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HOWARD '

S, BCKR
$25 until
December 31, 1982
S29.95 thereafter

H OW ARD S. B6CK6R

ART WORLDS
Works of art are produced by cooperation. The
creating artist works with a network of suppliers
of materials, distributors of art works, fellow'
artists, and with critics, theorists, and audiences.
These contributing individuals and organiza
tions together constitute an art world. And the
very existence of this art world gives artists the
opportunity and means to make art. How is this
cooperation possible? In what w'ays do works of
art show the effects of having been made
collectively?
In this most unusual book, noted sociologist
Howard Becker draws examples from music,
drama, dance, literature, film, and the visual arts.
Among his findings is that much work ev en
tually recognized as art has its beginnings apart
from the cooperative nurturing of an art world.
He cites such outsiders as composer Charles
Ives, sculptor Simon Rodia, and quiltmakers as
artists whose work did not receive recognition
until a suitable art world existed to foster them.
Sociologists, critics and analysts of the several
arts, and working artists will find herein a clari
fication of the role of well-know n observations
about the cooperative character of art work. The
analysis clarifies problems in aesthetics and crit
icism and provides a model for the analysis of
other social worlds.

Jacket photo, perm ission o f The Tine A rts


M useum s o f San Francisco/Ira N o w in ski
ART W ORLDS

T h is On
SEAX-ARP-6X6G

SEAX-ARP-6X6G
HOWARD S. 86CKLR

ART WORLDS
UNIVBRSITV OF CRUFORNIR PR6SS
Berkeley Los Rngeles London
University o f California Press
B erkeley a n d Los Angeles, C alifornia
U niversity o f C alifornia Press, Ltd.
L o n d o n , E n g la n d
1982 by
T h e R e g e n ts of th e U niversity o f California
P rin te d in th e U nited S ta te s o f A m erica

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

L ibrary of C ongress C ataloging in P ublicatio n Data


Becker, H o w a r d Saul, 1928-
Art worlds.

B ibliography: p.
In c lu d e s index.
1. Arts a n d society. 2. P o p u la r culture.
3. ArtsPsychology. 1. Title.
NX180.S6B42 700'.1'03 81-2694
ISBN 0-520-04386-3 AACR2
Contents

List of Illustrations vi
Preface ix
Acknowledgments xii
1 Art W orlds a n d Collective Activity 1
2 C onventions 40
3 Mobilizing R esources 68
4 Distributing Art W orks 93
5 Aesthetics, Aestheticians, a n d Critics 131
6 Art a n d the S tate 165
7 E diting 192
8 In te g ra te d Professionals, Mavericks, Folk Artists,
a n d N aive Artists 226
9 Arts a n d Crafts 272
10 C h an g e in Art W orlds 300
11 R e p u ta tio n 351
Bibliography 373
Index 385

v
Illustrations

1. Page from a set of Shokunin-e (depictions of various


occupations), Edo Period, Japan; artist, poet, and
calligrapher unknown 12
2. Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q. 20
3. e e cummings, r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r 27
4. Three realistic drawings of a tree 31
5. Jim Sohm and Diana Weber in the San Francisco
Ballet production of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet 43
6. Conventional symbols for mens and womens toilets 44
7. Oberlin Dance Collective performing Format III 49
8. Master of the Barberini Panels, Annunciation: Reflection 51
9. Score of Randolph Coleman's Format II 62
10. Robert Frank, Navy Recruiting Station, Post Office
Butte, Montana 65
11. Performance of Harry Partch's Oedipus 76
12. Scene from The Red Badge of Courage, directed by
John Huston 85
13. Program of a concert given by Ludwig van Beethoven,
April 2, 1800 136
14. Poster advertising The Bus Show 140
15. The Bus Show, installed 144
16. Marcel Duchamp, In Advance o f the Broken Arm 147
17. Andy Warhol, Brillo 148

vi
vii I L L U S T R A T I O N S

18. Marcel Duchamp, Fountain 154


19. Orson Welles modern-dress production of Julius Caesar 176
20. Howard S. Becker, The Blessing o f the Fishing Fleet in
San Francisco, print and contact sheet 196
21. A performance of Cookie by members of the Tactile
Art Group 206
22. Charles Ives 234
23. Conlon Nancarrow and the apparatus for creating
player piano compositions 245
24. Quilt designs 252
25. Convicts singing 257
26. Simon Rodia, the Watts Towers 261
27. James Hampton, Throne o f the Third Heaven o f the
National Millenium General Assembly 262
28. Robert Arneson, Sinking Brick Plates 280
29. Marilyn Levine, Brown Satchel 282
30. Robert Arneson, Typewriter 284
31. Robert Arneson, A Tremendous Teapot 285
32. (a) Gertrude Kasebier, untitled photograph; 294
(b) Robert Frank, Covered Car, Long Beach, California 295
33. James M. Davis, The Railroad, TVs Like Life 318
34. Stereoscope manufacturing at Underwood and
Underwood 323
35. Stock room, Underwood and Underwood 324
36. Ad for stereographs in the Sears, Roebuck catalogue 327
37. The Buddy Petit Jazz Band of New Orleans 334
38. The Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra 335
39. Unknown photographer, A Dewy Morning
The Farmer's Surprise 337
40. Stereoscopes in the schoolroom 338
41. Alfred Stieglitz, The City of A mbition 342
42. Walker Evans, Houses and Billboards, Atlanta,
Georgia, 1936 347
Preface

Maybe the years I spent playing the piano in taverns in Chicago


and elsewhere led me to believe that the people who did that
mundane work were as important to an understanding of art as the
better-known players who produced the recognized classics of jazz.
Growing up in Chicagowhere Louis Sullivan's democratic philos
ophy was embodied in the skyscrapers of the downtown I loved to
prowl around and Moholy-Nagy's Institute of Design gave a Mid
western home to the refugee Bauhaus' concern for the craft in
artmay have led me to think that the craftsmen who help make art
works are as important as the people who conceive them. My
rebellious temperament may be the cause of a congenital antielit
ism. Learning the Chicago tradition" of sociology from Everett C.
Hughes and Herbert Blurncr surely led to a skepticism about con
ventional definitions of the objects of sociological study.
AH those things had a part in forming the attitude of this book,
quite different from the one with which sociologists usually ap
proach the arts. I have treated art as the work some people do, and
have been more concerned with patterns of cooperation among the
people who make the works than With the works themselves or with
those conventionally defined as their creators. In doing that, I have
found it natural to use the style of analysis I and many others have
used in analyzing other kinds of work and work settings. That has
inevitably meant treating art as not so very different from other

ix
X P R E F AC E

kinds of work, and treating people defined as artists as not so very


different from other kinds of workers, especially the other workers
who participate in the making of art works.
The idea of an art world forms the backbone of my analysis. Art
world is commonly used by writers on the arts in a loose and
metaphoric way, mostly to refer to the most fashionable people
associated with those newsworthy objects and events that com
mand astronomical prices. I have used the term in a more technical
way, to denote the network of people whose cooperative activity,
organized via their joint knowledge of conventional means of doing
things, produces the kind of art works that art world is noted for.
This tautological definition mirrors the analysis, which is less a
logically organized sociological theory of art than an exploration of
the potential of the idea of an art world for increasing our under
standing of how people produce and consume art works. Each
chapter approaches that idea from a slightly different vantage
point, suggesting the important features of art worlds, outlining
how' they come into existence and persist, noting how their opera
tions affect the form and content of art works, and reinterpreting
standard questions in analyses of the arts in ways suggested by all
the foregoing.
I think it generally true that sociology docs not discover what no
one ever knew before, in this differing from the natural sciences.
Rather, good social science produces a deeper understanding of
things that many people are already pretty much aware of. This is
not the place to pursue that argument. But I should say that what
ever virtue this analysis has does not come from the discovery of
any hitherto unknown facts or relations. Instead, it comes from
exploring systematically the implications of the art world concept.
Though the basic idea seems commonplace, many of its implica
tions are not. Thus, it seems obvious to say that if everyone whose
work contributes to the finished art work does not do his part, the
work will come out differently. But it is not obvious to pursue
the implication that it then becomes a problem to decide which
of all these people is the artist, while the others are only support
personnel.
Because my focus has been on forms of social organization, I
have frequently compared art forms and works which have quite
different reputations as art. I have spoken of Titian and comic
strips in the same breath and have discussed Hollywood film scores
or rock-and-roll tunes as seriously as the work of Beethoven or
Mozart. In fact, since the problem of reputation is central to the
Xi P R E F A C E

analysis, such comparisons occur frequently. 1 remind readers who


find them offensive that the principle of analysis is social organi
zational, not aesthetic.
This approach seems to stand in direct contradiction to the
dominant tradition in the sociology of art, which defines art as
something more special, in which creativity comes to the surface
and the essential character of the society expresses itself, especially
in great works of genius. The dominant tradition takes the artist
and art work, rather than the network of cooperation, as central to
the analysis of art as a social phenomenon. In light of this differ
ence, it might be reasonable to say that what I have done here is not
the sociology of art at all, but rather the sociology of occupations
applied to artistic work. I would not quarrel with that way of
putting it.
I have not argued directly with the more traditional point of
view, except in the final chapter, and deal with some of its most
important preoccupations only glancingly. It is not that those con
cerns cannot be dealt with in the terms proposed here, but they arc
not central to the approach I have taken, and so have a subordinate
place in my discussion. Furthermore, I have put those questions in
a way that makes them relevant to what I want to talk about and
thus does not deal with them adequately in their own terms. I am
not sure that the two stvles of analysis conflict or contradict one
another. They may just be two different sets of questions asked of
the same empirical materials.
1 have, of course, not been the first to think about the arts in this
way. There is a hearty tradition of relativistic, skeptical, demo
cratic writing about the arts. The example of such ethnomusicol-
ogists as Charles Seeger and, especially, Klaus Wachsmann gave
me much to think about and to imitate. William Ivins Prims and
Visual Communication started me thinking about many of the
problems I take up later and provided some of the tools needed to
work on them. Harrison and Cynthia Whites analysis of the world
of nineteenth-century French painting suggested the advantages of
studying all the artists of a period rather than only the great names.
These, and other sources I have used liberally in the text, indicate
something of the tradition that lies behind what I have done. Like
all traditions, its makers are not responsible for vvhal latecomers do
in its name.
Acknowledgments

Because this book focuses on the networks of cooperation and


assistance through which work gets done, I am even more con
scious than most authors of how what I have done depends on
what a multitude of people and organizations have done for me.
1 cannot be detailed and specific in my thanksit would take for
ever. So I have listed names alphabetically and let it go at that,
which doesn't mean that I am not truly grateful.
I began the work on which the book is based in 1969-70, when I
was a Fellow (supported in part by a fellowship from the National
Institute of Mental Health) of the Center for Advanced Study in the
Behavioral Sciences; there is no better place for the kind of aimless
exploratory inquiry I was ready for that year. I completed the first
draft of the complete manuscript in 1978-79, while I was a Fellow of
the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. I thank both
organizations for their support. In addition, I have been a member
of the Sociology Department of Northwestern University since
1965; it has been a wonderful and encouraging intellectual home.
Portions of this book first appeared in somewhat different form
in the following journals and books, and are adapted here with the
permission of the original publishers:
Art as Collective Action, reprinted from American
Sociological Review 39 (December 1974): 767-76, with the
permission of the American Sociological Association.
Xiii A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S

Art Photography in America/ reprinted from Journal of


Communication 25 (Winter 1975): 74-78, with their
permission.
Art Worlds and Social Types/' reprinted from American
Behavioral Scientist 19 (July 1976): 703-18, with the permis
sion of Sage Publications.
Arts and Crafts, reprinted from American Journal o f So
ciology 83 (January 1978): 862-89, with the permission of the
University of Chicago Press.
Stereographs: Local, National and International Art
Worlds, reprinted from Edward W. Earle, ed., Points of View:
The Stereograph in AmericaA Cultural History (Rochester,
N.Y.: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1979), pp. 88-96, with
their permission.
Aesthetics, Aestheticians, and Critics, reprinted from
Studies in Visual Communication 6 (Spring 1980): 56-68, with
their permission.

Publishers have granted permission to quote from the following


works:

Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography, University of Cali


fornia Press
William Culp Darrah, World of Stereographs, William C.
Darrah
Patricia Cooper and Norma Bradley Buferd, The Quilters:
Women and Domestic Art, Doubleday & Company, Inc.
Raymonde Moulin, Le Marche de la peinture en France, Les
Editions de Minuit
Frangoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Life with Picasso,
McGraw-Hill Book Company
Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth
Century Italy, Oxford University Press
Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Fixed Marks and Variable
Constancies: A Parable of Literary Value, by permission of
the author
Vivian Perlis, Charles Ives Remembered: An Oral History,
Yale University Press
The following friends and colleagues helped in all sorts of ways:
Bernard Beck, Nan Becker, H. Stith Bennett, Bennett Berger, Wil
liam Blizek, Philip Brickman, Derral Cheatwood, Kenneth Donow,
Edward Earle, Philip Ennis, Carolyn Evans, Robert Faulkner, Eliot
Freidson, Jane Fulcher, Blanche Geer, Barry Glassner, Hans
Xi v A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S

Haacke, Karen Huffstodt, Irving Louis Horowitz, Everett C.


Hughes, Bruce Jackson, Edward Kealy, Robert Leighninger, Leo
Litwak, Eleanor Lyon, Arline Meyer, Leonard Meyer, Dan Mor-
ganstern, Chandra Mukerji, Charles Nanrv, Susan Lee Nelson, Ri
chard Peterson, Ellen Poole, Barbara Rosenblum, Clinton Sanders,
Grace Seiberling, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Carl Smith, Malcolm
Spector, Anselm Strauss, Helen Tartar, Susan Vehlow, Gilberto
Velho, Klaus Wachsman, Brenda Way, and Nancy Weiss.
1* Rrt UUorlds and Collective
Activity

I T W AS M Y practice to be at m y table every m o rn in g


at 5:30 a . m .; a n d it was also m y practice to allow m y
self no mercy. A n old g ro o m , w hose business it w as to
call me, a n d to w h o m I paid 5 a year extra fo r the
duty, a llow ed h im se lf no mercy. D uring all those years
at W altham Cross he w as never once late with the coffee
w hich it was his d u ty to bring me. I do not k n o w that I
ought no t to feel that I ow e m ore to him than to any
one else fo r the success I have had. By beginning at that
h o u r I c o u ld com plete m y literary w ork before I dressed
fo r breakfast.
A n t h o n y T r o l l o p e , 1947 [ 1 8 8 3 ] , p . 227

T he E nglish novelist m a y have told the story facetiously,


b u t being a w a k e n e d a n d given coffee w as nevertheless in te
gral to the w ay he w orked. No d o u b t he could have d o n e
w ith o u t th e coffee if he h a d to; but he d id n t have to. No
d o u b t a n y o n e could have p e rfo rm e d that service; but, given
the w ay T rollope w orked, it h a d to be p erfo rm e d .
All artistic w ork, like all h u m a n activity, involves the joint
activity o f a n u m b e r, often a large n u m b e r, o f people.
T h ro u g h their co o p era tio n , the art w ork we eventually sec o r
h e a r c o m e s to be a n d co n tin u es to be. The w o rk alwavs
sh o w s signs o f th a t co o p eratio n . The form s of c o o p era tio n
m a y be e p h e m e ra l, but often b e c o m e m o re o r less routine,
p ro d u c in g p a tte rn s of collective activity w e can call an art
w orld. The existence of a rt w orlds, as well as the way their
existence affects both the p ro d u c tio n a n d c o n s u m p tio n of art
w orks, suggests a sociological a p p ro a c h to the arts. It is not
an a p p r o a c h th a t p ro d u c e s aesth etic ju d g m e n ts , although
th a t is a task m a n y sociologists o f art have set for them selves.
It p ro d u c es, instead, an u n d e rs ta n d in g of the com plexity of
the co o p erativ e n e tw o rk s th ro u g h w h ich a rt h a p p e n s , of the
w ay the activities of both Trollope a n d his g room m e sh e d

1
2 * ART W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

with those of printers, publishers, critics, librarians, and


re a d e rs in the w o rld of Victorian literature, a n d of the sim ilar
n e tw o rk s a n d resu lts involved in all the arts.

ART AS ACTIVITY
Think of all the activities th a t m u st be carried o u t for any
w o rk of a rt to a p p e a r as it finally does. F or a sy m p h o n y
o rc h e s tra to give a concert, for instance, in s tru m e n ts m u s t
have been invented, m a n u fa c tu re d , a n d m ain tain ed , a n o ta
tion m u s t have b e en devised a n d m usic c o m p o se d using th a t
notation, people m u st have learn e d to play the n o ta te d notes
on the in s tru m e n ts, tim es a n d places for re h e a rsa l m u s t have
been provided, ad s for the c o n ce rt m u st have been placed,
publicity m u s t have been a rra n g e d a n d tickets sold, a n d an
a u d ien c e c a p a b le of listening to a n d in so m e w ay u n d e r
s ta n d in g a n d re sp o n d in g to the p e rfo rm a n c e m u st have been
recruited. A sim ilar list can be com piled fo r a n y of the p e r
form ing arts. W ith m in o r variations (substitute m a terials for
in s tru m e n ts a n d exhibition for p erfo rm an ce), the list applies
to the visual a n d (su b stituting language a n d p rin t for m a t e
rials a n d pu b licatio n for exhibition) literary arts.
The list of things th a t m u st be d o n e varies, naturally, from
one m e d iu m to a n o th er, b u t we can provisionally list the
kinds of activities th a t m u st be p erfo rm e d . To begin, s o m e
one m u s t h a v e a n idea of w h a t kind of w ork is to be m a d e
a n d of its specific form . The originators m a y get th a t idea
long b efo re actually m a k in g the work, o r the idea m a y arise
in the p ro c e ss of working. The idea m ay be brilliant a n d
original, p ro fo u n d a n d moving, o r trivial a n d banal, for
all practical p u rp o s e s indistinguishable from th o u s a n d s of
o th e r ideas p ro d u c e d by o th e rs equally u n ta le n te d o r u n in
terested in w h a t they are doing. P ro d u cin g the idea m ay
require e n o rm o u s effort a n d c o n c e n tratio n ; it m a y co m e as a
gift, o u t of the blue; o r it m ay be p ro d u c e d routinely, by the
m a n ip u la tio n of w ell-known form ulas. The way the w ork is
p r o d u c e d b e a rs no necessary relationship to its quality.
E very w ay of p ro d u c in g art w o rk s for so m e people a n d not
for others; every w ay of p ro d u c in g a rt p ro d u c e s w o rk of
every conceivable g ra d e of quality, h o w ev e r that is defined.
3 A R T W O R L D S AND C O U . E C T I V E ACTI V IT Y

O nce conceived, the idea m ust be executed. Most artistic


id eas tak e so m e physical form : a film, a p ain tin g o r sc u lp
ture, a book, a dance, a so m eth in g w hich can be seen, h eard,
held. E ven c o n ce p tu al art, w hich p u rp o rts to consist solely of
ideas, tak es the fo rm of a ty pescript, a talk, p h o to g ra p h s, or
so m e c o m b in a tio n of those.
T he m e a n s for the execution of so m e art w orks seem to be
easily a n d routinely available, so th a t part of the m aking of
the art w ork cau ses no one a n y special effort o r worry. We
can, for instance, have books p rin te d o r p h o to c o p ied with
relatively little trouble. O th e r art w orks require skilled e x e
cution. A m u sical id ea in the fo rm of a w ritten score has to be
p e rfo rm e d , a n d m usical p e rfo rm a n c e req u ires training, skill,
a n d ju d g m e n t. Once a play is w ritten, it m u s t be acted, a n d
that re q u ire s skill, training, a n d ju d g m e n t too. (So, in fact,
d o es printing a book, b u t we arc less a w a re of that.)
A n o th er crucial activity in the p ro d u c tio n of art w orks
consists o f m a n u fa c tu rin g a n d d istrib u tin g the m a terials and
e q u ip m e n t m o st artistic activities require. Musical in s tru
m ents, p ain ts a n d canvas, d a n c e r s shoes a n d costum es,
c a m e ra s a n d filmall th ese have to be m a d e a n d m a d e avail
able to the people w ho use th e m to p ro d u c e a il works.
M aking art w o rk s takes time, a n d m ak in g the e q u ip m e n t
a n d m a terials takes time, too. T h at tim e has to be diverted
from o th e r activities. Artists ordinarily m a k e tim e a n d e q u ip
m e n t available for th em selves by raising m o n e y in one way
o r a n o th e r a n d using the m o n e y to buy w hat they need. They
usually, th o u g h not always, raise m o n e y by d istrib u tin g their
w o rk s to a u d ie n c e s in re tu rn for so m e form of pay m en t.
Of course, so m e societies, a n d so m e a rt activities, do not
o p e ra te w ithin a m o n e y eco n o m y . Instead, a central g o v e rn
m e n t agency m a y allocate re so u rce s for art projects. In a n
o th e r kind of society, people w h o p ro d u c e art m ay b a rte r
their w o rk for w hat they need, o r m ay p ro d u c e w ork in the
tim e available to them a fte r they have m et th e ir o th e r obli
gations. They m a y p e rfo rm their o rd in a ry activities in such
a way as to p ro d u c e w h a t we o r they m ight identify as art,
even th o u g h the w ork is not c o m m o n ly called that, as w hen
w o m e n p r o d u c e d quilts for family use. H ow ever it is done,
w o rk gets d istrib u te d a n d the d istrib u tio n p ro d u c e s the
4 A R T W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E ACTI VI TY

m e a n s with w hich fu rth e r re so u rce s for m a k in g fu rth e r w ork


c a n be g ath ered .
O th e r activities th a t we can lu m p to g e th e r as s u p p o rt"
m u s t also take place. These vary w ith the m e d iu m : sw eeping
up the stage a n d bringing the coffee, stretch ing a n d p rim in g
can v ases a n d fra m in g the finished paintings, copy editing
a n d p ro ofreading. They include all sorts of technical activi
tiesm a n ip u la tin g the m a c h in e ry people use in executing
the w o rk as well as those w hich m erely free e x e c u ta n ts fro m
n o rm a l h o u se h o ld chores. Think of su p p o rt as a residual
category, designed to hold w h a te v e r the o th e r categories do
not m a k e a n easy place for.
S o m e o n e m u s t re sp o n d to the w o rk once it is done, have
an em o tio n al or intellectual reaction to it, see s o m e th in g in
it," a p p re c ia te it. The old c o n u n d r u m if a tree falls in the
forest a n d no o n e hears it, did it m ak e a so u n d ? c an be
solved here by sim ple definition: w e are in terested in the
e v en t w hich consists of a w ork b eing m a d e a n d a p p re c ia te d ;
for th a t to h a p p e n , the activity o f resp o n se a n d a p p re c ia tio n
m u s t occur.
A n o th er activity consists of creatin g a n d m a in tain in g the
ra tio n a le a c c o rd in g to w h ic h all these o th e r activities m ak e
sense a n d are w o rth doing. R ationales typically take the
form , h o w ev e r naive, of a kind of aesthetic a rg u m e n t, a
philosophical justification w hich identifies w h a t is being
m a d e as art, as good art, a n d explains how a rt d o es s o m e
th in g th a t n eed s to be d o n e for people a n d society. E very s o
cial activity carries w ith it som e su c h rationale, n e ce ssary for
th o se m o m e n ts w h e n o th e rs not e n g a g e d in it ask w h a t good
it is anyw ay. S o m e o n e alw ays asks su ch questions, if only the
people en g ag e d in the activity them selves. S u b sid ia ry to this
is the specific ev alu a tio n o f individual w o rk s to d e te rm in e
w h e th e r thev m eet the s ta n d a r d s c o n ta in e d in th e m o re
general justification for th a t class of w o rk o r w hether, p e r
haps, the ratio n ale re q u ire s revision. Only by this kind of
critical review of w h a t has been a n d is being d o n e c a n p a r
tic ip an ts in the m a k in g o f art w o rk s decide w h at to do as
they m o v e on to the next work.
M ost of these things c a n n o t be d o n e on the s p u r o f the
5 A R T W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E AC T I V I T Y

m o m e n t. They re q u ire so m e training. People m u st learn the


te c h n iq u e s c h a ra cte ristic of the kind of work they arc going
to do, w h e th e r it be the creation o f ideas, execution, so m e
o n e of the m a n y s u p p o rt activities, o r app reciatio n , response,
a n d criticism. Accordingly, s o m e o n e m u s t carry on the e d u
cation a n d train in g th ro u g h which su ch learning occurs.
Finally, to do all this su p p o se s co n ditions of civic o rd e r
su c h that people en g aged in m a k in g art can c o u n t on a
c e rta in stability, can feel th a t there are som e rules to the
g a m e they a re playing. If system s of s u p p o rt a n d distribution
rely on n o tions o f p riv ate p ro p e rty , the rights to that p ro p e rty
m u st be g u a ra n te e d in so m e way. The state, p u rs u in g its
interest in the e n d s for which people are mobilized for col
lective action, m u st allow the p ro d u c tio n of the o b je cts a n d
events w hich are the art, a n d m a y provide so m e su p p o rt
itself.
I have re p ea ted ly sp o k en in the im perative: people m u st
do this, the state m ust not do that. W ho savs so? W hy m ust
any of these people do a n y o f these things? It is easy eno u g h
to im agine o r r e m e m b e r cases in which these activities have
not been carried out. Recall how I began: Think of all the
activities th a t m u st be carried out fo r any w ork o f art to ap
pear as it finally does." T hat is, the im p eratives all o p e ra te if
the e v en t is to o c c u r in a specific w ay a n d no other. But the
w o rk need not o c c u r in that way, or in any o th e r p a rtic u la r
way. If one o r a n o th e r of these activities does n o t get done,
the w ork will o c c u r in som e o th e r way. If no o n e a p p re c ia te s
the work, it will go u n a p p re c ia te d . If no one s u p p o rts its
doing, it will go u n s u p p o rte d . If specific item s o f e q u ip m e n t
are not available, the work will be d o n e w ith o u t them .
N aturally, doing w ithout any of these things affects the work
p ro d u c e d . It will not be the sa m e work. But that is far differ
ent fro m saying that it c a n n o t exist at all unless these
activities are p e rfo rm e d . Any of them can be p e rfo rm e d
in a variety o f w ays with an equal variety of results.
Poets, for instance, d e p e n d on printers, editors, a n d p u b
lishers to circulate th e ir work. But should those facilities not
be available, for political o r eco n o m ic reasons, they m a y find
o th e r m e a n s of circulating it. R ussian poets circulate their
6 A R T W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E ACT I VI T Y

w o rk in privately typed m an u scrip ts, read ers retyping the


m a n u s c rip t to m a k e fu rth e r circulating copies, w hen the
g o v e rn m e n t printing h ouses will n o t allow official printing
or distribution. If the co m m ercial publish ers of capitalist
co u n trie s will n o t publish a book, poets can, as A m erican
poets often do, m im e o g ra p h o r p h o to c o p y th e ir work, p e r
h a p s m ak in g unofficial use of the e q u ip m e n t of so m e school
o r office for w hich they work. If, th a t done, no one will
d istrib u te the work, they can d istribute it them selves, giving
copies aw ay to friends a n d relatives, or ju st h a n d in g it o u t
to stra n g ers on street corners. Or one can sim ply not d istrib
u te the w ork, a n d keep it for oneself. Em ily Dickinson did
th a t w h en , a fter a few u n fo rtu n a te experiences with edi
tors w h o altered h e r illiterate" p u n c tu a tio n , she decided
th a t sh e w ould not be able to publish h e r w o rk in the form
she w a n te d (Johnson, 1955).
Of course, by using o th e r th a n the conventional m e a n s of
d istrib u tio n or no ch an n el of d istrib u tio n at all, artists suffer
so m e disad v an tag es, a n d their w ork takes a different form
th a n it m ight have if re g u la r distribution h ad been available.
They usually see this situ atio n as an u n m ix e d curse, a n d
h o p e to gain access to re g u lar ch an n els o f distribution, or
w h a te v e r o th e r co n v entional facilities they find unavailable.
B ut since, as we will see, the re g u lar m e a n s of carrying on
s u p p o r t activities substantially c o n stra in w h a t can be done,
not to have th e m available, in co nvenient o r w orse as th a t
m ay be, also o p e n s up otherw ise unavailable possibilities.
Access to all the re g u lar m e a n s of doing things is a m ixed
blessing.
This is not, then, a fu n ctio n alist th e o ry w hich suggests that
activities m u st o c c u r in a p a rtic u la r way o r the social system
will not survive. The social sy stem s w hich p ro d u c e art s u r
vive in all sorts of ways, th o u g h n ever exactly as they h a v e in
the past. The functionalist suggestion is tru e in the trivial
sense th a t w ays of doing things will not survive exactly as
they are unless all the things necessary to th a t survival c o n
tin u e to aid in it. It is m isleading in suggesting th a t th e re is
any necessity for such ways to survive exactly as they are.
7 ART WO R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E ACT I VI T Y

T H E DIVISION OF LABOR

Given th a t all th ese things m u st be d o n e for an art w ork to


o c c u r as it actually does, w h o will do them ? Im agine, as one
e x tre m e case, a situation in w hich one p erso n did everything:
m a d e everything, invented everything, h a d all the ideas,
p e rfo rm e d o r e x ec u ted the work, ex perienced a n d a p p r e
ciated it, all w ith o u t the assistance o r help o f a n y o n e else. We
c a n h ard ly im agine su ch a thing, b e ca u se cill the arts we
know , like all the h u m a n activities we know, involve the
c o o p e ra tio n of others.
If o th e r people do som e of these activities, how do the
p a rtic ip a n ts divide up the jobs? Think of the opposite e x
trem e, a situation in which each activity is d o n e by a se p a ra te
p e rso n , a specialist w h o does n o th in g but th a t one operation,
m u c h like the division of tasks on an industrial assem blyw line.
This too is a n im a g in ary case, though som e a rts a p p ro x im a te
it in practice. The list of credits w hich e n d s the typical H ol
lyw ood fe a tu re film gives explicit recognition to su ch a finely
divided set of activities. The fine divisions are trad itio n al in
the m a k in g of large-budget films, p artly e n fo rce d by union
jurisdictional a rra n g e m e n ts a n d partly by the traditional
re w a rd system of public credit on w hich c a re e rs in the film
in d u stry are b a se d (F aulkner, forthcom ing, discusses the
role of credits in the care ers of H ollyw ood com posers).
T here see m s to be no limit to the fineness of the division of
tasks. C onsider the list o f technical credits for the 1978 film
H urricane (see C hart 1). The film em p lo y ed a d irecto r of
p h o to g ra p h y , but Sven Nykvist did not actually o p e ra te the
c a m e ra ; E d w a rd L a c h m a n did that. L a c h m a n , how ever, did
not do all the jo b s associated w ith o p e ra tin g the c a m e ra ; Dan
M y h ram loaded it and, w hen the focus h a d to be shifted in
the c o u rse of filming a scene, Lars K arlsson pulled'' the
focus. If s o m e th in g w ent w ro n g with a c am e ra , c a m e ra m e
chanic G e rh a rd H entschel fixed it. The w ork of clothing a n d
m a k in g up the actors, p re p a rin g a n d taking care of the script,
p re p a rin g scen ery a n d props, seeing to the co ntinuity of
the dialogue a n d the visual a p p e a ra n c e of the film, even
8 A R T W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E ACTI VI TY

CHART 1
H U RRICANE, T echnical C redits

D ire c te d by J a n Troell
P r o d u c e d by Dino d e L a u ren tiis
S c r e e n p la y by L o ren zo S em p le, Jr.
B ase d o n th e novel H urricane by C harles N o r d h o ff a n d
J a m e s N o r m a n Hall
E x e cu tiv e P r o d u c e r L o re n z o S em p le, Jr.
D irec to r o f P h o to g r a p h y S v e n Nykvist, A.S.C.
M usic c o m p o s e d by N ino R o ta
Film E d ito r S a m O 'S te e n
P r o d u c tio n , C o s tu m e s a n d Sets d e s ig n e d by D anilo Donati
S e c o n d Unit D irector F r a n k Clark
1st a s s is ta n t d ire c to r Jo se L op ez R o d e ro
2 n d a s s is ta n t d ire c to r F re d Viannellis
3rd a s s is ta n t d ire c to r Ginette A n g o sse L o p e z
A ssistant to d ire c to r G eorge O d d n e r
S e c o n d unit a s s is ta n t d ire c to r G iovanni Soldati
S e c o n d u n it a s s is ta n t m a n a g e r G o r a n S e tte rb e r g
C am era operator Edw ard L achm an
S e c o n d unit & U n d e r w a t e r c a m e r a o p e r a t o r Sergio M artinelli
F o c u s p u ller L ars K arlsso n
S e c o n d u n it fo cu s p u lle r S ergio M elaranci
Loader D an M y h r m a n
C am era m echanic G e r h a r d H e n ts c h e l
G affer Alfio A m b rog i
S pecial effects Glen R o b in s o n
Aldo Puccini
Joe Day
S p e cial eff ects c re w Jack Sam pson
R a y m o n d R o b in s o n
J o e B e rn a rd i
W a v n e R ose
C o n s tru c tio n M a n a g e r Aldo Puccini

T ec h n ic a l A ssist a n c e in t h e C o n s t r u c t io n
o f t h e T a n k a n d V illa L a l iq u e
C.G.E.E. A l s t h o m - P a t e e t e
U n d er t h e S uperv isio n of M ichel S trebel

C horeographer Coco
T e c h n ic a l c o n s u lta n t Milton F o r m a n
Art d i r e c to r Giorgio Postiglione
I llu s t r a t o r M e n to r H u e b n e r
9 ART W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

M a k e -u p artist M a ss im o d e Rossi
A ssistan t m a k e - u p A d o n ellad e Rossi
S c r ip t s u p e rv is o r Nikki C lap p
H a i r stylist E n n io M arroni
P ro p s G eo rg e H a m ilto n
W ardrobe F r a n c o Antonelli
S o u n d m ix e r L a urie Clarkson
Boom m en J o h n S te v e n so n
J o h n Pitt
Key grip M ario Stella
S t u n t c o - o r d in a to r Miguel P e d re g o sa
S tuntm en P ab lo G arcia
R o m a n A riz n a v a rre ta
Still P h o t o g r a p h e r F ran k C o n n e r
S pecial Stills Alfonso Avincola
U nit publicist T o m G ray
D ialogue c o a c h N o r m a n S c h w a r tz
A ssistant film e d i t o r B o b b ie Di
P ro d u c tio n A u dito r Brian G ibbs
A ssistant A u d ito r Rex Saluz
C ra n e O p e r a t o r D an H oge
C a s tin g bv M cL ean/E bbins/M ansou
L o c a l C astin g a n d D ialogue C oach J o h n A larim o
Vehicles Fiat

the m a n a g e m e n t of financial m a tte rs d u rin g filmingall


these jo b s w ere similarly divided a m o n g a n u m b e r of people
w h o se n a m e s a p p e a r e d on the screen. These credits still do
n o t give full expression to the fineness of the division of labor
involved; so m eo n e m u s t have typed a n d d u p lic ate d copies of
the script, so m e o n e else copied the p a rts from Nino Rota's
score, a n d a c o n d u c to r a n d m usicians, here u n n a m e d , p e r
fo rm e d th a t m usic.
In fact, situ atio n s of art m ak in g lie so m e w h e re betw een
the e x tre m e s of one p e rso n doing ev ery th in g a n d every
sm allest activity being d o n e by a se p a ra te person. W orkers
of v arious kinds develop a traditional b u n d le of tasks"
(H ughes, 1971, pp. 311-16). To analyze an a rt w orld w e look
for its c h a ra c te ristic kinds of w o rk e rs and the b u n d le of tasks
each o n e does.
N othing in the technology of any art m ak es one division of
10 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

ta sk s m o re n a tu ra l" th a n a n o th er, alth o u g h so m e divisions


are so traditional th a t we often re g a rd th e m as given in the
n a tu re of the m e d iu m . C onsider the relations b e tw ee n the
co m p o sitio n a n d p e rfo rm a n c e of music. In conventional
s y m p h o n ic a n d c h a m b e r m usic in the m id -tw en tieth c e n
tury, the two activities o c c u r sep arately a n d are seen as two
different, highly specialized jobs. T h a t w as not alw ays true.
B eethoven, like m o st c o m p o se rs of his time, also p e rfo rm e d ,
b o th his o w n m u sic a n d th a t of others, as well as co n d u ctin g
a n d im provising on the piano. Even now, an occasional p e r
fo rm e r com poses, as did the p ia n o virtuosi R a c h m a n in o ff
a n d Paderew ski. C o m posers so m etim es p erfo rm , often b e
c au se p e rfo rm a n c e pays a g re at deal b e tte r th a n c o m p o si
tion. Stravinsky, for instance, w ro te three pieces for piano,
tw o w ith o rch estral a c c o m p a n im e n t, designed to be playable
by a pianist of no g re ate r virtuosity th a n him self (the one
w ith o u t o rc h e s tra w as w ritten for tw o pianos, so th a t h e a n d
his son S oulim a could play it in tow ns too sm all to have a
s y m p h o n y orchestra). P erfo rm in g these pieces (he reserved
p e rfo rm a n c e rights for h im self for a n u m b e r of years) a n d
c o n d u c tin g his o w n w o rk s allow ed him to m a in ta in the
s ta n d a r d of living he h a d originally developed on the basis of
his p ro fessio n al association with Diaghilev a n d the Ballets
R usse (see W hite, 1966, pp. 65-66, 279-80, a n d 350).
The train in g of classical m u sician s reinforces this division
of labor. Philip Glass, a c o n te m p o ra ry co m p o ser, h a s ex
plained th a t the people w h o e n te r the Juilliard School of
Music to s tu d y co m position are usually, w hen they enter,
c o m p e te n t p e rfo rm e rs on som e in stru m en t. Once they e n te r
th e school, how ever, they s p e n d m o re tim e c o m p o sin g and
c o rresp o n d in g ly less tim e on th e ir in stru m en t, while people
specializing in in s tru m e n ta l p e rfo rm a n c e co ntinue to p r a c
tice full time. S o o n the in s tru m e n ta l specialists play so m u c h
b e tte r th a n the w ould-be c o m p o se rs th a t the latter stop
playing; they can w rite things th a t are easy for the in s tru
m en talists b u t th a t they th em selv es c a n n o t plav (Ashley,
1978).
In jazz, co m p o sitio n is m u c h less im p o rta n t th a n p e rfo r
m ance. The s ta n d a r d tu n e s m usicians play (blues a n d old
11 A R T W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E ACTIVITY

p o p u la r songs) m erely furnish the fra m e w o rk for the real


creation. W hen m u sician s im provise, they use the ra w m a
terials of the song, but m a n y players a n d listeners will not
kn o w w h o actu ally c o m p o se d S u n n y Side of the Street" or
E xactly Like You"; so m e of the m ost im p o rta n t im p ro v isa
tory fra m ew o rk s, like blues, have no a u th o r at all. One might
say th a t the c o m p o s e r is the player, co n sidering the im p ro v
isation the com position.
In rock m usic, the two activities are, ideally, carried on by
the s a m e person. Fully c o m p e te n t p e rfo rm e rs c o m p o se their
o w n m usic. Indeed, ro c k g ro u p s w h o play o th e r peo p le's
m usic get tagged with the d e ro g a to ry label "copy groups,"
a n d a young g ro u p co m es of age the d ay it begins to play its
ow n com p ositions. The activities a re s e p a ra te p e rfo rm in g is
n o t s im u lta n e o u s with com posin g, as it is in ja z z b u t both
belong to o n e p e r s o n s b u n d le of tasks (B ennett, 1980).
The s a m e v ariatio n s in the division of tasks can be found
in every art. S o m e art p h o to g ra p h e rs, like E d w a rd W eston,
alw ays m a d e their ow n prints, re g ard in g printing as integral
to the m a k in g of the picture; others, like H enri C artier-B res
son, n e v e r m a d e th e ir ow n prints, leaving that to tech n ician s
w h o knew' h o w they w a n ted it done. Poets w riting in the
W estern tra d itio n do not ordinarily in c o rp o ra te th e ir ow n
h a n d w ritin g into the finished p ro d u c t, leaving it to p rin te rs to
p u t the m aterial into a re a d a b le form ; we see a u to g ra p h
copies of their p o etry only w'hen we are in terested in the
revisions they m a d e in their ow n h a n d on th e m a n u s c rip t
(sec, for instance, Eliot, 1971) o r in a rare case su ch as that
of W illiam Blake, w h o e n g ra v e d his ow n plates, on w hich
p o e m s a p p e a r e d in his ow n han d , a n d p rin te d them himself,
so th a t his h a n d w as p a rt of the work. But in m u c h O riental
p o etry the callig rap h y is as im p o rta n t as the p o e m s content
(see figure 1); to have it p rinted in m e ch a n ica l type w o u ld
d e stro y s o m e th in g crucial. M ore m u n d a n e ly , s a x o p h o n e a n d
clarinet players buy their reeds at the m usic store, but oboists
a n d b asso o n ists buy pieces o f can e a n d m a n u f a c tu r e their
own.
E a c h kind of p e rs o n w h o p a rtic ip ate s in the m ak in g of a rt
w orks, then, has a specific b u n d le of tasks to do. T h o u g h the
7

X t \
T=>
/
-e
/*>
^2

i *
L
a

t
- f t t*
v

FIGURE 1. Page from a set o f Shokunin-e (depictions o f var


ious occupations ), Edo period (1615-1868 a . d J , Japan. In Western
literature, only f/ze poem's words are important, but in much Orien
tal literature the calligraphy is equally important, and the callig
rapher as important an artist as the poet. Ink and wash on
paper. Artist, poet, and calligrapher unknown. The poem reads,
Sounds o f hammering continue / Clear moon above / People,
listening, wonder. . . . (Asian Art Museum o f San Francisco, the
Avery Brundage Collection.)
13 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L F. C T I V E A C T ! V I T Y

allocation o f tasks to p eo p le is, in an im p o rta n t sense,


a rb itra ry it could have been d o n e differently a n d is s u p
p o rte d only by the a g re e m e n t o f all o r m ost of the o th e r
p a rtic ip a n ts it is not th e re fo re easy to change. The people
involved typically re g a rd the division of tasks as quasi-
sacred, as n a tu ra l" a n d in h e ren t in the e q u ip m e n t a n d the
m e d iu m . They engage in the sa m e w ork politics E verett
H u g h e s (1971, pp. 311-15) describes a m o n g nurses, a t t e m p t
ing to get rid of tasks they re g a rd as tiresom e, dirty, o r b e
n e a th their dignity, seeking to a d d tasks that are m o re in te r
esting, rew ard in g , a n d prestigious.
E very art, then, rests on an extensive division of labor.
T hat is obviously tru e in the case of the p e rfo rm in g arts.
Films, concerts, plays, a n d o p e ra s c a n n o t be acc o m p lish ed
by lone individuals doing everything necessary by t h e m
selves. But do w e need all this a p p a r a tu s of the division of
la b o r to u n d e r s ta n d painting, which see m s a m u c h m o re
solitary o ccu p atio n ? We do. The division of lab o r does not
require th a t all the people involved in p ro d u c in g the art
o b ject be u n d e r the sa m e roof, like assem bly-line w orkers, or
even th a t they be alive at the sa m e time. It only re q u ire s that
the w ork of m a k in g the o b je ct o r p e rfo rm a n c e rely on that
p e rso n p e rfo rm in g th a t activity at the a p p ro p ria te time.
P ain ters th u s d e p e n d on m a n u f a c tu r e r s for canvas, s tr e tc h
ers, paint, a n d b ru sh e s; on dealers, collectors, a n d m u s e u m
c u ra to rs for exhibition sp ac e a n d financial s u p p o rt; on crit
ics a n d a esth etician s for the ratio n ale for w h a t they do; on
the state for the p a tro n a g e or even the a d v a n ta g e o u s tax
laws w hich p e rs u a d e collectors to buy w orks a n d d o n a te
th e m to the public; on m e m b e r s of the public to re s p o n d to
the w o rk em otionally; a n d on the o th e r painters, c o n te m
p o ra ry a n d past, w h o c reated the tra d itio n w hich m a k e s the
b a c k d ro p a g a i n s t w h ic h their w o rk m a k e s sense (see K ubler,
1962, a n d Danto, 1964, 1973, a n d 1974 on tradition).
Similarly w ith poetry, w h ich seem s even m ore solitary
th a n painting. Poets n e ed no e q u ip m e n t, o th e r th a n w h at
is c o n v en tio n ally available to o rd in a ry m e m b e rs of society,
to d o their work. Pencils, pens, typew riters, a n d p a p e r are
e n o u g h , and, if these are n o t available, p o e try b e g a n as an
14* ART W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

oral trad itio n a n d m u c h c o n te m p o ra ry folk poetry still exists


only in th a t fo rm (until folklorists like Jackson, 1972 a n d 1974,
o r A b rah am s, 1970, write it do w n a n d publish it). But this a p
p e a ra n c e of a u to n o m y is likewise superficial. Poets d e p e n d
on p rin te rs a n d publishers, as p a in ters do on distributors,
a n d use s h a re d tra d itio n s for th e b a c k g ro u n d against w hich
their w ork m a k e s sense a n d for the ra w m a terials with which
they work. Even so self-sufficient a poet as Emily Dickinson
relied on p salm -tu n e rh y th m s a n A m erican au d ien c e w ould
recognize a n d re sp o n d to.
All a rt works, then, except for the totally individualistic
a n d th erefo re unintelligible w orks o f a n autistic person, in
volve so m e division of la b o r a m o n g a large n u m b e r o f p e o
ple. (See the discussion of the division of la b o r in Freidson,
1976).

ART AND ARTISTS

Both p a rtic ip a n ts in the creation of a rt w orks a n d m e m


bers of society generally believe th a t the m a k in g of art re
q u ires special talents, gifts, o r abilities, w hich few have. S om e
h a v e m o re th a n others, a n d a very few are gifted e n o u g h
to m erit the honorific title of artist." A c h a ra c te r in T om
S to p p a rd 's Travesties expresses th e idea succinctly: "An a r t
ist is s o m e o n e w h o is gifted in som e way th a t e n ab les him to
do so m e th in g m o re or less well w hich can only be d o n e
badly o r n o t at all by so m e o n e w ho is not th u s gifted"
(S to p p ard , 1975, p. 38). W e k n o w w h o has these gifts by the
w o rk they do because, th ese s h a re d beliefs hold, the w ork of
art expresses a n d e m b o d ie s those special, rare pow ers. By
insp ectin g the w ork we see th a t so m e o n e special m a d e it.
We th in k it im p o rta n t to kn o w w ho has th a t gift a n d w ho
does not b e c a u se we a c c o rd people w h o have it special rights
a n d privileges. At a n extrem e, the ro m a n tic m y th of the artist
suggests th a t people with su c h gifts c a n n o t be s u b je c te d to
the c o n stra in ts im p o sed on o th e r m e m b e rs of society; we
m u s t allow th e m to violate rules of d e c o ru m , propriety, a n d
c o m m o n sense ev ery o n e else m u s t follow o r risk being p u n
ished. The m y th suggests th a t in re tu rn society receives work
15 A R T W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

of u n iq u e c h a ra c te r a n d invaluable quality. Such a belief


does not a p p e a r in all, or even m ost, societies; it m ay be
u n iq u e to W estern E u r o p e a n societies, a n d those influenced
by th e m , since the R enaissance.
M ichael B axandall (1972) p in p o in ts the shift in E u ro p e a n
thinking on this point as o c c u rrin g in the fifteenth century,
finding evid en ce of it in the c h a n g e s in the c o n tra c ts m a d e
b etw een p a in ters a n d the p u rc h a s e rs of their work. At one
point, c o n tra c ts specified the c h a r a c te r of the painting, the
m e th o d s of p a y m e n t, and, especially, the quality of the col
ors to be used, insisting on the use of gold a n d the m o re e x
pensive varieties o f blue (som e being co n sid e ra b ly c h e a p e r
th a n others). Thus, a c o n tra c t in 1485 b etw een D om enico
G h irlan d aio a n d one client specified, a m o n g o th e r things,
th a t the p a in te r should:

colour the panel at his own expense with good colours and
with powdered gold on such ornaments as demand it .. . and
the blue must be ultramarine ol the value about four florins
the o u n c e .. . . (Quoted in Baxandall, 1972, p. 6)
This resem b les the c o n tra c t one m ight m a k e with a builder,
specifying the quality of steel a n d c o n cre te to be used.
At the s a m e time, o r even earlier, so m e clients w ere sp eci
fying m a terials less a n d skill m ore. Thus, a c o n tra c t in 1445,
b e tw e e n Piero della F ra n c e s c a a n d a n o th e r ecclesiastical
client, while it did not fail to specify gold a n d u ltra m a rin e ,
p u t a g re a te r e m p h a s is on the value of the p a in te r's skill,
insisting th a t no p a in te r m ay put his h a n d to the b ru sh o th e r
th a n Piero him self" (Q uoted in B axandall, 1972, p. 20.).
A n o th er c o n tra c t w as m o re detailed:
The said master Luca is bound and promises to paint (1) all
the figures to be done on the said vault, and (2) especially the
faces a n d all th e pa rts o f the figures f r o m the m id d le o f each
fig u re u p w a r d s , and (3) that no painting should be done on
it without Luca himself being present. . . . And it is agreed
(4) that all the mixing of colours should be done by the
said master Luca himself. . . . (Quoted in Baxandall, 1972,
p. 23)
This is a very different kind of co n tract. H ere the client w ants
16 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

to be s u re th a t he is getting his m o n e y 's w o rth in so m eth in g


ra r e r th a n four-florin u ltra m arin e , nam ely, the u n iq u e skill of
an artist. "The fifteenth-century client see m s to have m a d e
his o p u le n t gestu res m o re a n d m o re by b e c o m in g a c o n sp ic
u o u s b u y er of skill" (B axandall, 1972, p. 23).
This shift m oves only p a rt of the way to to d a y 's fully
developed belief th a t the a rt w ork consists m ainly o f the
expression of the skill a n d vision of a great artist. It re co g
nizes the artist as s o m e o n e special, b u t a w a rd s artists no
special rights. T h a t c a m e later.
N evertheless, b e c a u se artists have special gifts, b e ca u se
th e y p ro d u c e w o rk th o u g h t to be of great im p o rta n c e to a
society, a n d b e c a u se they th e refo re get special privileges,
people w a n t to m a k e su re th a t only those w h o really h a v e the
gift, the talent, a n d the skill get the position. Special m e c h
a n ism s sort o u t artists from nonartists. Societies, a n d m e
dia w ithin societies, vary in how they do this. At one extrem e,
a guild or a c a d e m y (Pevsner, 1940) m ay require long a p
p re n tic esh ip a n d p re v e n t those it does not license from
practicing. W h ere the state d o es not allow a rt m u c h a u to n
o m y a n d c o n tro ls the institutions th ro u g h w hich artists get
their tra in in g a n d work, access to skills m a y be similarly
restricted. At a n o th e r extrem e, exem plified by su ch countries
as the U nited States, everyone c a n learn; p a rtic ip a n ts in the
m a k in g of art rely on m a rk e t m e c h a n is m s to w eed o u t the
ta le n te d from the others. In su ch system s, people keep the
idea th a t artists have a special gift but do not believe that
th e re is a n y w ay to tell w h o has it ou tsid e of letting everyone
try a n d th e n inspecting the results.
P a rtic ip a n ts in the m a k in g of a rt w orks, a n d m e m b e r s of
society generally, re g a rd so m e o f th e activities n e ce ssary to
the p ro d u c tio n of a form o f a rt as artistic," re q u irin g the
special gifts or sensibility of an artist. They fu rth e r re g a rd
those activities as the core activities of art, n e ce ssary to m a k e
the w o rk a rt r a th e r th a n (in the case o f ob jects) an industrial
p ro d u c t, a c raft item, or a n a tu ra l o b ject. The re m ain in g
activities seem to th e m a m a tte r o f craft, business a c u m e n , or
s o m e o th e r ability less rare, less c h ara cte ristic of art, less
n e c e ssa ry to th e w o rk 's success, less w o rth y of respect. They
17 ART W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E ACT I VI T Y

define the p eo p le w ho p e rfo rm these o th e r activities as (to


b o rro w a m ilitary term ) s u p p o rt personnel, reserving the title
o f "artist" for those w h o p e rfo rm the core activities.
The s ta tu s of a n y p a rtic u la r activity, as a core activity
w hich req u ires special artistic gifts o r as m e re s u p p o rt, can
change. As we have seen, m ak in g p aintings w as once th o u g h t
o f as skilled work, but no m o re than that, a n d b e c a m e
defined as s o m e th in g m o re special in th e R enaissance. In a
la ter c h a p te r w e will c o n sid e r how c raft activities b ecom e
red efined as art, a n d vice versa. H ere it will be sufficient to
cite the e x am p le of the re co rd in g e n g in e e r a n d so u n d mixer,
the p erso n w h o h a n d les the technical e n d of re co rd in g m usic
a n d p re p a rin g the result for c o m m e rc ia l re p ro d u c tio n a n d
sale. E d w a rd Kealy (1979) d o c u m e n ts the shift in the sta tu s
of th a t technical activity. U p to the mid-1940s:
The sound mixer's skill lay in using to advantage the acoustic
design of the studio, deciding upon the placement of a hand
ful of microphones, and mixing or balancing microphone
outputs as the musical performance was recorded. Very little
editing was possible since the performance was recorded di
rectly on a disc or single track tape. The primary aesthetic
question was utilitarian: how well does a recording capture
the sounds of a performance? (P. 9)
After W orld W a r II, technical d e v e lo p m e n ts m a d e "high
fidelity" a n d " c o n c e rt hall realism " possible.
The good mixer-craftsman would make sure that unwanted
sounds were not recorded or at least minimized, that the
desired sounds were recorded without distortion, and that the
sounds were in balance. The recording technology itself, and
thus the sound mixers work, was to be unobtrusive so as not
to destroy the listeners illusion that he was sitting in Philhar
monic Hall rather than his own living room. (P. 11)
W ith the a d v e n t of rock m usic, m u sic ia n s w h o se in s tru m e n ts
th e m se lv e s e m b o d ie d electronic technology b e g an to e x p e r
im en t w ith re co rd in g technology as p a rt of the m usical work.
Since they o fte n h ad learned to play by im itating highly
e n g in ee red reco rd in g s (B ennett, 1980), they n a tu ra lly w a n te d
to in c o rp o ra te those effects into their work. S uch e q u ip m e n t
18* ART W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

as m u ltitrac k re co rd e rs m a d e it possible to edit a n d c o m b in e


se p a ra te ly re c o rd e d elem e n ts a n d to m a n ip u la te electro n i
cally the so u n d s the m u sician s p ro d u c ed . Rock stars, re la
tively in d e p e n d e n t o f c o rp o ra te discipline, began to insist on
control over the re c o rd in g a n d mixing of their p e rfo rm a n c e s.
Tw o things h a p p e n e d . On the one hand, signaled by the
p ro m in e n t credits given to m ixers on record alb um s, so u n d
m ixing b e g an to be recognized as an artistic activity re q u ir
ing special artistic talent. On the o th e r han d , people w h o had
e stab lish ed th em selves as m usical artists began to take over
the jo b them selves o r to recruit ex-m usicians to do it. S o u n d
mixing, once a m e re technical specialty, h a d b e c o m e integral
to the art process a n d recognized as such (Kealy, 1979,
pp. 15-25).
The ideology posits a perfect correlation betw een doing
the core activity a n d being a n artist. If you do it, you m u s t be
a n artist. Conversely, if you are an artist, w h a t you do m u st
be art. This p ro d u c e s confusion w hen, from eith er a com -
m o n s e n s e point of view o r from the s ta n d p o in t of the art's
tradition, th a t correlation does not occur. F or instance, if the
idea of gift o r talent im plies the n o tio n of s p o n ta n e o u s ex
pression o r su b lim e in spiration (as it does for m any), the
businesslike w ork habits of m a n v artists c reate a n incon-
gruity. C o m p o sers w h o p ro d u c e so m a n y bars of m usic a day,
p a in te rs w h o p a in t so m a n y h o u rs a d ay w h e th e r they feel
like it o r n o t" c reate so m e d o u b t as to w h e th e r th e y c an be
exercising s u p e r h u m a n talents. Trollope, w h o arose early so
th a t he could get in his th re e h o u rs of w riting before going to
w o rk as a civil se rv a n t in the British Post Office, w as a lm o st a
c a ric a tu re o f this businesslike, u n a rtis tic a p p ro a c h :

All those I think who have lived as literary men,working


daily as literary labourers,will agree with me that three
hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write. But
then he should have so trained himself that he shall be able to
work continuously during those three hoursso have tutored
his mind that it shall not be necessary for him to sit nibbling
his pen, and gazing at the wall before him, till he shall have
found the words with which he wants to express his ideas. It
had at this time become my custom,and it is still my custom,
though of late I have become a little lenient to myself,to
19 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T I V E A C T ! V I T Y

write with mv watch before me, a n d to require from myself


250 words every quarter ol an hour. I have found that the 250
words have been forthcoming a s regularly as my watch went.
(Trollope, 1947, pp. 227-28)
A nother difficulty arises w hen s o m e o n e claim ing to be an
artist d o es n o t do so m e of w h at is re g ard e d as th e irreducible
core of w h a t a n artist m u s t do. Since the definition of the core
activity c h a n g e s o v e r time, the division of lab o r betw een
artist a n d s u p p o r t p e rso n n e l also changes, leading to diffi
culties. H ow little of the core activity can a p e rso n do and still
claim to be an artist? The a m o u n t the c o m p o s e r c o n trib u te s
to th e m a te rial c o n ta in e d in the final w ork has varied greatly.
V irtuoso p e rfo rm e rs from th e R e n a issa n c e th ro u g h the n ine
te en th c e n tu ry em bellished a n d im p ro v ised on the score the
c o m p o s e r p ro v id e d (Dart, 1967, a n d Reese, 1959), so it is not
w ith o u t p re c e d e n t that c o n te m p o r a ry c o m p o se rs p re p a re
scores w hich give only the sketchiest directions to the p e r
fo rm e r (the c o u n te r-te n d e n c y , lo r c o m p o se rs to restrict the
in te rp re ta tiv e freed o m of the p e rfo rm e r by giving in c re a s
ingly detailed directions, has until recently been m o re p r o m
inent). Jo h n Cage a n d K arlheinz S to ck h a u se n (W orm er,
1973) a re re g a rd e d as c o m p o se rs in the w orld of c o n te m p o
rary m usic, th o u g h m a n y of their scores leave m u c h of the
m aterial to be played to the decision of the player. Artists
need not h a n d le the m a teria ls from which the art w ork is
m a d e to re m a in artists; arch itects seldom build w h a t they
design. The s a m e practice raises questions, how ever, w hen
sc u lp to rs c o n s tru c t a piece by sen d in g a set of specifications
to a m a c h in e shop, a n d m a n y people balk at a w a rd in g the
title of artist to a u th o rs of c o n c e p tu a l w o rk s consisting of
specifications n e v er actually e m b o d ie d in an artifact. M arcel
D u c h a m p violated the ideology by insisting that he c re a te d a
valid w ork of art w h e n he signed a com m ercially p ro d u c e d
snow shovel o r a re p ro d u c tio n of the M ona Lisa on w h ic h he
h ad d ra w n a m u s ta c h e (see figure 2), thus classifying Leo
n a rd o as s u p p o rt p e rso n n e l along with the sno w sh o v el's d e
signer a n d m a n u fa c tu re r. O u tra g e o u s as that idea m a y seem ,
s o m e th in g like it is s ta n d a r d in m aking collages, entirely
c o n s tru c te d of o th e r peo p le's work.
A nother co n fu sio n arises w h e n no one can tell w hich one
FIGURE 2. Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q. When Marcel Du
champ drew a mustache on a commercial reproduction o f the Mona
Lisa and signed it, he turned Leonardo into one o f his support per
sonnel. (Private collection. Photograph courtesy o f the Philadelphia
Museum o f Art.)
21 A R T VV O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T I V E A C T 1 V I T Y

o r o n es of the several people involved in the p ro d u c tio n of


the w o rk have the special gift a n d th erefo re th e right both to
receive the credit for the w o rk 's u ltim ate c h a ra c te r a n d to
direct the activities of the others. Eliot F reidson (1970) has
p o in te d o u t th a t in the co o p erative activity of the m edical
w orld p a rtic ip a n ts agree th a t the d o c to r has th a t special gift
a n d those special rights. But w hich of several m a jo r k in d s of
p a rtic ip a n ts in m a k in g a film o ccu p ies a similarly u n d isp u te d
leading role? A u te u r th eo rists insist th a t films be u n d e rsto o d
as the ex p ressio n o f a d irecto r's controlling vision, h o bb led
th o u g h it m a y h a v e been by the c o n stra in ts im posed by
stu d io su p erio rs o r the n o n c o o p e ra tio n of actors. O thers
th in k the writer, w h e n allowed, actually contro ls the film,
while still o th e rs think film is an a c to r's m e d iu m . I d o n t
s u p p o s e a n y o n e w ould a rg u e th a t the p ro d u c tio n a u d ito r or
focus p uller has a vision th a t inform s the film, b u t Aljean
H a r m e tz (1977) m a k e s a good case that E. Y. H a r b u rg and
H a ro ld Arlen, the people responsible for the m u sic o f The
W izard o f Oz, pro v id ed th a t films continuity.
This p ro b le m ta k es a special form in the qu estio n that
arises over w h e th e r w e ought, in re sp o n d in g to a w o rk of art,
to give so m e special w eight to the m a k e r's intentions, or
w h e th e r a n u m b e r of possible in te rp re ta tio n s can be m ade,
the m a k e r s not being especially privileged (Hirsch, 1979).
W e c a n re p h r a s e this: do we conventionally recognize the
a u th o r as p ro v id in g s o m e th in g special in the m a k in g of the
w ork, s o m e th in g no o n e else could provide? If au d ien c e
m e m b e r s believe the a u th o r h a s d o n e that, they will n a tu rally
d e fe r to his or h e r in ten tio n s in their responses. But they m a y
not th in k so; th e p e rfo rm e rs of a n d listeners to jazz evidently
do not th in k th a t the c o m p o se rs of jazz s ta n d a r d s m e rit any
special d e fe re n c e with re sp e ct to how th e ir songs sh o u ld be
p l a y e d . P a r t i c i p a n t s i n t h e m a k i n g of a r t w orks m a y a g r e e a s
to w h o se in te n tio n sa u th o r s, in terpreter's, o r a u d ie n c e 's
take priority, in w hich case the issue creates no th eo retical or
p ractical difficulty. T hose p ro b le m s arise w h en p a rtic ip a n ts
d isagree a n d s ta n d a r d p ra ctice p ro d u c e s u n re so lv ab le c o n
flict. The philosophical a n d aesthetic p ro b le m is th u s solved
by a sociological analysis; su c h a solution does not, o f course,
solve the p ro b le m . It m erely m a k e s it the object of study.
22 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

Finally, b e ca u se the artist's position as artist d e p e n d s on


the p ro d u c tio n of a rt w orks w hich e m b o d y a n d express his
special talents a n d gifts, p a rtic ip a n ts in a rt w orlds w orry
a b o u t the au th en tic ity of art w orks. Did the artist s u p p o se d
to h a v e d o n e this w ork really do it? H as a n y o n e else in te r
fered with the original work, altered o r edited it in som e way
so th a t w h a t the artist in te n d e d a n d c reated is not w h a t we
n o w have before us? Did the artist, once the w ork w as m ad e,
alter it in the light of s u b s e q u e n t experience o r criticism and,
if so, w h at does th a t m e a n w ith respect to the artist's abili
ties? If w e ju d g e the artist on the basis of the work, we m u s t
kn o w w h o really did the work, a n d th erefo re deserves the
j u d g m e n t w e m a k e of its w o rth a n d the w o rth of its m ak er. It
is as th o u g h m ak in g a rt w o rk s is a com petition, like a school
test, a n d we have to re n d e r a fair ju d g m e n t b a se d on all the
facts. B ecause of this e m p h a s is on the w ork-person eq uation,
entire scholarly disciplines devote them selves to establishing
w h o actually p a in ted w hich paintings a n d w h e th e r the
p aintings n o w exhibited u n d e r the n a m e of X are actually Xs
work, w h e th e r the scores we h e a r played w ere w ritten by the
p e rso n alleged to have w ritte n them , w h e th e r the w o rd s in a
novel w ere w ritte n by the p e rso n w h o se n a m e is on the title
page o r w ere plagiarized from so m e o n e else w h o deserves
the credit o r blam e.
W hy do these things m atter? The work, a fter all, does not
c h an g e if we learn th a t s o m e o n e else did it; the plays are the
s a m e w ords, w h e th e r S h a k e s p e a re o r Bacon w rote them ,
a r e n t they? Yes a n d no. B orges (1962) story a b o u t Pierre
M e n a rd stresses this am biguity. Pierre M enard, he says, is a
F ren c h w riter w ho, h a v in g w ritte n m a n y conventional novels
a n d books, d ecid es to w rite Don Quixotenot a retelling of
the story, b u t the actual Don Quixote of Cervantes. After
m u c h work, h e has m a n a g e d to w rite tw o c h a p te rs a n d a
fra g m e n t of a third. T he w o rd s are identical to C ervantes'.
But, Borges points out, C ervantes w as writing in the la n
guage of his tim e w h e re a s M e n a rd is writing in a n archaic
lan g u ag e w hich, fu rth e rm o re , is not his native tongue. And
so on. W ho w rites the w o rd s a n d w h en they are w ritten affect
o u r ju d g m e n t of w h a t the w o rk consists of a n d th erefo re of
23 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

w h a t it reveals a b o u t the p e rso n w h o m a d e it. (For fu rth e r


r e m a r k s on Borges' story, see D anto [1973], pp. 6-7.)
It m a tte r s not only becau se we a p p re c ia te a n d ju d g e the
w o rk differently, b u t also becau se a rtis ts re p u ta tio n s are a
s u m o f the values we assign to the w orks they have p ro d u ced .
E a c h w ork th a t can definitely be a ttrib u te d to Titian a d d s to
o r s u b tra c ts fro m the total on the basis of w h ich w e decide
h o w great an artist Titian was. T hat is w hy plagiarism evokes
su ch violent reactions. It is not ju st p ro p e rty that is being
stolen, b u t the basis of a re p u ta tio n as well.
The re p u ta tio n of th e artist a n d the w o rk reinforce one
a n o th e r: we value m o re a w ork d o n e by an artist w e respect,
j u s t as we re s p e c t m o re an artist w hose w ork we have a d
m ired. W h en the d istrib u tio n of art involves the ex ch an g e of
m oney, re p u ta tio n a l value can be tra n s la te d into financial
value, so th a t the decision th a t a w ell-know n a n d re sp e cted
artist did n o t do a p ain tin g once a ttrib u te d to him m e a n s that
the p a in tin g loses value. M u se u m s a n d collectors have s u f
fered severe financial losses as a result of such ch an g e s of
a ttrib u tio n , a n d sch o lars often find th em selves u n d e r c o n sid
e rab le p re s s u re n o t to withdraw' a ttrib u tio n s on the basis of
w hich im p o rta n t in v e stm e n ts h a v e been m a d e (W ollheim,
1975).
Trollope fo u n d the p ro b le m of the im p o rta n c e of the a r t
ist's n a m e to the ju d g m e n t of the w o rk sufficiently in te re st
ing to u n d e rta k e an ex p erim en t:
From the commencement of my success as a writer . . . I
had always felt an injustice in literary affairs which had never
afflicted me or even suggested itself to me while I was unsuc
cessful. It seemed to me that a name once earned carried with
it too much favour. . . . I felt that aspirants coming up below
me might do work as good as mine, and probably much belter
work, and yet fail to have it appreciated. In order to test this, 1
determined to be such an aspirant myself, and to begin a
course of novels anonymously, in order that I might see
whether I could obtain a second identity,whether
/ r as I had
made one mark by such literary ability as I possessed, I might
succeed in doing so again. (Trollope, 1947, pp. 169-70)
H e w rote, a n d p u b lish e d a n o n y m o u sly , two stories, in which
24 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

he tried to disguise b o th his style a n d his w ay of telling a


storv:
Once or twice I heard the [stories] mentioned by readers who
did not know me to be the author, and always with praise; but
[they] had no real success. . . . Blackwood [the publisher],
who of course knew the author, was willing to publish them,
trusting that works by an experienced writer would make
their way, even without the writer's n a m e .. . . But he did not
find the speculation answer, and declined a third attempt,
though a third such tale was written for him. . . . Of course
there is not in this any evidence that I might not have suc
ceeded a second time as I succeeded before, had I gone on
with the same dogged perseverance.. . . Another ten years of
unpaid unflagging labour might have built up a second repu
tation. But this at anvV rate did seem clear to me,' that with all
the increased advantages which practice in my art must have
given me, I could not at once induce English readers to read
what I gave to them, unless I gave it with my name. (Trollope,
1947, pp. 171-72)

Trollope concluded:
It is a matter of course that in all things the public should trust
to established reputation. It is as natural that a novel reader
wanting novels should send to a library for those by George
Eliot or Wilkie Collins, as that a lady when she wants a pie
should go to Fortnum and Mason. Fortnum and Mason can
only make themselves Fortnum and Mason by dint of time
and good pies combined. If Titian were to send us a portrait
from the other world . . . it would be some time before the art
critic of The Times would discover its value. We may sneer at
the want of judgment thus displayed, but such slowness of
judgment is human and has always existed. I say all this here
because my thoughts on the matter have forced upon me the
conviction that very much consideration is due to the bitter
feelings of disappointed authors. (Trollope, 1947, p. 172)

COOPERATIVE LIN K S
W h a te v e r the artist, defined as the p e rso n w h o p e rfo rm s
th e core activity w ith o u t w h ich the w ork w ould not be art,
25 A R T W O R L 1) S A N D C 0 L L E C T I V E A C T ! V I T Y

does not do m u st be d o n e by so m e o n e else. The artist th u s


w orks in the c e n te r o f a netw ork of c o o p era tin g people, all of
w h o se w ork is essential to the final ou tco m e. W h e re v e r he
d e p e n d s on others, a co o p erative link exists. The people with
w h o m he c o o p e ra te s m ay sh are in every p a rtic u lar his idea of
h o w their w ork is to be done. This c o n se n su s is likely w hen
e v ery o n e involved can p e rfo rm a n y o f the necessary activ
ities so that, while a division of lab o r exists, no specialized
functional g ro u p s develop. This m ig h t o c cu r in simple c o m
m u n ally s h a re d art fo rm s like the s q u a re d a n c e or in seg
m e n ts of a society w h o se o rd in a ry m e m b e r s are tra in e d in
artistic activities. W ell-bred n in e te e n th -c e n tu ry A m ericans,
for instance, k n e w e n o u g h m usic to p e rfo rm the p arlo r songs
o f S te p h e n Foster, ju st as th e ir R e n a issa n c e c o u n te rp a rts
could p e rfo rm m adrigals. In su ch cases, co o p eratio n occu rs
sim ply a n d readily.
W hen specialized professional g ro u p s take over the p e r
fo rm a n c e of the activities necessary to an art w o rk 's p r o d u c
tion, how ever, their m e m b e r s develop specialized aesthetic,
financial,r a n d c a re e r interests w hich differ substantially/ from
the artist's. O rchestral m usicians, for instance, are n o to ri
ously m o re c o n c e rn e d with how th e y sound in p e rfo rm a n c e
th a n with the success of a p a rtic u la r w ork; with good reason,
for their o w n success d e p e n d s in p art on im p ressin g those
w h o hire th e m with their c o m p e te n c e (F aulkner, 1973a,
1973b). They m a y sab o ta g e a new w ork w hich c a n m ak e
th e m so u n d bad b e ca u se of its difficulty, their c a re e r inter
ests lying at cro ss-p u rp o se s to the c o m p o s e r s.
Aesthetic conflicts b e tw ee n s u p p o rt perso n n el a n d the a r t
ist also occur. A sc u lp to r I know w as invited to use the
services of a g ro u p of m a s te r lithographic printers. K now ing
little of the te c h n iq u e of lithography, he w as glad to have
th ese m a ste r c ra fts m e n do the actual printing, this division
of lab o r being c u s to m a ry and having g e n e ra te d a highly
specialized c ra ft of printing. He d re w designs containing
large a re a s of solid colors, thinking to simplify the p rin te r's
job. In ste ad , he m a d e it m o re difficult. W h en the p rin te r rolls
ink o n to the stone, a large a re a will re q u ire m o re th a n one
rolling to be fully inked a n d m a y th u s exhibit roller m arks.
26 A R T W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

The printers, w h o p rid e d them selves on their craft, explained


th a t they could print his designs, b u t the a re a s of solid color
m ig h t cause difficulty with roller m arks. He h ad not know n
a b o u t roller m a rk s a n d talked of using th e m as p a rt of his
design. The p rin te rs said no, he could not do that, becau se
roller m a rk s w ere an obvious sign (to o th e r printers) of p o o r
c ra fts m a n s h ip a n d they w ould n o t allow a print exhibiting
roller m a rk s to leave their shop. His artistic curiosity fell
victim to the p rinters' c raft s ta n d a rd s , a n e at e x am p le of how
specialized s u p p o rt g ro u p s develop their ow n s ta n d a r d s a n d
interests (see Kase, 1973).
The artist w as at th e p rin te rs m e rcy becau se he did not
know h o w to p rin t lith o g rap h s himself. His ex perience e x
emplified the choice th a t faces the artist at every co o p erative
link. He can do things as estab lish ed g ro u p s of s u p p o r t p e r
sonnel are p re p a r e d to do th e m ; he can try to m ak e those
people do it his way; h e can train o th e rs to do it his way; o r he
c a n do it himself. Any choice b u t the first re q u ire s an a d d i
tional in v e stm en t of tim e a n d en ergy to d o w h a t could be
d o n e less expensively if d o n e the s ta n d a rd way. The a rtis ts
in v o lv em en t with a n d d e p e n d e n c e o n co o p erative links thus
c o n strain s the kind of art he can produce.
Sim ilar e x am p le s can be fo u n d in a n y field of art. e e
c u m m in g s h a d trouble pu b lish in g his first book of poetry
because p rin te rs w ere afraid to set his bizarre layouts (N or
m an, 1958; see figure 3). P ro d u cin g a m o tio n p ic tu re involves
m ultiple difficulties of this kind: a cto rs w h o will only be
p h o to g ra p h e d in flattering ways, w riters w ho d o n t w an t
a w o rd ch an g e d , c a m e ra m e n w h o will not use u n fa m ilia r
processes.
Artists often c reate w ork which existing p ro d u c tio n or
exhibition facilities c a n n o t a c c o m m o d a te . Try this th o u g h t
experim ent. Im a g in e that, as c u r a to r o f sc u lp tu re of an art
m u seu m , you have invited a distinguished sc u lp to r to exhibit
a new work. H e arrives driving a flatbed truck, on which rests
a giant c o n stru c tio n c o m b in in g several pieces of large,
heavy, in d u stria l m a c h in e ry into an interesting a n d pleasing
shape. You find it m oving, exciting. You ask him to take it
a r o u n d to the m u s e u m loading dock w here the tw o of you
discover th a t the d o o r on the d o ck will not cidmit a n y th in g
27 * A R T W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T l V E A C T I V I 1 Y

r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r
w ho
a ) s vv ( e loo ) k
u p n o w g a th
PPEGORHRASS
eringint(o-
aT hc) :1
eA
!p:
S a
(r
r lv In G .g R rE a P sP h O s)
to
re a (be) r r a n (com ) gi (e) ngly
,g ra s s h o p p e r;

FIGURE 3. e e cummings, r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r. " e e cummings


had trouble with both audiences and printers because his poetry re
quired them to do things in unaccustomed ways. (Reprinted from
NO THANKS, poems by E. E. Cummings, with the permission
o f Liverighl Publishing Corporation. Copyright 1935 by E. E. Cum
mings. Copyright 1968 by Marion Morehouse Cummings. Copyright
1973, 1978 by Nancy T. Andrews. Copyright 1973, 1978 by George
James Firmage.)

taller th a n fifteen feet; the s c u lp tu re is m u c h larger than that.


The sc u lp to r suggests rem o v in g the wall, b u t by n o w you
have realized that, even if you got it into the m u s e u m , it
w o u ld fall th ro u g h the floor into the b a s e m e n t; it is a m u
seum , not a factory, a n d the building will not su p p o rt so
m u c h weight. Finally, disgruntled, he takes it away.
In the s a m e way, c o m p o s e rs w rite m usic w hich req u ires
m o re p e r fo rm e rs th a n existing o rg an izations can p ay for.
P layw rights w rite plays so long th a t a u d ie n c e s will not sit
th ro u g h th e m . Novelists w rite books th a t c o m p e te n t read ers
find unintelligible, o r th a t re q u ire innovative printing te c h
niques p u b lis h e rs are not e q u ip p e d for. These artists a re not
rebellious nuts; th a t is not the point. The point, rather, is that
the s c u lp tu re s a lre a d y in y o u r m u s e u m did go th ro u g h the
28* ART W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E AC T I VI T Y

d o o r on the loading dock, a n d did n o t fall th ro u g h the floor.


S cu lp to rs kn o w the a p p ro p ria te w eight a n d d im e n sio n s of a
m u s e u m piece, a n d w o rk accordingly. B ro a d w a y plays are of
a length a u d ie n c e s will sit through, a n d the co m p o sitio n s
s y m p h o n y o rc h e stra s p e rfo rm re q u ire no m o re m usicians
th a n the organization can pay.
W h en artists m a k e w h at existing institutions c a n n o t a ssim
ilate, w h e th e r the limits be physical o r co n v en tional (the
weight of s c u lp tu re versu s the length of plays), their w orks
are not exhibited or p e rfo rm e d . T hat is not becau se the
m a n a g e rs of th o se o rg an izations are conservative fuddy-
duddies, either, b u t b e c a u se their o rg an izatio n s are e q u ip p e d
to h a n d le s ta n d a r d fo rm a ts a n d their reso u rces will n o t p e r
m it the s u b sta n tia l e x p e n d itu re s re q u ire d to a c c o m m o d a te
n o n s ta n d a r d items, or to su stain the losses involved in p r e
senting w ork a u d ie n c e s will n o t support.
H o w do n o n s ta n d a r d w o rk s ever get exhibited, p erfo rm e d ,
or d istrib u te d ? I will go into this qu estio n later, a n d h ere ju st
m en tio n th a t th e re often exist subsidiary, n o n s ta n d a r d d is
trib u tio n c h a n n e ls a n d a d v e n tu ro u s e n tre p r e n e u rs a n d a u
diences. The fo rm e r pro v id e m e th o d s of distribution, the
la tte r take a c h a n c e on the result. Schools often provide such
an o p p o rtu n ity . They have sp ac e a n d m ore-or-less free p e r
sonnel in their stu d e n ts, a n d th u s c a n m u s te r forces m o re
c o m m e rc ia l p re s e n ta tio n s could not afford: real crow ds for
crow d scenes, o u tla n d ish a s s o rtm e n ts of in stru m e n talists
a n d vocalists for m u sic a l experim ents.
M ore artists a d a p t to w h a t existing institutions can handle.
By a c c o m m o d a tin g their c o n ce p tio n s to available resources,
c o n v en tio n a l artists a cc e p t the c o n stra in ts arising from their
d e p e n d e n c e on the c o o p e ra tio n of m e m b e rs o f the existing
co o p erativ e netw ork. W h e re v e r artists d e p e n d on o th e rs for
so m e necessary c o m p o n e n t, they m u st eith er a cc e p t the
c o n stra in ts they im p o se o r e x p e n d the tim e a n d energy n e c
essary to pro v id e it so m e o th e r way.

CON VENTIO NS
P ro d u cin g a rt w o rk s re q u ire s e la b o ra te co o p eratio n
a m o n g specialized personnel. H o w do they arrive at the
29 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T I V E AC T I V I T Y

te rm s on w h ich they co operate? They could, of course, d e


cide ev ery th in g afresh on each occasion. A g ro u p of m u si
cians could discuss a n d agree on w hich s o u n d s w ould be
used as tonal resources, w hat in s tru m e n ts m ight be c o n
stru c te d to m a k e those so u n d s, how those s o u n d s w ould be
c o m b in e d to c re a te a m usical language, h o w the language
w o u ld be used to c reate w orks of a p a rtic u la r length re q u ir
ing a given n u m b e r of in s tru m e n ts a n d playable for a u d i
ences o f a certain size recru ited in a certa in way. S o m eth in g
like th a t so m e tim e s h a p p e n s , for instance, in the creatio n of
a n e w theatrical group, alth o u g h in m ost cases only a small
n u m b e r of the q u e stio n s to be d e c id e d are actually c o n sid
ered anew.
People w ho c o o p e ra te to p ro d u c e a w ork o f art usually do
n o t decide th ings afresh. In ste ad , they rely on earlier a g re e
m e n ts n o w b e c o m e c u sto m a ry , a g re e m e n ts that have be
c o m e p a r t o f the c o n v en tio n al w ay of doing things in th a t art.
Artistic c o n v en tio n s co ver all the decisions that m u s t be
m a d e with re sp ect to w orks p ro d u c e d , even th o u g h a p a rtic
u lar co n vention m ay be revised fo r a given w^ork. C onven
tions d ictate the m a terials to be used, as w h en m usicians
agree to base th e ir m u sic on the n o te s c o n tain e d in a set of
m o d e s, o r on the diatonic, p e n tato n ic , o r c h ro m a tic scales,
w ith their asso ciated h arm o n ie s. C onventions dictate the
a b s tra c tio n s to be used to convey p a rtic u la r ideas or e x p e ri
ences, as w hen p a in ters use the law s of p ersp ectiv e to c o n
vey th e illusion of th re e d im e n sio n s o r p h o to g ra p h e rs use
black, white, a n d sh a d e s of gray to convey the in terplay of
light a n d m ass. C onventions d ictate the form in which
m a te ria ls a n d a b stra c tio n s will be co m b in ed , as in m u s ic s
so n a ta form o r p o e try s sonnet. C onventions suggest the a p
p ro p ria te d im e n sio n s of a work, the p r o p e r length of a p e r
form an ce, the p ro p e r size a n d sh a p e of a painting o r sc u lp
ture. C o n ventions reg u late the relations b e tw e e n artists a n d
au d ien c e, specifying the rights a n d obligations of both.
H u m a n is tic sch o la rsa rt historians, musicologists, a n d
literary criticshave fo u n d the co n cep t o f the artistic c o n
vention useful in explaining artists' ability to m a k e a rt w orks
w hich evoke an e m o tio n al resp o n se in audiences. By using
su ch a co n v entional organization of tones as a scale, c o m
30 A R T W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

posers can c re a te a n d m a n ip u la te listeners' e x p ec tatio n s as


to w h a t s o u n d s wall follow. They c a n th e n delay a n d fru strate
the satisfaction o f those ex p ectatio n s, g e n e ra tin g tension and
release as th e ex p ec tatio n is ultim ately satisfied (Meyer, 1956,
1973; C ooper a n d Meyer, 1960). Only becau se artist a n d a u
dience s h a re know ledge of a n d experience with the c o n v e n
tions invoked does the a rt w o rk p ro d u c e a n e m o tio n al effect.
B a rb a ra H. S m ith (1968) has sh o w n how poets m a n ip u la te
co n v entional m e a n s e m b o d ie d in poetic fo rm s a n d diction to
bring p o e m s to a clear a n d satisfying conclusion, in w hich
the ex p ectatio n s p r o d u c e d early in the lyric are s im u lta n e
ously a n d satisfactorily resolved. E. H. G o m b ric h (1960) has
analyzed the visual co n v en tio n s artists use to c reate for
view ers the illusion th a t they are seeing a realistic depiction
of so m e asp e ct o f the w o rld (see figure 4). In all th ese cases
(and in o th e rs like stage design, dance, a n d film), the possi
bility of artistic ex perience arises from the existence of a
b o d y of c o n v en tio n s th a t artists a n d a u d ie n c e s can refer to in
m a k in g sense of the w ork.
C onventions m a k e art possible in a n o th e r sense. B ecause
decisions can be m a d e quickly, plans m a d e sim ply by re fe r
ring to a co n v en tional w ay of doing things, artists c a n devote
m o re tim e to a ctu al work. C onventions m a k e possible the
easy a n d efficient c o o rd in a tio n of activity a m o n g artists a n d
s u p p o rt personnel. William Ivins (1953), for instance, show s
how, by using a conventionalized sch e m e for re n d erin g
shadow s, m odeling, a n d o th e r eff ects, several g rap h ic artists
could c o llab o rate to p ro d u c e a single plate. T he s a m e c o n
ventions m a k e it possible for viewers to read essentially a r
bitrary m a rk s as s h a d o w s a n d m odeling. Seen this w-ay, the
c o n c e p t of c o n v en tio n provides a point o f c o n ta c t b e tw e e n
h u m a n is ts a n d sociologists, being in te rc h an g e ab le with such
fam iliar sociological ideas as n o rm , rule, s h a re d u n d e r
standing, cu sto m , o r folkwav, all referring to the ideas a n d
u n d e rs ta n d in g s people hold in c o m m o n a n d th ro u g h w hich
they effect co o p erativ e activity. B u rlesque c o m e d ia n s could
stage e la b o ra te th re e -m a n skits w ith o u t re h e a rsa l b e c a u se
they h a d only to re fer to a co n v en tional body of skits they
all knew , pick one, a n d assign the parts. D ance m usicians
31 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

FIGURE 4. Three realistic drawings of a tree. The conventions


of visual art make it possible for artists to render familiar objects in
a shorthand knowledgeable viewers can read as realistic. These
three ways o f drawing the same tree (using conventions o f the
European sixteenth-century, European early twentieth-century', and
classical Indian painting) are all easily understood as a tree.
(Drawings by Nan Becker.)

w h o are total stra n g e rs can play all night with no m o re pre-


a rra n g c m c n t th a n to m e n tio n a title ( S u n n y Side of the
Street," in C) a n d count off fo u r b e a ts to give the te m p o ; the
title indicates a melody, its a c c o m p a n y in g harm o n y , and
p e r h a p s even c u sto m a ry b a c k g ro u n d figures. The c o n v e n
tions of c h a ra c te r a n d d ra m a tic stru ctu re, in the one case,
a n d of m elody, h a rm o n y , a n d tem po, in the other, are fam il
iar e n o u g h th a t a u d ie n c e s have no difficulty re sp o n d in g
a p p ro p riately .
T hough stan d a rd iz e d , co n v en tio n s arc seldom rigid a n d
unch an g in g . They do not specify a n inviolate set of rules
everyone m u s t refer to in settling q u e stio n s of w h at to do.
Even w h e re the directions seem quite specific, they leave
m u c h to be resolved bvV referen ce to c u sto m a ryw m o d e s of
in te rp re ta tio n on the one h a n d a n d by negotiation on the
other. A tra d itio n of p e rfo rm a n c e practice, often codified in
book form , tells p e rfo rm e rs how to in terp ret the m usical
scores o r d ra m a tic scripts they p erfo rm . S ev e n tee n th c e n
tury scores, for instance, c o n tain e d relatively little in fo rm a
tion; but c o n te m p o r a ry books explained how to deal with
32 ART WORLDS AND COL L E CT I VE ACTI VI TY

questions, u n a n s w e re d in the score, of in stru m e n ta tio n , note


values, ex tem porization, a n d the realization of e m b ellish
m e n ts a n d o rn a m e n ts. P e rfo rm ers read their m usic in the
light of all these c u s to m a ry styles of in te rp re ta tio n a n d could
th u s c o o rd in ate their activities (Dart, 1967). The sa m e thing
o ccu rs in the visual arts. M uch of the co ntent, sym bolism ,
a n d coloring of Italian R enaissance religious painting w as
conventionally given; b u t a m u ltitu d e of decisions re m a in e d
for the artist, so th a t even w ithin th o se strict conventions
different w o rk s could be p ro d u c ed . A dhering to the c o n v e n
tional m aterials, how ever, allowed viewers to read m u c h
e m o tio n a n d m e a n in g into the picture. Even w h ere c u s to m
ary in te rp re tatio n s of co n v en tio n s exist, having b e co m e
co n v en tio n s them selves, artists can agree to do things dif
ferently, negotiation m a k in g c h an g e possible.
C onventions place stro n g c o n stra in ts on the artist. They
are p articu larly co n strain in g b e ca u se they do n o t exist in
isolation, b u t c o m e in com plexly in te rd e p e n d e n t systems,
so th a t one sm all ch an g e m ay require a variety of o th e r
changes. A system of co n v en tio n s gets e m b o d ie d in e q u ip
m ent, m aterials, training, available facilities a n d sites, sys
tem s of notation, a n d the like, all of w hich m u s t be ch an g e d
if a n y one c o m p o n e n t is (cf. Danto, 1980).
C onsider w h a t c h an g in g from the conventional W estern
c h ro m a tic m usical scale of twelve tones to one including
forty-two tones b etw een the octaves entails. S uch a ch an g e
ch ara cte riz es the c o m p o sitio n s of H arry P artch (1949). W est
ern m usical in s tru m e n ts c a n n o t p ro d u c e these m icrotones
easily, a n d so m e c a n n o t p ro d u c e th e m at all, so c onventional
in s tru m e n ts m u st be re c o n s tru c te d o r new in s tru m e n ts m u st
be in v ented a n d built. Since the in s tru m e n ts are new, no one
know s h o w to play them , a n d players m u s t train them selves.
C onventional W estern n o tatio n is in a d e q u a te to score lorty-
tw o-tone m usic, so a new n o tatio n m u st be devised, a n d
players m u s t learn to re a d it. (C o m p arab le reso u rces can be
ta k e n for g ra n te d by a n y o n e w h o writes for the conventional
twelve c h ro m a tic tones.) C onsequently, while m usic scored
for twelve tones can be p e rfo rm e d a d eq u ately a fte r relatively
few h o u rs of rehearsal, forty-tw o-tone m usic re q u ire s m u c h
33 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

m o re work, time, effort, a n d resources. P a rtc h 's m u sic w as


often p e rfo rm e d in the following way: a university w ould
invite him to s p e n d a year. In the fall, he w ould recruit a
g ro u p of interested stu d en ts, w ho w ould build the in s tru
m e n ts (w hich he h a d alread y invented) u n d e r his direction.
In the winter, they w ould learn to play the in s tru m e n ts and
re a d the n o tatio n he had devised. In the spring, they w ould
re h e a rs e several w orks a n d finally w ould give a p e rfo r
m ance. Seven o r eight m o n th s of w ork finally w ould result in
tw o h ours of m usic, h o u rs w h ich could h a v e been filled
w ith m o re c o n v en tio n a l m u sic a fte r eight o r ten h o urs o f re
hearsal by train ed s y m p h o n ic m usician s playing the s t a n
d a rd repertoire. The difference in the reso u rces required
m e a s u re s the stre n g th of the c o n strain t im posed by the c o n
ventional system%/ .
Similarly, c o n v e n tio n s specifying w hat a good p h o to g ra p h
sh o u ld look like e m b o d y not only an aesth etic m o re or less
a cc ep te d a m o n g the people involved in the m a k in g of art
p h o to g ra p h s (R o sen b lu m , 1978), but also the c o n strain ts
built into the sta n d a rd iz e d e q u ip m e n t a n d m a terials m a d e
by m a jo r m a n u fa c tu re rs . Available lenses, c a m e ra bodies,
s h u tte r speeds, a p e rtu re s, films, a n d prin tin g p a p e r all c o n
stitute a tiny fraction of the things th a t c o u ld be m a d e , a
selection that c a n be used to g e th er to p ro d u c e a c c ep ta b le
prints; with ingenuity they can also be used to p ro d u c e
effects th e ir p u rv e y o rs did not have in m ind. The obverse of
the c o n strain t is the s ta n d a rd iz a tio n a n d d e p en d a b ility of
m a ss -p ro d u c e d m a terials th a t p h o to g ra p h e rs prize; a roll of
K odak Tri-X film p u rc h a s e d a n y w h e re in the world has a p
pro x im ately the sa m e c h ara cte ristic s a n d will p ro d u c e the
s a m e results as a n y o th e r roll.
The lim itations of co n v en tional practice are not total. You
c a n a l w a y s d o t h i n g s d i f f e r e n t l y if y o u a r e p r e p a r e d t o p a y
the price in in creased effort o r d e creased circulation of y o u r
work. The e x p erien ce of c o m p o s e r Charles Ives exemplifies
the latter possibility. H e e x p e rim e n te d with polytonality a n d
p o ly rh y th m s early in the 1900s before they b e c a m e p a rt of
the o rd in a ry p e rfo rm e r s c o m p ete n ce . The N ew York players
w h o tried to play his c h a m b e r a n d o rc h estra l m u sic told him
34 A R T W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

th a t it w as unplayable, th a t their in s tru m e n ts could not m ak e


th o se sounds, that the scores could not be played in any
practical way. Ives finally a c c e p te d their ju d g m e n t, b u t c o n
tin u ed to c o m p o se su ch m usic. W hat m a k e s his case in te r
esting is that, th o u g h he w as also bitter a b o u t it, he ex p eri
e n ce d this as a great liberation (Cowell a n d Cowell, 1954). If
no one could play his m usic, then he no longer h a d to write
w h at m u sician s could play, no longer h a d to a cc e p t the c o n
strain ts im p o sed by the co n v en tio n s th a t reg u lated c o o p e ra
tion b etw een c o n te m p o r a ry c o m p o s e r a n d player. Since his
m u sic w ould not be played, he n ever n eed ed to finish it; he
w as unwilling to confirm J o h n K irk p a tric k s p io n eer read in g
of the C oncord Sonata as a correct one b e c a u se th a t w ould
m e a n he could no longer c h an g e it. Nor did he have to a c
c o m m o d a te his w riting to the p ractical c o n stra in ts of w hat
could be financed by c o n v en tio n al m eans, a n d so w rote his
Fourth S y m p h o n y for th re e o rchestras. (That im practicality
lessened with tim e; L e o n ard B ernstein p re m ie re d the w o rk
in 1958, a n d it has been played m a n y tim es since.)
In general, b re ak in g with existing conventions a n d their
m a n ife sta tio n s in social s tru c tu re a n d m aterial artifacts
in creases artists' trouble a n d d e creases the circulation of
their w ork, b u t at the s a m e tim e in creases th e ir fre e d o m to
choose u n c o n v en tio n a l alternatives a n d to d e p a rt s u b s ta n
tially from c u sto m a ry practice. If th a t is true, w e c a n u n d e r
s ta n d any w ork as the p ro d u c t o f a choice b e tw ee n c o n v e n
tional ease a n d success a n d u n c o n v en tio n a l trouble a n d lack
of recognition.

