Letter: No, you are not a Philistine

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Probably the majority of those in the world of the visual fine arts will protest at Lewis Wolpert's attack on "arty-babble" (Review, 15 December). They might counter it with the claim that peer review in specialist visual art journals is not so very different from that of scientific peer review. The more theoretically competent would point to a unity of making and written discourse, not dissimilar to his notion of the practising scientist. True, in art these functions are not usually embodied in one person, but they sometimes are, and this is more common than Professor Wolpert might imagine. An even smaller number would claim that aesthetic knowledge and practice is a specialised contemplation of value and different from scientific and technical knowledge. However, some "critical agnostics" would agree with him. Grandiose and inflated claims are made for the Fine Artist, not least by the artists themselves. Anyone who works in art schools could tell of astounding ignorance not just of our scientific and technological world but also of philosophy and literature. None of this would matter except that it combines with the "new ageist" talk, such as "condensing energy and tension" or "fusing the material and immaterial", that Wolpert rightly criticises.

To answer his question, he is not a Philistine. He just knows a little more than is good for a gallery-goer.

Peter Seddon

School of Art

Brighton University

Comments