Act 1: A discussion at the Presidio, San Francisco Bay
Hey, let’s walk to the bridge.
Why? What for?
We’re not going to cross it anyway.
No, of course we’re not, but it’s a beautiful bridge, isn’t it?
O’ come on.
A bridge is a bridge!
And you’re supposed to cross it once you reach it.
No, not necessarily, we can stand on it and see the San Francisco Bay, and the Pacific…
That… might not be possible, since it’s not a footbridge.
Fine, then we’ll stand under it and appreciate the beauty of its structure, its red colour……
My dear, a bridge is a bridge, it’s not a work of art, and it can’t be because there’s a purpose to it.
Well, yes, a bridge is a bridge, however…
Not all bridges are the same; some are aesthetically more pleasing than the others.
It’s the beauty that one appreciates, if, if you find it beautiful I mean.
If you insist, however, a bridge is a bridge, regardless. How beautiful could an object of utility be after all?
Anyways, when do you have your final thesis at the college?
Start of January, second week perhaps. But the preview and public viewing is always after the juries.
Final critique I mean.
How is it generally? What do the students theorise in the end? I mean what do they present before the jury panel? Is it something like a new art theory or a new approach?
Well, yes and no, in a way. At times it’s something very personal. It’s basically how well they’ve understood themselves and explored their creative side during their student years. Thesis project is the culmination of the understanding of the discipline they have developed over a period of four or five years. It’s also about their power of imagination and how far they have been able to develop it. And more importantly, do they trust their power of imagination, have they learnt to trust their imagination. But to be honest, it’s all kind of complicated because in recent practices art is increasingly based on ideas and concepts. So theory does become a part of thesis but it stays in the background, rather it should. After all, thesis can’t be mere illustration of theory, that’s not what it’s supposed to do. Art, I think, has wider concerns. It’s like a leap of faith, exploration of the great unknown. It helps you connect with the human in you.
We do encourage the students to explore their individual concerns, experiences, and their life in short.
A thesis project is a life lived!
And a thesis show is a chronicle of time!
If the institution has kept an organised repository of thesis shows over the years, one can discover and explore how the discourse on art has evolved in the past and how those debates have transformed over the years leading to new sensibilities and artistic concerns. It’s history in the making, truly a chronicle of time.
Is it a big event?
It’s remains mostly exclusive, not so much of a public event in the true sense but it is a spectacle nevertheless!
There’s an exclusive preview a day before it opens for the public viewing and that’s strictly by invitation only. The main thing is that all the departments of the college get to display their thesis projects at the same time. So the thesis preview in a way is a true reflection of the ethos of art education that the college has always believed in. It’s the coming together of all the mediums of expression; art, design, architecture, film and music in one space and time, sharing the sensibilities that are common to all. One doesn’t have to try very hard to discover the connecting thread.
It serves as an opportunity for a visitor to reconnect with oneself through art and be able to do some reflective thinking. It’s indeed contemplative for some and for some it’s a social event that’s not to be missed under any circumstance.
Then all the who’s who of society must also be there for the preview?
Well, it’s generally the artist community; people from the visual arts, performing arts, architecture, design and literature. There are art connoisseurs and art buyers and people who are generally interested in art that also come to the preview.
Socialites are also there, both accomplished and budding; you know they have to be seen as one must have Interest in art, or at least pretend to have to qualify as a person of culture.
The event is also widely covered by the media, both print and electronic. And we can’t ignore the role and importance of the social media these days, the thesis show is posted and discussed on the Facebook for days.
Act2: On the day of the preview
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo[i]
Fine Art thesis is better this year, what do you think?
I like the painting thesis. Miniature is also interesting; at least they’ve tried to do something new with tradition, otherwise it was getting really boring each year. I mean how long one can cling to tradition, it becomes repetitive and meaningless. It’s like any faithful craftsperson who knows his craft but he’s not sure why he’s making it.
Why do you always have to look for meanings in art? It doesn’t always have to mean something. Sometimes one should be able to simply enjoy an aesthetic object.
You know it’s a problem with you, you read too many books and I know that this year again you’re going to buy a painting that you think is meaningful and eventually end up hating it. You’ll be stuck with it forever; nobody’s interested in a painting that’s meaningful but not pleasing to the eye. Art should be delightful in the first place.
O’ stop being a connoisseur, that’s so nineteenth century. One should rather approach and appreciate a work of art from a critic’s eye. How can you separate ideas from art? Do you know how important critical thinking is these days?
Well that’s fine, but I know you’re going to waste your money again. For once you should buy something of worth rather than value. Art is a good investment provided you invest wisely and you are able to judge the worth of an art piece intelligently. It is the worth of an art work that matters, who’s bothered about value and significance. Value is for art historians and critics, they are the ones who can’t afford art. They can only talk and write about art works hanging in galleries and museums, without owning one. Try to learn and pick up some tips on buying art from the reputed auction houses.
Anyways, have you seen the architecture show?
Yes I have but I don’t understand what they have designed. All of them look like from the space age, cyberspace rather, that would be a more appropriate word for those works.
I think all the sophisticated pirated software is to be blamed. I wonder what they’re trying to make their buildings look like. It should be architecture and not digital art after all.
Seems like all the architecture students have become allergic to architecture, some are making films, some are designing sculptures and some are producing graphic art.
I guess somebody needs to explain their work with more clarity, or more simply perhaps, but who’s bothered anyways. People come to see the Fine Arts thesis mainly; architecture show is not for everyone. I guess only architects can understand those drawings.
That’s right, but have you noticed that some of the architecture works are quite aesthetically pleasing. In their presentation at least if not for what they have presented in those drawings, just as drawings, if you forget for a moment that they are drawings of buildings that are yet to be built. Imagine them hanging on the wall along with other paintings, they can possibly qualify as works of art, don’t they!
Maybe, but the point is that are they really conscious of that? Do they know exactly what they are doing or is it yet another cliché, inspired from somewhere and half understood before it’s implemented in the form of a thesis project. Are you sure those are real ideas and not merely a style?
I guess they are, or at least they are trying hard to get there, though it must be very difficult for them to break away from the conventional perception and understanding of architecture and architectural drawings and look at it anew as an art object, a final thing in itself and not a mere representation of some building somewhere.
They don’t claim to design buildings in architectural thesis projects now a day; they say that they design the built environment, both in the physical and the psychological sense. It’s a brave new world of ideas out there; I guess we have to be brave enough to accept it.
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.[ii]
A drawing is a drawing!
And an architectural drawing is an architectural drawing, with all the technical details and measurements of things to be constructed. It’s a preamble to something, means to an end, not an end in itself.
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?[iii]
No, no, not really. Rather they believe in something totally contrary to that. They like to confuse everything, drawing with drafting, painting with print and architecture with fine art. In a good way I guess.
Even architecture is not strictly tied to utility. Vitruvian ideals of “commodity, firmness and delight” are completely out dated. It’s the age of ideas and experimentation, of stretching boundaries.
Architecture is now interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, trans-disciplinary, and multidisciplinary; it’s all hair splitting debate.
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, what is it?[iv]
Curtains down, it’s five o clock, we’re closing.
End of the preview, we’re open for the regular public viewing from tomorrow morning.
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”[v]
A bridge is a bridge!
[i] From T.S. Eliot’s The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock