Ontological developments in contemporary art and their implications for value systems in art education
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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The subject of this study, which engages philosophy, art and the teaching of art, asks how art can be taught if it can be any thing. I characterise this status as 'open', meaning that it is epistemologically and ontologically unstable in ways which challenge our understanding of what an 'artwork' might constitute. The research looks to debates in the philosophy of art, for example, the definitional challenge of art, but especially to attempts to identify where the ontological distinctiveness of art lies if physicality fails to explain such distinctiveness. I argue that, although such debates have a relevance for the teaching of art at undergraduate level, this relevance is not widely acknowledged in the literature of art teaching. I first examine how openness is recognized and dealt with in art schools through the Benchmark Statement for art and design. I use a case study to explore the implications of open art with educational practitioners. I then ask whether art has always been problematical to teach and whether it is any more so in the context of contemporary art practices. Two accounts of value in art teaching (Ginsborg and de Duve) are examined in order to show how differently the practices which reflect that value can be interpreted and how the value is shifting as particular theories manifest themselves in art schools. I explore the relationship between theory and practice in the art school context, identifying six ways in which the term theory can be interpreted. Each way has implications for how art teaching is understood although I give special attention to an aspect of philosophical theory – the ontological structure of artworks – to argue that the teaching of art would meet the challenge of open art more readily by acknowledging, more overtly than is currently evident, the ontology of artworks.
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