The Subcommittee.
One of the prices you pay for being a professor at a university is service on committees. But this one turned out to be fun. We decided that the individual is the source of creativity and our report should demonstrate that in form as well as content. So rather than an anonymous and bland group report, we submitted papers prepared and signed by each individual member. This was mine.

Art/Design/Culture: In the Field and at School

Art is both a metaphor for life and depends on metaphor for its life. So, does sport. Here’s my metaphor:

Making visual objects is like horse-racing. There’s a crowd of people who come to watch and enjoy the spectacle. Some like to gamble. A whole industry has grown up around this. There are horse-racing historians and statisticians whose information is used both to set the odds on races and by touts who earn their living trying to convince others they can predict a race’s outcome. In art, some are called curators; some critics. Then there are the owners, both of the stables and the tracks…and the museums. They administer the rules of the game and feed the masses. The trainers try to teach the jockeys how to control the horses and supervise the care and feeding of the horses.

Typical of all human effort, each of the people in these jobs secretly think or overtly state that their work is the central part of the sport. For example, there’s a critical theory that art exists only in the mind of the viewer; The work and its author are minor players. But then criticism is by definition from the consumer’s point of view and after the fact of creation.

They all forget that the races are run by horses, the artists, who combine horse-sense, instinct and their very being into the run. Sometimes, jockeys and horses become so close they’re like one animal, combining rationality, breeding and purpose.

But even without races, horses would run. And if that old mudder (and muddier) Duchamp could have his way there would be no fences on the pastures and no finish lines, no departments; just running (creativity) …and chess.

Photograph and text © Charles Harbutt. All rights reserved.

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