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Fine Arts Cultural Studies
FACS 1900
Robert Gill

FACS 1900 C Arts and Ideas Instructor: Robert Gill Room: ACW 206 for lecture, ACE 006 for tutorial Time: Friday 11:30 to 1:30 PM for lecture, 2:30 to 3:30 for tutorial February 12, 2009 Your test will be in this room on March 6, the first day of the second term. Today at the end of class we hand in take home study questions. There are four questions, to help you structure your review, reading up the materials, focusing on the videos in preparation for the test. The questions asks you to define a concept from the course and discuss it with reference to what you saw in the videos that you watched. There is a very clear format for each of the questions. We want that format consistently in answering the questions. You are doing the same thing four times. What is the relationship power-culture, you write about that, then you talk about how you can illustrate that relationship with reference to one of the artist’s works we covered in the course. This is the structure we give you. We’ve given you a framework for answering the questions, you take the kit home, set it up for yourself and then live in it. It’s not about torturing yourselves, I don’t know how to write, etc. You follow the format with reference to the materials in the course. You could be a brilliant student with all kinds of interesting things to say, know how to write, be a poet and have great ideas, we will not give you an A if you don’t follow the format . We give you an A if you have great ideas and you use the structure on the test to put them forth. The medium is the message here. As much as the content of what you say is important, it’s also how you do it. We’re looking for some structural integrity, for answers that hold together well. On March 6 you come here having prepared the four questions for yourself, two of those questions will be required of you on the test. Lengthwise we’re giving you one exam book per each question, you use it to outline the question first, I would recommend that. You can only use one booklet, single spaced. You will fill up between 3 and 4 pages for each question. Before March 6 you need to have written out the four questions using 3 to 4 sheets, using every line. This exam is worth 20% of your final grade, each question is worth 10 marks and it will be marked out of 10. Can you bring in preparatory notes the day of the exam? No, this is a no book, no notes exam. You have to be able to write the two answers from memory. You have two hours for the exam. We will roughly have two hours, but I don’t want people freaking out. If at the end of the test you go 10, 15 minutes over it’s fine. We have this room booked until 2:30. I don’t want you to feel like you are having a nervous breakdown because you can’t finish the test in 2 hours. 1 ---how do we cite the artists? Know the artist’s names and what they did, also that they are from Art:21. Not a lot of pressure on citation right now. At the beginning of each question give yourself one page to outline the answer. You can leave when you’re done. Some classes have a policy that you need to stay put till the very end, not us. The faster you get here and the more focused you are, the faster we will be able to start. Make sure everything is closed in a bag of some kind and is not out on display. There are no tutorials on March 6. Please bring York IDs. Use pen, bring a pen. On the exam booklet just cross out anything that’s not the right answer. Don’t use white-out. I’ve seen students really wasting their time in an exam crossing things to make them look pretty. It’s a waste of your creative energy to be whiting out. Video presentation: Mark Bradford • I only take the ads that have to do with businesses. After the riot so many building were burned, they put these fences and people put their billboards on. • “Immigration papers in 30 days.” How is that even possible! I glue all down around it, I take the billboard paper, I let it dry, I sand it. The language is sometimes all gone. It’s just information in the city. My practice is both collage and decollage. I take the text away and add it right back. • My making background goes back to my childhood. I was making the signs of prices for my mother’s hair salons. I did signage, text. • In Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, I was using materials that had memory, a lot of end papers from hair salons, used when you are doing the perm. I was also thinking a lot about music at the time, music fragments. • Black Venus was one of the map like paintings. I am interested in map making and the history of abstraction. Maps as abstract grids. Bowman Hills is where rich black people in LA live. • I love soccer and I wanted to craft my own imaginary league of players. The largest piece to date that I made. The first time I put a painting and a sculpture in proximity, I was trying to activate a third thing. • Los Moscos is about me dealing with issues of abstraction, modernism, it really exploded for me. People say they're collages, I think they’re paintings. • At Cal Arts I discovered bodies of ideas. I never knew about Foucault, bell hooks, Cornell West, but I have always lived with people who lived those kinds of lives. 2 I told my mother, “you’re postmodern,” she said, “that’s sweet!” It was the writings that got me really, really enthusiastic. • In this corridor I want to create the feel of being outdoors and indoors at the same time. As you walk in one side is covered with information. On the other you have a reflection of these commercial posters, a fun house effect. • As you move down this corridor you come into a smaller room and you hear music, you hear people celebrating. There are two videos on opposite walls. One video is of Martin Luther King’s day parade in LA. You see people who are remembering this political figure. • The other is of a marketplace in Egypt. This night market is only for Muslims. They are on opposing walls but they are facing each other. Certain details you start to see over and over again, such as the policing of the parade. The police were just in any frame. To see so many black bodies in the same space is always political. Always a political condition. • On the Cairo side there was no policing. These were just families enjoying themselves. But the Muslim body has become so politically charged that the scene is charged. They’re both politicized sites. At the same time they are about celebration as well. • My art practice is very detailed, labor intensive. That is a way of slowing myself down so I can hear myself think. A quieter voice has sometimes a more interesting idea if I can get to it. • “Practice” was a video that I did a couple of years ago. I wanted to do a video of me playing basket. But I wanted to create a struggle, so I added this billowing skirt about 4 feet around me on an incredibly windy day. It created this billowing of the wind that would catch underneath the dress. It became almost like I was floating. I would fall and get up, make the shots. • It was about roadblocks on every level, cultural, gender, racial. Regardless that they’re there, it is important to continue. You keep going. I made the shot. I always make the shot. Sometimes it takes me a littlie longer to get