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Lesson Plans

Re: Aesthetics

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Fri, 30 Aug 1996 13:59:11 -0700 (MST)

On Fri, 30 Aug 1996, Barbara Bridges wrote:
> I suggested that the answer to the question , "What is Art"
> is so contextually based as to be virtually undefinable beyond the context
> of the culture defining it. So... why not have each class define art at
> the beginning of the year and refine the def as the year progresses?

OK. I'm on track now.

Yes, I'd agree that any definition of art does come out of a local context
and culture. Textbooks can propose ANY general definition and support that
definition via a reference to another book, but the definition will be
ultimately filtered through assumptions specific to a local context.

Beginning the year by developing a definition for art is a good idea I
think. It might also be useful to distinguish personal definitions and
collective definitions arrived at by consensus. A personal def CAN be
much more specific than one requiring cooperation of a group. I think its
useful to note the difference if possible. In addition, having (allowing
or encouraging actually) both personal and group definitions introduces
the possibilities of pluralistic thinking and learning toleration of
variant criteria or definitions.

In many specific ways Bobbi-lee and Yuan do not see art in the same way.
In terms of the class they can find (perhaps minimal) points of agreement.

IN ART it is not required that we find agreement. Art offers any number of
opportunities to diverge from expectations to put a personal elaboration
on things. This means that no one is ever going to create the perfect work
of art that everyone will love for ever and ever. We will always find
pieces we like and pieces we don't like and very likely we will not agree
to some degree with the person standing next to us.

Philosophically, I love the notion that art has some purpose and function
relative to culture. Practically I find it difficult to understand HOW to
do this on a regular basis. (I even wonder if I'd want to) Because of this
I find that much of the work I create is simply an exercise of some aspect
of Formalism. Philosophically I have no use for Formalism, practically
speaking I do.

According to how I understand Art to be, Ivan's ideas make no sense, at
all, to me. When I look at Ivan's art, I can't really see it the way Ivan
does and, you know? There is a lot about Ivan's art that I like. Just
because our ideas about things are different doesn't mean that Ivan and I
can't find things we value in our relationship.

Likewise, Martin and I seem to agree about everything. It's odd then that
a lot of Martins work doesn't really appeal to me nor much of mine to
him. We still agree about the ideas we value even if we express them so
differently. It doesn't matter to me so much that Martin isn't crazy
about everything I do as much as his friendship and the ideas that we share.

People are different and the experience of art is different for each of us
too. It is NOT that "everything" is art and nothing is "bad." What it is,
is that each of us has found reasons for experiencing something as art and
criteria for evaluating it. It is interesting and sometimes fun to argue
about our definitions. When we do argue, we learn more about our own
criteria. THAT's the value of the discussion, and NOT winning the

Of course this remains a personal view of art and alternatives exist,
quite validly. It would be hard for any of us to teach in "just" the way
of another one of the group.