Friday, April 22, 2005

Classy art/ Artsy class

Here is a small blog-game about class, by Richard Rinehart, wittily called Reading Class.
ReadingClass is what Joseph Beuys called "social sculpture"- engagement with the intangible elements that shape our lives. ReadingClass uses social software to explore the social question of class. Specifically, ReadingClass is a multimedia game built inside an Internet blog; a blog being a set of standards and software used for online personal journals or conversation.

(...) if ReadingClass seems at times didactic; it is unapologetically so. ReadingClass strives to be journal and discussion forum - a cultural engine for revealing, exploring and critiquing social class.
The element of the game itself that I found really interesting is called Display, and here is a fragment of its description:
Stories seem very important to the lowest and highest classes. Lower class homes often display representation of family members (photos) or artistic productions of family members (junior's clay pot, etc). The homes of rich people I've been in rarely display family portraits, painted or otherwise despite the stereotype, but the stories remain, only now they are attached to photos and objets d'art obtained on trips abroad or from galleries. An object on display is worth only half it's potential class value if it is not accompanied by some sort of interesting story that is personally relevant to the owner. With display, the middle class is the odd man out. In their insecure efforts to achieve or hang onto their class status, they sometimes display objects or images that have no real relevance to their own lives, but rather to the lives they aspire to.
In my opinion this "class caracteristic" is really a question of what are the things important for you (to put it more dramatically: what are your values). The people who need a story behind the object want an insight into the world. Those who only need a kind-of-nice-picture seemingly have no need for that insight. Maybe they'd rather go off zapping to another channel, or their aesthetic needs are not so closely related to their need for narrative (there is a great contemporary philosopher, Charles Taylor -here are some of his books - , who talks a lot about the need for narrative and for values). What's even more interesting is that contemporary artists, too, could be analysed among these lines. And the distinction would not be between the "abstract" and "figurative" artists, but rather, between those who associate their work with some narrative(s) and those who don't feel the work needs a story. My personal affinities lie closer to the first group, but I can see where the second comes from. The bottom line is: can't one appreciate something for just being beautiful? Do we really always need more?


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