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Art or Not?
December 29, 2011 2:42 PM   Subscribe

What is art, really? Is it dependent on context? Do you need an art history degree to appreciate it? Was Jackson Pollock an artist or a scam artist? Are Grand Tour portraits considered art merely because of their age? These questions have been objectively unanswerable - until now. Through the power of the internet, and the experience of Hot or Not, we can measure the democratic answer to these questions.
posted by Pants! (93 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love how the first thing I got was one of Cory Arcangel's Photoshop gradient pieces.
posted by griphus at 2:48 PM on December 29, 2011


...or possibly just a Photoshop gradient.
posted by griphus at 2:49 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


we can measure the democratic answer to these questions

I must admit this is one area where I think majority vote has absolutely nothing to offer.
posted by bearwife at 2:51 PM on December 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


I think this is a great website - but I think for myself, the question I answer for each item is "Does this look like other things that I have been told is art?"
posted by rebent at 2:55 PM on December 29, 2011


We all know what art is, it's paintings of horses.
posted by The Whelk at 2:56 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


such as these horses
posted by rebent at 2:57 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like how there are tons of photos of paintings hanging in museums, all with scores of like "30% Art."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:58 PM on December 29, 2011


I guess I'm taking this too seriously, but it seems that, sight unseen, every single blessed one of them must be art because at a bare minimum someone took a photograph of it which makes the photograph art even if the thing being photographed is not.

And that's a binary proposition: it either is art or it isn't, not something to be graded on a ten point scale.

Whether they're worth your time to look at is a completely separate issue.
posted by juv3nal at 3:02 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damned art prescriptivists.
posted by pseudonick at 3:13 PM on December 29, 2011


A small quibble/derail: These questions are not any more objectively unanswerable than the question "What is religion" or "What is philosophy" etc.

What is art, really?: Art is art if an artist says it is and/or if the context positions it a such. (What is an artist? Someone who devotes a reasonable amount of time to making art)

Is it dependent on context?: Yes. See above.

Do you need an art history degree to appreciate it?: No, but the likelihood is high that you may understand it/ engage with it/ hold it to different standards if you have if you have an art degree and have spent a large portion of your life thinking about and studying art.

Was Jackson Pollock an artist or a scam artist?: This question does not compute. Of course he was an artist. Being an artist is defined by regularly making art. It doesn't matter how advanced or successful the art that is produced is. If someone is, say, a slow marathon runner who still trains a lot and races marathons regularly, that doesn't mean they are by definition not actually a marathoner. If someone isn't regularly spending time thinking about and making art then they aren't an artist.

Are Grand Tour portraits considered art merely because of their age?: No, they are considered art because they are paintings made by artists.

Now that I have that pedantry out of the way, I find the link sort of amusing. It's like a graduate seminar in some ways. I have to agree with juv3nal though and say that given their context and presentation as part of this website they are all going to edge into "definitely art" territory.
posted by stagewhisper at 3:17 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's times like this that I have to keep reminding myself that people who are interested in "what art is" as an answerable question have nothing interesting to say about art.
posted by cmoj at 3:18 PM on December 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


More like these Horses.

And it's been decided by Komar and Melamid — this is art, this isn't.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:19 PM on December 29, 2011


Darn it benito, you beat me to Komar and Melamid. But you missed the MeFi FPP.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:20 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn it that sounds like I'm saying the opposite of what I'm saying.

Art is anything anyone says is or views as art. People interested in asking the question as some criteria for what is allowed to be art have nothing interesting to say.

And now I make this comment art. See? It's easy.
posted by cmoj at 3:20 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


We've pretty much completely forgotten how to teac /read the Big Narrarive Paintings, so the average viewer is trying to read something in a completely different language. They are illiterate.
posted by The Whelk at 3:22 PM on December 29, 2011


stagewhisperer, you may be right, but isn't saying art is art because it's made by artists circular reasoning?
posted by Pants! at 3:24 PM on December 29, 2011


I would like to upload my flatus to that web site.
posted by idiopath at 3:25 PM on December 29, 2011


No, they are considered art because they are paintings made by artists.

Not exactly. In Brancusi v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that an object is art if it was produced with the intention of being art, and that it was created by a person recognized as an artist by his peers.

