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Illuminating History by Lily Díaz, 25.IX.2000

it possible.1 1And then, there is the artist and the forces that motivate her to create art. These are shaped as much by the inner emotions, needs, and objectives that feed his/her final goals as by the social forces that mould the milieu in which s/he operates.

As an activity, the practice of art can also be examined as a historically developing phenomenon. Its participants, the role and identity attributed to them, as well as how the actual tasks are defined, change through time. This change can be observed by examining the tools used by the participants engaged in the activity. Classifications, are examples of tools used by art critics and art historians in the conceptualisation and institutionalisation of art. As societies change through history, so do the institutions, the ideologies and culturally produced systems of meanings that constitute them. Thus, what is classified as art in the present, may not have been so in the past. The reverse situation also holds true: that which may have been considered art in the past may no

longer be regarded so.1 2

Glass painting which used to be considered a heavenly art,

has now shifted in position and occupies a space closer to the realm of craft. And he who, as an artisan may have engaged in an activity as painting, is now considered to be an artist. Conversely, the activity that is now performed by someone labelled an artist or designer may have, in the past, been executed by someone called a scribe.

The model in Figure 1 attempts to illustrate this notion of art as an activity, and the culturally mediated components in it. The model borrows from Kari Kuutti's

adaptation of Y. Engeström's structural model of the concept of activity.1 3


relationships have been replaced with mediated relationships. This is done through the use of the intermediary term of toolthat carries with it the cultural heritage of the

situation.1 4

By mediation it is understood that the elements depicted are not be

regarded as independent parts working separetely, but rather, that all the parts are

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11. Danto, A, "The Artworld", pp. 582-84. Danto suggests that the possibilities for works to become 'art' are constituted through a matrix defined by the available styles and the active critical vocabulary. Whereas an artistic breakthrough consists of perhaps

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13. Engeström, Y., Insert note about his work and references. 14. Kuutti, K., "Identifying Potential CSCW Applications", p.235