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art, craft, english and the personal aesthetic experience

updated wed 11 sep 02


Martin Rice on tue 10 sep 02

I don't remember who started this thread about the debate over arts and
crafts only being in English because English has so many more words, which
strikes me as patently illogical. Whoever thinks, however, that this is not
a subject for discussion in French, German, Spanish, and Russian, only to
mention the ones I'm familiar with, is misinformed.

For example, in almost any country, when there is a "rediscovery,"
"reëvaluation," or "reappreciation" of old crafts, there will inevitably be
a debate, usually among academicians, as to whether these crafts are art or

Personally, I agree with Vince that these discussions have value for many
reasons, even if they only to take place in English, which they don't. But
I, as Vince and many others on this list, am an academician and we're used
to dealing with the "infernal questions." Many others, who are not
academicians see value in these discussions as well. As for those who don't
see the value and who don't engage, of course they're just fine and well,

Personally, however, I believe that there is only one fool-proof test of
what is art and what is not, regardless of what medium is being discussed,
and that is one's personal aesthetic experience. Canons serve well to direct
people in their search for art, but then each person decides for him or
herself, what is art and what isn't. Thus it ever was and thus it ever will

That said, clearly people can be led to appreciate art. I remember when I
was 19 and still had no appreciation whatsoever for classical music. My
closest friend, an accomplished musician even at that tender age, made me
sit in a room, and listen to the Chajkovskij violin concerto 4 times in
succession. That was the beginning of what came to be a deep love of
classical music for me. Nevertheless, over the years it was I and only I who
decided what composers and what period and what orchestras meant something
to me -- the personal aesthetic experience.

When I was a young, hotshot, aspiring intellectual, I, as so many others,
would laugh and deride those who said things such as "beauty is in the eye
of the beholder," "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like,"
etc. Now that I'm an old guy with a lot more experience and much less
confidence in my intellectual abilities, I've come to realize that these
people are saying something that is very true -- the personal aesthetic
experience is all for any given individual.

Lagunas de Barú, Costa Rica