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Subject: Discourse on art

Written By: Jinky Williams on 07/05/02 at 03:18 a.m.

Here's a question that should pique the interest of some... I know that in my experience it has been quite a conversation-maker with many that I've run across.

The question (as could possibly be gathered from the title) is this:

Can art be defined? Does it have a core, a set of mechanical, immovable principles that make it "art" and not something less? Or is art, at its basest point, purely subjective and not given to any technical standard?

I would put forth the opinion that art can indeed be defined, and I have found the following to be sufficient for all the scenarios I have encountered:

Art is the premediated observable representation of an ideal or thought held by its creator.

Now, let me go through, step by step of what I mean by those words:

premediated - Thought out beforehand. Now, you can have "spontaneous" art , but its creator must have some forethought as to what their aim and reason is.

observable - Able to be sensed somehow, be it by aural devices, gustatory, touch, ocular, or smell.

representation - Literally "re-presentation" to onesself or others. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with premediated. To represent it it must first have been presented (even if only mentally/interally).

ideal or concept - some ideal, some thought, that the creator adheres to or believes to be true. This is wide open for application, and can span from the spontenaiety of a Pollack(?spelling) to even an unfortunate extreme of a "perfect" crime. In both cases there was an ideal behind the work.

Now, even with this core, immovable definition there is still much room to move around as far as what defines "good" art, "poor" art, "bad" art, et al. The concepts of the "vehicle" and the "destination" of the piece comes into play here.
The vehicle are the materials that the artist uses to convey his ideal. This could be anything from bottles to canvas to paint and even choreography or words on a page.
The destination of the piece is the actual ideal that said artist is trying to convey. This could possibly be hatred or praise for an object, an expression of an artistic principle, eg "randomness" or "colour contrast", or a myriad of other topics.
Now the "good" and "bad" part of the above are where I believe many people attribute the actual definition of art to. Whether or not there was good craftsmanship in physical creation of the piece (the carving of the wood, the crafting of prose, et cetera), or how well the ideal was conveyed, or if it was even worth stating in the first place.

But, enough. I have said my piece and hopefully enough to get a discussion going.

Please tell me what you think. I would like to discuss any holes in my theories or definitions.

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: TripsMom on 07/05/02 at 08:58 a.m.

Gotta get some more coffee before I tackle this one. :o

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Goreripper on 07/06/02 at 09:53 a.m.

Further to TB's post, one could argue that if someone calls something 'art', it is, but I'm of the mind that art has to be created, and therefore the artist has to have something in mind to create to BE art, before it can be called so. If that's deliberately tearing a porcelain loo from a wall and smashing it to pieces and then taking a photo of the result, then it's art. But accidentally knocking over a load of paint tins that fall onto a floor and claiming the result is art, isn't.


Some people record electrical pulses in power lines and then sell the result on CD and call it 'ambience', and people buy it.

I think the difference between human and other animals is that humans can recognise something as art, whereas an animal cannot.

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Bobo on 07/06/02 at 09:58 a.m.

I realise this might be a difficult question to answer, but how does an animal view art, in this case, if he does not that of an artistic form? Perhaps simply something geometrical?

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Jinky Williams on 07/06/02 at 11:16 a.m.

Having read your discourse on art, Jinky_Williams, I wonder what (and who) doesn't constitute as "art" (or "artist") for you? I would think that anything made by human hands that they term as art (or as soon as they call it such), would immediately fall into this definition. This goes for such work as Marcel Duchamp's "ready-made" junk like the man's urinal he had on display in 191? (I forget which year) in New York as well as the canvas splatter of the New York School (i.e. the Abstract Expressionists) heralded by Jackson Pollock.End Quote

This is indeed correct (in my opinion). In any definition, there may be, included, things that one may not *want*. I believe that such a sacrifice has to be made in the defining of art. Because Marcel had a reason for putting the urinal the way he did, because he had something to say, this made it art. Even the fact that he was being flippant about what could be considered art is an ideal he had and was, in some way expressing it, is enough grounds for it to be included in art.

In a nutshell, my definition states that, basically, all that is needed for art is a body able to conceive of a notion of some kind or another and a way to observably express it.

