PS1 isn’t.

I finally made it to one of PS1’s Saturday concerts. I was disappointed. Sure the music and venue went well together and the $8 beer certainly helped remind me I was at a concert. But all in the art is limited in its appeal and lacking in its depth. I am now coming to terms with the idea that this particular museum houses the rejects from the more prominently located MoMa. But as far as rejects go this is no Salon of 1863, rather it is a conglomerate of artistic instillations that are nauseating in their attempt at  “ironic” art. Contemporary art cannot exist as a shadow of the violent and extraordinary gains of the 20th century. True that today we live in a post-modern world, a world where nearly every boundary ever to exist in the realm of art has been torn down. Yet that does not mean that everything today exists as art, in reality it is somewhat the opposite. With the boundaries destroyed and the internet thrusting communication to a instantaneous and global level, an artist today must be extremely diligent in getting recognized. PS1 and MoMa need to be beacons for these artists, they need to go out and explore the unknown, cast a wide net, and find the new. They need to protect the new and help it grow. We are hungry for the new, for the creative and provocative art of our generation. Stop giving us imitators of the modern! Give us the contemporary spirit that will create the next inspiring movement.

Become the now.

Huysmans out!

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The social responsibility of the art community

THe purpose of this blog was always to focus on the new in terms of literature and art as it related to the internet and the digital age. But purpose is a funny thing as my partner and I have used this blog to write about a bunch of other topics as well. That said I want to push the “purpose” even further and suggest that there is a social responsibility to the internet beyond its artistic potential. Not a new idea but not a well respected one either. The internet in terms of social issues is typically a dumping ground for frustration and anger. People who are upset use it as a platform to complain while those who are passionate use it to motivate and inspire. All valid uses. I have argued before about the potential issues with the democratization of journalism on the web and I have no interest in revisiting that with this post. I am not here to talk about reporting the news but discussing it instead. I don’t think this is art, I think it a responsibility of those with the ability to communicate. Though this blog communicates to very few in its prime and fewer still today it is my venue to communicate my thoughts. I want to use it to speak to the travesty of Trayvon Martin. This case greatly upset me, I felt angry and frustrated as an American to watch its outcome. I am a white American, born to privilege and living well on the East Coast. I have never known racial profiling and though sometimes can ethnically identify as a minority with my Jewish heritage, I have never felt the fear and disrespect racial prejudice brings. That said I believe Martin’s death to be the outcome of racial profiling and I believe the verdict of this trial to be the outcome of racial discrimination and a lack of understanding. That said I know there are those out there that agree with me and I know that like myself they want to do something, something to never let this happen again. I am still figuring out what that is and what it will look like (open to suggestions) but in the meantime I am using this blog as a call to arms for the social artists out there. We need the symbols of change, the signs of revolution and hope. Lead the people as our president is. Show the world that an injustice has occurred and it needs to be corrected.

The Art of Teaching Part 3: Observation

Continuing the posts on teaching and art or the art in teaching or what have you I want to now focus on the second general topic I outlined back in the first post, Observation. Arguably this is the easiest for me to describe and transform into a curriculum based on its importance in the already established science curriculum.

The bigger problem is not with how it is taught but rather with what it has to compete with in the classroom. The problem with the current science curriculum is in the artificial selection of content material deemed important to master at arbitrary grade levels. My students get way too caught up with memorizing the properties and names of rock types to be able to focus in on the simple task of observing them.

My opinion on science is not a new one but it has become more empowered after being a science teacher. In my opinion the most important element of “science” is how to ask and begin to answer questions. The actual facts and figures are irrelevant unless you are studying the relevance specifically. By that I mean geology and the properties of rocks are extremely important when taking geology. But in middle school science (which right now prides itself on being a hybrid of all sciences) the most important aspects are those that help develop your ability to approach the more difficult concepts later on. Ultimately what I am trying to say is that middle school should be devoted to teaching you how to be a scientists. The facts about rocks and elements you will forget by high school, which ironically is completely okay because it is retaught in the curriculum anyway.

So therefore if the content is arbitrary let’s just get rid of it and continue to teach it in high school. This would free up middle school to focus on what are called the process skills necessary for approaching that higher level content. I would be really nice to teach the cell for the first time in high school with all it’s parts rather than introduce it in 6th grade but with the disclaimer that there are only 5 organelles you need to be responsible for knowing. I never really understood what kind of message that sends to our students.

So this brings me to what this course on observation would be. Observation would be the overall theme for the three years, but it wouldn’t be the only element. Making inferences, hypotheses, conclusions, and so on would also take a significant role in this class. In a way you could call it a class on the Scientific Method, but fundamentally it will be a class on observation. Keep in mind the original idea of my first post, much of what we teach specifically is arbitrarily taught at that time except for the skills needed to learn (arithmetic, learning to read and write, how to make observations, and similar elements of elementary school are not arbitrary in their timing). But at the end of the day the most important part of what makes our specifies capable of developing science is our ability to observe, and with that our ability to record and make inferences from those observations.

A class focused around observation would teach that process in all its glory and have at the periphery the content elements through which this process can be practiced and mastered. But unlike our state curriculum which holds as its measure of mastery an 8th grade CONTENT test, I would make the focus of science to be about the process and therefore you will master my middle school science class when you can demonstrate your ability to make observations, and through those observations record and analyze your data to ultimately make conclusions.

thoughts?

