Sunday, January 16, 2011

What is Art?

Over the past few months, I have seen and participated in a number of discussions about the meaning of art. What is art? What is not art? What is good art?

I personally believe that art is a very elusive thing to define. What is good art to you, may not be considered good art to me, or good art to Mr. Finkleman down the street, or a man in Zimbabwe.

I saw a post the other day, "Well, you can call that 'good art', but you'd be wrong." Well, wrong by whose definition? What makes one person correct about what art is or isn't, what art is considered good or bad? Is it your education that makes you an authority? Your societal status? Your connections?

I am not sure that art can be concretely defined. Not only are there so many existing dissonant movements in art history that cater to anyone's varying tastes, but young professionals are always striving to move into new areas with new ideas.

Unfortunately, these debates often lead many (especially younger artists) to the conclusion that "everything is art". It's an easy way out (though I admit that I once believed this definition too), a way of legitimatizing the differences of opinions on the subject of "what is art". Today a friend linked to this article. It made such great points on the subject that I felt the need to share it here:

"The surest way to destroy a concept is to expand it to mean everything. Over the last century, art has been the victim of such a practice. The new belief is that anything intended to be "art" is art. Is this circular? Of course it is. It is also the only possible definition left, since toilets, blank canvasses, fire engine sirens, and people urinating on stage have been accepted as art.

The attempt to use the term 'art' to describe these creations is an attempt to steal the value of art. The new artists don't produce anything of value, but they call it art in the hopes that people will accept it as such. Since real art is important to people, the new "artists" hope to trick people into giving their own garbage the same respect. They try to steal the respect for art by confusing their own work with it. This has the effect of destroying respect for art.

Art is not everything, or anything an "artist" says is "art". Art has an objective meaning, and an fulfills an objective need for people. The meaning has been obfuscated by those trying to cash in on the honor and value that goes with art. By ignoring the objective meaning of art, people lose the ability to fulfill an important part of their life. The destruction of art as a concept impairs one's life."

In the end, I think the only conclusion I can personally come to is that art is not authoritatively definable by any one person, but that is also does not encompass everything.

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