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JB: Where do you see yourself going with these ideas?

ENO: One of the understandings I look for is anything that starts to take seriously the culture that ordinary people make. I find this in books such as Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander and How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand. It's important to seek to dignify and take seriously what people who don't consider themselves experts and professionals do with their time. I would want to see the same thing done culturally, that we start to recognize that people are cultural beings. They can't help themselves. It's not a question of making a decision to become an artist. You can't help yourself, to some extent. That's an important psychological step, because it says to people: you do it.

There's another level at which I would like to say that much more profoundly; it's something I didn't talk about at all because it's a difficult issue to explain. What is cultural value and how does that come about? Nearly all of the history of art history is about trying to identify the source of value in cultural objects. Color theories, and dimension theories, golden means, all those sort of ideas, assume that some objects are intrinsically more beautiful and meaningful than others. New cultural thinking isn't like that. It says that we confer value on things. We create the value in things. It's the act of conferring that makes things valuable. Now this is very important, because so many, in fact all fundamentalist ideas rest on the assumption that some things have intrinsic value and resonance and meaning. All pragmatists work from another assumption: no, it's us. It's us who make those meanings.

Culture is a way of getting people to that point of understanding. The work of a lot of modern culture is to say to people: you're making value. When Marcel Duchamp exhibited a lavatory, in what he called an act of deliberate aesthetic indifference, what he was saying was, "look, I can put anything in an art gallery, and I can get you to engage with that thing in a way which makes it valuable." He was quite clearly saying that it's the transaction between you and it, and this context, which creates the value.

This is something that anyone who deals with world finances would probably understand; value is conferred and the result of a system of confidences among people. But it is not something that religions generally understand. It is certainly not something that fundamentalists understand. For me, so many of the really critical bottleneck type problems of our time come from that difficulty of understanding that it's humans that make the value in things. It didn't get there, it wasn't in there, it isn't there all the time, it wasn't made by somebody else and it's left there for us to find it. We made it. We put it there.

The engagement with culture is a way of understanding that. Of course, art history of the past has always used it to buttress that old idea ah yes, Michelangelo's Pieta is beautiful because these proportions have some kind of divine golden mean type resonance, and it communicates through to us the value is in the thing and we're like a radio receiver. That transmitter/receiver model is an old picture which I don't accept any more. The value is in the transaction. The object itself can be almost irrelevant as was Duchamp's lavatory. He could have chosen a spade, or a bicycle wheel, in fact. What he did was create the situation where he said, here, viewer, come in and make some value. And a lot of 20th century art has been about that about reminding us that we make things valuable that they don't preexist in a valuable state.


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