1
Theory of Knowledge
Essay
Essay Question:
What counts as knowledge in the arts?
Discuss by comparing to one other
area o...
2
Art, the expression of creative skill, comprises a vast selection of genres,
medias, forms, periods and movements. Forms...
3
being that the same object can be comprehended both visually, verbally or
organically. Because the artist was successful...
4
As observed from Joseph Kosuth’s conceptual installation, not all artists
resolve to exhibit great technique. Another re...
5
Expressionism is a
style of art that seeks to
express emotional experience
rather than impressions of
the external world...
6
In the anthropology of art, the socio-cultural context of aesthetics (be it objects
used in beliefs and rituals or sculp...
7
So far the theory of
intentionalism has been discussed, but
on the other hand, does unintentional
art exist? If so, does...
8
Bibliography
Internet
• Annenberg Foundation, 2012. Man in daily life, The Universal Language.
<http://www.learner.org/i...
9
<http://www.newsdesk.umd.edu/scitech/release.cfm?ArticleID=1421>
[6/08/12]
• Vasari, G., 1946. Lives of the Artists: Bio...
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TOK - Theory of knowledge essay (what counts as knowledge in the arts)

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TOK - Theory of knowledge essay (what counts as knowledge in the arts)

  1. 1. 1 Theory of Knowledge Essay Essay Question: What counts as knowledge in the arts? Discuss by comparing to one other area of knowledge. Report word count: 1598 Number of pages: 9 Done by: Sarah Lee Shan Yun School: ACS (International), Singapore
  2. 2. 2 Art, the expression of creative skill, comprises a vast selection of genres, medias, forms, periods and movements. Forms comprise of anything from visual arts (paintings, installations, photography, etc.) to sound or written performances (music, theatre, dance, film, literature, etc.). Knowledge in art is an understanding or the presence of an opinion about a piece of art in the knower. It is assumed that knowledge in art exists, though this knowledge may be implicit, particularly because there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to interpret a piece of art. The question in this exploration would thus be: what is the nature of the information acquired from experiencing art, regardless of its source? Mathematics, by contrast, has a reputation for being explicit and discernable from the other areas of knowledge. Knowledge in mathematics, ostensibly, equates to an understanding of theories and formulas, as well as the methods of applying those devices in problem solving. The knowledge in mathematics contrasts significantly with the knowledge in art, although surprisingly, there are similarities, which will be discussed later in this essay. This investigation explores the following notions: that the artist’s intent (to communicate the brilliance of the human mind, societal meaning, culture, emotion) and the audience’s response, all count as knowledge in the arts. Intentionalism is the thesis that an artist’s intent possesses a determining role in the creation of an artwork (Livingston, 1951). To know what an artist is aiming to achieve in an art piece is to have knowledge of the artwork. For example, in the conceptual installation entitled ‘One and Three Chairs’ by Joseph Kosuth, the artist strives to encourage ‘an inquiry into the nature of art’ (MoMA, 1999), the implication Picture 1 – Joseph Kosuth, 1965, One and Three Chairs. Installation. The Museum of Modern Art.
  3. 3. 3 being that the same object can be comprehended both visually, verbally or organically. Because the artist was successful in deciding and disseminating his intentions, the audience thus achieves knowledge in the artwork. By contrast, the theory of intentionalism does not occur in mathematics because mathematicians discover knowledge, rather than create it. For example, the ancient Babylonians discovered the Pythagoras theorem through measurements and recordings of the lengths of right-angled triangles on ancient clay tablets (Smoller, 2001). It is impossible for mathematicians to elect the answer that they expect. The knowledge of the equation a2 + b2 = c2 is the output or result of the process of investigation, whereas in art, knowledge in the form of intention is the input in the process of expression. What, therefore, do artists intend to convey? Take for example Leonardo Da Vinci’s acclaimed portrait of ‘Mona Lisa’. Technical mastery was undoubtedly an intention of his – to capture the precise countenance on the subject’s visage. Could the mastery of skill or ability of the human mind, be counted as knowledge in the arts? From the painting, the knower acknowledges the level of competence of its creator and thus the intellectual capability of human beings to create. Personally, because I take Art as a subject in school, I understand how an artistic skill, just like any other skill, such as that of solving mathematical problems, contributes to an individual’s overall ability. Da Vinci, himself, has long been revered as the most diversely gifted genius in history – an artist, philosopher, inventor, scientist, architect, and most appropriately, a mathematician (Vasari, 1946). Up to this day mathematicians are constantly uncovering new theories and solutions to problems (e.g., the mapping of E8 lead by mathematician Jeffrey Adams in 2007 (Tune, 2007.)), imparting on us the knowledge that mathematics, just like the arts, reveals the perpetual brilliance of the human mind. Picture 2 – Leonardo Da Vinci, 1503-07, Mona Lisa. Oil on wood. The Louvre Museum.
