What’s the point of displays that are only displays of the fact of being displays? If that is art, then isn’t it proof that art itself has lost all content, become display for display’s sake?
Some might say so—but consider what’s not being displayed: most obviously wealth. There is nothing rare or valuable about the materials being displayed. Nor is it a display of skill. Yes, a certain amount of craft has gone into the making of these things, but nothing special—indeed, nothing that your high school arts and crafts instructor couldn’t have shown you how to do. And neither is it a display of extraordinary intellect. It’s a display of doing and thinking, to be sure but a doing and a thinking that are not aimed at mastery or brilliance, seduction or magnificence. They are neither beautiful nor sublime. Still less are they ugly. They are really about ordinariness, but not about any particular ordinary things or activities. They aim to provoke thought without imparting knowledge. In this sense they are about a certain idea of what art might be—not the only idea, but one that seems recurrently resonant. Immanuel Kant spoke of »purposiveness without purpose.« These pieces seem to wonder whether »purposiveness without purpose« alone can sustain aesthetic experience, without any of the other definite attributes of art, or those of the particular arts.—Barry Schwabsky New York, May 2012