Artibus et Historiae no. 8 (IV)

1983, ISSN 0391-9064

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ALICJA HELMAN - The Present-Day Meaning of a Work of Art

The changes in contemporary art are approached by analysing the evolution of the character of a work of art and its related concepts. The concept of the "open work" proposed by Umberto Eco is modified by representing the development of art as the process of a gradual liberation of the work from its limitations. Strict principles of interpretation have been given up in favour of free and variable readings. The next phase has been the liberation of the work from its status as an object - a modern artist is apt to leave some freedom to the performers as readers, allowing for a more or less free handling of his materially unfinished product. The most recent development has been the rejection of the rules which used to govern all artistic communication.

The author analyses two determinants of contemporary changes in the work of art. One of them is the substitution of the process for the object principle: a contemporary work is apt to be a phenomenon, a happening, a show.

Another factor which is claimed to be of essential significance is the random element in the process of creation and reception of art, appearing in three aspects: 1) random patterns, independent of the artists intentions, are included in a material artistic object; 2) random performance; 3) random reception is allowed, as the audience is expected to influence actively the structure of the work as an object, or even to cooperate with the artist. The analyses are supported by examples from music, visual arts, and film.

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