Friday, 6 February 2009

We Value the Useless


Pages 188 & 189 from The Language of Things:
Rietveld's Red Blue Chair, dating back to 1918, is hardly any less emotionally intense than Mondrian's contemporary canvasses. It's never been proved that Mondrian and Rietveld ever met, but their work clearly had much in common. Yet a chair that Rietveld made for himself will fetch no more than a fraction of the price of a Mondrian painting. Thorsten Veblen's perceptive book The Theory of the Leisure Class tells us why. We value the useless above the useful. Art is useless, and even a chair as transgressive as Rietveld's is still overshadowed by the taint of utility.

5 comments:

millie said...

Do you agree that art is useless?!?!?

Art Saves Lives.

Meg said...

Hi Millie,

Yes, I do agree that art is useless, in the same way Oscar Wilde does in his preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray:

All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself. We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless.

millie said...

I don't think we could live without art.

Meg said...

Absolutely, we couldn't live without art. Who would want to? I agree with you on that one, for sure.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that art is not a primary concern, but a secondary one.

First: water, food, shelter, air quality etc. Only once we have these basics can we create art.

Anonymous said...

some people create art (particularly performance art) by starving themselves of the basic necessities. Those who take the body to the extreme. Is this also art?