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Intentism - the Resurrection of the Author

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 01:15 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 50.2 
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Since the 1920s, a certain view regarding meaning in art has dominated the Anglo-American universities and became almost dogma. This viewpoint insists that works of art should primarily be understood by how minds receive them rather than by the psychology that created them. Such an understanding of meaning in art essentially relegates the artist to just another interpreter of his or her own artwork. For this reason Roland Barthes famously proclaimed ‘the death of the author’.

To refer to the artist’s intention was to naively refer to the unknowable and to place unnecessary limitations on the wealth of possible readings of the artwork. Intention was seen to stifle the work. Adrian Searle in the Guardian once referred to Tony Cragg’s sculptures by enthusing, ‘Finally freed from the artist’s ideas and fantasies of intention, all the conceits that made its existence possible, including the fundamental act of making, the work floats freely, emerging from a kind of blindness’ (1).

In contrast, a group of artists have surfaced who share the belief that the author is alive and well and able to communicate their intended meaning to their intended audience with a degree of accuracy sufficient for them to be pioneers in society, helping to shape what will be, rather than merely documenters of society, recording what is and was. We believe that to consider the artist’s role as anything less is to effectively gag the artist, or simply drown the artist’s intended meaning in a cacophony of conflicting interpretations. We have become known as Intentists and we claim that ‘All meaning is simply the imperfect outworking of intention.’

What follows is a brief outline of this position and its importance.

A: What is intention?

At the heart of Intentism lies a particular understanding of the role of ‘intention’ in the process and understanding of art and literature. In fact, for Intentists, artwork cannot have any...


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