Burgin Chapter 2

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S.R. Would you say that this Baroque theatre, this time, is something also like the main interest in the history of art –  or would you differentiate between baroque theatre and art in general, like painting, sculpture, is it for you the same range?

V.B. I'm wary of global terms like »art». Again, one would have to label this term a little, one has to periodize, because what art means varies throughout history. You know, the closest that we come to the modern term »art« in classical antiquity in the West is a word which simply means »that which can be taught». In its origins then, music, if we stay with that example, was not an art, because it was performed by priests, and it was believed to come from the Gods. So it was a matter of inspiration and divine intervention on Earth; it could not be taught and therefore was not an art. Well, with the Pythagorean theories of harmonics this changes. Similarly with poetry; poetry was not originally in antiquity an art, because that again was a matter of divine inspiration. Then we get Aristotle's »Poetics» and things begin to change. But it's interesting to think of art as that which can be taught, given the post-romantic fog that we still languish in in the art world where the notion of divine inspiration is still there; but it's actually contradictory to the original sense of art. There are other people who have said, of course in different contexts, that science is that which can be taught, and we are speaking in the context of a teaching institution. For me, I think it's a matter of contingent definitions in different historical periods; if we were to look at it now, then the definition of what art is would involve overlapping discursive formations. You would have sociology, for example the sociology of the art institutions; you would certainly have the economy which plays a greater role in Western art today, arguably, than it did, let's say, fifty years ago – let's not go back to the baroque as it was paramount in that period, obviously. But the market – again, you would have to have a political discourse describing the mutation of contemporary art in the context of neo-liberalism and global capitalism, the incursion of market values into every aspect of culture. which again we suffer in the university, especially in England where the incursion of market values into the universities changed the nature of education and I think it certainly changed the nature of art since the late 60s, early 70s, which I believe is the period that you are supposed to be relating to in this interview.


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