theMoMA wrote:I think the Tienanmen Square tossup is probably a good example of a tossup that, in many rooms, played as six or seven lines of an art tossup that no one got, followed by a very short history tossup on Tienanmen Square (at the mention of the Goddess of Democracy statue). I don't doubt that there are people who follow contemporary Chinese art to the extent that they were able to get the tossup before that clue, but I suspect those who got the tossup later on got it from their general historical knowledge, quite possibly because they wrote a high school tossup with the Goddess of Democracy as an early clue.
Andrew, I don’t think this is your best example. Not only is there a clue before that on a pretty well-known series by Ai Weiwei, but the Guo Jian meat-covered diorama got an absolutely enormous amount of coverage
when he was detained in 2014.
theMoMA wrote:I don't mean to suggest that art never interacts with other disciplines, or that those connections aren't important; on the contrary, it's clear to me that these are things worth asking about. The question for me is mainly one of how to ask these questions in a way that expands the player base's art knowledge into underrepresented areas rather than rewarding players' latent history (or linguistic, or anthropological, or other history/social science-like) knowledge. Maybe the approach of starting with a healthy dose of the kinds of questions that this tournament will put players on notice and cause earlier art buzzes to follow, but I suspect that it's probably better to write questions that mix early world art clues with later clues that connect those topics to easier, later clues that are still fairly "artistic" in nature.
I’m beginning to think that our disagreement is rooted in fundamentally opposed ideas about how quizbowl categories are delineated. As far as I can tell from this and your lengthy post above, your position is that the arts categories should avoid "rewarding knowledge from other categories," and thus should exclude such content; on the other hand, in other categories—if I understand you correctly, history and geography are prime examples—"purity" is no problem at all. In fact, I understand you to mean that they are the perfect places for “impure” tossups that integrate clues about "general culture," including clues that might go in the arts distribution.
(First off, I doubt that other history players are really so sanguine. As Shan pointed out, my lengthy descriptions of The Court of Gayumars
or the details of aesthetic principles surrounding Ming ceramics would be seriously out of place in a history question. And I know for a fact that a number of history players on these forums would violently object: that was the response to my "cultural history" thread last year.)
On the other side, I, a history-curious arts player, see no reason that "art clues" can go in history and not the other way around. To put the disagreement another way: I don't see the arts categories differently from the others, while you seem to hold them to a "higher" standard of "purity". If I've read you correctly, you're claiming that "art questions" should always be overwhelmingly about the aesthetic dimension (art "as art," you said), while history and geography questions are free (encouraged!) to take a variety of approaches to their topics. That is, a measure of aesthetic valuation decides which questions do and do not count as "art questions," while other categories are not held to a similar standard.
My core problem with this is: what is the effect of asking about an object “as art”? (How do we even decide what descriptions count as "artistic" in the first place?) In fact, there’s a huge danger here. Our deeply Eurocentric evaluations of what constitutes asking about art "as art" are extremely unlikely to do justice to the full range of global artistic production across the ages. Considering that the overwhelming majority of objects now treated as art (this goes for Europe too) were not produced "as art," and can thus not be fully understood "as art," it would be doing them a fatal disservice to consider them exclusively "as art." This is why scholars in the real world never do that (anymore at least); and this is why it is so important for the sign at the museum exhibit to tell you not only a little about how to "read" the Kente cloth but also to tell you what and and who it was for.
Now, in fact, I am in no way advocating for a radical shift to "contextual-based" art questions
; I’m definitely not looking to replace every Caravaggio tossup with a question on Clement VIII (as true “modern scholarship bowl” might—try finding any discussions of style in Clare Robertson’s Rome 1600
!). And, as everyone who played the set knows, I did nothing like that in my CO questions
. Instead you got questions like the Umayyad Mosque tossup that combined traditional quizbowl art clues with some
cultural and historical context. Or the Tiananmen question, which was entirely descriptions and titles of artworks until the penultimate sentence
. I'm merely defending the inclusion of
(a small amount of extremely relevant) contextual material
, especially when it, from a pragmatic perspective, makes the tossup actually playable for an audience with a very limited number of "world art specialists" (fewer than I even thought).
Let me try an analogy. In modern quizbowl, we have some notion that science questions should be more or less “pure” of interventions from history etc. If you ask most science players why they want it that way, they usually reply that such clues are better for non-scientists than for scientists; they want their coursework and research rewarded above, e.g. science history and biography. (I’m not saying that this opinion is unanimous or that there isn’t room for a limited number of non-pure-classroom clues.)
But now apply this logic to the arts: the result would not even approach your level of category “purity.” Much the opposite; as I alluded to above, the modern academic study of the arts is thoroughly and wonderfully contextual. And this is doubly true for the “world arts,” which, as I pointed out above, can hardly be understood as artworks without some cultural and historical background. (Imagine learning about casta
paintings purely “as art”. Now imagine asking about them purely “as art”—it’s just as silly.)
All this is to say that, by these lights, arts (just like any other category) doesn’t need to be, and perhaps can’t responsibly be kept 100% "pure"; according to my idea about quizbowl categories, the only reason ever
to worry about purity is to make sure that people who actually study the material
* (scientists, students of art history) don’t get shafted by quizbowlers memorizing unimportant clues.
I’ll more than happily meet you in the middle: the vast majority of clues in art questions should be on artworks and the ideas, institutions, materials, people, and techniques involved in making and appreciating them
. But I think that almost every single one of my questions for this set already (even accounting for the scholarship clues!) met this standard.
I agree: art questions are our best and most natural space to ask about art objects “as art.” I just don’t think that every clue has to be of this kind. And I certainly don’t want to see art from 4.5/6 of the world’s continents loaded off onto distributional areas where it becomes unnatural to ask about them “as art.”
*In the particular case of world art at this tournament, were social science- and history-oriented players getting questions purely because of their "latent knowledge" in those areas? Or was it because they had actually learned about world artistic cultures from anthropological and historical writing?