Thursday, 21 May 2020

Borges Reports


In an afterword to Doctor Brodie's Report Borges writes about his creative process. It is clear that he holds to the older classical theory of having a genius which he leaves alone to her work. He does not attempt to guide her by a nagging intention.

Walking down the street or along the galleries of the National Library, I feel that something is about to take over in me. That something may be a tale or a poem. I do not tamper with it; I let it have its way. From afar, I sense it taking shape. I dimly see its end and beginning but not the dark gap in between. This middle, in my case, is given me gradually. If its discovery happens to be withheld by the gods, my conscious self has to intrude, and these unavoidable makeshifts are, I suspect, my weakest pages.

What then are we to say to the banal epiphany of the Brillo Box? At best I would describe it as craft work involving the careful application of paint and precise copying of a given model. We have forgotten that up to the 1950‘s whole studios were given over to the production of line drawings, illustrations and art work for mass media. Then and even now artisans known as monumental sculptors could knock out an angel reading in the book of life by hand in a few days. Socrates worked at that trade before he took up the contrarian gadfly business. In India long generations of artisans work at such crafts producing statuary in metal and stone for temples. They don’t claim to be artists though some of their ancient models have a refinement of form that is excellent.

I don’t claim to know much about art but I know what Arthur C. Danto likes. By sleight of definition he has brought respectability to the excesses of the exhibition catalog.



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