Interpreting Contemporary Art in Art Education
It appears that the distinctive fate of contemporary art is to be confronted with indignation or mockery. Nathalie Heinich (1998) analyzed, amongst other features, the reactions of the public faced with works such as the Pont Neuf wrapped by Christo and Buren’s columns in the Palais Royal. All these cases bear witness to differences of opinion—irremediable—in terms of aesthetic values (between specialists and non-specialists). Of course, contemporary art seeks to deconstruct the framework of artistic creation, to subvert the codes and practices to such a degree that the interpretation of works becomes sometimes uncertain. Nevertheless, what comprised “the crisis of contemporary art” in France attests to a real controversy and reveals that denunciations are increasingly overt. Furthermore, in this case, this was not merely a popular and spontaneous reaction; the debate was one of ideas and, at certain points, reached a philosophical level. From this debate, first and foremost, on the criteria of aesthetic judgment and notions of taste, then on the role of the state in questions of culture, some recurrent reproaches emerge, in particular, aesthetic futility and the absence of content in an official art that is reserved for the initiated. Yet, the centres of contemporary art are not merely marginal, relegated to alternative galleries. This is a form of art that is supported, promoted by museums (and governmental bodies) (Heinich, 1999) —such as the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art. Therefore, one might expect that non-specialist visitors who venture into the museum would display a generally dissonant reaction. Still, contrary to expectations, Anne-Marie Émond’s work (2002-2006) shows the opposite we propose to explore this element of aesthetic experience in the current context of artistic education.
Keywords: Art Education, Aesthetic Experience, Museum, Contemporary Art
Dr. Anne-Marie Emond
Professor, Faculte des sciences de l'education, Universite de Montreal