What is art and do we even need it?

dunfly

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To quote Judge Potter Stewart in his ruling on pornography (which I would also apply to art):-

"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced...but I know it when I see it ..."
 

sashbar

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I think art does not need a definition. You know it when you see it.

PS Just saw the previous post :)
 

Fred von den Berg

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For me, a well written story, a good performance at the theatre, an evokative song, a painting that captures the imagination, a poem that dances through the mind, a speech with reverberating rhetoric, philosophy that enlightens and explores, music that moves, a film that fascinates, comedy, tragedy, cabaret and ballet: all these things and more are art, and are essential.
 

dasmith232

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... what the heck is art anyway? ... sketching, drawing, painting, pottery, photography ...
I think that none of these is art. Put sculptures, fashion, architecture and performing arts on the list, and I still think that none of these is art.

For me, art is a message. All of those things above are simply the medium for the message. Choosing the right medium can make the message much more effective (or not). But ultimately, if a photograph moves me, it's because of the message that I interpret from it. If I see an inspirational sculpture, it's still the message that is evoked inside me. Amazing architecture? Same thing.

The comment about "I'll know it when I see it" is right on. It's not the medium that did it though. It's when I hear/feel/see the message that resonates with me in some medium, that's art.
 

DanOstergren

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In my opinion art has little to do with the viewer and everything to do with the personal expression of the artist. Many people assume something is not art because they either don't approve of it, don't feel anything when they see it, or don't understand it. I think if it represents the expression of the person who created it though, it then becomes art regardless if it means nothing or does nothing for those who view it.
 

dasmith232

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Ah, you're right. My focus was on the receiving end of the message. Perhaps it's the ... (looking for the right word here) ... successful(?) or accepted(?) or otherwise widely regarded artist whose message is received by others.

I definitely agree that an artist is one who is seeking to craft that personal expression. The art is the realization of that effort...? Maybe?

The existence of an artist is pretty concrete: anyone who declares to express themselves. The concurrence of art is subjective, and therefore open to debate when trying to define it.
 

Designer

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Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 2.40.22 PM.png
 

DanOstergren

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When I lived in San Francisco I would go out to the gay bars quite often, and in SF there is an abundance of sexual freedom and liberation especially in the gay community. One thing I remember very vividly was how unlike in many of the other cities I've lived in, the bar staff in many of the bars in SF would not kick people out for having sex in the bathrooms, nor would they even discourage it, especially during Dore Alley Street Fair and Folsom Street Fair. I personally saw a lot of vulgar things that made me both gag and laugh and I don't think I could ever forget those things. That urinal installation photo you posted presents a very satirical representation of those experiences to me, and it made me laugh and think back on my time is San Francisco. I guess that makes it art. :eyebrows:
 
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Designer

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I guess that makes it art. :eyebrows:
When Marcel Duchamp posed this artifact and pronounced it "art", many people thought he was "taking a Pi$$", to borrow a British colloquialism. And, of course, Alfred Stieglitz made a famous photograph of it which he then proclaimed was also art.

So a found object, turned on its side, and entered into an art exhibition becomes "art" whether anyone else agrees or not. Same for the photograph.
 

otherprof

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So I got to thinking earlier - what the heck is art anyway.

If I think of art at school its sketching, drawing, painting, pottery, photography - its creativity. But its not boxes or tables; nor is it cards or bicycles because those things are Design and Technology - they are designs not artworks.

Some say that art isn't those things, but its a creative work that evokes emotion and an emotional response in the viewer. And if we take that line as a description of what art its the field suddenly explodes open; especially if we consider how much of a reaction and what nature of reaction counts as a "reaction". Now we can add drama and music; dance and poetry as artworks for they can most certainly evoke emotion in the viewer.

However with such open definitions we start to get confused. Is art linked to skill and technical achievement? Well ask anyone paying for it or anyone viewing anyone charging for it an they will likely argue tooth and nail that professional stuff must have quality and technical competence of "a certain level" to count.

And yet we have the Tate Modern, where dirty coffee mugs and empty rooms are prized forms of artwork. Items where the amount of creative input is what most would consider trivially childish and which often require a good essay or three to back up the "inner meanings".


So now wait an empty room is art?


To me art is, in today's world, a term which is almost worthless. I think once art was a thing, it had rules and a definition. It was something that as concrete and which had rules to follow for what did and didn't count. Certain things were in and others were out; and whilst those rule and boundaries did change over time, they didn't go away until relatively recently.
So now we live in an age where almost anything can be an art; where its combined with so many things and spread over so many mediums that we can't pin it down. We even understand how art is derived from the natural world around us; how many of the core compositional theories are based upon patterns viewed in the natural world.




So to me art is meaningless. It means nothing save an aspiration to a title of yester-year. A sketchy hazy link toward the great art masters of the past. In todays world art means nothing; but it means something to be a photographer. It means something to be a painter, a carpenter, a designer; a musician. These are things where we can have measure; where we can think within boxes just a little to have a title of worth; to have skill and talent.