ART W O RLDS
Art w orlds consist of all the people w'hose activities are
necessary to the p ro d u c tio n of the characteristic w orks
w hich th a t world, a n d p e r h a p s o th e rs as well, define as art.
M em b ers o f a rt w orlds c o o rd in a te the activities by which
w o rk is p ro d u c e d by referring to a body of conventional
u n d e rs ta n d in g s e m b o d ie d in c o m m o n practice a n d in fre
q u en tly used artifacts. The s a m e people often c o o p e ra te re
peatedly, even routinely, in sim ilar w ays to p ro d u c e sim ilar
w orks, so th a t we can think of an a rt w orld as a n established
3 5 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T ! V F. A C T I V I T Y

n e tw o rk of co o p erativ e links a m o n g particip an ts. If the sam e


people do not actually act to g e th er in every instance, their
re p la c e m e n ts are also fam iliar with a n d proficient in the use
of those conventions, so th a t c o o p e ra tio n can proceed w ith
out difficulty. C o n ventions m a k e collective activity sim pler
a n d less costly in time, energy, a n d o th e r resources; b u t they
do n o t m a k e u n c o n v en tio n a l w o rk impossible, only m ore
costly a n d difficult. C hange can a n d does o c c u r w h e n e v e r
s o m e o n e devises a w ay to g a th e r the g re ate r re so u rc e s re
quired o r reco n c ep tu a liz es the w ork so it does not require
wffiat is not available.
W orks o f art, from this point of view, are not the p ro d u c ts
of individual m akers, artists" w h o possess a rare a n d special
gift. They arc, ra th er, joint p ro d u c ts of all th e people w ho
c o o p e ra te via an art w o rld s ch ara cte ristic co n v en tio n s to
bring w o rk s like th a t into existence. Artists arc so m e s u b
g ro u p of th e w o rld s p a rtic ip a n ts w ho, by c o m m o n a g re e
m ent, possess a special gift, th e refo re m ake a u n iq u e a n d
in d isp en sa b le co n trib u tio n to the w'ork, a n d th e re b y m ak e
it art.
Art w orlds d o not have b o u n d a rie s a ro u n d th e m , so that
w e c a n say th a t th ese people b elong to a p a rtic u la r art w orld
while those people do not. I a m not co n ce rn ed with d ra w in g
a line s e p a ra tin g a n art w orld from o th e r p a rts of a society.
In stead , we look for g ro u p s of people w h o c o o p e ra te to p r o
d u c e th ings th a t they, at least, call art; h aving fo u n d th e m , we
look for o th e r people w h o are also n e ce ssary to th a t p r o d u c
tion, grad u ally building up as c o m p le te a p ictu re as we can of
the en tire c o o p e ra tin g n e tw o rk th a t ra d ia te s out fro m the
w ork in question. The w orld exists in the co o p erativ e activity
of those people, not as a s tru c tu re or organization, a n d w>e
use w o rd s like those only as s h o rth a n d for the notion of
n e tw o rk s of people cooperating. F or p ractical p u rp o ses, we
usually recognize th a t m a n y p e o p le s c o o p e ra tio n is so p eri
p h e ral a n d relatively u n im p o r ta n t th a t we need not co n sid er
it, keeping in m in d th a t su c h things c h a n g e a n d w h at was
u n im p o r ta n t to d a y m a y be crucial to m o rro w w h en events
su d d e n ly have m a d e th a t kind of c o o p e ra tio n difficult to
obtain.
Art w orlds do not have clear b o u n d a rie s in a n o th e r sense.
36 ART W O R L D S AND C O L L E C T I V E ACT I VI T Y

To the sociologist stu d y in g art w orlds, it is as clear as, but no


c lea rer than, it is to the p a rtic ip a n ts in them w h e th e r p a rtic
u la r o b je cts or events are really a rt" o r w h e th e r they are
c raft o r c o m m ercia l work, o r p e rh a p s the expression of folk
culture, o r m a y b e ju st the e m b o d ie d sy m p to m s of a lunatic.
Sociologists, how ever, can solve this p ro b le m m o re easily
th a n art w orld particip an ts. One im p o rta n t facet of a socio
logical analysis of any social w orld is to see w hen, w here, a n d
how p a rtic ip a n ts d r a w the lines th a t distinguish w h a t they
w a n t to be ta k e n as c h a ra cte ristic from w h a t is not to be so
taken. Art w orlds typically devote co nsiderable a tten tio n to
trying to decide w h a t is a n d isn t art, w'hat is a n d isn't their
kind of art, a n d w h o is a n d isn't a n artist; by o b serving how
an a rt w orld m a k e s those distinctions ra th e r th a n trying to
m a k e th e m ourselves w e c a n u n d e r s ta n d m u c h of w h a t goes
on in th a t world. (See C h risto p h erso n , 1974a a n d b, for an
e x am p le of this process in a rt photography.)
In addition, art w orlds typically have in tim ate a n d e x te n
sive relations with the w orlds from w hich they try to distin
guish them selves. They sh are so u rces o f su p p ly with those
o th e r w orlds, re c ru it p e rso n n e l from th e m , a d o p t ideas th a t
originate in th e m , a n d c o m p e te w ith th e m for a u d ie n c e s a n d
financial su p p o rt. In s o m e sense, a rt w orlds a n d w orlds of
com m ercial, craft, a n d folk art a re p a rts o f a larger social
organization. So, even th o u g h everyone involved u n d e r
s ta n d s a n d resp ects the distinctions w hich keep them s e p a
rate, a sociological analysis sh o u ld take a c c o u n t of how they
are not so s e p a ra te a fter all.
F u rth e rm o re , a rt w orlds p ro v o k e so m e of their m e m b e rs
to c re a te in n ovations they th e n will not accept. S om e o f these
in n ovations develop sm all w orlds o f their ow n; so m e re m a in
d o r m a n t a n d th e n find a c c e p ta n c e from a larger a rt w orld
years o r g e n e ra tio n s later; so m e rem ain m agnificent c u rio s
ities of little m o re th a n a n tiq u a r ia n interest. These fates
reflect b o th the ju d g m e n ts of artistic quality m a d e by c o n
te m p o ra ry a rt w orlds a n d the p e rh a p s c h a n c e o p e ra tio n s o f a
variety o f o th e r factors.
The basic unit o f analysis, then, is an art world. Both the
" a rtn e ss " a n d the "w o rld n e ss" are p ro b lem atic, b e c a u se the
37 A R T W O R L D S A N D CO L L E C I 1 V E A C T I V 1 T Y

w ork that fu rn ish e s the startin g point for th e investigation


m a y be p r o d u c e d in a variety o f c o o p e ra tin g n e tw o rk s a n d
u n d e r a variety of definitions. S o m e netw o rk s are large,
co m p licated , a n d specifically d ev o ted to the p ro d u c tio n of
w orks of the kind we are investigating as th e ir m ain activity.
S m a lle r o n es m a y have only a few of the specialized p e rs o n
nel ch ara cte ristic of the larger, m o re e la b o ra te ones. In the
limiting case, the w orld consists only of the person m ak in g
the work, w h o relies on m a terials a n d o th e r reso u rces p r o
vided by o th e rs w h o n e ith er intend to c o o p e ra te in the p r o
d u c tio n of th a t w ork n o r k n o w they are doing so. T ypew riter
m a n u f a c tu r e r s p a rtic ip ate in the sm all w orlds of m an y
w o u ld -b e novelists w ho h a v e no c o n n e c tio n with the m o re
con ventionally defined literary world.
In the s a m e way, th e c o o p era tiv e activity m a y be carried
on e ith e r in the n a m e of art o r u n d e r so m e o th e r definition,
even th o u g h in th e latter case the p ro d u c ts m ight seem to us
to re se m b le those m a d e as art. B ecause art" is an honorific
title a n d being able to call w h at you do by that n a m e has
som e a d v an ta g es, people often w a n t w hat they do to be so
labeled. J u st as often, people do not care w h e th e r w h a t they
do is a rt o r not (as in the case of m a n y h o u seh o ld o r folk
a rts cake decorating, e m b ro id e ry , o r folk dancing, for in
stance) a n d find it n e ith e r d e m e a n in g n o r interesting that
th e ir activities are not recognized as a rt by people w h o do
care a b o u t s u c h things. S o m e m e m b e rs of a society can c o n
trol the a p p lica tio n of the honorific term art, so n o t ev ery
o n e is in a position to have the a d v a n ta g e s associated with
it, if he w a n ts them .
F o r all these reasons, it is not clear w h a t to include in an
analysis of a rt w orlds a n d w h at to leave out. To limit the
analysis to w h at a society c u rren tly defines as art leaves out
too m u c h th a t is interesting: all the m arginal cases in which
people seek but are denied the n a m e , as well as those in
w hich people do w o rk th a t o u ts id e o b serv ers can see m ight
m e e t the definition but w hose m a k e rs are not interested in
th a t possibility. T h at w ould allow the process of definition by
m e m b e r s of the society, w h ich ought p ro p e rly to be the
s u b je c t of o u r study, to set its term s. On the o th e r h a n d , to
38 ART WORLDS AND COLLECTI VE ACTI VI TY

s tu d y ev ery th in g th a t m ig h t m eet a society's definition of art


includes too m u c h . Almost a n y th in g m ight m eet such a d e f
inition, if vve applied it ingeniously en o ugh. I have not a c
cep te d s ta n d a rd definitions of art in the analysis to com e. I
have also not in cluded everything, sticking to the m arg in al
cases in w hich the label is in disp u te or people do so m eth in g
th a t see m s to have a s u b sta n tia l re s e m b la n c e to things called
'a rt, so th a t the process of definition com es into focus as a
m a jo r problem .
As a result, I have given m u c h atten tio n to w o rk n o t c o n
ventionally th o u g h t to h a v e artistic value o r im p o rta n c e . I
have been in terested in " S u n d a y p a in ters" a n d quilt m a k e rs
as well as in conventionally recognized fine art p a in te rs a n d
sculptors, in rock-and-roll m u sician s as well as in co n cert
players, in the a m a te u r s not good e n o u g h to be eith er as well
as in the professionals w h o are. In doing so, 1 h o p e to let the
p ro b le m a tic c h a ra c te r of b o th "a rtn e ss" a n d "w o rld n e ss"
p e rm e a te th e analysis, a n d avoid taking too seriously the
s ta n d a r d s of th o se w h o m a k e the conventional definitions of
art for a society.
T h o u g h a rt w orlds do n o t have s h a rp b o u n d a ries, they do
vary in the degree to w hich they are in d e p e n d e n t, o p e ratin g
in relative freed o m from in terference by o th e r organized
g ro u p s in th e ir society. P u t a n o th e r way, the people w ho
c o o p e ra te in the w ork being stu d ied m ay be free to organize
their activity in the n a m e of art, as is the case in m a n y
c o n te m p o ra ry W estern societies, w h e th e r they m a k e use of
th a t possibility or not. They may, how ever, find th a t they
m u st take into a c c o u n t o th e r interests re p re se n te d by g ro u p s
organized a ro u n d o th e r definitions. The state m ay exercise
such control over o th e r a re a s of society that m a jo r p artici
p a n ts in the m a k in g of art w o rk s orient them selves prim arily
to the c o n c e rn s of the state a p p a r a tu s ra th e r th a n to the
c o n c e rn s of people w h o define th em selv es as interested in
art. T heo cratic societies m a y organize th e m a k in g of w h a t
we, from the perspective of o u r society, w ould recognize as
w o rk s of a rt as a n a d ju n c t of activity defined in religious
term s. In fro n tier societies su bsistence m ay be so p r o b le m
atic th a t activities w hich do not c o n trib u te directly to the
39 A R T W O R L D S A N D C O L L E C T I V E A C T I V I T Y

p ro d u c tio n o f food o r o th e r necessities m a y be seen as u n


affordable luxuries, so th a t w o rk we m ight define, fro m a
c o n te m p o r a ry v a n ta g e point, as art gets d o n e in the n a m e of
h o u seh o ld necessity. W hat c a n n o t be justified that w ay is not
done. Before people can organize them selves as a w orld
explicitly justified by m a k in g o b je c ts o r events delined as art,
they need sufficient political a n d eco n o m ic fre e d o m to do
that, a n d not all societies pro v id e it.
This point n eed s em p h asis, b e ca u se so m a n y w riters on
w h at is ordinarily d escribed as the sociology of art tre at art as
relatively a u to n o m o u s , free from the kinds of organizational
c o n stra in ts th a t s u rro u n d o th e r form s of collective activity. I
have not considered those theories here becau se they deal
essentially w ith philosophical q u e stio n s quite different from
the m u n d a n e social o rg an izatio n al p ro b le m s with w hich I
have c o n c e rn e d m yself (see Donow, 1979). In so fa r as w h a t I
h a v e to say q u e stio n s the a s s u m p tio n of fre e d o m from
econom ic, political, a n d organizational co n strain t, it n eces
sarily im plies a criticism o f analytic styles b ased on it.
. Art w orlds p ro d u c e w o rk s a n d also give them aesthetic
value. This book does not itself m a k e aesthetic ju d g m e n ts , as
the p receding re m a rk s suggest. Instead it tre a ts aesthetic
ju d g m e n ts as c h a ra cte ristic p h e n o m e n a of collective activ
ity. From this point of view, the in teractio n o f all the involved
parties p ro d u c e s a s h a re d sense of the w o rth of w h a t they
collectively p ro d u ce. Their m u tu a l a p p re c iatio n of the c o n
ventions they share, a n d the s u p p o rt they m u tu a lly afford
one a n o th e r, convince th e m th a t w h a t they are doing is w orth
doing. If they act u n d e r the definition of "art," th e ir in te ra c
tion convinces th e m that w h a t they p ro d u c e are valid w orks
of art.
2 Conventions

C onsider this note: W eet , m iddle C, do. It is the first note


o f a m e l o d y I h a v e i n m i n d . S o l v e t h i s p r o b l e m : W h a t is t h e
se c o n d note? __
S o m e people will guess - - - , D above m iddle C, re.
O thers will say it is =^ ~ , E above m iddle C, m i. O thers will
be suspicious, th in k in g I have so m e th in g trickier in m ind,
a n d try C -sharp or, seeing th a t there is n o necessity for my
m elody to m ove up, B below the staff. In fact, o f course, the
p ro b le m is not soluble; you do n o t have e n o u g h in fo rm atio n .
It m ig h t be a n y of those o r a n y o th e r note of the c h ro m a tic
scale.
S u p p o s e I give you a n o th e r clue, the seco n d n o te o f the
m elody. It is the first one guessed, D above m iddle C. W h a t is
the th ird note? M ost people will now, with m u c h m o re a s
su ran c e, guess E, mi. Or su p p o se the second n ote isn't D, its
E. T h en m o st people will know' th a t th e third n ote is G, sol. In
n e ith e r case c a n th e y be 100 p e rc e n t sure, b u t they feel th a t
the probability of being right is certainly m u c h g re a te r th a n
in the first case.
W hy is the original qu estio n so difficult? W hy is it so m u c h
easier to a n s w e r w h en you kn o w tw o notes instead of one?

40
41 C O N V E N T I O N S

The a n s w e r is interesting n o t becau se it is h a rd to get, b u t


b e c a u se it lead s to a n u n d e rs ta n d in g of the social o rg a n iz a
tion o f a rt worlds.
It is easier to tell the third note w h e n you know the first
two b e ca u se once you kn o w two notes you can guess at a
p a tte rn , s o m e th in g th a t is im p o ssible if you know only one
note. If the first two n o te s are 0 , C-D, the suggested
p a tte r n is the diatonic scale, do-re-m i-fa, etc., a n d the likely
c a n d id a te for the third note is mi, the third note of the scale,
following the first two logically. In the s a m e way, if the first
tw o notes are :~ V - , C-E, d o -m i, the p a tte rn suggested is
the m a jo r triad, C-E-G, do-mi-sol, a n d the likely c a n d id a te for
the third n ote is sol, the th ird note o f the triad, following the
first tw o with equal lo g ic / We can a n s w e r the q u e stio n b e
c au se we have identified a p a tte rn w hich, if co ntinued , gives
us the m issing note. (See Meyer, 1973.)
H ow do we know the p a tte rn ? T h at takes us o u t of the
re a lm of gestalt psychology a n d into the o p e ratio n s of art
w o rld s a n d social w orlds generally, for it is a q u e stio n a b o u t
the d istrib u tio n of know ledge, a n d th a t is a fact of social
organization. We kn o w these p a tte r n s the diatonic scale
a n d the m a jo r tria d becau se a n y o n e w h o has grow n up in
a n y W estern co u ntry, lived as a child there, an d , especially,
gone to its schools, will know them . F ro m o u r earliest days in
a cu ltu re w hich uses su c h scales a n d h a rm o n ie s, w e h e ar
songslullabies, n u rs e ry rh ym es, and, later, p o p u la r songs of
all k in d sb ased on these u b iq u ito u s conventional building
blocks of W estern m usic. W h en we e n te r school, we learn the
n a m e s of those n o te s (in the co n v entional do-re-m i notation
a n d in c o n v en tio n al n o ta tio n on the staff, w ith the letter
n a m e s C, D, E, a n d so forth), a n d learn to sing th e m on cue
w h e n we see the notes.
We can a n s w e r the q u estio n , th en, becau se we le arn e d the
m a te ria ls n e e d e d to solve the p ro b le m years ago. Any c o m
p e ten t m e m b e r of a W estern society could a n sw e r the q u e s
tion, h aving learn e d the sa m e m a terials as a child. (That is
w h y I have d a re d to use a m usical e x am p le in a book in
te n d e d for n o n m u sician s.) People w ho grew up in a c o m
pletely different m usical tra d itio n might not u n d e rs ta n d the
42 C O N V E N T I O N S

question, a n d w ould n o t k n o w the a n s w e r if they did, n ever


having le arn e d the co n v en tio n s necessary for the p r o b le m s
solution.
We have a lre a d y seen how conventions provide the basis
on w h ich a rt w orld p a rtic ip a n ts can act to g e th e r efficiently
to p ro d u c e w orks ch ara cte ristic of those w orlds. Different
g ro u p s of p a rtic ip a n ts know different p a rts of th e total body
of conventions u se d by an a rt world, ordinarily w h at they
need to know to facilitate the portion of the collective action
in w hich they take part.
Every a rt w orld uses, to organize s o m e of the c o o p e ra tio n
b etw een so m e of its particip an ts, conventions k n o w n to all o r
alm o st all well-socialized m e m b e r s of the society in w hich it
exists. S o m e tim e s a n art w orld uses m a terials deeply e m
b e d d e d in the cu ltu re quite a p a r t from the history of th a t art
m ed iu m , as w h en classical ballet relies on o u r c o n v e n tio n a l
ized u n d e rs ta n d in g of the roles of m e n a n d w o m e n a n d the
c h a ra c te r of ro m a n tic a tta c h m e n ts b etw een th e m as the
skeleton on w hich to c o n stru c t a series of d a n c e s in w h ich the
m a n s u p p o rts the w o m a n , w oos her, is sp u rn e d , a n d e v e n
tually w ins h e r (see figure 5). The d a n c e s have w h a te v e r
m o d ic u m of plot they c o n tain becau se w e a lrea d y know
alm o st all of the story, having a c q u ire d it m u c h as w e learned
clo-re-mi, a n d need only the b a re st cues to inject the rest of
the d r a m a into the action we see.
S o m e tim e s the a rt w orld relies on co n v en tio n s of th e art
itself, b u t o n es w hich ev ery o n e has e x p erien ced so early a n d
so often th a t they are as m u c h p a rt of the cu ltu re as the sex
roles ballet d e p e n d s on for its sense. Im a g in e th a t you have
b e en w atch in g a fe atu re film for ninety m in u te s a n d you now
see one of the chief c h a ra c te rs slowly walk aw ay from the
c a m e r a while th e c a m e ra sim u ltan eo u sly pulls fa rth e r a n d
fa rth e r back. W h a t is h a p p e n in g ? The film has en d ed , a n d
people in the th e a te r are getting up, throw ing aw ay their
p o p c o rn boxes, a n d p u ttin g on their coats as they p re p a re to
leave. Freeze fra m e s a n d swelling m usic similarly indicate
the e n d in g in a c o n v en tio n al way.
T he c o n v en tio n s of stick-figure draw in g m a k e use o f the
c o m m o n s e n s e know ledge we all have of w h a t co n stitu te the
FIGURE 5. Jim Sohm and Diana Weber in the San Francisco
Ballet production o f Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. Classical ballet
relies on our conventionalized understanding o f the roles o f men
and women and the character of romantic attachments between
them to provide much o f the dances' sketchy stories. (Photo courtesy
o f the San Francisco Ballet.)
44 C O N V E N T I O N S

FIGURE 6. Conventional symbols for men s and women s toilets.


Conventional understandings o f human anatomy, clothing, and
stick-figure drawing make it possible to use these signs to mark
men s and women s toilets so that no one will make a mistake.

essential p o rtio n s of the h u m a n a n a to m y for pictorial p u r


poses. W e a d d o u r c o n v en tio n al u n d e rs ta n d in g of m e n s a n d
w o m e n s clothing to create, for instance, signs for m e n 's a n d
w o m e n 's toilets in public places, a ssu m in g th a t a n y o n e will
u n d e r s ta n d th e m well e n o u g h not to go into the w ro n g room
(see figure 6).
Verbal a rt fo rm s use a m ix tu re of co n v en tio n s w hich are
p a rt of the culture, in d e p e n d e n t of the a rt m e d iu m itself, a n d
c o n v en tio n s of the a rt so well k n o w n th a t they are also p a rt
of the cu ltu re every well-socialized person knows. Poetry a n d
o th e r verbal arts rely heavily on the associative a n d evocative
m a terials e m b e d d e d in language as it is used in o rd in a ry
sp eech as well as in literature. P h o n e m e s tak e on, in the
d e v e lo p m e n t of a language, m e a n in g s signaled by their
so u n d s, ju st b e c a u se so m a n y w o rd s in a given m e a n in g
fam ily alread y use those sounds. Thus, in English the initial
s o u n d gl- h a s a c o n n o ta tio n of p h e n o m e n a of light; m a n y
45 C O N V E N T I O N S

w o rd s describing such p h e n o m e n a begin th a t way: gleam ,


glow, glitter, glint, glare, a n d so on. (All w o rd s beginning this
w ay n e ed not have the c o n n o ta tio n for the point to stan d ;
glide a n d gland have the beginning, but no c o n n o tatio n of
light. N evertheless, English s p e a k e rs ordinarily h e a r the n o
tion of light in th a t family of initial sounds.) Similarly, w ords
e n d in g in -u m p c o n n o te a w k w a rd n e ss a n d heaviness: d u m p ,
b u m p , rump, lump, stum p, g ru m p , a n d so on (Bollinger, 1950).
Poets control the feel of a passage in p a rt by controlling the
w ay these m e a n in g fu l so u n d s e n te r into it, a d d in g to or
m odifying the m o re overtly e x p ressed m eanings. We can see
the point clearly eno u g h in invented w o rd s ( T w a s brillig,
a n d th e slithy to v c s think a b o u t brillig a n d siithy a n d w hat
we u n d e rs ta n d by them ). We can c reate a h u m o ro u s effect by
c o m b in in g s o u n d s with c o n tra d icto ry c o n n o tatio n s: glum p,
for instance, suggests a heavy, a w k w a rd p h e n o m e n o n of
light. The c o m p u te r slang w o rd glitch gets its effect this way.
Poetry a n d o th e r form s of literatu re also use devices that
g ain ed th e ir effect th ro u g h the d e v e lo p m e n t of the m ed iu m .
S m ith (1968) has analy zed a large variety of su ch devices
w hich p ro d u c e a feeling of finality a n d closure in a poem .
S o m e fo rm s end in a c h a ra cte ristic way; we know a so n n et
has e n d e d w h e n we finish fourteen lines, rh y m e d in a p a rtic
u lar way. Less form al c u s to m a ry p ro c e d u re s p ro d u c e the
s a m e effect o f closure. The topic the p o e m treats m ay be
dealt with in s o m e w ay th a t seem s definitive. The last line or
tw o m a y c o m p le te s o m e a rg u m e n t o r witticism. The last lines
m a y be m ostly o r entirely m onosyllabic, o r use w o rd s w hich
th em selves refer to e n d in g in o n e fo rm or a n o th er: last,
finished, end, rest, peace, o r no m ore, o r such ending-related
ev en ts as sleep, d e a th , o r w inter. E x p erien ced re a d e rs of
p o e try m a y not identify the elem e n ts consciously, b u t re
sp o n d to th e m as closural.
M usic uses m a n y technical devices sufficiently well know n
to all well-socialized m e m b e rs of a society to be usable re-
w

so u rces for artists. C o m p o sers can, for instance, take for


g ra n te d th a t a u d ie n c e s will u n d e r s ta n d a n d resp o n d , as ex
pected, to a m in o r key as s a d o r to certain rh y th m p a tte rn s
as Latin A m e rica n .
46 C O N V E N T I O N S

C onventions k n o w n to all well-socialized m e m b e rs of a


society m a k e possible so m e of the m ost basic a n d im p o rta n t
fo rm s of c o o p e ra tio n c h a ra cte ristic of a n a rt world. M ost
im p o rtan t, they allow people w ho have little or no fo rm al
a c q u a in ta n c e w ith or train in g in the art to p a rtic ip a te as
au d ien c e m e m b e r s to listen to m usic, re a d books, a tte n d
films o r plays, a n d get so m e th in g from them . K now ledge of
these conventions defines the o u te r p e rim e te r of a n art
world, indicating potential a u d ie n c e m e m b e rs, of w h o m no
special know ledge can be expected. Art form s designed to
re a c h the m a x im u m n u m b e r of people in a society tak e m o st
a d v a n ta g e of these resources. S o m e p o p u la r television
show s, for in s ta n c e do th a t in a n established way. O thers
use th ese re so u rc e s m o re u nconventionally in an a tte m p t to
reach a large n u m b e r, as with political street theater. One of
the classic s tre e t-th e a te r pieces of the anti-V ietnam W a r
m o v e m e n t co nsisted of a gro u p of m e n d ressed as U.S. sol
diers, carrying rifles, w h o c h ased so m e o n e dressed as a civil
ian V ietn am ese w o m a n do w n a c ro w d e d New York street,
c a u g h t her, a n d shot her; w h e n the exp ected crow d gathered,
the g ro u p began a discussion of the political m e a n in g o f the
war. The c ro w d g a th e re d b e ca u se w h a t they saw w as im m e
diately intelligible, m ak in g use as it did of m a terials k n o w n to
any adult living in the c o u n try at th a t time.
S o m e n o n a rtistic know ledge available to only a seg m e n t of
the p o p u la tio n can serve as the basis for a rt w o rk s a im e d at
th a t segm ent. Books a n d films in te n d e d for ad u lts can a s
su m e know ledge of so m e m a tte rs children do not know;
children th e n have difficulty re sp o n d in g to w o rk s adults
u n d e r s ta n d im m ediately. B axandall gives the e x am p le of
fifteenth-century Italian m e rc h a n ts, w ho learned, as training
for business, geom etrical m e th o d s for gauging q u a n titie s of
goods a n d fo rm u las for m a n ip u la tin g ratios a n d proportions,
the s a m e devices p a in te rs used to analyze solid form s pic-
toriallv. B usinessm en , w h o w ere a m o n g the people w h o paid
for paintings, th u s knew h o w to a p p re c ia te w h a t p ain ters
w ere doing visually; they knew m a th e m a tic s and:

used it in important matters more often than we do, played


games and told jokes with it, bought luxurious books about it,
47 C O N V E N T I O N S

and prided themselves on their prowess in it.. . . this speciali


zation constituted a disposition to address visual experience,
in or out of pictures, in special ways: to attend to the structure
of complex forms as combinations of regular geometric
bodies and as intervals comprehensible in series. Because
they were practiced in manipulating ratios and in analysing
the volume or surface of compound bodies, they were sensi
tive to pictures carrying the marks of similar processes. . . .
The status of these skills in his society was an encouragement
to the painter to assert them playfully in his pictures. . . . he
did. (Baxandall, 1972. pp. 101-2)
S o m e know ledge c o m m o n to everyone is th o u g h t to be too
vulgar to be used as the basis of an art work. Mikail B akhtin
(1968) suggests that R abelais' great co n trib u tio n to literature
w as to bring the language of the m a rk e tp la c e baw dy, vul
gar, a n d irre v e re n tinto art, a n d th u s to help topple the
co n strain in g styles of th o ught, along w ith the social s tru c
tures, of feudalism . He arg u es that m o st art is inevitably, by
virtue of its sp o n so rsh ip by th e people w h o control the
society, c o u c h e d in a serious a n d official language which
takes at face value official claim s to authority. B eneath this,
how ever, ru n s an irreverent, gross stre a m of folk culture
m o cking w h a t is officially serious, d eg rad in g it with scatol-
ogy, b lasp h em y , a n d erotic h u m o r. T h a t folk culture, e m
bodied in the talk a n d practice o f the m a rk e tp la c e a n d the
p o p u la r fairs, persisted th ro u g h the M iddle Ages, even
th o u g h it fo u n d alm o st no place in the official, religious art of
the time. As the feudal o rd e r c a m e to a n end, the im ages a n d
language of the folk cu ltu re increasingly fo u n d a place in
literature, c u lm in atin g in R abelais' b a w d y book.
O ther co n v en tio n s arise in the art w orld itself a n d are
know n only to people w h o have so m e dealings with it. We
generally recognize the distinction H u m e m a d e in his dis
cussion of the s ta n d a r d of taste (1854 [1752]) w hen he re
m a rk e d that while w h a t m a d e art g re at w as a m a tte r of
opinion, so m e o p inions w ere b e tte r th a n o th e rs becau se their
holders had m o re ex perience of the w orks and genres in
q u e stio n a n d so could m ak e liner a n d m o re justifiable dis
crim inations. They h a d a g re ate r a w a re n e ss of the c o n v e n
tions th a t in fo rm ed the m ak in g of those works, gained by
48 C O N V E N T I O N S

their m o re c o n tin u o u s p re se n ce in the a u d ie n c e for them .


S o m eo n e w h o h a s seen m a n y p ro d u c tio n s of the sam e
play, by different c o m p a n ie s a n d in different th eaters, with
different co stu m es, scenery, a n d lights, d irected differently,
e m b o d y in g different in te rp re tatio n s, h a s a m o re co m p lete
a w a re n e ss of w h a t the conventional designations in the
script m a k e possible, as well as of w h a t scripts like it m ak e
possible.
This know ledge distinguishes the occasional m e m b e r of
the a u d ie n c e from the stea d y p a tro n , the serious listener or
re a d e r w hose a tte n tio n artists h o p e for, b e c a u se th a t serious
re a d e r will u n d e r s ta n d m o st fully w hat they have p u t into the
work. K now ing the co n v en tio n s of the form , serious a u
dience m e m b e rs c a n c o llab o rate m o re fully with artists in the
jo in t effort w hich p ro d u c e s the w ork each tim e it is e x p e ri
enced. Further, stead y p a tro n s of a rt ev en tsthose w h o a t
te n d p e rfo rm a n c e s a n d exhibitions o r those w ho read serious
lite ra tu re provide a solid basis of su p p o rt for those events
a n d o b je cts a n d for the activity th a t p ro d u c es th e m . S uch
serious a n d e x p erie n ce d a u d ie n c e m e m b e r s belong to the art
w orld, m o re or less p e r m a n e n t parties to the co o p erative
activity th a t m a k e s it up.
W hat do these people know th a t differentiates th e m from
those w h o re sp o n d sim ply as well-socialized m e m b e rs of the
society? The list includes s u c h things as: the history of a t
te m p ts to m a k e sim ilar w orks in th a t m e d iu m or genre;
ch aracteristic fe atu res of different styles a n d p e rio d s in the
history of the art; the m erits of different positions on key
issues in the history, d e v elo p m en t, a n d practice o f the art; an
a c q u a in ta n c e with v arious versions of the s a m e w ork; a n d
the ability to re sp o n d em o tio n ally a n d cognitively to the
m a n ip u la tio n of s ta n d a r d elem e n ts in the v o c ab u la ry o f the
m e d iu m . It p ro b a b ly also includes gossip of the a rt world,
both contem porary' a n d past, item s of interest a b o u t the
p e rs o n a l affairs of p a rtic ip a n ts in th a t w orld, in d e p e n d e n t of
their w orks; w h e th e r su ch m aterial is relevant to an u n d e r
s ta n d in g of those w o rk s is p e ren n ia lly d e b ate d .
W h a t serious a u d ie n c e m e m b e rs know a b o u t a n art often
conflicts, b e ca u se of innovative changes, with w h a t well-
49 C O N V E N T I O N S

FIGURE 7. Oberlin Dance Collective performing Format III.


Contemporary dance makes use o f movementsstumbling and
falling, for instancethat classical ballet (and classical ballet au
diences) define as mistakes. (Photograph courtesy o f the Oberlin
Dance Collective.)

socialized m e m b e rs of the society know. M anv arts have a


lengthy tra d itio n of form alization, in w hich they stylize the
m a te ria ls they use, divorcing th e m from the things people do
a n d the o b je c ts they m a k e in real life. Artistic innovators
fre q u e n tly try to avoid w h a t they re g a rd as the excessive
form alism , sterility, a n d h e rm e tic ism of their m e d iu m by
exploiting the actio n s a n d o b je cts o f ev ery d ay life. C ho reo g
ra p h e rs like Paul Taylor a n d B re n d a W ay use running,
ju m p in g , a n d falling do w n as conventionalized d a n c e m o v e
m ents, instead of the m o re form al m o v e m e n ts of classical
ballet, o r even o f trad itio n al m o d e rn d a n c e (see figure 7).
50 C O N V E N T I O N S

P h o to g ra p h e rs R o b ert Frank, Lee F riedlander, a n d Gary


W in o g ra n d use the cut-off heads, tilted fram e, a n d banal
e v ery d a y su b je c t m a tte r o f the a m a te u r s n a p sh o t to replace
the c o n v en tio n al fo rm alism s of art p h o to g ra p h y . C o m p o sers
T erry Riley a n d Philip Glass use the sim ple repetition of
c h ild re n 's m u sic to replace the com plex m elodic a n d h a r
m onic d e v e lo p m e n ts of m o re traditional serious m usic. In all
th e se cases, how ever, less involved a u d ie n c e s look precisely
for the co n v en tional form al elem e n ts the in n o v a to rs replace
to distinguish a rt from n o n a rt. T hey do not go to the ballet to
see people run, ju m p , a n d fall dow n; they can see that a n y
w here. They go instead to see people do the difficult a n d
esoteric form al m o v e m e n ts th a t signify real d a n c in g . The
ability to see o rd in a ry m aterial as art m a te ria lto see th a t the
running, ju m p in g , a n d falling do w n arc not ju st that, but
are the elem e n ts of a different la n g u ag e of the m e d iu m
th u s distinguishes serious a u d ie n c e m e m b e rs from the well-
socialized m e m b e r of the culture, th e irony b eing th a t these
m a terials arc perfectly well k n o w n to the latter, alth o u g h not
as art m aterials.
S erious a u d ie n c e m e m b e rs, how ever, do not kn o w all the
things th a t o th e r m o re professionalized p a rtic ip a n ts in art
w orlds know . They kn o w no m o re th a n they need to k n o w to
play their p a rt in th e co o p erative activity, w hich is to u n d e r
stand, a p p rec iate, a n d s u p p o r t the activities of those called
artists in th a t world.
The d istrib u tio n o f co n v entional know ledge changes.
W hat everyone once knew can cease to be p a rt of th e e q u ip
m e n t of an ordinary, well-socialized m e m b e r o f society and
b e c o m e s o m e th in g th a t only b e tte r-p re p a re d , m o re serious
p a rtic ip a n ts in art activities know. B axandall (1972) sho w s
how th e details of the religious stories w hich provided the
texts for R en a issa n ce Italian p aintings w ere c o m m o n know l
edge to the o rd in a ry citizen a n d c h u rc h g o e r w h en they w ere
p ainted. P ainters could c o u n t on their au d ien c e u n d e r s ta n d
ing, from small co n v entional signs, w h a t p h ase of the An
n u n c iatio n story w as d e p icte d in a painting (see figure 8), and
e x p erie n cin g it accordingly. T h at kind of C hristian know l
edge is n o w restricted to serious s tu d e n ts of the m e d iu m .
FIGURE 8. Master o f the Barberini Panels, Annunciation: Reflec
tion. Painters o f the Italian Renaissance used conventional signs to
indicate which phase o f the story o f the Annunciation they were
picturing. This picture shows the moment of Reflection (Cogita-
tio), in which the Virgin, disquieted by the Angel Gabriel's salutation
(Blessed art thou among women ), reflects on what the angel may
have to tell her. (Photograph courtesy o f the National Gallery o f Art,
Washington, D.C., Samuel H. Kress Collection.) (See Baxandall,
1972, 49-56.)
52 C O N V E N T I O N S

B akhtin (1968) points out th a t few people can r e a d Rabelais


today, finding him disgusting on the one h a n d a n d boring on
the other, b e ca u se we have lost to u c h with the folk culture
w hich alone could m a k e one feel a n d see the h u m o r (and
th u s the political m essage) of the w ork. Conversely, w h a t is at
first k n o w n only to a sm all circle of in n o v a to rs a n d aficiona
dos can, like the ability to ex perience ato n al m usic, s p re a d to
w id er a n d w id e r circles w ith time.
A n o th e r g ro u p overlaps with th e serious a u d ie n c e m e m
bers: s tu d e n ts of the arts. Professions w hich have m o re or
less form al training p ro g ra m s m a y lose som e pro p o rtio n
of their train ees d u rin g the training period a n d som e fu rth e r
fraction a fte r the novices begin to practice. Not all tra in e d
physicians practice m edicine, a n d a m u ch larger p ro p o rtio n
of A m ericans train ed in law n ever practice. The p ro p o rtio n
of train ees w h o never p ra ctice varies greatly b etw een o c c u
pations, as well as b e tw ee n countries.
In the p resen t-d ay United States, e n o rm o u s n u m b e rs
of people s tu d y the arts seriously a n d sem iseriously, t a k
ing courses, practicin g difficult disciplines, devoting large
a m o u n ts of tim e a n d o th e r resources, often m a k in g s u b
stantial sacrifices a n d req u irin g th e m of their families and
frien d s as well. Few of th e m ev er b e co m e full-time p ro fe s
sional artists. No art has sufficient reso u rces to su p p o rt
eco n o m ically o r give s y m p a th e tic a tten tio n to all or any s u b
stan tial p ro p o rtio n of those trainees in the way c u s to m a ry
in the art w orlds for w hich they a re being trained. This is an
im p o rta n t proviso. If the a rts w ere organized differently
less professional, less star-oriented, less cen tra liz ed th a t
s u p p o rt m ight be available. The p ro b le m s arise w h en th o u
sa n d s of s tu d e n ts h o p e to b e c o m e B ro a d w a y stars, p re m ie r
ballerinas in a m a jo r c o m p a n y , o r w in n ers of the Nobel Prize
in literature. But the a rts m ig h t be, a n d have at tim es been,
o rg anized so th a t these w ere not the available o r re aso n ab le
goals to aim at.
N evertheless, large n u m b e r s train for careers in the arts;
even m o re begin su ch training w ith o u t c o m p letin g it, not
necessarily b e c a u se they do not still desire such c a re e rs but
b e ca u se they believe th a t form al training is neith er necessary
53 C O N V E N T I O N S

n o r desirable for such a career. They m a y be right. T h eodore


H o ffm a n (1973) arg u es that few successful com m ercial a c
tors c o m e from the h o rd e s o f s tu d e n ts w h o g ra d u a te from
d r a m a p ro g ra m s every year. He also suggests th a t these
train ed a n d se m itra in e d people are im p o rta n t to the e c o n
o m y of the a rt world, provid ing the b a c k b o n e of s u p p o rt for
the c o m m erc ia l th e a te r (and especially its a v an t-g a rd e seg
m ent) in New York. As m u c h as 15 p ercen t of all th e a te r
tickets sold in New York a re sold to people stu d y in g d r a m a at
the tim e; they are especially likely to s u p p o rt ex p erim en ta l
w o rk s w h ich w ould have trouble a ttra c tin g the general p u b
lic, less a ttu n e d to the c o n v en tio n s of new work.
Those w h o have received training a n d n o w do so m eth in g
else m a y be a n additional, s u b sta n tia l portion of the public
for a n y art form . The a u d ie n c e for ballet, a n d especially for
m o d e rn d a n ce , p ro b a b ly consists in large p a rt of d an cers,
dancers-in-training, a n d people w h o once stu d ied dance.
Look at the a u d ie n c e at any d a n c e event. No eq u iv alen t
sa m p le of theater- o r c o n ce rtg o ers displays su ch erect c a r
riage, su c h self-conscious p la cem en t of feet a n d legs, such
w ell-m ain tain ed bodies.
Similarly, the th o u s a n d s of people w ho stu d y p h o to g ra p h y
every y e a r p ro d u c e few professional p h o to g ra p h e rs, people
w h o m a k e a living from the practice of p h o to g rap h y . N or do
th e y p r o d u c e m a n y art p h o to g ra p h e rs (the distinction is n e c
essary b e c a u se m a n y serious, c o n trib u tin g m e m b e rs of the
p h o to g ra p h ic art w orld do n o t e a rn a living in it, a n d even
those w h o do usually m a n a g e by teach in g a n d lecturing
ra th e r th a n bv selling p h o to g rap h s). But th ese people buy
p h o to g ra p h ic books, take classes a n d w orkshops, a n d a tten d
lectures, providing m o st of the eco n o m ic base for the w orld
of art p h o to g ra p h y . In addition, they pro v id e a large p a rt of
the e d u c a te d a u d ie n c e to w h o m p h o to g ra p h ic artists can
a d d re s s their w ork w ith s o m e h o p e o f being u n d e rsto o d .
H a n s H a a c k e 's polls of c o n te m p o ra ry gallerygoers show that
b e tw ee n 40 a n d 60 p e rc e n t are e ith e r artists o r art students,
s tu d e n ts c o n stitu tin g betw een 10 a n d 15 p ercen t (H aacke,
1976, pp. 17,42).
W h a t c o n v en tio n s do these people kn o w a n d resp o n d to?
54 C O N V E N T I O N S

W h a t p a rt can they th e refo re play in the p a tte r n e d c o o p e ra


tion th a t m a k e s u p an art w orld? In addition to w h a t well-
socialized m e m b e r s of the societv a n d serious au d ien c e
m e m b e r s know, this in n e r circle of the au d ien c e know s the
technical p ro b le m s of the c ra ft a n d the difficult problem s,
distinguishable from those of te ch n iq u e a n d craft, o f utiliz
ing technical m e a n s a n d abilities to provoke an em o tio n al
a n d aesthetic re sp o n se from a n audience. H aving been on
the o th e r side of the line th a t sep a rates p e rfo rm e rs a n d
c re a to rs from c o n su m e rs, as those roles are conventionally
distinguished, they can re sp o n d to the w ork with a fuller
u n d e rs ta n d in g of w h a t has been a tte m p te d a n d how even a
failure m ig h t be interesting. They are the m o st u n d e r s ta n d
ing a n d forgiving audience, on w h o m the riskiest experi
m e n ts m a y be a tte m p te d .
The three g ro u p s so far distinguished all p articip ate in the
art w orld prim arily as c o n s u m e rs o f art works, p u rc h a s e r s of
ob jects a n d books, a n d a u d ie n c e s at p e rfo rm a n ce s, a n d sec
ondarily as s tu d e n ts a n d train ees of varying seriousness.
They provide the m a te ria l s u p p o rt of m o n e y sp en t a n d the
aesthetic s u p p o rt of u n d e rs ta n d in g a n d response. The th re e
g ro u p s are related. The in n e rm o s t circle, p re se n t a n d ex
stu d en ts, serves as a distant, early-w arning system for less
a d v an c e d a u d ie n c e segm ents. They will risk m ore, m a k e a
g re a te r effort to learn new co n v en tio n s p ro p o sed by in n o v a
tors, ex perience a higher n u m b e r of failures a n d disasters,
a n d w aste m o re tim e on experiences th a t tu rn o u t to be of no
interest. They provide b o th kinds of s u p p o rt for the w idest
variety of a tte m p ts th e a rt w orld sp aw ns, a n d th u s e n co u ra g e
e x p erim e n ta tio n . They also help less a d v e n tu ro u s au d ien c e
seg m e n ts c atc h up w ith n e w e r d e v e lo p m e n ts by w eeding out
th e grossest a n d m o st obvious failures, the a tte m p ts w hich,
even by their ow n s ta n d a rd s , do not succeed. They th u s
a ssu re o th e rs th a t w h a t h a s survived this p relim in ary sorting
is w o rth a look; the a s s u ra n c e is ju s t w h at the o th e rs w ant. In
this way, less involved p a rtic ip a n ts see ju s t a few carefully
selected in n o v atio n s a n d new conventions, g u a ra n te e d in a
w ay th a t m a k e s th e m seem w o rth learning to appreciate.
55 C O N V E N T I O N S

W e know little a b o u t how critical assessm en ts of art are


p a ss e d a r o u n d a m o n g v arious a u d ie n c e segm ents. Elihu
K atz a n d Paul L azarsfeld (1955) p ro p o s e d a general two-step
m odel of influence, b a se d on studies of the distribution of
m a ss-m e d ia m essages: certain influential people paid m ore
a tte n tio n to the m edia, form ing firm er opinions, a n d o th e rs
in the c o m m u n ity paid a tte n tio n to th e m , taking m essag es
from a n d a b o u t the m edia filtered th ro u g h these m ore
k n o w led g eab le types. The s a m e m odel applied to doctors
learning to p re sc rib e a new drug: a few influential d o c to rs in
the c o m m u n ity w o u ld try the d ru g out; if they h a d no trouble
a n d fo u n d it useful, o th e r doctors, influenced by them , w ould
th e n begin using it (Coleman, Katz, a n d Menzel, 1966). We
need stu d ies w h ich tell us how, in specific a rt worlds, a s
se ssm e n ts of styles, genres, innovations, artists, a n d p a rtic u
lar w'orks are circulated. W ho tries things first? W ho listens
to a n d acts on their opinions? W hy are th e ir opinions re
spected? Concretely, h o w does the w o rd sp re a d from those
w h o see s o m e th in g n e w th a t it is w orth noticing? W hy does
a n y o n e believe them ?
An entirely different set of co n v en tio n s creates the basis
for the co o p erativ e activities of the people w h o c reate art
w orks a n d th e ir s u p p o rt personnel. M any of the p ro d u ctio n
c o n v en tio n s w hich m a k e c o o p e ra tio n possible are sim ple
fo rm s of s ta n d a rd iz a tio n w hich exem plify the philosophical
notion of co n vention analyzed by David K. Lewis (1969).
Lewis uses a technical lan g u ag e not really necessary here;
re a d e rs w h o find his analysis w o rth p u rs u in g should consult
th e original text. Briefly, Lewis w a n ts to u n d e r s ta n d how
people m a n a g e to c o o rd in a te their activities, how' (in s itu a
tions in w h ich all the a cto rs have a c o m m o n interest but it is
not c le a r w hich of the possible w avs of achieving it they
sh o u ld use) they m a n a g e to choose the s a m e o n e a n d th u s get
w h a t they w a n t d o n e w ith little w asted m otion. The easiest
w ay w ould be for the people involved to discuss the problem
a n d agree on the p ro c e d u re to be used. We often do that. But
w e even m o re often find it u n n e c e ssa ry becau se, we m ight
say, its obvious w h a t to d o , o r the m o s t n a tu ra l thing to
56 C O N V E N T I O N S

do is X , or if everyone does w h a t seem s easiest it will all


w o rk o u t O K , o r som e sim ilar form ula. We find th a t we can
achieve the desired co o rd in atio n w ith o u t c o m m u n ic a tio n .
H ow do we do it? By referring to a past solution to the
p ro b le m , well k n o w n to all the p a rtic ip a n ts a n d kno w n by
th e m to be well k n o w n to all the others. Given those c o n
ditions a n d ev eryone's desire to c o o rd in ate his o w n activ
ity, the easiest thing, a n d th e re fo re the m o st likely, is for
everyone to do w h a t everyone know s is the w ay ev ery o n e al
re ad y know s. This is easy to do b e ca u se ev ery o n e know s th a t
ev ery o n e will kn o w this . . . a n d so on th ro u g h as long a h ier
a rch y of su ch n e ste d ex p ectatio n s (usually n o t a very long
one) as is re q u ire d for e v ery o n e to convince him self th a t is
w h a t he o u g h t to do.
If the people involved all do the m o st likely thing, they will
achieve the result they w ant, a n d th u s increase the likelihood
th a t the next tim e a p ro b le m they define as sim ilar arises,
they will all use the sam e solution, a n d th a t will still f u rth e r
increase the likelihood th a t they will use the solution in the
fu tu re . . . a n d so on. The m e a n s everyone a d o p te d to solve
the p ro b le m o f c o o rd in a tio n is w h a t Lewis m e a n s by a
c o n v e n tio n , a n d it aptly d escrib es those sta n d a rd iz e d
m e a n s of doing things c h a ra cte ristic of all the arts. M any of
the things artists a n d s u p p o rt p e rso n n e l do in c o o rd in atin g
th e ir activities are c h o sen from a m o n g a range o f possible
w ay s of acco m p lish in g the sa m e thing, a n y one of w hich
w ould be a c c ep ta b le as long as everyone used it.
T h ere is no logical reason, for instance, to tu n e m usical
in s tru m e n ts to a co n cert A th a t is 440 vibrations p e r second,
no re a so n w hy th a t note should be called A instead o f Z, and
no reaso n w h y those notes sh o u ld be w ritten on a staff o f five
lines in stea d of four, six, o r seven. B ut everyone does it th a t
w ay a n d th u s any o n e p a rtic ip a n t can be s u re th a t w h a t he
d o es th a t w ay will be intelligible a n d easy to c o o rd in a te with.
R easo n enough.
S o m e of the co n v en tio n s w h ic h c o o rd in ate activity a m o n g
artists a n d s u p p o rt p e rso n n e l consist of ju s t such sim ple
sta n d a rd iz a tio n . W h e n a p a rtic u la r c o n v en tio n c an be tak en
for g ra n ted , w h e n a lm o st everyone involved a lm o st alw ays
57 C O N V E N T I O N S

docs things th a t way, the u n d e rs ta n d in g s th a t sh a p e the


c o n v e n tio n can be e m b o d ie d in p e r m a n e n t e q u ip m e n t. The
existence of su ch p e r m a n e n t e q u ip m e n t (expensive, it goes
w ith o u t saying) m a k e s it m o re likely th a t the conventional
w ay s of doing things will continue, b e c a u se a n y c h a n g e will
be expensive.
W hen c o n v e n tio n s are s ta n d a rd iz e d in this way, a n d e m
b o d ie d in p ra ctice s a n d e q u ip m e n t that are totally ta k e n for
g ra n ted , a n y o n e w ith experience in th e a rt c a n be c o u n te d on
to k n o w th a t basic m in im u m . It b e co m e s the a u to m a tic basis
on w hich the p ro d u c tio n of a rt w orks can proceed, even
a m o n g people deeply devoted to not doing things in the
c o n v e n tio n a l way. Thus, m ost m o d e rn dance, desig n ed not to
be like c o n v en tio n a l ballet, e n d s up p re su p p o s in g th a t r e
cruits will have h a d so m e ballet train in g a n d have acq u ire d
th e m uscles, habits, a n d u n d e rs ta n d in g s th a t co m e w ith su ch
training. E ven w hen you d o n 't w a n t to do w h a t is c o n v e n
tional, w h at you do w a n t to do c a n best be d e sc rib e d in the
la n g u ag e th a t c o m es from the conventions, for it is the one
la n g u ag e ev ery o n e knows.
E q u ip m e n t, in particular, p ro d u c e s this kind of universal
know ledge. W h e n the e q u ip m e n t e m b o d ie s the conventions,
the w av/ a co n v entional thirtv-five-millimetcr
/ c a m e r a em-
bodies the c o n v en tio n s of c o n te m p o ra ry p h o to g ra p h y , you
learn the c o n v en tio n s as you learn to work the m achinery.
T hus a n y o n e w h o can h a n d le the m a c h in e ry will know how
to d o the things n e c e ssa ry for c o o rd in a te d activity. The sam e
is tru e of m a n y o f the u n d e rs ta n d in g s asso ciated w ith c o n
ventional m usic; you learn th e m as you learn to m a n ip u la te
the in stru m e n t.
M an y co n v en tio n s grow up th ro u g h an in teractio n of
tech nical a n d o th e r con sid eratio n s. For m a n y years (roughly
the y e ars co v ered in Alec W ilder s A m erican Popular Song:
1900-1950), the A m erican p o p u la r song used, a lm o st exclu
sively, a th irty -tw o -b ar form o rg an ized in eig h t-b ar p h ra s e s
w ith the th e m e s a rra n g e d A-A-B-A a n d m elodies restricted to
a ra n g e o f a te n th o r less w ith intervals restricted to those
c o n ta in e d in the diatonic scale a n d the h a rm o n ie s re lated to
it; m o st p e rfo rm a n c e s of those songs consisted of two to
58 C O N V E N T I O N S

th re e choruses. The eight-bar p h ra se s a n d thirty-tw o-bar


fo rm a t were arb itrary ; the range a n d intervals used catered
to the lim ited training o f the vocalists w h o san g th e m a n d of
the lay public, w hich w as s u p p o se d to be able to sing th e m
too; th e n u m b e r of ch o ru ses reflected w h a t could be c o n
tained on the s ta n d a rd ten-inch seventy-eight-rpm record.
Using extrem ely s ta n d a rd iz e d conventions, artists can
c o o rd in a te their activity u n d e r the m o st difficult c irc u m
stances. W h en I played the p iano in Chicago n ig htclubs in
the 1940s, w e typically played seven o r eight h o u rs a night.
T ow ard the e n d of an evening, players got quite tired a n d
sleepy. 1 discovered th a t the e x tre m e conventionalization of
the p o p u la r songs we played m e a n t I could play w h e n I w as
half, o r m o re th a n half, asleep. I w ould often w ake up in the
m iddle of a song, getting lost only w hen I realized th a t I h a d
b e en asleep a n d c o n seq u en tly h a d no idea w h ere I was. Until
then, I m u s t have m a d e use of m y know ledge th a t all the
p h ra se s of the song w ere eight b a rs long, th a t they used only
a few c h o rd s from the m a n y possibilities available, a n d th a t
th o s e w ere a rra n g e d in a few s ta n d a rd iz e d ways. David
S u d n o w (1978) has d escribed the way these u n d e rsta n d in g s
get built into the p e rfo rm e r's physical re ac tio n s as well as his
cognitive e q u ip m e n t, so th a t playing while asleep b e co m es
u n d e rs ta n d a b le a n d u n re m a rk a b le .
B ecause e q u ip m e n t co m es to e m b o d y o n e set of c o n v e n
tions in su ch a coercive way, artists frequently exercise their
creativity by trying to m a k e e q u ip m e n t a n d m a teria ls do
things their m a k e rs never intended. P h o to g rap h ic e q u ip
m e n t has b e c o m e increasingly sta n d a rd iz e d as the in d u stry
b e co m e s c o n c e n tra te d in the h a n d s of a few co rp o ratio n s,
a n d art p h o to g ra p h e rs d ev o te m o re a n d m o re tim e a n d in
genuity to devising w ays to m a k e the m a terials still available
(not the only kinds th a t could be m ade, b u t the only kinds the
c o rp o ra tio n s involved m a rk e t in an easily accessible and
relatively inexpensive form ) do things they w ere not m a d e to
do. They m a n ip u la te filmsdesigned to be used with a s ta n
d a r d e x p o su re to p ro d u c e a s ta n d a r d negative th a t can be
p rin te d easily w ith conventional te c h n iq u e sto p ro d u c e a
quite different negative w hich can only be p rin te d by using
exotic d a rk ro o m techniques. M usicians m a k e so u n d s in v e n
59 C O N V E N T I O N S

tors a n d te ac h ers o f their in s tru m e n ts n ever h ad in m in d ; one


e x a m p le is playing directly on the strings of the p iano ra th e r
th a n hitting the keys.
S ta n d a rd iz e d co n v en tio n s built into e q u ip m e n t m e d iate
th e c o o p e ra tio n o f those seg m en ts of the art w o rld c o n
cern ed w ith e q u ip m e n t a n d m aterials. Since everyone know s
th e kinds of m a terials a n d e q u ip m e n t available, a sim ple
referen ce to a catalogue n u m b e r p ro d u c e s the desired result.
M a n u fa c tu re rs, suppliers, a n d re p a ir people co n stitu te a
stab le a n d q u ite conservative s e g m e n t of any art world, as do
th o s e p eo p le w h o m a n ip u la te e q u ip m e n t u n d e r the direction
of the artists: bricklayers ( u n d e r the direction of architects),
electricians ( u n d e r the d irection o f stage a n d film directors),
o r p rin te rs ( u n d e r the d irection of authors).
Artists learn o th e r c o n v e n tio n sprofessional c u ltu re in
the c o u rse o f train in g a n d as they p articip ate in the day-to-
d a y activities o f the art world. Only people w h o participate
regularly in those activities, practicin g professionals (h o w
ev er the p a rtic u la r w orld c ircu m sc rib e s th a t group), know
th a t culture. C o n ventions re p rese n t the c o n tin u in g a d ju s t
m e n t of the c o o p e ra tin g parties to the c h an g in g co n ditions in
w hich they practice; as co n ditions change, they change.
Schools teach a version of th a t a d ju s tm e n t th a t w as once
c u rre n t; it is seldom fully up-to-date, except w hen, rarely, the
tra in in g in stitu tio n is an integral p art o f the a rt w orld (that
m ight be tru e of innovative m o d e rn m usic in som e m usic
schools a n d university m usic d e p a rtm e n ts ). So you can only
learn c u rre n t co n v en tio n s by participating in w h a t is going on.
W orlds vary in how m u c h co o p eratio n they re q u ire b e
tw een the artists them selves. Poetry req u ires alm ost none.
Poets rely on o th e r poets prim arily as critics, fellow e x p e ri
m e n te rs, a n d a u d ien c e; they can p ro d u c e th e ir w ork w ithout
a n y help from o th e r poets, a n d rely prim arily on technical
p erso n n e l like p rin te rs a n d d istrib u to rs for su ch help as they
need. O rch estral m usic, ballet, d ra m a , a n d o th e r gro u p arts,
on the o th e r h a n d , necessarily involve the cooperative efforts
o f a variety o f artists; these w o rk in g g ro u p s have the m ost
fully d ev elo p ed sy stem s for quickly developing a n d tr a n s
m itting new conventions.
Since c o n v e n tio n s do not c h an g e all at once, m u c h of w hat
60 C O N V E N T I O N S

artists learn in their initial training will c o n tin u e to be useful


in c o o rd in atin g activity with others. Y oung jazz m usicians
learn early in their (largely inform al) training th a t the s ta n
d a rd p o p u la r songs on w hich m a n y jazz n u m b e rs are based
h a v e a n eight-bar m iddle section (the bridge") th a t takes
o n e of tw o h a rm o n ic form s, each n a m e d a fte r the well-
k n o w n song in w hich it ap p ea rs: a n "I Got R h y th m " bridge,
consisting of the following c h o rd s fo r two b a rs ap ieceIII7
(in the key of B flat, a D7 chord), VI7 (G7), 117 (C7), V7 ( F 7 ) - o r
a "H o n e y su c k le R ose" b rid g e17 (in the key o f F, F7), IV (B
flat), 117 (G7), V7 (C7). K now ing that, a n y o n e playing an
u n fa m ilia r tu n e can quickly learn eight of its b ars by being
told w hich sort of bridge it has, if it is one o f those s ta n d a rd
types. D ance m u sic ia n s in general learn, m o re o r less by
heart, a large n u m b e r of w ell-known songs, so th a t they can
im m ed ia tely p ro d u c e a p a ssab le ensem b le version of any of
th e m , w ith o u t w ritten m usic, on request. I realized I w as
o u td a te d as a pianist for w eddings, b a r m itzvahs, s u p e r m a r
ket em ployees' C hristm as parties, a n d the o th e r e n g a g e
m e n ts at w hich d a n c e m usician s p e rfo rm w h e n I discovered
th a t it w as no longer e n o u g h to know songs. I learn ed one
night, w h en a b a n d le a d e r called, not a song b u t "M y Fair
L a d y " I w as re q u ire d to kn o w the entire sco re of all the
c u r r e n t B ro a d w a y m usical com edies, c o m p lete with key
changes. H aving been aw ay from the business for a while, I
h ad fallen b e h in d in m v stock of w h a t w as th e n conventional
know ledge, a n d could n o longer hold m y ow n on jo b s th a t
re q u ire d th a t know ledge. Y ounger players, co m in g into the
b u sin ess later, p re su m a b ly h a d le arn e d all th a t ju s t as I h a d
a c q u ire d the stock of songs sufficient in m y youth.
The m a tte rs to be c o o rd in a te d in the p ro d u c tio n a n d
p re p a ra tio n of a specific p e rfo rm a n c e are seldom so cut-
and-dried. E v en quite sta n d a rd iz e d p e rfo rm a n c e s allow o p
tional m e th o d s of doing som e things. Violinists have to d e
cide how a passage they are playing to g e th e r should be
b o w e d a n d w h a t kind of a tta c k should be used. B rass players
w ho play in b o th d a n c e b a n d s a n d c o n ce rt g ro u p s have
to establish h o w g ro u p s of c o n n e c te d eighth notes will
be played: given even value, as in co n v en tional c o n ce rt p e r
61 C O N V E N T I O N S

fo rm a n c e ( J j j l ) o r with the first n ote of each p air


slightly longer as in jazz ( i* J / JJ' Jjk ). A conventional
language allows these m a tte r s to be discussed a n d settled
expeditiously.
M atters o f in te rp re ta tio n m a tte r s allowing m ore th a n one
m o d e of p e r f o r m a n c e play an even larger role in d r a m a
th a n in m usic, since a typical script specifies m u c h less of
w h a t is to be d o n e th a n does a typical m usical score. In
establishing an in terpretation, a cto rs a n d directors use a
co n v entional language, largely m ethodological, that fu r
nishes the te rm s in w hich such m a tte rs as w h ere actors
s h o u ld m ove, how long they sh o u ld delay before proceeding
w ith the next sp eech o r action, w h ere they sh o u ld look while
o th e rs are sp ea k in g or moving, a n d so on can be discussed
a n d settled (the relevant te rm s are blocking, beats, a n d focus
[Lyon, 1975]).
Art w orlds so m e tim e s splin ter a n d turn into relatively a u
to n o m o u s su b g ro u p s. W hen that h a p p e n s, p a rtic ip a n ts in
each of the splinters know, a n d b ecom e responsible for
knowing, s o m e w h a t different sets o f conventions. People
w h o play w h at has c o m e to be called new m usic" find that
c o m p o s e rs w a n t them to m a k e so u n d s not conventionally
m a d e on th e ir in stru m e n ts. Most players originally learn
th ese from , o r w ork th e m o u t in co n su ltatio n with, the c o m
p o se r o r s o m e o n e with w h o m they have personal contact.
But as p e rfo rm a n c e of the m u sic b e c o m e s m o re w idespread,
players w h o have not h ad personal access to c o m p o se rs
c o n fro n t scores using u n fa m ilia r a n d u n c o n v e n tio n a l n o ta
tion (sec figure 9) to d e n o te effects that w ere know n, though
not usually n o ta te d , o r w ere previously u n u se d . Thus, c la r
inet players m ight find in their p a rt n o te s m a rk e d half-open
a n d half-blacked-in, d e n o tin g q u a r te r tones, (like this: J o r f )
o r m a rk e d with w edges ( ) o r o th e r devices to indicate a
slap -to n g u e effect. They can c reate th o se so u n d s, b u t players
m u st know o r be tau g h t w h a t is w a n te d so that the n o tatio n is
m u tu a lly u n d e rsto o d . T h e n c o m p o se rs can use the n o tatio n
to get the s o u n d they w ant, players can know they are m a k
ing the s o u n d s w an ted , a n d the tw o p arties to the p e rfo r
m a n c e c a n c o o rd in ate their activity. (See Rehfeldt, 1977, a
62 C O N V E N T I O N S

i?JT7Tnn

FORMAT 2 fit s>tnn iv H tn '.n m y s w

FIGURE 9. Score of Randolph Coleman's Format II. Contem


porary composers use forms o f notation that are not widely known.
Players who can play works written in conventional notation with
out trouble require special explanations and training to play such
new music. (Score courtesy of the composer and Smith Publica
tions. Copyright 1977 by Smith Publications, all rights reserved.)

h a n d b o o k trying to bring som e o rd e r into new n o tations a n d


effects for instrum entalists.)
The m e c h a n is m s w hich p ro d u c e a n d m a in ta in a p ro fe s
sional culture can b re a k dow n, a n d w hen th a t h a p p e n s, the
ability of professionals to w ork to g e th er breaks do w n as well.
R obert L ern er show s h o w su ch sim ple m a tte rs as p e n m a n
ship a n d spelling n e e d e d sta n d a rd iz a tio n in the M iddle Ages
before literature could be a practical activity:
After the fall of Rome, regional diversity in handwriting
had become extreme, and writing had become difficult to read
63 C O N V E N T I O N S

because scribes in some areas preferred to write very esoteri-


callv, using difficult signs and swirls, and because in others
they became careless and sloppy. Communication and edu
cation could not spread until this tendency was reversed.. . .
Though the then current cursive scripts increased speed in
writing by the use ot ligatures between letters, they were all
but illegible and gradually in the late eighth century were
replaced by a script known as Carolingian miniscule, charac
terized by small, separate and highly legible letters.. .. Soon
all Western Europe was using the same script, and m anu
scripts became easier to read not only because the new script
was so legible but because spaces and phrases were initiated
by capitals in contrast to the older Roman practice of omitting
spaces and punctuation. (Lerner, 1974, pp. 18284)

W ith o u t th a t sim ple stan d a rd iz atio n , literary a rt w ould be


im possible. We will see later h o w th e s p re a d of su ch s ta n
d a rd iza tio n m a k e s the b o u n d a rie s of an art world.
K now ledge of professional culture, then, defines a g ro u p
of practicin g professionals w h o use certain conventions to go
a b o u t th e ir artistic business. M ost of w h at thev know thev
learn in the c o u rse of th e ir daily practice, and, as a general
rule, n o n e of the a rt w o rld s o th e r p a rtic ip an ts need to knowr
su c h things to play their parts. These u n d e rs ta n d in g s facili
tate getting the w ork done, b u t o n e n e ed not k n o w th e m to
u n d e rs ta n d the works them selves. The g ro u p defined by
know ledge of these w orking co n v en tio n s can re a so n a b ly be
th o u g h t of as th e in n e r circle of the a rt world.
S m aller g ro u p s form within the b ro ad outlines of an art
world. E very art w ork creates a w orld in som e respects
unique, a c o m b in a tio n of vast a m o u n ts o f co n v en tional m a
terials w ith som e th a t are innovative. W ith o u t the first, it b e
co m es unintelligible; w ith o u t th e second, it b e co m es boring
a n d featureless, fading into the b a c k g ro u n d like m usic in
s u p e rm a rk e ts a n d p ic tu re s on m otel walls. The variations
m a y be so sm all that only an aficionado w ould notice
them , o r so obvious no o n e could ignore them . In either
case, given the w w ld they are m a d e in a n d the a u d ie n c e
they a re p re se n te d to, th e re w ill be m o re o r lessbut usually
so m e n e w m aterial to be learned, m aterial specific to the
piece itself.
64 C O N V E N T I O N S

Artists usually develop their ow n innovative m a terials


o v e r a period o f time, creating a body of co n vention peculiar
to their ow n work. (G roups of artists frequen tly collaborate
in th e d e v elo p m e n t of in n o v atio n s so th a t schools a n d a rtis
tic sects develop ch ara cte ristic co n v en tio n s as well.) Those
w h o co llab o rate with them , especially audiences, learn these
m o re particular, peculiar, a n d idiosyncratic co n v en tio n s in
the course of ex perience w ith individual w orks a n d bodies of
work. The artist m a y be learning th e m in the sa m e way, in the
course of the p ro d u c tio n of a w o rk o r body of w ork, o r m ay
have developed th e m in e x p erim en ts never m a d e public.
So each work, a n d each artist's body of work, invites us
into a w orld defined in p a rt by the use of m a terials h ith erto
u n k n o w n a n d th e refo re not at first com pletely u n d e r s t a n d
able. People w h o co n tin u e to a tte n d to the new work, despite
its initial unintelligibility, m ay learn e n o u g h to in te rp re t it.
The new m a terials then b e co m e conventional in the te c h n i
cal sense used above, being m utually u n d e rsto o d by the
p a rtie s involved so th a t they can a ssu m e th a t everyone in
volved k n o w s a n d will use th em in in terp retin g a n d re
s p o n d in g to the w orks in question. This involves few er p e o
ple th a n the m o re general cases previously discussed, the
p a rtic ip a n ts being restricted to the p ro d u c e r of the w orks
a n d those a u d ie n c e m e m b e r s w ho h a v e m a d e the effort a n d
e x p e n d e d the tim e necessary to learn the co n v en tio n s p e c u
liar to the w ork o r to the larger body of the a rtis ts w ork.
This is w h a t it m e a n s to be a M ozart buff o r a Charlie P arker
fan.
A udiences learn u n fa m ilia r con ventions by experiencing
th e m , by in te ra ctin g w ith th e w ork and, frequently, with
o th e r people in relation to the w ork. They see a n d h e a r the
new e le m e n t in a variety of contexts. The artist te a c h e s them
w h a t it m ean s, w h a t it can do, a n d how they m ight e x p e
rience it by creatin g those contexts. Thus, R o b e rt F ran k is
widely cred ited with in tro d u c in g a new ic o n o g rap h y into
c o n te m p o r a ry p h o to g ra p h y , giving a new sym bolic value to
flags, crosses, autom obiles, a n d o th e r c o m m o n p la c e ele
m e n ts o f the u r b a n la n d sc a p e (see figure 10). By consistently
show ing the A m erican flag being tre a te d casually, even c o n
te m p tu o u s ly as a d e co ra tio n in a recruiting c e n te r m a n n e d
FIGURE 10. Robert Frank, Navy Recruiting Station, Post Of
ficeButte, Montana. Artists teach their audiences a new language.
Robert Frank taught a generation of photographers and viewers to
see in such objects as cars, flags, and crosses the special symbolism
he gave them in the context o f his book, The Americans. (From
The Americans, 1959; undated black and white photograph, cour
tesy o f the artist.)
66 C O N V E N T I O N S

by a n em p lo y ee w h o se feet are on the desk, o r as p a rt o f the


a p p a r a tu s of a c o m m ercia l signhe te ac h es us to experience,
w h en we see it, s o m e th in g o th e r th a n the p atrio tic sen ti
m e n ts it ordinarily evokes. T h at use of flags a n d sim ilar
secular a n d religious sym bols, m o re o r less original with
F ra n k a n d u n fa m ilia r to viewers at first, is now p a rt of the
s ta n d a r d language o f c o n te m p o ra ry "socially conscious"
p h o to g ra p h y . Originally F r a n k s language, to be learn ed
from him in o rd e r to in te rp re t a n d u n d e r s ta n d his work, it is
n o w c o m m o n parlan ce.
E ach w ork in itself, by virtue of its differences (how ever
sm all or insignificant) from all o th e r w orks, th u s te ac h es its
a u d ie n c e s so m eth in g new : a new sym bol, a n e w form , a new
m o d e of p resen tatio n . M ore im p o rta n t, the entire body of
w ork bv a single artist o r g ro u p gradually, as innovations
develop (p e rh a p s th ro u g h an artist's entire career), te ac h es
the new m a terial to so m a n y people th a t we can sp eak of
the training of a n audience. A trivial exam ple: the a u d ien ces
of p o p u la r rad io a n d television p ro g ra m s learn to a n tici
p a te re m a rk s a n d jo k e s th e y have learned will a p p e a r s o m e
tim e d u rin g e a c h p e rfo rm a n ce . W h en F ib b er McGee finally
o p e n e d his closet d o o r a n d everything in it fell, a n d fell, a n d
f e l l . . . the a u d ie n c e h ad beg u n to laugh long b efo re the closet
d o o r o p e n e d a n d the falling began, having learned to laugh at
the very possibility. A m o re serious exam ple: serious c o m
posers te ac h their a u d ie n c e s new h a rm o n ic usage a n d new
form s, as D ebussy ta u g h t listeners to h e a r a n d re sp o n d to the
"o rien talism " of the w hole-tone scale a n d W eb ern ta u g h t
th e m to h e a r m elodic fra g m e n ts distributed, note by note,
a m o n g a com plex of in s tru m e n ts instead of being played in
en tirety by one.
The g ro u p w hich u n d e rs ta n d s these artist-specific c o n
ventions m a y be quite e p h em e ral, m a y not even m erit being
called a group: all the people w h o have learned to read
Dickens c a n n o t be called a group; they n ever act together.
They have ju s t m a d e the sam e choice from easily available
literary m aterials. T hey m a y not be able to m a k e the c o n
ventions of Dickens' fiction explicitm a y not be able to ex
plain how he m a k e s c h a ra c te rs into c aric atu res a n d back
67 C O N V F . N T I O N S

a g a in but they kn o w how to resp o n d to those well-known


conventions.
On the o th e r han d , w hen th e c o n v en tio n s of a piece o r a
b o d y o f w o rk are truly innovative, n e v er widely know n or
k n o w n at all, people w h o b e c o m e interested in the new w ork
are n o t sim ply choosing a m o n g kno w n rep u tatio n s, b u t arc
en gaging in an actio n that d e m a n d s so m e th in g m o re of
th e m . They often c a n n o t sim ply follow an im pulse o r satisfy
a curiosity b u t m u st act in c o n c e rt w ith o th e rs w ho s h a re
their interest, o r else th e m a terial th a t interests th e m will not
be available at all. They m a y find it necessary, desirable, or
useful to join o rg an izatio n s w hich p ro m o te their interest in
m o d e r n d ance, su b sc rib e to q u a rterlies specializing in e x
p e rim e n ta l fiction, show up for the one occasion on w hich a
new film can be viewed, a n d so on. It w ould be e x tra v a g a n t to
say that the p eo p le w h o do this co n stitu te a g ro u p w hich
routinely acts together, b u t they arc not an aggregate of
totally u n c o n n e c te d individuals. They are, in so m e sense,
en g ag e d in a jo in t effort to m a k e the conventions w hose
innovative c h a ra c te r interests th e m m o re widelv know n o r at
least viable as o n e of the reso u rces of an art.
To su m m a riz e , various g ro u p s a n d su b g ro u p s sh are know l
edge of the co n v en tio n s c u rre n t in a m e d iu m , having a c
q u ired th a t know ledge in v arious ways. Those w ho sh are
su c h know ledge can, w hen the occasion d e m a n d s o r perm its,
act to g e th er in w ays that are part of the co o p erativ e w eb of
activity m ak in g th a t w orld possible a n d ch aracterizing its
existence. To sp eak of the org an izatio n of th e a rt w o rld its
division into a u d ie n c e s of v arious kinds, a n d p ro d u c e rs a n d
s u p p o rt p e rso n n e l of various k in d sis a n o th e r w ay of talking
a b o u t w h o k now s w h at a n d uses it to act together.
3 Mobilizing
I T W A S M o n sieu r Tuttin w h o w as alw ays given Pablo
[Picasso] 5 w o rk to print, since P ablos disregard fo r
co nventional lithographic processes created all kin d s o f
problem s fo r the printers. The difficulty was, M onsieur
Tuttin did not like P a b lo s w ork. In fact, he detested it.
Pablo h a d done a lithograph o f one o f his pigeons in
a highly u n co n ven tio n a l way. The b ackground coat was
in black lithographic ink a n d the pigeon itself h a d been
painted on top o f that in w hite gouache. Since litho
graphic ink has w a x in it, gouache norm ally w o u ld n 7
ta k e very well but in spite o f that fact, Pablo h a d car
ried it o ff brilliantly on the lithographic paper. W hen
M ourlot [proprietor o f the lithographic print shop ] cam e
to the R u e des G rands-A ugustins a n d sa w w hat Pablo
h a d done, he said, H o w do yo u expect us to print that?
It's not possible. H e p o in ted ou t to Pablo that in theory,
w h e n the d ra w in g w as transferred fro m the paper to
the stone, the gouache w o u ld protect the stone a n d the
ink w o u ld run only o nto those parts w here there was
no gouache; but, on the o th er hand, on contact w ith the
liquid ink the gouache itself w o u ld surely dissolve, at
least in part, a n d run.
You give it to M o n sieu r Tuttin; he'll k n o w h o w to
handle it, Pablo told him.
The next tim e w e w ent to M ourlot's shop, M onsieur
Tuttin w as still fu ssin g a b o u t the pigeon. N obody ever
did a thing like that before, " he fum ed. I can 7 w ork
on it. It w ill never co m e out.
I'm sure yo u can handle it, Pablo said. Besides, I
have an idea M adam e Tuttin w o u ld be very happy to
have a p r o o f o f the pigeon. I'll inscribe it to her.
A n y th in g but, M o n sieu r Tuttin replied in disgust.
Besides, w ith that gouache yo u've p u t on, it w ill never
w o r k ."
A ll right, then, Pablo said. I'll take y o u r daughter
ou t to d in n e r so m e evening a n d tell her w hat k in d o f a
printer her fa th er is. " M o n sie u r Tuttin looked startled.
I k n o w , o f course, Pablo w en t on, that a jo b like that

68
69 M O B I L I Z I N G R E S O U R C E S

m ight he a little difficult fo r m ost o f the people a ro u n d


here, but I had an ideam istakenly, I can see n o w
that yo u were probably the one m a n w ho could do it.
Finally, his professional pride at stake, M onsieur Tuttin
gave in grudgingly.
G i j .o t and L a k h , 1964, p . 86*

M aking art w o rk s of a n y kind requires resources. What


re so u rc e s d e p e n d s on the m e d iu m a n d th e kind o f w ork
being m a d e in it. L ithography, as a n y o n e p ractices it, re
q u ires lithographic stones, inks, a n d crayons. As Picasso
p ra c tic e d it, it also req u ired M. T u ttin 's virtuoso skills. Poetry
re q u ire s very little: pencil a n d p a p e r and, in the e x tre m e case
o f orally p re se rv e d w orks, not even that, ju s t a good m em o ry .
G ra n d o p e ra (as usually p e rfo rm e d ) req u ires vast a m o u n ts
o f m aterial re so u rc e scostum es, stage sets, lights, m usical
scores a n d co p ied parts, th e a te rs w ith e la b o ra te technical
a p p a r a tu s a n d p e rso n n e lm usicians, singers, p ro d u c tio n
tech n ician s, a n d p eo p le to h a n d le finances. E very a r t form
req u ires so m e su ch m ix ture, sim ple or com plex, large o r
small, m o st falling s o m e w h e re b e tw ee n the e x trem es of
o p e ra a n d poetry.
As artists c o n te m p la te th e m a k in g of a work, they think
a b o u t w h ere a n d how they c a n get such resources. Are such
re so u rce s available at all? Does a n y o n e m ak e that m aterial?
Are th e re a n y people train ed to do w h a t 1 w a n t done? If the
re so u rc e s exist, can I get th em ? H ow m u c h will it cost? Will
those people w o rk with me? W h at have I got th a t they want,
o r w h a t c a n I get th a t they w ant? H ow arc art w orlds o r g a n
ized so th a t artists can ro u tin ely find the re so u rce s they
need to do w h at they w a n t to do?
H o w ev e r artists get resources, the d istrib u tio n system , by
m a k in g available som e kinds of m aterials a n d p e rso n n e l and
n o t others, m a k e s the w orks which rely on easily gotten
re so u rc e s m o re likely th a n those for w h ich reso u rces are

* F ro m Life w ith Picasso, bv F ran g o isc Gilot a n d Carlton Lake. C o p y


r ig h t 1964 by F ra n g o is e Gilot a n d C a rlto n Lake. U sed w ith the p e rm issio n
o f M cGraw-Hill B ook C o m p a n y .
70 M O B I L I Z I N G R E S O U R C E S

m o re difficult to get. These system s, m oreover, do n o t n e c


essarily provide ju st w h a t artists need, b e ca u se the people
w h o ru n th e m have th e ir o w n needs, am bitions, a n d o rg a n i
zational im peratives. The re q u ire m e n ts o f artists figure in
their calculations w ith o u t necessarily d e term in in g the result.
C ooperative links with the people w h o furnish resources,
b o th m a terial a n d h u m a n , are a ch aracteristic featu re of any
art world.
E le a n o r Lyon (1974) has su g g ested the idea of a pool of
re so u rce s as a way o f thinking a b o u t these processes. If
people w h o w ork in a p a rtic u la r m e d iu m need paints, in
s tru m e n ts, o r p h o to g ra p h ic p aper, o r actors, m usicians, c a m
e ra m e n , o r d an cers, they will find, m o re o r less available, a
pool of su ch m a terials o r people from w hich they can choose
w h at they w ant. H o w m u c h choice the pool aff o rds them , the
quality of its m e m b e rs, a n d the te rm s on which they are
available all vary. R eso u rce pools grow up in resp o n se to a
real o r im agined d e m a n d for those resources. Factories
m a n u f a c tu r e p a in ts a n d m e rc h a n ts stock th e m in the belief
th a t they can be sold, ju st as y o u n g people learn to play the
tu b a o r d a n c e on their toes in the belief th a t s o m e o n e will
w a n t th e m to exercise those skills professionally. In both
cases the belief m a y be u n fo u n d e d , the paints unsold, the
y o u n g artists d isa p p o in te d in th e ir am bitions.
M a n u fa c tu re rs a n d d istrib u to rs of m aterials, a n d the p e r
sonnel in talent pools, do not a ct simply to satisfy the re
q u ire m e n ts of artists. They have their ow n p re feren c es a n d
re q u ire m en ts. If rising interest ra tes raise a m e r c h a n t s cost
of m a in ta in in g an inventory, you m a y not be able to find a
c o m p lete selection of colors easily, or at all. Y oung p e o p le s
interest in guitars a n d d r u m s m ay m e a n the s y m p h o n y o r
c h e s tra s do n o t have as m a n y string players to choose from
as they w o u ld like. M ore generally, the people w h o control
th e c o n te n t of a re so u rc e pool m u s t c o n te n d with th e ir ow n
c o n stra in ts a n d exigencies, w hich affect w h a t artists have to
w ork with. B ecause the fo rm a tio n of perso n n el pools takes
longer a n d involves su c h different investm ents, I will c o n
sider th e m sep arately from pools of m aterial resources.
71 M O B I L I Z I N G R E S O U R C E S

M ATERIAL R E SO U R C E S

W h e th e r artists need specialized m a terials th a t no one else


has a n y use for, o r w h e th e r they can use s ta n d a r d m a terials
alread y easily available, affects the w o rk they do. W hat m a
terials are available, a n d on w h a t term s, d e p e n d s on the w ay
the society organizes p ro d u c tiv e e c o n o m ic activity. In w h a t
follows, I will talk m ostly a b o u t the m a rk e ts ch aracteristic of
m a n y c o n te m p o r a ry societies.
S o m e m ed ia require goods designed a n d m a n u fa c tu re d
especially for th em : oil p ain ts in sm all tubes, m usical in s tru
m e n ts a n d their accessories, ballet shoes. The m a n u f a c tu r e
of su ch item s is fre q u en tly so technical a specialty that the
artists w h o use th em c a n n o t p ro d u c e the item s them selves
(though som e m a k e it th e ir business to do ju s t th a t a n d such
item s as b a sso o n reeds are typically m a d e by their users).
O th er m e d ia require ra w m a teria ls th a t can be ex tracted
from n a tu re by a n y o n e w h o w a n ts to b o th e r: w ood sculptors
look for felled trees people will let th e m haul away. Still
o th e rs require n o th in g m o re th a n m a terials easily available
to anyone, o rd in a ry stuff ro u tin ely fu rn ish ed for o th e r p u r
poses. So poets use ty p ew riters and p a p e r available for ro u
tine bu sin ess a n d p e rso n a l use, sculptors use w elding e q u ip
m e n t a n d m etal available for ro u tin e m a n u fa c tu rin g p u r
poses, a n d visual artists occasionally take a d v a n ta g e of the
availability of o rd in a ry h o u s e h o ld furnishings a n d foodstuffs
in their work.
W hen artists use m a terials m a n u fa c tu re d for nonartistic
p u rp o s e s a n d widely used by nonartists, they are least c o n
stra in ed by the c o n v en tio n s o f a rt worlds. On the o th e r han d ,
they are stuck with w h a t o th e r people need for o th e r p u r
poses a n d th u s m a k e easily available. B ecause this is usually
the c h e a p e s t w ay to get w o rk m aterials, artists w h o have little
or no m o n e y often use it, for su c h m a terials are everyw here
to beg, borrow , o r steal. W hen the Tactile Art G roup (a s e m
in ar led by Philip B ric k m an a n d m yself at N o rth w e ste rn
w hich u n d e rto o k to invent a new art form ) p r o d u c e d its first
w orks, a lm o st every tactile artist u s e d stuff fo u n d in the
72 M O B I L I Z I N G R E S O U R C E S

average g ra d u a te s tu d e n t a p a rtm e n t, especially food: flour,


Jello, beans, fruits a n d vegetables in various m ixtures, c o n
tain ed in o rd in a ry kitchen containers, designed to be felt by
a u d ien c e m e m b e rs. O th er w orks w en t a little fa rth e r afield
a n d u se d s a n d p a p e r a n d o th e r b a s e m e n t a n d garage items.
No special a p p a r a tu s n e ed be c o n stru c te d to provide these
m a terials for art works. The o rd in a ry w orkings of the c o n
s u m e r e c o n o m y p ro d u c e its typical p ro d u cts, usually a
sizable variety from an artist's viewpoint. C o n su m e r d e m a n d
in the U nited S tates for various kinds of w riting a n d typing
p a p e r p ro d u c e s as m u c h variety o f color, size, a n d quality as
any visual artist m ight ordinarily n e e d for use in collages a n d
con stru ctio n s, a n d certainly a g re ate r variety th a n even the
m o st n e u ro tic novelist o r p oet m ig h t need to stim u la te liter
ary invention. (P apers m a d e specifically for the use o f visual
artists are a n o th e r story.) The reso u rce pool available for
o rd in a ry activities includes w h a te v e r these artists need.
S o m e th in g sim ilar o c cu rs w h e n artists use re so u rc e s
c re a te d for industrial o r co m m ercial use, alth o u g h h e re the
pool m a y be m o re limited, e ith e r b e ca u se industrial a p p lic a
tions do not d e m a n d as great a variety of m a terials or b e
c au se artists a re n o t a w a re of w h ere they c a n be found. The
p h o to g ra p h ic in d u stry does not p ro d u c e m a terials primarily,
or even secondarily, for a rt p h o to g ra p h e rs. On the contrary,
it p ro d u c e s prim arily for eith er the co m m ercial m a rk e t (c o m
m ercial p h o to g ra p h s o r a variety of industrial applications)
o r the h o m e s n a p s h o t m ark et, neith er of w hich requires the
variety artists m ight like to have easily available. But the
s a m e in d u stry p ro d u c e s m a terials th a t p h o to g ra p h e rs have
only recently discovered c a n be used to color im ages in
w ay s th a t do n o t require e la b o ra te d a rk ro o m e q u ip m e n t or
p ro c ed u re s. In short, in dustrial-co m m ercial d e m a n d p ro
d u c es a varied re so u rce pool, b u t artists m ay not be as aw are
of it as they are o f ordinarily available h o u seh o ld goods.
M any items, of course, are m a d e specifically for a rt uses,
m usical in s tru m e n ts a n d p a p e r m a d e for the visual arts b e
ing clear exam ples. M a n u fa c tu re rs of these item s are integral
p a rts of the m usic a n d a rt worlds. They m a n u f a c tu r e for an
a rt w orld a n d are sensitive to w h a t they th in k its m e m b e rs
73 M O B I L I Z I N G R E S O U R C F. S

w a n t, a n d artists rely on their p ro d u cts, having le arn e d in


their form ative years to do w h a t c a n be d o n e with the m a
terials available. In s tru m e n t m a k e rs are p e rm a n e n t m e m
bers of the a rt world. While sensitive to w h a t artists need,
they also c o n stra in artists by w h a t they provide. W hat they
m a k e o rd inarily satisfies m o st of the w o rk e rs in a m e d iu m ,
ju s t b e c a u se those w o rk e rs are used to w orking w ith those
m aterials.
At the s a m e time, a n d for th e s a m e reasons, w h a t m a n u
fa c tu re rs m a k e typically fails to m eet the n e e d s of people
w h o are trying to c re a te so m e th in g new (or, for th a t m atter,
s o m e th in g old) in a m ed iu m . T he m o re m a teria ls a n d e q u ip
m e n t are a d a p te d to doing o n e kind o f th in g well, the less
a d a p te d they a re to doing s o m e o th e r things. If you c o n stru c t
a m usical in s tr u m e n t like a s a x o p h o n e to play the tones of
the c h ro m a tic scale, it is ill-adapted to playing q u a r te r tones
or m ic ro to n es; for th a t p u rp o se, you m u st design a n d build
entirely new in s tru m e n ts. S o m e artists, similarly, have found
th a t the su p p liers of p a p e rs do not m a k e w h a t they w an t for
th e ir work, so they have ta k e n up the c raft of p a p e rm a k in g .
In th e process, they have le arn e d to exploit the artistic
possibilities o f p a p e r in n e w ways, in c o rp o ra tin g into the
b o d y of the p a p e r itself som e of w h a t they m ight otherw ise
have ap p lied to its surface.
H ow m u c h c o n v en tio n al m a te ria ls c o n strain an artist
d e p e n d s in p a rt on h o w m onopolistic the m a rk e t is. If only
o n e o r a few m a n u f a c tu r e r s d o m in a te the m a r k e t (in the
m o st e x tre m e case the state c o n tro ls m a n u fa c tu rin g , so th a t
all p ro d u c tio n decisions are centraliz.cd), su ch m on o p o lists
m a y be relatively insensitive to w h at artistic m inorities w a n t
o r need. Take the m a n u f a c tu r e of p h o to g ra p h ic m aterials.
G eorge E a s tm a n , the fo u n d e r o f E a s tm a n K odak, h ad a gift
fo r discovering potentially com petitive p ro cesses a n d getting
c o m m e rc ia l control of th e m (Jenkins, 1975). This has h a d
serious c o n s e q u e n c e s for a rt p h o to g ra p h e rs. Only a few
c o m p a n ie s m a k e the p a p e r on w hich p h o to g ra p h e rs print,
a n d thev often d isc o n tin u e m a teria ls artists use for re a so n s
h av ing to do w ith their ow n internal o p eratio n s. F o r exam ple,
m a n y p h o to g ra p h e r s le a rn e d to take a d v a n ta g e of the e m o
74 M O B I L I Z I N G R E S O U R C E S

tional a n d aesth etic effects m a d e possible by R ecord Rapid, a


w a rm -to n e d , b ro w n ish p a p er, the only su ch p a p e r to have
su rvived th e increasing c o n c e n tra tio n of m a n u f a c tu r in g in
the h a n d s of a few firms. W hen Agfa sto p p e d m a k in g it, they
h a d to develop n e w artistic strategies w hich did n o t re q u ire
th a t p ro d u c t.
H o w m u c h d e p e n d e n c e on m a n u f a c tu r e r s a n d suppliers
in a n a rt w orld c o n stra in s a n artist dep en d s, too, on how
sim ilar the w o rk s in th a t w orld are. If artists agree on w h at
sort of w ork is good a n d ought to be done, available m aterials
will p ro b a b ly be limited to w h a t is n e e d e d to do th a t kind of
work. If the art w orld's rep erto ire is m o re varied, m a n u
fa ctu rers will p ro b a b ly c a te r to th a t variety. If the e c o n o m y
p e rm its a n d re w a rd s su ch activity, som e e n tre p r e n e u rs will
find it w o rth the risk to c a te r to even a small, m inority m a r
ket. These suppliers often provide the basic m a terials n e ed e d
to m a n u f a c tu r e w h a t m o re co n v entional w o rk e rs m ig h t buy,
a n d sell to people p re p a r e d to do so m e o f the w ork ordinarily
d o n e for artists by larger m a n u fa c tu re rs . The flavor o f su c h
an e n te rp rise a p p e a rs in this q u o ta tio n from the catalogue of
a sm all firm w h ich sells chem icals to p h o to g ra p h e rs w ho
w a n t to use printing m a terials not co m m ercially available:
the ability to work these processes, from home made prep
arations, enables you to exercise more control and to ensure
that your particular working method isnt discontinued by the
manufacturer.. . . Beyond that, you will have become the kind
of person who can improvise something new, perhaps some
thing better. These processes, not particularly difficult, are
in that spirit of creativity, self-determination, and self-
reliance. . . . (Photographers Formulary: Chemical and Lab
oratory Resources, Catalog III, 1979, my emphasis)
S u p p liers of m a terials d o n o t alw ays c o n strain w h a t a r t
ists do. F rom tim e to tim e inven tors c reate new kinds of
e q u ip m e n t a n d m a terials which, w h en m a d e available to
artists, c re a te new artistic opp o rtu n ities. The Xerox a n d 3-M
CoIor-in-Color m ach in es, a n d m a c h in e ry designed to tr a n s
m it im ages over telep h o n e lines, have m a d e possible a new
kind o f visual im age. Artists c a n now, for instance, p ro d u c e
color by the direct ap p licatio n of h e a t to p a p e r, a n d then
75 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

tra n s fo rm those colored im ages by m a n ip u la tin g a m a


c h in e s filters. They c a n c re a te vertical a n d h o rizontal tr a n s
fo rm a tio n s of im a g ery by m a n ip u la tin g the sp ee d s at w hich
they ru n the receivers a n d tra n s m itte rs of a teleprinter. These
electronic im aging m ach in es, designed for c o m m e rc ia l use,
have s p a w n e d a n e w field of visual art called generative
sy ste m s . (T hom pson, 1975, describes this d e v e lo p m e n t and
gives a n u m b e r of e x a m p le s of the kind of w o rk p ro d u ced .)
C o m p u te r p ro g ra m s w hich p ro d u c e a g ra p h ic o u tp u t will no
d o u b t be exploited similarly.
W h e th e r m a te ria ls are m a d e expressly for artistic u ses or
are m a d e for o th e r uses a n d th e n a d a p te d , artists get m a te
rials a n d e q u ip m e n t th ro u g h w h a te v e r m e c h a n is m s a society
has for d istrib u tin g goods. W here a m a rk e t e c o n o m y does
the allocating, artists can buy o r ren t w h a t they need, if they
have the m oney. (H o w they get it is a n o th e r question, taken
u p later.) Artists w ith o u t m o n e y c a n steal; successful artists
often ad m it, o r brag, that they stole in th e ir less successful
days. The te a c h e r of m y beginning p h o to g ra p h y class told us
not to try to save p a p e r w h e n trying to m a k e a good p rin t
from a negative: Use it all up, th e n buy som e m ore, a n d if
you d o n 't have any m oney, steal it! Artists can also b a rte r
for w hat they need. S u p p liers will so m e tim e s take art w orks
in re tu r n for m aterials, o r o th e r kinds o f a rra n g e m e n ts can
be w o rk e d out, as Lvon d escrib es in the case of a small
a v an t-g a rd e th eater:
Some material resources became available through nego
tiated exchanges. Props and costumes were donated by local
stores in return for credit on the program. Costumes were also
obtained from the (local) university drama department be
cause the summer shows were sponsored by the school.
However, what was available through these sources limited
what could appear on the stage; for example, some scenes
had to be revisualized because the available appropriately
sized costume did not fit the initial image. (Lyon, 1974, p. 89)

If the m a terials a n d e q u ip m e n t you w a n t o r need have not


been m a n u f a c tu r e d by a n y o n e for a n y pu rp o se, you can still
m a k e th e m yourself. M any artists have. Doing that, they have
all the troubles, d e scrib ed later, of m av erick s a n d isolates.
76 M O B I L I Z I N G R E S O U R C E S

FIGURE 11. Performance o f Harry Partch s Oedipus. Harry


Partch, writing for a forty-two-tone scale, had to build his own in
struments and teach people to play them. Here students at Mills
College play Partchs Harmonic Canon I, Diamond Marimba, and
Cloud-Chamber Bowls in a performance in March 1952. (Photograph
courtesy o f the Mills College Library.)

