1992PhiladelphiaTemple University PressStecker200616516516517Stecker, RobertModerate Actual Intentionalism DefendedJournal of Aesthetics and Art CriticismJournal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism429-4386442006Stecker20031421421426Robert SteckerInterpretation and Construction: Art, Speech, and Law2003Malden, MABlackwell<![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> Generally speaking, hypothetical intentionalists stop short of permitting artists’ statements about work meaning to be relevant for interpretation, even as they acknowledge the necessity of referring to the intentions of the artist in determining what category the artwork belongs to. Moderate actual intentionalists, on the other hand, do consult statements by the artist about work meaning, while recognizing—this is why they are ‘moderate’—that one must approach such statements skeptically. As I see it, the debate is symptomatic of an ineluctable tension in our experience of artworks: on the one hand, they are the expressions of their authors. On the other hand, artworks are not simply reducible to the meaning that their authors intended to give them. They are cultural artifacts. They have lives of their own.
Mr. Brooks[lawyer]: Okay. So your view is if you create a work of art—do you consider this a work of art?
Richard Prince: Yes, I do.
Brooks: If you create a work of art anyone else who wants to is free to copy it and sell it?
Prince: That’s the optional or the operative word you just said. Free.
Prince: And art is about freedom. It’s not about being restricted. If I was restricted then I couldn’t transform these images.
when the court reduces the question of transformation to how the work would appear to a “reasonable observer,” it fails to ask whether this observer is a member of Prince’s audience, or of Cariou’s, both, or neither. Even where the original and the secondary work appear visually indistinguishable, the audience familiar with the aims and practices of appropriation art will treat them very differently, and in many cases, they are likely to find something new—a new meaning, a fundamentally different aesthetic. And much of this will turn precisely on what the artist says about his work.
There is no excuse for courts to act as if questions of artistic value and classification have not already been theorized. It is time for these courts to begin to take advantage of that work. The law here should be better theoretically informed. Engagement in aesthetic discourse would reduce the mismatch of legal and artistic developments.
Brooks: Do you agree that you’ve redefined the concept of authorship?
Prince: I would hope that I’ve had some hand in redefining the issues that have to do with authorship.
Brooks: How so?
Prince: It has to do with that concept that people really believe artists are special and they have something special to say. There was a time in the late ‘70s when I didn’t go along with that concept. And there was that essay by Roland Barthes called Death of an Author, and it was just an issue that was going around town. And I think that I got caught up in it and I got involved in it and I sort of decided to do something about it in my own particular little way. And hopefully, yes, I hope that—you know, I would have called it the death of the ego, but I guess authorship is a fairly accurate and it’s an okay word. I mean it’s very—all it is is philosophical. And, you know, it’s sort of like someone writing a term paper, you know, it’s academic. You know, it’s something that takes place in October Magazine, which I don’t particularly like and Columbia University and you know, it’s—I’m much more of a –well, I’m much more interested in trying to make art that stands up next to Picasso, De Kooning, and Warhol. That’s what I’m interested in.