Do you have Taste?

Taste is a word that was thrown around a lot during our class discussion. We were educated on what exactly “taste” is by essays from Pierre Bourdieu and Mr. Peterson & Mr. Kern. According to Bourdieu, tastes are a classification, a method of organizing people into certain groups. They emerge from a person’s history and background, specifically their education and engagement in cultural practices (museum-going, reading, etc.). It all seems fairly simple in theory. I am categorize myself as a girl, so I must have a taste for dresses. In practice though, it doesn’t work out as smoothly. You have outliers and people who are wishy-washy in their commitment to the question. Peterson and Kern try a more complicated approach and divide everyone into two groups, those with “Highbrow” and “Lowbrow” tastes, such people further split to “snobs”, “omnivores”, and the rest forced into lowbrow specifications. Even with all their research, the findings were still a mixture and only determined people, even rich ones, had varied tastes and only had uniformity in their non-predictability.

So we end up in the beginning.

Do we have Taste?

Is there such a thing as Taste, in the way that we keep meaning?

As far as art is concerned, my answer is yes. I lean more towards Bourdieu’s definition and use the word more as a classifier. We decided in class that we all have relatively the same tastes, but, then again, we all have relatively the same upbringing. The entire class was born in the 90’s, all born and raised in Texas (with the exception of 2), and all go to the same school, taking the same classes. We weren’t what you could call a varied lot. Maybe trying to categorize the entire populace isn’t possible and we should settle for making generalizations. There are some formulas in math that you can’t get an exact answer for, you have to use an asymptote for an approximate. That’s what we’ve done with the idea of Taste. We may not be able to say exactly what Taste is, but we can get close enough to have a really good answer.

-Adrienne Hudson

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4 comments

  1. You bring up some interesting arguments, but it’s possible that trying to “categorize the entire populace” isn’t the point. You categorize yourself as a girl, but, girl or not, unless you engage in the cultural practice of wearing dresses, your taste in them isn’t really what Bourdieu is getting at. The beauty of “taste,” however you end up defining it, is that it kind of defies definition in the first place. And on top of that, it has the ability to ebb and flow–to evolve– in a culture, an institution, or even just on a personal level.

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  2. It is an interesting question, who does and doesn’t have Taste. Peterson and Kern tried to figure out this question mathematically. Bourdieu believed it lies solely on upbringing and education. I don’t think it is as simple as either one of those. There are anomalies in math, and it is completely possible for someone who is “uneducated”, with a less than stellar upbringing, to be able to find beauty and meaning in art; and to have this “highbrow” taste for art. I just don’t think we can marginalize everyone into two categories. Like Hannah said above me, Taste has the ability to evolve on a personal level.

    -Hannah Jones

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  3. I love that you connected the impossible task of defining “taste” with the need of approximation in math. I think that that concept of getting as close to it as possible but being incapable of perfectly defining it is constantly found in the art world. In this class as well as the other classes I have taken with Professor Duganne, she has presented more questions than answers and I think that is the nature of art criticism. It is impossible to write a “correct” critique or a “wrong” opinion just as it is impossible to define taste.

    -Chris

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