Friday, February 20, 2009

A Question

18 comments:

Mr. Plainview said...
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Mr. Plainview said...

From Augustus of Prima Porta to Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, a question has been forming in my head. Without realizing it, I have endlessly pondered this question—day and night, with each breath that passes through my chest. I am not the first to ask this question, and I won't be the last.

What is art?

To answer this question, I first sought the aid of a dictionary. I consulted several dictionaries; these two definitions struck me the most.

From the ever-insightful dictionary.com:

[ahrt] (noun): the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance

And from my grandfather's World Book Dictionary:
(ärt), N: a branch of learning that depends more on special practice than on general principles

***Most of my arguments are made in the context of these definitions. I remove my own personal beliefs as much as possible.***

Generally I can understand why paintings are considered art. Some, I admit, are beautiful and others are just fun to look at. Le Moulin de la Galette has been my favorite painting for a long time, as my parents have a copy of it. I admire the effort placed in the religious paintings of people like Botticelli, Caravaggio and Giotto. It's always nice to sort through the colors of an Impressionist like Monet. Picasso makes me dizzy, but I can still appreciate the use of shapes and such. Fine paintings are art. Fair enough.

But what about when little Suzy Xing scribbles an ugly compilation of lines on what used to be a perfectly good piece of paper? Is that art? I suppose, if Mommy Xing decides to find it aesthetically pleasing, she's entitled to consider it art. I guess if I ever give my contribution to produce a little Brandon, I'll find his ugly compilation of lines beautiful, too. Is this where the second definition comes into play? Does a father learn to find his child's scribblings beautiful? I don't think so. I believe a parent generally loves his child, and genuinely finds those scribblings beautiful. Now, does a parent only find those scribblings beautiful because he loves his child? This may very well be the case, but it's completely irrelevant. If something is art to a single person, then it is art. Perhaps it is only art in that person's perception of the world, but all one knows is his perception of the world.

What about poetry and other types literature? When I say “fuck”, I'm a bad boy with a dirty mouth, but Baudelaire is a genius when he writes it? With reference to Foucault, I think two things matter here. First, I do actually think context is important. Obviously, Baudelaire is writing it, whereas I'm saying it. Second, we have much different intentions. I have never said “fuck” to describe the actions of insects crawling over a carcass. One might argue that when I say “fuck” it's a branch of learning that depends more on special practice than on general principles. Admittedly, I never say “fuck” on general principle, but I would never consider it art. Baudelaire's poems do produce special images and emotions. Understandably, poetry is a certain art. All fine forms of literature are art. If a story can fondle or manipulate one's emotions, it is certainly a skilled piece of work. If a Clifford book makes a child smile, the smile itself is a piece of art—and the story itself must be recognized for its role in conjuring that smile.

And pictures? Sure. If it creates emotion, why shouldn't it be art? Now for the tricky bit—pornography. Does that create emotion or simply a physical human reaction? Citing the first definition, I think this would be within the realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is appealing to some. Again, I'm not saying I believe it's art; I'm simply citing the definition.

Music? Yes. Obviously. I would argue that certain types of music are of a higher quality than others, but that's not what I'm considering at the moment.

Nature? Yes. Hokey, but a definite yes. Wherever it came from, it has a surreal calmness you can't find anywhere else.

Emotions? YES. YES. YES. I strongly believe emotion is the driving force behind our interpretation of art. The more we love something, it becomes that much more beautiful. The more we hate something, the uglier it becomes. Now, can we love something that's ugly and hate something that's beautiful? I would have to think about that. I'll need something else to blog about when I'm out of ideas.

My real point is that art shouldn't really have a definition in any dictionary. I mean, it should so some idiot can find some general explanation. But art really has to be experienced and interpreted by the individual. Otherwise, the individual can't hope to have any idea.

Dean Elazab said...

that was a trip through the mind of brando cambo, this has to be documented and autographed for future reference

Aaron Nussdorf said...

