A Process of Art

It has been said many times that when it comes to art and design, half the fun is getting there; the process of creating is as rewarding as finishing the thing you have created. Process has always been the main focus of a design student’s attention while in school, and I think process continues to hold a fetishistic attention by designers who are doing engaging work. An artist like Chuck Close makes monumental pieces of art, but what is particularly interesting is his process for getting to the final piece; his generative ideas of making form and his use of materials are much more rewarding than the final paintings themselves; I suspect especially for him. Artists and designers love process so much because for them, that is when the piece is tangible and allows for a relationship with it. When a piece is completed, their role in its existence stops, or at least changes dramatically. The creator cannot experience the work as a spectator because he is so immersed in its creation.

In a similar but opposite way, the viewer’s relationship with the work starts when it is completed. The viewer’s process is one of spectatorship instead of creation. Benjamin would say that only the original piece retains its authentic aura, whereas reproductions are bad falsehoods. I say that a reproduction is a reproduction, and the original is the original. A viewer will have one kind of experience looking at a reproduction that is just as valid, albeit potentially different, than seeing the original. The process is altered and you will see a piece differently depending on the context it lives in, but seeing a painting in a book is no more a “false” experience than seeing the original is, the process of spectating is still there. The reproduction can also enhance the original piece. Kimmelman notes how Smithson’s work Jetty exists as three works: the jetty itself, the film about the jetty, and the writing about the jetty. All three are valid, and all three are engaging as the viewer sees them.

Written in response to the following readings:
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin
The Swimmer, John Cheever
Let’s See. Writings on Art from the New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl
The Art of the Pilgrimage, Michael Kimmelman