This allows objects conceived by an artist, but executed by non-artists. For example, a metal sculpture might be produced in a foundry by skilled workers. Those workers might produce merely functional objects that are decorative but not art (e.g. a brass hand rail) but they do not not become artists when they cast an artwork like Bird In Space.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:31 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, does that ever take me back to 1999.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:31 PM on December 29, 2011


In the 1980's I Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine ran a cartoon that showed two guys in white coats pointing a gizmo that looked like a radiator wrapped around a big TV camera at a painting in a museum. The caption: Is it art or not? Only the Art Detector (tm) can tell for sure!
posted by localroger at 3:31 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Excellent!
posted by R. Mutt at 3:33 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I must admit this is one area where I think majority vote has absolutely nothing to offer.

Thanks to the tweeted comments and emails that are apparently now de rigueur on all news broadcasts and comments on news websites, I've come to the opinion that majority vote almost never has anything to offer.
posted by winna at 3:35 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


charlie don't surf, what does that ruling have to do with the reasoning behind why *these* specific works are considered art?
posted by stagewhisper at 3:38 PM on December 29, 2011


and is the US Supreme Court really the best judge in this case?
posted by Pants! at 3:41 PM on December 29, 2011


Well I don't want to get all self-linky and that but just read my novel and it'll tell you what is art or not. Really.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:42 PM on December 29, 2011


What is art? Baby don't crit me don't crit me no more.
posted by The Whelk at 3:44 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Art is what you can get away with" - Warhol
posted by alex_skazat at 3:45 PM on December 29, 2011


Actually, what I would consider art that I would produce is almost entirely based on context and feeling and is almost impossible to attain. It's sort of like being a moral idealist and a corrupt world.

And that's what you see - objects created called "art" amde in a corrupt world, by corrupt people, for corrupt reasons.

And the critic of these object, from a vantage point, high up in someivory tower, attempt to inspect and reflect upon these objects and say if they belong in a more utopian ideal and setting.

I mean, you see the problem with this setup, right? Right.


So do what feels go to do and don't hurt anyone and celebrate your little victories in your life.

Fuck art, let's dance.
posted by alex_skazat at 3:48 PM on December 29, 2011


A small quibble/derail: These questions are not any more objectively unanswerable than the question "What is religion" or "What is philosophy" etc.

I assumed that the lede was sarcastic? Of course these questions can't be answered by crowdsourcing.
posted by Think_Long at 3:49 PM on December 29, 2011


Plus I'm pretty sure contemporary art criticism hasn't argued "what is art" for many many decades.
posted by Think_Long at 3:51 PM on December 29, 2011


I'd completely forgotten Hot or Not was once a thing. I feel like I just lost the game.
posted by gerryblog at 3:54 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think this works better if you remember that "Hot or Not" sites where you voted on people were a comet that flared brightly but briefly across the internet sky c. 2005 before disappearing utterly and forever into deep space.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:56 PM on December 29, 2011


Jinx!
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:56 PM on December 29, 2011


Art is a little boy's name.
posted by chavenet at 3:57 PM on December 29, 2011


Just to add to what cmoj said: what counts as art is not interesting. Someone's relationship with art, on the other hand, is very interesting, and part of that relationship is trying to suss out what art 'is'.
posted by litleozy at 3:57 PM on December 29, 2011


Horse art (bonus, I'm related to the cook)
posted by sammyo at 3:58 PM on December 29, 2011


Complaining about "is it art?" as a question just pushes the question back a step to "is it good art?"

For instance's, cmoj's comment is definitely art, but it's derivative, facile, and pretty much just plain bad. See how easy that was?
posted by fatbird at 4:07 PM on December 29, 2011


I always wonder if people who say "that isn't art" have any idea that there can be BAD ART. Is this installation of a single used tissue art? Yes. Is it GOOD art? Probably not. That wasn't so hard was it?
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:08 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was with the program for the first few pieces. I recognized that the gradient was binary, but I tried to be a team player. 1 for "not art", 10 for "art", but I threw in a "5" for "it's art if you want to call it that, but it's not going to find it's way into a museum any time soon".

Then the stumper. A piece of clip art. A light bulb, roughly brushed, with yellow overlay, and a blurry-ish word stenciled in the center: "idea".

