too much typing—since 2003

2.01.2009

taxing the light fantastic

Apparently, there was some sort of "foot-ball" game played today?

To continue imposing my grossly un-American lifestyle on the rest of you, I will be posting about some pretentious postmodern art consisting primarily of stuff you can buy at hardware stores.

In a curious case, a British court has ruled that, while some Bill Viola video installations and a Dan Flavin light piece could be regarded as "art" when it came to assessing their value, they were to be regarded merely as "electrical devices" when it came to deciding tax rates and whether customs duty needed to be paid (artworks are exempt from the latter and pay lower rates on the former). This seems both contradictory and rather nakedly self-serving, as obviously a collection of fluorescent light tubes, plugs, switches, and the like are worth relatively little in themselves but become much more valuable once they are assembled into a Dan Flavin piece. I'm at a loss as to exactly when that collection of objects - "electrical devices" at the moment they were subject to the higher tax rate and customs, "works of art" when it came time to assessing their value to determine those tax rates and customs duties - magically was transfigured.

Perhaps it's sort of like Heisenberg's cat: the objects both were and weren't art simultaneously, until the proper authority ruled.

The real problem pointed out by the article is that, as in many other areas (intellectual property being an obvious one), the categories defined by the law lag behind actual practice. By now, many artworks cannot readily be defined as either "painting," "print," or "sculpture" - and it is this fish/fowl issue that flummoxes the British courts and led them to their rather metaphysical flourish.

Or maybe it was some sort of curious scientific/legal pun: light, after all, is both particle and wave, and both artists' work involves light.

Adam Sandler's gonna make a movie about all this, I'm sure.

2 comments:

jonderneathica said...

I've always heard it referred to as "Schrodinger's cat", and I thought you might have made a malapropism. So I googled "Heisenberg's cat". Interesting!

2fs said...

*sigh* Part of me knows it's Schrodinger's cat (add umlaut to taste) - but evidently, that part of me is not my brain.