Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why Art Cannot be Taught - Danielle's Reading

Danielle provided us with an excerpt from Elkin's book, Why Art Cannot be Taught. In this excerpt, a full chapter of his theory gives a thorough argument on why art cannot by taught {if it wasn't already pretty obvious by the title alone}. He first gives us a description of what teaching is, since it's easier than trying to describe what art is, and compares it to how teaching in an art school environment doesn't fit the definition. He offers a few different positions on the matter from both sides, favoring the later end of the group and particular theories while finding faults in them as well. He then proposes what can be taught, if not art, offering up a few ideas in that respect.  Finally he reviews the claims he made earlier in order to clarify his position and admit to a hesitation in his proposition for an ideal teaching method out of the fear that changing the current curriculum might make matters even worse than they already supposedly are.

I really like his approach to this argument because he reviews both sides of it--actually, he does one better--he reviews multiple variations of it. That makes it all seem a lot less black and white. He is very thorough yet succinct {at least in my opinion, because personally I think an argument like this could go on for the entire length of your average book}. He has this defeatist attitude towards the end however that kind of kills it, like someone who might have a really good idea but throws in the towel because he has his doubts. He made some pretty good points. But he does recognize that even though the current structure has its imperfections, it does well enough to deserve the remainder of its life. Like all methods of teaching and the knowledge that is imparted, I believe it is constantly changing. We might not see it, but hell, do you really think the classroom environment we have now is anything like it was just ten years ago? Elkin's putting himself down without mentioning this very important bit of info. Art schools have changed over the years at a rate that can only be fully comprehended in hindsight.

1. I do, though I believe the system they have here, at Ringling, is good enough. I don't think art can be taught, but I do believe that school is indeed like a bed of bacterial cultures growing with little control from instructors. It can be influenced though, like the fetus example, but it isn't heavily guided by cause and effect in the classroom. 

2. I understood that teaching happens when knowledge and information, true, false, or biased, is imparted intentionally to a student. 

3. It can foster the creation of art by providing the necessary tools, environment, culture, and inspiration required for making art, but it can inhibit it by bias, restrictions, and coddling from the outside world.

4. I don't think it can. But when it comes to teaching, I believe you can teach someone as long as their interested in the information you're giving them. If they aren't--if they're disengaged like the students mentioned near the start of the chapter--then they might not retain any of what they've learned. 

5. Sort of. I still don't feel adequately prepared for the outside world, but it's mostly my fault. They provide opportunities but I simply haven't taken any.

6. Probably not. I don't think you would have made the same work to begin with. It wouldn't have occurred to you unless you've been thinking about that body of work since before you entered that teaching environment. If you were stubborn and/or brave, you might try, but depending on how you take grades and criticism you might change just to save your own skin from bad reviews. And yes. I do believe more innovative teaching leads to non-traditional work. Sometimes. It depends on how comfortable the student is with experiments and change.

7. No. Even if they like what I make, I don't even know who I'm making it for anymore. I was making it for myself...once upon a time. Then I started making work to satisfy others, but my ideas aren't groundbreaking or anything, so galleries are probably going to laugh in my face. As for you, I'd have to say that part of it could have been your instructors, general inspiration, and the freedom thesis allows. We've also had raves for student projects that would have been frowned upon less than a decade ago, so I'm sure that was a little inspiring.

8. It probably helped. I'm a firm believer in the idea that what you learn about one thing can help you with another, whether it's obvious to you or not. 

And the second part of question 8 can be my conclusion, since it has to do with my art and this article. My art has definitely been helped by the materials we've structured our programs on. Hell, look at all the prints I've made. And the videos? I wouldn't have known dick about AfterEffects if I hadn't taken Dee Hood's class in Sophomore year. And that other guy. I feel bad about forgetting his name, but I actually had him in Freshmen year by some fluke and I made some cool vids back then. Even my stop-motion projects came from the influence of being taught how to use AfterEffects, Photoshop, and Flash. As for what I'd like to alter, I'm not sure. Like Elkin, I am a bit of a defeatist and I agree with him. I think trying to drastically change something would just make a big mess and that these sort of things just happen slowly over time. We're still an imperfect race, so we'll have our imperfect teaching methods to match.

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