AD 485: Theories and Practices in Art and Design
Goal and Objectives
The analysis of art and design is done on many levels, including a theoretical level. Understanding the prevailing theories of art and design enhances the creator’s awareness of a context for their own work as it is virtually impossible to create something without influences. Understanding the prevailing theories of art and design enhances a student’s ability to articulate the reasons for creating, clarify the cultural norms associated with creating, and interpret all of art and design as part of a larger whole.
Sometimes, the work comes easily and other times the work is a struggle. Application of a rigorous methodology of discovery is a vital aspect for lifelong creativity. While some students can function on an intuitive level for a very long time, most will realize that the creative process is indeed work. Whether such a methodology is used to understand and control a medium with greater skill or whether it is used to work through imminent deadlines and difficult concepts, such a methodology is a fundamental habit for artists and designers. Analysis, research, and iteration form the basic steps of such a methodology. A problem or technique is analyzed for what needs to be accomplished or what is missing. The problem or technique is then researched for potential solutions. Finally, the solutions are implemented in deliberate fashion over many iterations.
Is it art? Is it design? Is it craft? Is it good? Is it bad? Is it “high” art or “low” art? Functioning as an artist or designer must, by necessity, include some awareness of the value of the work being completed. As a creator, can something be sold in order to make a living? As a consumer, is an existing work worth purchasing? Is it even something that can be purchased or is it more ambiguous, like performance art? How is that value determined by society? And there is much more to “value” than the simple economics. Value includes the significance of an object determined by the individual, by cultures, by societies, and by historical relevance.
Increasingly, the relationship between the artist and the viewer is examined. Separating art from its intent or purpose, separating art from its interpretations and influences, and separating art from its form can lead to a lack of understanding about art. Remove the notions of functionality from an iPod and it just becomes a thing, and not a particularly interesting thing at that. Art and design is best understood in relation to the contexts of its making and viewing. Those contexts are shaped, largely, by cultural norms. Cultural differences directly affect acceptance and interpretation of art. Multi-cultural, cross-cultural, and inter-cultural responses are derived from the lives and social conditions of people. Creation and interpretation are cultural and personal responses.
Contemporary culture is influenced by fine art, computer games, manga, feature films, toy design, advertising, television programming, fashion design and the Internet. Arguably, the visual culture of a contemporary art and design student is created more through the television than the art gallery. The aesthetic of contemporary visual culture is based in part on intertextuality - knowledge comes from a variety of sources, not just the professional world of art and design. The social life (and business) of art and design is being redefined on a global scale as new hybrid cultures are established and technology shapes the exchange of information across borders. Visual expression influences and reflects social life. The relationship between people and objects should take into account individual knowledge and experience, but at the same time, groups come to knowledge based on situation and social conditions. Art and design is created and interpreted based on previous knowledge, recycling of imagery, and exposure to varieties of experience.
A core goal for the cognate program is the ability to be self-critical. Earlier courses in the cognate sequence emphasize critical awareness from the aspects of physical structures, visual structures, and social structures. Synthesis of physical/visual/social structures with historical and theoretical perspectives provides a more complete assessment. The critical aspect is the integration and synthesis of the various aspects of art and design to develop a cumulative awareness of the work.
Required Methods and Concepts
A survey of the prevailing theories of art and design serves as the basis for discussion over the course of the semester. It is recommended that such a survey is among the first lectures of the course to ensure a basic familiarity with the ideas of the theories. Individual theories and integration of the theories will be elaborated in subsequent discussions throughout the semester (see item 2 below).
Study and use of physical and visual structures required for production and use.
Study of production including cultural purposes of production, visual traditions, artists’ personal histories, ethnic backgrounds, and artistic intent. Context includes historical, cultural, political, social, economic, and spiritual conditions that affect production.
Experience and study the viewing circumstances including institutional settings, prior viewer knowledge, image recycling, influences of culture, and traditions of appreciation. Study includes cultural and personal influences on appreciation such as politics, education, institutional conditions, family, and mass media.
Study and articulate multiple perspectives including the meaning as interpreted by people in the context of production and personal interpretations. Study includes developing an understanding of consensus building.
To fully understand the value of a planned methodology of discovery, students must actually create and implement a methodology. An example of the analysis-research-iteration cycle would be a fifteen day-long project in which students create a structure for experimentation within their studio concentration. Each day, the experiment develops a bit differently and the steps are recorded. The results of the fifteen days are evaluated for their usefulness, though the final product itself may not be noteworthy. Examples: take a single negative and develop it with different techniques in each iteration; develop a different glaze mixture in each iteration; paint the same shape in each iteration with a different proportion of paint to glaze; carve the same form in each iteration with a slightly different stroke or tool; edit one clip of video with a different tempo and applying a different video effect in each iteration; or create a design template and cut a form from a different substrate in each iteration.
As the final course in the cognate sequence, students should possess a broad understanding of the various aspects of art and design. A comprehensive critical self-assessment includes evaluations of physical structure and technique, visual structure and design, social structure and concept, a place in historical development, and a synthesis of theoretical aspects. The self-assessment could take many forms including (but not limited to) a written paper, a class presentation, a blog, or a comprehensive portfolio (such as a website) including a statement.