Climbers As Artists - Useful Concept?

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Seems to me the "climber as artist" discussion could use some grounding. First question to ponder is whether classing the climber as artist or not is useful in understanding something about climbing for ourselves or other climbers. If the discussion stays at the level of pure analogy, it’s fun but without any useful or interesting consequences. For instance, Rich says "Creation, in my mind, would have to involve alteration of the medium, which of course climbers do in small ways ..." And so, I would ask, what about "performance art" such as dance and music gone the moment the sound stops or the dancer leaves the stage? Sure seems like "art" is used to denote some human behavior which, like climbing, does not leave behind an altered medium. So Rich and I have some fun analogy juggling, back and forth. But let’s go further and ask: what’s the result of any position for how we go about climbing or interact with one another?

I can think of one potential negative consequence, though it’s hard to link it directly to the analogy. If climbers go around feeling in the realm of artists they might get fat headed and puffed up in their outlook of what they do. Such an attitude can rub wrong a whole set of people in climber’s lives: other climbers, wives and husbands, parents, friends, work colleague. Makes for misery all around. Of course it’s possible climbers who think of themselves as artists perhaps were high and mighty all along, so the artist mentality may be more a symptom than a cause of nasty ways.

Another potential negative consequence of believing climbers are artists is climbs then become "creations." It’s one thing to see some aesthetic analogy in observing or participating in performance art and climbing, quite another to think of routes as sacred beauties painted in the sky by near Gods to be held up in glorious gold leaf books. That mentality is part and parcel of the same pompous, annoying, and potentially divisive attitude as the one about climbers as artists.