Published in The Practice of Public Art, Edited by Cameron Cartiere and Shelly Willis

The Art of the Question

* When/why should I ask questions?
* What do I hope to achieve with my questions?
* Where should I start? What questions should I ask?
* How should I ask my questions?
* What question should I ask first, since everything is so intricately interconnected?
* What question can I ask that would go beyond the surface appearance of any problem and expose the inner multilayered complexity?
* Where should I start my questions from, since the social system outside of me, my role as a human being, and the entire practice of academic/“intellectual” learning, education, and even questioning
are questionable in and of themselves?
* What system can I follow that would question my questions?
* Are my questions genuine, or only an expression of some intellectual trend, and/or current cultural fashion?
* How can I ask questions, so that they do not get coopted and simply become part of the status quo/larger trends?
* What question can I ask that is beyond the current fashions, tastes, and trends?
* How are my questions affected by my time, location, culture, language, etc.?
* How can I ask questions that challenge prior assumptions?
* Who is going to answer these questions, if the system at large is questionable?
* How am I going to even think and search for answers, since I don’t even know the correct/real way of thinking?
* How can I look for a correct answer, since I haven’t been taught how to find and discover truth?
* What is true thinking anyway, since I’m pretty sure it’s not about deciding what to eat for dinner, what movie to see, or what clothes to wear?
* How can I even use my mind beyond its constructed/established parameters?
* Shouldn’t my questions first and foremost concern me?
* Should I just ignore questions like who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going to? Can I assume that answering these questions doesn’t affect my other questions?
* What do I believe in? What is the basic foundation that informs my actions, thoughts, behavior, likes, dislikes, etc.?
* What informs my direction and sets my destination?
* How does all this relate to the arts?
* Is there a definition for the arts beyond the imposed limitations of cultural boundaries and social class structures?
* What does it exactly mean to say that I am an artist?
* How does art define my being?
* Is my being, in some way, limited by my “identity” as an artist?
* How does my culture define being?
* Does the current art system support my development as a being?
* What is my identity in the larger life continuum?
* What is this thing we call “I”? Who am I beyond the parameters set by any family, social, and cultural identities?
* Why is there so much emphasis in the arts on constantly trying to come up with something “New”?
* Does this “newness” have any depth/meaning, or is it sufficient simply as icing?
* Are we currently teaching our art students the complexity of reality, and how to use the arts as a means to come closer to the discovery of our own uniqueness?
* Are we teaching students the ways of scientists and explorers; discovering new realties and uncharted territories?
* Why haven’t we experienced similar “isms” such as; “avant-garde,” “modernism,” “minimalism,” “conceptualism,” “postmodernism,” etc. in the field of science?
* Why is it that we have forgotten about meaning/content, and instead use words and vocabulary that only appear profound and meaningful?
* What is the relationship between meaning and language/naming?
* Do definitions and the process of defining brings us closer to the truth and meaning of a thing?
* What is the role, function and meaning of the arts?
* Whom am I doing my art for?
* How is public art different from the other arts?
* Is there a separate role and vision for public art? What is this role?
* What is a community? Why do we have societies? What is our common unity?
* Should I understand the current state of the arts as representative of our current cultural qualities and intellectual standards?
* How did we ever get here? After all these years of so called human progress, is this where we have ended up where, aside from more technologically advanced tools, we fundamentally behave the same as cave people?
* Have we given up pursuing the larger questions of life? Are we truly striving towards being human?
* Can art ever step outside of the influence of money/power?
* Who/what has determined this direction and state of affairs?
* Has anything really changed in our societies, since the days that we gathered around the fi re to keep warm?
* Why am I interested in doing public art?
* What makes an artwork public?
* Can an artwork in a museum be considered public art? What about one that is part of a private collection?
* Is the notion of public art a new concept?
* Does the public/viewer influence the making of the artwork? How?
* How does our consumer based society inform the creation, presentation, viewing, etc. of pubic art and art in general?
* How do we measure the success of an artwork?
* Does the public’s and/or private collectors’ taste measure an artwork’s success?
* Should we have a different system for measuring the success of public art?
* Is it good art because it’s political, social, environmental, multicultural, conceptual, sensational, minimal, etc.?
