Futon world

Art Life , Op-ed Jul 09, 2010 1 Comment

Carrie Miller looks for the art world…

It may be a small world after all but within it there are a multitude of smaller ones that you can visit on the net and in person – most concerned with banal goods and services such as hardware and soft furnishings.

I checked and the world we all inhabit – the art world – has no such website, neither can you visit it in real life. But if it was on the web perhaps it wouldn’t be described that much differently from a the world of bedding:

Welcome to Futonworld The Art World!

Futonworld The art world is your creative home furnishing source. Traditional styles and cutting edge designs now co-exist.

Futons Art and More:
Other sorts of futons Art can be found here as well.

Our Infamous Futons Art and its History: See how far the futon art has come in both form and function.

Many styles available:
Our futons paintings come in a wide variety of styles and finishes.

Frames and Styles:
Many new woods available!

Mattresses Sculptures:
Many different mattresses types are available.

What does this demonstrate? For me at least, the inherent meaningless of the notion of a ‘world’ to depict the range of professional activities and people associated with art.

So why are we all so wedded to the notion of an art world, rather than say an art industry or the art business?

First, let’s try and work out what we mean when we talk about this thing we call the ‘art world’. I’ll defer to Wikipedia:

“The art world is the “world” composed of all the people involved in the production, commission, preservation, promotion, criticism, and sale of art. Howard S. Becker describes it as “the network of people whose cooperative activity, organized via their joint knowledge of conventional means of doing things, produce(s) the kind of art works that art world is noted for” (Becker, 1982). Sarah Thornton describes it as “a loose network of overlapping subcultures held together by a belief in art. They span the globe but cluster in art capitals like New York, London, Los Angeles, and Berlin.”

Ok, so the experts reckon it’s an association of people joined together by a common interest or purpose: art and all the activities associated with it.

But read on and the problematic nature of a singular and unified ‘world’ associated with art is immediately called into question:

“The notion of the singular art world is problematic, since Becker and others have shown, art worlds are multiplicities, they are globally scattered, constantly in flux, and typically operating independently of each other: there really is no center to the art world any more…Art worlds can exist at the local and regional levels, as hidden or obscured subcultures, via primary and secondary art markets, through gallery circuits, around design movements, and more esoterically as shared or perceived experiences.”

In other words, the idea of a single, globalised and totalising system called the art world is a fiction – in reality there are a multiplicity of perspectives as to what constitutes ‘the art world’ which emanate from a range of intersecting stratifications of it, sometimes converging at a single point, sometimes existing entirely independently of one another.

What’s perhaps most interesting about this is that it seems that the biggest subscribers to the myth of a singular, authentic world are those of us that inhabit what I’d call the most ‘critical’ stratification of it. Talk to people that populate what we might consider the more overtly ‘commercial’ part, and they are much more comfortable saying they work in a ‘business’ or an ‘industry’.

It seems that some of us at the ‘avant garde’ end have the most investment in hanging on to a romantic notion of a rarefied space that only certain people can occupy. A mythical place populated by people with special qualities and a sensibility that makes what they do an intrinsic part of their being-in-the-world rather than just a job with a commercial outcome like everyone else.

I think it’s time to let go of the romantic myth. And I think the best resolution to understanding and contextualising what we are all doing can be found in the title of this blog. We are living The Art Life and so are lots of other people. It’s a life that’s open to everyone – an infinite range of possibilities that are equally legitmate depending on your perspective – and how you choose to pursue it is entirely up to you.

So Welcome to The Art Life Futon World – it’s just like saying ‘the good life’. “comfortable bedding at affordable prices!”

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Carrie Miller

One Comments

  1. Rodney

    My mother makes my bed. I have no need for a futon.

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