Saturday, September 26, 2009

Concision in Art


"Concision in art is a necessity as well as an elegance; a man who is concise makes you think, a verbose man bores you." -Manet

Discussing concision at length would be ironical, to say the least, but I'll add the following:

1. Lack of concision is a 19th century vice and and 18th century virtue. Industrial production in the 19th century and the inflated romantic ego both militate against concision.

2. Certain media are lean and encourage concision. This goes for performance arts as well as other forms of expression. Opera seems to a real culprit, as does the novel.

3. Concision requires self-assurance: if you are free to be economical, then you must be certain that your audience watches every word (contrast this with Christopher Hitchens advice in "Letters to a Young Contrarian" not to fear becoming a bore). Hence, concision is the virtue of the powerful, or those content with obscurity.

4. There has to be a culturally accessible "key" to unlock the artist's secrets or the work is merely obscure, as with much modern art and poetry.

Illustration - detail from Roundels 13

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