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Phil Oliver

25 July 2011

 

 

 

          Art Identity and Anonymity

 


 

A paper by Harry Davis published by the Potters' Society of Australia in the Spring 1972  edition of Pottery in Australia (Vol. 11. No. 2).



Art Identity and Anonymity

In another essay called "An Historical Review of Art Commerce and Craftsmanship" I tried to focus attention on the way commerce came to corrupt the other two in this trio. This essay is intended to be a sequel to that statement, and here I am attempting to focus attention on the way in which four centuries of ever increasing preoccupation with commerce and profit has moulded our attitude to art today.

Crewenna Casserole
Crewenna Casserole. Exhibition, Potters' Gallery, Sydney
Photograph: Department of Technical Education

I must stress, however, that diagnostic statements of this sort lack point unless accompanied by practical comment on attitudes to technology and work. This is particularly true in the case of the potter. I have tried to show that Art is an expression of the quality of a society. It is a product of experience, as John Dewey so rightly stressed, and clearly an artist needs some insulation from the aberrations of his society in order to work, and not become one of the aberrations himself. His work, even if he does succeed in standing apart, may be a deliberate emphasis of the chaos and absurdity which causes the aberrations, and this will give his work a social connotation quite apart from its aesthetic content. It may become a reflection of chaos and absurdity and nothing more; in fact to appear to reflect this may even become the fashionable thing to do, which is where we are now.

In an art such as that of the potter this inevitably results in an abdication of the potter's essential role. If he does not wish to abdicate he has to face the technological and practical implications of insulation, and take a hard look at the chaos and absurdity which he is trying to avoid. Our society's principal aberration is its runaway technology and the moulding of the entire environment required to maintain it and its dependent economics. If a potter wishes to fulfill his essential role -that is, to make pots-then alternative attitudes to technology and work have to be considered. This is why these two statements began as lecture material which was used to accompany a number of technical and practical lecture themes stressing novel approaches to various sides of pot making. These it was felt offered a measure of freedom from the compulsions of commerce and the rat race of modern life, with a little hope that Art might blossom here and there in the natural context of living and working as it once did with primitive people.

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Crewenna Wine Bottle
Crewenna Wine Bottle. Exhibition, Potters' Gallery, Sydney.
Photograph: Department of Technical Education

In juxtaposing identity and anonymity I am trying to relate them to the thing we call Art. There is clearly much more to be said about identity than about its opposite, anonymity. Anonymity is a term we use in reference to work, the authors of which have been forgotten and whose names perhaps were never recorded. We also use it in reference to work done by writers under a pseudonym, but this is not very common and rarely hides the identity of the author for very long. There are several aspects of identity which concern us profoundly as craftsmen, as potters, or as artists. Identity has its valuable manifestations as well as its deplorable ones. When someone seeks to inflate their identity in order to gain prestige and economic advantage over others, it is a perversion.

Unfortunately this is the form of identity which our society does, in fact, hold up as an aim and symbol of success. There are, however, other forms of identity which are not perverted. For instance, a sense of identity among one's peers is a psychological necessity, and such a sense of identity is a prerequisite to finding an ability to identify with something beyond the ego, something greater maybe than the ego. This ability to identify with something leads to what is often called a state of losing oneself, and it is only in this condition, I believe, that great things are done; and I would add, that things stand a chance of being done for the right reasons.

I think it was because of some vague awareness of all this that, without having actually met the man himself, I so greatly admired Shoji Hamada when I first heard about him in the early thirties. Here was a man who took a novel stand on the matter of signatures. He seemed to be defending a state of anonymity which, of course, I now realise he was not. However, he did not sign his pots and I found this most admirable, and I followed suit. I have not signed a pot since, but nothing noticeable has been achieved. In fact Shoji Hamada is perhaps the most identified potter alive today and he seems to be involved in subtle alternatives to anonymity which seem to suggest that he might as well have signed all his pots. Something similar seems to be happening to me.