  4. 4. 4 As observed from Joseph Kosuth’s conceptual installation, not all artists resolve to exhibit great technique. Another renowned artist, whom I have done extensive research on during my IB course, is Andy Warhol, a man celebrated as one of the most influential pop artists of all time. Often criticized for his ‘lack of talent’ (Colacello, 1990), Warhol aimed to distance himself from traditional ideals of proficiency in skill, placing more emphasis on the essence of his work – the hyperbole of the mass produced, popular culture of America in the 1950s to 1960s (Rosenberg, 2001). In any case, the knowledge consists of suggestions regarding society in general. Can mathematics, too, reveal knowledge concerning society? The Sistine Chapel in Vatican, designed by the architects Baccio Pontelli and Giovannio de Dolci between 1475 and 1481 (Sacred Destinations, 2010.), is an example of a masterpiece of both mathematics and art. One prominent element of the building would be the proportions of it’s length to breadth to height in the ratio 3:1:2 respectively. When interpreted mathematically, this knowledge reports the physical volume, structure and size of the design. When an artistic approach is taken into consideration, however, the refinement and magnificence of renaissance architecture is expressed, hence the notion that the knowledge in mathematics pertains to the tangible aspects of society whilst knowledge in the arts pertains to the more intangible psyche of mankind. Picture 3 – Andy Warhol, 1962, Soup Cans. Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. The Museum of Modern Art.
  5. 5. 5 Expressionism is a style of art that seeks to express emotional experience rather than impressions of the external world. Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ was sold for a hefty price of $120 million in May 2012 (Hayden, 2012), making the knowledge within the work relatively significant. Expressionism also prevails in music. One notable figure in the movement was Arnold Schoënberg, who experimented with unorthodox free atonality in his piano works (Schirmer, 2010). His composition entitled “Three Piano Pieces, No.1” expresses erratic variations in mood through abrupt shifts in tempo, dynamics, harmony and discordance. The artist’s emotions can therefore serve as knowledge in the arts, comprehended by the audience through sensory perception of the artist’s use of elements, principles and devices. How does this compare with mathematics as an area of knowledge? Emotion, as a way of knowing, is hardly associated with mathematics. Although, when one mentions the moment where Archimedes cried “eureka” and charged down the streets naked in excitement upon discovering the buoyancy principle (Russel, 2001), this hypothesis does not seem to be true. Whilst emotions may result from the revelation of knowledge, it is not however, the knowledge attained from the actual investigation. Emotions are learnt through the experiences of life, even before an understanding of simple reasoning is grasped (e.g., an infant’s cry upon the absence of a parent). Therefore, unlike in the arts, emotion is probably not knowledge in mathematics. Picture 4 – Edvard Munch, 1893, The Scream. Oil, tempera and pastel on cardboard. National Gallery, Oslo, Norway.
  6. 6. 6 In the anthropology of art, the socio-cultural context of aesthetics (be it objects used in beliefs and rituals or sculptural materials) is studied (Coote, 2009). Cave paintings in the Paleolithic era were the earliest form of art known to man (Encyclopedia of Art, 2012). The lion dance, performed in my country during the Chinese New Year period, forms a prominent element of Chinese culture. These are examples of art forms that reflect traditions and the customs of life surrounding the environment of the artist or performer. Through the analysis and examination of these crafts, we gain a better awareness the heritage and history of communities, old and new, therefore culture is knowledge in art. Can mathematics relate to culture as well? Mathematics is often described to be a ‘universal language’ (Annenberg Foundation, 2012) because in today’s world, most countries use the same symbols and numbers to communicate concepts through formulas and equations. However, this notion cannot be generalized because some populations in countries, such as China, still utilize different mathematical systems (i.e., the abacus, which I learned to use in primary school (Zhou, 2012)). Yet the number ‘1’, though communicated using different languages, fundamentally means the same thing. In essence, the concepts of mathematics remain the same (e.g., π will always equal 3.142… no matter how it is written) and thus culture is unlikely to be knowledge in mathematics. Picture 5 – Unknown, 2500000 – 10000 BCE, Paleolithic Cave Paintings. Minerals, ochres, burnt bone meal and charcoal mixed with water. UNESCO world heritage site.