So art - its very definition today is meaningless - and even if you don't agree with that I can bet that your understanding of art will differ to thsoe next to you. That its defining features will change from person to person - a word that has such varied meaning as to be near to immorpossible to bring it all together.
I once attended an exhibition of quilts at the old Craft Museum in Manhattan, which morphed into another shop for the Museum of Modern Art. There were old quilts and contemporary quilts, and some were quite astounding (quilts from the 1800's where the pattern only appeared when viewed from twenty feet away, like a Dali effect!) ,
but my favorite was a spherical quilt, about ten feet in diameter. The description of the quilt included the following:"Since this quilt is totally useless, it must be art."
 

DanOstergren

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I guess that makes it art. :eyebrows:

So a found object, turned on its side, and entered into an art exhibition becomes "art" whether anyone else agrees or not. Same for the photograph.
Hey, I'm just sharing my own interpretation of it. According to what many feel is required to define something as art, this fit's the bill based on how it makes me feel.
 
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As I said - Art is rather a useless term. It's a word devoid of unified meaning and even within a tiny sample size we already have multiple personal and quite varied differences in what does and doesn't count. Even to the point where some definitions are a state of mind at the time of creation rather than any property or quality of the final product.
 

table1349

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Everything is Art, nothing it Art for Art does not exist. There is only Like and Dislike being disguised under the term of Art.
 
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amayax

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Maybe it has been mentioned before, I will read through the topic at some later time, but just my opinion on art in the modern day here. :)

When looking at art, I mainly see three different kinds. Sometimes a combination, sometimes purely one, sometims somewhere inbetween. It is hard to categorize art, it is not a black and white thing, it is a spectrum of colors.

First there is the "traditional art", to just call it that. These are the works of art where the artist spend hours, days, or even weeks of work on a single piece. The longer you look at these kinds of works of art, the more you see. There are a lot of details, a lot of things that are going on, even if there only seems to be one. Looking at these works mystifies by the use of perspectives, colors, shapes, patterns, anything. A sandwich would be captured as that, a sandwich. With perfect balance of shapes and colors. Right away you feel hungry, you can almost taste it and smell it. you want that sandwich to be saved for years, not touched, not eaten. They tell a story, you expect something to happen, no matter if it is a lion leaping out of the canvas to rip your face off, the snell reaching your nostrils or just an eye blinking or focus shifting. Art appealing to the feelings and senses.

Then there is the "social media art" as I like to call it. Point and shoot pictures of something with a lovely filter. Coffee mugs that you can put on your wall as a break in the plain color, but not as decoration. Much like having the tv or the radio turned on while ironing your clothes, you are not really watching or listening, but that mere blur of sounds is a comfortable break in the silence. These kinds of pictures are meant to show, but not to tell. Nothing is happening, it is silent, blank. There is no story that is created by the image, there is a story that is created solely by your mind. You don't expect the coffee mug to be washed, you don't expect the room to be filled. The sandwich would never smell, and it would never strike, it would be a snap with a filter. Even my profile picture would fit there, as it is not something with a story, there is no action. There is depth, but nothing happening. Calling it "social media art" might sound degrading, but these works of art can actually reach the sweet spot between the other two categories, where nothing is happening, but yet there seems to appear a story. Art appealing to the backgrounds of life.

Finally, there is "modern art". The white canvas on which the artist has sneezed while his nose was bleeding, as formulated in the movie 'The Intouchables'. I once read a story about a few guys simply putting up some spots, shining light on an empty corner of a modern art as if it was one of the art pieces, and people walked up to it and stood still, admiring the lightfall on the empty corner. Or a guy merely putting his glasses on the floor and people admiring the creativity. Here is the twist I have noticed during my time as a psychology graduate, modern art is a psychological game. Where a beautiful painting is made to tempt the senses, the nosebleed-on-white-canvas painting is made to tempt the mind. You are supposed to sit down and think, what does it mean to you? The art is not made by the artist, but by the person looking at it. The artist merely creates a trigger. A sandwich would be photographed so up-close that you can see the perfectly horizontal layers without immediately recognizing it as a sandwich... or maybe, even rotated 90 degrees to not have horizontal, but vertical lines. Art appealing to the philosophical thoughts of the mind.

Art is in the eye of the beholder. Some people consider dance an art, others do not. Some people consider writing poetry an art, others do not. Some people consider fencing an art, others do not. And the same goes for more narrow categories. I once read an interview with Tom Six, the mind behind the Human Centipede Trilogy. Looking at the movies, most will be digusted, few would be intrigued. But looking at the thoughts leading to him making the movies, you find quite a lot of creativity. It is just a form of creativity that most consider to be 'gross', 'sickening' and 'inhumane'. It is still a work of art, even though it is not appreciated by most.

Now, of course there is also a difference between good art and bad art (often referred to as 'being no art'). In my Buddha pictures (Feedback on this very Zen image) you can see this at work. The first pictures would be bad art, but it slowly reaches art as progress has taken place. Of course, there might be someone somewhere who just totally loves the first set of pictures, and say it is art, then it is good art. because this is purely subjective. There are people who can stare at The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn for hours multiple times a year, and there are those who view it from the corner of the eye, raise a brow and walk on. That doesn't make it universal good art or bad art, it makes it art.

Art is not a predefined region with solid boundaries. Which is what I love about it from my psychological point of view.
 

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