As I read the Haraway and Lingis pieces this week, I felt like I was grasping at straws trying to relate them to art – not that there weren’t relevant points, but I didn’t come across anything revolutionary or ground-breaking in either reading that I felt was worthwhile exploring deeper. However, a lot of my personal beliefs fall in line with Dewey’s ideas and I can see a few correlations between his writing and the other two– “excesses” of energy, movement, “companion species” (in a sense.) However given the timeline of the writings, Haraway and Lingis’ writings were influenced by Dewey, rather than vice versa. I think the ideas presented in Dewey are more solidly grounded and easily approachable, while the other two writers still seem to be in the process of figuring out exactly what it is they’re trying to say.
Dewey seems to have a “there is artfulness in everything” approach to looking at things, which I share, but I also feel this is troubling because it seems to me that by the same logic, one could just as easily say there is artfulness in nothing, or there is not artfulness in anything. I’m not sure if this is something that is worth exploring more deeply, or it would justend up in another pointless discussion of “what is art?” I suppose that simply mentioning it demonstrates that it is at least somewhat important tome.
One quote which stood out to me was:
“Flowers can be enjoyed without knowing about the interactions of soil, air, moisture, and seeds of which they are the result. But they cannot be *understood* without taking just these interactions into account – and theoryis a matter of understanding… We cannot direct, save accidentally, the growth and flowering of plants, however lovely and enjoyed, without understanding their causal conditions.” (Dewey, 11)
I think this relates to my work and the DANM program as a whole in two very different ways: first, in order to truly grow and develop as an artist, it is important to have an understanding of art theory; second, it is important to realize that much can be appreciated simply through pure aesthetics. I think this second point is important because the DANM program is very strong in the theoretical and pedagogical training we get, but there seems to be almost an opposition to creating “art for art’s sake” or simply playful pieces – it often feels like *everything* we make must be solidly, theoretically grounded.
At a recent talk San Jose, I asked artist Scot Snibbe, “what are some things emerging artists can do to retain the element of play in their art practice?” His answer could be summarized as: “art schools kill creativity by attempting to ground everything in theory – make art for ‘fun’ as often as you can.” I’ve always felt like my “lack of knowledge” of traditional art theory and practice was a strength because I’d be coming at everything froma fresh angle, without any predisposed notions of how I’m supposed to act or respond to something because I’m now “an artist” and I’m still struggling with how to keep that “untainted naivety” while still being able to engage in the theoretical and philosophical questions which do interest me and do pertain to what I’m trying to accomplish through my work.