Quoting: I don't think too much as to defining what exactly is "art," but I would readily call one a genius and the other an impostor/non-artist/decorator, respectively, for the simple reason that one could paint and sculpt in all sorts of forms and styles while the other couldn't (I've seen some of Pollock's non-abstract work and it leaves A LOT to be desired - simply put, it looks like crap...). If Pollock's smearing of a canvas with a stick can be construed as art, then by golly, we're ALL artists!End Quote

Exactly. This is where (as was stated in my original post) the room for subjectivity, personal preference comes in. You may very well think that someone can't draw, didn't have anything intelligent to say, can't paint, can't scuplt, or that their method of expression totally missed the mark of the concept they wanted to convey. All of these would be grounds for "poor" art. Art that, while still art, may be utter crap and has no real skill involved, either in the vehicle or the destination. Refrigerator art is a good example. From a purely technical aspect, little kiddies generally don't have good motor skills need to create a Monet nor may they have the needed cognisising skills to compose a satirical work. But none would doubt the sincerity of these expressions. In many cases they could be the embodiment of their mom or dad created in wonderful 2-d/Crayola. So who is to say that this isn't art? It may not be one's fancy, but I believe that it still belongs in the category of "art". Or maybe just an amateur scupltor who is trying his first marble block out. It could be an absolutely horrible representation of someone or something when he is finished. This, again, may be defined by many as "poor" art--but still art. Another example: Say some guy took a white pillar and set a hot dog right on the top of that pillar. He did this because he felt that the meat of the hot dog should be elevated and praised, perhaps because it tasted good, or looked inspiring, et nauseum. Now, this took no real skill to put together. A white pillar and a hot dog. The ideal may be dodgy at best, and highly subject to disagreement (especially considering how many hot dogs taste). However, this, again, is his ideal and how he chose to represent that ideal.

Now, as wide-open as my definition is, it does have razor-sharp boundaries. I will offer one for-instance that should "nutshell" the boundaries. Let's say some guy, a grocer, is carrying a box of tomatoes. This box is over-loaded, and some tomatoes fall out of the box and splat on the checkerboard floor. This is not art. There was no known preconception of any ideal held by the author in this case. It was purely accidental and there is no evidence of foreknowledge of this set of happenings. However: Say someone came along and said, "I like that! Look at how the red of the tomatoes contrasts so nicely with the checkerboard floor!" Would it be art then? They sure seem to like it and enjoy it for its aesthetic qualities. But I would say it is still not art. Many things can have artistic qualities. Everything has hue, lightness, contrast, composure, etc. The leaves of a forest in New England in fall, I've heard, is an absolutely breathtaking view. Now, if you believe in a higher power that created the leaves and that forest, it would be art. However, if you believe that the forest is there because of natural sequencing with no intelligence behind it, well, it looks fantastic, but no one did it on purpose. Now--back to our tomatoes. Now this young lady was so smitten by these tomatoes that she asked that they not be disturbed until she could procure a camera and take a picture of the colour-contrast. She gets the picture developed at a 1-hour KwikFoto and receives a fine representation of those tomatoes on the checkerboard floor. The focus is good, the intent is clear: She really liked that scene. Is this art? I would say "yes". She now has, in her hands, an premediated observable representation (photo) of an ideal or concept (that of colour contrast). The same can be said of paintings of seascapes or landscapes. While those landscapes may not be considered to be art in and of themselves, the impression made on the artist and the representation of that impression is art.

Allrighty! I've said enough for the time being. I am sure I've written your eyes off (hmm... or something like that). I also need to go to work.

Good day to y'all!

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Hairspray on 07/06/02 at 12:03 a.m.

In the paint-spill scenario -

Someone may not have the intention of creating art, but upon a glance sees a beauty or ugliness or characteristic that compells that person to save it, work on it, frame it, therefore placing intentional effort and in effect the paint-spill becoming art. Then by that person's perspective and definition it is indeed art.

That's my opinion.

More on the subject later...  ;)

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Jinky Williams on 07/06/02 at 11:54 p.m.

Quoting:Someone may not have the intention of creating art, but upon a glance sees a beauty or ugliness or characteristic that compells that person to save it, work on it, frame it, therefore placing intentional effort and in effect the paint-spill becoming art. Then by that person's perspective and definition it is indeed art.End Quote

I see where you are coming from on that one and acknowledge that direction of thinking. And I sincerely thank you for even being willing to think about it. Many don't bite... probably because it's a bit of a mouthful. I really enjoy conversation of this type. Thank you for keeping it going.

