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Lesson Plans

Re: American Vision

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Sat, 07 Jun 1997 10:21:32 -0700 (MST)

I ran into the second night of American Vision. While I have always
enjoyed Hughes, particularly his book/series Shock Of The New and his book
on Australia, The Fatal Shore; this new series seems, to me, more
appropriate to the journalistic and political interests of something like
a Time Magazine than it is to a world of art.

I'm aware that my perspective is not often the mainstream one today and so
I'm curious how this series is being seen "out there".

What I saw was a fascinating discussion of cultural and personal politics
which used the art of an era as point of departure. I saw a lot of
speculation about, and interpretation of the political psychology of
individual artists. What I saw was less about art than it was about
ethical and political beliefs.

On this evening, I saw a lot of "history", some aspects of "criticism" and
relatively little in regard to "aesthetics" or "production." I believe that
it is true that some artists work in order to mediate the world and their
experience. I also think that there is a great deal of "psychology" and
"politics" which underlies such an approach by an artist. Still,
Psychology and Politics are, or at least could be perceived as, separate
disciplines on a par with the standard DBAE four.

What it comes down to, as it so often does, is a subjective
interpretation that is not without bias. The history of the United States
and its attitudes is complex and any popular perspective has always had
its opposition. MY interpretation here is that Hughes is in step with the
90's in assuming the alternative "American" viewpoint. Manifest
Destiny, for example, always had its opposition and its detractors. Today
that opposition is in the ascendent and the perspective remains an
essentially American one. A view of "the other" that remains ABOUT "the
other" and has yet to accept it as a co-equal. Again, that is an

Hughes seems to speak from a position of authority here, telling us once
again what "is" and what once "was". The academic world once and perhaps
still does prefer that kind of assertive and positivistic confidence, that
kind of defense. "The world IS this way. [and so NOT the other way]" If
nothing else, such an approach is a lot easier to grasp and to explain
than the uncertainty and ambiguity we must generally face outside the
academic world. And, to tell the truth, isn't that just what we really
desire, certainty? Isn't that why we inquire and study, to find the final
answer, or at least to approach it?

And, what would an Art History look like that embraced ambiguity and
uncertainty? What might Criticism become without "truth" or fact? How
about Aesthetics without a formula or a formal description; what could
that be like?

Still, Hughes is good at his craft, maybe top of the line as a media
pop-critic. American Vision is a good, informative, show. I would like to
know more about American ART though. Its gotten impossible these days to
step onto a campus without exploring the political and cultural
implications of just about everything. It may be that this Hughes series
is simply a trickle-down entry of the university perspective into one
segment of the popular culture. Maybe so.

BTW, Does anyone out there think the notion of uncertainty has a chance of
trickling into the pop psyche?