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What Do Artists Know?

Edited by James Elkins

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: Penn State University Press

Series: The Stone Art Theory Institutes

Series Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Series Preface

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pp. ix-xii

In the usual course of things, art theory happens invisibly, without attracting attention. Concepts like picture, visual art, and realism circulate in newspapers, galleries, and museums as if they were as obvious and natural as words like dog, cat, and goldfish. Art theory is the air the art world breathes, and it is breathed carelessly, without thought. ...

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pp. 1-6

Welcome, everyone. This opening discussion is meant to be very informal: we’re just going to talk about some of the questions we hope to raise during the week of seminars. After today’s three-hour panel discussion, there will be twenty-seven hours of closed seminars, and then on Saturday the week will end with another public panel discussion. ...

The Seminars

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pp. 7-12

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1. Histories of Studio Art Teaching

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pp. 13-24

The idea in this first Seminar was to gather the principal accounts of the history of studio art instruction, in order to begin to understand the current state of art education. Readings in advance of the Seminar included histories by Nikolaus Pevsner, Carl Goldstein, and Stuart MacDonald. (They are cited in Section 3 of the Seminars.) ...

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2. What Parts of Those Histories Are Pertinent?

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pp. 25-32

Once we have a working idea about how to think about the history of how art has been taught, the next question is what individual ideas, exercises, and teaching methods from that history are still present in art instruction. From the Bauhaus, for example, we have the sequence from 2D to 4D, which is still common in art schools, ...

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3. The Possibility of a Book on Studio Art Instruction Worldwide

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pp. 33-38

The only part of the world where art instruction has been compared across several countries is the EU, thanks to the Bologna part of the world where art instruction has been compared across several countries is the EU, thanks to the Bologna part of the world where art instruction has been compared across several countries is the EU, thanks to the Bologna 1 ...

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4. Artistic Knowledge, Part 1

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pp. 39-46

We had two discussions directly on the subject of artistic knowledge. The first was a seminar led by Roy Sorensen, which is excerpted here. Sorensen reviewed philosophic arguments about knowledge in general, outside the art world. He is not an expert on art, but an analytic philosopher, known for books such as Blindspot (1988), ...

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5. Artistic Knowledge, Part 2

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pp. 47-58

That same afternoon, Frances Whitehead led a seminar on artistic knowledge. Her interest as a practitioner is in tacit knowledge: the question of what knowledge artists in particular can bring to the table. She has been involved in a series of linked civic initiatives, including the Embedded Artist Project with the City of Chicago Innovation Program 1 ...

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6. The First-Year Program

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pp. 59-76

From here to the end of the Seminars, the subject was individual degree programs: the first year, the BFA, the MFA, and finally the PhD. In each case the purpose was to understand the ideal form of the program or course. What does an MFA offer, in theory, that a BFA doesn’t? What are the best ways of thinking about the PhD? ...

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7. The BFA Degree

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pp. 77-82

The conversation here continued the discussion of the first year into a general discussion of the three-year BA or the four-year BFA. (The former is common in Europe; the latter in North America.)1 For this seminar the group read parts of Why Art Cannot Be Taught2 and other texts.3 ...

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8. The MFA Degree

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pp. 83-102

This seminar was partly devoted to a close reading of several texts, which should be read before this chapter is read: the current guidelines for the MFA, published by the College Art Association;1 and the chapter “Toward a Theory of the MFA” in Howard Singerman’s book Art Subjects.2 ...

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9. The PhD Degree

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pp. 103-122

This was the last seminar of the week, but it was on the subject most of us had wanted to talk about all week long. The PhD degree is still a small phenomenon in North America, but it is common and even prevalent in other parts of the world. In Malaysia and Australia, jobs teaching art at the college level commonly require the PhD. ...


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pp. 123-124

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The Place To Be

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pp. 125-127

As all participants in the Seminar agree, some of them quite willingly, others more reluctantly, studio art training has been characterized for the last few decades by presentness. However, this presentness appears less as grace, to make a bad paraphrase of Michael Fried’s famous words, ...

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pp. 128-130

The seminars are an impressive combination of erudite wit, earnest philosophy, and institutional hand-wringing. They perfectly capture anxieties over art education today, especially in relation to research. In their admirable zeal to explore the deficiencies of the contemporary academy, however, the seminars themselves mirror a widespread ...

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Art Education in a Mediatized World

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pp. 131-134

We live in a media-dominated knowledge society. This describes the situation that has prevailed in the Western world for some three decades. The laptop, the Internet, the mobile phone, the scanner and video camera have become integrated into and an extension of our physical and mental way of life. ...

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A Review

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pp. 135-138

The Fellows examined all sides of the question, What Do Artists Know? Their overall aim was to imagine an underlying theory for an art curriculum of necessary integrated skills and knowledge for artists from the undergraduate foundation level through the MFA and emerging PhD in studio practice. ...

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The Common Denominator

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pp. 139-142

It seems to me that artistic research is a concept that is as open to interpretation as art itself.1 When surveying the artistic research discourse, one finds multiple suggestions about what to call it, and endless alternatives on how to define its essentials. As James Elkins points out,2 a closer look at the MFA shows a similar lack of consensus. ...

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Thoughts on the Seminars

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pp. 143-145

I tend to be theoretical in my papers, at least where circumstances allow. In such cases, writing becomes for me a process of discovery: by the end of writing (if an end it is), I have learnt something that I did not know when I started; concepts have rearranged themselves in my mind in ways I did not anticipate, ...

