this is such a great conversation! i’ve been thinking a lot about this very topic the last couple of years. i’m teaching in a university and i noticed a few years ago that the current generation of students seem to have no taste and no style. that’s not a snarky comment, i mean it in the literal sense- they actually have no taste at all, not good or bad or however you want to talk about taste.
of course this observation on my part begs the question of how taste or style is defined… and that’s what i’ve been struggling to articulate. not only the definition of these things but then following on from that trying to understand what role taste and style play in the creation of art.
and one thought i had from reading what everyone wrote here so far is that perhaps taste has something to do with having a context? as in, there is some sort of context you find yourself in… and that process of being in a specific context, or the awareness of having a context is perhaps what i think taste is? i came to this thought because another thing i observed is that the recent classes of students have very little or even no ties to even the most recent history of their genre. as in, they are not even aware of who else is currently playing around in the field they’ve chosen to explore, let alone knowing how to trace back the roots of the concepts they are using.
and this leaves them, in one way, contextless… just floating along, intuitively and organically advancing. kind of shuffling around in the dark, hoping to hit upon something. this in itself is not necessarily bad (though don’t get me started on that relationship then to an educational program or institution). and in fact i’ve always been really against the whole traditional hierarchy of the “teacher” supposedly giving information to students as a one-way street. i always kind of looked at it like: i went through struggles in my generation to innovate and discover and progress the art form. but that took a certain amount of energy, and i was able to break through some of the barriers i found around me along my journey. so in many ways i’ve fought my battles and almost can’t even start to understand the next conceptual level of things that need to be investigated.
but these new students, they arrive in this world taking for granted the things my generation has moved forward (the same for me for when i started!). and so they aren’t hung up on all those things that i had to go through, giving them a fresh set of eyes on the world… everybody standing on the shoulders of giants and all of that. so i always tended to think that my students and myself were on an equal level to have a good idea in the classroom. they have the chance to see things in a new light with less baggage and expectations than i have. and i have the chance to use my depth of experience and decades long practice to inject that into the process.
its just that, when it comes to taste perhaps, i always grew up being taught that i should know the giants upon whose shoulders i was standing. as in, i could more or less pinpoint or at least gesture in the general direction of where i was aiming for with my work at any given time. for sure when i was a teenager i was kind of just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what stuck. but even then i was still acutely aware of the sheer volume of work that has been produced before my lifetime!
as well, it seems that taste and/or style could boil down to just having a specific point of view in the moment? this would allow taste to evolve, but still be conceptually consistent. in any situation you simply have a desire to position yourself in a specific way? i don’t know, i’m struggling with the language here. but i’m going to keep watching this thread with great curiosity. thank you for letting me try and talk some of this stuff out!