On producing Designers

 

This week, I re-evaluated the position of emotion in the perception of art. Walking in a gallery, museum, or art-displaying-space, I used to purposefully let my senses roam freely, in a candid-school-of-fish-kind-of-way. As I would wander in the space I would let my senses swim through the reefs of works, pleading for a “something,” anything, a tickling, a hook (this where the metaphor becomes a bit dire…). However, rarely has there been any very stimulating trigger of feelings.

 

Then I got the idea of picking up a book, read the little blurbs offered at the entrance of the galleries; in order to get as much context as I could. This is when art became “interesting” in an intellectual level, but never really much more emotionally gripping. I then decided art was meant to be experienced by the artist and only “appreciated” by its audience.

 

I think this is partially due to what Lawrence Alloway points out at the end of his article: “the cumulative effect of post-studio [art forms] is a clear sign of stress, requiring changed forms of presentation.” Surprisingly for me that was said in 1972, and nearly nothing has seems to have changed since… I would like to address briefly this article however where the “art world” is referred to as a network rather than a hierarchy. I only partially agree, instead I would side more with “Museums, managers of consciousness,” where the notion of system, or network is recognized, but without ignoring the fact that just like any industry there is a resilient sense of hierarchy. Like an ecosystem, where artworks are nutrients cycled through a network of nodes or stakeholders, but in the end in terms of service, distribution, output, there remains a hierarchy in favor for the most efficient “producers”.

 

The ecosystem metaphor is not inopportune, as a matter of fact, during my Design for Sustainability 1 midterm, I was asked to make a case on whether Art Center was more like a corn field or more like a rainforest; ever since I have been comparing Art Center as a “system” to everything I encounter which may be even remotely close to a system. That’s where I realized that Art Center does make a very good case study as an industrialized-myth-factory. That’s also where I realized how old it is…

 

Of course this comparison could be dissected and drilled into for days, but in the big picture, I still struggle to clearly assess what Art Center (by “Art Center” I am talking from my overall perception of this infrastructure, from the point of view of a product design student) produces. Ideally, being a student here, I like to think they help me produce a better me… But after thinking about it, their main client isn’t the student paying their tuition for a set amount of terms or “refinement cycles” as much as it is the industry of design and (pretty commercial) art. Again, this may vary based on majors, but it seems to me that Art Center is also the manufacturer of consciousness, of A consciousness. I agree with Karl Marx when he says consciousness is a social product. It is. And Art Center is a manufacturer. The problem is that it is a school, or should be. And to force feed this consciousness is, to me immoral. It is like being a carpenter preaching creativity (which above all is about open-mindedness and open-heartedness) and receiving bamboo, pine, oaks, all sorts of woods only to turn them into doorstops.

 

I understand that it was opened as a trade-school. I understand that it was meant to be solely based on producing efficient designers and artists. However with time it seems that wasn’t enough to compete on the university market, so the word creativity appeared. Over night. Or so it seems to me ( I may be wrong, I haven’t done as much research about this as I’d like, creativity may have been at the heart of the school from its inception, in which case I find it even more revolting). The words change but the actions don’t, that’s often the problem with “industry leaders” if the old system works there is very little palpable incentive for change.

 

Change needs to happen nonetheless. The sad thing is that the message is coercively accurate, it calls for “dynamic-creative-innovative” thinkers, but does not support that in the facts. There can be change in many ways and not all must be applied. However, in the words of Alloway: the cumulative effect of the emergence of sustainable design, service design, design research is a clear sign of stress, requiring changed forms of presentation and delivery on many levels.

 

In order for this change to take place, these new means of presentation ought to instill new perceptive behaviors, where the “not-so-purposeful,” the experimental, the concept can be more fully (not necessarily easily) experienced.

 

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