"What. . . ?" Art as Communication
If art has all the functions attributed to it, it must do so by some kind of communication from artist to viewer. And, if art is a form of communication, why should it not communicate whatever there is to say? Why should it be limited to what is taboo, or to values, or even to feelings?
There are two related dichotomies that have been widely accepted; one is the distinction between the visual and the verbal in terms of the intellectual quality of the latter, and the other a distinction between "feeling" and "thought". These are of course, useful distinctions on some levels, but such a dichotomy leads to considering our brains simply as rather inferior computers, and in reaction to this, anti-intellectualism. On the one hand a loss of a sense of the significance of life, of purpose and motivation; and on the other a loss of the common sense necessary to maintain it. If we conceive of visual forms as having at the same time both cognitive and emotional qualities, we are on our way not only to being better able to understand the works of other peoples, but in conceptually putting human beings together again. In exploring the nature of communications aspects of visual forms, however, it seems necessary to put aside judgments about esthetic quality. In other words, to pay attention to what is being said, without reference to how beautifully it is said. What is said can be both intellectual and emotional.
When we talk about art as communication we are especially concerned with how the visual (or otherwise perceptible) form that is presented to the senses conveys some kind of import by means of the form itself. While the context in which the art appears is important to full understanding, art does not communicate unless the form of the work has some meaning by itself.
We can conceive the event, the situation in which the viewer comes in contact with art, as one kind of communicative transaction involving a number of channels ("media"). Thus in a conversation, communication is by words, tone, etc., in the