View Full Version : What is "Art"?

2006-11-28, 07:10 PM
Don't know if this goes here or friendly banter, but it involves art so I guess I'll put it here.

For those of you who read Irregular webcomics (http://irregularwebcomic.net/) you may have already seen today's strip (http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/1402.html). For those who don't, reading this (http://irregularwebcomic.net/comic.php?current=1376&theme=2&dir=next), this (http://irregularwebcomic.net/comic.php?current=1383&theme=2&dir=next), and this (http://irregularwebcomic.net/comic.php?current=1402&theme=2&dir=prev) should get you up to speed as much as is needed for this. Take a moment to read the annotations under today's strip. This comic raises a very good point. What is art? Is it a visual representation of a known object or the visual expression of a feeling. If it it either of those, does a blank sheet of paper fall under the title of "art" if the artist that made it wanted to convey a feeling of emptiness? At what point does a work cease to be a credible art form and become something else entirely? For that matter, at what point does any work cease to fall under the category it is meant to represent? IE: is that comic really a comic? After all, it is only a series of black rectangles with no dialog to speak of. Or is it a valid comic because of its contextual significance? What do you guys think?

2006-11-28, 07:53 PM
Ever heard of the anti-art movement? Modernism? Post-Modernism? Dada movement?
Basically almost ever since Oscar Wilde's (and even before) art for art's sake movement, there's always been the question what is art.
Easy answer? There is none. The question "what is art" is a philisophical one, thus there is no diffinitive answer. It is just as much as part of art as art is part of the question. If the question "what is art" dissappears so will art. If art dissappears so will the question. There is no answer simply because to give one you would have to draw a line on an intagible thing which has no boundaries. I remember a quote from a famous minamilalist composer that read "could letting a butterfly out of a jar be art?"
My Answer - There are three filters that decide art. The first being from artist to self. The second being from artist to material (as defined by guidelines, techniques, etc). The third being from material to audience. If it faulters in anyway between those points it isn't art.

EDIT - And reading into their forums, I'm glad one of my favorite American composers is mentions. Mr. Cage.
I'm all down for argueing about art, modern art, and other things. But there becomes a point where, to quote Woody Allen, it's just "mental masturbation." No real point.

2006-11-28, 08:07 PM
Art - From the Latin ars. Typically defined as being anything created with any intentions beyond pure functionality.

Really, a work of art is anything which engages with the concept of aesthetics in some way, all postmodern theory aside (and I could give you an earfull).

"Fine Art" is something more complex, but is usually understood as something created with aesthetics totally in mind and no "purpose" or functionality. I like to define it as anything created for the purpose of expression of some idea, no matter how esoteric/rediculous/petty/non-sensical that idea may be.

So, yes, that comic is definitely art. It was created. It was created not to be used but to be viewed. It does represent, in its own way, an idea.

Now, whether or not the comic in question is a piece of "good" art is something else entirely. On that debate, you have your basic two sides, one accusing the other of passivity and engaging with art solely for entertainment, and the other side accusing them of intellectual elitism and mental masturbation. This is where you'll get conflict with this comic.

As far as I'm concerned, I like the comic. Not the comic itself, because it is four black panels, for any pleasure of viewing, but because I like the idea behind it, and how it demands engagement from the viewer. The viewer who won't engage with the comic surely won't find any pleasure in it, but that is really a matter of taste.

2006-11-28, 08:52 PM
Art. Well, in my opinion, it's any expression that generates feeling intentionally. Speech is an art. Mime is an art (to some people). So, if 4'33" makes you think, it's art.

Is it good art? I think not. But art is for opinions, so I won't hold anybody else to that.

2006-11-28, 09:29 PM
I diagree with your "two sides" zombie. Then it just becomes personal preference, and that's no way to argue.
And I'm saying arguing what is art is mental masturbation. There is no point or end. It's like arguing what is personal indentity or what is freedom, etc?
That's why I don't like most modern art. All it does is ask the question what is art? Does this make you think this is art? Is this art? Over and over and over. There's no answer to the question so I don't really see the point in repeating it. A year of modern art could of told what we know, or don't know, now.
And of course I'm thinking we're only speaking of visual arts. Modern musical movements, such as 12-tone and surrealism, are pretty much acknowledged as art. They have rigorious systems. And modern literature are my favorite and I don't really see any arguments on what modern literature streaches the question. Though they are pretty modern in the sense that they break away from tradition, hugely.

