Fourth World Arts

[Source: Ethnic and Tourist Arts, 1976] 

"As "civilized societies" come to depend more and more upon standardized mass-produced artifacts, the distinctiveness of classes, families, and individuals disappears, and the importation of foreign exotic arts increases to meet the demand for distinctiveness, especially for the snob or status market. One gains prestige by association with these objects, whether they are souvenirs or expensive imports; there is a cachet connected with international travel, exploration, multiculturalism, etc. that these arts symbolize; at the same time, there is the nostalgic input of the handmade  in a "plastic world," a syndrome best described in Edmund Carpenter's "Do You Have the Same Thing in Green? or Eskimos in New Guinea" (1971). But for many items of commercial art, this very demand often leads to a proliferation and a mass production that vitiates the prestige and usefulness in the very snob market for which the new arts were invented - thus, "success breeds failure" is a new version of the adage "familiarity breeds contempt.""

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