Maya Deren on understanding

“The creation of an experience – which is what a work of art involves – when it is new, is new as an experience and not necessarily as a basic idea. For example we all know fear, a universal experience. When an artist creates a new experience of fear, he shares the universality of the basic emotion and gives a new view of it which refreshes your sense of it and which illuminates once more that first principle. The fact that it is new as an experience – that is, immediately recognized and identifiable in detail – has led people to assume that it is subjective on the part of the artist. An artist uses his own experience – what other could he use? The fact that it is subjective does not mean personally subjective. For every one of us has a subjective. There is a collective subjective: communication of art between those elements common to all people…

In this literate age there is an emphasis upon verbalism that I think makes things quite difficult, because it has confounded understanding with explanation and we feel that if we cannot perfectly articulate and explain what we feel, we have not understood it… What is the sort of answer we cannot give about a painting, a piece of sculpture; we very often cannot say. That does not mean that we have not understood. It takes a poet to put into words any profound and subtle meaning. It is not necessary to be a poet to experience and understand. My experience has been, in reference to visual forms and music, with people who imagine that they did not understand and ask questions; if you press them a bit and they dig out a little inarticulately, you find that they have understood it but not expressed it totally.”

— Maya Deren