Implementation of the Arts

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Implementation of the Arts

Nelson Goodman The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 40, No. 3. (Spring, 1982), pp. 281-283. Stable URL: ht

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Implementation of the Arts Nelson Goodman The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 40, No. 3. (Spring, 1982), pp. 281-283. Stable URL: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism is currently published by The American Society for Aesthetics.

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Implementation of the Arts

IMPLEAIENTATIOX OF A WORK of art may be distinguished from execution-whether in one or two stages-of that work. T h e novel is completed when written, the painting when painted, the play when performed. But the novel left in a drawer, the painting stacked in a storeroom, the play performed in an empty theater does not fulfill its function. In order to work, the novel must be published in one way or another, the painting shown publicly or privately, the play presented to an audience. Publication, exhibition, production before an audience are means of implementation-and ways that the arts enter into culture. Execution consists of making a work, implementation of making it work.' So stated, the distinction may seem too obvious to call for much further comment, but the relationship between execution and implementation is in some respects rather complex, and exploration of that relationship touches on some more general questions concerning art. Under "execution," I include all that goes into the creation of a work, from the first flicker of an idea to the final touch. Although the question how a line between conception and realization can be drawn, especially in one-stage arts, may be of considerable interest, it does not concern me here; "execution" covers the whole process of making a work. Under "implementation," on the other hand, I include all that goes into making a work work; and a work works, in my view, to the extent that it is NELSONGOODMAN

is professor of philosophy at Harward University.

iinderstood, to the extent that what and how it symbolizes (whether by description or depiction or exemplification or expression or via some longer route) 2 is discerned and affects the way we organize and perceive a world. Sometimes, I use "implementation" loosely enough to cover attempts at implementation regardless of their success, procedures undertaken to make .i work work whether or not they actually do so. For example, framing is a process of implementation even though it sometimes paralyzes rather than activates a painting; and museum exhibition is a means of implementation even when it leaves the works inert. Now compare the one-stage art of the novel with the two-stage art of etching.3 The novel is completed in the manuscript, and all such further steps as printing, promotion, distribution, etc, are processes of implementation. T h e etching, on the other hand, is not complete when the plate is made, but only when impressions are taken from it; for these prints constitute the only instances of the work. Accordingly, while the printing of a novel is not part of its execution but of its implementation, the printing of an etching is part of its execution, and implementation consists of mounting, fraring, exhibiting, promotins, distributing, etc. Insofar as publication is exclusively implementation, publication of a novel includes printing, while publication of an etching does not. In other two-stage arts as well-whether autographic like etching or allographic like scored music-implementation depends upon execution of both stages: a dramatic or musical work


exists only if a bronze sculpture only if cast, an architectural work only if built. In the performing arts, .he process of execution and implementation are temporally intertwined; for the primary working of a play occurs while it is being performed before an audience. That is, presentation of a play to an audience (a matter of implementation) not only requires but occurs during performance (a matter of execution). Although exec~tionnormally begins before implementation, implementation (e.g., by production planning, promotion, ticket $ales) may begin before execution is complete and (by comment and criticism) continue afterwards. Sometimes, though, execution and implementation are even more intimately connected. Consider, for example, the multimedia theater piece Hockey Seen.4 Execution of the drawings, of the dance, and of the music are all elements in the execution of the whole, even though the drawings were not made for that purpose. But also execution of the theater piece is a step toward implementation of the drawings. Projection of the drawings in combination with the dance and music is one way of making them work-a way that unlike some others incorporates execution of another work. Nothing here, however, blurs the basic distinction between execution and implementation. So far we seem to have found that while the line between execution and implementation must be carefully drawn, with due regard to certain differences among the arts, and while implementation of one work may involve execution of another, still execution and implementation are clearly distinct and the former never implies the latter. Offhand, one might suppose further that although execution may occur without implementation, implementation can never occur without execution; for how can what is not yet made be implemented? Surprisingly, this needs closer examination. A work must, indeed, be executed if it is to be implemented, but that is because we have a work at all only through execution-a work is something made. Where an

object is not an artefact but rather, say, a stone found on a beach,j implementation may nevertheless occur; for example, as when the stone is mounted and displayed in an art museum. But I do not-as is sometimes supposed-subscribe to any "institutional" theory of art. Institutionalization is only one, sometimes overemphasized and often ineffectual, means of implementation. \\'hat counts is the functioning rather than any particular way of effecting it. T h e beach stone may be made to function as art merely through singling it out where it lies and perceiving it as a symbol exemplifying certain forms and other properties. Implementation, clearly, is not restricted to making a work of art work as such, but includes making anything work as art. Here we begin to perceive that the contrast between execution and implementation is not as stark as we might suppose. For we now see that implementation even without execution may itself be productive -or even, though I dislike the word, creative. It can make a no-lwork work as art; it achieves aesthetic functioning. In Ways o f ?Vorldmaking,6 I suggested that the question "When is art?" may be more fundamental than the question "What is art?" T h e beach stone is no work of art but under some conditions functions as art; a Rembrandt painting used as a blanket is a work of art but does not then so function. And what constitutes a work of art may have to be defined in terms of its primary or ~ ~ s u aorl standard function. Function may underlie status. No small part of our experience with ~vorksof art is nonaesthetic, and no small part of our aesthetic experience is with nonworks. Works of art often do not function as such, and nonworks often do. Although execution and implementation, where both occur, may be distinguished, they make up a continuous process with aesthetic functioning as its end. On the one hand, execution of a work is ~equiredfor its implementation; on the other hand, implementation is the process of bringing about the aesthetic functioning that provides the basis for the notion of a work of art.

Implementation of the Arts My keynote address, "The End of the Museum," at the annual meeting of Association of American Museums in Cleveland in June, 1979, argues that the primary function of a museum is to make works work. 2See further "Routes of Reference," Critical Znquiry, vol. 8 (1981) 121-32. On the nature of one-stage, two-stage, singular, multiple, autographic, and allographic arts see Languages of Art (2nd cdition, 1976; Indianapolis), pp. 112-15. 'Performed at the conference on Art in Culture, Ghent, Belgium, 1980, and elsewhere from 1972 on. Attentive readers of Ways of Worldmaking

(Indianapolis, 1978) may remember that I argue there that all things are as much made as found; but the commonplace distinction between artefacts, which we make by hand or machine, and objects resulting from our organization of a world is not thereby erased. See "On Starmaking," Synthese, vol. 45 (1980) 211-15; and "Notes on the Well-made World" read at the Sixth International Wittgenstein Symposium in Kirchberg, Austria in August, 1981-forthcoming in the Proceedings of that conference. Cited in note 5 above; see Chapter IV. Read at the conference on Art in Culture in Ghent in August, 1980.