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An Analysis of the Cultural Production of Meaning

Clifford Geertz (1983) has proposed a theory of art as a cultural system in which the response to aesthetics is both intellectual and emotional, or rooted in one's feelings. These feelings in turn are seen as rooted in culture, itself manifested in the varied expressions of religion, morality, science, commerce, technology, politics, amusements, law, and even in the societal organization of everyday practical existence. Geertz (1983, p. 96) argues that talk about art tends to move beyond the technical and even the spiritualization of the technical and is directed to "placing it within the context of these other expressions of human purpose and the pattern of experience they collectively explain."

Art, therefore, is very much a product, expression, symbol, and commentary upon the artist and the society in which the artist exists. Geertz (1983) believes that to study art forms is to explore a sensibility that is itself a collective formation whose foundations are as wide as social existence and as deep. Regardless of the specific culture or social system in which a work of art or an art form is developed, that art work or form says a great deal about the culture in which it was produced.

The unity of form and content found in art forms is understood by Geertz (1983) as a cultural achievement and not as a philosophical tautology. It is this particular achievement, manifested in the unity of form and content, that must be the semiotic experience of art. To understand and to explain art, it therefore becomes important to give attention to what Geertz (1983) calls "talk" that includes but is not limited to the recognizably aesthetic.

All art forms, rooted in culture and its mores, include a matrix of sensibility and contain a kinetic of its own (Geertz, 1983). To "understand" art from both the cultural and the aesthetic perspectives, it is important to recognize that what one sees is a record of visual activity that o...

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An Analysis of the Cultural Production of Meaning. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:34, December 07, 2021, from