Monday, October 20, 2008

Art is Everywhere is oriented towards global awareness of the visual world. The linked post reminds me of a one-shot class I sat in on recently with my parents on Family Day. It was taught by William Edelglass, the new philosophy prof that seems to be adored by every student who has come into contact with him. Personally my appreciation of William is centered around the conversations we've had, on Buddhism and Oscar Wilde (not at the same time), as my only philosophy course this semester is the 6-credit monster of a workload that is RLP. Attending the class gave me evidence to his coolness in relation to his teaching methods.

My experience with the class, titled "Philosophy of Art", was very interesting. At the beginning of the session, William pointed out several different objects he had on display. There was a Buddhist silk painting that pictured deities which he described in detail, a Tibetan box he used to hold chalk, part of a tree stump that had been polished, a stick that a beaver had chewed on, a painting done by his friend, half of a used tissue that he had taken from the men's room earlier that morning, and my favorite, the other half of that tissue inside of a picture frame. He asked us which ones were art. I can see now why it is that he is so beloved amongst philosophy students!

The most amazing part of the class was that the group work wasn't treachurous. I usually abhor group work assigned during class, with group work outside of class being more bearable but not often appreciated. I prefer individual efforts mixed with optional but frequent discussions on the course material. I don't know if I should give William credit for the phenomena of beneficial group work, but the questions that he asked of us probably helped. I was paired with a wonderful older woman named Willow and Nathaniel Doubleday's lively mom, both of whom had wonderful insight on the concept of art. Actually, I wasn't paired with them per se, we were merely instructed not to pair up with family members. The questions we were asked to discuss after picking a piece was:

Is this art?
If so, why?
Does it give you an aesthetic experience?
What is an aesthetic experience?

The most memorable topic we covered, as a group and as a whole class afterward, was whether or not human effort was significant in deeming things "art" or "not art". The tissue was not so much art, for it was not intended to be so and no effort or statement was put into either piece of the tissue. But what of the stick that a beaver had chewed on? It was certainly beautiful and interesting, but it seems that no effort went into making it either one of these things. What do you think? What makes something art, and where does effort fit into the equation?

I brought up Dadaism, which often does not display a large amount of human effort into making pieces pretty, but has evident effort put into the statement behind the piece.

Link found through swissmiss.

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