It initially sounds like a preposterous question, but I am at a complete loss to define exactly what constitutes “art” and what does not, yet I use the word daily, I refer to individuals as “artist”, and I judge (primarily films- 2 stars here, 4 there) based on some conception of “art” that isn’t even clarified in my mind. Every time I come up with a reasonable concept of what “art” maybe, I can think of another concept that fits the same criterion that, inherently, seems devoid of “artistic” merit.
1. Art as an individual expression of an idea, emotion, passion, neurosis, etc. (An individual expression of some sort)- Murder and/or rape fit this category quite well, making Hitler the most prolific artist of the 20th century and the Zodiac killer the most astute.
2. Art as something created by either a group or individual that reflects upon and/or instigates discussion, action, thought or desire socially- Super Bowl Advertisement (particularly Budweiser advertisements)
3. Art as social critique- Glenn Beck
4. Art as spiritual expression/exploration- Any sunday sermon, religious festivity or discussion will do
5. Art as form- Ikea or any commercial chain that deals in commodity
I also tried to distinguish art through intention. As art is necessitated out of needs that cannot be commodified, or in other words, have nothing to do with money. But that flies in the face of everything from Hollywood’s entire output to the Sistine Chapel.
Is our definitions of “art” just reflections of our prejudices, institutions, and perhaps limitations?
Is “art” merely a class distinction? A signpost for elitism?
Does it have real value or does is it merely disembodied representations of real humanity?
Does “art” actually prevent individuals in society from taking on social and moral responsiblity?
Instead of pursuing things under the category of “art” would we be better seeking therapy and volunteering our time socially?
Seeing as I am user number 259,412 it seems 259,411 people should be able to explain why this is a dumbass concern.
Art is a highbrow synonym for entertainment. Nothing more.
That really disturbs me
Really? I personally find it quite liberating.
Is our definitions of “art” just reflections of our prejudices, institutions, and perhaps limitations? I think so. Everyone has their own personal definition of what “art” is, some of it is acquired knowledge, some of it individualistic, some just a reflection of our culture and lifestyle or an emulation of things/people we admire.
Is “art” merely a class distinction? A signpost for elitism? It can be, it depends on your perspective. It also depends on the intention of the artist – does he/she really understand the art they’re producing? Do they realize they don’t understand it? There are a lot of suppositions that have to be made to really answer this.
Does it have real value or does is it merely disembodied representations of real humanity? Once again, it can have value if the audience regards it as valuable. This is not entirely a requirement because ‘great art’ (IMO) has been “delayed” by way of public recognition, such as the works of Kierkegaard or, say, Philip K. Dick or something. Artists who were not as appreciated alive as they are posthumously. Also, does the artist him/herself regard what they’re doing as valuable? I think though, even “bad art” is valuable in the end, because it reveals that most interesting quality of humanity: error.
Does “art” actually prevent individuals in society from taking on social and moral responsiblity? I don’t think so at all. I also don’t consider art this all-encompassing thing. I think there needs to be an intention to create “art,” an intention to create something of worth, of value (if only in an aesthetic way). However, if we take this all-encompassing view of art, where ANYTHING is art, then what’s the point of separating this thing and calling it “art?”
Instead of pursuing things under the category of “art” would we be better seeking therapy and volunteering our time socially? No, I mean artists aren’t humanitarians necessarily, the act of creating something that appeals to the senses (in one way or another, or intellectually) does not have to assist humanity in any physical way (mentally yes, emotionally yes). If it did, much of what we consider art today wouldn’t qualify. The question implies that artists are all maladjusted and neurotic and obsessed with themselves, perhaps most are, but I don’t see what good therapy or volunteer work would be. Is it better to stabilize one’s highs and lows and conform to a particular standard, rather than use this “flaw” as a way of depicting a certain kind of torment?
There is a higher kind of respect I have, personally, for anonymous or “unsigned” work such as the Sistine Chapel. It’s a rare breed of artist (one lacking a tendency to immortalize his/her ego, which is normally a prerequisite for any artist) who creates simply for the act of creating, desiring no recognition or specific appreciation.
EDIT: “Art is a highbrow synonym for entertainment. Nothing more.”
I’m actually disturbed by this statement as well. It’s so incredibly simple and one-dimensional. It’s assuming that “art” is only a facade, an over-intellectualized grab bag of jargon and gibberish, almost conspiratorial. It’s as if entertainment cannot also bring enlightenment and the bettering of oneself in some way. “Art” can be much more than mere entertainment surely.
I guess it just shows me that my admiration for certain filmmakers and musicians over, say, a neighbors highly expressive drunken chicken dance is solely based on my own prejudices. Especially as someone who desires to make film, I am wondering if I would just add to the noise rather than the clarity.
