Professor Alan Roberts told us very seriously, “Collaborative, not competitive.” All my life, there’s been a sense that everyone placed everyone else and themselves along a hierarchy. PI+, PI and Honors Math, Regular, Dumb classes. U.S. News and World Report: Best Universities. MATH 161, 151, 131. I can go on forever really. Some aren’t even official rankings.
Doctor, Physicians Assistant, Nurse.
Economics, Public Policy, Political Science,…………… English. Visual Arts.
With this kind of mindset, superiority and inferiority are both unavoidable feelings. Alan tells us to “expel levels from your heads. We are all artists, we can all learn more from others.” Every time I’m thrown into an art class, I am reminded that putting people into levels like this for everything (of course, some levels still need to exist) causes people to overlook the strengths of others and that some things can’t be compared so linearly. How can you judge something if you’ve never tried to understand it or gave it a go? Sometimes I can get quite pretentious about myself after leaving the UChicago bubble. But can I ever be as suave and multi-tasking as a bartender? Can I ever have the patience to face a classroom of thirty screaming kidlets like a teacher does everyday? No, and I can sure as hell learn some really useful skills from them.
Did you know, Van Gogh wasn’t some crazy street bum that ran around France, cutting ears off left and right? He only cut a small, tiny piece of his ear, get it right. Van Gogh spoke fluently in four languages and wrote his all letters in those four languages, depending on the country of the addressed. He kept extensive journals of his thoughts and was an avid reader. His favorite authors were Victor Hugo, Harriet Beecher-Stowe, and Shakespeare. Hardly “low brow” interests. I guess my first lesson at Marchutz is this: many artists are also serious scholars. Both artists and scholars approach the world with a critical eye, looking for details that most do not notice, may it be the changing light at dusk or paradoxes in human behavior. Both participate actively in close-knit communities and are in constant dialogue with their peers. Collaborative workers, a bit eccentric and removed.
It occurred to me today that artists have a lot in common with the liberal, politically engaged, somewhat-druggie-and-hypersexual college students. When society was still rigid with their social rules and thoughts regarding sex, homosexuality, free speech etc, French artists were living it up on Mont-Martre discussing politics in the salons, sipping absinthe, sleeping with their mistresses and ….misters? Correct term or non? I find it impossible for any successful artist not to seriously reflect on their lives and their individuality, not do what society deems right or wrong but to rationalize for themselves what is right or wrong. I’m not saying some of the greatest artists weren’t mentally fucked up with psychological problems or had some pretty strange habits, but come on, many greats were weird.
End side rant.
Alan reiterated to us that this term, we are to make art our life, not contain it in the classroom. Art gods, take me up and let me achieve the change in how I interact with the world and self-knowledge he speaks of. It all starts with smelling more, looking harder, and soaking up your surroundings as much as possible. C’est une philosophie incroyable, non?