Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tunnel to Subway Platform, Iidabashi

The Japanese, admirably, seem not to recognize a hierarchy between "art" and "fine art". In fact, there seems to be a smooth continuum encompassing all craft and art. People in Japan are historically practical; they recognize skilled and creative potters, kimono makers, and flower arrangers as artists the same as painters, for example. Meanwhile many such artists see themselves as craftspeople.

The contrast renders even more questionable the trend in America for some photographers to refer to themselves as "fine art" photographers. The pretension seems special to photographers; one does not hear of "fine art painters." No doubt it arises from the fact that anyone can take a photograph and nearly everyone does, but the designation is laughably self-conscious and defensive. One is reminded of certain Pentagon operation names, as though anyone who might suspect, for example, that the invasion of Panama was not a "Just Cause" would be persuaded by naming it that. A recent parallel from politicians is the "Defense of Marriage Act," in case anyone might not imagine that marriage needs to be defended from more people wanting to enjoy it.

A photograph is a photograph. Whether it could also be "art" or "fine art" ought to be left to the beholder to judge. Meanwhile, the artist in Japan rarely confers the term on his or her self. The great filmmaker Akira Kurosawa said, upon receiving an honorary Oscar in 1990, "I feel there's so much I don't know about film." The man seen by so many worldwide as a great artist saw himself as a craftsman, just trying to continue learning how to get it right.   Posted by Picasa


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