It is a little shock to the system I guess. Perhaps, if my thinking continues the way it is, it will inevitably liberating. But, just like any other time I have realized an objective truth as the illusion it really is, the initial response is disheartening disillusionment.
Why should there be expectations placed on anyone to see the value of anything beyond the Austin Powers trilogy (A trilogy I myself appreciate)?
I guess the utopian in me desires a world where “art”, under a unified banner, will elevate humanity to some greater degree of understanding, not just reflect cultural or individual predispositions.
It’s a simple and one-dimensional definition because art is a simple and one-dimensional concept. As it’s colloquially used today, it’s something artificial made for the purpose of being seen or heard. That doesn’t mean that pieces of art themselves cannot be of great complexity or have a great deal of intellect put into them, but that’s no reason to obfuscate the term into something mystical or to create arbitrary dichotomies (usually of little more than class).
There’s nothing mystical about it, it’s just very interpretive. Sure, maybe for you, art is merely an exercise or some advertisement, but not everyone subscribes to such a view. Once again, what could explain anonymous or “unsigned” art? How does one gain any personal satisfaction from such things? It’s an artificial representation of life, true, but the meaning applied to it is what really matters in the end.
Just to clarify this question “Does “art” actually prevent individuals in society from taking on social and moral responsiblity?”
What I mean is, in an age where there is at least one “Guernica” for every war, is it possible that art becomes the moral expression in itself? There have been 100 war films for every war and yet war rages on. Is it possible “art” is implicitly responsible in some way? Instead of communicating directly and honestly, do we relegate our moral intuition and social responsibility to works of “art” rather than bearing those things directly?
In all honesty, I don’t care what art means as long as it means something we all understand and we aren’t merely arguing semantics. The distinction of artifice by degrees of nobility seems to me to be a profoundly arrogant and silly way of deciding what deserves one word and what deserves another, and I make efforts to use art and entertainment interchangeably (as I do film, movie, cinema), if I’m doing something particularly radical or disturbing in that, it’s not intentional.
1. Art is the intended use of a medium to express of conflict or resolve conflict or suspend conflict.
The word medium is the key to excluding Murder and/or rape Hitler the Zodiac killer.
2. A the purpose of advertising is to create anxiety in a potential consumer – it doesn’t fit #1
3. & 4 can fit into #1
5 is excluded in #1 by way of intent
Critics have been complaining about money in art since the first transaction. So far they have not put forth a coherent argument against money or offered an alternative. They are looking at the definition from the wrong angle.
Money is inconsequential because my definition starts with the artist’s intent what happens after the creation is inconsequential to the creation.
But the intent is NOT to make money, so it excludes commercial work.
In fact Mao Tse-tung is the most prolific killer of the 20th century since he is directly responsible for 77 million deaths, Stalin ranks second (61 million victims) and Hitler third (21 million victims). I agree with Robert that the medium is the key, that’s why none of these mass murderers can be regarded as an artist.
For me, art means escape.
art means escape
That perhaps defines you.
What you desire from art is to escape from conflict, i.e. the resolution of conflict or the suspension of conflict
The idea of art goes back a long, long way. A long time ago, for instance, if someone made a bowl out of clay and used it to hold water – that was art and the person who made it an artist. So for the longest time art was the creation of a socially useful object, and the artist was someone who was good at doing that, like a shoe maker. Then eventually we moved into works of art that had no physical use, but had purely emotional or intellectual interest, like a sculpture or painting or poem. The goal with these arts was to expound social virtues that everyone could relate to, and in the case of a painting – it should reflect life and be relevant to people. The whole idea of art for art’s sake is an extremely recent development in the history of man. Most of the arguments that people have today regarding art are completely removed from the traditional dialogue. One of the problems of art today is that not enough directors are making socially useful art that brings people together about issues they all face. The Decalogue does this marvelously of course. In any case, I think the definition of art is so vast that whenever someone is creating something – it becomes a work of art. The difference is whether it is good or not, and that’s an entirely different discussion.
Entertainment is designed to entertain. Art is designed to elevate, to make you think, to challenge you, to ask questions. There is a difference. A Roy Rogers western like THE GOLDEN STALLION is entertainment. THE SEARCHERS is art. John Ford was an artist, whether he thought of himself as one or not. William Witney (director of GOLDEN STALLION and many Rogers westerns) was a craftsman and an entertainer. A very good one, to be sure. But Ford’s films take you to another place. Horses were Witney’s subject (at least in GOLDEN STALLION). Humanity was Ford’s subject. There is much to appreciate in both films, but if you were to view them side by side, you’d see the difference between great art and great entertainment. (I don’t know how many of you on this board who haven’t already seen these films would actually be interested in seeing such films for the first time side by side, but I guarantee it would prove to be an interesting exercise for young and intellectually curious film buffs.)
