Contest, Context, Concept (Fairness In Art)

My parents tried their very hardest to impart ideas of fairness in us from a young age. “Share with your brothers and sister”, “make sure that everyone gets a taste of that pizza”, “you all need to do your part to keep the house clean”, “don’t forget that it’s your turn to do the dishes”, and so it went, on and on.


Every family deals with these challenges.

But I more time I spent with fairness and other moralizations as I grew into adulthood, the more I struggled with that notion of fairness, because each of the four of us had unique interests, talents, and levels of influence within the family hierarchy.

Fairness is supposed to represent a way of making value judgments that are impartial, and many well defined roles and responsibilities are given their own value sets to help establish fairness, in particular for activities and institutions which revolve around instruction.

For example, I often think of teachers and their responsibility to uphold an objective. Yes, anyone can take on a teaching role, but professional teachers are the group I’m going to focus on.

Back to the objective of teachers.

The objective of teachers is to educate students in skills and knowledge. Where it falls down for me though is through the method of instruction employed (pedagogy) by many teachers – that they know best because they’ve been trained to know the best. Pedagogy assumes that there is an ideal way to learn and an ideal way to teach, and thus the practice concerns itself primarily with how best to teach. Professional teachers are trained in pedagogy. Now, let’s put a pin in that idea for a second.

When we come out of post-secondary education, no matter our specialization, many students with a bachelors, masters or doctorate, assume an expertise in that particular field.

And we each gain a sense of fairness particular to that subset of knowledge, but going back to the family example from earlier, the problem is that if you have four children who all grew into unique roles, for example a BFA Art & Design, a BSc Psychology, a BFA Drama and BE Drama and Chemistry, and lastly a BSc Physics and BE Physics and Drama, each family member has refined their “fairness” through a different learnt pedagogy.

So almost all university graduates walk away with a sense of rightness or righteousness, depending on how you look at it. Then some time passes, and hopefully that code eases off somewhat, because another skill that post-secondary education is supposed to teach you is to continue to pursue education throughout your life.

Which leads me to my theory for the day.

I don’t think that fairness exists in life. Shock. Gasp. Awe.


From a young age we are told to do our best and worry about ourselves, but that still stimulates us to try harder, and in a family setting, it can simultaneously instill a sense of competition amongst siblings.

Which is actually a good thing. Because life is competition.

We compete for grades, jobs, sexual partners, games (sport, video, tabletop), and status. But that ideation of fairness is just part of the conscious desire to simplify the world around us. Which lets us determine what is right and wrong, and gain a sense of control over the world.

But the world functions purely on those levels of success, so whatever morality we put into art making, education, business, and any other aspect of life is purely personal. When we stop to reflect on the problem at hand and look at the scale, it comes down exactly that.

Individually we might love something or someone, but that doesn’t mean that song is a popular song or that person should love us back. Decision-making is not resigned to one person or one subset of people, but to the broader picture of humanity.

So stop considering what you internally feel is correct or worthy, and consider what you have done for your community or the people around you and that will help guide the art you create.

It’s about impact.

The greater the impact, the more people who want to reward the efforts of the person who created that ripple. If you can move a stadium of people with your music, or entertain a crowded street with your improvised unicycle and ball juggling act, or even divide a whole city with your graffiti that addresses the automation of industry and complacency associated with it, you’re going to get recognition.

If you share your song with one person, one person cares, but if you shared it with influencers on YouTube, then you are all of a sudden an instant success.

Someone once said that life is unfair, but that’s not really true. Life is very fair, but we try and assume authority over fairness and change it. Fairness is competition, realized by what we are able to accomplish in our community.

Going back to the point I made earlier about families and fairness, I think families should work to achieve the workload, but we should cut that word right out of instruction, children need to learn their strengths and contribute to society in a way that they are best capable, and educators need to facilitate this via models of instruction, with tempered positions of authority.

But that’s just a theory.



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