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“Are we justified in attributing so much importance to verifying “originals” and distinguishing them from duplicates that are much like them and for many practical purposes fulfill the same functions? I believe we are. Just as it is in the interest of the human potential to extend the knowledge of the truth beyond the limits already attained, there is merit in pursuing aesthetic achievement to its peaks. We know from much evidence that art comes at all levels, from the poorest to the highest, and that therefore we need to distinguish all these levels from one another by their objective characteristics. Precisely because all works of art are basically duplicates of one another in that they are all engaged in the same task, it is possible and necessary to compare their levels of excellence. Those distinctions, however, are not readily apparent to everybody. A cheap popular song, novel, or picture may provide a full aesthetic experience within the narrow horizon of poorly prepared recipients, and it takes the persistent best efforts of the best experts to come ever closer to the recognition of the highest achievements.
To this end, we are in need of uncontaminated facts. It is difficult enough to prove the secrets of things when the evidence is authentic. We cannot afford to be misled by falsification.”
Rudolph Arnheim, “On Duplication”, pp232-245.
in The Forger’s Art: Forgery and the Philosophy of Art
Denis Dutton, ed.
Random: what we call the ‘artworld’ is just ‘good things worthy of duplication’.
On Snobbery/the remix
When young generations have admired this not-then-known forgery, if the aesthetic value has not changed, we say – “What harm has it done?” But, what is the purpose of art? Simply to entertain the senses?
Surely this cannot be what compels the artist, beyond conscious understanding or control, to create.
No, art does more than this. It is a pairing of the hemispheres, a mapping of non-observable ideas and emotions onto a consensually “recognizable” (cognitively recognizable) structure. That structure, however, is not Music, or Art, or even the subsets, such as Modern or Expressionist. The structure is the entirety of the artworld, which itself is an interpretation of the world-in-total, as that which one person or a select group is immersed in.
Ultimately, art, in any form, is both instruction and expression. The performer of the ritual (be it music or art or dance) is expressing both himself (or itself in the case of collective such as an orchestra) and the instruction of the work. And who is held accountable for the instruction, then? Even today, many artists will deflect credit for the authorship of their work. The art creates itself through the artist.
The unconscious action of the artist, as their ephormations iterate within a population, are held in-check by some other force.
For art to be of service, and thus of value, and for the population to receive proper instruction in the face of continually changing and complexifying environment, there must be some criteria by which the bad examples fall out, or are filtered out. Without this filter, society would fail to adapt, and art would find itself useless and consequently extinct from the human experience.
It is really no wonder, by this explanation heretofore, why we must remove the forgery from the museum wall. In a painting, the instructions are embedded into the expression – inextricably. For a piece of written music, the instruction is removed, or disembodied from the expression, so it is not the same. By “appreciating” an aesthetically powerful work of art that is known to have been whittled down by the algorithm of artificial selection, artists and critics and institutions and patrons, etc., there is something about the forged painting that is giving corrupt instructions (via the mismatched expression). And a pure expression it isn’t, for it is more an interpretation of a painting or a painter – someone else’s recursion, not yours – it is already once more removed. So young generations may enjoy and be moved by the aesthetic beauty, but as a whole, the interaction (between art and person) is not taking place as intended.
And note, it is not the artist who intends the interaction to be one way or another, but art itself, or the society, or the artworld that selects it. The youth, then, in this case, is being corrupted. It is the job of snobbery to police the proper transmission of artistic instruction. For those who do it well, snobs are only doing their duty.