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FOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT ART

UK, 1979 (MIFF 1980, Programme 59)

Director: Edward Bennett

"Four Questions about Art" is a film about Victorian attitudes to culture, and how these attitudes survive in the institutions of our own day. Its starting point is a lecture delivered by John Ruskin towards the end of the 1850s. Speaking before a well-to-do audience in a new industrial town, Ruskin tells his listeners that they have a duty not simply to collect pictures, or to build churches, but to direct cultural activity at large for the benefit of the whole of society. How is this to be done? Ruskin offers his own proposals, and sits down amid rapturous applause Over a hundred years later, the film takes a critical look at the institutions and traditions founded on this wave of nineteenth century optimism — at art education in schools, at public galleries, at the attitudes of practising artists; and at the role that design plays in the environment. Can art, as the Victorians believed, be of benefit to everyone — or does it still retain its crucial link with privilege?

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