Intentist Art

Intentist artists are all interested in the role of intention in a work of art.

Intentist art should not be confused with conceptual art. An Intentist artist, although concerned with the concept of intentionalism, is committed to the aesthetics of the final piece.

The primary difficulty in making a visual statement about intention lies in Cartesian Dualism. Intention, by definition is internal, the work in contrast, is the external realization. How can the internal intention been seen in the external work?

At present there are three approaches adopted by various Intentist artists: Palimpsestic art and the Creative Trail, ironic art, and anarrative art. Please click on the hyper-link ‘Intentist Arts’ for definitions. 

We will begin by providing some examples from these approaches and then look at other significant Intentist art that highlights either authorship or intention.

The three approaches:

 1. Palimpsestic Art and The Creative Trail

During the course of creating a work, an artist will have multiple intentions, including a meta-intention of the overall work and many micro-intentions as the art progresses. This journey has become known as the creative trail and is included in many intentist works as the artist intentionally leaves a visible trace of earlier marks normally edited out. This layering is on occasion referred to as Palimpsestism.

Case Study 1: The School of Postmodernism by Vittorio Pelosi 

For details of each figure including extrinsic information from interviews with the artist click on the link below:

The School of Postmodernism in detail

The School of Postmodernism by Vittorio Pelosi

Details of The School of Postmodernism by Vittorio Pelosi:

Check out these Intentist Bite videos for more details on this work:

Case Study 2: Toilet Duck by Gideon Parry

Case Study 3: BladeRunner by Luciano Pelosi

Case Study 4: The Gamekeeper, C-Type print by Craig Edwards and Rhod Walls 2010

For more details of Craig Edward’s work watch this Youtube video:

Case Study 5: Never Too Late by Maria Beddoes

For more details on Maria Beddoes’ work, watch this short Youtube video:

Case Study 6: Works by Sydney Heighington 

2. Irony

Case Study 1: Big Breakfast by Luciano Pelosi 2009

Watch this short video for more explanation:

Case Study 2: Four Portraits by Vittorio Pelosi

For more details of this work and other ironic pieces, please check out this short Youtube video:

3. Annarrative Art

Works by Govinda Sah

For more details about Govinda’s work watch this Youtube video:

Other significant Intentist visual art works that deal with intention and authorship

  1. Art that sheds light on how the vehicle of the work can affect our pre-conceived ideas of what the author is trying to communicate:

2. Art that reveals our often hidden pre-occupation on knowing about a work’s creator:

3. Art that, to use a Derrida expression, reveals the trace of the author in a work.

4. Art that demonstrates the human desire to know the source of a gesture.

A small white tent was set up at the festival. Inside were candles and choral music that created an introspective atmosphere. Festival goers were invited to go inside alone and write a confession with a marker on the inside of the tent. The only condition was that it had to be true. The Intentists promised not to go in during or even afterwards but insisted on taking a head shot of each confessor. The work had a range of absurd to very serious confession and was exhibited with all the head-shots on the gallery wall. Gallery visitors were encouraged to go in one at a time inside the tent and read the confessions. Whether they then looked at the head-shots and mused over the authorship was up to them.

5. Art that suggests that even a work that fails in communicating an intention might still need to be interpreted with knowledge of that intention.

Untitled by Luciano Pelosi, 2017

This is a very important image as it illustrates the New-Criticism Fallacy that meaning is found solely in the work. It also provokes a discussion between many Intentionalists who maintain that if the intention is not successfully outworked in the image, then intention is not relevant to the meaning. Here the artist’s intention is deliberately oblique,not just in the work’s symbolism but also in the title. However, the artist revealed in interviews that the two mugs, the knives and the grapes symbolize indifferent ways the number eleven. The artist explains that the work shows the Armistice date 11/11/11 signalling the end of the First World War.

6. Art practices that blur the roles of authorship

Intentists decided to take a collection of Facial Composites (artist’s sketches) of an eye-witnesses’ memory of a suspect and re-appropriate them as works of art in an exhibition. There are many layers of authorial complexity here. Firstly, the Intentists were obviously not the original creator of the work. However, the police artist is also not the sole creative force. In fact, even though he brings skill, the creative decisions of composition reside mainly with the witness – if the portrait will have any likeness. This can be made further complicated since the artist’s sketch is often a composite of several eye-witness descriptions.

Another are a where Intentists have pursued these blurred lines is the the area of restoration. There have been numerous debates on whether extensive restoration (such as in Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel) was the right thing to do, however, Intentists are more concerned about the role of the artist. Intentists are well-known for the sound-bite ‘No creative input, no meaning input’, so how does this stance effect an Intentist’s understanding of restoration? Some restored work have had skilled restorers re-touching the work in occasionally quite intrusive ways.

