Você está na página 1de 17

To the memory of Rudolph Wittkower

Artworks and real things


A R T H U R C. D A N T O
(Coluiiibia University)

The children imitating the cortnorants,

Are more wonderful Than the real cormorants.

I ssa
Painting relates to both art and life . . . ( I try to work in that gap between the two). Rauschenberg

F r o m philosophers bred t o expect a certain stylistic austerity, I beg indulgence for what may strike them as an intolerable wildness in the following paper. I t is a philosophical reflection on New York painting from circa 1961 t o circa 1969, and a certain wildness in the subject may explain the wildness I apologize for in its treatment. Explain but not excuse, I will be told: the properties of the subject treated of need never penetrate the treatment itself; Freuds papers on sexuality are exemplarily unarousing, papers in logic are not logical merely in consequence of their subject. But in a way the paper is part of its own subject, since it becomes an artwork a t the end. Perhaps the final creation in the period it treats of. Perhaps the Snal artwork in the history of art!
~ ~

This paper ~ i - a srcad in an carlicr version at a confercncc o n t h e philosophy of art at t h e Uni\.ersity of Illinois a t Chicago Circle. I am grateful t o Professor George Dickie for having invited it. For prodromal reflections on much t h e anme topic, see my paper T i c Al-t~\-orld, in JoirrrzaE of f h f b S O j J h y , \ 01. 61 (1%4), pp. 571-5S-l.


Rauschenbergs self-consciously characterized activity exemplifies an ancient task imposed generically upon artists in consequence of an alienating criticism by Plato of art as such. Art allegedly stands at a certain invidious remove from reality, so that in fabricating those entities whose production defines their essence, artists are contaminated at the outset with a kind of ontological inferiority. They bear, as well, the stigma of a moral reprobation, for with their productions they charm the souls of artlovers with shadows of shadows. Finally, speaking as a precocious therapist as well as a true philistine, Plato insinuates that art is a sort of perversion, a substitute, deflected, compensatory activity engaged in by those who are impotent t o be what as a pis-aller they imitate. Stunned by this triple indictment into a quest for redemption, artists have sought a way towards ontological promotion, which means of course collapsing the space between reality and art. That there should, by Rauschenbergs testimony, still remain an insulating vacuity between the two which even he has failed t o drain of emptiness, stimulates a question regarding the philosophical suitability of the task. To treat as a defect exactly what makes a certain thing or activity possible and valuable is almost a formula for generating platonic philosophy, and in the case of art an argument may be mounted t o show that its possibility and value is logically tied up with putting reality at a distance. It was, for example, an astonishing discovery that representations of barbaric rites need themselves no more be barbaric than representations of any x whatever need have the properties of x-hood. By imitating practices it was Izorrifying t o engage in (Nietzsche), the Greeks spontaneously put such practices a t a distance and invented civilization in the process; for civilization consists in the awareness of media as media and hence of reality as reality. So just those who gave birth t o tragedy defeated an insupportable reality by putting between themselves and it a spiritualizing distance it is typical of Plato t o find demeaning. I t may be granted that this achievement creates the major problem of representational art, which is sufficiently t o resemble the realities it denotes that identification of it as a


representation of the latter is possible, while remaining sufficiently different that confusion of the two is difficult. Aristotle, who explains the pleasure men take in art through the pleasure they take in imitations, is clearly aware that the pleasure in question (which is intellectual) logically presupposes the knowledge that it is an imitation and not the real thing it resembles and denotes. We may take (a minor) pleasure in a man imitating a crow-call of a sort we do not commonly take in crow-calls themselves, but this pleasure is rooted in cognition: we must know enough of crow-calls to know that these are what the man is imitating (and not, say, giraffe-calls], and must know that he and not crows is the provenance of the caws. One further condition for pleasure is this, that the man is imitating and not just an unfortunate crowboy, afflicted from birth with a crowish pharynx. These crucial asymmetries need not be purchased at the price of decreased verisimilitude, and it is not unreasonable to insist upon a perfect acoustical indiscernibility between true and sham crow-calls, so that the uninformed in matters of art might-like an overhearing crow, in fact-be deluded and adopt attitudes appropriate t o the reality of crows. The knowledge upon which artistic pleasure (in contrast with aesthetic pleasure) depends is thus external t o and at right angles t o the sounds themselves, since they concern the causes and conditions of the sounds and their relation t o the real world. So the option is always available t o the mimetic artist t o rub away all differences between artworks and real things providing he is assured that the audience has a clear grasp of the distances. I t was in the exercise of this option, for example, that Euripides undertook the abolition of the chorus, inasmuch as real confrontation, real frenzies of jealousy commonly transpire without benefit of the ubiquitous, nosy, and largely disapproving chorus inexplicably (to him) deemed necessary for the action t o get on by his predecessors. And in a similar spirit of realism, the stony edifying heroes of the past are replaced by plain folks, and their cosmic suffering with the commonplace heartpains of such (for example) as us. So there was some basis for the wonder of his contemporary, Socrates (who may, considering his Egyptolatry in the Luzus, have


