On the death of the original

It's a platonic problem, really.  If you have conceptual art, then how do you tell the difference between the original and a copy?  Even the "original" is just a pale material shadow of the work of art, which exists only on the plane of ideas.

But somehow it all seems more than Plato anticipated when shark corpses get involved.

As this article from the New York Observer notes:

The artists are doing this on purpose, obviously, having spent the best part of the past century making work that vigorously and repeatedly challenged concepts of originality, authenticity, and uniqueness-- concepts that crucially inform how conservators have preserved and restored work, and how curators have displayed and studied it.
It’s driving museum people crazy. How do you acquire or display a work of performance art that exists only in the form of an instruction sheet? What should conservators do about works that are deteriorating because they were made from unstable materials, such as neon, or sharks?
*    *    *

The other day I was talking to a close friend from graduate school, and we both began to reflect on how much more  vital our twenties would have seemed if we hadn't spent them desperately seeking to achieve some amorphous form of status and self-worth at our competitive university.  "Looking back," my friend JJ said to me, "it almost seems like a waste. Well, I mean, it can't have been a waste, because we have our doctorates, but...," she sighed, "I want to look back on my thirties and see that I've done something more ... coherent."

Now the conventional wisdom being given to undergrads with an eye on academe is this: look elsewhere for coherence.  Advising against anyone following his (and our) path to a doctorate in the humanities, Thomas H. Benton writes:

What almost no prospective graduate students can understand is the extent to which doctoral education in the humanities socializes idealistic, naïve, and psychologically vulnerable people into a profession with a very clear set of values. It teaches them that life outside of academe means failure, which explains the large numbers of graduates who labor for decades as adjuncts, just so they can stay on the periphery of academe.

*    *    *

Looking back at the "Death of the Author"in a new Guardian blog on the sexiest moments in literary theory.

*    *    *

Is it possible to make a living as a playwright in America today?  A new study reveals that there are very few writers who can claim that the theatre entirely supports them today.  Where is the support for innovation in theatrical writing today?  Since I have been studying the 1956 moment in British theatre, it is easy to see how complaisance and the idea that innovation is the province of individual genius-artists rather than a result of national or industrial commitment can result in cultural stagnation.

*    *    *

Germany becomes the third country to produce a musical about Barack Obama.  An odd additional note:

As part of an interactive gimmick, the audience will be asked to participate in the show by playing tiny drums built into their chairs.

Yes, we can?

*    *    *

This study about the correlation between large amounts of time spent on the computer or watching television and cardiovascular disease - even among exercisers - has me totally, totally freaked out. 

So I am going to get off the computer now and go do something a bit more ... circulation-inducing.

Leave a Reply