> Anyway, rather than jumping in at any one point, since there are so
> many, I'd like to re-post a question I put to the yahoo list (and will
> try to follow both strands). I've read a lot of talk about different
> kinds of Art (Modern, Post-Modern, Cultural, etc.), but...
> *** What IS Art? ***
What is Art?
First off you have to ask if this is a very significant or appropriate
question about art or if it is a question, the answer to which, will
provide much in the way of a useful answer with practical applications.
Teresa makes a good point.
Second, since the middle third of the twentieth century, art has
apparently and effectively been whatever anyone cared to claim to be art.
Period. For the moment this is the only answer which is both sufficient
and necessary to define all that we know as art. Unfortunately, this not a
very useful or practical answer either.
The next level of answer must address the numerous academic theories of
art each of which can provide a practical and useful answer to the
question within the narrow confines of each given theory. If you accept
the premises of the theory then you must accept the definition of art.
This pertains specifically to what is known as The Art World and, as
defined by sculptor Beverly Pepper, has true significance or meaning to
much fewer than 50,000 people on this planet; actually closer to half that
figure by Pepper's reckoning, I believe. If you put everyone on the planet
in the same city you would be unlikely to encounter anyone who, more or
less, fully understood these definitions in a week of searching, if that.
Which puts the value of these academic answers into a more useful
If you were to rely on the various forms of museums which attend to
material culture and products of human manufacture and some degree of
aesthetic (aesthetikos--pertaining to the senses) practice and the place
they have in human culture as well as the effects they commonly have had
on human culture I think the answer might run thusly:>>>
Art is a set of, essentially democratic, practices that the human species
has developed for mediating the experience of human life and shaping the
unique experiences of each generation according to its needs.
Art is an essential component of human ecology and the heart of any
conceivable engine of culture.
Specifically art offers a powerful way for an individual or a group to
have a say in the construction of community identity or personal identity,
of raising issues or questions which must be addressed by the sciences
which in turn will further shape the material world and the possibilities
and potentials of human life.
The core of this perspective on art is this: Make as much of your world as
you can and make it the way you want it to be with the greatest care and
attention you can muster. Take (steal) the best ideas you encounter and
make them betterĖmake them unique to your needs. Expect that your best
will influence others. You donít have to be smart or talented. You just
have to care and to put as much of that care into what ever you do as you
can. Thatís it. Oh, you donít have to participate. You can leave it all to
others, even those who do what they do to make themselves or others
wealthy at your expense..Just remember that if you donít bother to
participate your opinions are only those of an uninvolved spectator and
aside from the point.
Art is, as I noted above, whatever you imagine it to be. It can be as
important or as significant in the world as you want it to be or
significant simply because it is uselessĖas it is for many.
In response to an earlier question I personally think that nothing about
art pertains Globally. Science converges on singular answers that have
universal or global application. Art, on the other hand, diverges towards
individually significant or personal answers and builds small examples of
local consensus and shared values.
I would be seriously disappointed if everyone, or even a majority, thought
about art as I do. As much as I have attempted to devise the best
scientific and universal definition of art that I can it would run
contrary to art to converge on that solution and leave it at that.