04 June 2013


I just arrived back in France from England, and while driving south I was listening to France Inter; a discussion between Francois Busnel and the writer Antoine Compagnon concerning Proust and Montaigne. Compagnon said that literature must principally evoke a sense of the 'surprise'. He added that a reader must never read the preface before jumping into the book. 

"One should not lose out on the pleasure of reading by too much pedagogy". 
("..il ne faut surtout pas, surtout pas supprimer ce plaisir par trop de pédagogie"...)

I bring all this up because recently in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanawaza, Japan (but it could be almost any Contemporary venue today) I moved through an exhibition while reading the fact-sheet which I was given to explain the works and the artists exhibiting. There are, these days, certain code phrases which let one know that one is in a Contemporary Museum space:
"...the artist engages our sensibilities.."
"...he has created a world that calls our attention to ..."
"A continuing investigation of life and death is the theme informing all facts of..."
"...we remain confused by...."
"These works which compel us to question our 
visual understanding of the world and everyday 
awareness, engender a mysterious world of a 
different dimension...."

I am often surprised to discover that I am 'supposed to feel this', and I am 'supposed think that', that I was supposed to 'question thisand 'be confronted' by that. I have barely the freedom to have my own experience in front of a work of art as I am assaulted by what the curators and artists have already programmed me to experience. No doubt they do not trust that we, (the public), can be trusted to 'get it' without being armed to the teeth with all sorts of information and philosophical questions. But isn't it all a bit maddening? I mean: where is the poetry, after all?

Thus, how refreshing it was to hear a writer proclaim that surprise, an element so duly overlooked, it would seem, is a crucial necessity for entry into the world of literature, for this writer, (and reader). In other words: what is the point of our imagination if we cannot be present for our own experience in front of a work of art, even at the great, and delicious risk of getting lost in it?

So the questions begs: If one agrees with this premise, then; why the disconnect between the 'Visual Arts' and 'literature', and, how come the Visual Arts have been hijacked by intellectuals and anthropologists

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