Here's my bid: Again, things can have artistic and aesthetic virtues. The paint-spill (tomato spill, possibly?) was still un-premediated. There was no forethought to the action(s) that ended in the array of colour on the floor. This permanently exampts it from "arthood" (by my definition). Nothing can change its status. Not appreciation nor a photograph or other observable likeness of it can. It was, and will continue to be, an accident. This is the line that my definition draws. The photograph of the tomatoes can be art, because it is expressing an ideal of its creator ("appreciaton of colour contrast" in this case).

Now, in a related study, a man purposely drops some other tomatoes to try and recapture the scene he observed that day at the supermarket. He is trying to capture the essence of spontaneity evident in the tomatoes' trajectory... or whatever. But, regardless of the precise reason, his ideal is "controlled randomness". They key difference between the actual original happening and the resultant creations based on said happening are that the resultant creations were pre-thought... the original was not.

On an unrelated thread of thought: By my definition, there can be no "anti-art". Any attempts to do so would only lead to creation of art because of representation of the ideal of "anti-art".  Hilarity and/or hair-pulling antics of frustration may ensue should someone try and work around this principle.

Quoting:Then by that person's perspective and definition it is indeed art.End Quote

And here is where the arguement comes crashing down. Societal acceptance of a foreign value or concept. It could indeed be that by that person's definition it is indeed art. I am trying to cover and support pre-existing issues of subjectivity and, at the same time, add structure an connectivity to a rather nebulous and dissociated state of affairs.

I hope this helped a little bit.

Subject: Origins of my compulsion to converse about art

Written By: Jinky Williams on 07/07/02 at 00:22 a.m.

I first starting thinking about this when, a while back, I heard (or read): "But is it art?". This got me to thinking about things. Why would they ask? Why would they challenge the validity of a supposed entity that someone else thought was art?
After discerning motives of many people, I came to the conclusion that many people define art by their appreciation of the piece in question. An individual who lives by this credo, however, is prone to instability in their view of art. Their appreciation of art is limited to their own experiences. It can therefore be very hard to appreciate art from other walks of life, from other ideaologies and other philosophical tendancies.
Perchance someone had a crappy day, hates what the creator of the work stands for, or, for some other reason known to themselves, they stand and state definitively: "But is it art?" They may think that bottles are a poor "canvas" on which to "paint" an ideal. They may feel that sprinkles of primary-coloured paint on wood a poor display of skill and forethought as to any real reason behind the action. The list goes on. But, for whatever reason, they decide that does not meet their expectations and therefore is simply not art. This, to me, smacks of lofty idealism, elitism, and pomposity.

I then embarked on a mission to create a concrete, universal definition for "art". It needed to be flexible enough and inclusive enough to allow for massive amounts of subjectivity, but at the same time have solid and immovable boundaries that clearly deliniates what is and what is not art. It needed concise and descriptive wording. I spent a couple days drafting a definition, and then, after talking with my dad over a period of weeks, arrived at its present incarnation.

I had a couple of things I wanted to have happen as people were exposed to, and, hopefully later, accepted this definition. I wanted people to consider and try to understand motives behind things, and not to immediately discount them because "it doesn't suit them". When you are not in a position to remove "art" status from a piece at a whim, you are more likely to ponder and decide just why it is you do or do not like the piece in question. Just that consideration can be enough to open your eyes to a treasure that was once not seen. You begin to see the intelligence and ground-breaking thought processes that brought about the dada-ist movement, and not just some dissociated letter and images. I also wanted people to realise that there may be a difference between "art" and "artistic characteristics" (as was lightly touched on in a previous posting).

So, there you have it. My cognitive thought processes for this particular topic.

I am always open to correction. I am not God; I don't have, nor do I pretend to, have all the answers. I have definitive stances on certain things because I allocate large amounts of runtime to them and talk about them and write about them. This just happens to be one of them.

Again, if you have comments, questions, disagreements, or what have you, please don't hesitate to reply. I love intellectual expansion.

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Hairspray on 07/07/02 at 00:42 a.m.

I forgot to explain where I envisioned the paint-spill scenario. I envisioned it happening on paper laid-out on a table or a floor for protective purposes.

Once the "accident" is recognized and admired, but then modified, whether it be for keepsake or display -

it becomes art.

In my honest opinion, art is what a person makes of it.

I don't believe in giving art a rigid definition.

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Jinky Williams on 07/07/02 at 00:48 a.m.

All righty. Question for you, then:

What about giving art a rigid definition don't you like?

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Bobo on 07/07/02 at 01:05 a.m.

