Tuesday, June 27, 2006

on craft, education, and the method going forward

This is fourth in a series of posts on the Art Renewal Center. Though to be honest, we are losing interest in them.

The failing of art school education [...] is that it has an attention span problem. Relevant art didn’t just spring up in the ‘80’s. Too many schools focus solely on the cannon of Pollock/ Johns/ Rauschenberg/ Warhol/ Basquiat without much regard for other streams of foundational content. The world is getting small and young artists need to get out of their self styled masturbation bubble and see the connections out there. There is a lot of work to do. There is a lot to understand of the larger historical art trajectory.
From Highlowbetween's post yesterday. Mindsprinter and Art Powerlines both have good responses to the New York Times ridiculous lament for public school art. Really mostly a filler piece that doesn't mention the failed economy of New York, the Rockefeller laws or the role of education, as do Art Powerlines and Mindsprinter. Highlowbetween correctly summarizes the narrow focus of Art Schools. Both Mindsprinter and Powerlines go after the narrow over-all focus of the Times and the NY Board of Ed neither of which can accept that education is a bit broader than taking tests and processing ideological sound-bites.

The fact that Times is un-aware of the present status of the US, its government and
constitution shouldn't alarm us. We are facing a great upsurge in the learning and conciousness of the population of the world, even if it is by only a fraction of the world's actual population. The Times can report on trauma the same way that we as younger artists lamented the pain and trauma that stopped our childhood artmaking and cast us into the adolescence of drawing boobs and trucks and angular faces with eyes that stared gaunt from our own emptiness.

What we learned eventually, meta-learned maybe, was that even by the most basic acknowledgement of that trauma, through making art about it, with it and through it, we were able to again make art with more of ourselves than we had previously. When we are still acting on the trauma that shut down the art of the 7 year old, then we are merely advancing the greedy agenda of the adolescent. The 15 year old determined to be the next Warhol by whatever means necessary does not recognize that her need is driven by doubt and insecurity also. This artist does not recognize that doubt and insecurity fuel war and devastation. The writer for the New York Times is unable to process that such sturdy attacks, body blows from both left and right, come about
because it's language is based in the same nothing-reality of the adolescent's notebook filled with scrawled AC/DC logos and 4-wheel drive trucks. That is to say, it is a language based on the narrow drive of the individual stringing thoughts together
in succession, unable to allow thoughts to come up, through language, to describe situations WITHOUT moral judgement.

The devastating lies that the New York Times has printed in the last few years, and those which continue to allow the current regime to remain in power are similar to those which allow the adolescent to be accepted into SVA, acknowledge trauma only with a cynical acceptance that trauma is necessary within the present ideology, and then continue onto Skowhegan or Kennebunkport secure in the knowledge that ideological adherence is necessary to the furtherence of that same ideology.

The reason I began this series on ARC was in an attempt, perhaps thru a comparitive analysis of ideologies, to understand what it is we seek from 19th century art that we aren't getting from 20th century art. I believe Highlowbetween comes close to the sort of simple description of what we are doing:

I was derided by faculty, as nostalgic and uneducated. Never mind that I was simply exploring historic models of inquiry while taking hours of philosophy, comparative literature and contemporary art criticism courses – I was labeled a ludite for wanting to see what traditional work felt like. “Why are you interested in Goya so much”?!

It was intended to discourage me and hurtful as a young student, especially when faced with loosing my place in graduate school for wanting to make – charcoal drawings! These drawings were about physics and the psychology of movement and transformative acts – not the Pieta!

Still many of the faculty couldn’t get past the materials and methods used. They were hung up, like the ARC is hung up- on style and misconceptions about the relevancy of the past. Luckily I got the MFA, while sticking to my guns. I remember thinking – childishly – why can’t they see how punk rock this is?! Nobody draws like this now!
[All bolding is mine.] Highlowbetween may not know it, but he has describes the proper way to perform journalism, blogging and science. Not even to mention making art. The Times article cited above could very well have included words from the people who work for the New York Times and live in Brownsville Brooklyn. Why should the New York Times care what happens in Brownsville Brooklyn ? It is only its false objectivity that allows it to "report" (with all of the moralizing subjectivity) when it could provide writing about and through the people of Brownsville. Not as impartial observers, but only as necessary participants can we report the situations that confront us. And I think it particularly important that people who have interest in the success of BOTH Brownsville AND the New York Times be called upon as witness. Otherwise it is only the further Cartesian disconnect of the "impartial media organization" reporting on disconnected "others," as opposed to us discussing us.

What Highlowbetween describes is the proper conduct of an artist exploring what it meant and how it FELT to make art in the 19th century. The idea that one is longing, nostalgically for another time and period of art-history show a serious lack of understanding about craft, (with a nod to the excellent Deborah Fischer definition to which HLB links). Sadly it is this lack understanding of craft that the Times also exhibits. We use craft the way that we use language. We take its predetermined forms, agreed upon meanings and understandings and we use them to craft further meanings. Likewise, we use language to craft understandings, insights, meanings, and not merely to support pre-supposed assumptions.

The Board of Ed will fail. Nothing new will come of it. I summed up the New York Times article and you are none the better for it. The ideas of originality and linear roads to new solutions are so Skowhegan - so Kennebunkport, as to be positively useless for what artists are undertaking today. And yet even a glance at the children struggling to not succumb to trauma, even a whisper from adults who recognize the trauma that is New York City's invisible population (invisible because the New York Times deems it so) is enough to start us re-covering from when we stopped being able to draw anything and everything. Using the totality of our experience, and not the greedy adolescent longing for conquest and subjection - that is a step toward understanding art, now.

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