Last night as I walked the dogs in the dark I thought about the book “Blink” again. Yes now that the time has changed again, it is dark by the time I get home and change into my grubby dog /woods walking cloths. I don’t mind too much, things appear different in the dark. Trying to decide which dog – the black one or the whitish one- was easier to see and thus a better guide, I thought again about the book.
In the art world today it is almost impossible to get away with not writing or talking about art. We are asked to explain, to illuminate, to sell, to supplement and indeed there is much art that benefits from an educated viewer. But most artists hope the artwork speaks for itself.
In “Blink” the author describes a study where people were asked to visualize a person, in their mind, and then pick them out of a line up. There were a high percentage of correct answers. Then the people were asked to verbally describe a person and then try to pick them out of a line up. The percentage of correct answers went drastically down. It seems their verbalizations overrode and confused their visual memory.
What am I to take away from this as a curator and docent? It’s not that writing about and talking about art is wrong; there is plenty of art that I have gained a better appreciation of through reading about its artist, its place in history and the theories behind it. But I sense there is something important here. Something about leaving the visual sense alone when it is all that is necessary.
Incidentally, in the leaf-strewn-woods, it was the black dog that was easier to see.