Szott, Gove and noticing things

I like Randall Szott’s blog – Lebenskünstler – a lot. He writes provocatively and with a great deal of well-placed skepticism about the art world.

In a recent post of his – I keep finding myself thinking/feeling that all of the things that distinguish an art project from some other thing/experience in the world are all of the things that make it less interesting, not more, that make it less vital, less luminous, less magical. – Why I wish art was more like National Lampoon’s Vacation – some sh*t I said to someone way more interesting than me – he quotes extensively from his own conversation with American artist Sal Randolph.

Here’s a bit:

My problem is that I find life so full of amazing poetic moments that I don’t need or want someone to go about trying to create them for me. Aesthetic experience is everywhere and I’ve found that art is too often about pointing to that experience, describing that experience, dissecting it on the latest critical altar, documenting it…

I like Szott’s provocation: if we are able to pay attention, to notice the things around us, then why bother with art at all?

The problem is, I suspect, that our innate ability to pay attention – to notice the “poetic moments”, and to taste “aesthetic experience” – is compromised as we leave our childhoods.

In an ideal world I imagine that one of the important aspects of learning about artistic experiences and ideas at school is that it values paying attention to what is around us.

The current UK Government’s Secretary of State for Education – Michael Gove – is placing such extraordinary emphasis on education being about getting the facts right (see, Polly Toynbee’s thoughts here: In Michael Gove’s world Jane Austen, Orwell and Dickens will die out that art, design, dance and drama – the very subjects that should welcome and nourish our ability to notice – are in deep danger of disappearing from high school curricula.

This is an ideological attack. It is a concerted attempt to devalue aesthetic experiences of all kinds because such experiences are related to our capacity to question and challenge the world we notice.

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