Thank you, Henry, for engaging with the kind of debate
and discussion that used to characterize this list.
It's a dialgue for which I return periodically and
usually leave because of too many posts each day to
wade through and maintain, regardless of whether you
hit the delete key or subscribe to digests.
If I may take an aside here, I believe that this is,
in part, due to the Getty changing the format of the
list. It used to be that you had a choice when you hit
the "send" button, whether you wanted to send your
message to the individual who wrote the post, or send
it to everyone. One could hold their private
interchanges of congradulation and condolence, without
making it a public conversation. These days, you have
to make a special effort to go off-list to do that and
now it's easier to hit the "send" button to everyone.
Obviously, to a large portion of the list, this kind
of public back patting is seemingly necessary. For
me, I would like to go back to sending those chat
posts privately and using the list to engage in real
discussion and real debate without personalizing
differences. Thank you, Henry, for modeling how to
disagree without making it personal and for engaging
in this very important topic.
There are a couple of things I would like to add to
the VLIT discourse,
* ART in the old Balinese perspective I've cited
> earlier would include a much larger proportion of
> material culture.
To look at this a bit differently, I would like to
cite the example of what contemporary Chinese artists
call "post-Materialism." Thanks to the Cultural
Revolution, the Chinese never got to "post-Modern".
Not only was it illegal to be an artist until 1989,
and the people who were practicing artists were
murdered or sent to camps - artists who began working
secretly didn't do so until the mid 1980's. Not only
does most of the academic work we are citing, have no
relevance to them whatsoever, it is, as Henry rightly
points out, perceived as a post-colonial way the
"west" imposes its cultural values on everyone else.
Duncum makes this point and Henry rightly points out
that the polemics of this discussion how it got to be
that way have no place in the Art room. But I may say
a few words along those lines to my students at some
point as an aside!
From the Chinese, non-Western but ever Taoian
perspective, materialism is the problem. Hence,
"post-materialsim" is the current, contemporary art
movement in China. Post-materialism in China is
somewhere between pop art and performance art. But
again, that is pidgeon-holing it into a western
perspective. It's precisely this tendency of the west
to always interpret everyone else through their own
lense, that is the problem with most of the published
commentary on Visual Culture, as Henry rightly points
out, ironically tainting its own prescriptions.
Post-material artists use their Art not just as
comment on the absurdity of this commerical imagery
and its influence on our lives, but use Art to rebel
against it, to awaken the viewer and comment to you on
that fact. (To understand more of this, look for
"Frozen" in your foreign video section - a true
reenactment of a Beijing artist staging his own death
in the '90's. Also look up Red Gate Gallery in Beijing
But if you look at the Baobob Project and read the
article I cited, you will see that not all academic
work is so embedded. I cite in particular the
incredible work being done in South Africa in a
post-apartheid climate. Again, the cultural context in
these areas of the world is completely different than
the west, and they know it. We have to move beyond the
cultural imperialism about our so called visual
culture, not just in this aspect of curriculum, but in
how we present the elements and principles, as well.
What Henry cites:
> I don't want to "interact" with commercial Visual
> Culture and the popular culture of the great
> mercantiale corporations.
to me the the crux of the problem. In discussing
elements of visual culture, from my POV, doesn’t mean
that I'm interacting with the mercantile culture. I'm
looking at all signs and symbols in the visual field
as elements of art and interpreting its signs and
symbols in order to discuss their impact and their
ability to influence, as part of a whole process of
learning and discovery. Do I want to empower my
students to go out and use their knowledge of this
process to make the world a better place visually? You
We stand on an apex where visual images are supreme.
Supreme in ways that to me are similar to the Egyptian
temples. Whenever I return to the U.S. and see the
great temples to mercantile culture, our shopping
malls, I can't help but think that we are merely
entranced by our own symbols, and that in many ways,
we aren't much different from those early cultures of
people whose artifacts we study in our classroom. As
David McCalley’s "Nacirema" parodies, if we were in
the future looking back on the remnants of our current
civilization, would our underground parking garages be
considered "crypts" and the remote control TV changer,
a way to communicate to our gods in a little black
box? Why not, then, treat these same objects as
"I do want to participate in real street-level visual
Again, to me, it's not either/or. I approach all
visuals with the same interactivity, without judging
their significance to see them. It's in the
interpretation that the great benefit to this kind of
discourse, takes place. It is taking our own thinking
to a meta-level and removing the judgments we have
about the importance of the content. In some ways, our
superinformation highway gives us permission to do
that. We can enter into the stream of information at
any point and take it anywhere we want. Somehow, our
classrooms need to mirror more of this great wave of
energy and information, flowing around us.
That to me, is teaching visual culture.
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