Big Ideas–The Individual

Who is the individual within an interpretation? “The notion that the most important
aspect in understanding a visual image is what its maker intended to show is sometimes called auteur theory. However, most of the recent work on visual matters is uninterested in the intentionality of an image’s maker” (Rose, 22-23). Yet  it doesn’t seem we can forget the individual without removing their agency. If intent is disregarded, does the individual lose their seat at the negotiation? But. “This doesn’t mean erasing or ignoring differences. Instead, it’s a complex dynamic, what Simeon Dreyfuss calls ‘holding different ways of knowing in relationship.’ in recognizing that our solitary standpoint is limited, we come to embrace another’s viewpoint as essential to our own” (Sousanis, 38).


  1. I really like the reframing you’ve brought to light here, Andrew. Yes, getting away from intent does have an impact on maker and audience (or those who do the taking up of the thing made). Just to complicate this a little bit more, might we say that instead of thinking of humans as processing the images (e.g., someone makes the image, someone sees it) that we could just as well say that the image is a host? The image hosts human attention for more or less time, with thicker and thinner degrees of engagement (or, once forgotten altogether, the image no longer hosts any attention at all).

    1. Your post reminds me of the idea of “The Death of the Author” from Barthes, which is somewhat the opposite of auteur theory; this theory states that when an author puts their work out into the world, their interpretation of the work is no less valid than that of the audience. I believe that both theories highlight the interpretive nature of art. Given that, I wonder what the positivistic view of art and image would be, if there is one at all.

    2. An image as a “host” is intriguing. If we were to look at the something obvious, like say, Plato’s Republic, we could see how the role of the audience has become significantly larger over time. The work no longer belongs to Plato as much as it belongs to Western thought. It has “hosted” a discussion for centuries. If it were to have fizzled out relatively quickly, we would have no recollection of Plato, or his work. Yet since the audience has taken up the artifact as their own, it is they who have given it life. I would say this could be applied to images as well.

      Though despite the take up by the audience, the interpretation of the Republic is still “anchored” by the intent of the author. While the audience can reshape the ideas presented in the work, the work can only be stretched so far before it is “stolen” from its original maker. At this point the audience is perhaps responding to themselves. Not that this is a bad thing, but does it then move the interpretation to a different “image?”

      If we find points where the maker and audience transform after being pulled too far, does that suggest the vitality of maker and audience?

  2. This whole concept of eliminating the image’s maker from the image’s interpretation is still astounding to me since that is not necessarily how we interpret text, like it was mentioned earlier. I keep falling back on speeches and how you have to take into consideration the occasion, the purpose, the audience, and the orator. I like how you brought Sousanis in to help mediate how an image’s maker may have voice in a way.

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