Notes on the Indefinable

September 6, 2006

The Word and The Rock

Filed under: Critcism, Musings — Luke @ 11:19 am

The lawn of the Visual Studies Workshop is dark, save for the ceremonial torches around the sacred altar. The disciples sit quietly in anticipation of the reading from the sacred text and the re-initiation of the quest to understand the great word.

As the clock strikes midnight, the doors to 31 Prince Street are flung open and Sally Petty comes forth cradling the sacred text. Behind her, Chris Burnett follows, wearing a hooded robe of dark, rich cloth. The disciples rise as Burnett approaches the altar, and begins to read from our most sacred text:

Burnett: “I will now read the Word of Benjamin.”
Disciples (in unison): “Praise be to you, oh Walter Benjamin!”

And so begins another semester here at VSW and the resumption (or beginning) of the intense, deep, “no-stone-left-unturned” study of a single word: “art.” It seems as if we could almost reduce our time in graduate school to cocktail party-worthy chit-chat:

“So, you’re in grad school … what are you studying?”
“The definition of the word ‘art’.”
“Oh … ummm, what is the definition of the word ‘art’?”
“Well, we used to know, then shit got crazy … now we’re not too sure.”
“I see … well, good luck with all that.”

Not that I am as cynical as the above would belie. I love the wildly swinging pendulum of the definition of art. But I feel like the answer is way, way, way less important than the questions.

My own thoughts on art as a political vehicle/forum are mixed. While I’d love to see art influencing politics and really changing people’s minds, I don’t think I do. For the most part, I think art – specifically the kind of art that most students and friends of mine are creating – is speaking to a pretty narrow audience. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to inspire awareness or new ways of thinking, but I’m not sure we can expect anyone to listen.

So the Sisyphean task begins anew. What is art? Who knows, but let’s all get a hand on this rock and get it up the hill, shall we?

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1 Comment »

  1. Boderation comes from the word bother and that’s Zalecenia sit, rest, meditate (1) relax (6)

    Comment by BODERATION — September 27, 2006 @ 7:06 pm


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