Interpretation in Time

My post on destruction got an interesting response on Facebook from reader Nicole Rigets. She says: “Old books contain new ways of seeing and thinking. In my opinion all books contain secret knowledge (even novels).” This is really fascinating. Of course the tradition of esoteric commentary on books, especially the Bible, is very old, but it’s not often remarked that the older the document the more can be seen in it. Interpretive possibilities grow over time. I think that’s an objective feature of any work of art—it’s meaning unfolds in time, it’s not actually there at the beginning. Of course I’m belaboring a point I love to belabor—namely the error of positing a meaning as the motive or origin of a work. You can’t pack meaning in, it emerges. And you don’t need an intention to begin. So how do you start? With the formal stuff, what the work actually is. Formalism doesn’t deny human meanings, it enables them. The less you bring to the work, the more it will give later. And, as Nicole Rigets points out, what it gives will always be new.

Frank Stella, K 43 2008

Frank Stella, K 43 2008

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