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In a reverie a day or so ago, I explained to myself again why figurative art and formal writing and pop music are what get most people to bother about the arts at all.
If it was such a bad thing to do things by the book, there wouldn't be a book.
What's wrong with bronzes of heroes for paedos or curate-and-tea-party novels?
Weren't Squeeze just better than, say, Half Japanese?
But the visual arts, the visual arts only. I've finally granted that all the 2008 gallery-goer need do (as I do) is differentiate and marvel at: up and down and left and right; straightness and curvature; light and shadow; reflective and unreflective surfaces; colours and monochrome; foreground and background (and things falling somewhere in between); motion and stillness; and flatness and relief, or roughness and softness, or two dimensions and three. (Oh, he might be asked to listen now and again, but he needn't do this to see.) Which is always all he's needed to do, whether looking at a Myron or a Fragonard or a Calder.
The 'experimental' works we have are merely variations on a theme: look, wait, and form an opinion. Every viewer, once he's done yawning, will have the same basic experience of these pieces as he has of ordinary ones.
But what if art were actually experimental? One sort that I would fancy very much would make demands on the viewer's physical strength, agility, and skills.
The 'art,' whatever it might be, would be submerged in a small, deep pool, far under a ledge. The viewer would have to jump in, and could only view the piece/s for the duration of his breath. I'd gasp for Gainsborough. I'd retch, I think, for Reynolds. Would I hack for Hockney?
Nimble minds must needs be in agile bodies. Elite would crush effete.
The viewer wants responsibility for his experience? He wants to determine, does he? Let him dive for charioteer and scallop-shell sculptures or blank watercolours or walls of whales and see what he makes of it all.
Similar effects can probably be achieved using weights, powerful fans, trampolines, parachutes, etc., really any horrorshow obstacle course dream-up-able by an artistic Professor Butts, a man whose time for actual existence, slouching towards New York, has probably come.