Professor Clive Cazeaux: Do I have ideas or do ideas have me?

When I first saw this title it was like I was being asked whether the chicken or the egg came first. Until Professor Cazeaux moved on to talk about English philosopher John Locke’s tabula rasa (blank slate) philosophy. He said that the human mind is a blank slate when we are born. We have nothing until our senses are impressed upon the outside world leading us to form ideas. I think it is quite convincing. Discard all the basic senses as a human, for instance, thirst, hunger, anxiety or happiness, as it cannot be changed and our individual thoughts are empty. To define an individual content is dependent on how an individual has been changed by the surrounding environment and experience. We experience life, we learn, absorb, filter and regenerate our thoughts and ideas then gradually developing who we are.

An argument about ‘art is dead’ was brought up in the lecture. Duchamp’s readymade “Fountain” was used as an example. It was considered as a sign that it was end of artistic expression. The artist is no longer he or she who expresses from him or herself. They simply borrow readymade objects around them. This gesture means art can be anything. So why draw, paint or sculpt when we can do anything. If there is no material constraint, what can be art? It has really got me thinking that whether ‘art is died’ or the ‘skill is died’. In the modern art world details of art works are usually avoided or tend to be minimised, only important elements are maintained because the meaning and concept are dominated. That is to say the skills of artists have also been minimised and are no longer important as they have been replaced by ‘meaning’. Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ might not has any aesthetic value but, in my opinion, it included a successful modern art work element. His readymade ideas successfully diverted aesthetic in art from physical to conceptual.
In the lecture Professor Cazeaux also mentioned that we are living in a pattern that has been shaped by the environment around us, which makes us who we are. I partly agree with this. Although we are living in an environment has been shaped or constructed, I believe that we are free to make our choices and decisions about who we are. As artists and designers should be true to our own feelings.


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