Insisting on n o n s ta n d a r d e q u ip m e n t, they have to devote


tim e th a t m ig h t o th erw ise be sp en t m ak in g a rt to m a k in g its
m a terial p recu rso rs. F u rth e rm o re , w h a t they m a k e often re
q u ire s k n o w led g e p a rtic ip a n ts in th e ir a rt w orld do n o t c o n
ventionally need, so th a t o th e r p eo p le w h o c o o p e ra te in the
realization of a w ork will not kn o w w h a t to do o r h o w to do it.
H a rry P artch , c o m p o sin g for a forty-tw o to n e scale, h a d to
build his o w n in s tru m e n ts a n d c reate his o w n no tatio n , b e
c au se n o o n e in the m usic w orld knew h o w to do w h a t h a d
n o t been possible to do until he c re a te d the possibility (see
figure 11).
77 M O B I L I Z 1 N G R E S O U R C E S

PERSONNEL
It is unfeeling to sp eak of the people w h o c o o p era te in the
p ro d u c tio n of a rt w orks as p e rs o n n e l or, w o rse yet, s u p
port p e rso n n e l, b u t th a t accu rately reflects their im p o rta n c e
in the c o n v en tio n al a rt w orld view. In th a t view, the p erso n
w h o d o e s the real w o rk , m a k in g the choices that give the
w ork its artistic im p o rta n c e a n d integrity, is the artist, w ho
m ay be a n y of a n u m b e r of people involved in its p ro d u c tio n ;
e v ery o n e else's jo b is to assist the artist. I do not a c c e p t the
view o f the relative im p o rta n c e of the p e rs o n n e l involved
th a t the te rm co n notes, b u t I use it to e m p h a siz e th a t it is the
c o m m o n view in a rt worlds.
It is e v en useful to c a rry the d e h u m a n iz a tio n o f artistic
s u p p o r t p e rso n n e l one step f u rth e r a n d think o f th e m as
resources, a sse m b le d in re so u rc e pools like m aterial re
sources, a n d ask how su ch pools arc a sse m b le d a n d h o w the
people in th e m get c o n n e c te d to p a rtic u la r art p ro je cts in a
s u p p o r t role.
The people w h o m ak e up a pool of potential p e rso n n e l for
art p ro je cts b e lo n g to th a t pool b e c a u se they c a n do som e
specialized task re q u ire d in the m ak in g o f the art w o rk s in
q u e stio n a n d they m a k e th em selves available to do it. The
n u m b e r s a n d kinds of people a n d the conventional te rm s on
w h ich they m a k e th em selv es available differ fro m m e d iu m
to m e d iu m a n d place to place. The B ro a d w a y th e a te r w orld
has available to it p e r h a p s ten tim es as m a n y (or m ore)
p eo p le w ith extensive d ra m a tic training, w h o could p e rfo rm
a d e q u a te ly in a variety of roles a n d vehicles, th a n are a c
tually w o rking as a cto rs at any given time. On th e o th e r han d ,
few people have the o d d c o m b in a tio n of skills called for in
m a k in g theatrical props, a n d even fewer m a k e them selves
available fo r theatrical work. T h ere will usually be an o v e r
su p p ly of people for the roles th o u g h t to c o n tain som e ele
m e n t of the a rtistic in th eater, th a t includes playw rights,
actors, a n d d ire c to rs a n d a s h o rt supply o f people with
technical skills to do s u p p o rt w ork th a t does not s h a re in that
c h arism a . M ore p eo p le w a n t to w rite novels th a n design
th e m for the printer, be great m usical p e rfo rm e rs th a n repair
in stru m e n ts, d ra w on lithographic stones th a n print from
them .
78 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

People e n te r a pool of p e rso n n e l reso u rces by learning


h o w to d o w h a t people w h o p e rfo rm a function in an art
w orld do, by learning to do one of the s u p p o r t tasks th a t
w o rld s artists need. W h e th e r they stu d y in a school, teach
them selves, or pick u p a skill on the job, they le arn so m e
o p e ra tin g c o n v en tio n s o f the a rt world, a n d learn to apply
th e m in a c tu a l situations of artistic pro d u ctio n . W hen called
on, then, they c a n step in as m o re o r less in te rc h an g e ab le
p a rts c a p a b le of doing the jo b to be d o n e as well as a n y o th e r
m e m b e r of their category. O ne o f the m o st im p o r ta n t things
an art w orld provides its artistic m e m b e rs is a su p p ly of
in te rc h a n g e a b le h u m a n parts. W h en you c an c o u n t o n r e
placing people w ith o th e rs ju s t as good, you can c a rry on
artistic w ork in a ro u tin e way. T h a t is w hy th e co o p erative
n e tw o rk s a n d c o n v en tio n s th a t m a k e u p an a rt w orld create
o p p o rtu n itie s as well as co n strain ts. In fact, as w e will see
later, the ability of a rt w orld p a rtic ip an ts to p e rfo rm
in te rc h a n g e a b ly defines, in a n im p o rta n t sense, the b o u n
d aries of a n a rt world. Of course, artists recognize th a t th e re
are s u b sta n tia l differences in the ability o f s u p p o rt p e rso n n e l
to deliver, a n d w orking artists kn o w w ho can be tru s te d with
s ta n d a r d tasks a n d w h o c a n n o tw hich actors ta k e direction
quickly a n d intelligently, w hich d a n c e rs can successfully
p e rfo rm th e steps a n d se q u e n c e s the c h o re o g ra p h e r h a s in
m ind, w hich c a m e r a m e n c a n c reate the visual effects the
d ire cto r desires, a n d w hich will not be able to do th ese things
a n d th e re fo re will necessitate a d ju s tm e n ts a n d c o m p ro m ise s
in the original idea.
H o w d o people learn th ese basic skills? In an im p o rta n t
sense, a rt w orld m e m b e r s teach them selves. W h a te v e r in
stru c tio n they receive, they m u s t internalize the lessons
th ro u g h su c h m e n tal re h e a rsa ls a n d exercises as S u d n o w
(1978) describes in his analysis of h o w he le arn e d to play the
piano. S o m e p eo p le learn only in this way. H. Stith B ennett
(1980) d escrib es h o w y o u n g rock m usician s in th e C olorado
m o u n ta in s te a c h th em selves to play by im itating w h a t they
h e a r on recordings, w ith o u t benefit of lessons o r in struction
books; it is a h a rd w ay to learn, b u t they b e co m e very p r o
ficient, B e n n e tt says, at using the re co rd in g as a score,
79 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

im itating w h a t they h e a r so successfully th a t they can learn


the en tire c o n te n ts of a twelve-inch reco rd (as m u c h as forty
m in u te s of m usic) in a day. In teaching them selves, novices
in c o rp o ra te into their m e th o d s of o p e ra tio n the conventions
o f the a rt w orld they arc aim ing at, using available w orks as a
guide. If they teach th em selves successfully, they then can
offer their services as p ractitioners of w h a te v e r su p p o rt a c
tivity th e y have train ed for, a n d join th a t re so u rce pool.
S o m e people learn on the job, as a p p re n tic e s o r o c c u p a n ts
of a n unofficial position w hich allows th e m to observe full-
fledged p ra c titio n e rs at w ork, or ju st by b eing p u t in a p o si
tion to d o the jo b w h e th e r they kn o w it or not. The L e o n ard o
da Vinci of m u sic copyists, a cc o rd in g to the N e w York
T im es, learned his tra d e this way:
One day I was walking down the street and I ran into the
music librarian of Paramount Publix Corporation. [He had
violin training but was working as a chemist.] They ran
Twentieth-Century Paramount and also ran 52 weeks of mu-
sical attractions around the country. Look/' the guy said,
You have a musical education. Come with me." That was in
1925, and he gave me a job at $60 a week, not bad for that time.
I walk into a big room, with maybe 40 people copying music. I
looked. All my life I had trouble copying a G clef. But 1
learned. The boss said, You have music at home? Go copy it."
So I learned by a little bit, a little bit more, a little bit more.
iMostlv 1 copied nightclub music, acts arranged for combos.
There were lots of movie scores, too. (Schonberg, 1978)
An a p o c ry p h a l story says th a t G ypsy m usician s give six-
year-old bovs a sm all violin a n d set th e m d o w n in the m iddle
of a G ypsy o rc h e s tra while it is playing. T he boys get no
in struction, b u t can play w h a t they like while th e rest of the
g ro u p p e rfo rm s ; w h a te v e r odd, m ista k e n s o u n d s they m ak e
p r e s u m a b ly a re covered up by the o th e rs' playing. They a t
te m p t to m a tc h w h at they h e a r a n d in a relatively short tim e
learn to plav a p a rt in the collective m usical pro d u ctio n .
O nce s o m e o n e has learn e d to p e rfo rm so m e portion of w h a t
is required, he c a n learn still m o re a n d can offer himself as a
m e m b e r of the pool of c o m p e te n t technicians.
M any people learn the tra d e s of su p p o rt p e rso n n e l in a
80 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

school. A lthough in a real sense these are tra d e schools, som e


o f th e ir s tu d e n ts learn to be a rtists. By going to film school,
for instance, one m ig h t learn to be a c a m e r a m a n o r a lighting
technician, o r to be a d irecto r o r a screenw riter, the film
b u sin ess being so c o n fu sed a b o u t w hich p eo p le are artists
a n d w h ich s u p p o rt p e rso n n e l th a t the la tte r often th in k of
them selves, a n d are so m e tim e s th o u g h t of, as artists in their
ow n right. The co nfusion is c h ro n ic in m usic schools, for
alm o st all th e s tu d e n ts w h o h o p e to b e co m e violin o r p iano
virtuosi will e n d up as, at best, m e m b e rs of th e violin section
o f a s y m p h o n y o rc h estra , a n d m ost likely will be te a c h e rs of
th o se in s tru m e n ts so m ew h e re, if they d o n 't d ro p o u t of the
b u sin ess a lto g e th e r or drift into su ch m o re lucrative o c c u
p a tio n s as film-score re co rd in g (F aulkner, 1971).
Art schools vary sim ilarly in their em phasis, som e d e
fiantly setting out to train only artists. (My first p h o to g
ra p h y te a c h e r told us, the first d ay of class, The n a m e of
this school is S an F rancisco A r t Institute; if you are here to
learn a n y th in g besides art, y o u re in the w ro n g place. Get
y o u r m o n e y b a ck b e fo re its too la te!) O thers deliberately
set o u t to train people to do w h a t the art w orld they m ight
serve see m s to re q u ire (Pevsner, 1940). British schools of
visual art have typically, w ith a few exceptions, ta u g h t such
tra d e s as printing, design, a n d co m m ercial p h o to g ra p h y , in
te n d in g th e ir s tu d e n ts to w ork in the prin tin g trades, a d v e r
tising, a n d related industries. T h ough these schools e m
phasize c o m m e rc ia l a n d industrial work, their e m p h a s is
is not very different from th a t of sta te schools w hich train
p e o p le to d a n c e in sta te -s u p p o rte d ballets o r of sim ilar
schools for the training o f m usicians, singers, a n d o th e r p e r
fo rm ers in E ngland, S can d in av ia, a n d elsew here. These in
stitutions p ro v id e a pool of people for established a rt w orlds,
a n d usually in a d v erten tly also provide a pool of w ell-trained
rebels to staff alternative a rt p ro je cts w hich do n o t fit into the
e stab lish ed w ays of th o se w orlds. (As I su ggested earlier,
ballet schools te a c h people classical ballet te ch n iq u e , w hose
v o c a b u la ry is basic to the d e v e lo p m e n t o f nonballet d a n c e
styles, being the one v o c a b u la ry all p a rtic ip a n ts c a n be
c o u n te d on to know'.)
81 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

W h at d o es a n artist do w h e n he c a n n o t find a n y o n e in the


pool of available personnel w h o can do w h a t is needed?
Typically, artists w h o se work differs th a t m u c h from w h at is
co n v entional train their ow n personnel, ju s t as people w ho
need m aterials a n d e q u ip m e n t th a t arc not easily available
m a k e th e ir own. They m a y start a school o r a p e rfo rm in g
c o m p a n y , o r take on a p p re n tic e s or em ployees to w h o m they
teach w h a t their s u p p o rt people m u st know. If they w ork in a
sufficiently u n c o n v e n tio n a l way, they m ay not take on p eo
ple w h o h a v e h a d any e x p o su re to m ore conventional ways
of doing things o r been trained in conventional schools or
c o m p an ie s, on the (p ro b ab ly correct) g ro u n d th a t su c h p e o
ple will have too m u c h to unlearn. Conventionally train ed
p e rso n n e l have jo b a n d c a re e r possibilities w h ich m a k e them
less willing to u n d e rg o privations, accep t strict a n d u n u s u a l
professional discipline, and ignore a total lack of c o n v e n
tional professional success.
Given th a t a pool o f in te rc h a n g e a b le s u p p o r t personnel
exists, how do its m e m b e r s get c o n n e c te d to the p a rtic u lar
a rt p ro je c ts to w h ich they c o n trib u te their services? C onsider
tw o basic principles involved in m ost system s, w hich g e n e r
ally o c c u r in all kinds of m ix e d form s. At o n e extrem e,
m e m b e r s of the pool w o rk fo r an organization w hich carries
on art w orld p ro jects; th e ir c a re e r w ithin the organization
provides the m e c h a n is m by w hich th e y are allocated to p a r
ticular jobs. At the o th e r extrem e, pool m e m b e rs c o n tra c t
se p a ra te ly for each project, in w h a t m ight be called a free
lance system . In cith er case, successful m e m b e rs of the pool
have a career, in an org an izatio n o r a series o f th e m o r by
virtue of building up a netw o rk of co n n ectio n s w hich assures
th e m of stea d y work. The two sy stem s vary in the p e r m a
n e n ce of th e relation b etw een the s u p p o rt p e rso n n e l a n d the
artists for w h o m they work.
E sta b lish e d o rg an izatio n s with p e r m a n e n t m e m b e r s p r o
d u c e the c h a ra c te ristic w o rk s of m a n y a rt w orlds. People
fre q u e n tly s p e n d m a n y years with the s a m e s y m p h o n y o r
chestra, ballet c o m p a n y , re p e rto ry theater, o r lithograp hic
print shop. W h e n they m ove, they m o v e along well-defined
c a re e r track s to a sim ilar org an izatio n with w hich they will
82 M O B I L I Z I N G R E S O U R C E S

sp en d m a n y m o re years. W hen organizations d o m in a te the


allocation of p e rso n n e l in this way, people orient w h a t they
do to the n eed s of those o rg an izations a n d the kinds of c a re e r
contingencies they c reate for their em ployees. At first, they
w o rry a b o u t sim ply getting in: Can I get a jo b playing h o rn in
an orch estra? In a m a jo r orchestra? L ater they m ay try to
m o v e to a b e tte r organization o f its kind; their craft cu ltu re
usually defines so m e jo b s as m o re desirable a n d w o rth trying
for. The org an izatio n in w hich they eventually find th e m
selves d e te rm in e s w h a t they do, telling th e m w h a t is n e ed e d
for a n y p a rtic u la r project. A re p e rto ry a c to r plays y e ar a fter
year, or at least for a y e a r or two, in som e o f the plays his
th e a te r does; a s y m p h o n y p la y er plays w h a te v e r the c o n
d u c to r cho o ses for th a t y e a r s p ro g ra m s. W hen hiring a n d
firing are d o m in a te d by b u re a u c ra tic rules, the te n u re p r o
tection im p o sed by a u n io n c o n tra c t o r a g o v e rn m e n ta l o r
p riv ate o rg a n iz a tio n s ow n rules m a k e the connection m o re
p e rm a n e n t.
S u p p o r t personnel with p e r m a n e n t positions in a stable
organization develop m otives different from those of the
artists w ith w h o m they w ork. While the artists w orry a b o u t
the w o rk 's aesth etic effect, as well as its effect on their r e p u
tations, s u p p o rt p e rso n n e l co n sid e r their activity on a given
p ro je c t in the light of its overall eff ect on their long-term
organizational interests. S u p p o rt personnel, hired for their
ability to p e rfo rm o n e function, sp en d all their tim e doing
th a t one thing a n d develop a guild pride o r a p ro tectio n ist
a ttitu d e a b o u t it w hich conflicts w ith the p ro d u c tio n of the
overall w ork; as long as they have d o n e their c h o re properly,
they d o n t w o rry m u c h a b o u t the re st of it. Conversely, they
m ay feel tra p p e d in th a t function, the w ay a m b itio u s s y m
p h o n y players fear being tra p p e d as section players, w ho
n e v er have a c h a n c e for m o re expressive a n d creative p e r
fo rm a n c e s (F aulkner, 1973a a n d 1973b), o r re p e rto ry actors
fear being ty p ecast in c h a ra c te r roles. T echnicians p ro b a b ly
fear this tra p less th a n those w h o once h a d artistic a s p ira
tions. O rganizations likewise find them selves tr a p p e d by the
p re se n c e of p e r m a n e n t perso n n el w hose m e d io cre skills a n d
abilities limit w h a t can be done.
83 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

S u p p o rt personnel often act in w ays calculated to m a in


tain o r im p ro v e their position in the organization. W hen the
p e r m a n e n t em p lo y ees of a pu b lish in g h o use decide how
m u c h tim e to invest in the editing of a book or how m u c h
m o n e y to invest in its p ro m o tio n a n d distribution, they think
not only of how th e individual w o rk m ig h t best be served but
also of how the h o u se's re so u rc e s m ight best be divided
a m o n g the several sim ilar p ro je c ts in h a n d at the m o m e n t
a n d o f h o w a m istaken ju d g m e n t on those q u e stio n s m ight
affect th e ir careers. T hat is w h y so m a n y novelists books die
th e d ay they are released (H irsch, 1972): the p u b lis h e rs p ro
m o tio n al ex p ert (a classic e x am p le of a s u p p o r t position)
decides that, alth o u g h the book is n o w printed, d isap p o in tin g
a d v a n c e sales show there is no po in t in p u ttin g any m ore
m o n e y in to it, so it is allow ed to a p p e a r w ith o u t the a d v e r
tising o r o th e r activities th ro u g h which new books are called
to the special a tten tio n of review ers a n d o th e rs w h o might
keep it from d is a p p e a rin g a m o n g the m a ss of o th e r m aterial
p u b lis h e d sim ultaneously.
Two o th e r typical m otives, w hich usually o c c u r together,
are a desire for a b e tte r jo b w ith a n o th e r organization a n d
c raft pride. You serve b o th e n d s by seeing that y o u r p a rt is
d o n e well, no m a t t e r w h a t the fate o f the larger project, a n d
even th o u g h seeing th a t y o u r p a rt is d o n e well m a y interfere
with its success. C o m p o sers fear th a t s y m p h o n y players will
deliberately (or so the aggrieved c o m p o se rs feel) play their
new w o rk s badly in rehearsal, alleging th a t the p a rts are
u n p la y a b le or th a t th e re are too m a n y m ista k es in the c o p y
ing, so th a t they will not have to struggle with difficult p a rts
th a t m ight not sh o w th e ir talen ts to ad v an tag e. The p e rp e
tra to rs of these acts m a y w an t to look good for so m e o th e r
poten tial e m p lo y e r (F aulkner, 1973a a n d 1973b, describes
these a sp ira tio n s in s y m p h o n y players) or sim ply m a y w ant
to preserv e th e ir re p u ta tio n a m o n g o th e r m e m b e r s of the
o c cu p a tio n .
S u p p o rt p e rso n n e l also get c o n n e c te d with artists th ro u g h
free-lance system s, in w hich p e rso n n e l are a sse m b le d for
each p ro je c t as the n e ed arises. As w ith m aterial goods, a r t
ists use w h a te v e r reso u rces they have, financial o r o th e r
84 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

wise, to in d u c e people to participate. In the usual free-lance


system , s u p p o rt personnel p a rtic ip a te for ju s t as long as they
are c o n tra c te d for a n d no longer. They m a y regret not being
able to devote m o re tim e to a p ro je c t they find particularly
interesting, b u t the d y n a m ic of a financially b a se d free-lance
system p u sh e s th e m on to the next one. Lillian Ross (1969
[1952]) describes h o w J o h n H u sto n , having finished d ire c t
ing The R e d Badge o f Courage, th e n left to go to w ork on The
African Queen. M uch w ork re m a in e d to be d o n e bv others.
H ig h er-u p s at MGM, h a v in g d ecid ed th e p ic tu re w ould fail
unless it w as drastically ch an ged, altered it substantially,
over the stro n g o b je ctio n s of p ro d u c e r G ottfried R einhardt,
w h o tried to preserve w h a t he u n d e rsto o d to be H u s to n 's
original vision. H e lost the fight w h e n the new h e a d of the
studio, Dore S c h a ry (who h a d ju st rep laced Louis B. Mayer,
in a m o v e th a t sh o ck ed a n d su rp rised the film world), took a
p e rso n a l interest in red o in g th e film (as well he m ig h t have,
since Nicholas S chenk, the p re sid e n t of the c o m p a n y th a t
o w n e d MGM, h a d e n c o u ra g e d him to tak e full responsibility,
as vice-president in ch arg e of p ro d u c tio n , for w h a t o th e rs in
the studio th o u g h t to be an im possibly arty film). All th ro u g h
the b itte r struggle H uston, w h o w o u ld get the artistic b lam e
o r credit for the result, w as in Africa, taking no p a rt in the
ev en ts th a t led to the red o in g of his film (see figure 12). W h en
he got th e final new s a b o u t w h a t h a d h a p p e n e d , his only
reaction w as a cable to R e in h a rd t: D e a r G o t t f r i e d . J u s t
GOT YOUR LETTER. KNOW YOU FOUGHT GOOD FIGHT. H O P E YOU
n o t t o o b l o o d y m y a c c o u n t .A lthough H u s to n h a d left the
p ictu re behind, he w as lucky. The critics, at least, th o u g h t the
p ictu re an artistic success. The film's o p p o n e n ts w ere right
too; it d i d n t m a k e a n y m oney.
To re c u r to the th e m e of h o w decisions m a y be m a d e for
re a s o n s e x tra n e o u s to the a c tu a l pro ject in h a n d , co n sid er
S c h e n k s re a so n for allow ing S ch ary to m a k e The R e d Badge.
In te n d in g to re p la c e M ayer w ith Schary, he w a n te d to m ak e
S c h a ry h a p p y w ith his new jo b a n d sim u lta n eo u sly to teach
him a lesson a b o u t w h a t the organization he w as a b o u t to
h e a d w ould re q u ire o f him :
85 M O B I L I Z I N G R E S O U R C E S

FIGURE 12. Scene from The Red Badge of Courage, directed by


John Huston. In free-lance systems support personnel work only as
long as they are contracted for. John Huston, director o f The Red
Badge of Courage, allowed studio executives to alter his film drasti
cally after he had finished shooting it and gone to Africa to do The
African Queen. (Photograph courtesy o f the Museum o f Modern
Art/Film Stills Archive.)

Dore is young. He has not had this job very long. I felt I
must encourage him or else he would feel stifled. It would
have been so easy to say no to him. Instead, I said yes. I
figured I would write it ofT to experience. You can buy almost
anything, but you can't buy experience.
How else was I going to teach Dore? I supported Dore. I let
him make the picture. I knew that the best way to help him
was to let him make a mistake. Now he will know better. A
86 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

young man has to learn by making mistakes. I dont think


hell want to make a picture like that again. (Ross, 1969 [1952],
p. 220)

The h e a d of a p e r m a n e n t organization m ig h t have su ch m o


tives: to ta m e a talen ted b u t slightly unruly s u b o rd in a te so
th a t he will n e v er forget the interests of the firm for the
te m p ta tio n of a rt again. Of course, the c h ie fs m otives need
n o t be so co m m ercia l; in a n o th e r setting he m ight w a n t
to teac h so m e o n e not to s u b o rd in a te the claim s of a rt to
co m m erce .
In a free-lance system , people get jo b s on the basis of their
re p u ta tio n s. As H ollyw ood c o m p o se rs told R o b ert F a u lk n e r
(forthcom ing), "Y ou're only as good as y o u r last picture."
W orkers h a v e no c o n tra c t to p ro te ct th e m fro m the c o n s e
q u e n c e s of a b a d job. Nevertheless, so m e m a n a g e to work
regularly, m oving from one p ro je ct to a n o th e r with little
w aste d time. They do this partly b e ca u se they can deliver the
jo b the artist they w ork for w a n ts done. A film c o m p o se r
m u s t be able to deliver a score th a t does the jo b the d irecto r
o r p r o d u c e r w a n ts d o n e p ro d u c e s the m o o d or effect d e
sired, at the m in im u m necessary cost, a n d quickly e n o u g h
th a t no tim e o r m o n e y is lost w aiting for the result. But,
re m e m b e r, s u p p o rt w ork c a n in principle be d o n e by any
c o m p e te n t technician, unlike the core artistic work, which
p a rtic ip a n ts think only the gifted few can do. S u p p o rt p e r
sonnel a re n o t u n iq u e; they are interchangeable. Therefore,
artists w h o need so m e o n e for a p a rtic u la r p ro je c t can choose
fro m a n u m b e r o f c o m p e te n t w o rk e rs in the reso u rce pool;
they all m e e t the specifications.
You need ability, then, for free-lance success, b u t it is not
enough. Successful free-lancers also need a netw o rk of
co n n ections, so th a t a large n u m b e r of people w h o m ight
n e ed their services have them in m ind, a n d in their telep h o n e
book, to be called w h e n the occasion arises. R e p u ta tio n
helps. If you have delivered successf ully on earlier projects,
o th e r people will tak e a ch an ce, n o t only on using you b u t on
r e c o m m e n d in g you to third parties. H ollywood c o m p o se rs
m u c h in d e m a n d system atically re c o m m e n d to their clients
87 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

less w ell-know n c o m p o se rs they feel su re will h a n d le the job


co m p eten tly . A netw o rk of c o n n ec tio n s consists of a n u m b e r
of people w h o k n o w you a n d y o u r w ork well e n o u g h to trust
the well-being o f so m e p o rtio n o f th e ir p ro je ct to you. The
kev e lem en t of the netw o rk is trust. W hen I first b e ca m e
active as a w e e k e n d m usician in Chicago in the 1940s, an
old er m usician, a b o u t to re c o m m e n d m e for a one-night job,
in te rro g a te d m e a b o u t m y ability to h an d le it: "Are you sure
you c a n do it? B ecause if you c a n t its m y ass. In fact, its not
ju st m y ass, it's th re e o r fo u r different asses." (H e w as re c
o m m e n d in g m e to s o m e o n e w ho w as re c o m m e n d in g m e to
s o m e o n e else, th ro u g h a c h ain of several links [ Becker, 1963,
p. 107].) T h ro u g h interlocking tru s t a n d re c o m m e n d a tio n s,
w o rk e rs develop stable n e tw o rk s w hich furnish them with
m o re o r less ste a d y work.
F a u lk n e r (fo rth co m in g ) show s the stability of the system
for people at the top: less th a n 10 p e rc e n t of H o lly w o o d s
c o m p o se rs score 46 p ercen t o f the films using original music,
less th a n 8 p e rce n t of all film m akers p ro d u c e 36 p e rc e n t of
th o se films, a n d 30 p e rc e n t of all films are m a d e by c o m b in a
tions of the top c o m p o se rs a n d p ro d u c ers. At the b ottom , a
large n u m b e r o f p ro d u c e rs a n d c o m p o se rs m a k e one film,
but c a n n o t m a n a g e to get a second credit. A c o m p o s e r in the
top g ro u p explained: "T he whole idea is to keep the thing
m oving, to get m o re w ork a n d b e tte r work, the m o re p r o j
ects y o u re associated w ith the m o re people k n o w you and,
hopefully, k n o w w h at you c a n do for their films.
S u p p o rt p e rso n n e l provide evidence th a t they are tru s t
w o rth y by p e rfo rm in g a d e q u a te ly for the artist-em plovers
in w h o se w o rk they participate. They have difficulty doing
th a t w h e n the e m p lo y e r d o es not use tech n ical language
sufficiently precise to d escribe w h a t he w an ts the te c h n i
cian to do; he will know if the result is not w h a t he w ants,
b u t c a n n o t give positive directions. F a u lk n e r (forthcom ing)
d escrib es the serious difficulties c o m p o se rs of film scores
have w ith p ro d u c e rs w ho kn o w no th in g a b o u t music, a n d
suggests th a t successful c o m p o se rs m u st be able to u n d e r
sta n d w h at p ro d u c e rs really w ant, given a n in co h eren t
a n d in a c c u ra te description. H e q u o te s so m e c o m p o se rs'
88 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

stories o f the difficulties of c o m m u n ic a tin g w ith n o n m u s i


cian p ro d u c ers:

You can get up against some directors who will open up


with something like, Give me something real, real modern!"
And you're trying to figure out what they mean and it turns
out the guy thinks Tchaikovsky is modern, as the old story
goes. You know, the producer who says, I must have some
thing new, something fresh, different, it's got to be different,
like Bela Barstock (sic)."
It see m s likely th a t the m o re the su p p o rt jo b is th o u g h t to
be integral to the success o f the project, the less the people
w h o d o it are th o u g h t of as interch an g eab le. They m a y still be
tre a te d as in te rc h a n g e a b le film m akers do not give up a
p ro je ct if they c a n n o t get the c o m p o se r they w a n t, th o u g h
they m ight if they could not get th e right a cto rs o r director,
but they devote m o re tim e to finding a re p la c e m e n t a n d take
the p ro b le m m o re seriously th a n if they c a n n o t get the first
a c c o u n ta n t o r best boy they ask for (to choose tw o o f the
m o re unlikely titles th a t a p p e a r in m o tion-picture credits).
P artic ip a n ts in free-lance system s, both the artists a n d
o th e r overseers w h o d o the hiring a n d the s u p p o rt people
they hire, m a y also h a v e m o tiv es m o re o r less e x tra n e o u s to
the p ro d u c tio n o f the w ork at h a n d . Pauline Kael gives the
p articu larly egregious e x am p le of the executive p ro d u c e r
w h o " p a c k a g e d the d e a l for the film version of Mary
M cC arthy's novel The G ro u p :
[his] enthusiasm for the project had little to do with the
literary qualities or dramatic potential of Miss McCarthy's
work, but on [s/c] the gorgeous possibility of getting options
on a bunch of inexpensive, luscious young nobodies [the main
characters in the story' are eight college women], building
them up into stars, and then having them available for his own
films and for handsome loan-out deals. . . . with a property
featuring eight young girls, surely he would get his own Cap-
ucines and [Ursula] Andresses; and with a stable of young
beauties under option, a modern movie packager-producer
could be richer than the greatest whoremasters of history'.
(There are even directors in Hollywood who make more
money from the pieces they own of the stars they gave their
first break to than from directing.) (Kael, 1968, pp. 68-69)
89 M O B I L I Z I N G R E S O U R C E S

W e m ig h t think of sy ste m s of secu rin g s u p p o r t personnel


as w ays of getting their a tte n tio n a n d interest. The tw o
system s, o rg an izatio n al hiring a n d free-lancing, evoke dif
ferent styles o f atten tio n . E m p lo y ees of o rg an izations can, if
their em p lo y ers think it im p o rta n t, d ev o te s o m e portion
(even all) of th e ir a tte n tio n to a w ork for as long as the
e m p lo y e rs think n ecessary ; th e y often w ork on m a n y p r o j
ects at once. F ree-lancers typically w ork in sp u rts, one solid
c h u n k of un d iv id ed a tte n tio n given to a p ro je c t they then
forget, for b e tte r o r for worse. B recht could re h e a rse the
B erliner E n se m b le for m o n th s on end, but, as we have seen
in the case of H u s to n a n d The R ed Badge o f Courage, H o l
lywood c a n c o m m a n d p e o p le s a tten tio n only for the short
p erio d d u rin g w hich they are actually paid. Since b u d g e ts are
always s m a lle r th a n they m ight be, people arc seldom paid
for a n y th in g th a t does n o t c o n trib u te directly to the project.
Pauline Kael has alw ays h a d an in te re st in w h y m ovies are so
m u c h w orse th a n they n e ed be for strictly c o m m e rc ia l re a
sons; h e r investigation of th e m a k in g of The G roup suggests
a co u p le o f reasons. For instance, she fo u n d it shocking that
no o n e c o n n e c te d w ith the m a k in g of the m ovie k n ew a n y
th in g a b o u t M ary M cCarthy, h e r life, o r h e r w ork, a n d th u s
could not bring th a t kind of know ledge to b e a r in m a k in g the
film. The w o rk in g s o f a free-lance system m a k e the lack
u n d e rs ta n d a b le . F ilm m a k ers c a n n o t be ex p erts on the e n o r
m o u s variety of w riters a n d topics they m a y find them selves
w orking w ith in the c o u rse of a career; their tim e is taken up
with their c u rre n t p r o je c ts m ost pressing details. They have
n o time, a n d w ould not be re w a rd e d for sp e n d in g it th a t w ay
if they h a d it, to a c q u ire the kind of g en eral cu ltu re Kael
a c q u ire d in the n o rm a l ro u tin e of h e r work. They p r e p a r e for
th e ir w ork by le arn in g how to m ak e movies; sh e p re p a re s for
h ers by re a d in g the w orks of M ary M cCarthy. Free-lancing
te a c h e s you to devote all y o u r a tte n tio n to w h a t is m ost
im m e d ia te ly at han d .
Kael h e a rd a m istak e on the so u n d tra ck of the sem i
finished film: o n e of the girls w as s u p p o s e d to say th a t all the
m e m b e r s of h e r g ro u p h a d voted for Roosevelt, except one
w h o forgot to vote; instead, she said th a t all the m e m b e r s of
h e r class h a d d o n e so, d e stro y in g the m e a n in g of the line a n d
90 M O B I L I Z I N G R E S O U R C E S

s o m e im p o rta n t m e a n in g s of the story. W hen Kael h e a rd this


on the set, she m e n tio n e d it to b o th the p ro d u c e r a n d the
director, as s o m e th in g to be fixed d u rin g rerecording. It
w asn't, so she p o in te d it o u t again:
Each assured me that I must be hearing wrong. Neither
apparently took the trouble to check or listen, because when
the film was screened for the press, there it was again. By
then, Lumet [the director] w?as in London working on his next
film, Buchman [the producer] was back on the Riviera.
Thinking that someone might care about the blooper,
I called around, and after three people involved in the pro
duction had assured me that if the Sydneys [Lumet and
Buchman] had had Helena say class" that must have been
what they wanted, I finally got hold of the editor, Ralph Ro-
senblum, who realized at once that it was an error. But he had
enough other problems to worry about: in the absence of the
Sydneys, he was left to argue the cuts the National Catholic
Office for Motion Pictures . . . wanted. (Kael, 1968, pp. 96-97)

H ere the principle w o rk s in reverse. Since n o o n e d e m a n d e d


th a t th ese free-lancers give their a tten tio n to this detail, they
didn't.
W h at if artists have no m oney? Even in a m o n e y econom y,
a lack of m o n e y is not fatal, alth o u g h it creates serious c o n
straints. Lyon (1974) fo u n d th a t the small, penniless th e a tri
cal c o m p a n y she stu d ied b a rte re d extensively for perso n n el
as well as m aterials. One form of b a rte r consisted of m ak in g
people m e m b e rs '' of the theater, with so m e say o v e r w h a t
w as d o n e a n d so m e claim to a sh are of the credit for the
result. P e rh a p s m o re im p o rta n t, The a cto rs expected the
W estern T h e a te r to provide th e m with o p p o rtu n itie s to act"
(p. 85) and, m o re tro u b le so m e, m a n y people volunteered
to do technical a n d o th e r less desirable w ork only b e ca u se
they h o p e d it w ould eventually lead to a c h a n c e to act. T h at
c re a te d obligations su ch th a t the d irecto r so m e tim e s felt
com pelled to fulfill this implicit expectation. U nfortunately,
a few p o o r a c to rs h a d thus la n d e d small parts, leading the
th e a te r to the u n p le a s a n t task of d isco u rag in g fu tu re acting
a sp iratio n s in these p a rtic ip a n ts" (p. 88). F u rth e rm o re , the
plays the g ro u p could p u t on w ere limited in p a rt by the kind
91 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

of a cto rs w h o h ad v o lu n te ered to b e co m e m e m b e rs: Since


th e re w ere only th re e e x p erien ced actresses in the co m p an y ,
a play w ith m a n y d e m a n d in g fem ale p a rts w ould have to be
d is c a rd e d " (p. 86). Finally, they could not do plays with very
sm all casts; as one a c to r explained, H o w w ould you like to
be an a ctress w ith a c o m p a n y with n o th in g to do for eight
weeks? N o body en joys that. So we have to find plays w h ere
th e re 's s o m e th in g for ev erybody to do" (p. 86).
A large n u m b e r of s u p p o r t personnel, as w e have seen,
eith er once h a d o r still do have the idea th a t w h a t they do is in
itself art. It is a n exaggeration to say th a t everyone in an art
w orld is s u p p o rt p e rso n n e l for s o m e o n e else, a n d it is not tru e
th a t e v ery o n e o r alm ost everyone thinks of him self as an
j

artist. But th ese o v e rsta te m e n ts point to so m e th in g im p o r


tant: every fu n c tio n in a n art w orld can be tak en seriously as
art, a n d ev ery th in g th a t even the m o s t a c c e p te d artist does
can b e c o m e s u p p o r t w o rk for s o m e o n e else; fu rth e rm o re , in
m a n v a rts it is not at all clear w h o is the artist a n d w ho are the
s u p p o r t people. W hen R a u sc h e n b e rg erased a D eK ooning
draw ing, o r D u c h a m p d re w a m u s ta c h e on the M ona Lisa,
w ere th e a u th o rs of the originals m erely s u p p o rt personnel?
If not, w hy not? W h at of the people w hose work, in re p ro
d u c e d form , b e co m e s p a rt of so m e o n e else's collage?
J o h n Cage said th a t m u sic is the m oral ev alu atio n of
so u n d . W e m ight generalize his re m a rk : w h en we sp eak of
art, we m a k e a m o ra l ev alu a tio n of the relative w o rth of the
v a rio u s c o n trib u tio n s to a work. It is no su rp rise th a t m a n y of
the p a rtic ip a n ts differ with m o re co n v entional evaluations
a n d ra n k their o w n c o n trib u tio n as m ore im p o r ta n t th a n th a t
of the artist as conventionally defined. (See the film editor s
po in t of view in R o se n b lu m a n d K aren, 1979, pp. 230-1.) If we
re m a in n e u tral on this question, we m a y find it difficult to
s y m p a th iz e w ith the notion th a t in te rfe re n c e " by som e of
th e p a rtic ip a n ts in the p ro d u c tio n of an art w ork necessarily
m e a n s th a t the w o rk is less valuable artistically; p e rh a p s that
in te rv e n tio n is ju st w h a t the w ork n e ed e d . We have seen that
critics th o u g h t The R e d Badge o f Courage p re tty good, even
th o u g h o th e rs th a n the d ire cto r had grossly in terfered w ith it.
Similarly, the c o m p o se rs F a u lk n e r interview ed co m p lain e d
92 M O B I L I Z I N G RESOURCES

of the w ay d ire cto rs a n d p ro d u c e rs ta m p e r e d with their


scores a n d ideas; yet the point o f a m ovie is n o t its m usical
score, w hich m u s t be sub sid iary to the im ages on the screen
(at least in fe atu re films, even u n c o n v en tio n a l ones).
To su m m a riz e , artists use m aterial re so u rc e s a n d p e rs o n
nel. They c h o o se th ese out of the pool of w h a t is available to
th e m in the a rt w orld they w ork in. W orlds differ in w h a t they
m a k e available a n d in th e form in which they m a k e it avail
able. The p a tte r n s of e c o n o m ic activity c h ara cte ristic of a
society s h a p e w h a t artists can get to w ork w ith a n d w h o they
can get to w ork w ith them . S uch facts as the degree of m o n
opolization o f p ro d u c tio n m aterials, the profitability of m i
nority m a rk ets, a n d the d eg ree to w hich artists n e ed item s
specially desig n ed a n d m a n u f a c tu r e d for th e m all affect
w h a t is available a n d th u s w h a t artists can do. Similarly, the
o rg an iza tio n s th ro u g h w hich s u p p o rt p e rso n n e l find the
p ro je c ts they w o rk on c reate organizational, professional,
a n d c a re e r m otives w hich m a y ru n c o u n te r to the in ten tio n s
of the artists w h o em p lo y them .
W h at is available a n d the ease with w hich it is available
e n te r into the th in k in g o f artists as th e y p lan th e ir w ork a n d
into th e ir actions as they c a rry o u t those p la n s in th e real
world. Available reso u rces m a k e so m e things possible, som e
easy, a n d o th e rs h a rd e r; every p a tte r n of availability reflects
the w orkings of so m e kind of social o rg a n iza tio n a n d b e
co m es p a rt of th e p a tte r n of c o n stra in ts a n d possibilities th a t
s h a p e s the a rt p ro d u c e d .

!
4 Distributing Art Works

P R O F E S S IO N A L L Y m arginal artists. . . . encounter


an excruciatingly trying problem . A s each year passes,
their studios g ro w increasingly c ro w d ed with paintings
that no one w a n ts to buy, starkly visible evidence w hich
rem inds th em daily o f their inability to w in (or regain)
acceptance o f their w o r k .. . . so m e g ro w despairing o f
ever achieving a m odest degree o f success, or o f finding
a n e w style as salable as their previous one, a n d quit
painting. A s one artist said o f them : W hen you can 7
sell y o u r paintings a n d yo u continue to produce you
can 7 help but becom e bitter unless yo u re a very strong
person, a n d m ost artists are not.
L e v i n e , 1972, p p . 3 0 6 - 7

Artists, having m a d e a work, need to d istribute it, to find a


m e c h a n is m w h ich will give people with the taste to a p p r e
ciate it access to it a n d sim u lta n eo u sly will re p a y the invest
m e n t of time, m oney, a n d m a terials in the w ork so th a t m o re
time, m aterials, a n d co o p erativ e activity will be available
with w hich to m a k e m o re w orks. Artists c a n w ork w ithout
distribution. M any works, o n c e m ad e, have been h id d e n by
their m a k e rs o r ignored by the publics they w ere m e a n t for.
M any, p e rh a p s m ost, artists n e v er realize a n y m o n e y from
their w o rk a n d c a n n o t s u p p o rt fu rth e r w ork on the p ro c e e d s
from w h a t they have alread y done.
Fully d ev elo p ed a rt w orlds, how ever, pro v id e d istrib u tio n
sy ste m s w hich integrate artists into their society's econom y ,
brin ging art w orks to publics w hich a p p re c ia te th e m a n d will
p ay e n o u g h so th a t the w ork can proceed. These d istrib u tio n
system s, like o th e r co o p erative activities w hich m ak e up an
art world, can be m a n n e d by artists them selves. M ore c o m
monly, specialized in te rm e d ia rie s do the w ork. The interests
of the in te rm e d iaries w h o o p e ra te d istrib u tio n system s fre
q u e n tly differ from those of th e artists w h o se w ork they
handle. B ecause they+/ are in business,w d is trib u to rs w a n t to

93
94 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

rationalize the relatively u n sta b le a n d e rratic p ro d u c tio n of


creative" w ork (Hirsch, 1972): dealers m u s t have w o rk to
show in th e ir galleries, p ro d u c e rs need theatrical events to fill
a season. And they need these even w hen artists w a n t to p r o
duce, not the kind of w ork th o u g h t to be needed, b u t som e
o th e r kind the system c a n n o t h an d le as well. D istributors
w a n t to m a k e a m essy process m o re orderly, e n su rin g the
stability of their ow n businesses a n d also creating stable
conditions u n d e r w hich art can be p ro d u c e d on a regular
basis. This often leads th e m to deal with w o rk s on so m e b a
sis o th e r th a n their artistic m erit, how ever th a t is ju d g e d
(Moulin, 1967).
Since m o st artists w a n t the a d v an ta g es of distribution,
they w ork with a n eye to w h at the system ch ara cte ristic of
th e ir w orld can handle. W h at kinds o f w ork will it distribute?
W h a t will it ignore? W h a t re tu rn will it give for w h a t kind of
work? D istribution system s vary in the kind of in term ed iaries
w h o h a n d le the m o v e m e n t of w ork a n d m o n e y b e tw e e n a r t
ists a n d audiences, a n d in the im m e d ia cy of the c o m m u n i
cation a n d influence b e tw ee n th e two groups. Art w o rk s al
ways b e a r the m a rk s of the system w hich d istributes them ,
b u t vary in how th a t h a p p e n s. W hen artists s u p p o rt th e m
selves from n o n a rt sources, the distribution system has
m inim al influence; w h e n they w ork directly for a p a tro n , it is
m axim ized; w h e n they c re a te w orks for u n k n o w n audiences,
the influence co m es th ro u g h the c o n strain ts im p o sed by the
in te rm e d iaries w h o o p e ra te the necessarily m o re com plex
a n d e la b o ra te d istrib u tio n system . Artists experience these
influences as c o n stra in ts w h en the distrib u to rs have in d e
p e n d e n t ideas a b o u t w h a t the a rt w o rk s o u g h t to be like or
w h en they have insufficient know ledge of the co n v en tio n s of
the art to m a k e choices a n d d e m a n d s the artists re g a rd as
know ledgeable. Conversely, they accept p a tro n s o r in te rm e
diaries w h o have th a t know ledge as p a rtn e rs in the w ork's
production.
Art works, then, co m e to be w h a t the art w orld's d is trib u
tion system can h a n d le because, for the m o st part, w ork th a t
d o e s n t fit d o e sn 't get d istributed, w h en it is m a d e at all, a n d
m o st artists, w an tin g their w ork distributed, do n o t m a k e
95 D I S T R 1 B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

w h a t the system will not handle. To say th a t artists w ork with


an eye to th ese m a tte r s does not m e a n they are com pletely
b o u n d by them . S ystem s c h an g e a n d a c c o m m o d a te to artists
ju st as artists c h an g e a n d a c c o m m o d a te to system s. F u r
th e rm o re , artists can secede fro m the c o n te m p o ra ry system
a n d c reate a new one, o r a tte m p t to, o r do w ithout the c o n
straining benefits of distribution. Art w orlds often have m o re
th a n one d istrib u tio n system o p e ra tin g at the sa m e time.
C o n te m p o ra ry painting has elem e n ts of a dealer-gallery sys
tem coexisting with p a tro n a g e relationships, a n d th a t was
tru e of se v e n te e n th -c e n tu ry Italian p a in tin g as well. C on
te m p o ra ry p o etry c o m b in e s self-support a n d g o v e rn m e n t
a n d private p a tro n a g e . As a result, artists can choose from
su c h c o m b in a tio n s the d istrib u tio n system w hich serves
th e m best o r co n strain s th e m least.
D istribution has a crucial effect on re p u tatio n s. W h a t is
not d istrib u ted is n o t know n a n d th u s c a n n o t be well th o u g h t
of o r have historical im p o rta n c e . The process is circular:
w h a t does not have a good re p u ta tio n will not be distributed.
This m e a n s th a t o u r later c o n sid e ra tio n of w h a t constitutes
g re at or im p o rta n t a rt will have to keep in m ind the w ay
d istrib u tio n system s, with their built-in professional biases,
affect opinion a b o u t w hat belongs in those categories.

SE L F -SU P PO R T
M any a rt w orldsfor exam ple, c o n te m p o ra ry poetry a n d
p h o to g ra p h y , for m o st of their p a rtic ip a n ts p ro d u c e so little
in c o m e for th e ir p ra c titio n e rs th a t m o st w ork is p ro d u c e d
th ro u g h a system of self-support. Artists w h o lack su b sta n tia l
financial reso u rces c a n n o t do w o rk w hich requires costly
m aterials, e q u ip m e n t, personnel, or space. M edia like poetry
a n d p h o to g ra p h y , req u irin g relatively small investm ents,
th u s a ttra c t m a n y practitioners. T h a t m a k e s it even m o re
difficult fo r a n y one of th e m to s u p p o r t full-time artistic
activity on the p ro c e e d s from a rt w ork itself. Most artists in
these m edia, then, provide their ow n s u p p o rt from som e
source ou tsid e th e w orkings of the art w orld o r tan g en tial to
the a ctu al creation of a rt works. S o m e artists have been
96 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

s u p p o rte d by a well-to-do or w orking spouse. S o m e artists


have m a d e or in herited e n o u g h to live on, freeing their tim e
for a rt w ork. S o m e artists sim ply have w h a te v e r jo b s are
available to th e m by virtue of their social position o r o th e r
training. M any poets s u p p o rt their w ork this way: T. S. Eliot
w o rk e d in a b a n k a n d th e n for a publisher, W allace Stevens
w as an executive of an in su ra n ce c o m p an y , a n d William
Carlos W illiams w as a practicing physician. O th er artists
have jo b s w hich are p a rt of the art world, th o u g h n o t as
artists. Painters m a y w ork as fram ers, c o m p o se rs as orches-
trators, novelists a n d poets as editors. In a c o m m o n a r
ra n g e m e n t, they teach the a rt they practice, in e lem e n ta ry
a n d se c o n d a ry schools, in professional art schools, a n d as
private teachers.
H o w m u c h tim e do these jo b s leave for serious a rt work?
Artists fre q u e n tly co m p lain th a t th e ir day j o b (the e x p re s
sion is c o m m o n in the p e rfo rm in g arts, w h ere the a rt j o b
usually occurs at night) interferes w ith their w ork. It takes up
so m u c h tim e th a t n o n e is left for art o r it overlaps e n o u g h in
c o n te n t to interfere with creating original a rt w orks. (P h o to g
ra p h e rs w h o do c o m m e rc ia l w o rk so m e tim e s say th a t the
c o m m ercia l a ttitu d e influences their p e rs o n a l w ork, m a k
ing it h a rd for th e m to see a n d p h o to g ra p h in a w ay th a t does
not e m b o d y the restrain ts of the advertising m entality.) Art
ists m a y p re fe r professional w ork as teacher, doctor, or
law yer b e c a u se it lets th e m allocate their ow n time. Alterna-
lively, they m a y p re fe r less prestigious w ork th a t d e m a n d s
less attention, ev en th o u g h it is physically m o re difficult,
tim e-consum ing, a n d tiring.
Artists w h o finance their o w n w o rk c a n be free of the
existing distrib ution system for their m e d iu m : they n e ed not
d istrib u te their w ork a t all, certainly not for m o n e ta ry return.
If they are sufficiently isolated o r alienated from the art
world, they will ex perience this as a liberation r a th e r th a n a
deprivation. If th e y need not p ro d u c e for d istrib u tio n w ithin
the c o n stra in ts of a system , they can ignore its re q u ire m e n ts
a n d m a k e w o rk s as big o r small, sh o rt o r long, c o m p r e h e n
sible o r unintelligible, p e rfo rm a b le o r not as they like, for
those c o n stra in ts typically originate in the rigidity of a dis
97 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

trib u tio n system , w hich c a n n o t h an d le w ork o f the w rong


specifications. (This possibility finds its f ullest expression in
the case of m av e ric k a n d naive artists, discussed later.)
Most artists re m a in sufficiently o rien ted to the art w orld
to n e ed its d istrib u tio n system to bring the finished w ork to
a n au d ien c e, if n o t for e c o n o m ic s u p p o rt. S o m e sim ply use
the re g u la r d istrib u tio n c h an n e ls available to people w ho
m a k e th e ir living at art work, publishing, exhibiting, a n d
p e rfo rm in g in the sam e places professionals do, differing
fro m th e m only in not needing to p u t up w ith the sy stem 's
c o n stra in ts if they d o n 't w a n t to. F or this reason, self-support
p rovides the greatest freed o m to artists. In fact, with suffi
cient ou tsid e resources, they c a n c reate their ow n d istrib u
tion system . Visual artists freq u en tly establish co o p erative
galleries, s h a rin g the e x p en ses a n d doing m u c h of the gal
lery's w ork in re tu rn for the chcince to exhibit every year.
Aspiring m u sician s a n d singers not yet of interest to c o n ce rt
m a n a g e m e n ts a n d re co rd in g executives often subsidize their
ow n recitals.
If an estab lish ed d istrib u tio n system rejects e n o u g h p eo
ple w h o would like its benefits, so m e o n e m ay organize a
self-su p p o rted a ltern ativ e to h a n d le their w ork: for exam ple,
the S alon ties R efu ses w as organized in Paris in the 1860s to
show p aintings rejected by the real" Salon, a n d vanity
presses publish at the a u th o r 's expense work refused by
c o m m e rc ia l publishers. As the ex am p les suggest, p artici
pation in the e stab lish ed d istrib u tio n system is one of the im
p o rta n t signs by w hich a rt w orld p a rtic ip a n ts distinguish
serious artists from a m a te u rs . People w ho use alternative
sy stem s c re a te d for th o se re jec te d by the re g u lar system ,
w h a te v e r their reason, m a y m a rk them selves as non-serious.
Miehal McCall (1977, 1978) stu d ie d w o m e n p a in ters in St.
Louis, a provincial art w o rld w here, b e c a u se it is provincial,
they fo u n d it h a rd to d e m o n s tr a te their artistic seriousness.
They h a d to show it in w ays o th e r th a n painting. S om e
m a n a g e d to get jo b s teach in g in th e a rt d e p a r tm e n ts of local
colleges a n d universities, a local sign of seriousness; in fact,
so m e took the jo b s to d e m o n s tra te seriousness, as an in te r
viewee ex p lain ed to McCall:
98 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

She's married to a very rich man who's only too happy to


support her hobby." But she wants to be self-supportingor
at least to support her art work. She says she won't feel
grown-up until she does. You have to have your head really
straight to be able to do serious work if you arent self-sup
porting. (McCall, 1978, p. 307)

McCall n o te s th a t selling a rt is a solution to this p roblem . It


n o t only p ro v id e s an incom e, it proves to self a n d o th e rs th a t
a rt is an o c cu p a tio n , a n d not an avocation." A n o th er painter,
w h o did n o t teach, told her:

It isn't possible to support yourself selling in St. Louis. But I


would like to sell some things. Just as a kind of proof that Im
an artist. So I could say I earned something when my husband
teases me. I didn't used to want to sell anything, but now that
I have a body of drawings, I could imagine selling some. . . .
(McCall, 1978, p. 307)
These w o m e n w ant, a m o n g o th e r things, to distinguish
th em selv es from the w o rld of w h a t McCall calls p ic tu re
p ainters," people w h o p a in t but not w ithin the o rg a n iza tio n s
o r on the basis of the ideologies a n d aesth etics of th e e s ta b
lished w orld of painting. Picture painters, for exam ple, e m
phasize h o w quickly they c a n p ro d u c e a finished painting,
often p a in tin g several at once:

First I put the washes on all of the canvases. Then I do all the
backgrounds. Then 1 spend about two hours on each one,
putting in ail the details and the foreground. (McCall, 1977,
p. 38)

M ost telling, they exhibit a n d sell their w'ork at show s o r


ganized by the a m a te u r a rt associations they belong to, a n d
c o m p e te in c o n tests at the association m eetings:

We all bring a painting. There's a thememaybe a snow scene


in January or flowers in the Spring. Everyone has to do a
painting using that theme. Then we judge them at the meet
ings. We ail vote and you get a certain number of points if you
win. (McCall, 1977, p. 39)

Picture p a in ters m a y p ro d u c e paintings no w orse th a n p r o


99 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

fessional artists' (McCall does not deal with th a t question,


a n d it is not a ju d g m e n t to accept a priori), but they exhibit in
a w a y m e m b e rs of the serious" a rt w orld see as a m a te u ris h
a n d th e re fo re to be avoided. (C o m p are the w orld of c a m e ra
clubs d e sc rib e d in c h a p te r 10.)
Self-support, then, solves so m e b u t by no m e a n s all of the
p ro b le m s po sed by a rt w orld d istrib u tio n system s. You need
n o t use the system to provide e c o n o m ic s u p p o rt for y o u r
w o rk if the m e d iu m d o es not re q u ire extensive exp en d itu res,
if you have sufficient re so u rce s to cover even high expenses,
o r if you can get w h a t you need by barter. But you m a y still
w a n t to bring y o u r w o rk to the a tten tio n of an a p p ro p ria te
au d ien ce. If you can mainly, o r only, re a c h th a t au d ien c e
th ro u g h the established d istrib u tio n system , you m u s t still
deal w ith it, devise a n a ltern ativ e w ay of acco m p lish in g the
s a m e end, o r do w ithout such a u d ie n c e app reciatio n . Artists
m a y n o t w ant the a u d ie n c e s that can be re a c h e d th ro u g h the
co n v entional system , becau se those a u d ie n c e s use that sys
tem precisely b e ca u se it brings th e m the w o rk they p re fe r
a n d kn o w how to a p p re c iate; they have no interest in the
u n c o n v e n tio n a l w o rk s it does not handle.

PATRONAGE

In a p a tro n a g e system , so m e p erso n or organization s u p


ports the artist entirely for a period d u rin g w hich the artist
c o n tra c ts to p ro d u c e specific works, o r a specified n u m b e r of
w orks, o r even ju s t possibly to p ro d u c e so m e works. The
people w h o c a n afford to s u p p o rt artists this w ay co m e from
the w ealth y classes of a society. Thev have h ad the leisure to
a c q u ire s u b sta n tia l know ledge of the c o m p lica te d c o n v e n
tions which govern the p ro d u c tio n of w orks of high art and
can, being know ledgeable, exert detailed control over the
w o rk s w hose p ro d u c tio n they su p p o rt, if they so desire. The
p a tro n m a y be a g o v e rn m en t, w hich co m m issio n s p a in t
ings o r s c u lp tu re s for specific public sp ac es o r p u ts the artist
on a p e rm a n e n t salary, in re tu rn for specific services to be
p e rfo rm e d fro m tim e to time, as with a p oet laureate. The
p a tro n m ay be a c h u rc h ; popes, cardinals, a n d Italian reli
100 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

gious o rd e rs fro m the R enaissance on have s u p p o rte d artists


while they p ro d u c e d m a jo r paintings a n d scu lp tu res o r even
d e c o ra te d w hole ch u rch e s. C h u rc h es still d isp en se p a tr o n
age, but c o rp o ra tio n s m o re c o m m o n ly plav th a t role now,
p aying for w orks w hich d e c o ra te their h e a d q u a rte r s a n d
o th e r buildings o r can be displayed publicly as p a rt o f their
effort at im age building (H aacke, 1976, 1978). Rich people
still c o m m issio n w ork for th e ir ow n collections o r for gifts to
civic o r religious organizations, o r sim ply sen d the artist a
stip e n d w ith no strings a tta c h e d .
T he artist with a p a tro n n e ed only please th a t p a tro n .
P a tro n a g e a rra n g e m e n ts m a y be totally private, alth o u g h
o n c e the artist h a s b e en s u p p o rte d the resulting w ork m ay
be published, exhibited, o r d istrib u ted widely. W hat pleases
p a tro n s d e p e n d s on th e ir taste a n d ju d g m e n t alone, a lth o u g h
the ju d g m e n ts of o th e rs m ay eventually influence them . If
e n o u g h people th in k th e artist's w ork does not m erit su p p o rt,
the p a tro n m a y stop sen d in g checks. But not necessarily.
S tu b b o rn p a tro n s, su re of their o w n ju d g m e n t, often ignore
public criticism, a n d have s u p p o rte d m u c h innovative a n d
u n p o p u la r work. In a n y event, politically, financially, a n d
socially pow erful p a tro n s often control o p p o rtu n itie s to
exhibit o r to h a v e p e rfo rm e d the w o rk s they co m m ission. In
th a t way, they partially s h a p e th e taste of others.
The stratified societies w hich p ro d u c e p a tro n s exhibit a
co m p lex relatio n sh ip b etw een wealth, know ledge, taste, p a t
tern s of s u p p o rt for artists, a n d the kind of w ork p ro d u c ed .
P a tro n s w a n t artists to m a k e w h a t they have le arn e d to
a p p re c ia te a n d prize as the e le m e n ts o f fine art, so how the
w ealth y a n d pow erful are e d u c a te d b e co m es an im p o rta n t
d e te rm in a n t of w h a t they will p ay artists to p ro d u ce. The
ability to pick the best artists a n d c o m m issio n the best w ork
show s the nobility of spirit a n d c h a ra c te r the pow erful a n d
w ealthy think they possess, so th a t being a good p a tro n s u p
p o rts the claim to high rank.
T hese relationships, tra ced o u t in detail for Italian p a in t
ing of the se v e n te e n th cen tu ry by Francis H askell (1963),
suggest the general d im en sio n s a n d p ro b le m s of p a tro n a g e
system s. D uring this period, the m a jo r p a tro n s w e re the
101 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

successive popes, the card in als they a p p o in te d (quite fre


q u e n tly relatives, so th a t the p a tro n a g e m ight be said to
co m e from families), a n d religious orders. P atro n s c o m m is
sioned w ork, in te n d e d to glorify th em selves o r the g roups
they re p re s e n te d , in the form of large-scale d e c o ra tio n s for
c h u rc h e s for the ceilings o r walls of a chapel o r even for the
m a in body of a large c h u rc h (the g re ate st com m ission, p e r
haps, w as for the d e c o ra tio n of St. Peter's)o r the a rc h ite c
ture a n d s c u lp tu re o f a n e w c h u rc h . They often played an
active role in the p la n n in g a n d design of the work, suggesting
topics, th em es, a n d details th a t used the c o n v en tio n al la n
guage of c o n te m p o ra ry art to fu rth e r political and family
aims. Thus, w h e n Pope U rban VIII c o m m issio n e d a m a jo r
w o rk in St. Peter's from Bernini, he

probably played a direct part in outlining the iconographicai


scheme: certainly he made sure that he should be closely
identified with it. The Barberini [the Popes name had been
Malfeo Barberini] bees crawl up the columns and hang
down on bronze leaves from the cornice; the Barberini sun
blazes above the rich capitals; an elementary knowledge of
botanv makes it clear that the leaves on the columns are those
of the laurelanother Barberini emblemand not the tradi
tional vine. From now on their family history was to be indel
ibly linked with that of the great church. (Haskell, 1963, p. 35)

U rb a n VIII w as th e ideal p a tro n . H e paid well a n d on time;


n o t all p a tro n s did. Being cultivated, fam iliar with the e la b
orately coded m e a n in g s of the p e rio d 's painting, he could
p a rtic ip a te in p lan n in g d eco rativ e sch e m es like the above,
w hich c e le b ra te d a p p ro p ria te religious su b je c ts while ex
pressing secular, political, a n d d y n astic m eanings, the icon-
o g ra p h ic g a m e s w hich m a rk e d a m a n of wit and learning. A
good p a tro n also h ad access to the best places to p a in tthe
m ost im p o r ta n t c h u rc h e s a n d the m o st im p o rta n t p a rts of
th o se c h u rc h e s, places w h ere ev ery o n e w ould see o ne's
w ork. T hat h elp ed artists develop a re p u tatio n , w hich freed
th e m from tiresom e o r difficult p atrons. W hen a n artist h a d a
good re p u tatio n , o th e rs w ould be e ag er to pay him to paint
their p alaces a n d ch u rch e s. Families a n d religious o rd e rs
102 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

c o m p e te d for B ernini's services, a n d his w ork a p p e a re d in


the m o st sp e c ta c u la r places.
To p ay well a n d on time, a p a tro n h a d to he personally rich
o r have access to the w ealth of the ch u rch ; p o p e s w e re s u
p erio r p a tro n s, often c o m b in in g family a n d V atican w ealth
so th a t they could co n tin u e sp en d in g a n d paying even w hen
the R o m a n e c o n o m y declined. Of course, w h en the pope
died a n d w as replaced by one from a different family,
n e p h ew s a n d relatives of the late p o p e often lost the ability to
pay so well a n d so prom ptly, along with th e ir c h u rc h offices.
The im p o rta n c e o f a p a tro n 's ta ste a n d learning b e co m es
clear w h e n w e c o n sid e r people w h o did not have it a n d did
not b e h av e in the w avs envisioned in the co n v entional ar-
ra n g e m e n ts. As the p o w e r a n d w ealth of the p ap al state
declined, w ealth y b u sin e ssm e n took up the prerogatives of
p a tro n a g e : It was, indeed, looked u p o n as a necessary a p
p u rte n a n c e of aristo cratic status, a n d m a y often have h ad
little to do w ith a p p re c iatio n o r u n d e rsta n d in g " (Haskell,
1963, pp. 247-48). But these n o u v e a u x riches differed from the
old er p atrons. Lacking the old er p a tro n s ' traditional culture,
the new p a tro n s did n o t w a n t pictures b a se d on m ythology
a n d e la b o ra te religious sym bolism , requiring an e d u c a tio n
they m ay n o t h a v e had. They p re fe rre d pictures of ev ery d ay
life, a n d H askell notes that:
a desire for the more picturesque aspects of reality" in art
has linked the uninitiated connoisseurs of many different civ
ilizations, and has been met by artists ranging from the
sublime to the abysmal. (Haskell, 1963, p. 132)
To look at realistic p ictu res of the life a ro u n d you requires no
special training, for it relies on know ledge any c o m p e te n t
m e m b e r of the society has. You can a d m ire the skill with
w hich th a t life is re n d ere d , the vitality a n d tru th fu ln e s s of the
re p re se n ta tio n . In s te a d of p aintings of the Fates, the Virtues,
the D octors of the C hurch, a n d little angels, the new p a tro n s
p re fe rre d topics like these:
Men at workthe cakeseller with his ring-shaped loaves; the
water-carrier outside the walls of the town; the tobacconist
filling the pipes of resting soldiers; the peasant feeding his
103 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

horses; the smith. Men at playgulping down a quick drink at


the inn but still on horseback to save time; dancing the tar
antella before a group of admiring spectators; playing morra
in an old cave; dressed in brilliant costumes for the carnival
procession. Or a sudden glimpse of violence as the dandified
brigandplumed hat gay against the stormy sky, pistol about
to firerides into the farm and terrorizes the stable lad and his
dog. (Haskell, 1963, p. 132)

P ainters in this p o p u la r style did not ap p ea l to the m o re


co n serv ativ e a n d traditional noble p a tro n s. But there were
few er s u c h p a tro n s a n d they spent less of the m o n e y being
sp e n t for paintings, so paintings based on their class-bound
cultivation a n d learning a ttra c te d ta len te d p a in te rs less and
less.
In short, a p a tro n a g e system m a k e s an im m e d ia te c o n
n ectio n b e tw e e n w h a t the p a tro n w an ts a n d u n d e r s ta n d s a n d
w h a t the artist docs. P a tro n s pay, a n d they d ic ta te not every
n ote o r b ru s h stroke, b u t th e b ro a d outlines a n d the m a tte rs
th a t co n ce rn th e m . They choose artists w h o provide w h at
they w an t. In an efficient p a tro n a g e system, artists a n d p a
trons s h a re c o n v en tio n s a n d a n aesth etic th ro u g h which they
can c o o p e ra te to p ro d u c e work, the p a tro n s providing s u p
p o rt a n d direction, the artists creativity a n d execution.
The Italian e x am p le gives us th e basic d im e n sio n s w ithin
w hich p a tro n a g e sy stem s vary in different societies. M any
w ealth y classes s h a re no body of values and tra d itio n s of the
kind th a t in fo rm ed the Italian b a ro q u e . T heir m e m b e rs can
express their nobility" by s u p p o rtin g artists, but can n o t
c o o p e ra te in the p ro d u c tio n of w orks w h ich express, justify,
a n d celeb rate their position a n d class. The p a tro n w h o s u p
p o rte d M arcel D u c h a m p s u p p o rte d the p ro d u c tio n of a
series of esoteric o bjects w hich, w h a te v e r their m ean in g , p r o
vided no easily u n d e rs to o d s u p p o rt for the p a t r o n s social
position. It gave th e p a tro n en try into the otherw ise closed
a n d esoteric w orld of c o n te m p o r a ry a rt a n d access to rank,
o r at least p a rticip atio n , in a w orld w h o se ow n system of ra n k
w as in d e p e n d e n t of the larger societys, d e p e n d in g instead
on th e sh a re d taste of p ractitio n ers of the art, a n d p e rh a p s
only a sm all s e g m e n t of those. Rockefellers a n d Guggen-
104 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

heim s use their eco n o m ic a n d social reso u rces to erect


m o n u m e n ts to them selves, in th e form of m a jo r m u s e u m s of
c o n te m p o ra ry a v an t-g a rd e art. But the art in those m u s e u m s
e m b o d ie s the ideologies o f c o n te m p o ra ry art m o v em en ts,
a n d the p a tro n s show their ra n k in those sy stem s by a culti
vated know ledge of art esoterica. (R em em b er, in contrast,
th a t in b a ro q u e Italy p a in te rs learned the ideology, sy m b o l
ism, a n d aesthetic o f people who, at the top of the social
hierarchy, could afford to su p p o rt them.)
P a tro n a g e differs in the p e rfo rm in g arts, w h ere the costs of
c o n te m p o ra ry p e rfo rm in g arts o rg an izationssym phonies,
operas, re p e rto ry theaters, a n d balletare so great no one
p a tro n c a n co ver th e m . As a result, the people w h o m ight
p atro n ize individual p a in ters or w riters collaborate to s u p
p o rt these organizations, a n d the co ordination of th a t collab
o ration necessitates a n e la b o ra te p a ra p h e rn a lia of b o a rd s
a n d auxiliaries to carry on the req u ired fu n d raising. P atro n s
of these m a jo r cultural enterp rises give e n o u g h to m a in ta in a
c o n tin u o u s flow of p e rfo rm a n c e s a n d the p re p a ra tio n of new
p ro d u c tio n s. They get no collectable o bjects to display as
evidence of th e ir taste a n d seriousness, b u t their n a m e s a p
p e a r in p ro g ra m s, a n d they so m e tim e s get credit for financ
ing a new p ro d u c tio n (e.g., of an o p e ra o r ballet), a n d th u s
receive a certain a m o u n t of s ta tu s honor.
C o n te m p o ra ry private p atrons, then, c a n afford to be the
m o d e ls of en lightened generosity Haskell describes as the
ideal p a tro n . They have the m oney, a n d m o st of th e m have
a c q u ire d the esoteric know ledge of c o n te m p o ra ry a rt n e ce s
sary to be en lightened in how they sp en d it. They m a y not,
how ever, control the best places to display w ork fo r m a x i
m u m public effect unless they are, as m a n y m a jo r collectors
of m o d e rn a rt are, m a jo r officers of a n d d o n o rs to im p o r
ta n t m u se u m s. S o m e collectorsG uggenheim , W hitney, Hir-
s h o rn have ev en o p e n e d their ow n m u se u m s. (Joseph Hir-
shorn, while he sp en t e n o rm o u s a m o u n ts of m o n e y on c o n
te m p o ra ry art, did so in a w ay th a t cast d o u b t on w h e th e r he
fully p a rtic ip a te d in a n d u n d e rs to o d the aesthetic involved;
he m ight, for instance, buy the entire co n ten ts of an artist's
studio in a tw e n ty -m in u te visit.)
G o v ern m en ta l p a tro n s, on the o th e r h a n d , can display
105 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

w ork in im p o rta n t a n d accessible places. W hen g o v e rn m e n ts


c o m m issio n a rt w o rk s for p u rp o s e s of display o r c o m m e m
oration, artists can so m e tim e s d e p e n d on officials as a
so u rce of su p p o rt. But in g o v e rn m e n t m a n y item s have a
h ig h er priority th a n art, so this is a sh ak y source. In addition,
g o v e rn m e n t officials usually have to a n s w e r to superiors,
w h o (especially if they are p o p u la rly elected) m a y not have
so p h istica ted tastes or, if they do, m a y a n s w e r to c o n stit
uencies w hich do not. For these reasons, official c o m m is
sions generally go to those practicing artists w h o m o st clearly
re p re s e n t estab lish ed values a n d artistic styles. (See Moulin,
1967, pp. 265-84.) As a result, w o rk defined as politically
radical, o bscene, sacrilegious, o r too different from c o n v e n
tional definitions o f w h a t co n stitu tes art receives little gov
e r n m e n t s u p p o rt anyw here.
D espite th ese co n strain ts, m a n y g o v e rn m e n ts have been
responsible for m a jo r c o n te m p o r a ry w orks. In su ch cases,
specialized officials, e n lig h ten e d " in H ask e lls sense, s h a r
ing the c o n v e n tio n s a n d aesthetic of artists in the c o n te m
p o ra ry p ain tin g a n d sc u lp tu re w orld, take over the day-to-
d a y w orkings of the b u re a u c ra c ie s w hich a d m in is te r funds
a p p ro p ria te d for art. They insulate artists from som e, th o u g h
n o t all, direct political pressure. A ndre M alraux, while he w as
m in iste r of c u ltu re in the F ren ch g o v e rn m e n t, exemplifies
the type.
S o m e th in g sim ilar h a p p e n s in business p a tro n a g e of the
arts, a lth o u g h there, as H a n s H a a c k e (1976, 1978) has show n,
choices are m a d e a n d justified as exercises in public relations
a n d c o rp o ra te im age building a n d th e refo re are usually quite
conservative, designed to p ro d u c e a positive effect on the
g re ate st n u m b e r o f people. The thinking th a t in fo rm s c o r
p o ra te p a tro n a g e is exem plified in these q u o ta tio n s H a a c k e
gleaned from the re m a rk s of s o m e im p o rta n t officials a b o u t
the relations b e tw e e n a rt a n d business:

My appreciation and enjoyment of art are esthetic rather


than intellectual.
1 am not really concerned with what the artist means; it is
not an intellectual operationit is what I feel.
Nelson Rockefeller
106 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

But the significant thing is that increasing recognition in


the business world that the arts are not a thing apart,
that they have to do with all aspects of life, including
business
that they are, in fact essential to business.
Frank Stanton

EXXON's support of the arts serves the arts as a social


lubricant.
And if business is to continue in big cities, it needs a lubri
cated environment.
Robert Kingsley,
Department of Public Affairs, EXXON Corporation
( Q u o t e d in H a a c k e , 1976, p p . 116, 117, a n d 120)

W hen c o n te m p o ra ry p a tro n s have su ch ideas a b o u t art, they


co m e into fre q u e n t conflict w ith artists a n d o th e r c o n te m
p o ra ry art w orld p articipants, who, m o re liberal politically,
typically view the correct relation b e tw ee n g o v ern m en t,
business, a n d th e arts differently. H aacke\s polls of people
visiting an a v a n t-g a rd e New York gallery show that they are
m o re left in th e ir politics a n d m o re a d v e n tu ro u s in th e ir taste
th a n the people w h o provide the m a jo r su p p o rt for public
art. S eventy p e rc e n t of the visitors to a typical c o n te m p o
rary a rt gallery have a professional interest in art. Seventy-
six p e rc e n t th in k artists a n d m u s e u m staff sh o u ld be re p re
sen te d on the b o a rd of tru ste es of a rt m u s e u m s (an idea
such b o a rd s have resisted strongly). Seventy-four p e rc e n t
s u p p o rte d M cG overn in the 1972 U.S. election. Sixty-seven
p e rc e n t think th e interests of profit-oriented business are
in c o m p a tib le with the c o m m o n good. Sixty-six p e rc e n t h a v e
in co m es below S20,000 a y e a r a n d 81 p e rce n t th in k U.S. ta x
ation policy favors large incom es. No m o re th a n 15 p e rc e n t
th in k th a t any New York a rt m u s e u m w ould exhibit w orks
critical of the p re s e n t U.S. g o v ern m en t. Forty-nine p e rc e n t
co n sid e r th em selves liberal, a n d 19 percent, radical (H aacke,
1976, pp. 14-36). In short, the public for c o n te m p o r a ry a rt
believes th a t the w ork it is m o st interested in is ultim ately
co ntrolled by people w h o have a view o f the a rt e n terp rise
c o n tra d ic to ry to th e ir own.
107 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

G o v ern m en t p a tro n ag e, d iscussed later, differs with the


c h a r a c te r of the regim e. I only w a n t to note here th a t the
g o v e rn m e n t m a y have a m o n o p o ly over the m e a n s of m ak ing
a n d d istrib u tin g work. In th a t case, the state is no longer one
of several possible sources of financing; it is the only one, and
w ork d o e s not get d o n e w ith o u t its help. In a n u m b e r of
countries, while literature a n d m usic are in the h a n d s of
privately o w n e d firms, the state controls the film industry,
directly or th ro u g h financial su p p o rt. The regim e m a y think
films a g re a te r th re a t to political stability, since they reach
m o re people th a n w ritten m aterials, o r only the state m a y be
able to ag g reg ate e n o u g h m o n e y to finance a respectable-
looking film. In so m e countries, of course, the state m a in
tains as a m a tte r of c o u rse a m o n o p o ly over all form s of
c o m m u n ic a tio n a n d enterprise. One m ight then d escribe the
arts as a state-controlled in d u stry ra th e r th a n sp eak of state
p atro n ag e .

PUBLIC SALE
U n d e r this kind o f system , artists m a k e w o rk s which are
sold o r d is trib u te d publicly. Typically, professional in te rm e
diaries o p e ra te o rg an izatio n s w hich sell w o rk s o r tickets to
p e r f o rm a n c e s to a n y o n e with the m o n e y to buy them . S om e
relatively sim ple s ta te m e n ts suggest the basic w orkings of
public-sale system s. (1) Effective d e m a n d is g e n e ra te d by
people w h o will s p e n d m o n e y for art. (2) W hat they d e m a n d
is w h a t they have learn ed to enjoy a n d w ant, a n d th a t is a
re su lt o f their e d u c a tio n a n d experience. (3) Price varies with
d e m a n d a n d quantity. (4) The w orks the system h a n d le s are
th o se it can d istrib u te effectively e n o u g h to stay in o p eratio n .
(5) E n o u g h artists will p ro d u c e w orks the system can effec
tively d istrib u te that it c a n c o n tin u e to o p erate. (6) Artists
w h o se w ork the d istrib u tio n system c a n n o t o r will not h a n d le
find o th e r m e a n s of distribution; alternatively, their w ork
achieves m inim al o r no distribution.
We can apply the th re e criteria p ain ters applied to p a tro n s
to public-sale system s. W h at kind of financial su p p o rt do
they provide for people m a k in g art w orks? H ow do they
108 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

bring to g e th e r a u d ien ces w h o sh are the co n v en tio n s a n d


taste th a t e n te r into the m a k in g of the works? H ow do they
provide for the public display of the artist's w ork, th u s
c o n trib u tin g to the building of re p u ta tio n s a n d careers?
R e m e m b e r th a t the in term ed iaries w h o ru n th ese o rg a n iz a
tions in ten d to keep the process of p ro d u c tio n a n d d is trib u
tion m o re o r less orderly a n d predictable, so th a t they can
c o n tin u e th e ir o p e ra tio n s a n d th u s co n tin u e to serve both
a u d ie n c e s a n d artists while profiting them selves. The o p e r
ating public-sale system s serve som e artists well, providing
s u p p o rt, c o n ta c t w ith an a u d ie n c e with taste, a n d o p p o r tu
nities for the effective public display of their work. They do
less well for artists w h o se w ork d o e s n t quite fit the system ,
a n d very badly for artists w hose w ork d o e s n t fit at all.
In so m e sy ste m s a n e n tr e p r e n e u r invests in a stock of
w o rk by o n e o r m o re artists a n d provides a place w h ere
pro sp ectiv e buyers can inspect it a n d possibly buy it. In the
p e rfo rm in g arts variant, an e n tr e p r e n e u r invests in the p r o
d u c tio n of p e rfo rm a n c e s , usually by investing in their p r e p
aratio n or, alternately, by g u a ra n te e in g a m in im u m take,
a n d then sells tickets. In e ith e r case, in term ed iaries m a k e
e n o u g h on s o m e of w h a t they offer to e n a b le th e m to c o n
tinue to offer a variety. W e can call relatively small-scale
versions of this system a gallery-dealer type or, sp eak in g of
th e p e rfo rm in g arts, a n im p re sa rio system . These small-scale
sy ste m s typically d istrib u te w orks conceived as unique. At
the o th e r extrem e, a n e n tr e p r e n e u r invests in the p ro d u c tio n
of m a n y copies of a w ork in te n d e d for m a ss d istribution, in a
w ay typical of the re co rd in g industry, films, a n d book
publishing. We can call th ese system s, following Paul H irsch
(1972), cu ltu re industries.

Dealers
H askell (1963) a n d H a r r is o n a n d Cynthia W hite (1965)
d e sc rib e the shift from system s of p a tro n a g e to sy stem s
d o m in a te d by dealers, galleries, a n d critics. In eighteenth-
a n d n in e te e n th -c e n tu ry Italy a n d France, large n u m b e rs of
w ea lth y m e rc h a n ts a n d o th e r business people b e c a m e in te r
ested in a cq u irin g paintings for their ow n e n jo y m e n t a n d as

!
109 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

m a rk s of the cultivation a n d taste a p p ro p ria te to the social


position they a sp ire d to. S im ultaneously, m a n y people had
b e c o m e artists, h o p in g for the successful care ers p a tro n a g e
m a d e possible. U n d er p a tro n ag e, public exhibits w ere not
c o m m o n and, w h en held, b ro u g h t to g e th e r e n o rm o u s n u m
bers o f c a n v a se s for a relatively sh o rt tim e so th a t p o te n
tial p a tro n s could see w h o m they w a n te d to take on as p ro
teges; in the case of the Paris Salon, the state a w a rd e d
prizes w h ich helped p a tro n s m a k e their choices.
B ut m o re p a in ters w a n te d p a tro n s th a n the system could
a c c o m m o d a te . W hite a n d W hite (1965) e stim a te th a t in
France, a r o u n d 1863, th re e th o u s a n d recognized m ale p a in t
ers in Paris a n d a n o th e r th o u s a n d in the provinces tu rn e d
out, every ten years, a p p ro x im a te ly tw o h u n d r e d th o u s a n d
re p u ta b le c a n v a se s (p. 83).
the system never developed, within its own confines, the abil
ity to place this hoard of unique objects for pay. Not all
paintings had to be placed, of course, nor were they placed by
the alternative system of dealers and critics that was evolving.
But enough of them had to be placed to give the artist some
semblance of the regular income necessitated by his own
middle-class view of himself.

