Art as Device, Shklovsky
“And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony”
Shklovsky’s essay, ‘Art as Device’ argues that the purpose of art is to defamiliarise the reader with reality: it should renew our perception. In his essay Shklovsky identifies various methods of ‘estrangement’, an author presenting something from the view of an animal, for example. However, art ‘defamiliarises’ even when such techniques have not been used, the complexity of works of art alone forces us to decipher and use cognitive effort to understand and make sense of a piece of art. Art is always derived from reality and thus is always presenting reality to us in some form. It is not the use of specific defamiliarising techniques that renew our perception, but simply the fact that the artist is presenting the reader or viewer with their perception of reality, a perception other than the reader’s own. Regardless of whether the work of art is complex, the reader or viewer will assume that it is simply because it has been labelled as ‘art’: we expect art to be difficult to understand and it will therefore always lengthen our perception.
YOU SHOULD READ SHKLOVSKY’S ESSAY IF YOU CARE ABOUT THE PURPOSE OF ART.