Sunday, May 2, 2010




1 a : clever or artful skill : ingenuity b : an ingenious device or expedient
2 a : an artful stratagem : trick b : false or insincere behavior

I am reminded of an image—Kosuth's One and Three Chairs, 1965. This image popped up frequently during my art history education as an undergraduate. The image was intended to ignite a dialogue of authenticity, reality, replication, idea, ARTIFICE, among other things.

The question was: which chair exudes the most chairness—the idea of the chair, the actual chair, or the photographic rendering of the chair? (not to mention the entire image is a photograph of an installation...) In short, will the real chair please stand up?

Plato would argue that the only pure chair is the idea. Even the actual chair is a corruption of that purity; henceforth, the photograph is a corruption of a corruption, an act of ARTIFICE twice removed from the essence of the chair.

Without venturing into a diatribe on this matter, it's interesting to me that there is an element of trickery in the essence of art—as though every artistic creation is merely an attempt to fool its audience. I recall something I read in one of my early film history classes: at one of the first screenings of the silent film A Great Train Robbery, audience members panicked and hid under their seats at the daunting cinematic image of a train coming directly toward the camera. It is funny to imagine experiencing this type of image for the first time.

I think about the art I make, mostly in the form of writing, and what sort of ARTIFICE is involved. I write nonfiction, but that doesn't mean the product is not totally molded, formed, processed, and manipulated in every way before it reaches the eyes of someone else. What am I trying to trick people into believing? I suppose that my experiences mean something, and that you want to read about them.

Really, you do.

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