Allright, I give. I’ve got a million things I want to say about DS106 Week 1, but if I don’t say something and hit publish, I’m never going to give myself permission to move on to week 2. Plus, I’m not part of the group conversation as long as these ideas are in my head. Rather than let the perfect be the enemy of the good I’m just going to hit the damn Publish button on my thoughts on Art, and come back to technology and The Wire later.
Thinking back over the videos for Open DS106 Unit 1, I’m struck by the feeling that they all treat Art as something selfish. I heard a lot about what the Artist is trying to do in their creation, and I heard a lot which suggests that Art is found in the viewer’s reaction. What I don’t remember hearing is the idea that Art is a mode of communication – that the creation and the reaction are inseparable (except by time and distance).
I think it’s worth it to conceive of Art as a very stylized (and slow) way of having a conversation. Certainly this addresses all of the points in the Rhett and Link video. Conversations are allowed to presuppose a certain base of knowledge. That can be as simple as a common language, or as complicated as an academic debate. Some conversations are easy, and some are hard, demanding active listening and a willingness to have your attention focused by the interests of another. So no, sometimes Art isn’t a transcendent eureka moment, sometimes it’s a hard slog to figure out what you’re supposed to get out of it.
This isn’t to say that it’s always the listener’s fault when the communication doesn’t happen. Particularly in Art, where the artist may be manipulating details and symbols very subtly (or more boldly than we’re used to), I think it’s important that the artist thinks about who they’re talking to, and why. Gaiman’s advice to try things in your art before someone tells you they can’t be done is terrific advice – but I think it implies a certain element of the scientific method. Fail again, fail better is a good slogan, but it requires that evaluation of what “better” would look like, and how we might reach it. (And particularly, to the extent that an artist fails to include groups in the conversation, I think they at least have an ethical obligation to ask themselves if they’re OK with that and why.)