A much larger market for paintings was needed and could be


mobilized. . . . The dealers recognized, encouraged, and ca
tered to new social markets. . . . There were enough, and
sufficiently varied, potential buyers so that one had to think in
terms of markets rather than individuals (White and White,
1965, pp. 88, 94)
Visual a rt is now sold alm o st entirely th ro u g h an in te rn a
tional n e tw o rk o f such dealers. Dealers (acco rd in g to Mou-
lin's classic [1967] stu d y of the a rt m arket, on w hich the
following discussion heavily relies) in teg rate the artist into
the society's e c o n o m y by tra n s fo rm in g a esth etic value into
e c o n o m ic value, th u s m a k in g it possible for artists to live by
their a rt w ork. Dealers usually specialize in e ith e r "c o n se
c ra te d " art o r c o n te m p o r a r y art. T heir style of doing business
a n d the e c o n o m ic con tin g en cies of their o p e ra tio n s vary
accordingly:
110 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

Whether these dealers [in consecrated art] specialize in Old


Masters or in modern painting, lrom the masters of impres
sionism to the masters of the 20th century, the works put on
sale possess, on the cultural plane, the status of legitimacy
and, on the economic plane, the status of assured value----
Their artistic choices have as a basis the choices already
made by history. Errors of judgment occur only at the level of
the identification and authentication of works. (Moulin, 1967,
pp. 99-100, my translation)
E ven if su c h w orks fall o u t of critical favor, th e ir u n d e n iab le
im p o rta n c e in the h isto ry of a rt assu res their con tin u in g
value. T h a t value is fu rth e r s u p p o rte d by the forever limited
su pply; a d e a d artist will paint no m ore canvases, alth o u g h
m o re m a y be discovered a n d fu rth e r d e a d artists m a y be
(and often are) a d d e d to the list o f those w h o se w ork has
historic im p o rta n c e (see Moulin, 1967, pp. 424-41).
In co n trast, the su p p ly of c o n te m p o ra ry p aintings h a s no
limit. Dealing in c o n te m p o r a ry w o rk re q u ire s a n e n tr e p r e
neur, so m e o n e willing to take risks: "The innovative d ealer
bets on an u n k n o w n w ork; his objective is to give it a p u b
lic existence a n d im p o se it on the m a rk e t" (Moulin, 1967,
p. 118, m y translation). But how can the e n tr e p r e n e u r kn o w
w h e th e r the w ork a n d artist he bets on, a n d r e c o m m e n d s to
others, will be a c c e p te d by the public? No one can know7for
sure, until history h a s sp o k e n th ro u g h the actions of o th e rs
w h ich su sta in his ju d g m e n t a n d cause a n increase in the
p rices of the w ork. Inn o v ativ e d ealers th u s find th a t their
aesthetic a n d financial ju d g m e n ts a n d activities are t h o r
oughly m ixed. F u rth er, they c an n o t, a n d do not, w ait for
history to speak; they actively try to p e rs u a d e the o thers
w h o se actio n s will m a k e history. They do this th ro u g h their
galleries.
A gallery consists of: a dealer, w h o ordinarily has a p e r
m a n e n t location in w hich to display a rt w orks to prosp ective
b u y ers; a g ro u p of artists (often re fe rre d to as the d ealer's
"stable"), w h o p ro d u c e th e w ork to be sold; a g ro u p of
buyers, w h o s u p p o rt the gallery th ro u g h re g u lar p u rc h a se s;
a critic o r critics, w h o help, th ro u g h publish ed ex p lan atio n s
a n d evaluations, to build up a n interest in a n d a m a rk e t for
Ill DI STRI BUTI NG ART W O R K S

th e w o rk s o f the gallery's artists; a n d a large gro u p of gallcry-


goers, w h o a tte n d openings, c o m e to see shows, and g e n e r
ally diffuse interest in the gallery's artists by talking about
th e m a n d re c o m m e n d in g show s to others. Potential bu y ers
o f the w ork do not sh are an aesth etic a n d body o f conven-
tional know ledge with artists, b o th b e c a u se they co m e fro m
less c u ltu re d classes th a n p a tro n s a n d becau se the cu ltu re of
the a rt w orld has b e c o m e increasingly esoteric a n d p ro fes
sionalized, d e v o ted to the ex ploration o f p ro b le m s grow ing
o u t o f its ow n tra d itio n (see K ubler, 1962).
Dealers typically specialize in a style o r school of art.
"Their" artists have s o m e th in g in c o m m o n , so th a t people
w h o c o m e to th e gallery can expect to see w ork w hich d e
p e n d s m o re o r less on the sam e o r related a s s u m p tio n s a n d
conventions. S tea d y a tte n d a n c e at a gallerys exhibitions
te ac h es you how to a p p re c ia te th a t stylew h a t its possibil
ities are, w h a t experiences you c a n have in viewing it, facts
a b o u t the artists a n d their b a c k g ro u n d , a n d its philosophical
o r aesthetic intentions a n d u n d e rp in n in g s (contained in wall
labels a n d catalogues). G allerygoers w h o identify them selves
as potential p u rc h a s e rs get personalized lessons from the
gallery staff, w h o analyze the w ork of individual artists and
even individual paintings or sculptures, suggest their rela
tionship to o th e r im p o r ta n t o r c u rre n t styles o r schools, a n d
discuss the aesthetics of the work, sim u ltan eo u sly p e rh a p s
discussing w h e re you m ight p u t a p a rtic u la r w o rk in y o u r
h om e, h o w you m ight w a n t to pay for it, a n d how it w ould fit
in w ith o th e r w orks you alread y own.
These lessons in how to a p p re c ia te the w o rk of a gallerys
artists build on a g ro u n d w o rk laid by critics a n d aestheti-
cians. A estheticians (as the next c h a p te r shows) deal with
the basic philosophical positions which justify w o rk of one
o r a n o th e r kind as legitim ate art, suitable for app reciatio n .
Critics o p e ra te at a m o re m u n d a n e level, discussing the
day-to-day affairs of the art world they are p art of, c u rre n t
ev en tsshows, m a jo r acquisitions, a n d c h a n g e s of style
w hich affect re p u ta tio n s a n d the prices o f work, a n d p a r
ticular th eo ries of painting w hich inform so m e picture or
g ro u p of them . W hite a n d W hite (1965) cite a re p resen tativ e
112 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

e x am p le o f the criticism w hich explained im pressionist p a in t


ing to th e F re n c h art-buying public:

In the field of color, they have made a genuine discovery


whose origin cannot be found elsewhere. . . . The discovery
properly consists in having recognized that full light decolor
izes tones, that sunlight reflected by objects tends, by virtue of
its clarity, to bring them back to the luminous unity which
dissolves its seven spectral rays into a single colorless reful
gence, which is fight. From intuition to intuition, they have
succeeded . . . in splitting the light into its beams, its elements,
and in recomposing its unity by means of the general har
mony of the colors of the spectrum which they spread on their
canvases . . . (Edmond Duranty, cited in White and White,
1965, p. 120)

S u c h re m a rk s w ould help a p e rso n w ho still valued Aca


d e m ic history p ain tin g to see w h a t there w as to like in p a in t
ings w hich h a d no fa m o u s people in them , c o m m e m o r a te d
no im p o r ta n t events, a n d ex p ressed no im p o rta n t patriotic
o r religious values.
Critical w riting is especially influential w hen it explains
clearly w h a t the previous s ta n d a r d was, a n d h o w the new
w ork n o w show s th a t th a t s ta n d a r d w as to o c o n stricte d a n d
th a t there are in fact o th e r things to enjoy. Jo h n Szarkow'ski,
an im p o r ta n t ta s te m a k e r in p h o to g ra p h y , th u s explains w hy
R obert F ra n k 's book, The A m ericans, w as disliked w h en it
first a p p e a r e d in 1958 a n d w h a t one m ig h t see in it by giving
up the th e n c o n v en tio n a l view:

the angriest responses to The Americans came from photog


raphers and photography specialists . . . who recognized how
profound a challenge Frank's work was to the standards of
photographic stylephotographic rhetoricthat were in large
part shared even by photographers of very different philo
sophical postures. These standards called for a precise and
unambiguous description of surface, volume, and space; it was
in these qualities that the seductiveness, the physical beauty,
of photography lay. (Szarkowski, 1978, p. 20)

The AmericansFrank's searing personal view of this country


during the Eisenhower yearswas . . . based on a sophisti
113 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

cated social intelligence, quick eves, and a radical understand


ing of the potentials of the small camera, which depended on
good drawing rather than on elegant tonal description (Szar-
kowski, 1978, p. 17)
Critics frequently m a k e the s a m e discoveries gallery o w n
ers m ake, a n d the two g ro u p s co llab o rate to p ro m o te those
p a in te rs a n d scu lp to rs w h o se in n ovations they find a ttr a c
tive a n d critically acceptable. T he d ealers show the work,
a n d the critics pro v id e the re a so n in g w hich m a k e s it a c c e p t
able a n d w o rth appreciating. Both g ro u p s often p u rc h a se
the new w ork they are in te re ste d in for their ow n collections.
It w o u ld be su rp risin g if they did not, since they originally
ch o se it, at least in part, b e ca u se th e y found it attractiv e
a n d th o u g h t it likely to be im p o r ta n t in the d e v e lo p m e n t
o f painting, as well as b e c a u se they w a n te d to help the as
yet relatively u n k n o w n artists by buying their work.
Dealers n e e d people w h o will not only a p p re c ia te the w ork
th e y p resen t, b u t also buy it a n d keep itcollectors. Most
people w h o like c o n te m p o ra ry a rt do not actually buy it. One
of H a a c k e 's polls of gallerygoers show s th a t only 18 p e rc e n t
have sp e n t m o re th a n tw o th o u s a n d dollars buying art
(H aacke, 1976, p. 46). D ealers try to train a p p re c ia to rs to be
collectors. T hat m e a n s a d d in g to a p p rec iatio n of the w ork
such e le m e n ts as prid e a n d confidence in displaying one's
taste, the confidence show ing in the e x p e n d itu re involved
a n d the w illingness to let o th e rs know you have m a d e it.
R a y m o n d c M oulin (1967, pp. 190-225) outlines the diversity
of co llec to rs motives, from cu ltural s n o b b e ry a n d sheer
financial sp ecu latio n to a d e ep e n g ro ssm e n t in p a in tin g for
its o w n sake, as well as th e collecting m a n ia d e scrib ed in
fictional detail by E van S. Connell, Jr. (1974). S he points out
how the c o n fo u n d in g o f e c o n o m ic a n d aesthetic values a p
p e a rs even in the b e h av io r of the speculator:
The speculator makes two bets, intimately connected in the
short run, one on the aesthetic value, the other on the eco
nomic value of the works he buys, each of the two guaran
teeing the other. To win this double bet is to confirm oneself
simultaneously as an economic actor and a cultural actor.
(Moulin, 1967, p. 219, my translation)
114 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

Playing on s u c h m ix tu res of m otives, dealers (aided bv the


w ritings o f critics) a ttra c t an au d ien ce, a clientele interested
in the w ork they show. The buyers, enjoying the w o rk s as
they have learn e d to, c o m m u n ic a te to others, b o th in their
talk a n d by the e x a m p le of their ow n acquisitions, the possi
bilities of th e n e w style or school, th u s m a k in g the dealer's
a rg u m e n ts m o re persuasive.
Art w o rk s are n o w universally re g a rd e d as a n im p o rta n t
m e a n s of in v e stm en t. Wisely c h o sen art w orks a p p rec iate
substantially, so m e tim e s doing b e tte r th a n m o re c o n v e n
tional alternatives. But, as M oulin (1967, pp. 462-76) shows,
w h e n the U.S. stock m a rk e t d ro p p e d d ram atica lly in 1962,
A m erican collectors sold off' th e ir p aintings a n d p ro d u c e d an
even m o re d ra m a tic d e p rec iatio n in the prices of c o n te m
porary7 paintings, both in N ew York a n d in Paris. T he prices
of historically legitim ated paintings d ro p p e d m u c h less.
As a result, investing in c o n te m p o ra ry art re q u ire s ex p ert
advice if it is to be d o n e wisely. S uccessful critics a n d dealers,
re p u te d to have a good eye for aesthetic (and th erefo re
econom ic) value, s h a p e their clien ts taste an d , by so doing,
e n su re th a t th e ir o w n in v e stm e n ts in artists w h o are not fully
estab lish ed b e c o m e a n d re m a in profitable. The m o re people
they convince of the artistic m erits of "their" artists, the
m o re valuable their ow n holdings. Dealers th u s find it a d
v a n ta g e o u s to hold on to the w ork of artists ju st beco m in g
know n. It will be w o rth m o re as the p a in te r's re p u ta tio n
grows.
B ecause a rt w orks have e c o n o m ic value, so m e of the dis
tribution s y s te m s w ork deals directly with the p ro b le m s that
creates. O ne crucial p ro b le m is establishing the a u th en ticity
of the w o rk being sold. This m a tte rs little w h e n the artist is
c o n te m p o r a ry a n d u n k n o w n w h o w ould fake the w ork?
b u t b e c o m e s very im p o rta n t w h e n larger s u m s a re involved,
o r w h e n the artist is d e a d or c a n n o t r e m e m b e r for sure
c re a tin g the w ork in question. In su ch situations, experts
co llab o rate with dealers, applying the m e th o d s of art histo r
ical re se a rc h to a u th e n tic a te p a rtic u la r w o rk s a n d the m e t h
ods o f aesth etics to decide the relative w^orth o f artists,
w orks, a n d entire schools. They use m e th o d s o f stylistic a n
115 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

alysis to decide w h e th e r a Titian is a real Titian. T he c o n


stru c tio n of a p ro v e n a n c e , a step-by-step tracing of the o w n
e rsh ip of a w ork, can serve the sa m e purpose. S uch ex p erts
as B e rn a rd B ercn so n co llab o rated with dealers like Jo se p h
D uveen to p e r s u a d e a g e n era tio n of rich A m ericans w h o
knew little a b o u t art to sp en d fo rtu n es on w orks the expert
g u a ra n te e d as a u th en tic ; at the s a m e time, B eren so n w as
p u ttin g th e m e th o d s o f system atic a ttrib u tio n on a so u n d a n d
defensible basis. These scholarly te c h n iq u e s are now a s ta n
d a rd part of the value-creating activity of a c o m m u n ity of
dealers, critics, scholars, a n d collectors.
In short, dealers, critics, a n d collectors develop a c o n s e n
sus a b o u t the w o rth of w ork a n d how it can be app reciated .
W h e n th a t h a p p e n s , we m ay say th a t the d e a le r has c re a te d
o r tra in e d a n a u d ien c e for the w ork he h an dles, an a u d ie n c e
as c u ltiv ated w ith re sp e ct to that body of w o rk as an Italian
n o b le m a n o r p o p e w as with respect to b a ro q u e painting.
They know a n d u n d e rs ta n d it, a n d the p a in te r c a n paint for
th e m , sure in the know ledge th a t they will a p p re c ia te his
insights, wit, a n d technical achievem ents.
S u c h a dealer, of course, m u s t also have artists w h o c re a te
the work. A d e a le r actively collects artists, a n d e n c o u ra g e s
th e m to p ro d u c e sufficient w ork to allow him to build up an
interest a m o n g the gallery's stea d y clientele. M arcia Bystryn
(1978) has suggested a division of lab o r a m o n g galleries in
the c o n te m p o ra ry New York p a in tin g world. One type s p o n
sors large n u m b e rs of relatively u n k n o w n artists, giving th e m
a first c h a n c e at being seen by serious critics a n d collectors.
The seco n d type chooses from this g ro u p those w h o have
received so m e e n c o u ra g e m e n t, w h o se w o rk has been well
received critically a n d b o u g h t bv a few im p o rta n t collectors.
Dealers, a n d their re q u ire m e n ts for a steady supply of w ork to
b e show n a n d sold, c reate s o m e im p o rta n t c o n stra in ts on
artists. They often suggest the kinds of w ork that m ight c o n
stitute a n a p p ro p ria te next step for the artist, a n d are a
certain so u rce of p re ssu re to p ro d u c e w ork in sufficient
q u a n tity to su stain both the gallery (the gallery's artists to
g e th e r m u st p ro d u c e sufficient w o rk to allow for a c o n
tin u o u s sch e d u le of exhibitions) a n d the a rtis ts c a re e r (an
116 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

artist w h o is n o t p ro d u c in g m u c h w ork is no longer, in som e


sense, a practicing artist, at least n o t one w h o c an play a
serious role in a gallery's operations). T he tw o types of
galleries, b etw een th e m , p ro d u c e a steady su p p ly of artists
willing to risk their tim e, energy, a n d re p u ta tio n s m ak in g
w ork th a t m a y or m a y not be tak en seriously, develop an
a u d ie n c e sufficient to s u p p o rt the artists' w ork, a n d p ro d u c e
re p u ta tio n s th a t ratify a position in the system of e ste e m of
the art world. B etw een them , they w ee d out aspiring artists,
e n c o u ra g in g som e to g re a te r p ro d u c tio n a n d m o re confi
d e n ce in their ow n work, suggesting to o th e rs th a t th e y have
g o n e as far as they are likely to go. (A m o re com plex typology
of galleries c a n be fo u n d in Moulin, 1967, pp. 89-149.)
A lthough dealers have little trouble recruiting aspiring a r t
ists (in fact, it is aspiring artists w h o have tro u b le finding
dealers), they often have trouble keeping them . As w ith all
relations w ith s u p p o rt personnel, artists find dealers a m ixed
blessing. On the one h a n d , dealers do things m o st artists
w ould like s o m e o n e else to do. Moulin q u o te s a F rench
painter:

To be honest, I have to say that we're always on the lookout


for a dealer, in order to get away from the administrative
work, the publicity that the dealer takes charge of, in order to
protect myself, in order not to have to entertain collectors. It's
a lost day when a collector comes, three hours lost beforehand
from anxiety; then, if he doesn't like things, you're annoyed,
or if he does, you're excited. A painter can't be everywhere.
(Moulin, 1967, p. 333, my translation)

M ore im p o rta n t, b e c a u se a y o u n g p a in te r m a y be re g ard e d


as a good in v estm en t, w ell-established dealers m a k e artists
"theirs," a c q u ire a m o n o p o ly on the sale of their w ork by
c o n tra c tin g for their entire o u tp u t in re tu rn for a m o nthly
stip en d on w hich the p a in te r c a n live, work, a n d buy m a te
rials. Finally, the dealer, by virtue of his specialized business
skills a n d c o n n ec tio n s in the m a rk et, knows, as the artist does
not, h o w to tra n sla te aesthetic value into e co n o m ic value.
M oulin cites the case of J a c q u e s Villon. A lthough well k n o w n
a n d resp e cted , his w ork did not sell. W hen he w as alm ost
117 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

seventy the d e a le r Louis C arre began to h an d le his w ork and,


th ro u g h a carefully o rg anized series of show s, raised the
price of Villons p a in tin g s from h u n d re d s to h u n d r e d s of
th o u s a n d s of fra n cs (Moulin, 1967, pp. 329-33).
On the o th e r han d , dealers do not alw ays pay w h a t they
owe. Their b u sin ess is sensitive to the fluctuations of the
e c o n o m ic situation, a n d w hen things get bad they m ay c a n
cel c o n tra c ts. Dealers w ho are not well established m a y have
tro u b le paying artists; artists m a y have trouble recovering
u n so ld w ork (see the detailed a c c o u n t of su c h an incident in
H ab e r, 1975). More im p o rtan t, as M oulin p o ints out, the
e c o n o m ic interests o f artist a n d d ealer often diverge. A
d e ale r will often w a n t to hold a w ork for years while its value
grows, b u t the p a in te r w a n ts the w o rk show n, p u rc h a se d ,
a n d placed w h ere he c a n benefit from its being d iscu ssed by
an a u d ie n c e w hich a p p re c ia te s w h a t he is d o in g a n d c a n
c o n trib u te useful ideas a n d criticism. Finally, th e artist w ants
his re p u ta tio n to grow as m u c h as possible as quickly as
possible, b u t the d e ale r m ay find it m o re a d v a n ta g e o u s to
w ait for the w ork s long-term app reciatio n . Artists with good
re p u ta tio n s m a y look for o th e r dealers w h o will m a k e b e tter
term s.
The gallery-dealer system is intim ately c o n n e c te d to the
institution of the m u s e u m . M u se u m s b e c o m e the final re p o s
itory of the w ork w hich originally e n te rs circulation th ro u g h
dealers, final in tw o senses: (1) w o rk th a t e n te rs a m u s e u m
collection usually stays there, e ith e r b e ca u se the gift o r b e
q u e st w hich b ro u g h t it th e re re q u ire s th a t o r because, having
sta k e d th e ir re p u ta tio n s as c o n n o isse u rs on the acquisition
o f certain w orks, m u s e u m officials d o not w a n t to a d m it they
w ere w ro n g by selling th e w ork, at least not until sufficient
tim e has gone bv so th a t they a re not the ones responsible;
(2) W hen a m u s e u m show s a n d p u rc h a s e s a work, it gives it
the highest kind of institutional a p p ro v al available in the
c o n te m p o r a ry visual a rts w orld; no m o re can h a p p e n that
will m a k e th a t w o rk m o re im p o rta n t or allow it to a d d m ore
th a n it a lrea d y has to the artist's rep u tatio n .
The u ltim a te c o n tro l of m u s e u m s rests in the h a n d s o f the
trustees, w h o provide m u c h of the m o n e y with w hich they
118 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

o p erate. Even public m u s e u m trustees, in political system s


th a t allow for private a c c u m u la tio n of w ealth a n d property,
usually re p re s e n t the w ealthiest classes, b e ca u se they c a n
assist th e m u s e u m w ith gifts of m o n e y a n d art, a n d usually
do, in re tu rn for positions of control. Vera Zolberg (1974) has
show n, in h e r analysis of the d e v e lo p m e n t of the Chicago Art
Institute, th a t rich p a tro n s originally exerted direct control
over the m u s e u m 's affairs, taking a h a n d in acquisitions,
displays, a n d o th e r artistic m a tte rs. They later p u t control
into the h a n d s of a cad em ically train ed art historians, w ho
h ad b e tte r in fo rm a tio n a b o u t w h a t w as "really valuab le a n d
im p o r ta n t th a n could p art-tim e connoisseurs. Finally, as
m u s e u m s b e c a m e increasingly large a n d com plicated, a n d
as th e notion th a t a d m in istra tio n is a n a rt tra n sfe ra b le from
one situation to a n o th e r gained ground, p a tro n s (and the
C hicago Art In stitu te exemplifies the trend) p u t control into
th e h a n d s of tra in e d a d m in istra to rs, w h o m ay have h a d no
previous ex perience in the arts.
These shifts in the control of m u s e u m s do n o t m e a n th a t
artists have no tro u b le w ith m u se u m s. Like dealers, m u s e u m
directors, a n d the tru ste es th e y w o rk for, have interests
w h ich m a y differ fro m those of the artists; to m a k e m a tte rs
m o re c o m p lica te d , m u s e u m staff m a y act in w h a t they th in k
are th e tr u s te e s interests, even th o u g h the tru ste es m a y have
no su ch interests. Thus, m a n y m u s e u m s sh o w ed obvious
re lu c ta n c e (especially d u rin g the V ietnam W ar a n d related
ev en ts o f the 1960s) to exhibit o penly political c o n te m p o ra ry
art, at a tim e w h e n artists w ere b e co m in g m o re openly polit
ical. In a n e x em p la ry case, on the invitation of a c u ra to r of
the G u g g en h e im M useum , H a n s H aa ck e h a d p re p a re d a
piece w hich tra c e d a n d d isplayed the p a tte rn of o w n ersh ip of
slum p ro p e rtie s on New York's Low er E a st Side. The d ire cto r
of the m u s e u m , insisting th a t the w ork w as "political,
canceled the show ; this led to the firing o f the c u ra to r in
volved, a boycott of the m u s e u m by m a n y c o n te m p o ra ry
artists, a n d (p e rh ap s) to H a a c k e 's la ter piece detailing the
c o rp o ra te c o n n ec tio n s a n d activities of the m u s e u m 's
trustees. (See H a a c k e , 1976, for th e details.) The case w a s an
o d d one, since n o n e of the tru ste es h a d anv interest in slum
119 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O RKS

p ro p e rtie s o r the kind of people w h o o w n ed them , and p r e


s u m a b ly w ould not have o b je cte d to the e x p o su re of those
activities in the w ork. The professionals w h o a d m in iste r
these institutions are a p p a re n tly m o re w ary of offending
tru ste e s th a n they need be, p re ferrin g n o t to r u n u n n e ce ssary
risks.
The control of m u s e u m s by w ealth y people has m ore
subtle effects on their contents, th o u g h th e se effects are not
easy to pinpoint. The a u th o rs of the Anti-C atalog (Catalog
C om m ittee, 1977) p ro d u c e d an analysis of the W hitney M u
s e u m 's exhibition of the private collection o f Mr. a n d Mrs.
J o h n D. R ockefeller III (show n in 1976, as p a rt of the U.S.
c e le b ra tio n of the national bicentennial), e m p h a siz in g the
d eg ree to w hich this collection (and, by extension, the m a n y
m u s e u m collections it resem bles) glorified w e a lth .a n d b u si
ness a n d ignored social conflict, m inority groups, a n d o th e r
m a tte rs u n c o n g e n ia l to the interests a n d taste of w ealthy
p a tro n s.

Im presarios
Since the p e rfo rm in g a rts do not p ro d u c e o b je cts w hich
can be stored, exhibited, a n d sold, they d istrib u te art differ
ently from gallery system s. They resem ble th e m in th a t an
e n tr e p r e n e u r invests time, m oney, a n d energy in assem bling
m a te ria ls a n d bringing th e m to potential au diences. They
differ in selling the a u d ie n c e not objects, but tickets to see
s o m e th in g done. O bjects c a n be sold a fter potential buyers
see th e m ; p e rfo rm a n c e s m u s t be presold. The im p re sario
u n d e rta k e s to sell e n o u g h tickets for the p e rfo rm a n c e to
bring profit to him a n d a living to the p e rfo rm in g artists (or at
least a n in co m e sufficient to allow m o re w ork to be done) a n d
to c re a te an a u d ie n c e w hich will a p p re c ia te the w ork a n d
re w a rd the artists w ith a n increased reputation.
Im p re s a rio s u n d e rta k e to do w h a te v e r is n e ce ssary to
g a th e r an a u d ie n c e in a n a p p ro p ria te place for the p e rfo r
m a n c e to o ccur. They ren t the space the p e rfo rm a n c e will
ta k e place in, do the necessary advertising, sell tickets, h a n
dle finances, a n d m a k e su re th a t necessary auxiliary p e rs o n
nel (e.g., te ch n ic ia n s a n d ushers) are there. They typically
120 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

g u a ra n te e artists a certain m in im u m fee, p e rh a p s against a


p e rc e n ta g e of the gross, w hich is w h ere the risk co m es in; if
the p e rfo rm a n c e does n o t d ra w a large e n o u g h audience,
the e n tr e p r e n e u r loses the difference b etw een the a rtis ts fee
plus his costs a n d w h a t he has actually tak en in.
M uch of w h a t has been said a b o u t dealers a n d galleries
applies to im presarios. They provide the o p p o rtu n ity to dis
play w o rk to a n in fo rm e d a n d ap p reciativ e au d ien c e w hich
sh a re s th e perspective a n d co n v en tio n s th a t inform the a r t
ists work, a n d th e re b y p ro d u c e sufficient re v en u e to let the
w ork continue. Of necessity, they o p e ra te s o m e w h a t differ
ently. It takes m o re people to s u p p o rt p e rfo rm in g art insti
tutions th a n galleries, a n d im p re sario s c a n n o t count, as gal
lery o w n e rs can, on a few buyers to p a y th e e x p en ses for
exhibitions a tte n d e d by m any. So they m u s t c reate a larger
a u d ien c e tra in e d to e n jo y w h a t they intend to present. This is
one reason they try' to sell tickets to a series of events, r a th e r
th a n ju st to isolated c o n certs o r plays. People w h o p u rc h a s e
seaso n tickets will n o t only have p aid before they receive
w h a t th e y are paying for, but also place th em selv es in a
position to receive a series of lessons in w h at the im p re sario
offers, w h e th e r it be av an t-g ard e m usic o r dance, classical
th e a te r, light m usical com edies, c h a m b e r m usic, sym p h o n y ,
o r o pera. O ne c o m p o n e n t of w h a t a n a u d ie n c e needs in o rd e r
to a p p re c ia te p a rtic u la r w o rk s is ex perience in the g enre they
rep rese n t, a n d au d ien c e m e m b e r s get this w h e n they buy a
seaso n ticket.
T he im p re sa rio n e ed not be a Sol H u ro k o r a Bill G ra h am .
The e n tre p re n e u ria l function m ay be p e rfo rm e d by a n o r
g an iza tio n a regional th eater, a s y m p h o n y association, o r a
q u a si-g o v e rn m e n ta l organization. P erfo rm ers often act as
their o w n im presarios, especially in sm aller o p erations. A
local th e a te r m a y do all its ow n p ro d u c tio n w ork a n d tak e all
the financial risks (see Lyon, 1974 a n d 1975). S u c h groups,
expecting a relatively sm all audience, m a k e a c o rre sp o n d in g
investm ent.
W ith larger in v estm ents, the p e rfo rm a n c e b e co m e s a p r o j
ect to w hich people c o m m it them selves for varying kinds
a n d d u ra tio n s of w ork via the free-lance system d iscu ssed in
121 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

the last c h a p te r. H ere the im presario, w h o m a k e s the c o m


m itm e n ts n e c e ssa ry to a sse m b le the c o o p e ra tin g parties, is
necessary. W ith th e c o m m itm e n ts m ad e, the p ro je c t p r o
ceeds, c o m in g to fruition in a series o f p e rfo rm a n c e s w hich
re c o u p the original in v estm en t.
S o m e o f th e se o rg an izations h a v e a p e r m a n e n t existence:
fo r ex am p le, theatrical a n d d a n c e co m p an ie s, or s y m p h o n y
a n d o p e ra associations. M aking up the bulk of th e ir p r o
g ra m s fro m w ell-know n w o rk s a u d ie n c e s le a rn e d to like long
ago, they have no p ro b le m assem b lin g a n au d ien c e with
a p p r o p r ia te tastes. T h eir difficulties arise w h e n the artists
w h o m a k e up the g rou p, o r choose the repertoire, w a n t to
re s p o n d to c u rre n ts of c h a n g e in the w orld o f their art and
p e rfo rm m o re c o n te m p o r a ry o r e x p e rim e n ta l w orks, which
have no presold au d ien ce. T h at desire arises b e c a u se artists
think th a t by d o in g w o rk s o f this kind they can m a k e b e tte r
re p u ta tio n s for th em selv es a m o n g the peers a n d specially
k n o w led g eab le laypeople to w h o m they are m ost responsive.
B ut b e ca u se the w o rk is u n k n o w n a n d ex p erim en ta l, the
a u d ie n c e th a t ordinarily s u p p o rts the organization will c o m
plain th a t it is u n fa m ilia r a n d difficult. Every large, p e r m a
n e n t p e rfo rm in g arts g ro u p has this problem . S m aller groups,
with few er expenses, can specialize in such w ork a n d d ra w
a c o n c o m ita n tly sm aller b u t d e d ic a te d p resold g ro u p of
aficionados.
An e sta b lish e d a n d w ell-know n g ro u p c a n pro v id e the o p
p o rtu n ity for a p p ro p ria te display of w o rk s a n d p e rfo rm in g
talen ts ju st b e c a u se it has an estab lish ed audience. W h ate v er
is d o n e at a c o n c e rt of the N ew York P h ilh arm o n ic o r so m e
sim ilar o rc h e s tra will have achieved the best possible o p
p o rtu n ity a s y m p h o n ic w ork has to be h eard.
A udience m e m b e r s w h o pay for a ticket before they have
seen o r h e a rd w h a t they are p aying for m ay feel th a t th e y did
not get the kind of thing they p aid for, th a t they did not get
e n o u g h of w h a t they paid for, o r th a t w h a t they got w as not as
good as they expected. All of th ese com plaints, in one w ay o r
an o th er, rest on a n a ssu m e d s h a re d basis of co n v entional
artistic s ta n d a r d s a n d on similarly s h a re d a s s u m p tio n s a b o u t
w h a t co n stitu tes o ne's m o n e y s w orth. An a u d ie n c e which
122 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

p ay s the o rd in a ry full price for a co n cert or th e a te r piece


w hich ru n s only th irty m in u te s com plains th a t they have
been ch eated ; w hen an u n d e rs tu d y replaces a s ta r a large
p o rtio n of the au d ien c e w a n ts its m o n e y back; a w ork th a t is
too a v an t-g a rd e for its a u d ie n c e causes trouble. A m erican
a u d ie n c e s are polite to m e d io cre p erfo rm ers, but a u d ie n c e s
in o th e r c o u n trie s c a n be very noisy w hen w h a t they h e a r or
see is not u p to the expected s ta n d a rd ; the ru d e n e s s o f Italian
o p e ra a u d ie n c e s is legendary.
Im p re s a rio s have a less perso n al relationship with the a u
diences to w h ich they bring p e rfo rm a n c e s th a n do dealers
with their clients. But they w ork in a sim ilar w ay to teach
willing pupils w h a t m u st be k n o w n to a p p re c ia te the w ork
they distribute. They c a n n o t d e p e n d on an a u d ie n c e which,
like royal p a tro n s of an earlier era, n o t only s u p p o rte d
p e rfo rm e rs, b u t knew e n o u g h o f the a r t s c o n v en tio n s to
p e rfo rm along with them . C o n te m p o ra ry artists a n d a u
diences do not sh are su ch a class culture. But, as with gal
leries a n d paintings, ability to a p p re c ia te th e p e rfo rm in g arts
signifies a cu ltu re a n d sophistication w hich m a n y socially
m obile people have not a c q u ire d elsew here a n d m u st learn,
if they are to learn it, from the people w h o d istribute art. In
th a t way, the in term ed iaries w h o m a n a g e the public sale of
a rt provide o p p o rtu n itie s for display to a n au d ien c e w hose
taste they have trained, a n d th u s provide the integration into
the society's e c o n o m y w hich allows artists to live from their
work. (See Zolberg, 1980, for a c o m p a riso n of distribution
sy stem s a n d their effects in m usic a n d the visual arts.)

Culture Industries
Paul H irsch (1972) used the term culture industries to refer
to "profit-seeking firms p ro d u c in g cu ltural p ro d u c ts for
national [we could a d d " in te rn a tio n a l"] d istrib u tio n " a n d
sp oke also of "th e cu ltural in d u stry system , c o m p rise d of all
o rg an iza tio n s en g ag e d in the process of filtering new p r o d
ucts a n d ideas as they flow from creativ e p e rso n n e l in the
technical s u b sy s te m to the m anagerial, institutional a n d so
cietal levels o f org an izatio n " (p. 642). To p a r a p h r a s e his a n
123 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

alysis, these o rg an izatio n s deal w ith very large a u d ien ces


th a t are alm o st totally u n k n o w n to them a n d th a t th erefo re
are u n p re d ic ta b le , despite the efforts of m a rk e t re se arc h e rs
to fa th o m th a t obscurity. No one k now s with any a ss u ra n c e
w h a t c o n v e n tio n s this m ass a u d ie n c e a p p re c ia te s a n d a c
cepts, w h at class o r p ro fessio n al artistic cu ltural u n d e r
stan d in g s m ight in fo rm their choices. As a result, artists
c a n n o t p ro d u c e o r in te rm e d iaries o rd e r w o rk to suit a n a u
dience's taste. H irsch q u o te s a s p o k e s m a n fo r the recording
industry, a classic e x am p le of a cu ltu re industry:

We have made records that appeared to have all the necessary


ingredientsartist, song, arrangements, promotion, etc.to
guarantee they wind up as best sellers Yet they fell flat on
their faces. On the other hand we have produced records for
which only a modest success was anticipated that became
runaway best sellers. (Brief, 1964, quoted in Hirsch, 1972,
p. 644)

H irsc h notes, finally, th a t these in d u stries a d o p t a n u m b e r of


strategies to deal with this u n c e rta in e n v iro n m e n t, including
a "p ro liferatio n of c o n ta c t m e n " w ho d istrib u te p ro d u c ts to
retailers a n d people in the m a ss m ed ia w ho can influence
sales" o v e rp ro d u c tio n a n d differential distribution of new
item s," a n d "c o o p ta tio n of m a ss-m e d ia gate keepers." The
m o st ch ara cte ristic c u ltu re in d u strie s in c o n te m p o r a ry s o
cieties are book publishing, the re c o rd business, the film in
dustry, a n d rad io a n d television.
We te n d to think of th ese in d u stries as recent, the results o f
the technical inventions th a t m a d e m o st o f th e m possible. In
fact, all the m a jo r fe a tu re s o f the type can be fo u n d in the
English publishing in d u stry of the m id d le a n d late n in e
te en th cen tu ry . (I have relied heavily in w h a t follows on
S u th e rla n d , 1976.) V ictorian p u b lish ers d ev elo p ed a system
o f d istrib u tio n b a se d on high prices a n d low volum e, m u c h of
a n y n o v e ls sale going to the giant circulating libraries of the
period. Novels a p p e a r e d in th re e volum es (co m m o n ly know n
as "th re e d e c k e rs" ) a n d retailed for a guinea a n d a half, a very
high price, w hich allow ed the p u b lish er to b reak even on
124 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

m inim al sales to booksellers a n d jo b b e rs at large discounts.


S u th e rla n d cites the case of " a n o b sc u re a n d unsuccessful
novel of th e period, Zaidee by Mrs. O liphant, w h ich B lack
w o o d s b ro u g h t o u t in 1856. They h a d 1578 copies of this
w o rk p rin te d at a cost of 358. A p altry 496 w ere sold
[which] yielded 535 10s. So w ith ju st tw o-thirds of the
stock still o n h a n d (1031 copies) [the publisher] h a d covered
his costs." H e goes on to say th a t one reason for "the golden
age of the English novel . . . w as the sh ee r s u p e r-a b u n d a n c e
of the novel in th e p e rio d the fact th a t pu b lish ers could offer
so large a n invitation to a m b itio u s literary talents" (S u th e r
land, 1976, p. 17). T h at is, it w as so easy to at least b re ak even
th a t p u b lish ers could afford to p u blish a g re at m a n y books,
a n d did. The e n c o u ra g e m e n t th a t gave w ould-be novelists
led to a proliferation of discovered talent.
This system c h a n g e d as people discovered ways of ex
ploiting th e grow ing literacy a n d taste for fiction of the E n g
lish public. S u th e rla n d m e n tio n s a n u m b e r of m e th o d s, in
cluding the d e v e lo p m e n t of large lending libraries a n d
p ro m p t reissue o f "collected editions" of a u th o rs ' work. Two
o th e r m e th o d s m ag az in e serialization a n d pu b licatio n of
the book in m o n th ly p a r ts allow ed a book to be p rin te d a n d
d istrib u te d to the public b efo re it h a d been com pletely w rit
ten. The a u th o r a n d p u b lish er could th e n take a c c o u n t of the
public re sp o n se in the b o o k 's fu rth e r con stru ctio n . At an
extrem e, a b adly received book could be killed, the r e m a in
ing p a rts n ever w ritten, printed, o r distributed. Publishers
knew w hen a book w as doing badly, b e c a u se the sale of the
serialized parts, o r th e m a g a z in e in w h ich they w ere a p p e a r
ing, w ould d ro p off precipitously, b e y o n d the e x p ec ted
drop-off of re a d e rs w h o h a d given the book a try a n d not
fo u n d it interesting. F u rth er, as the book progressed, those
involved in its m a rk e tin g could suggest, based on their ex
perien ce in the tra d e, h o w to p ro c e e d with the w ork. In th a t
w ay they exem plified S u th e rla n d 's generalization that:

Many of the great novels of the period which appear to be the


unaided product of creative genius were often. . . . the out
come of collaboration, compromise or commission. (Suther
land, 1976, p. 6)
125 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

All th re e re p re s e n te d influential in te ra ctio n s with the novel


ists publisher. As we will see, the results of those inter
actions sh ap e d , a n d can be seen in, the novels style and
con stru ctio n .
C onsider so m e of the m a jo r featu res of this d istrib u tio n
system . T he a u d ie n c e is un p red ictab le, a n d the people w ho
p r o d u c e a n d d istrib u te the artistic w ork have no real co n tact
w ith it. They m a rk e t the w ork in large quantities, as with
b o o k s a n d records, o r th ro u g h a m ech an ical system , as with
rad io a n d television, so th a t th e y could not, if they tried,
know a u d ie n c e m e m b e rs personally. They th u s do not h a v e
the im m e d ia te c o m m u n ic a tio n with an a u d ie n c e th a t c h a r
acterizes p a tro n a g e a n d the gallery-dealer a rra n g e m e n t. In
those system s, m a k e rs a n d d istrib u to rs talk directly to a u
dience m e m b e rs, so m e tim es while the work is in progress,
a n d know in detail w h a t they think, w h a t they re sp o n d to,
a n d w h a t they like a n d d o n 't like. In co n trast, w h a t cu ltu re
in d u s trie s a u d ie n c e s think, w h at reallv%* m oves th e m in w h at
ways, is s o m e th in g no one k now s in su ch a quick a n d direct
way; in fact, for all the devices of a u d ie n c e research , it is
s o m e th in g no o n e at all know s for sure.
Not know ing w ho the a u d ie n c e is, artists necessarily m ak e
w ork w ith o u t know ing w h o will c o n su m e it u n d e r w h at cir
c u m s ta n c e s a n d with w h a t results. As Charles N ew m an re
m ark ed , No serious fiction w riter in A m erica today c a n tell
you w h o he is w riting fo r (N ew m an, 1973, p. 6). N either can
a n y o th e r w rite r for a m ass m a rk et, o r any m a k e r of films. He
m a y have an a u d ien c e in m ind, but he does not know if the
o n e he has in m in d is the one th a t will read or see the work.
R ath er, artists (and the distrib u to rs w ho h a n d le their work)
c o n s tru c t a n im ag in ary a u d ie n c e out o f fra g m e n ts of in fo r
m a tio n they a sse m b le by v arious m eans. R etailers c u s
to m e rs m a y tell th e m w hat they like a n d d o n t like. R e
tailers m a y re p o rt th a t in fo rm atio n to a salesm an , w h o calls
on th e m periodically a n d w h o in tu r n re p o rts it to his s u p e
rior, w h o re p o rts it to the people in ch arg e of pro d u ctio n , wffio
m a y then p ass on som e version o f it to the artist w h o p ro
d u c e d the w ork. It is unlikely th a t the in fo rm atio n passed
along th a t long chain is a c c u ra te o r u sab le w h e n it finally
re a c h e s the artist. It suffices, b e ca u se it has to.
126 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

Since no one k n o w s w h a t the m a ss a u d ie n c e will ap p ro v e


a n d su p p o rt, cu ltu re industries e n c o u ra g e everyone a n d a n y
one to pro p o se ideas for th e m to distribute. Most of the cost
o f developing ideas is b o rn e by artists w h o h o p e the in d u stry
will take th e m u p a n d d istrib u te th e m . The in d u stry selects
s o m e of these n u m e ro u s p ro p o sals for use. As H irsch points
out, "cultural organizations ideally m axim ize profits by m o
bilizing p ro m o tio n a l re so u rc e s in s u p p o rt of volum e sales for
a sm all n u m b e r of item s" (H irsch, 1972, pp. 652-53). They
p ro m o te item s by selective advertising a n d o th e r p r o m o
tional devices, a n d note the effect o f these m e a s u re s on sales.
As th a t in fo rm a tio n c o m e s in, they d ro p so m e of the d istrib
u te d item s from the actively p ro m o te d list, effectively
killing their c h a n c e s of success. W here so m a n y item s are
available, those th a t do n o t receive som e special a tte n tio n do
n o t get k n o w n well e n o u g h to reach those w h o m ig h t w an t
them . (Bliven [1973] describes, in the w o rd s of a book sales
m an , how publishing firms continually re a d ju s t their plans
for new books.)
W orks re a c h the public with varying a m o u n ts of p r o m o
tion a n d availability. The system thus p ro v id e s varying
a m o u n ts of m o n e y (in so m e cases, e n o rm o u s am o u n ts), an
o p p o rtu n ity (sm aller o r larger) for display of o n e s work, a n d
a relatively sm all c h a n c e of re ac h in g an a u d ie n c e w hich
sh a re s the taste a n d p erspective w hich p ro d u c e d the work.
B ecause they do not co n n ect with an a u d ie n c e directly, a r t
ists w h o se w o rk is d istrib u ted th ro u g h the cu ltu re industries
co m e to d e p e n d on a n d are responsive to the im m e d ia te
feed b ack a n d ju d g m e n t of their professional p e e r groups, on
the one han d , a n d of the people w ho m a n a g e the distribution
sy stem on the other.
The system affects the a rt w ork th ro u g h the interaction
b etw ee n the m a n a g e rs of the cu ltu re industries a n d the a r t
ists. Take as sim ple a m a tte r as the length of a work. W riters
learn to think a n d plan in the lengths th a t are com m ercially
suitable. Trollope (1947 [1883], p. 198), w riting in the d ay s of
the triple-decker, said, "An a u th o r soon b e co m e s a w a re of
h o w m a n y p ag es he has to fill." S u th e rla n d gives fu rth e r
exam ples. The serialized form in w hich novels a p p e a re d , a n d
127 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

th e possibility th a t the scries m ight be cut off abruptly, led


novelists to avoid s p e n d in g m u c h tim e planning a novel that
m ig h t n e v er be finished, or setting up elab o ra te effects in
early c h a p te rs that could not be fully realized until m u c h
later in the book. Instead, a u th o rs used the p ic a re sq u e form ,
as in P ickw ick Papers, w hich they could stop at any tim e with
no great loss to the continuity. W hen a novelist, however,
b e c a m e well e n o u g h kno w n to the public th a t a p re tty good
sale w as a ssu re d ju st by his n a m e , he could drive a h a rd e r
b a rg a in with the publisher, including the d e m a n d for a
g u a ra n te e th a t the en tire w o rk w ould be p u b lish ed no m a tte r
w h at the early sales were. Thus, as Dickens b e c a m e b etter
know n, he began to e x p e rim e n t w ith m o re tightly plotted
novels like Bleak H ouse.
S u th e rla n d cites T h a c k e ra y 's H enry E sm o n d as a case in
%/

point. While Vanity Fair began as a series of sketches, and


w as paid for m o n th by m o n th , the c o n tra c t for H enry E s
m o n d n o t only allow ed the a u th o r to take a m o re c o m p r e
hensive view, it insisted on it. Several featu res of the contract
p ro d u c e d this result. T h a ck e ra y w as paid in th re e install
m ents, the first for signing the co ntract, the seco n d for c o m
pleting the m a n u sc rip t, a n d the th ird on publication. The
delay o f the seco n d p a y m e n t until the m a n u s c rip t w as d o n e
m e a n t th a t T h a c k e ra y could w rite w h at the c o n tra c t also
stip u la te d (a n d S u th e rla n d notes that this w as u n u s u a l in
c o n tra c ts o f the time), a " c o n tin u o u s " narrative. The n ovels
e la b o ra te plot c u lm in ates in a final scene in w hich m an y
th e m e s a n d details arc knit together, resolving tensions built
up from the beginning. C o m p a re d with T h a c k e ra y 's earlier
novels"N o one, I fancy, h u rries th ro u g h the final c h a p te rs
of [ Vanity Fair a n d P endennis] in eag ern ess to find out
w h a t h a p p e n s on the last p a g e (S u th erlan d , 1976, p. 114)
E sm o n d 's carefu l a n d co m p lica te d plot p ro d u c e s tru e su s
pense. S u th e rla n d also notes th a t holding back the last p a y
m ent until publication m e a n t that this w as th e best edited
a n d p ro o fre a d of T h a c k e ra y 's books. H e c o n clu d e s that
G eorge Sm ith, the publisher, "deserves so m e credit for the
glories of E s m o n d (S u th erlan d , 1976, p. 116).
The effects of the pu b licatio n system varied with circum -
128 D I S T R I B U T I N G ART W O R K S

stances, for the system p ro d u c e d a variety of a rr a n g e


m e n ts b etw een p u b lish ers a n d a u th o rs with differential
a m o u n ts of p o w e r a n d different degrees of m u tu a l trust,
w hich in tu rn p ro d u c e d different p re ssu re s on the au th o r.
B ulw er L v tton's The Last Days o f Pom peii had re d u n d a n t
c h a p te rs a n d e x tra n e o u s songs a n d lyrics b e c a u se the orig
inal m a n u s c rip t w as so m e fifty pages sh o rt of w h a t w as
n e e d e d to fill up the three volum es in which it w as being sold
(S u th erlan d , 1976, p. 57); Trollope's language w as b o w d le r
ized to satisfy the religious scruples of C. E. M udie, w h o ra n
the great circulating library of the period, sales to which
co n stitu ted a large p art of a successful n o vels profits
(S u th erlan d , 1976, p. 27).
B a rb a ra R o se n b lu m 's (1978) s o m e w h a t different p ictu re
of c o n te m p o ra ry art p h o to g ra p h y re m in d s us th a t art, c o m
p a re d with o th e r kinds of work, is n o t totally c o n stra in e d by
distribution channels. C o m p arin g the w ork of a rt p h o to g
ra p h e rs to th a t o f p h o to jo u rn a lis ts a n d fashion p h o to g
rap h ers, she d e m o n s tra te s th a t in the latter two cases the
c o n te n t of the p h o to g ra p h is d e te rm in e d by the c h an n e ls
th ro u g h w hich it moves. N ew s p h o to g ra p h s reflect the ty p i
cal choices o f ed ito rs in their c o n te n t a n d im agery, a n d the
m e c h a n is m of n e w s p a p e r re p ro d u c tio n in the technical d e
tails of h o w they are shot a n d printed, while fashion p h o to
g ra p h s s u b o rd in a te everything to the im m ediately ex p ressed
desires a n d criticism s of the client, w ho is often p re se n t while
the p ictu res are being m ad e. In contrast, art p h o to g ra p h e rs
deal w ith a m u c h looser system , w hich a cc ep ts a w id e r v a r
iety of possible w orks, a n d c o n te m p o ra ry a rt p h o to g ra p h y in
fact co n tain s a g re ate r variety of styles a n d su b je c t m atters.
The re q u ire m e n ts o f cu ltu re-in d u stry d istrib u tio n system s
p ro d u c e m o re or less sta n d a rd iz e d p ro d u cts, the s ta n d a r d i
zation resulting fro m w h a t th e system finds co n v en ie n t to
h a n d le ra th e r th a n from any in d e p e n d e n t choice m a d e by
the m a k e r of a n a rt work. The s ta n d a rd fe atu res of the w orks
so p ro d u c e d m a y b e c o m e a kind of aesthetic criterion people
use in assessing w orks, so th a t a w ork w hich does not exhibit
th e m seem s c ru d e o r a m ate u rish . N etw ork television p r o
129 D I S T R I B U T I N G A H T W O R K S

g ra m s have a technical polish w hich b e co m e s the s ta n d a rd


for ju d g in g in d e p e n d e n t television work, even th o u g h the
polish p ro d u c e s c o n stra in ts w hich c ru d e r in d e p e n d e n t w ork
w a n ts to fight clear of. A book w h o se pages arc not justified
on the right looks cheap, a n d no one can avoid noticing the
" c h e a p n e s s " of a film w h ich does not s p e n d the m o n ey
necessary to p ro d u c e the s u m p tu o u s a n d realistic look
H ollyw ood labels " p ro d u c tio n values."

ART AND DISTRIBUTION


Artists p ro d u c e w h at the distribution system can a n d will
carry. It is not th a t n o th in g else can be p ro d u c e d . O ther
artists, willing to forego the possibilities of s u p p o rt a n d ex
p o su re c h a ra c te ristic of a p a rtic u la r a rt w orld, do p ro d u c e
o th e r kinds of work. But the system will ordinarily not dis
trib u te those w orks, a n d su c h artists will be failures, u n
know ns, o r the nuclei of n e w art w orlds th a t grow up a ro u n d
w h at the m o re conventional svstem does not handle. The
d e v e lo p m e n t of new art w orlds frequently focuses on the
creation of n e w o rg an izatio n s a n d m e th o d s for d istrib u tin g
work.
S o m e w ork is right for any system , a n d a n y w ork could be
right for s o m e system , th o u g h p e r h a p s not for any system at
the m o m e n t in existence. C harles N e w m a n h a s ta k e n issue
with th eo ries th a t the novel, as a form , is d e a d or w orn-out,
arguing instead that:

the cost of producing and marketing what we make [serious


fiction] has simply exceeded the industry's prolit margin, and
this particular disease has been masked long enough by
theories of dying form and metaphors of terminal illness.
(Newman, 1973, p. 7)
So the point is not th a t w o rk c a n n o t be distributed, but that
c o n te m p o r a ry institutions c a n n o t o r will not d istribute it,
a n d th a t th e y th u s exert, like every o th e r estab lish ed part of
an art world, a co nserv ative effect, leading artists to p ro d u c e
w h a t they h a n d le a n d th u s get the associated rew ards.
130 D I S T R I B U T I N G A R T W O R K S

C hange tak es place, as su cceeding c h a p te rs show, both


b e c a u se artists w hose w ork does n o t fit a n d w h o th u s stan d
ou tsid e the existing system s a tte m p t to start new o n es a n d
b e c a u se estab lish ed artists exploit their a ttra ctiv e n ess to the
existing sy ste m to force it to h a n d le w o rk they d o w hich does
not fit.
5 A 0 s t h 0 tics, A 0 s t h 0 tic io n s,
o n d Critics

A E S T H E T IC S AS ACTIVITY
A estheticians s tu d y the p rem ises and a rg u m e n ts people
use to justify classifying things a n d activities as " b e a u t i f u l /
"artistic," "art," "not art," "good art," " b a d art," a n d so on.
They c o n s tru c t sy ste m s with w hich to m ak e a n d justify both
the classifications a n d specific in stances of their application.
Critics apply aesth etic sy stem s to specific art w orks a n d a r
rive at ju d g m e n ts of th e ir w o rth a n d explications of w hat
gives th e m that w orth. Those ju d g m e n ts p ro d u c e r e p u ta
tions for w o rk s a n d artists. D istributors a n d au d ien c e
m e m b e r s take re p u ta tio n s into a c c o u n t w h e n they decide
w h a t to s u p p o rt em otionally a n d financially, a n d that affects
the re so u rc e s available to artists to co n tin u e th e ir work.
To talk this way describes aesthetics as an activity ra th e r
th a n a b o d y of doctrine. A estheticians are not the only people
w h o engage in this activity. Most p a rtic ip a n ts in art w orlds
m a k e aesth etic ju d g m e n ts frequently. Aesthetic principles,
a rg u m e n ts, a n d ju d g m e n ts m a k e up an im p o rta n t p art of the
b o d y of c o n v e n tio n s by m e a n s of w hich m e m b e rs of art
w orlds act together. C reating an explicit aesthetic m a y p re
cede, follow, o r be s im u lta n e o u s with developing the tech-

131
132* A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

niques, form s, a n d w o rk s w hich m ak e up the art w o rld s


o u tp u t, a n d it m a y be d o n e by a n y of the p articipants. S o m e
tim es artists them selves fo rm u late th e aesth etic explicitly.
M ore often th e y create a n u n fo rm aliz ed aesthetic th ro u g h
w o rk a d a y choices of m a terials a n d forms.
In com plex a n d highly developed art w orlds, specialized
p ro fessio n alscritics a n d p h ilo so p h erscreate logically o r
ganized a n d philosophically defensible aesth etic systems,
a n d the creation of aesthetic sy stem s can b e c o m e a m a jo r
in d u stry in its ow n right. An aesth etician w h o se language
fo re sh a d o w s a sociologically b ased sy stem I will e x am in e
later describes aesthetics a n d aesth etician s this way:
Aesthetics is . . . the philosophical discipline that deals with
the concepts we use when we talk about, think about or in
other ways "handle works of art. On the basis of their own
understanding of the Institution of Art as a whole, it is the task
of aestheticians to analyze the ways all the different persons
and groups talk and act as members of the Institution, and
through this to see which arc the actual rules that make up the
logical framework of the Institution and according to which
procedures within the Institution take place___
Within the Institution of Art specific statements of fact
results of a correctly performed elucidation and inter
pretation of a work of art, sayentail specific evaluations.
Constitutive rules lay down specific criteria of evaluation
that are binding for members of the Institution. (Kj0rup, 1976,
pp. 47-48)
We n e ed not believe th a t it w o rk s so neatly to see th a t art
w orld p a rtic ip a n ts u n d e rs ta n d the role of a esth etician s a n d
aesthetics this way.
An a rt w orld has m a n y uses for an explicit aesthetic sys
tem . It ties p a rtic ip a n ts activities to the tradition of the art,
justifying their d e m a n d s for the resources a n d a d v a n ta g e s
ordinarily available to people w h o p ro d u c e th a t kind of art.
To be specific, if I c a n a rg u e cogently th a t jazz m erits as
serious c o n sid eratio n on aesthetic g ro u n d s as o th e r fo rm s of
art m usic, th e n I c a n c o m p ete , as a jazz player, for g ra n ts and
fellow ships from the N ational E n d o w m e n t for the Arts a n d
faculty positions in m usic schools, p e rfo rm in the s a m e halls
133 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

as s y m p h o n y o rc h estra s, a n d re q u ire the sa m e a tte n tio n to


the n u a n c e s of mv/ w ork as the m ost serious classical com -
p o se r or p e rfo rm e r. An aesth etic show s that, on general
g ro u n d s successfully a rg u e d to be valid, w h a t a rt world
m e m b e r s do belongs to the sa m e class as o th e r activities
a lrea d y enjoying the a d v a n ta g e s of being art."
As a result, the title art" is a reso u rce th a t is at once
in d isp en sa b le a n d u n n e c e s s a ry to the p ro d u c e rs o f the w orks
in q u estio n . It is in d isp en sa b le becau se, if you believe art is
better, m o re beautiful, a n d m o re expressive th a n n o n a rt, if
you th e re fo re intend to m a k e art a n d w an t w h a t you m ak e
recognized as a rt so that you c a n d e m a n d the re so u rce s a n d
a d v a n ta g e s available to a r t th e n you c a n n o t fulfill y o u r plan
if the c u r r e n t aesthetic system and those w ho explicate a n d
apply it d en y you the title. It is u n n e c e ssa ry b e ca u se e v en if
these people do tell you th a t w h a t you are doing is not art,
you c a n usually do th e s a m e w ork u n d e r a different n a m e
a n d w ith the s u p p o r t of a different co o p erative world.
M uch w ork in all m ed ia is carried on as s o m e th in g o th e r
th a n art. As we will see later, people d ra w a n d p h o to g ra p h as
a p a rt of e n te rp rise s d e v o ted to the p ro d u c tio n a n d sale of
in d u stria l p ro d u c ts, m a k e quilts a n d clothing as a p a rt of
d o m estic h o u seh o ld enterprises, a n d even p ro d u c e w ork
entirely o n their ow n, with a m in im u m of c o o p e ra tio n from
o th e rs a n d with no socially c o m m u n ic a b le justification at all,
let alone a philosophically defensible aesthetic.
To re tu r n to the uses o f a n aesthetic for an art world, we
can note th a t a well-argued and successfully d e fen d e d
a esth etic g u id e s w orking p a rtic ip a n ts in the p ro d u c tio n of
specific a rt w orks. A m ong the things they keep in m in d in
m a k in g the in n u m e ra b le small decisions that cum u latively
s h a p e the w o rk is w h e th e r a n d h o w those decisions m ight be
d e fen d e d . Of course, w o rk in g artists do not re fer every small
p ro b le m to its m o st g en eral philosophical g ro u n d in g to d e
cide how to deal with it, b u t they know w h e n th e ir decisions
ru n afoul of su ch theories, if only th ro u g h a v ag u e sense of
s o m e th in g wrong..A g en eral aesth etic co m es into play m ore
explicitly w h e n s o m e o n e suggests a m a jo r c h an g e in c o n
ventional practice. If, as a jazz player, 1 w a n t to give up the
134 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

c o n v en tio n al twelve- a n d th irty -tw o -b ar fo rm a ts in w hich


im provising has traditionally gone on for those in w hich the
length of p h ra s e s a n d sections are a m o n g the elem e n ts to be
im provised, I n e ed a defensible ex p lan atio n of w h y su c h a
c h a n g e sh o u ld be m ade.
F u rth e rm o re , a co h ere n t a n d defensible aesth etic helps to
stabilize values a n d th u s to regularize practice. Stabilizing
values is n o t ju st a philosophical exercise. Art w orld p artici
p a n ts w h o agree on a w o rk 's value can act to w a rd it in
roughly sim ilar ways. An aesthetic, providing a basis on
w hich people c a n e v a lu a te things in a reliable a n d d e p e n d
able way, m a k e s re g u lar p a tte rn s of c o o p era tio n possible.
W h en values a re stable, a n d can be d e p e n d e d on to be stable,
o th e r things stabilize as wellthe m o n e ta ry value of w orks
a n d th u s the business a rra n g e m e n ts on w hich the a rt w orld
runs, the re p u ta tio n s of artists a n d collectors, a n d the w o rth
o f institutional a n d p e rso n a l collections (see Moulin, 1967).
The aesthetic c re a te d by a esth etician s p rovides a theoretical
ra tio n a le for the selections of collectors.
F rom this point of view, aesthetic value arises from the
c o n se n su s of the p a rtic ip a n ts in an art world. To the degree
th a t su c h a c o n se n su s does not exist, value in this sense does
not exist: ju d g m e n ts of value not held jointly by m e m b e rs
of a n a rt w orld do not provide a basis for collective activity
p re m ise d on those ju d g m e n ts , a n d th u s do not affect activ
ities very m u c h . W ork b e co m e s good, therefore valuable,
th ro u g h the a c h ie v e m e n t o f c o n se n su s a b o u t the basis on
w h ich it is to be ju d g e d a n d th ro u g h the application o f the
agreed-on aesthetic principles to p a rtic u la r cases.
B ut m a n y styles a n d schools c o m p e te for a tte n tio n w ithin
an o rg anized a rt world, d e m a n d in g th a t their w o rk s be
showrn, pu b lish ed , o r p e rfo rm e d in place of those p ro d u c e d
by a d h e re n ts o f o th e r styles a n d schools. Since the art
w o rld 's d istrib u tio n system has a finite capacity, all w orks
a n d schools c a n n o t be p re se n te d by it a n d th u s be eligible
fo r the re w a rd s a n d a d v a n ta g e s of p resen tatio n . G ro u p s
c o m p e te for access to those rew ards, a m o n g o th e r w'ays, by
logical a rg u m e n t as to w hy they deserve p re se n ta tio n . Logi
cal analysis seld om settles a rg u m e n ts over the allocation of
135 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

reso u rces, b u t p a rtic ip a n ts in art w orlds, especially the p e o


ple w h o control access to d istrib u tio n channels, often feel
th a t w h a t th e y do m u s t be logically defensible. The h e at in
d iscussions of aesth etics usually exists b e c a u se w h a t is being
d ecid ed is not only an a b s tra c t philosophical q u e stio n but
also so m e allocation of valuable resources. W h e th e r jazz is
really m u sic o r p h o to g ra p h y is really art, w h e th e r free-form
jazz is really jazz a n d th e refo re m usic, w h e th e r fashion p h o
to g ra p h s are really p h o to g ra p h y a n d th e refo re art, are dis
cussions, a m o n g o th e r things, a b o u t w h e th e r people w h o
play free-form jazz can p e rfo rm in jazz clubs for the a lrea d y
existing jazz a u d ien c e a n d w h e th e r fashion p h o to g ra p h s can
be exhibited a n d sold in im p o rta n t galleries a n d m u seu m s.
A estheticians, then, provide th a t e lem e n t of the battle for
recognition of p a rtic u la r styles a n d schools w hich consists of
m a k in g the a rg u m e n ts w hich convince o th e r p a rtic ip a n ts in
an a rt w orld th a t th e w ork deserves, logically, to be included
w ithin w h a te v e r categories co n ce rn th a t world. The c o n s e r
vatism of art w orlds, arising o u t of the w ay conventional
p ractices c lu ste r in neatly m e s h e d pack ag es of m u tu a lly a d
ju s te d activities, m aterials, a n d places, m e a n s th a t ch an g e s
will not find a n easy reception. Most ch an g e s p ro p o s e d to art
w orld p a rtic ip a n ts are m inor, leaving u n to u c h e d m ost of the
w ays th ings are done. The w orld of sy m p h o n ic m usic, for
instance, has not c h a n g e d the length o f co n cert p ro g ra m s
very m u c h in recent years, for the very good re a s o n that,
becau se of union ag ree m en ts, it w ould increase th e ir costs to
len gthen the p ro g ra m s and, b e ca u se a u d ie n c e s expect eighty
o r ninety m in u te s of m usic for the price of a ticket, they d are
not s h o rte n th em very m u ch. (T hat w as not alw ays the case.
P robably as a result o f the un io n izatio n of m usicians, a m o n g
o th e r things c o n ce rt p ro g ra m s have s h o rte n e d ap p rec iab ly
since, say, B eethoven's time, as figure 13 show s [Forbes,
1967, p. 255].) The basic in s tru m e n ta tio n of the o rc h e s tra has
not c h a n g e d , n o r have the tonal m aterials used (i.e., the
c o n v en tio n al te m p e re d c h ro m a tic scale) or the places in
w h ich the m u sic is p re se n te d . B ecause of all these c o n s e rv a
tive pressu res, in n o v a to rs m u s t m a k e a stro n g a rg u m e n t in
d e fen se of any substan tially n e w practice.
136 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

TODA Y, WEDNESDA Y, APRIL 2nd, 1800, Herr Ludwig van


Beethoven will have the honor to give a grand concert for his
benefit in the Royal Imperial Court Theatre beside the Burg. The
pieces which will be performed are the following:
1. A grand symphony by the late Kapellmeister Mozart.
2. An aria from The Creation " by the Princely Kapellmeister
Herr Haydn, sung by Mile. Saal.
3. A grand Concerto for the pianoforte, played and composed by
Herr Ludwig van Beethoven.
4. A Septet, most humbly and obediently dedicated to Her Maj
esty the Empress, and composed by Herr Ludwig van Beethoven
for four stringed and three wind instruments, played by Herren
Schuppanzigh, Scheiber, Schindlecker, Bar, Nickel, Matauschek
and Dietzel
5. A Duet from Haydn's "Creation," sung by Herr and Mile.
Saal.
6. Herr Ludwig van Beethoven will improvise on the piano
forte.
7. A new grand symphony with complete orchestra, composed
by Herr Ludwig van Beethoven.
Tickets for boxes and stalls are to be had o f Herr van Beethoven
at his lodgings in the Tiefen Graben, no. 241, third story, and o f the
box keeper.

P r ic e s o f A d m is s io n A r e a s U s u a l .

T h e B e g i n n i n g Is at H alf -P ast 6 O c l o c k .

FIGURE 13. Program o f a concert given by Ludwig von Beetho


ven, April 2, 1800. Concert programs were longer in Beethoven's time
than they are today. This program for a concert in Vienna is taken
from Forbes, 1967, p. 255.

W riters on aesth etics strike a m oralistic tone. They ta k e for


g ra n te d th a t th e ir jo b is to find a foolproof fo rm u la w hich
will distinguish things w hich do not deserve to be called art
fro m w o rk s w h ich have earned th a t honorific title. I e m p h a -
I

137 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

size d e s e rv e a n d e a r n becau se aesthetic w riting insists


on a real m o ral difference b etw een a rt and n o n a rt. A estheti
cians d o not sim ply intend to classify things in to useful
categories, as w e m ight classify species of plants, but ra th e r
to s e p a ra te the deserving from the undeserving, a n d to do it
definitively. They do not w a n t to take an inclusive a p p ro a c h
to art, c o u n tin g in everything th a t conceivably m ight h a v e
so m e interest o r value. They look, instead, for a defensible
w ay to leave so m e things out. The logic of the e n te rp ris e the
bestow ing o f honorific titlesre q u ire s th e m to rule som e
things out, for th e re is no special h o n o r in a title every c o n
ceivable o b je c t o r activity is entitled to. The practical c o n s e
q u e n c e s o f their w ork re q u ire the sa m e exclusionary a p
p ro a ch , for distributors, au diences, a n d all the o th e r p a rtic i
p a n ts in an a rt w orld look to aesth etician s for a w ay of
m a k in g h a rd decisions a b o u t re so u rc e s in a c lea rcu t and
defensible, r a th e r th a n fuzzy a n d arguable, way.
A estheticians m ight well a rg u e th a t they do not intend to
m a k e evaluative ju d g m e n ts at all, b u t sim ply to arrive at a
c le a rc u t delineation of the categories of a rt a n d n o n a rt. Since
all the societies in w hich a esth etician s engage in this activity
use art as an honorific term , the very m aking of the d istin c
tion will inevitably assist in the ev alu a tio n of potential c a n
d idates for the s ta tu s of art w ork. A estheticians need not be
cynical p a rtic ip a n ts in art w o rld conspiracies for their work
to have this utility.
T h a t aesth etic positions freq u en tly arise in the c o u rse of
fighting for the a c c e p ta n c e of so m e th in g new d o es not alter
the situation. S u c h positions, too, need to show th a t som e
th ings are not a rt in o rd e r to ju stify the claim th a t so m e th in g
else is. Aesthetics w hich declare th a t everything is a rt do not
satisfy people w h o c reate o r use th e m in the life of an art
world.

A E S T H E T IC S AND ORGANIZATION
The rest o f w h a t aesth etician s a n d critics do is to provide a
ru n n in g revision of the value-creating theory which, in the
fo rm of criticism , c o n tin u o u sly a d a p ts the p rem ises of the
138 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

th eo ry to the w orks artists actually p ro d u ce. Artists p ro d u c e


n e w w ork in re sp o n se not only to the c o n sid e ra tio n s o f for
m al aesthetics b u t also in re sp o n se to the tra d itio n s of the art
w orlds in w hich they participate, traditions w hich can p ro f
itably be viewed (Kubler, 1962) as se q u e n c e s o f p ro b le m
definitions a n d solutions; in re sp o n se to suggestions implicit
in o th e r traditions, as in the influence of African a rt on W est
e rn painting; in re sp o n se to the possibilities c o n ta in e d in
n e w technical d ev elo p m e n ts; a n d so on. An existing aesthetic
n e e d s to be kept up to d a te so th a t it co n tin u es to validate
logically w h a t a u d ie n c e s experience as im p o rta n t a rt work
a n d th u s to keep alive a n d consistent the co n n ec tio n b etw een
w h at h a s a lrea d y been validated a n d w h at is now being
p ro p o sed .
A esthetic principles a n d system s, being p art of the p a c k
age of in te rd e p e n d e n t p ractices th a t m a k e up a n art world,
will b o th influence a n d be influenced by su ch asp ects o f it as
th e training of potential artists a n d viewers, financial a n d
o th e r m o d e s of s u p p o rt, a n d the m o d e s of d istrib u tio n a n d
p re se n ta tio n o f works. They will especially be influenced by a
p re s s u re for consistency implicit in the idea of art.
Art is too c ru d e a c o n c e p t to c a p tu re w h a t is at w ork in
these situations. Like o th e r com plex concepts, it disguises a
generalization a b o u t the n a tu re of reality. W hen we try to
define it, we find m a n y a n o m a lo u s cases, cases w hich m e e t
som e, b u t not all, of the criteria im plied o r ex p ressed by the
concept. W h e n we say a rt, we usually m e a n s o m e th in g like
this: a w ork w h ich has a esth etic value, ho w ev er th a t is
defined; a w ork justified by a c o h e re n t a n d defensible
aesthetic; a w ork recognized by a p p ro p ria te people as h a v
ing aesth etic value; a w o rk displayed in the a p p ro p ria te
places (h u n g in m u s e u m s , played at concerts). In m a n y in
stances, how ever, w orks have som e, b u t not all, of these
a ttrib u tes. They are exhibited a n d valued, b u t do n o t have
aesth etic value, or have aesthetic value b u t are n o t exhibited
a n d valued by the right people. The generalization c o n tain e d
in the c o n c e p t of a rt suggests th a t these all co-occur in the
real w orld; w h e n they do n o t co-occur we have th e defini
tional tro u b le s w hich have alw ays p lag u ed the concept.
139 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

S o m e p a rtic ip a n ts in a rt w orlds try to m inim ize these in


consistencies by bringing theory a n d practice into line so that
th e re are few er a n o m a lo u s cases. Others, w h o wish to u p s e t
the sta tu s quo, insist o n the anom alies. To illustrate the point,
c o n sid e r this qu estio n : How m a n y great (or excellent, or
good) w orks of a r t are there? 1 am not c o n c e rn e d with fixing
a n u m b e r myself, n o r do I think the n u m b e r (h o w ev er we
m ig h t calc u late it) is im p o rta n t. But looking at th a t question
will m a k e clear the in teractio n of aesthetic theories a n d art
w o rld organizations.
In 1975, Bill Arnold o rg anized The Bus Show, an exhibition
of p h o to g ra p h s to be displayed on five h u n d r e d New York
City b u ses (Arnold a n d Carlson, 1978). H e in te n d ed by this
m e a n s to p re se n t excellent p h o to g ra p h s in a public s p a c e
a n d th u s to bring good a rt p h o to g ra p h y to a m u c h larger
a u d ie n c e th a n it ordinarily reach es a n d to allow m a n y m o re
p h o to g ra p h e rs ' w ork to be seen th a n ordinarily w ou ld be (see
figure 14). The p h o to g ra p h s w ere to be d isplayed in the sp ac e
o rd in a rily u se d for advertising; to fill th e advertising space
on one b u s req u ired 17 p h o to g ra p h s of varying sizes from
n ine to sixteen inches in height. To fill five h u n d r e d buses
th u s re q u ire d 8,500 p h o to g ra p h s, all of th e m to be c u rre n t
w o rk by c o n te m p o r a ry p h o to g ra p h ers.
Are there actually 8,500 excellent c o n te m p o r a ry p h o to
g ra p h s w hich m e rit th a t kind of public display? To ask the
q u e stio n p re s u p p o s e s an aesthetic a n d a critical position
fro m w hich we could evaluate p h o to g ra p h s, deciding which
o n es w ere o r w e r e n t of sufficiently high quality. W ithout
a tte m p tin g to specify the c o n te n t of such an aesthetic, im a g
ine a simplified case. S u p p o s e quality is a u n idim ensional
a ttrib u te su ch th a t we can ra n k all p h o to g ra p h s as having
m o re o r less of it. (In fact, c o m p e te n t m e m b e rs of the art
p h o to g ra p h y world, even th o se w h o belong to one of its
m a n y c o m p e tin g segm ents, use a large a n d varied a s s o rt
m e n t of d im e n sio n s in ju d g in g p h o to g rap h s.) We can then
easily tell w h e th e r any p h o to g ra p h is b e tte r than, w orse than,
o r e q u a l to a n y other. But w e w ould still not k n o w how m a n y
w ere w o rth y of public display, h o w m a n y m erited being
called g r e a t o r excellent o r b eau tifu l, how m a n y de-
The Bus Show
There will be an exhibition of photographs in 500 New York City public bus es in May ol 1975
The purpose ot the show is to present excellent photographs in a public s pa ce All prints will
appear with the photographers n am e and the picture s title
Photographs a cce p ted for the exhibition will become part of the perman ent collection of the
Library of Congress. Send duplicate prints of each photograph you wish to submit; one print will
go on a bus. the other to the Library ol Congress You must state what rights you grant to the
library ot Congress with ea ch photograph loan, reproduction, or neither without your specific
approval

You may submit photographs to be considered for one person shows or as part of the group
exhibit Since the photographs will be placed in the interior advertising s pa ce of the buses there
are certain size requirements, and in the case of one person shows, a specific number of photo
graphs are needed to fill the available spaces. If you are submitting for group exhibition, send us
any number of photographs in any of the size categories. For one person shows, you must submit
the exact number of photographs need ed to fill a bus. m each of the size categories The size
requirements and number of photographs for each bus is as follows 14 photographs with an
image height of 9 inches, one horizontal photograph with an image height ot 13 inches; two verti
cals with an image height of 16 inches Photographs not accepted for one person shows will auto
matically be juried as part of the group exhibition
All work must be unmounted and untrimmed Remember to submit duplicate prints of each
photograph Work not accepted will be returned if postage is included On the back of ea ch print
write your name the picture's title, and the rights you grant to the Library of Congress Enclosea
3" x 5" file card with your name, address, and phone number Mat! prints to Bus Show, Photog
raphy Department Pratt Institute. Brooklyn, New York 11?05 For information call (212)
6 3 6 3573 The deadline for submission is March 1. 1975
This exhibition is m ad e possible with support from the New York State Council on the Arts
Poster 1975 by Pratl Institute Photograph by Bill Arnold

FIGURE 14. Poster advertising The Bus Show. The Bus Show,
organized by Bill Arnold in 1975, proposed to exhibit 8,500 contem
porary photographs o f high artistic quality in the advertising spaces
on New York City buses. Arnold gathered material for the show by
advertising to art photographers. (Courtesy Bill Arnold.)
141 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

served inclusion in a m u s e u m collection o r m en tio n in a


c o m p re h e n s iv e history of a rt p h o to g rap h y .
To m a k e those ju d g m e n ts re q u ire s establishing a n e c
essarily a rb itra ry cutoff point. Even if a su b stan tial break
at so m e point in an otherw ise s m o o th d istrib u tio n m ak es it
easy to sec a m a jo r difference on eith er side of it, using su ch a
b reak as the cutoff point w ould be practically justifiable b u t
logically arb itrary . But aesth etic system s pro p o se a n d justify
su ch ju d g m e n ts a n d divisions of existing art w orks all the
time. In fact, The Bus Show sh o ck ed the p h o to g ra p h y w orld
by im plying th a t th e line could justifiably be d r a w n w h ere it
w ou ld have to be d ra w n in o rd e r to fill all five h u n d re d buses,
a n d not w h ere it w ould m o re conventionally be d ra w n (if w e
w a n te d to have a show of the best in c o n te m p o ra ry p h o to g
ra p h y we m ight include, if w e followed c u rre n t m u s e u m
practice, o n e to tw o h u n d r e d prints).
If aesth etic sy stem s justify dividing art w orks into those
w o rth y o f d isp lay o r p e rfo rm a n c e a n d th o se not, that will
influence a n d be influenced by the institutions a n d o rg a n i
zations in w h ic h such displays a n d p e rfo rm a n c e s occur. I n
stitutions have so m e leew ay in the a m o u n t of w o rk they can
p re s e n t to the public, b u t n o t m uch. Existing facilities (c o n
cert halls, a rt galleries a n d m u s e u m s , a n d libraries) have
finite a m o u n ts of space, existing c a n o n s of taste limit the use
to w hich th a t sp ac e can be p u t (we no longer feel it a p p r o
priate to h a n g p a in tin g s floor to ceiling in the m a n n e r of the
Paris Salon), a n d a u d ie n c e ex p ectatio n s a n d c o n v e n tio n
alized a tten tio n sp a n s im p o se fu rth e r limits (m ore m usic
could be p e rfo rm e d if a u d ie n c e s w ould sit th ro u g h six-hour
in s te a d of tw o -h o u r concerts, alth o u g h the financial p r o b
lems, given c u rre n t union w age scales, w ould m a k e th a t im
possible anyw ay). Existing facilities can alw ays be e x p a n d e d
by building a n d organizing m o re , b u t at any p a rtic u la r tim e
th e re is only so m u c h sp ac e o r tim e a n d only so m a n y w orks
c a n be displayed.
T he aesthetic o f the w o rld w hich has such facilities at its
disposal can fix the point on o u r hy p o th etical one dim en sio n
of quality so as to p r o d u c e ju st the n u m b e r of w orks for
w hich there is exhibition space. It can fix the s ta n d a rd so that
th e re are few er w o rk s to be d isplayed o r re w a rd e d th a n there
142 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

is ro o m for (as w h en an a w a rd c o m m itte e decides th a t no


w o rk is w o rth y of a prize this year). Or it can fix the s ta n d a rd
so th a t m a n y m o re w orks are ju d g e d a d e q u a te th a n th e re is
ro o m for. E ith er of the latter tw o situations throw s into
d o u b t the a d e q u a c y of the a rt w orld's institutional a p p a
ratus, the validity of its aesthetic, o r both. There is, thus, so m e
p re ss u re for an aesthetic s ta n d a rd flexible e n o u g h to p r o
d u c e a p p ro x im a te ly the a m o u n t of w ork fo r w hich the o r
ganizations have ro o m and, conversely, for the institutions to
g e n era te th e a m o u n t of exhibition o p p o rtu n ity req u ired by
the w orks the aesthetic certifies as being of the a p p ro p ria te
quality.
The d istrib u tio n system itself requires m a terials to d istrib
ute, g e n era tin g a f u rth e r p re ss u re for ch an g e s in aesthetic
ju d g m e n ts in the form of rediscoveries of w orks a n d artists
h ith e rto not ra te d very highly. M oulin points out th a t Old
M asters a n d o th e r ''c o n se c ra te d " paintings of u n q u e stio n e d
value increasingly m ove into private a n d m u s e u m collec
tions a n d d is a p p e a r from the m a rk e t m a d e bv dealers a n d
galleries. S he q u o te s a French dealer:

It is impossible to make money selling Renoir if you do not


belong to the great dynasty of dealers. Since they can only be
found with difficulty, the paintings still in circulation reach
such prices that it is impossible to build up a stock of them.
Dealers then become the intermediaries between two collec
tors or between a collector and a museum. Rediscoveries are
due to the fact that what has already been discovered can no
longer be found. (Moulin, 1967, p. 435, my translation)

A rediscovery consists of a c a m p a ig n to call to the atten tio n


of poten tial bu y ers artists w h o se w o rk is still relatively avail
able a n d th u s sells a t a re a so n a b le price.
M oulin p o in ts out the role of specialists in aesthetic j u d g
m e n ts in this process:

The revaluation of certain styles and certain genres is not


independent of the efforts of specialists, historians or mu
seum curators.. . . [There is an] involuntary collaboration
between intellectual research and commercial initiatives in
the rediscovery and launching of artistic values of the past.
143 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

The judgments of connoisseurs give authority, but successive


generations of specialists do not illuminate the same sectors
of the past. Many factors can contribute to changing the
direction of their curiosity. . . . The mercantile aspects are
situated at the level of consequences, not causes. Historians
turn away from fields already well swept by erudition where,
in the present slate of research, attempts to overturn chronol
ogy and appreciation are condemned to defeat. They are
attracted to the zones of shadow. (Moulin, 1967, p. 430, my
translation)
So art h isto rian s discover value in previously u n stu d ie d
p a in te rs ju st as d ealers look for such w o rk s to sell. Moulin
m e n tio n s exhibits d ev o ted to the friends of already fa m o u s
artists a n d q u o te s the following:
Kikoi'ne, born on May 31, 1892 in Gomel, was part of the
famous group of the Zborowski Gallery, of whom he and
Kremegne were, at the time, the most expensive. Since then,
the other members of the groupModigliani, Pascin, Soutine
have died and their works can only be found at very high
prices. The Gallery Romanet will devote large exhibits to the
two survivors: the first to Kikoi'ne, at the beginning of June,
the second to Kremegne, during the 1957-58 season. (Moulin,
1967, p. 438, quoting from Connaissance ties Arts, no. 64, June
15, 1957, p. 32, my translation)
A fu rth e r ro u g h a g re e m e n t b e tw ee n the a m o u n t of w ork
ju d g e d interesting o r w orthw hile a n d the a m o u n t of room in
the d istrib u tio n sy stem c o m e s a b o u t w hen artists devote
th em selv es to w o rk for w h ich there is room , w ith d ra w in g
their efforts from m e d ia a n d fo rm a ts w hich are filled up."
In so fa r as a esth etic system s c h a n g e their criteria to p ro d u c e
the n u m b e r o f certified works an art world s distributive
m e c h a n is m s can a c c o m m o d a te , even the m ost a b so lu te of
th e m , those w hich m o st resolutely d ra w a strict line b etw een
a rt a n d n o n a rt, in fact practice a relativism w hich defeats
th a t aim.
W h en new styles of art e m erg e they c o m p e te for available
space, in p a r t by pro p o sin g new aesthetic s ta n d a rd s a c c o r d
ing to w hich their w o rk m erits display in existing facilities.
They also c re a te new facilities, as in the case of The Bus
144 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

FIGURE 15. The Bus Show, installed. Because no one could


know where any particular photograph was at any particular time,
The Bus Show could not really he reviewed, and no artist could gain
much in reputation from participating in it. (Courtesy o f Afterimage,
Visual Studies Workshop.)

S how (see figure 15). (New facilities do not do all the jo b s


people w a n t th e m to do. The Bus S how h a d the g re at d is a d
v an tag e th a t it could h ard ly help build a n y o n e's re p u tatio n .
Since no o n e k n ew w h ere the b u s carrying the w ork of s p e
cific p h o to g ra p h e rs w as at a n y p a rtic u la r time, critics could
not review th e m , unless they h a p p e n e d on the w ork by acci
dent, a n d friends a n d fellow artists could not see it either.)
Art w orlds differ in their flexibility, in the ease with w hich
th e y c a n increase the n u m b e r of w orks easily available for
public insp ectio n in c o n v en tio n al facilities. M o d ern societies
have relatively little tro u b le a c c o m m o d a tin g vast a m o u n ts of
p rin te d m a terial in libraries (a lth o u g h not in easily accessible
b o o k sto re s [N ew m an , 1973]). M usic can similarly be d istrib
u te d in re c o rd e d p e rfo rm a n c e s in large a m o u n ts. B ut live
145 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

p e r f o r m a n c e s of m u sical w orks of various kinds have so few


outlets th a t it b e c o m e s re aso n ab le for people to co m p o se
m u sic solely fo r recordings, ev en to the extent o f relying on
effects w hich c a n n o t be p ro d u c e d live, but re q u ire the m e c h
an ism s of an elaborately/ outfitted studio.

T H E INSTITUTIONAL T H E O R Y OF A ESTH ETICS:


AN EX A M PL E
This book, focusing as it d o es on q u e stio n s of social o r
ganization, does not a tte m p t to develop a sociologically
b ased th e o ry o f aesthetics. In fact, from the perspective ju st
sk etch ed , it is clear th a t developing an aesth etic in the world
o f sociology w ould be an idle exercise, since only aesthetics
d ev elo p ed in c o n n e c tio n with the o p e ra tio n s o f a rt w orlds
are likely to have m u c h influence in th e m . (Cans, 1974, is an
in terestin g a tte m p t by a sociologist to develop an aesthetic,
especially in relation to the q u e stio n of the aesthetic value of
m a ss-m c d ia works.)
Ironically enough, a n u m b e r of p h ilo so p h ers have p ro
d u c ed a th eo ry that, if it is not sociological, is sufficiently
b a se d on sociological c o n sid e ra tio n s to let us see w h a t such a
th e o ry m ight look like. This institutional theory of aesthetics,
as it h a s co m e to be called, can serve as an e x am p le of the
p ro cess ju st a n a ly z e d the d e v e lo p m e n t of a new aesthetic to
tak e a c c o u n t of w ork the art w orld has a lrea d y accepted.
P e rh a p s equally ironically, a m o re sociological c o n c e p tio n of
an a rt w orld th a n th a t th eo ry co n tain s p rovides solutions to
so m e of its problem s, a n d I have d e to u re d from the m ain line
o f m y a rg u m e n t long e n o u g h to suggest th o se solutions. (For
a m o re a b s tra c t sociological explication of the theory, see
Donovv, 1979.)
The p re c e d in g analysis suggests th a t new theories, rival
ing, extending, o r a m e n d in g previous ones, arise w h e n older
th eo ries fail to give an a d e q u a te a c c o u n t o f the virtues of
w ork w idely a c c e p te d by know ledgeable m e m b e r s of the
relev an t art world. W h en an existing aesthetic does not legit
im a te logically w h at is a lre a d y legitim ate in o th e r ways,
s o m e o n e will c o n stru c t a th eo ry th a t does. (W hat I say h ere
sh o u ld be u n d e rs to o d as pseu d o h isto ry , indicating in a n a r
146 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

rative form s o m e relationships w hich m a y o r m a y not have


arisen exactly as I say they did.)
Thus, p u ttin g it crudely, for a long tim e w orks of visual art
could be ju d g e d on the basis of a n im itative theory, a c c o r d
ing to w hich th e o b ject o f visual a rt w as to im itate n atu re. At
so m e point th a t th eo ry no longer explained w ell-regarded
new' w o rk s of a r tM onet's h a v sta ck s a n d cathedrals, for
instance, even w hen rationalized as e x p erim en ts in c a p tu rin g
the relatio n sh ip b e tw ee n light a n d color. An expressive
th eo ry of a rt th e n fo u n d the virtues of w orks in their ability to
c o m m u n ic a te a n d express the em otions, ideas, a n d p e r s o n
alities of the artists w h o m a d e th e m . T h at theory in tu rn h a d
to be re p aired o r re p lac ed so that it could deal with geom etric
a b strac tio n , action painting, a n d o th e r w o rk s th a t did not
m a k e sense in its te rm s (similarly, n e ith e r th e se theories n o r
their a n alo g u e s w ould be able to say an y th in g useful a b o u t
aleatory music).
T he institutional th eo ry aim s to solve the p ro b le m s raised
by w o rk s th a t o u tra g e b o th c o m m o n s e n s e a n d finer sensibil
ities by show ing no tra c e o f the artist at all, eith er in skill or
intention. Institutional th eo rists c o n c e rn them selves with
w o rk s like th e urinal or the snow'shovel exhibited by M arcel
D u c h a m p (see figure 16), w;hose only claim to being a rt a p
p a re n tly lay in D u c h a m p 's sig n atu re on them , o r the Brillo
boxes exhibited by Andy W arh o l (see figure 17). The c o m
m o n s e n s e critique of th ese w o rk s is th a t a n y o n e could have
d o n e them , th a t they re q u ire no skill o r insight, th a t they do
not im itate a n y th in g in n a tu re b e ca u se they are n atu re, th a t
they do not e x p re ss an y th in g interesting b e c a u se they are no
m o re th a n c o m m o n p la c e objects. The critique of those with
finer sensibilities is m u c h the sam e.
N evertheless, those w orks gained great re n o w n in the
w orld of c o n te m p o ra ry visual art, inspiring m a n y m o re
w orks like them . C o n fro n ted by this fait accom pli, a e sth e ti
cians developed a th eo ry th a t placed the artistic c h a ra c te r
a n d quality of the w ork ou tsid e the physical o b je ct itself.
They fo u n d those qualities, instead, in the relation of the
o b je c ts to an existing art w orld, to the organizations in which
a rt w as p ro d u c e d , d istributed, a p p rec iated , a n d discussed.
FIGURE 16. Marcel Duchamp, In Advance of the Broken Arm.
Duchamp's readymades," created when he signed some already-
existing artifact, outraged both commonsense and critical sensibil
ities. (Yale University Art Gallery, Gift o f Katherine S. Dreier for
the Collection Societe Anonyme.)
148 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

FIGURE 17. Andy Warhol, Brillo. Pop Art works provoked the
criticism that anyone could have done them, that they did not re
quire or embody the special gifts o f the artist. (Photograph courtesy
o f the Castelli Archives.)

A rth u r D anto a n d G eorge Dickie have p re se n te d the m o st


im p o rta n t s ta te m e n ts of the institutional theory. D an to dealt
with the essen ce of art, with w h a t in the relation b etw een
o b ject a n d art w orld m a d e th a t o b ject art. In a fa m o u s
s ta te m e n t o f the p roblem , he said:
To see something as art requires something the eye cannot
descryan atmosphere of artistic theory, a knowledge of the
history of art: an artworld. (Danto, 1964, p. 580)
The th eo ry o u t of w hich the idea of m ak in g the Brillo box
cam e, the relation of th a t idea to o th e r ideas a b o u t w h a t
149 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

m a k e s art w orks a rt a n d to the o th e r o bjects those w orks


in sp ire d all ot these m a k e a context in which the m aking of
the Brillo box a n d the box itself b e co m e art because th a t
context gives th em that sort of m eaning. In a n o th e r version:
The moment something is considered an artwork, it be
comes subject to an interpretation. It owes its existence as an
artwork to this, and when its claim to art is defeated, it loses its
interpretation and becomes a mere thing. The interpretation
is in some measure a function of the artistic context of the
work: it means something different depending on its art-
historical location, its antecedents, and the like. As an art
work, finally, it acquires a structure which an object photo
graphically similar to it is simply disqualified from sustaining
if it is a real thing. Art exists in an atmosphere of interpretation
and an artwork is thus a vehicle of interpretation. (Danto,
1973, p. 15)
Dickie deals with organizational form s a n d m echanism s.
A ccording to his definition:

A work of art in the classificatory sense is 1) an artifact 2) a set


of the aspects of which has had conferred upon it the status of
candidate for appreciation by some person or persons acting
on behalf of a certain social institution (the artwork!). (Dickie,
1975, p. 34)
A sizable a n d interesting s e c o n d a ry literatu re has grow n up
a r o u n d this point of view, criticizing a n d am plifying it (Co
hen, 1973; Sclafani, 1973a a n d 1973b; Blizek, 1974; Danto,
1974; Mitias, 1975; Silvers, 1976). (Sociologists will see a fa m
ily re s e m b la n c e b etw een the institutional th e o ry of a rt a n d
the v arious sociological theories w hich m ak e their s u b je c t
m a t t e r the way social definitions create reality (e.g., the so-
called labeling th e o ry of deviance [see Becker, 1963]), for
b o th see the c h a r a c te r of their s u b je c t m a tte r as d e p e n d in g
on the way people acting collectively define it.)
P h ilo so p h ers tend to a rg u e from hypothetical exam ples,
a n d the " a rtw o rld " Dickie a n d D anto refer to does not have
m u c h m e a t on its bones, only w h a t is m inim ally necessary to
m a k e the p o in ts they w a n t to m ake. N or do the criticism s
m a d e of their positions often refer to the c h a ra c te r of exist
ing a rt w orlds o r ones w hich have existed, e m p h asiz in g in
150 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

stead logical inconsistencies in the c o n stru cts used in the


theory. None o f the p a rtic ip an ts in these discussions d e
velops as organizationally co m p lica te d a co n ce p tio n of w h at
an art w orld is as does this book, alth o u g h m y d e sc rip
tion is not in c o m p atib le w ith their arg u m en ts. If we use a
m o re co m p lica te d a n d em pirically b ased notion of a n art
world, how ever, we can m ak e h e a d w a y on som e p ro b le m s in
w hich the philosophical discussion has bogged down, thus
p e rh a p s being helpful to aetheticians and sim ultaneously
d e e p e n in g th e analysis of the role of aesthetics in an art
world.

W ho?
W ho can c o n fe r on so m eth in g the statu s of c a n d id a te for
app reciatio n , a n d thus ratify it as art? W ho can act on b e h alf
of th a t social institution, the a rt world? Dickie settles this
q u e stio n boldly. H e describes the art w orld as h aving core
personnel w h o can act on its behalf:
A loosely organized, but nevertheless related, set of persons
including artists . . . , producers, museum directors, mu-
seum-goers, thcater-goers, reporters for newspapers, critics
for publications of all sorts, art historians, art theorists, phil
osophers of art, and others. These are the people who keep
the machinery of the artworld working and thereby provide
for its continuing existence. (Dickie, 1975, pp. 35-36)

B ut he also insists that:


In addition, every person who sees himself as a member of the
artworld is thereby a member. (Dickie, 1975, p. 36)
T h at last sentence, of course, w a rn s aesth etician s that
Dickies a p p ro a c h will p ro b a b ly not help th e m distinguish
the deserving from the undeserving; this definition is going
to be too b ro ad . They c a n n o t accep t the im plications of
Dickies re m ark , th a t the rep resen tativ es o f the a rt w orld
w ho will be co n ferrin g the honorific statu s of a rt on o bjects
are self-appointed, a n d e x p ress th e ir disco n ten t in a rash of
h u m o ro u s exam ples. W h a t if a zookeeper decides th a t he is a
m e m b e r of the art w orld and, in th a t capacity, co n fers the
151 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I CS

s ta tu s o f c a n d id a te for ap p rec iatio n , a n d th u s of a rt work, on


the e le p h a n t he tends? T hat c o u ld n t really m ak e the ele
p h a n t a w ork o f art, could it? Because, a fte r all, the zoo-
k e e p e r really c o u ld n 't act on b e h alf of the a rt world, could
he? W e all know the answ ers: the e le p h a n t ju s t isn t an a*t
w o rk (Dickie, 1971; Blizek, 1974).
But how do w e know that? We k n o w it becau se we have
a c o m m o n s c n s e u n d e rs ta n d in g of the organization of art
w orlds. A relevant fe atu re o f organized a rt w orlds is that,
h o w e v e r their position is justified, som e people are c o m
m only seen bv m a n y o r m ost in te re ste d p arties as m o re e n
titled to sp eak on b e h alf of the art w orld th a n others; the
e n title m e n t s te m s from their being recognized by the o th e r
p a rtic ip a n ts in the co o p erative activities th ro u g h w h ich that
w o rld s w o rk s are p ro d u c e d a n d c o n s u m e d as the people
entitled to do that. W h e th e r o th e r art w o rld m e m b e rs accept
th e m as c a p a b le of d eciding w hat art is b e ca u se they have
m o re experience, b e c a u se they h a v e a n in nate gift for re c
ognizing art, o r sim ply b e ca u se they are, a fte r all, the people
in c h a rg e of such things a n d th e refo re o u g h t to kn o w
w h a te v e r the reason, w h at lets th e m m a k e the distinction
a n d m a k e it stick is th a t the o th e r p a rtic ip a n ts agree that they
should be allow ed to do it.
Sociological a n aly sts n e ed not decide w ho is entitled to
label things a rt (or, to use Dickies language, to c o n fe r the
s ta tu s of c a n d id a te for ap p reciatio n ). We n e e d only observe
w ho m e m b e rs of the a rt w orld tre at as c ap a b le of doing that,
w h o they allow to d o it in the sense that once those people
have d ecid ed s o m e th in g is a rt o th e rs act as th o u g h it is.
S o m e c o m m o n featu res of art w orlds sh ow th a t the philo
sophical desire to be able to decide definitively b e tw ee n art
a n d n o n a rt c a n n o t be satisfied bv/ the institutional theory. V

F o r o n e thing, p a rtic ip a n ts seld om agree com pletely on w ho


is entitled to speak on b e h alf of the art w orld as a whole.
S o m e people o c c u p y institutional positions w hich allow
th e m , de facto, to decide w h a t will be acceptable. M useum
directors, for instance, could decide w h e th e r p h o to g ra p h y
w as an art b e ca u se they could decide w h e th e r o r n o t to
exhibit p h o to g ra p h s in their m u se u m s. They could even d e
152 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

cide w h a t kind o f a rt (e.g., m in o r o r w h a te v e r the opposite


of th a t is) p h o to g ra p h y w as by deciding w h e th e r p h o to
g ra p h s w ould be exhibited in the m a in galleries in which
paintings w ere ordinarily exhibited o r confined to a special
place with less prestige in w hich only p h o to g ra p h s w ere
show n. But o th e r p a rtic ip a n ts a rg u e th a t m u s e u m d ire c
tors are in c o m p e te n t to m a k e the ju d g m e n ts they do m ake,
th a t in a b e tte r w orld they w ould not be allowed to m ak e
such ju d g m e n ts , b e ca u se they are ignorant, p re ju d ic ed , or
influenced by e x tra n e o u s considerations. S o m e th in k they
are too a v an t-g a rd e a n d do n o t give p ro p e r a tte n tio n to e s
tablished styles a n d genres, o th e rs ju s t the opposite (see
H aacke, 1976). M any p a rtic ip a n ts find institutional officials
u n a c c e p ta b le a rb ite rs b e c a u se of su b stan tial evidence w hich
show s th a t they re p re s e n t the rich a n d pow erful o f the c o m
m unities they serve (see Catalog C om m ittee, 1977; H aack e,
1976; B ecker a n d W alton, 1976), their decisions th u s re p re
senting class bias as m u c h as aesthetic logic.
Art w orld m e m b e rs also disagree over w h e th e r the d e
cisions of o c c u p a n ts of certain positions really m a k e a n y
difference. This d isa g re e m e n t reflects the a m b ig u o u s p o si
tion of th o se people in the art world. It is frequently ju st not
clear w h e th e r a p a rtic u la r critic's decision h a s a n y c o n s e
q u e n ce , w h e th e r o th e rs b a se their ow n activities on th a t
decision, a n d very often th a t d e p e n d s on a variety o f c o n tin
gencies th a t arise from political shifts a n d struggles within
th e a rt w orld. In s o fa r as a rt w orld m e m b e rs find the s ta tu s of
w h a te v e r p ro n o u n c e m e n ts they m a k e am b ig u o u s, the statu s
of su c h people as critics, dealers, a n d prize a n d fellowship
c o m m itte e s is equally a m b ig u o u s. The am biguity, not re
m ed iab le by philosophic o r social analysis, is there b e ca u se
the people w h o se d e fe re n c e w ould ratify th e statu s d efer
sp o rad ically a n d erratically.
Thus, the institutional th e o ry c a n n o t p ro d u c e the all-or-
n o th in g ju d g m e n ts a esth etician s w o u ld like to m a k e a b o u t
w h e th e r w o rk s are or are n o t art. Since the degree of c o n
sensus a b o u t w h o can decide w h a t a rt is varies greatly fro m
o n e situation to a n o th er, a realistic view reflects th a t by
153 AESTHETI CS, AESTHETI CI ANS, AND CRI TI CS

allowing art-ness, w h e th e r or not an o b ject is art, to be a


c o n tin u o u s variable ra th e r th a n an all-or-nothing dichotom y.
Likewise, a rt w orlds vary in the kinds of activities by th e ir
m e m b e rs w hich e m b o d y a n d ratify the assigning of th e s ta
tus of a rt to a n o b je c t o r event. On the one hand, su c h
m a terial benefits as the a w a rd of fellowships, prizes, c o m
missions, display space, a n d o th e r exhibition o p p o rtu n ities
(publications, p ro d u ctio n s, etc.) have the im m e d ia te c o n se
q u e n c e of helping the artist to c o n tin u e p ro d u c in g work. On
the o th e r han d , m o re intangible benefits, su ch as being taken
seriously by the m o re know ledgeable m e m b e rs of the art
world, have indirect but im p o rta n t c o n se q u e n c e s for artistic
careers, placing the recipient in the flow of ideas in w hich
c h a n g e a n d d e v e lo p m e n t tak e place a n d providing day-to-
d ay validation of w ork c o n c e rn s a n d help with daily p r o b
lems, things d en ied those w h o are m erely successful in m ore
co n v entional c a re e r terms.