* What does it mean to create artworks that are available and accessible to the public at large?
* Does the process of public art sacrifice the artist’s vision?
* What is an artist’s vision and so what if it needs to be changed?
* What is the role of an artist when creating public art?
* What makes a work in/with/for/by the public into a public art piece? Is it public art if it appears in public?
* What makes me a (public) artist; education, training, experience, passion, my white coat, etc.?
* Should there be a distinction between art and life? If so, what separates public art/art from life?
* What would happen to the art market, if art became life?
* What is art then, if art is life? and then what is life? If art and life become one, how can we understand art? What can it be compared with?
* Can art be compared to law, philosophy, business, science, manufacturing, etc.?
* What does it mean to be cultured? How does art provide culture?
* What constitutes high or low “culture”?
* What is high and low culture?
* What is it to be cultured?
* How does art connect cultures?
* How do we view and understand the art from another culture? What tools/means do/should we use to approach these art forms?
* Does being cultured make me a better human being?
* How do we evaluate/understand the art from this culture? Do/should we apply the same value system to the arts from other cultures?
* How does consumer culture view/influence the arts?
* What “culture” should I choose; high/low, American/European, Eskimo, etc.?
* How does “being cultured” differ from gaining social status?
* Is there such a thing as art that is beyond the costumes and clothes that it has put on at different times, and for various places?
* What does it mean to communicate?
* What is the purpose of communication?
* What are the conditions for having communication?
* What are the differences and similarities between communication and expression?
* Is it necessary for an expression to be understood by others?
* Is there a difference between expression and self-expression?
* What is self-expression?
* What is the definition of self? Is it the ego? How do we separate the two?
* How do we distinguish between a self/ego-expression, and a self-expression that is an extension of an essential humanness?
* How do we evaluate communication through the arts?
* How do we feel about an artwork that communicates very clearly and precisely, versus one that we cannot relate to in any way?
* When does a work of art become graphic/didactic/ literal?
* Why do we think? How do we think? What is thinking?
* Is thinking simply the processing of gathered information?
* What is the difference between my thinking about what to have for lunch and thinking about the meaning of life?
* Is thinking related to the process of understanding, and gaining knowledge?
* Does my thinking bring me closer to knowing?
* Is knowledge truth? What is the Truth? Does truth depend on time and space?
* What is knowing/ knowledge? How do we gain knowledge?
* Is understanding something the same as knowing it?
* What is the relationship between knowledge and information?
* What is the difference between thinking and the processing of information?
* Does knowing mean having information, or having knowledge?
* How much of what we “know” is simply information?
* How does language relate to the process of gaining knowledge?
* What is the relationship between meaning and words/language?
* How do we, or can we, understand the meaning of more abstract concepts, such as pain, joy, death, god, etc. through words?
* What is the relationship between definition and meaning?
* What is visual literacy?
* Is our culture a visual culture? Is it visually literate?
* What is the relationship between message and meaning? Is getting the message the same as understanding the meaning?
* So what if we don’t understand the meaning and only get the message?
* How does a culture that focuses more on the message than the meaning, influence the making and viewing of the arts?
* What role do advertising and politics play with this concept of “message”?
* What is the relationship between message, image, and meaning?
* Why do we accept something as good, simply because it looks good?—Is a written word Asian, if it looks Asian? Is a spoken word English, if it sounds like English? Is it art, if it looks like art?
* Are these discrepancies (between the look, and the content, the message, and the meaning) natural or cultural?
* How does the cultural context influence the making/viewing of the arts?
* How does our culture view and value the arts?
* What influences the making of cultural values and how does this affect the arts?
* Who decides/chooses the cultural values?
* How does our culture define art?
* Is art culturally specific?
* Can art reach viewers beyond its cultural context?
* What informs the making of culture?
* How do we define culture?
* How does art inform culture?
* What is the relationship between culture and class?
* What is the definition of a subculture? How does/can a subculture emerge to become the (main) culture?
* Why should we be concerned with intercultural communication?
* Is consumerism a new development in human history, or is it a natural human tendency?
* Is art about making connections?
* Why do we want to connect with others?
* Is there a human need to be able to connect with others?
* Why do I do art?
* Is art about discovering? Isn’t my art ultimately about me, and therefore about discovering who I am?
