Art Knowledge

ART in TOK TOK Theory Of Knowledge IB Diploma Year 2
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    1 BRETON, Andre. “ Manifesto du Surréalisme ” Paris, 1924   In this essay I intend to recognize what counts as knowledge in the arts by comparing it to another area of knowledge, in this case the natural sciences. But first we need to clearly define what we mean by Art and knowledge specifically. Art is a concept that many philosophers have tried to define, but due to its inherent subjective nature, there is currently no clear definition of what art is. The word “Art” comes from the latin  Ars or  Artis  which means practical skill, or professional skill, and was usually referred as the skill of creating poetry and music. Later art was also used to refer to the skill in creating sculpture and paintings. Though, the definition of art has changed as time went by. In ancient cultures art consisted mostly on mimesis,   which is the process by which we try to imitate and represent that which surrounds us with a certain degree of similarity. A clear example would be Neanderthal cave paintings which depicted animals and human figures. From then up to the XX century, art has been trying to imitate real life as detailed a way as possible. Greek sculptures are still revered today for their impressive realism in terms of anatomy and the behavior of hair and cloth. So right up until the beginnings of the XX century we could say that art is the representation of our objective reality through painting, writing or sculpting. Though, right at the beginnings of the XX century, artists started straying away from the previous concept of art as an accurate representation of reality and delved into an exploration of the abstract; with movements such as Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism and the like. Andre Breton, a surrealist poet and author wrote on the “Surrealist Manifesto” (1924):   “Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought.”  1 These artistic movements aimed to represent the intangible in everyday life, evoking feelings and emotions. So our whole concept of art as an ever-more accurate representation of reality, which would be consistent with more than 30,000 years of human history, was totally shattered with these new artistic movements that emerged not more than 100 years ago. Thus making it more difficult to pin down what we refer as “Art” in contemporary history. So then to define the concept I had to find specific criteria common to all art.    It has been created with a significant degree of aesthetic interest    It is created through the exploration of form in order to evoke feelings or represent physical reality.    It has to have an audience (Spectator) By the exploration of the form I mean exploring different arrangements of what already exists, for example music is the composition and arrangement of sound (different frequencies) in order to express emotion or mood, or painting which is the use of color and line arranged in such a way as to represent something else.    2  HUNGERFORD WOLFE, Margaret. “ Molly Bawn ” Dublin, 1878.   Knowledge is said to be a justified true belief, so basically it must be true, believed to be true by a consensus of people and there has to be a valid justification behind it. A straight-forward example of what knowledge is can be found in mathematics, using logic. The statement 2+2=4 is said to be true and accepted by a general consensus of people, and the justification behind it is that the number 2 is comprised by two units 1 + 1 = 2, thus, (2 + 2) is the same as saying ((1+1)+(1+1)) which gives us 4 units. Knowledge in mathematics is based on logic, since mathematics is an almost exclusively objective area of knowledge, yet when trying to define knowledge in the arts, using logic is not always effective, since art is said to be subjective in nature. You can tell whether or not a mathematical equation is wrong by testing and logic. We say that the statement 2+2=5 is wrong because we know that the number 5 is made up of five units, while a pair of twos adds up to only 4, thus the equation is wrong. Yet if you’re shown two different paintings of the same landscape or object, one cannot tell which one is the right one, since there is no one strict logical process by which art is created. Even trying to decide whether one is better than the other is impossible, since the quality of art is only to be decided by each individual spectator, there is a common saying which illustrates this idea. “Beauty lies   in the eye of the beholder”  2   Since most abstract and contemporary art is based on suggestion rather than objective depiction of what is trying to be shown or transmitted, the beholder   plays an important role in Art, since it is him that completes the piece of art, through his own experiences and emotions the beholder arrives at a very personal interpretation of what he or she is watching or experiencing. Thus, the knowledge transmitted through art cannot be measured or identified concretely since it varies from each individual perspective. Yet, even though the audience’s experience of art is completely subjective, from the artist’s perspective , while creating a piece of art, there are specific aspects relating to form and structure of the piece which might be considered knowledge. Take for example poetry, which has different predetermined structures such as the sonnet, which contains 14 lines only and has a strict rhyming pattern of a-b-a-b. Or the Haiku which is made up of three lines of up to 17 syllables. Poets choose the structures which best fit what they are trying to express. Or in music, where form is given with a variation of either repetition or alteration, and as in poetry there are fixed structures many composers have used throughout history, such as the Sonata or the Rondo. Artists not only have knowledge about the structure of art, but about the different units that make it up, like the quantification of syllables in poetry, repetition, tone and volume in music, or even physical segmentation and voice alteration in theatre. These are the “tools” per se, which artist make use of when creating their art as a mean to achieve a certain result. Just as in the natural sciences, where knowledge is attained through the scientific method, the Arts can also go through the same process to extract knowledge about how audiences react to the different arrangements of the form. The scientific method consists of five steps:    3  BENJAMIN, Walter. “ Das Passagenwerk  ”, Frankfurt 1982.      Forming a question    Creating a hypothesis    Making prediction(s)    Testing & acquiring results    Analysis of results A musician might want to explore the response of the audience to different frequencies of sound, so he creates a hypothesis, such as “The listener’s attenti on is affected by the frequency of the sounds ”  Then he might predict that for example, high frequency (pitch) sounds stimulate the listener’s attention, while low frequency sounds discourage attention. Then a group of test subjects might be placed in a room to listen to a musical piece with different variations of frequencies. Via electrodes placed in the head of the listeners it is possible to measure their attention, thus valid conclusions can be drawn from the experiment determining whether the predomina nce of high frequency or low frequency sounds have any effect in the listener’s attention. If there is any, then this knowledge might be used by the musician as a way to create different effects on the listener . Thus, from the artist’s perspective, the cre ation process of art, it is possible to extract knowledge about how the elements that composes it (sound, color, form, rhyme, etc.) function, in an objective way. Yet, even though it is possible to extract knowledge about these concrete aspects of the form or the behavior of the elements that constitute art, it is still impossible to predict what the audience will draw from Art, since the experience is exclusively subjective. Two subjects will never be able to see the same painting in exactly the same way. From the perspective of a spectator, knowledge about the form or behavior of that which constitutes art does not make his experience more valid or “justified” than that of a person with no previous knowledge of said aspects. Every spectator views art through a different scope, molded by his own previous experiences. “The image then is a condensation where past and present impressions coalesce into a knowledge figure.”  3 In conclusion, even though it is possible to study and draw knowledge from that which makes up art, through inductivism and the scientific method, it is impossible for us to identify the knowledge transmitted to a spectator or rather the one the spectator draws from art, since it is a completely subjective and personal experience. Knowledge in the arts only exists in the objective elements that compose its subjective product.


Jul 23, 2017

Third Bhava

Jul 23, 2017
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