W hat?
W h at c h aracteristics m u st an o b ject have to be a w ork of
art? The institutional th eo ry suggests th a t an y th in g m ay be
c ap a b le o f being ap p rec iated . In fact, in response to a critic
w h o says th a t so m e o b je c ts-o rd in a ry th u m b ta c k s , c h ea p
w hite envelopes, the plastic forks given at som e drive-in
re s ta u ra n ts 'ju st c a n n o t be a p p re c ia te d (Cohen, 1973, p. 78),
Dickie says:

But why cannot the ordinary qualities of Fountain [the urinal


Duchamp exhibited as a work of art; see figure 18]its
gleaming white surface, the depth revealed when it reflects
images of surrounding objects, its pleasing oval shapebe
appreciated. It has qualities similar to those of works by
Brancusi and Moore which many do not balk at saying they
appreciate. Similarly, thumbtacks, envelopes, and plastic
forks have qualities that can be appreciated if one makes the
effort to focus attention on them. One of the values of photog
raphy is its ability to locus on and bring out the qualities of
quite ordinary objects. And the same sort of thing can be done
154 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

FIGURE 18. Marcel Duchamp, Fountain. Aestheticians disagree


about what qualities a work o f visual art must have to be art. Can
the physical properties o f a work like Fountain be appreciated?
(Photograph courtesy o f the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.)

without the benefit of photography just by looking. (Dickie,


1975, p. 42)
Can a n y th in g at all be tu rn e d into art, ju s t by s o m e o n e s
saying so?
it cannot be this simple: even if in the end it is successful
christening which makes an object art, not every attempt at
christening is successful. There are bound to be conditions to
be met both by the namer and the thing being named, and if
155 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

they are completely unsatisfied, then saying 1 christen ..


will not he to christen. (Cohen, 1973, p. 80)
C ohen is right: n o t every a tte m p t to label s o m e th in g art is
successful. But it does n o t follow th a t there are th erefo re
som e c o n stra in ts on the n a tu re of the object o r event itself
w hich m ak e certain o b je cts ipso facto not art a n d incapable
of being redefined in th a t way.
The c o n stra in ts on w h at can be defined as art which u n
d o u b te d ly exist in any specific art w orld arise from a prior
c o n se n su s on w h at kinds of s ta n d a r d s will be applied, a n d by
w h o m , in m ak in g those ju d g m e n ts . Art w orld m e m b e rs
characteristically, despite d o ctrin al a n d o th e r differences,
p ro d u c e reliable ju d g m e n ts a b o u t w hich artists a n d w orks
are serious a n d th e re fo re w o rth y of attention. Thus, jazz
players w h o disagree over stylistic p re fe re n c e s can n e v e rth e
less agree on w h e th e r a given p e rfo rm e r o r p e rfo rm a n c e
sw ings, a n d th e a te r people m a k e similarly reliable j u d g
m e n ts of w h e th e r a p a rtic u la r scene w o rk s o r not. Artists
m a y disagree violently over w h ich works a n d their m a k e rs
sh o u ld receive s u p p o rt, a n d m a rg in a l cases (especially those
in styles ju s t being in c o rp o ra te d into the conventional p ra c
tice of the art w orld or those on the verge of being th ro w n out
as no longer w o rth y of serious co n sid eratio n ) will provoke
less reliable ju d g m e n ts . But m ost ju d g m e n ts are reliable, and
th a t reliability reflects not the m o u th in g of alread y agreed-on
ju d g m e n ts , but the system atic application of sim ilar s ta n
d a rd s by tra in e d a n d e x p erien ced m e m b e rs of th e art world;
it is w h a t H u m e d e scrib ed in his essay on taste, a n d r e s e m
bles th e w ay m o st doctors, c o n fro n te d with a set of clinical
findings, will arrive at a sim ilar diagnosis (analogies can be
fo u n d in every area of specialized work).
In th a t sense, not ev ery th in g can be m a d e into a w ork of
art ju st by definition o r the c re a tio n of co n sensus, for not
ev ery th in g will pass m u s te r u n d e r cu rren tly a cc ep ted art
w orld s ta n d a rd s . But this does not m e a n that there is any
m o re to m a k in g s o m e th in g art th a n christening it. The entire
art w o rld s agreeing on s ta n d a r d s som e w o rk s m eet so
clearly th a t their classification as a rt is as self-evident as the
w ay o th e rs fail to m e e t th e m is also a m a tte r of christening;
156 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

the c o n se n su s arises b e ca u se re a so n a b le m e m b e rs of the


w orld have no difficulty classifying w orks u n d e r those cir
c u m sta n c e s. C onstraints on w h a t can be defined as a rt exist,
but they c o n stra in b e c a u se o f the c o n ju n c tio n of the c h a r a c
teristics of o b je c ts a n d the rules of classification c u rre n t in
th e w orld in w hich th e y are p ro p o s e d as art works.
F u rth e rm o re , those s ta n d a rd s , being m a tte rs of c o n s e n
sus, change. M uch of the ru n n in g dialogue of artists a n d
o th e r p a rtic ip a n ts in a rt w orlds has to do w ith m ak in g
day-to-day a d ju s tm e n ts in the c o n ten t a n d application of
s ta n d a rd s of ju d g m e n t. In th e early 1930s jazz players, crit
ics, a n d aficionados all ag reed th a t electrical in s tru m e n ts
could not p ro d u c e real m usic. Charlie C h ristia n s p e rfo r
m a n c e s on the electric g u ita r convinced so m a n y people th a t
his playing p ro d u c e d th e sa m e sort of ex perience as m usic
played on nonelectrical in s tru m e n ts th a t the c a n o n w as
quickly revised.

H o w M uch?
A estheticians, b o th the institutionalists a n d their critics,
w orry a b o u t the effect of aesth etic theorizing on artists a n d
a rt w orlds. They fear, for instance, th a t a too-restrictive
aesth etic theory w ould unn ecessarily d ep ress artists a n d
m ig h t u n d u ly constrict their creativity. This o v erestim ates
the degree to w h ich a rt w orlds tak e their direction from
aesthetic theorizing; the influence usually ru n s in the o th e r
direction. But the institutionalists d ra w one im p o rta n t im
plication from their analysis: if practicing artists w a n t their
w o rk a c c e p te d as art, they will have to p e rs u a d e the a p p r o
priate p eo p le to certify it as art. (While the basic institutional
analysis suggests th a t a n y o n e can do that, in practice these
theorists a c c e p t the existing a rt w orld as the o n e w hich has to
be p e rs u a d e d to d o the job.) But if a rt is w h a t a n a rt w orld
ratifies as art, a n alternative exists, one analyzed in m o re
detail in a later c h a p te r, the strategy of organizing de novo an
art w orld w hich will ratify as a rt w h a t one p ro d u ces. In fact,
the strategy h a s been used often a n d with co n sid erab le s u c
cess. M any m o re people have tried it a n d failed, but th a t
d o e s n t m e a n it is not a re a so n a b le possibility.
157 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

S everal difficulties arise in creating a new art w orld to


ratify w ork w h ich finds no h o m e in existing art w orlds. R e
sources (especially financial su p p o rt) will alread y have been
allocated to existing artistic activities, so th a t one n eed s to
develop n e w so u rces of su p p o rt, pools of personnel, sources
o f m aterials, a n d o th e r facilities (including space in w hich to
p e rfo rm a n d display works). Since existing aesthetic theories
have not ratified the work, a new aesthetic m u st be devel
oped, a n d new m o d e s of criticism a n d s ta n d a rd s of ju d g
m e n t e n u n c ia te d . To say th a t these things m u s t be done,
how ever, raises an interesting definitional q u e stio n o f the
kind philosophical analysis provokes. H ow m u c h of the a p
p a r a tu s of an o rg anized art w orld m u s t be c re a ted before the
w o rk in q u e stio n will be tre a te d seriously by a larger a u
dience th a n the original gro u p w h o w a n te d to c reate the new
w orld? W h a t it takes to convince people will vary a great
deal. S o m e re q u ire an e la b o ra te ideological explanation.
O th e rsth e a te r m a n ag ers, o p e ra to rs of re co rd in g studios,
a n d p rin te rs only ask th a t their bills be paid.
The q u e stio n of h o w m u c h institutional a p p a r a tu s is re
q u ire d to satisfy the definition need not, indeed sh o u ld not,
be a n s w e re d by setting som e specific criterion o r precise
po in t on a c o n tin u u m . The activities involved can be carried
on by varying n u m b e rs of people, a n d w ith o u t the full-blown
institutional a p p a r a tu s o f su c h w ell-equipped w orlds as s u r
ro u n d c o n te m p o ra ry s c u lp tu re a n d p ain tin g or sy m p h o n ic
m usic a n d g ra n d o pera. W h en w e speak of art w orlds, we
usually have in m in d these w ell-equipped ones, but in fact
paintings, books, m usic, a n d all sorts of o th e r artistic o bjects
a n d p e rfo rm a n c e s can be p ro d u c e d w ithout all the s u p p o rt
p erso n n e l these w orlds d e p e n d on: critics, im presarios, fu r
nishers of m a terials a n d e q u ip m e n t, providers of space, a n d
au diences. At a n extrem e, re m e m b e r, a n y artistic activity can
be d o n e by one person, w h o p e rfo rm s all the n e ce ssary activ
ities; this is n o t c o m m o n a n d n o t a condition m a n v artists
aspire to (though one they so m e tim e s yearn for w h e n they
have tro u b le with their fellow participants). As the n u m b e r
of people involved grows, the activity reach es a point w h ere
so m e stable n u cleu s of people c o o p e ra te s regularly to p r o
158 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

d u c e the sam e sort of w ork; as the n u m b e r grow s larger, it


m a y re a c h a po in t at w hich individual artists can p ro d u c e
w ork for a large a u d ie n c e of people they d o n t kn o w p e r
sonally a n d still have a re a so n a b le expectation of being tak en
seriously. Call the first po in t of organization an esoteric
w orld a n d the latter o n e exoteric. The n a m e s a n d the cutoff
points m a tte r less th a n the recognition th a t they are^ a rb i
trary, the reality being a variety of points th a t v a ry along
several continua.

H o w M anv?
N either Dickie n o r D anto is very clear as to how m a n y art
w orlds there are. Dickie says:

The artworld consists of a bundle of systems: theater,


painting, literature, music, and so on, each of which furnishes
an institutional background for the conferring of status on
objects within its domain. No limit can be placed on the
number of systems that can be brought under the generic
conception of art, and each of the major subsystems contains
further subsystems. These features of the artworld provide
the elasticity whereby creativity of even the most radical sort
can be accommodated. A whole new system comparable to
the theater, for example, could be added in one fell swoop.
What is more likely is that a new subsystem would be added
within a system. For example, junk sculpture added within
sculpture, happenings added within theater. Such additions
might in time develop into full-blown systems. (Dickie, 1975,
p. 33)
Blizek (1974) sees th a t this is an em pirical question, b u t also
sees th a t the definition of art w o rld is so loose th a t it is not
clear w h e th e r there is one a rt w orld, of w hich th ese are
s u b p a rts, o r a n u m b e r of th e m possibly u n re la te d and,
fu rth e rm o re , th a t if there are a n u m b e r of art w orlds they
m ight conflict. Several r e m a r k s a re relev ant here.
Em pirically, th e su b w o rld s of the various a rt m e d ia m ay
be su b d iv id ed into se p a ra te a n d alm ost n o n c o m m u n ic a tin g
segm ents. I have sp o k en of schools a n d styles as th o u g h they
c o m p e te d for the sa m e re w ard s a n d a u d ie n c e s (a n d will
again, in discussing p rocesses of c h an g e in a rt worlds), b u t
159 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

often they do not. Instead, m e m b e rs of one group develop


a u d ie n c e s a n d so u rces of s u p p o rt from sectors of the society
th a t w ould not have s u p p o rte d the o th e r a rt w orld seg m en ts
w ith w h ic h they m ig h t com pete. M any p a in tin g w orlds rely
on the s a m e su p p liers as recognized c o n te m p o ra ry artists for
m aterials, but have sep a rate, a n d often very successful, a r
ra n g e m e n ts for exhibiting, distributing, and s u p p o rtin g their
w ork. T he Cow boy Artists of Am erica, for instance, p ro d u c e
p aintings for people w h o w ould like to buy the w o rk of
C harles Russell a n d Frederick R em ington, genre p a in ters of
the A m erican cow boy W est w h o are exhibited in re a l m u
seum s, but c a n 't afford th e m o r c a n t find a n y to buy.

Despite determined inattention by Eastern art critics, cow


boy painting and sculpture are so popular that their prices
are inflating faster than intrastate natural gas. Cowboy art has
its own heroes, its own galleries and even its own publishing
house. (Lichtenstein, 1977, p. 41)

At an ex trem e, m u c h of the a p p a r a tu s of an art w orld can


develop a r o u n d the w ork of a single artist, in relative isola
tion from the larger, recognized w o rld of th a t m ed iu m . All
th a t is n eed ed is so m e o n e to pro v id e the resources. C onsider
the case of E d n a Hibel. Although h e r w ork has been e x h ib
ited in a n u m b e r of re p u ta b le places over the years, she
d o es not have a m a jo r re p u ta tio n a m o n g c o n te m p o ra ry a r t
ists o r collectors. N evertheless, an entire m u s e u m is devoted
to h e r work:

The Hibel Museum of Art, Palm Beach, is the inspiration of


Ethelbelle and Clayton B. Craig. Long Edna Hibei's foremost
collectors, the Craigs conceived the Hibel Museum to be the
permanent repository for their world famous collection of
Hibei art On their first visit Tin 19611 to the then newly
opened Hibel Gallery in Rockport, Massachusetts, Ethelbelle
and Clayton Craig fell in love with Edna's art, and bought
five Hibel paintings for their already extensive collection of
a r t .. . . As the Craig collection grew, and their understanding
and appreciation of the artist and her work deepened with the
passing years of friendship and mutual respect, the Craigs'
home became a virtual museum of Edna Hibei's a r t . . . . The
160 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I CS

Craigs determined not to allow Edna Hibei's work to become


so scattered that students, scholars and admirers would be
deprived of the opportunity to view a significant cross section
of her work in one location. From that moment on, they
increased the tempo of their collecting, and broadened the
scope of their acquisitions of the Hibel masterworks At
long last, the Craigs dream has been realized and the Hibel
Museum of Art is a reality. The Craig Collection is the nucleus
of an already growing body of Edna Hibei's work contributed
by her enthusiastic admirers. Located in Palm Beach, the
Hibel Museum stands as a living tribute to the Craigs gener
osity, foresight, and dedication. (Hibel Museum of Art, 1977)

Regional segm ents, not so isolated as this, are usually


oriented to the m etro p o lita n centers of the b ig a rt w orld
(McCall, 1977). T heir p a rtic ip a n ts suffer from a lack of exhi
bition opp o rtu n ities, a n d even m o re from the sense th a t
successes in their region will do th e m little o r no good in the
larger w orld they aspire to, a w orld alm ost totally u n a w a re of
them .
If we define a rt w orlds by the activities their p a rtic ip a n ts
carry on collectively, we can ask w h a t activities a general a rt
w o rld one w hich e n c o m p a ss e s all the conventional a rts
m ight carry on collectively so th a t we m ight w a n t to refer to it
as one a rt world. I can think of two.
First, the v arious m edia-oriented s u b c o m m u n itie s suffer
from m a n y of the sa m e external constraints, w hich pose the
sam e or sim ilar p ro b le m s for them . Thus, a depression m ight
m a k e it h a r d e r for all a rt form s to secure financial s u p p o rt
(although this w as not the experience of the G reat D epres
sion in the U nited States). A g o v e rn m e n t might cen so r all the
arts in a sim ilar way, so th a t the experience of people in one
area could be re a d as a sign of w h a t could be e x p ec ted in
an o th er. T hus a theatrical desig n er m ight decide w h at p r o j
ects to u n d e rta k e on the basis of w h e th e r he th o u g h t the
censors w ould allow them to be staged, arriving at th a t as
sessm en t by h e a rin g w h at they h ad d o n e to a re co rd in g by a
p o p u la r singer, a recen t novel, or a new film. In so fa r as the
p a rtic ip a n ts in all these w orlds share experiences, in te rp re
tations, a n d pred ictio n s vis-a-vis the censors, they en g ag e in
161 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T IC IA N S , AND CRITICS

a form of collective activity%/ and th u s co n stitu te an art world.


S h ould they c o m b in e to c o m b a t o r p ro test censorship, or
c o o p e ra te to c irc u m v e n t it, they w ould in th a t w ay as well be
engaging in the collective actio n th a t co n stitutes an art
world.
Second, artists in various m ed ia-o rien ted w orlds m ay try
to achieve sim ilar kinds of things in their w ork a n d m a y
s h a re ideas a n d perspectives on how to accom plish them .
D uring periods of intense nationalism , artists m a y try to
sym bolize the c h a ra c te r a n d asp iratio n s of their c o u n try o r
people in th e ir work. To do that, they have to find im agery
a n d te c h n iq u e s w hich will convey the ideas a n d feelings they
have in m in d as well as finding the ideas a n d feelings th e m
selves. In s o fa r as p a rtic ip a n ts in v arious w orlds d e b a te these
q u e stio n s a cro ss m ed ia lines, they m ight be said to p a r
ticipate in one general a rt world.
O rganizations for o n e m e d iu m often use people from
o th e r fields as s u p p o rt p e rso n n e l for the w ork that is central
in their ow n field. Visual artists create settings for theatrical
a n d d a n c e p e rfo rm a n c e s, w riters p ro d u c e librettos for o p
eras, m u sic ia n s c o m p o se a n d play b a c k g ro u n d s for films, a n d
so on. W hen artists c o o p e ra te in th a t way across su b w o rld
lines, they m ig h t be said to be p a rtic ip atin g in a g en eral art
w orld. F u rth e rm o re , becau se of the possibility of such c o llab
oration, p e o p le from w orlds not a lrea d y so c o n n e c te d m ay
find it interesting to c o n te m p la te new fo rm s of collaboration,
th u s c re a tin g f u rth e r links in a general a rt world. Finally,
p a rtic ip a n ts in specific art w orlds often c o m e from a limited
se c to r of the s u rro u n d in g society, for in stan ce the e d u c a te d
u p p e r m id d le class or the petty aristocracy. They m a y have
a tte n d e d school to g e th er o r co m e from fam ilies c o n n e c te d
by kinship o r friendship, a n d these c o n n ec tio n s will serve to
c reate a general a rt w orld or, at least, to provide th e regular
in teractio n w hich m ight enab le th e m to collaborate in the
kinds of activities a lrea d y m en tio n ed .
The analysis of this p ro b le m m ak es it clear th a t speaking
of a rt w orlds m e a n s using s h o rth a n d . The te rm art w orld ,
re m e m b e r, is ju st a w ay of talking a b o u t people w ho r o u
tinely p a rtic ip a te in the m a k in g of art works. T he routine in
162 A E S T H E T I C S , AESTHETICIANS, AND C R I T I C S

te rac tio n is w h a t co n stitu tes the art w o rld s existence, so


q u e stio n s o f definition can generally be resolved by looking
at w h o actually d o es w h at with w hom . In that way, the logi
cal a n d definitional p ro b le m s of the institutional aesth etic
th eo ry (which has a stro n g em pirical c o m p o n e n t) can be
resolved by know ledge o f the facts of a n y p a rtic u la r case.

A E S T H E T IC S AND ART W ORLDS

The institutional theory of aesthetics, then, illustrates the


p ro c e ss analyzed in the first p art of this ch ap te r. W hen an
estab lish ed aesthetic theory does not provide a logical a n d
defensible legitim ation of w h a t artists are doing and, m o re
im p o rta n t, w h a t the o th e r institutions of the art w orld
especially d istrib u tio n organizations a n d a u d ie n c e sa c
cept as art, a n d as excellent art, professional aesth etician s
will provide the re q u ire d new rationale. If they d o n t, s o m e
one else p ro b a b ly will, alth o u g h the rest of the p a rtic i
p a n ts m ight ju st go a h e a d w ithout a defensible ratio n ale for
their actions. (W h e th e r o n e is re q u ire d o r not d e p e n d s on the
a m o u n t of a rg u m e n t over w h a t they are doing they are c o n
fronted with.) Im itative a n d expressive th eo ries of a rt a n d
b e a u ty failed to explain o r give a rationale for the e n jo y m e n t
a n d celebration of c o n te m p o ra ry w o rk s of visual art widely
re g a rd e d as excellent. Given the a m o u n t of a rg u m e n t a n d
c o m p etitio n for re so u rce s a n d h o n o rs in the w orld of c o n
te m p o ra ry art, a n d the n u m b e r of professional philosophers
w h o m ig h t find the p ro b le m intriguing, it w as alm o st c e r
tain th a t s o m e th in g like the institutional theory w ould be
p ro d u c ed .
By shifting the locus of the definitional p ro b le m from
s o m e th in g in h e ren t in the o b ject to a relation betw een the
o b ject a n d an entity called an art world, the institutional
th eo ry pro v id ed a new justification for the activities of c o n
te m p o ra ry artists, a n d a n a n s w e r to the philosophically dis
tressing qu estio n s leveled at their work, w hich ask ed for a
d e m o n s tra tio n of skill o r beauty, th o u g h t or em otion, in the
w orks re g a rd e d as excellent, a n d w hich w a n te d to know if
the s a m e w orks could not have been p ro d u c e d by a c h im
163 A E S T H E T I C S , A H S T H E T I C I A N S , A N D C R I T I C S

panzee, child, in san e person, o r a n y o rd in a ry m e m b e r of the


society w ithout p a rtic u la r artistic talent. The latter sugges
tionth a t a n y o n e could do itw as p e rh a p s m o st d am aging.
It im plied th a t artists have no special gift o r talent, a n d th u s
th a t the rationale for re g ard in g th e m as special m e m b e rs of
the a rt w orld (or the society), entitled by virtue of the display
of th a t talent to special rew ards, w as fallacious. The in stitu
tional th eo ry allows art w orld p a rtic ip a n ts to define that
special talent in a n e w way, as (for instance) the ability to
invent im aginative new concepts, a n d thus gives legitimacy
to th e a rtis ts special role a n d rew ards.
O ur analysis of the institutional theory a d d s som e n u a n c e s
to the d escription of a rt w orlds. W e see th a t a rt world
officials have the p o w e r to legitim ate w ork as art, but that
p ow er is often d isp u ted . As a result, the a e s th e tic ia n s desire
for definitive criteria by w hich to distinguish art from nonart,
criteria c o n g ru e n t with the actions of a rt w orld officials,
c a n n o t be satisfied. T hat is of so m e interest b e ca u se acs-
theticians a re not the only o n es with such a desire. In fact,
sociologists often insist th a t fields like the sociology of art or
religion o r science settle on som e definitive criterion for their
su b jec t m a tter. If th a t criterion is expected to be c o n g ru en t
with e ith e r p o p u la r o r official co n cep tio n s of art, the socio
logical w ish for a definitive criterion is likewise unsatisfiable.
W e sec, too, th a t in principle any o b ject o r action can be
legitim ated as art, but th a t in p ra ctice every art w o rld has
p ro c e d u re s a n d rules governing legitim ation w hich, while
n o t clear-cut o r foolproof, n evertheless m a k e th e success of
s o m e c a n d id a te s for the statu s of art very unlikely. Those
p ro c e d u re s a n d rules are c o n ta in e d in the co n v en tio n s a n d
p a tte r n s o f c o o p era tio n by w hich art w orlds c a rry on their
ro u tin e activities.
We sec h o w one m ig h t speak of all the arts as co m p risin g
o n e big a rt world. In so fa r as m e m b e r s of specialized s u b
w orlds c o o p e ra te in som e activities re la te d to th e ir work, that
co o p erative activitybe it vis-a-vis g o v e rn m e n t censorship,
the d e v e lo p m e n t of nationalist art, o r m u ltim ed ia c o llab o ra
tio n can be seen as the o p e ra tio n of one big art world. Such
c o o p e ra tio n m a y be relatively u n c o m m o n , a n d p ro b a b ly is
164 A E S T H E T I C S , A E S T H E T I C I A N S , AND C R I T I C S

m o st of the tim e in a n y society, so th a t we m ig h t w a n t to say


th a t the operative art w orlds are those of the p a rtic u la r m e
dia. H ow ever, this, like others, is a n em pirical question,
w h o se a n s w e r will be fo u n d by research.
W e see, finally, th a t aesth etician s (or w h o e v e r d o es the
job) provide the rationale by w hich art w orks justify their
existence a n d distinctiveness, a n d th u s their claim to s u p
port. Art a n d artists c a n exist w ith o u t such a rationale, b u t
have m o re trouble w h en o th e rs disp u te their right to do so.
Art worlds, as they develop, th e refo re usually p ro d u c e that
rationale, w hose m ost specialized form is aesthetics a n d
w h o se m o st specialized p ro d u c e r, the philosopher.
6 Art and the State

States, a n d the g o v e rn m en tal a p p a r a tu s th ro u g h which


they o p e rate , p a rtic ip a te in the p ro d u c tio n a n d distribution
of art w ithin their borders. Legislatures a n d executives m ak e
laws, c o u rts in te rp re t them , a n d b u re a u c ra ts a d m in iste r
th e m . Artists, au diences, suppliers, d is trib u to rsall the v a r
ied p e rso n n e l w h o c o o p e ra te in the p ro d u c tio n a n d c o n
s u m p tio n o f w orks of a r tact w ithin the fra m e w o rk p ro
vided by those laws. B ecause state s have a m o n o p o ly over
m a k in g laws w ithin their ow n b o rd e rs (although not o v e r the
m a k in g of rules privately ag reed to in sm aller groups, so long
as those rules do not violate a n y laws), the state alw ays plays
s o m e role in the m aking of a rt w orks. Failing to exercise
fo rm s o f control available to it th ro u g h that m onopoly, of
course, c o n stitu te s an im p o rta n t fo rm of sta te action.
Like o th e r p a rtic ip a n ts in the m aking o f a rt works, the
slate a n d its ag en ts act in p u rsu it of their ow n interests,
w hich m a y o r m a y not coincide with those of the artists
m ak in g the w orks. M any states re g a rd a rt as m o re o r less a
good thingat the very least, as a sign of cultural d ev elo p
m e n t a n d n atio n al sophistication, along with m o d e rn h ig h
w ays a n d a n atio n al airlinea n d m a k e laws a n d regulations

165
166 A R T A N D T I I E S T A T E

w h ich fa v o r the arts in various ways. W hen artists su p p o rt


their activities by tu rn in g their w ork into p ro p e rty of som e
kind, w hich they th e n ex ch an g e for m oney, the laws the state
m a k es a n d en fo rce s c o n cern in g p ro p e rty rights affect th e m
directly. The sta te m ay e v en find it expedient to m a k e specicil
law s re g ard in g the disposition o f artistic p ro p e rty to pro tect
artists' rights a n d rep u tatio n s.
O th e r citizens m a y find artists' activities distasteful, a la r m
ing, o r genuinely h arm fu l. O th e r state lawsgoverning noise
a n d pollution, o r b la sp h e m y a n d b a d ta ste m a y pro tect
th e m against these artistic nuisances, a n d c o n s tra in the p r o
d u ctio n of so m e kinds of a rt works.
Finally, the state alw ays has a n interest in the propensity
of its citizens to mobilize o r be m obilized for collective a c
tion. Political leaders usually believe th a t the sym bolic r e p
re se n ta tio n s e m b o d ie d in b o th high a n d p o p u la r art affect
w h e th e r citizens can be m obilized a n d for w h a t ends. R evo
lutionary so n g s m ay provide the basis for rev o lutionary a c
tion; patriotic songs a n d films m ay reinforce existing beliefs
a n d sy stem s of stratification. S o m e art m a k e s people dis
co n ten te d , destroys their m o ral fiber, a n d m a k e s th e m unfit
to plav the roles a n d do the w o rk the state w an ts done. O ther
art w o rk s im p la n t a n d su p p o rt h ab its a n d a ttitu d e s the state
finds congenial o r th inks necessary to its ow n goals.
Political a n d a d m in istrativ e leaders m ay be ju s t as c a lc u
lating as the above suggests. J u s t as frequently, their ow n
a esth etic beliefs lead th e m to view w h a t s u p p o rts th e ir polit
ical interests as g re at a rt o r beautiful, a n d to see w h a t m ight
u n d e r m in e their interests as b a d art, o r not even art, m ere
trash. The m e rg in g of politics a n d aesthetics th u s affects
w h a t can be c o u n te d as a rt at all, the re p u ta tio n s of whole
g en res a n d m e d ia as well as th o se of individual artists. The
interests of states vary, a n d their interests in a rt vary a c
cordingly. An industrialized societys g o v e rn m e n t m a y prize
o r d e r a n d h a rm o n y o v e r discord a n d a n a rc h y , while a
d ev eloping so cie ty s leaders m ay be c o n c e rn e d th a t art will
divert people from the h a rd w o rk a n d stead y h ab its th o u g h t
essential to e c o n o m ic grow th. One state m ay forbid a rt w orks
w h ich show racial m ixture, while a n o th e r e n c o u ra g e s o r
even d e m a n d s them .
167 A R T AND T H E S T AT E

The stale p u rsu e s these interests both by s u p p o rtin g w hat


it a p p ro v e s a n d by d iscourag ing or forbidding w h a t it d is a p
p ro v e sby in tervening in the p ro d u c tio n of art it considers
inimical to its interests, by cen so rin g it partially o r c o m
pletely, even by im p riso n in g o r killing those w h o p ro d u c e
o r c o n s u m e it.

PROPERTY
Many, b u t not all, societies treat art as a c o m m o d ity w hich
can be b o u g h t a n d sold like any o th e r co m m o d ity . Artists
a n d business p eo p le c o lla b o ra te as we have seen, often u n
willingly a n d with great m u tu a l m istru stto p ro d u c e o b je cts
a n d e v en ts w hich can be m a rk e te d , sold, a n d distributed
u n d e r the laws the state p rovides for the regulation of such
activities. In m ak in g a n d en fo rcin g these laws, the state dis
plays no p a rtic u la r interest in w o rk s of art as such. Its c o n
cern, ra th er, lies in creating the co n ditions for ro u tin e e c o
nom ic activity, a rt sim ply being o n e of the c o m m o d ities
tra d e d .
The law conceives a n d treats p ro p e rty as a b u n d le of
rights. The rights of the o w n e r of a piece of p ro p e rty vary
d e p e n d in g on the kind of p ro p e rty it is. Art w o rk s similarly
vary in the w ay the law d istrib u tes rights in th e m to the
several categories of people involved in their production.
The basic p ro p e rty right is a m o n o p o ly over the physical
possession of th e object. Artists w h o p ro d u c e objects, like
visual artists, typically sell the right to physical possession of
a u n iq u e o r s e m iu n iq u e object: a painting, scu lpture, o r one
of a lim ited n u m b e r o f prin ts o r p h o to g ra p h s. The p u rc h a s e r
(or recipient of a gift) retain s possession a n d m a y sell o r give
the right of possession to a n o th e r p e rso n o r to an institution.
S o m e o b je c ts do not have that kind of u n iq u e value. A
p rin te d copy of a book has lim ited value (unless it is a scarce
copy of an originally sm all edition); the w o rk 's value resides
in the w o rd s, n o t the physical o b je ct they h a p p e n to be
e m b o d ie d in. (A literary w ork in the a u t h o r s ow n han d , su ch
th a t th e calligraphy is an intrinsic p a rt of it, w ould be unique;
b u t even su ch w orks can be a n d are re p ro d u c e d , so th a t
m a n y p e o p le can ow n copies of them .) W hen you buy a book
168 A RT AND THE STATE

you get the right to y o u r copy, to re a d w h ere a n d w h e n you


w an t. W h at the w riter a n d p u b lish e r ow n is the right to print
a n d sell copies for o thers to read.
P e rfo rm in g artists sell the right to be p re se n t at a n event
w hich consists of the artist doing so m e th in g artistic: d a n c
ing, playing m usic, or acting. Their p ro p e rty rights consist in
being able to p re v e n t o th e rs from seeing o r h earin g w h a t
th e y do w ith o u t paying for it (this w as the basis of a suit
by a circus p e rfo rm e r to p rev en t a television station from
b ro a d c a stin g film clips of him being shot o u t of a cannon).
P e rfo rm in g artists often p e rfo rm w orks c re a te d by o th e rs
(com posers, playw rights, o r ch o reo g rap h ers), in w hich case
the c re a to r of the p e rfo rm e d w ork c a n sell o r license the right
to p e rfo rm it, in public or private, for profit o r not.
W hen o b je c ts o r p e rfo rm a n c e s are m a d e into p ro p e rty to
be sold, the legal system c re a te d by the sta te defines w h o has
w h a t to sell, a n d the co n ditions a n d te rm s u n d e r w hich the
sale m a y occur.
U n iq u e a n d s e m iu n iq u e o b je cts pose p ro b le m s of p r o p
erty rights, fo r b o th p ro d u c e rs a n d co n su m e rs, diff e ren t from
th o se p o sed by w orks c o n sid e re d reproducible. The laws
m a d e a n d e n fo rce d by the state b o th c reate a n d solve (or fail
to solve) these problem s. F or instance, the q u e stio n of fakes
arises in a different w ay in th e tw o cases. A literary d o c u m e n t
m a y not be w h a t it p u rp o rts to b e m ay not, for instance,
really be the a u to b io g ra p h y of H o w a rd H u g h e s b u t the
book you p u rc h a s e will be a copy of the p u rp o rte d a u to b io g
ra p h y of H o w a rd H ughes. On the o th e r h a n d , u n iq u e o b
jects, by definition scarce, acq u ire a value b e y o n d th a t of
o b jects of a p p re c iatio n p u re a n d simple. It th e n b e co m e s
w o rth w h ile to c re a te w orks w hich can be p assed off as
s o m e th in g other, m o re valuable, th a n w h a t they really are.
F akers of p a in tin g s m a y a d d o r c h an g e signatures, c o m p lete
unfinished canvases, m is re p re s e n t the w ork of pupils o r a s
sistants as th a t of a m o re well-known m aster, copy an
existing valuab le painting, o r fa b ric ate a p a stic h e in the style
of s o m e o n e w h o se w ork h a s high value (B a u m a n , 1972, pp.
932-34). A legal sch o lar c o n te n d s th a t existing laws do not
p ro te c t b u y e rs against b eing sold faked paintings:
169 A R T A N D T II E S T A T E

Even though all states have enacted penal statutes that pro
hibit forgery, such statutes do not deal specifically with the
creation or marketing of false paintings. The California stat
ute is typical: anyone who signs the name of another with
fraudulent intent or attempts to pass as genuine any forged
writings is guilty of forgery. The statute deals primarily with
forgery of writings or instruments such as checks or bank
notes, while forged paintings are not mentioned. Even if the
statute were amended to include paintings, numerous alter
natives for faking paintings are left uncovered. (Bauman,
1972, p . 940)

The state, th a t is, has not e n a c te d laws sufficiently oriented to


a rt w orks, a n d the laws it has e n ac ted , d e v o ted m ainly to
p ro te c tin g the integrity o f c o m m e rc ia l p aper, do not do the
job.
In c o m p a riso n , a rt w o rk s p ro d u c e d in n u m e ro u s c o p
iesbooks, records, a n d filmsc re a te no p ro b le m s of fak-
erv, b e c a u se no one has a n incentive to p ro d u c e fakes. The
n u m b e r of copies a lrea d y available m a k e s the value d u e to
au th en tic ity too little to m a k e it w o rth w h ile to e x p e n d the
energy necessary to m ak e a credible fake. B ecause there are
so m any, you can tell by sim ple c o m p a riso n if you have w hat
you w ant. But people do copy the original, not to d e fra u d
c o n su m e rs, w h o get w h at they pay for, b u t ra th e r to steal
royalties from the o w n e r of the rights of re p ro d u c tio n : the
a u th o r, publisher, re co rd in g artist, o r reco rd c o m p a n y . These
w o rk s c reate w orries for the p ro d u c e r r a th e r th a n the
c o n su m e r.
T he state c rea tes legal p ro te ctio n in the form of copyright
law s for artists w h o se w o rk a p p e a r s in m ultiple copies. C opy
right is usually rationalized as the law of p a te n ts is, as a
w ay o f p ro m o tin g invention o r artistic creation by assu rin g
the profits from the w ork to the w o rk er by giving him a
m o n o p o ly for a limited period. The laws a s s u m e th a t w ith o u t
su ch p ro te ctio n n o o n e w ould e x p e n d the effort necessary to
p ro d u c e the w orks, w hose p ro d u c tio n the sta te finds d esir
able a n d wishes to e n co u ra g e. (T hat is not necessarily true;
folk artists, as w e will see later, do not p a rtic ip a te in the
m a rk e t in su c h a way as to need or w an t su ch protection.)
170 ART AND T H E S T A T E

The effect of copyright law on the c o n te n t of w orks can be


seen by e x am in in g the effects of its absence. As W endy
Grisw old (1981) has show n, A m erican novelists of the n in e
teen th c e n tu ry specialized in stories of a d v e n tu re a n d the
Wild W est b e ca u se pu b lish ers could get fiction of o th e r p o p
u la r kinds (e.g., novels of m a n n e rs ) m o re cheap ly by p ira t
ing British novels, to w hose a u th o rs they p aid no royalties
b e c a u se th e re w as at th e tim e no effective in te rn a tio n a l
a g re e m e n t on copyright.
Artists tak e a d v a n ta g e of these rights by c o n tra c tin g with
bu sin ess p e o p le gallery ow ners, im presarios, a n d m a n a g e rs
of c u ltu re in d u strie swho, as we have seen, kn o w how to
tu rn a esth etic value into e c o n o m ic value a n d have the o r
ganizational m e a n s to d o so. Financially ignorant, artists
fre q u en tly discover th a t th e ir c o n tra c ts do not give th e m the
benefits they ex p ected ; R. Serge Denisoff explains the sit
uation of rock m usicians:
Most contracts include advances for signing as well as a per
centage of the profits from record sales. . . . Many advances
are against royalties, meaning that the $20,000 given an artist
by Warner Brothers or Capitol Records will have to be repaid
to the company before the act receives any income from a
successful record. Other expenses such as studio, production
and promotion costs, are frequently included in contracts as
an advance against royalties. Advances vary from company to
company and from artist to artist. MC5 received a $50,000
advance followed by $20,000; like the [Grateful] Dead, they
found themselves $128,000 in debt to Atlantic Records. It is
quite possible that an act with a poorly negotiated contract
can have a gold record [with net domestic sales of one mil
lion dollars] and still not make any money. (Denisoff, 1975,
pp. 68-70)

Like all c o n trac ts, artists' c o n tra c ts w ith d istrib u to rs rest


on a basis of c u s to m a ry practice, w hich often nullifies the
a d v a n ta g e s they seem to provide. M oulin p o ints out th a t
F ren ch a rt dealers:
have a tendency to deny . . . any legal value to the contract.
They insist on the secondary character of the legal obligation
in relation to the moral obligation. The contract is, according
to them, a gentleman's agreement and what counts is per-
171 A R T AND TH E STATE

sonal lovaltv
%/ w and the value of ones word, much more than the

legal significance of the agreement, which only perverts the


close ties between people. . . . Their objective is to dissociate
bv all means the relations between artists and dealers from
their economic and legal context. (Moulin, 1967, p. 322-23, my
translation)

Not surprisingly, artists find this w orks to their disad v an tag e:

Artists, for their part, refer to the inequality of power existing


between the contractors. . . . Thev estimate that the stocks
accumulated by the dealer on the one hand and the solidarity
between dealers on the other guarantee the latter against any
eventual recourse by the artist, whatever might be the legal
protections benefiting the authors of objects which are not
simple commercial products, but rather the expression of a
creative personality.... [Quoting a painter:] And then, if you
start a lawsuit, you would be sunk. It would not be easy to find
another dealer to take you on after that. The dealers stick
together on that point. (Moulin, 1967, p. 324, my translation)

As in the case o f fakes, th e law fre q u en tly d o es not specify


rights clearly, a n d legal p ro c ee d in g s are necessary to e s ta b
lish w h o c a n do w h at with the w ork. The practice o f p u b li
cizing p o p u la r re co rd s by having disk jockeys play th e m on
the radio relied on legal in te rp re tatio n :

The practice of broadcasting records was attractive, espe


cially to smaller stations, considering the minimal investment
necessary to fill air time. The opposition of sheet music pub
lishers and a number of performers such as Fred Waring
and Bing Crosby at the outset hampered the broadcasting of
gramophone records, but did not end it. As Judge Learned
Hand was to rule, copyright control ended with the sale of the
record. Radio stations, therefore, could not be restrained
from using records in broadcasts. This interpretation of the
1909 copyright law, coupled with the publishers' realization
that radio could provide a forum for their songs, uplifted the
status of radio as the central avenue for public recognition of
a songwriter's product. (Denisoff, 1975, p. 219)

W h e th e r m a n u f a c tu r e r s could sell m a c h in e ry w ith w h ich


private citizens could record films a n d o th e r television p ro
g ra m s sim ilarly h a d to be settled by the courts.
172 A R T AND T H E S T A T E

The taxation policies of a c o u n try affect the p ro d u c tio n


a n d d istrib u tio n of a rt works. M oulin points out (1967, p. 58,
citing Reitlinger, 1961) th a t English p ain tin g of the eigh
te e n th c e n tu ry b e g an to be collected in the United S tates a fter
th e 20 p e rc e n t d u ty on classic w o rk s of a rt w as rep ealed in
1909, a n d th a t m o d e rn F ren ch paintings began to be col
lected a fte r the d u ty on c o n te m p o ra ry w o rk s w as abolished
in 1913. She notes, in addition, th a t the sp ecu latio n c h a r a c te r
istic of the a rt m a rk e ts she studied has been s u p p o rte d by the
absence, in France, of a tax on capital gains and, in the
United States, by the tax b re a k s available to collectors w ho
d o n a te w orks of art to public m u se u m s. Every c h an g e in
su c h laws im m e d ia tely affects the m a rk e ts for art w orks a n d
th u s the professional lives of everyone involved in the rele
vant a rt world.
M uch o f w h a t I have said is, of course, irrelevan t to art
w orlds o p e ra tin g in co u ntries which do not have a c a p ita l
ist m a rk e t eco n o m y . W hen eco n o m ic activity is regulated
by, for instance, a state b u re au c ra cy , the rules of th a t b u
re a u c ra c y define w h o has w h a t kinds o f rights in w orks of art
a n d h o w th o se rights m ay b e tra n sfe rre d . 1 a m not fam iliar
w ith a n y of th ese system s or their effects on the w orkings of
art w orlds. In s o fa r as artists b e c o m e state em ployees, their
situation m ight be sim ilar to th a t of industrial scientists in
the United States, w hose inventions typically belong to the
firms they wrork for.
In a d d itio n to creating the fra m e w o rk of p ro p e rty rights
w ithin w hich the ro u tin e eco n o m ic activities of a rt w orlds
c a n go on (and th u s providing th e legal basis for d istrib u tio n
organizations), g o v e rn m e n ts can (although they often do
not) m a k e law s w hich p ro te c t a rtis ts re p u ta tio n s by sa fe
g u a rd in g the link b e tw ee n the p e rso n a n d the w ork on w hich
th o se re p u ta tio n s are based. S u p p o s e I kn o w ju st w h a t an
artist in te n d e d in a w o rk not so easy to kn o w can I, legally
o r m orally, alter it ju s t b e ca u se I ow n it? If I sell you m y
p a in tin g can you p a in t a m u s ta c h e on one o f the figures in it,
as D u c h a m p did on a re p ro d u c tio n of the M ona Lisa? Or,
once you hcive b o u g h t the work, c a n I co m e to y o u r h o m e
a n d d e m a n d the right to alter it?
Art w orlds allow the a lteratio n of art w orks w h e n the
173 A R T AND T H E S T A T E

c h a n g e s do not affect the artist's rep u tatio n , a n d c o n d e m n it


w h e n the c h a n g e s will confuse o u r ju d g m e n t a n d p u t a s
se s s m e n ts of the artist in d o u b t. Art w orld p a rtic ip a n ts define
a rt w o rk s as the p ro d u c t o f so m e o n e 's personal vision, m e
d iated by his skill, taste, a n d sensibility. Art w orlds p ro d u ce,
m aintain, a n d d estroy re p u ta tio n s on the basis of the a s
sessm en ts their m e m b e r s m a k e of the w orks artists p resen t
as re p re se n tin g th e m at their best; y o u r re p u ta tio n as an
artist d e p e n d s on y o u r w ork, in so far as th a t work, given the
co n ditions of its creation, can be view ed as y o u r responsibil
ity. If o th e r people c h an g e y o u r w ork (if, u n d e r som e cir
c u m sta n c e s, you c h an g e it yourself), it no longer truly re
flects y o u r artistry (or lack of it) a n d c a n n o t be the basis for
re p u ta tio n a l ju d g m e n ts .
B ecause w orks affect re p u tatio n s, artists usually refuse to
release th em for public c o n sid e ra tio n (w h atev er form that
takes in their w orld) until they are p re p a re d to accep t the
w orld's ju d g m e n t of them . This is one of the few' places the
law so m e tim es affects the m a k in g of rep u tatio n s. F rench law
(which, Moulin rem arks, gives the artist m o re precise a n d
e x te n d e d g u a ra n te e s th a n th e law of o th e r countries) re c o g
nizes the m o ra l rights of the artist," w hich include the right
not to have o ne's w ork altered a n d the right not to have
unfinished w ork circulated, b o th rights linked to the act
of creation. M oulin cites the suit p a in te r G eorges R oualt
b ro u g h t against th e heirs of A m brose Vollard, the w ell-know n
art dealer, to re c o v e r 819 u n sig n ed paintings he h ad signed
over to the dealer. She q u o te s c o u rt decisions which, despite
the a g re e m e n t R oualt h a d signed, c o n clu d e d that:

the sale of an unfinished canvas does not transfer the property


since, until it has achieved the degree of perfection of which
the painter is the sole judge, he can repent having painted a
work he thinks unworthy of his genius and deny entirely that
what he has created is the materialization of his thought.
(Quoted in Moulin, 1967, p. 326, my translation)

The link the co u rt fo u n d is o n e th a t p a rtic ip a n ts in art w orlds


believe in, especially in the visual arts, w h ere w'orks are so
fre q u en tly u n iq u e objects. T h at explains the stro n g em o tio n
a ro u se d w h en people do in fact c h an g e works. C lem ent
1 74 A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

G re e n b e rg c re a ted a sto rm of p ro te st w hen he re p ain ted a


David S m ith scu lp tu re; o th e rs said S m ith h a d in te n d e d the
s c u lp tu re to w e a th e r a n d th a t G reen b erg w as interfering
w ith th a t intention. In a different kind of case, R obert R a u
s c h e n b e rg c re a te d a stro n g aesthetic effect w ith very sim ple
m e an s, by m a n ip u la tin g this feeling: he erased, w ith the
artist's co n sent, a d ra w in g by Willem DeKooning. T he result
gets its effect less from its a p p e a ra n c e th a n fro m the action it
records.
B ecause the w ork form s the basis of the m a k e r s r e p u ta
tion, art w o rld p a rtic ip a n ts believe th a t artists them selves
o u g h t n o t to c h a n g e a w ork once released to the world. It is as
th o u g h artists w h o did th a t w ere trying to c h ea t in the r e p u
tatio n al g a m e they are playing with history, w ith d ra w in g or
altering w h a t has been ju d g e d inferior so th a t the w o rld s
final ju d g m e n t will rest on a revised, in co m p lete b o d y of
w o rk th a t sh o w s only th e ir best side.
Art w orld p a rtic ip a n ts do n o t ask for legal p ro tectio n w hen
a lteratio n s in the w ork leave the original version still avail
able for inspection a n d evaluation. L iterary artists frequently
do w h a t visual artists are usually not allow ed to do: they
revise their w ork a n d m a y even do their best to su p p re ss
e arlier versions o f w hich they no longer ap p ro v e, buying up
editions a n d refusing perm ission to print item s to w hich they
hold the copyright. H e n ry J a m e s rew rote his novels e x te n
sively for the collected edition. C om posers do the sam e;
S trav in sk y redid m a n y of his w orks years a fte r they w ere
c o m p o se d . In th e se cases, of course, the printings a n d re c o rd
ings o f earlier versions are still available, so th a t the artist's
re p u ta tio n sim ply h a s a new w ork a d d e d to it. No u n iq u e
o b ject h a s been destro y ed by the act; a n e w o n e has instead
been a d d e d to w h a t is available.
Similarly, no o n e req u ires legal p rotection for re p u ta tio n s
w hen, as in the p e rfo rm in g arts, responsibility c a n be s p re a d
a m o n g the p a rtic ip an ts, som e being responsible for the plan
of the work, o th e rs for its execution. C o m p o sers are not
responsible fo r w h a t m usician s do to their w ork a n y m o re
th a n we hold playw rights responsible for p e rfo rm a n c e s of
th e ir plays. Since the w ork is n ever a sufficient guide to how
175 A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

it sh o u ld be p e rfo rm e d , every p e rfo rm a n c e varies, the v a ri


ations possibly being ones the a u th o r n ever in tended or
th o u g h t of a n d m ight not now approve. In that sense, every
p e rfo rm a n c e ch an g e s w h a t the original m a k e r in te n d e d , a n d
ch an g e s the w ork. If the original m a k e rs retained control
o v e r the licensing of p e rfo rm a n c e s, they could in principle
p re v e n t p e rfo rm a n c e s w hich w ould d e fa c e the original.
T h at control can at m o st be retain ed for the few years d u rin g
w hich a c o p y rig h t runs, w h e n one could refuse to license
p e rfo rm a n c e s by people one th o u g h t m ight do the w o rk
badly. But once perm ission to p e rfo rm has been given, the
c o m p o s e r or a u th o r c a n n o t p re v e n t a bad p e r f o rm a n c e or
o n e w hich (while not necessarily b a d ) will p ro d u c e a result
co m pletely different from , p e rh a p s antith etical to, w h at he
envisioned. H ad S h a k e sp e a re been p re se n t to see the M er
cury T h e a te r p ro d u c tio n of Julius Caesar in c o n te m p o ra ry
dress (see figure 19), he could not have p rev en ted Orson
W elles in n o v atio n s if he d is a p p ro v e d , since his w ork w as by
then in the public d o m ain .
P robably S h a k e sp e a re w ould not have cared, since the
w o rk w as well e n o u g h know n that Welles w ould have been
b la m ed for w h a te v e r in the p ro d u c tio n did not w ork. C o n
te m p o ra ry playw rights w o rry m o re a b o u t this, since they
m ay get the b la m e for p e rfo rm a n c e s th a t do not re p rese n t
their intentions. In general, all the parties to the c o o p era tio n
th a t c re a te s a w ork o f a rt w h o a re defined as " a rtis ts a n d
a w a rd e d the prestige th a t goes w ith the title receive their
s h a re o f the responsibility for the result. P a rtic ip a n ts m a y
then w orry only a b o u t w h a t they can be held resp o n sib le for.
Actors will th u s p e rfo rm in plays they think inferior but
w h ich pro v id e a vehicle fo r th e ir talents, a n d playw rights
m a y p re fe r a bad p e rfo rm a n c e to n o n e at all, trusting the
a u d ie n c e to distinguish th e ir m erits from the c o m p a n y s in
c o m p e te n c e . Artists generally have no legal recourse in m a t
ters th a t affect their re p u tatio n s, although the F ren ch laws
on p ain tin g show w h a t p rotection the state could provide if it
w ished.
In short, the state c rea tes a body of law th a t p ro te cts som e
o f the rights people have in artistic w orks re g a rd e d as prop-
176 A R T AND T H E STATE

FIGURE 19. Orson Welles1modern-dress production o f Julius


Caesar. Playwrights have little control over how their plays are pre
sented, especially after they are dead. Orson Welles and the Mercury
Theater staged Shakespeares Julius Caesar in modern dress in 1937
to point up parallels with contemporary political events. (Photograph
courtesy o f the New York Public Library.)

erty. W h en the c o o p era tio n th a t p ro d u c e s a rt w orks takes


place in a m a rk e t eco n o m y , general m ercan tile law a n d s p e
cific laws relating to artistic p ro p e rty govern th a t c o o p e ra
tion a n d c reate the situation in w hich specific c a re e r a n d
c o m m e rc ia l strategies m a y be followed.

NUISANCE
T he sta te also c o o p e ra te s in the p ro d u c tio n o f w orks o f art
w h e n it intervenes on b e h alf of n o n a rtists w h o claim th a t
artists' w ork is interfering w ith so m e right of theirs. In this
case, as in the creatio n a n d e n fo rc e m e n t of laws governing
p ro p e rty rights, the state has no direct interest in the w orks
17 7 A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

ol a rt them selves; its interest is confined to keeping peace


a m o n g its citizens and, by enforcing the rules of th e gam e,
seeing t h a t they m a y e n jo y the rights g u a ra n te e d them .
(Keep in m in d th a t the c o o p era tio n of any of the p a rtic i
p a n ts o f w h ich I sp e a k m a y be seen by the o th e r participants,
particularly the artist, as n o n c o o p era tio n . T h at is, the state
m a y act so as to limit w h a t artists do o r p rev en t th e m from
doing a n y th in g at all, in w hich case th a t is the s ta te s c o n tri
b u tio n to the netw o rk o f collective activity w hich p ro d u c e s
the w o rk in its final form . The point is not th a t the state helps
artists to achieve their p u rposes, but th a t it influences the
final fo rm o f the work, by in tervening o r not in a n y of the
w ays d e scrib ed here.)
Citizens m a y c o m p la in th a t w h a t an artist does interferes
w ith their peaceful a n d legitim ate e n jo y m e n t of their ow n
p ro p e rty a n d p u rs u its a n d m a y ask the state to prevent the
artist from co n tin u in g to do th o se things. M any co m p lain ts
deal w ith sim ple physical d isc o m fo rts a n d an n o y an c es. Film
crew s d is ru p t a n e ig h b o rh o o d w ith their trucks a n d e q u ip
m e n t w h en they film on location; m usician s practice long
h o u rs o r play loudly a n d d is tu rb people in the s u rro u n d in g
area w h o can h e a r th e m th ro u g h walls that keep out o rd in a ry
so u n d s; visual artists m a k e a m ess or c reate smells that
p e rm e a te an area outside the studio in w hich the w ork is
being d o n e (e.g., the plastics used in so m e c o n te m p o ra ry
sc u lp tu re c reate a n n o y in g a n d possibly toxic odors).
U nder U.S. law, the state d o es not e n te r th ese situations
unless s o m e o n e m a k es a com plain t, so th a t artists m ay be
able to c re a te su ch n u isan c es w ith o u t in terferen ce for long
p e rio d s of tim e. In all the relev an t respects, th e y can be
th o u g h t of (and their offended n eighbors usually so think of
th e m ) as not very different from in d ustrial o r business
polluters. They are in fact su b je c t to the sa m e laws a n d
sanctions. T he difference b e tw e e n artists a n d industrial p o l
luters lies not in the laws b u t in th e ir ability to fight them . A
c o m p a n y w h o se noisy m a c h in e s b o th e r n e a rb y residents can
delay e n fo rc e m e n t th ro u g h legal actions m o st artists could
not afford.
G o v e rn m e n ts m a y e x e m p t artists from these constraints,
178 * A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

just as they e x e m p t o th e r industries, w h en they find it in the


public interest to do so. Cities often allow film crew s to use
streets as sets, closing th e m off to public use for long p e
riods, a n d ju stify the practice by the a m o u n t o f m o n e y these
w o rk ers s p e n d in local businesses.
W ith o u t such ex em p tio n s, w h a t aggrieved p arties c o m
plain of c a n usually best be d ealt w ith by doing s o m e th in g to
m inim ize the nu isan ce: so u n d p ro o fin g p e rfo rm a n c e areas,
installing ventilation sy stem s a d e q u a te to the o d o rs a n d
o th e r c o n ta m in a n ts the w o rk produces, o r c o m p e n s a tin g
c o m p lain e rs for their d isco m fo rt (film c o m p a n ie s often
m a k e d o n a tio n s to local cau ses to soften the c o m p la in ts of
in c o n v en ie n ce d residents). Such solutions raise the a rtis ts
cost of w orking (just as pollution controls raise the cost of
in d ustrial p ro d u ctio n ). Since m o st a rt re q u ire s m o re m o n e y
th a n artists have (film c o m p a n ie s are a n exception), c o m
plaints a b o u t n u isan c es m ay effectively prevent artists from
w o rking at all o r at least p re v e n t th e m from p ro d u c in g their
w o rk in the w ay they w ould like. Thus, the possibility of such
tro u b le c o n stra in s m o st artists to p ro d u c e w o rk of a kind
a n d in a way th a t will not p ro v o k e claim s of n u isan c e or,
alternatively, to find places to w ork a n d p e rfo rm w here
no n eig h b o rs will com plain . The rock m u sician s B ennett
(1980) studied re h e a rs e d in isolated m o u n ta in c ab in s to
avoid dealing w ith irate city neighbors.
W h a t can re a so n a b ly be c o n sid ere d a n n o y in g e n o u g h to
co n stitu te a legal n u isan ce? A sign w hose revolving light
shines in m y w indow while I am trying to sleep is p re tty
clearly a nuisance. Is a sign c o n tain in g a n a b s tra c t design
unintelligible to me? Is it if I find the design a s y m p to m of
godless atheism ? Can I be a n n o y e d in a legally actionable
w ay by a p ic tu re of a w o m a n in ch ain s I find sexist, even
th o u g h it does not m eet the legal criteria for obscenity? By a
p ic tu re o f a n interracial g ro u p giving a clen ch ed h a n d salute
I find politically disturbing? Or will I be told th a t if 1 d o n t like
it I d o n 't h a v e to look at it?
People so m e tim e s c o m p la in not only in their ow n behalf,
but to pro tect the general public from w h a t m a y a p p e a r to be
offensive a rt w orks. They often allege th a t so m e m aterial
179 A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

m a y be perm issible if circulated privately but not w h e n it is


b r o a d c a s t in such a w ay th a t m e m b e rs of the public c a n n o t
p rev en t th em selves from seeing o r h e a rin g it. Thus, the w ord
fu c k m ight be p e rm itte d in a book a re a d e r knew contained
it, b u t not on a billboard, w h ere one could not know it w as
th e re w ith o u t first re a d in g the sign. S om e com plain about
the m a n n e r of circulation ra th e r th a n the co n ten t: the c o m
m u te rs w h o su e d to prevent G ra n d C entral S tation from
b ro a d c a stin g m usic a n d a d v e rtise m e n ts to th e m as they
w alked th ro u g h it were n o t co m p lain in g a b o u t the p a rtic u lar
songs o r ad s they h eard, b u t ra th e r a b o u t being re q u ire d to
h e a r an y th in g w ithout having personally decided to d o so.
Legal sy stem s vary co n sid erab ly in their willingness to
intervene to p ro te c t the public against o b je ctio n a b le art
w orks. Denisoff (1975, pp. 402-18) describes how the Federal
C o m m u n ic a tio n s C om m ission, u n d e r heavy right-wing p re s
sure, re q u ire d radio stations to screen p o p u la r re co rd s for
possible p ro d ru g m essages, implicitly th re a te n in g the su s
pension o r re m o v al of licenses. He q u o te s the c o m m is sio n s
public notice:

[whether] a particular record depicts the dangers of drug


abuse, or, to the contrary, promotes such illegal drug usage is
a question for the judgment of the licensee. The thrust of this
Notice is simply that the licensee must make that judgment
and cannot properly follow a policy of playing records with
out someone in a responsible position . . . knowing the content
of the lyrics. (Denisoff, 1975, p. 407)

Since rad io stations are the chief m e d iu m th ro u g h w hich


re c o rd s a re sold a n d stations re fu sed to risk their licenses by
playing songs w hich the FCC m ight c o n stru e as prodrug,
re c o rd in g artists a n d c o m p a n ie s faced one m o re h u rd le in
their a tte m p t to c o n stru ct p o p u la r hits.
W h ere a legal system g u a ra n te e s w h at are called in the
United S ta te s First A m e n d m e n t rightsfre ed o m of speech
a n d e x p re ssio n artists m a y d e fen d th em selves against such
c o m p la in ts by claim ing constitutional protection. (In the
case of the FCC o rd e r against d ru g lyrics, stations m a d e such
a claim a n d lost.) The p ro b le m s here overlap with those
180 A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

involved in state censorship, a n d I will tre at th e m u n d e r th a t


heading.
In short, the state c a n affect th e p ro d u c tio n o f a rt w orks by
acting, th ro u g h its legal system , to pro tect the rights of n o n
artists w h o claim to have been a n n o y e d o r inconvenienced
by w h a t the artist does, eith er by the result o r the process.
Artists, a w a re of this possibility, sh a p e their w orks to avoid
su ch p ro b le m s (u n d o u b te d ly the vast m a jo rity of a rt follows
this course) o r p lan for the tro u b les they are likely to have.

IN TER V EN TIO N
The state, finally, affects w h a t artists do a n d p ro d u c e by
directly in tervening in th e ir activities. In te rv e n tio n takes
v arious form s: o p e n su p p o rt, censorship, a n d suppression.
In this case, the state acts in b e h a lf of its ow n interests, taking
actions designed to fu rth e r those cau ses a n d activities its
agents th in k crucial or im p o rta n t for its a n d th e ir survival
a n d well-being. To be sure, these activities are often legiti
m a te d by referen ce to the general welfare, as are all g o v e rn
m e n t activities, b u t they are n o t u n d e rta k e n , as are the activ
ities ju s t discussed, on b e h alf of so m e citizen w h o invokes
the p o w e r of the state to en force the rules of th e g a m e in his
interest. The state acts becau se it has interests of its own.
The in terests the state p u rs u e s th ro u g h its intervention in
th e arts have to do w ith the p re se rv a tio n of public o rd e rthe
arts being seen as c ap a b le b o th o f stre n g th e n in g a n d of
s u b v e rtin g o rd e ra n d with the d e v elo p m e n t of a national
culture, seen as a good in itself a n d as s o m e th in g w hich
p ro m o te s n a tio n a l unity ("o u r heritage") a n d the n atio n 's
re p u ta tio n a m o n g o th e r nations.
The state p u rs u e s its interests by giving o r w ithholding the
form s of s u p p o rt artists n e ed a n d d e p e n d on w hich the state
c a n influence. Since artists can buy m u c h o f w h a t they need
if th e y have the m oney, the sta te can influence the w ork they
do by m a k in g fu n d s available for so m e kinds of w ork b u t not
for others. T he state c a n also influence o th e r things artists
need. Access to d istrib u tio n c h an n e ls m ay be co ntrolled by
181 A R T A N D T H E S T AT E

private p e rso n s o r o rg an izatio n sby a rt dealers, m agazine


editors, o r television n e tw o rk executivesbut the state m ay
in terv en e in the selection p ro cess by fo rb id d in g those people
to d is trib u te w orks, kinds of w ork, o r the w ork o f p a rtic u la r
artists. T he state m av forbid artists access to the m e a n s of
p ro d u c in g artistic w ork, a n especially p o ten t fo rm of control
in m e d ia w h o se m a c h in e ry a n d m aterials are so expensive
th a t individuals c a n n o t afford th e m (e.g., film m aking). Fi
nally, to m a k e a rt artists need to stay alive a n d free to carry
on th e ir work. The state exercises ultim ate coercion by d e
priving th e m of fre e d o m o r life. Every artist, ho w ev er ap o lit
ical, th u s d e p e n d s on the state not exercising those pow ers
in o r d e r to c o n tin u e w ork. Artists re m e m b e r, as they work,
th a t the sta te can s u p p o r t their w ork or use police p o w e r to
s u p p re s s it. T heir w ork show s the result, e ith e r in c o n v e n
tionally staying w ithin allow able b o u n d s o r in the c h an c es
it tak es a n d the w ay it takes them .

Support
G o v e rn m e n ts m ay re g a rd the arts, so m e o r all of them , as
integral p a rts of the n a tio n s identity, things it is know n fo r as
Italy is k n o w n for opera, a n d subsidize th e m as they w ould
any im p o r ta n t fe a tu re of th e national cu ltu re th a t could not
s u p p o r t itself. T hey m a y re g a rd the arts as a positive force in
n a tio n a l life, a force w hich s u p p o rts social order, mobilizes
the p o p u la tio n for desirable n a tio n a l goals, a n d diverts p e o
ple fro m socially u n d e sira b le activities (m an y g o v e rn m e n ts
clearly believe in the circus p a r t of the b re ad -a n d -c irc u se s
th e o ry o f g o v e rn m en t). G o v e rn m e n t s u p p o rt o f the arts often
m e a n s p re se rv in g in m u s e u m s w h a t has a lre a d y been done;
th a t im p u lse leads new natio n s to d e m a n d th a t w o rk s of art
fo r m e r colonial p o w e rs have re m o v e d be r e tu rn e d to be
in c o rp o ra te d into the n a tio n a l heritage. Bui it also often
includes s u p p o r t for w orking artists, training institutions,
p e rfo rm in g groups, exhibition spaces, publication, a n d e x
p e n se s of p ro d u c tio n , as well as fellow ships a n d o th e r g ra n ts
w h ich free a rtis ts tim e fo r work.
J a n e F u lc h e r has d e sc rib e d the "O rp h e o n ," a working-
182 A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

class m a ss choral society s u p p o rte d by the g o v e rn m e n t of


S e c o n d E m p ire F ran c e to 1a m e lio ra te ' the condition of
w o rk ers a n d th u s to pacify" them :
The proletariat was a pariah class, "without morals," the
"classe Dangereuse": the workers cabarets were called "dens
of debauchery and of clandestine political agitation. They
had to be replaced by "moral amusements," "safe enter
tainments like the Orpheon With the recent revolutionary
insurrection of workers still vividly imprinted in their mem
ories, conservatives and officials, obsessed with suspicion,
desired above all "harmonious" art. The Orpheon stood for
the ideals they cherished.. . . The Orpheon was a means to
"cultivate" the workers,. . . to imbue them with taste," to
assuage and "soften," to help form judgment"to mora
lize." . . . The Orpheon was given tremendous support, in both
practical and ideological terms. (Fulcher, 1979, pp. 51-52)
W h en the g o v e rn m e n t sees artistic activities as s u p p o rtin g
n atio n al interests, it provides financial s u p p o rt w hich
otherw ise w ould have to c o m e from elsew here o r w ould not
be available at all. It m a y give a direct financial subsidy, to be
s p e n t as the individual artist o r the organizers of the art
g ro u p see fit; o r access to g o v e rn m e n t-o w n e d exhibition or
p e r f o rm a n c e sp ac es w hich o th erw ise w ould have to be paid
for; o r m a terials o r salaries for specific p e rso n n e l o r c a te
gories of personnel.
W h a te v e r fo rm s u p p o r t takes, g o v e rn m e n t agencies can
c h a n g e their m in d s a b o u t h o w m u c h they will give, w hat they
will give it for, a n d w h o they will give it to. B oth w h a t artists
a n d o rg an izatio n s actually p ro d u c e a n d the resp o n ses to it
influence th ese decisions. M ore precisely, the resp o n ses a
w o rk evokes in the co nstituencies to w h ich the g o v e rn m e n t
a n d its agencies are responsive influence fu tu re allocations.
In p a rlia m e n ta ry dem o cracies, legislators fear th a t o p p o
n e n ts will tell the voters w h o elect th e m th a t thev%/ have voted
to s p e n d m o n e y on w o rk s w hich are foolish, obscene, u n in
telligible, o r unpatriotic. M em b e rs of the U.S. Congress
have periodically co m p lain ed , on b e h alf of constituents,
a b o u t a rt w o rk s the S tate D e p a rtm e n t has circulated in o v e r
seas exhibitions, books placed in U.S. In fo rm a tio n Service li
183 ART AND THE STATE

braries, o r p ro je cts fu n d e d by the N ational E n d o w m e n t for


the Arts. S tate art agencies have freq u en tly been attac k ed
for s u p p o rtin g o b sce n e o r u n p a trio tic work.
On the o th e r h a n d , w hen a sm all dictatorial gro u p not
im m ediately resp o n sib le to the citizenry ru n s the g o v e rn
m e n tas in a m ilitary d ic tato rsh ip o r so m e o th e r form of
o n e -p arty s ta te th e c o n stitu en c y influencing the choices
o f th o se w h o allocate su p p o rt for the arts m ay be limited to
th a t sm all g ro u p of p o w er w ielders. As long as they approve,
o r at least do not co m plain, a rt b u r e a u c ra ts can p u rsu e
w h a te v e r c o u rse thev w ant. Brazilian intellectuals, for in-
stance, usually explain the films E m b rafilm (the g o v e rn
m e n t film organization) chooses to finance by referrin g to
the c u rre n t policies o f the ruling m ilitary group, e x p lain
ing an e m p h a s is on historical ro m a n c e s celebrating great
m o m e n ts in Brazilian history by the g o v e rn m e n t s desire to
build a g re a te r sense o f national p u rp o s e a n d mission. Ruling
cliques gauge the effect of the arts on their larger p u rp o s e s
a n d instru ct art b u re a u c ra ts to allocate s u p p o r t accordingly.
(W hen p o w e r is tightly held, d isp ro p o rtio n a te w eight m a y be
given to the r a n d o m o p in ions of people c o n n e c te d to the
p o w e rfu la g e n e ra ls wife m a y co m p lain that a film w as too
risque, a n d the people w h o m a d e it m a y have trou ble
financing their p ic tu re s from th e n on.)
Art b u r e a u c r a ts have, in ad d itio n to their political c o n stit
uency, a c o n stitu e n c y in the art w orlds they w o rk with. In a
totally a u th o rita ria n state, the a rt w orld c o n stitu en c y is
ineffectual, b u t in o th e r situations it co n stitu tes an a u to n
o m o u s so u rce o f pow er. S om e influential p eo p le personally
in te re ste d in the arts use th e ir p o w e r a n d influence on behalf
o f in c rea sed o r co n tin u ed g o v e rn m e n t su p p o rt. Artists, their
friends, a n d their families c o n stitu te a block o f votes which
m ig h t be cast for those w h o fu rth e r their artistic interests.
S o m e legislators develop a specialty in legislation p ertaining
to the arts a n d use all the devices of p a rlia m e n ta ry activity in
s u p p o r t o f th e ir topic, getting financial a n d o th e r fo rm s of
s u p p o rt from their art c o n stitu en c y in retu rn . If the state
u n d e rta k e s to help art, the su p e rio rs of art b u re a u c ra ts will
w a n t a u d ie n c e s a n d artists to believe th a t the help is real;
184 A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

the b u r e a u c ra ts m u s t th erefo re cultivate those constituents.


Thus, the people w h o give fellow ships to p h o to g ra p h e r s d e
vote c o n sid e ra b le tim e to explaining those aw a rd s, a n d the
ra tio n a le b e h in d them , to the a rt p h o to g ra p h y world.
G o v e rn m e n t s u p p o rt tak es on im p o rta n c e as it b e co m es a
larger p ro p o rtio n of the available s u p p o rt for the arts. W here
a rt activity ta k e s place in the m a rk etp lac e, artists can alw ays
seek (and p e r h a p s find) financial s u p p o rt by trying to a ttra c t
an a u d ie n c e o r clientele there. If the g o v e rn m e n t d o es not
subsidize the p u b lic atio n of m y book, so m e p u b lish er m ay
tak e a c h a n c e on it w ith o u t subsidy, o r I can put the m o n e y
up m yself (thus th e c o n tin u e d existence o f vanity presses). If,
on the o th e r h a n d , all books are p u b lish ed by a state-con-
trolled publishing house, I d o n t have those alternatives.
G o v e rn m e n t policy on s u p p o r t b e co m e s de facto censorship.
B ut altern ativ es to g o v e rn m e n t s u p p o rt are seld o m totally
unavailable. Thus, even w h ere m o st th e a te r is s ta te -s u b
sidized, so m e s u b g ro u p m a y use its re so u rc e s to finance
a n e la b o ra te theatrical life which is not restricted by w h a t
th e g o v e rn m e n t will pay for; Polish s tu d e n t g ro u p s have
fo r years s u p p o rte d a p ro fessio n al s tu d e n t th e a te r, w hich
does plays the state th e a te r will not do (G oldfarb, 1978).
At o n e ex trem e, the R ussian institution of sa m izh d a t p r o
vides a prim itive kind of pu b licatio n in w hich private in
dividuals re p ro d u c e the work, typing a n d retyping m a n u
scripts the Soviet g o v e rn m e n t will not p u blish a n d which,
in fact, h a v e been fo rb id d e n publication. It is easier to
find o th e r m e a n s w h e n th e m e d iu m requires less; literature
costs less th a n th eater. W hen g o v e rn m e n t s u p p o rt d o m in a te s
the arts budget, artists m u s t take into a c c o u n t as a c o n
stra in t w h a t the g o v e rn m e n t will a n d w o n 't su p p o rt. If o th e r
fo rm s o f s u p p o rt are availableo th e r p a tro n s o r the open
m a r k e tth e g o v e rn m e n t will sim ply be one a m o n g m a n y
sources, a n d artists will get w h a t they can from it to s u p p o rt
w h a t it will s u p p o r t a n d find o th e r s u p p o rt elsew here.
Since a n y o n e w h o gives s u p p o r t c an also w ith h o ld it, gov
e r n m e n t agencies also influence w h a t artists d o by n o t
s u p p o rtin g w h a t they find offensive, useless, o r in a p p r o
priate. T hey c a n n o t p re v e n t a rt w orks from being d o n e w h e n
185 A R I A N D T H E S T A T E

o th e r m o d e s of s u p p o rt are available, but if the easiest w ay to


find s u p p o r t is th ro u g h the g o v e rn m en t, the inertia of e s ta b
lished w ays will cause artists to look for p ro je c ts they c an do
w ithin the limits of w h a t the g o v e rn m e n t will su p p o rt. The
m a n ip u la tio n of s u p p o rt is th u s the least coercive m e th o d of
g o v e rn m e n t control of the arts and, co n sequently, the least
effective. W h a t the g o v e rn m e n t will use it fo r d e p e n d s on
w h a t results it is trying to achieve. By b e co m in g an integral
p a rt of the co o p erativ e netw o rk th a t creates art, the g o v e rn
m e n t achieves the s a m e kind of influence o th e r c o o p e ra to rs
in th a t netw o rk have, b u t is one of the few su ch p arties with
ov ert political goals a n d the only one with such m assive
re so u rc e s (see Clark, 1976, 1977).

C ensorship
At the o th e r e x tre m e of coercion, g o v e rn m e n ts act overtly
to p re v e n t so m e a rt from being done, destroy the results once
they are done, o r im p riso n o r d e stro y the artists. In such
cases, a less d rastic m o d e of g o v e rn m e n t a ctio n s u p p r e s
sion by benign neglecttu rn s into active intervention. These
cases show th a t the g o v e rn m en t, h o w e v e r little it does, is
in e sc ap a b ly a n im p o rta n t p art of the cooperative a rt-p ro
d u c in g n e tw o rk : since it m ight in te rv e n e to p re v e n t the p r o
d u ctio n o r d istrib u tio n o f art works, even if it seldom or
n ever does, failure to act is a crucial form o f c o o p e ra tio n in
artistic activities. Artists count on th a t failure in state s which
seldom o r n e v er act as censors. B ecause the state m ight act at
a n y tim e, b e c a u se it can even if it doesn't, all w orks of art
h a v e a political m e a n in g by actin g o r failing to act, the
g o v e rn m e n t indicates th a t it does o r does n o t th in k a p a rtic
u la r w o rk politically im p o rta n t o r d an g ero u s. E ven w ork
w h o se m a k e r h a d no political intent a c q u ire s political
m e a n in g in the light of g o v e rn m e n t actions.
T he sta te m a y a tta c k the artist o r the work, o r a ttack the
artist by a tta c k in g the work. In to talitarian societies, artists
ru n a c o n sid e ra b le risk. B ecause their w ork m ight mobilize
m a ss uprising o r defections, the regim e m a y deal w ith th e m
as it deals w ith o th e r politically d a n g e ro u s types. Irving
Louis H orow itz has classified g o v e rn m e n ts on the basis of
186 A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

the w ay they deal w ith dissident elem ents, the types ranging
from genocidal societies in w hich the state arbitrarily takes
the lives o f citizens for d ev ian t o r dissident b eh av io r" to
"perm issive societies in w hich n o rm s are q u e stio n e d a n d
c o m m u n ity definitions r a th e r th a n state definition o f w h a t
co n stitu tes n o rm a tiv e b e h av io r e m erg e in the d ecisio n -m ak
ing p ro cess" (Horowitz, 1980, pp. 44-45). The artist, only one
of the poten tial dissidents or d eviants g o v e rn m e n ts tre at in
this ra n g e of ways, is su b je c t in so m e societies to the m o st
e x tre m e sanctions.
In states w hich do not act again st the artist directly, the
m o st c o m p le te form of c en so rsh ip is the total d e stru c tio n of
the w o rk s the g o v e rn m e n t finds offensive. The m o d e rn a r
chetype of su ch action is book burning, even th o u g h th a t
actually destroys, n o t the w ork itself, b u t only som e copies of
it; the w ork will c o n tin u e to exist in a re a s the g o v e rn m e n t has
no jurisdiction over, n o tab ly o th e r countries w ith different
political sy stem s a n d aims. (R ay B r a d b u r y s F ahrenheit 451
considers the m o re e x tre m e case in w hich every physical
copy h a s been d e stro y ed by an im placab le a n d efficient r e
gime; ev en th e re the w ork co n tin u es to exist by being re
co rded in p e o p le s m em ories.)
Visual a rt w o rk s w hich exist in u n iq u e copies c a n be c o m
pletely destro y ed . T h at often occurs as a side effect of su ch
political u p h e a v a ls as foreign c o n q u ests o r civil war. The
d e stru c tio n of so m a n y great w o rk s of religious art in E n g
land a fte r it broke with R o m a n Catholicism exemplifies the
process, as d o es the d e stru ctio n of Aztec a n d In c a art by
S p a n ish c o n q u ero rs. In the first case, the king w a n te d to
d estroy sym bols of religious a u th o rity a n d p o w er to w hich
the c o m m o n people m ig h t co n tin u e to re sp o n d ; in the s e c
ond, the c o n q u e ro rs sim ply w a n te d the precious m e tals the
w orks w ere m a d e o u t of. (C onceptual a rt w orks resem b le
literature in this re sp e c tany p a rtic u la r copy c an be d e
stroyed, b u t the idea exists as long as a n y o n e know s it.)
M ost c e n so rsh ip is n o t so ruthless a n d com plete. It in te r
feres w ith the distribution, r a th e r th a n the creation o r c o n
tin u ed existence, of the works. T he state forbids their sale,
exhibition, o r p e rfo rm a n c e in the places w h ere a n d to the
187 A R T AND T H E S T AT E

people w h o m , in the o rd in a ry w orkings of the art world, they


w ould be sold, exhibited, a n d p e rfo rm e d . T hat is, since art
w orlds have s ta n d a r d w ays o f d istrib u tin g w orks to a u
diences (w h e th e r th ro u g h a n e tw o rk of m id d le m e n o r d i
rectly), c e n so rsh ip consists of fo rb id d in g the artist access to
th o s e institutional a rra n g e m e n ts , so th a t the w ork can be
d o n e but c a n n o t be a p p re c ia te d o r s u p p o rte d in the usual
way. Thus, th e state m ay forbid an a u th o r to se n d a literary
w ork th ro u g h the mail, w h e n th a t is the o rd in a ry m e th o d of
d istrib u tin g p o e try m agazines, o r to sell a b o o k o r m agazine
on public n ew sstan d s. It m ay forbid visual artists to display
their p aintings in galleries a n d m u se u m s, or forbid m usicians
a n d d ra m a tis ts to p e rfo rm in c o n c e rt halls a n d theaters.
D eterm in ed artists find o th e r places w h ere it is not (or not
yet) illegal to co n tin u e their activities. They m ay organize
clubs," w h o se m e m b e rs m ay, in the privacy of their private
club," e n jo y films o r plays w hich c a n n o t be sh ow n publicly.
G o v e rn m e n t c en so rs often accep t this kind of o p en sh am ,
since it achieves th e ir chief p u rp o se , to prevent m a ss c ircu
lation of w o rk w hich m ight mobilize u n d e sira b le public a c
tivities. Even very repressive g o v e rn m e n ts c a n be quite indif
ferent to the art a small, c u ltu re d elite co n su m es. They only
w orry w h en the s a m e m a terial b e co m e s available to larger
au diences. (The sa m izh d a t system o f re p ro d u c in g typescripts
of b a n n e d literary w o rk s in R ussia effectively achieves this
end.) This re m in d s us that the state is prim arily in te re ste d in
the w ay a rt affects m a ss m o bilizationit s u p p o rts art so that
the p o p u la tio n c a n be m obilized for the right things, and
b a n s art b e ca u se it fears people will be m obilized for the
w ro n g things.
Almost all g o v e rn m e n ts h a v e the idea, e n fo rc e d th ro u g h
cen so rsh ip , th a t som e topics a n d tre a tm e n ts of th e m are
offensive to public m orals. C ensors usually re g a rd the d e
piction o r d iscussion of so m e activities as o b sce n e o r s a c
rilegious a n d th u s m orally re p u g n a n t. They th in k these d e
pictions w ould offend m a n y p eo p le a n d th e refo re stir up
public conflict. They w ould, in addition, c o rru p t, te m p tin g
citizens to en g ag e in the dep icted activities them selves, a n d
th a t w ould d e stro y the m oral fiber of the n atio n a n d its
188 A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

ability to act to g e th e r in p u rsu it of c o m m o n goals. This


d a n g e r is often th o u g h t m o st th re a te n in g to ch ild ren who,
their m o ra l c o n stitu tio n s not yet fully form ed, a re m o st likely
to be led astray. F u rth e rm o re , societies can so m e tim e s c reate
a c o n v erg en ce of n atio n al goals a n d the a sp iratio n s of f a m
ilies so th a t th e family desires its children to grow up to be
th e kind of citizensam b itio u s a n d hard w o rk in g , o r passive
a n d o b e d ie n tpolitical leaders w a n t to e n su re stability and
progress. W h e n individual, family, a n d n a tio n a l p ro je c ts
converge (Velho, 1976, 1979), c en so rsh ip designed to p ro te c t
children from being led a stray seem s re a so n a b le a n d n o rm a l
to everyone. It e m b o d ie s th e conventionally a c c e p ta b le a c
c o u n t of the p r o p e r role of g o v ern m en t. (Denisoff q u o te s a
right-w ing critic of the Beatles: "L et's m a k e su re fo u r m o p
h e a d e d anti-Christ b eatniks d o n t d estroy o u r c h ild re n s
em o tio n al a n d m e n ta l stability a n d ultim ately o u r n a tio n "
[Denisoff, 1975, p. 385].) M ore e x tre m e kinds of c en so rsh ip
e x te n d th a t a c c e p ta b le logic to a re a s w h ere the n e ed is n o t
as universally ta k e n for g ra n te d as is the n e ed to pro tect
children.
The p o te n tial for g o v e rn m e n t intervention, as suggested
earlier, gives every w ork of a rt a political dim ension. If the
sta te refuses to c e n so r a work, p eo p le m a y decide th a t a fter
all it does n o t co n tain a n y d a n g e ro u s political co n ten t, no
m a tte r h o w m u c h the artist m ay h a v e in te n d e d ju s t that.
Conversely, if the state su p p re sse s a n art work, p eo p le will
try to find so m e d a n g e ro u s o r radical political m essag e in it,
a n d will usually/ succeed, no m a tte r h o w in n o c en t of such
in ten t the artist was.
H e re is a n exam ple. I sp en t the fall of 1976 in Brazil, living
in Ip a n e m a , a fash io n ab le section of Rio de Janeiro. As w as
c u s to m a ry for in h a b ita n ts of the area, we sp e n t a good p a rt
of every S u n d a y at the b each, m eeting friends a n d a c q u a in t
a n ce s in the cariocci version of a P arisian cafe. One S unday,
on the way to the b e a c h with a n u m b e r of people, we saw th a t
the fences s u rro u n d in g th e m a n y c o n stru c tio n sites in the
a re a h a d b e e n s p ra y p a in te d w ith poetry. We all a s s u m e d th a t
the p o e m w as political. E ven th o u g h it a p p e a r e d on the
s u rfa c e to be an in n o c e n t love p oem , we knew th a t the la n
189 A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

guage of love has often served as an o p e n disguise for politi


cal th o u g h t in a u th o rita ria n societies. Brazilian intellectuals,
particularly, are a c c u sto m e d to read political m e a n in g s into
p o p u la r songs a n d verse, thinking w ith good re a so n th a t the
a u th o rs in te n d e d th em to do so (Sant'A nna, 1978). The
c o u n try w a s on the verge of an election as well. A lthough the
o u tc o m e w as not in d o u b teveryone took for g ra n te d that
the g o v e rn m e n t w ould not let the opposition w inthe elec
tion h a d a ro u s e d e n o u g h interest th a t the po em m ight well
re fe r to it. F u rth e rm o re , if it w as n o t political, w hy w as it
s p ra y p a in te d on public walls in stea d of using m o re c o n v e n
tional c h a n n e ls of distribution? All these being good re a so n s
for su sp e ctin g political co ntent, we read the in term in ab le
stan zas, w h ic h w en t on for blocks. Finally, how ever, even the
m o st politically m in d e d in te rp re te rs a m o n g o u r friends d e
cided th a t they could not discover a h id d e n co ntent, c o n
cluding relu ctan tly th a t it w a s sim ply a case of a p o e t w ho
h a d n o t b e en able to get his w ork published. Using the m e a n s
of d istrib u tio n suited to a n u n d e rg ro u n d political m essag e in
a c o u n try in w hich c e n so rsh ip w as then a daily fact gave the
p o e m a political potential. (Indeed, it is possible th a t gov
e r n m e n t officials m ight have seen the political m essage
w hich even o u r politically sensitive friends could not find.)
Artists plan their w o rk having in m in d how poten tial state
action will affect them . H ere is a n o th e r e x am p le from Brazil.
T h e C e n su ra w as pervasive. R ecords, films, a n d plays h ad to
be a p p ro v e d before release a n d distribution. Even th o u g h
p re lim in a ry versions h a d been a p p ro v ed , the final ready-to-
sell version m ight be held up indefinitely by the c e n s o rs
refusal to approve. Plays w ere refused ap p ro v al on o p e n in g
night. One d ay at the beach, s o m e o n e asked one of o u r
a c q u a in ta n c e s w h a t he, a th eatrical designer, w as w orking
on. H e m e n tio n e d a n u m b e r of p ro je c ts including an inter
esting one he th o u g h t he w ould nevertheless turn dow n.
W hy? B ec au se it w as very political a n d he h a d h e a rd ru m o rs
that, in the end, the c en so rs w ould not allow it to be done.
W hy w a ste his tim e on so m e th in g th a t w ould n ever be p ro
d u ced ? People began discussing re c e n t events to see w h e th e r
c en so rs w ere in fact b e co m in g less restrictive. S o m eo n e
190 A R T A N D T H E S T A T E

m e n tio n e d th a t a new reco rding by Chico B u arq u e, a p o p u la r


singer, held up by the C en su ra for several m o n th s b e c a u se of
the political n a tu re of so m e of the lyrics, h a d finally been
released. S o m e o n e else said it h a d been, b u t th a t since its
release th e police h a d b e en picking up copies from local
reco rd stores. I said th a t th a t c o u ld n 't be true b e c a u se I h ad
ju s t b o u g h t tw o copies locally the day before. S o m e o n e s p e c
u lated th a t p e rh a p s they w ere picking th e m up only in c e r
tain n e ig h b o rh o o d s. The set desig n er listened interestedly,
since all of this could indicate m o re o r less lenience on the
p a rt of the censors, w h ich w ould affect his decision on which
jo b s to accept.
C ensorship affects the calculus w ith w hich p a rtic ip an ts in
m a k in g a rt assess the likely c o n se q u e n c e s o f taking p a rt
in a n y p a rtic u la r project. The likelihood of one c o n se q u e n c e
o r a n o th e r varies from tim e to tim e a n d place to place, so
th a t up-to -d ate new s of w h a t th e authorities have d o n e can
influence decisions. C ensors c a n th u s divert people from
a n tig o v e rn m e n t a rt by sm all gestures w hich affect th a t
calculation.
W h a te v e r form of c e n so rsh ip a society p ra c tic e sw h e th e r
it is o penly political or exercised in the n a m e of good taste
a n d the p ro te ctio n of c h ild re n it becom es, like all the o th e r
re g u lar activities conventionalized in an a rt world, a n e n o r
m o u s c o n s tra in t internalized by m o st particip an ts, w h o th u s
do not even experience it as a constraint. Chico B u arq u e, the
Brazilian singer just m e n tio n e d , h im self a victim of c o n sid
e rab le cen sorship, d e sc rib e d these effects graphically in an
interview:

[The censors] mutilate all the characteristics of an epoch.


These kids who are beginning to make music today. Can you
imagine? If, in their first attempts . . . everything is already
prohibited, that produces a monstrosity of self-censorship,
fatal to any kind of creative activity. They are a generation
born within the system of censorship, to whom the certificate
of liberation [the censors OK] is as normal and necessary as
their identity card. To me, to a generation that created itself
almost without censorship, it's shocking to have to send
texts . . . for a government official to examine, to say whether
191 A R T AND T H E S T A T E

it can be released or not. For the kid who comes up now, it's
not like that. That's why so many people compose in English
[instead of Portuguese], because its easier to get through. "The
next lime Im going to get it right, since it seems that I did
something wrong. That can be the thinking of a kid who
starts out and finds himself censored. (Chrysostomo, 1976, p.
4, m v translation)
To su m m ariz e , the state p a rtic ip ate s in the n e tw o rk of
co o p era tio n , the a rt world, w h ich p ro d u c e s the w orks c h a r
acteristic of a p a rtic u la r m e d iu m at a p a rtic u la r time. It
c rea tes th e fra m e w o rk o f p ro p e rty rights w ithin w hich artists
get e c o n o m ic s u p p o r t a n d m a k e re p u ta tio n s. It limits w h a t
artists can d o w h e n it p ro te cts people w h o se rights m ay have
been in frin g ed by artists in ten t on p ro d u c in g their work. It
gives o p e n s u p p o r t to s o m e fo rm s of art, a n d to so m e p ra c
titioners of those form s, w h en they a p p e a r to f u rth e r n a
tional p u rp o ses. It uses state p o w e r to su p p re s s w ork w hich
s e e m s likely to mobilize citizens for d isa p p ro v e d activities
o r p re v e n t th e m fro m being m obilized for a p p ro p ria te
p u rposes.
T h e state th u s acts like o th e r art w orld particip an ts, p r o
viding o p p o rtu n itie s to get art w o rk d o n e by giving su p p o rt
b o th directly a n d indirectly for w h a t it a p p ro v e s of, a n d
actin g as a c o n s tra in t on o th e r activities by p re v e n tin g a c
cess, for w orks d e e m e d u n satisfacto ry , to so m e o f the facil
ities o rdinarily available to all particip an ts. Thus, the state
m ay p re v e n t w o rk s from being d is trib u te d (the m ost usual
form of in tervention) o r from c o n tin u in g to exist, o r m ay
p u n is h those people guilty o f creatin g u n d e sira b le w ork by
d e a th , im p riso n m e n t, o r o th e r kinds o f sanctions. In this
sense, all artists d e p e n d on the state a n d th e ir w ork e m
bodies th a t d e p e n d e n c e .
7* Editing

W h e n T.S. Eliot's w idow p u b lish ed a p h o to g ra p h ic r e p ro


d u c tio n of the m a n u s c rip t of h e r h u s b a n d 's fa m o u s po em
The Waste L a n d a fte r his d eath , th e literary w o rld learned
h o w m u c h the final version of th e w ork ow ed to tw o o th e r
people: Eliot's first wife, Vivian, a n d his friend E zra Pound.
In th e ir various ways, th e tw o h a d radically altered the poem ,
a n d th e ir a lteratio n s c o n trib u te d co n sid e ra b ly to its d istin c
tively m o d e rn look, to so m e of the fe atu res for w hich Eliot
w as especially praised.
P a rt 4 of the p oem , "D eath by W ater," consisted in E liots
original of m o re th a n ninety lines of a quite co n v entional
c h a ra c te r. P o u n d d id n 't like it a n d crossed m o s t of it out in
the m a n u sc rip t, leaving only the last ten lines, w h ich began
"P h leb a s the Phoenician, a fortnight d e a d . . . . " M u ch less
p re p a re d for, the section explains itself less an d , in m o d e rn
style, req u ires m o re w o rk of the reader. Valerie Eliot explains
w h at h a p p e n e d , relying on c o rre s p o n d e n c e b e tw e e n the tw o
m en:
Depressed by Pounds reaction to the main passage, Eliot
wrote: "Perhaps better omit Phlebas also???" "I DO advise
keeping Phlebas" replied Pound. "In fact, I moren advise . . .
he is needed ABSOlootly where he is. Must stay in." (Eliot,
1971, p . 129)

192
193 EDI TI NG

And he did stay in.


The editorial w ork w en t beyond c u ttin g a n d m in o r a lte ra
tions. P art 2, "A G am e o f C h e s s /' includes a co n v ersatio n
w ith so m e o n e identified as a thirty-one y ear old w o m a n w ho
h a s h a d m o re children than she w a n ts b e c a u se "Albert w on't
leave h e r alone." Eliot originally w rote a line for A lberts
wife's c o n v ersatio n al p a r tn e r w hich explained all the u n
w a n te d children: "You w a n te d to keep him at hom e, I s u p
pose." Vivian Eliot crossed this out a n d su b stitu ted "W hat
you get m a rrie d for if you d o n 't w a n t to have children?" Eliot
deleted "to h a v e / but Mrs. E lio ts line a p p e a re d otherw ise
u n c h a n g e d as line 164 of the p oem , m a rk in g an im p o rta n t
c h a n g e in the tone of the passage (Eliot, 1971, pp. 14-15, 20,
21, a n d 139).
Saxe C om m ins, a longtim e e d ito r for R a n d o m House,
w o rk e d closely with the poet R o binson Jeffers over a period
o f m a n y years, a n d his ch an g e s (m a d e as suggestions ra th e r
th a n changes) affected the tone a n d c o n te n t of m u c h of
Jeffers w ork. Jeffers long poem The D ouble Axe c o n tain e d a
n u m b e r of bitterly anti-Roosevelt a n d a n ti-T ru m an lines
C o m m in s fo u n d offensive a n d th o u g h t o thers w ould find so
offensive as to h u rt the b o o k 's reception. He suggested th a t
Jeffers c h a n g e these vindictive lines. W hen the final version
arrived, he w rote Jeffers unhappily:

I noticed, of course, all the changes you have made and in


almost every instance they are immense improvements. There
are two, however, which give rise to misgivings on my part. I
refer to page 25, where you changed the line
T o feed the v a n ity of a p a ra ly tic a n d m a k e
trick fo rtu n e s
to
To feed th e p o w e r - h u n g c r o f a p a r a ly z e d m a n a n d
m a k e trick fo rtu n e s.