A man named Nicholas Fyodorovich, a Russian writer and contemporary of Tolstoy, took a similar stand and did very nearly achieve his purpose. Nevertheless, even he is talked about and written about, and here am I referring to him. The relevant point to note in this situation is not that anonymity is shown to be a futile quest, but that a deliberate striving after fame was rejected, and that some men were admired for this. Shoji Hamada maintained that a signature was redundant and that the personality of the man would be evident in the pots. I think this is probably true, but one must hand it to him that he had his priorities in the right order. If fame is the outcome of excellence, that is another matter. The sad thing is that we have been inculturated to seek fame like we do money, and worse still, often as a means of getting money. The degree to which modern society is obsessed with this idea of identity was drummed home to me by the fact that the resolve - or what I thought was the resolve - of a man like Hamada could be cancelled out so quickly. It was a disillusionment and a disappointment to me to discover as early as 1946 that this process of cancellation was already taking place. At that date I saw in the museum in Truro Cornwall a pot made circa 1923 labelled "Shoji Hamada made at the Leach pottery".

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There is now the classic story which records Shoji Hamada's response to a report that another potter was copying his designs and exhibiting, but, I presume, not signing his work. The reply was that this did not matter because this man's best pots would be attributed by posterity to Hamada and that Hamada's failures would be attributed to this other potter. This was thought to be a very funny story when it was first reported, but it is a revealing story on several accounts. It shows incidentally that the ethos of the age was already causing Hamada to entertain thoughts about posterity with regard to himself. It would perhaps be a wonder, seeing what that ethos is like, if it did not.

Secondly, it reveals something which stirred Katherine Pleydell Bouverie to considerable ire when I told her this story. Her reaction was that Hamada should sign "his damn pots and accept responsibility for his failures". Looked at this way, the story is not at all so funny. There are of course other cases on record where the best unsigned work of a student has been attributed to the master. There certainly is a case for accepting responsibility for what one does. We have always used a workshop seal at Crowan and Crewenna for this reason, and one reacts like K. Pleydell Bouverie did to the habit very prevalent in New Zealand of writing letters to the newspapers under a pseudonym.

I was much impressed by something Paul Goodman once said about the importance of doing things for the right reasons, and how rare and difficult this seemed to be in the sphere of international politics. It seems to be just as rare and difficult to achieve on more mundane planes as well, and I have come to attach great importance to this idea in general. This may be because I believe in the principle that means condition ends and the related idea that motives govern the quality of actions and ends. It is in fact often very difficult to distinguish between the motive and the end. There are a variety of possible reasons for doing most things. Circumstances may indicate which reasons demand priority, and this leaves one with a choice so that one has to choose an order of priority among the good reasons. There is always an array of bad reasons which can often be very attractive, but nevertheless these have to be rejected.

Ours is such a complex society and men work in such narrow specialized spheres, so remote from simple human needs, that the true reasons-the sane and simple reasons for doing things - are indeed difficult to discover. Much of the complexity derives from the supreme emphasis which is put on money values as opposed to ultimate values. This situation has built up gradually over the centuries, but it is now so all-pervading that it requires exceptional clarity of thought and determination even to discover the simple reasons which lie behind the smoke screen of money values.

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Man has created something he cannot control which destroys his vision of the simple purpose of things including his own, and as is now becoming apparent, his environment as well. Ninety-five per cent of us live in cities, dissociated from the source of materials we use and the things we eat. Men see these cities mostly as a triumph and as objects of pride, unaware that in their present form they are a creeping fungus produced by man's paramount remaining reason for existence- commerce. They are seen as the fruits of progress, but few stop to think how meaningless that word has become. Change is automatically called progress, and this is automatically assumed to be change towards something better. Such change is invariably the outcome of commercial enterprise and is better defined in terms of jobs and profit. The preoccupation with progress is a striking example of an actual motive hiding behind an alleged motive.