been disapproving not so much of art as of realistic art in the Repubtic), as to what the point of drama any longer could be: if we have the real thing, of what service is an idle iteration of it? And so he created a dilemma by looking inversely a t the cognitive relations Aristotle subsequently rectified: either there is going t o be a discrepancy, and mimesis fails, or art succeeds in erasing the discrepancy, in which case it just is reality, a roundabout way of getting what we already have. And, as one of his successors has elegantly phrased it: one of the damned things is enough. Art fails if it is indiscernible from reality, and it equally if oppositely fails if it is not. We are all familiar enough with one attempt to escape this dilemma, which consists in locating art in whatever makes for the discrepancies between reality and imitations of it. Euripides, it is argued, went in just the wrong direction. Let us instead make objects which are insistently art by virtue of the fact that no one can mistake them for reality. So the disfiguring conventions abolished in the name of reality become reintroduced in the name of art, and one settles for perhaps a self-conscious woodenness, a deliberate archaism, an operatic falseness so marked and underscored that it must be apparent t o any audience that illusion could never have been our intent. Non-imitativeness becomes the criterion of art, the more artificial and the less imitative in consequence, the purer the art in question. But a fresh dilemma awaits at the other end of the inevitable route, namely that nonimitativeness is also the criterion of reality, so the more purely art things become, the closer they verge on reality, and pure art collapses into pure reality. Well, this may after all be the route t o ontological promotion, but the other side of the dilemma asks what makes us want t o call art what by common consent is reality? So in order t o preserve a distinction, we reverse directions, hardly with a light heart since the same dilemma, we recall, awaits us at the other end. And there seems, on the face of it, only one available way t o escape the unedifying shuttle from dilemma t o dilemma, which is t o make non-imitations which are radically distinct from all heretofore existing real things. Like Rauschenbergs stuffed goat garlanded with a tire! It is with such unen-


trenched objects, like combines and emerubies, that t h e abysses between life and art are t o be filled! There remains then only the nagging question of whether all unentrenched objects are t o be reckoned artworks, e.g., consider t h e first can-opener. I know of an object indiscernible from what happen t o be our routine can-openers, which is an artwork:

The single starkness of its short, ugly, o i n i n ~ u sblade-like cztrcmity,

i:mbodying aggressivencss and masculinity, contrast formally as \\-ell as symbolically with t h e frivolous diminishing helix, which swings frtrcly [but upon a fixed enslaving axis!) and is pure, helpless femininity. The t w o motifs are symbioticaily sustained in a single, poxverful coinposition, n o less universal ailJ hopeful for its miniature scale and commonplace material. [Gazette des beaux arts, vol. 14, no. 6, pp. 430-431. h,Iy translaticm]

As an artwork, of course; it has t h e elusive defining properties of artworks, significant form compris. In virtue of its iiidiscernibility
from t h e domestic utensil, then, one might think it uncouth if n o t unintelligible t o withhold predication of significant form t o t h e latter, merely on grounds of conspicuous Zuhandenlzeit (one could open cans with t h e work t h e critic of the Gazette was so stirred by) or large numbers. For it w o u l ~ l be startling that two things should have t h e sanie shape and yet one have and t h e other lack significant form. O r it would be were we t o forget for an inadvertent moment t h e existence of a Polynesian language in which t h e sentence Beans are high in protein, indiscernible acoustically froin the English sentence Beans are high in protein actually means, in its own h g u a g e , lvhat IVIotherhood is sacred means in English. And it induces proibund filial sentiments when audited by native speakers though hardly that with us. So perhaps significant form is supervenient upon a seinantical reading, itself n weak function of language affiliation which mere inscriptional congruity happens t o underdetermine? The ciurstion is suitabl). rhetorical a t this point, for my concern is that t h e logical intersection of d i e non-imitative and t h e non-entrenched may as easi1)be peopled with art\corks as by real things, and vnciy in fact have pairs of indiscernible objects, one a n artwork and one n o t . In view of this possibility, we must avert our cyes from t h e ohierts


themselves in a counter-phenomenological turn--Von den Sachen selb.st!-and see whatever i t is, which clearly does not meet t h e eye, which keeps art and reality from leaking hopelessly into one anothers territory. Only so can we escape t h e dilemtna of Socrates, which has generated so much art-history through t h e misunderstandings it epitomizes and encourages.

