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Lesson Plans

Re: art, language, arrogance (was counseling and art)

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Sun, 18 Feb 1996 11:48:51 -0700 (MST)

This is one that got away from me. I didn't think I'd see it again. I
thought I'd have to start all over.

On Sat, 17 Feb 1996, henry wrote:

OK this part maybe you've already read......

> >Date: Thu, 15 Feb 1996 17:05:29 -0800
> >From: Mary Harris <mharris>
> >
> >I am so grateful for art being taught in public school. Art has such a
> >personal way of allowing us to express who we are and what we stand for.

Art does many things Mary and personal expression is certainly one of art's
more popular aspects.

> >Art is truly the only universal language of our world.

Now you may be getting just a tad "overly enthusiastic" here. :)
As for ONLY, our bretheren over in the communications dept wil no doubt
point to facial expressions and their own claim for "universality". A
line of as yet undetermined length will form to question us on this

As for "universal"... Think about this. Institutional cooking (too many
cooks) has a universal reputation and quality. It is recognizable world
round. While it cam be quite nutritious, especially in hospitals,
generally, it seems to have "lost something in the translation"
especially when compared to regional, local, or ethnic fare

The art suffers similarly when translated into a universal communicator.
It looses "resolution" and detail in what is communicated. I would argue
that the more "universal" something becomes that the less effective it
becomes at the same time. Conversely then, the more individualized -- the
more powerful. As we do live in societal circumstances there is a need to
find an appropriate balance here in each situation. Watcha think?

> >That PEOPLE are important and so are things of beauty is frequently missing
> >in our hustle bustle society. Art offers so many therapeutic benefits that
> >need to be encouraged for personal and societal growth.

Especially beauty in the "Humean" sense the sense of the 19th century
german aestheticians...

> >Monet says "Everyday I discover more beautiful things" I believe that is a
> >tremendous challenge for the 1990s and still very much accomplishable,
> >especially through the eyes of an artist. You who teach art also radiate
> >that importance by your enthusaim for art and the beauty of expressing

I very much agree Mary.

This is about where the reply blew up! lets hope it doesn't do it again...
(or you could just delete this because IT IS LONG)

> Date: Fri, 16 Feb 1996 09:32:13 -0700 (MST)
> From: Cathy Ruiz <cruiz>
> In response to Mary Harris's comment about the universal language of
> art......I disagree that art is a universal language. There are many
> people that do not have the advantage of the tools to understand art. It
> is a visual language but far from universal at this time. Eventually,
> after enough art educators include the language of art that comes through
> the practice of critical analysis withing their curriculaum, then maybe
> we might approach a universal language.

Hi Cathy!

To try and keep things in balance here, I wouldn't say that art is NOT a
universal language just that universal languages, art among them, are
typically not highly effective all on their own. I do not think we could
really do without them and I do think that they are an important part of
the "bandwidth" to use a net term.

I do think you have a point tho when you say art (and here I think you
specifically mean "Fine Art" the stuff that is expensive and on display.)
as a language, is far from being universal at this time. Many artists
today seem to feel that what is "universal" is THE NEED for people to
universally learn the "language" of contemporary art. The art that they
(we) do because what (they) we DO is highly important to understand--
(but maybe too difficult to make understandable without a degree?)

As a result, many people see art now as something of a technical
"language". Something used among professionals -- who most people
decidedly ARE NOT. A great deal of the arts, it seems to me, has been
surrendered to the "professionals". What is left to the mass of
non-professionals is art as a cognitive or emotional form of entertainment
something to observe, not something to participate in as an equal. I find
this sad.

I would venture that while the "audience" (a telling word) for art has
grown (as has the general population BTW) participation in the arts is
closely allied with participation in television or attendance at
professional sporting events. . . . an occasion of celebration and
valuation but not an occasion of personal engagement, hands on
participation, or dealing with ones OWN life thru ones OWN ART.


And BOOM! Ha I bombed again! Fortunately (?) I recovered this time
without it being sent (I hope) ...onwards!

> Date: Fri, 16 Feb 1996 18:41:15 -0500 (EST)
> From: JAMES H. SANDERS <jhsander>

Hi James!

Cathy wrote:
> > In response to Mary Harris's comment about the universal language of
> > art......I disagree that art is a universal language. There are many
> > people that do not have the advantage of the tools to understand art.
James responded to Cathy:
> Advantages indeed! Do I hear the voice of privilege?

Were you listening for it James? <G>

> I too might agree with the notion, that there are many culturally embedded
> languages of visual information, and that we may lack an understanding of
> the meanings attached to those pieces of physical evidence that we call
> Art, thereby calling for some serious critical analysis - but, this
> should simultaneously consider the validity of difference...

