Today, we’re living in a time where art is something to be celebrated. We have countless awards for the different mainstream mediums in which art is being portrayed; we have film events and ceremonies, photography galleries, and countless exhibitions and concerts everywhere in the world! We’re constantly learning that art is everywhere…and everything. Right?
Maybe it’s just because I’m an IB student and we’re required to think about different areas of knowledge and essentially question claims and knowledge itself in a Theory of Knowledge course…but two questions that I constantly hear in our discussions are “What is art?” and “What makes art…art?”
My class looked at multiple examples of controversial artist installations, only to raise the question of whether or not they could be considered “art”. Personally, when I think about what constitutes as being art, I would need to take so much more into account versus looking at whether or not it “looks nice” or was “drawn/painted”.
Technically speaking, the dictionary defines art as:
“The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”
If that’s the case, then anything could technically be art. Couldn’t it? If I wanted to express an idea by throwing trash on the floor, then putting a placard next to it with a title of the “installation”…would that not be considered art? This definition of ‘art’ is so open-ended that anything can be considered art. For me, I think anything with meaning can really be considered art. I’d like to consider myself to be a relatively open-minded and accepting person, and if someone were to regard something I wouldn’t readily label as art…then it has every right to be a work of art in any way possible. As we all know, art seems to have no boundaries and is a constantly expanding field of work and study…
So can something really be stopped from being considered art?
An argument that was frequently brought up in many discussions was whether or not we can consider something ethically compromising as art. And that’s where things tend to get a bit convoluted and confusing.
I like to let people define their own ideas of what art is because everyone will end up having different criterions for what they feel like can be accepted as art. (And what authority do I have to assert one definition of art as the “true” definition?) Maybe it’s because I’m also an art student, so I see art as having relatively lax guidelines, but I also can tell when I don’t agree with things I deem “immoral” or “wrong”. So where do we draw the line? Is there a line that can be drawn? Can something that seems ethically wrong be considered art? Does art need to be inherently moral?
My vision isn’t for there to be a universal, definitive definition of art, because in all honesty, my definition could completely differ from the next person down the road and that person’s would differ from someone on the other side of the planet. But what I do want to do is provoke a deeper amount of thought into the concept of art.
Take a look at this article or look up some of Damien Hirst’s animal work…do these count as art?
If they don’t, then…what is art?