Borges merits credit for, amongst other things, having discovered t h e Pierre Menard Phenomenon: two art-objects, in this instance two fragments of t h e Quixotc, which though verbally indiscriminable have radically non-overlapping and incompatible artistic properties. The art-works in question stand t o their common physical embodiment in something like t h e relationship in which a set of isomers may stand t o a common molecular formula, which t h e n underdetermines and hence fails t o explain t h e difTerences in their chemical reactions. The difference, of course, is given by t h e way t h e elenients recorded in t h e formula are p u t together. Of t h e two Quixotes, for exainple, one is more subtle and t h e other more clumsy than its counterpart. That of Cervantes is t h e more coarse: it opposes t o t h e fiction of chivalry t h e tawdry provincial reality of his country. Menards (On t h e other hand . . .!) selects for its reality the land of Carmen during t h e century of Lepanto and Lope de Vega. Menards work is an oblique condcmnation of Salamnzbij, which Cervantes could hardly have been. Though visibly identical, one is almost incomparably richer than t h e other and, Borges writes, The contrast in style is also vivid. The archaic style of Mcnard----quite foreign, after 311-suffers from a certain affectation. Not so t h a t ofhis forerunner, who handles with ease t h e current Spanish of his rime. Menard, were he t o have complcted his Quixote, \vould have had t h e task of creating at least one character in excess of C:ervantes: t h e author of t h e [so-called in Menards but ~ z o tso-called in Cervantes) Autobiographical Fragment. And so on. Menards work was Iris, not a copy nor an accidentally congrucnt achievement of the sort involved in t h r discovery that the paintcrs of Jupiter


are making (there being no question here of cultural diffusion) flat works using t h e primary colors and staggeringly like hlcndrians, but rather a fresh, in its own way remarkable creation. A mere copy would have n o literary value at all, but would be merely an exercise in facsimilitation, and a forgery of so well known a work would be a fiasco. I t is a precondition for t h e Menard phenomenon that author and audience alike know (not t h e original but) t h e other Quixote. But Menards is not a quotation either, as it were, for quotations in this sense merely resemble t h e expressions they denote without having a n y of t h e artistically relevant properties of t h e latter: quotations cannot be scintillating, original, profound, searching, o r whatever what is quoted may be. There are, indeed, theories of quotation according t o which they lack a n y semantical structure, which their originals seldom lack. So a quotation of t h e Quixote (either Quixote) would be artistically null though quite superimposable upon its original. Quotations, in fact, are striking examples of objects indiscernible from originals which are not artworks though t h e latter are. Copies (in general) lack t h e properties of t h e originals they denote ar?d resemble. A copy of a cow is n o t a cow, a copy of an artwork is n o t an artwork. Quotations are entities difficult t o locate ontofogicaliv, !ike reflections and shadows, being neither artworks nor real things, inasmuch as they are parasitic upon reality, and have in particular that degree of derivedness assigLied by Plato t o artworks as class. So though a copy-or quotation-of an artwork is logically excluded from t h e class of artworks, it raises too many special questions t o be taken as our specific example of an entity indiscernible from ;in artwork though n o t one. H i i t it is n o t difficult t o generate less intricate examples. Consider, for t h e moment, neckties, which have begun t o work their way into t h e artworld, e.,g., Jim Ilines Unizwsnl Tie,John DUESTit. Piece, etc. Suppose Picasso exhibits now a tie, painted uniform blue in order t o reject any touch of le ~~cintur as e decisively as t h e Strozzi altarpiece rejects, as an act of artistic will, giottesque perspective. O n e says: my child could do that. L\rell, true enough, there is nothing beyond infantile c-apabilitv here: so let a chilcl, with his sti!ti.d deliberateness,


