AESTHETIC EDUCATION OF THE COMMUNITY
with the colaboration of
the Research Group Corpos Informáticos
There are places destined to art as there are places destined to the insane, the elder, the ill, the women, the children.
“The prison... The prison-form... It was constituted without the judiciary, when throughout the whole body politic, the processes to separate individuals, settle and spatially distribute them, classify them, take from them the greatest time and strength, train their bodies, codify their continuous behavior, keep them in a gapless visibility, create around them a whole apparatus of observation, register and notations, constitute over them a knowledge that accumulates and centralizes.” 1
When the Impressionists created the Salon Des Independents, somehow they founded a new way for the artist to place himself before society. In opting to reach the public without sifting through the sieve of the official institutions, they affirmed their freedom before these. Art movements immediately posterior expressed themselves through manifests, that on the one hand legitimate the group work and recognize it as such, and on the other they bring the public into being.2 The exhibitions are also followed by theoretical discussions and other publications.
With Marcel Duchamp’s Ready-mades, artists become not only image creators, object catchers, and objects of action, but more aware of the questioning power of art. Then a critical, necessary, indispensable attitude is developed. It must have an analysis of the means used and a responsible relationship with the public. The historical development of these reflections bring us to a position which will later be that of some conceptual artists who wish themselves to be critics, in which art is not limited to work production but it must also build a capacity of recognizing a work as art, i.e., make the work and shape the observer’s view. Emmanuel Kant was the philosopher who expressed this thought in his Aesthetics.
The places where art work is exhibited, whether they are usually destined to art : institutional or conventional places, art galleries, IN-SITU, or they are ones not often destined for this purpose, noninstitutional and/or nonconventional, EX-SITU, are never neutral. On the one hand, the place or the ambient where the work is exhibited is a modifying element of it, while a place that, surrounding it, situates it - from the whole apprehended by the observer, the work of art is fragment, so this whole constitutes part of the specificity of each work - and on the other hand, and primarily, the public is always differentiated in different sites. Places destined to art are actual enclosures besides the symbolic enclosing little by little made for this artistic language. Only the initiated feel themselves invited for the IN-SITU, only the initiated dare to penetrate it. The artist is therefore frustrated from a social resonance.
Many circumstances brought artists to expose their art in places not normally destined to art. We can cite those projects which do not adapt themselves to the physical structures of museums and galleries, those which do not adapt themselves to the ideology of the institutionalized places, those that, voluntarily or not, disturb and are not accepted, and those that deliberately seek for differenciated places based or not in contestating attitudes. Many were the museums and galleries recently reformed to accomodate present projects, new architectonic structures. However, these still remain instruments of ideology 3, and the works there disposed are emptied of any disturbing, questioning, or contesting proposals. Legitimation relativizes any content be it critical or not.
There is still the alternative practice parallel or not to the IN-SITU one. It refers to a social and certainly political necessity, resulted from the reflections that bring back to art its function amid community, by penetrating with more or less discretion places unaccessible to art. This attitude is pejoratively so called by some as sixty-eightist. In the extreme opposite we find self-centered artists closed in purely academic ambients, who ignore (forget?) both a critical analisis of the content and means used, and the socio-cultural and political questioning power of the artistic language. And they, over all, probably ignore the community itself.
Obviously it is not enough to be in places not destined to art for the work to become EX-SITU. In the so-called First World, countless projects “EX-SITU” are sponsored for the publicity of marinas, hotels, to stimulate tourism... On the other hand, to what extent can a work IN-SITU divulged to a noninitiated community become EX-SITU? We might think about the few museums that open their doors until 11:00 pm and on weekends and holidays to reach different people.
If I claim that art is involved by a symbolic enclosure besides the physical one of the IN-SITU, as soon as I call something a work of art, no matter where it is located, the observer, whether initiated or not, will be motivated to create this enclosure and consequently place the object, whatever it is, inside a bell jar, creating the immediate and definitive aloofness that will impede any possible disturbance of the observer caused by the object. Then for it to be trully EX-SITU, the work should not even be announced as art!
