Aesthetic Theory: What’s Art?

Posted on January 6th, 2011 by

The Gustavus Choir members are learning some “heady” stuff — all in preparation for spending time in the Italian culture.

Yesterday, aesthetic theory, the practice of seeing, and perception were discussed. Referring to sections from aesthetic theorist James Elkins’ book The Object Stares Back, the class contemplated philosophical questions, such as “What is Beauty?” and “Who Controls Our Eyes?”

Such questions will better help the students understand and appreciate the art in Italy. Instructor Brian Johnson explained to the students, most of whom have not studied art history, that having an understanding of the theory of aesthetics will help them develop a voice, a vocabulary to appreciate the art they will see in the streets, the churches, the galleries, and the museums.

In leading the students through study of the Italian Renaissance and Renaissance art, Johnson says, the more time you spend with a piece of work the more you see.

There’s less “heady” discussion and learning too. In small groups, the students are sharing information they’ve learned online about the cities and sites they will be seeing during the two-week tour. Each day the groups of three or four students discuss four assigned topics.

In addition to the classroom learning, the students are spending hours in rehearsal. After class, they have an hour lunch break and then they rehearse from 1:30 p.m. until about 6 p.m., have a dinner break, and then rehearse from about 7 until 9 p.m.  Tonight the choir had a break from music making for a special dinner at the home of Conductor Aune.


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