WRITING / Books / Essays
Artworld Prestige: Arguing Cultural Value
  Active Sights: Art as Social Interaction. Mountain View, California: Mayfield (now owned by McGraw-Hill), 1998. Co-authored by Leonard Diepeveen, Dalhousie University. x, 126 pp.
  Active Sights provides a general framework to understand the social life of art: how art, artists, and viewers interact. In doing so, it uses examples from throughout the twentieth and late nineteenth centuries, in order to illustrate that the issues discussed are both recurring (that is, Matthew Barney and Auguste Renoir belong in the same world) and current. We argue that a major reason today’s art world is so torn with controversies and problems is that the social issues of art are poorly understood. Active Sights is not written as an art history survey or as a survey of current critical theory, but makes use of both things for elucidating problems peculiar to people involved in contemporary art.
  In the first chapter, we present the need for a systematic study of art’s social functions, and outline the problems associated with their neglect. The book in general argues that artists and their audience need to examine many of the things they take for granted; the first chapter in particular uses an extended example to take a look at the conflicting assumptions that typically insert themselves into critiques of art, and uses that examination to argue for the necessity of a study of art’s social functions, the issues that follow in the rest of the book.
  The second chapter, then, considers the belief systems with which art works interact. In doing so, the second chapter demonstrates how presuppositions about things other than art (such as political philosophy and sexual identity) affect the making and interpreting of art. Belief systems, with all their messiness and contradictions, are more capable of accounting for the production and functions of art than are art “theories.”
  The third chapter takes a look at the social roles that characterize how artists function in society. It presents a series of historical paradigms (such as the artist as entrepreneur or as social critic) to demonstrate how these models can describe some of the tensions in today’s art world, and how they each require their own criteria for discussion and evaluation.
  The fourth chapter examines the varieties of artist/audience relationships. It does so in order to discuss how audiences (in addition to artists) shape the social function of art works, and how this relationship takes various recurring forms in Western art.
  — adapted from the Preface
Views of the Ordinary and Other Scenic Disappointments
Art with a Difference: Looking at Difficult and Unfamiliar Art
Active Sights: Art as Social Interaction.