Sunday, April 17, 2011

What's Wrong with Contemporary Art? - Paul's Reading

From Peter Timms's book, What's Wrong with Contemporary Art?, we were asked to read from pages 28-33. Here, Timms discusses art and institution--focusing on the flaws of the academic approach to 'making' artists. According to Timms, universities tend to be putting more focus in art theory based in cultural studies rather than art history. Any sort of art history is geared to back up more recent artwork in order to reinforce the idea that art is about social issues, leading to a more analytical approach to all work. This strips away much of the intimacy that individual artworks might have. Timms argues on why it is important for students to be taught on what theory was because nowadays many students are graduating with a limited understanding of their own discipline's development. This restrains the artist and often sets them on the path of repeating what has already been done. He goes on to explain how students are being set up for failure, since the art world isn't as easy to get into as getting a PhD. He even argues on the validity of such paperwork, since the final thesis requires an academic approach that leaves many of the more spontaneous artists at their mercy. 

I guess I kind of agree with a few things and disagree with others. In this school, I've had to take two semesters of art history--and though it didn't feel like it was enough--I did see the works of various artists from the earliest periods to the more contemporary times. But I've always believed, especially when it comes to our subject of study, that it takes ambition on the part of the student in order for success to be a possibility. I know the art world is exclusive. I know that about 25% of it is luck, 25% percent of it is the work you make, and 50% of it is the networking you create. I might even be simplifying way too much. But I know for a fact that networking is the biggest deal, and that takes a concentrated, enthusiastic effort on part of the artist. If history is important, a student will not only take the classes, but do additional research. A school can only push you so far. Their job isn't to coddle you; and I've had instructors tell me that part of our success will be based on what we research, study, and accomplish on our own free time while the resources are readily available to us. Now I know all this, but I've never been all that ambitious. I may be one of the majority Timms speaks of that ends up graduating without much of a clue and a very introspective body of work that only I could ever care about. I still don't think art school's necessarily a waste of time. They can't be this realistic with every prospective student because it might scare them off--in that sense, it's a little bit of a hoax. But schools still provide opportunities. It's just up to the students to grasp them.

I'll start answering some questions now.

1. I don't think he's being overly simplistic, but I do believe he needs to explain himself a little more thoroughly. It's not enough to give an example or two of what you mean to say. He needs to explain why it won't work, why it hasn't worked, why it worked for some people, and why it won't work for others. He does seem to go over the first two, but not the rest. In any argument you're making against something, you should explore the arguments made for it and propose your reasoning as to why your argument is superior. 

2. Maybe. Like I said before, he doesn't give a single success story and focuses harder on the failing aspect of universities and examples of such. He strikes me as a guy who either did waste his money in an art school or knew someone closely that did.

3. Yeah, you can, but your credit will constantly be in question which will defeat your argument before you can make it half the time. Unless you can make a really good argument and appeal to people who didn't know you were paranoid and cynical before. Then they can pass it on and help you attain some form of respect.

4. I think it would be beneficial to have an assignment like that actually. We tend to think of 'group think' as something negative because of its use in Orwell's 1984 as a device that accentuates the ignorance of the people as individuals, but 'group think' creates a society based on similar ideas. It could lead to total disaster, and it often does, but it is a step closer to a social symbiosis. Something concepts of utopia are based around. It's a double-edged sword, which I believe is important to wield at least once for the experience. Humans learn best through it. Having an assignment of such a nature in a controlled environment could allow them to understand the benefits and dangers of it, ultimately leading them to a final, sound assessment.

5. I don't know, but I'll have to go with 'I don't think so'. This environment does a lot more encouraging and possesses more understanding while promoting guidance. I don't think the art world does a whole lot of that.

6. Yes. Visual expression should have more precedence.

7. Yes and no. Until the very end of the year, where thesis is demanded in the form of a solitary, pre-conceived notion, automatism is actually encouraged so that an artist may discover their individual approach to image making and/or expression.

8. It depends on what you do while you're here. Your art style and means of expression hasn't changed a whole lot visually since I first saw it. You might have already discovered your means, but that would then leave you to learning and seizing opportunities. If you aren't doing those things, then you're probably wasting your money.

9. Yeah. But I don't see nothing wrong with that.

10. You should embrace it. It's better to make work you care about than work on things you can't stand or care less about.

11. A bit. I'll have to admit, when you do work about yourself {and I'm saying this about me and anyone else who works for themselves} there are many elements that people will miss out on because everyone's individual experiences are extremely different.

I wouldn't be making the sort of art I make now if I didn't go to art school. I wouldn't have discovered the joys and trials of printmaking and I would have either been drawing or sculpting instead. That's probably the only opportunity I made an effort to seize. But I don't think it was enough--not for what I've been paying. But it's my fault, really. I still get about an e-mail every couple of days with a new scholarship or job opportunity. I have resources to tap into in order to learn everything I want to learn about art, as well as instructors I can talk to in order to bounce ideas and theories back and forth with. Bit I just haven't really done it. 

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