I assume art is not what happens of itself. The Mona Lisa, for example, (as a painting, it was the first thing that came into my head), is, what I call a "showcase". It showed off the talents of this person, painting someone several years ago. It was a demonstration of what could be done, and I'm sure it's been looked up to by many since. As I said, it can't be the controlling of itself as someone else has originally made it - even in the examples of the elephant coprolites, someone produced it, and it's been criticised and/or acclaimed by many. As Jinky has said, I have often looked at something and thought "is it art". A lot of the time in those circumstances, I have said "No, 'tis a work of art" - ie. it's something new, using talents of a certain "artist" working in a certain field - and, more importantly, it took more work, and inspiration than a mere painting.

Not that I'm saying that paintings are easy to create, I'm more stating the fact that as we grow up, more and more ideas are being put forward, as additions to old, and as completely new concepts. I know of a few blind painters, who, I'm sure when diagnosed, nobody gave them a chance to have made what they did of themselves.

Having a certain missing ability is much more an encouragement from your own surroundings to do what you wish to do. In these terms, for ones own personal use, the definition that your average person sees as art (a beautiful watercolour painting, or a splendid usage of colours available on ones own palette to create something oneself) - whatever.
To become art, paint spills would surely have to be artistic. Of course, the boundaries for artisticism have been altered so much recently that this could encompass anything (from the simplest geometry, colours, to the interplay between them). Is it more about the interplay between these objects that gives things artistic status? Thinking about it now, I wouldn't be sure, but still, people have decided for themselves that they have created a great work, something different, and a little varied from the "norm".

What is the "norm"? Who knows? In any probable circumstance, exactly what is not happening to this sheet of paper at this point in time. Remember about boundaries. Art has no "this is art, this isn't art" these days, people have different views on everything, and as much as these views get changed, so the definition of art changes.

What is an "artist"? In my opinion, someone that denies that n way or y way is the only way. Some of the worlds greatest music is created by musical artists with only that in mind. To push boundaries of what they believe as music, an aural experience that people will either like and find enjoyable to listen to in its intrica-simplicities, or will find hard to listen to, and be able to pass critical judgement upon it.

Judgement is an important aspect on art. People can choose what they want art to be, exactly how they wish to define it, but the situation remains the same, visual and aural art is changing, and people will probably, in time, get used to these changes, and even welcome and anticipate them in varying degrees.

This, though, is not what is made of itself, but how, in the long run, it is produced, and made available to the public for "human benefit". The benefit of those who believe that "this could never happen". Although not about "units sold", rather "enjoyment of self", art has either two results. A good reception/bad reception, by the public in general. People are controversial in terms of art for no reason other than to check which boundaries are able to be breached, and to justify their own new boundaries with respect to other people's satisfaction.

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Bobo on 07/07/02 at 01:24 a.m.

A rigid definition can only apply to what one makes of it. Art covers so many genres, the beauty (don't get me wrong, ugliness too) of ones surroundings, received by the guy who listens to this piece of musical art, or looks at this ugly painting and sees some kind of beauty in the actual object/objects itself. "Works" of art, imply the "work" of an individual to come up with something new, and different. Although some people do and have worked to come up with the theories of Pointillism, of Jazz music, of... you name it, someone must have applied their skill in changing something to become something else, something that can fit under an entirely new category.

To elaborate, yesterday, because of this discussion, I took a single hour out of my life, simply to paint. Now, I'm by no means a painter, and what I came up with looked very geometric in quality, and extremely abstract in view, but I feel that I came up with some "art". A personal approach to what I saw around me. It was because of the obscurity of the painting itself that I never considered it a "work of art". This may sound contradictory to some, but I don't consider myself an "artist". I'm a musician, and although audio artisticism does fall under the idea of art, I consider myself much more someone who "plays" than someone who "manipulates for self". Maybe with time, effort, and a little perseverance, I can go a long way with what I've been given the natural ability to do. Who knows. It's up to me to make the difference that I explained in my previous message. Nothing can be discounted from what I think, I'm a very open-minded person when I wish to be, and I'm prepared to take any kinds of suggestions as to what people think of "audio articism", and the ability to do for pleasure. What do people think of the fact that nowadays music is produced with lucrative contracts in mind, sacrificing the music itself? Personally, as an amateur enjoyment-seeker, I find it disgusting that people can view anything any other way.

