STYLE VS CONTENT

 

Susan Sontag  (American writer, filmmaker and political activist) once said “Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art”. Today’s lecture considered the impact style has on how a viewer perceives a piece of art. Style refers to form, the being of a thing and the physical state of something. Some may suggest that style is purely decorative and what is first seen when we look at anything. Sontag highlights that some people refer to style as a curtain. When the curtain is drawn back we reveal the content, therefore, separating style and content. This causes the viewer to form a negative view on a work as they personally do not like the style despite not knowing its true content and meaning.

Style is often based upon trend and opinion. It can be used as a mask to create a front or an identity you want to portray to the world. An example in today’s society is Lady Gaga. She burst onto the scene in 2008 with an eccentric, controversial “style” that gained her the popularity she holds today. However, recently her style has been tamed down and perhaps we are now seeing the content of Lady Gaga and her true self has been revealed. It could then be argued that she has accepted who she truly is and doesn’t feel the need to hide behind her style. “Style is the principle of decision in a work of art, the signature of the artist’s will” (Sontag, 1961)

Cocteau  (French writer) said “the soul assumes the style of the body”. When we become content with whom we are it is reflected in our form and we visualise our soul in our style. If we ignore meaning because we simply do not like the style then how can we make a true judgement? In terms of art we would critic it on a purely decorative level meaning that art can be seen as irrelevant and less academic, when actually style and content intertwine and allow a piece of work to have depth and a profound effect on the viewer.