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Essay Rewrite #4

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When I went to Zagar’s Magic Gardens, which is a concentrated space of his mosaics in one building, I was experiencing a form of escapism. The various details in the piece where too much too take in. The mosaic was made up of tiles, glass, found items, and homemade molds. A common theme was to have paint over the tiles, which outlined human forms and quotes about the city. The painted quotes often had misspelled words in them for example; “Forms are converes of meaning” In this quote “converes” might be converse, conveyers, or another word. Having this misspelling forces the quote to be open-ended and untranslatable.

I interpret the gardens as a space that welcomes you to be aware of your surroundings, but not necessarily to interpret or understand them. This is also true for natural gardens. Unlike other forms of art, people are often more willing to take form over interpretation when visiting a garden. This is facilitated by a garden being so large and detailed that it is nearly impossible to take in everything.

Looking at form is made easier in a garden because of its detachment from humans, which relieves the pressure for it to be useful or meaningful. Gardeners collect plants, arrange them in a space, and then let them grow and take root. Zagar is similar to a gardener in that he collects and organizes trash and then presents it in a space. The Magic Gardens are like a garden made of human trash, rooted in a city space.

Gardens provide a form you cannot take in completely, you are not encouraged to analyze it deeply, you are supposed to let it make you feel. Zagar’s Magic Gardens facilitate a space where people can look at the “the pure, untranslatable, sensuous immediacy of some…images,” in the way that Sontag describes in Against Interpretation. In this essay Sontag reflects on interpretation and it’s ability to hinder us from simply looking at art for the sake of looking, “Interpretation takes the sensory experience of the work of art for granted, and proceeds from there. This cannot be taken for granted, now....ours is a culture based on...a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience.” Sontag does not want us to look at art with a critical lens, but to rather look at it, see it, and let it affect us. I think in order to thoughtfully look at something and encounter it as a live creature; we must believe that there is something there to see.

Seeing is believing in something. Believing in art is a less biased and more naïve then a distinct point of view. However, it is still a side of compliance towards artwork. When I went to visit the Magic Gardens I believed in it because I looked and was entranced by the detail and encompassing beauty. I had positive emotions towards it because of I was witnessing. This pollutes Sontag’s idea to simply look at art without interpretation.

In cases when we doubt art Sontag thinks that this is the most important instance to believe in art, “Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable (and) comfortable” Sontag’s subliminal use of believing and doubting in her essay shows how she is built on the vocabulary we have learned this semester, as much as she is asking us to throw it out. In order to look at and let artwork affect you, you need to believe and doubt.


Sontag, Susan. Against Interpretation and Other Essays. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1966: 4-14.