I recently watched a documentary, which made me question the validity of meaning in artistic endeavors. Banksy, a british graffiti artist himself, directs this documentary about a shop owner obsessed with filming his life and the world around him. To give focus to his obsession with film, Andre (the protagonist) decides to begin filming the exploits of his relative( a graffiti artist). As Andre follows his relative, he increasingly encounters other graffiti artists, which he develops friendships with and chooses also to follow. Over the course of a few years he starts following more notable artists like "Space Invader" and finally, a very notable graffiti artist in Britain, Banksy himself.
Andre develops a friendship with Banksy, who thinks Andre is a documentarian and decides to allow Andre into his traditionally highly secretive world. After following Banksy for some time, Andre is finally asked to assemble his library of footage into a documentary. The problem is Andre is not a documentarian at all. He is simply, to put it bluntly, a guy with a camera. Upon realizing that Andre is not a documentarian, Bansky suggests to Andre that he try his own hand at graffiti to help him contextualize what is important about "writing"(a term used to identify a graffiti artist within the culture).
The production of a minimal body of artistic pieces that Andre produces provokes Banksy to suggest he put on a small art show. In an attempt to impress Banksy, Andre sells off his shop to get money for the art show and hires a number of already active graphic and pop artists to help him increase his volume of work. Finally, Andre puts together an art show, which is absolutely meaningless and devoid of any actual substance at all, and is met with rave reviews. Pieces of art are sold at fantastic prices and Andre recoups the cost of selling his shop and putting on the show: three fold.
The question this documentary poses is, what is the connection between artistic works and meaning? If the observer thinks there is meaning in a work and values it for this perceived meaning does that make the work meaningful? In this case, it is clear that the works Andre produces are meaningless. Mere random acts attempting to emulate artistic meaning, but failing miserably. Therefore, is it important for an artist to breath meaning into a work of art, to have values or convictions they are attempting to get across? Or, is it still art if the "artist" merely creates the impression of meaning? If Andre's case serves as a valid example, maybe the latter is enough. For those of us in the artistic profession, I sincerely hope this is not the case...
I have more to say on this subject, but in the interests of clarity I will amputate there.