color one of his fathers ties an all over blue, no brush-strokes to make i t nice. I would hesitate t o predict a magnificent future in art for this child on t h e basis of his having caused t h e existence of something indistinguishable from something created by t h e greatest master of modern times. I would go further, and say that he has n o t produced an artwork. For sornetliing prevents his object froiii entering the artFvorld, as it prevents from entering t h a t world those confections by a would-be van hleegeren of Xlontmartrc who sees at once t h e Picasso tie as a chance for clever forgery. Three such objects would give rise t o one of those marvelous Shakespearean plots, of confused twins and mistaken identities, a possibility n o t a joking one for Icahnwieler (or as it Kootz?? who takes all t h e necessary precautions. In spite of which, let us suppose, t h e ties get mixed up, and t h e childs tie hangs t o this very daj7 in t h e Museum of t h e Municipaiity o f Tailoir. Picasso, of course, disputes its authenticity, and refuses t o sign it (in fact he signs the forgery). The original was confiscated by t h e Ministry of Counterfacts. I look forward t o t h e time when R doctoral candidate under Professor Theodore Reff straightens oiLt t h e attributions by counting threads, though t h e status of a forgery with an authentic signature remains for philosophers of a r t t o settle. Professor Goodman has an intriELting argument t h a t sooner or later differences are bound t o turn up, that what looks identically similar today will look artistically so diverse ;omorrow that men will xvonder how t h e case I have described would ever have arisen. LVell, sufficient unto t h e day may be t h e similarities thereof tomorrows differentiations W O U appear ~ ~ wlziclievcr of t h e three ties were t o hang in tlie museum, an.d I am inclined t o feel that an>- seen differences will ultimately be used t c reenforce the attribution, right or wrong, ~vhichis t h e accepted one. ELit that leaves still uisettied the ontological questions, besidcs generating a kind of absurdit:; of connoisseurship hy bringiilg into the aesthetics of this o:der of object t h e refined peering a p ~ r c priate, say, t o Poussin or Morant-ii or Cezanne. None of whom, though clearly not for reasons of artistic ineptitude, ~ o u l d ha1.e been able t o make an artJsork out of a painted tie. So it isnt iust that Picasso happens t o be an irrtist that :ndtrs d i e diffc-


rence in t h e cases at hand. But t h e further reasons are intcres ting . For one thing, there would have been no room in t h e artworld of Cezannes time for a painted necktie. N o t everything can be an artwork at every time: t h e artworld must be ready for it. Much ;is not every line which is zuitry in a given context can be witty in all. Pliny tells of a contest between rival painters, t h e first drawing a straight line; t h e second drawing, in a different color, a line within that line; t h e first drawing an ultimately fine line within this. O n e does not ordinariiy think of lines as having sides, but with each inscribed line, a space exists between its edges and t h e edges of t h e containing line, so that t h e result would be like five very thin strips of co!or. Nested lines, each making space where noEe was believed possible, shows remarkable steadiness of hand and eye, and bears witness t o t h e singular prow-ess of Parahesios and his rival here. And t h e object was a wonder in its time. But n o t an artwork! No more than t h e famous f r e e h a n d circle of Giotto. But I could see exactly such an object turning u p on Madison Avenue today, a synthesis, perhaps, of Barnett Newman and Frank Stella. Such an object in t h e time of Parahesios would have fnerely been a set-piece of dracghtsmanly control. So it is not even as though, o n t h e Berkeleyan assuinption that only artwcrks can anticipate artworks, Parahesios were a predecessor of t h e contemporary painter of fine stripes. Parahesios could not have modified his perception of art, nor that of his times, t o accommodate his t o z u de main as an artistic achievement. But D I icassos artworld u-as ready t o receive, at Picassos hand, a necktie: for he had made a chimpanzee o u t of a to), a bull o u t of a bicycle seat, a goat out of a basket, a Venus o u t of a gas-jet: so why not a tie O U L of a t i e ? I t had room not only in t h e artworld, but in t h e corpus of t h e zrtist, in a waj- in which t h e identical object, from t h e hands of CCzanne, would have had room for neither. Cezanne could only have made a mountain out of paint, in t h e received and traditional manner of such transformations. H e did not have t h e option even of making paint out of paint, in the later manner of thc Abstract Expressionists. Rut while these considerations serve t o shonr that the identical



