How Complex Is This?

I was chatting with a dear artist friend of mine, several days ago.  We were considering the subject of what art actually is?  If I ask you:

“What is art?”

How would you respond?  This may seem like a perfectly simple and straight-forward question but, surprisingly, it is perhaps more complex than one might expect. Our attempts to explore this led us to further question:

“What is the difference between art and design?”

Again, surprisingly tricky to answer. For example, what is the difference between art and design; individual items versus products that are mass produced?  How would we categorise the original artwork or the merchandised or copied versions? And you see how the questions just flow?!

We even explored the integrity of an artist. Here’s a challenging question:

“How would you describe the authenticity of an artist who mass produces vs the artist who creates only the one original piece?”

We considered skills and training vs a person without that.  We explored accessibility vs elitism and we considered intentionality.  For example, if ‘Person A’ looks at something made or maintained by ‘Person B’ as a work of art, can ‘Person B’ say that what they have made or maintained is not art?  If ‘Person B’ had no intention for their made or maintained ‘thing’ to be art, then is not simply not art?  Or, if ‘Person A’ sees or experiences the ‘thing’ as art, then are they not correct in saying that what ‘Person B’ created or maintained is art?  I use gardens as an example here.  A person may simply tend their garden but a person who sees that garden may consider it to be a work of art.  Is it art?

I wondered whether it may be easier to answer:

“What is not art?”

Would that be easier to answer?  Are we more readily able to disregard certain things as not being art, than we are able to define them as being art?

What of judgement? 

“Who is to be the judge of what is or is not art?”

Do we need things to be labelled and categorised and judged?  Is this not a necessary part of there being an art world?  Or, conversely, by categorising, labelling and judging, are we not creating a hierarchical system and one that is exclusive rather than inclusive?  What are your views?

I will come back to this subject in greater depth but, for now, I just wanted to put the questions out there.  I would be most grateful if you would offer your thoughts and responses to these questions, in the comments below.  It is such an intriguing subject and there are many views on this.  What do you think,? 

(C) Deano Parsons. 2020. (Source: www.deanoparsons.com)

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