OK, if this was the original piece, set in prewar 20th century, it's not just art, it's *good* art. But as an illustration, it's not art. It's a commodity. It's a postcard Mona Lisa, or Mondrian gift wrap. The question though, is what was I looking at? In the digital world, if the facsimile is identical to the original, what is art? The art is in the idea, the innovation, the execution. The medium just conveys the idea. Of course, there are ideas about media, too, and the art world is chock full of insufferable navel-gazing.

Light bulb. Idea.

I want to say it's not art. But it provoked me like art.
posted by Xoebe at 4:08 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


if the question they are actually asking is "is it art or not?" then shouldn't there be only yes or no as answers? having a scale from one to ten implies a judgement of how artistic something is, or how good a piece of art you think it is. or, well any number of questions other than the one they claim to be asking. piffle, I say!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:10 PM on December 29, 2011


The more I think about this, I suspect the site itself is a art.
posted by Edogy at 4:12 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Once more with feeling:

This is a joke on those ancient "Hot or Not" sites. Thus, the implied message is: voting on "art or not" is as silly and superficial and useless as voting on people's looks on the internet.

Thanks for your time. Carry on interpreting it like it's totally serious now.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:12 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shitty Website or Not. Dot com.
posted by chasing at 4:13 PM on December 29, 2011


OH! Shit. I was interpreting the art wrong. I hate it when that happens.
posted by chasing at 4:13 PM on December 29, 2011


Well I don't want to get all self-linky and that but just read my novel and it'll tell you what is art or not. Really.

Yeah, but it's kind of long, and The Recognitions is a dumb title.
posted by tigrefacile at 4:17 PM on December 29, 2011


The majority crucified Christ, supported slavery, segregation, believed women shouldnot vote and that people who are gay are going to mythological hell.

Wait? why should I care about the majority?
posted by edgeways at 4:23 PM on December 29, 2011


and is the US Supreme Court really the best judge in this case?

Well, with plaintiffs like Marcel Duchamp and Edward Steichen and expert testimony by Jacob Epstein (and others) I think they did pretty well. Judge for yourself: for tax purposes, is Bird in Space to be classified as "domestic utensils or surgical implements" or "art?" Basically SCOTUS said they would recognize the art world's designation of art objects.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:32 PM on December 29, 2011


Is there a way to look at the highly rated art pieces on this website?
posted by vidur at 4:38 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


A NSFW warning would be nice.
posted by zzazazz at 4:45 PM on December 29, 2011


Who is using this site? Because the ratings are all weirdly low (like the movie "Hackers" got below 50%, which is unconscionable). What kind of demographics would lead to this? Would it be "art world" people or retro types who won't accept modern art?
posted by vogon_poet at 4:47 PM on December 29, 2011


The majority crucified Christ

do you mean to tell me there was an election with actual ballots counted?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:47 PM on December 29, 2011


Some highly rated art by country. (bonus: accompanying book)
posted by stagewhisper at 4:52 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is stupid: Either it is art or it isn't; the vote should be "yes or no" and not "scale of 1-10".

Q: "On a scale of 1-10, is this art?

A: What the fuck?
posted by 3FLryan at 4:58 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


[I'm quite proud of combining a colon and semi-colon like that. I'd even call it art.]
posted by 3FLryan at 5:03 PM on December 29, 2011


Nothing in the first 15 that I would call art, gave up after that. Also, what 3FLray said.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 5:09 PM on December 29, 2011


3FLryan: I was just thinking the same thing. However, it wouldn't be a very good tribute to Hot or Not if they just went changing things willy-nilly because they made more sense.
posted by ropeladder at 5:24 PM on December 29, 2011


Hee, all this disagreement about the site itself leads me to think it art.
posted by frecklefaerie at 5:27 PM on December 29, 2011


I was bored by the site, but I find the concept hysterically funny, even separate from the Hot or Not motif.
posted by zeek321 at 5:28 PM on December 29, 2011


Art is a little boy's name.

That's inspired me to upload a picture of Mr. Garfunkel to the site.
posted by kersplunk at 5:51 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


And anyway, this isn't even a new idea. One definition of "art" is "whatever [people/the hallowed judgers of artistic merit] agree is 'art' is 'art'". See the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's discussion on the Definition of Art.

The most prominent and influential institutionalism is that of George Dickie. Dickie's institutionalism has evolved over time. According to an early version, a work of art is an artifact upon which some person(s) acting on behalf of the artworld has conferred the status of candidate for appreciation.

