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Art as Communication


Subject Art
Communication Studies » Visual and Non-verbal Communication

People Hume, David

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


In modern western culture, art has increasingly been defined as an elite sphere of activity distinct from broader notions of social communication. Since Kant and Hume, discriminations of sensory beauty and “delicacy of taste” have been invoked in judgments of → aesthetic value that separate those forms of communication that qualify as art from those that do not. Gross has argued that art appreciation is dependent upon the “perception and evaluation of the competence displayed by the artist,” the degree to which the viewer/reader attributes skill on the part of the artist in the intentional “selecting, transforming, and ordering of the elements” ( Gross 1973 , 124, 127). These demonstrations of competence may be appreciated anonymously, as examples of conventionally recognized ability or talent, but most often they depend upon the valorization of an individual artist, the repository of the skill that is distinguished. Yet, in most cultures for most of human history, the creation of art has been a socially organized activity, central to the communication of shared religious beliefs, mythic understandings of the world, and social relations. Indeed, the rise of technologies of mass communication were theorized in the twentieth century in terms of their relationship to the traditional arts, and the resulting media content often characterized as “popular arts,” the product of newly ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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