2006-11-28, 09:45 PM
I wasn't siding with either. I find the debate to be pointless, either way.

I don't think that modern art is asking exactly "what is art?" but is instead asking "what are the limits of artistic expression?" (if any)

And if you actually get into the study of it, this is what most art has been asking since the beginning of time. Shakespeare is exploring the limits of expression just as much as René Magritte's "Trechery of Images" (the famous "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" picture) is 350 years later.

2006-11-28, 09:54 PM
The only official study of art I've done are a few eng lit class, an art history class, and an asthetics class. But I think that's enough.
Well whatever you think the question is the point is that I have yet to see any exploration then simply challanging and questioning. And frankly, I'm bored of it.

2006-11-28, 09:56 PM

Man this ten word thing makes the deep one word answer realy hard.

2006-11-28, 10:05 PM
You could of said life ten times, I'm sure we would of understood. Or, heh, thought you were talking about the board game.

Personally, I love art that makes me think or feel. No matter what it is. That's my main filter, me. I don't really care what other people thing though it is sometimes fun to read what they do thing. Aka Susan Songtog, etc.

Fat Daddy
2006-11-28, 11:57 PM
I don't think that art can be defined except in a very general sense (and that has already been done in previous posts). Art is a very individual experience. One man's art is another man's porn. I think that regardless of what the artist intended, it is each individual's interpretation that determine's if something is art or not.

2006-11-29, 12:42 AM
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Pornography is in the groin of the beholder.
Music is in the ear of the beholder. (listener?)
Art is in the mind of the beholder.

2006-11-29, 10:08 AM
That was a very interesting bit of writing he did on his site. I don't read that comic, so I would have missed it.

The black panels in question are art because they are part of a larger whole. They don't stand by themselves. That is part of the serial nature of comics and webcomics after all.

Just like with the example of 4'33". Most music contains silent passages. In this case the silent passage is used for the entire composition and demonstrates how important those passages are. I think it would have been less effective if a 1KHz tone had been played for 4'33".

As has been pointed out art can be very subjective. Some forms of modern art don't make me think any more then "meh, whatever" and others do.

2006-11-29, 03:44 PM
I don't like to get into debates about this because there is no definitive answer to 'what is art'. And a lot of you have said a lot of very good points already. It's subjective, and there will never be a consensus among everyone as to what constitutes art.

I do have to say this, however, to those people who claim that art must be representational or that abstract or modern art is not art, that these canvases splashed with random color could be done by any five year old....Not that any of you said this, but it's just a general statement to those people out there.

Try one. Make an abstract piece. Have you ever actually tried to make an abstract painting? I didn't appreciate modern abstract art until I painted one myself, and must now say that that painting required more time and thought and evoked more emotion, in me as the artist at least, than any of my carefully rendered representational pieces.

2006-11-29, 03:58 PM
Regarding Mr. Cage - John Cage, and specifically his 4'33'' piece, are representations of a music genre called chance or accidental music. A cough from the audience, a squeek from a chair, all part of the piece. So his so called "silent piece" is not just silence, or asking the question what is silence or why silence, but what fills the silence.

Regarding Alarra - Yes, but I still have enormous, absolute and unshakable, respect and admiration toward fine art. The masters are simply that, masters. I have yet to see a modern artist who has mastered not only technique, but the flow, almost effortless flow of emotion and feeling into a piece.

