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The Eternal Debate

What is Art?

Does it have to be pretty? Does it have to be old? Does it have to be in a museum? Does it have to service some greater purpose?

Artists, philosophers, and freshman in Survey to Art History courses have toiled over these questions. Everyone from Plato to Karl Marx to your Aunt post-European river cruise has weighed in. And everyone should.

That’s the closest thing to an answer. In the centuries old war of what constitutes art, one battle does seem to have been divisively won. Most people can agree that what ever art is — it’s subjective. Whether or not something is considered “art”  is in the eye of the beholder. Of course, the pretentious philosophy major in the front row  will likely point out that the eye of the beholder has been influenced by years of subliminal messages from the media elite, and that the eye of the beholder is really just an extension of prevailing western aesthetic bias going back to the Greeks.

Those people are the worst.

There is a fair amount of truth to those statements. Much of what we consider beautiful has been shaped by the media and guys in togas. But, a lot of people don’t even think art needs to be beautiful. And philosophical pronouncements about the shallow origin of our conception of beauty don’t account for the vast array of taste and preferences that still exist in our media manipulated society. Subjectivity wins the day.

So what is art? Depends on who you ask. But, more importantly, it’s question you should answer yourself. If you decide that art must be painted in perfect linear perspective and preferable include a few cherubs for good measure, then that is what art is. If you decide that visual representation is for losers, and that to be art an object must abstractly represent an eternal truth, then that is what art is.

But, I would urge you to try and challenge your own definition, whatever it may be. Even if you don’t think that a plastic spoon is a work of art, talk to someone who does. And if you do think that a plastic spoon is a work of art, personally I’d love to hear why in the comment section below.

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