Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Don't Regulate The Tate

Tate Modern Gallery, London, England

January 13, 2013

"Who you mean when you say 'I' is not you. It's just something that shows up for you."  ... 
"It's much easier to ride the horse in the direction he's going."  ... 
"I am not me. The horse is not mine." ... old Russian peasant saying
This essay, Don't Regulate The Tate, is the companion piece to
  1. Art Gallery
  2. Mona Lisa! Mona Lisa!
in that order.

It is also the second in a group of five written in London, January 2013:
  1. Turned Tables
  2. Don't Regulate The Tate
  3. English Tea
  4. Blameless
  5. London "I": The Memorandum
in that order.

This group of five written in London, January 2013 is the sequel to Clear For Takeoff.

I am indebted to my daughter Alexandra Lindsey Platt who contributed material for this conversation.




It's a pile of bricks. It's a work of art.

When the Tate Modern Gallery purchased Carl André's Equivalent VIII  aka "The Bricks" in 1972 for the equivalent (no pun intended) of $10,000.00 (actually that's the rumored  figure - the final amount was never disclosed) there was an outburst of opinions running the gamut of the critical spectrum.

I remember the uproar well. I'd seen photographs of Equivalent VIII in the news. The whole firestorm debate surrounding it fascinated me. For some, the purchase was an outrageous waste of public funds - public, because the Tate is a tax exempt charity funded by the British government's Culture, Olympics, Media, and Sport department. There were calls to regulate what the Tate is allowed to spend public funds on. For others it was a very shrewd, savvy coup  by the Tate, Equivalent VIII being a worthy addition to the Tate's holdings. And the talking heads  on TV had a field day arguing which opinion was right.

Photography by Alexandra Lindsey Platt - Tate Modern Gallery, London, England - 2:25pm Sunday January 13, 2013
Equivalent VIII aka "The Bricks" - 120 fire bricks
by Carl André, 1966
purchased by the Tate Modern Gallery in 1972 for $10,000.00
The Tate isn't an art gallery: it's a collection  of art galleries. To fully appreciate the works in just one  of them, the Tate Modern for example, could take days. When I arrived at the Tate Modern for a pre‑allocated three hour visit, Equivalent VIII was far from my mind. I'd actually forgotten about it.

Walking around the Tate's halls ie its galleries within its gallery  - some of them the size of cozy city art outlets, some of them massive enough to house three or four commuter sized aircraft - I was struck by how the Tate is more than a home for art: it's its context. The Tate itself is as much an art medium, as canvas and oil paint and pedestals are, on which its huge range of work is created and showcased.

So it was almost by accident as I, approaching my time to leave, and having viewed way too many extraordinary pieces in way too short a period of time to appreciate them all and do them all justice, turned a corner and caught a glimpse of something which resulted in (this is the truth) these words spontaneously entering my mind: "What on Earth is that?  It looks like a pile ... of ... bricks  ...". Then, suddenly shocked, I realized I'd stumbled on, completely by accident, Carl André's Equivalent VIII. In another moment I'd have obliviously exited the building and would have missed the piece entirely.

This is what I got: yes it is a pile of bricks, and yes it's a work of art. And here's the thing: you  get to choose which it is - that is, you get to say  what it is ... because the very, very first thing to get about appreciating art is there's nothing  to appreciate in art except for  the appreciation you ascribe to it.

I assert there's no intrinsic value  at all in Equivalent VIII, just as there's no intrinsic value at all in Pablo Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust  aka "Nude with Sculptor's Turntable", also on display at the Tate, even with (get this) its staggering $106,500,000.00 price tag. And just as "It's money wasted on a pile of bricks" is said about Equivalent VIII, so could "It's an assault on common sense" just as easily be said about Nude, Green Leaves and Bust. But art only starts  being interesting when you look at it from the viewpoint of creating  its value rather than from the viewpoint of looking at  its value.

We're all too often convinced  art has value. But we're also convinced of many other obvious things which, after inquiry, are revealed to be simply open to interpretation. For example, we're convinced there's an "I" which is real, for each of us. There isn't. This "I" isn't real. It's just something that shows up  for each of us. It's an entirely new world which opens up ie it's an entirely new possibility for being  which opens up when we start seeing our "I" not as who we really are  but rather as something which shows up up for us - just as it's an entirely new world which opens up ie it's an entirely new possibility for being which opens up when we start seeing the value in art as something we ascribe to art, rather than as something already in  art for us to evaluate.

Here's what's truly priceless  about the Tate: it provides the opportunity over and over and over  again, for us to inquire into, and to practice making this distinction for ourselves. Because making this distinction is essentially the  distinction to make for living Life transformed, this is the direction in which Life is already going anyway - and it's much easier to live Life in the direction it's already going. The Tate's public funds provide generous access to this direction.

So no, don't regulate the Tate.



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