Is it art?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

There is never ending debate about what makes something art. One answer seem to have become axiomatic over the last few decades. Only the artist him/herself can decide that any given object it art.

To understand why anyone would believe this, it helps to know that in the early part of last century, Marcel Duchamp set up this precedent by submitting to an art show a glazed porcelain toilet which he had grafittoed with the pen name R. Mutt. In his defense, the toilet/urinal thing did have some great lines.
In the decades that followed, particularly the Sixties, people who wanted to answer the question 'What is art?' but were too lazy to put any real thought into it decided to put the whole thing in the lap of the artists and sometimes curators. At least then you know who to blame.
However, this sort of sloppy logic is demonstrably untrue. Many objects that were never intended by their makers to be art now reside in art museums (the spearhead on the right is in the MET). Many objects created with great artistic fervor now reside in landfills.
From bronze daggers to ball gowns, bodily fluids to burnt offerings, what makes something art has little to do with assertions and a whole lot to do with social constructions. Just like money, art exists because we agree it exists. Only the most personal art forms can be considered art with only the artist's assertion because the artist acts as both creator and admirer of art.


Cecile/DreamCreateRepeat said...

Yup, you caught my take on this completely. I have been thinking about this lately (sometime I'll have to tell you about a friend's submission to a international ArtBot -- robotic art -- show) and I think art is a form of social contract between artist and viewer....

btw I love the ink piece accompanying this post. I didn't see an atribution, but I am assuming its one of yours. This viewer concurs that it is art! ; )

tori said...

Actually, that's an abstract piece from a Chinese artist whose name I can't recall just now.

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