Greg Mason Burns

Reception Theory as a Visual Art

Introduction of Reception Theory as a Visual Art

Reception Theory as a visual art can be described as thus: Imagine a town, or a village, that does not exist in our reality but we know it is there nonetheless. We cannot visit it or touch the buildings or talk

In order for this town to exist, this town must have been created before. And it was, by two entities. Actually, it was not created by two entities, but by the void that exists between the two entities instead. The town exists in the void. One entity (the communicator) provides the information of what this town looks like. And the other entity (the audience) receives the information but has its own opinions of what the town looks like. However, the latter doesn’t receive the information in the way that the former intended. In fact, the information is never the same going out and coming in. The town is there. We all see it, but we all see it differently.

Information is Relative and Directional

For example, if I tell you the color “blue” your blue may range anywhere from light blue to dark blue. Even then, if I told you “dark blue”, your version may still be darker than mine. There is always a variable, and this town exists within the variable. The entire objective is to discover what that variable really looks like.

We know that information is directional. It always travels from the communicator to the audience. From a mass-media perspective, that information is so powerful that it often defines our identity. In other words, we decide who we are based on what we believe. We choose to believe a particular source because it fits with our beliefs. If that source provides us with information that fits our beliefs, then it hardens our identity. And our identity is often shaped by the earliest information we are given.

The goal of this project is to allow the audience to change the direction of information. Instead of from the media to the audience, the new direction has information flowing from the audience to the mass media. This project challenges us to change the direction, thus redefining what and who are the media. It challenges us to redefine our identity. Reception Theory as a visual art is a Post-Contemporary project in visual art.

A Definition of Reception Theory

Reception Theory judges an audience’s response to a particular communication method. In particular, it began as an analysis of how readers interpret literary texts. Interpretation is inherently built into the Reception Theory. This means there is a gap, a difference of opinion, between what the communicator meant and what the audience understood. Reception Theory academics often tackle the two sides of the theory: what is communicated and what is interpreted.

However, with regards to visual arts, I go in another direction and tackle what is in between the two sides. For me, it’s what is in the middle that is most important. Both the communicator and the interpreter both ignore and acknowledge the understanding gap between them. They do this at the same time, though not always equally. While they both know it’s there, neither does anything with it. They both tend to hyper-focus on what was said and what was understood. That’s where I come in. My goal is to fill in that gap. This is an abstract idea, so much of the work is abstract in nature. But I attempt to fill that gap with whatever is possible, whether it exists in reality or not.

Genesis of the Project

This project is an aesthetic, conceptual-art philosophy that I started to develop during the events leading up to the 2016 coup d’etat that resulted the impeachment of the Brazilian President, Dilma Rouseff. Philosophically, it examines how the media and the media’s audience communicate with one another with the understanding that there’s a gap of understanding between the two parties. Aesthetically, it recreates in visual terms what that gap of understanding might look like if it were an actual place instead of a state of mind. The goal of this project is to map this place into a town, so to speak. This mapped town would be an art movement in of itself with many thousands of interpretation variations.

Links to Specific Related Projects

This project has many components. Most of my work fits into it. However, some specific bodies of work have links outlining them. These are below. A more general sense of the project can be see by browsing the Portfolio.


Reception Theory as a Visual Art Gallery