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Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Hughey Fires Back

By Kirk Hughey

Debating Ms. Kamhi is like trying to debate a computer. Both have programmed responses and a comprehension limited to the literal. This is most obvious in her selective interpretation of Helen Gardner (that misses Gardner's entire point) and her ignorant dismissal of Kupka as "naive" regarding representational art.

She either can't or won't grasp the idea that art is directly experiential and not a context employing generalized conceptual symbols (as with mathematics or language). No matter how useful, concepts are symbols- and symbols are wholly dependent on the reality to which they refer. But, as Korzybski pointed out; "the map is not the territory". No matter how much it relies on abstraction, a mimetic art is always the "map" while abstract art, no matter what it may reference, is primarily the "territory" - a real event in itself.

Like a tree. Ms. Kamhi, pathetically, seems unable to see the territory except as a map.

When the quality and effect of art can be measured as accurately as the distance between Earth and Andromeda it will enter the realm of the objective and be subsumed by science. Until then it is subjective- a word I would never modify by the adjective "mere" since it includes every sensibility that non-mechanical humans find meaningful.

Ms. Kamhi wants us to accept her definition of art as universal fact but a "fact" can be reduced to theory simply by one contradictory example from experience. In the case of science this would be one physical measurement. In art it would be one informed individual response. Even if we only had my own response to consider it is enough to reduce her "law" to mere theory-or hypothesis. I would go farther and suggest that her theory has the same relationship to art as phlogiston has to thermodynamics.

I can only hope others will enjoy reading her letters to find the glaring self-contradictions ,obvious misconceptions and simplistic illogic. If our audience is not bored with all this; I certainly am - and I don't have a book to promote. In case anyone has missed it her title is; "What Art Is" (which alone reveals consummate arrogance and vacuous pedantry-not to mention the prospect of ontological obfuscation).

Instead of reacting by reflex and trying to revise history we should ask why abstraction became necessary in the first place. The twentieth century was shaped by unfamiliar insights of science into invisible forces expressed in abstract conceptual form-only an abstract art could help adapt us to this by showing how the unknown can be realized in perceptible form as well.

That century saw the rise of totalitarian ideologies bent on shaping people to their inflexible constructs - also expressed in abstract generalities, but without ground in real particulars; individual human beings. Abstraction speaks to the personal; the free , imaginative, inventive human mind capable of independent judgement and unafraid of the unknown. It is this quality that makes it feared and hated by pathological autocrats like those I mentioned in my first letter: Hitler and Stalin. I know Ms. Kamhi is as repelled by this company as I am-but this is where simplistic ideological dogma inevitably leads.

Kirk Hughey

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