Saturday, November 05, 2011

Aesthetics in the Classroom - What is the Purpose of Art?

What is the purpose of art?

This was the aesthetic question of the week and I had help from my student teacher, Kim, that has joined me for the rest of the semester.  It's been fun introducing her to one of my favorite parts of my art classroom - Artist of the Day!  I explained the aesthetic project I'm doing with my students, and she was eager to lend a helping hand with it, so she chose the video lineup for the week knowing what the aesthetic question was.  (We only had four this week because one day we had a shortened schedule for our end of the football season pep rally!)  I thought Kim selected some wonderful artists that might challenge the students' ideas about the purpose of art.  This was the lineup:
On Friday, after viewing the videos, they were given a handout that asked these questions:

We saw 4 videos this week that challenge the viewer's ideas of the purpose of art.  What do you think each of these artists' purpose for their art was?
  • Marcel Duchamp - urinal - "Fountain" -
  • Damien Hirst - diamond skull - "For the Love of God" -
  • James Turrell - sky reflector - "Sky Watch" -
  • Golan Levin - mechanical eye - "Double-Take (Snout)" -
What do you think the purpose of art is?
How did these artists challenge your own ideas about what art is for?

At the end of the day, Kim and I eagerly sat down to see what their responses were.  I have to say after 7 weeks of asking them to write down their opinions, they are gradually going deeper with their thinking.  I'll list a few of their responses for the reader:

"Fountain", Marcel Duchamp, readymade, 1917

What do you think each of these artists' purpose for their art was?
Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" -

  • he chose the urinal to create controversy
  • use it for humor
  • to challenge the concept of art itself by presenting something most people wouldn't expect
  • to show that the idea behind the art is more valuable than the art itself
  • to show that art doesn't have to be skillful or beautiful or even professional
  • (one student replied: I thought it was not art and not a good idea to do that)

"For the Love of God", Damien Hirst, 2007, platinum, diamonds, human teeth

Damien Hirst's "For the Love of God" -
  • to show that death isn't a demise, but a fabulous beginning of something
  • riches are useless when it comes to death
  • he wanted to make a visual metaphor of death's beauty and how when a person dies, their last memories and feelings will be forever frozen
  • art can be very valuable
  • death costs a lot (Ha!  Out of the mouths of babes!  If they only knew!)

"Skyspace", James Turrell, 

James Turrell's "Skyspace" -
  • to see the sky in a different way
  • a way to bring the sky closer to you
  • to show nature is calming
  • you can imagine being in the sky
  • that the sky is art, the universe is art, and everything is art
  • to give a persona a sense of solitude that only nature can bring and that can't usually be experienced in normal city life

"Double-Taker (Snout)", Golan Levin with Lawrence Hayhurst, Steven Benders and Fannie White, (2008) interactive installation

Golan Levin's "Snout" -
  • challenged people's belief that art was something for you to look at, and made so that it was looking at you
  • that technology can be made into art
  • humor on the whole security watch system
  • art can be fun
  • to show that someone is always watching
And, the larger questions for the day.....

What do you think the purpose of art is?
  • to express yourself and your talents
  • art serves as anything that evokes real, true emotions, whether they be good or bad
  • the purpose of art is to show that creativity can be endless, and that anyone can create it
  • I think the purpose of art is to let your conscious and subconscious mind let it's thoughts be reproduced through physical form
  • to entertain people and keep them asking questions
  • to express a feeling or emotion without the barrier of language or words
How did these artists challenge your own ideas about what art is for?
  • it made me think that art can be taken to a different level of critical thinking
  • art is more than just a drawing
  • by showing that art does not have to be amazing
  • they made me think more about what they're trying to say and I feel like art teaches me new ways to look at things
  • they showed me that art has no limit
  • their artwork is not traditional, but is testing the boundaries of creativity and originality
  • they made you think; art doesn't necessarily make you feel good - it just makes you feel
Awesome!  Admittedly, I just picked a few responses out of the many, but some of these responses were repeated frequently.  There were some students who didn't think the selections were art, and yes, some thought they were boring.  But those were in the small minority.  The large majority responded in a way that lets me know that their preconceived notions about art when they first entered the class are now expanding.  Artist of the Day has got them thinking, and that's the most I can hope for.

So, I asked my student teacher what she thought about Artist of the Day and this is what she said:

I think it's a good way to introduce a lot of different artists to the class that are not usually covered.  It's also a really good way to expose the students to the artists' processes and ideas.  When I was in art class I don't remember being able to hear the artist talk about their concepts and how they go about their work.  I really like the theme of the week - it helps organize the thought process that lies beneath the idea of the artwork.  And, it's a good way to show them more than one artist within that question for the week, so the students get a broader view of different interpretations of a concept or idea.  I am interested in continuing this when I have my own classroom.  And, I don't think this is good just for high school, but would also be great for elementary students.
Kim & me

Nice!  Passing on a passion (for me, my Artist of the Day) is not always an easy thing to do.  We are all unique and different, and what I love, others may not.  It pleases me that Kim has caught a little of the fever for Artist of the Day.  I get to see it six times a day and I love every minute of it.  Plus, I love it when the kids are as enthralled as I am in someone's work.  It's a time when we can come together in wonder and amazement.


Kim Paser said...

Also, it wasn't surprising that Golan Levin was the week favorite. We need to find more artist that use technology, humor, and or music in their artwork!

chris bain said...

I love what you are both doing with the Artist of the Day....and linking it to aesthetics...bravo! Of course, I'm just a little biased because I think that Christine and Kim are fabulous!

deer antler velvet said...

i think the purpose of rt is to make your mind works. deer antler velvet