Not that to engage in commercial enterprise and competition is claimed to be altruistic. Profit is the declared aim and is always cause for jubilation. Economists used to talk about enlightened self interest, but at least the hypocrisy of the enlightenment has been dropped. It is now taken for granted that what leads to profit leads to progress. It is in the nature of this syndrome that inventiveness is directed mainly towards profit and not the betterment of the human lot, whatever is in fact claimed. In some cases the outcome is a betterment in human terms, but in the main the human lot is an irrelevancy and a loser. Credit is claimed for abundance and cheapness as a service to the public, but this is achieved by an inexorable process whereby profitability is maintained by recourse to increased scales of activity and ever more sophisticated equipment. The whole process has the quality of a chain-reaction culminating in automation and a traumatic condition called either leisure or redundancy. Those with the talents and qualifications required can continue to derive a sense of purpose through their nitch in all this, but for the rest the sense of purposelessness is tragic.

It is extraordinary how much is done for one reason while quite different reasons are in fact the motive. This tendency runs right through our social and political structure. Democratic process is continuously bedevilled by this. Despite the strongest case in favour of a particular action, no action can be taken because an election is pending. Expediency dictates that in fact the reverse shall be done.

We are conditioned to disregard the ultimate purpose for the things we do, and we seem to have lost all sense of directness and consider only the immediate purpose, which is mostly the financial or business purpose. John Dewey had a term for this. He called it an act of postponed living. Whole lives are spent as acts of postponed living, working for security at an age when it is time to die. Eric Gill used to point out how the sale of stocks and shares is carried on in that vast substructure of our economic life without reference to the kind of goods produced. All that is relevant is that their production shall be profitable. They may in fact fail to profit mankind at all, or even be a positive disservice to it.

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The essence of all this is expediency. One might call it the art of doing things for the wrong reasons. There is no place for this kind of motivation in the Arts; they cannot function in terms of expediency. Here one would have thought was a field where things really were done for the right reason. There are, of course, artists who do, but they are rare and they function outside that phenomenon which A. Alvarez contemptuously refers to as the art industry. A thing blended of playfulness and whimsy and an element of reverence for something greater than the individual ego, no matter which of these is dominant, is marred if excessively made to submit to the dictates of time and routine and profit. Art is a mood-dependent phenomenon, and it must dictate its own time and place and routine and have its own motive. This is in such total contrast to the discipline of a single-minded pursuit of work and profit and all the rigid unrelenting submission to time and place and routine which is the world of business. This is what makes Art the veneer phenomenon that it is. It has no natural place in a socio-economic situation which is almost totally materialistic. It can only get a foothold in such a society if it can be seen to add a cultural aura for the successful in this discipline of cupidity. If it does not add this aura it is rejected utterly. There is no place for it except as a veneer and perhaps as an investment.

Among primitive peoples artistic expression could find a place in almost any mundane activity. This is simply not tolerable to modern man in his obsession with output and his greedy reluctance to give of himself. The evolution of attitudes to identity and what is thought to have been anonymity in pre-literate societies shows how art came to reflect the qualities of the kind of society we live in.
Anonymity is something which writers may indulge in by using a pseudonym, but this is rare and also difficult to maintain. The word is used in reference to sculptors and painters of antiquity, but it only means that the records of the men and their names have been lost with the passage of time. One needs to distinguish between anonymity due to the obliterating effects of time, and anonymity deliberately sought. It is very rarely sought. In a medieval city the authorship of the finer stone carving in the cathedral during its construction would have been well known to the associates of the sculptors in question. Today we speak of them as being anonymous. Even the lesser stone carvers would have been known and linked with their work in the minds of their contemporaries. In other words, they were simply working in a mood of unselfconscious humility without the ballyhoo of art publicity, just like other tradesmen. These men were probably, with very few exceptions, quite illiterate and unable even to sign their names. The temptations to do things for the wrong reasons were obviously negligible. Gradually literacy began to spread and a new situation arose when this lead to that ignominious and self-conscious struggle on the part of the painters and sculptors to establish their social and cultural equality with the literati and the well-to-do. A struggle, incidentally, in which they were equally concerned to establish their social superiority to those who practised what were contemptuously referred to as the mechanical arts. In this situation the "Artist" became concerned with his public image, and the idea that a signature might give him access to the realm of the immortals was discovered. Snobbery could go no further. However, there was to be a nemesis to all this because these ambitions about present and future status were very like
experimenting with a new drug the sinister side effects of which are at first unknown.

