W. o’ W.: James Elkins

From Why Art Cannot Be Taught: “There is a cave chamber in Sarawak so large that it could hold five football fields—the largest subterranean chamber in the world. When it was first discovered, the spelunkers had no idea what to expect. They were walking up an underground stream when the walls diverged and left them staring into darkness. The room is so large that their headlamps could not pick out the ceiling or the walls, and they spent the next sixteen hours working their way around the room, keeping close to the right-hand wall, intending to keep going until they got back to the entrance. At times they were fooled by “house-size” boulders that they mistook for walls of the chamber, only to find that they were giant boulders fallen from the ceiling. At one point one of the cavers panicked, but eventually they all got out. Pictures taken on later surveying expeditions show the spelunkers’ lights like little fireflies against a measureless darkness.

“I think of this book in the same way. Like the people on that first expedition, we are not about to figure out very much of what takes place in art classes. There is still a good probability that we will get badly lost thinking about art instruction—and I think parts of this book do get lost. Perhaps that’s the best way for things to be. The cave will certainly be less interesting when it has electric lights and ramps for tourists. Isn’t the cave best as it is—nearly inaccessible, unlit, dangerous, and utterly seductive?”

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