there, but I always make the shot. Almost everything in the lecture last week and this week is review. I don’t want you to be under the impression that you can get all the information you need from these two lectures. They are simply guidelines for how to review the material that we covered in the first 7-8 weeks of the course. I’m not giving you a magic bullet in this lecture for the test. Last time we talked about language. In this course I try to get you to understand something that you took for granted before you got here, which is language and the pervasiveness of language around you. How you can begin to think about everything that 3 is around you as part of a language. In Mark Bradford’s work we saw an artist who samples the visual language of the street or the city. We see him recovering material from the urban environment and thinking very deeply about that material. He used urban imagery as a kind of language, he reads the city as a story and then he samples what he finds and puts in together in new representations, new stories. The video then goes on to show you different kinds of languages he is borrowing from. What are the languages that these artists are borrowing from in their work? What images are they sampling to create new kinds of imagery? Think about DJs sampling, how contemporary musicians borrow from different sources. Much of what we call modern art work uses that technique, back to Picasso who stole it from African artists. European artists have stolen a lot from African art. I’ve also emphasized the idea that language is not simply graphic, it’s also social. Language is a medium through which we live out our relationships to each other. Communicating words, writing words, creating images, music, performances, all of these things are necessarily social and cultural. Through all of these different media we become connected to each other in various kinds of communities of belief. Language partly connects us in communities. We saw that in Flamenco and Triumph of the Will. That material is not on the test. We saw communities of belief and how ideas about community can be a real problem. Language is something through which we both connect with others and also a medium that imposes violence and separation between people. We use language to divide ourselves up and say, this is us and those people over there are different from us. We create these differences which are at times deeply disturbing and problematic. The idea that language is something that contains this relationship between power and culture. Culture is always about power. Power and culture are always interrelated, no matter how innocent something appears to be, for someone it’s always about exclusion. Language for artists is very dynamic and powerful. We have a lot of stuff to work with in our creative work. We sometimes think language is a window or a reflection. Language is sometimes thought to be a tool that reveals the truth, the reality. This is a very problematic idea because it creates a separation between the person creating the image and another person receiving the message. It sets up an opposition between the text and ourselves. We want to understand in this course that images and sounds and spaces as always cultural events that are connected. You are part of the image. You may be looking at a magazine on the subway, see the image of Britney Spears, what you see in it depends on where you come from. You can see a certain form of femininity, racialized femininity, sexual identity. As soon as we look at the image as an event for the viewer, it becomes very complex. We have to understand how culture shapes our experience. All of the 4 artists we’ve looked at are very good examples of people who reflect on this relationship between culture and identity. Museums are notorious places where we can see this separation happening. In a natural history museum in the past you would see animals displayed in cases, this imagery creates an idea that animals and nature are objects for us to consume. A very violent kind of thing. To take something as beautiful as that, kill it and stick it in a box for people to look at. It’s also an example of how we think about language. The language museums use to display objects, all kinds of different things. The idea that if we study museums we can understand a lot about how we think about aesthetics, what beauty is, what value is, the value of things in the world. We can also think in the example of nature about how we turn nature itself into something that is aesthetic. Nature becomes something that we look at, we’re not connected to it, it’s just there, we turn it into some kind of image. When we go to Walt Disney movies, animals are turned into cute things for our entertainment. The idea that museums are places that historically have created our ideas about beauty in art. Museums have universalized a certain idea about beauty. Monet is supposedly a fantastic artist. Whether he is or not is an open ended question but a lot of institutions have pushed the idea that he is a great artist. I personally think 5% of Monet is great, the rest is not. There are people who have formulated the idea that Monet is a great artist and we think Monet is a great artist as part of this process. Aesthetics themselves have a history. This information on Kant is in Freeland. You can make reference to that section in Freeland. Kant is a very important modern philosopher. He thought aesthetics was something so given that you could create an aesthetic system, a system of ideas. Our ideas of beauty are not just given, we said previously. We can’t say, Monet is beautiful just because he’s beautiful. All these ideas about aesthetics are not universal, they came from somewhere. These ideas are part due to thinkers from the Enlightenment. The idea that beauty is universal comes from a certain brand of European philosophy. Kant thought aesthetic could be rationally codified and gridded out. In chemistry there is a table of chemical elements. Kant thought we can identify various elements of things we can say are beautiful and there is universal truth they are beautiful. Kant also had an idea that not only was there a universal table of aesthetics and beauty, but that this could create a disciplined viewer, a trained eye, a connoisseur. People who know what the grid is and know who is in and out of this set of aesthetic principles. We come to art school with a certain amount of this table in our heads. We’ve all learned that Monet is a great painter. I am trying to run some interference on this kind of universal aesthetics. Freeland says that the problem with this Kantian set of ideas is that it creates a certain kind of viewer, of reception of art. It’s the same one used in museums traditionally. She calls it distanced enjoyment. It’s an idea about art and 5 about the experience of art which sets up an opposition between the image and the person receiving the image. Museums create a certain kind of experience of art. When you go to Paris you must go to the Louvre, a temple of high art, the pinnacle of what we call art. You can feel this vortex, something sucking you in a certain direction, people running to see the Mona Lisa. Not looking at anything else. Then you get
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