Art Quote for the Day

Some contemporary art instructiors freely admit that art cannot be taught, and admitting it put them in a fundamental logical bind:  they say art cannot be taught and yet they go on teaching students who believe  they are learning art. I think most teachers would say that they don’t claim to teach art directly ; but on an institutional level, the schools and departments where they work continue to act as if art teaching might be taking place.  The two postitions – for and against the possibility of  teaching art – are incompatible.  Studio classes could be advertised as places where students learn techniques, or the vagaries of the art world, and that would be  consistent with ordinary teacher’s  claim not to know how to teach art directly.  Somewhere along the chain of command and publicity, from the ordinary studio art instructor up to the chairman, the dean , the public-relations department, and the trustees, the day-to-day skepticism about teaching art gets lost , and institutions typically end up making claims that their instructors really do teach art.

It seems to me that this indecision or unclarity or disinterest in exactly what we do is not at all a bad position to be in.  there is no need to teach without self-contradiction, or without letting students in on our indecision or incoherence.  The fact that it is so hard to know what it might mean to teach art tends to keep  teachers going; it spurs them to teach in many different ways. In that sense, teaching physics or television repair is much less engrossing, because there is no need to continually question the enterprise itself. So in that sense there is nothing wrong  with our inability to say exactly what we’re doing.  But it is also important not to forget that it is , after all , a logical contradiction, and that art instructors  work right at the center of the contradiction.

Why Art Cannot be Taught – A Handbook for Art Students by James Elkins

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