A Reading Note

In discussing the Robert Mapplethorpe obscenity trial, Hyde demonstrates how the jurors reactions (“I don’t understand it, but if people say it’s art, then I have to go along with it”) demonstrate a clear, if unsatisfying, definition of art:

In short, the work is art because it appeared in an art gallery and because experts can talk about it in art language, a conclusion that may not be as silly as it first seems if we are in fact witnessing some sort of ritual event and if we remember that ritual and belief often have a tautological core: we draw the tenemos, the sacred precinct, and what enters it becomes, willy-nilly, sacred; we create spaces for art and educate curators to watch the gates, and, willy-nilly, what gets in is art.

Hyde, Trickster Makes This World, page 195

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Trickster shows how our most playful, devious stories are also (perhaps not surprisingly) our most revealing.