Monday, February 2, 2009

What is Art?

An ongoing conversation over @


founder said...

“What is a work of art?”

No doubt those who love art of any kind could launch into their own ideas regarding an
answer to the above question, yet for years people have tried and failed to reach a celebrated conclusion. Even my mother, who I cannot laud as being an art critic, gave me her two cents, “Art is creativity, and it’s about making things.”

I kept the example of Yves Klein to myself. He was one of the fore runners of the conceptual art move- ment, and once held an exhibition in Paris consisting of a completely empty gallery. It seems emptiness and liter- ally nothing can still be art. So is that the argument over? Can anything be art? If nothing is art, then surely everything in between can be to?

If there are ten bottles on a wall, and one is not green but blue, then in the same way that one is not green, nine are not blue. Confusing? Yes. It’s rather easy to make the most simple of things confusing if need be, and I would rather not get bogged down in the question put before me. Surely in order to work out ‘What is a work of art’ all we have to do is establish what is not a work of art. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as it first seemed. After decades of conceptual and contemporary art, it turns out that most of the things you think surely can’t be art, have been, and more worryingly if you’re not a fan, are widely celebrated. Take shit for example. Surely shit is not art. Wrong. Italian artist Piero Manzoni created a collection of tin cans with his own excrement in them. And junk? Modern sculptors such as Tony Cragg or Bill Woodrow
put an end to that argument with their sculptures of reclaimed material.

So is art still about the creativity, but rather then having to do all the creating, it is in fact adequate to think of the idea, and let others possessions, or “junk” be used. Jean Arp is famed for tearing up pieces of paper and fixing them where they fell, and the work of Tristan Tzara is renowned, and all that consisted of was randomly selected words forming the sentences of poems. So art can be random? As long as the artist is the artist, surely when there stops being an artist, there cannot
be art?

The example of French artist Orlan suggests otherwise. She put herself under the knife in order to change her face into what is accepted as being the definition of beauty. The project, which began in 1999 called ‘The Reincarnation of St Orlan’ showed that art can even feature no artist in
control, just an artist coming up with the idea and subsequently becoming a victim of the idea.

Are we getting anywhere? So art is just ideas, it’s whatever you want, its not about what it is, it’s about what it isn’t. In essence, and after trying to find out what oth- ers think, I have come to the conclusion that art merely exists, and is the result of a meaningful process. It’s impossible to create art by accident, for if you were to even ‘accidentally’ spill paint, the second you call it art,
you are making a meaningful statement, and requiring that you define it. If I look at the mouse in my right hand and state, with meaningful intent that it is now a piece of ‘art’ then it has become one. Until I do that, a mundane and perfectly ordinary mouse is just that, a mouse. So scrap the four-year degrees and the endless life drawing classes. You could slave for years searching for the per- fect shade of pink to finish that self-portrait, or you could shit in a can and call it art.

If you want to accomplish something, if you want to be an artist, well keep making art. If you want to be a publicist, make meaningful accertations about everyday items. Don’t worry - it turns out today’s publicists are yesterdays artists.

shara said...

I quite enjoyed reading this. I still have no idea what art is and what it isn't, but it doesn't really seem all that important. I've resisted being an artist my whole life, for various reasons but have decided to give in. I'm filled with creative and destructive energy. art-making suits me fine.