Shocking comment of the week: The British artist Damien Hirst, best known for his sliced-up animals suspended in formaldehyde, may now be better known for telling the BBC (later reported in the Guardian, where I found it) that the 9/11 terrorists should be congratulated for their sense of artistic spectacle, for achieving "something which nobody would have thought possible." Hirst went on to declare that 9/11 was "a kind of artwork in its own right. It was wicked, but it was devised in this way for this kind of impact. It was devised visually."

This comment comes hard on the heels of a minor ado over an exhibition of Hitler's pre-führer art, which has caused some critics (including the New Yorker's Peter Schjeldahl) to equate the rise of fascism with an aesthetic movement, and calls into question all sorts of assumptions about what does and does not count as art.

Now, I'm often first in line to open up the field to other pursuits--graphic design, comics, crowd-spectacle events such as Burning Man--but it seems to me we're getting into some dangerous territory here. I refer back to Lewis Hyde's The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, which posits a more idealistic (and, in a way, more conservative) view of art--that of a gift freely given, in a transaction that's more erotic than market-savvy. Sure, the spectacle of fascist rallies had a kind of Busby Berkeley quality to them, in a perverse sort of way, and it's always possible that the things we don't want to accept as art have the most force, and the most potential to alter us as viewers or participants.

But come on.

Biggest mystery of September: Who are the artists nominated for the Betty Bowen Award this year? There are a whopping 21 finalists, and I know of only two: Jennifer West and Ephraim Russell. The Seattle Art Museum, which administers the award, won't release the artists' names (the winners will be announced at the end of the month), but I will. If you want some damn recognition for your good work, let me know, and I'll list you in this column.

Strange comment of the summer: I know Bumbershoot is by now but a distant misty memory, but I've been dying to pass this on since I overheard it at Multiplex, an exhibition of work by 22 pretty-much-emerged artists, curated by Michael Van Horn. A woman walked up to Susan Robb's installation, which featured one of her large-scale lush-biological diorama photographs, and screeched, "OMIGOD! It's like the Googy at Bilbao!"

The "Googy"?! Come on.