An Artist In Every Sense Of The Word
[The original paper is a bit of a long read, but for the creatives and artists out there, I would highly recommend reading through this discussion, very interesting]
I had to talk about this seeing as my tag line is “An Artist In Every Sense Of The Word”; which originated with my own definition of what I considered art. From the apparent drawing or painting on a piece of paper, to “art” on the basketball court, every tool, every little creative process to some degree, I can usually feel the artistic vibe in it somewhere. Now I say ‘to a degree’ because even with this mindset, I come across stuff every now and then and think to myself “how the hell did this get in an art gallery” or even more frustrating, when I come across “artists” or “art objects” that get love and immediately think of 100+ artists that have much more skill and appeal to me that I feel should be getting the real exposure. A while back one of the artists I follow posted something that I believe was getting re-blogged a ton of times, and it was basically an art project that consisted of walls..with holes in them. This was in a gallery, this was getting love from the art community and experts, and that person as well as myself were thinking..”you can’t be serious”
Anyways, enough blabbering about that, let me share some excerpts from this paper that beautifully discusses this in greater depth. Again, highly suggest reading the whole thing all you artists out there, I’m only taking out like 5% of stuff from it.
In this portion, he discusses the idea of art being identified as art by the elites, not necessarily because it possesses the nature of art, but just because it has to.
“A work of art is an object of which someone has said ‘I christen this a work of art’ ” - George Dickie (Contemporary Philosopher)
This act of christening can turn an ordinary artifact into a work of art. John Brough argues against Dickie in the sense that you need a combination of “intention” and “making” but obviously the christening is done with mental formulation as well.
He mentions that essentially, according to the christening theory, “everything that is art is art by designation”, and although designation isn’t the ultimate necessary condition, it is quite integral.There is however, at least one universal feature that characterizes all art according to authors of the christening theory; which they explain is not an essential property, but an accidental one. In other words, it is often added by the designator where art has less to do with the nature of the object but more to do with the behavior towards the object by the designator.
He compares this practice of christening to the arbitrary practice of naming a child. Gender consideration aside, first names are rarely linked to the precise nature of the child. If you name your daughter Sonya, you could easily have named her Theresa, Louise or Rachelle. You call her Sonya though because you feel like calling her that. As soon as the naming ritual is performed, that child becomes Sonya, not because she has a Sonya-like nature but simply because she has been christened as such.
The distinction between art and non-art possesses social weight but intellectually it is vacuous. If experts can’t give a reason as to why certain objects are defined as art other than “because I said so”, then there is a problem. We are left with an empty appeal and argument by divine pronouncement.
If one group (art world) identifies an object as art, then society is ipso facto, obliged to do the same. This now becomes a discussion on social privilege, and attempting to make the christening procedure a democratic one will only have you running into more problems because then if anyone calls it art, it’s art. Strange when you change art with another word, “if anyone calls it blue then it’s blue”, or even worse “if anyone calls my son George then he’s George”.
The term “art” is very elastic and can be attributed to almost anything which is why this stuff is even discussed. If you want it to have some useful meaning, then you must implement certain restrictions. In actual practice though, art is treated special; housed in museums, books written about them, bought and sold for vast sums.
“We cannot consistently invoke the right to present anything as art and at the same time, expect the public to respond with the kind of focused attention and reverence that traditionally attends art objects”
If art was a term referred to behavior then we would appropriately speak of them as “art states” instead of “art objects
Prolegomena for an Essentialist Aesthetics
“The term ‘art’ is the generic name of a species or group of things. Calling something art is not like naming your favorite hunting hound Rolf. It is like pointing at Rolf and saying: ‘This is a dog.’ If Rolf is an alligator, pointing at Rolf and saying that he is a dog will not change the situation. Someone might, out of spite call a pet alligator Dog, but ‘Dog’ is then a proper name. It doesn’t refer to what an alligator is.”
Louis discusses one important aspect in this whole conversation, and that is the necessary condition of “skill”.
“Technical mastery is the means, not the end of art…Anyone who has practiced art knows how hard it is to achieve true economy of expression. Simple effects may be highly skillful.”
I probably don’t need to go into detail as to why I’m ending with this, but in general. I feel some artists pay for their great level of skill because it looks “simple” or “easy” to do. Whereas others are showered with praise for something that looks complex but require little creativity and minimal skill.
In the end, as much as you narrow it down, I think every creative personality is entitled to their own definition of what art is. It’s one of the reasons as to why, as much as I loved the show, It was hard for me to watch The Work of Art when it came to the judging portion. Obviously in a competition you have to work to please the judges and their criteria’s but in general, it’s something I disliked very much myself during art class. I hated being told what was “good” or “bad” (I discussed about my art class experiences before on my blog so I’m not going to get into that again here as this post is super long already)
Anyways, if you want to read the actual paper, just Google the title and you’ll come across the pdf file.
Groarke, L. (2001). An intensional definition of art: Christening theories versus petit essentialism. Journal of Value Inquiry, 35(1), 95-95.