Sunday, May 15, 2016

What Does it Mean to Grade Art with a Perfect Score?

It appears that the question at hand mostly pertains to either written works or music, at least, beyond the walls of academia. The foremen of academia will put their fingerprints on anything: essays, research, photography, poetry, sculptures, paintings, you name it. And although art competitions do exist outside of the academic setting (the often unmentioned Darwinian mode of existence that students must participate in - that's not even an indictment, by the way), the free artist has a choice of whether or not to submit their work to such competitions. In short, academia requires competition while art done out of free choice does not.

First, why infer that written works and music are the sole substances that are graded beyond the academic setting? Perhaps I am biased since I repetitiously take into account reviews for written works and music, but I don't think that other forms of art are judged in the same way. At the very least, other forms of art (I'm especially thinking of visual art), are not reviewed at the same rate.

Okay, so I'm naive. A quick Google search shows that popular media outlets like The Telegraph publish visual art reviews. Though nothing I said above completely contradicts this, I don't wish to be so naive as not to point out my own naivety.

All of this is a distraction from the question anyway. The question is not about who reviews what and in what way, nor is it about whether any art deserves a perfect score, but it is about what the meaning of the perfect score might possibly be.

Some of the possibilities that come to mind:

1) The reviewer does not detect any flaws whatsoever within the art

2) The reviewer recognizes some flaws, though they are not serious enough to distract from the general quality of the art

3) The reviewer takes into account the particular purpose of the art and believes that this purpose was achieved to the maximal degree

4) The reviewer is convinced that the maximal degree of the particular purpose of the art was nearly reached

I should like to now explain these four possibilities in greater detail. Regarding the first, it presupposes a general state of quality and that it is possible for a human creation to be without any flaws. The art has achieved that possibility. The second also presupposes a general state of quality. In this case, the art has not outright achieved the possibility of perfection, but labeling it as anything other than perfect seems like a disservice to the reviewer. With respect to the third possibility, it is more subjective than the prior two. No general state of quality has been established, so the reviewer must recognize a specific purpose that the art itself intended to fulfill. The art met this purpose without flaw and is therefore perfect. Finally, possibility four, like possibility three, also rejects a general state of quality for all works of art, though it makes room for considering the specific purpose of separate works of art. Though the particular art being examined is not without flaw, like possibility two, the faults are not so great as to render the art as being anything other than perfect.

It seems to me that possibilities three and four are used most often by art reviewers. If I am right, then perfect grades for art only indicate that these works are perfect within particular boundaries. The importance of such boundaries will vary from person to person, too. For instance, an avid consumer of modern art might be quite pleased with a single blue square on an otherwise empty canvas. But for an advocate of realism in the arts, this will be a case of the Emperor's New Clothes.

No comments:

Post a Comment