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Towards a Farthing Party con report: Mad Art - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Towards a Farthing Party con report: Mad Art [Oct. 8th, 2013|01:08 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Mad Art. So this panel was somewhat about outsider art, somewhat about art by the literally mentally ill, and somewhat about the cool things we would not expect from art but get anyway because we live in a very weird future. (Example of the last: Balinese bluegrass. Really.) There was a lot of discussion about obsessive art, the people who build and build without particular permission or reinforcement from external factors, often with tiny fractal details. Henry Darger, Leaf By Niggle, Mary Lamb, Elizabeth Hand’s Mortal Love, The Fairy Feller’s Masterstroke, and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain all came up on this panel. One panelist talked about Burning Man experiences, another about photography and another about pottery.


There was significant annoyance from the panel at the fact that children are mostly taught that they don’t know how to draw, that we’re taught a left brain/right brain dichotomy that actual neuropsychological research has more or less completely overturned, and that there is cultural support for the idea of an art vs. technology gulf which doesn’t exist. One panelist proposed that art is a normal property of being human, including horrible situations like the Haitian kids since the earthquake. This position was particularly opposed to the idea that art was entirely inborn/magical as opposed to substantially the result of work and practice.


I was a little uncomfortable with the discussion of autistic artists as though they were a separate category from persons present in the room, a “them” rather than part of an “us,” but the person doing so did not in any way seem to think that “they” were a bad, wrong, or inexplicable “them.” Also at least one autistic artist present was comfortable adding to this part of the discussion, relating to autism, hyperfocus, and art, noting that not all hyperfocus is monofocus, so the us/them was not maintained; good.


I didn’t go to the Cordwainer Smith panel due to having some time to help entertain a certain really great baby. So that’s up through Sunday morning.




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Comments:
[User Picture]From: sartorias
2013-10-08 07:17 pm (UTC)
At some point, about second or third grade, the kids do that to themselves. Teachers can coo about how great all the art is that the kids make (and with utter sincerity, because adorable sums it all up if the kid is reasonably happy) but when they start comparing their art to one another's, then nothing the teacher says makes any difference. They all know who the class artist is.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-10-08 07:54 pm (UTC)
I believe you about the teacher (although not all teachers make even sincere efforts in encouraging kids), but I think it's a larger cultural thing than that. Drawing, just to take one skill example, is taken as a thing that some people can do and some people just can't. We would never stand for treating reading that way. Even in writing--you have to get to the "artistic" part of writing before people treat it that way. It's assumed that writing is a life skill that all the children should be taught--how to construct a sentence, how to construct a paragraph. But drawing is not treated in most cases like a similar technical skill. This is not culturally universal! There are cultures where certain amounts of technical drawing skill are assumed to be obtainable and are taught. That doesn't mean that no one recognizes who's "really really" good--just that the idea that your choices are "really really good" or nothing is not dominant there.

The thing where kids are allocated one skill or set of skills and told that that's their thing and then permitted not to learn the others--it has major overlap with math. Sure, there are people who have genuine math learning disabilities, wired-in, born-with. But there are also a great many more people who were taught that not everyone can do math, and that it's okay if you're no good at this, you don't have to learn much of it, it's a rare, precious, innate gift. Which: bah, I say. Bah.
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[User Picture]From: ashnistrike
2013-10-08 08:13 pm (UTC)
Weirdly, the part of American culture that's trying to counter that is the business world, where there are many books, classes, and rants devoted to the idea that everyone can express themselves visually. Dan Roam's Back of the Napkin books are a good example. Notable because it isn't often one hears the statement: here is a thing that American culture gets wrong that the corporate subculture is improving on.

Thank you for the Balinese bluegrass; that is delightful.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2013-10-08 08:31 pm (UTC)
Yes, this is true. (especially the bah!)
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[User Picture]From: sprrwhwk
2013-10-09 04:38 am (UTC)
I'm always a bit set back on my heels when I interact with people who grew up outside the Midwest who have the attitude you describe about visual art, directed towards music. Not everybody grew up with the kind of casual musicianship that was so common as to be unremarkable in my growing up.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-10-09 11:26 am (UTC)
Really not everybody did. Even in the Midwest, there are a fair number of kids who think that being a musician is a separate thing and not for the hoi polloi, which is sad and upsetting, but there we are.
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[User Picture]From: sprrwhwk
2013-10-10 02:42 am (UTC)
True, true.
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