Definition of Perception: the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
Definition of Meaning: what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action
Irwin discusses change, subsidiary awareness, and focal awareness, which can be translated into easier vocab: Action, Perception, and Meaning. I started this blog post off with the definitions of those words, to try and start somewhere, because man this reading is dense. But, onto the good stuff– the art!
An artist whose work I think may fit into Irwin’s ideas of change, subsidiary awareness, and focal awareness is Robert Smithson, specifically his piece, Spiral Jetty.
I’m going to break it down with the three magic words.
Change/Action: Smithson changed the landscape of the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah to create the piece, Spiral Jetty. However, Irwin makes it clear in his writing that the end result isn’t necessarily the “change” or the “action.” I think, in the case of Spiral Jetty, that the action is either the building of the Jetty (when it was being made,) and also the experience of a viewer visiting the site and walking along it. In the case of building the Jetty, the aim was to create a land art piece. This is still an action. In the case of a viewer, the action would be wanting to walk out to the center of the spiral– which is an action. And, as the start of this blog states, and action is something that typically achieves an aim.
Subsidiary Awareness/Perception: Through change, there is subsidiary awareness, or in easier terms, perception. An action takes place and it is perceived. Perception is a result, a side-effect, of a change. Perception is awareness caused through the senses (thanks, dictionary,) and Spiral Jetty is a piece that uses more than just the sense of sight in its experience. Spiral Jetty is a piece that exists temporally, and because it is land art and not a painting or a print in a museum, it is experienced differently. The Jetty changes over time, you can walk out on it at low tide, can barely see its shape at high tide. You can bend down and touch the stones, smell the salt, feel the wind on your face and hear the lapping of waves. The senses are engaged, and it is through these senses the experience happens.
Focal Awareness/Meaning: So, we had our action which resulted in perception which results in meaning. “Subsidiaries exist, as such, by bearing on the focus to which we are attending from them, and are integrated one to the other by the act of a person…” So meaning is the result of perceiving. And, in the definition of meaning, is the word action. Meaning is what is meant by an action. In the case of the Spiral Jetty, as an earthwork, it is supposed to challenge the ordinary notions of modern art. It takes art out of the museum and into “nature,” and uses the landscape in its creation. Land art is almost always massive in scale and must be experienced in person to fully appreciate it– perception!
So, yeah. Not sure I did this right but. Y’know. Trying isn’t so bad.