-huysmans

The Art of Teaching Part 2: Creativity

Creativity as a subject is as I mentioned last time not new, but perhaps has not been fulling understood or executed. The idea behind it is to create an art like class that does more than just basic visual arts, it allows for students to discover what exactly they are creative in. But the problem is it rarely focuses on creativity as much as it focuses on talent. In the examples I have observed students do better by finding the medium they excel in, not creatively, but rather as a measure of talent.

Rather what a class based in creativity should be is a measure of how to think on your own. Creativity is not limited to art alone, it is something that we uniquely bring to everything we do. There is creativity in even the most basic human actions of eating and moving. When we teach it, and we should teach it, we need to focus not on exercises of talent in any specific field or medium but rather on how to do something your own way. In a sense such a class would fly in the face of your traditional subject classes which take so much time teaching a very specific, formulaic approach. So yes this would be rather difficult to incorporate into any traditional system already in place.

But It is necessary all the same. Success in life doesn’t come from following the rules but from breaking or augmenting them. I’m not suggesting that this be a class to teach revolution or decent but rather that it focus on the simple idea of thinking for yourself and in your own way. Those two ideas, simple in presentation yet complex in execution, would form the foundation of a creativity class essential for cultivating independent thinkers.

Lastly such class would need be early in the educational plan, save time for teaching specific ideas for later. Once a student has mastered the concepts of creativity they are ready to engage in history and science on a whole new level.

Thoughts?

-huysmans

The Art of Teaching, Part 1

For the next couple of weeks and perhaps a lot longer I will engage this blog in a series of discussions on the topic of teaching. More specifically on the relationship between art and teaching. This relationship, though unyieldingly general, is extremely important when its specifics are identified. I am/was (depending on the NYC budget and its cuts) a middle school science teacher at an inner city school. In addition to my science classes I also taught an art history/ appreciation class. Therefore when I talk about art and teaching I mean much more than teaching art or using art to teach content. Ultimately there is no end to where and how art relates to teaching and perhaps that is why an art critic like myself ended up as a teacher… of science.

Therefore in the next few weeks expect these posts to take no general form and to be full of errors and contradictions. I DO NOT WANT TO EDIT THESE. I want the ideas to flow, the mistakes to be apparent, and the evolution of thought as I and whomever else wants to participate engage in understanding what exactly the role of art is in education.

Let me start with this:
Were I to rethink and redesign education from the bare bones I would do away with the assumed four core classes of ELA (English Language Arts), Math, Social Studies, and Science and introduce an alternative four core classes as follows:

Creativity

Observation

Analytical Thought

Communication

When one makes it all the way to high school these would clearly not be the subjects, and in fact by high school a subject by any of these names should not exist as an option. What I mean by introducing these four subjects (most of which are not unfamiliar to education) are to suggest that these four ideas should be the focus of lower school education. These are four ideas, four concepts, four activities of our brain that are at the route of everything we do and everything that makes us uniquely human.

Thoughts?

-huysmans

The future of Cover Art

I want to start simply by saying I’m not sure where I stand on this or if there really is something to stand on. But for the past few years my friends and I have been wondering about the future of cover art in the music industry. Ever since the first album was “officially” released through programs like iTunes the question of the necessity of such a design came about. However if time is any indicator, it hasn’t phased it one bit.

But now comes the more interesting question. With the recent announcement from Amazon that the Kindle is outselling its hardcover equivalents, are the days of cover designs numbered? Not so unrelated is the example set by Project Gutenberg. The digitization of countless classic novels now considered to be in the public domain has rendered them coverless. Should you choose to download (for free… legally) a classic such as say… Washington Square by Henry James, you will find (at least in the case of the iBooks App for iProducts) there is no cover design. This is simply because it has been digitized as part of this project and is not being published by a publishing house, thus has no commissioned cover art.

Perhaps discussing classics is almost meaningless because despite how they are digitized, the hardcover equivalents continue to display cover art. But what happens when there are no more hardcovers? Will that happen?

Or put it more simply, why aren’t we digitizing the original cover art for these texts in the public domain? Perhaps that art is lost, or perhaps it predates cover art (my own understanding of the medium is limited, especially its historical evolution).

Ultimately it comes down to this: Will the art of cover design have a home in the digital evolution of music and literature? We already know that it can exist, but just because something can be there doesn’t necessarily mean it will be there. In the tangible form it was convenient because the cover was necessary. But in the digital world there is no cover.

So I leave the blogosphere with this question: What do you think is the fate of cover art?

-huysmans

Gaga or Duchamp or Selavy

For the past year I have been annoying my friends with the idea that Lady Gaga is the Marcel Duchamp of our times. Perhaps it is best to state that I don’t believe her to be an artist of the same caliber but rather I find her celebrity art lifestyle reminiscent of Duchamp’s alter ego, Rrose Selavy.

Rrose Selavy Portrait by Man Ray

Regardless I was pleasantly surprised this morning by a link my sister shared with me to Vogue’s website.

Gaga’s Art Piece.

I’m glad to see Lady Gaga recognizes the connection too. And honors it appropriately.

-huysmans