Thursday, 11 December 2014

Art is Infinite: An Argument for Qualitative Evaluation

"Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don't start measuring her limbs."
(Pablo Picasso, Picasso on Art: A Selection of Views)


Punch (1998) discusses qualitative and quantitative research and their merits or what I would call the 'How of Things' or the 'How Much and How Many of Things'. Picasso gives, what I consider to be, the most brilliant argument for qualitative evaluation over quantitative in the quote above and is a perfect acknowledgement of why some things can't be measured in numeric terms. Trying to measure success or achievement or anything that tells us about an individual in terms of numbers can be a false economy with so many hidden variables. 

Numbers

Numbers can tell us nothing about the person, yet we apply them all the time. 
  • We categorise by age, restricting our children's lives to experiences of their peers. 
  • We categorise by test, exam and assessment levels, when someone who has done a degree in a subject like youth and community work may very well be an excellent academic but not a good youth and community work practitioner. 
  • We categorise by income and class and if it were used to right the balance of equality it would say something but instead it is merely there to fence it off and maintain the capitalist status quo. 
  • We categorise by metres, cms, feet and inches whether in terms of height and shape and by numbers...as soon as we are born – everything is counted – from limbs to fingers and toes.
Yes, we may say someone has 2 eyes and two ears. What does that tell us about the person? Not that they can see or hear or are colour blind or like music. Or love to watch romantic movies or that they wear their hair to hide their ears. Or that their eyes change colour like their grandmothers. Or how when they hear the sound of a cuckoo it makes them sad. Or how they love to read under the blanket with a torch. Or how they love camping for the sounds of the night.

A person should not be defined by a number, unless infinity could be a number. We are all infinite. Our possibilities are infinite.

Every individual is so different from the next, with attributes so varied and vast they are far past anything that can be counted or even understood.

Does a song sound better if you know the time signature or number or crochets, quavers or minims or whether the notes are FACE or EGBDF?

My IQ, income, age, height or number of body organs or limbs do not define me. Numbers do not define me. I am infinite.


"Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the songs of a bird? Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting people have to understand. If only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only a trifling bit of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world, though we can't explain them."
(PABLO PICASSO, Picasso on Art: A Selection of Views)

Picasso, P. (1988) Picasso on Art: A Selection of Views, ed. Ashton, D., Da Capo
Punch, K. (1998) Introduction to Social Research: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches, London, Sage

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