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artspeak / art language

updated wed 30 apr 97


The Shelfords on tue 29 apr 97

Patrick wrote:
> I don't think, though, that words, or the part they play in people's
arguments, separate
>you from your reality or debases your experience of art: Rather, their
usage or the arguments and ideas they >generate are things you disagree with.
Or agree with, for that matter. Perhaps it's just that, while I'm talking
(with myself or others), I'm not seeing. When I get back to just seeing
(always difficult because talking is infinitely easier) I'm seeing the
object coloured by theory, not just the object. And theory is ephemeral -
the impression it leaves of having found something true usually wears off
quickly. But the colouration that it gives to what you are seeing is, if
not pemanent, at least difficult to see past.

However, that doesn't mean I don't agree with your comment here:
>The reaction
>against articulating one's thoughts, however, as a blanket response bugs me
>because I've watched it lead to a reverse-elitism.
There can be the implication, conscious or un-, that "my aesthetic and
spiritual sensitivities are so elevated/highly educated/advanced (whatever)
that either: mere words won't do them justice, or: you can't be expected to
understand what I'm saying." Arrogant and elitist if you like, and also
silly. The problem is not with communicating as such, but with the tendency
of language to run away with one, and just communicate the virtuosity of
language. There's a vast amount of discipline involved in keeping language
tied to reality. There is a quote I love, referring to Samuel Johnson (the
"dixionary man" - late 1700's) - "never has a true poet suppressed his
poetry to better effect than Dr. Johnson (Peter Levi, from the introduction
to Johnson's "A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland") Often lacking
Dr. Johnson's discipline, I find I keep losing the experience of a piece of
art through talking about it.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't keeping trying to articulate our ideas.
So long as we remember what it is we are trying to do, and the limits
involved. Lovely quote from the Lana Wilson book, "Ceramics: Shape and
"All the genuine, deep delight of life is in showing people the mud-pies you
have made; and life is at its best when we confidingly recommend our
mud-pies to each other's sympathetic consideration." - J.M. Thorburn
(Anyone know who J.M. Thorburn is, by the way?)

WHICH (mudpies) relates to what Mel Jacobson was saying about the notions of
play in art being perceived by the general public as showing that:
>what we do as
>artists is just fun and is with great irritation that I listen
>to that kind of description to the general population.. they seem to have
>that bias already and I do not like to give them additional incentive to
>think of us as children.
Perhaps artists are more inclined to see a larger universe, and their own
bits of it in that larger context, so it is harder to take oneself and one's
artifacts so desperately seriously. Life appears to be short, chancy, and
largely inexplicable. You can get weighed down by this, or you can view it
with the facility of a child, just enjoying the present, the act of learning
and making, revelling in possibilities and uncertainties. It is natural to
speak of this as play, not as contrasted with work, but as the only
reasonable activity where being "serious" means being "certain", and being
"certain" is more or less an illusion.

Of course, being dismissed by one's society as puerile is not only
irritating, it's wrong. So I guess we have to try to talk the language of
the people we are talking to. But should we be believing it???????

ok, flame-throwers (if you could be bothered to read this far.) your turn.

- Veronica
Veronica Shelford
s-mail: P.O. Box 6-15
Thetis Island, BC V0R 2Y0
Tel: (250) 246-1509

Sherry mcDonald Stewart on wed 30 apr 97

I like your thought Veronica, I concur with most of what you have to
say, as I have expressed in my response to mel Richardson, also on the
topic of play. I am glad to hear another strong voice take a stand for
play, I like the way you see it and express it.
I had a prof in Poly Sci in college that once said that language can be
used to , "mystify," to have power over, and there is certainly alot of
truth to this statement! We can use such big words, and long statements,
as to intimidate, and not to educate at all. Intimidation is a tool
people use who want to win, unfairly! It is not communication! And it is
used by those who , I feel, are really insecure. A text book is a place
for this kind of word usage. it is the students challenge to go to work,
and break it down , in this way, it is a learning process. And I can see
it being used in the company of peers, say, the talk between art
historians engaged in a debate, but sound judgement does not warrant
it's usage in many other circumstances.
It is amazing how many young minds are discouraged by this kind of,
"putting on of airs!" I have worked with people to try to bring them
back to looking at art, after episodes with someone who was full of hot
air made them feel they knew nothing. In the beginning, we know nothing,
but art speaks whether we have a vocabulary to explain it or not! I
won't go od...but I do appreciate your comments. S