Professor H. told his class that art was not useful. If it has any practical
use, if it has any use-value whatsoever, then it isn't art. The example he
liked to give was of an artist who made a chair out of meringue. "Nobody needs
art," he said waiting for the idea to sink in. What could someone do with a
chair made of meringue? Fragile. Delicious. It is the opposite of everything a
chair should be. Unless someone tried to eat it, the chair would remain art
its whole life.
So passionate, so unshakable was his faith in this single proposition that it
was difficult not to imagine him seated in that very chair, alone, at home, in
the middle of his living room -- drinking brandy and listening to jazz rather
than grading his students' papers. And all the while, the chair would bear his
rather considerable weight without crumbling as if for as long as he could
maintain a certain "useless" frame of mind, he too was in essence, superfluous
and could co-exist in the same space as the art of the chair.