Photo by ickybitty (on flickr).
Photo: Jenny Mark-Ketter
Leo Tolstory rocks my world, man.
Because he was l’homme de bigbrain, he put into words so perfectly just what I believe to be true about what we call “art”: namely that “all human life is filled with works of art of every kind — from cradlesong, jest, mimcry, the ornamentation of houses, dress, and utensils, up to church services, buildings, monuments, and triumphal processions. It is all artistic activity.” Art is what you see displayed in the white cube of the gallery, of course, but it is so much more than that. The well-tied fly is art just as much as the proficiently painted canvas is, and so are the beautifully cobbled shoe, the gracefully formed canoe, and the elegantly rendered chair.
I really believe this. Really and truly and with all my heart. And the more I’ve undertaken to subscribe to this view, the more it’s become second nature. To arrive at this place, I had to shake my hair loose of its pins and let my backbone slide. And can I tell you, with ardour and enthusiasm, how much I like walking around in a world that is full of gorgeous ridiculous moving inspiring thingobjects? My god. So much! The more I’ve left myself open to the possibility that, in the words of the great bard Bill Watterson, there’s treasure everywhere, the more, well, hey! goddam! there’s treasure everywhere!
You can choose inclusion over exclusion. You can. And should. There is so much more pleasure and joy to be found in the world if you don’t feel compelled to fashion hierarchies. The notion that capital-A-Art > lower-c-craft serves no purpose except to impose restrictions and why do that? What good comes of it? Art is not superior to craft. It just isn’t. I mean, if it is, demonstrate to me how and why. I don’t think you can do it. I don’t think you should want to do it. I think you should want to intertwine the two, just as I think you should want to intertwine the drawing of breath and the recognising of beauty and invention so that as you move along through the world, your field of vision is filled with delightments and excitements. I’m not even much of a proponent of the notion that there are two discrete categories that can be labelled “Art” and “Craft”. Where does one stop and the other start? How come we used to view textile-making as craft or hobby or domestic art but now we showcase it in art galleries and museums? Why is one piece of work on paper a “drawing” or a “study” and fit for display in an art show and another an “illustration” and not? I reject this brand of categorisation because I think it’s so arbitrary. I mean, come on, for all the fact that they take the form of comic books (“graphic novels”, if you want to be fancy about it), is it possible to posit a convincing argument that Art Spiegelman’s books Maus and Maus II are anything other than real, proper literary works? I don’t see how. I really don’t.
I don’t like it when the world of making is divided up like so many cuts of meat on a butcher’s chart. I don’t see the purpose or the utility. I don’t see the upside. All I see is that it sets up a “mine’s better than yours” paradigm and an “us versus them” paradigm. And I don’t like those paradigms, not even a bit. So as Adam on Mythbusters says, “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” Or, I guess more properly, Leo Tolstoy’s. Yeah, man, his. So give it up for Mister! Leo! Tolstoy!
(And a treat for you. Check out the Victorian fabric sample books on the Victoria & Albert website. Objects with a practical purpose that are also delicious, nutritious art.)
Leo Tolstoy, What is Art?, quoted at http://www.csulb.edu/~jvancamp/361r14.html