Conversations before the End of Time: Dialaogues on Art, Life & Spiritual Renewal / Context, Content and Community in Art Education: Beyond Postmodernism

Article excerpt

Gablik, S. (1995). Conversations before the end of time: Dialogues on art life & spiritual renewal. London: Thames & Hudson. 477 pages, (ISBN 0-500-01673-9).

Neperud, R. W. (Ed.). (1995). Context, content and community in art education: Beyond postmodernism. New York: Teachers College Press. 260 pages, (ISBN 0-8077-3444-6).

Two recent books addressing changes in the way art is being viewed, thought about, and taught, are Conversations Before the End of Time and Context, Content and Community in Art Education. Suzi Gablik's Conversations Before the End of Time is a collection of interviews between Gablik and 19 artists, writers, philosophers and critics. Context, Content and Community in Art Education is a collection of essays by art educators, philosophers, and researchers. First, these two texts will be described and then they will be compared and examined for their implications for art education.

Gablik's book addresses questions concerning the meaning and purpose of art in an age of postmodernism, social change, technological advances, and ecological disintegration. One of the central questions she poses is "How do you live in a time of decline, and what role does art have in such a time?" One of the strongest themes to emerge is that the locus of art has shifted from culturally sanctioned spaces, such as museums and galleries to social, natural, and community spaces.

Gablik discusses the complexities of this paradigm shift with Carol Becker, art administrator and author, Leo Castelli, gallery owner; Coco Fusco, artist; Arthur Danto, critic; Ellen Dissanayake, philosopher; Rachel Dutton and Rob Olds; artists, Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett, academician; Guerilla Girls, art activists; James Hillman, post Jungian psychological theorist; Mary Jane Jacob, curator; Hilton Kramer, critic; Satish Kumar, philosopher; Christopher Manes, author; Carolyn Merchant, environmental historian; Thomas Moore, philosopher and author; David Plante, author; Theodore Roszak, author; Richard Shusterman, professor of philosophy; and Laurie Zuckerman, artist. All of the viewpoints presented, except Kramer's, are postmodern and express beliefs that there is an interconnectedness between art, culture, and the environment.

One belief frequently expressed in many of the interviews is that the artworld is too closed off and isolated from everyday life, communities, and audiences. Jacob speaks about distancing her curatorial projects from museums and using other contexts, such as festivals and communities so that artists can interact and dialogue more with audiences. Seeing museums as being non-accessible to most people, Jacob suggests that art institutions have strong agendas and mandates that intervene between artists and their audiences. Becker, along with many others in the book, feels that mainstream museums and galleries have regarded artists as mere producers of commodities, and suggests that artists need to think more politically and globally.

Others in the book recognize a separation of art from life causing the aesthetic impoverishment of daily living and of the environment. Dutton and Olds, for example, explain how they gave up making art to learn survival skills so they can live more intimately with the earth. Shusterman contends that we need to move away from the notion of art on a wall to seeing our concrete and natural environments as spaces for aesthetic improvement. Like Shusterman, Kirschenblatt-Gimlett's interest in bringing aesthetics into daily living leads her to curate "vernacular practices"such as parades, gardening, banquets. Similarly, Kumar and Hillman claim that the arts belong to all of us and need to be returned, along with beauty, to our everyday world. One of the more well-known contemporary philosophers, Moore, espouses a return to the arts in everyday life so that the soul can be nurtured.

Another view of connected or interactive aesthetics is exemplified in the work of Fusco, who deals with the theme of "natives as other" and stages performances in non-art museum settings. …