The social representation of desire and children's development in art

Year: 2001

Author: Stevens, Julie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper characterises the development of children's artistic reasoning in terms of Freud's theory of socialisation. It draws parallels between the gradual development of the super-ego and children's increasing autonomy to mentally represent the range of indirect cultural and other agencies contributing to the formation of artworks. Precisely as children learn to socially represent their desires, and to use social reasoning for inferring how social practices can be used in the satisfaction of desire, this paper proposes that children also gain access to the aesthetic values of complex artworks through an increasing ability to understand the concealed socio-cultural processes which shape them. This paper counters the misconception that the values afforded by complex works of visual art are open to immediate gratification. The qualities and significance of artworks are concealed within representational layers of technical, cultural, and subject content. The assumption is consistent with the status of artworks as artifactual as opposed to natural kinds, insofar as artworks are representational objects composed of intentional rather than natural properties. It is argued that the socialisation of desire models the critical relation between mind and passion that has proven so illusive in the explanation of artistic cognition.