Sunday, 31 January 2010

Understanding Bourdieu, Chapter 8

After making a horrendous amount of notes and being signed in and out of the Netlibrary several times, I now definitely Understand Bourdieu's view of cultural production; however it's very good to know now that I actually really enjoyed reading it and found myself able to read in one straight sitting and make notes that made sense to me.
So Bourdieu's main topic of concern is with people's taste, after our first lecture on friday I was a bit unsure as to how to answer the question 'how do you define taste?' What makes people interested in a particular style, music taste...there were obvious points such as your peers, advertising, but as a design student it made me think, what makes a designer distinct? How do you define how good they are? By popularilty? Who they work for? Are they self-made? Why should that matter, because they worked really hard?
Bourdieu believes that taste or culture is more to do with social class, status, and education more than any other factors.
In answering the question :What is art? We come across a principle which is known as 'disinterestedness' playing with the idea that the romantic notion associated with artists, that they are gifted beings, seperated from the world etc who make art of 'art's sake', create their work primarily not to make money. However to make some sort of statement, their individual mark on the world.
However in the field of cultural production this can prove interesting because it has no investment, it is a social event and symbolic.
I think to have an identity within the world is an important thing, everyone looks for definition and to tell other people, their friends, this is what I'm into, this is what I represent, and you are likely to go and look for other's who are interested in the same things as you.
Disinterestedness such as a particular genre of music 'Grunge' which they use as an example in Understand Bourdieu 'provides a sense of identity and a 'voice' for some young people' in a world where youth is hostile.

I find myself feeling that after reading the subheading 'Distinction' I felt I could relate this to my own past experiences...After many a school trip to an art gallery which was 'boring' and for 'old people' as most of my class would say, I was taken to many an art gallery by my parents, particularly my mum when I was younger.
Bourdieu explains that 'middle class people have a better idea of their 'taste' for art than working class because of their upbringing and social background.' He also suggests that an art museum which is free to the public is so in an undertone type manner..that the design and structure is catered more for middle class people and that working class people feel uneasy going to these places because they are fancy. I guess in some respects this is true, I also confirmed earlier that my flatmate agrees with this when I spoke to her about it, but when I was younger I never thought about it this way. I was taken to galleries etc by my mum because she's interested in art, my house is full of paintings and sketches by family members, from my dad's side who funnily enough isn't 'arty' in the slightest (so he says) I don't know I've just never seen myself or my family as 'middle class'...I guess this doesn't tell how my 'taste' for art is unless I went to a gallery and listed off some things that I liked. And depending on the works I listed, would that say something about me, whether I'm working/middle/upper class? A student? A snob? Political?
In my essay last term I was looking at the Japanese culture and particularly referenced a book called 'Learning from the Japanese City, East meets West in Urban Design'. So looking at how Bourdieu explains that symbols can be used to identify a nation, and how it is almost a must so that the nation can become distinct was very interesting to me. I love that every nation is defined by their particular influences, of course, not all to the same extent, for example Britain is a mesh of different countries put together with a lot of mixed nationalities living here too so distinct we are, but with a lot of variety, which makes us interesting.

The Structure of the Field explains that art is bifurcated, divided into two poles, heteronomous; pre-established forms, production line, art out to make money etc. And autonomous, free from social or economic influence, and that usually, artwork stands about between these two poles.

I do agree that for being a creator of particularly autonomous art, the reward is to have you're art recognized universally, to perhaps become a household name, this also comes with earning a lot of money for your famed work which once becomes famous the public will want copies of...which was the opposite of the non-goal..or was it? I have to say, you need to earn money to live, if you you work really hard and become a great artist by doing so and make money from it, why complain? It's a great achievement. On the other hand, I dislike that this art work could just be a commercial piece aimed at tourists which has been churned out before...
What would make it interesting for me, is creating something which helps people, I love getting lectures/talks by people who are on/have done the master's programme because they are amazing pieces of work which aim to aid people and usually things that make me think how...did they ever think of that? Where did they begin? If they become successful and earn money from it, it seems fair to me because they've come up with something innovative.
Bourdieu concludes that culture of production is 'unifying' because it tells a story of 'us' and represents ourselves and others, however it is also divisive and defines nations, communities and taste and understanding appear to be the effects of social order.

Which I guess it does, but I also think if it depends on your resources, for example the wealthiest countries for instance seem to be of a climate which has some sort of balance....third world countries tend to be extremes. Although I suppose that's going off the point of art and artists but just in terms of culture it's perhaps not all down to social order but natural balance and then trying to define ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really good summary! I often find that students take to Bourdieu as he makes you think differently about things we tend to take for granted. The whole book is worth reading and there are a couple of other good "introduction" books around, with different takes.
    I wouldn't recommend reading his own original work at this stage though - they're rather difficult reads!

    A lot of artists and designers willingly give up earning money in the early days to build up a reputation and contacts (social capital) they can then trade in later. The blogs are a way of building up social and cultural capital before you graduate rather than after :)

    We'll be returning to Bourdieu in the next lecture on taste...

    What did you make of the "culture as a game" bit?