In 1994 I saw an exhibition here in Tokyo of Richard Long’s indoor artwork (he’s an environmental artist, similar to one of my favorite artists, Andy Goldworthy). One of his installations consisted of a series of twigs laid out on the floor of one room, such that a path was formed along two sides of the room from one door to another, leaving a big, square space taking up most of the room. Within this square Long had formed a circle with some more twigs. The more I looked at the design, the more I wasw convinced that what Long wanted visitors to do was step over the twigs into the square, but not a single person dared. When I stepped over the twig line suddenly the two guards stationed at the doors came running into the room waving at me to get out. I was flabbergasted! Did no one understand what Long was trying to say?

It was similar to one time when I was teaching drawing at the University of Oregon. Our class had reserved the university art museum all to ourselves for one day and we were free to wander about and really take things in. When we stepped into the place everyone started whispering. At one point I couldn’t stand it any longer so I shouted to all the students, “What are you whispering about? We have the place all to ourselves and we can make as much noise as we like! Feel free to DISCUSS and MAKE JOKES about the art work!”

Isn’t art supposed to free us from the constraints of our every day perceptiions?