People love to find deeper meanings in photographs, films, music, paintings, etc. But what if some of those works of art were never meant to have the symbolism we find in them?
Coming to you from Now You See It, this interesting video essay talks about the pitfalls and validity of overanalysis. We tend to think that works of art that are judged as good must have deeper meaning, and we frequently attempt to ascribe some sort of symbolism to them. I remember once, after a successful premiere, someone came up to me and went on and on about how they loved the motif of the minor 9th in my piece and proceeded to give me an impressive analysis of the symbolism in my work. I smiled and thanked them, mostly because it would have been rude to say: "dude, I just wrote what I thought sounded good."
There are certainly schools and movements of art where beauty is sought for beauty's sake (whatever "beauty" is), devoid of any sort of symbolic connection, but then, you could make the argument that the creator carries with them experiences, feelings, and biases that are then inextricably linked to that which they create and thus, even if the intention of symbolism isn't there, it's still manifested in the work. It's a nuanced topic that's a lot of fun to think about; give the video above a watch for more.