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In non-literate societies only the more exceptional exploits of heroes and warriors would have been deemed worthy of recounting to future generations by oral repetition. In the case of a carving, the fact of its continued existence would have been proof enough of the feat of its creation, and the name of the man who carved it would have become unimportant. Once literacy and other social changes had revealed the possibility of making authorship known beyond the life span of the artist, and this had become a habit, as indeed it did, and even became an ambition, which it also did, the whole tendency began to assume, I suggest, the characteristics of a drug. To gratify ambition for personal fame beyond the artist's own life span calls for much advertisement, even self-advertisement, during the lifetime of the person concerned. There you have the first sinister side effect of this drug, a quite unwarranted drive to boost the personal ego. In conversation recently with a well-known potter, the subject of the relative merits of group exhibitions, as opposed to the "one-man show", were discussed. I was a bit staggered to hear the "one-man show" openly defended by a well-established potter on the grounds that "we all need a boost for our egos". Here we go again, I thought, and reflected on what I know of people in simpler societies whose arts do not run on this kind of stimulant. The attitude seems to suggest that the ego is like a rubber balloon with a pinhole in it, and in need of continuous reinflating. There is something addictive about this which fits the drug analogy rather well. With this habit of thinking, the successful build-up of the fame of living artists was bound to reveal its commercial possibilities. The beginnings of this were already evident in 16th century Italy. This is something that could happen to artists, that is sculptors and painters, but not to athletes and warriors.

The need to advertise, or the discovery of the advantages of so doing, is typical of modern commercial society. The esteem in which an artist's work is held during his lifetime does obviously affect his capacity to earn a living, and it would be surprising if this were not exploited. The sad thing is that this calls for subtle forms of self-advertisement which in any other walk of life would be considered quite offensive. This is also psychologically a perilous procedure because, like all forms of commercial advertisement, however laudibly concerned to inform, they are always partly concerned to deceive. On the personal level of the artist there is the added risk that he will deceive himself, which he often does. This is something which does not happen to a Limited Company. When by the nature of social and economic circumstances this situation is forced upon the artist, the outcome is an expression of personal claims to excellence which acquires the unattractive quality of boasting.

The psychological effect of this is real and deplorable, but it should be remembered that for the individual artist our society makes this emphatically a condition of his professional and economic survival.

The second side-effect of this drug began to develop when it was realised that the work of a living artist might have startling commercial possibilities after his death. Inevitably the commercially minded, having seen the possibility of this, realised the importance of augmenting the mystique of any likely candidates for this treatment. The investment value of stock-piling the work of such persons would also be foreseen, as we all well know. If such an entrepreneur is unable to stockpile for himself, for one reason or another, he can use this tempting commercial bait to encourage his private customers to stockpile and there you have a further ramification of a side-effect-the Collector. Few people believe that collectors always pursue their hobby, as they like to call it, for a thing called the "Love of Art" - in fact, I sometimes even wonder if there is such a thing. In this context it is perhaps worth referring to a news item which appeared in the N.Z. papers This referred to an art dealer from Atlantic City who celebrated his birthday by inviting all his friends on a four-day trip to Paris-Paris presumably chosen as a Mecca of the Arts. The interesting bit was the detail about expense It involved the hire of two 747s and a total outlay of $250,000. The paper made no comment and no one was surprised, it seemed. It was just a reminder of how things work in the world of Art connoisseurship.

