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[BKARTS] Comments from down under



I haven't read to the end of the latest digest yet, so perhaps my
comments will be redundant. I'm observing all of this from the other end
of the world and therefore am detached from the specific politics in
question. But from this distance, there are a few comments I'd like to
make.

That there are many, many chemical and biological substances that are
harmless in small quantities and harmful in large quantities. I imagine
that in the right quantities the mould spores on old books are
potentially harmful. It might be easy to be righteously indignant about
someone with some e. coli bacteria in his home. (Mind you, I'm sure
there are e. coli bacteria in ALL our homes and we don't expire from
them.) But how would we feel if someone came into a conservation lab and
seized all the books that were being restored because they were
contaminated with a possibly harmful biological agent, ie mould spores?
It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But in the current world climate it
could just happen.

I've also been fascinated by the conversations that have emerged about
what is and isn't art. I think some people are confusing several
different issues:

There is the question about what is art as opposed to what is not art. I
agree with Jenny on this (at least, I think it was Jenny). What is and
isn't art isn't determined by individuals; it is determined by the art
world as a whole. In fact, it is more useful to think in terms of art
worlds (as described by Howard Becker). What is considered art in a
particular art world is decided by members of that art world. I am not
part of the bookbinding community (or bookbinding art world); therefore
my opinion about whether a piece of bookbinding is or isn't art is
irrelevant. The bookbinding community decides that. Similarly, what
counts as in the museum world is decided by that art world, and so on.
The criteria for what counts as art are not necessarily transferable
from one situation to another.

There is the question of whether something is good art or bad art.
Again, particular art worlds decide that. And judgement criteria change.
Some of the things we now think are good art, were once considered
beyond the pale, and vice versa.

And then there is the question of art I/you like and art I/you don't
like. 
I don't care much for Pollock, but that doesn't make Pollock's work 'not
art' and it doesn't make it bad art, it just makes it art I don't like. 
I teach art history. I tell my students they don't have to like
everything they look at, but that they have to try and understand it.
The more you learn about the context in which a work is made, the
artist's intentions, how something was done, and what different people
have said about it at different times in history, the better you
appreciate it even if you still don't like it. At the very least, you
can express an informed opinion rather than an ignorant one. And believe
it or not, sometimes you even find your taste changing.

Sue Wood (in Oz)

PS Richard Minsky, this week my students spent some time looking at
Minsky in Bed on the web - they were all impressed. We've spent a lot of
time discussing if and when books are art and what is and isn't an
artists book, and. They were unanimous in declaring yours art, even if,
according to my argument above, their opinions don't make a difference
:-) 

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