This is hardly a change at all. Would you consent to a further


revision to make it read
T o fe e d th e p o w e r - h u n g e r a n d m a k e trick fo rtu n es.
(Commins to Jeffers, 12 February 1948)

Jeffers replied:
194 E D I T I N G

If you insist, let the verse read "To feed the povver-hunger
of a politician"instead of "paralyzed man." And I hope you
will always protest when Caesar's epilepsy is mentioned. Or
Dostoevskisthough it influenced his genius, just as Roose
velts paralysis influenced, and to some extent excuses, his
character. This is my reason for speaking of it.
( J e f f e r s t o C o m m i n s , 19 F e b r u a r y 1948)

Jeffers similarly agreed to a lter a passage referrin g to "little


T r u m a n " to read " H a rry T r u m a n " (Com m ins, 1978, pp.
125-29).
Maxwell Perkins, e d ito r for Scribners, c o n stru c te d the
novels for w h ic h T h o m a s Wolfe b e c a m e fam ous. Wolfe gave
him boxes of raw first d ra ft a n d Perkins cut a n d re a rra n g e d
the m aterial into the form in w hich it w as published.
All of th ese cases exem plify the process of editing in its
m ost obvious form , in w hich a professional editor, o r friends,
relatives, a n d colleagues acting in th a t capacity, m a k e (or
help the artist to m ake) the choices w hich give the w ork its
final shape. T hey take this out, p u t th a t in, c h a n g e w o rd in g
a n d style, re a rra n g e sectionsall those c h a n g e s m a k e the
w o rk w h a t it finally is. B ut ed itors are n o t the only o n es w ho
do things a n d m a k e choices th a t affect the c h a ra c te r of the
resulting w ork. E very p a rtic ip a n t in the co o p erative netw o rk
th a t c rea tes the w o rk w h o se m e m b e rs we h a v e b e en d e
scribing in earlier c h a p te rs has s o m e su c h effect. If we g e n
eralize the analysis, a n d m a k e w h a t editors do s ta n d for the
m ultiple choices m a d e th ro u g h o u t the life of a w ork by the
m a n y different people w h o c o o p e ra te in its m aking, we can
see h o w a rt w orlds affect the c h a r a c te r of the w o rk s m a d e by
their m e m b e rs . W e c a n see how, in fact, it is n o t u n r e a s o n
able to say th a t it is the a rt world, r a th e r th a n the individual
artist, w hich m a k e s the work.

C H O IC ES
I find it useful to think of a n a rt w ork taking the fo rm it
d o es at a p a rtic u la r m o m e n t b e ca u se of the choices, small
a n d large, m a d e by artists a n d o th e rs u p to th a t point. Shall I
press the sh u tter-release b u tto n on m y c a m e ra now o r w ait a
195 EDI TI NG

m inute? Shall I play the next note lo u d e r o r softer? With


w h a t kind of attack? L onger o r s h o rte r th a n the similarly
m a rk e d notes th a t s u rro u n d it? Shall 1 put a spot o f blue here,
o r p e r h a p s green, o r m a y b e no th in g at all? As these choices
are m ad e, from m o m e n t to m o m e n t, they s h a p e the work.
S u p p o se I u n d e rta k e , as a p h o to g ra p h ic project, to investi
gate the life a n d cu ltu re of the Italian c o m m u n ity of San
F ran cisco s N o rth B each district. Following the typical p ra c
tice of c o n te m p o r a ry p h o to g ra p h e rs, w h e th e r they arc in te r
ested in th a t kind of d o c u m e n ta ry p ro je ct o r in the e x
plo ration of s o m e m o re form al a n d a b s tra c t artistic p roblem ,
I will m a k e a very large n u m b e r of p h o to g ra p h s. E a c h e x
p o su re will be a choice from a large n u m b e r o f possibil
ities. I m ig h t decide to c o n c e n tra te on p o rtraits o f older
people, believing th a t close-ups of th e ir faces will c o n tain the
essence of the culture. I might, conversely, decide to p h o to
g ra p h su c h n e ig h b o rh o o d events as the C o lu m b u s Day P a
ra d e o r the blessing o f the local fishing fleet (see Becker, 1974,
a n d figure 20), o r such n e ig h b o rh o o d institutions as taverns,
re sta u ra n ts , grocery stores, a n d churches. In eith er case, I
th e n choose lenses, films, tim es of day, a n d p a rtic u la r people
a n d places. H a v in g d o n e that, I m a k e m a n y e x p o su re s of
e a c h p o rtra it su b jec t a n d even m o re of the people a n d places
I select as c h a ra cte ristic of the area. I vary d istances a n d
angles, a n d shoot essentially the s a m e su b je c t repeatedly,
expecting th a t m o m e n ta r y variations in expressions, m oods,
p o stu res, a n d g ro u p in g s will m a k e im p o rta n t diff eren ces in
the result.
I m ig h t th u s expose as m u c h as ten to tw e n ty rolls of
thirty-six e x p o su re film d u rin g a day of serious work, a n d
m ig h t d ev o te a n y w h e re from o n e to one h u n d re d days (or
m ore) to the project. But I w o u ld not, w hen I p re s e n te d the
results o f m y w o r k in a b o o k o r e x h i b i t o r p h o t o e s s a y , u s e all
th o se im ages. After all, on the above sch ed u le I m ight p ro
d u c e as m a n y as tw enty o r thirty th o u s a n d se p a ra te fra m e s
of film, m o st of w hich w ould be technically usable. But the
average exhibit w o u ld c o n tain thirty o r forty im ages, a n d a
book m ight use as m a n y as o n e h u n d re d . 1 w ould m ak e
c o n ta c t sh eets which sh o w ed every fram e, review them
FIGURE 20. Howard S. Becker, The Blessing of the Fishing
Fleet in San Francisco, print and contact sheet. Editing consists of
choosing, from among the available possibilities, what you will pre
sent to the audience. Having decided to include these altar boys (a) in
my photographic representation o f a neighborhood religious ritual, I
still had to choose this frame in preference to (b) several other frames
I had made, those in turn representing a choice o f ways to photo
graph them from a larger selection o f possibilities (see Becker, 1974).
197 E D I T I N G

carefully, m a k e p relim in ary selections into ro u g h w ork


prints, a n d e x p e rim e n t w ith various selections a n d a rr a n g e
m en ts, p u ttin g so m e in, taking so m e out. W hen an invitation
to publish or exhibit arrived, I w ould m a k e a final selection,
b u t th a t selection m ig h t be c h a n g e d on later occasions. (W.
E u g e n e S m ith s p h o to g ra p h ic investigation of a J a p a n e s e
fishing village p o iso n ed by in d ustrial wastes, M inam ata, a p
p e a re d in several versions of varying lengths w hich p e rm it
c o m p a ris o n of the varying selections, a m agazine version in
1974 a n d the b o o k in 1975.)
T h at d escrip tio n gives only a rough idea of the n u m b e r of
choices m a d e in the course o f such a project. N evertheless, it
is sufficient to show how a final w o r k - i n this case, a p h o to
g rap h ic exhibit o r b o o k arises out of a m u c h larger body of
possibilities. S o m e of those possibilities n ever take physical
form b e c a u se the p h o to g ra p h e r rejects them b efo re sh ooting
th e m . O th e rs get o n to the film a n d th e co n tact sheet but are
n e v e r p rin te d ; of those printed, m o st do not survive the later
w eedings-out. But the possibilities w ere there to choose from
a n d re m a in there in th e negatives, to be chosen, p erh ap s, at
s o m e later time.
A sim ilar process o c c u rs in every art form . Artists co n sid er
th e m es, m aterials, se q u e n c e s a n d c o m b in atio n s, a n d lengths
a n d sizes, a n d choose a m o n g them . They m ay choose one
possibility in this w ork a n d an alternative in a later version,
p e rfo rm a w ork one way o n e tim e a n d choose a variation the
next. S o m e choices b e c o m e habitual. S o m e get e m b o d ie d in
physical o b je c ts a n d thus b e c o m e p e rm a n e n t. O thers are
e p h e m e ra l, the w o rk s d is a p p e a rin g w hen they are finished,
to be re p la c e d on a n o th e r occasion by a n o th e r version.
My d escrip tio n of the choices th a t co n stitu te a w ork of art
is deceptively oversimplified. 1 d e scrib ed the artist m ak in g
the work, as th o u g h only one p e rso n w ere involved. In fact,
as I d e m o n s tr a te d earlier, a great m a n y people are involved
in the o rg an ized division of lab o r I have called an art world.
T heir choices, m a d e th ro u g h o u t the life of a work, a n d the
a rtists know ledge of w hat their s ta n d a rd s a n d choices will
p ro b a b ly be, co n stitu te the m e c h a n is m by w hich p a rtic ip a
tion in a n a rt w orld affects w h a t artists do a n d the c h a ra c te r
of the work.
198 E D I T I N G

My d escrip tio n is oversimplified in a n o th e r wav. I d e


scrib ed the choices m a d e in a restricted ra n g e o f time, b e
ginning with the genesis of the artist's idea a n d e n d in g with
th e artist delivering the finished p r o d u c tthe one the artist is
p re p a re d to a c c e p t as truly re p re se n tin g his or h e r "spirit," to
use the w o rd s of the F rench co u rt in the Roualt-Vollard
caseto the ag en ts of the d istrib u tio n system . In fact, as
earlier c h a p te rs h in te d a n d this o n e will d o c u m e n t, c o n se
quential choices o c c u r over a m u c h longer period. Art
worlds, th ro u g h the activities of p a rtic ip a n ts o th e r th a n the
artists, affect a rt w orks bey o n d the life of the w o rk 's original
m aker.
All these choices, m a d e by all th ese p a rtic ip a n ts over the
w o rk s life, are w h a t give m e a n in g to the assertion th a t art
w orlds, r a th e r th a n artists, m a k e w orks of art. The literary
editor, th e prototypical n o n a rtist p a rtic ip a n t in these fateful
choices, exem plifies w h a t I have in m in d sufficiently to w a r
ra n t calling the entire process of choosing, by w h o m e v e r a n d
w henever, editing.

T H E ED ITO RIA L M O M ENT


I n o te d in c h a p te r 1 that, while m a n y people p a rtic ip a te in
the m a k in g of any a rt work, a rt w orlds (and the societies in
w hich they op erate) ordinarily a w a rd only a few the h o n o r
ific title of artist, tre atin g th e m as the ones w h o se choices
really m a tte r, w hose actions reveal the rare gifts only artists
have, w h o se re p u ta tio n s will be m a d e o r b ro k e n by the
w o r k s reception. T h a t m a k e s sense b e ca u se those people
ordinarily m a k e m a n y of the choices and, know ing th a t
they will be p ra ised o r b la m ed for the results, choose m o re
carefully th a n m o re a n o n y m o u s, less responsible actors.
So we c a n begin o u r analysis of the way art w orlds sh a p e
the choices of their p a rtic ip a n ts (a n d th u s the c h a ra c te r of
th e ir typical w orks) w ith the actions of artists, seeing how
these result fro m artists' a c c e p ta n c e of a rt w orld c o n stra in ts
a n d their internalized dialogue with the a rt w orld's o th e r
m e m b e rs. W e c a n focus, in a necessarily speculative a c
count, on the a ctu al m o m e n ts of choice. Call th e m editorial
m o m e n ts .
199 E D I T I N G

Im a g in e w h a t is clearly not true, th a t every last detail ol


the w ork as it ultim atelv o c c u rs results from som eone's,
p re s u m a b ly the a rtis ts, conscious choice, ignoring for now
the m a n y choices m a d e by o th e rs besides the officially d e s
ignated artist. Ignore, as well, the fact th a t the people w ho
c reate a rt w o rk s d o not deliberate over every choice. If m u
sicians h a d consciously to devise scales a n d build in s tru
m e n ts before they could m ak e a new work, for instance, they
w ou ld have n e ith e r tim e n o r en ergy to p ro d u c e work, at least
not in the q u a n titie s possible if they do not m ak e all the
choices consciously.
W h en we m a k e a detailed analysis, w hich critics a n d his
torians so m e tim es m ak e, of an art w o rk s d e v elo p m e n t
th ro u g h successive sk etch es or drafts, wre explore the areas
of choice the artist w as a w a re of, the alternatives m o re o r less
consciously c h o se n betw een. S uch d e v e lo p m e n ts co n tain an
infinity of choices we m ight investigate; the su m of those
choices is the work. Artists m a k e the choices w ith reference
to the org an izatio n they w ork in; that, at least, is the a s
s u m p tio n of the analysis th a t follows. It is not easy to find out
a b o u t these m a tte r s a n d th u s prove the a ssu m p tio n , b e ca u se
artists find it difficult to verbalize the general principles on
w hich they m a k e their choices, o r even to give any re a s o n s at
all. Thev often reso rt to su ch n o n c o m m u n ic a tiv e s ta te m e n ts
as "it s o u n d s b e tte r th a t way," "it looked good to m e," o r "it
w o rk s.
T hat in a rtic u la te n e ss fru stra te s the re se arch e r. But every
a r t s p ra c titio n e rs use w o rd s w hose m e an in g s they c a n
not define exactly w hich are n evertheless intelligible to all
k n o w led g eab le m e m b e rs of their world. Jazz m usician s say
th a t s o m e th in g does o r does not "sw in g ; th e a te r people say
th a t a scene " w o rk s or does n o t "w o rk . In n e ith e r case can
even the m o st k n o w ledgeable p a rtic ip an t explain to s o m e
one n o t alread y fam iliar with the te rm s uses w hat they
m ean . Yet everyone w h o uses th e m u n d e rs ta n d s th e m a n d
can apply th e m with g re at reliability, agreeing a b o u t w h at
sw ings or w orks, even th o u g h they c a n n o t say w h a t they
m ean.
C onsider the possibility th a t m o st of the choices m a d e by
artists d u rin g editorial m o m e n ts are m a d e w ith referen ce to
200 E D I T I N G

s o m e su ch undefin able b u t perfectly reliable s ta n d a r d like "it


sw ings" o r "it w orks." T h at artists c an c o o p e ra te on the basis
of su c h undefin able s ta n d a rd s a n d aesthetic principles s u g
gests th a t they do not w ork by consulting a set o f rules or
criteria. R ath er, they re sp o n d as they im agine o th e rs m ight
resp o n d , a n d c o n stru c t those im aginings fro m their re p e a te d
experiences of h earin g people apply the undefinable te rm s to
c o n cre te w o rk s in c o n cre te situations. A m usician plays;
o th e rs tell him th a t he has o r has not swung. H e listens to
so m ethin g, v e n tu res an opinion as to w h e th e r it swings, and
finds o u t w h e th e r o th e rs agree w ith h im or not. F ro m a
m u ltitu d e of sim ilar experiences he learns w h at the s ta n d a r d
m e an s, h o w to use it as o th e rs do.
We can refer, to u n d e rs ta n d how artists c o o p e ra te on the
basis o f su ch reliable vagueness, to George H e rb e rt M ead's
analysis o f "taking the role of the o th e r" (M ead, 1934;
B lum er, 1966). M ead o p p o s e d a sim p le-m in d ed stim ulus-
re sp o n se psychology, in w hich people sim ply do, in the
p re se n c e of the a p p ro p ria te stim ulus, w h a te v e r they have
b e en c o n d itio n ed to do.
H e su ggested that, instead, people m ove actively th ro u g h
their e n v iro n m e n ts, search in g for o b je cts to d irect th e ir a c
tivity to w ard . W h en they m eet su ch a n o b je ct (and he in
c lu d e d a m o n g o b je cts o th e r people), they im m ed iately in
te rp re t its m e a n in g by im p u tin g to it various te n d en c ies to
re s p o n d to th e actions they m ight u n d e rtak e . Thus, people
grad u ally s h a p e a line of action by tak ing into a c c o u n t not
only th e ir ow n im pulses b u t also th e im agined re sp o n se s of
o th e rs to various actions they m ight u n d e rtak e . It is not
crucial th a t their a sse ssm e n ts be correct; people are often
w ro n g a b o u t su c h things. B ut it is crucial that, by a n d large,
p eo p le act w ith th e a n ticip a te d reactio n s of o th e rs in m ind.
This im plies th a t artists c reate th e ir w ork, at least in part,
by a n tic ip a tin g h o w o th e r people will re sp o n d , em otionally
a n d cognitively, to w h a t they do. T h a t gives th e m the m e a n s
w ith w hich to s h a p e it further, by c a te rin g to a lrea d y existing
dispositions in the audience, o r by trying to train the a u
dience to s o m e th in g new. P h o to g ra p h e rs have to learn, for
instance, to re sp o n d to their ow n p h o to g ra p h s in the sa m e
201 E D I T I N G

w ay o th e rs will, to recognize consciously w h a t o th e rs will


re s p o n d to m o re o r less unwittingly. Doing th a t m a k e s it
possible to c o n stru c t p h o to g ra p h s deliberately to p ro d u c e
p a rtic u la r e m o tio n a l effects.
D uring the editorial m o m e n t, then, all the e le m e n ts o f an
a rt w orld c o m e to b e a r o n the m in d o f the p erso n m ak ing the
choice, w h o im agines the potential re sp o n se s to w h a t is b e
ing d o n e a n d m a k e s the next choices accordingly. M ultitudes
of sm all decisions get m ad e, in a c o n tin u o u s dialogue with
the c o o p era tiv e n e tw o rk th a t m a k e s up the a rt w orld in
w h ich the w o rk is being m ad e. Artists ask them selves, "If I do
it this way, how will it feel? To me? To others?" They also ask
th em selv es w h eth er, if th e y do it that way, re so u rce s will be
fo rthcom ing, w h e th e r o th e r people they d e p e n d u p o n for
c o o p e ra tio n will in fact c o o p erate, w h e th e r the state will in
tervene, a n d so on. In short, they take the point of view of
a n y o r all o f the o th e r people involved in the netw o rk of c o
operative links th ro u g h w hich the w o rk will be realized,
a n d m odify w h a t they are doing so as to fit in m o re o r less
easily w ith w h a t o th e rs have in m ind to do. Or they m ay
not m odify it, u n d e rs ta n d in g the price they will p ro b a b ly
have to pay.
This p ro c e ss takes place very clearly w h en artists choose
the m a terials they will w ork with. S u p p o se I am a com poser.
W h a t in s tru m e n ts shall I w rite for? In principle, I can choose
a n y c o m b in a tio n of in s tru m e n ts I can think of: fo u r Jew 's
h a rp s a n d a w a s h tu b bass o r a co n v en tional string q u a rtet, a
duo, o r a n o rc h e s tra of o n e h u n d r e d players a n d several
ch o ru ses. I can w rite a s o n a ta for u n a c c o m p a n ie d anything:
sonatas, a c c o m p a n ie d a n d u n a c c o m p a n ie d , have been w rit
ten for every conceivable in stru m e n t. If you c o m p o se an
in s tru m e n ta l so n ata, you k n o w it will p ro b a b ly get played,
especially if it is for in s tru m e n ts n o t ordinarily used for solo
p e rfo rm a n c e . T ro m b o n e players a n d d ouble bassists h u n g e r
for a d d itio n s to the limited solo rep erto ire for their in s tr u
m ents, a n d virtuosi o f th ese in s tru m e n ts fre q u en tly c o m
m ission new w orks. C om posers, w h en they decide w h at in
s tru m e n ts to score their ideas for, kn o w th a t w o rk s w ritten
for tw o violins, viola, a n d cellothe conventional string
202 E D I T I N G

q u a r te thave a s u b sta n tia l c h a n c e o f being played b e ca u se


string q u a rte ts alread y exist, re ad y to play w o rk s w ritten for
th e m . If, on th e o th e r h a n d , they write for b a ss o o n a n d
h a rm o n ic a or for organ, s n a re d ru m , a n d bass saxophone,
they kn o w th a t th o se players will have to a sse m b le th e m
selves specially for the occasion a n d th a t friction itself will
p re v e n t th e w ork being played often (and w h e n it is played, it
will likely be in a m usic school, w h ere it is easiest to assem b le
su ch o d d groupings). You m ig h t say th a t the w o rld of o r
ganized m usic n eed s string q u a rte ts in a w ay th a t it d o es not
n e e d w o rk s for m o re u n o rth o d o x c o m b in a tio n s of in s tr u
m e n ts except, of course, w h en so m e o n e c o m m issio n s a
w o rk for a n u n o rth o d o x co m b in atio n , in w h ich case the
p r e a r r a n g e d sale of the w o rk to som e alread y m obilized
c u s to m e r solves the p roblem .
Artists similarly take th e im agined re sp o n se s of others,
le a rn e d th ro u g h their ex perience in a n a rt world, into a c
c o u n t w h e n they c o m p le te a work. H ow do artists know
w h e n they are th ro u g h , w h e n to stop p a in tin g or writing?
T heir decisions on th ese m a tte r s often tak e into a c c o u n t the
w ay o th e r m e m b e r s o f the a rt w orld will react to w h a t they
decide. If you interview artists a b o u t this, they often c a n n o t
tell you h o w they kn o w w h e n they are done. W h at they can
tell you is not so m u c h w h e n a w o rk is d o n e as w h e n it m u st
be done. W h en artists tell you w h e n s o m e th in g m u s t be done,
they are not talking a b o u t a n y th in g in h e ren t in the n a tu re of
th e m e d iu m o r form they w ork in, b u t r a th e r so m e th in g
a b o u t the obligations g e n e ra te d by the art world.
Thus, if th e o p e n in g of a play is a n n o u n c e d for J a n u a r y 3, it
will have to be p e rfo rm e d on th a t d a te o r w e will have to
re fu n d m oney, tell critics n o t to b o th e r to sh o w up, lose
a u d ien c es, lose the c h a n c e to do o th e r plays, a n d d a m a g e the
confidence of a cto rs a n d th e a te r o w n e rs severely. The p r o
d u c tio n a n d d istrib u tio n sy stem s of m a n y arts p ro d u c e such
deadlines. I kn o w th a t I m u s t p ro d u c e fifteen lith o g rap h s by
a certa in date, b e c a u se m y gallery h a s a n n o u n c e d the sh o w
for th a t date, th e critics will be there, a n d the w ork m u s t be
available to be seen a n d w ritten a b o u t. M ost arts e ith e r p r o
vide su c h d a tes for their p ra ctitio n ers or give th e m m e a n s
203 E D I T I N G

w ith w hich to g e n e ra te them . As the artist s ta n d s over the


sto n e draw ing, h e know s the d ate by w hich his fifteen prints
m u st be ready. S u p p o se o u r m ovie is to o p en at R adio City
M usic Hall on C h ristm as Day. Not only do w e know w h e n we
m u s t be finished, b u t we c a n also c o n s tru c t a tim e table,
w orking b a c k w a rd fro m th a t date, specifying w h e n the v a r
ious e le m e n ts of the w ork m u s t be done. If it is to o p en on
C hristm as, we kn o w w h e n the m u sic m u st have alread y been
re c o rd e d ; if we kn o w that, w e know w hen it m u s t have
a lrea d y been w ritten; if we know that, we kn o w w h en the
finished sce n e m u st be re ad y so th a t the m u sic can be
sy n ch ro n ize d with it; a n d so on.
Saxe C o m m in s actually w ro te a book for an a u th o r w ho
failed to p ro d u c e a b io g ra p h y of Lillian Russell w h o se p u b
lication w as p la n n e d to coincide with the o p e n in g of a m ovie
a b o u t her. W hen, a few w eeks b efo re the a n n o u n c e d p u b
lication date, the a u th o r had not p ro d u c e d a page of fin
ished m a n u sc rip t, C o m m in s m o v e d in with him a n d tu rn e d
stac k s o f ra w d a ta into a book (C om m ins, 1978, pp. 153-69).
Few people re sp o n d to w o rk s of a rt as self-consciously as
tra in e d artists do. M ost people know th a t a m usical piece
m a k e s th e m feel sad, but do n o t know the m elodic a n d
h a rm o n ic devices by w hich th a t effect has b e en achieved.
Being self-conscious a b o u t the process, artists guess w ro n g
less often th a n non-artists do. T hey pred ict the likely
re sp o n se of o th e rs correctly a n d create, m o re o r less, the
effect they w ant.
Artists can pred ict a c c u ra te ly b e c a u se the artistic process
is so conventionalized. Since w e conventionally experience
m in o r keys as sad o r m o u rn fu l, c o m p o se rs c a n consult their
o w n reactio n s for a guide: "If I write this in a m in o r key, it
will affect people as sad, since it m a k e s m e sad, a n d will
p ro d u c e the e m o tio n 1 a m a fte r. S u c h fo rm u las en ab le a r t
ists to a n ticip a te o th e r s re sp o n s e s with great accuracy.
C o n ventions b e c o m e e m b o d ie d in physical routines, so
th a t artists literally feel w h a t is right for th e m to do. Sud-
n o w 's (1978) analysis of how- he le arn e d to play jazz piano
show s h o w c o n v en tio n s o f the c raft get e m b o d ie d in the
tiniest details of the artist's physical ex perience a n d m ak es
204 E D I T I N G

clear the in se p a ra b le co n n ec tio n b etw een the physical act


a n d the c o n ce p tu a l w ork th a t go into m a k in g art; in fact, to
sp e a k of th e m as tw o different things th a t need co n n ectin g
m issta te s the case. As a result, while m u c h of w h a t artists do
is conventional, it is not th erefo re easily c h a n g e d . They ex
perien ce co n v entional know ledge as a re so u rce at a very
prim itive level, so deeply in g rain ed th a t they can th in k a n d
act in c o n v en tio n a l te rm s w ith o u t hesitation o r fo rethought.
They e x p erien ce editorial choices as acts r a th e r th a n choices.
S u d n o w d e m o n s tr a te s graphically th a t w hat he le arn e d w as
as m u c h a w ay of re ac h in g for a h a n d fu l of notes on the
p ia n o as it w as a w ay of thinking a b o u t h o w those notes
w ould c o m b in e to m a k e a m elody. H e does not say, b u t it is
also true, th a t in those m o m e n ts of s im u lta n e o u s feeling a n d
thinking w h a t is being th o u g h t consists of a co n tin u al d ia
logue with th e w orld relevant to the choices being m ad e. The
editorial a n d creative m o m e n t fuse in a dialogue w ith a n art
world.
Being creative as well as reflective, innovative as well as
repetitive a n d routine, editorial m o m e n ts e m b o d y an inter
esting a n d difficult d ile m m a for artists. To p ro d u c e u n iq u e
w o rk s of a rt th a t will be interesting to au diences, artists m u s t
u n le a rn a little o f the conventionally right w ay of doing
things they have learned. Totally c o n v en tio n al pieces bore
ev ery o n e a n d bring the artist few rew ard s. So artists, to be
successful in p ro d u c in g art, m u s t violate s ta n d a r d s m o re o r
less deeply internalized.
Thus, alth o u g h artists ordinarily tak e into a c c o u n t the
im ag in ed re sp o n se s of o th e r m e m b e r s of the a rt w?orld d u r
ing th e artistic m o m e n t, they learn to ignore th e m at times.
They also learn to ignore the re sp o n se s of people w h o do not
b e lo n g to the a rt world. T h a t is equally h ard , since m ost
m e m b e r s o f art w orlds (other th a n the few wrho are b o rn into
th e m ) w ere o n c e n o n m e m b e r s a n d le arn e d all the things
n o n m e m b e r s still kn o w a n d believe. B ut artists have to do
m a n y things n o rm a l people d o n 't do: m a n y exercises for
actors, for instance, consist in beh av in g in public in ways
o rd in a ry p eo p le b e h av e only in private. They m ay have to
to u c h p eo p le w h o are relative stra n g ers to th e m , en g ag e in
205 E D I T I N G

e m o tio n a l o u tb u rsts, take off th e ir clothesthings n o n a c to rs


w ou ld be too shy to do b efo re others. O th er arts re q u ire
p eo p le to get their h a n d s dirty with paint, clay, o r o th e r
m aterials. Since children are usually trained not to get dirty,
it tak es so m e doing to o v e rco m e th a t training. My wife once
ta u g h t a c e ra m ic s class at a d o w n to w n night school. The first
night tw o r a th e r well-dressed w o m e n c am e into the ceram ics
ro o m an d , w h e n they saw piles of wet clay a ro u n d , asked
w ith horror, "You m e a n you have to do it with y o u r h an d s?"
W hen they w ere told that, yes, they did have to do it with
th e ir h ands, they left a n d got their m o n e y back.
Still a n o th e r lay reactio n artists have to m a s te r is a dislike
o f w aste. T he Tactile Art G roup, the s e m in a r re fe rre d to in
c h a p te r 3, a tte m p te d to invent a new a rt form as a sim ulation
exercise in the sociology of the arts. We chose the tactile
m ode, an a re a of ex perience we th o u g h t h a d not been used to
its full artistic potential, a n d week a fte r w eek a tte m p te d to
c reate w o rk s b ased on the sense of touch. One of the best-
liked w o rk s p ro d u c e d d u rin g o u r investigation, "Cookie,"
w as a p e rfo rm a n c e piece, d u rin g w hich the artist p o u re d
v a rio u s foodstuffs, including a freshly b ro k en egg, over the
h a n d s of a n a u d ie n c e m e m b e r (see figure 21). W asting
th a t egg u p set o u r group: we could h e a r o u r m o th e rs
asking with h o r r o r how m a n y eggs w e p ro p o sed to w aste
in this foolishness, did w e k n o w th a t eggs w ere food, a n d
w h a t a b o u t th e starving people in wherever-it-is. The e x
a m p le is trivial, b u t in fact m a n y in o u r g ro u p at first found
it distasteful to w aste food. We c o n tin u e d to use foodstuffs as
o n e o f the m a in tactile m a terials in o u r works, soon o v e r
c o m in g th a t q u alm . S o m e tim e s it is not the w aste o f food or
o th e r em o tio n ally laden su b sta n c es, b u t sim ply the w aste of
m o n e y o r tim e th a t b o th e rs novices. Fledgling p h o to g
ra p h e rs learn th a t m o s t of the film they expose, c o n tra ry to
the lay e x p e c ta tio n th a t every p ictu re sh o u ld co m e out, will
be w a s te d a n d not w o rth printing. T each ers of p h o to g ra p h y
s p e n d c o n sid e ra b le tim e teach in g s tu d e n ts not to expect
every a tte m p t to be perfect, th a t a lot of film a n d p a p e r m ust
be w a s te d to get w h a t might, with luck, be one good p h o to
g ra p h ic print.
FIGURE 21. A performance o f Cookie by members o f the Tactile
Art Group. Like many artists working in new genres, the group had
no special materials or instruments available to it and relied on
ordinarily available foodstuffs and household items.
207 E D I T I N G

W riters often find, as do p h o to g ra p h e rs, that the su b jects


they feel m o st at h o m e with a n d can exploit m ost thorou gh ly
violate the confidence a n d privacy o f their friends, a sso
ciates, lovers, a n d neighbors. Any well-socialized person
k n o w s b e tte r th a n to violate those elem ental relations of
trust, yet artists often feel com pelled to do it. Being artists
m ay n o t p ro te ct th e m from the a n g er of those they exploit,
b u t a u d ie n c e s w h o know n o n e of the people involved are
m o re forgiving, th e m o re so the longer ago the violation.
T r u m a n C a p o te s stories of E a s te rn society figures gave the
general public intim ate, gossipy details of a n u m b e r of m o re
o r less w ell-known sca n d als he h a d learned a b o u t by b e
c o m in g friendly with the people involved. Larry Clark s
p h o to g ra p h ic book Tulsa (1971) c o n ta in e d p h o to g ra p h s of
d ru g users, his friends since adolescence, w h o h a d no notion
th a t they w ould o n e d ay find th em selves in a book (the book
w as w ith d ra w n a fte r s o m e o n e sued). C apote a n d Clark
h a d learned, as m a n y w riters a n d p h o to g ra p h e rs do, to p ro
d u c e innovative w ork by s h u ttin g so m e potential p artici
p a n ts out of th e interio r dialogue info rm in g the m a n y edi
torial choices th a t co n stitu te the work.
S o m e tim e s artists c a n n o t think of a wav a r o u n d the com -
plaints they envision lay a u d ie n c e s m aking, a n d su p p re s s
w o rk th a t nevertheless interests th e m e n o u g h to com plete.
Thus, w h en artists die they often leave b e h in d a body of
secret w ork, w hich they let only a few tru s te d friends see d u r
ing th e ir lifetimes, lest it c reate e m b a r r a s s m e n ts for t h e m
selves o r others. M ark T w ain s u p p re s s e d his p o rn o g ra p h ic
w ritings in d e fe re n c e to his w ifes wishes, E. M. F o rste r w ith
held a h o m o sex u a l novel for pu b licatio n a fte r his death,
a n d T oulo u se-L au trec kept his m o re explicitly sexual brothel
p ic tu re s locked up. It w ould be in terestin g to c o m p a re , for a
variety o f artists d u rin g different periods, the w ork they
m a d e a n d th re w away, the w ork they m a d e a n d kept but did
n o t feel it safe, politic, o r wise to sh ow to a n y o n e else (each
choice reflecting the social c o n stra in ts they o p e ra te d under),
a n d the w ork they actually displayed to the public as c h a r
acteristic, the w ork they w e re willing to let decide their re
p u ta tio n s a n d professional fates.
208 E D I T I N G

The im p o rta n c e of learning to in c o rp o ra te o th e r m e m b e rs


of the co o p erative netw o rk into the interior dialogue th ro u g h
w h ich the artist m a k e s the w ork can be seen by considering
tw o m a rg in a l cases. Art s tu d e n ts frequently have trouble
w o rking because, n o t in c o rp o ra tin g relevant others, they do
not kn o w how to solve c o m m o n p ro b le m s with m a x im u m
efficiency a n d m in im u m trouble. It is easiest to u n c o v e r the
dialogue with the a rt w orld w hich underlies the s e m ia u to
m atic o p e ra tio n s of e x p erien ced p ractitio n ers by w atch in g
those for w h o m n o n e of it is a u to m a tic b e c a u se they are still
learning.
C h a n d ra M ukerji (1977) describes film s tu d e n ts learning
to in c o rp o ra te the im agined reactio n s of o th e rs into their
decisions as g a m e s they play to practice thinking in filmic
conventio ns. S tu d e n ts play g a m e s as a form of practice b e
c au se no film school gives s tu d e n ts sufficient e q u ip m e n t to
try o u t all their ideas in a ctu al film p ro d u c tio n . Instead,
s tu d e n ts play at film m aking by describing w h a t they w ould
like to do; o th e r s tu d e n ts fo re sh ad o w the likely re sp o n se s of
o th e r film w orld p a rtic ip a n ts in their c o m m e n ts on the fea
sibility a n d p ro b a b le effect o f a n idea. As M ukerji explains:
Since the rules film students use in their games are film-
making conventions, when they play these games they are
practicing the use of these conventions. Students start with an
idea from their own imaginings, explaining how it could be
made into an element of a film. (Mukerji, 1977, p. 25)
S he q u o te s a stu d en t:
Well, basically, I got the idea when I was there (at an
auction) and thought it would be easy. I wanted to show the
three types of people at house sales and how they react. I
wanted to have visuals of the people standing in line outside
(the house), the family inside, looking empty and examining
their possessions, and the professionals running the house
sale. The sound would be interviews with all three types of
people, alternating with the picture. I thought you could just
go to one, photograph those elements that occur in every'
house sale: the line, the professionals and how they do their
work, the family looking stunned and the house left a com
209 E D I T I N G

plete mess. Now 1 dont know why he thinks that would be so


h a r d .. . . (Mukerji, 1977, pp. 25-26)

S he goes on:

He said it would take two or three cameras to shoot. The


student who had introduced the idea [into a playful gathering
of film students] was told that the idea was not even good
enough to play with. [An advanced student who had dis
missed the idea as technically too difficult] argued that a film
about an auction would require a large number of cameras
that no student could hope to find while in school. (Mukerji,
1977, pp. 26 and 28)

(See the a c c o u n t of the professional version of these activ


ities in R o se n b lu m a n d K aren, 1979.)
The im p o rta n c e of the interior dialogue with an art w orld
for the a rtis ts decisions show s u p in a n o th e r m arg in al case,
w h en s o m e o n e is trying to c o n s tr u c t a new a rt form . Such an
e n te rp rise is difficult precisely b e ca u se the q u e stio n s that
c a n ordinarily be a n sw e red by referring to the im agined
re sp o n s e s of o th e rs in the cooperative n e tw o rk c a n n o t be
a n sw e red th a t way. No co o p erative n e tw o rk exists yet, o r not
m u c h of one. No s ta n d a rd w ays of doing business can be
used to p re d ic t the likely resp o n se s of those recruited to such
positions as a u d ie n c e m e m b e r. The lack of co n v en tio n s
m an ifests itself as a gross inability to m ak e editorial choices
o r to ju d g e th e results of choices m ad e. If you do not know
w h e th e r a p a rtic u la r choice w as good or w o rk e d , you c a n
not decide w h e th e r to c h a n g e it the next time. C ontrast the
ease with w h ich people w ho w ork in m o re estab lish ed form s,
w h ic h have c o n v en tio n s a n d c a n o n s to be consulted, can
advise o n e a n o th e r. One of the great difficulties o f the Tactile
Art G ro u p w as th a t its m e m b e r s could not tell w h e th e r they
w ere doing an y th in g w o rth w h ile o r w ere ju s t w asting tim e
a n d m a k in g fools of them selves. W hen disaffected m e m b e rs
d e n o u n c e d the o th e rs b e ca u se the art w orks they w ere m a k
ing w ere n o t art, the victim s of the d e n u n cia tio n s, ho w ev er
m u c h they liked their w ork, h a d no critical o r aesthetic lan
guage or a rg u m e n ts with w hich to c o u n te r the accusation.
210 E D I T I N G

ED ITIN G BY O T H E R S
Artists, th e people w h o get the credit o r b la m e for art
w orks, typically m a k e m a n y of the choices w h ich sh a p e a
w o rk s c h a ra c te r. The a rt w orld's o th e r p a rtic ip a n ts affect
the result by e n terin g into the in ternal dialogue w hich p r e
cedes a n d a c c o m p a n ie s th o se choices. But o th e r p a rtic ip a n ts
affect a rt w orks m o re directly as well, m ak in g choices of their
o w n w hich, in d e p e n d e n t of the a rtis ts wish o r intention, also
s h a p e the w ork. S o m e tim e s artists recognize the possibility
a n d think of it as they w ork; o fte n they do n o t know, a n d
p e rh a p s could not know , w h a t o th e rs will do to afreet their
w ork, a n d th u s c a n n o t a c c o m m o d a te to it. These fateful
actions of o th e rs o c c u r d u rin g the w ork's entire life, often
a fte r th e artists th em selves have died; the effects m a y be
te m p o ra ry o r p e rm a n e n t.
M a n u fa c tu re rs a n d d istrib u to rs p e rfo rm an editorial
function by failing to m a k e so m e m a terials a n d e q u ip m e n t
available. They thus effectively p rev en t artists from m ak in g
certain choices o r m a k e th e m prohibitively expensive in tim e
a n d effort for all b u t people d e te rm in e d to have just th a t item
as p a rt of their work. W hen the m a jo r suppliers re d u c e the
variety of p h o to g ra p h ic film a n d p a p e r available, they force
m e to edit o u t of the possible c o rp u s of m y w ork w h a t I m ight
have m a d e w ith the u n a v aila b le m aterials. Artists notice
th e se c o n stra in ts w h e n s o m e favorite m aterial d isa p p e a rs
fro m the m a r k e tw h e n they can no longer, fo r instance, get
Agfa's R e c o rd R ap id p a p er. But artists are alw ays c o n
strain ed by the unavailability o f m aterials, especially those
th a t n e v er w ere m a d e at all, b e c a u se suppliers d id n 't know'
how to m a k e th e m o r h a d re jec te d the possibility as im p r a c
tical o r unprofitable. Conversely, w h e n suppliers m a k e new
m a terials available, they a d d to the possibilities from which
artists can choose. T he Polaroid system of in s ta n t color
p h o to g ra p h y c re a te d n e w artistic possibilities.
M an y a rt w orks exist in th e form of directions to o thers
telling th e m w h a t to do to actualize the w ork on a p a rtic u la r
occasion. T he directions m a y consist of a m usical score, the
script of a play, a m a n u s c rip t to be printed, o r plans for a
211 E D I T I N G

building. Since no directions can fully specify an action to be


u n d e rta k e n , the in te rp re ters of those directions necessarily
m a k e choices th a t are in d e p e n d e n t of the artist's intentions
(no m a tte r how h a rd the in te rp re ters try to be a u th e n tic ).
F earin g th a t the in terp re ters will betray them , so m e artists
give m in u te ly detailed directions designed to restrict in te r
pretive choices. A c o n te m p o ra ry score m ig h t indicate ju st
how m a n y inches from the rim o f the s n a re d r u m the p e r
cussionist shall hit the head with his stick; R enaissance
co m p o sers, on the o th e r h a n d , tru s te d m o re to the influence
o f c o n te m p o r a ry p e rfo rm a n c e s ta n d a r d s a n d often left even
th e choice of notes to p e rfo rm e rs (Dart, 1967). The c o n te m
p o ra ry c o m p o se r, Jo h n Cage, o v erco m es the desire of p e r
fo rm e rs to play w h at they kn o w h o w to play well a n d feel
c o m fo rta b le w ith by using ra n d o m iz in g p ro c e d u re s to create
scores that will be u n fa m ilia r to the m u sician s w h o play
them . In n o v a tiv e a rch itec ts try to supervise the details of
c o n stru c tio n to p rev en t w o rk m e n from sabotaging, by c o n
ventionalizing, th e ir designs.
Musical w orks a n d plays w h o se a u th o rs are long d e a d are
especially vu ln erab le to extensive re in te rp re ta tio n by p e r
form ers. S h a k e s p e a r e s plays have been cut, re arran g e d ,
a n d p e rfo rm e d in a n a c h ro n istic c o stu m e s to point up c o n
te m p o ra ry relevances. D irectors h a v e e m p h a s iz e d political
a n d psychological th e m e s grow ing out of theories less th a n
one h u n d re d years old in plays alm o st five h u n d re d years
old. C o n d u c to rs a n d m usician s habitually edit b a ro q u e
w orks, playing th e m on in s tru m e n ts th a t did not exist w hen
they w ere c o m p o se d , excising repetitions, rein te rp retin g
o rn a m e n ts .
M any people m a k e sim ilar interpretive choices w hen exe
cuting w h at seem to be sim ple craft o p eratio n s, p ro d u c in g an
a p p re c ia b le eflcct on th e final work. B a rb a ra H a rd y notes
that:

George Eliot s punctuation is very light, informal and


modern." In the manuscript all the semicolons here [she is
referring to the epigraph to chapter 70 of Daniel Deronda], for
instance, are commas. The printer formalized her punctua-
2 1 2 EDITING

lion and it is rash to speak about her heavy" style without


knowing that the heaviness is in pari, at least, the result of an
imposed style of punctuation. (Eliot, 1967, p. 903)

(The sen tence in qu estio n re ad s In the c h e q u e re d area of


h u m a n ex perience the seaso n s are all m ingled as in the gol
den age: fruit a n d blossom h a n g together; in the s a m e m o
m en t the sickle is re a p in g a n d the seed is sprinkled; one
te n d s the g re en clu ster a n d the o th e r tre ad s the w ine-press.)
Em ily Dickinson, a fte r a sim ilar experience with a local
printer, sim ply gave up publishing her work.
Artists do not m a k e everything they do available for public
display. They w ith h o ld m u c h m aterial as unfinished: drafts,
sketches, o r p ro jects w hich did not m eet th e ir ex p ectatio n s
a n d w hich they do not w a n t to affect their re p u tatio n s. Al
th o u g h artists freq u en tly decide w hich of their w orks to m a k e
public a n d w hich to w ithhold, d u rin g an a rtis ts lifetime
friends o r professional editors also m ak e those choices,
a n d e x ecu to rs do it a fte r his death. E ditors' a n d executors'
choices m ay n o t coincide with the a rtis ts, a n d d e ad artists
c a n n o t p re v e n t their w ork being sh o w n in a fo rm th e y m ay
n o t h a v e w a n te d . Max B rod ig n o re d his friend K a fk a s orders
to b u rn his u n p u b lis h e d m a n u s c rip ts a lte r his d eath . Critics
a n d re a d e rs a p p re c ia te the choice, b u t it w as B rod's a n d not
Kafka's.
B rod m a d e all of K afka's w o rk available. O ther e x ec u to rs
choose m o re selectively a n d h a v e a c o rresp o n d in g ly g re a te r
effect on the body of w ork which th e n c e fo rth re p re s e n ts an
artist to the public. C onsider E u g e n e Atget, a F r e n c h a c to r
w h o d ecid ed in his forties, a r o u n d the tu rn of the century,
th a t h e should sp en d his life d o c u m e n tin g the city of Paris
p h o tographically. H e a c q u ire d a large view c a m e ra a n d w ent
every d ay to so m e p a rt of Paris, p h o to g ra p h in g buildings,
sto re w indow s, c h a ra cte ristic types of people, parks, m a r
kets, a n d so on. Over a period of thirty years he m a d e th o u
sa n d s o f p h o to g ra p h s. Few people knew his work. Shortly
before his d e a th in 1927, a y o u n g A m erican p h o to g ra p h e r
n a m e d B erenice A bbott m et the old m a n a n d d ecid ed th a t he
w as a p h o to g ra p h ic genius w h o se w ork n e ed e d to be p r e
2 1 3 EDITING

served a n d p re s e n te d to the public. She p e rsu a d e d him to sit


fo r h e r c a m e ra . W h e n she b ro u g h t som e prin ts o f the p o rtrait
for him to see, she fo u n d that he h ad just died. She got
control of his negatives, th e re b y preserving them from p r o b
able d e stru ctio n , a n d chose from them the w o rk bv w hich
he first b e c a m e know n to a larger public th a n the few artists
w h o h a d been b u y in g pictures from him. T h at w ork m ight
best h a v e been described as E ugene A tgets as selected by
B erenice A bbott (1964). In la ter years, o th e rs have m a d e quite
different selections from the sam e b o d y of ra w m aterial. In
the s a m e way, J o h n Szarkow ski a n d R ichard Avedon chose
im ages fro m the large c o rp u s c re a ted as a hobby by the
F ren ch p a in te r J a c q u e s H enri L artigue to c reate a m a jo r
exhibition a n d a book, a n d N ancy Ncwhall c re a te d the im age
of Ansel A dam s as a p h o to g ra p h e r w h o specialized in Yosem-
ite a n d the W est by picking the p h o to g ra p h s w hich m a d e
up the first books on w hich his re p u ta tio n rested. Although
L artigue a n d A d am s w ere alive, the ed ito rs did m u c h the
s a m e kind of selective choosing as Abbott, w ith the sa m e
result: the artist w as re p re s e n te d by a body of w ork that
reflected s o m e o n e elses sensibility a n d sta n d a rd s.
T he people a n d o rg an izations w h o d istrib u te art w orks
m a k e editorial choices w h e n they re fu se to d istrib u te som e
works, require changes in o th e rs before distribution, or
(m ost subtly) c reate a netw ork of facilities a n d a body of
p ra ctice w hich lead artists in the w orld w hose w o rk s they
d istrib u te to m ak e w o rk s w hich lit easily into th a t schem e.
W h en the re co rd in g in d u stry chose to sta n d a rd iz e the ten-
a n d tw elve-inch seventy-eight-rpm disc, jazzm en chose w ork
for re c o rd in g th a t fit into the associated tim e constraints.
L o n g er w orks could not be p ro p e rly o r profitably distributed.
Live p e rfo rm a n c e s often ran longer th a n re co rd e d versions,
b e c a u se m u sic ia n s included m o re im p ro v ised choruses, but
the a c tu a l c o m p o sitio n fit th e s ta n d a r d fo rm ats. W h en in
tro d u c tio n of the long-playing record eventually cased this
d istrib u tio n al co n strain t, m o st LPs c o n tin u e d to consist of a
n u m b e r of track s o f a p p ro x im a te ly th e length once dictated
by w h at fit on a ten-inch seventy-eight-rpm disc. It took
y e ars for jazz c o m p o se rs to take a d v a n ta g e o f w h a t the LP
214 E D I T I N G

h a d m a d e possible (e.g., E ddie S a u te r's forty-eight m in u te


F ocus, c o m p o se d for sax o p h o n ist S tan Getz a n d a string
orchestra). C urators, pu b lish ers, c o n d u cto rs, a n d theatrical
a n d m ovie p ro d u c e rs all p e rfo rm editorial fu n ctio n s by
creating a n d m a in ta in in g c h a n n e ls of d istrib u tio n m o re
a d e q u a te for so m e kinds of w ork th a n for others, a n d totally
in a d e q u a te for still others. They th u s select, o r lead m a k e rs of
a rt w orks to select, choices which fit easilv into the available
system .
T h o u g h a u d ie n c e s are a m o n g the m o st fleeting p a rtic i
p a n ts in a rt w orlds, devoting less tim e to a n y p a rtic u la r w ork
o r to w o rk s of a kind th a n m o re professionalized p artici
pants, they p ro b a b ly c o n trib u te m o st to the re co n stitu tio n of
th e w ork on a daily basis. A udiences select w h a t will o c c u r as
an art w ork by giving o r w ithholding their p a rtic ip atio n in an
event o r their a tten tio n to a n object, a n d by a tte n d in g selec
tively to w hat they do a tte n d to.
R e m e m b e r th a t the o b je ct of o u r analysis is not the art
w o rk as isolated o b je c t or e v en t b u t the en tire process
th ro u g h w hich it is m a d e a n d re m a d e w h e n e v e r s o m e o n e
ex p erien ces o r a p p re c ia te s it. T h a t gives a special im p o rta n c e
to the a u d ie n c e s c o n trib u tio n . F ro m this view point, any
w ork has only those c h aracteristics its o b serv ers notice a n d
re sp o n d to on a n y p a rtic u la r occasion. W h a te v e r its physical
properties, they d o n o t exist in the ex perience o f people w ho
do not know' o r care a b o u t them . They a p p e a r a n d disappear,
d e p e n d in g on w h a t the au d ien c e know s how to perceive
(B ourdieu, 1968). W h a t a u d ie n c e s know th u s m a k e s the
work, if only tem porarily. F o r th a t reason, w h a t a u d ie n c e s
choose to re s p o n d to affects the w o rk as m u c h as d o the
choices o f artists a n d s u p p o rt personnel.
M alraux, Eliot, a n d o th e r critics have n o te d th a t the a p
p e a ra n c e o f a new art w ork c h a n g e s the c h a r a c te r of those
th a t p re c e d e d it. D a n to s analysis (1964, pp. 582-84) suggests
th a t th a t h a p p e n s b e c a u se the new w ork calls a tte n tio n to a
p ro p e rty all w o rk s h a d w hich w en t u n n o tic e d b e ca u se it did
n o t vary' fro m w ork to w ork. Thus, w e m ight say th a t c o n
c ep tu a l a rt pieces m a d e so m e a u d ien ces realize th a t a p h y s
ical o b je ct w as n o t a crucial c o m p o n e n t of visual art; for
215 E D I T I N G

s o m e w o rk s (see the w o rk s o f H aa ck e [1976], for instance)


the physical o b ject is only a way of e m b o d y in g an idea, and
o th e r e m b o d im e n ts of it w ould serve ju s t as well. The idea is
the artist's c o n trib u tio n , not the object. A udiences w ho a c
cept th a t p re m is e th e n look at earlier w orks as e m b o d im e n ts
of ideas as well as beautiful objects, a d d in g to th e m a c h a r
acteristic th a t they m a y not have h ad before. A udiences
m a k e new choices of w h at to a tte n d to, a n d the w ork changes
accordingly.
S m ith (1979) has d e sc rib e d the variety o f possibilities she
has p aid a tten tio n to in one of S h a k e s p e a re s so n n ets (S o n
net 116) o ver a period of years. S h e p refaces h e r a c c o u n t by
noting the varied reception the so n n e ts h a v e received since
they w ere w ritten:
[T]he sonnets have been characterized, by men of education
and discrimination, as inept, obscure, affected, filled with
labored perplexities and studied deformities," written in a
verse-form incompatible with the English language," a form
given to drivelling incoherencies and puling, petrifying rav
ings/' We might recall especially Henry Hallams remarking
of the sonnets that it is impossible not to wish that Shake
speare had not written them," and that his assessment or
distress was shared, at some point in their lives, with some
variations, by Coleridge, Wordsworth and Hazlitt.
Wish Shakespeare had not written them? Lord, man, we
may wish to shout back into that abysm of time, did you really
read them? Well, presumably Hallam did read them, as did
Dr. Johnson, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Hazlitt and Byron (from
each of whom I have been quoting here): but whether any of
them read the same poems we are reading is another ques
tion. Value alters when it alteration finds. The texts were
the same, but it seems clear that, in some sense, the poems
weren't. (Smith, 1979, p. 10)
I will sa m p le ju st a few of the varied qualities she fo u n d in
S o n n e t 116, th ereb y doing an injustice to a su b tle analysis:
As a discriminating young snob, 1 was pre-disposed to find the
value of any poem inversely proportional to the frequency of
its appearance in anthologies. Moreover, 1 had heard this one
read too often at the wedding ceremonies of friends. It be-
216 E D I T I N G

came an embarrassment just to glance at its opening lines, an


agony to recall the couplet. And, to cap it, a professor whose
opinions 1 valued very highly had once demonstrated in class,
with great wit and dash, that the sentiments of 116 were as
inane as its logic was feeble and its imagery' vague [Ten
years ago] I discovered an altogether different 116. It was not,
as I had previously thought, the expression of the poet as
Polonius, intoning sentimental sententiae on the virtue of re
mote virtues, but rather the poet as Troilus or Hamlet or Lear,
in a fury of despair, attempting to sustain the existence, by
sheer assertion, of something which everything in his own
experience denied. So, I might have said then, to be sure the
arguments are frail and the sentiments false and strained: but
this is nonetheless a powerful sonnet because, among other
things, that very frailty and strain and falseness are expressive
of what is strong and true, namely the impulse not to know,
not to acknowledge, not to admit" what one does know and
would wish to be otherwise.
A lovely reading of the poem, I think .. . when 1 believe it.
And it does have the virtue of rescuing, for me, the value of
one sonnet: which is to say, of letting me have, as something
good, what would otherwise be something badwhich, in the
total economy of the universe, must be reckoned as a profit.
But, as for evaluating the sonnet: that I cannot do. Not only
does its value, for me, depend upon which of two mutually
incompatible interpretations I give it (and I still can give it
either) but Im also aware of the fact that I sometimes enjoy it
even when Im giving it the weak interpretation, and some
times enjoy elements of it when Im barely giving it any in
terpretation at all. For example, it's sometimes nice just to
experience again the semi-abstract symmetries of its syn
tax and sound-pattems, those boldly balanced mouth-filling
clauses: Love is not love/ Which alters when it alteration finds/
Or bends with the remover to remove. . . . a pleasure to say. Or
again, like Professor B., I sometimes enjoy bombast, and
can take pleasure in the sheer excesses of the poem, as such.
Experienced against a daily background of scrupulously
qualified professional precision, in which one has heard one's
colleagues or oneself saying, often enough, things like: Well,
it seems to me that, in a sense, it might be possible, under
certain circumstances, for some forms of what is commonly
referred to as love to have a relatively lengthy duration"its
217 E D I T I N G

really nice to hear a good, strong, unqualified absolute or two:


Oh, no, it is a n ever-fixed m a r k
That looks on tempests and is never shaken....
Love alters not....
B u t b e a r s it ou t e v e n to th e e d g e of doom.
It's just an element of the poem, but its there among the
others; and sometimes it just hits the spot. But, of course,
nothing hits the spot all the time, because the spot is always
different. (Smith, 1979, pp. 12-14)

A udiences vary fro m tim e to tim e a n d place to place


in w h a t they a tte n d to. Since a u d ie n c e re sp o n se s are typi
cally as conventionalized as th o se o f o th e r p a rtic ip an ts in
art w orlds, even th o u g h stratified by n e a rn e s s to the p r o
fessional core, a u d ien c e m e m b e r s re sp o n d in general as do
o th e r m e m b e r s of th e ir segm ent, a n d choose m u c h the sam e
things out o f the w o rk 's possibilities as o thers do. As w e saw
in c h a p te r 2, a u d ie n c e s can b o th learn to experience new
elem e n ts a n d forget h o w to e x p erie n ce old e le m e n ts of a
w ork, as we have lost the ability to resp o n d directly to the
religious a n d g e o m etric elem e n ts of fifteenth-century Italian
p a in tin g w ith o u t special train in g (B axandall, 1972).
If the choices of a u d ie n c e s a n d su p p o rt p e rso n n e l can
r e m a k e w orks so drastically, we can reaso n ab lv think of art
works as not h aving a stable ch aracter. Even w h en they are
physically stable, retaining those c h aracteristics the artist
chose, they differ in the w ay they a p p e a r in people s ex
perience. It is n o t just that they are differentially evaluated .
Different qualities actu ally c o m e a n d go as people atten d
to th e m differently. Bodies of w ork by a p a rtic u la r artist
c h a n g e their c h a r a c te r even m ore, as editors a d d to o r s u b
tra c t from the corpus.

DEATH AND CONSERVATION


S o m e editorial choices h a v e m o re p ro fo u n d effects,
c h an g in g the physical o b ject itself. Those effects last, while
the effects of S m ith 's varying interest in this o r th a t quality of
S o n n e t 116 leave the o b ject in tact fo r o th e rs to m a k e s o m e
thing else of. Art w'orks, we m ight say, are m a im e d or die.
218 E D I T I N G

J u s t as w orks are c re a ted anew e ac h tim e s o m e o n e e x p e


riences them , they die w h en no one ever again experiences
th e m directly, o r even s e c o n d h a n d , by h earin g the d e s c rip
tions of th o se w ith firsthand experience. Since a rt w orks can
die, so m e artists, sensitive to th a t possibility a n d w a n tin g a
re p u ta tio n th a t will survive them , take into a c c o u n t in m a k
ing the choices w hich c reate the w ork th a t so m e choices have
a low er m o rta lity ra te th a n others.
Art w orks die eith er b e ca u se s o m e o n e ex ecutes them , as in
the politically m o tiv a te d d e stru ctio n c o n sid ered earlier, o r of
neglect, b e c a u se no o n e cares e n o u g h to save them . J o h n
Phillips (1973), discussing the d e stru c tio n of religious sc u lp
tu re a n d buildings in E n g la n d in the sixteenth a n d se v e n
teen th centuries, notes the im p o rta n t p a rt p ic tu re sq u e
ru in s played in later English ro m a n tic p a in tin g a n d poetry,
pointing out th a t those ruins, once fu n ctio n in g religious
buildings, w ere the d e stro y ed fabric of the m edieval c h u rc h
in E n g la n d (Phillips, 1973, p. x). His d escription of the
c o m b in a tio n of m o tiv a te d d e p re d a tio n a n d neglect th a t
p r o d u c e d th o se ruins exemplifies the w ay a rt w orks die:
The proud abbey at Glastonbury was suppressed in 1539
and given over to pillage and destruction in the name of
reform. When it came into the possession of the Lord Protec
tor Somerset, he stripped the roofs of lead and arranged for a
group of about two hundred Flemish weavers to take over the
deserted buildings. Six houses were refurbished, but most of
the buildings remained in great need of repair. Under Queen
Mary the weavers left the country, and though there were
hopes of restoring the abbey, little was done.
In the early seventeenth century, Glastonbury was quar
ried. Frequently, gunpowder was employed to hasten its dem
olition; the abbey's squared freestone, rubble core in the
walls, and heavy stones of the foundation were tempting
prizes for neighboring builders. It is possible that the solid
foundation across the marshland which acted as support
for the causeway to Wells was formed from the stones of
Glastonbury.
Early in the eighteenth century, it seems that the abbey was
tenanted by a Presbyterian who committed much havoc;
every week, he sold a pillar, a buttress, a window joint or an
219 E D I T I N G

angle ol fine hewn stone to the highest bidder. Continued dep


redation throughout the eighteenth century and into the nine
teenth reduced most of the remaining fabric. Today, Glaston
bury's foundations have almost completely disappeared.
Yet these strange, desolate piles are still capable of moving
us deeply. .. . (Phillips, 1973, p. ix)
E x ecu tio n ers have a h a rd tim e killing a rt w o rk s so th o r
oughly that they n ever a p p e a r again, especially w h e n the
w ork exists in m ultiple copies (books as o p p o sed to
paintings) o r w h e n a w o rk s u n iq u e n e s s does n o t define it
(p e rfo rm a n c e s as o p p o sed to objects). As long as the ideas
c o n ta in e d in it persist, the w o rk c o n tin u es to exist. So poetry
th a t has been b a n n e d a n d is no longer p rin te d by g o v e rn
m e n t p rin te rs will exist if people have m e m o riz ed it. Even
o b je c ts th a t have been d e stro y ed m ay c o n tin u e to exist, in
re p ro d u c tio n s, p h o to g ra p h s , draw ings, o r o th e r aids to m e
m ory. C o n c e p tu a l a rt w o rk s can n ever be destro y ed physi
cally, since only the idea need survive. At the extrem e, w orks
exist in title only. S cholars a ttrib u te one h u n d r e d and eleven
titles to Sophocles, b u t seven tragedies a n d p a rt of a satyr
play are all w hose texts survive; A eschylus w rote a trilogy
a b o u t P ro m e th e u s , b u t only P rom etheus B o u n d still exists,
while P rom etheus the Fire-Bearer a n d P rom etheus U nbound
have d is a p p e a r e d (H ooper, 1967, pp. 267 a n d 190).
N evertheless, w orks die. As a m a tte r of logic, w orks w hich
have truly been killed, for w h a te v e r reasons, c a n n o t be
k n o w n to us; if their m e m o ry survives so that we kn o w of
th e m , they still live. In fact, the political effort to kill art
w orks and, on occasion, their c re a to rs m ay fail precisely
b eca u se the only o b je c ts a n d ideas w orth killing are those
w h ic h h a v e already in te re ste d a large a u d ie n c e o r are likely
to do so. W hen a g o v e rn m e n t tries to kill th e m it stim ulates
f u r th e r interest a n d m ultiplies the n u m b e r of copies in exis
tence, b o th physically a n d in p e o p le s heads.
Art w orks m a v be killed as a m o re o r less u n in te n d e d
c o n s e q u e n c e of som e o th e r destructive activity. W ars fre
q u e n tly d e stro y a rt w o rk s in a re a s su b je c t to b o m b in g or
o th e r attacks, as o c c u rre d d u rin g W orld W a r II in E u ro p e
a n d d u rin g the w a r in V ietnam . Art w orks m o re often die of
220 E D I T I N G

neglect th a n from d eliberate destruction. Social a n d physical


e n tro p y inevitably lead to the scattering a n d loss of art o b
jects. To persist, w orks of a rt m u s t be sto re d so th a t they are
not physically destro y ed . To persist in the life of an art world,
they m u st n o t only re m a in available by c o n tin u in g to exist,
they m u s t also be easily accessible to potential audiences.
M useum s, libraries, archives of all kinds, a n d o th e r c o m m o n
institutions p ro te ct a rt w orks a n d p re v e n t their d is a p p e a r
ance. M u se u m s a n d libraries usually se p a ra te th e ir active
collections, item s easily available to the public, from inactive
collections, sto re d w h ere they can only be gotten to with
special effort. S o m e o b je cts are th u s very alive, displayed on
walls o r available in library stacks, while o th e rs are in s to r
age, w h e re only sch olars a n d o th e rs w h o know they are there
a n d re q u e s t special access can get at them . In e ith e r case, the
w o rk s exist in a n art w o rld s life in a w ay th a t is not tru e of
w o rk s which, co n tin u in g to exist physically, can only be
found in sc a tte re d attics, s e c o n d h a n d stores, o r little-known
c h u rc h e s. These lost w orks c a n n o t be found by the c o n v e n
tional m e th o d s by w hich in terested parties search for m a
terial th a t interests them , not being listed in library c a ta
logues, in catalogues raisonees of the w o rk of well-known
artists, o r in lists of m u s e u m holdings. People w h o w a n t to
ex perien ce th ese w orks for scholarly o r o th e r reaso n s will not
k n o w they are there to experience.
H o w d o m u s e u m s a n d o th e r storage institutions decide
w h a t goes into th e ir collections a n d w h a t does not m erit such
care? They usually explain th a t th eir jo b is to conserve the
cu ltural h eritag e of th e c o u n try o r o f all h u m a n ity . But th a t
d o es not explain m uch. You w ould be h a rd put to c o n stru c t
on the basis of su ch s ta te m e n ts a fo rm u la w h o se application
w ould p ro d u c e the collections th o se institutions contain. The
m u s e u m s c o n ta in w o rk s selected by a n e tw o rk of cu rators,
m u s e u m trustees, p a tro n s, dealers, critics, a n d aestheticians.
They c o n tain w ork th a t m e e ts the aesthetic s ta n d a rd s of
so m e o r all of those people, a n d those s ta n d a r d s develop
in re sp o n se to the re q u ire m e n ts of such institutions as
m u seu m s.
B ecause the prevailing aesthetic does not m a k e them
221 E D IT I N G

officially art, w o rk s not defined as art rem ain in su ch unoffi


cial collection a n d storage places as attics and s e c o n d h a n d
stores. Only w h e n s o m e o n e s aesthetic, b ack ed by the re
so u rces n e ce ssary for storage, labels w ork as art does the
w ork get into the easily accessible m u s e u m system . But
m a n y eccentric a n d individualistic people have c o m m a n d of
su c h resources: rich people, kings, com m issars. Rich people
h a v e fre q u en tly fo u n d e d small m u s e u m s to p re se rv e m a te r i
als they fo u n d interesting b u t w hich h a d not previously been
th o u g h t w o rth su ch preservation. The M useum of A m erican
Folk Art in New York p re se rv e s item s th a t were not always
kept in m u s e u m s , although n o w they c o m m o n ly are: m erry-
g o -ro u n d horses, quilts, w e a th e r vanes, a n d tavern signs.
Only recently have su ch collections, originally limited to
folk a rt of the original th irtee n A m erican colonies, included
w ork by later im m ig ra n ts to the U nited States. This p r o b
ably reflects an ideological shift fro m a celebration of the
essentially British past of the United S tates to a d e m o c ra tic
inclusion of the a rt of g ro u p s w hose cu ltu re h ad form erly
been th o u g h t primitive, lacking in artistic m erit, a n d un-
A m erican, su ch as A m erican blacks a n d H ispanics.
Similarly,9 the w ork of naive artistsw ho w ork in no es-
ta b lish ed m e d iu m a n d belong to no o rg anized art w o rld o f
ten fails to survive, as we will see w h en we c o n sid e r them in
the n ext ch ap te r. Not being in te g rated into a n y co n v entional
system of creating a n d d istrib u tin g art, the w o rk s suffer from
n a tu ra l decay, the offended sensibilities of neighbors, the
resulting actions of m u n ic ip al a n d c o u n ty building d e p a r t
m e n ts a n d zoning com m issions, a n d the vandalism of
n e ig h b o rh o o d children. Few w o rk s can w ith s ta n d such a
c o m b in a tio n of assaults, unless (as so m e tim es h a p p e n s) a r t
ists, dealers, a n d collectors b e c o m e interested, finding in the
w o rk h ith e rto u n n o tic e d virtues. Acting together, they m ay
su c c e e d in in c o rp o ra tin g the w ork into an art w o rld s storage
svstem a n d th u s save it.
Self-conscious art worlds, then, organize to preserv e som e
of the w o rk d o n e in them . W h atev er th a t w o rld s aesthetic
ratifies as sufficiently im p o rta n t artistically or historically
will be placed in the a p p ro p ria te repositories a n d kept alive
222 E D I T I N G

(or, at least, in s u s p e n d e d anim ation). Aesthetic decisions


decide the life o r d e a th of works. Even m ore, they decide the
life a n d d e a th of genres. W orks in a m e d iu m o r style defined
as n o t a rt have a m u c h s h o rte r life e x p e c ta n c y th a n those
defined as art. No organizational im peratives m a k e it w o rth
a n y o n e's while to save them .
No one k now s w h a t p ro p o rtio n of the a rt w orks c re a te d at
a n y p a rtic u la r tim e survive m o re th a n a very sh o rt time, in
any of the senses of survival we have sp o k en of, let alone
w h a t kinds of w ork survive th ro u g h the o p e ra tio n of avail
able collection-storage system s. M ost a m a te u r w ork (I d o n t
use the w o rd pejoratively, m erely to refer to w o rk d o n e by
people w h o are not professionals as the p a rtic u la r a rt w orld
defines it) p ro b a b ly survives, if at all, by b e co m in g e m b e d
d ed in a family system as a m e m e n to of the p erso n w ho m a d e
it, a n d goes o u t of existence w h e n a n d if th a t fam ily b re ak s
u p a n d its belongings are dispersed. Family collections of
p h o to g ra p h s are a n obvious e x am p le (although the grow th
of a professionalized interest in ju s t such collections for schol
arly a n d aesth etic p u rp o s e s has m a d e th e m m o re collectable
a n d th u s p re se rv e d w o rk w hich w ould o th erw ise have d is a p
p e a re d [see, for instance, Talbot, 1976, a n d Seiberling, n.d.]).
W ork c o n ta in e d in scientific archives o r the collections of
c o m m ercia l p h o to g ra p h e rs similarly m ay survive, to be dis
covered as aesthetically interesting by la ter g e n e ra tio n s (as
in L esy s [1976] use of the files of Caulfield a n d Shook, a firm
of Louisville c o m m ercia l ph o to g rap h ers).
W h a t kinds of professional w ork survive is a m o re re-
sea rc h a b le question. One could in principle m o n ito r all the
p ro fessio n al w o rk being d o n e in a given m e d iu m at so m e
p a rtic u la r tim e (as W hite a n d W hite [1965] a tte m p te d for
n in e te e n th -c e n tu ry F re n c h painting). We could then follow a
sam ple, to discover the life s p a n a n d crucial p e rio d s of a
w o rk 's life.
W ork th a t survives physically c an be red isco v ered a n d
in c o rp o ra te d into a m e d iu m s history (see the analysis of
revivals of R en aissan ce English plays in Griswold, 1980),
b e c o m in g p a rt of the c o rp u s artists have in m in d as they
w ork a n d a u d ie n c e s have in m in d as they e x p erien ce the
results. We h a v e alread y seen h o w historians re m a k e the
223 EDI TI NG

history of a field by rediscovering forgotten m a ste rs of


painting, literature, o r m usic. T he p ro cess is especially visible
in fields new ly discovered to have artistic value. Thus, p h o
to g ra p h ic h isto ria n s have been re c o n stitu tin g the history of
the m e d iu m by discovering bodies of w ork, describing them ,
publishing th e ir findings (in the n e w Journal o f the H istory
o f Photography), a n d th u s m oving u n k n o w n survivors to
the k n o w n a n d c a ta lo g u e d cate g o ry of the p h o to g ra p h ic
w orld. In so doing, of course, they follow the d ic tate s of an
aesth etic th a t is being c re a te d collectively as the w ork p r o
ceeds, an aesth etic which c rea tes the m e d iu m 's ancestry.
B ecause a rt w orks can die, so m e artists do w h a t they can to
preserv e their w ork; so m e tim es su b sta n tia l portions of art
w o rld s join in the effort. C onsider the p ro b le m of physical
deterioration. W orks o f visual art, by virtue of the n a tu re of
th e ir m a te ria ls a n d the effects of w ea th e r, te m p e ra tu re , a n d
chem ical pollution, can d e terio rate badly. Paintings crack,
s c u lp tu re s break. P h o to g rap h s, chem ically m ade, suffer
fro m c h em ical deterioration. P h o to g ra p h e rs a n d m u s e u m s
w hich collect p h o to g ra p h s have jointly developed a s ta n d a rd
of archival processing, designed to g u a rd against this h a z a rd
by prescribing p ro c e d u re s for rem o v in g the m o st d a n g e ro u s
c h em ic als from the print. Similarly, m a n y p h o to g ra p h e rs arc
re lu ctan t to m ake, a n d m u s e u m s are re lu c ta n t to collect,
color p h o to g ra p h s , w hich are chem ically less stable a n d are
shorter-lived th a n black-and-w hite. Individual p a in te rs and,
m o re im p o rtan tly , m u s e u m s a n d even su ch cities as Venice
a n d Florence, a tte m p t to do s o m e th in g a b o u t the increasing
d a n g e r to visual a rt w o rk s from industrial a n d a u to m o b ile
pollution, w hich have severely d a m a g e d in a relatively few
years w o rk s th a t h a d lasted for centuries w ith o u t visible
h a rm .
Artists can also take p re c a u tio n s to save their w o rk from
social a n d political execution, hiding d a n g e ro u s m eanings,
avoiding d a n g e ro u s topics. Phillips describes how the m a k
ers o f English to m b s c u lp tu re avoided the d e stru c tio n of
im ages th a t followed the b re ak w ith the R o m a n C hurch:

Religious feelings of the wealthy could no longer be expressed


in the adorning and erecting of churches, nor could even their
224 E D I T I N G

tombs reflect their devotion through images of the Blessed


Virgin or of the saints. The new tombs erected during the late
sixteenth century were magnificent and sumptuous revela
tions of the deceased s rank and station and were adorned
with the personified, abstract virtues of the departed: faith,
wisdom, charity, hope. All sorts of symbolic ornaments came
to be carved on tombs: Indians, skulls and crossbones,
scythes, urns, weeping cherubs holding doused torches were
substituted in place of the traditional Christian symbols that
were every day being destroyed. These changes of a concep
tual nature suggest not a progress from religious to secular
representation: rather, the character of the traditional Catho
lic imagery gave way to a new religious imagery devoid of
traditional identifications and hence safe. (Phillips, 1973,
pp. 118-19)

S o m e of the m o st im p o rta n t choices th a t affect a n art


work, then, are those w hich d e stro y o r preserv e it. The people
w h o m ak e those choices range from lib rarians a n d m u s e u m
c u ra to rs to n e ig h b o rh o o d van d als a n d political censors.
W h at survives th o se choices co n stitu tes the c o rp u s of w ork
by which an artist, o r a genre o r m e d iu m , is know n. W hat
is lost c o n trib u te s to no re p u ta tio n . T h o u g h I have c o n c e n
tra te d on the visual arts, b e ca u se w o rk s in th e m usually
exist as u n iq u e physical objects, the analysis could easily be
e x ten d e d to a rts w hich take the form o f m ultiple o bjects
(e.g., books) o r p e rfo rm a n ce s.
Let these choices w hich so im m ediately affect the exis
tence of a w o rk stan d fo r the m u ltitu d e o f choices affecting
the w o rk s c h a ra c te r w hich are m a d e by people o th e r th a n
the artist. Artists, as I h a v e said, m a k e m a n y of the im p o rta n t
decisions, b u t not all of them . O thers affect the w o rk as well,
by particip atin g in the artist's internal dialogue or by doing
s o m e th in g them selves, in d e p e n d e n t of the artist (p e rh a p s
even a fte r his death). W h en we speak o f the w ork of Titian o r
M ozart or Rabelais, w e conventionally take the w o rk s a ttrib
uted to th e m to co n stitu te all the w o rk those artists did and
a s s u m e they did it all them selves. Ordinarily, n e ith e r a s
s u m p tio n is true. F or th a t reason, the assigning a n d e v a lu a t
ing of artistic re p u ta tio n s h a s a n ironic c h a ra c te r. We praise
a n d b lam e people for w h a t they did not com pletely do, leav
2 2 5 E I) I T I N G

ing o u t of a c c o u n t m u c h th a t they did do. Likewise, we assess


the re p u ta tio n s of w hole genres, styles, periods, a n d c o u n
tries on the basis of choices m a d e by all sorts of people about
w h o m w e k n o w little o r nothing, leaving out of a c c o u n t
all the w ork a b o u t which we kn o w no th in g becau se it has
been p u rp o sely d e stro y e d o r b e c a u se it w as not saved, as
m o st w o rk s arc not. I will re tu rn to this p ro b le m in the last
c h a p te r.
8 Integrated Professionals,
Mavericks, Folk Artists,
and Naive Artists

Igor S travinsky h ad little tro u b le finding p eo p le to play his


innovative works, b u t Charles Ives, the A m erican c o m p o se r
w hose c a re e r partially o v e rlap p e d S trav in sk y s, n e v er h e a rd
s o m e of his o w n w orks p e rfo rm e d . A m erican p a rk s are filled
with sta tu e s o f fa m o u s m e n (usually by less-than-fam ous
sculptors) but, as Calvin Trillin (1965, p. 75) re m a r k e d in
explaining w h y Los Angeles building in sp ectors w a n te d to
te a r do w n S im o n R o d ia s W atts Towers, City building
officials w ho m ig h t tre a t m ost w o rk s of art with deference, if
not alw ays with sy m p ath y , te n d to treat a large, unlabelled
o n e the s a m e w ay they w ould tre at a n office building, a
house, or, m o st d am ag in g , a s tru c tu re th a t fits into no c a te
gory at all." C o n te m p o ra ry art m u s e u m s a w a rd prizes to
w o rk s in fabric by specialists in soft scu lpture, b u t c o u n try
w o m e n w h o m a k e quilts get th e ir prizes at c o u n ty fairs.
W h ere v er an a rt w orld exists, it defines the b o u n d a rie s of
a c c ep ta b le art, recognizing those w h o p ro d u c e the w ork it
can assim ilate as artists entitled to full m e m b e rsh ip , a n d
d enying m e m b e r s h ip a n d its benefits to those w h o se w ork it
c a n n o t assim ilate. If we look at things from a c o m m o n s e n s e
point of view, we can see th a t such large-scale editorial

226
227 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R I C K S , FOLK ARTIS T S

choices m a d e by the o rg an izatio n s of an art world exclude


m a n y people w h o se w ork closely re se m b le s w o rk a cc ep te d
as art. We c a n see, too, th a t art w o rld s freq u en tly in c o rp o ra te
at a later d a te w orks they originally rejected, so th a t the
distinction m u s t lie n o t in the w ork but in the ability of an art
w orld to a cc e p t it a n d its m aker.
If we co n sid e r all the people w h o work in a p articu lar
m e d iu m , h o w ev e r the a rt w orld defines a n d ju d g e s th e m , we
sec th a t they range from people totally involved in and
co m pletely d e p e n d e n t on the p a ra p h e rn a lia of an art world
to th o se w ho are only m arginally related to it b e c a u se their
w o rk does not fit in to the w ay things are done. S om e m ak e
w o rk th a t looks like art, o r is so m e tim e s seen to do so, but do
it in the c o n tex t of w orlds com pletely s e p a ra te from an a rt
world, p e rh a p s in a w orld o f c ra ft or d o m e stic life. Still o thers
carry on th e ir activities quite alone, s u p p o rte d n e ith e r by an
organized a rt w orld o r a n y o th e r o rg anized area of social
activity.
If we c o m p a re these w ays of w orking, the peculiarities of
the n o n s ta n d a r d versions o f the activity show us how things
w o rk w hen thev are d o n e in the s ta n d a r d wav. Analytically,
th a t is, w e take m a k in g art in the context o f an a rt w orld as
the s ta n d a r d w ay to m a k e art. It n e ed not be, o f course, b u t it
is c o n v e n ie n t to tre a t it as s ta n d a rd , because c o m m o n usage
d o es a n d th e re b y hides the o rd in a ry w orkings o f art w orlds
from us, as w hat a n y o n e k now s a n d th erefo re is not w orth
knowing. The c o m p a ris o n show s us h o w things th a t seem
o rd in a ry in the m ak in g of professional art need not be that
w ay at all, how art could be m a d e differently, a n d w h at the
results of d o in g it differently w ould be. We will see how b e
ing c o n n e c te d w ith a rt w orlds sh a p e s w h a t people do by
seeing how differently people do things w h e n they ex p eri
e n c e n e ith er the a d v a n ta g e s n o r the c o n stra in ts o f art w orld
participation.
The w ork people do varies with the n a tu re of their p a rtic
ipation in an a rt world. But th a t does not m e a n th a t the
c h a r a c te r o f th e ir p a rtic ip a tio n can be seen directly in the
w ork itself. I will talk a b o u t in teg rated professionals, m a v
ericks, folk artists, a n d naive artists. These relational te rm s
228 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R IC K S , FO LK A R T IS T S

do not d escribe people, but r a th e r h o w people s ta n d in rela


tion to an o rg anized art w orld. Likewise, the w o rk show s the
signs of their relation to a n a rt w o rld only in relation to the
w o rk d o n e by m e m b e r s of c o n te m p o r a n e o u s a rt worlds, for
the s a m e piece m a y at so m e o th e r tim e show su b sta n tia l
sim ilarities to w ork being d o n e in an a rt w orld a n d th u s not
be so different a fte r all.
It is im p o rta n t to keep in m in d th a t these are relational
term s, b e c a u se people often sp eak of the artists w h o se w ork
we will discuss as eccentric o r crazy o r sim ple c o u n try folk.
T hey m a y in deed be, b u t th a t is not w h a t gives their work
its interesting features, since plenty of professional artists
are ju st as eccentric or crazy, th o u g h few of th e m are sim
ple c o u n try folk. It is h a rd to ignore the m o re flam boyant a s
pects of so m e of these personalities, b u t they are not w h a t
is crucial.

INTEGRATED PR O FESSIO N A LS

Im agine, for any p a rtic u la r o rg anized a rt world, a c a n o n


ical art w ork, a w ork d o n e exactly as the conventions c u rre n t
in th a t w orld dictate. A canonical a rt w ork w ould be one for
w hose doing all the m aterials, in stru m e n ts, a n d facilities
have b e en p re p a re d , a w ork for w h o se doing every c o o p e r
ating p e rs o n p e rfo rm e rs, providers o f supplies, s u p p o rt
personnel of all kinds, a n d especially a u d ie n c e shas been
trained. Since ev ery o n e involved w ould know exactly w hat
to do, su ch a w ork could be c re a te d with a m in im u m of
difficulty. S uppliers w ould provide the p ro p e r m aterials,
p e rfo rm e rs kn o w ju st how to in te rp re t the directions given
them , m u s e u m s have exactly the right kind o f sp ac e a n d
lighting for the w ork to a p p e a r in, a n d a u d ie n c e s re sp o n d
w ith no difficulty to the em o tio n al experiences the art w ork
created . S uch a w ork might bore everyone involved. By d e f
inition it w ould co n tain no th in g novel, unique, o r a tten tio n
getting, n o th in g th a t violated a n y o n e's expectations. It w ould
c reate no tension a n d a ro u se no em otion. The paintings on
m otel walls are ju st such canonical works.
Im agine, too, a canonical artist, fully p re p a re d to p roduce,
229 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERI CKS , FOLK ARTI STS

a n d fully c a p a b le o f p ro ducing, the canonical a rt work. Such


an artist would be fully integrated into the existing a rt world.
H e w ould c au se no trouble for a n y o n e w h o h ad to c o o p e ra te
with him, a n d his w ork w ould lind large a n d responsive
audiences. Call su c h artists integrated professionals.
In te g ra ted p ro fessionals have the technical abilities, social
skills, a n d c o n ce p tu al a p p a r a tu s n e ce ssary to m a k e it easy to
m a k e art. B ecause they know , u n d e rs ta n d , a n d habitually
use the c o n v en tio n s on w hich their w orld runs, they fit easily
into all its s ta n d a r d activities. If they are co m p o sers, they
w rite m u sic p e rfo rm e rs can re a d a n d play on available in
s tru m e n ts ; if they a re painters, they use available m aterials
to p ro d u c e w o rk s w hich, in size, form , design, color, and
co n ten t, fit into the available spaces a n d into people's ability
to re sp o n d ap p ro p ria tely . They stay within the b o u n d s of
w h a t poten tial a u d ie n c e s a n d the state co n sid er respectable.
By using a n d c o n fo rm in g to the co n v en tio n s governing m a
terials, form s, contents, m o d e s o f p re se n ta tio n , sizes, shapes,
d u ra tio n s, a n d m odes of financing, in teg rated professionals
m a k e it possible for a rt w o rk s to o c c u r efficiently a n d easily.
L arge n u m b e rs of people can c o o rd in a te their activities with
a m in im u m in v e stm e n t o f tim e a n d energy, sim ply by id e n
tifying the co n v en tio n s ev ery o n e should follow.
In e m p h a siz in g the relative ease w ith w h ich integrated
p ro fessionals get work done, 1 do not m e a n th a t they never
have a n y trouble. P articip a n ts in an a rt w orld have a c o m
m o n interest in getting things done, b u t they also have p o
tentially conflicting p riv a te interests. M any conflicts betw een
different kinds of p a rtic ip a n ts are, in fact, chronic a n d t r a
ditional. Playw rights a n d c o m p o s e rs w ant their w orks p e r
fo rm e d as they envision them , but a cto rs a n d m u sician s like
to p e rfo rm those w o rk s so th a t th e y show th em selves off to
best a d v an ta g e. A uthors w ould like to revise their novels
right th ro u g h the stage o f page proofs, but th a t costs m ore
th a n p u b lish ers like to spend.
Likewise, the co n d itio n s of w ork m a y be, for the m ost
in teg rated professional, d e m a n d in g a n d difficult. The sta r of
a B ro ad w ay sh o w finds herself c o n d e m n e d to tw o years of
eight s tre n u o u s p e rfo rm a n c e s a week. The c o m p o s e r of a
230 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

film score m a y have to p ro d u c e eighty o r ninety m in u te s of


m usic, m e etin g co m p lica te d technical specifications as well
as creating a n intangible b u t im p o rta n t m oo d, in six weeks.
In fact, the m o re organized the a rt world, the m o re likely it is
to g e n e ra te s ta n d a rd s difficult for a n y o n e b u t a w ell-trained
p ro fessio n al to m eet. So being a n in teg rated professional,
w ell-adjusted to a n a rt world, does n o t g u a ra n te e a n easy o r
h a rm o n io u s life.
In te g ra te d professionals o p e ra te w ithin a s h a re d trad itio n
o f p ro b le m s a n d solutions (K ubler, 1962). They define the
p ro b le m s of their a rt similarly a n d agree on the criteria fo r an
a c c ep ta b le solution. They kn o w the history of previous a t
te m p ts to solve those p ro b lem s, o r som e of it, a n d the new
p ro b le m s those a tte m p ts g e n era ted . They know the history
of w ork like theirs, so th a t they, their su p p o rt personnel, and
their a u d ie n c e s can u n d e r s ta n d \yhat they have a tte m p te d
a n d h o w a n d to w h a t degree it works. All this m ak es the joint
action n e ce ssary to c re a te a rt w orks easier.
Relying on this s h a re d history of p ro b le m s a n d solutions,
in teg ra ted professionals c a n p ro d u c e w ork th a t is re co g
nizable a n d u n d e rs ta n d a b le to o th e rs w ith o u t being so re c
ognizable a n d u n d e rs ta n d a b le as to be uninteresting. They
can g e n era te u n c e rta in ty in an in fo rm e d a u d ie n c e as to e x
actly how they will p ro c ee d b e c a u se the w ork need n o t be
the m ere repetition of ritual moves. T hey kn o w m a n y w ays
to m a n ip u la te s ta n d a r d m a terials to create e m o tio n al a n d
artistic effects.
M ost people w h o w ork in a n organized a rt w orld are, by
definition, in te g ra ted professionals, for no art w orld could
c o n tin u e to exist w ith o u t a ready supply of people c a p a b le of
tu rn in g out its ch ara cte ristic p ro d u cts. The n e tw o rk of dis
tributive o rg an izatio n s a rt w orlds d ev elo p galleries, concert
halls, theaters, a n d publishing c o m p a n ie s requires the c o n
tin u o u s creatio n of a b o d y of w ork to be distributed. These
in stitu tio n s m a y cease operating, th u s re q u irin g less work.
But while they exist, they look for w ork to display, a n d som e
of th e m a n y people w h o aspire to be in teg rated professionals
will pro v id e it. F u rth e rm o re , the aesthetic c u rre n t in a w orld
will certify as sufficiently good to be displayed roughly the
a m o u n t n e ed e d to fill the display o p portunities.
231 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R I C K S , F O L K A R T I S T S

This suggests th a t art w orlds tre at th e in te g ra te d p ro fes


sionals w h o p a rtic ip ate in them , a n d their works, as in
te rch a n g ea b le , as th o u g h their distinctive differences and
u n iq u e abilities n evertheless allowed th e m to be su b stitu te d
for one a n o th e r w ith o u t h a rm . If I c a n n o t have a Picasso e x
hibition for m y m u se u m , p e r h a p s I can have Matisse, a n d
th a t will be ju s t as g o o d different, o f course, b u t not worse.
If H o ro w itz c a n n o t a p p e a r with o u r o rchestra, R u b en stein
will be perfectly acceptable. The s a m e is true at every level
o f re n o w n ; a n y o n e w h o w an ts to exhibit T w enty New Airier-
ican P h o to g ra p h e rs " o r publish Ten New British Poets"
will alw ays be able to lill those slots.
To talk a b o u t artists a n d th e ir w o rk as in terch an g eab le,
how ever, does violence to the a rt w orld belief th a t the dif
ferences b e tw e e n artists a n d their work, especially differ
ences of quality, can n e v er be ignored. In this view, a k n o w l
edgeable p erso n can alw ays ra n k artists a n d w orks in a
given field, distinguishing those w o rth b o th e rin g a b o u t from
th e others. In practice, how ever, a rt w orld p a rtic ip a n ts think
a large n u m b e r of people, not ju st the very best, w o rth
b o th e rin g about, for the practical re a so n s th a t you have to
e n c o u ra g e m a n y in o r d e r to find the few, a n d th a t there is no
telling w h en s o m e o n e not w o rth b othering a b o u t will s u d
denly b e c o m e w o rth it a fter all. If we b o th e r e d only a b o u t the
very best, w e w ould s h u t o u r galleries eleven m o n th s o u t of
the year, o p e n C arnegie Hall every now a n d then, a n d p u b
lish m a n y few er books. But if we did th a t we w ould never
have the facilities re ad y for those w o rth b o th e rin g a b o u t
w h e n they did a p p e a r, for you c a n n o t m a in ta in those o rg a n i
zations with such sp o ra d ic use.
Art w orlds deal with the c o n tra d ic tio n b e tw e e n thinking
only a few w o rth caring a b o u t a n d actually paying attention
to m a n y m o re by distinguishing b e tw ee n great artists, h o w
ever th a t is defined a n d w h a te v e r w o rd s are used to express
it, a n d those w h o are c o m p e te n t. Using c o n te m p o ra ry s ta n
dards, people c a n generally m a k e these distinctions easily.
S ta n d a rd s change, a n d the ju d g m e n ts m a d e in an art w orld
seldom coincide with th o se m a d e later by others, with w h a t
will co m e to be seen as the ju d g m e n t of historyth a t is, with
the ju d g m e n t of later m e m b e rs o f the s a m e a rt world.
232 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

A less neutral, a n d less charitable, w ay of speaking a b o u t


the bulk of p ractitio n ers in any art w orld w ould be to say th a t
m ost of th e m seem to their peers to be hacks, c o m p e te n t b u t
u n in sp ire d w orkers w h o tu rn o u t the m ass of w o rk essential
to keep th e w o rld s organizations going. Only a n organized
art w orld w hich p ro d u c e s in teg rated professionals c a n have
hacks. W ith o u t the b a c k g ro u n d of organizational need for
w ork to display a n d a trad itio n w ithin w hich ord in ary w ork
can be intelligible a n d interesting, h ack s c a n n o t exist. Only
against th a t b a c k g ro u n d does a n y o n e n e ed to take so m u c h
w ork seriously, a n d provide the m e a n s for its m a k e rs to
c o n tin u e to exist as artists.
The in teg rated professionals w h o ru n a n art w orld p ro
duce large a m o u n ts of work. W hite a n d White (1965) esti
m a te d th a t in the 1860s the a rt m a c h in e " o f F ren ch painting
h a d m obilized five th o u s a n d painters, w h o tu rn e d out an
e stim a te d tw o h u n d r e d th o u s a n d re p u ta b le p aintings every
ten years. S im ilar figures, if they w ere available, w ould p r o b
ably c h ara cte riz e the w orld o f the A m erican sh o rt story in
the years w h e n m a n y c o m m e rc ia l m agazine outlets existed
for it a n d (with an a d ju s tm e n t for the a m o u n t of in v e stm e n t
re q u ire d ) the B ro a d w a y th e a te r in its heyday. T he w o rk of
those w h o m c o n te m p o r a ry ju d g m e n t singles out as e x ce p
tionally g o o d c o n te m p o ra ry stars, as distinguished from
th e jo u rn e y m e n a n d h ack s w h o m ak e up the bulk of the
w o rk e rs has a g re a te r c h a n c e of lasting a n d being avail
able for later ju d g m e n t, since it is san c tio n e d by c o n se n su s
as the best the w orld has p ro d u c ed . They get this g re a te r
c h a n c e b e c a u se the libraries, m u s e u m collections, a n d sim
ilar repositories w hich p re se rv e art w orks n aturally select
w h a t c o n te m p o ra ry opinion th inks best. T he m e c h a n is m s
of p re se rv a tio n are sufficiently unselective th a t m u c h m o re
survives.
M ost of this book, of necessity, has been a b o u t in teg rated
professionals; w h at they do is the bulk of w h a t goes on in the
n a m e of art in any society. The r e m a in d e r of this c h a p te r
co n sid ers so m e o th e r w ays a rt gets m ade, b o th b e c a u se th a t
illum inates the situation of in teg rated p ro fessionals a n d b e
c au se som e w ork m a d e in th ese o th e r ways, u n d e rg o in g a
233 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R I C K S , FOLK ARTI STS

re p u ta tio n a l change, eventually joins the tradition of som e


a rt world.

