[NetBehaviour] on art and knowledge

Edward Picot julian.lesaux at gmail.com
Thu Sep 27 21:07:23 CEST 2018


Infuriatingly, I can access the full article if I click the link while 
I'm at work, but I can only access the precis if I click it at home. 
This didn't stop me reading it - when I was supposed to be getting on 
with something else - and I'll draw a veil over the question of how many 
patients are now dead as a result, when they ought to be still alive. 
But the worst thing is that my comments will have to be based on how I 
remember your article, because I don't have the actual text in front of 
me. From what I remember, you did rather a good job of demolishing other 
people's ideas about what might constitute the 'value' of art, but I was 
a little bit more suspicious when you came to your own ideas on the same 
subject. As I remember these came down to (a) the best art is the art 
which provokes in us the widest/most intense range of 
interpretations/reactions, and (b) art teaches us how to live. Both of 
these sound a bit like F R Leavis to me - in fact there was a whole 
school of literary criticism, particularly based in Cambridge, which was 
founded on the ideas that the best literature teaches us how to 
experience life more fully, distinguish and understand our own ideas, 
emotions and aesthetic responses more scrupulously, and thereby become 
more fully aware and morally capable people. This was used as an 
argument in favour of (a) doing literary studies at University level, 
and in fact making the study of literature (and by implication art more 
generally) into one of the most important University departments; and 
(b) preserving a canon of the 'best' literature and trying to make sure 
that it was routinely taught in schools. In other words it was a very 
'highbrow' argument; only the best literature could have the 
sought-after uplifting effect; so in the end it came down to 'Reading 
Shakespeare can make you a better person, but reading Longfellow can't', 
and then down to arguments about who deserved to be in the canon and who 
didn't. Henry James and Jane Austen - in (because they're ironic and 
morally scrupulous). Dickens - out (too much of a showman, too 
sentimental - until Leavis had a change of heart and suddenly decided 
'Hard Times' was a grownup novel). T S Eliot in, Milton out. Dante 
better than Milton. John Donne better than Spencer. And so forth.

Then along came Structuralism and said, 'Actually, we only find value in 
art because we've been trained to do so; an image means one thing if you 
see it in a museum and something entirely different if you see it on the 
front of somebody's T-shirt; the whole thing, the whole act of 
interpretation, our whole response to art, is a cultural construct, and 
the context in which we do our viewing/reading/listening is everything; 
it's probably more important than the work of art itself'. Which I don't 
entirely buy, but it had the effect, in about the 1970s, of knocking 
down the whole 'art makes you a better person' edifice.

Basically I think I shy away from any attempt to define what art does 
for us. I do think it can make us better people - or at least it can 
enrich our lives by giving us experiences we wouldn't have had 
otherwise. I do also think that some art is better than other art, and 
the breadth and depth and range of its effect have got something to do 
with how you would calibrate the differences. In other words, if I had 
to put my money anywhere, I might put it somewhere very close to where 
you've put yours. But I don't like to see any of this written down as a 
formula, because it always seems to come out wrong. I'm a great believer 
in responding to individual works of art on a case-by-case basis. And 
I'm also a believer, as someone who tries to be creative himself, in 
just trying to make the stuff that feels right, without worrying too 
much about philosophical justifications.


On 25/09/18 23:08, Michael Szpakowski wrote:
> Hi Edward -that link should take you into a screen readable version.  > The way the thing is licensed means that's all I can send unless > 
people get the hard copy when it's out ( not sure when)... Mail me > 
personally if you still can't get into it... ( & thanks for > looking!) 
cheers m. > > > ------------------------- *From:* Edward Picot via 
NetBehaviour > <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> *To:* > 
netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org *Cc:* Edward Picot > 
<julian.lesaux at gmail.com> *Sent:* Tuesday, September 25, 2018 6:02 > PM 
*Subject:* Re: [NetBehaviour] on art and knowledge > > Michael, > > I 
can't get into the full text! Do you need a login or something? > > 
Edward > > > On 25/09/18 11:46, Michael Szpakowski wrote: >> Hi folks I 
have a piece on this topic coming up in a forthcoming >> issue of the 
International Journal of Art and Design Education. >> They've posted a 
public 'read-only' copy of it here: >> https://rdcu.be/7BPg >> >> 
comments, responses, disagreements, whatever most welcome! cheers >> m. 
 >> >> >> _______________________________________________ NetBehaviour 
 >> mailing list NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org >> 
<mailto:NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> >> 
https://lists.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour > > 
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