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Friday, May 12, 2006

Inscrutable Quote o' the Day

-----------------"Art is not an object; it is an encounter with an object."

Having been duly cuffed and drubbed by various economists and economically-savvy individuals in the wake of the fourth paragraph of the post "The Snout of Clarification," most notably by our razor-sharp-brained contributor Dr. Dr. Grad (not a typo; he gets the nickname for being both a Ph.D. and an M.D.), I've decided a) they're right, and b) I'm going to keep on believing what I believe anyway.

The crux of the matter for me is that "art" cannot truly have a financial value in the real world. Why? Because art is not an object; it is an encounter with an object.

There are many examples of "payments" that are not actually a reflection of the financial worth of what is supposedly being "bought." And also, there are a great many types, forms, and examples of "art" that are not purchasable, because they have no form. For instance, music, a play, conceptual art, or pretty much anything by Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

One of the most delightful pieces of conceptual art I've ever seen was a piece that I think was called "Waterfall" at one of the Whitney Biennials. (And given my wretched memory for names, I cannot remember the artist's name. I will suffer for it in purgatory.) It consisted of an enormously oversized reel of recording tape on a reel-to-reel tape deck at the top of the stairwell. On the tape was recorded the sound of a waterfall. But once played, the tape was not taken up on another reel, but allowed to fall the three or four stories to the basement of the Whitney, where it gathered into an increasingly enormous tangle. At the end of the show, the tape ran out, and thus stopped playing, and the giant heap of spent audiotape was presumably discarded. You can't buy the piece, but it was an encounter I still remember, and a brilliant piece of "art."

That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.



Blogger Steve said...

So, a piece of Art locked away in storage never viewed, or on a cave wall yet to be discovered, is, according to your reasoning, not Art because there is no encounter?

12:06 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Naturally not, and I think I can demonstrate this to you very plainly if you'll play along with me for a moment and answer the following question: I have an object in my top drawer. Is it art?


12:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a pretty good quote, and I'm an art historian so I'm allowed to pass judgement on these things. :)

Have you read John Dewey's Art as Experience?

12:52 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

I haven't, but I keep meaning to. Maybe this will be the kick in the butt I need.


1:03 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Ok Mike, I'm happy to play.
Well, of course I dont know if it's art or not because I have not seen it.

4:57 AM  

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