or why everyone else is wrong
or the adefiniton of art
Several years ago I was had an interesting discussion about what exactly IS art. The members of this discussion included a DMin, a working painter, an accomplished classical musician, an accountant, a multi-post-graduate degreed film expert, some jackass from Ireland, and me. Unfortunately, the idea and backgrounds of this group of individuals was far more interesting than anythign that was said. In fact, I left the conversation CONVINCED that art did not exist – mostly in reaction the DMin’s insistence that Jonathon Edwards was right in saying that “anythign that points to or reminds one of God is art.” Thank you Incredibles making this point so damn clear – if everything is art, nothing is art.
So, I’ve been musing and shaping my definition of art for the last 6 years. But, before I educate, inform, and entertain, let me say this: theology does NOT have the right, priveleage, or pleasure of defining art. Feel free to have a theology of “art” – but don’t try to define it – in the same way we don’t let scientists use the scientific method to define “love”.
Rewind to late 90’s. I’m sitting in a sculpture class during a critique with guest artist/instructore from NYC, Terry Atkins. One of my fellow students grabbed a piece of bent metal siding, hung it on th wall, and stood back. After several students commented ont eh beautiful form and shape of the bent and rippled piece of metal, the presenting “artist” admitted that he had just found it on the side of the road and then hung it on the wall. So, I asked, “well, then, yer not the artist – nature, the elements, and history are the aritsts which have worked on this piece of metal to make it what it is.” The class did not like this.And, I decided to become a designer (where good and bad, or success or failure is measurable based on communication goals).
The next thign we need to do, agree on the common misconceptions we hold deeply about art. And, trust me, I’m right about this:
1. “art” is value statement
“Reservoir Dogs is reallllly damn good, but Apocaluypse Now – man, now THAT is art.” No creation hold more or less value because it is or is not “art”.
2. “art” is simply or complexly objective and/or empirical
“Thomas Kincaid is an artist, everyone agrees.” Art can not be empirically agreed upon – or we wouldn’t be blogging about it.
3. “art” is subjective
“That record reallllly moves me, it’ such an amazing piece of art.” No, your reaction and/or feeling has nothign to d with defining a creation as or as not “art”.
Art: Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.
Now, if you weak/strong minded philosopher/theologians are ready to have an artist break it down for ya, keep reading…
Art is masterbation: it is the expression of self FOR self. It is a creative act entered into simply to enjoy the act of creation. Art exists outside of the observer AND the creator. Art becomes the “third”.
Expression for any other reason than the satisfaction of the one’s need for creation is very simply defined as something other than art: pop music, interior design, graphic design, light reading, entertainment, etc. We get deep in the mire when we suddenly “feel” something based on our interaction with one of these other of communciation and want to protect our experience/feeling.
Pulp Fiction (which I adore, btw) holds some very powerful truths and metaphors. Our experience of those do not elevate it to “art”. Once again, our experience does not chang ewhat it is. And, calling it “art” does not give it more or less value. The movie kicks fuckin ass – but it is a movie which was created to entertain (and make Q a lot of money).
Any desired communication negates the work as “art”. I LIKE this, it’s why I am a designer, not a sculptor today. I LIKE communicating ideas. When I feel like simply “creating” I paint. The painting may have meaning (to me) but if it is created with the express intent to communicate an idea or feeling it is graphic design created with paint and canvas instead of mouse and monitor.
But, Jim, you say, we can’t get inside the artist’s mind and determine if their intent was pure, whole, or unblemished in order to define every created thing as “art” or “not art”, you say. To you, I say: Exactly. Now, stop worrying so much about what is or isn’t art and trust me as the ultimate expert.
Final Analysis: Art is important and we wrestle with the idea of it becuase, ultimately, it is community/relationship. It is the visual experience of the Imago Dei. THIS is why it is so important, etheral, concrete, and exhilirating. If a self’s representation of that self’s feeling, thought, or self touches another’s self, the second self feels a universal connection to other, beauty, idea, abstraction. An experience of art is an interaction with an other that transcends the self and the other.
PS: Yes, I know I used all three misconceptions in my response to the misconceptions. It’s called irony (pointing at you, brannon).