Featuring John Carey (What Good are the Arts?), Denis Dutton (The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution), and Sarah Thornton (Seven Days in the Art World), Friday’s What good are the arts? session has left me with questions rather than answers, and so in the spirit of giving I’m passing them right on to you. Please also bear in mind that my own educational background has taken the literature, libraries and psychology route, rather than the fine arts and high culture route, and that my current heroes include a lurching zombie and a man wearing an iron suit. Oh, and check out the Friday night audio wrap-up to hear me possibly insulting one of the world’s best and brightest experts in the art world. I am on fire here.
Here are a selection of some of the questions I wrote down. Some are comments from the speakers, some came from the audience, and some are just my own little musings. Ready?
1. Is there a rule that art critics and art writers can only use words of more than 5 syllables, all of which must end in -icity, -osity, -ality or -ism?
2. Is calling someone a neuroaesthetitian a compliment, an insult, or a job description?
3. If, as the Auckland Festival says, Ideas Need Words, does that make literature the highest form of art?
4. Can anyone, in fact, claim that there IS a highest form of art, or is all art appreciation an absolutely solitary and individual matter of personal taste? In other words, are there, as Denis Dutton says, universal and cross-cultural eternal values, or is it the case, as John Carey posits, that “you cannot be another being”, thus making it impossible for anyone to pass judgement on anyone’s taste?
5. Is there a a shop where you can buy paisley cravats and smoking jackets? And if so, can someone take me there right now?
6. If the purpose of art is to make us better people and to draw us closer together, does that make football a higher form of art than painting or poetry or sculpture?
Well, people? I just know you all have ideas and opinions about these questions … (Just please don’t get all shouty at me.)