We Discuss #4: Recommended Reads


We Discuss #4: Recommended Reads

by Dwiputri Pertiwi


Art intersects with so many different disciplines that we often forget to talk about art in relation to itself. How would we begin a conversation that is dedicated to art alone? Below is a list of recommended articles, essays, and novels that you might want to check out before We Discuss #4.

1. The Exhibition-Machine: The Education Potential of an Exhibition by Mitha Budhyarto

“The kind of leaning that takes place in an exhibition is one that – despite lacking the formality and strict regulations of institutional education – mobilizes new ways of thinking and doing. Exhibitions educate us when it ignites lines of inquiries that we never expected before, when it propels us into thinking and feeling in ways we never have. Certainly not only about art practices, but also about the way we live our lives.”

Can exhibitions be an effective alternative learning platform? In what way can the “new ways of thinking and doing” be developed? Is there one kind of exhibition that is better than others?

2. The Great Swindle by Roger Scrouton

“Art must give offence, stepping out armed against the bourgeois taste for the conforming and the comfortable, which are simply other names for kitsch and cliché. The result of this is that offence itself becomes a cliché.”

What is the role – if there is one – of art?

3. Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag

“Interpretation does not, of course, always prevail. In fact, a great deal of today’s art may be understood as motivated by a flight from interpretation. To avoid interpretation, art may become parody. Or it may become abstract. Or it may become (‘merely’) decorative. Or it may become non-art.

The flight from interpretation seems particularly a feature of modern painting. Abstract painting is the attempt to have, in the ordinary sense, no content; there can be no interpretation. Pop Art works by the opposite means to the same result; using a content so blatant, so ‘what it is,’ it, too, ends by being uninterpretable.”

In Sontag’s opinion, the act of interpretation defeats the purpose of art because it emphasizes art’s content instead of the work of art itself.

The surrealist artist, Rene Magritte, thought that “questions like: ‘what does this picture mean, what does it represent?’ are only possible if one is incapable of seeing a picture in its truth.”

Do you agree with Sontag and Magritte’s view on interpretation?

4. The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebcq

“…to be an artist, in his view, was above all to be someone submissive. Someone who submitted himself to mysterious, unpredictable messages, that you would be led, for want of a better word and in the absence of any religious belief, to describe as institutions, messages which nonetheless commanded you in an imperious and categorical manner, without leaving the slightest possibility of escape—expect by losing any notion of integrity and self-respect.”

What makes an artist, an artist? Does one have to have specific qualities in order to be considered an “artist”?

5. Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

“…we need art because we are so forgetful. We are creatures of the body as well as of the mind, and so require art to stir our languid imaginations and motivate us in ways that mere philosophical expositions cannot. Many of our most important ideas get flattened and overlooked in everyday life, their truth rubbed off through casual use. We know intellectually that we should be kind and forgiving and empathetic, but such adjectives have a tendency to lose all their meaning until we meet with a work of art that grabs us through our senses and won’t let us go until we have properly remembered why these qualities matter and how badly society needs them for its balance and its sanity.”

Does this mean that good art have to shock us, that it must, as de Botton claims, “grab us through our senses”?


Event time and location:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

7—9 pm

Kinokuniya Plaza Senayan
(near the language section)
Jl. Asia Afrika 8
Sogo Plaza Senayan
Lt. 5
Jakarta 10270


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