Can Art Be Intentionless?

Well, it’s a question that has stumped philosophers and thinkers for centuries. Some say yes, art is simply an expression of the creator’s innermost thoughts and feelings, pure and unbridled. Others argue that all art is created with a specific purpose or goal in mind, whether to evoke an emotional response, tell a story, or make a statement. In this article, I want to invite you into a thought experiment about how our perception might change when artists have no intentions with their work.

I find this question incredibly intriguing and love to exchange ideas with other artists, as well as art lovers on this topic. When I visit a gallery or museum, I love to observe other people looking at art. I often hear the following phrases over and over again: “What was the artist thinking?” or “What is the artist trying to say here?” or “What is this? To me, it looks like … “

But it’s not only there that viewers want an explanation. In the countless (online) magazines that present art and design, endless texts are published philosophizing about what and why the artist was thinking when creating his/her work. To sell your artwork, you should have a story to tell. This has been well proven in the past because people unconsciously tend to buy art from people who can market themselves best.

People unconsciously tend to buy art from people who can market themselves best.

With AI art, which cannot be stopped in the future, this question will be even more difficult to answer. Because who is considered the artist here? The AI or the person operating it?
Abstract Sculpture made with Midjourney by Aesence
Abstract Sculpture made with Midjourney by Aesence

Let the experiment begin

So imagine, what if an artist has no intentions at all? What if the artist painted or photographed with an empty mind? What if the artist simply followed her/his intuition, was completely in the moment, and just let her/his hands do the work? What if the artist only looked at the work afterward and let the intuition decide whether to publish it or not? What if the artist was just making up an intention for his/her audience because that is what the people wanted?

Why are we always looking for an intention? Are we trying to find ourselves in a supposed intention? What would happen to art if there really wasn’t an intention? How would it change its perception? How would it change your perception? Feel free to leave me a comment below this article!

About Exploring Aesthetics:

Sarah loves asking questions and exploring the things she engages with on a daily basis. Exploring aesthetics is her column which discusses art, design, and aesthetics to explore, inspire, and question the status quo.

  1. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but it’s hard to say definitively what the outcome would be. It’s possible that without an intention to guide us, we would simply find other ways to interpret the work. Alternatively, we might become more open-minded and appreciate the work for its own sake, without needing to find meaning in it.

  2. I think it’s interesting to consider what art would be like if artists had no specific intentions when creating their work 🙂 I can see how it would change the way we perceive art, and it would definitely be more difficult to interpret the meaning behind a piece. I think it would be interesting to see how viewers would react to art that was created without any specific purpose or goal in mind. Would they be more open to their own interpretation, or would they be more likely to dismiss it as being meaningless?

  3. I was searching this subject this morning to try to explain in words my creative process and is interesting to find the closest answer. I am not a trained artist, I started creating characters from a scribble seven or eight years ago. It is true. An illustration can be created line after line with no intention, drawing training, or theme. No even thinking about it while doing it. If you like I can show you my work to see what you think.

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Aesence is an independent art and design publication dedicated to minimalist aesthetics. Founded out of a deep appreciation and fascination, Aesence aims to promote awareness and appreciation of minimalism in art and design.