Speakers were: Prof Berys Gaut (University of St Andrews); Prof Sue Golding (Greenwich University); Prof Mathew Kieran(University of Leeds); Prof Derek Matravers (Open University); Prof Peter Osborne (Kingston University); Dr Panayiota Vassilopoulou (Liverpool).
An interesting talk was given by Mathew Keiran, University of Leeds, entitled "The Resonances of Art". Kerian started by showing an image by Jane Alexander, "The Butcher Boys" which he saw in an exhibition in 1984 in South Africa. The artist Alexander is mostly referred to as South Africa's most difficult and least definable artist. Keiran expressed that this work of art triggers an emotional repellent, yet with consideration to how the body was idealised by the artist.
Those three mutants, as he called them, may seem threatening to many and to some extent predatory. Seeing this image for the first time, as an objective viewer and hearing Kerian's comments made me wonder whether they are predators or in fact petrified? For those on the other side of the world, those unknown to us and those who do not conform to our physical appearances, we may seem more of predators than the vice verse, perhaps because of our mannerism. Hence, it is rather hasty to jump to a conclusion that we, human beings, have the upper hand in actually deciding the "norms" and universalising the principles of art and beauty. Keiran claimed that experiences of works of art are subjective. There is critical disagreement where we present an impersonal meaning to the work, secondly, we transform our experience with the work, thirdly experience with works can become richer- meaning we take the time to reflect and evaluate, and finally, we revise our judgements. This latter perhaps suggests that works of art are interchangeable as well as our taste & judgement. For instance in David Hume's Standard of Taste, Keiran claims that there is a judgement of nature and colour. An example is Giuseppe Cesari called Cavaliere Aprino's painting "The Betrayal of Christ" painted between 1596-7 which has a narrative representation, in contract for instance to Cavaliere d'Aprino's painting "The taking of Christ" in 1602. The painting on the right has more subtle colours and depth while the one on the right "The Betrayal of Christ" suggests conflict and tension which gives the painting a further artistic dimension beyond color. Kerian explains that these kind of paintings push one towards relativism. He quoted, "human beings are inherently social hence inter & intra group identifies are central to us" (Sherif et al). One tends to value more aesthetic works that conform to ones' appreciation and caring notions, in other words works that relate more to personal experiences where one becomes "passionate" about them. However, Keiran gives an example of a person who has been brought up in North Wales and have been exposed only to a certain kind of music, i.e. Rock. Hence, identifies only with this kind of genre and acts upon that by seeking gigs that play such a genre. By this way, "access" plays a big role in forming our tendencies, taste, preference and sensibility to different works of art. Question then: How much can our previous experience contribute to forming what is or is not art? Kerian points at the danger of limitation if one always relates works of art to one's background, knowledge and experiences. One should maintain an openness to the work itself, Keiran adds. I agree and add onto this- no matter what the author/artist did in the past or while producing the work and regardless of who he/she is. A work of art can be relative, can be universal, it stands alone as it is and should not be judged otherwise...or should it?!