Art Can Be Taught
John Baldessari, one of the early conceptual artists and one of the most well-known California conceptual artists has been teaching art for many years. In a recent article in Modern Painters magazine Baldessari says that art can’t be taught. I took a class with him as an undergrad and I have tons of respect for the guy but I will have to disagree (at least from one perspective).
Let me propose a working (high-level) definition of art:
an experiential relationship between an individual and a group of factors within a contextual frame that at once reflects and addresses other contextual frames.
(Needs help but it will do for now.)
Art (when defined as above) is something that can be logically understood. No matter if we are talking about painting, drawing, or performance art we will be talking about (1) the one who experiences it; (2) the art elements; (3) the “frame” of art; (4) the relationship between these three.
The Ontological Cage
The moment we delineate a “border” between what “is” and what “is not” art we define a “frame” for art. By the same action, we trigger the relationship between what we choose to consider art and that which we choose to exclude from this label.
The Art Frame Resides In Your Mind
Something is not “art” to an individual until it is considered or experienced by this individual through the conceptual “frame” of art. Through this we understand that the activation of the “art frame” is a conceptual process that we are able to control.
The Logical Frame
When we look at art as an exercise in classification and conceptual framing we realize that art is not as hard to understand as we think. From a high-level it is mostly logical in spite of its abstract and sometimes random appearance at lower levels.
The Logical Limitations of Art
Art, as we understand it today is “trapped” inside its own definition. It is trapped inside the either/or dynamic of the “definition” of what is art and what is not (either it is art or it is not). (We should note that classifications are exercises in logic.)
The Economic Frame
From an economic perspective art is also trapped inside the realm of form, (when was the last time you tried to “own” an abstract experience that didn’t have a physical form?) If you’re an art dealer when were you last able to sell an abstract experience to an art collector? (not documented in a physical form). When art is tied to economics it is also tied to physicality and physical form.
The Fully Expanded Art Frame
The end/beginning of a cycle in art is marked by the expansion of the art frame to encompass everything (all forms, all processes). This all-inclusive definition eliminates the boundary between what the individual considers “art” and “not art”. This may be one of the fully “mature” art relationship for an individual – the full expansion of the “art frame”.
Art Dependent on Learning
Art is a relationship in process. Like most relationships we learn to start them, we learn to experience them, we learn to change them and we even learn end them. Think of any relationship you have had. You learned how to interact from others.
Can Art Be Taught?
Well, first it depends on how we are defining art. But my concept here is that by the time we begin to address questions like these it is clear that the question is yes. The very fact that we are asking this question is a sign of a culture that considers art relevant worth discussin – this is something we learned to do. It is also a sign of a culture that may have art embedded in many of its own aspects. By the time we ask ourselves this question we should already know that the answer is yes – art can be taught. Most of us have learned about without even trying.
We learn to experience “art” due to training in the construction of conceptual frames. We are trained in art by formal and informal teachers such as our societies, cultures, teachers, peers, parents, media and others. Art and human society are deeply interrelated.
The question should not be “can art be taught”, but rather can we possibly grow up in today’s societies and NOT learn about art from someone, somehow?
Art is life and Life is art.