Re: Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

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Posted by Jerry Silverman on December 01, 1998 at 23:38:41:

In Reply to: Re: Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? posted by James Allen on December 01, 1998 at 21:26:51:

: : Dear Jim and Whoever Else is Listening,

: : There can be no doubt you are correct in believing that a major force driving collectors into ethnographic rugs is the desire to vicariously experience a foreign, exotic culture. Thus, once we discover that the object really doesn't reflect that culture, it becomes much less interesting.

: : On the other hand, I think your belief that this stems from a cultural impoverishment that we suffer is off by a mile. The developed parts of the world, which includes nearly all rug collectors and nearly all people with computers, is anything but impoverished, culturally or otherwise. My experience as a traveler in Asia has consistently been that the people I meet are fascinated by and attracted to cultures other than their own, just as I am. Does this mean that every culture is internally impoverished? And if so, compared to what?

: : Steve Price

: : I will try and be nice. I doubt that you can imagine riding an animal across one of the harshest environments on earth let alone do it. I doubt you can imagine being prepared to fight to the death at a seconds notice 24 hours a day living behing a rug door. This is what I mean by experiential impoverishment. We are mostly numb and satiated blokes compared to the dangerous and vital existences of those whose artifacts we seek. jim

And to think, I was this >< close to completely agreeing with you, Jim.

As it turns out, I partially agree, but for different reasons. The way I understand it, the real question you are raising is, in general, "why do people collect?" And in specific, "why are people drawn to 'ethnographic' material?"

I agree that many of us may be indeed "numb and satiated blokes..." but I don't agree that what we are lusting for are the artifacts of a dangerous and vital existence. (Living in downtown Chicago, all I have to do to add some real danger to my existence is go for a westerly walk in the halting gait of a drunk at 3 a.m. That guarantees all the danger anyone wants. Even though it's there - right outside - I don't desire it to make my life vital. Nor do I desire the handgun or crack pipe that would be artifacts of that existence.)

Rather, I believe that it is the influence of the Industrial Revolution and the surfeit of machine-made things that broadened the desire to collect from royalty to the middle class. In an age of identical things available everywhere at modest prices, there is a satisfaction that comes with owning anything unique, handmade, one-of-a-kind. I could support this thesis with any number of examples, but I suspect it is not so subtle as to need all that much support.


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