In this case we are all acting "on behalf of the artworld".

But it's just one definition. And I happen to think it sucks as a definition of art.
posted by 3FLryan at 5:51 PM on December 29, 2011


And I do realize I am taking this waaaaaaay to seriously. But it's fun and I LOVE talking about art.
posted by 3FLryan at 5:52 PM on December 29, 2011


My Kid Could Paint That (2007) is an excellent documentary which explores the question 'What is art?' in the context of a four-year-old girl's rise to fame as an abstract artist. It's well worth a watch, especially if you enjoy these kind of questions.
posted by Quilford at 6:09 PM on December 29, 2011


A guy I knew, when asked this question, defined art as "That which is in and of itself."

That's when I decided that I wanted to destroy him.
posted by Think_Long at 6:15 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Man, I once submitted a picture to Hot or Not of myself smearing a chocolate-covered Rice Krispies Treat all over my nipple. Now THAT is art.


Last I checked, I had a 6.8, which I think was pretty generous. Then again, it was the early aughts, who knows what we were thinking.
posted by bxyldy at 6:29 PM on December 29, 2011


(also, despite calling myself "bxyldy" here, I'm a dude, so the nipple was all good. I guess.)
posted by bxyldy at 6:30 PM on December 29, 2011


Man, I once submitted a picture to Hot or Not of myself smearing a chocolate-covered Rice Krispies Treat all over my nipple. Now THAT is art.


Last I checked, I had a 6.8, which I think was pretty generous. Then again, it was the early aughts, who knows what we were thinking.


The oddest part about this is the conspicuous lack of one "s".
posted by 3FLryan at 6:48 PM on December 29, 2011


Talk about NSWF! The fourth image in was a picture of my boss. I gave it a 10, but it still only rated 28% art.
posted by hexatron at 7:06 PM on December 29, 2011


Huh, rating, whu? It's been a while, and I can't be bothered, but wasn't the mechanism of Hot or Not exactly that binary decision: is this Rice Krispies treat nipple rubber hot, or is it not? And the 6.8 indicated that 6.8 out of every 10 voters clicked the "hot" button?
posted by dirtdirt at 8:56 PM on December 29, 2011


Is it such a stretch that things could be more or less art-like, i.e., that it need not be binary? Seems like that, along with acknowledging that there can be bad art (art is not that which is art-like and I like) could solve a lot of problems.
posted by simen at 11:05 PM on December 29, 2011


Heh, yep, one singular nipple. You know which one. The good one.

I think the caption was, "this is how I milk my chocolate nip," but I've since searched for that phrase on google to see if I could find myself... no luck. I wonder if my score has plummeted.

As for whether Hot-or-Not was a binary decision... I really don't remember. I doubt it got very many votes either way, so I guess maybe 17 out of 25 people might have clicked Hot? I can live with those odds, considering... you know... the Treat. Plus, it was cold out.

(although they say chocolate is an aphrodisiac...)
posted by bxyldy at 11:18 PM on December 29, 2011


Aesthetically hilarious!

Also noticed, the conceptual Art-Blog VVORK is tossing some masterpieces into the vortext.
posted by ovvl at 11:33 PM on December 29, 2011


I really think art relies on a proactive enthusiasm to witness emotion, in the observer. Without this priming, art loses it’s power. Eg there is the case where a renowned concert violinist busks in a subway with zero recognition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myq8upzJDJc

But if you were to sit any of these commuters down, in a moment where there were in the mood to witness emotional expression, I’m sure the playing would not go unnoticed.

Same with visual art. If you approach art from an analytical, rather than an emotional angle, a certain edge is lost.
posted by choppyes at 3:55 AM on December 30, 2011


Pants!: "Was Jackson Pollock an artist or a scam artist? "

Pollock was an artist.

The people who convinced the public that his random splotches were worth millions of dollars despite them being 100% indistinguishable from any other random splotches were the scam artists.
posted by 2manyusernames at 6:56 AM on December 30, 2011


Is it such a stretch that things could be more or less art-like, i.e., that it need not be binary? Seems like that, along with acknowledging that there can be bad art (art is not that which is art-like and I like) could solve a lot of problems.

Yes, it is stretch.

"This is 70% art."
"Which 70%? The front part? The green part? If we took away the 30% that is not art, would the piece be 100% art? Would it still be the same art?."

