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Lesson Plans


What is Art?

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Greg Schnurr (gschnurr)
Sat, 17 Feb 2001 18:56:33 +0000


A definition of art that I have come to favour is one which has been
expounded by educators such as Ellen Dissanayake, who through her work
in evolutionary biology has found art to be an innate and species
centered human behaviour linked to our need or drive to "make something
special".
Dissanayake says:

Across cultures, the arts may be used to express and reflect religious,
political, economic, and other aspects of culture. At various times,
artists, because of the impact of their work, have been identified as
magicians, teachers, myth-makers, sociotherapists, interpreters,
enhancers and decorators, exhibitors of status, propagandists and
catalysts of social change. The visual images created by people we call
artists make it possible for us to learn about and understand cultures,
their histories and values. Sometimes artists ask us to question
certain values. Sometimes they encourage us to imagine and dream.
Across cultures, by making things special, artists both delight our
aesthetic senses and provide objects with many sociocultural functions.

This behavioural view of both art and artists also puts to bed the age
old question of what can be defined as "good" art as opposed to "bad"
art. If "making special" is a human drive or need, then what can be
classified as art becomes irrelevant. All of the end products are
successful, but more essential than the result is the behaviour or the
activity. A stance that artists in the post-modern movement certainly
have come to support.

Greg Schnurr
Toronto, ON


  • Maybe reply: Frankland: "Re: What is Art?"
  • Reply: Henry Taylor: "Re: What is Art?"