Reflective Art and Visceral Art
In discussing the nature of works of art, it is helpful to have a vocabulary
for categorizing different kinds of (and approaches to) artistic expression.
A conceptual polarity which does not rely on conventional approaches clarifies
the intent of works of art without resort to pejorative (or approbatory)
There are two poles between which any specific form of artistic expression
can be placed--reflective and visceral. The principal characteristic
distinguishing them is the aesthetic focus of the work. This concept
refers to the relative emphasis the work places upon depth of content
or immediacy of impact. Works emphasizing depth of content challenge
the mind and spirit and offer rich rewards for repeat exposure to them.
Works emphasizing immediacy of impact are designed to have a profound
and immediate effect upon the perceiver. These foci are not mutually
exclusive. Indeed, great works of art attend to both of them.
||Depth of Content
||Immediacy of Impact
Beyond this, reflective works generally have as
a motivation an attempt to educate or edify, require some effort to be
appreciated, and, in many cases, derive from an "imported tradition."
Works which are primarily visceral in character emphasize immediacy
of impact, attempt to entertain, are characterized by ease and accessibility,
and, often, derive from an indigenous cultural tradition. These categories
are not hard and fast nor are they, like aesthetic focus, mutually exclusive.
However, understanding this makes it clearer why what is known as "popular"
(or visceral) art can survive what economists call the market test and why
reflective art should not be expected to do so.
©2002 by Doug Borwick
All rights reserved.