It also implies EVERYTHING is art, to a greater or lesser degree, in the way that Hot or Not implies EVERYONE is hot, to a greater or lesser degree. You may be comfortable saying everything is art, but I am not.
posted by 3FLryan at 7:56 AM on December 30, 2011


I love the non-Boolean ratings. It seems to me to suggest two obvious interpretations. The likelihood that the thing is art, or your confidence that the thing is art. The latter is sweet and evocative of how terrifying and personal the appreciation of art is, and the former is just funny.
posted by ~ at 8:19 AM on December 30, 2011


When dictionary editors decide what a word means, they do so by looking through existing usage and writing whatever definitions serve to describe what the word is usually being used for.

It is therefore correct to say that a thing is "art" as long as you can get an audience together who agrees that it is.

It is also correct to say that it isn't, if the item in question has a vocal enough group of haters who say it isn't.

People like Damien Hirst strive to produce installations that exist in a state of quantum superposition where they are simultaneously art and non-art.

If you want to actually communicate, you should probably describe the item in question according to the properties you are presently interested in. Paintings are paintings whether they're art or not. Expensive stunts to provoke controversy that incidentally produce sculpture or taxidermied sharks or what-have-you are definitely stunts, whether they're art or not. Other, less controversial conceptual art is often distributed in the form of instructions for making your own, and those instructions remain instructions (and also concepts) whatever the art-status of them.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:30 AM on December 30, 2011


You may be comfortable saying everything is art, but I am not.

Could you elaborate on that? I really don't see the problem. Is there some purpose for which you need to unambiguously distinguish art from non-art?
posted by LogicalDash at 8:34 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't say everything is art, and I don't think that is an implication of what I said. I said that things can be more or less art-like. Many things are spectra. Autism is a spectrum, or more properly, the traits for which autistic spectrum diagnoses are given form a spectrum along which you can place anyone in the general population. But only one end of that spectrum is "autistic".

I think photography is a prime example of a medium that is capable of hosting both art and... something else. Photographs range from purely mechanical reproductions that are neither intended to, nor actually produce the kind of aesthetic experiences commonly associated with art, to carefully considered photographs that are printed large and sold for millions of dollars through art galleries and auction houses. And there exist middle points; thus photographs can be more or less art-like. They can even be art in some contexts. But obviously you can't say something is 70% art.

I'm comfortable saying everything can be classified as more or less art-like. Some things are canonically Art (e.g., Michelangelo's David), while others are canonically not (e.g., a waste basket in an office building), and some things will be in-between, and will seem to be art or produce some of the experiences we associate with art in some people, at certain points and in certain contexts.
posted by simen at 9:13 AM on December 30, 2011


I'm comfortable saying everything has the potential to be art.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:38 AM on December 30, 2011


You folk are having this debate because you think of 'art' as a noun. I prefer to think of it as a verb.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:53 AM on December 30, 2011


The people who convinced the public that his random splotches were worth millions of dollars despite them being 100% indistinguishable from any other random splotches were the scam artists.

I can see you've never looked at either a Pollock or some random splotches.
posted by cmoj at 10:54 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some things are canonically Art (e.g., Michelangelo's David), while others are canonically not (e.g., a waste basket in an office building).

But we still need a definition of "art". Why is Michelangelo's David canonically "art" while a waste basket is not? What if we put it to a vote and it came out the other way around?

And if we have a definition of "art", then we are in a position to say, "this is art, and this is not art", based on the definition. And much like we are in a position to say "this thing is human-like, but it is not a human" we could say "this thing is art-like, but it is not art".

The website purports to answer the question "is this art" not "is this art-like", which based on the above are two very different questions.

Could you elaborate on that? I really don't see the problem. Is there some purpose for which you need to unambiguously distinguish art from non-art?

The purpose is to make talk about "art" potentially meaningful. Language is meaningful because we can process and evaluate it, therefore making sense of someone else's thoughts. If calling something "art" doesn't actually confer any specific meaning to it, why bother doing it? "This thing is art" "Ah! So I know that it has x property, instead of the y property of non-art". How could something be both it and its opposite?

You seem to want to say "art" functions as "green", where something can be "sorta-green but also sorta-not-green". Great, I agree. But it ain't green.

