Let’s Talk About It: What don’t I know?

Let’s start with the answer: I don’t know lots of things.

For all that I write about art, I don’t think I’ve ever claimed to be an expert – I certainly hope not, anyway. That’s always kind of been the point of Messy Lines, that I’m just writing about what I think of things rather than focusing on theory. But as I’m studying and gradually moving into different types of writing, there are places where knowing things is important. And there’s a lot to know. There’s the mechanics of art history – the who, how and when. There’s the theory they used, and the theories through which work is interpreted. There’s the history and modern politics of how all this art is displayed, and what that means for how we think about it.

Wanting to get to grips with at least some of this is why I began studying my MA last October. It was a very good decision, but – although it does – not simply because it gives me more awareness of academic ideas and vocabulary. It was a good idea because I really enjoy the modules and research – I’m the kind of person who likes getting stuck into an essay.

But has it fundamentally changed how I actually go and look at art? Not really. I have always maintained that art should be a primarily emotional experience and I stand by that. There’s sometimes a difference between art I love, and art I can academically appreciate. Again, when I write on here, I hope I make some distinction between the two.

This week a couple of things have made me think about how little I know about some things. Conversations heard between people where a concept is mentioned so casually, I’ve felt stupid for not knowing what it is. Is this what going to art school does for you?

I’m trying to stop worrying about this and turn it into a positive. Learning is good, and there’s so many books to read! I like books! Also I must remind myself that, as we all have, there are certainly things I do know about, well enough to write decently about. And no matter where I’m at, my opinion on art isn’t more or less valid. Knowledge can enhance my understanding of art, but this doesn’t mean it affects my gut response. Experiencing and academically understanding do not have to be inseparable. And while my love of art keeps me curious and wanting to know, the things I need to know will come in time.

Featured Image: still from ‘Tightrope’, Taus Makhacheva, 2015.

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