Saturday, June 14, 2014

The ordinary

I'm translating some material for the catalogue for a Beijing exhibition of photographs by the German poet Dieter M. Gräf. Here's the end of the foreword:

That is the essence of the arts: they speak their own language, a language that always escapes us. The ordinary: here it is; it doesn't really exist.

The arts—and poetry as one of the arts—always resist "the ordinary." The language of the arts cannot be translated into an "ordinary" language. That is the scandal of art: even when it looks ordinary, it says something extraordinary.

Or perhaps this is the way to put it: art can look ordinary, but art that only looks ordinary without saying anything extraordinary is not very good art.

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