Perhaps I find music I don't like. What music don't I like? Truthful answer is, my brain says "I don't like this". I give it three or four listens, and by the end of the third, I think to myself, "you know what, I never saw that in this the first time". Same applies to any paintings, posters, whatever that may be hanging up in the wall you're in right now as they are mine. Someone has created them, and I'm fair enough to say that although I now think "what the .... did I do this for", "why did I buy this", and even "what enjoyment did I get out of doing this", there is an answer. The enjoyment is the same for any amateur doing anything. No pressure of anything taking your mind away from it. You can't get sacked from your job as a professional painter, working on your own, just because people don't like your work. They assumably have a hard time accepting it as your way of expressing art. It's all about the way that I have expressed various types of art over the recent years that I have been able to understand what I think, respect the thoughts of others without wanting to change them, and see enough of whatever it is I don't like to actually glean something out of it that I can learn from, that I do believe changes my opinion of the work in question.

I'm now going off to have a drink. I think I need one.

All righty. Question for you, then:

What about giving art a rigid definition don't you like?

End Quote

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Bobo on 07/07/02 at 01:35 a.m.

You mean like Eminem?

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Bobo on 07/07/02 at 02:13 a.m.

Oh, of course, sorry, I didn't read closely enough into your post first time around. Perhaps you can challenge people's beliefs on structure, now that we're in the 21st century. Along with this new century offers a whole new chance to start something afresh. People don't have to stick to the boundaries that were previously set, whatever the year is. I praise those more who challenge the known boundaries for their own benefit, no matter what the results are. More important is the testing of new things to see if and how they work with other things around them. If people's basic principles were challenged, perhaps the soft ones would be made to believe in them, but others would possibly remember the times previous, the times to which they attach "good" music, "good" art, and good entertainment culture. Challenging a rigid definition gives you the chance, and you the opportunity to change it yet again for yourself, because you are aware of the boundaries in society, and the changes within over the past... however long... however you found them out.

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Tarzan Boy (Guest) on 07/07/02 at 03:58 a.m.

Oh, of course, sorry, I didn't read closely enough into your post first time around. End Quote

Actually you did, if you meant that a "disartist" would "dis" as a form of art, but I'd choose spokenword artists like George Carlin or Bill Maher in that category to follow suit ;)

Tarzan Boy

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: XenaKat13 on 07/07/02 at 11:56 a.m.

I think the definition of what "is" and "is not" art is a purely subjective decision.

In the most basic definition, if it is necessary, it is not art, but if it is not, then it is. For example, a photograph taken for a work ID, is not art, but a photograph taken for any other reason is, or may be.

To elaborate, a few years ago I went to see an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs. Many, many people believe his work is "not art" or worse "obscene" due to some of the subject matter.  I found most of it to be "art" because of the way he chose the composition and arrangement of his subjects, and the way he used the lighting.

There was one photo in particular that stands out.  It was of a nude male, shown from the rear. One entire side of the body was illuminated, the other in deep shadow. It was a black-and-white photo, so you could not tell if this was a white man, or an African-American man. His hair was cut very short, so there were no clues there, either.

I saw this photo as "art".  It showed the beauty of the human form, while at the same time eliminating any preconcieved notions of "race".  This was a photo of a human.  Not a "white" human, not a "black" human, not a "brown" human.  Many of the other people there were shocked, horrified and disturbed.

Nobody could say exactly why.  Most agreed they had no problem looking at classical nudes in the nearby fine arts museum.  One person said that he was disturbed that it was a male nude and not a female one, yet he admitted that there were many classical male nudes to.  One person told me it disturbed her that she could not tell the race of the model.

Some of these same people gushed over a black-and-white photo of a lily at the same exhibit.  They called it art.  I didn't see what was so great about that one.  It might have moved me if it was in color...  Purely subjective taste.

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Hairspray on 07/07/02 at 12:28 a.m.

All righty. Question for you, then:

What about giving art a rigid definition don't you like?

End Quote

The definition of the word rigid, in itself, is everything art should never be.

I'll add -

Art should never be subject to confinement and limitation.

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: chris on 07/07/02 at 01:07 p.m.


The definition of the word rigid, in itself, is everything art should never be.

I'll add -

Art should never be subject to confinement and limitation.
End Quote

I think those statements are limitations in themselves. What does "should never" mean unless it is a limitation?

Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Hairspray on 07/07/02 at 01:13 p.m.


I think those statements are limitations in themselves. What does "should never" mean unless it is a limitation?

End Quote


Subject: Re: Discourse on art

Written By: Bobo on 07/07/02 at 01:17 p.m.

I'm rendered speechless. Quick, get the camera!