Octavio Paz certainly chose an interesting and appropriate artist, in Marcel Duchamp, to illustrate his assertion that “… art is not a concept: art is a thing of the senses.” Duchamp was an experimental and very innovative artist and one who might actually agree with Paz, with his controversial “Fountain” as an example, Duchamp often enjoyed playing with the people’s (including his own) expectation of art calling it “anti-art” and meant to be enjoyed for what it is. Also, when we consider art through the ideas of Berger then, yes, art is a thing to be sensed, a representation of something else. But why can’t this “something else” be a concept?
I personally think that we really cannot know the meaning or concept behind a piece of art, only the artist can. We are only able to project our own interpretation of it’s meaning or concept onto the artwork. I think that art does actually start as a concept, is made physical to be experienced through the senses, and ends up as a different concept. A concept of the viewer’s creation, one of beauty, of form, of function, of message, etc. or a combination of these.
As as designer, I try to create a design that has a clear message, one that the viewer can grasp very easily and with little changes in interpretation. But design is different than art and follows Paz’s other example of industrial products. If my design does not communicate a desired message anymore, it will get thrown away. It’s often tough for a designer who has been educated through art programs to accept this inevitability; but to think that the now worthless design didn’t affect someone in someway is also wrong. Paz’s writing on how the handcrafted bridges the gap between art and design is encouraging to me. After years of completely digital work I am interested in trying to bring a more handcrafted work to my designs. I know the switch will be difficult, but looking at the designs I create as something that will eventually be useless but maybe still valued will help me to gain enjoyment in the process.