Re: anti-collector

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Posted by Michael Wendorf on March 20, 1999 at 08:15:44:

In Reply to: Re: anti-collector posted by R. John Howe on March 20, 1999 at 06:42:10:

: Dear folks -

: Katherine's contribution here is both subtle and informed: Walter Benjamin is certainly worth paying attenton to on such things.

: But there is here even in this rather sophisticated view of the nature of connoisseurship, a hint of some of the possible dangers entailed.

: In Benjamin's elevated phrase he says that"

: "...ownership is the most intimate relationship one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them."

: Katherine then assents, describing this thought as "poignant" for her and goes on to say, "...I was especially moved by the idea "living through one's objects", in the intimacy of ownership."

: And Katherine's extraction from Aristotle of the related image of the "voice of the shuttle" --...that suggests that "...that art can speak in ways which language cannot..." is quite lovely (although I cannot think of a collector who is quite this silent.)

: The potential danger here for me is this: that one might begin to live through one's art objects to the neglect of important human relationships. We all know collectors like this. The problem is detecting whether you have become one. The notion that one might begin to live primarily through one's owned objects is alarming and a little sad.

: Regards,

: R. John Howe

Dear Friends:
I do not think Katharine or Benjamin was suggesting that objects or an intimate relationship can or should replace human relationships. The caution John sounds is valuable since we all do probably know people who seem to go off the edge with collecting. However, that seems the extreme. What really struck me was the idea of objects coming to life through their owner and speaking a language of their own. It has been my observation that on those occasions when I do a program at the Textile Museum or elsewhere discussing my collection and what it says to me it is clear that the pieces I have chosen to collect have somehow come to life in my hands in ways that other people often do not, but sometimes do, see and that there is a certain language that is created. I will add that it is those infrequent occasions when the carpets, speaking through me perhaps or despite me, have connected with others in the same way they have connected with me that I count among the most satisfying and sustaining moments of my collecting.
Thanks to Katharine for the beautifully personal post. Michael

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