object could, in one art-historical contest be an artwork and i n another one not, the problem remains of moving from posse n l / esse. What, apart from the possibility, makes it actually a work oi art in the context of late Picasso? Arid what makes then the differences between what Picasso did and his contemporaries, the cllilc; and the forger, did? Only when the world was ready for Necktie could the comedy of mistaken identities have transpired, all{ while it is easy t o see how, given the sharp and exact resemblances, an artwork which was a necktie should have been confused with a necktie which was not an artwork, the task of explicating the differences remains. One way t o see the matter is this: Picasso used the necktie to make a statement, the forger employed the necktie t o copy what Picasso made a statement with, but made no statement by means of his. And this would be true even were he inspired by van Meegeren to invent, say, a rose-colored necktie to fill a gap in Picassos development. The child and Cezanne are simply making noise. Their objects have no location in the history of art. Part at least of what Picassos statement is about is art, and art had not developed appropriately by the time of Cezanne for such a statement t o have been intelligible, nor can the child in question have sufficiently internalized the history and theory of art t o make a statement, much less this statement, by means of the painted necktie. At least the right relations hold between the four objects to enable a distinction structurally of a piece with that between statement, echo, and noise t o be made. And though a real enough object-a hand-painted tie!-Picassos work stands at just the right remove from reality for it t o be a statement, indeed a statement in part about reality and art sufficiently penetrating to enable its own enfranchisement into the world of art. I t enters at a phase of art-history when the consciousness of the difference between reality and a r t is part of what makes the difference between art and reality.



Testamorbida is a playwright who deals in Found Drama. Disgusted with theatricality, he has run through the tiresome post-Pirandello devices for washing the boundaries away between life and art, and has sickened of the contrived atmospheres of happenings. Nothing is going t o be real enough save reality. So he declares his latest play t o have been everything that happened in the life of a family in Astoria between last Saturday and tonight, the family in question having been picked by throwing a dart at the map of the town. How natural are the actors! They have no need t o overcome the distance from their roles by stanislaviskyian exercise, since they are what they play. O r play.The author ends the play by fiat at eleven-ten (curtain), and has the after-theater party with friends at the West End Bar. No reviews, there was n o audience, there was just one performance. For all the actors know, it was an ordinary evening, pizza and television, hair put u p in rollers, a wrong number and a tooth-ache. All that makes this slice of life an artwork is the declaration that it is so, plus the meta-artistic vocabulary: actor, dialogue, natural, beginning, end. And perhaps t h e title, which may be as descriptive as you please, viz., What a Family in Astoria Did . . .. Titles are borne by artworks, interestingly enough, though not by things indiscernable from them which are not artworks, e.g., another period in the life of that or any family in Astoria or anywhere. Even Untitled is a kind of title: non-artworks are not entitled even t o be untitled. Cezannes hand-painted necktie may bear a label, say at the Cezanne House, along with other memorabilia, but Cezannes Necktie is not its title (Cezannes Necktie could be the title of Picassos tie if it were painted in just the color of the Louvres Vase Bleu). Noblemen have titles too. Title has the ring of status, of something which can be conferred. It has, indeed, enough of the ring of legality t o suggest that artworkperhaps like person!-is after ail an ascriptive term rather than a descriptive-or exclusively descriptive-one. Ascriptivity, as I understand it, is a property of predicates when they attach t o objects in the light of certain conventions, and which apply iess on the basis of certain necessary and sufficient



conditions than of certain defeating conditions not holding. Person is defeasible, for example, through such avenues as minority, subcompetence, disenfranchisement, financial responsibility and liability, and the like. A corporation can consist of a single person, who is not identical with the corporation in question, and the distinction between that person and the corporation he belongs t o is perhaps enough like the distinction between an artwork and the physical object it consists in but is not identical with that we can think of artworks in terms of privileges, exemptions, rights, and the like. Thus artworks, which happen t o contain neckties, are entitled t o hang in museums, in a way in which neckties indiscernible from the former are not. They have, again, a certain peer-group which their indiscernible but plebeian counterparts do R o t . The blue necktie which is an artwork belongs with the Cowper-Niccolini Madonna and the Cathedral of Laon, while xhe necktie just like it which is not an artwork belongs just with the collars and cufflinks of banal haberdashery, somewhat abimi by blue-paint. The blue necktie, indeed, is in the museum and in the collection, but its counterparts, though they can be geometrically in the museum, are there only iil the way sofas and palm-trees typically are. T h e is, in fact, a kind of In-der-Pinakothek-sein not so awfully different from the in-der- Wdt-sein which pertains t o persons in contrast with things. A necktie which is an artwork differs from one which is not like a person differs from a body: metaphysically, it takes two sets of predicates amazingly similar t o the P- and M-predicates which persons take on a well-known theory of P. F. Strawsons: no accident, perhaps, if person too is an ascriptive predicate. The blue necktie, thus, which is an artwork, is by Picasso, whereas its counterpart is not by Cezanne even though he put the paint on it. And so forth. So let us try this out for a moment, stressing here the defeating conditions, less t o strike a blow against Testaniorbida than t o see what kind of thing it is that can be subject t o defeat of this order. I shall mention only two defeating conditions as enough for our purposes, though hardly exhausting the list. Indeed, were art t o evolve, new defeating conditions would emerge. ( I ) Fakes. If illusion were the aim after all of art, then thcre