Withdrawing art from the place destined to it means, somehow, to disfigure and deterritorialize it. On the one hand, as I early said, the place where the work is exhibited modifies and becomes part of it. This practice requires, to a certain extent, adaptation of the work to the chosen place (“to a certain extent” because the practice can also be totally differentiated according to the place of the installation). On the other hand, the unexpected confrontation with the public allows a first hand apprehension of the proposal. The artistic manifestation EX-SITU provokes an expectation of comprehension or satisfaction which, as fairly claimed by Abraham Moles and Elizabeth Rohmer 4, whets the perception, function of the attention level. Deterritorialized, the work deceives the observer and pilfers its symbolic enclosure.
When fullfilling a work amid a noninitiated public, one foments a mutual formation process: on the one hand is what we call the aesthetic education of community which, by perceiving the work, the aesthetic, and by unveiling a critical capacity, develops its perception; on the other hand is the artist reviewing his work through the reactions and analyses effected by the public. It is a reflective feedback and an incentive to the critical discussion of the work as a whole (its objectives, its methods) and over that specific actuation (this specific public, this installation) compared to other actuations. It is an elaboration of theoretical analyses, a stimulus to other practices. It is a research and a return back to community.
Some will object the possibility of fullfilling the aesthetic education of a community never informed, never motivated to have interest for art. Utopia. Yes, I refer to a work “ou-topos”, a work with a nonplace (and I will underline the ambiguity). I refer to sparks of education, residues of critical capacity. I would not intend to bring forth artists or art critics, but just found a possibility of an analytical look in what concerns images difused by the so-called mass media; a critical look at the daily reality.
Educating is to fullfill the formation and development of the human being. By “aesthetics” we understand a sensate knowledge, “the project of apprehending that which constitutes, for a given society, in a given moment of its own history, (...), the world that is sensate to it. 5 Or yet, “the sensate, the taste, and what is ‘goûter’ (experienced). There is no reason to reduce taste to good taste only, to the taste that judges the work of art. ‘Goûte’ (experiencing the taste) is to enter into a certain relation to the sensate...” 6 The aesthetic education is a process of the beings’sensibilization. It refers to allowing the formation of parameters through experimenting a relationship with the sensate. And, the IN-SITU being helplessly enclosed, therefore emptied of its critical capacity, the EX-SITU is the possibility of generating the aesthetic education of the community.
1. FOUCAULT, Michel, Vigiar e Punir, trad. L.M.P. Vassallo, Ed. Vozes, Petrópolis, 1977 (75), p. 207.
2. Not occasionally the term “manifest” involves a double meaning. On the one hand, a manifest is a written and public declaration that sets a government program, a literary movement, a group or an individual; on the other, it is “manifest” something whose existence is evident.
3. “One usually says: ‘dominant ideology’. This expression is incongruous. For what is ideology? It is precisely the idea while it dominates: the ideology can only be dominant. It is as fair to talk of ‘ideology of the dominant class’ because there is a dominated class, as it is inconsequent to talk of ‘dominant ideology’ because there is not a dominated ideology: on the ‘dominated’ side there is nothing, no ideology, save for precisely - and that is the last degree of alienation - the ideology that they are obliged (to symbolize, therefore to live) of lending to the class that dominates them.” BARTHES, Roland, Le plaisir du texte, col. Points, Ed. du Seuil, Paris, 1973, 105 pp., p.53 e 54.
4. MOLES, Abraham, ROHMER, Elizabeth, Théorie de Acts. Vers un Écologie des Actions, Ed. Casterman, Belgica, 1997.
5. FOREST, Fred, “Pour qui sonne le glas, ou les impostures de l’art contemporain”, in Quaderni, # 21, Paris, Autumn 1993, pp.119 to 140, p. 128.
6. DUFRENNE, Mikel, Esthéthique et Philosophie, tome II, ed. Kincksieck, 1976, p. 15.