10 October 2010


No responsibility

Art, in the common reasoning, is superior to craft, set apart for a higher purpose. Contrary to common reasoning, I believe that they are the same thing in ultimate effect. Only art is stripped of the practical constraints integral to craft, becoming a subset requirement of well considered craft.

Both are an answer to the creative urge. The difference may be understood by seeing art as being mostly removed from answering to anyone or anything, while craft is deeply immersed in all the practical concerns that surround it. It may be said that craft carries a burden that may be seen to hamper the creative urge, or subsume it all together. The difference is not the mistaken belief that craft is ALL about 'craftsmanship' or how capably something is put together, and has nothing to do with art. The difference is in responsibility inherent to craft.

So both art and craft are engaged in their surroundings; art may transcend it, but craft must engage it all the time and in every way. The claim is made that craft is servile to art, because it must concern itself with the mundane and the practical. My claim is craft with all of constraints of engagement becomes a more sublime problem, and a more complex problem, with a conceivably richer outcome.

Making a great city is a living example of the art versus craft debate, because both are woven into its fabric. Architects and their clients sometimes seek to position their buildings as more art then craft, even though they can’t completely escape the practical constrants. Buildings conceived as art look to an ascension above practical concerns, seeking a voice of their own, not a dialog with their neighbors. The goal is an edifice that can stand, without regard to its surroundings, as a singular achievement. An expression of the talent of its creator, a piece alone, immediately surrounded by thousands of other things. OK.

But relate it must, and this great edifice finds itself forced into an unwilling dialog with its surroundings. It can’t help it. It is right smack in the middle of its surroundings. The edifice cannot be witnessed without taking in a good dose of its surrounding companions; and you can’t participate in the surrounding fabric without bearing witness to the edifice. Sometimes that works out OK. Sometimes the city around it adapts and graciously incorporates it. And sometimes, this piece of art, placed without proper curatorial skills, becomes the proverbial ‘missed-stitch’.

The art of the city really is something that is added to by a thousand master-strokes, by nature in dialog with each other. It make no matter these strokes are from a thousand separate endeavors; this great public place, this city, is a collective work of art. One experiences that wonderful effect of moving through a ny great city, and the intoxication is not from any one building or space, but the dynamic collection of moving through all of them. Some blend in, and some stand out, but they all make their contribution. Call is a functional requirement; any building or other physical element is responsible to all the others, even if it is intended as a work of art.

The richer outcome for the craft made city? It becomes a work of art, but better yet, it becomes a work of craft.

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