61.

18 Ibid, p.62.

19 “Being that can be understood is language”; Hans-Georg Gadamer (2004) Truth and Method, London: Continuum, p. 470.

20 Hans-Georg Gadamer (2008) Philosophical Hermeneutics, Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 63.

21 Hans-Georg Gadamer (2004) Truth and Method, London: Continuum, p. 278.

22 Hans-Georg Gadamer (2008) Philosophical Hermeneutics, Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 68.

23 John House (1986) Monet: Nature into Art, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, p. 59.

24 Russell Reising and Jim LeBlanc (2009) “Magical Mystery Tours, and Other Trips: Yellow Submarines, Newspaper Taxis, and the Beatles’ Psychedelic Years”, in Kenneth Womack (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to The Beatles, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 90-111, p. 106.

25 Roland Barthes (1977) “The Death of The Author”, in Stephen Heath (Tr. And Ed.), Image – Music – Text, London: Fontana Press, pp. 142-148, p. 145.

26 Ibid, p.146.

27 Ibid, p.147.

28 For more information on this notion of deference, see Derrida’s discussion of ‘The Trace’, ‘Deconstruction’ and ‘Différance’ in: Jacques Derrida (1997) Of Grammatology, Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, pp. 47-48.

29 Roland Barthes (1977) “The Death of The Author”, in Stephen Heath (Tr. And Ed.), Image – Music – Text, London: Fontana Press, pp. 142-148, p.147.

30 For an illustration of this, think of the way in which the term ‘pants’ means ‘trousers’ in the American vernacular, and ‘underwear’ in the British. The absent presences that follow these signs adapt the manner in which the meaning of the term itself evolves, depending upon the lived experience of the interpreter. 

31 Roland Barthes (1977) “The Death of The Author”, in Stephen Heath (Tr. And Ed.), Image – Music – Text, London: Fontana Press, pp. 142-148, p.148.

32 Constance Grady, October 11th 2018, ‘#MeToo: What Do We Do When The Art We Love Was Created By A Monster’, Vox, https://www.vox.com/culture/ 2018/10/11/17933686 /me-too-separating-artist-art-johnny-depp-woody-allen-louis-ck (accessed 1st May 2019). 

Published by Cameron Maltwood and K.J.O'Meara

Cameron Maltwood is studying Screenwriting (Ba) at The University of Chichester. Their academic interests include: Psychoanalysis and Film Theory, Feminist Aesthetics of 'The Male Gaze', and Theories of Screenwriting. He can be followed on Twitter @thehalfscot. K.J.O'Meara (Ba, MLitt) is an independent British political theorist whose academic interests include: The English School of International Relations, Arendtian Political Thought, Political Hermeneutics, Biopolitics and Critical Film Theory.

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