I agree everything has the potential to be art, if that is what our definition of art allows (e.g. if the definition does not include the stipulation "art is not ever a wastebasket").
posted by 3FLryan at 2:02 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Philosophical implications aside, I think the joke would work better if the the choice was binary.
posted by LiteOpera at 2:08 PM on December 30, 2011


Lots of words have that property, 3FLryan. They're called auto-antonyms. To tell which meaning is in play you just have to use what you know about the thing in question. Dusting furniture means you're removing dust; dusting crops means you're adding it, and the dust in question is pesticide.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:08 PM on December 30, 2011


I think the question has been answered.
posted by localroger at 5:22 PM on December 30, 2011


I think the question has been answered.

I think Vilayanur S. Ramachandran has some interesting things to say about his personal feelings about art, but he does not have the final word in this aesthetic discussion.
posted by ovvl at 6:21 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lots of words have that property, 3FLryan. They're called auto-antonyms. To tell which meaning is in play you just have to use what you know about the thing in question. Dusting furniture means you're removing dust; dusting crops means you're adding it, and the dust in question is pesticide.

When I ask "How can something be both itself and its opposite?" I am not asking about a word (your example), I am asking about properties of an object. An object cannot be green and not green - an object cannot be art and not art.

Now, if you want to say, "x is art when in context y and x is not art when in context z", that would mean "art" is analogous to an auto-antonym, and perhaps that would be fine depending on our definition. But an object still is either art or not art depending on the context, no percentages or grey area, no "everything is always art", but "everything has the potential to be art in the right context".

(imagine a painting on a wall that sometimes has a spotlight on it - we would sometimes say the painting is lit, and sometimes say the painting is not lit - we would never say the painting is lit and not lit - now imagine our definition of art said "the object must be lit" - now it is either art or not art depending on the context)
posted by 3FLryan at 6:49 PM on December 30, 2011


that would mean "art" is analogous to an auto-antonym

sorry, instead of "art" i meant "x"
posted by 3FLryan at 6:52 PM on December 30, 2011


I think Vilayanur S. Ramachandran has some interesting things to say about his personal feelings about art

I don't think you read the paper. tl; dr version of it: art is the quest for "super perceptions," representations which create a stronger response to some perceptual receptor than any normal real life phenomenon would. Artists achieve this by stripping out distractiions and honing the essential pattern that remains until it is an even better fit to our brain's pattern detectors than the original pattern they were meant to detect.

He backs this theory up with lots of specific examples, both abstract and representational and some involving how animals over-respond to stimuli. I can't imagine anyone reading VSR's "personal feelings about art" into that paper.
posted by localroger at 6:51 AM on December 31, 2011


How does he account for, say, Vija Celmins? Or Tolstoy?
posted by cmoj at 10:38 AM on December 31, 2011


How does he not?
posted by localroger at 12:28 PM on December 31, 2011


They attempt to include everything they can. They don't want to strip anything out.

Anyway, that's a reason for making art, not a definition. If it were a definition, then science and conversation would be art. YouTube compression would be art.
posted by cmoj at 1:54 PM on December 31, 2011


If you want to have a serious discussion about some phenomenon, you might want to start by deciding what word to use for it; it's a sensible precaution to avoid reference errors.

Arguing over the definition of a particular word isn't going to accomplish that. You haven't established what you want to talk about, so at best, picking a definition will help you decide. If you already knew what you wanted to talk about, that argument wouldn't come up. You might want to use some unusual definitions of terms, and people might try to argue about those, but at that point they are clearly not engaging you in conversation on the subject you are interested in, so you have no motive to engage them. (Exceptions: Experts supplying the established terminology that already has the definitions you want; novices inquiring about the definitions to make sure their understanding is correct.)

Arguing about the definition of the word "art" is only an interesting or useful conversation if you want to find out what other people, in fields you don't study, having conversations you aren't interested in, mean when they say "art".

The group of people with a serious interest in such an argument is pretty limited. It's important if you're studying the history of art criticism. It's important if you're something like a Platonist, believing that "art" is a specific entity that exists in some other plane, and you want to find out what it's like; that's an a priori assumption, so you have no hope of convincing anyone of it, at least not with a logical argument.

Otherwise I don't see where anyone gets off debating the meaning of art. Maybe it's just the way that implicit Platonists like to pick fights.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:10 PM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


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