Ekphrasis is a, “rhetorical device in which one medium of art tries to relate to another medium by defining and describing its essence and form, and in doing so, relate more directly to the audience, through its illuminative liveliness.” (wikipedia: ekphrasis.) A work of art can describe or be derived from another work and become a separate piece with its own intentions and merits. More relevant in practice to the literary arts, this device is generally used in narrative-based work, but can be applied to any medium or conglomeration of media. Ekphrasis has a long history dating back to Plato’s times.
I use this device when engaged in the process of creating my own work. Notional ekphrasis. When the work is not finished, and still contained in a dream/imagination state, I transpose the ideas and imagery into a different form (from performance or sculpture into 2D collage into animated narrative back into a different kind of performance, and so forth). This helps me understand the visions that come to me while creating the work, to see them from multiple angles and allow the work to take its own shape rather than bending to my will. I am more of a steward of the ideas, or my conscious decision-making mind is. This feeling of channeling some unknown quantity from deep within, or without, is nothing new to the arts. Many artists work this way.
When discussing forms (basically ideas, perfection) in Republic, Book X, Plato use the example of a bed to talk about the transference of “bedness” in an ekphrastic process. What I love about this process of identification of pure essence manifested in physical form is the fact that one can identify some of the stages of the development of art over the last century or two. The third one reminds me of Cubism and early Picasso:
“For Plato (and Aristotle), it is not so much the form of each bed but the mimetic stages or removes at which beds may be viewed, that defines bedness:
1) a bed as a physical entity is a mere form of bed
2) any view from whichever perspective, be it a side elevation, a full plan from above, or looking at a bed end-on is at a second remove
3) a full picture, characterizing the whole bed is at a third remove
4) ekphrasis of a bed in another art form is at a fourth remove”
There is something in this process that I can point to in my art-making process and work into a lather. I see it already, but it can grow.