Art Through the Ages

The official canon of all that we artists aspire to or repel ourselves from is presented via the reconfigured remains of the 13 pound, 1,500 page tome, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages. Representing History, Literacy, Cultural, Power and Categorization – it embodies the separation of sacred from profane, official from folkloric. In a very real sense, it is as holy as a bible or q’uran for the secular humanist. I had taught Advanced Placement Art History for years from this (12th) and earlier editions and decided to submit this authoritative text to a series of transformative practices over time. The result is a heap of shredded pages from the main body of the book, formed into a sort of burial mound, occasional phrases from which can still be read. Overhead, suspended from a rusty nail, are golden strands that hold glossary entries, rolled into scrolls and dipped in wax. They are the preserved ‘keys’ to the dense prose that seeks to elucidate, even as it obfuscates due to the astounding amounts of presumed prior knowledge and agreed upon perspective.

For me, it is amusing and deadly serious. Pieced together and taken apart, I can still admire the beauty of the thing, and bare open the end papers and golden ribbon for reverence.