Thought 1. People who study the psychology of morality often come up with some pretty gruesome thought experiments. Would you push a man in front of a speeding train, in order to make that train stop before it ploughed into a group of children standing on the line? I haven’t come across this thought experiment yet, but here goes – which headline would you prefer to read: ‘Bomb in Louvre kills ten’ or ‘Bomb in Louvre kills five, destroys Mona Lisa‘? Neither, presumably, and it’s always wise to reject false choices. However, the question does seem to point to the fact that artefacts, particularly culturally very significant ones, have become part of our sense of our humanity. We’re not happy about losing them and would mourn their loss in ways similar to the mourning of the loss of a human life.
Thought 2. A long time back, a friend of mine said to me, in response to something I had said, that he thought there were too many books in the world. My jaw dropped. Such philistinism! The incident has remained with me, perhaps because I can’t totally sideline the worry that he was right.
Thought 3. There’s a painting I’ve done directly onto a wall in an art space, and shortly it will have to be overpainted. No great loss to humanity. But it does make me think of the extraordinary funnel that sucks artworks out of the world at an enormous rate. Plucking a figure out of the air, let’s say that on average the totality (including doodles, sketches, etc) of an artist’s works have about a 1 in 5 chance of surviving 12 months. The figure is totally arbitrary, but if it is anything like the way things are, then of the 10,000 artworks 20 artist produce in year 1, say, less than one will be left by year 7. Which is just as well – if there were no attrition, there would be a monumental storage problem. But it does seem likely that artworks are being vacuumed out of the world at a ferocious rate.
Where is this going? Further related thoughts in my next blog.