The Intentists therefore presented several restored works as new works of art. The listed artist was ‘x’ (the restorer) ‘After ‘y” (the original artist.)

7. Art that demonstrates that artist intention can be as important as the work.

There is an argument among Intentionalists that has been expressed in various ways. The argument is predicated on the assumption that intention imbues a thing with additional properties. For example, are a parrot’s words as significant as the same intentionally uttered to create meaning? Intentists have illustrated the point by comparing a hyper realistic painting of nature with nature itself. If nature is the sum of millions of years of blind chance, does it mean the same as an artist recreating it with motive and artistic intention? The work above entitled ‘First and Second Slip’ illustrates this. There is a piece of slip that had fallen off the artist’s work station and was about to be disposed of. However, the artist decided to take another piece of clay, add water and shape it to be very similar to the first. Visually they appear the same. However one is waste and the other was carefully shaped with creative intention to make a statement about intention. In sum, demonstrating that since the work appears the same and has the same physical properties, meaning here must be found outside of the work (in the artist’s intention.) The fact that the artist has not disclosed which piece of clay is which and it is impossible to discern it from the work alone makes this piece more impactful.

8. Art that through engagement with an audience gives insight into the value of intention.

Intentist Luciano Pelosi created three images with very different visual properties. One of the works was abstract, another had suggestions and nods to certain forms and the final was realistic. The works were displayed with accompanying captions. One caption suggested the work was anonymous. Another had very vague intentions and the third was explicit about the creator’s creative aims. Viewers were asked to come in and number the works in order of interest. Once the viewers had left, the captions were rearranged and new viewers repeated the experiment. The captions were swapped to connect with the final image and a third cohort of viewers entered. Several viewers were also interviewed about their choices. The results were telling. In spit of the fact that the works were intentionally different so individuals might instinctively favour a certain style, whichever work was attached to the specific intention increased in popularity.

Intentist visual art that comments on philosophical enquiry

  1. Intentist Luciano Pelosi’s background in linguistics gave rise to an interest in how language is a toolkit to help us make sense of the world. This primary use of language has been discussed in great length by the linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky. Influenced in part by Heidegger’s treatment of being in Being and Time Luciano was intrigued that although our experience of the world tells us that all things that ‘be’ also ‘do,’ in language we have split these concept up into verbs that ‘be’ (state verbs) and verbs that ‘do’ (dynamic verbs) only to then put them back together again semantically- e.g ‘He is’, and ‘they run.’ To visualize these linguistic approach of splitting and reconnecting, Luciano created a piece of video art. The camera is focussed on a door. To the left of it appears to be the house number ‘6.’ The number has lost a screw and appears loose. Next to the number are the letters ØING. With the initial number, the house name appears to be bØING. A hand appears and turns the 6 over – the name now reads dØING. The action is repeated and illustrates how in linguistics the whole and the part of being and doing is constantly separated and reformed.

2. ‘Not Now’ by Vittorio Pelosi. Zeno has become synonymous with his paradoxes. One example, is how studying the flight on an arrow can leave us with a philosophical conundrum. Essentially, if motion occurs then an object must move its position in space and time. However, an arrow in flight at any instant of time is not moving. Vittorio has been working on art that reflects how we understand time for several years. One area of interest is how we experience ‘now.’ What is the present? Is it a second? Well, a second is sufficiently long for us to experience a past and a future within this period. However, much we shorten this time frame, it is still duration moving to the future and leaving the past behind. Consequentially there cannot be any such thing as the present. These has complex ramifications as to how we can experience anything. All we have is the present since we cannot feel the past or experience the future. However, the present in a minute way is made up of the very past and future we cannot experience. So in what sense can I experience any moment of my life? This dilemma is portrayed in the ambiguously titled ‘Not Now.’ The word ‘NOW’ slowly appears on the screen and slowly fades away. A timer is on the screen and stops at the length of time the word appeared. The word reappears and disappears. With each subsequent appearance, ‘NOW’ is shown for a shorter time until it is barely imperceptible. Each occasion, the timer records the duration that the word was visible. Even the fastest, fleeting moment is shown to be a duration and not strictly the present.

3. ‘Same Difference’ by Vittorio Pelosi. Another conundrum that has intrigued Vittorio is the logical fallacy of numbering objects in the world. If the object is the same by what criteria can we unequivocally say that it is not the same object? If it is, then we only have one object and we cannot add or subtract. The only alternative is to say that the object is different. However, if it is different then we can no longer add or subtract the object. Hence we are left again with the amount of one again. Vittorio demonstrates this with video art. A random image is flashed across a screen for a few seconds. The image is then shown for the same period in another part of the screen. The viewer is left to decide whether the picture is the same image moved to another part of the screen or a second image. Whether the viewer decides they are the ‘same’ or ‘different’ makes no philosophical difference, as theoretically (as has been explained above), there can only be one.