Cunning criminality is nothing new. But the “faithful duplicity” of some recent forgeries has stunned art experts and shaken the markets and social organizations that envelop this area of knowledge. Stories of stolen fortunes and international detective work however, can kick-start student interest as we use fake art to raise questions about real art. The TOK questions scream to be asked: What is a “real” work of art if a forgery is indistinguishable? What gives works of art their value?
Stories: truth, fakery, and stupendous fraud
When we start in TOK with a Real Life Situation (RLS) – as our course evaluation puts it – we often get the advantage of the appeal of stories. An excellent article in a recent Guardian Weekly gives us background for narration of modern fakes and provides an account of processes of authentication: The master detective.
In our contemporary context of electronic fakery of all kinds – including the “deep fakes” on which I recently blogged – it’s not surprising that the arms race between criminality and attempts at detection should escalate in the art world. Continue reading
(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) “Only art has the power to build bridges between communities,” asserts an art historian in response to a current exhibit in Srinigar, Kashmir. One of the hosts of the exhibition similarly affirms, “Art is dialogue and conversation about difficult subjects.” As TOK teachers, we have a world of examples to bring to class on art as an area of knowledge. However, this current one, treated in the following article with brief interviews and backstories, is powerful in prompting thought and discussion on the role of art in communicating and creating knowledge: The Kashmiri art bringing Hindus and Muslims together. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) May in the northern hemisphere. The return of long daylight. But also IB exams. Tired students. Tired teachers. Time to take a class into the calm and beauty of pattern, with gentle TOK reflection on the deep intersections of mathematics, nature, art and technology. This year, my favourite vehicle is the animated sculpture of John Edmark, especially with the video “Creating the Never-Ending Bloom” in which the designer is commenting on his work. Continue reading
(by Eileen and Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Do we expect to understand art and the natural sciences in the same way? Today, here’s a 5-drawing cartoon sequence to open a comparison in class discussion, with class-ready questions and a download at the end. I hope it gives you not only material for thought but also a smile.
“How am I supposed to appreciate it?” cartoon sequence by Theo Dombrowski
Standing at the centre of the world: it’s a compelling image. But just who or what is at the “centre”, and what does planting that centre do to our knowledge? Clearly, this question of “centrism” threads through the Theory of Knowledge course, and there are plenty of good entry points to take students into discussion of its complexities. For one such entry point, I’d like to suggest using the image above, with its claim, “Whoever holds a camera stands at the centre of the world.” Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) How could students NOT love this 2-minute dance video? And how could you, as a TOK teacher, NOT seize the chance to ask (just a little!) about the role of the arts in knowledge? The Maritime Bhangra Group of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada gives a joyful lift to questions about ways of knowing and what is communicated in music and dance.
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) At first glance, it’s a most unlikely statue to ignite a diplomatic row: a barefoot girl sits on a chair, her hands passively in her lap. Nevertheless, the placement of this gentle statue by South Korean activists in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan has set off a storm of controversy and provoked Japan to withdraw its ambassador from South Korea. But why? In Theory of Knowledge, clashing perspectives on this statue take us straight through concepts of symbolic representation and smack into history as an area of knowledge with ethical resonance.
It seems to me that this incident could be immensely useful for a TOK class. There are plenty of images online of the controversial statue, so there’s something visual to anchor abstract discussion. Moreover, students are likely to have their interest (and probably compassion) caught by the story of women forced into sexual servitude – and to grasp quickly both the desire to remember historically, and the desire to forget! The current strong feelings about the issue and how its story is told also help to raise a potent TOK question: Is history really only about the past? Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski) “Our brains are conditioned to embrace the lies,” Tasos Franzolas declares of the sound engineering in films. This TED video (16:33 minutes) is a winner for any TOK treatment of sense perception and interpretation, and of the fusion of technology and creativity in the arts. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Is the study of mathematics really a gateway toward empathy? I’m not fully convinced by the argument presented by mathematician Roger Antonsen, but I like him for making it. We need all the empathy we can get in our world. Certainly, his mathematical visualizations do demonstrate the importance of mental flexibility and imagination in mathematics, and do stand metaphorically for being able to see from different points of view. And his argument leads to some interesting knowledge questions about perspectives and empathy. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Where do new ideas come from? Is it inevitable, I wonder, that in trying to talk with students about using ways of knowing creatively I’m inclined to turn to individual stories of “getting ideas”? Today I’d simply like to share two or three resources for raising discussion of creativity in class. Continue reading