Modern art isn’t usually my favorite style because I’m often frustrated with famous pieces of work that seem to me like they didn’t require any effort or talent. However, during an afternoon at the Tate Modern in London, I was able to find a few pieces that I enjoyed. I noticed that I am better able to appreciate the art when I read the description next to it. For example, there was a framed receipt from Sainsbury’s that looked annoyingly straightforward, but after reading about it I learned that the artist aimed to create art out of everyday experiences, and on this shopping trip they purchased only white items. Although I’m still not sure if I would consider this art, the description did help me to understand it a little better.
The piece of work that resonated with me the most was a selection of blackboards with disorganized scribbles. It doesn’t surprise me that I found it interesting as someone who is aspiring to be an educator. I’m curious to know how the blackboard reached its final image. At its current state there isn’t a whole lot of meaning in the overlapping diagrams and arrows directing attention across the slate. I look at this and imagine an older professor speaking passionately in front of his audience, writing furiously on the board. The artist, Joseph Beuys, wasn’t even a professor, but these blackboards were used when he presented some of his work and his ideas on communication and politics.
Another reason I particularly liked this piece was because it shows a snapshot of the end of his presentation. If there were a blackboard representing my life I wonder what it would look like at the end of my time on Earth. I’m sure an outsider would see a big mess of arrows and diagrams and wonder how I made it to that point. However, I would know that every line on the blackboard of my life had a purpose and was the best choice in that moment.
Viewers might judge Beuys’ work because they have a limited view of how it ended up the way it is. They may not understand why a certain arrow connects two drawings, but that is because they don’t have the entire story. If we watched his presentation and heard the commentary along with it, the drawings would make much more sense. I think people are also judgmental in a similar way with each other. We question why people made certain decisions, but if we were there in the moment with them, the decision to connect A with B might have been the most straightforward or obvious decision. I like that this blackboard existed as an art form when it was being created and presented, but it also exists in a completely different sense today.