2006-11-29, 07:33 PM
*looks around... crosses fingers* Ok, I have tried to reply to this seven or eight times now. Every time as soon as I start typing something comes up and I have to leave. Here goes:

I think that truly good art is whatever inspires thought or simply inspires. Under this definition, good art is (as stated so many times above) in the eye of the beholder. A collection of random dots on a canvas may be a waste of time to one person, and a awe inspiring image to another. I think the fact that something like 4'33" generated so much discussion as to what music is, in a way, solidified its claim of being art. I myself love it when an abstract painting catches me of guard and makes me wonder what was going through the artists head at the time he made it; putting myself in his shoes for a few seconds and seeing the world through his eyes. For me, that's what separates what I think is "good art" from what is not. Of course, the same work may be nothing more than a waste of space to the next person who comes along and vise versa.
I'm really happy to see the response this thread got. I figured I would get a lot of "meh" but I guess not.:smallbiggrin:

2006-11-30, 05:52 PM
I think art is a expression of feeling. Actually, like many of the others before me, the answer to what is art, has indeed no definative answer. Any can be art. You can scribble on a piece of paper and say it is modern or abstract art depicting how modern art or abstarct art is simple and ugly. I figure that it depends on the Artist. I would ask, " Does the art piece portray a idea, a thought, a piece of knowlegde?" If not, it is not artwork. Everything art has a idea, intent, or purpase behind it . FAnart is to honor things. I doodle and scribble for fun, some times making a storyline, to test my skils, and sometimes I draw for practice. Even if you just scribble, it is art. I say there are no boundires to what art can be. The keyboard im typing with, One can call it art. I say, as long as the is an idea behind a picture, sclupture, literature, or whatever, it can be described as art. :smallsmile:

I consider all of the above art, becuse the purpose or intent of it is to portray the meaning or defining factors of art. :smalltongue:

2006-12-01, 11:09 AM
What is art?

If you have ever been to the St. Louis Museum of Art, I'm sure that you will agree that it has a great collection of classical art, native american art, both paintings and statuaries. These pieces are priceless, and the majority of them are truly enriching.

Then you accidently wander on to the third floor. Here is a collection of chairs, nails with strings on them, and "paintings" that look more like they were done by a cross-eyed, one armed midget. This is the "modern" art area.

Now don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that all modern art is bad. However, when a chair painted red and entitled "the blue chair" is considered art, then something has gone awry. The problem with the majority of modern art pieces is that the title becomes more important than the work itself. When someone has a length of wire around eight nails that have been hammered into the wall and it is called art, you should want to escape this realm of madness.

Raw emotion and expression of feeling exerted into a work is not art. It is reaction formation. However, feelings and emotions honed by talent and slaving away for hours on end in front of a canvas/sculpture—that is art. Art is created not in hours, not in days, not in months! Art is a summary of feelings, talent, and devotion combined and manifested in something that truly elevates the spirit and the mind.

Of course, art will not always please everyone. Art doesn't have to please everyone. But it should not attempt to merely jump on a bandwagon, be a fad, or attempt to change the definition of art. It also should not be made just to displease! I know that that sounds odd, but many people make rubbish that they know themselves isn't art jsut to rock the boat and get a big check.

So what are the elements of art?
Emotion is necessary. Where there is no emotion, there is no inspiration, and there is no fuel to drive the artist. When creating art, you are putting something of yourself into it. This something is your personal feeling. However, raw emotion isn't enough. You also need...

Talent. Talent is inborn skill, honed by practice. Some people have it, and some don't. Can someone without much talent just practice and become skilled? Of course! Talent is just the work I use to refer to that skill and aptitude at drawing, painting, sculpting, etc. However, talent without emotion is unlikely to go anywhere, and talent without imagination is a useless appendage, which brings me to my third point.

Imagination. Imagination is a prerequisite for creation. You must not only have the mental faculties to be able to comprehend what you want to create. You must also be able to inspire yourself with thoughts. It is hard to explain, but I'm sure that most will agree when I say that imagination is one of the keys to creation.

Devotion. Trust me. In the words of composer and professor Robert Greenberg, there's no looking up at the night sky and suddenly composing the "Moonlight Sonata". It is a struggle to make a piece of art. It can be frustrating, having to redo many parts, and then making a small mistake that forces you to start over again. But as ye sow, so shall ye reap.

So, I hope people agree with me. I know that I am probably forgetting key elements, but hopefully this increases peoples understanding.