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Lesson Plans


[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
taylorh (taylorh)
Sun, 19 Jul 1998 12:20:27 -0700 (MST)

Joseph offered a short list of some criteria which would be useful if it
were important to make art conform to the expectations of the middle
american norm. In some ways these are a form of "market" criteria or

He also brought up the notions of "good" and "bad" and hazarded a simple

>>"Just remember a simple point: you want to keep looking at good things
and want to look away from bad things. Now that statement's not as dumb
as it sounds! Unfortunately!"

It is not at all 'as dumb as it sounds' and something of a hot research
that has, as yet, barely scratched the surface.

Allow me to be provocative and to suggest that our notions of beauty,
good, and bad have much more top do, at their foundation, with our biology
than with our philosophy. Further, let me argue that it's important make
the effort to follow or anticipate the biological side of the argument or
face the probability/ possibility of "coming late to the table."

The basic biological imperatives are to survive and to reproduce. Inherent
to that is the need to distinguish difference in our perceptual
experiences and to establish value relative to survival and reproduction.
If an organism doesn't need to put the vast majority of its effort into
issues of simple survival AND if it has sufficient neural capacity to
spare it can begin to use the survival mechanisms in more complex ways and
in response to more subtle issues of survival or reproduction.

We are repelled by that which offers threat and we classify such things in
the directions of ugly and bad. The events/objects which offer little if
any threat and with which we are MOST FAMILIAR form the ground of our
experience of "normal and acceptable" (not a threat AND not
abberant/unknown) out of the 'normal and acceptable' we establish
preferences (we are already geared towards the either/or evaluation...
either threat or not threat) but when we evaluate the area from which
threat has been excluded we need to change our premise and criteria and we
can begin to explore the positive pole of experience. (threat having laid
the groundwork for the negative)

We begin to lay out an understanding of that which attracts us -- sensory
pleasure to begin with. We begin, then, with our experience of THE
FAMILIAR and the non-threatening in our search for beauty and good. One
possibility that researchers seems to be pointing to, in terms of physical
beauty, is recurrance. features which appear again and again, features
which again we are more famililar with gain preference. In a face at the
macro scale a nose is a good thing to possess if you've lost it you are
less attractive--obviously but at the micro-level this works too the angle
of the eye... the turn of the corner of the mouth... things which recurr
in families (and in the old interrelated communities) gain preference and
an isolated group will begin to appear more and more alike over

Morphing technology has allowed researchers to test synthetic faces
derived from common an uncommon feature characteristics and mot people opt
for the familiar. Also, if researchers take several faces agreed on as
attractive and merge the features into new, second generation synthecic
faces they are found to be more attractive in general, like wise with real

Some one with more patience and interest in DOING research than I ought to
try this with paintings... portraits, landscapes maybe? Mondrian-esques?

In any case the bottom line to beauty, good and bad in art would seem to
come down to what people are familiar with. IF we can export EuroAmerican
to the extent that that virtually everyone on the planet is familiar and
comfortable with it we'll be able to accurately claim that we've had the
right aesthetics all along and good riddance to the aberations of
"primitive" cultures who just didn't "get it"

Goodbye to African art, Asian art, and Indigenous art except as
interpolated through the modern western eye. A formal philosophical
approach to art and aesthetics.

On the other hand, an approach of a number of artists is
We are introduced to new ways of experiencing and perceiving derived from
the artists DIVERGENT experiences. Initially they are almost always
recieved as aberrant (salon d' refusees) but as familiarity is gained new
elements are incorporated into the popular vision and culture becomes the
richer for it -- the more diverse.

If you want to find out more The University of St Andrews is doing
interesting research to look at. Good starting place. Still arguable, by
the way, but a glimpse at the future I think.

> Dear Joseph,
> You say, look at good things, look away at bad...but we would all
> differing opinions of good and bad.

Hi Leah--you misunderstood. The good/bad reference applies to _subject
matter_ not style. ie., a visual of victims of a car crash vs. a couple
on a park bench.

or Gericault's The Raft of the Medusa, Joseph? Art seems fraught with