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Re: Art or Design

Speaking as someone who curates exhibitions of artists' books, I am wholly
preoccupied with how the artist wants her/his book/bookwork to be
perceived, and not at all concerned with contemporary discourses about
art. I have enjoyed discussions of art vs craft and art vs. design on this
list very much, and thank Peter Verhayen for making it possible to read
and participate in such discussions. Michael Brady's attempts to
destablize the binarism of art/design are useful in thinking through the
traditional rhetoric about Art. I agree that art may *be* design,
although, if we privilege a subjective experience, the same design may
also not be art. If we take this a step further, if we believe all
that qualifies something as art is the presence of a subject who perceives
it as art, then we relinquish the right to call upon objective standards
of judgment. We lose our ability to frame criteria by which we may, as
critics, say something is *not* art. This is of course the Rationalists
complaint against Relativism. This is simply to reframe what Michael has
said, and to follow the connection to other discourses.

Richard Minsky's idea of metaphoric impact seems to agree with Brady in
respect to its privileging of art at the level of interpretation, although
Richard is more consciously foregrounding cultural discourses in the field
of art history as the determining principles of art. This is a justly
elitist view, one that we should be cautious to recognize does not
automatically ally the term Art with some vatic notion of the Good, or
the Beautiful, or the Sacred. Art is not a term that valorizes the
cultural production of painters or sculptors or graphic designers, but a
position in a kind of complex, historical, discourse about the nature of
Art, a discourse largely formed in the early modern period and processed
with increasing self-consciousness in the last two hundred years.

Exquisite design or painting may not be Art simply by being beautiful,
although it may be 'better' than art--more aesthetically or retinally
satisfying, more saturated with personal meaning, more responsive to the
purposes of the life of the beholder. In a sense, totemic items,
talismans, priapts, belong in the same category with beautifully printed
books and topflight design, which also function apart from the discourses
of art history and address the needs of the individual to be grounded in
real space, and to have contact with objects that have real value. For
argument's sake, let us imagine that Artists perceive the Good in Art, and
valorize art history as a modality of the real. For them Art history
functions as a kind of sacred history (according to the philosophical
trad. of Dilthey, Otto, Eliade, etc.), as a precritical valorization of
one's efforts to make Art.

Michael J

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