Why Is It (Not) Art?
Why Is It (Not) Art?, article.
Ctein touches on a subject with which I've conflicted with many readers before: what makes something art or not.
If you recall, I claim that if something is clearly and sincerely intended as art, it is art by definition, and saying that it is not art is a value judgment and not a category judgment. It might be great art or lousy art of insignificant art, but my viewpoint is that categories are important in thinking and communicating about things, and using categories-redefinitions as invalidation is confusing and unnecessary.
I think the argument hinges on the widespread perception/belief that calling something Art is implying that it's valuable, and this is what people might want to knock down in specific cases. I say that calling it art does not imply that it's good or bad, just what it is, as opposed to, say, food or a house or a car or a cloud or an insect.
It's similar to the pornography discussion recently. I think it would clarify communication if people would stick to the category definition (text or pictures intended as sexual stimulant) rather than the value definition (worthless smut).
I'll admit though that the whole discussion is confused (as Ctein touches on) by the actual definition of "art" being very much up in the air. Many people feel that it perforce has to involve some display of skill, while others, like Marcel Duchamp, feel that just declaring a urinal to be art makes it art, that it's the intention which counts.
On tOP, John Camp wrote:
"Duchamp's 'Fountain' and some of his other 'readymades' were jokes. In fact, Duchamp's most salient personal characteristic, present throughout his career, was his sense of humor. He had nothing but disdain for people who took some of his pronouncements seriously. He was, at times, an artist, but most often used his art to ridicule the foolishness of his day. Arrant nonsense was just as prevalent then as it is now.
Well, that makes sense. A lot of sense. However I still feel we should not out-of-hand dismiss the Intention theory of art. There are lots of grey areas. For example, take an old wall with patches of different kinds of bricks, remnants of old posters, etc. Most people will just walk past it. But a perceptive person can walk past and get an aesthetic experience from it. If he's a snapshooter, he may transfer that experience to another person, but it's unlikely. But if he's an artist, he could do it, and it's art. Even if it's seemingly just a straight record of the wall.
Or he could tear the wall down and re-erect it in a gallery. Is that art? Would it be art if he had built a new wall in the gallery, but it looked exactly like the old wall?