If you’re not an artist you probably never thought much about this question, but for an artist, this is something that sometimes boggles the mind. Most people have their own definition of art and creativity, so it can be a discussion with a lot of conflict at times when people disagree, but it is actually more simple than it might seem. So..
What is the Definition of Art? Everything..
Modern art confuses many people, as objects most would not consider as art immediately are on display. For example, a few years ago some folks won an art prize for creating an image of iron man in a toilet made from blood and urine. When you see the piece, you might not think it is very good at all, but apparently some judges thought it was brilliant. I’ve heard of other similar situations involving toilets, and urine.
Another example of art gone crazy, a blue painting with a single white strip sold for over 40 million dollars. Most sane people would question how it could possibly be worth this much. It probably cost less than a hundred dollars to make, and I can’t imagine the artist spent years painstakingly rendering the details.
When it comes to performance art, well.. It can get pretty weird too. By far, this video IS the weirdest performance I’ve seen, I’d be surprised if you don’t agree. Here is another example of some crazy performance art involving a woman who is painting a canvas using some kind of ‘egg’ filled with paint that is being pushed from her genitals.
There were unconfirmed rumors that a man tied up a stray dog in a corner at an art exhibit and allowed it to starve to death. He called this art too. Many serial killers who mutilated their victims in creative ways probably considered their work a form of art too, and by my definition, technically it actually is. By the way, defining it as art doesn’t mean I like that they exist at all or think they are beautiful or worthy of praise of any sort.
What makes good art though? This is completely subjective unfortunately, meaning just about every person will have their own opinion. This makes it even more complicated to define art for some because if they don’t think it is good, then they do not considered it art even though by a technical definition it actually is. Usually the term crap is used instead. Art is super subjective, and that is why being a professional artist is quite difficult. Your client might ask you to design something you think is cool, but your opinion of what is cool is completely subjective. Very rarely will it match with the opinion of your client, at least in my experience..
The traditional definitions and forms of art that most people consider art, like a beautiful painting or a sculpture, is certainly being challenged all the time in these modern days. Yet complexity and beauty as well as the medium are not the ways to classify something as art. A cave painting made by a caveman, using who knows what for paint and rock for a canvas, is just as much a piece of art as the most beautiful painting by da Vinci.
For me, I have always considered art is everything and everything is art. Every object from the tiniest atomic particles to the largest star in the universe, even the universe itself. Sound silly? When I tell people this, they usually have no idea what I am talking about and think it sounds crazy or stupid. Let me explain how I’ve come to my definition though with a few examples, maybe it will make sense, but if it doesn’t that is OK too.
Lets say you take something mundane that everyone considers a typical non-art object. A white plate, and a basic metal fork. You place these items on a table or a pedestal. Would you consider this art? What would happen if the same piece was presented in a more traditional form of art. Take the same scene and same objects, but this time the image of the fork, table, and plate are painted on a canvas. Through the act of rendering the objects in a painting, many people would now consider it art, although few would consider it good art for sure.
Rather than paint the fork, lets say someone made a 3D rendering, a photograph, or a video. Lets say someone draws the image in the dirt or some sand. Someone else reconstructs the image using random pieces of garbage. It really doesn’t matter the medium, it is all art, and in my opinion the original objects themselves are pieces of art as a result.
Anything can be captured in a painting, or a photograph, or created with a computer rendering. This image taken by an astronaut contains everything we know, and everyone we have known in a single frame. Is this photograph a piece of art? Does that mean everything captured in the photograph has now become a piece of art? I would say yes.
A supercomputer simulates a 3D rendering of the universe. Is this art? Most computer graphics folks and programmers would definitely say yes. So does this mean the entire universe has now been rendered as a piece of art?
We all know, the man-made world is designed. When you look at a skyscraper or a car, you might think it us just a regular and redundant object. I look at it as art someone designed. The natural world can always be rendered into art, and in my opinion if anything can be rendered on a canvas or screen, it is already a form of art.
What is the difference between rendering the object as art on a canvas and seeing the image of the object in the real world rendered by your brain from your eyes. Obviously your mental image cannot be shared or sold, and it cannot be hung on the wall in a frame. Nevertheless, the human mind may very well be the most advanced form of an art on a virtual canvas that has existed yet to date.
If you can see it, you can render it. If you can only see it in your mind, you can still render it. Everything that has ever existed, or ever could possibly exist that can be imagined, to me is a form of art. Call me crazy if you will, but the more I’ve thought about this over the years the more true it is.
So what is your definition of art? I’d love to hear!