I was working and a man told me that he thought the particular Rothko paintings in a particular room looked 'Aboriginal'.

I immediately balked at his answer but kept the encouraging smile on my face. Who knows, I rationalised, he might not have the same assumptions that Australians have. It might not be a loaded concept for him. I know that the majority of people, Australians and others, have the mistaken belief that traditional Aboriginal art is abstract, spiritual colour fields. Their work is in fact spiritual and physical maps, but anyway...

This reminds me of an anecdote a relative told me when I was back in Melbourne. He was trying to illustrate that the old class system in England, and especially English attitudes to their colonial 'cousins', haven't changed.

He related a story an Australian writer told on the radio (or was in the newspapers?) about her experiences in England. She was saying how she was invited to a celebratory dinner in her honour and that there was some Lady of so-and-so there who directed her questions to the writer through the hostess of the party. The writer interpretted the event as typical of english attitudes to colonials. For her, and for her Australian listeners, it was another example of English snobbery.

But for me, because I no longer see the English in that generalized way, because I believe strongly that the English do not actaully have those attitudes towards Australians, not in my experience anyway, I interpretted the event differently. I understand it as typical of the patronising behaviour that is enacted throughout the arts. That Patrons treat artists in a very wierd way, like we're children or bombs that need to be handled carefully.

I've put this here because it seems like an illustration of how we tend to see things as we expect to see them. A piece of behaviour can be clearly right-off but how we explain that behaviour, how we make sense of it, depends on our own assumptions, on our frames of reference. To her it was racist, english supremacy. To me it was patronage and patrons.

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