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Lesson Plans


Re: Definition of Art

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
R. Moore (ronmoore)
Thu, 17 Dec 1998 17:12:26 -0800 (PST)


Lily Kerns has raised some very nice points about the way we conceptualize
art. We do need to ask ourselves what we're up to when we try to define a
loaded word like "art." What will it matter whether we draw the
boundaries so as to include some things (e.g. quilts, football games,
flights of geese) and exclude others (e.g. murders, wrestling matches, Mt.
Ranier)? Sometimes a good deal hangs on the distinctions we draw==money,
educational programs, museum contents, etc); sometimes all that happens is
that our attention is focused one way rather than another.
Contemporary philosophers struggling with this issue have often
thought that the identification of various things as artworks ultimately
depends on an institution, the artworld, within which theories, cultural
history, and personnel (stakeholders in the world of art--including all of
us!) interact to create a context within which things get DEEMED art; i.e.
their status as artworks is ACHIEVED in light of the operations of the
artworld institituon. If this way of looking at things is appealing to
you, you might want to look at writings by Arthur Danto and George Dickie,
who have been the Institutional Theory's foremost advocates.
Now, one nice thing about the theory is that it takes account of
the time-problem Ms. Kerns mentions. Something could have been made at an
earlier time without any intent of its being regarded (then) as an
artwork, and yet, because folks later on DEEMED it art, it would become
art at that later date. And of course it could subsequently become
non-art, and later again, art, and so on. It all depends on what goes on
in the artworld within which each population lives. And artworlds, like
art itself, are always on the change.
Ron Moore