* What do I hope that my art could do in/for/with others?
* Does art have a personal/private side and a separate public side?
* What is a personal/private art, and what is public art?
* When does personal becomes universal/public?
* How do we define individuality (individual voice) in the arts?
* Why is there so much focus on the individuality/ego of the artist in our culture?
* How do/could we identify self, amidst all the cultural, educational, social, and family influences?
* When is an artwork an individual/egotistical expression and when is it an expression of a human being, who is essentially unique ?
* What is the relationship between my creative self and my being, i.e., is my creative self, my heart, my mind, my body etc.?
* What is the relationship between my self and existence?
* How can an artwork connect with a diverse audience?
* How do we read an artwork?
* How is an artwork reflective of its culture, audience, maker, etc.?
* What informs our (creative) decision-making process?
* What values do we follow in composing/selecting and editing an artwork?
* Is an artwork complete without its viewer?
* How do we choose our medium of expression?
* How does the public inform the making of an artwork?
* What is imagination?
* What is creativity?
* What is inspiration?
* What inspires creativity in us?
* How is a creative space, idea, person, movie, store, etc. different than a noncreative one?
* Is something creative also inspirational, and vice versa?
* How does a work/an idea inspire/motivate us?
* What does it mean to be inspired/motivated?
* How do we recognize creativity?
* What answers are we looking for while creating or during the act of creation?
* What is creativity the vehicle for?
* Is creativity cultured or nurtured? When does creativity start in a child?
* Is creativity imperative to communication? Is it imperative to development? Why?
* What is the relationship between emotions and creativity? That is, is something that evokes emotions creative, and vice versa?
* What makes art compelling? Or when is art compelling?
* When is a space, an object, etc. emotionally charged?
* What is beauty? Is “beauty in the eye of beholder”?
* Are there any common definitions of beauty that are beyond personal, social, historical, and cultural contexts?
* How can something personal be/become universal?
* When do we consider a work/an idea complete?
* How do we value/evaluate a work/an idea? What is aesthetic value?
* Why should we ask questions?
* Why is it important to constantly search for who, why, what, where I am, and what it means to be human? How does art help in this process?
* What is meant by inclusive, accessible, and approachable artwork?
* How can an artwork accommodate all these qualities, i.e., in its process of making, visual composition, conceptual structure, etc.?
* What is meaning? Does everything have meaning? How do we access it?
* How does the process of naming/defining influence our view of the particular thing that is being named? How does this process contribute to reality as a whole?
* Can we simultaneously be aware of the overall unity, and the arbitrary separation that is caused by the process of naming/defining?
* Is reality unified, or a collection of separate entities?
* Where do we choose to draw the line between two items, in order to separate/name them? In a rainbow where does yellow becomes red?
* Why do we have this process of naming anyway?
* Do we have names in order to be able to identify?
* What is the relationship between an identity and a name? That is, is an artwork’s identity summarized in the name? Is “political art” political, and “aesthetic art” not political? Where do we draw the line between the two?
* What is “political art”? Does it include the landscape painting on the wall?
* How do we determine that a work of art is political, social, ethnic, classical, contemporary, modern, folk, craft, outsider, visionary, etc.?
* What is expressing oneself? When do we say that a rosebush is expressing itself? When it grows leaves, develops roots, produces branches, buds and flowers, and/or when the flower fades and the leaves turn yellow?
* What is the intention for being exposed to the arts from different cultures? Is it to expand my understanding of that culture? Why?
* What do I hope to achieve/gain with this understanding? How can this exposure/understanding help me as the unique individual that I am (beyond my social, political, and cultural form/norm) move
towards my own set of goals and destinations?
* Is this understanding/exposure supposed to increase my “tolerance” of our differences? Is it to practice an open mind? What is the view of my social/political/cultural/educational systems on this matter?
* Do we naturally tend to reject differences, or is it a learned/cultured process?
* Is prejudice, racism, nationalism, etc. nurtured or cultured?
* Am I indifferent towards how others talk, behave, dress, eat, etc.?
* Do I want to control others? Do I want to influence others? Do I want to teach others? How does all this influence my art making? That is, do I want to control, influence, and/or teach others through
my artwork?
