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Illuminating History by Lily Díaz, 25.IX.2000

As devices of expression, art consist of materials or media that support, convey, allow or carry through an act of expression. But expression involves not only emotion, but also an action and its result. John Dewey outlined the conditions,by which expression and emotion are crystallised in the work of art. Dewey noted that, emotion and expression are defined by parameters such as causality, information and the passage of time. Causality manifests itself as activity, in the carrying forward into development and

completion in the act of expression.5 5

This is not an ad hocactivity, but rather, it is

informed by reflection which takes into account, for example, the value of past experiences. The activity of expression is a transformation, by which "a set of gestures, representations, or sounds are brought into existence for the purpose of communicating something."5 6Time is the development of these events. The work of art, Dewey asserted is "a construction in time", the result of "a prolonged interaction" in which emotion acts as "an informing and orderly principle." 5 7

Furthermore, art is not concerned with stimulation, but with an ordered, informed, or aesthetic, expression of feeling. Feeling in turn, does not refer to an emotional state, for not every emotion results in expression. It refers to what is labelled as inner knowledge, intuition, subjectivity or those forms of cognition "which may exceed the boundaries of conventional categorisation."5 8

The creation of art not only involves expressive behaviour, but also, its reception by an

audience.5 9

And although we cannot say much about the audience of the past,

especially in those cases where there are not written records, this does not preclude us from discussing how present-day audiencesreceive and interpret objects from the past. For there is a special quality to the artefacts that are created by artists. Wewitness how they undergo a privileged process of transformation whereby from having once been domestic utensils, perhaps furnishings, or graphic marks wrought with delight they

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