  7. 7. 7 So far the theory of intentionalism has been discussed, but on the other hand, does unintentional art exist? If so, does it still possess knowledge? Elephant art is an example of anti-intentionalism, allowing the art piece to take on a life of its own. For my theory of knowledge presentation, Jackson Pollock, an abstract expressionist, was the focus of investigation, where a survey was conducted amongst my peers to determine the effect his paintings had on emotion. To some, his paintings reminded them of fabric, whilst to others, of vegetation and chaos. I came to realize that knowledge in art does not necessarily have to be inclined by the artist, but rather, may arise from the audience. The viewer’s own interpretation, be it the painting’s significance, value, meaning, emotion or culture, creates interest in the art piece, and thus knowledge, regardless of the artist’s intent. This explains how Jackson Pollock’s action paintings have long survived as a topic of discussion, fetching high prices in art auctions ($140 million (Vogel, 2006)), even though he does not provide much insight into the intentions of his paintings. Knowledge in mathematics, however, cannot vary because there is always a truth – i.e., the answer to a mathematical problem is always the same, regardless of the individual attempting to solve it. Though it may be evident that there is knowledge in art, it is difficult to define this knowledge, let alone ‘count’ or list it down. Perhaps there is no knowledge in art at all or perhaps the knowledge in art is limitless. However, a general idea of the information garnered through experiencing art tells us that the knowledge in art differs greatly from that of the other areas of knowledge, particularly in mathematics. It is only upon appreciating these differences that we get closer to understanding the theory of knowledge. Picture 6 – Nong Bank (Elephant), 2012, Untitled. Acrylic on canvas. Samutprakan Zoo, Thailand.
  8. 8. 8 Bibliography Internet • Annenberg Foundation, 2012. Man in daily life, The Universal Language. <http://www.learner.org/interactives/dailymath/language.html> [7/08/12] • Colacello, B., 1990. Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up. <http://www.warholstars.org/warhol/warhol1/andy/warhol/can/feld23.html> [6/08/12] • Coote, J., 2009. Anthropology of Art. <http://www.discoveranthropology.org.uk/about-anthropology/specialist- areas/anthropology-of-art.html?lang=> [7/08/12] • Encyclopedia of art, 2012. Earliest art. <http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/earliest-art.htm#first> [7/08/12] • Hayden, E., 2012. Buyer of Edvard Munch’s $120 million ‘Scream’ Revealed. <http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/07/12/buyer-of-edvard-munchs-120-million- scream-revealed/> [7/08/12] • Livingston, P., 1951. Intentionalism in Aesthetics. <http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/new_literar y_history/v029/29.4livingston.html> [6/08/12] • Rosenberg, J., 2001. Andy Warhol. <http://history1900s.about.com/od/artists/p/warhol.htm> [6/08/12] • Russel, D., 2001. Archimedes. <http://math.about.com/library/blbioarchimedes.htm> [7/08/12] • Sacred Destinations., 2010. Sistine Chapel. <http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/rome-sistine-chapel> [6/08/12] • Schirmer, G., 2010. Arnold Schoenberg. <http://www.schirmer.com/default.aspx?TabId=2419&State_2872=2&Compo serId_2872=1390> [7/08/12] • Smoller, L., 2001. Isaac Newton (1642-1727). <http://ualr.edu/lasmoller/newton.html> [6/08/12] • The Museum of Modern Art, 1999, MoMA Highlights <http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=81435> [6/08/12] • Tune, L., 2007. Math Breakthrough by UM-led Team Excites Congress and the World.
  9. 9. 9 <http://www.newsdesk.umd.edu/scitech/release.cfm?ArticleID=1421> [6/08/12] • Vasari, G., 1946. Lives of the Artists: Biographies of the Most Eminent Architects, Painters and Sculptors of Italy. <http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/vinci.html> [6/08/12] • Vogel, C., 2006. A Pollock is Sold Possibly for a Record Price. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/02/arts/design/02drip.html?_r=1> [7/08/12] • Zhou, R., 2012. The Chinese Abacus. <http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/culture/the-chinese-abacus.htm> [7/08/12] Pictures 1. Joseph Kosuth, 1965, One and Three Chairs. Installation. The Museum of Modern Art. <http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=81435> [6/08/12] 2. Leonardo Da Vinci, 1503-07, Mona Lisa. Oil on wood. The Louvre Museum. <http://www.davincithegenius.com/> [6/08/12] 3. Andy Warhol, 1962, Soup Cans. Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. The Museum of Modern Art. <http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1128/562288842_4317a25b67.jpg> [6/08/12] 4. Edvard Munch, 1893, The Scream. Oil, tempera and pastel on cardboard. National Gallery, Oslo, Norway. <http://www.arts-stew.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/The-Scream.jpg> [7/08/12] 5. Unknown, 2500000 – 10000 BCE, Paleolithic Cave Paintings. Minerals, ochres, burnt bone meal and charcoal mixed with water. UNESCO world heritage site. <http://leseyzies-tourist.info/tag/southwestern-france> [7/08/12] 6. Nong Bank (Elephant), 2012, Untitled. Acrylic on canvas. Samutprakan Zoo, Thailand. <http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/photo/2012-05/30/c_131620276_2.htm> [7/08/12]

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