What makes something ART? Do we really need to ask?

I went to an artist show at the BWAC today. I have a friend, Eric Fennell,  who had a piece in the show. Now I normally walk into shows, galleries and museums, and I’m in and out. Because art is hard for me, or rather art appreciation is hard. It’s a skill that I have not mastered.  I touched on it briefly in this post Quicker, Faster, Better? Or Lesser? The thing is, with the question of what makes something Art or not, it becomes a simple answer for me. When someone puts their work in a frame, or mounts it or puts it on display and says this is art, then it is art.

I think the question people are really trying to ask is how to you quantify art, I think I saw that somewhere Oh yes. Here it is.

How does it affect you, Do you connect with it? Gee do you like it? This doesn’t mean something is art.

A sunset, is a sunset art? Go outside, watch a sunset, beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful, breathtaking, moving, emotional, everything that people seem to want from art. Is it art?

No, a sunset itself is not art.

Now take a picture of that sunset, paint a painting, sculpt the sunset, now it is art? Well almost any way.

Is it art if no one sees it? If I take a picture, I admire it, I put it in an album, then what? My intention isn’t to show it, to share it, then how can it be art? It is like the sunset. Take the picture of the sunset, you have to frame it somehow, compose the frame, make the exposure, and then create a print. Then frame it, and display it, and PUT IT OUT INTO THE WORLD. That makes you an artist, and an artist makes art. You may be a bad artist, you may make sucky art, but who are we to judge. Perhaps you make shit. Can you call it art? Yes. Just ask Piero Manzoni, a joke perhaps, canned laughter?

Why is a picture, or a painting or a sculpture of a sunset art, yet the sunset itself is not? Because art must exist as art. As something to be displayed and discussed for what it is, what relevance does it have on our life? Is a movie art, or music perhaps, is that art? Music inspired by the same sunset that inspired the painting that is art? Music and movies, I would say no. Commerce perhaps, oh it is entertainment. Is that why it isn’t art? Again I wouldn’t say that was the reason. In general (and all generalisms are flawed) movies and music are not presented as art, so they are not.

I was talking to my friend Eric about this. He had a photo hanging in the show (It is the one called Big Sound) at BWAC. Eric is talented,  and he puts his work out there, and much of his work doesn’t have an intention or a statement, he just makes it, and lets it move you or not. When I look at his work, I want more. Because it doesn’t move me, and I want it to. This is not a value judgement as to whether his art is good or not. Just that I am left unfulfilled, and I don’t want that, and it is not Eric’s intention. Others connect with it, but that isn’t the point, whether it moves only one person or ten million, whether it speaks to you or not. I made a film called Shades, which was based on a poem of the same name that I wrote forever ago. The film has no dialog, and I wanted it to be ambiguous – “existential” as Eric would term it. I put in my intention, but left the specifics of the interpretation to the audience. Shades, not art, just movie, even if it is as ambiguous as Eric’s photograph Big Sound, hanging in the BWAC exhibition.

I like movies, and TV, easy to watch, to consume as it were. Moving and changing moment by moment. Movies are really a social medium, meant to be watched in groups in the dark. T.V. is mostly meant to be consumed by small groups. The internet – a solitary experience I would expect, if I wanted to think about it, a shared solitary experience. But not art. Filled with emotion and passion  and intention. Filled with artistry, and statement and point of view, but for the most part, movies, TV, Music – not art. Because these media forms, they don’t require anything from us. Sit there and watch and listen.

You can’t go look at art. You can’t go watch art. you have to participate in it. I don’t mean like another piece in the BWAC show, this from Matt Taylor, where he wanted you to physically interact with the art which is fine and cool and I really enjoyed that interaction, participatory art.  In a way all art is participatory, but not physical. You see in the end, art is art because it asks something from us. We can’t just look at it or listen to it as with a movie or music. We have to actively go into it, see how it is a reflection on our lives, on who we are. It doesn’t matter fine, polished, rough or raw.

Art is art because the artist puts it out there and the art challenges us to answer this question “What are you?”


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3 Responses to What makes something ART? Do we really need to ask?

  1. michelle shyman August 28, 2013 at 4:07 am #

    I make gorgeous, outrageous and unique jewelry. One of my friends, a makeup “artist” (really a craftsperson) told me that my jewelry was art because it’s beautiful and it makes people want to wear it…but I told her it was only jewelry.

  2. sgladstone August 28, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    Art and craft, intertwined, but not the same. I’ve longed all my life to be an artist, but in the end I think I am at best a craftsman.

    SO I understand. Can a book be art, a poem, a sword? “Today Iningo I am an artist”

    Of course he had to die then, having reached his goal.



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    […] « What makes something ART? Do we really need to ask? […]

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