Art or N'art was the adult learning component of my Learning to Look series at the Harrison Public Library. I was asked to give a lecture in part on my work and in part on some topic of general interest on an evening in mid-August; the topic I chose was the nature of art. As a modernist, I get a lot of questions about whether what I focus on is "really art" or not, so I figured it would be a fun lens with which to look at the progression of art in the 21st century. The learning objectives were to identify the aspects of a display object that the audience for this talk considered constitutive of "art" and, through discussion" to begin to develop a working definition.
Using the slide deck (partially) seen here, we worked through art since 1900. Of the small crowd that showed up, folks started to get engaged with the "artiness" of the objects under discussion around surrealism. By intentionally choosing objects that pushed be bounds of traditional art forms, I sought to challenge the audience to think about the social construction of the art object. The conclusion that they came to was that the only object we looked at that wasn't art was Haacke's "Shapolsky et al." That was instead nicely presented investigative journalism.
One of the things that went really well was the selection of objects. Each piece served the purpose of the talk well and none of them went without some comment from the audience. One of the things that didn't go as well was overall participation. Of those comments, most of them came from one person. That one person was very engaged, but I would like to have been able to get more people involved. Next time I run an instruction session like this, I would cut down on the number of pieces. I would also like to make the artists discussed more diverse thant what I included here. This would add the learning objective "introduce artists excluded from the art historical canon to the audience" which I think is achievable given the response to this session.
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