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Lesson Plans

Re: Art & Deadlines

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
mwfoley (mwfoley)
Mon, 28 Apr 97 14:35:33 -0000

I remember some Black Panther associates telling me how the housing
projects in San Francisco are designed with only one road entering and
exiting. The purpose is to be able to control the flow of traffic with
the least amount of police personnel. It also makes it almost impossible
for fire trucks to move in peak traffic moments. Doesn't happen on the
white side of town..... Design is almost always political. The quake of
'06 happened at the same time the shipping industry was switching to
metal ships. Lots of out of work boat builders..... lots of houses
needed to be built... the result is the beautiful carved wooden
adornments and masterfully built houses that we can only copy now with

Wittgenstein was in tune of the implications of design. His
hyper-Lutheran style of archetecture was a rsponse, I believe to the
decadence and pomposity of his romantic predicessors. I tend to be on
the side of the traditional Chinese artist who would hold that philosophy
need not visit art. This does not mean that artist should not be
politcal. When discussing this same idea a few years ago, Wayne Thiebaud
said he couldn't think of a single painting that had ever stopped a war
or a battle. I wondered, had ever a soldier seen a work of art and
said,"No more" and forever surrendered his?

Unlike Art, Painting and politics are both activity and connot be
produced by hypothisis or by language alone. Thomas Jefferson writes the
Declaration of Independance and no one revolts..... Joan Brown gets a
brilliant idea for a painting but never paints it..... Things have to
happen. What's our part in it? How did we wind up getting that part?
Who gave us that part? Can we get a different part? How do we get that

At the new museum in SF I noticed that all the security personnel on the
floor are Phillipino and none of the Artists are Phillipino. Almost all
of the artists are white and all but a few are men but none of the
security force is white and most are female. To me this is a design.
This is part of an on going installation that few of the patron of the
museum ever see. Outside the museum, is a homeless guy who sits there
with his sign as the patrons go by without looking or pitching in.
They're tired from looking at the Beautiful Photographs of Homeless
People on display at the Museum. Now that's performance. Streetlevel.
Only the Artist won't ever get a grant or a show. His show is in the
street. By design.

To answer the question can design resist oppresion, I would say that the
designer can resist oppression, if they dare. One must always be aware
of whom they're allies are and why.
Students need to see the connection between the blood on the sword and
the money that creates tha art world and in fact controls what they are
taught as Beauty and Reality. Why do things look the way they look? Who
controls what we see? What cost has the world of grandure and personal
freedom they enjoy? Who really pays that price tag? Do they want that
as their legacy? Democracy is about inclusion. Freedom abores a secret
yet democracy defends the right to have a secret. Is the art world a
club for rich folks, full of secrets that only they're allowed to know?
What is the why of it? These are questions that Art educators can ask in
the context of design. Contemporary Art does not need to live inside
renaisance designs even though students need to understand them and their
total context. Try starting a discussion about the greatist American
Symbol, Coca cola...... Discuss the implication of a circle, it's
implications in feminism, the color red and it's meanings, the history,
the contents of an original can of coke, the Marxist take on jacking up
the work force with Coke, where is the symbol seen around the world, why,
and what are those implications.... every part of that design leads to a
clearer, more truthful examination of our culture. Are our
responsibilities as teachers and artists just to help them with the
craft, or do we risk really connecting with their willingness to question
and they're lack of investment in the power structure and take a trip to
clear vision? What! and risk losing tenure?

In defense of the elitist tag that gets tagged on art, it is still
possible to go to the museum on the first Wednesday of any month and get
in for free or sit in the Library and study Greenberg. Try that at a
49er game. The greeks saw art and sports in a similar light...... Are
sports the art of the common folk? I don't really know how we will look
back at our current times, I do know that the position of art is
changing and that we and our students do have and will have a say in it
if we do the work. Can they design a visual world that creates the
kinder, gentler world we all seem to want but never seem to get? We
won't live long enough to know. Right now my lunch is changing from the
warm and nutritious wonder it was created to be into a cold and
dishearted memory of the lunch that could have been. I must attend to
it. Thanks for the response.