Out of the Enclave

You are a healer
You must be a spiritual leader
Oh no you're probably not

You are a teacher
You must be a wonderful creature
Oh no you're probably not

You are an artist
You must know the secrets behind this all
Oh no probably not


But all that I wanted
From you was a lot

From "In Love We Trust" by The Upper Room,
Demos Etc., 2006

Although all the arts claim to produce a wealth of enquiring minds that challenge preconceived ways of thinking, fine art is still reigning supremely amongst others. Nevertheless, in the core the ideas in these fields are much alike. One only observes the occurrence of themes and leitmotifs, which are taking on various forms through cross-fertilization and networking. The permutations and translations into numerous versions with different focuses and phrasings do not only have some common underpinnings such as the present Zeitgeist but the very tools which helped to shape the ideas. Hidden behind a layer of superficial individuality and uniqueness are mundane methods, or even rational algorithms - like a Bezier Curve which makes the genetic blueprint of a new car so similar to the one of a blender, a computer-aided sculpture or a typeface.

Some shapes of their anatomy, which still proclaim the touch of genius, are entirely identical and unmistakably derived from the same programme: socially, linguistically, culturally. As one can view paintings of the 15th century under the focus of access to a particular substance, say ultramarine and Lapis Lazuli, respectively, and find this expensive pigment predominantly in works of the Florentine School for obvious reasons, on could write creative histories which assess graphic art according to the used filters of various Photoshop instalments. Access is key.
So depending on our reading we can either take the positive or negative view of a world as one of shared goals or homogenized thoughts. In fact, the shared wires of information technology have highlighted even further the significance of Lovejoy's concept of shared and interwoven ideas between different disciplines. Not only have the means of production been liberalised, as networks they are also amplifying the importance of the eventual financial transaction at the cultural marketplace and the review following.

Because in how the different arts and disciplines format and distribute the ideas, they differ substantially. Fine art has taken much notice of the way it is supplying itself, and that for quite some time. Even though the armies of critical writers enhance the artistic output and take the few visitors by the hand and guide them, the very creation of the artistic aura is its dilemma, as it becomes its obstacle and downfall. If the achievement of an impact is the ultimate aim - to paraphrase the Scientology-founder Ron Hubbard - in the way that art wants to ignite a profound debate, questions conventions or explore ways to explain the world to us, then it finds itself in a difficult position. It claims for itself the implausibly exceptional role that romanticises its genesis and diffuses its economics - and ensures it isn't held to account quite as all the others through its nebulous status leading to a stance, which is at odds with any epistemological review.

The aura, which has elevated art above the rest, betrays the part in itself that seeks access to the broader audience staying clear of the galleries' polished floors. Shouldn't the impact on the way men live, think and function in their world be paramount, and wasn't access to the main channels of life of utmost importance? Design has, as for its often-lamented affirmative nature, access to this pre-selected public and has a package in place which is well suited to slip commentary into the public realm without facing the resistance that fine art as a social practice comes up against. Subversion, misplacement or filtering as tools - often seen as sole privileges of fine art - seem quite fetching for design as a discipline that is situated right in the middle of the Grey Area in which all the threads of the creative industries come together. The closeness to markets doesn't necessarily constitute the end of the dream (as we can well see in the world of fine art). However, design has to decide whether the double-agent strategy of flying underneath the radar of the commissioning client seems more promising, or an upfront and unambiguous claim for autonomy. All that is, of course, only if design acknowledges the inherent potential, or necessity, of (self) critique and authorship and ultimate responsibility, and doesn't merely leave its tools outside overnight, for art to pick them up for another outsourced job. The dirty and efficiency-driven nature of design can be turned to its advantage, as a practice to publish ideas - without their prior banning into to an aesthetic enclave.