I don’t think entertainment necessarily has anything to do with “art”. With no research and off the top of my head, my feeling is that art is anything created that is a representation of something else.
Thing —> Person’s POV -→ “Thing”
Simple answer, and why not? That does mean that Michael Bay’s The Island is art. It’s just really bad art… rather, perhaps, it is more of something else (ex: “commercial enterprise”) than art.
I found (and find everytime I read it again) enlightening to this end the ancient greek anonymous’ essay Perì Hýpsous/on the sublime. According to the author art is ecstasy: “For the true sublime, by some virtue of its nature, elevates us: uplifted with a sense of proud possession, we are filled with joyful pride, as if we had ourselves produced the very thing we heard.”
Art is designed to elevate, to make you think, to challenge you, to ask questions.
Which is pompous and decorated description of entertainment. It doesn’t matter whether you’re watching something by George Lucas, John Ford, or Hollis Frampton, you’re only watching a film; and there is nothing inherently noble in the activity of amusing yourself.
Did you ever see Woody Allen’s SLEEPER?
It’s set in some super-futuristic time, and Woody has guests over to his futuristic space-pad.
His sophisticated guests are admiring a very old painting Woody has on the wall, oohing and aaahing over how unique and valuable a piece it is.
Camera reveals that it is a Keane “big eye” painting, circa 1964. What, in its time, was thought of as the epitome of lowbrow, petit-bourgeois kitsch.
The point being: You never know quite what is Art…. or how Art will appear in the fullness of time. The passage of time has a surprising way of winnowing out what is singular/memorable and what isn’t.
Here’s something I’m curious about. Let’s just go off my definition for one moment. For the most part, I think we would speak of art exclusively as something we observe only – paintings, music, screen images, writing… just a few examples. Dancing, whatever. You’re either creating it or you’re looking at it. Is there anything to do but observe? Where does interaction enter an experience of art? Or is the only possible combination for the non-creator to become a creator via the art?
I like Bruce’s approach to this subject – he cuts through derivative assertions.
Unfortunately, he puts nothing forward.
A sense of proud possession is a moralistic POV.
Is consumerism good?
The Greek said:
The carpenter makes the object – he knows most of the object
The owner uses the object – he knows the object.
The artist imitates the object – he knows least of the object.
(D told me which Greek, but I can’t remember proabbly b/c I am an Amercian. One can detect an irony that b/c he is Greek, he knows.)
My definition stems from the motivation of the artist, the source of the art.
This is a really complex topic for me (I’m an aspiring artist, I’ve given it excessive though)—one that generally when I discuss my opinion with someone it agitates them, but here we go (I’ll just skim the surface). Also, though, I’m not sure how relevant my view will be here because this is how I feel only about visual art (referring to painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, etc.), not necessarily film as art (haven’t given it enough thought on that end to say for sure what my opinion is).
I think that art exists solely for the artist’s expression, that the viewer of the art, though they can see the product, can never /truly/ experience the art itself because the art is in the process of creating it, not what comes of it. Only the artist can. Also, I think that art /must/ be impractical. If it was made to have a practical use, it isn’t art. (That was as condensed as I could possibly make it)
If it was made to have a practical use, it isn’t art. -Kant
Very similar to my experience. in fact, my definition was originally only for visual art.
Film art combines several mediums so it is more complex.
I suggest this for film art:
Film art is the resolution of a dissonance in the ordering of reality.
I’ll made a translation right from the original text (the english one I found seems to be too far from the litteral translation):
“Our soul, infact, keeps almost naturally the capability to gush over in front of the authentic sublime and with noble impulse fill with joy and pride, as if had created itself the very thing it heard.”
I think you refer to the ancien greek word “techne” wich means “ability, technique”. But english word “art” is more similar to ancient greek “upsous”. The autor, whit no pithy attitude at all, not refers to consumerism but wander around one of the soul skills, empatic involvment by the enchanted power of art.
It was Plato (putting on paper Socrates ideas mixed up with his own toughts) that wandered about the idea and the object. He said that the idea of bed, for instance, is made by God. This very idea was imitate by the carpenter in order to make a wooden bed. Finally the artist imitate the wooden bed.
So there are 3 beds, the ideal bed, the copy of the ideal bed, and the copy of the copy of the ideal bed. Actually Plato was wandering around the concept of wisdom: we only know when we know the ideas’ world.
Happy you trot out Plato, art brings us above wordly and tangible. imho
Is Bauhaus art? I’m quite sure it is art. Even if it discosed the heavy bridges of art to people.
^ ha I attempted to move away from that Kantian knot….Bauhaus was an attempt to resolve ( reduce) conflict