M AVERICKS
E very o rg anized a rt w orld p ro d u c e s m avericks, artists
w h o have been p a rt of the c o n v en tio n al art w orld of their
time, place, a n d m e d iu m but fo u n d it u n a c c e p ta b ly c o n
straining. They p ro p o se in novations the a rt w orld refuses to
accep t as w ithin the limits of w h a t it ordinarily produces.
O th e r p a rtic ip a n ts in the w o rld audiences, s u p p o rt p e r s o n
nel, so u rces of su p p o rt, o r d is trib u to rsrefuse to c o o p era te
in the p ro d u c tio n of th o se innovations. In ste a d of giving up
a n d re tu rn in g to m o re a c c e p ta b le m a terials a n d styles,
m av ericks c o n tin u e to p u rs u e the innovation w ithout the
s u p p o rt of o th e r a r t world personnel. W hereas integrated
professionals a cc e p t a lm o st com pletely the co n v en tio n s of
their world, m avericks retain s o m e loose co n n ec tio n with it
b u t no longer p a rtic ip ate in its activities directly.
M avericks begin their care ers as conventional novices.
They learn w h at o th e r y o u n g a sp ira n ts in their art w orld
learn. Thus, Charles Ives (see figure 22), an a rc h e ty p a l m a v
erick, stu d ied co m p o sitio n at Yale with H o ra tio Parker, a
c o n v en tio n al c o m p o s e r a n d te a c h e r in the th e n fash io n ab le
G e r m a n tradition. He le a rn e d c o n v en tio n al h a rm o n y a n d
c o u n te rp o in t, a n d stu d ie d a p p ro v e d m usical forms, doing
classroom exercises w hich confirm ed his abilitv to h an d le
these s ta n d a r d tasks. He h ad received sim ilar training from
his father, a professional m u sic ia n in D anbury, Connecticut.
But his father, m o re a d v e n tu ro u s if less successful th a n
Parker, h ad also tau g h t his son to e x p e rim e n t (with polyto
nality, for instance) in w ay s then u n c o m m o n . So Ives c o m
posed m u sic his te a c h e r fo u n d u n a cc ep ta b le , fo reshadow ing
w h a t w ould h a p p e n w h e n he tried his luck in the big w orld of
professional m u sic in New York (Rossiter, 1975, pp. 54-64).
Not surprisingly, m av erick s get a hostile reception w h en
they present their in n o v a tio n s to o th e r a rt w orld m e m b e rs.
B ec au se it violates so m e of the art w orld's c o n v en tio n s in a
b la ta n t way, the w ork suggests to o th e rs th a t they will have
234 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

FIGURE 22. Charles Ives, an archetypal musical maverick. When


professional players told him his music was unplayable, he stopped
trying to write music they could play. (Photograph by Frank Gerra-
tana, courtesy o f the Yale University Music Library.)

tro u b le c o o p e ra tin g with its m a k e r; its b la ta n t d isreg ard of


estab lish ed p ra ctice suggests th a t the p e rso n w h o m a d e it
e ith e r d o e s n t kn o w w h a t is right o r d o e s n t care to do w h a t is
right (the s a m e re a so n in g leads people to o v e rrea c t to alleg
edly d e v ia n t activities in o th e r a re a s of life [cf. Becker,
1963]). The c o n v en tio n al o rc h estra l m usician s of New York
th o u g h t Iv es m u sic willfully ig n o ra n t o r crude, filled with
dissonance, form less, a n d relying tastelessly on v e rn a c u la r
m usic o f the time, both p o p u la r a n d religious, for raw m a
terials. His p riv ate p a p e rs tell stories o f his playing his w ork
235 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK AR T I S T S

for m usical friends a n d a c q u a in ta n c e s, only to have them


leave the ro o m in h o r r o r o r disgust. A b io g ra p h e r s u m m a
rizes Iv e s ex perience with a w ell-known violinist of the p e
riod; the q u o ta tio n s are from Ives' a c c o u n t in his M em os
(Ives, 1972):

In 1914, feeling that it would be a good plan to get one of


the supposedly great players" to try over his music, the Ives
invited to West Redding one Franz Milcke, whom Mrs. Ives
had known in Hartford. This typical hard-boiled, narrow
minded, conceited, prima donna solo violinist with a reputa
tion gained because he came to this country with Anton Deidl
as his concertmaster" dismissed Ives compositions summar
ily.
He came out of the little back music room with his hands

over his ears," complaining that when you get awfully indi
gestible food in your stomach that distresses you, you can get
rid of it," but that he could not get those horrible sounds out
of my ears." (Rossiter, 1975, pp. 150-51)

F or m o re th a n tw enty years, Iv es m usic w as not p e rfo rm e d


in p u b lic o r ta k e n seriously by professional m usician s or
serious audiences.
M avericks typically have such difficulties realizing their
w o rk s or, in m e d ia w h ere realization is easy b u t distribution
the p ro b le m (writing, for instance), getting th e m to a u d i
ences a n d critics. They succeed, w h e n they do, by c irc u m
venting the need for a rt w orld institutions. They may, for
instance, c reate th e ir ow n o rg an izations to replace those
w hich will not w ork with them . W riters publish a n d d istrib
ute their w ork them selves. Playw rights a n d directo rs set up
new theatrical c o m p an ie s, re cru itin g people (m ostly those
w ith o u t p revious th e a tric a l experience, for p ro fessionals will
a lrea d y have rejected th e m ) from outside the w orld of p r o
fessional th e a te r to p e rfo rm . Visual artists c re a te their ow n
display spaces or, m o re com prehensively, devise w orks
w h ic h c a n n o t be exhib ited in m u s e u m s a n d galleriese a r t h
w orks o r c o n c e p tu a l a r tth u s e sc ap in g w h a t they feel to be
the stylistic ty ra n n y of m u s e u m directors, c u rato rs, a n d
financial su p p o rte rs. D ra m a tic artists d isp en se with theaters,
using spaces available to the public to do street theater. In
236 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

general, m avericks recruit followers, disciples, a n d helpers,


often, a n d for good reason, from the ra n k s o f the u n tra in e d
a n d unprofessional, a n d c reate their o w n n e tw o rk s of c o
o p e ratin g personnel, especially new audiences.
The m o st e x tre m e a d a p ta tio n to being rejected by the o r
ganized a rt w orld is to tru n c a te the doing of the w ork, p e r
h a p s only thin king of it a n d not doing it at all. Ives seem s
to have decided th a t his m usic w as n ever going to be played
a n d to have a d ju s te d totally to th a t possibility. In fact, he
c a m e to re g a rd the playing of m usic as an in terferen ce in
com position:

My God, what has sound got to do with music! . . . Why cant


music go out in the same way it comes in to a man, without
having to crawl over a fence of sounds, thoraxes, catguts,
wire, wood, and brass? . . . That music must be heard, is not
essentialwhat it sounds like may not be what it is. (Quoted in
Rossiter, 1975, p. 58)

Any c o m p o se r, h aving suffered fro m p e rfo rm e rs w h o did not


play w h at w as w ritten as h a d been in tended, m ight e ch o
th o se thoughts. B ut p ractical people w h o m a k e their living in
the w orld of m usic kn o w it is ju st a feeling, not so m eth in g
you c a n act on. Ives a c te d on it, th u s displaying the m a v e r
ick's c h a ra cteristic in d e p e n d e n c e of the a r t world.
M avericks do not, nevertheless, totally lose to u c h with the
w orld of their m e d iu m . They usually keep up w ith w h a t is
being d o n e there, even if they do n o t p a rtic ip ate firsthand, by
a tten d in g to public m edia; they listen to recordings, see
films, re a d tra d e a n d p ro fessio n al publications. B ut th e y lose
to u c h w ith w h a t those m e d ia do not report, p a rtic u larly the
day-to-day revisions of the w orking conventions th a t govern
ro u tin e w ork. In m usic, they lose to u c h with the ongoing
revisions of p e rfo rm a n c e practice, the c o n v en tio n s by w hich
p e rfo rm e rs tra n sla te w ritte n n o tatio n into played notes. So,
while they re m a in a ttu n e d to general c u rre n ts of c h an g e in
the a rt w orld, they can no longer p a rtic ip a te fully in it.
M avericks th e re b y lose o r forego all the a d v a n ta g e s the
in teg rated professional m o re o r less auto m atically enjoys.
But they also lose the c o n stra in ts associated w ith those a d
237 P ROF ES S I ONAL S , MAVERI CKS, FOLK ARTI STS

vantages. P articipation in an art w orld m a k e s the p ro d u c tio n


of art w orks possible a n d relatively easy but substantially
c o n stra in s w h a t can be created. Ives' c o m p lete sep a ratio n
from the w orld of practical m usic m aking is alm ost a lab
o rato ry e x p e rim e n t for the discovery of m av erick fre e
dom s. Since he eventually gave up hoping to h e a r his m usic
played, we can see from his later practice w h a t m usical c o m
position m ight be like divorced from a n a rt w orld's p r a c
tical considerations.
Ives, for exam ple, n ever h ad to finish his com positions,
since they w ere n e v e r going to be played. A ccording to Jo h n
K irkpatrick, the pianist w h o gave the first public p e rfo r
m a n c e o f the C oncord S o n a ta :

Some pieces, like Concord, Ives never did the same way
twice, and he almost always resented the thought or the fan
cied obligation that he should put it down precisely, because
he loved to improvise it. (Perlis, 1974, p. 220)
W e m ight say th a t every art w ork co n tain s an idea which
n eed s to be w o rk e d out; the w o rking out sh ap e s it into a final
form d ic tate d by the co n v en tio n s of the c o n te m p o ra ry world
for w hich it is m ad e. In th a t final form , it is p re s e n ta b le c a
pable of being p re se n te d to p eo p le w h o will o th erw ise reg ard
it as not d o n e a n d not yet w o rth y of attention. Presentable
fo rm s signal, in a c o n v en tio n a l way, th a t you w a n t y o u r work
tak en seriously, c o u n te d up in the balan ce of y o u r re p u ta tio n
(thus differing fro m a w ork in progress"). In music, the
p re se n ta b le form is a finished score (or, at least, t h a t s w hat it
w a s w h en Ives wrote). The people w ho led the later m o v e
m e n t for the p e rfo rm a n c e of Ives' m u sic h a d e n o rm o u s
troubles b e ca u se Ives did not p ro d u c e finished scores. Their
love of his m usic barelv*/ concealed their irritation with his
u n p ro fe ssio n a l ways. B e rn a rd H e rrm a n n , the c o m p o s e r and
c o n d u c to r w h o c o n d u c te d som e of the first p e rfo rm a n c e s of
Ives' o rc h estra l w orks, said:
I think he was more interested in just writing his own pieces
and that was it. That is why they all exist in such terrible
states. He wasnt interested enough to take time to do the
proofreading. . . . Because of the parts, it was terrible in the
238 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R I C K S , F O L K A R T I S T S

early days to try to achieve an Ives performance The parts


were not copied and collated and corrected. So it was always
very difficult. . . . Ives, after all, was a very impractical man
when it came to performances of music. By not being a pro
fessional musician in the sense that he did not have to make a
living out of music, he entered into an abstraction of music.
Because it was an abstraction, it didnt deal with any of the
realistic problems. (Perlis, 1974, pp. 159-60)

G eorge R oberts, a copyist w h o h elp ed him p re p a re so m e of


his scores for publication, d e sc rib e d Iv es indifference to the
ro u tin e s of publication:

I did some of the Concord Sonata. Every time I went there it


was new. The printers were on his neck all the time. He used to
laugh about it. He didnt care; he was in no hurry, and he
always had something new to put in. (Perlis, 1974, p. 186)

C onven tional c o m p o se rs use n o ta tio n th a t m a k e s sense


to the o rd in a ry p e rfo rm e r. After all, n o tatio n al devices, a
s h o rth a n d c o m p o se rs c a n use to m a k e their w ishes kno w n
to p e rfo rm e rs, only w ork if th e players can im m ed iately
(or with a little ex p lan atio n ) u n d e r s ta n d th e m . Iv es n o t a
tional devices c o n fu se d c o n v en tio n al o rch estral players.
F or instance, h e often used w h a t se e m e d to be inexplic
able spellings of notes. (This is a technical point. Any n o te
can be n o ta te d in m o re th a n one way; not only c an A-sharp
be w ritte n as B-flat, A c a n also on occasion be w ritte n as
B-double-fiat, a n d so on. S ta n d a r d rules govern w h en one
o r a n o th e r spelling is used.) A sy m p a th e tic in te rp re te r w ho
w as o n e of the early c o n d u c to rs of Iv es m usic, N icholas
Slonim sky, explained th a t su ch devices h a d a m ean in g , if
you h a d Ives to explain it to you;

For instance, I remember a very strange situation in the viola


part [of Three Places in New England]: an A sharp that was
immediately changed to B flat, and I could not find any jus
tification for the use of that A sharp, and I wanted to change it
to a B flat so as not to confuse the player in his part. But Ives
said no. He said that A sharp was important because it was
proceeding from A as a sort of an unfinished chromatic, and
that it would have gone to B but it just didnt, and so therefore
B flat would be wrong. (Perlis, 1974, p. 150)
239 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R IC K S , FOLK A R T IS T S

C o n d u c to r G u n th e r Schuller explains the practical im p a c t of


so m e of Ives' n o ta tio n a l devices:

However, some of those rhythms are literally unreadable, so


you have to take the concept and translate it into the practical
or pragmatic, and that may take a lot of rewriting. Then, you
have to practice it that way to get it accurate, but of course
thats not enough. You must then retranslate it back into the
concept. That takes time, and sometimes you cannot do it in
four rehearsals. Sometimes you can't do it in five concerts.
With certain musicians, sometimes you cant do it at all. It
becomes an enormous problem. (Hitchcock and Perlis, 1977,
p . 121)

Not being p a rt of a n o rg anized a rt w orld in w hich he was


m a k in g a re p u ta tio n th a t h a d value, Ives likewise h a d little
in te re st in taking care of his m a terials in the s ta n d a r d way.
H e w rote over a lrea d y w ritte n scores until they w ere alm ost
unintelligible. The original score for C h ro m a tim elo d tu n e, for
instance, co n tain s a lte rn a te p a rts for the players, w ritten
over e a c h o th e r in pencil a n d pen; ju st copying the p arts
re q u ire s essentially co m p o sitio n al decisions. H e did not
preserve his scores; m a n y w ere lost a n d tu rn e d u p later in
u n e x p e c te d places. No w onder, from this d escrip tio n by J e r
o m e M oross, w h o co llab o rated with H e r r m a n n in p re p a rin g
the F o u rth S y m p h o n y for p e rfo rm a n c e :

He gave us this incredible photostat of a manuscript, and we


were just appalled at the start. It took us weeks of calling and
going back and checking on notes with him We couldn't
decipher the terrible manuscript, and Ives had to make the
final decisions of what he had meant. Then there was one
movement [the fourth] that he couldnt find at the time. The
manuscripts were just in a mess in the closet. (Perlis, 1974,
p. 165)

M ore c o n v en tio n a l c o m p o se rs take b e tte r care of their w ork;


they m a y n e ed it a n o th e r tim e. Stravinsky, for instance, often
re sc o re d w o rk s w h o se copyright w as ru n n in g out, th u s c o n
tinuing to collect royalties on the new version; th a t show s
a professional o rie n ta tio n Ives lacked. H e rew ro te things
b eca u se he h ad no professionally based need to finish them .
240 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTI STS

Ives rejoiced in not h aving to d o things w ith the finality,


neatn ess, a n d co n v entional devices o th e r c o m p o se rs a c
cepted as the price o f having their w ork d o n e accepted, as
th e c o m m e n ts of H e r r m a n n a n d o th e rs suggest, not as u n
re a so n a b le constraints, b u t as the sensible m e a s u re s m u s i
cians w ould w ant, in their ow n interest, to take. B ecause he
d id n 't need to b o th e r with all these conventional re q u ire
m ents, Ives h a d m ore tim e for w h a t he re g a rd e d as the core
activity, conceiving the m usic, a n d w as able to escap e the
practical realities th a t p re v e n te d o th e r c o m p o se rs from
writing, or ev en thinking, the things he th o u g h t of. No se n s
ible c o m p o s e r w ould, w ith o u t receiving a com m ission, write
a s y m p h o n y (his F ourth) w hich uses th re e distinct o rc h estra s
a n d re q u ire s tw o s u b c o n d u c to rs to assist the c o n d u c to r in
leading them . Even c o m p o s e rs w h o could c o n te m p la te th a t
w ould not s p e n d their tim e c o m p o sin g Ives Universe S y m
phony, w hich requires, for o n e p a rt alone, a n y w h e re from
five to fo u rteen o rch estral g ro u p s a n d choruses, sc a tte re d
a ro u n d m o u n ta in s a n d valleys (Rossiter, 1975, p. 109). (Post-
W oodstock, th a t does not seem so fanciful as it o n c e did.)
F reed from the c o n stra in ts of w h a t w as practical in his time,
Ives could w rite an y th in g he could im agine a n d im agine
things professionals could not.
C o m p o se r Betsy Jolas suggested the sa m e th e o ry of Ives:
Why not, in fact, admit it: Ives is unequivocally an amateur.
Not, to be sure, in the sense of lacking craftat Yale he got
from the tedious Horatio Parker the most traditional train
ing, with all the requisite harmony, counterpoint, fuguebut
rather, in the noblest sense, because he loved m usic.. . . even
to the point of refusing . . . to make a profession of it.
. . . he was a Sunday musician.. . . a free musician, free to
pursue his sonorous vision wherever he wished, apart from
any practical or economic considerations.
. . . Working essentially in isolation, without contactor
almost sowith the professional musical world of his time,
indifferent to current fashions and not seeking performances,
Ives was perhaps able, with fewer risks than a career com
poser, to indulge in dangerous" experiments, daring to think
sometimes even beyond the limits he could actually achieve.
(Hitchcock and Perlis, 1977, p. 251)
241 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R I C K S , FOLK A R T I S T S

B ecause m av erick s can ignore the c o n strain ts w hich im


pede the w o rk of integrated professionals a n d becau se they
do not p a rtic ip a te in the day-to-day interaction of the art
world, they have different m otives from integrated p ro fe s
sionals. Professionals' reaso n s for doing things are built into
the org an izatio n of the art w orld; a p erso n w h o d o es not
p a rtic ip a te in th a t w orld can n o t give those reaso n s for doing
anything. To be specific, if Ives no longer c ared w h e th e r his
w ork w as p e rfo rm e d (w h e th e r out of anger, indifference, or
resignation), then he could not w an t to do an y th in g b e c a u se
it w ould help him get his w o rk s p e rfo rm e d . If people do
things for re a s o n s w hich arc not s ta n d a r d in a p a rtic u la r
w orld, th e y look (to active m e m b e r s of that world) u n so cial
ized a n d m o re th a n a little crazyo n e of the w avs we rec-
ognize a reliable, well-socialized person is th a t we im m e
diately u n d e rs ta n d the reaso n s for his b eh av io r (Mills, 1940).
Ives typically gave idiosyncratic reaso n s for his m usical
w ork, s o m e tim e s political, s o m e tim e s nostalgic. H e often
said th a t he in te n d e d so m e of his m o st u n u s u a l a n d disso
n a n t effects to re c re a te th e so u n d of, for instance, a religious
revival m eeting d u rin g w h ich five h u n d re d people w ould sing
the s a m e h v m n , m a n y of th e m o u t of tune, a few p e rh a p s
singing the w ro n g so n g altogether. T h a t is very different from
the technical re a s o n s a S travinsky o r S choenberg, sim ilar
innovators, w ould give (cf. Rossiter, 1975, p. 94 passim ).
B ecause m av erick s give u n d e c ip h e ra b le reaso n s for the
w ork they p ro d u ce, w h en o rg anized art worlds take the work
up, as they so m e tim es do (a process c o n sid ered below), p r o
fessionals disagree a b o u t w h a t has been done. Professionals
now disagree a b o u t w h e th e r Ives really knew w h a t he was
doing.
C o n d u c to r L e h m a n Engel suggests (H itchcock a n d Perlis,
1977, p. 115)th a t Ives:

rarely heard anything he w ro te.. . . he had had no real experi


ence with music. . . . everything he wrote seemed to indicate
his feeling about something that had nothing really to do with
music.

C horal c o n d u c to r Gregg Sm ith, on the o th e r h a n d , thinks


242 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

Ives' n o ta tio n w as precise, th a t w h a t he w ro te w as w h a t he


w a n te d :
almost every single notation that was a mystery or seemed
strange finally came out to be a darned good solution.. . . In
Psalm 90, theres a bell figure that is a group of nine eighths in
4/4. Well, the real point of that to me is that although the
figure starts one eighth note later in each measure, theres a
freedom of playing wilh that figure.. . . He wasn't an amateur;
he was a fantastic genius who knew what he was notating, and
its for us to find out what it is about. (Hitchcock and Perlis,
1977, p . 118)

S o m e professionals th in k Ives m u s t have been im pelled by


th e s a m e m otives as them selves, even w h en it see m s o th e r
wise. Elliott Carter, the w ell-know n A m erican com p oser,
w o n d e re d w h e th e r Ives really invented all the in n o v atio n s he
has been credited with, co n sidering his h a b it of con stan tly
revising his scores; for a serious art world professional, the
q u e stio n of w h o did s o m e th in g first m ight have a n im p o rta n t
effect on o n e 's re p u tatio n . Did Ives m a n ip u la te his r e p u t a
tion by rewriting?
He was working on, I think, Three Places in New England,
getting the score ready for performance. A new score was
being derived from the older one to which he was adding and
changing, turning octaves into sevenths and ninths, and add
ing dissonant notes. Since then, I have often wondered at
exactly what date a lot of the music written early in his life
received its last shot of dissonance and polyrhythm. In this
case he showed me quite simply how he was improving the
score. 1 got the impression that he might have frequently
jacked up the level of dissonance of many works as his tastes
changed. While the question no longer seems important, one
could wonder whether he was as early a precursor of mod
ern music as is sometimes made out. (Perlis, 1974, p. 138)
B ecause m av erick s have h a d training in the traditions a n d
p ra c tic e s o f the art w orld to w hich their w ork is related, a n d
b e ca u se th e y m a in ta in an a tte n u a te d co n n ec tio n to it, it
can assim ilate their work, if a sufficient c o n se n su s develops
a m o n g practitioners. M avericks violate the c o n v en tio n s of
art w orld practice, b u t they d o so selectively a n d in fact ab id e
243 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

by m o st o f th e m . If J a m e s Joyce ignored the literary and


e v en linguistic form s o f his day, he still w rote a finished book.
H e did not, for instance, w rite a w ork like Joe G ould s H istory
o f the W orld, w h ich w ould n ever be finished a n d m o st of
w hich w a s p ro b a b ly n e v er w ritten d o w n (Mitchell, 1965); n o r
did h e devise a literary form that w ould be c h a n te d instead of
being p rin te d o r one in which his ow n perso n al calligraphy
w o u ld be an im p o rta n t elem en t of his com position. He w rote
a p erfectly recognizable E u ro p e a n book. Similarly, c rea to rs
of e a rth w o rk s c reate scu lpture, a fter all; the m aterials, scale,
a n d setting of th e ir w o rk s a re un co n v en tio n al, but they sh are
with m o re c an o n ic al scu lp to rs a co n ce rn with form a n d vol
um e. M avericks, in o th e r w ords, have tak en a slightly dif
ferent p a th th ro u g h the a rt w o rld s traditio nal series of
p ro b le m s a n d solutions. But in te g ra ted p ro fessionals can
re tra c e the p a th to the point w h ere the m av erick diverged
from w h a t b e c a m e conventional, a n d th u s in c o rp o ra te the
m a v erick 's in n o v a tio n s into the canon.
W ork varies in h o w difficult it is to assim ilate. Iv es work,
c o m p a re d with m u c h that followed it, now seem s relatively
easy. H o w ev e r u n u s u a l his notation, ho w ev er u n fa m ilia r the
so u n d s, h o w e v e r im p ra c tica l the o rch estral sizes he required,
he w rote for c o n v e n tio n a l in s tru m e n ts, used n o rm a l in s tru
m e n tal c o m b in a tio n s (the s y m p h o n y o rc h estra , q u a rte t, a n d
chorus), a n d fam iliar m u sical form s (the sy m p h o n y , so n ata,
a n d a rt song). O th e r c o n te m p o r a ry c o m p o se rs have gone
m u c h fu rth er. J o h n Cage, for instance, has req u ired p e r
fo rm ers to alter their in s tru m e n ts, p r e p a rin g pianos by
inserting tack s o r o th e r m a terials b e tw ee n the h a m m e r s and
strings, o r using the m o u th p ie c e o f a w ind in s tru m e n t w ith
o u t the body. P e rfo rm e rs of s o m e of his w orks w rite their
ow n parts, using ra n d o m iz in g devices to m a n ip u la te c h a rts
he has p re p a re d , fro m w hich the p a rt to be p e rfo rm e d can
be c o n stru c te d . No tw o scores o r p e rfo rm a n c e s of the sa m e
co m p o sitio n , therefore, are alike; p e rfo rm e rs c a n n o t learn a
Cage piece as they can o n e by S c h o e n b e rg o r Ives.
H a rry P a r tc h s c o m p o sitio n s likewise m a k e few c o n c e s
sions to c o n v en tio n a l practice. He b ro k e with the co n v ention
of the c h ro m a tic scale on w hich W estern m u sic is built, a n d
244 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

devised a scale co n tain in g forty-tw o tones b etw een the o c


taves (the conventional scale co n tain s twelve tones in the
s a m e interval). As we saw in the first ch ap te r, th a t req u ired
n u m e ro u s o th e r changes: in the c o n stru ctio n of in stru m e n ts,
in the train ing of players, a n d in notation.
N evertheless, b o th P artch a n d Cage, for all th e ir in n o v a
tions, retain m a n y co n v en tio n s of the m usic world. Their
w orks are of a d u ra tio n w hich can be in c o rp o ra te d into c o n
certs of o rd in a ry length, a n d b o th relied on the co n cert a n d
re co rd in g as the m e th o d s of p re se n tin g their w ork to a u
diences. People still buy a ticket, file into a hall at a n a p
p o in ted time, a n d sit quietly while p e rfo rm e rs play for them .
M avericks, th en, o rient them selves to the w orld o f c a n o n
ical a n d co n v entional art. They c h a n g e so m e of its c o n v e n
tions a n d m o re o r less unw ittingly a cc e p t the rest. The work
of these in n o v ato rs is often in c o rp o ra te d into the historical
c o rp u s of the estab lish ed a rt world, w hose m e m b e rs find the
in n ovations useful in p ro d u c in g th e variation re q u ire d to
rescu e a rt fro m ritual. In n o v a tio n s b e c o m e m o re a c c e p ta b le
th ro u g h fam iliarity a n d association. Their essential fit with
all the o th e r co n v en tio n s m ak es it relatively easy to a s
sim ilate them . M avericks deal with the people w h o m a n u
fa c tu re the m a terials used by m o re co n v entional artists, but
d e m a n d new things o f them , as they do o f the s u p p o rt p e r
sonnel o th e rs rely on. They w a n t to be s u p p o rte d a n d
a p p re c ia te d by the sa m e a u d ie n c e s m o re conventional a r t
ists play to, alth o u g h the new a n d u n fa m ilia r w o rk s re q u ire
a u d ien ces to w o rk h ard er.
B ecause m averick w ork sh a re s so m u c h w ith conventional
work, we can see th a t m av erick n ess is n o t in h e ren t in the
w ork, b u t r a th e r in the relation b e tw ee n it a n d a conventional
art world. M averick w ork cho o ses to be so difficult to a s s im
ilate th a t the a rt w orld refuses the challenge. If the c o n
te m p o ra ry a rt w orld does a d a p t, then artist a n d w ork lose
their m av erick quality, since the co n v en tio n s of the w orld
n o w e n c o m p a s s w h a t w as once foreign. B ecause the m a v
erick b e co m es th e conventional, a n d n o t ju st b e c a u se life
offers us so m a n y in te rm e d ia te cases, we c a n n o t d r a w a firm
line b etw ee n the inn o v atin g in te g rated professional a n d the
m averick.
245 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTI STS

FIGURE 23. Conlon Nancarrow and the apparatus for creating


player piano compositions. Nancarrow creates music by punching
holes directly into a player piano roll, thus achieving effects impossi
ble for human performers. (Photograph courtesy o f 1750 Arch Street
Records.)

Ju st as not all the w ork of integrated professionals is


th o u g h t to be o f high quality, so very few m av erick s gain the
respect of the art w orld they are q u a rre lin g with. In fact,
m o st art w orld p a rtic ip a n ts p ro b a b ly n ever h e a r of the vast
m a jo rity of m avericks, a n d very few of those w h o are h e ard
of are ev er th o u g h t well of. In stead , they re m a in curiosities
w h o se w ork m ay be revived from tim e to tim e by interested
a n tiq u a r ia n s or, alternatively, m a y stim u la te the im agination
of innovative professionals. An interesting m usical ex am p le
is th e w ork of Conlon N a n c a rro w (1979), w h o creates music
for p la y er p ia n o by the u n c o n v en tio n a l m e th o d of p u n c h in g
holes directly into the p ia n o roll (see figure 23). He can thus
p ro d u c e such effects as the c h ro m a tic glissando, otherw ise
u n o b ta in a b le on the piano, a n d has used these possibilities to
246 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

c reate m usic w hich c o n n o isse u rs find interesting a n d m o v


ing. But N a n c a r r o w s inn o v atio n req u ires s u b sta n tia l re
a rr a n g e m e n t of th e relationships b etw een p e rfo rm e rs a n d
co m p o sers, req u ires a n entirely new o rd e r o f skill in the
c o m p o se r, a n d is ill-adapted to the co n v entional p ra ctice s by
w hich m u sician s a n d c o m p o se rs d istribute a n d su p p o rt their
work. So it has n e v er c a u g h t on, a n d conventional m usicians
a w a re of his w ork re g a rd it as a n interesting curiosity w ith no
p ractical relevance. (O ther m av erick s find it very im p o rtan t.)
I have relied on m usical e x am p le s to illustrate the case of
the m averick, prim arily b e ca u se the com plexity of the c o
operative m usical e n te rp rise m a k e s the d y n a m ic s of the p h e
n o m e n o n m o re obvious. But the sa m e kind of half-in, half-
o u t relation b etw een m averick artists a n d c o n v en tio n a l a rt
w orlds can be d iscovered in every art. K eep in m in d th a t
m o st m a v e ric k s w o rk is n o t a b s o rb e d into the c a n o n of an
art w orld; they re m a in u n k n o w n , a n d their w ork is not p r e
served a n d d is a p p e a rs along w ith their n am e.

FOLK ART

W h en we a tte n d s o m e o n e s b irth d a y party, we c u s to m a r


ily sing H a p p y B irth d a y to him. W e do not h ire professional
p e rfo rm e rs for su c h an event. It d o e s n t m a tte r if the singing
is o u t of tu n e o r te m p o , as long as the song gets sung. Any
c o m p e te n t p a rtic ip a n t in the cu ltu re can m a n a g e a n a c c e p
table version, since e v ery o n e k n o w s it a n d the s ta n d a r d of
acceptability is very low.
H a p p y B irth d a y is the kind of thing I m e a n w h e n I speak
of folk art. This m a y be a s o m e w h a t eccentric use of the term
(see Glassie's [1972] discussion), but I do not re fer specially
to w ork d o n e by c o u n try folk o r to rural re m n a n ts of c u sto m s
o n c e w id espread. R ath e r, I w a n t to talk a b o u t w ork d o n e
totally ou tsid e professional a rt worlds, w ork d o n e by o rd i
n a ry p eo p le in the c o u rse o f their o rd in a ry lives, w o rk sel
d o m th o u g h t of by those w h o m a k e o r use it as a rt at all,
even though, as often h a p p e n s , o thers fro m outside the
c o m m u n ity it is p r o d u c e d in find artistic value in it.
247 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R I C K S , F O L K A R T I S T S

Folk art, in this sense, is art d o n e by people w ho do w hat


they do b e ca u se it is one of the th ings m e m b e rs of their
c o m m u n ity , o r at least m ost m e m b e rs of a p a rtic u la r age a n d
sex, ordinarily do. People know th a t so m e do these things
b e tte r th a n others, but th a t is a m in o r consideration. The
m ain thing is th a t they be d o n e to s o m e m in im u m s ta n d a rd ,
be good e n o u g h for th e p u rp o s e at hand. H ousew ives cook,
and, th o u g h the people w h o eat their cooking w ould ra th e r
th a t they cooked b e tte r th a n worse, it is m ore im p o rta n t that
the m eals a p p e a r on the table regularly so that the o th e r
m e m b e r s of the family can be n o u rish e d sufficiently to go
a b o u t their o th e r bu sin essat least, th a t is tru e of the c o n
ventional family. Socially c o m p e te n t high school stu d e n ts
learn to do c u rre n t d an ces; so m e d a n c e w onderfully, som e
are terrible, b u t the m ain th in g is th a t they d a n c e well eno u g h
to join the o th e r kids in social activities th a t re q u ire d an cin g
as a m inim al social skill. (A nother kind of w ork d o n e outside
the confines of a rt w o rld s is craft work, d iscussed in the next
chapter.)
I will use quilting as m y m a jo r e x am p le for analytic p u r
poses. A m erican w o m en have, at various tim es a n d places,
m a d e quilted bedding. It serv e d to keep people w arm (al
th o u g h at so m e tim es a n d for so m e w o m e n it was m o re a
h o b b y designed to p ro d u c e item s for d o m e stic display) but,
in addition to th a t utility, it often displayed a so p h isti
cated design a n d color sense th a t re m in d s present-day o b
servers of a n u m b e r of fe atu res of c o n te m p o r a ry painting.
J o n a th a n H olstein suggests a series o f such com p ariso n s:
That manipulation of geometric form which has character
ized the work of many painters since the advent of Abstrac
tionism.
The optical effects of such quilts as Baby Blocks and the
work of Vasarely and others who have explored the possi
bilities of various modes of retinal stimulation through color
and form relationships, optical illusion, manipulations of lin
ear effects.
The use of repeated images drawn from the environment, as
in the Coffee Cups quilt, and the sequential use of images in
the works of such artists as Andv Warhol.
248 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

The repetitive use of highly reduced geometric forms, and


the work of the systemic painters.
The color variations on a single format, as in the Amish
quilts, and such paintings as Albers Homage to the Square
series.
The manipulation for visual effect of chromatic possibil
ities in a geometric framework as in such quilts as the Rain
bow quilts, and the work of such painters as Kenneth Noland.
(Holstein, 1973, p. 113)

Folk artists re se m b le canonical art w orld artists in one


respect: they belong to a n d p ro d u c e their w o rk as p a rt of a
well-organized c o m m u n ity . But quilters belong, not to a
professional o r w ork c o m m u n ity devoted to art, b u t to the
very opposite, a local c o m m u n ity m a d e up of h o u seh o ld
units. Quilters m a k e the art w orks they m a k e as family
m e m b e r s a n d neighbors. Their work th e re fo re reflects the
c o n stra in ts a n d o p p o rtu n itie s o f th a t c o m m u n ity , ra th e r
th a n the c o n stra in ts a n d o p p o rtu n itie s of the a rt w orlds we
have so fa r considered. In the sa m e way, high school d an cin g
arises in the c o n tex t o f the teenage social w o rld a n d reflects
its o p p o rtu n itie s a n d constraints.
W om en m a d e quilts b e ca u se their families n e e d e d th e m to
keep w a rm . A ccording to H olstein:
in earlier times almost all American homes used some quilts,
along with their home-woven blankets, if they were not, by
force of circumstance, using skins to cover their beds. It is
equally probable that for a very long period almost all Amer
ican women made quilts.
In many parts of the country there was a custom that a
young girl make a baker's dozen of quilt tops before she
became engaged, twelve utility quilts, undoubtedly pieced,
and one great quilt, pieced or applique, for her bridal bed.
After her engagement, she would take final steps to turn her
tops into finished quilts, and these went with her as an es
sential part of her trousseau. (Holstein, 1973, p. 81)

If they did not m a k e quilts for th em selves, w o m en m a d e


th em for o th e rs in need. (The following qu o tatio n , a n d all
o th e rs not otherw ise a ttrib u te d in this section, are from P a
249 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ART I S T S

tricia C ooper a n d N o rm a B u ferd 's [1977]* stu d y of quilting


in the S o u th w e s te rn U nited States; the book is c o m p o se d
a lm o st entirely of interview s with quilters, a n d these are
w h a t I quote.)
One time we quilted for a widow lady that was under hard
circumstances and no man. Or if someone new came to the
community and was setting up housekeeping, the women of
the community would do a Friendship quilt for them. (P. 105)

People m a d e quilts, then, b e c a u se they n e ed e d th e m . The


responsibility, by cu sto m , w as th e w o m a n 's.
B ecause quilting is c o m m u n a lly based, people learn to do
it in the c o u rse of their ro u tin e p a rtic ip atio n in the c o m
m unity. An eighty-three y e a r old w o m a n tells how she
le arn e d to quilt:
Mama was a beautiful quilter. She done the best work in
the county. Everybody knew i t . . . .
I always longed to work with her and I can tell you how
plain I recall the day she said, Sarah, you come with me now
if you want to."
1 was too short to sit in a chair and reach it, so I got my
needle and thread and stood beside her. I put that needle
through and pulled it back up again, then down, and my
stitches were about three inches long. Papa come in about
that time, he stepped back and said, Florence, that child is
ruinin your quilt."
He said, Well, youre jest goin to have to rip it all out
tonight."
Mama smiled at me and said, Them stitches is going to be
in that quilt when it wears out."
All the time they was talkin my stitches was gettin' shorter.
(P. 52)
T h o u g h m ost w o m e n a p p a re n tly le arn e d from their m o th e rs
in this n a tu ra l way, so m e m a n a g e d to avoid it a n d le arn e d
la ter in life from th e ir peers, less to le ra n t of im p e rfe c t work:
* E x c e r p ts f ro m The Q u ilters: W o m e n a n d D o m estic A rt, by Patricia
C o o p e r a n d N o r m a B ra d le y B u fe rd . C opyright 1977 by P atricia C o o p e r
B a k e r a n d N o r m a B u fe rd . R e p r in te d b y p e r m is s io n o f D o u b le d a y &
C o m p a n y , Inc.
250 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

I remember a girl. She was newly married. She had a baby


and she joined our club. She had never quilted before and I
don't reckon she'd ever seen anybody quilt. She'd belonged to
our club, I don't know how long, two or three weeks or maybe
a month, before she found out we was going down from the
top and plumb through the lining with each stitch. You know
what? She was workin' on all her stitches so hard and they was
just goin' through the top . . . jest quiltin along on the top.
Would you ever think anybody could be that dumb? She was a
sweet little old girl, but she just didn't know no better. Well, I
didnt know you was goin' all the way through," she said. Why
everybody in the room jest died. I laughed and everybody did.
It was funny, but I felt sorry for her, she hated it so bad. (Pp.
102-3)
Painful o r not, the learning is a n a tu ra l c o n se q u e n c e o f b e
longing to a family o r to c o m m u n ity organizations. T hough
quilting is traditionally a w o m a n 's o c c u p a tio n in th e c o m
m unities in w hich it is done, m en occasionally learn:

My husband tells about the time he got sick with the mea
sles. His mother set him to piecing a quilt and every other
block he set in red polka-dot pattern. Said it was his measles
quilt. He wouldn't like me to tell it now I know. But lots of cold
nights when Im at the quiltin frame on one side of the fire, he
pulls his big old chair up on the other side and cuts pieces for
me. Hes even done a bit of piecin' from time to time.
It's a sight, that big old long-legged man with his boot toes
turned in to make a lap to do his piecework on. (P. 39)
Novice quilters learn s ta n d a r d s as well as te ch n iq u e . S o m e
s ta n d a r d s c ra ft s ta n d a r d s are public a n d shared:
Mama had the smallest stitches and the smallest feet in the
country. She was particular about everything she done. I got
that from her. There was an order to everything, and when
one of her quilts was done, it was just like the rest, all of a
piece and finished rightthe corners turned to a tee, like
making the bed, every seam straight as an arrow; you know it
wasn't hard to stitch good and it was real satisfying to keep
everything up to standards. (P. 97)

O th e r criteria used in ju d g in g quilts m ay not be widely


251 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R I C K S , F O L K A R T I S T S

sh ared . Q uilters a n d their families a d m ire so m e quilts m ore


th a n others. A h u s b a n d told C ooper a n d Buferd:
Im glad Molly got to show you that quilt, but I wont let her
sell it. Thats the finest thing we ever had in this house. That's
the best one she ever done. We had that one on our bed from
the first till I told her to put it away for safekeeping. The gold
triangles were beginning to show a little wear. (P. 20)

And a q u ilter said:


I keep my best quills put up for special occasions, or just to
bring out and look at, put on the bed once in a while. Ill pass
them on to the kids of course. (P. 108)

Quilters a p p a re n tly seld om m a k e explicit the aesthetic


u n d e rly in g these ju d g m e n ts a n d choices; they are, a fter all,
not p ro fessio n al artists or critics. But if we bring the sensi
bility o f s o m e o n e fam iliar with m o d e rn paintings (of the kind
H olstein m e n tio n ed ) to b e a r as we look at pieced quilts, som e
quilts clearly p re se n t d e v e lo p m e n ts that are interestingly
parallel to those of painters. Quilters did d escribe their
w o rking m e th o d s to C ooper a n d B uferd in a way that s u g
gests th a t they develop private se q u e n c e s of p ro b le m s and
solutions (of the kind G eorge K u b le r speaks of) within the
fra m e w o rk of the tra d itio n a l quilt designs.
Quilt designs, while traditional, are by no m e a n s c o n
straining; they allow plenty o f room for variation, choice,
a n d the play of individual skill a n d taste (see figure 24). M any
quilts are m a d e up of a sim ple s q u a re m odule, w hich can be
a s s e m b le d in a seem ingly en dless variety of w ays to m ake
quite different overall p a ttern s. T he D r u n k a r d s P a th , for
instance, c o m b in e s a q u a r te r circle a n d the negative space
th a t s u r r o u n d s it to m a k e such overall p a tte r n s as the
D r u n k a r d s P a t h itself a n d the Millwheel. The Log
C a b in sq u a re , consisting of a n u m b e r of strips b u tted
against o n e a n o th e r a ro u n d a central s q u a re (so a rra n g e d
th a t the s q u a r e is h alf light a n d half dark, divided along the
diagonal), can be a rra n g e d in m a n y w aysto p ro d u c e a p a t
tern of d iagonal light a n d d a rk stripes a cro ss the entire quilt
(called S traight F u r ro w ), a p a tte rn of co n cen tric squares,
252 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

d
FIGURE 24. Quilt designs. These designs are sometimes made
from a simple module, which can he assembled to make a great
variety o f overall patterns, especially when the tonal values and pat
terns of the cloth o f which the module is made are varied. The
Drunkards Path block can be made (a) with a dark quarter circle,
the complementary space in the square being light, or (b) with the
values reversed. Using block (b), you can create (c) the classic
Drunkard's Path overall design. Combining (a) and (b) allows you
to make the more complicated (d) Millwheel. (Drawings by Nan
Becker.)
a ltern a tin g light a n d d a rk (called "B a rn Raising"), o r a
surprisingly large n u m b e r of o th e r variations, s o m e of w hich
h a v e trad itio n al n a m e s a n d o th e rs not. If you a d d to these
possibilities the en dless w ays th a t colors, hues, a n d print
p a tte rn s c a n be built into su ch a rra n g e m e n ts , it is clear th a t
the q u iltm a k e r has a large a rra y of artistic re so u rce s to w o rk
with. A look at the illustrations in the books I h a v e b e en citing
will confirm th a t so m e q u iltm a k e rs use th e m to p ro d u c e
w ork which, as H olstein claims, resem b les th a t of c o n te m
p o ra ry p ain ters; b u t it is a good b et th a t the q u iltm a k e rs
w ould not reg ard th a t p ain tin g as serious art.
253 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

Like artists w o rk in g w ithin the tra d itio n o f an art world,


q u iltm a k e rs use these re so u rce s differently, p ro d u c in g
results that, n o t sim ply re p ro d u c tio n s o f trad itio n al p atterns,
are as different a n d d iscrim in ab le as w orks in traditional
artistic m e d ia a n d genres. We can infer h o w this h a p p e n s
fro m their d e sc rip tio n s of how they work. We n e e d first to
u n d e r s ta n d the origin of the m aterial th a t goes into the quilt
top. In k e ep in g w ith the basis of the quilt in family a n d
c o m m u n ity life, quilts are, for the m ost part, m a d e o f scrap s
left o v e r from o th e r utilitarian sew ing projects:

Mother saved pieces from every dress she ever made for me;
when I got older she gave them to me to make a quilt. In her
day pieced tops were all made from a womans scrap hag, and
at that time, more often than not, the linings were other old
worn-out quilts or old blankets. We never wasted a bit of
cloth . . . used it over and over until it wore out. Waste not,
want not. (P. 100)

Q uilters sort th e ir scrap s by categories:

Now' back here in the back room I got all my materials


stored. I put every scrap of material I think I can ever use into
them piece bags till I can get to sortin it. Then I put it into
those boxes. Kinda o n file. .. . Each box is labeled with the
colors of pieces inside, and then some is labeled with plaids
and stripes and the kind of pattern if thevs already c u t.. . .
Now these are for my sunlight and shadows [i.e., light and
dark segments] in the Log Cabin. Im gettin close to the
bottom on my lights. Ive got plenty of darks. 1 have to keep
my eyes open for lights. I always know what shade will match
what I got in mind. I never buy for my piece bag and I hate to
borrow. 1 like to think I can take care of myself. (P. 100)

T heir lan g u ag e scarcely does ju stice to the com plex effects


they achieve, a n d one m u s t su p p o se , on the visual evidence
o f the quilts, th a t they have a m o re com plex u n d e rs ta n d in g
of color a n d design th a n they can articulate to an interviewer.
It see m s likely that, w hile quilters recognize these variations
in design a n d ability, they have no generalized critical o r
tinalvtic la n g u ag e in w hich to discuss them . They can speak
o f w ays of sorting m aterials. They m en tio n optical eff ects
254 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R I C K S , F O L K A R T I S T S

" n o w this o n e h ere is like a puzzle 'a n d h o w they c a n be


c re a te d "if you ju st placed d a rk triangles next to th ese d ia
m o n d s, they w o u ld sta n d o u t. They kn o w a n d are p ro u d of
originality: "N ow I like to try to p u t th e m colors do w n in a
w ay no one ev er saw b e fo re .
But q u ilte rs language does not allow th e m to discuss their
w o rk w ith one a n o th e r in the generalized a n d a b s tra c t way
th a t critical a n d aesthetic fo rm u latio n s help in teg rated p ro
fessionals to c o m m u n ic a te with one a n o th e r easily, across
s p a c e a n d time, a b o u t w h a t th e y are doing. (N ote th a t ma*
vericks, while d enying the s ta n d a r d s of the art world, do
s h a re its critical a n d aesthetic vocabularies, a n d so can
c o m m u n ic a te with m e m b e rs of th a t w orld as well as with
each other.)
W itho ut a generalized language of ju d g m e n t, s ta n d a rd s
m u st be local a n d ep h em e ral. A set of s ta n d a rd s m ig h t be
applied in the ju d g in g at a c o u n ty o r state fair, b u t th a t w ould
be as far as it w ould go, a n d even th a t w ould ju st be the
re n d erin g of a verdict, ra th e r th a n the re a s o n e d public a p
plication of explicit critical criteria. No larger w orld can grow
out of this. How, then, w ere c o m p lica te d block designs in
v en ted a n d p assed on? H olstein (1973, pp. 55-56) says it w as
not th ro u g h w o m e n 's m agazines. H e insp ected G o d ey s
Lady's B ook, a n d fo u n d th a t in the sixty-eight years of its
pu b licatio n it p rin te d only five quilt-block designs, while
m a g azin es c a te rin g to m o re rural a u d ie n c e s p rin te d n o n e at
all. H e specu lates th a t w o m en , " a n d p e rh a p s th e ir h u s b a n d s ,
h a d a practical know ledge of design w hich they used in their
daily w ork" (rem in d in g us of F lorentine m e rc h a n ts using
th e ir p ractical experience in the a p p re c ia tio n of R en a is
sance p ain tin g [B axandall, 1972]). The m o st likely e x p la n a
tion of h o w designs w ere p assed on, in the a b se n ce of e n c o m
passing o rg an izations a n d c o m m u n ic a tio n s m edia, is th a t
m o th e r ta u g h t d a u g h te r a n d n e ig h b o r ta u g h t neighbor;
people m o v ed a ro u n d the c o u n try a n d b ro u g h t their ideas
w ith th em for o th e rs to observe, imitate, a n d w o rk with. In
o th e r w ords, c o m m u n ic a tio n a b o u t this kind o f w ork used
existing c h a n n e ls w ithin a n d b e tw e e n families a n d c o m m u
nities; th a t is one of the reaso n s for calling quilting a c o m
255 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

m unity- a n d fam ily-based art, a n d it illustrates how th e re


so u rc e s a rt w orlds provide for professional artists can be p ro
d u c e d for n o n p ro fe ssio n a ls in o th e r ways. H olstein says that:

Faiis and other communal gatherings were responsible for


the transmission of quilt designs. An unusually interesting
new pattern, the invention of a particular woman, or popular
in a particular region, would be seen, duly noted, and carried
away by women to their homes, and to different regions. It has
been said that a new design would be held in memory and the
block pieced when the seamstress was back in her house to be
stored as a sketch for future reproduction. (Holstein, 1973,
p. 85)
Q uilters reaso n s for m ak in g quilts arose out of th e ir p a r
ticipation in family a n d c o m m u n ity , a n d w ere a p p ro p ria te
a n d re a so n a b le m otives for family m e m b e rs a n d neighbors
to have. They m a d e quilts to keep th e ir families w arm , to give
as p re se n ts to children w h o w ere m a rry in g a n d setting up
housek eep in g , to help people in adv erse c ircu m sta n ce s, a n d
to keep th em selves busy d u rin g dull tim es o r in old age:
Back in the old days we had to make the quilts so thick. You
know in those old dugouts the wind would come through so
bad that you really had to be covered to sleep. (P. 45)
Now all the quilts I have are for my five kids and for all the
grandchildren. And now their kids are wanting quilts of their
own. (P. 140)
Ive made several quilts for people who had the misfortune
to burn out and lose all their bedding, and other things. Our
club makes quilts for folks in times of trouble. (P. 142)
So in the evenins when he comes in he turns on that little
TV and just lays there on the couch watchin pictures. And I sit
right here at my quiltin'. Maybe that dont sound like much,
but its not lonesome. (P. 130)
Quilters usually did so m e of th e ir w o rk quilting the fin
ished pieced top to the lining a n d b a ck in g in c o o p era tio n
w ith others, a n d one m otive for quilting w as to e n jo y the
c o m p a n io n s h ip a n d fun of th a t sociability:

In summers wed put up the [quilting] frame on the screen


porch, and when the work was done, Mama would say, O.K.,
256 P R O F E S S I O N A LS, MAVERICKS, FOLK.ARTISTS

girls, let's go to it." We'd pull up our chairs around the frame
and anyone that dropped in would do the same, even if they
couldnt stitch straight. Course wed take out their stitches
later if they was really bad. But it was for talking and visiting
that we put in quilts in the summer. People would get out after
the chores in the summertime and how the word would fly
that we had the frame up. Had to have a screened porch
cause sometimes youd quilt and visit till midnight by lamp
light with the bugs battin against the screen. (P. 76)
Since ev ery o n e involved know s, w ithin limits, as m u c h
a b o u t w h a t is being d o n e as ev ery o n e else, a n d ev ery o n e can
do w h ic h e v e r of the several activities involved n eed s to be
done, c o o p e ra tio n o c c u rs easily, w ith very little friction o th e r
th a n the o rd in a ry friction of h u m a n intercourse. To take u p a
quite different e x am p le for a m o m e n t, Bruce Ja c k so n (1972)
d escrib es h o w black convicts in Texas priso n s c o o rd in a te
their effort th ro u g h the use of w ork songs, the songs p ro v id
ing the rh y th m by w hich su ch activities as cutting d o w n a
tree c a n be c arried o u t safely (see figure 25). S o m e m en lead
the singing b e tte r th a n others, a n d ev erybody prefers it w hen
they do the leading. N evertheless, even a b a d le ad e r will
serve the p u rp o s e as long as he c a n keep tim e a n d be h e a rd
over the w ork noise. A nyone can lead, b e c a u se everyone
k now s the song already. The le a d e rs m ain function is sim ply
to sing o u t the verses they sh o u ld use in singing the song. The
lead e r takes the verses from a large pool of verses k n o w n to
be p a rts of th a t song; ev ery o n e know s all the parts, a n d they
n e ed not be d o n e in a n y p a rtic u la r order, n o r need a n y p a r
ticu lar n u m b e r o r c o m b in a tio n of th e m be d o n e on any p a r
ticu lar occasion.
B ecause quilts, to re tu rn to th a t exam ple, w ere the p r o d
ucts of a sy stem of fam ilies in a c o m m u n ity , a n d not art
w o rk s p ro d u c e d in a n a rt world, until recently they w ere
preserved, if at all, in th o se families, p a sse d on from p a re n t
to child to g ran dchild, their value lying partly in their b eau ty
b u t m o re in their c o n tin u in g utility as b e d d in g a n d their
value as sen tim e n ta l e m b o d im e n ts of fam ily c o n tin u ity a n d
solidarity. T hey h a d no artistic value, w ere not critically
ju d g e d w orks of a n a m e d artist, w hose re p u ta tio n w ould
257 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

FIGURE 25. Convicts singing. Folk art occurs as part of the daily
activity o f members o f a community. Texas convicts coordinate po
tentially dangerous activities like chopping down trees by singing
rhythmic songs. (Photograph by Bruce Jackson.)

benefit from the value of the w ork while it a d d e d to it. In fact,


quilts w ere seldom signed a n d could be a ttrib u te d to their
m a k e r only on the basis of m e m o ry a n d family lore. They
w ere used until they w ore out, alth o u g h so m e family
m e m b e r m ig h t find one especially pleasing a n d a tte m p t to
re p a ir a n d preserve it. No organization devoted itself to dis
covering e x e m p la ry w orks, p u rc h a s in g them , a n d preserving
th e m for la ter s tu d y a n d display. Quilts w ere not a rt becau se
no one tre a te d th e m like art. They w ere the physical e m b o d
im ent of families a n d c o m m u n ities, b u t that w as no reason
to preserve th e m ; if they w ere not p re se rv e d they could not
258 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

be a d m ire d a n d eventually seen to have the artistic qualities


they m ig h t o r m ig h t not have. In s o fa r as p re se rv a tio n is
necessary for an art w ork to survive a n d join the b o d y of
a society's recognized, serious a rt works, quilts could not
achieve th a t status.
T h a t has ch an g e d , as it has for m a n y o th e r p ro d u c ts of
family a n d c o m m u n ity industry, as m u s e u m s have eith er
d ev o ted th em selv es to preserving native c rafts o r recognized
artistic m erit in su ch work. M any a rt m u s e u m s n o w have
s

(a n d so m e have h a d for so m e time) d e p a rtm e n ts of textiles


or d eco rativ e o r m in o r arts (the n a m e varies), which do all
the things for quilts a n d sim ilar m a terials th a t w ere n o t d o n e
earlier. Not surprisingly, too, som e c o n te m p o ra ry artists
have beg u n to exploit the aesthetic possibilities of quiltm ak-
ing, especially since, as w o m e n 's art, it n o w has a special
claim to attention.
I have relied alm o st exclusively on the w orld of quilting in
this analysis of folk art. M any o th e r c o n te m p o ra ry A m erican
activities fit the m odel suggested by quilting: w oodw orking,
a m e n s activity th a t played a sim ilar functional role in
c o u n try ho u seh o ld s; c h ild re n s gam es; ballroo m d a n cin g
a m o n g teenagers. P ro b ab ly m o re w o m e n s a n d ch ildren's
activities th a n m e n 's will take this form, b e ca u se m o re of
m e n s activities are developed a ro u n d w ork o rg an izations
a n d th u s a p p e a r, if not as professional art, as the c ra ft of a
p a rtic u la r occu p atio n .

NAIVE ARTISTS
A final kind of artist is alternately called primitive, naive,
o r grass-roots. G r a n d m a M oses is the prototype, alth o u g h she
ev en tu ally w as d iscovered by a n d in c o rp o ra te d into the art
w orld (as so m e tim e s h a p p e n s to such people). These artists
have usually h a d no c o n n e c tio n w ith any art w orld at all.
They do not kn o w the m e m b e r s of the o rd in a ry a rt w orld in
w hich w o rk s like theirs (if su ch exist) are p ro d u c e d . They
have not h a d the training people w h o ordinarily p ro d u c e
such w orks have had, a n d they k n o w very little a b o u t the
259 P ROF ES S I ONALS , MAVERI CKS, FOLK ARTI STS

m e d iu m they are w o rk in g ina b o u t its history, conventions,


o r the kind of w ork ordinarily p ro d u c e d in it. U nable to
explain w h a t they do in co n v en tional term s, naive artists
typically w ork alone, for no o n e else know s how to furnish
the assistan ce o r c o o p era tio n they need, a n d no e x p lan a to ry
la n g u ag e exists. If they do have help, it is b e ca u se they create
th e ir ow n netw o rk of c o o p e ra tio n recruiting, training, a n d
m a in ta in in g a g ro u p of p eo p le w h o gradually learn w h a t is
n e e d e d a n d h o w to do it. M ost frequently, they at best s u c
ceed in recru itin g a few people to play the role o f apprccia-
tors of the work.
T h at d escrip tio n m a k e s naive a rt seem m o re conventional
th a n m u c h of it actually is, by suggesting th a t it fits into such
s ta n d a r d categories as painting. M uch does. G ra n d m a Moses
is only one o f a large n u m b e r o f prim itive p ain ters; the m ost
fa m o u s is H en ri R ousseau. T hese p ain ters k n o w a n d abide
by the c o n v en tio n s o f easel painting, p a in tin g on canvases
a n d b o a rd s of c o n v en tio n al size with m o re o r less c o n v e n
tional m aterials. B ecause they have no professional training,
their work characteristically looks literally naive, childlike,
the w ay children d ra w until they learn m ore sophisticated
tech n iq u es, if they do, o r ju st stop draw ing. O tto Bihalji-
M erin (1971) has com piled an illustrated list o f m o re than
tw o h u n d re d naive painters, w hich obviously is only a tiny
fraction of th a t universe, the fraction th a t c a m e to the a t
tention o f s o m e o n e looking for w ork having, by art world
s ta n d a rd s , a esth etic value. (See also L ipm an a n d A rm strong,
1980.)
Naive w ork in such c o n v en tio n al m e d ia as p ain tin g is rel
atively easy to u n d e rs ta n d . Naive painters, like a n y well-so
cialized m e m b e r o f a W estern society, kn o w w h a t paintings
look like, a n d how they are done. The m a terials for p ain tin g
are widely available. Anyone with m inim al d ra w in g skills can
easily begin painting, d ra w in g im agery fro m conventional
stereotypes, trad itio n al subjects, o r private obsessions. The
w ork o f naive p a in ters varies only a little from th e w ork of
a m a te u r painters. B oth w ork w ith o u t any co n n ec tio n to the
w orld of professional painting, th o u g h a m a te u r s m ay have
260 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

h a d classes in painting, belong to clubs ol sim ilar a m ate u rs,


a n d p a rtic ip ate in a w orld o f S u n d a y painters. (See the d e
scription in McCall, 1977, 1978, a n d the d e sc rip tio n of a s im
ilar w orld of ch in a p a in tin g in C incinnati Art M useum , 1976,
a n d California S tate University, Fullerton, 1977, pp. 113-53.)
B ecause naive p ain tin g resem bles conventional painting,
the rest of the w orld assim ilates it m o re easily, a n d it is
th erefo re n o t as interesting analytically as a n o th e r kind of
w ork w hich is m u c h h a rd e r to describe. The difficulty in
describing it arises exactly b e ca u se it has been m a d e w ithout
re feren c e to the s ta n d a rd s of any w orld outside its m a k e r's
personal life. Its m a k e rs w ork in isolation, free fro m the
c o n strain ts o f c o o p e ra tio n which inhibit a rt w orld p a rtic i
pants, free to ignore the c o n v en tio n al categories o f a rt works,
to m a k e things w hich do not fit any s ta n d a rd genre a n d
c a n n o t be d e scrib ed as e x am p le s of any class. Their w o rk s
just are, a n d c a n be d escribed only by e n u m e ra tin g their
features. O nce described, they c a n n o t th e n be assigned to a
class; e a c h is its ow n class, b e ca u se it w as m a d e w ith o u t
reference to an y th in g else, a n d n o th in g else has been m a d e
with referen ce to it.
O ne fa m o u s su ch w ork is the W atts Towers, c o n stru c te d in
Los Angeles b e tw ee n 1921 a n d 1954 by S im on R odia (Trillin,
1965). Too e n o rm o u s to be called sculpture, the to w ers are
not exactly a rc h ite c tu re either, a n d to call th e m a m o n u m e n t
w ould be m isleading. They consist of several open w ork,
reinforced c o n cre te tow ers, the tallest o v e r one h u n d re d feet
(see figure 26). R odia d e c o ra te d the to w ers with such easily
available m a terials as p o p bottles a n d dim e sto re crockery.
He m a d e im p ressio n s in the c e m e n t with kitchen utensils
a n d c ra fts m a n 's tools. H e relied on the skills he h a d learned
as a tile setter, a n d his im agery is quite idiosyncratic. People
at first th o u g h t it ob scu rely religious, b u t w h en R odia was
rediscov ered in N o rth e rn California a fte r having d is a p
p e a re d for so m e years he tu rn e d o u t to be violently anti-
religious, th o u g h he did not offer any o th e r ex p lan atio n of
the tow ers' inscriptions a n d symbols.
J a m e s H a m p to n , a g o v e rn m e n t ja n ito r in W ashington,
261 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

FIGURE 26. Simon Rodia, the Watts Towers. Naive artists work
outside the confines o f any art world, accomplishing what they do
without the support o f others. Rodia explained his work to others,
when he bothered to explain it at all, by saying he had done it all by
himself. (Photograph by Seymour Rosen.)

D.C., m a d e a similarly unclassifiable w ork called The Throne


o f the Third H eaven o f the N ational M illenium G eneral A s
sem bly (see figure 27), w hich consisted o f a g arag e filled with
altars, pulpits, shrines, wall tablets, a n d o th e r religious a rti
cles covered with gold a n d tin foil (W alker Art Center, 1974,
c o n ta in s d escrip tio n s a n d illustrations of this a n d several
o th e r w o rk s I will m ention). C larence S chm idt c o n stru c te d a
n u m b e r o f buildings a n d d e c o ra te d the s u rro u n d in g trees
a n d the land they stood on with silver foil, pink plastic baby
262 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

FIGURE 27. James Hampton, Throne of the Third Heaven of the


National Millenium General Assembly. Because they work outside
organized art worlds, naive artists work has an idiosyncratic look.
Hampton, a government janitor in Washington, D.C., constructed
this work in a garage sometime between 1950 and 1964 by covering
furniture with tin foil. (Photograph courtesy o f the National Collec
tion o f Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution.)

dolls, a n d sim ilar m aterials, all over five acres n e a r W ood-


stock, New York. T ressa (" G ra n d m a " ) Prisbrey covered a
large lot in S a n ta S u sa n a, California, w ith small buildings
m a d e of c o n cre te a n d bottles, filled with dolls, colored p e n
cils, a n d o th e r c o m m o n objects, the rest of the a re a la n d
sc a p e d with p la n ters d e c o ra te d with a u to head lig h ts a n d
o th e r fo u n d objects. Jesse "O u tlaw " H o w a rd p o sted his p r o p
erty n e a r Fulton, Missouri, with h a n d -p a in te d signs c a rry
ing religious a n d political m essages; a sim ilar "sign g a rd e n "
existed for m a n y years on u p p e r S ta n y a n S tree t in S an
Francisco.
263 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R I C K S , F O L K A R T I S T S

The w orld of c o n te m p o r a ry visual art no longer finds these


w orks totally unfam iliar, a n d they m a y yet be in c o rp o ra ted
u n d e r the h ead in g of "e n v iro n m e n ts," or "assem b lag e," a
category w hich m ig h t include the detailed re c o n stru c tio n s of
taverns, re sta u ra n ts, a n d o th e r peopled places by such
scu lp to rs as Ed K ienholtz a n d George Segal. But th a t c a te
gory m ay have developed in the visual art w orld partly b e
cause art w orld p a rtic ip a n ts d iscovered a n d im itated these
unclassifiable works. S om e years ago I gave a lecture in a
college tow n in which 1 m e n tio n e d Rodia, S chm idt, a n d
others, a n d sh o w ed slides of their work. A friend w h o lived
th e re told m e th a t the tow n h ad a sim ilar c o n stru c tio n going
on in it. T h a t d id n 't su rp rise me, for su ch eccentric w ork is
c o m m o n in small towns. We drove out to see the work, a sort
of tw o-story h o u se covered with doors, window s, a n d o th e r
stuff, m u c h in the style of Clarence S chm idt, a n d could see
the m aker, busily a tta c h in g som e m o re ju n k to a wall. My
friend w aved to him a n d then re m a rk e d casually th a t the
piece w ould be finished soon, becau se it w as the c r e a to r s
p ro je c t for his M aster of Fine Arts degree, a n d he w as g r a d
u atin g th a t spring!
Naive artists typically begin th e ir w ork accidentally or
h a p h a z a rd ly or, I m ig h t b e tte r say, they do not purposefully
start a m eaningful activity in a professional w orld w hose
organization w ould m a k e it a real "beginning." F erd in a n d
Cheval, a rural F rench p o s tm a n a ro u n d the tu rn of the c e n
tury, built a Palais Ideal, a co m p lex of buildings, reliefs, a n d
sculptures, the w o rk occu p y in g m o re th a n thirty years. De
scribing w h a t he h a d d o n e in later years, he explained th a t
while delivering the mail he h a d d a y d re a m e d a b o u t building
a "fairy-tale c a s t l e .. . . an edifice filled with gardens, m u
seum s, sculptures, a n d intricate labyrinths. . . . the a rc h ite c
tu re of ancient tim es a n d distant lands . . . c o m b in e d . . . in a
single s tru c tu re so beautiful a n d p ic tu re sq u e th a t it re m a in e d
u p p e r m o s t in my m in d for ten years." Then:
One day I stumbled on a stone. And as I looked at it more
closely, it turned out to have such a curious shape that I
picked it up and took it with me. The following day I returned
264 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

to the same spot and found some even more beautiful stones,
which I enthusiastically began to collect.
I took this coincidence as an omen. Since nature it
self provided sculptures, then I coaid be an architect or
mason! . . .
And so, for the next 25 years, I moved stones. (Cheval, 1968,
p. 9)
H e r m a n R usch, a f a r m e r in C ochrane, W isconsin, began the
Prairie M oon M u seu m a n d G arden, a tw o-acre c o n stru ctio n
of arches, pillars, tow ers, a n d o th e r things m a d e of cem ent,
"to dress the place up" (Hoos, 1974, p. 71). G ra n d m a Prisbrey
began h e r w ork b e ca u se the trailer she lived in w as not big
e n o u g h for h e r family or h e r collection of two th o u s a n d
pencils. W hen the w ork w as conceived a n d execu ted delib
erately, as so m e w ere (e.g., S. P. D in sm o o rs G arden o f
E d en , a half-acre a rc h ite c tu ra l a n d scu lp tu ral politico-
religious c o n stru c tio n in Lucas, K ansas), the reaso n s for
doing it are p e rso n a l a n d not alw ays intelligible, a point I will
re tu rn to.
These works, not belonging to a n y trad itio n of artistically
defined p ro b le m s a n d solutions, seem to spring o u t of n o
w here. No o n e know s how to re sp o n d to them . A udiences
(w h o ev er h a p p e n s to see th em ) do n o t know w h a t to m a k e of
th e m , a n d their m a k e rs c a n n o t take a d v a n ta g e of a n y e s ta b
lished n e tw o rk of c o o p e ra tio n in building them . They w ork
alone. R odia said:
I did it all by myself. I never had a single help. One thing, I
couldn't hire any help, for I no have-a no money. Not a thing.
If I hire a man, he don't know what to do. A million times, I
don't know what to do myself. I would wake up all night,
because this was my own idea. (Trillin, 1965, p. 72)
(There is no technical re aso n for n o t using helpers. Antoni
G audi, the C atalan a rt n o u v e a u architect, m a d e c o n s tru c
tions w hich h a v e m a n y of the sam e featu res of the w ork of
R odia a n d o th e r naive artists. But, being a n established
p ro fessio n al architect, th o u g h m o re th a n a little e c c e n
tric, G audi h a d rich p a tro n s a n d clients a n d could afford
265 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R I C K S , FOLK ARTI STS

to hire a n d train m a so n s a n d o th e r c ra fts m e n to w ork to his


designs [Collins, 1960, a n d Bergos, 1954].)
Naive artists achieve their idiosyncratic style a n d create
u n iq u e a n d p e c u lia r fo rm s a n d genres b e ca u se they have
n e v er a c q u ire d a n d internalized the h a b its of vision a n d
th o u g h t professional artists necessarily acq u ire d u rin g their
training. A m averick has to o v e rco m e the h ab its left by p ro
fessional training; the naive artist n ever h ad them . M a n y of
the artists w h o m ak e c o n stru c tio n s like the W atts T ow ers got
th e ir skills as R odia did, as m e m b e rs of one of the building
trad es. O th ers h a v e b e e n fa rm e rs o r general h a n d y m e n . To
p u t it m o re generally, societies teach m a n y people skills
w hich can be p u t to artistic use, b u t teach them in nonartistic
settings a n d for utilitarian p u rposes. People w h o have
learn ed th ese skills can then begin idiosyncratic a rt e n te r
prises w ith o u t ev er co m in g in c o n ta c t with the conventional
a rt world. (This m a y explain w h y it is h a rd to find m usical
e x am p le s to parallel the visual ones: it is relatively u n u s u a l
for people to a c q u ire m usical skills in th a t casual a n d u n
professional way, b e ca u se m usical skills arc so specialized
th a t they are not useful in n o n a rtistic enterprises.)
Naive artists, u n a tta c h e d to the w orking o rg an izatio n s of
any art world, do n o t h a v e access to re g u la r supplies of p ro
fessionally s ta n d a rd iz e d m aterials. Quite resourceful, they
m a k e do w ith w h a t the e n v iro n m e n t provides. R odia used
s ta n d a r d m a te ria ls for re in fo rc ed co n crete construction,
but for o r n a m e n ta tio n used tile, pottery, h o u seh o ld dish-
w are, sea shells, a n d so d a bottles, as well as im p ressio n s of
h o u s e h o ld o b je c ts a n d his ow n tools. The w ork reflects the
limits of w h a t he h a d available, as Trillin points out:

it is apparent that the form the towers took was decided partly
by the limitations of his equipment. Since he had no scaf
folding, for example, he had to provide his own as he went
along. It took the form of horizontal spokes and circles ringing
the tallest spires, and the dense spiderweb effect they produce
results partly from the fact that no ring is farther from the one
below it than a short man can reach. (Trillin, 1965, p. 80)
266 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R IC K S , FO L K A R T IS T S

Louis C. W ippich, w hose M olehill in S a u k R apids, M inne


sota, is a little like a giant rock g a rd e n (the tallest to w e r is
forty-five feet), took a d v a n ta g e of local industries:

In the 24 years he devoted to construction of the garden, he


scavenged the quarries and monument companies for cast-off
blocks, damaged grave markers and monument seconds."
From the Great Northern Railroad s car shops he acquired
railroad rails, steel cables and wood siding from condemned
freight cars. The two homes he built overlooking the gardens
were built of freight car wood. The concrete bridges and
platforms were reinforced with railroad rails. (Sherarts and
Sherarts, 1974, p. 90)

G r a n d m a Prisbrey fo u n d everything b u t concrete, lum ber,


a n d ta r p a p e r in the city d u m p , including an e stim a te d one
million bottles, a u to m o b ile headlights, TV p ictu re tubes,
d isc a rd e d dolls, m a c h in e ry m o ld s a n d parts, la b o rato ry
glassw are, pencils, eyeglass fram es, b e e r bottle c a p s . . .
(McCoy, 1974, p. 82). J a m e s H a m p to n salvaged m a terials
from the w a s te b a s k e ts he e m p tie d at w ork, a n d "p a id n e ig h
b o rh o o d in digents to collect foil for him, b u t also sco u red
the streets himself, carrying a cro cu s sack th a t he filled
w ith loot" (Roscoe, 1974, p. 15).
W ith no p ro fessio n al train in g a n d no c o n ta c t with the
c o n v en tio n a l a rt world, naive artists do not learn the c o n
ventional v o c a b u la ry of m otives a n d e x p lan a tio n s for their
work. Since they c a n n o t explain w h a t they are doing in c o n
ventional a rt term inology, a n d since it can seld o m be ex
p lain ed as an y th in g o th e r th a n art, naive artists frequently
h a v e tro u b le w ith people w h o d e m a n d an ex p lanation. Not
fitting into a n y c o n v en tio n a l category, n o t legitim ated by any
a u th e n tic c o n n e c tio n to a n established a rt world, c o n s tru c
tions like the W atts Towers, Cheval's Palais Ideal, or the
h u n d r e d s of sim ilar w orks n o w being tu rn e d u p by in terested
critics re q u ire e x p lan atio n . M any of these artists provide no
ex p lan a tio n s, a p p a re n tly believing th a t w h a t they do is their
o w n bu sin ess or, since m a n y of the w o rk s h a v e so m e reli
gious intent, b e tw e e n th e m a n d God. W hen they do explain
267 P ROF ES S I ONALS , MAVERI CKS, FOLK ARTI STS

them selves, the idiosyncratic explanations, with no basis in a


s h a re d v o c ab u la ry of m otives, s o u n d extrem ely eccentric.
H ere are so m e ex am p les:

[Mr. Tracy, of Wellington, Kansas, built a house of bottles. His


explanation of it was:] I saw a bottle house in California and
they used only one kind of bottle, so I did them one better and
used all kinds." (Blasdcll, 1968, p. 32)

[Herman Rusch explains the work described above thus:]


Like it says, Mister, a man should leave a few tracks and not
just canceled welfare checks." (Blasdell, 1968, p. 41)

[S. P. D. Dinsmoor of Lucas, Kansas, says,] If the Garden of


Eden [the name for the work of art he has constructed] is not
right, Moses is to blame. He wrote it up and 1 built it." (Blas
dell, 1968, p. 30)

[Fred Smith said,] Im 166 years old and I'll be better when
I'm 175. It has to be in the man. You have to be almost gifted
to do what I have done." (Blasdell, 1968, p. 33)

Not surprisingly, people w h o c re a te such w orks and give


e x p la n a tio n s like this are fre q u en tly th o u g h t by n eighbors
a n d o th e rs to be crazy. T he p ro b le m of w hat the w ork is is
cen tral to the reactio n s o f others. Typically having no visible
use, the w orks c a n n o t be explained as utilitarian, as storage
o r living q u a rte rs, for instance. If they have n o use, w h a t are
they? They m ig h t p ass as art, except that they do not look like
any a rt the n eig h b o rs have e v e r seen or h e a rd a b o u t a n d the
m a k e rs have no claim to the s ta tu s o f artist, being sim ply
fellow -residents of the tow n, o fte n with a n in d e p e n d e n t r e p
u ta tio n for c ra n k in e ss o r eccentricitv. The m a k e r b e co m es
the o b je c t of ridicule, abuse, a n d unofficial o r official h a
ra ssm e n t. Cheval (1968, p. 11) describes the re a c tio n to his
collecting stones p re p a ra to ry to the c o n stru c tio n of the Pa
lais Id e a l:

Before long, local tongues began to wag, and soon public


opinion had cemented: Look at the poor idiot, filling up his
garden with stones!" People actually thought I was mentally
268 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

ill. Some laughed at me; some reproached or criticized me.


But since they realized this type of madness was neither dan
gerous nor contagious, nobody called for a psychiatrist. In
time, I ceased to be bothered by their teasing. I realized, you
see, that people have always ridiculed and persecuted those
whom they cannot understand.
D uring W orld W ar II n e ig h b o rh o o d kids, for w h o m a n e c
centric like S im o n R odia w as fair gam e, d ecid ed th a t he was
using th e W atts Tow ers to sen d radio m essag es to Italian
s u b m a rin e s lying offshore a n d began h a rassin g him in e a r
nest, vandalizing the w o rk extensively. In 1954, Rodia, a p
p a re n tly no longer in terested in the tow ers o r their future,
gave the land to a n e ig h b o r a n d d isa p p e a re d . In 1959, the City
of Los Angeles Building D e p a rtm e n t decided the c o n s tr u c
tion w as u n sa fe a n d m o v e d to te a r it dow n.
This raises the qu estio n of h o w su ch w orks are preserved,
if they are, a n d h o w they are p ro te cted against su c h h a r a s s
m ent. The c o n v en tio n al d efenses a n d p ro te ctio n s afforded
c o n v en tio n a l art w orks are lacking. Tressa Prisbrey's son w as
the local building inspector, w hich m u s t have saved h e r from
w h a t w ould surely have been in te rm in a b le trouble. Wip-
pich's w ork w ould p ro b a b ly have been lost if a d is ta n t re la
tive h a d not b o u g h t it with the in te n t of keeping it intact.
Local m e rc h a n ts so m e tim es decide th a t the w ork m ay have
som e value as a to u rist a ttra c tio n a n d preserv e it for th a t
reason. B ut m a n y su c h w o rk s th e re is no w ay of know ing
h o w m a n y h a v e u n d o u b te d ly b e en lost to la ter au diences.
P e rh a p s the m o st im p o rta n t w ay su ch w orks are p r e
served, no d o u b t a n u n c o m m o n way, is th a t m e m b e r s of
s o m e a rt w orld develop a n interest in them . They see a c o n
nection b e tw e e n th e solutions naive artists have arrived at
a n d the p ro b le m s w h ich are n o w interesting th e ir ow n p ro
fessional w orld. T h at saved the W atts Towers. Artists a n d
m u s e u m p eo p le in Los Angeles (organized as The C om m ittee
for S im o n R o d ia's Tow ers in W atts) discovered the tow ers
(w hich h ad been discovered once before, as a tourist a ttr a c
tion th a t could be seen from the in te ru rb a n trolleys th a t once
ra n in Los Angeles) a n d m o v ed legally to stop their d e s tr u c
tion. Trillin (1965) tells the exciting story of h o w th e City
269 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTI STS

Building D e p a rtm e n t a tte m p te d to pull one o f the tow ers


dow n, having agreed th a t if it could w ith sta n d a specified
stre ss the en tire c o n stru c tio n w ould be sp ared . In a soap
o p e ra ending, the tow er p ro v ed so stro n g th a t the tru ck a t
te m p tin g to pull it over tore its ow n axle out. Even so, the
to w ers have been seriously d a m a g e d by local vandals.
H a m p t o n s Throne, m ore portable, survived by being m oved
to the National Collection of Fine Arts in W ashington, D.C.
Even w hen they are preserv ed th ro u g h the intervention of
a rt w orld p a rtic ip an ts, naive a rtis ts w orks are not easily
assim ilated by those w orlds. They violate m a n y m o re s ta n
d a rd s of co n v entional w ork th a n do the w orks of m a v
ericks, for instance, a n d do so m o re com prehensively. They
do not fit into available spaces; indeed, they frequently c a n
not be m o v e d at all. Divorced from the m a in s tre a m tradition
of a n y co n v entional form , it is unlikely th a t they c a n be in
te rp re te d as having a m a jo r place in so m e form 's history.
They are, a n d rem ain, curiosities.
The prim itive quality of naive art, like the m averick quality
of m averick art, lies in the relation of its m a k e r to the c o n
ventional a rt world. It is not the c h a ra c te r of the work itself
th a t distinguishes naive art, but ra th e r th a t it has been m a d e
w ith o u t referen ce to the c o n stra in ts of c o n te m p o ra ry c o n
vention. This also solves an otherw ise knotty prob lem : does
G ra n d m a M oses w o rk re m a in naive once it has been dis
covered a n d exhibited in m u s e u m s a n d galleries to critical
acclaim ? To the degree th a t she, or any discovered primitive,
co n tin u es to ignore the c o n strain ts of the world into which
sh e h a s been in c o rp o ra ted , it re m a in s w h a t it was. W h en the
artist begins to take acco u n t of w h a t h e r new colleagues
expect of h e r a n d are p re p a re d to c o o p e ra te with, she b e
co m es a n in te g ra te d professional, even th o u g h integrated
into a w orld w h ich has c h a n g e d itself s o m e w h a t to a c c o m
m o d a te the v ariatio n s she created.

CONCLUSION

The difficulties m avericks a n d naive artists h a v e m aking


their w o rk s a n d getting th em distributed, their difficulties
270 P R O F E S S I O N A L S , MAVERICKS, FOLK ARTISTS

w ith a u d ie n c e s a n d authorities, indicate the tro u b le s inte


g ra ted p ro fessionals are s p a re d by p a rtic ip atin g in art w orlds
recognized as legitim ate p a rts of society. Folk artists s h o w us
how artlike w o rk ssim ilar in everything b u t the labelcan
be m a d e u n d e r different au sp ices a n d how the au sp ices
affect the doing.
T he difference b e tw e e n th e w o rk o f in te g ra ted p ro fe s
sionals, m avericks, folk artists, a n d naive artists d o es not lie
in its su rface a p p e a r a n c e o r so u n d , b u t in the relation
b etw een th a t w ork a n d w ork d o n e by o thers m o re o r less
involved in so m e a rt world. T he w ork of naive artists will not
alw ays look childlike, b u t it will look different from w o rk in a
sim ilar m e d iu m d o n e in a different relation to a n a rt world.
M averick w o rk will be fre er of the c o n strain ts im p o sed by
co o p erativ e links, as Iv es was, b u t will also be h a m p e r e d by
the lack of c o o p e ra tio n fro m o th e rs (as Ives m ig h t have been
h a m p e r e d by his inability to h e a r w h a t h e w ro te played).
Folk art, solidly s u p p o rte d by a c o m m u n ity , will be limited
by the tim e a n d m a terials m a d e available for th a t sort of
w ork by the c o m m u n itie s in w hich it is m a d e ; the available
s u p p o rt will p ro b a b ly alw ays be less th a n w ould be available
to p a rtic ip a n ts in a n a c c e p te d a rt w orld in w hich the m ak in g
of the w ork did not have to tak e seco n d place to the c o m
m u n ity s m a jo r concerns. Naive art will have the ro u g h edges
of idiosyncrasy, u n a lte re d by the opinions o r e x a m p le s of
colleagues.
Art w orlds, then, help th e ir p a rtic ip a n ts p ro d u c e w ork th a t
will e a rn the m a terial s u p p o rt a n d serious re sp o n se of others,
help artists c o n n e c t w o rk to a tra d itio n in w hich it m a k e s
sense, a n d provide s u b sta n tia l a m o u n ts of tim e a n d o th e r
re so u rc e s for artistic activity.
Distinctions b e tw ee n th ese kinds of a rt are not distinctions
of quality; w o rk of every degree of interest can be a n d has
been m a d e in every category. But we alw ays look at non-
canonical w o rk w o rk not d o n e u n d e r the legitim ate a u s
pices of a n a rt w o rld fro m the s ta n d p o in t of so m e aesthetic
w hich h a s its b a se in so m e world, p ro b a b ly an a rt world, in
w hich we participate. T h a t aesth etic is w h a t allows us to
select p a rtic u la r w orks from a m o n g the m a ss of stuff p r o
271 * P R O F E S S I O N A L S , M A V E R I C K S , F O L K A R T I S T S

d u c e d by people w h o are not in te g ra ted professionals, to


select so m e w o rk s as w o rth o u r a tte n tio n a fte r all, deserving
elevation from m arginal to central status. A n o th e r time,
people fro m so m e o th e r a rt w orld will m a k e still a n o th e r
selection, in so far as the m e c h a n is m s o f p re se rv a tio n keep
w ork intact so th a t it can be selected. (See the discussion in
Moulin, 1978, pp. 244-47.)
9 Arts ond Crofts

M em b ers o f a rt w orlds often distinguish b etw een a rt a n d


craft. They recognize th a t m a k in g art req u ires technical skills
th a t m ig h t be seen as craft skills, b u t they also typically insist
th a t artists c o n trib u te s o m e th in g b e y o n d craft skill to the
p ro d u c t, s o m e th in g d u e to th e ir creative abilities a n d gifts
th a t gives each o b je ct o r p e rfo rm a n c e a u n iq u e a n d e x p re s
sive c h a ra c te r. O ther people, also skilled, w ho s u p p o rt the
w o rk of the artist are called c ra fts m e n , a n d the w o rk they
do is called craft." The sa m e activity, using the sa m e m a
terials a n d skills in w h at a p p e a r to be sim ilar ways, m a y be
called by e ith e r title, as m a y the people w ho engage in it. The
histories o f various art fo rm s include typical se q u e n c e s of
c h a n g e in w hich w h a t has been c o m m o n ly u n d e rsto o d a n d
defined by p ra ctitio n ers a n d public as a craft b e co m e s re
defined as a n a rt or, conversely, an a rt b e c o m e s redefined as
a craft. In the first case, p a rtic ip a n ts in an a rt w orld b o rro w
from o r take over a c raft w orld; in the second, a m a tu re art
w orld begins to exhibit so m e of the ch aracteristic fe atu res of
c ra ft worlds. C hanges in re p u ta tio n a n d ch an g e s in o rg a
nization o c c u r together. The analysis o f the co m p lica te d
relations b etw een a rt a n d craft, a n d of the se q u e n c e s by

272
273 ARTS AND CRAFTS

w hich o n e c h a n g e s into the other, like the c o m p a ra tiv e a n a l


ysis o f the previous ch apter, helps us to u n d e rs ta n d how art
w orlds work.
The last c h a p te r, considering n o n s ta n d a r d w ays of m aking
a rt (w ays not c o n n e c te d to an o rg anized art world), tre ated
art w o rld s as m o re o r less unch an g in g . This c h a p te r begins to
re p a ir th a t tlaw by co n sidering so m e se q u e n c e s of change.
T he c h a p te r to follow goes fu rth er, m a k in g c h a n g e in art
w orlds its central subject.
(As folk term s, art a n d craft re fe r to a m b ig u o u s c o n g lo m
e ra tio n s o f o rg an izatio n al a n d stylistic traits a n d th u s c a n
not be used as unequivocally as we w ould w a n t to use th e m if
they w e re scientific or critical concepts. Since I will n e v e rth e
less sp e a k of art a n d craft worlds, organizations, a n d styles
of work, it sh o u ld be u n d e rs to o d th a t in doing so I am re fer
ring to one o r a n o th e r asp e ct of s o m e folk definition. I often
refer to p a rtic u la r o rg an izatio n s th a t co m e close to realizing
the ideal c o m b in a tio n s im plied by the folk term s, but even
th ese do not live up to the e x p ec tatio n s e m b o d ie d in the
ideal, n o r d o es it m a tte r analytically that they do not.)