would be just exactly the same triumph in getting Stendhal t o swoon at a fake Guido Reni as causing birds t o peck at painted grapes. There is, I believe, no stigma attached to painting pictures of pictures: Burliuk once told me that, since artists paint the things they love and since he loved pictures, he saw no obstacle t o painting pictures of pictures, viz., of Hogarths Shrimp Girl. I t happens that Burliuk remained himself, his picture of the Shrimp Girl deviating from the Shrimp Girl roughly as he differed from Hogarth. H e was not, on the other hand, pretending the Shrimp Girl was his any more than he was pretending that Westhampton, which he also and in the same spirit painted pictures of, was his: what was his was the painting, a statement in paint which denoted the Shrimp Girl as his seascapes denoted glimpses of Westhampton: so we are distanced as much from the one motif as from the other, admiring in both cases the vehicle. Well, a man might love his own paintings as much as he loves those of others, so what was t o have prevented Burliuk from painting, say, his Portrait of Leda? This is not a case of copying the latter, so that we have two copies of the same painting: it is explicitly a painting of a painting, a different thing altogether, though it might exactly enough resemble a copy. A copy is defective, for example, insofar as it deviates from the original, but the question of deviation is simply irrelevant if it is a painting of a painting: much as we do not expect the artist t o use chlorophyl in depicting trees. Now, if deviation is irrelevant, so is nondeviation. A copy is, indeed, just like a quotation, showing what we are t o respond t o rather than being what we are t o respond to: whereas a painting of a painting is something t o which we respond. Artists who repeat themselves, the Pierre Menard phenomenon notwithstanding, raise some remarkable questions. Schumanns last composition was based on a theme he claimed was dictated t o him by angels in his sleep, but was i n fact the slow movement of his own recently published Violin Concerto. (Is it an accident that Schumann was working on a book of quotations a t the time of his Zusammenbruch?) Robert Demoss Dernier Poime u Youki (Jaitant rgvi de toi que tu perds ta rtaliti . . .) is simply, according t o Mary Ann Caws, a retranslation into French of the rough and
2 - lhcona




truncated translation into Czech of his earlier and famous poem addressed t o the actress Yvonne George: but was Desnos delirious when he addressed this poem, at his death, t o Youki (or did he confuse Youki and Yvonne) or think it was a new poem or what? (I mention Schumann and Desnos in case someone thinks Goodmans distinction of one- and two-stage arts has any bearing). Repetitions are maddening, A fake pretends t o be a statement but is not one. I t lacks the required relation t o the artist. That we should mistake a fake for a real work (or vice versa) does not matter. Once we discover that it is a fake, it loses its stature as an artwork because it loses its structure as a statement. I t at best retains a certain interest as a decorative object. Insofar as being a fake is a defeating condition, it is analytical t o the concept of an artwork that it be original. Which does not entail that it need or cannot be derivative, imitative, influenced, in the manner of, or whatever. We are not required t o invent a language in order t o make a statement. Being an original means that the work must in a deep sense originate with the artist we believe t o have done it. (2) Non-artistic provenance. I t is analytically true that artworks can only be by artists, so that an object, however much (or exactly) it may resemble an artwork is not by whoever is responsible for its existence, unless he is an artist. But artist is as ascriptive a term as artwork,and in fact by is as ascriptive as either. Since, after all, not everything whose existence we owe t o artists are by him. Consider the customs inspector who bears the stings of past and recent gaffes by his peers and decides t o take no chances: a certain piece of polished brass-in fact the bushing for a submarine-is declared an artwork. But his so calling it that no more makes it an artwork than someone in the same metier calling an object near of morphic kin t o i t not an artwork made the latter not be one. What injustice, then, if an artist decides t o exhibit the bushing as a found object. Douaniers, children, chimpanzees, counterfeiters: tracing an object t o any of these defeats i t as an artwork, demotes it t o the status of a mere real object. Hence the logical irrelevance of the claim that a child, a chimpanzee, a forger or, d la rigueur, a customs



