I wanted to tell a short story about taste development and role [positive and negative] that institutions have to play in the process. But starting with three little kittens is as good a place as any.
My grandparents, like many I expect, used to collect 'objet d'art', knick knacks and ornaments and keep them on the mantelpiece and in a special, glass fronted, unit. My grandfather was particularly fond of three brands of these kind of goods. There is an example of one above from the Franklin Mint. The Franklin Mint usually advertise in the back of the supplement for the Mail on Sunday and each week there would be an image of a either a Georgian Lady on a swing, in soft focus, or a small, dewy eyed boy reclining in a pile of hay and invariably these things would find their way in to the cabinet in my grandparents front room.
I used to love these objects and seem to remember spending a lot of time looking at them - marvelling at the skill and dexterity of the artists.
They were also partial to Lladro figurines and
Porcelain from Limoges in France - although they never managed to acquire anything quite as spectacular as these vases with their magnificent cartouches depicting 'mythological scenes'. My appreciation of these objets was usually accompanied by the tortured crooning of Engelbert Humperdink or P J Proby on the casette player.
For a long time my parent appeared to 'sort of' share these tastes and the odd bit of Lladro would find its way in to our semi-detached new build.
It looked a bit like this only less grand and without the garage.
But then we moved to a house that looked like this:
An Edwardian semi detached house with a pantry and period features, like wood panelling and an authentic bathroom suite. It also had a leaking roof and ice formed on the inside of the windows in the winter. No more banal little semi for us -
With this transition came a marked change in the stuff that we surrounded ourselves with - every Sunday I found myself at an Antiques market - getting something authentic, with character. No more Franklin mint for me.
I'd even lost my taste for Engelbert.
I cannot say that this transition had anything to do with aspiration or an overt desire to be perceived as more sophisticated or clever on the part of my parents - but it was a distinct change. Naturally this had an effect on me - I am sitting in my own home surrounded by mid century modern furniture, Danish light fittings, formica tables [irony!]. I also have gonks and tringlements but they are 'tasteful' and reference working resources that I have seen/liked at places like Barbara Hepworth's studio in St Ives but I shall come to this.
The point here is that my own value system changed and evolved over time - my tastes changed. This may seem like an obvious point but it does reinforce Bourdieu's claim - in a way.
The next phase in terms of my own taste development happened when I went to West Notts.. College of FE - 'the art school'. Again it is an obvious observation but this experience exposed me to stuff/things and ideas that were so far removed from my own experiences that it was bewildering...and seductive. And it is this quasi-religious/erotic element to institutional art school education that I would like to briefly look at.