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Lesson Plans

objective standards

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
taylorh (taylorh)
Sun, 19 Jul 1998 12:22:23 -0700 (MST)

Dawn Malosh, here in Tucson wrote:

>>"The thought of indoctrinating our children with a set of standards for
makes "good" art makes me cringe. Aesthetic standards vary through time,
culture and art form. I make certain that children understand what our
aesthetic standards are in the classroom and they may have their own
and values. We often discuss those in critiques too."

I like your "two cents" Dawn. Formal standards present interesting
reference points and represent good arguments, but, I always want to find
my own way and my own personal standards. I would REALLY love to belong to
a community which shared the same basic viewpoint but I wouldn't want to
establish it as THE WAY IT IS or OUGHT TO BE. I've gained my unique
understandings by confronting things that I both agreed and disagreed with
and making my arguments and my choices. I prefer that way to getting a
hand book or a preface such as the one quoted in the beginning to The Dead
Poet's Society. There is room in my world for the THIS IS HOW IT IS --
LEARN IT mentality, But it's not my path and I know there are lots of
others out there who, if they are not confident in taking alternative
perspectives of their own, envy and admire the artists who seem to totaly
ignore the 'so-called' rules. There is room I think for both approaches...
and need.

Anyone: student, teacher, artist, non-artist will be well served if they
can reasonably justify and argue their position on aesthetics. It is
easier for the teacher to have one paradigm or even one culture's
collection of paradigms to work from. But, you only have to look at
day-time television to see what we get when people are really confident
about what is 'normal' and what is 'aberrant': rabid applause or snide
boos and hisses.

Jacob Bronowski the physicist spoke about CP Snow's "Two Cutures" (Art and
Science) and came to the conclusion that Science was so successful in part
because it insisted on respect for alternate or different points of
view.... it hasn't ALWAYS been successful I'll admit.

What we need to learn to respect is not, so much as we might think, the
viewpoint itself but the willingness of the other person to work out a
well considered position without retreating to the argument "It's my
opinion and I have aright to hold it!" It is not even so much that their
reasoning is well founded as it is, I believe, the effort and sincerity
they bring to justifying their point of view. Reason, The processes of
reasoning, can be learned it's just less easy to learn when 'good faith'
attempts are not respected.

All in all, a goodly portion of art, western art in particular, is about
divergence from the norm. A majority of the artists we respect in our
culture were divergent and out of step at some point in their careers. Its
kind of hypocritical to expect students to conform and converge upon a
singular approach to art, to the arts.

Reatha wrote:

>>"It seems that we have what we like confused with good art. We are
about objectivity versus subjectivity. It is possible to like bad art
it appeals to something personal."

First an aside: "Bad Art" is an important idea. I, not infrequently, read
discussions of art which succumb to the 'Good Fallacy' that is, basically

"It isn't 'Good'  -SO-  it isn't 'Art'" it usually flows side by side with
the 'Familiar Fallacy' "This isn't like all the other 'real art' I know
and so it isn't 'real art'."

You are correct that there is a tendency to make a correspondence between "what we like" and "what is good" . In fact, I'd go further and argue that the criteria for "good" probably began, in each case and at some point, with what someone liked and justified well enough that many others accepted the argument. Rhetoric is a successful methodology for establishing validity.

"Good art" is, as Dickey and Eaton have argued the establishment of some institution. "Good Art" was all that was ever put on display in the Soviet Union. It is well known a Socialist Realism and Officially it was "good art". A similar institution was established in <IMHO> eighteenth century art and capped by the Salon/Academy artists such as Bouguereau. In this institution, Impressionism was simply "bad art"

In general, at least in recent terms, the truly significant "bad art" has, almost invariably, been the "good art" of a dawning era. What's a critic to do?

I would have no problem at all with "objective standards" if people would only apply them to the old art. The problem always arises when an artist attempts to diverge from the old standard. Before the Impressionists the eighteenth century paradigm made sense. After them it was obsolete unless one wanted to paint "in the manner of...". The objective standards upon which Egyptian Tomb art is based were and continue to be valid. Still it would be foolish to apply them as a measure of Rembrandt.

When we teach our students the "objective standards" especially in this era where accelerating change is a constant; we, in effect, give them the keys to the art of our childhood Not the art of today or of tomorrow. NOT a BAD thing, in and of itself, but not in keeping with the society we are, or seem to be, choosing, either.

The argument about the validity of our social path is an important one and if you wish to tout "objective standards" in this light you'd do well to join your voice to those who would preserve an endangered traditional culture.