There is a question that has been tossed around by philosophers and art critics for decades: how much should an artist’s intention affect your interpretation of the work? Do the artist’s plans and motivations affect its meaning? Or is it completely up to the judgment of the viewer? Hayley Levitt explores the complex web of artistic interpretation.
Literature’s Emotional Lessons
Characters are fictitious abstractions, and, without actors to bring them to life and makeup and digital tricks to make the drama feel real, students may strictly do the analytical work teachers expect without the interference of a significant emotional response. That’s a bad thing. An emotional response should be part of the curriculum.
In the Minds of Others
Recent research shows that far from being a means to escape the social world, reading stories can actually improve your social skills by helping you better understand other human beings. The process of entering imagined worlds of fiction builds empathy and improves your ability to take another person’s point of view. It can even change your personality. The seemingly solitary act of holing up with a book, then, is actually an exercise in human interaction. It can hone your social brain, so that when you put your book down you may be better prepared for camaraderie, collaboration, even love.
Knowledge Questions: What role do expectations play in our sense perception? To what extent can our judgments be objective?
But the prank also points to a reality about the human mind: Consumers are not capable of discerning the quality and value of the things they buy, said Philip Graves, a consumer behavior consultant from Britain. Slap a fancy-sounding European label on $30 shoes, and you have an illusion of status that people will pay an exorbitant amount of money for.
This is similar to a prank Penn and Teller did at a restaurant telling people they were drinking fine waters but were actually drinking water from a garden hose behind the restaurant.
Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let’s find out.
A world famous violinist, Joshua Bell, set up to play in the middle of a busy train station in DC.
“Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment?”
Banksy Has Unannounced Art Sale with Genuine Signed Canvases in Central Park, Sells Almost Nothing
What is the value of artwork? How do we determine? Why did it matter whether people knew or didn’t know whether these were original works?
“For his 13th day in New York, Banksy pulled a fantastic prank on unsuspecting passersby in Central Park yesterday by setting up an unannounced art stall with dozens of 100% original signed canvases. In a world where copies of unlicensed Banksy works are available for a dime a dozen, it’s not inconceivable for somebody to peddle cheap knockoffs for $60 apiece. To further camouflage the artwork the booth was labeled simply “SPRAY ART” and manned by an unsuspecting old man who seemed completely uninterested in what he was doing.”
Knowledge Questions: What are the ethical limitations of artwork? To what extent are artists responsible for the reactions their work receives? What is the role of the audience in deciding the meaning of artwork? To what extent do the intentions of the artist matter in the interpretation of their work? What are the responsibilities of institutions in deciding what work is appropriate for display?
This is a topic that will never quite leave us. There are countless cases of “offensive” artwork and the reactions it gets. All of these provide great opportunities for TOK.
A Los Angeles School Planned to Whitewash a Mural That Offended Korean Activists—Until Shepard Fairey Stepped in to Defend It
Stanton’s work depicts the late actress Ava Gardner on a backdrop of blue and orange sun rays. It was targeted by Korean-American activists who complained that the sun-ray pattern is similar to that of the Japanese Imperial flag, which has become a symbol of the atrocities Japan committed before and during World War II, particularly in China and Korea. In response, the school district announced plans to cover it up.
Should Art That Infuriates Be Removed?
“Is the censorship, much less the destruction of art, abhorrent? Yes. Should people offended or outraged by an artwork or an exhibition mount protests? Absolutely. And might a museum have the foresight to frame a possibly controversial work of art through labels or programming? Yes, that, too. “
White Artist’s Painting of Emmett Till at Whitney Biennial Draws Protests
White free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.” She added that “contemporary art is a fundamentally white supremacist institution despite all our nice friends.”
Met Defends Suggestive Painting of Girl After Petition Calls for Its Removal
“The Metropolitan Museum of Art will not remove a controversial painting by the French painter known as Balthus from public display.”
- How do we determine whether art is “appropriate”?
- How does context affect the meaning of art? Notice how the quote below makes mention of the “current climate.” Should the “current climate” affect what is allowed to be displayed in a museum?
“Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses, The Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of children,” it reads.
Is censorship of artwork ever appropriate? If so, under what circumstances?
“A controversial mural of Hillary Clinton will be allowed to remain after the artist modified it from depicting the politician in a revealing swimsuit to one where she is wearing a burqa instead.”
These High School Murals Depict an Ugly History. Should They Go?
After hearing from both sides, the committee issued a statement that said the artwork “glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, Manifest Destiny, white supremacy, oppression, etc.” and does not represent the San Francisco school’s “values of social justice.”
Photograph that has attracted controversy for more than two decades attracts protests outside New York exhibition
Literary elites love to rep Shakespeare’s vocabulary: across his entire corpus, he uses 28,829 words, suggesting he knew over 100,000 words and arguably had the largest vocabulary, ever.
I decided to compare this data point against the most famous artists in hip hop. I used each artist’s first 35,000 lyrics. That way, prolific artists, such as Jay-Z, could be compared to newer artists, such as Drake.
Knowledge Questions: How do we define art? Is art/creativity the exclusive domain of humans?
AI can produce pictures, but can it create art for itself?
Creativity is something we closely associate with what it means to be human. But with digital technology now enabling machines to recognize, learn from and respond to humans and the world — from digital assistant
s to driverless cars — an inevitable question follows: Can machines be creative? And will artificial intelligence ever be able to make art?
A philosopher argues that an AI can’t be an artist
Human creative achievement, because of the way it is socially embedded, will not succumb to advances in artificial intelligence. To say otherwise is to misunderstand both what human beings are and what our creativity amounts to.
This claim is not absolute: it depends on the norms that we allow to govern our culture and our expectations of technology. Human beings have, in the past, attributed great power and genius even to lifeless totems. It is entirely possible that we will come to treat artificially intelligent machines as so vastly superior to us that we will naturally attribute creativity to them. Should that happen, it will not be because machines have outstripped us. It will be because we will have denigrated ourselves.
Warner Music Group Signs an Algorithm to a Record Deal
One of the newest additions to the group of artists working with Warner Music Group — taking a spot alongside names like Ed Sheeran, Madonna, Coldplay and Camilla Cabello — is a bundle of code. It’s under contract to release 20 albums this year.
The creator of the algorithm is sound startup Endel, which uses artificial intelligence to make personalized audio tracks aimed at boosting people’s mood or productivity.
Photogallery: Art Created by Artificial Intelligence
Art is in the eye of the community
So if the statue doesn’t provide an accurate idea of history, is it valid as a piece of public art? Jeff Hou, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Washington, says no. He says the public realm is accountable to one audience – the public.
“In the public realm, works of arts and design are subject to the public process. In other words, the public can have a say in what’s appropriate in a public space in a democracy,” he told me.
For my generation, editing your own image has become as routine as using social media. We grew up with airbrushing and Photoshop and saw the exposés of flawless magazine cover stars who weren’t flawless at all. Instead of rejecting the falsehoods we’ve made it part of our daily lives, crafting idealised digital versions of ourselves that feel like an essential corollary to real life. Technology has set a new standard for beauty that quite literally doesn’t exist in real life. Rather than reject that, we’ve embraced it.
“The multiculturalist syllabus was shaped by a belief in relativism and its daughters. The multiculturalists hold that it is impossible to determine the very best works of literature humanity has produced, because there can be no objective standard of quality or merit. Thus, students should be guided to read texts from as diverse a field of authors as possible and to view texts as political artefacts and nothing else; they are to be understood as evidence of ‘identities,’ the prima facie reality of human life.”
“The timeless storytelling of Homer, the complex characters of Shakespeare, the unparalleled wit of Voltaire are all of enduring value. But in many ways these texts are also, in this context, tools for the sculpting of the human spirit. The multiculturalists were wrong to abandon this fundamental goal 30 years ago, and they are wrong to abandon it now. Education must be more than a mere scavenger hunt for instances of oppression, cruelty, and hatred. It must ask how each of us can live better. The multicultural canon offers the voices of more individuals, but fewer opportunities for the student to look beyond the polis and into his own being.”