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Side effect number three is the misleading consequence of the reliance on a signature, which causes the layman, and I often suspect the professional authority as well, to withhold value-judgments on the intrinsic merit of a work until certain of the identity of the artist. The signature-or the name-gives the cue for approval or disapproval, according to accepted patterns and accepted fashion trends.

Closely related to this is the influence of price on judgments about merit We are so steeped in the ethos of our society, which insists on putting a monetary valuation on all things, that a high price automatically implies for most people an indication of high merit. This fact is of course exploited frequently and without shame as a lever to fame-by both artists and dealers. It becomes a yardstick and in the bewildering array of "wayout" work most people jump at such a supposed indicator of merit. Journalists are no exception. Utterly at a loss to assess work exhibited, they attempt to convey something to the reader by mentioning that the work of the artist in question will fetch prices in the order of such and such, and quote the astronomic figures. A great many people are very much aware of the role that a name plays in all this, but they do not realise what a distorting mirror it is. Everyone knows the opening conversational gambit which runs -"Of course, without a name you cannot. . ." There are many variants and I used to hear several from my father. Every business-oriented citizen knows-or thinks he does-that the paramount concern of all young artists is "how to make", not a pot, nor a picture, or a piece of sculpture, but "a name".

An amusing incident occurred recently in our showroom. Two Australian visitors were noting in some surprise that our prices were lower than some prevailing in Australia. Knowing nothing about us, and unaware that we have a longstanding policy of trying to hold prices as low as possible, they mentioned an Australian potter by name and said: "So and so-yes, he is very pricey, but of course you're only paying for a name." It is then just a matter of Jonesmanship whether you pay up or not.
The saddest feature of all in this tangle is when one meets the artist in person, afflicted with the ultimate conceit and wanting not only the adulation of his contemporaries but that of posterity as well. When public acclaim and the prospect of posterity's acclaim reach the sort of obsessive levels which we know today- and when on top of that economic well-being is made dependent upon it-there is a temptation, which almost amounts to a compulsion, to do things for the wrong reasons. Success then has to be measured in decibels of acclaim and the image being created by publicity then becomes a dominant concern. There are those, convinced of the validity of what they are doing-or thinking-or writing who are, I am sure, oblivious of all this perverted nonsense. Others, like bricklayers and motor mechanics and some potters, involved in something which is more or less outside the Art sphere, can also escape this trap. For them there is no question of public acclaim and if they are not caught up in the profit syndrome they too can recognise the validity of what they do and gain satisfaction from something well done.

The person who functions in the frontier zone between art and non-art is a very vulnerable person. Most potters function in this zone. The lure of fame and status exerts a great pressure on the potter to cross it. So many factors drive him to do so and with every step taken in that direction the impulse to switch from a concern with the simple inherent merit of what he does to a concern with the impact he may make on other people increases. He is ever reminded of the status-factor associated with his position, relative to that frontier.

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Not many people know that agencies exist which will, for a fee, chase your public image for you and send you cuttings from the Press, so that you can assess the level of acclaim which is coming your way. Yes, there are artists who are that much concerned to know the shape of their public image. There are other artists, and I suggest they are the authentic ones, for whom the idea of hiring the services of such an agency would simply be unthinkable. Can you imagine, to take what I think is a good example, Van Gogh doing such a thing?