OK we have the question of the "validity of difference" on the table.

> Ms. Harris, I might agree, that like sound, or gesture, perhaps there is
> indeed a shared valuing of giving meaning to physical objects. That we
> see cultures around the planet embracing the concept of communicating
> ideas, and beliefs with those materials that surround them. Perhaps it
> may be over reaching to call it a language - but I trust your good
> intentions in posing this notion.

Cathy Ruiz continued:
> > It is a visual language but far from universal at this time. Eventually,
> > after enough art educators include the language of art that comes through
> > the practice of critical analysis within their curriculum, then maybe
> > we might approach a universal language.

and James responded (complete with sarcasm):
> The educator as intellectual savior! (replete with kritical spelling)
> Indeed, what an arrogant notion.

Naive and idealistic perhaps James, the sound of arrogance, however, rings
out from your direction <G>. <BTW, may I have the honor to introduce Ms.
Cathy Ruiz who is not the Ms. Mary Harris you seem to think you are
responding to.> You hyperbolize when you extend Cathy's notions to
"intellectual savior" apparently this is a deconstructionary detour to
see what you want to see.

> To suggest that unless a culture's tool or language use meets a self-serving
> standard of European art historic or analytic scrutiny, then it is somehow of
> lesser value, is a indefensible position in an age which purports some
> form of global awareness. (including the virtual promises of email)

Further hyperbolic rhetoric James, torturously deconstructed. Typical of
a hegemonic patriachy of the very academic elite you apparently claim to
despise. There is room enough here for Cathy's and for Mary's
constructions. I don't think we need to aspire to a single monolithic
ideology to guide our educational vision.

> I'm certain, that to those who create a visual language, regardless of
> their tools, or their "intellectual" prowess, they participate in the
> making of meaning through manipulation of materials. This gesture does
> seem universal, regardless of its intent, political, commercial or
> religious purpose. Happily, these acts certainly won't require
> the endorsement of a culture that demands all of its "Art" be basically
> useless. For only in that "uselessness" can it become a commodity fit
> for the marketplace. Your critique is at best myoptic, and at worst,
> mean spirited (and look whose talkin').

"Look WHO'S talkin'!" Really Mr. Sanders, is this your own attempt at
"kritical spelling"? <VBG> Again the mean spirit here does not seem to be
that of either Cathy or Mary.

I can see that you have a vision of reality and that you are indeed
congruent with that reality. I think we need ideas such as yours, but I
also think we need Mary's and Cathy's as well. They are all part of a
larger picture that as Godel and Heisenberg pointed to in their own ways
-- must remain incomplete... There are more worlds here than are dreamed of
in your philosophy sir!

For my part, you seem to be taking all this with a seriousness
inappropriate to a sense of play requisite to either science or to art.
But, hey it's a free country, so, go for it. I'd like to read art here
and not have it overwhelmed by politics or any other technology of control.

> With all due respect, consider doing your post-modern homework.

With due respect, I might recommend much the same to you. You seem to be
conflating postmodernism and critical theory, and, while it is a popular
collegiate pastime at the moment, you sound more NEO-Modern than
Postmodern to me. Where is the sense of pluralism or possibilism?
Gablik's book does have a great title, but it kind of forgets about art in a
"Rush to- political -excellence". I concur with her ideals but not her
prescription. Same goes for Peter McClaren and Henry Giroux. It looks
just like more of the same "top-down", "we know what's best" ideology
that well meaning people have been trying to impose in their utopian attempts
since the late renaissance. Today we live in the ruins of a thousand such
utopian dreams. It is not a pretty place.

Power-hungry demogogues and well-spoken utopians are much the same in the
end. I would love to have a wide diversity of understandings and
meanings but, I suspect that we need or at least cannot escape those
demogogues and utopian dreamers amongst us who will insist that they have
the only answer. But I remember that I don't have to buy what they are
selling. I can think for myself. I can be a "counter-critical
postmodernist" and laugh at myself. I can think for myself and not have
to live in someone else's theory (myth).

So welcome to the list. I appreciate your contribution and apologise for
this pompous and theatrical performance. Flames are generally pointless
and there is always someone out there with a "bigger match". I think we
can achieve more through supporting each other.

So too, in keeping with that I have to admit that I see the same problems
you see. And, like you I think something needs to be done. The
possibilities that you see elude me as my possibilities, no doubt, escape
your comprehension. So speak your piece and do what you think best.
"Follow your bliss." I hope that there is room for all of us here.