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What a Shame

What A Shame

Copy – Sameness – Universal

There are places within art theory and discourse form where the words “copy” and “sameness” appear. I have been reading a book called “Pattern and Decoration” that outlines that perhaps these ideas could fit into art theory and discourse.  The idea is that many crafts persons created works that were considered, at the time, decorative, ornamental, handcrafted, and for the most part, “low” art. The theory is that they created these patterns and decorations to break free from the self-referentiality of modernism.  They tried to remove the self from the work, break that very powerful rule of modernism, and to move on in history with something new.

The problem is, not even with pattern can you remove the self from the work.  But, there is difference. There is a pattern that copies and, there is pattern that has been thought through and always has the self within the work.  It, for the most part, cannot be missed and is always seen. It is handcrafted works that become “art.” An excellent example of this is the recent exhibition, “Camp”, that is at the Met in New York.  

Let me simplify this a bit more with an example that is in my local home town. My home town is small. It’s easy to get to know folks and it’s easy to fit in, if you want to.  There are two medical centers in this little town. One is part of a very large chain and is building a new outpatient facility annex to their building. The other has been part of the established community for ages.  It has a local foundation that sees to the original established needs of their namesake. This established facility has also been acquired and reacquired by many larger medical groups along the way. The foundation has remained, raising money for the medical needs of the community.  They have rented part of their medical building to a clinic. Both new buildings are putting art in their hallways and lobbies.  

I use the word “art” cautiously. When this facility first began their original founder had an art gallery and a medical center.  The question came before he passed, what should the bulk of his money go towards? The medical center was chosen. More recently, this medical center, in order to follow the original founders legacy, established a gallery for local artists to show their work.  

However, this new clinic that they were putting in their building didn’t follow this through.   This facility bought what I call “sofa” art. It is a copy of an artist’s unique, one of a kind, original idea that has been repeated over and over and over.  It cost approximately $125.00 at the most. You can find them in all of the furniture stores around the country. BUT, it matches the chairs, rugs and sofa that are in the rooms.  The rooms are carefully decorated, not curated like a gallery. They are decorated and it seems that most decorators need to have everything match. Why? I have no idea because nothing matches.  Anyway, the point is that this is copy. This is sameness and this has become universal. And, this is a downright shame.

Then, there is the other facility. It has nourished the art community for years. It has gone around and purchased original, one of a kind art that was done by the artist who had the idea and then crafted it.  The art has not been hung yet. But my guess is that it will be curated and not decorated throughout the building like the other buildings this group has established throughout the state.  

This is the difference between copy and pattern, and pattern as something that is self referential and “art.”  Art never becomes art in the environment that it’s placed in. It can never be broken down into a formula, a menu so to speak, that can be universally applied to all things that hang on a wall or stand on a table.

What a shame. It is no wonder that China is upset. We no longer want to allow them to do things like this; to copy our uniqueness and make it universal so all will take their compasses and the needle will magnetically point in their direction because they are “cheaper” and not point in the direction of intellectual property.

What a shame.

-Christine Alfery

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