During our recent drive to Duncan to take in an exhibition of works by Diana Durrand and Francis, Kim mentioned seeing something like this post’s title used as a comment at the website for a big local art show. After we all groaned a wee bit, Francis pointed out the link between the role played by photography in art shows and the presence or absence of photographers on their juries. “What is art?” will often be a question whose answer depends on who is privileged to choose.
Even here, however, it seems easy to become distracted by art-theoretic equivalents of shouting “Squirrel!”. In Merilyn Simonds’ recent “Gutenberg’s Fingerprint” she is prodded by Hugh who e-mails her a quote found somewhere on the website of Library and Archives Canada: “Authors don’t write a book, they write a manuscript that is made into a book by others.” Without descending into the slough of despond made of up claims for subjectivity and purely sociological explanations of art, it seems to me that a work of art is more than just the artifact or the effort put into making the artifact. There is also here a serious level of play in time and across time that includes others who make art and many others who respond to art.
Or as Alva Noë writes in his book “Strange Tools” (p. 133): “Art isn’t a phenomenon to be explained. It is, rather, a mode or activity of trying to explain.” And a bit further on (p. 150): “Seeing isn’t something that happens in us. It is something we do. And like everything else we do, it depends on where we are, whom we’re with, what we know, what we want, and what there is.” Art exists within a rich tapestry of human meanings.
So perhaps photographs do not belong in certain art shows. Perhaps some art shows – depending on what the jurors understand art can mean to humanoids – do not deserve to have photographs in them.