“It has absolutely no meaning.” Yet.

August 21, 2011

“There’s nothing intelligent in Alien. It has absolutely no meaning. It works on a very visceral level and its only point is terror and more terror.” – Ridley Scott

To be self-aware about making art is an exceedingly rare stroke of fortune – probably, of the bad kind. But there is no such thing as a terrifying spectacle or story without meaning. If anything, Alien has too much meaning.

When we are astounded, awed, terrified, it is because what we already know is insufficient to explain what we are in the process of learning. The greater the meaning created, the more “viscerally” powerful the art work.

Scott is a genius precisely because he is focused on awing the audience: his goal is to produce the awesome which is necessarily the new, the disruptive, that for which words do not yet exist – ideally, that for which the appropriate words will never exist.

But it is incorrect to say there is no intelligence in art for intelligence, as we are reminded, consists of known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. Whereas scientists are focused on the first category, the religious on the second, artists elaborate the third.