inspector could do any of them. The mere object perhaps does not lie outside their powers. But as an artwork it does. Much in the way in which not everyone who can say the words I pronounce you man and wife can marry people, nor who can pronounce the words Thirty days or thirty dollars can sentence a man. So the question of whether an object is by someone, and how one is qualified t o make artworks out of real things, are of a piece with the question of whether it is an artwork. The moment something is considered an artwork, it becomes subject t o an interpretation. I t owes its existence as an artwork t o this, and when its claim t o 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 upon its art-historical location, its antecedents, and the like. And as an artwork, finally, it acquires a structure which an object photographically similar t o 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. The space between art and reality is like the space between language and reality partly because art is a language of sorts, in the sense at least that an artwork says something, and so presupposes a body of sayers and interpreters who are in position, who define what being in position is, t o interpret an object. There is no art without those who speak the language of the artworld, and who know enough of the difference between artworks and real things t o recognize that calling an artwork a real thing is an interpretation of it, and one which depends for its point and appreciation on the contrast between the artworld and the real-world. And it is exactly with reference t o this that the defeating conditions for ascription of artwork are t o be understood. If this is so, then ontological promotion of art is hardly to be looked for. It is a logical impossibility. Or nearly so: for there is one further move t o reckon with.



Much as philosophy has come t o be increasingly its own subject, has turned reflexively inward onto itself, so art has done, having become increasingly its own (and only) subject: like the Absolute of Hegel, which finally achieved congruence with itself by becoming self-contemplative in the respect that what it contemplates is itself in contemplation. Rosenberg thus reads the canvas as an arena in which a real action occurs when an artist (but nota bene: only when an artist) makes a wipe of paint upon it: a stroke. T o appreciate that the boundaries have been crossed, we must read the stroke as saying, in effect, about itself, that it is a stroke and not a representation of anything. Which the indiscernable strokes made by housepainters cannot begin t o say, though it is true that they are strokes and not representations. In perhaps the subtlest suite of paintings in our time, such strokes-fat, ropy, expressionist-have been read with a deadly literalness of their makers or the latters ideologues intention as (mere) real things, and made the subject of paintings as much as if they were apples, by Roy Lichtenstein. These are paintings of brush strokes. And Lichtensteins paintings say, about themselves, at least this: that they are not but only represent brush strokes, and yet they are art. The boundaries between reality and art as much inform these works as they did the initial impulses of the Abstract Expressionists they impale. The boundaries between art and reality, indeed, become internal t o art itself. And this is a revolution. For when one is able t o bring within oneself what seperates oneself from the world, viz., as when Berkeley brings the brain into the mind, the distinction between mind and brain now standing as a distinction within the mind itself, everything is profoundly altered. And in a curious way, the Platonic challenge has been met. Not by promoting art but by demoting reality, conquering i t in the sense that when a line is engulfed, what lies on both sides of that line is engulfed as well. To incorporate ones own boundaries in an act of spiritual topology is t o transcend those boundaries, like turning oneself inside out and taking ones external environment in as now part of oneself. I would like briefly t o note two consequences of this. The first



is that it has been a profoundly disorienting maneuver, increasingly felt as the categories which pertain t o art suddenly pertain t o what we always believed contrasted essentially with art. Politics becomes a form of theater, clothing a kind of costume, human relations a kind of role, life a game. We interpret ourselves and our gestures as we once interpreted artworks. We look for meanings and unities, we become players in a play. The other consequence is more interesting. The relationship between reality and art has traditionally been the province of philosophy, since the latter is analytically concerned with relations between the world and its representations, the space between representation and life. Ry bringing within itself what i t had traditionally been regarded as logically apart from, art transforms itself into philosophy, in effect. The distinction between philosophy of art and art itself is no longer tenable, and by a curious, astounding magic we have been made over into contributors t o a field we had always believed it our task merely t o analyze from without.

Received on November S, 1971.