CRAFT B E C O M E S ART
As a w ork ideology, an aesthetic, a n d a form of work
org an izatio n , c ra ft can a n d does exist in d e p e n d e n t of art
w orlds, their p ractition ers, a n d their definitions. In the p u re
folk definition, a c raft consists of a body of know ledge and
skill w h ich c a n be u se d to p ro d u c e useful objects: dishes you
c a n e at from , c h airs you c a n sit in, cloth th a t m a k e s s e r
viceable clothing, p lu m b in g th a t w orks, w iring th a t carries
cu rren t. F rom a slightly different p o in t o f view, it consists of
the ability to p e rfo rm in a useful w ay to play m usic th a t can
be d a n c e d to, serve a m eal to guests efficiently, a rre s t a
crim inal w ith a m in im u m of fuss, clean a h o u s e to the satis
faction of those w h o live in it.
To sp e a k of u sefulness im plies the existence of so m e o n e
w h o se p u rp o s e s define the e n d s for w hich the o b je cts or
activities will be useful. Those p u rp o s e s arise in som e w orld
of collective actio n in w hich they are characteristic, p a rt of
274 ARTS AND CRAFTS

the definition o f w h a t kind o f w orld it is. Serving a m eal to


guests efficiently m ig h t be p a rt o f the w orld of c o m m e rc ia l
catering, in w h ich the d e v e lo p m e n t of a stable clientele w ho
can be fed at a profit is the goal, o r it m ight be p a rt of a
d o m e stic world, in w hich case the object is to satisfy the
ap p etite s for food a n d graceful social in terco u rse of family,
friends, a n d a c q u a in ta n c e s. In b o th cases, utility is m e a s u re d
by a s ta n d a r d lying ou tsid e the w orld th a t is o r m ig h t have
been c o n s tru c te d a ro u n d the activity itself. For th e re is a
w orld of h a u te cuisine a n d e tiq u ette which tre a ts the e n jo y
m e n t of food a n d its service as e n d s in-themselves, the m e a
s u re m e n t of utility referrin g to s ta n d a rd s developed a n d
a cc ep te d by k n o w ledgeable p a rtic ip a n ts in th a t world.
(The distinction b etw een utilities w hich arise in the w orld
c o n stru c te d a ro u n d the activity itself a n d those m e a s u re d
by s ta n d a rd s im p o rte d from o th e r w orldscall th e m in
trinsic a n d extrinsic, or practical, utilitieswill re c u r in the
analysis.)
Defining c raft as the know ledge a n d skill w h ich p ro d u c e
useful o b je cts a n d activities implies an aesthetic, s ta n d a rd s
on w hich ju d g m e n ts of p a rtic u la r item s of w ork c a n be
based, a n d a n organizational form in w hich the evaluative
s ta n d a r d s find their origin a n d logical justification. T he o r
ganizational form is one in w hich the w o rk e r d o es his w ork
for s o m e o n e elsea client, cu sto m er, or e m p lo y e rw ho
defines w h a t is to be d o n e a n d w h a t the result sh o u ld be.
E m p lo y e rs u n d e r s ta n d th a t the w o rk e r possesses special
skills a n d know ledge but re g a rd it as a p p ro p ria te th a t they
m a k e the final ju d g m e n t on the result. T he w o rk e r m ay know
b e tte r w ays of doing things, not k n o w n to s o m e o n e ou tsid e
the craft, b u t recognizes the e m p lo y e r's right to the last word.
Both recognize th a t the o b ject of the activity is to m a k e
s o m e th in g em p lo y ers can use for their p u rp o ses, w h a te v e r
they m a y be. A lthough a w o rk e r so m e tim e s m a k e s things for
his ow n use, th e o b je c t is still m a d e to serve s o m e o n e 's need
for a useful object.
If you define y o u r w ork as d o n e to m eet so m e o n e elses
practical needs, th e n function, defined as ex tern al to the
w o rk 's intrinsic ch ara cte r, is an im p o rta n t ideological a n d
275 A R T S AND C RAF T S

aesthetic co n sideration. If the piece has no evident o r possi


ble p ractical use, or is totally u n su ite d to its ostensible use,
the c ra fts m a n w h o m a d e it (a c ra fts m a n b eing s o m e o n e w h o
a cc ep ts the c ra ft ideology) will p ro b a b ly receive a n d feel
vu ln erab le to severe criticism from his colleagues. I will give
s o m e e x a m p le s later.
In ad d itio n to function, c ra fts m e n accep t a seco n d a es
thetic s t a n d a r d virtuoso skill. M ost crafts are difficult, re
quiring years to m a s te r the physical skills a n d m ental disci
plines of a first-class p ractitio n er. An expert, having m a s
tered the skills, h a s great control over th e c raft's m aterials,
can do a n y th in g with them , c a n w o rk with sp ee d a n d agility,
a n d can do w ith case things ord in ary , less expert c ra ftsm e n
find difficult o r im possible. A potter, for instance, m a y be able
to th ro w pots w ith walls so thin th a t o th e r p o tte rs w ould
be u n a b le to p rev en t th e m from collapsing. Conversely, he
m ay be able to th ro w great m a sse s of clay o th e r potters
w o u ld find im possible to control. The specific object of vir
tuosity varies from field to field, b u t alw ays involves an e x tra
o rd in a ry control of m a te ria ls a n d techniques. S o m etim es
virtuosity also includes m a ste rin g a wide variety of te c h
niques, being able n o t only to d o things b e tte r th a n most
o th e rs but also to do m ore things. Virtuoso c ra ftsm e n take
pride in their skill a n d are h o n o re d for it in the c ra ft a n d
so m e tim e s by outsiders.
T h at an o b ject is useful, th a t it re q u ire d v irtu o so skill to
m a k e n e ith e r o f th ese p re clu d e s it from also being th o u g h t
beautiful. S o m e c rafts g e n e ra te from within their ow n tra d i
tion a feeling for b e a u ty a n d with it a p p ro p ria te aesthetic
s ta n d a r d s a n d c a n o n s of taste. Both m a k e rs a n d users think
th a t so m e fu rn itu re is b eautiful in addition to being useful
a n d th a t they can tell the difference. Not m a n y people care to
m a k e th e s e fine d is ti n c ti o n s a m o n g h o u s e h o l d c r a f t o b je c ts ,
b u t those w h o do (Jap an ese, for instance) a d d b e a u ty to
utility a n d virtuosity as a th ird criterion of ju d g m e n t which
in fo rm s their daily activities. B eau ty b e co m es an additional
criterion c o n n o isse u rs use in m ak in g ju d g m e n ts a n d w orkers
try to satisfy.
By a cc ep tin g b e a u ty as a criterion, p a rtic ip an ts in craft
276 A R T S AND C R AF T S

activities tak e on a co n cern ch ara cte ristic of the folk defini


tion of art. T h a t definition includes a n e m p h a sis on b e a u ty as
typified in the tradition of so m e p a rtic u la r art, on the tr a d i
tions a n d c o n c e rn s of the a rt w orld itself as the so u rc e of
value, on expression of so m e o n e 's th o u g h ts a n d feelings, a n d
on the relative fre e d o m of the artist from ou tsid e in te r
ference w ith the work. (C oncerning the last elem ent, the
folk definition acknow ledges, implicitly th o u g h usually not
explicitly, th a t o th e r p a rtic ip a n ts in the a rt w o rld p a
trons, dealers, cu rato rs, a n d critics, for in sta n c e will in fact
if n o t in th e o ry c o n stra in the artist's expressive freed o m
substantially.)
B ecause som e c ra ftsm e n a cc e p t b e a u ty as a criterion, the
organizational form of c raft w orlds b e co m e s m o re c o m p li
c ate d a n d differentiated th a n it w ould otherw ise be. Crafts
ordinarily divide along the line b etw een o rd in a ry c ra ftsm e n
trying to do d e ce n t w o rk a n d m a k e a living a n d artist-crafts-
m e n with m o re am b itio u s goals a n d ideologies. O rdinary
c ra fts m e n usually re sp e ct a rtist-c raftsm e n a n d see th e m as
the source of innovation a n d original ideas. The two types
not only carry on the c ra ft in distinctive ways, b u t also c o n
stitute distinct g ro u p s of people, since w o rk e rs tend to id e n
tify th e m se lv e s as one o r the o th e r a n d to a d o p t one o r the
o th e r m o d e of activity fairly exclusively.
The o rd in a ry c ra fts m a n p ro b a b ly d o es not tak e the crite
rion of b e a u ty very seriously. Busy satisfying the d e m a n d s of
a variety of jo b s a n d cu sto m ers, he c o n te n ts him self with
m a k in g sure th a t the pipes he installs carry w ater, th a t the
b ookcase he builds is stu rd y a n d fits in the sp ac e he m e a
su re d for it, th a t the m eal is served expeditiously. I have, of
course, deliberately c h o sen e x am p le s from crafts in which
the idea of b e a u ty seldom e n ters a n y o n e s calculations, at
least in the co n v entional sense c o n n e c te d w ith such high arts
as p a in tin g a n d scu lpture.
S o m e c ra fts m e n (a c u rre n t list w ould include potters,
w eavers, glassblow ers, a n d fu rn itu re m ak ers, to cite the m ost
obvious cases) speak of th em selves as a rtist-c raftsm e n
(Sinha, 1979). The distinction m e a n s s o m e th in g in these
craft worlds. The A m erican Crafts Council identifies itself as
277 A R T S A N I) c R A F T S

the o rg a n iz e d voice of the a rtist-c ra ftsm a n . The influential


m agazine it once published, Craft H orizons, e m p h asized
q u e stio n s o f b e a u ty a n d artistic m erit, in co n tra st with a then
m o re purely craft-oriented m a g a z in e like Ceramics M onthly.
Sim ilar p u rely craft-o rie n ted m a g azin es serve m o st crafts.
Work by artist-craftsm en , w ith som e claim to be consid-
e re d art by/ the c u sto d ia n s of conventional a rtcollectors,
c u ra to rs, a n d gallery o w n e rs finds n e w organizational set
tings, w h ich partially free the a rtist-c ra ftsm a n from the c o n
stra in ts e m b o d ie d in the em p lo y er-em p lo y ee relationship
c h a ra c te ristic o f the p u re c r a f t s m a n s position. U n d e r the
h e a d in g o f m in o r arts," beautiful craft o b je c ts arc displayed
in show s a n d m u s e u m s , win prizes for th e ir b eauty, c o n
trib u te to the re p u ta tio n s of the c ra fts m e n w h o m a k e them ,
b e c o m e the s u b je c t o f books a n d the occasion for d e m o n
stra tio n s of h o w to do it," a n d even furnish the basis on
w hich te ac h in g jo b s are given a n d held. In short, not only do
s o m e people care to m a k e the distinction b e tw e e n beautiful
a n d o rd in a ry craft objects, b u t there are su b sta n tia l re w a rd s
for m ak in g m o re beautiful o b je c ts while a d h e rin g to c ra ft
s ta n d a rd s .
A rtist-craftsm en have h ig h er a m b itio n s th a n o rd in a ry
c raftsm e n . While they m a y s h a re au diences, institutions, a n d
re w a rd s w ith o rd in a ry c ra ftsm e n , they also feel so m e kinship
w ith fine-art institutions. Thev see a co ntinuity b etw een w hat
they do a n d w h a t fine artists do, even th o u g h they recognize
th a t they have chosen to p u rsu e the ideal of b eau ty they
sh are w ith fine artists in a m o re lim ited a re n a . W hat c o n sti
tutes b e a u ty can of c o u rse be the su b jec t of co n sid erab le
controversy, b u t it is the third m a jo r criterion a cc o rd in g to
w h ich people ju d g e w ork a n d to w hich they orient their ow n
activity.
W e m ig h t im agine the differentiation ol c ra ftsm e n a n d
a rtist-c ra ftsm e n as a typical historical seq u en ce. A craft
w orld, w h o se a esth etic e m p h a siz e s utility a n d virtuoso skill
a n d w h o se m e m b e r s p ro d u c e w o rk s acco rd in g to the d ic
tates of clients o r e m p lo y e rs o p e ra tin g in so m e e x trac ra ft
world, develops a new segm ent (B ucher, 1962; B uch er a n d
S trau ss, 1961). The new s e g m e n t's m e m b e rs a d d to the basic
278 A R T S AND CR A FTS

aesthetic an e m p h a s is on b e a u ty a n d develop so m e a d d i
tional organizations, w hich free th e m of the n e e d to satisfy
em p lo y ers so com pletely. These a rtist-c raftsm e n d ev elo p a
kind of a rt w orld a ro u n d their activities, a m in o r a rt" w orld.
The w orld contains m u c h of the a p p a r a tu s of full-fledged
m a jo r arts: shows, prizes, sales to collectors, teach in g posi
tions, a n d the rest. N ot all c raft w orlds develop su ch an
artistic, beau tv -o rien ted seg m e n t (p lu m b in g has not). But
w h ere an a rt s e g m e n t develops, it usually coexists peacefully
with the m o re purely utilitarian c raft segm ent.
A n o th er s e q u e n c e o c cu rs w h en m e m b e rs of a n established
w orld alread y defined as art, people involved in the typical
activities a n d ideologies of the c o n te m p o ra ry art world, in
vade (and the m ilitary m e ta p h o r is a p p ro p ria te ) an e s ta b
lished c raft w orld, especially its a rt segm ent. The se q u e n c e
begins w h e n so m e fine artists look for new m ed ia in w hich to
explore a c u rre n t expressive p roblem . These artists h a p p e n
on o n e of the crafts a n d see in its m a terials a n d te c h n iq u e s a
poten tial for artistic exploitation. They see a w ay to do s o m e
thing th a t will interest th e art w orld to w hich they are ori
e n te d a n d to w hich they re sp o n d . They have no interest in
the c o n v en tio n al s ta n d a r d of practical utility; their notion of
b e a u ty is likely to be very different fro m a n d m o re a d v a n c e d
th a n th a t of the c raft th e y are invading a n d the kind of skill
a n d control th a t interests th e m quite different from th a t
prized by th e m o re tra d itio n a l practitioner.
The n e w b re ed of artists in the c raft devise new a n d a g
gressively n o n u tilitarian s ta n d a rd s . Only the utilities defined
by the a rt w o rld in w h ic h they p a rtic ip ate in te re st them .
Art utilities typically include usefulness as o b je cts of a e s
thetic c o n te m p la tio n , as o b je c ts o f collection a n d o s te n ta
tious display, a n d as item s o f in v estm en t a n d p e c u n ia ry gain,
b u t not the practical utilities defined by the p u rp o s e s a n d
org an izatio n o f o th e r w orlds. Artists invading a c raft w an t
to m a k e sure th a t the w orks they p ro d u c e c a n n o t be used as
people have b e en a c c u s to m e d to using th e m . R o b ert A rne
son, for exam ple, o n e of the leading spirits in the m o v e m e n t
w h ich claim ed p o tte ry as a fine-art field (Zack, 1970), m a d e
a series of large plates, technically c o m p ete n t, w hose utility
279 A R T S AND C R AF T S

w as d e stro y e d by the large brick w hich sat in the m iddle of


each one, slowly sinking into the su rfa c e as the series p r o
gressed (see figure 28). In a n o th e r instance, a g ro u p of artists
gained control of a ceram ics d e p a r tm e n t in an art school.
The n e w c h a irm a n a n n o u n c e d decisively th a t from then on
n o one in the d e p a r tm e n t w ould m a k e high-fire pottery. He
m e a n t th a t they w ould no longer m ak e clay o b je cts th a t had
any utility, becau se only high-fire p ottery will hold w ater
a n d th u s be useful for dom estic p u rp o se s: cups, glasses,
dishes, vases. By insisting th a t only low-fire p o tte ry be m ade,
he in effect a n n o u n c e d th a t w h a t they did fro m then on
w ould be so m e version o f c o n te m p o r a ry scu lp ture. Lest a n y
one miss the point, he e la b o ra te d : We are not going to m ak e
a n yV vessels.
J u st as the s ta n d a r d of utility is devalued, so, too, are the
old craft s ta n d a r d s of skill. W h a t the old er a rtist-c raftsm a n
has sp e n t a lifetime learning to do is s u d d e n ly h ard ly w o rth
doing. People are doing his w ork in the sloppiest possible
w ay a n d being th o u g h t s u p e rio r to him ju st becau se o f it.
In s te a d of a d h e rin g to the conventional c raft criteria,
w hich o f c o u rse turn up in s o m e w h a t different form , the
artists w h o e n te r a c raft field propose, rely on, a n d organize
th e ir w ork a c c o rd in g to criteria ch ara cte ristic of w orlds
conventionally defined as high art. In the art versions of any
of these m edia, for instance, u n iq u e n e ss of the o b je c t is
prized. Artists a n d th e ir publics think th a t no tw o objects
p ro d u c e d by an artist sh o u ld be alike. But for good c ra fts
m en th a t is not a c o n sid e ra tio n ; on the contrary, the
a rtis t-c ra ftsm a n 's control show s in his ability to m a k e things
as m u c h alike as he does. People w h o pay $200 for a small,
beautifully tu rn e d bowl will not feel c h eated if they find there
is a n o th e r m o re o r less like it. W h at they b o u g h t exhibits the
v irtu o so c ra fts m a n s h ip they p aid for. H ad they bought the
s a m e bowl on the a s s u m p tio n that it w as a u n iq u e w ork o f
art, they w o u ld feel c h e a te d to find that there w ere two. So
artists w h o w ork in these m e d ia sell their co n ce p tio n a n d its
e x ec u tio n in that m e d iu m a n d take care to be obvious a b o u t
how each of th e ir pieces differs from all others. No one w ants
to buy a copy from an artist, only fro m a c raftsm a n .
FIGURE 28. Robert Arneson, Sinking Brick Plates. When artists
invade a craft medium, they deliberately make work that is non
functional as a way o f showing that, though the medium is associ
ated with a craft, the work is art. Ceramic, 1969. (Photograph cour
tesy of the Hansen Fuller Goldeen Gallery.)
281 A R T S A N D C R A F T S

T he n e w s ta n d a r d s artists c re a te in sure th a t a w o rk s only


utility will be as a r t to be a d m ire d , a p p re c ia ted , a n d e x p e ri
enced. The artists d e n o u n c e the m e re virtuosity of the old
school o f c ra ftsm e n . They disco v er a n d create a conscious
c o n tin u ity with w o rk in o th e r areas of art, especially the
trad itio n al a re a s of p a in tin g a n d scu lp ture. They a n n o u n c e
th e ir in d e p e n d e n c e of others' ideas of w h a t their w ork
sh o u ld consist of a n d d e n o u n c e any a tte m p t to saddle them
with th e re q u ire m e n ts of utility. W hat they do usually re
q u ires a g reat deal of skill a n d control, but the skills n eed ed
are usually deliberately different from those prized by o rd i
nary c ra fts m e n o r a rtist-c ra ftsm e n a n d often are h id d e n as
well. Marilyn Levine ach iev ed a co n sid erab le re p u ta tio n by
m a k in g c eram ic s c u lp tu re s of shoes, boots, a n d o th e r le ath e r
objects, w hich looked so m u c h like real le a th e r th a t you h ad
to ta p th e m a n d h e a r the ring to be convin ced th a t they were
clay (see figure 29); that takes c o n sid e ra b le skill, b u t not the
kind ceram icists usually prize. It b e co m e s a virtue n o t to
display c o n v en tio n al c ra ft virtuosity, a n d artists m a y delib
erately c re a te crudities (the m a k in g of the crudities m ay
itself involve c o n sid e ra b le virtuosity, th o u g h not the sam e
as the c r a f t s m a n s), e ith e r for th e ir shock value o r to show
th e ir freed o m from th a t p a rtic u la r set of c o n v en tio n al craft
constraints.
Defining their work as art, the artists w h o a d o p t c raft
m aterials a n d te c h n iq u e s create a n d a c c o m m o d a te th e m
selves to a social o rg a n iza tio n different from th a t which
grow s up a r o u n d a craft. Craft organization s u b o rd in a te s the
c r a f ts m a n to an em ployer, at w h o se insistence a n d for w hose
p u rp o s e s the w o rk is done. But the c o n te m p o ra ry folk d e f
inition of a rt p re su m e s th a t the artist w orks for no one, that
the w o rk is p ro d u c e d in re sp o n se to p ro b le m s intrinsic in the
d e v e lo p m e n t of the art a n d freely c h o se n by the artist. O r
ganizationally, of course, the artist is no such heroic individ
ualist, but o p e ra te s in a setting of institutional constraints,
w hich vary fro m tim e to tim e a n d place to place. Artists
w hose w o rk w as d istrib u ted th ro u g h system s of c h u rc h and
royal p a tr o n a g e found it e x p ed ie n t to take a c c o u n t of their
p a tro n s ' tastes a n d desires to the point that, as w e saw in
282 A R T S A N D C R A F T S

. *< ,
i

tSfflE
t ^ y

FIGURE 29. Marilyn Levine, Brown Satchel. Artists taking over


a craft medium cultivate skills different from those o f craftsmenfor
example, the ability to imitate the surface look o f leather. Ceramic,
6 X 9 X 13-1/2 inches, 1916. (Photograph courtesy o f the Hansen
Fuller Goldeen Gallery.)

c h a p te r 4, th e p a tro n s m ig h t on occasion re a so n a b ly be
th o u g h t o f as collaborators. C o n te m p o ra ry artists, e n m e s h e d
in a w orld of collectors, galleries, a n d m u s e u m s , typically
p ro d u c e with no p a rtic u la r p u rc h a s e r in m in d a n d expect
their w ork to be m a rk e te d th ro u g h the co n v entional a p
p a r a tu s of d ealers a n d m u se u m s, the p u r c h a s e r exercising
control by buying o r refusing to buy. W h a te v e r the o rg a n i
zational form , the folk definition fu rth e r p re s u m e s th a t these
p u rc h a s e rs a n d in te rm e d iaries are as c o n c e rn e d as the artist
with the utilities defined by the a rt w orld a n d th e refo re with
283 A R T S A N D C R A F T S

p ro b le m s a n d topics defined within, r a th e r th a n outside of,


the c u rre n t a rt world. These p re s u m p tio n s are often violated,
b u t artists o rient them selves to that model.
Fine-art p h o to g ra p h e rs, for exam ple, do a g re a te r variety
of w ork, less c o n s tra in e d by the re q u ire m e n ts of o rg a n iz a
tions in w hich they work, th a n do p h o to g ra p h e rs w h o work
in su c h craft-o rien ted a re a s as advertising, fashion p h o to g
rap h y , o r p h o to jo u rn a lis m (R o sen b lu m , 1978). Similarly,
artists w orking in conventional c raft m edia are relatively
freer th a n a rtist-c raftsm e n w ho w ork in the sam e m edia,
both in the diversity of the o b je cts they m a k e a n d in the
variety a n d w him sicality o f the talk with w hich they explain
their work. The o b jects typically re se m b le c u rre n t w ork in
such c o n te m p o r a ry high-art w orlds as p ain tin g a n d scu lp
ture, a n d the talk b o th calls a tte n tio n to the re se m b la n c e a n d
displays at least superficial indifference to being intelligible
or rational. The latter ch ara cte ristic expresses an indiffer
ence to public a c c e p ta n c e c h a ra cte ristic of m a n y c o n te m p o
ra ry artists.
H e re are so m e exam ples. A rneson has m a d e m a n y pieces
w hich are in fact sculpture: a typew riter, s o m e w h a t sagged
out o f s h a p e a n d rough a r o u n d the edges, w hose keys are
red -p ain ted fingernails (see Zack, 1970, for o th e r exam ples,
a n d see figure 30); a series of self-portraits, sm o k in g a cigar
o r with the skull o p e n e d to reveal various co n ten ts; an
e n o rm o u s table covered with dishes of food, s ta n d in g in
fro n t of a life-sized p o rtrait of the artist in a c h e f s hat, all
glazed a p u re unrelieved w hite. To an o b s e rv e r fam iliar with
the c o n v e n tio n s of c o n te m p o r a ry sc u lp tu re a n d ceram ics,
th ese pieces look not quite like sculpture, but m o re like c e r
am ics. Aggressively not utilitarian pottery, they nevertheless
call a tte n tio n to th em selves as p ottery th ro u g h the rough
m o d e lin g of the clay a n d the g a u d y glazes. S o m e of their
effect lies in the am b ig u ity so created . O th er pieces are utili
tarian in principle but not q u ite in fact. An e x am p le is Arne-
s o n s te a p o t w hose sp o u t is a realistically m odeled penis; you
can p o u r tea from it, but not for everyone (see figure 31).
To tu rn to the talk that a c c o m p a n ie s su ch work, here is
A rneson explaining himself:
284 A R T S A N D C R A F T S

FIGURE 30. Robert Arneson, Typewriter. Artists taking over a


craft medium emphasize the continuity o f their work with that being
done in more conventional media. This work reflects the concerns of
Pop Art sculpture. Ceramic, 6-1/8 X 11-3/8 X 12-1/2 inches, 1965;
collection of the University Art Museum, University o f California,
Berkeley; gift o f the artist.

My recent art w o rk s in po r c ela in , g l a z e d in a l l t h e c o o l


ness of celadon are like a 9th Century southern Chinese
,
Sung Dynasty potter explaining the t r u t h of art, non-art,
not-art and their significance in a precious and free sense way
with added footnotes and trivia culled from folks like Steve
Kaltenfront, the Duncan Mold Company, and my own astro
logical signs for a Virgo artist who thought his Scorpio was
rising until his astro flashed the truth from the depths of the
station. But that was long after the fires went out and the kilns
had cooled, so I figured in light of the evidence presented, and
285 A R T S AND C R AF TS

FIGURE 31. Robert Arneson, A Tremendous Teapot. Artists can


make works socially as well as technically nonfunctional. This tea
pot can be used to pour tea, but not for everyone. Lustered earthen
ware, 8 inches tall with base, 1969. (Photograph courtesy o f the
Hansen Fuller Goldeen Gallery.)

d e p e n d i n g o n w h e r e y o u s t o o d , t h a t it all d i d n ' t s e e m t o m a k e
t o o m u c h d i f f e r e n c e a n y w a y j u s t a lo t o l w o r k in w h i t e m u d
c a l l i n g i t s e l f a r t . ( Q u o t e d in S l i v k a , 1971, p. 42)

A rneson ridicules the idea of art a n d conventional artists'


e x p la n a tio n s of their w ork in a w ay now c o m m o n a m o n g
a d v a n c e d " artists. H e is not the only one. R oger L ang e x
plained his s c u lp tu re of a piece of pie on a plate similarly:
P ie w a s i n t e r e s t i n g t o m e first o f all a s f o o d t h e n I f o u n d
s o m e tria n g u la r a s so c ia tio n s, g eo d esic, m a th e m a tic a l, sexual,
286 A R T S A N D C R A F T S

using a pie wedge as a basis for plate decorations. Later, high


in the sky, chicken pot pie, apple pie, cherry pie, and pie-eye
thoughts pushed me into 3-dimensional usages. Fruit Pie is,
after all, a very American food. Gradually, things accumu
lated and I came to think of pic as a vehicle for associations,
things that come along for nothing, free. In addition, there are
the visual changes which I impose, and I haven't even begun
explorations of one-crust pies yet. Taking everything into ac
count, pie is very rich. (Quoted in Slivka, 1971, p. 43)

Sim ilar exam ples, visual a n d verbal, could be collected


for weaving, glassblowing, fu rn itu re m aking, a n d clothing
design.
I have sp o k en of artists invading a n d taking o v e r a craft
world, bringing new s ta n d a rd s , criteria, a n d styles to a n a c
tivity previously d o m in a te d by c ra fts m e n a n d artist-crafts
m en. All the co n v entional crafts have an a p p a r a tu s of exhi
bitions a n d shows, usually held in specialized c raft galleries
a n d sm aller m u s e u m s (the biggest a n n u a l c e ra m ic s show is
held in the E verson M useum in Syracuse, New York) o r in
out-of-the-w ay c o rn ers of m o re im p o rta n t m u s e u m s . Artist-
c ra ftsm e n usually busy them selves fighting for m o re exhibi
tion space in b e tte r m u s e u m s for th e ir c raft a n d rejoice w h en
o n e of o u rs" m a k e s it into a m o re prestigious space (see
C h risto p h erso n , 1974a). M u se u m s te n d to be especially s e n
sitive to ideological a n d a esth etic fashions. This so m e tim e s
results in the in v a d e rs being invited to serve on the ju rie s of
craft show s. They pick w ork th a t ran k s high by their s ta n
d a rd s a n d ignore w ork d o n e by the old s ta n d a rd s. S oon the
new, artistically o rien ted w orks are being show n, w in n in g
prizes, being w ritten u p in the m agazines, p e r h a p s even b e
ing sold. (Sales d e p e n d on the degree to w hich the new style
of w ork m uscles in on the already estab lish ed c raft m ark et,
as o p p o s e d to sim ply creatin g a n e w m a rk e t o r sip h o n in g off
s o m e of the m o n e y th a t m ight have gone to o th e r form s of
a d v a n c e d art.) The older c ra ftsm e n b e c o m e e n ra g e d a n d
often are h u r t econom ically. They lose teach in g positions to
the new co m ers, so th a t a whole new g e n era tio n of s tu d e n ts
a n d poten tial c o n s u m e rs a d o p ts the m o v e m e n t's s ta n d a rd s
as b o th p ro d u c e rs a n d p u rc h a s e rs of work.
In part, then, one g ro u p the new artistssim ply replaces
2 8 7 A R T S AN I) C R A F T S

the old er g ro u p of artist-craftsm en . As th a t h a p p en s, a great


deal of conflict occurs. The c ra fts m e n feel th a t a b u n c h of
in c o m p e te n t savages is taking o v e r w h a t they have no right
to. T he artists feel that they are getting rid of so m e fuddy-
d u d d ie s w h o s ta n d in th e w ay of artistic progress. A pair of
q u o ta tio n s from Craft H orizons illustrates the em otional
tone a n d ideological co n ten t of the polem ic. In 1960, M ary
Buskirk, a w ell-known trad itio n al w eaver, said:
Too many times an object overshadows the pur pose for which
it is designed. Draperies, for instance, which are to serve as a
background, should be just thata backdrop to pull together
all the objects in the room. As for rugs, they should invite you
to step on them. Too often you find people walking around a
rug and, when this happens, it is safe to say that design and
function have gone out of focus. This doesn't mean you cant
use color and pattern, but it does mean you should use those
elements to create something which is inviting to step on.
(Quoted in Halverstadt, 1960, p. 10)
Ten years later, Virginia H offm an, re p rese n tin g the artist
group, sp oke to the question, W h en Will W eaving Be an Art
F orm ?" a n d m a d e clear the kind of c o n c e p tu a l tr a n s f o r m a
tion which occurs as the new g ro u p takes over, as well as the
degree to w h ic h o n e such m o v e m e n t m a y serve as the m odel
for others:

The controversy regarding the status of weaving as an art


form, efforts to justify its placement among the hallowed
media, labels such as stitchery, applique, macrame, woven,
nonwoven, unwoven, loom-free, built-in loom, ad infinitum,
may indicate that a transition in thinking has not occurred.
. . . one hears echoes of the past, as when the ceramists were
searching for a raison d'etre for nonfunctional p o ts .. . .
If one accepts the lack of need for minute classification of
media and processes, how' may one refer to different ways of
causing concepts to materialize? Ron Goodman's Genesis"
in Young Americans 69" pointed to the obvious nomencla
ture: soft sculpture. Such a large category could logically
include any three-dimensional form made by flexible joinings,
fibrous materials, modules with no fixed beginning or end,
soft materials made hard and vice versa, strength through
tension, counterbalancing, spacing, and forms created by use
288 A R T S A N D C R A F T S

ol invisible forces such as weightlessness and gravity. One


thinks of the metal tubing and cable structures of Kenneth
Snelson, some works by Gabo, architectural structures such
as the Sports Palace in Mexico City and Fullers Geodesic
Domes, works by Eva Hesse, Alan Saret, Robert Morris, Alice
Adams, and a growing group. (Hoffman, 1970, p. 19)
This s ta te m e n t also illustrates the striving to c h a n g e the
s ta n d a r d s of the craft, even to c h an g e the nam e, a n d to
establish a c o n tin u ity w ith w o rk by serious artists in o th e r
fields.
But the c h a n g e is n o t sim ply a m a tte r of o n e g ro u p r e
placing a n o th e r. Artists do not rep lace c ra ftsm e n com pletely,
for th e c ra fts m e n c o n tin u e to exist, p ro d u ce, sell, m ak e
re p u ta tio n s, have careers, a n d c o n s tru c t a n d m a in tain a
craft-o rie n ted world. In stead , a n e w a n d m o re co m p licated
w orld c o m e s into being, in w hich c raft segm ents, artist-
c ra ftsm e n seg m ents, a n d art seg m en ts coexist. You can w ork
solely in the confines of one su ch seg m e n t o r orient y o u r
self to so m e c o m b in a tio n of th em ; m ost of the possibilities
for orientations, m o d e s of action, a n d careers th a t existed in
the c raft w orld still exist, to g e th er with a variety of new
c o m b in atio n s.

ART B E C O M E S CRAFT
As the years pass, these w orlds settle d o w n a n d begin to
ex perien ce their ow n seg m en tatio n s, differentiations, a n d
splits. An alread y developed w orld c o m m o n ly defined by
insiders a n d o u tsid ers alike as a n a rt world, c o m p lete with
a p p ro p ria te ideologies, aesthetics, a n d form s of social o rg a
nization, o fte n (in a n o th e r c h ara cteristic seq u en ce) ch an g e s
in the opposite direction. The originally expressive art
w o rk s a n d styles b e c o m e increasingly m o re organized, c o n
strained, a n d ritualized; organizational form s su b o rd in a te
th e artist increasingly to partially o r entirely e x tra n e o u s
so u rc e s of control; a n d the w orld a n d its activities begin to
resem ble conventional c ra ft worlds. In this sense, a n a rt
tu rn s into a craft. The process tak es tw o form s. One leads to
w h a t is usually called a c a d e m ic " art, the o th e r to w h a t is
usually called c o m m e rc ia l' art.

i
289 A R T S A N D C R A I T S

A ca d em ic Art
A cadem icism consists of an increasing c o n c e rn w ith how
things are do n e, with the skill the artist o r p e rfo rm e r exhibits,
as o p p o s e d to w h at is done, the ideas a n d e m o tio n s the w orks
e m b o d y a n d express. Since all arts re q u ire som e s u b
stantial m e a s u re of skill, a c a d e m ic art is clearly an in te rm e
diate a n d a m b ig u o u s case of a te n d en c y th a t e m e rg e s full
blow n in c o m m ercia l art. Most p a rtic ip a n ts in any art w orld
d o n t w o rry a b o u t being expressive or creative; they are
c o n te n t to w o rk w ithin conventionalized form ats. But they,
a n d th o s e w h o s u p p o rt their art w orld as p a tro n s o r c u s
tom ers, generally o rient th em selv es to expressiveness and
creativity as the valuable c o m p o n e n ts of art w orks.
W e can sp e a k o f a c a d e m ic a rt as a rt p ro d u c e d in a w orld in
w h ic h artists a n d o th e rs shift their co n ce rn fro m e x p re s
siveness a n d creativity to virtuosity. T h at co n cern , p a ra l
leling the c raft co n ce rn with skill, is a step aw ay from the
s ta n d a r d s conventionally a c c e p te d as developing out of the
history of a n a r t a n d to w ard the s ta n d a r d s characteristic
of crafts, b u t it is only a step, not the full trip, for the util
ities to w a rd w h ich the w ork is p o in ted are still those o f the
art w o rld ap p rec iatio n , collection, a n d display. Sixteenth-
cen tu ry engraving exemplifies the d e v e lo p m e n t of such
a c a d em ic ism :

Thus, in engraving there were performers who made great


specialties of the rendering of glass and shiny metal, of silks
and furs, and of foliage and whiskers. It is impossible to think
that even so great an artist as Diirer was not tainted by this
sort of virtuosity. The virtuoso engravers chose the pictures
they were to make or reproduce not for their merit but as
vehicles for the exhibition of their particular skills. The laying
of lines, swelling and diminishing, the creation of webs of
crossed lines, of lozenges with little flicks and dots in their
middles, the making of prints in lines that all ran parallel or
around and aroundone engraver made a great reputation by
the way he rendered the fur of a pussy cat, and another made
a famous head of Christ that contained but one line, which
beginning at the point of the nose, ran around and around
itself until it finally got lost in the outer marginstunts such as
these became for these exhibitionists not a way of saying
something of interest or importance but a method of pos-
290 A R T S AND C R AF T S

luring in public. Naturally the great show men became


the models of the less gifted but equally stupid routine per
formers, for all these trick performances contained far more
of laborious method than of eyesight or of draughtsman
ship. (Ivins, 1953, pp. 69-70)
Classical ballet a n d the virtuoso playing o f c o n ce rt in s tru
m entalists also furnish exam ples: for long periods, criti
cism in both dealt largely w ith w h e th e r any m istak es h ad been
m ad e, w h e th e r the p e rfo rm e r h ad been fa ster or s u re r th a n
others, a n d o th e r c ra ft concerns.
The c o n v en tio n a l style w hich m a rk s the tu rn in g of a rt into
craft is precisely w h a t a c a d e m ic a r t m e a n s (Pevsner, 1940).
T h at it is a c a d e m ic d o es not m e a n th a t it c a n n o t be beautiful
o r effective, b u t effectiveness a n d b e a u ty b e co m e h a r d e r to
achieve b e c a u se th e re are so m a n y rules of good p ro c e d u re
a n d form to follow. Every high a rt show s e x am p le s o f the
tendency. In certain periods poets m u s t know a great variety
of form s, m a n y of th e m as d e m a n d in g o r c o n stra in in g as the
sonnet, ju s t as c o m p o se rs have so m etim es h a d to k n o w a n d
use such c o n s t r a i n i n g f o r m s as the fugue a n d c a n o n . A t the
extrem e, th e re is a right w ay to do everything: to d r a w a tree,
to h a rm o n iz e a th em e, to p o rtra y Lear. The s u b je c t b e co m es
m o re a n d m o re the skill a n d c ra ft of the artist, w h a te v e r the
w o rk is o stensib ly a b o u t. S u c h w ork a p p eals only to serious
a u d ien c e m e m b e rs, w h o u n d e r s ta n d the conventions, rules,
a n d skills alm ost as well as does the artist.
In n o v a tio n s are quickly assim ilated into the co n v entional
v o c ab u la ry a n d b e c o m e the basis for lay criticism a n d c o m
plaint, even directed against these w h o p io n eered the in n o
vations. S travinsky suffered from ju st this w h en he p re
m iered his com ic o p e ra M avra. It u se d m u c h sim p ler m usical
language th a n the e arlier balletsPetrushka a n d R ite o f
Springw hich h a d m a d e him fam ous. A ccording to his son,
w ho w itnessed th e p re m ie re of M a vra :
The modest and intimate character of Mavra, together with its
melodic idiom, which is related both to gypsy songs and to
Italian bel canto, was bound to upset a public which over a
period of years had become accustomed to look on Stravinsky
291 A R T S A N D C R A F T S

as a rebel; it could not, and would not, expect each work to be


other than sensational/ Such a public was bound to lcel
frustrated, and to look on Stravinsky as having failed his duty.
The disappointment was great; and the most annoying part of
it was that Mavra contained absolutely nothing to justify such
an uproar. (Quoted in White 1966, pp. 59-60)
The A m erican p h o to g ra p h e r E d w a rd W eston suffered
from sim ilar c o m p la in ts th a t he had failed to m eet his o w n
c o m p o sitio n al a n d tech nical s ta n d a rd s , as e m b o d ie d in his
earlier p h o to g ra p h s. T hose w ho a d m ire d his still lifes a n d
la n d sc a p e s w ere scandalized w h en he p ro d u c e d a series of
b itte r a n d u n u s u a l p ictu res d u rin g W orld W a r II, typified by
Civilian Defense," an im age of a n u d e w o m a n lying on a
sofa w e a rin g a gas m ask. He w rote to a friend w ho had
c o m p la in e d a b o u t th e se pictures:
Your reaction follows a pattern which I should be used to by
now. Every time that I change subject matter, or viewpoint, a
howl goes up from some Weston fans. An example: in the
E. W. [Weyhe] book is a reproduction of Shell and Rock
Arrangement '; my closest friend, Rarniel, never forgave me
for putting it in the book because it was not a Weston/'
Another example: when I sent some of my then new shell and
vegetable photographs to Mexico, Diego Rivera asked if Ed
ward was sick. And finally (I could go on for pages) when
I turned from shells, peppers, rocksso called abstract
formsMerle Armitage called my new direction the hearts &
flowers series.
So 1 am not exactly surprised to have you condemn . . .
work which will go down in history. (Quoted in Maddow, 1973,
p. 269)

C om m ercial Art
S u b o rd in a tio n to the re q u ire m e n ts of a u d ie n c e s a n d e m
ployers o c c u rs in a m o re coercive a n d c o m p lete way in
c o m m ercializ ed arts (see Becker, 1963, pp. 79-119; Griff,
1960; S a n d e rs, 1974; Lyon, 1975). The e m p lo y e r cho o ses a
use, ju st as in c raft w orlds, a n d the artist uses his virtuoso
skill to m e et the e m p lo y e rs re q u ire m en ts. An artist w h o has
m o re interest in the display of virtuosity th a n in the e x p re s
292 A R T S AND C R AF T S

sion of p e rso n a l ideas o r e m o tio n s is m o re o p en to sugges


tion, influence, o r coercion a n d m o re p re p a re d to tak e on any
of a variety of a ssig n m e n ts p ro p o se d by others. The craft
interest in utility a p p e a rs in a s o m e w h a t different form , as
the artist begins to prid e him self o n being able to do w h a t
ev er he m ig h t be asked to do. T h u s a c o m m ercia l a c to r m ig h t
be p ro u d of his ability to play a variety of rolespeople of
different ages, classes, nationalities, a n d c h a ra c te r types. A
m u sician m ig h t be p ro u d of his ability to play a great variety
of kinds of m usic, from ethnic specialties like the p olka to
jazz, sy m p h o n ic, a n d a v an t-g a rd e m usic a n d p e rh a p s even
m usic fro m cu ltu res using u n fa m ilia r in stru m e n ts. These
highly developed skills m a k e su ch artists attractiv e to a v a
riety of em ployers, w h o find those varied abilities useful.
Artists w h o m a s te r su ch technical skills usually begin to
think, talk, a n d a ct like c raftsm e n . P ro u d of their virtuosity
a n d control, m u c h m o re th a n of the c o n te n t of the a rt they
h a p p e n to be p ro d u cin g , they b o a st of their ability to h a n d le
w h a te v e r c o m es up. The m usician s w h o record so u n d tracks
for films a n d television p ro g ra m s epitom ize this a ttitu d e
to w a rd artistic w ork (F aulkner, 1971). The w ork is well paid
a n d re q u ire s great skill. Most o f w h a t these m usician s plav is
very sim ple. But they m u st be p re p a re d to play tre m e n d o u sly
difficult m aterial at a m o m e n t's notice. F a u lk n e r q u o te s a
cellist:

Ninety-eight per cent of the time is just simple and dull. But
one or two per c e n t . . . it's demanding and you have to do
it . . . Now tomorrow at 9:00 I have a call 1 dont have the
vaguest idea who I'm working for, or what it is, how big the
orchestra is, or who else is with me in the section. It may be X,
Y or Z studio . . , 9:00. Now a cue might come up from a cello
concerto, which if Leonard Rose or Pablo Casals had for a
goddam concert, they'd have to study it for two months. And
we have to knock it off . . . just like that on the spottwo runs
and then a ta k e .. . . Thats why they're paying me more, and
thats why you are known as a soloist in the business; that's
why youre in demand. And we better do it. So those kinds,
like I say, two per cent of the time . . . you get e m . . . . Those
moments are rare, just here and there . . . a couple of weeks
293 A R T S A N D C R A F T S

that *you have to use evervr bit of talent and tricks and what-
ever learning from past experience has taught you. (Faulkner,
1971, p . 120)

Not only is the m u sic these m en have to play difficult, but


they have to play it u n d e r the m ost trying co n d itio n sw ith
out benefit o f p rio r study, a c c o rd in g to a rigid r h y th m al
ready re co rd e d on a previous so u n d track, a n d with no m ore
th a n two ru n -th ro u g h s before they m a k e the final recording,
all b e ca u se of e c o n o m ic pressu res. The m u sician s w h o play
a n d re c o rd these scores have g re at technical co m p ete n ce .
They kn o w it a n d feel a great pride. F a u lk n e r q u o te s one
e ld e r s ta te s m a n " : "1 believe it is necessary to play c o m
m ercial m usic, no m a tte r how poor, no m a tte r how poorly
w ritten, o r how poorly starv ed a film score is for good ideas,
I feel that for m y o w n private pride of p e rfo rm a n c e , it d e
serves the best I c a n give it. I n ever c o m p ro m is e on t h a t
(F aulkner, 1971, p. 129). A few m u sician s bragged a b o u t their
versatility: %/

Many reed players dont bend, theyre not flexible. Some dont
even get the right sound in the studio or they refuse to play
different. So [a composer] wants a light, French sound on the
oboe for example, and [another composer] prefers a dark,
flat German sound and you have to bend, to be able to play
them all___

I doubt whether symphony players or other guys really have


all the things down, all the experience that comes with know
ing every style, of having gone through the m ill.. . . I have to
be funny, be a clown, be serious, play jazz, there's all types of
music and all types of challenges. You have to improvise, the
composer will even tell you to do anything you w a n t.. . .

Youre pounding on high notes like we were last week for a


couple of hours and all your blood has gone out of your lips
and then they have you turn right around and play something
soft and delicate, in the upper register, or play a little jazz, or a
bugle call with finesse. Not many can make it come o n . . . .
(Faulkner, 1971, p. 140)
a
FIGURE 32. Two stages in the development o f American art
photography, (a) Gertrude Kasebier, untitled photograph. Members
o f the Photo-Secession, around the turn o f the century, made
romantic, painterly photographs. Undated, gum print. (Courtesy of
the Art Institute o f Chicago.) (b) Robert Frank, Covered Car, Long
Beach, California. Robert Frank's work returned, in some ways, to
the painterly and symbolist concerns o f an earlier era, although it
used a more modern language and subject matter. These photo
graphs illustrate a continuing process o f solidifying technical stan
dards and rebellion against them. Undated, black and white photo
graph. (From The Americans, 1959; courtesy o f the Art Institute of
Chicago.)
296 A R T S AND C R AF T S

People usually re fe r to this m o d e of w orking in the visual


arts, m usic, o r th e a te r as c o m m e r c ia l/' C om m ercial arts use
m o re o r less the s a m e skills a n d m aterials as line arts but
deliberately p u t th e m to uses no one reg ard s as artistic, uses
w h ich find their m e a n in g a n d justification in a w orld o rg a
nized a ro u n d so m e activity o th e r th a n art. W hen visual artists
m a k e draw ings for a n a d v e rtise m e n t o r an in stru ctio n m a n
ual, they serve e n d s defined by business o r industry, as do
m usician s w h en they reco rd the b a c k g ro u n d for a television
jingle. M usicians w o rk to serve e n d s defined by e th n ic cul
tu res a n d fam ily display w hen they p e rfo rm at w ed d in g
celebrations. W o rk ers a n d c o n s u m e rs ju d g e the p ro d u c t by
its utility as th a t is defined by so m e w orld o th e r th a n the art
world, in relation to so m e o th e r form of collective action
th a n th a t defined by the a rt w orld. Art a c a d e m ie s (Pevsner,
1940) teach the ra n g e of te c h n iq u e s necessary to be able to do
th a t well.
Of course, w hole a rt w orlds do not tu rn to a c raft o rie n ta
tion in this way. In stead , they gradually spin off a s e g m e n t
c o m p o se d of people w ho devote them selves prim arily to
craft-co m m ercial activities. B ecause these people are skilled
c ra ftsm e n , they c a n (and often do) also d ev o te th em selv es to
creating fine art on occasion. The players F a u lk n e r in te r
viewed furnish p e rso n n e l fo r a v an t-g a rd e concerts a n d jazz
g ro u p s in Los Angeles w h en they are not recording.

R evo lt
As an a rt b e co m e s conventionalized, s ta n d a r d s b e co m e
m o re a n d m o re rigorous. M ost artists a cc e p t th a t rigor, s a t
isfied with the expressive possibilities of conventionally a c
c ep tab le form s. They are in teg rated professionals, an alo g o u s
to the scientists w h o p ro d u c e n o rm al science" in n o n re v o
lutionary p eriods (K uhn, 1962). But o th e rs find the rigor
c o n strain in g a n d oppressive. They feel that, to d e m o n s tra te
their c o m p e te n c e , they h a v e to sp en d so m u c h tim e a c q u ir
ing the co n v entional w isd o m a n d skills th a t they can n ever
get to th e p ro d u c tio n o f the art w hich interests them . They
so m e tim e s also feel th a t they will n ever be able to o u td is
297 A R T S A N D C R A F T S

tance the tra d itio n a l know ledge a n d te c h n iq u e o f those now


acclaim ed.
In addition, they find th a t every innovation they m ak e
p ro v o k e s the criticism th a t it fails to m eet c u rre n t s ta n d a rd s
of c o m p e te n c e . Artists w h o give no evidence of know ing any
of the right w ays of doing things are thought by critics,
audiences, a n d o th e r artists to be b u nglers a n d in c o m p e
tents, even th o u g h they deviate fro m s ta n d a rd form s delib
erately. T he ty ra n n y of such p ro p e r m odels of artistic w ork
can be fo u n d in every field. P h o to g ra p h e rs w h o exp erim en t
w ith su ch o u tm o d e d devices as a soft-focus lens m ay be
b e ra te d for their a p p a r e n t inability to get a p ictu re in focus.
M any d a n c e a n d ja/.z m usician s fo u n d the Beatles in c o m p e
tent b e ca u se of their a p p a r e n t inability to c o m p o se a n d play
songs in the strict fo rm s of c o n te m p o r a ry p o p u la r song, the
eig h t-b ar sections to w hich su ch m usicians w ere a c c u s
to m e d ; it did not o c cu r to th e m th a t c o m p o se rs like L en n o n
a n d M cC artney w ere creatin g n in e -b ar p h ra se s deliberately.
(This is a particularly painful e x am p le for me, since I w as one
of th e reactio n aries w h o o b je c te d to the Beaties' inability to
c o u n t to eight.)
Critics, p a tro n s, a n d artists w h o find the c o n stra in ts of
c o n v en tio n intolerable fight back using a variety of invidious
descriptive ph rases. They call w ork w hich a c c e p ts the c o n
stra in ts a c a d e m ic " o r speak o f m e re" technical virtuosity
o r m e re " craft.
So the e n d po in t of the s e q u e n c e in w hich an a rt tu rn s into
a craft consists of younger, newer, rebellious artists refusing
to play the old g a m e a n d b reak in g out of its confines. They
p ro p o se a new gam e, with different goals, played by different
rules, in w hich the old know ledge a n d te c h n iq u e s are irrele
vant a n d superfluous, no help at all in doing w h a t is to be
d o n e in the new enterprise. They p ro d u c e o r discover new
exem plars, new great w o rk s th a t furnish a n e w s ta n d a r d of
b e a u ty a n d excellence, w o rk s w hich require a different set of
skills a n d a different kind of vision. In short, they m a k e a
revolution, of the kind d iscussed earlier in this ch ap te r.
P h o to g ra p h y has gone th ro u g h m a n y such revolutions in
298 A R T S AND C R AF T S

its s h o rt history (see Corn, 1972; Newhall, 1964; Taft, 1938). At


o n e tim e the o b ject w as to m a k e sh arp , clear ren d itio n s of
w h a te v e r w as th e re to be p h o to g ra p h e d a n d d o c u m e n te d ;
p e rh a p s at th a t po in t p h o to g ra p h y w as a c raft w h o se end
w as to serve the p u rp o s e s of those w h o n e e d e d in fo rm a tio n
in pictorial form . L a te r on, m o re artistically o rien ted p h o to g
ra p h e rs m a d e ro m antic, painterly p h o to g ra p h s ; E d w a rd
S teichen, in the early p a r t of his career, Alvin C oburn, and
C larence W hite took this tack. They w ere rep laced by the f64
group, w h o insisted on a s ta n d a r d o f s h a rp focus a n d clear
light, w h o w ere re p lac ed in tu rn by a variety of p h o to g
ra p h e rs, including C artier-B resson a n d R o b ert Frank, c o n
c e rn e d with c a p tu rin g m o m e n ts of real life. But F ra n k 's n o
tion of real life w as m o re sym bolic th a n m o st a n d in so m e
w ays m ig h t even be seen as a re tu rn to the painterly c o n c e rn s
of th e early Tonalists (see figure 32). The g am e o f solidify
ing technical s ta n d a r d s a n d rebelling against th e m goes oh
endlessly.
In discussing the oscillation b etw een the solidification of
s ta n d a r d s a n d the d e v e lo p m e n t of new a p p ro a c h e s , I do not
in ten d to p re se n t a picture of lonely, inventive geniuses
fighting against sm u g artistic e sta b lis h m e n ts (a lth o u g h th a t
h a p p e n s, too). The shift from art to c ra ft a n d b a ck is not
carried o u t by individuals acting in d e p en d e n tly ; su ch shifts
are successful only in so far as they involve e n o u g h people to
ta k e o v e r an estab lish ed a rt w orld o r to c re a te a new' one.
M ost of th e people involved in su ch tra n s fo rm a tio n s e x p e
rience th e m as a choice a m o n g alternative institutional a r
ra n g e m e n ts a n d w orking c o m p a n io n s ra th e r th a n as an in
ventive a n d creative leap.

SO M E FINAL TH O U G H T S
M ost c o n te m p o ra ry high a rt p ro b a b ly s ta rte d out as so m e
kind o f c raft (see B axandall, 1972; H arris, 1966; M artindale,
1972). The co m p o sitio n a n d p e rfo rm a n c e of E u r o p e a n a rt
m usic s ta r te d as a n activity su b serv ien t e ith e r to th e r e
q u ire m e n ts of the c h u rc h (as in the co m p o sitio n a n d p e rfo r
m a n c e of the M ass a n d plainsong), o r to the desires of a royal
299 A R T S A N D C R A F T S

p a tro n a n d his c o u rt for e n te rta in m e n t a n d m u sic for d a n c


ing o r of the o rd in a ry m e m b e r s o f a c o m m u n ity for som e
kind of e n te rta in m e n t. All the fine arts w e now enjoy m ay
have b e g u n in ju st this way, going th ro u g h so m e su c h c h an g e
as I have d e sc rib e d in the case of w eaving a n d ceram ics.
In this s e q u e n c e of changes, as in those c o n sid ered p re
viously a n d those to be taken up in the n ext c h a p te r, c h an g e
in itself c o u n ts for very little. W hat m ak es the ch an g e s im
p o r ta n tfor artists, for a u d ien ces, for su p p o rt personnel,
a n d for analysts o f the a rts is the way they involve, generate,
a n d in tu rn d e p e n d on c h a n g e s in organization. W hen all
these kinds of p eo p le c h an g e the co n v en tional basis on
w h ic h they interact, then a real a n d lasting c h an g e o c cu rs in
the m e d iu m a n d in the w orld it is p ro d u c e d in.
lO C h a n g e in Art Worlds

The early p a rts of this book e m p h a siz e d the w ay the activ


ities of a n a rt w orld fit together, focusing on the w ay people
c o o p e ra te to p ro d u c e a n a rt w o rld s ch ara cte ristic p ro d u cts.
The discussion of m av erick s p o in ted o u t the ability of art
w o rld s to repel change, to keep people w h o se innovative
ideas w o uld force art w orld p a rtic ip a n ts to devise new form s
of c o n v en tio n al practice on the ou tsid e w h ere they could not
m a k e trouble. T h a t m a y have suggested to so m e re a d e rs th a t
I in te n d e d so m e co n ce p tio n of a system in equilibrium ,
w hich d o es not c h a n g e or a u to m atica lly re ac ts to external
c h a n g e s so as to m inim ize c h a n g e within.
I d o not w a n t to suggest th a t at all. Art w orlds ch an g e
c o n tin u o u sly so m e tim es gradually, so m e tim e s quite d r a
m atically. New w orlds co m e into existence, old ones d is a p
pear. No a il w orld can p ro te c t itself fully o r for long against
all the im p u lse s for change, w h e th e r they arise from external
so u rces o r in ternal tensions.
B ut I do w a n t to insist on the crucial im p o rta n c e of o r
ganizational d e v e lo p m e n t to artistic change. Artistic m a v
ericks show w h a t h a p p e n s to in n o v a to rs w h o fail to develop
an a d e q u a te organizational s u p p o rt system . They c a n m a k e

300
301 C H A N G E I N AH T W O R L D S

art, but they do not a ttra c t a u d ie n c e s o r disciples, a n d found


no schools o r traditions. If they find a place in the history of
th e ir m e d iu m (and most do not), it is in a footnote ra th e r
th a n a c h a p te r heading. Most history deals with w inners.
The historyV* of art deals w ith in n o v ato rs and innovations that
w on organizational victories, su cc ee d in g in creating a ro u n d
th em selves the a p p a r a tu s of an art world, m obilizing eno u g h
people to c o o p e ra te in regular ways th a t su sta in e d and
fu rth e re d th e ir idea. Only ch an g e s th a t succeed in c a p t u r
ing existing co o p erativ e n e tw o rk s o r developing new ones
survive.
The analysis in this c h a p te r co n sid ers artistic c h an g e from
this point o f view, seeing h o w a rt w orlds c h an g e a n d how
they a re b o rn a n d die. It looks especially for how c h a n g e s
find an org an izatio n al base a n d th u s last. K eep in m in d that
lasting is the m a jo r criterion by w hich people recognize g re at
art. The co n n ec tio n b etw een re p u ta tio n (in this case, for
g reatness) a n d o rg a n iza tio n will co n ce rn us in the n ext a n d
final ch ap te r.

CONTINUOUS AND REVOLUTIONARY CHA NG E


The a rt w o rk s art w orlds p ro d u c e , the cooperative activity
th ro u g h w hich they a re p ro d u c ed , a n d the co n v en tio n s by
w hich people c o o rd in a te their c o o p era tio n all c h a n g e m o re
o r less co ntinuously. If for no o th e r reason, p ractices and
p ro d u c ts c h a n g e b e c a u se no one c a n do a n y th in g exactly the
s a m e w ay twice, b e ca u se m a terials a n d su rro u n d in g s arc
n e v e r exactly the s a m e a n d becau se the people you c o o p e r
ate w ith do things differently.
Artists, a n d ideologists o f art, often insist th a t such
u n iq u e n e s s is one of the im p o rta n t fe atu res of art works,
which, ex p ressin g the artist's th o u g h t a n d m o o d exactly, n e c
essarily vary. They m e a n thus to in dicate h o w art w orks dif
fer from th e w ork of nonartists, industrial w orkers, w orkers
in the crafts, a n d folk artists, all of w h o m (so the a rg u m e n t
goes) p ro d u c e the s a m e object o r p e r f o rm a n c e over a n d over
w ith no discernible change. But the w orks p r o d u c e d by all
these people vary too; the difference is th a t no o n e cares
302 C H A N G E I N A R T W O R L D S

a b o u t th e variations in w h a t they p roduce, only a b o u t the s im


ilarities. T he differences a n d c h a n g e s go u n re m a rk e d . If the
o b je c ts industrial w orkers p r o d u c e d really w ere all alike,
factories w o u ld not need quality control, n o r w ould som e a u
tom obiles be le m o n s" while o th e rs o p e ra te as advertised.
Similarly, careful s tu d e n ts of the crafts a n d folk arts have no
tro u b le distinguishing different versions of the sa m e object,
eith er m a d e by the sa m e m a k e r or by o th e rs w o rking in the
s a m e tradition (Glassie, 1972, gives so m e exam ples). Log
cabin quilts look alike only if you d o n t look closely.
In the sam e way, we m a y a tten d to or ignore the differ
ences b e tw e e n sim ilar art works, "w e" including audiences,
critics, historians, a n d the p e rso n m a k in g the work. Differ
e n ce s th a t m ig h t pro v id e the basis for so m e m a jo r in n o v a
tion c a n go u n re m a r k e d or, if they are noticed, be in te r
p re te d as m istakes, slips, things to be clean ed up in a final
version, o r r a n d o m variations th a t m a k e no difference. K. O.
N e w m a n (1943)* describes how h e a tte n d e d every p e rfo r
m a n c e of a L o n d o n play in w hich a friend w as acting a n d
his re a c tio n s to seeing it so m e eighty consecutive times. At
first, like a n y casu al th e ate rg o e r, he w as incredibly bored. As
tim e w ent on, how ever, he fo u n d th a t no two p e rfo rm a n c e s
w ere alike. S o m etim es the a cto rs w ere u p a n d the p e rfo r
m a n c e m o re exciting; so m e tim e s they m a d e m istakes w hich
altered the sense a n d feeling of the play; so m e tim e s they
altered their in te rp re ta tio n on the s p u r of the m o m e n t, w ith
varying success. W h en the plav finally closed, he w as sorry to
leave the a d v e n tu re of discovering the play a n ew every night.
Like N ew m a n , at first people ignore m ost of the changes,
in tentional o r otherw ise, w hich o c c u r in the doing a n d r e d o
ing of a rt works. If a d a n c e r learning a new d a n ce slips o r
stum bles, the c h o re o g ra p h e r will p ro b a b ly go over the se
q u e n c e again until the ro u g h n e ss has been elim inated. Ig
n o rin g th e c h a n g e s does not m e a n th a t they do not persist.
L a n g u a g e c h a n g e s alm o st entirely th ro u g h the a c c u m u la tio n
of a series of small, u n re m a r k e d changes in p ro n u n c ia tio n
a n d usage. No o n e consciously decides th a t from now on we

* Philip E n n is called this b o o k to m y atte n tio n .


3 0 3 C H A N G E I N A R T W O R L 1) S

will all d ro p the term inal g s o f geru n d s, or speak of the


resu lts of an action as the b o tto m line." Instead, a few
people e x p e rim e n t with the ch ange, o thers imitate, those
c h a n g e s lead to o th e r new p ro n u n c ia tio n s a n d cliches, a n d
a fte r aw hile the language is noticeably different, th ro u g h a
series o f a lm o st im p ercep tib le shifts for w h ich the m e ta p h o r
of drift" is entirely a p p ro p ria te.
S o m e drift is m o re conscious th a n this m a k e s it so u n d . If
w e think of a n artistic trad itio n as a c o n n e c te d series of
solutions to a c o m m o n ly defined p ro b le m (Kubler, 1962), wc
can see th a t the solutions a n d th e p ro b le m they are m e a n t to
solve c a n c h a n g e in this g ra d u a l way. E a ch consciously
so u g h t solution alters the p ro b le m so m e w h a t, if only by al
tering the ra n g e of possible solutions to p ro b le m s of that
kind. After a while, b o th p ro b le m s a n d solutions have
c h a n g e d substantially, th o u g h people involved in the process
w ould p ro b a b ly think of these m o v e m e n ts as logical d ev el
o p m e n ts in the tradition. Practice a n d artistic result change,
but no o n e th in k s a n y th in g special has h a p p e n e d . A c h o re
o g ra p h e r, seeing a d a n c e r s tu m b le , m ight decide to enlarge
the d a n c e v o c ab u la ry by including stu m b le s as one of the
expressive m o v e m e n ts d a n c e rs can do (Paul T aylor a n d
o th e rs since him have d o n e ju s t that). Such changes, at first
quite su rp risin g to p e rfo rm e rs a n d a u d ien ces alike, soon find
a place in c o n v en tio n al practice. R o se n b lu m and K aren
(1979) d escrib e sim ilar c o n n e c te d scries of ch an g e s in te c h
n iq u e s of film editing.
L e o n a rd M eyer (1956, p. 66) gives a nice e x am p le of drift in
his d e sc rip tio n of the use of vibrato by string in s tru m e n t
players. At one tim e string players used no vibrato, in tro
d u c in g it on ra re occasions as a deviation from convention,
w hich h e ig h te n e d tension a n d c re a te d e m o tio n al response
by virtue of its rarity. S tring players w ho w a n te d th a t e m o
tional resp o n se began using v ib ra to m ore a n d m o re often,
until the best w ay to excite the em o tio n al re sp o n se it h ad
once p ro d u c e d w as to play w ith o u t vibrato, a device B artok
a n d o th e r c o m p o se rs exploited. M eyer describes the process
by w hich deviations fro m co n v en tio n b e co m e a c c e p te d c o n
ventions in their o w n right as a c o m m o n one.
304 C H A N G E I N ART W O R L D S

Art w orlds do not define drift as c h an g e b e ca u se it does not


re q u ire any tro u b le so m e reo rganization of th e ir co o p erativ e
activities. No o n e is in co n v en ien ced b e c a u se so m e o n e else
insists on doing things differently. No s u p p o rt perso n n el
h a v e to p ro d u c e a new kind of m aterial or p e rfo rm in a
wholly n e w a n d u n c o m fo rta b le way. No a u d ie n c e has to
pay m ore, to stay longer, o r to exert itself in an u n a c c u s
to m e d w ay to e n jo y the work. No one loses ra n k in a system
of e steem o r pow er; no o ne's livelihood is th re a te n e d . The
people w h o c o o p e ra te to p ro d u c e w o rk will c o n tin u e to do
so, even th o u g h the work they p ro d u c e is different.
O th er in n o v atio n s re q u ire som e p a rtic ip a n ts to learn a n d
do different things, in c o n v en ien cin g th e m a n d th re a te n in g
th e ir interests. M em b e rs o f s o m e a rt w orld segm ents, having
insulated th em selves from these drifts a n d m in o r changes,
m a y fall b e h in d c u r r e n t practice a n d su d d en ly find that they
c a n n o t do w h a t is re q u ire d of p a rtic ip a n ts like them . M usi
cians find th a t they c a n n o t easily execute p a rts y o u n g e r
players routinely play. W hen large seg m e n ts of a n a rt w orld
get out of step in this way, so m e re alig n m en t of p a tte rn s of
co o p erativ e activity will take place. C hange of this kind is
usually viewed by ev ery o n e (except p e r h a p s those w ho have
fallen beh in d ) as n o rm a l a n d to be expected.
O th er in novations d is ru p t ro u tin e p a tte r n s of cooperation,
involving w h at, with so m e stre tch in g of T h o m a s K u h n s
(1962) usage, could be called a rev o lu tio n . People c a n no
longer c o o p e ra te w ith o th e rs in the a c c u s to m e d way, a n d
c a n n o t p ro d u c e as usual the kind of w orks they know how
to m ake. R evolu tionary innovations, involving deliberate
c h a n g e s in the c o n v en tio n a l language of the art, inevitably
c h an g e w h o c a n a ct to g e th er to do w hat. Art w orld p artici
p a n ts u n d e r s ta n d th a t the c h a n g e s are in te n d e d to be m a jo r,
a n d to affect co o p erative n etw o rk s, as they do. In this, re v o
lutions differ from the g ra d u a l shifts in interest, attention,
a n d c o n v en tio n ju s t discussed. They attack, ideologically
a n d organizationally, the s ta n d a r d activities o f th a t a rt w orld
at th a t time. The ideological a tta c k takes the form of m a n i
festos, critical essays, aesthetic a n d philosophical r e f o r m u
lations, a n d a revisionist history of the m e d iu m , d e n o u n c in g
305 C H A N G E IN ART W O R L D S

old idols a n d e x e m p la rs a n d celeb ratin g new work as the


e m b o d im e n t ol universal aesthetic values. The o rg a n iz a
tional a tta c k a im s to take over so u rces o f s u p p o rt, audiences,
a n d d istrib u tio n facilities.
Artistic rev o lu tio n s m ak e m a jo r ch an g e s in the c h a ra c te r
of the w o rk s p r o d u c e d a n d in the c o n v en tio n s used to p r o
d u c e th e m . Thus, im pressionists a n d cu b ists c h a n g e d the
existing visual language, the w ay one p u t p a in t on can v a s so
th a t it could be read as a re p re se n ta tio n of som ething.
S c h o e n b e rg , Berg, a n d W eb e rn fu n d a m e n ta lly ch an g e d the
logic of relatio n sh ip s b e tw ee n m usical tones w h en they in
tro d u c e d the tw elve-tone system of com position. W h a t is
fu n d a m e n ta l d e p e n d s on w h at the a tta c k e d a rt w orld can
a cc e p t a n d in corporate. C ubism a n d serial co m p o sitio n w ere
fu n d a m e n ta l c h a n g e s b e c a u se they re q u ire d people to do
w h a t n o n e of them k n e w h o w to do, so th a t they could not
p e rfo rm th e ir p a rts in the collective action w ith o u t s u b s ta n
tial efforts to learn new m a teria ls a n d w ays of doing things.
A udiences h a d to learn to re s p o n d to u n fa m ilia r languages
a n d to e x p erie n ce th e m aesthetically.
Every co n v en tio n im plies an aesth etic w hich m ak es w h at
is c o n v en tio n a l the s ta n d a r d of artistic b e a u ty a n d effective
ness. A play w hich violates the classical unities is not just
different. To th o se for w h o m the classical unities re p re s e n t a
fixed criterion o f d ra m a tic w orth, it is distasteful, b arb aric,
a n d ugly. An a tta c k on a co n v en tio n attack s the aesthetic
related to it. Since people e x p erien ce their aesthetic beliefs as
natural, proper, a n d m oral, an a tta c k o n a co n vention a n d its
aesthetic also a tta c k s a m orality. T he regularity with w hich
a u d ie n c e s greet m a jo r ch an g e s in d ra m a tic , m usical, and
visual c o n v e n tio n s with v ituperative hostility indicates the
close relation b etw een aesthetic a n d m o ral beliefs (Kubler,
1962).
An a tta c k on aesthetic beliefs as e m b o d ie d in p a rtic u la r
c o n v en tio n s is, finally, an a tta c k on an existing system of
stratification. H u g h e s (n.d.) argues, following William G.
S u m n e r (1906), that folkways a n d m o re s c re a te status. Sects
religious, political, o r artisticare at w a r with the mores.
An a ttack on the m o re s (for which, in this case, read c o n
306 C H A N G E IN ART WO R L D S

ventions) is th u s an a tta c k on social s tru c tu re (for w hich


re a d the organization o f a n a rt world), a n d sects o r in n o v a
tors in art w orlds a re at w a r with the system s of ra n k c u rre n t
in th e w o rld s w hose co n v en tio n s they a tta c k a n d a tte m p t to
replace.
R e m e m b e r th a t the c o n v en tio n al w ay of doing things in
any art utilizes a n existing co o p erative netw ork, w hich r e
w a rd s th o se w h o m a n ip u la te the existing co n v en tio n s a p
propriately in light of the associated aesthetic. S u p p o se
th a t a d a n c e w o rld is o rg an ized a ro u n d the c o n v en tio n s a n d
skills e m b o d ie d in classical ballet. By learning those c o n
ventions a n d skills, I b e c o m e eligible for positions in th e best
ballet c o m p a n ie s; the finest c h o re o g ra p h e rs will c reate b a l
lets for me, just the kind 1 know how to d a n ce a n d will look
good in; the best c o m p o se rs will w rite scores for m e; th e a te rs
will be available; 1 will e a rn as good a living as a d a n c e r can
e a rn ; a u d ie n c e s will love me; a n d I will be fam ous. A nyone
w h o successfully p ro m o te s a new co n v ention re q u irin g skills
he has a n d 1 d o n tstum bling, for in sta n c e not only a tta c k s
m y aesthetic b u t also e n d a n g e rs m y position in the w orld of
d ance. I resist the new b o th b e c a u se 1 find it aesthetically
repellent a n d th u s m orally o u tra g e o u s a n d b e c a u se I s ta n d to
lose if it rep laces the old.
O thers besides the artist h a v e so m e th in g invested in
the s ta tu s q u o w hich they sta n d to lose th ro u g h a c h an g e
in a c c e p te d conventions. C onsider a n e a rth w o rk sc u lp tu re
m a d e by a bulld ozer in a s q u a re mile of p astu re. You c a n n o t
collect it (th o u g h a p a tro n m ight pay for its c o n stru c tio n a n d
receive signed plans o r p h o to g ra p h s as a d o c u m e n t of his
p a tro n ag e ), o r p u t it in m u s e u m s (th o u g h the m e m e n to s the
collector receives c a n be dispkw ed). S u p p o s e e a rth w o rk s
b e c o m e a n im p o rta n t a rt form . M u se u m personnel, w hose
e v a lu a tio n s o f m u seu m -co lle c tab le art have h ad im p o rta n t
c o n s e q u e n c e s for the care ers of artists a n d a rt m o v e m en ts,
will lose the p o w e r to c h o o se w hich w o rk s will be displayed.
No o n e needs their m u s e u m s to display su ch w orks. E v e ry
one involved in m u seu m -co lle c tab le art (collectors, m u
seu m c u ra to rs, galleries, dealers, a n d artists) loses s o m e
thing. Since every a rt w orld c re a te s value by the a g re e m e n t
307 C H A N G E IN AR T W O R I D S

of its m e m b e r s as to w h a t is valuable (Moulin, 1967; Le


vine, 1972; C h risto p h erso n , 1974a), w h en so m eo n e success
fully creates a new w orld w hich defines the m a ste ry of o th e r
c o n v en tio n s as the m ark of artistic value, all the p artici
p a n ts in the old w orld w h o c a n n o t m a k e a place in the new
one lose out.
R evolutions do not c h an g e every p attern of convention-
m e d ia te d co o p erativ e activity. If they did, w e w ould not call
th e m revolutions b u t ra th e r w ould sec them as the d e v elo p
m e n t of an entirely new art world. As with political revolu
tions, no m a tte r h o w m u c h changes, m u c h stays the s a m e (as
w e saw in o u r discussion of m avericks). C om posers m ay use
new so u n d s a n d notatio ns; m usician s m a y play their in s tru
m e n ts in u n fa m ilia r w ays a n d use n e w kinds of e q u ip m e n t.
B ut c o m p o s e rs still p ro d u c e scores which, ho w ev er u n c o n
ventional, fu n c tio n as p a rts th a t the p e rfo rm e rs read a n d use
to guide their p e rfo rm a n c e ; p e rfo rm e rs play in public events
called c o n c e rts o r recitals, lasting a co n v entional two h o u rs
o r so; a u d ie n c e s a tte n d at a specific tim e a n d sit quietly while
the p e rfo rm e rs play, fre q u en tly having b o u g h t tickets to the
event as a result of learning a b o u t it th ro u g h publicity and
n e w s p a p e r stories. So co m p o sers, p e rfo rm e rs, audiences,
ticket sellers, re n ters of halls, a n d publicity people still c o o p
e ra te to p ro d u c e these events, even though the n a tu re of the
event has ch an g e d . We think o f the ch an g e s as revolutions
w h e n one o r m o re im p o rta n t g ro u p s of p a rtic ip a n ts find
th em selv es disp laced by the change, even th o u g h the rest
re m a in s m u c h the sam e. Thus, e a rth w o rk s c reate a revolu
tion w h en they th re a te n the position of c u ra to rs a n d dealers,
w h o form erly h ad su b stan tial control of the public dis
plays w h ich legitim ated artists a n d their work. E a rth w o rk s
th re a te n the critics a n d a u d ie n c e m e m b e rs w h o do not alter
their p a s t aesth etic a n d m a k e ro o m for the n e w w ork in
th e ir experience. But for p a rtic ip a n ts w h o m ak e the c h an g e
a n d th u s p re se rv e their positions in the cooperative netw ork,
the c h a n g e is n o t so revolutionary a fte r all.
We c a n n o t distinguish c o n tin u o u s from revolutionary
c h an g e on the basis of the c h a n g e itself. C hanges in the
tonalities used in m usical co m p o sitio n o r in the conventions
308 CHANGE IN ART WORLDS

o f realistic re p re s e n ta tio n in visual a rt are only rev o lutionary


if the c o n te m p o ra ry a rt w orld c a n n o t a b s o rb th e m w ith o u t
im p o rta n t m e m b e r s losing their positions a n d prerequisites.
F u rth e rm o re , a c h an g e m a y be rev o lutionary for so m e p e o
ple involved in the existing system , b u t not for others. There
is no sim ple w ay to s u m up all the ch an g e s a n d decide th a t so
m u c h change, b u t no less, is revolutionary. N or is th e re any
good re a s o n to m a k e the distinction so clear-cut. W h a t is
im p o rta n t to u n d e r s ta n d is the p ro cess by w hich p a rtic ip an ts
ignore, ab so rb , o r fight change, for those re sp o n se s define the
serio u sn ess a n d ex ten t of th e change, w hich m a k e it a re v o
lution o r so m e th in g less d ra m atic.
R evolutionary changes succeed w hen their originators m o
bilize so m e o r all o f the m e m b e r s of the relevant art w orld
to c o o p e ra te in the n e w activities their vision of the m e d iu m
requires. W hen a cto rs will p e rfo rm in n e w w ays (a p p e a r
nude, for instance) for directors; w h en pianists will reach
inside to pluck strings directly if a c o m p o s e r directs th e m to;
w h e n p rin te rs a n d pu b lish ers p ro d u c e books th a t are longer
o r s h o rte r o r set m o re u nconventionally th a n books used to
bew h e n in n o v a to rs su cceed in so m obilizing people, they
have c h a n g e d th e te rm s of c o o p e m tio n in th a t a rt world.
F ro m th e n on, c o m p e te n t p a rtic ip a n ts m u st kn o w a n d be
able to do, in a d d itio n to w h a te v e r w as form erly req u ired
of them , w h a t the innovation m a k e s conventional. If p artici
p a n ts can sim u ltan eo u sly forget so m e of w h a t they used to
know b e c a u se it will no longer be used, we m ig h t say th a t the
in n o v a tio n h a s rep laced the older form s. But the innovation
is usually a d d e d to w h a t c o m p e te n t p a rtic ip a n ts need to
know a n d do. W hen you learn to play the violin in a new way,
b e c a u se y o u r o rc h e stra is going to p e rfo rm a w ork by Jo h n
Cage, th a t d o es not m e a n th a t you c an forget the te c h n iq u e s
necessary for Bach, M ozart, o r Copland. You will play their
w o rk s d u rin g the seaso n as well.
J u s t as so m e old er p a rtic ip a n ts fall so b e h in d that, no
longer k now ing o r able to do w h a t is n eed ed, they can no
longer participate, som e in n o v a to rs can leave the bulk of
w h a t the c o n v en tio n al a rt w o rld requires behind, specializ
309 C H A N G E IN ART WO R L D S

ing in w h a t an innovation has m a d e possible. An art d e ale r


m ight specialize in c o n ce p tu al art, a p u b lis h e r in a v an t-g a rd e
poetry, a p ia n ist in the p e r f o rm a n c e of aleatory works.
P a rtic ip a n ts c a n only do this if e n o u g h o th e rs join th e m to
s u p p o rt the new activity. D ancers w h o specialize in c o n te m
p o ra ry d a n c e m a y have only a four- to six-week season,
c o m p a r e d with conventional d a n c e rs ' tw enty to thirty
w eeks; the au d ien c e for c o n te m p o r a ry d a n c e will not s u p
p o rt m o re p e rfo rm a n c e s th a n that. Not every locale can
s u p p o r t su ch specialization. An in stru m e n ta list in New York
o r L o n d o n can specialize in R e n a issa n c e a n d b a ro q u e music,
b u t a n equally skilled player in K a n s a s City, to m a k e a living,
will play every variety of classical m usic a n d p ro b a b ly
m o o n lig h t in a d a n c e o rc h e s tra as well.
In n o v a to rs w ho c o m m a n d the c o o p e ra tio n of everyone
n e e d e d for the activities the innovation req u ires have an art
w orld at th e ir disposal, w h e th e r th e y take over existing in
stitutions, replacing the people w h o form erly m a d e use of
them , s h a re the use o f those facilities, o r sim ply c reate an
entirely n e w netw ork. R ock-and-roll m u sician s illustrate all
these possibilities. They p u s h e d co n v en tional d a n c e b a n d s
o u t of so m e k in d s of w ork, gaining an a lm o st exclusive
m o n o p o ly on teen a g e d ances, got their sh are of the p o p u la r
re c o rd business, a n d c reated a new netw o rk of p e rfo rm a n c e
facilities in in d o o r a n d o u td o o r rock c o n certs a n d rock-
and-roll night clubs. While they use s o m e co n v en tional in
s tru m e n ts, an entire in d u s try h a s grow n up to pro v id e the
n e w in s tru m e n ts and accessories they need. M ost su b stan tial
c h a n g e s in art w orlds have this m ixed ch aracter.
In short, ch an g e s in art o c c u r th ro u g h ch an g e s in w orlds.
In n o v a tio n s last w hen p a rtic ip a n ts m a k e th e m the basis of a
n e w m o d e of co o p eratio n , o r in c o rp o ra te a c h a n g e into their
ongoing cooperative activities. C hanges can o c c u r piecem eal
a n d peacefully, alm o st u n n o ticed , o r occasion su b stantial
conflict b e tw ee n th o se w h o stan d to profit a n d gain in public
e steem by th e c h a n g e a n d those w h o will lose. In n o v a tio n s
b eg in as, a n d c o n tin u e to in corporate, ch an g e s in an artistic
vision o r idea. But their success d e p e n d s on th e degree to
310 CHANGE IN ART WORLDS

w hich their p ro p o n e n ts can mobilize the su p p o rt of others.


Ideas a n d visions are im p o rta n t, but their success a n d p e r
m a n e n c e rest on organization, n o t on their intrinsic w orth.

B IR TH AND DEATH
F ro m tim e to tim e new a rt w orlds a p p e a r, grow, a n d
pro sp er, eventually achieving sufficient stability th a t they
can go th ro u g h so m e of the se q u e n c e s of internal ch an g e we
have alread y considered. An art w orld is b o rn w h e n it brings
to g e th e r people w h o n ever c o o p e ra te d before to p ro d u c e art
b a se d on a n d using c o n v en tio n s previously u n k n o w n or not
exploited in th a t way. Similarly, a n art w orld dies w h en no
one c o o p e ra te s any longer in its ch ara cte ristic ways to p r o
d u c e art b ased on a n d exploiting its ch aracteristic c o n v e n
tions. We c a n n o t clearly se p a ra te n e w art w orlds fro m those
w hich have c h a n g e d substan tially by virtue of an artistic
revolution, n o r c a n we easily decide w h e n an art w o rld has
died, as o p p o se d to being c h a n g e d or ta k e n over by new
people. We need not m a k e these distinctions definitively,
since o u r interest is in the gro w th a n d d e ca y of fo rm s of
collective action r a th e r th a n in the d e v e lo p m e n t of logical
typologies. W e will look for the m e c h a n is m s w hich help art
w orlds to o p e ra te a n d w hose d is a p p e a ra n c e in terferes with
th a t operation.
W e sh o u ld not co n fu se innovation w ith the d e v elo p m e n t
of a n a rt world. New w orlds develop a ro u n d in n o v a tio n s
technical, co n cep tu al, o r organizational c h a n g e s b u t m o st
in n ovations do not p ro d u c e n e w art w orlds. We have seen
how m avericks can c reate interesting in n o v atio n s w hich b e
co m e d e a d e n d s a n d blind alleys, not becau se the innovation
could not sustain c o n tin u e d e x p erim en ta tio n a n d d e v elo p
m e n t, b u t b e c a u se the in n o v a to r could n o t find sufficient
n u m b e rs of people to join in th a t d ev elopm ent. W hat m ight
have been a n a rt w o rld re m a in s an u n e x p lo red possibility.
M ost su b sta n tia l in n o v atio n s w hich so m e o n e has d e lib er
ately m ad e, h o p in g to p e rsu a d e o thers to join in their exploi
tation, sh are th a t fate. To u n d e rs ta n d the birth o f new a rt
311 CHANGE IN ART WORLDS

w orlds, then, we need to u n d e rsta n d , n o t the genesis of in


novations, b u t ra th e r the process of m obilizing people to join
in a c o o p era tiv e activity on a re g u la r basis.
New art w orlds grow up a ro u n d so m e th in g th a t has not
been ch ara cte ristic practice for artists before. Since art
w orlds have m a n y ch ara cte ristic m o d e s of practice, ranging
fro m c o n v e n tio n s for m ak in g w orks to m e th o d s of display
a n d technical a n d m aterial c o m p o n e n ts, a new way of doing
a n y of these m ight be the basis for a new world.
S o m e art w orlds begin with the invention a n d diffusion of
a technology w hich m ak es certain new art p ro d u c ts possible.
The tech n ical d e v e lo p m e n t will likely have originated for
n o n a rtistic p u rposes, for a rt is seldom im p o rta n t e n o u g h to
a ttra c t serious inventors to its problem s. T inkercrs a b o u n d ,
b u t the su sta in e d in v e stm e n t of time, m oney, a n d o th e r re
so u rces req u ired for the p ractical d e v e lo p m e n t of a new
tech nical possibility is rare. The inventions a n d d ev elo p
m e n ts w hich m a d e still p h o to g ra p h y a n d m otion pictures
possible did not arise fro m a n y o n e s desire to m a k e art, but
from the scientific, com m ercial, a n d e n te rta in m e n t possi
bilities of th ese m edia. M uch, m u c h earlier, people invented
w ays of w orking with m etal, w hich incidentally m a d e sc u lp
tu re a n d artistic jew elry possible, although th a t w as not the
p u rp o s e of those inventions e ith e r (see Sm ith, 1970).
We notice these technical d e v e lo p m e n ts m ost in c o n te m
p o ra ry art, where they c reate serious am biguities as to
w h e th e r we are seeing new a rt w orlds develop o r only new
s e g m e n ts of old ones. The invention of the ta p e re c o rd e r a n d
o th e r electronic devices (from oscillators to synthesizers)
c re a te d a w ay of m a k in g m usic w ithout h u m a n perform ers.
N evertheless, m u c h electronic m usic is created by people
train e d in m usic, w h o use the m a ch in e s as an a d ju n c t to live
h u m a n p e rfo rm a n c e , is h e a rd by a u d ie n c e s raised on m ore
o r less c o n v en tio n al c o n ce rt music, a n d is ju d g e d by critics
w?ho use the sam e s ta n d a rd s they apply to o th e r serious,
c o m p o se d m usic. All this suggests th a t no n e w art w orld has
arisen a r o u n d these electronic inventions.
O th er c re a to rs of electronic m usic, however, co m e out of
the world of c o m p u te r electronics a n d m a th e m a tic s. Ori
312 C H AN G E IN ART W O R L D S

e n te d to w a rd c o m p u tin g a n d m a c h in e ry ra th e r th a n m u
sic, they have beg u n to m a k e m usic w ith the m a ch in e s
alone, dispensing with h u m a n players. Not only does th e m u
sic diff er in various w aysusing r a n d o m noise o r m a c h in e
g e n era te d p u re tones as raw m aterial, for in sta n c e b u t the
c o m p o se rs are less p e rfo rm a n c e oriented, m o re in terested in
m ailing ta p e s to each o th e r a n d in having th e m available for
o th e rs to hear. Not h aving been tra in e d to see public p e rfo r
m a n c e as th e p ro p e r w ay to h e a r m usic, an y th in g else being
m erely a reco rd of th a t public event, they tre at ta p e s as an
a u th o r tre a ts books, as o bjects co n tain in g the w ork itself,
any copy being as good as any other, a n d do not re g a rd the
w ork as being im p ro v e d in the slightest by being d o n e in
public, a n y m o re th a n a literary w o rk 's essential m erit lies in
how it s o u n d s w h e n its a u th o r re ad s it aloud. This version of
electronic m usic m a k e s the d e v e lo p m e n t of a new a rt w orld
m o re likely.
S o m e art w orlds begin w ith the d e v e lo p m e n t of a new
concept, a new w ay of thinking a b o u t som ething, w hose
possibilities can be explored a n d exploited ju s t as a technical
d e v e lo p m e n t is. Ian W att describes the d e v e lo p m e n t of the
novel as p a rtly d u e to the new idea of form al realism " as an
a p p ro p ria te m o d e of disco u rse in fiction. S u c h inventors of
th e novel as Defoe, R ich ard so n , a n d Fielding substituted,
for the stylized plots a n d c h a ra c te rs of earlier fiction, a fidelity
to th e details of o rd in a ry ex perience th a t sh o w ed itself in re
alistically com plex, original, a n d not com pletely designed
plots, in th e p articu larity (as o p p o se d to universality) w ith
w hich c h a ra c te rs a n d e n v iro n m e n ts w ere d raw n , a n d in the
plain, e v ery d a y language in w hich the story w as told (W att,
1957, pp. 13-30). A story so told differs in m o re th a n m in o r
details fro m a ro m a n c e w ith a n artificial plot, c h a ra c te rs (like
G a rg a n tu a ) w h o se n a m e s insist th a t they are universal types,
a n d a lan g u ag e n o n e of the c h a ra c te rs could have m a n a g e d
in real lifeit differs in its c o n c e p tio n of w h a t a w o rk of
fiction o u g h t to strive for a n d w h a t it m ig h t accom plish.
A round th a t new c o n c e p tio n a n e w w orld of w riters and
re a d e r s grad u ally arose.
S o m e a rt w orlds begin w ith the d e v elo p m e n t of a new
313 C H A N G E IN AR T W ORLDS

audience. The work they p ro d u c e m a y not differ m u c h from


w o rk in sim ilar genres w hich p re c e d e d it, but they re ac h a
new a u d ien c e th ro u g h new distributional a rra n g e m e n ts. The
new " rock m usic of the 1960s re se m b le d w h at had preceded
it: w hite im itations o f black blues a n d rock-and-roll, m ixed
w ith c o u n try -an d -w cste rn m usic. But it em p lo y ed new o r
ganizations to re a c h y o u n g people: the o u td o o r co n cert (Pe
terson, 1973), w hich, like W oodstock, w ent on for h o u rs or
even days, a n d w orking-class ballroom s, like the Fillmore
A uditorium ,9 w hose O ver Thirty" crow d had d eserted them.
In s te a d of draw in g c u sto m e rs from already-existing a u
diences, it re a c h e d into a n age gro u p th a t h ad n e v er c o n
s u m e d m u c h live o r re co rd e d m usic. M ajor elem e n ts o f the
rad io a n d re co rd in g in d u stries soon began to d istrib u te the
m usic, too (Denisoff, 1975), so th a t one c a n n o t say that it
developed an entirely new set of institutions. Nevertheless,
so m a n y new g roups a n d kinds of people w ere c o o p era tin g
in the p ro d u c tio n a n d c o n s u m p tio n of rock-and-roll that
we can re aso n ab ly speak o f a new w orld having co m e into
existence.
W att (1957) m ak es a sim ilar point with re sp e ct to the d e
v elo p m en t of the novel. A new a u d ie n c e developed along
w ith th e new c o n c e p tio n o f fiction, a n d th a t m a d e the c o n
tinued p ro d u c tio n of realistic fiction possible. The s p re a d of
literacy in e ig h tee n th -c en tu ry E n g la n d p ro d u c e d m ore
readers, of a new class w hich did n o t sh are the earlier aris
tocratic c o n c e p tio n of p ro p e r fiction. The new audience,
swelled by the ad d itio n of m iddle-class people involved in
c o m m e rc e a n d m a n u fa c tu re (in m a n y cases, by their
a p p re n tic e s a n d h o u s e serv a n ts as well), did not have the
classical e d u c a tio n n e e d e d for a p p re c iatio n of the m o re for
m al a n d allusive style w hich p re c e d e d the novel. Not in
terested in m o ral edification, they looked instead for easily
a b so rb e d e n te rta in m e n t, w hich the novel provided. The
new w ork for the new a u d ie n c e w as d istrib u te d th ro u g h new
institutions: m a g azin es and n e w form s of book publication,
in w hich p rin te rs m a d e the editorial choices previously m a d e
by publishers.
In n o v a tio n s o f this kind, a ro u n d w hich new a rt worlds
314 C H A N G E IN ART W O R L D S

m ay develop, usually arise sim ultaneously in a n u m b e r of


places. E x cep t for isolates like the naive artists considered
earlier, w hose visions a n d m e th o d s are relatively idiosyn
cratic, the people w h o develop new art w orlds p a rtic ip a te in
the b ro a d c u rre n ts of intellectual a n d expressive interest
grow ing out of e x tan t tradition a n d practice. The m usicians
a n d p ro m o te rs w ho developed rock-and-roll knew the black
a n d w hite p o p u la r m usics w hich could be c o m b in e d to
p ro d u c e rock. The people interested in the possibilities c re
ated by the invention of p h o to g ra p h ic a n d film e q u ip m e n t
p ro b a b ly s h a re m a n y o th e r interestsreco rding the la n d
scape o r m a k in g p o rtraits for sale, for instance. B ecause
they s h a re tra d itio n s a n d interests, w h a t they do w ith the in
nov atio n 's possibilities, while it varies, varies w ithin a rel
atively sm all range.
A new techniq ue, conception, o r au d ien c e suggests new
possibilities b u t does not define th e m fully. So the first p e o
ple involved e x p e rim e n t w ith it, seeing w h at it can do a n d
w h a t they m ig h t w an t to do with it. W h a t people actually do
w ith the inn o v atio n d e p e n d s on w h a t it m a k e s possible, on
w h a t version they have of c o n te m p o r a ry tra d itio n s a n d in
terests, a n d on the people a n d reso u rces they can attract. In
novations, w ith their a sso ciate d possibilities, often sp rea d
quickly. It takes longer for the people w ho e x p e rim e n t with
th em to find each o th e r a n d to establish c o m m u n ic a tio n .
Technology, for in stance, m ay a p p e a r in m a n y places si
m u ltan eo u sly . People can o r d e r e q u ip m e n t a n d supplies
fro m a c atalo g u e a n d te ac h them selves to use it, b u t they
do not k n o w w h a t the o th e r people w ho have o rd e re d from
th a t c atalo g u e are doing. E a ch e x p e rim e n te r develops, with
experience, a te c h n iq u e th a t p ro d u c e s a result so m eo n e
finds pleasing. E ach e x p e rim e n te r's result, w ithin the limits
of w hat the inn o v atio n m a k e s possible, differs from the
o thers'. W h e th e r the e x p e rim e n te rs w o rk entirely alone
o r with a small circle of professional o r a m a te u r local col
leagues, they p ro d u c e w h a t m ig h t be called a local art world,
one w hose circle of c o o p era tio n does not go b e y o n d the
face-to-face in teractio n of a local co m m u n ity .
C onsider tw o e x ten d e d e x am p le s of this process. One, the
3 1 5 C II A N G E I N AR T W OR LDS

d e v e lo p m e n t of the stereo g rap h , the th ree-d im en sio n al p h o


to g ra p h , at first p ro d u c e d a successful a it world, but it did
not last. The second, the d e v e lo p m e n t of A m erican jazz,
p ro d u c e d a m usic that s u c c e e d e d on an in te rn a tio n a l scale.
B ecause the principles a n d technology of stereo g ra p h y
developed at a b o u t th e sam e tim e as the tw o-dim ensional
p h o to g ra p h y w hich did b e c o m e successful, it is useful to
think o f the tw o as c o m p e tin g w ay s of p ro d u c in g visual
im agery, e ith e r o r both of w hich m ight successfully have
p ro d u c e d an art world. Tw o d im e n sio n s w on th a t contest.
At first, h a n d -d ra w n im ages illustrated the stereo g rap h ic
effect; la ter d a g u e rre o ty p e s a n d various versions of the
negative-positive p ro cess w ere used. The technology w as
simple, a n d a n y o n e w ho could control the c u m b e rs o m e
e q u ip m e n t a n d c o m p lica te d te c h n iq u e s of early p h o to g
ra p h y could m a k e stereo g ra p h s. T h e early versions of the
process, how ever, m a d e it s o m e w h a t difficult to p ro d u c e
large q u a n titie s of work. T h at limited circulation. Im a g e s
usually c ircu lated w h e re they w ere m a d e , to a local a u d i
ence in terested in local events, places, a n d people. Local
p ra c titio n e rs m a d e portraits, scenic views, a n d pictures of
local disasters, p ro b a b ly m o re o r less exclusively for local
c o n su m p tio n .
N ot m u c h is k n o w n a b o u t the practices of early stereog-
ra p h e rs. Did they, for in stance, m a k e small n u m b e rs of
item s of local interest, w hich then c ircu lated prim arily in the
local c o m m u n ity ? F ra g m e n ts of evidence, such as this letter
to the Photographic Times (1871) fro m an Illinois p h o to g
r a p h e r w h o had p u rc h a s e d a Philadelphia W ilsonian S te r
eoscopic Box C a m e ra " with Ross' S tereoscopic D oublet
L enses, suggest that.
I have awakened to the necessity of making stereoscopic pic
tures. Several good orders lost have taught me to believe that
it will pay to give a little attention to that growing branch of
our a r t . . . . I am not blessed with a continual rush in my
studio, so I have always had a little spare time. The first spare
hours I had, I put out, and made a few views of some of the
prettiest residences in our suburbs. As I returned home I
found the light just right on our new bank building, and I
316 C H A N G E IN ART WORL DS

banged away at that. I made some good prints, showed them


to the parties, who did not know that there was an apparatus
in town that could give them such a surprise, and made that
information cost exactly forty dollars for negatives made in
one short morning. Those pictures have brought me several
more orders, which I shall till during the next spare hours. Our
people said they had often wished for such views of their
places, and the introduction of your 5 x 8 boxes has caused
more excitement among our three thousand inhabitants in
our quiet village than you have any idea of. I only hope it
won't raise the price of scopes. (Southern Illinois," 1871,
p. 91)

W illiam Culp D a rra h lists the variety of p h o to g ra p h e rs


w h o p r o d u c e d the early stereo g rap h s:
1. The photographer who specialized in the production of
stereographs but confined his practice to local subjects.
2. The resort photographer (there were hundreds of them at
Niagara Falls, Saratoga, the White Mountains, Catskills, etc.)
who virtually limited his wrork to the tourist trade.
3. The studio photographer who, as a side line, occasionally
produced stereoscopic portraits, poses, interiors of churches
and public buildings, commonly including a small series of
local town views.
4. The opportunist who produced a few views w'hen some
unusual eventflood, fire, train-wreck, parade, or such
created a transitory market for souvenirs. (Darrah, 1977, p. 44)
A v a rian t of th ese o c c u rre d in the S h a k e r religious c o m
m unities, w h ich did a large business with the outside world,
n o t only in fu rn itu re a n d food, b u t also in stereo g ra p h ic
re c o rd s of th e ir c o m m u n ity life:

One of the chief diversions of visitors to fashionable vacation


retreats, such as Lebanon Springs, New York, near the Mt.
Lebanon Shaker community, and Poland Springs, Maine,
near the Sabbathdav Lake village, was a trip to visit the
Shaker stores and purchase mementos of their trip. Recog
nizing the need for items that tourists would find both inter
esting and informative, the Shakers in these areas sold sets of
stereo views of the Shaker community. They also offered
them to other Shaker villages at wholesale prices. (Rubin,
1978, pp. 56-57)
317 C H A N G E IN ART W O R L D S

A udiences also h a d to a cq u ire a technical skill, th a t of


looking at stereo g ra p h s. Anyone w h o has only recently h ad
the o p p o rtu n ity to look at th e m c a n recall the difficulty
(p e rh a p s only m o m e n ta ry , p e rh a p s longer) of m ak in g the
tw o im ages c o m e to g e th e r so th a t you get the stereo" e x
perien ce o f d e p th . It d o e s n t take long to learn to do it, b u t
you m u st a c q u ire the ability. An occasional article (Oliver
W endell H o lm e s p r o d u c e d one o f the early ones) suggested
exercises for a c c u sto m in g the eyes to the p h e n o m e n o n , a n d
e x p la in e d the p a rtic u la r p le a su re s to be gained from using
the new skill. It w ould be interesting to kn o w h o w people
le arn e d these skills a n d w h a t difficulties they had. W ho
ta u g h t the skills a n d to w hom ? Could so m e people sim ply not
get the knack? A p a rtic u larly critical article of the 1890s
suggests s u c h possibilities:
The present limited popularity of the stereoscope seems to be
due to several causes. First of which is probably the great
number of cheap and miserably made pictures and stereo
scopes which have been offered to buyers, only to give
disappointment to, and to strain the eyes of those attempting
to use them. (Luders, 1892, p. 227)

In a d d itio n to learning to read the stereo g ra p h ic image,


view ers m u s t have learn ed a taste for its u n iq u e pleasures.
The early a p p rec iativ e articles dwell on th eseth e illusion of
solidity, of feeling yourself actually p re se n t a n d im m e rsed in
a scene. S o m e stylistic fe atu res of s te re o g ra p h s m u s t have
been designed to a cc e n t th a t illusion of th re e dim ensions.
J u st as 3-D m ovies alw ays had a scene in w hich an airplane
flew directly at the a u d ie n c e or a tra p e z e artist sw u n g back
a n d forth over their heads, so ste re o g ra p h s used devices
w h ich e m p h