In its ruling a Flavin work is described as having “the characteristics of lighting fittings…and is therefore to be classified…as wall lighting fittings”. As for Viola, the video-sound installation, says the document, cannot be classified as a sculpture “as it is not the installation that constitutes a ‘work of art’ but the result of the operations (the light effect) carried out by it”.Everything you know about art is wrong. The European Commission says so. You spent all that time reading all that Theory, stuff like:
The artist radically limited his materials to commercially available fluorescent tubing in standard sizes, shapes, and colors, extracting banal hardware from its utilitarian context and inserting it into the world of high art. The resulting body of work at once possesses a straightforward simplicity and a deep sophistication.Oh no it doesn't. It is only lighting. This really is a breakthrough in the philosophy of art. All this time, we thought artists like Flavin were making art out of everyday materials, transforming them from the realm of the mundane to that of the aesthetic. But the European Commission denies any such change has taken place. For the purposes of customs and excise, they are just things.
As for Viola, his work only becomes art when it is plugged into the mains. We thought he was discovering video as an artistic medium, as previous generations of artists had discovered oil paints and other media. We thought his art made connexions with the work of those earlier artists, in his use of gesture and of the body. But no, we were wrong. The art is no more than a by-product of the video machine, which is taxable at normal rates.