Colgate Physics Club Has No Sense Of Art

Margaux Jackson

To The Editor:

In March 25 issue of the Maroon-News, the Colgate Physics Club attempted to address an important question: what is art? This has been a very common topic of debate in the art world over the past several years, and is a quite difficult question to answer. Although I commend the Physics Club for their attempt to grapple with such an issue, perhaps next time they should better equip themselves to properly assess and analyze the work. Not only was their message disrespectful to the student whose piece of art is in question, they clearly have a lot to learn before they embark on any serious critique of artwork. The conclusions they presented last week about a piece of art created for the course Issues in Recent Art on display in Lathrop Hall were unfounded and not based on any valid artistic criteria; they only served to embarrass the entire Physics Club. One basis for their conclusion that the work was not art was that “[the piece of art] looks like it took all of an hour to make, including the time it took to buy the stuff.” First of all, the student who made this comment has no idea how long it took to create this piece. They have no knowledge of its construction and don’t know what sort of preparation was required. A musical performance may only last several minutes, but that is no indication of the time involved in preparing for it. What was on display in Lathrop was merely the final product. Also, since when did the amount of time it took to actually make something have anything to do with whether or not it is art? Something may have been fairly simple to construct, but in contemporary art, aesthetics is not the primary goal. This work of art may have been attempting to convey a certain message or represent something other than what it appears to be at face value. That is what makes something art. Artistic merit is not dependent on intricacy. But the Physics Club would not have had a chance to explore this because they wrote the piece off because they didn’t think it took very long to make.Another pitfall in their argument, that just makes the Physics Club look like jerks, is their disrespectful treatment of both the artwork and its artist. This is exemplified by a quote of a member of the club: “I was most delighted to see it [the artwork] lying in a pile when I came back from winter break.” At the end of a piece of commentary, a serious critic would never wish for the destruction of the piece they had just evaluated. Not only is this immature, and quite juvenile, but it is also blatantly inappropriate and disrespectful, most especially to the artist who created the piece, and hurts the legitimacy of their entire argument. I’m sure The Physics Club would feel the same way if anyone ever said they were excited to see one of their lab projects (perhaps a product of the oh-so-dramatic “5 hour study group sessions”) destroyed. Making a point about the merit of something does not also stipulate the critic to express malicious feelings about it. I was also appalled at the implications of what another member of the Physics Club said: “There are some serious inequalities between the grading systems in different departments at this school if that ‘thing’ counted as someone’s project.” The insinuation that Physics courses are superior to or harder than others should outrage more than just those who study Art and Art History. Hey, Physics Club, you didn’t even understand the piece you are commenting on, so clearly you could benefit from taking an Art or Art History course. Their reaction to the piece validates the aim of the course and proves that there is a need for it, to educate students so they can make informed opinions and analyses about artwork. Such a course would have taught the Physics Club the proper way to address the merits of a piece of art. Then, perhaps, a valid argument could have been formed as to why or why not this piece can be considered art. Maybe you should keep that in mind during course selection.

Margaux Jackson ’07