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When Art Turns Its Back on the Body

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pp. 146-151

One of the more intriguing issues to emerge from the discussions at the Institute concerns the meaning of deskilling, particularly its significance for the constitution of fine art as a discipline within the broader framework of the university. This discussion emanated principally from a consideration of Howard Singerman’s text, ...

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Kant’s Assumption What the Artist Knows and the PhD for Visual Artists

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pp. 152-154

If we believe Plato, the artist knows and represents nothing but lies. Not only that, but such lies make men cry—make them act, that is, like women. Aristotle replies, in effect, “The artist knows less than the philosopher, that I grant you. But it’s also true that the artist knows more than the historian, because [his] mimetic representations are universal, ...

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What Might Artists Learn from Architects?

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pp. 155-157

As was observed during the 2009 Stone Summer Seminars, there seems to be conceptual, epistemological chaos surrounding the new studio-based PhD programs in art, especially concerning the use of the term “knowledge.” Perhaps to help address this chaos, it would be advantageous to look to related artistic fields. ...

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The War Is Over

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pp. 158-161

At a conference some time ago in Melbourne, Australia, where I live and work, we were discussing the current state of art school education (of course), and from the podium I looked out over the crowd onto at least three or four generations of people who were all part of this story: ...

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What’s Art Got To Do With It?

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pp. 162-165

Funny, at a time when so many young people identify as artists, so many theorists argue there is no point in looking to art. Many schools are dropping the “Art” prefix in preference for “Visual Culture,” “Creative Industry,” “Culture and Communication,” and so on. Mieke Bal puts the argument against art history this way: ...

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Art Education in the University Itself: A Perspective from General Education

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pp. 166-170

Writing this essay, I find myself asking, what do I care about university art education, when all I have done formally within the university setting with art students is to have given two lectures over the past two years?1 What does this have to do with me as an independent curator with no formal art (studio, theory, history) training ...

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Art and the Market of Knowledge

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pp. 171-174

The discussion about art education and teaching methods seems to revolve around the main question that the Seminars have posed: “What do artists know?” What seems to be evident is that if we localize and analyze the types of knowledge that make an artist, then we can discuss what we can teach and how we can do it—or even if we can do it at all. ...

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Knowledge and Value in Art

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pp. 175-177

Two of the main topics of interest in the seminar were about how art is currently taught around the world and what kinds of knowledge artists have. What struck me about this valuable debate is that there are differing standards and values in art education as compared with the education of science. ...

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What Is the Current State of Thinking on the PhD by Art Practice?

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pp. 178-180

What confronts today’s tertiary art institutions, their faculty, and, not least, art students is a complex and shifting geopolitical situation in which art and education are undergoing unpredictable transformations. Simply put, what role a PhD might play in fine arts education depends where one is. ...

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Spook Country: Training for Conflicts of Interest

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pp. 181-185

Art school can be memorable. Art schools can also make art history. Without going back too far, think of Nova Scotia and CalArts during the 1970s. Think of the buzz around Los Angeles’s art schools and London’s Goldsmiths during the 1990s. What stood out was their participation in the creation of what we now call contemporary art. ...

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Learning Education

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pp. 186-188

What do artists know? In the introduction to the Seminars, James Elkins compares his own take on this question with Frances Whitehead’s. While Elkins understands the question within an educational framework, Whitehead looks upon it in a broader context that also has bearing outside the educational system. ...

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What Artists Know

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pp. 189-192

In response to Professor Frances Whitehead’s list of the cognitive and operational virtues of artists (from the Seminar she conducted on artistic knowledge), we are presenting a more prosaic addendum, a filling in, as it were, of some abstractions. ...

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How Do Artists Think?

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pp. 193-195

The question, What do artists know? is stimulating and thought-provoking, as demonstrated by the lively roundtable discussions that followed from it. The question occupied me over the past few months, when I continually felt forced to draw the absurd conclusion that artists know nothing. ...

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Beyond Authority

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pp. 196-197

1. Formally, I found the almost random quality of conversation really difficult to hold onto. Even though there are bullet points, the back-and-forth nature of the interactions kept me zigzagging through the text. This was fun at first, but when I wanted to think of a way of responding, it was as if there were points of thought and suggestions but not a container for them. ...

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When Skill Becomes Attitude

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pp. 198-199

I come to this conversation as a specialist in the history and theory of craft. For me, the question of what artists know is inseparable from the question of skill. And the main thing to say about skill is that, almost uniquely among the variables in artistic production, it cannot be had easily. ...

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Twenty Theses on What Artists Know

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pp. 200-204

1.1. During the last decade the so-called Bologna Agreement has prompted many discussions and publications dealing with the academicization of art education, which, in my view, has led to an overvaluation of the concept of artistic research. ...

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Afterword: A Reserve Army of Intellectuals

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pp. 205-216

Perhaps it is significant how few artists are mentioned over the Seminar’s 270 manuscript pages, as though artists somehow had nothing to do with studio art teaching. And since I plan in the coming pages to read their absence as symptomatic of a problem I think is made quite clear by the Seminar, let me start by acknowledging that artists were missing from my book, too. ...

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Notes on the Contributors

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pp. 217-226

Areti Adamopoulou works at the Department of Plastic Arts and of the Sciences of the Arts at the University of Ioannina, Greece. Her publications include Postwar Greek Art: Visual Interventions in Space (in Greek) (2000); “Interpreting Space: Aspects of International Sculpture since 1960,” in Art and Landscape, ...


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pp. 227-228

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271058283
E-ISBN-10: 0271058285
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271054544
Print-ISBN-10: 0271054549

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: The Stone Art Theory Institutes

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Art -- Study and teaching -- Congresses.
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