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Lesson Plans

Re: contemporary art/aesthetics LONG

From: Maggie White (mwhiteaz)
Date: Sat Jul 22 2000 - 11:21:36 PDT

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    Henry Taylor wrote:
    > The power of the visual object, aesthetic and otherwise is that
    > it can carry and express things which are inaccessible to words.
    > If words alone are sufficient then the visual quality was
    > probably inessential in the first place. <snip>

    Since I'm the one who suggested aesthetic scanning in the first place,
    guess I should weigh in now. I agree that words are often inadequate to
    describe powerful emotional reactions to visual works of art. I
    personally don't like trying to explain a work to anyone because I'd
    rather be alone with my thoughts. However, the original post described
    a scene where an art teacher and some friends with no art background
    were struggling to "understand" or "appreciate" non-objective work. The
    average museum goer will not have any clue what the artist was trying to
    get across, no matter what their background. They can respond to it on
    an instinctive, purely emotional level, or they can dismiss it as
    incomprehensible since they have no knowledge about art with which to
    deal with it. Broudy's or Feldman's techniques provide a fairly easy
    structure to enable one to attempt to undestand the artist's intent.
    Young children can do it. It simply forces one, as Yvette said, to slow
    down and really observe the work. Sometimes I'll do scanning as a way
    of bringing to my concious my feelings about a work, whether I "like" it
    or am inclined to dismiss it.

    > What exactly is it we
    > discuss when we then scan a Ganesha figure or a Paravati? What
    > makes our familiar and favorite principles and elements the
    > appropriate ones? What are we missing by not knowing the
    > alternative values and relationships possible for art.
    > 1 scanning reduces the discussion of that which is observed to a
    > few familiar elements and principles from one familiar culture.

    Which is all most people have to start with, anyway. Scanning is simply
    a beginning attempt to try and understand a work. I agree that we can't
    assume our Western elements and principles always apply. I don't care
    how much you know about art, we cannot filter out our own life
    experiences when viewing art. See Edwin Bullough's work on "Psychic
    Distance," or Vincent Lanier's analogy of the personal screens through
    which we view art (from The Arts We See).

    > 2 scanning either ingnores those things which don't come easily
    > to words or imposes words which only begin to approximate a
    > visual experience or possibleunderstanding.

    Of course, it's just approximate. The words can only be analogous to
    the work. Few people will create art, but many more will view it. Would
    you have them dismiss the Motherwell or Rothko because they can't relate
    to it like a Rembrandt? We as teachers should enable our students with
    a way to deal, and possibly understand, a difficult work of art. Broudy
    and Feldman, among others, simply developed the framework. The final
    analysis can only be a personal one, based on prior knowledge and
    > 3 scanning is entirely reliant upon words and ideas and therefore
    > limited to the available vocabulary and general familiarity with
    > ideas expressed over the centuries by many many people. If you
    > don't know the words or don't know the people and their theories
    > and models; if all you know are a basic 6 principles and 6
    > elements and their basic qualities and relationships your scan
    > will be pretty anemic.

    Unfortunately, the average museum-goer doesn't even have those 12. They
    may be "art lovers" who can enjoy a wide range of styles or techniques,
    but without truly understanding _why_. In which case, they're still
    missing the artist's intent. If they have some knowledge of say, color
    theory, they can then begin to undestand the how and why.

    > It's a way of
    > doing and of learning to do a thing. <snip> Scanning may be a little better
    > as an exercise to learn about other kinds of relationships in the
    > conception and production of art.

    Exactly..."learning" is the key word.

    > Visual Scanning is not a bad thing I don't intend to suggest that
    > its practice be abandoned. I do think that it is important to
    > understand the limitations we face in its use and the quality of
    > the data it produces.

    Agreed. It's not perfect or meant to be an end in itself, in my



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