Once this switch has taken place, unselfconscious and spontaneous expression is liable to give way to conscious expression of something - or almost anything - which it is thought will produce a suitable public image. The word "gimmick" does not appear in any of my dictionaries, but the word is now part of the language and must soon be officially included. Its definition, I suggest, will run something like this: "A thing sufficiently out of step with established and currently accepted norms to be likely to yield a quick and ample applause from the avant garde without being seen by too many people for what it is-a bid for acclaim and hard cash." But let me be emphatic about this. Not every breach with tradition is in the category of gimmickry. There are real revolutionary steps taken for the right reasons, and there are phoney ones which are not. Debussy's use of fifths in defiance of the musical establishment did him no material good, but he insisted and one admires him for it. What we now have to keep in mind is that breaking with tradition has become fashionable, and that last year's rave is this year's old hat. The social ethos which prompts the gimmickry and also requires the annual re-styling of car bodies is an inherent part of the current way of life, and it would be surprising if art were not infected by this. There is plenty of genuine innovation, but the cycle of innovation is accelerating at such a pace-now much faster than the re-styling of car radiators-that there really isn't time to distinguish between the sham and the genuine before the next new thing is upon us. It is not always easy to distinguish between these two, and in any case one should remember that counterfeit banknotes are not meant to be easily distinguished from real ones.

I referred earlier to the vulnerability of people who operate on what I called the frontier between art and non-art. I want to approach this from another angle. We are all familiar with the film star's hysterical concern with his public image, as the journalists interpret it for us. The personal experiences I have had of people moving on the fringe of acclaim, and the knowledge of my own reactions to this situation, have convinced me that this can be a powerful inducement towards a switch from authentic to false motives. It has also convinced me that this sort of egotistic concern creates a severe psychological strain and can lead to unattractive personality distortions as well. At its worst, this strain seems to be quite capable of leading to suicide. The tragedy is that the competitive element in our society propels artists towards this perversion of motives and, as already pointed out, makes its acceptance a condition of economic survival.

It is possible to rationalise all this and accept it, and for those basking in a steady flow of public acclaim it has agreeable hedonistic overtones, but nonetheless mostly spurious one.
One is reminded of the unselfconscious primitive, sometimes magnificently creative, who is not bothered with his ego, and not even able to sign his name and write "Hoc fecit" on what he did. It is important to remember that signed work was not only the product of the spread of literacy, but also the product of the spread of a competitive spirit. Gislibertus, who wrote these words "Hoc fecit" before his name in the cathedral at Autun, lived at a period when the first stirrings of capitalist competition were emerging in Europe and signed work was, in fact, very rare. Those who believe in the stimulating effects of competition forget that it produces some very unhealthy tendencies as well.

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Quite apart from fame and glory, making pots is a very absorbing and rewarding thing to do, and quite obviously a great many people find this to be so. I have certainly found it so, but, and perhaps because of this, I have noted over the years what appears to me to be a surprising and extraordinary high proportion of suicides among potters. Pottery is recognised for its therapeutic value to people disturbed in consequence of the strain of life in our rat-race world.

This in itself might account for a high ratio of suicides among potters. I have not made any comparative study along these lines-I am only saying that it surprised me that suicides seemed to occur among the rather small community of potters which I have known and not among those in other ordinary trades, among which I must have known a great many more individuals.

A. Alvarez, the literary critic, has recently published a book called The Savage God in which he looks at the phenomenon of suicide among artists in a quite different light. He seems to be saying, along with the Dadaists, that suicide is the ultimate creative act. He speaks of the element of risk involved in being a certain kind of poet, which he suggests may culminate in suicide. Frankly, I don't claim to understand this kind of thinking. I can understand the creative mind contemplating the calamitous follies of man, and the risk that an excessive preoccupation with this might lead to thoughts of suicide. I can understand the risk incurred by the over-ambitious and under-talented, who wants to cross the frontier to which I have just referred. To risk society's rejection, and the explicit contempt and even derision of the professional pundits, could, I can see, be a serious matter for some. To be singled out publicly for damnation, with faint praise, or even an outright rubbishing, by one of the pundits, whatever his credentials, calls for a balanced personality and a thick skin. One should remember that the typical artist is far from thick-skinned-he is, in fact, by the nature of things a sensitive person. If the chosen idols and the peers of a person so treated are then found to be siding with the pundits in question, the psychological strain for some artists is very considerable. Personally I suspect that some suicides among potters are due to this sort of psychological strain.

