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Lesson Plans

Re: Computers and Art (the value of "Anyone can be an artist")

From: henry taylor (taylorh)
Date: Wed Aug 02 2000 - 11:48:43 PDT

  • Next message: E Jane Beckwith: "Re: Art education censorhsip"

    Hi Patty!

    Good challenge.

    It's a big world, and anyone can be called on to play doctor scientist or plumber. Mom's especially and often.
    To be many things, even a doctor or a teacher, requires only that one fall somewhere BETWEEN "slightly below average" and "superior." All ya gotta do is "make the grade." Remember---50% of all graduates in any discipline are in the bottom half of their graduating class--and of course vice versa. Only 20%, more or less--rule of thumb, make significant contributions.Other roles in life require only that you make application or be recognized.
    There is a big difference between me as a scientist and Steven Hawking. There is a huge difference between my students or neighbors and Chuck Close or Ando Hiroshige but it's only a matter of degree. All-in-all I'm a poor doctor but you could do worse in an emergency. Don't ask me to play Pro B'Ball but I can lend some support if we get a game going at the next picnic and you're short a guy.
    Art, capital "A," museums, and everything is like the NBA, cream of the crop and relatively meaningless in the Mato Grosso, the upper Sepik and some parts of Kansas and South Carolina. "art," small "a," found in the Mato Grosso, the along the back roads of South Carolina, or east of Java and everywhere in between is more like democratic discourse or the Marxist notion of Dialectic. Can anyone join the dialectic of aesthetic process? And if we put the product in big coffeetable books and sell them in the overstocked section of Art Books at Barnes and Nobel whats a girl tio think? Sounds like some kind of art and artist to me.

    We always have this huge (and essentially aesthetic) bias towards appearances. In comprehending notions of reallity and validity we focus on the recent and familiar. When we think about art it is typically in such conservative frames of reference. "Art is the stuff we all immediately recognize as art" We hardly recognize as art all of the works of aesthetic practice in the past and can hardly imagine what radical forms it might yet take in the distant future. Yet a significant component of are is the potential for new and radical directions. One consistent part of the history of art has been the temporary rejection of radical or "creative" innovations.

    In Art Ed how much effort do we expend in seriously exploring where art might go in the future. I don't mean trying to develop radical new formalisms. The late modernist era drove that direction into the ground for the time being. What I do mean are the questions of how aesthetic process can be used to have significant new and needed impacts in our lives. We've just come through a little more than 500 years of an ideology of art that is radically different than that which Plato knew and had concerns about. It looks to be in an end-game mode (I agree with Langer) and the big question is what will be next. Where are we going? Who are we NOW? Where did we come from BEFORE? (because there are many roots and they don't always branch in a nice logical tree-like way)

    The vitality of art depends upon the challenges given to its definition. The new emphasis on multiculturalism begs us to go further than our own back yards in re-defining art. Everytime I experience art from outside the western tradition I am reminded of the trap I am caught up in. I begin to see the bars of the cage I am in. And I know I just can't get up, forget everything and walk over into the embrace of another tradition with a different set of principles and elements.

    If I understand what the traditions of other cultures address maybe I can decide if I need to address them as well. But when I can't see or understand that possibility I remain trapped.

    For the most part it's probably good if most of our art ed remains in the "more of the same" mode--variations on an old theme. Why not? But some part has to work on the challenges; challenges not only to "Art" per se because we need to redefine the word and in fact the effective challenge WILL redefine the limits of art. Part of our curriculums must address this need for iconoclasm in Art and the need for iconoclast artists.

    Why do we consider art any different? Because art, aesthetic practice, more than anything else is a font for difference to appear in the world. Cherishing is all well and good but it looks backwards. We cherish what is and what has been. Can we find a way to cherish DEVIANCE? Because that is what we are talking about here. The new possibility always represents some deviance from the norm.

    One long-standing convention in Art History is the Master Artist. I don't think that this convention is going away. From our tradition it is difficult to acknowledge or respect the "lay artist" as other than a novelty. We segregate, perhaps reasonably, the naive artist, the outsider artist, or "primitive" artist. But, more than that we frame them in the more familiar tradition; against the backdrop of the master artist. Outsider artists presenting serious challenges are most frequently presented as charming crackpots and the most current incarnation of the sacred fool. An underlying assumption is thatr somehow outsider artists are trying to break into the mainstream tradition. This is not necessarily so.

    There are many ways of looking at art and artist. Genius and gift is but one, admittedly popular, way. Art is also a form of the dialectic and superior, I think, to the models offered by Hegel or Marx. Art as dialectic is profoundly democratic and offers the opportunity to make an end-run around the genius' and experts who would frame our lives for us on the basis of their own ideosyncratic models of perfection.

    I very much agree with you Patty that activities which merely reproduce an effect which resembles one produced by some artist have little if anything to do with teaching or learning anything about art. It does offer an opportunity to play with the traditional principles and elements but I would hope that art is something more than the application of formal principles and elements or even skill and technique. And, even more than that, that art is also something more than the equivalent of intellectual bubblegum---entertaining intellectialism. (as most recently parodyed in the Visa Checkcard commercial and a zillion other places-so common a critique as to be tedious)

    NOW I also agree you Patty that I can't teach so that all, most or maybe even ANY of my students could become a notable artist. (unless they wanted to enough and would be satisfied with celebrity over the nebulous who-knows-what that is also part of the artists identity)

    I differ from you in that appreciation for the historical maker and objects of art takes a bit of back seat for me. Not that they are UNimportant but that they are secondary to something else. More important, I think, is an appreciation for the cognitive processes and emotional responses which characterize and motivate the making of aesthetic objects and events. I want my students to be "artists" in another more personal way. Art is important in my life. I am an artist and it makes a huge difference I think. I have learned that being an artist is about the quality of my life and not about what I make and sell or its historical relevance. Looking at the world through an artists eyes and experiencing the world with an artists heart makes a tremendous difference I think. It doesn't make the slightest bit of difference that I'm a relatively insignificant artist or that my art isn't in a museum anywhere. I have learned think and to be in new ways. I've learned that I am and can be more significant in the world than I might have been otherwise. I have recognized new ways of expressing myself in the world related to aesthetic expression.

    ( yeah! . . . consider this a foray into textual performance art!!!)

    and I think I'll leave it at that for today



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