Friday, March 19, 2010

What is Art?

What is art?

People are always saying things are not art. How, I wonder, do they know when they don’t appear to know what is art or what art is, if that is any different? Does anyone know what art is?

I may not know what art is but I know what it isn’t, I mean I know what isn’t art, if that’s the same thing? A pile of bricks is not art, nor is a cut up cow, or someone’s unmade bed, or a picture of a woman, who might be a man, with a silly grin on her face and a moustache on her upper lip. It’s the moustache that does it or does for it. Without the moustache it might be art, I’m not sure. I mean who ever heard of, I mean saw, a woman with a moustache?

Art is a picture of something, where you can see what the thing is, like a road sign

Art is a picture of something which resembles the thing which it is a picture of, like a photograph in my magazine or family album, or like Michelangelo’s ‘God Creating Adam’, which captures God (and Adam) to a T.

Art is beauty.

Like Loch Lomond or the Andes in the spring?

No, I mean art is a picture of something beautiful.

Like my photos of Loch Lomond?

I mean art is a beautiful picture.

Like Goya’s ‘Saturn devouring his children’? That’s horrible!

The distinguishing characteristic of art is ‘significant form’. Like a urinal which signifies a place to piss? No, like an altar which signifies a place to pray, or an aerial map which signifies a place to bomb?

Art is what artists say it is, said the artist. Or is it what artists do, asked the other artist? Everything they do, like having a piss? No, only what they do which they also say is art. Who gave artists this power? God. Who decides who is an artist? An artist is a person with a certificate from an art school or art college. Like Giotto or Rembrandt or Picasso? Alright smart arse, you are taking the piss – at least Giotto, Rembrandt and Picasso were trained by other artists.

What makes someone an artist able to train other artists, so that they can say what art is … or isn’t?

They make art.

But what is art?*

John Molyneux

* For the correct answer see John Molyneux, ‘The legitimacy of modern art.’ ISJ 80