What Is A Viable Thesis? – Advice To One of Your Peers

Posted: April 25, 2019 in Uncategorized

I’ve tried to find the passage you cite but can’t locate it in Linda Nochlin. I’m not sure why. In any case, it does open some possibilities for you. One of these – if I understand the passage correctly – is to argue that Nochlin discusses the priority of process over product. While you and others may have heard this dictum before, it remains very vague, a mere platitude. Nochlin’s essay, however, might allow you to make such a bare utterance more meaningful. I’ve discussed with other students on a few occasions the thought that Nochlin does not value ‘greatness’, which she sees as a historical and ideological concept linked to Hegel’s dialectic of Master and Slave. In the 19th century ‘great men’ of ‘great deeds’ and ‘big ideas’ paid artists a few dollars to produce monumental portraits of them. Later, in the 20th century this relationship was reversed, with ‘genius’ artists producing ‘great works’ and simply hiring an arbitrary model to sit for them for a few dollars. In either case, a very significant power difference remains in place.

The art Linda Nochlin supports – see the images on the blog by Alice Neel – does not enter into this mighty contest. You will notice there is nothing either heroic or submissive about her subjects. They stand on equal footing with the artist. The portraits that result are the product, the remainder of a process of bilateral social exchange, one in which each persons offers something unique to the other and each walks away a having learned something about themself in the encounter, while the painting is the physical record of the transaction. This sort of portraiture might allow you to develop a new definition or understanding of ‘business’, one which provides a refreshing alternative to the prevalent belief that business, in its essence, is a kind of warfare. I mean, how many business students are right now sitting up at night reading The Art of War (or planning to), or The Prince, or The Art of The Deal? It’s a painful thought. In contrast to this, would it possible to think of doing business without at the same time conjuring images of battle? Nochlin would seem to believe so. Not only would making such an argument offer an alternative to the dominant business model, but it would also run far more in line with Nochlin’s objection to the Vietnam War, the mood of the day in which she lived, and the spirit of Intellectual Traditions – a course who name looks far more dubious after reading Nochlin.

Conveniently, this question raises a potential counter-argument: so, does Nochlin not care at all about the actual quality of art; should we be content with bad or merely mediocre paintings? Not necessarily. While the artists Nochlin likes may not have created monumental instances of ‘greatness’, they have nevertheless managed to find a way – in a rigged system, and against all odds – to works of genuine ‘excellence.’ So, what’s the difference between greatness and excellence, and why is one preferable to the other? And what might an understanding of this distinction teach students in the school of Business?

I’ll leave you to think about those questions. I hope they makes sense and lead you to some genuine insights. Finally, I hope this process of exchange between you and me will offer an living example of what Nochlin means by negotiation, and how process may indeed be more interesting and valuable than product – though there is certainly nothing wrong which achieving excellent results.

Best to you,
Brian K.

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