Friday, June 22, 2012

Doing or being?

My wife and I were discussing the ritual of people who meet for the first time and ask: "What do you do?" as a way of passing quick judgment on the importance of the other person.  She wondered about the emphasis on "doing."  Looking at what a person does instead of who it is they are.  Doing or being?

I said it reminded me of what happens when people see a work of art -- experimental film, or any other work of art for that matter -- and question what it is the artist is "communicating" through the work, as if the message of the work were secondary to the visceral experience of being in the presence the work itself.  What it is a work of art is "doing" instead of what it is.

By way of analogy, I said, imagine someone looked at a sunset and asked, "Okay, it's nice to look at, but what is this sunset trying to communicate to me?"  Obviously a silly question, since it would be terribly presumptuous to assume that the sunset existed purely for the purpose of communicating something to the questioner.  But often people assume a work of art exists as a receptacle for delivering some message to the viewer.  A work of art might not be intended to communicate anything.  Its purpose might be just to "be."

* * *

. . . for more on this subject, time to turn to Susan Sontag's “Against Interpretation.”



  1. europian civilization is obsessed with looking for a meaning, but our conditioned minds always look in wrong places.
    nice blog!

  2. "What do you do?" is almost as annoying and irrelevant as asking "Where are you from?" - That's why I don't go to cocktail parties.