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RE: Visual Culture art ed questions (Very Long I Think)


Date: Thu May 09 2002 - 10:50:58 PDT

From my POV, part of the problem in either understanding or explaining either Visual Culture or VCAE (which are, by the way, related models but uniquely different things even so.) is that no theory of Visual Culture has yet escaped the perspectives of western culture. It is a problem that only bell hooks could fully appreciate. VC has yet itself to escape Western dualistic viewpoints. Neither VC nor VCAE can claim to have arisen from anything other than the heart of Western Academicism. VCAE is exceedingly Western, Anglo, and Male to its core. Not exclusively, no. Certainly not. But it is only at the last minute, as it were, that we catch any glimmer of the Rainbow.

VCAE may aspire to escape either/or thinking yet VCAE presents itself in an adversarial "either/or" fashion. It re-defines the institutions of our culture and in the process invites us to EITHER cling to the old definitions OR to embrace its new ones. If you read Duncum, Tavin, or Chapman (Among the NAEA's VCAE Parental units) you quickly see the essentially political and economic problem that concerns VCAE. “Who benefits most when artistic skills are widely deployed by a few, in ways not critically fathomed by the many” writes Laura Chapman. When VCAE situates itself to identify and to right wrongs it aspires to establish and conquer either/or dichotomies.

“Who benefits most when artistic skills are widely deployed by a few, in ways not critically fathomed by the many?”

This is the central issue of the VCAE critique. So far it appears fairly single minded in that. VCAE seeks, it would seem, to encourage the many to fathom whom exactly it is who benefits and whom the few are who set the game up and what their profit was. Then the Many need to fathom exactly what benefits they've been potentially screwed out of. This will be the question that will be returned to again and again in the VCAE art curriculum. This question becomes the heart of what the art teacher is to be concerned with in the new paradigm.

“Who benefits most when artistic skills are widely deployed by a few, in ways not critically fathomed by the many?”

Or, who benefits by what is traditionally held and displayed by museums. Who put it there? How does it inform us and in what ways do those who define and control our museums potentially shape our expectations and our behaviors?

Or, who benefits by the historical body of work or genre "the female nude?" How does it inform us and in what ways do such images define and write the subtexts that potentially shape our identities and our behaviors?

Or, who benefits from the cutting edge Calvin Klein or Diesel, or Benneton ad in the hot fashion magazine?" How does it inform us and in what ways do such images define and write the subtexts that potentially shape our identities and our behaviors? What narratives can be discerned in the images used and how are we to use them in defining ourselves as individual and community?

I have not issue at all with such an approach except one small one. This was Art I was supposed to be teaching right?

I had a similar problem with DBAE which I suppose set up the climate wherein the VCAE paradigm of critique could make sense. What we are being increasingly aske to teach is not art it eould seem but consumerism for a consumer culture. DBAE wanted us to become enlightened and cherishing consumers of Fine Art (as distinct from "art" or "Visual Culture") VCAE has hopes of colonizing us with the idea of becoming "critical consumers" but consumers never-the-less. VCAE becomes very vague when it comes to teaching art. Which was why I suggested that it fell as an overlay to DBAE which remains as a default methodology (an acretion on previous paradigms BTW)

I want to teach Art primarily. I want to spent the majority of my time as an art teacher teaching art (to be more specific). I will want to cover a little Art History, a little Aesthetic Philosophy, some traditional Critical perspectives as well as some Politico-Economic Critical awareness. Further I would want to teach some technique (also NOT art) and some Creativity if it is possible and some business/Career savvy. which would amount to maybe 20-30 percent of my teaching in art.

But mostly I want to teach ART. What do I mean by art you ask. Well tha last generation of the Balinese told Margaret Mead that it was HOW they lived their lives and did what they did. It was the tool with which thier culture was constructed and maintained. Anthropologists resist talking about art in small scale societies because many of them have equally disparate perspectives on the things we take from them and put in our art and historical museums. They simply have no word for what we mean by FINE ART. (Or for that matter Visual Culture)

Art form my studies seems to be a primary engine of culture and identity. It is a way of doing things with integrity to materials and to the environment and to the community and our ancestors. It is the primary and eternally accessible democratic process and process of participatory democratic initiative. It is not particularly about KNOWING or intellectual cleverness or learning.

It is in quite accessible ways about the construction of primary wealth--food clothing shelter furnishings communication and recreation and the meta mechanisms (tools) of their production. Used to be we all participated. Today we aspire to buying cheap mass produced goods form international corporations. And even as we do this ART remains a primary engine of culture and identity shaping us ourlives and experiences. But the hands that shape us now are fewer and concerned primarily with a corporate bottom line and not our own welfare or community.

People no longer feel empowered to participate as anything other than an economic pawn and a consumer of professionally manufactured goods and this is very sad.

I grew up believing Art was important. I think I've found out why it is and Now I want toteach ART not Fine Art consumerism or the critical consuming of Visual Culture--- just ART or maybe if we have no word for art, the Culture of Aesthetic Making and Experience.

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