I have tried to show that the prevailing value-structure today is such that acclaim often becomes more important than the creative act. The quest for fame puts one artist in competition with another-not in creative competition, which is patently an absurdity, but for acclaim, upon which hangs so much materially. In fact, art is as involved in competition as business and industrial manufacture, and monetary carrots are being ever more persistently dangled before the artist to this end. It is as if the point has been reached where it is accepted that even the creative act can somehow be germinated by an adequate injection of hard cash. Competitions are organised at every turn, ostensibly to select the best work, but selection and rejection of persons or personalities is an unavoidable corollary of this process. A process, incidentally, which puts an artist's fate in the hands of pompous arbiters of taste who may give him a ticket to stardom this year and a downright rubbishing next year. The elimination of sub-efficient business activity by this competitive method is one thing, but the elimination of supposedly or allegedly sub-talented or sub-developed persons by competitive methods is another matter altogether.

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As one travels round the world briefly in contact with art groups, and pottery groups, one becomes acutely aware of a pattern of evolution in the role of the individual potter. It is sad to note the declining order of amity and fellowship and humility which prevails between the members of the purely amateur groups on the one hand and that which prevails amongst those who feel they have achieved professional status on the other. The amateurs as groups and as individuals are in a state of wild excitement about newly discovered fields of activity and personal expression. They work in a mood of considerable humility and in a spirit of willing mutual aid. The professionals, on the other hand, are incredibly divided as individuals and as coteries. They seem to lose no opportunity to denigrate a rival, while referring with bated breath to their trendy idols of the moment. Mutual aid is noticeably more unpredictable, despite its acceptance as a tradition among potters.
The phenomenon of competition is a great social divider, yet it is something which is much praised and greatly believed in by our society. It is believed to be the great springboard, able to generate energy and productivity. It is acclaimed in the business world, but all seek every opportunity to avoid being its victim, because it is known to be vicious. In business, the weak it is believed should go to the wall. Paradoxically, the business world praises it at every turn, yet contrives, and very successfully, by its drive towards monopoly, to eliminate it. At an individual level it is also vicious. In the drive to success a few must climb to the top on the failures of the many. At a more personal level, which is the plane on which the arts function, you have the paradox of both the successful and the unsuccessful subjected to a psychological maiming.

We humans are a tangle of psychological quirks, which are the outcome of a host of complicated factors which mould us from birth onwards. There are also many other factors in our socio-historical background which mould us, and also the behaviour of the group into which we are born, as well as the behaviour of the group with which we choose to identify ourselves. Mostly we don't know why we behave the way we do-as individuals or as groups. In our gregarious habits we get involved with the current "in thing" which our particular chosen group happens to favour. As social animals we are deeply involved in a host of "in things", many of them deplorable, which our history has consolidated as patterns to condition our attitudes and behaviour in general.

It is important that we should understand, or at least try to understand, why we behave the way we do. This, I believe, is vitally tied up with the business of trying to do things for the right reasons.
The crafts, or should I say craftsmen and potters in particular, find themselves as I have been suggesting, in the vicinity of a fictitious frontier between Art and Non-art. It exists only because men are the victims of an arbitrary system of specializations and divisions buttressed by status and prestige. There are powerful forces which beckon towards the fine art side of the frontier, but I suggest we should look in the other direction towards the mass of life's humbler tasks, and seek there for creative opportunity. There the traps of specialization require that curiosity and understanding and resourcefulness become a stimulus to education - self education - and at no matter what age. Such an attitude will reveal opportunity for creative faculties among humble things and enrich the quality of living. It will also forestall the sort of mediocrity which uses the fact that we need to earn our bread and butter as an excuse for almost anything. By all means look across the frontier to where art like music, has no practical function, and don't hesitate to go there upon occasion and do your thing if you have the urge, but what I am really saying is destroy that frontier-break down those barriers, and reunite Life and Work and Art.

Harry Davis an English potter working in New Zealand.