Jumping off Brandon:
I believe that art, in its purest sense, is anything that evokes not only emotional, but a spiritual response: something that touches our impression and understanding of humanity. This is not to say that science is not an art form, because art and science require a new or novel perspective on a situation and both discover, or rather uncover something innately human.

However, I do not feel that emotions, in and of themselves, are art, rather the dipiction, description, and transmition of emotion give art its meaning and essence.

Also, who said that art must equate to beauty? Some artists use art to dipict exactly what is wrong in sociey, Baudelaire for example.

jp said...

I'm gonna basically agree with Brandon's conclusion that art is whatever people - the individual, a group, whatever - say it is, or perceive it to be.

Take putting fish in a blender, for example.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/3040891.stm

Is that art? I think it's just kinda sadistic and weird, but apparently somebody out there thought putting goldfish in blenders was artistic somehow.

Can anyone fairly tell another person "No, you're wrong - that is objectively not art"? I don't really think so. I wouldn't be surprised if there was somebody out there who thought goatse or 2girls1cup were "art" in their own ways.

stephen said...

I think that art is certainly an individualistic interpretaion especially abstract art. Impressionistic art is more about capturing a moment in time, however, a moment or an action can have many interpretations. Art is a means for people to express their feelings through symbilism and techniques.

tmichals said...

Like Brandon and everyone else so far, I agree that art cannot be defined or confined to a certain description. Brandon, you asked if we could love something that is ugly... I don't know if you've ever seen my one-eyed cat, Mr. Bingles, but he is pretty dang ugly. However, I love that cat more than anything. I know technically he is not art, but who am I to say that anyways. Art is anything that expresses or evokes feelings in my mind, whether they are feelings of malaise or extreme emotion.

Ehren said...

Yes, I agree. Art is art because people say it is. Just like something is beautiful because someone says it is. You can't really be wrong if you think something is beautiful.

Mr. Plainview said...

I was just joking.

Mr. Plainview said...

There's no such thing as art.

Aaron Nussdorf said...

Ok, Brandon...?
Well, I will submit this question again:

"Does art have to be beautiful?"

Many of the 20th Century artist commented on the problems of city life in the 20th Century. Many rejected the conformity, but some of their art was extremely graphic and not necessarily pleasing to view. However, these images were very powerful but devoid of beauty. ...just saying...

Mr. Plainview said...

In response to this "Art doesn't have to be beautiful" argument, I would like to clarify that question I asked. When I asked if we could love things that are ugly, I was suggesting perhaps an inner beauty. (Hokey as it may sound). Mustn't we find them beautiful in some way if we love them?

Aaron Nussdorf said...

I think we're entering an area where something can be aethetically pleasing but not that stimulating: I did not find Gougan's pictures of Tahitian women very interesting but I found them beautiful. Sometimes, I think something can be "ugly" but very interesting to examine; however, somethings can be beautiful but not intereting to think about.

Mr. Plainview said...

Would you consider it art if it's beautiful but not interesting to think about?

Aaron Nussdorf said...

Obviously, Gougan's works are considded art. This is my subjective interpritation.

Margaret said...

Art is what you make it to be. Anything can be art. You will probably not always agree that something is a piece of artwork, but if someone believes it's art, it is to him/her.

ndepass said...

YOU CAN CONSIDER ANYTHING ART! If i tape a feather to a piece of paper and say it is art, then to me it is art. And if the creator thinks what he/she made is beautiful then that is all that matters. if it reaches one person and one person appreciates it then it served its purpose as "art"

Manal said...

I agree with the those that said art is whatever a person wants it to be and that not everyone is going to agree with the other. To one it would be art while the other would disagree and see no reason for it to be art. I think that's an important trait. By having so many interpretations and views amongst ourselves is exactly the reason why there is art. If everyone thought the same things were art then even that art would just become a part of life and lose its value. This way there is always some sort of art in the world. And not only just in paintings.