Academic Writings

On Performing Meaning by Amelia Jones

On “Performing Meaning” by Amelia Jones

The discussion of interpretation-experience reminded me to make art that people will experience not just interpret historically. To me, art is not about a naming of experience; it’s experiencing experience, making people feel your work. Amelia Jones argues that we should not remain in the cues of history, but rather engage in art. It is within the engagement with a piece of art that meaning resides. Art is about the production of experience, the experience of each person. As Jones says, “We are embodied, particular in our identifications; we are flesh and part of the flesh of the world. As such, we change the things we encounter” through our interaction, interpretation and performing of meaning. Meaning is not fixed; it is continually open to reinterpretation depending upon the time, place, person – each unique moment.

I really like the idea of the “performativity of meaning production – opening ourselves to visual art works as fully embodied sensuous experiences rather than closing them down through reified models of aesthetic or political judgment fixing them in a matrix of predetermined values, we will find ourselves in a different and more productive relationship with visual culture. We will find ourselves in a relationship that moves us (in both senses of the word) rather than securing us in one rather well-worm place.” In my opinion, this concept applies to art, eating, sex, living, loving, existing… if we open ourselves to each moment as a “fully embodied sensuous experience” I think life would be much, much more. However, this is not at all an easy task. I advocate this sensual living, but it is tough to let go of my history… and to intellectualize sensuous experience is, it seems, much the same as interpreting art historically. I understand, I desire, I just can’t act, let go, open myself to “fully embodied sensuous experiences” – yet.
--February 17, 2003

© 2021 Carol Hummel