* How can I teach anything since just about everything that I’ve been taught has been superficial information without any fundamental substance?
* How does my art reflect my specific personal, social, political, and cultural background and context?
* How do we identify a cultural expression? How can we know all the complex intricacies that make up a culture, in order to be able to identify its expression?
* Why do we often simplify the complexity of a cultural expression into a superficial, stereotypical image of that culture? Is this an attitude that is nurtured in us, or is it the by-product of a consumer
mentality?
* Given the current global cultural context, with its diverse sociocultural communities, how do we identify and exhibit a specific cultural expression?
* As curators and/or educators, do we choose/ identify a cultural expression based on the artist’s place of birth? The (cultural) name of the artist? The recognizable cultural themes, forms and/or symbols,
etc. within the artwork?
* Why do we need to designate a separate category for “others”?
* How do we feel if an artist from culture A uses themes/forms/symbols, etc. from culture B? For example; how do we feel about a white artist painting African-American portraits in the style of a
self-taught artist? How do we feel about an African-American artist painting portraits of white figures in an academic, traditionally “Western” style?
* How does our idea/definition of “self” influence our making, viewing, expectations, and understanding of the arts?
* How does our current popular perception of reality, or our notion of separation, fragmentation, and discontinuity in life, shape our view and understanding of the arts and their role?
* How will this perception of wholeness and continuity alter our understanding of the arts, their roles and functions?
* Considering that language by its nature separates and divides in order to define, how can we ever hope to reach knowledge through words?
* Considering this perspective of existence as a unified whole, how do we need to redefine self? What is self-expression? What is personal (art) and public (art)?
* What has been the expected role of the arts, and how is it changing, or how will it need to be changed?
* Considering our current materialistically focused perspective, how do we define the function of the arts? Where, and how, do we look for the influence of the arts on/in our lives?
* Again, based on this same materialistic view, how do we define quality?
* What is the quality of life? What is the quality of time? What is the quality of art?
* What value system do I use to measure quality, i.e., is it “good” because it is expensive, it is large, it has prestige/class, it is fashionable, or perhaps because it is political, or social, etc.?
* Being part of a culture that is completely drenched in physical sensations, where do we look for the influence of the arts in our lives? How can we even begin to see the more subtle realms of life, and search for the invisible?
* Assuming that we come to recognize a need for change, how can we then shift our prior way of life? For example, if we have been wearing a pair of yellow contact lenses for our entire life, have never taken them off, and have even forgotten that we even have these lenses on, now where and how could we look for the actual/real colors that are not filtered through our lenses?
* How do we redefine art to reflect our newly discovered worldview?
* What is the role, function/responsibility of an artist? Is it to watch over the flame of creativity, like a Zoroastrian priest who is vigilant about keeping the fire burning at all times hoping for everyone to discover their own burning flame inside?
* What does it mean to do something artfully?
* What is the difference between a baker who does his job out of mere financial necessity, for instance, and one who bakes with passion?
* What about a mechanic? Or, a scientist, or an artist?
* What does it mean when we say that someone does her work so artistically?
* How does one gets passionate about her work? Why do we get passionate and attracted toward something? What is it that draws me to flowers? Why am I fascinated with butterflies? Why am I mesmerized by the stars? What calls me to flying airplanes? Am I curious? Am I
curious to know, learn, discover, etc.?
* Is the force that is now pulling me towards various objects, themes, and concepts similar to that which drew me towards almost everything when I was a kid? Is it curiosity for discovery? What is this
force?
* Is this force of discovery the raw fuel that feeds my passion and attraction to pursue the things that I love to do?
* Is a baker searching after discovery? A scientist? A mechanic? A lawyer? A carpenter?
* What is discovery? Is it to know, understand, and cognize the true nature of something (anything: tangible, nontangible, physical, metaphysical, etc.)?
* What would/could be the ultimate discovery/knowledge? Is there an end to knowledge? Is discovery an end to itself, or is it a means for accumulating more wealth, power, and fame?
* How can I discover the more subtle and hidden dimensions of life?
* How can I become more sensitive/in tune with the law/order that shapes and governs all of life?
* How can I practice becoming more sensitive? How can I refine my sensitivity? Is art about this process of refining?