Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Form or Context?

So, this past week found me reading in my Humanities book quite frequently (amidst panic readings of my American Heritage book for a midterm), and I came upon some subject matter that I found interesting. 

Formalism vs. Contextualism.

If you click on the word Formalism above, you will actually be privileged to watch a boring lady talk about a boring topic. Do it, it's boring. Anyway, I love reading/learning about things that I already do in my life, but in the scholastic world, have been very defined and regulated with terms and quantification. If you look at a painting, or sculpture, or artwork and wonder what a particular painting is expressing with all its colors and swirls and textures...then you have criticized art through formalist eyes. If, in turn, you realized that perhaps meaning in a given artwork might lie "outside of the frame", and question the artist's background, his religion, his style, and his philosophies and disposition on life...then you are, in reality, criticizing art through contextualism. Obviously, it would be hard to correctly understand art by simply taking one side and criticizing. The moments in our lives where we exhibit greatest understanding are those in which we take a unified approach.

We probably should not look at any given situation with the eyes of strict formalism or varying contextualism. Can we look at a person and, without any context of their life, come to a correct conclusion about the art of this person's existence? No. Can we read a book about the context of a person's life, without seeing them express their lines of movement and hues of humor, and expect to understand them? Not really. So, I guess I should apply that also to a painting the next time I see one.

Look familiar? In similar news, I had my first midterm today. I scored solidly between the confidence of an A and the mediocrity of a C. I had a talk with a relative yesterday indirectly about career choice and study plans. I feel like I have reached a very comforting place, where grades are not the focus of my education..but rather, knowledge. Do I care that if that test had ACTUALLY intended to test comprehension, that I would have gotten an A? Perhaps not. Am I bugged that I scored lower than desired because the test ACTUALLY wanted to confuse and badger? No sir, because now I truly am well versed in the Heritage of America. I don't care about the form OR the context of the test...they both sucked.


  1. I like your comments on form and context. And you are right, that lady in the video was boring. I like what you said about looking at a painting without understanding the context of their life or anything. I think that is why I struggle to understand art so much.

  2. I really what you've said about the form and context too. I do agree with you about the fact that we can't fully conclude about something without knowing both the it's form and context. I also like the fact that you are concentrating more on gaining the knowledge than an A. It's a key to success because instead of cramming, you will take your time to understand.

  3. i really liked how you described each of these terms. it help put them into perspective a bit more. i think that we are all quick to judge and we miss judge a lot. we need to step back and look at everything that factors into whats in front us then pass some form of judgement