Taste as dialogue and institution

Last Tuesday our class began the discussion of Taste by defining criticism as a dialogue. Through the eyes of A.O. Scott, criticism has always been a democratic product, a social action that does not exist in a vacuum. The critic always considers its audience, even if it only exists in their head. This idea rang true when we revealed our Top 5 lists on the whiteboards- we each chose our favorites and least favorites with the knowledge that we would tell the people in this class, perhaps with the hope that it would spark a dialogue, and with our own social origins and histories- as critics.

Pierre Bordieu describes Taste as a culmination of one’s education, social origin and exposure- our likes and dislikes have to begin somewhere outside of ourselves. In the classroom, the whiteboard was full of music from the 90s, something a majority of the class was nostalgic for. In this 90s baby community we all relate, and can agree for the most part that some of our Taste was born in this certain time/certain place when/where we grew up. Reading what Bordieu had to say about the “pure gaze” made me think of Andrea Fraser, an artist and critic heavily influenced by Bordieu, who said that we must be aware of the institutions we (as people) bring to an institution. In this sense she means our institutions as ethnicity, gender, political affiliation, education, upbringing, etc. Although I know more or less what defines my own Taste and why, I was left with more questions after our class.

Are we limited by our Taste?

How often does our Taste change?

Do you think Taste is an institution?


-Kaytlin Esparza



  1. I believe the audience that existed for this class discussion was based off that it was a project for class, which I could of changed what people may or may not have decided to write down or talk about because they were scared of being judged by a body of peers to whom the one who made a list may not be comfortable in defending their list. Which directly shows how environment can affect a persons desire to admit to a certain taste and once a grouping is made the encouragement to defend their choice becomes easier because there is now a stronger voice. But does this change their taste? Does it then become a sort of ‘Keeping up with the Jonse’s’ type of situation? To answer your questions I do not believe taste is limiting, I believe our choice to claim or to not claim a taste is limiting. By this I simply mean the fear of judgment on our taste is limiting. And in that statement I believe this judgment can also change our taste as we may have to assimilate to a new environment. I think taste is a factor within the institution of art in which different styles and modes of creating are produced.

    Krista Kelly


  2. After reading your blog post and looking back on last Tuesdays class, I agree that many factors influence our taste but out of those I believe that our social origin along with who or what we are exposed to plays the biggest role. For example with music, the factor of social origin and upbringing were evident by the stories told on times we listened to a certain song or musician, such as during road trips and church. However, during this time of viewing each others lists some were writing down music, movies, and even books they had not heard of from other students list, proving that the environment we were in influenced some to want to hear or read new thing that may later be a new favorite of theirs thus influencing each others taste. As for your questions, it is obvious after Tuesday that our taste is not limited but constantly changing whether slightly or completely and I do not think taste is an institution in itself but plays a role in different institutions.

    Kiana Long


  3. First of all, I was delighted to see your questions at the end of your post. I think that is a great detail to leave for a reader to keep them thinking and questioning themselves. Personally, after reading the other responses, I will say that we can be limited by our taste, because it depends on how willing one is to be open to new ideas and subjects. For example, your taste can limit you if you choose to only listen to a certain genre of music, study art of a specific period or style, etc. So for some people, taste is limiting. However, seeing as how our class discussion played out with the Top 5 lists it appeared that a lot of students were open to other people’s favorites and even agreed on the “bad” or “least favorite” choices. Which honestly, I was surprised and also relieved that many people agreed with, specifically, the list of “bad” musicians. And after leaving class that day I felt very much a part of a community and I don’t think I would have felt that way had I not been open to other “tastes” and options.


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