Creative Arts In this early part of the semester w

Creative Arts In this early part of the semester w

Creative Arts In this early part of the semester we have begun to touch on some important issues surrounding the nature and function of art. One of the most immediate and obvious concerns is trying to reach some precise definition of exactly what art is. As we covered in the lecture on ?¦Concepts of Artmany different philosophers, writers, and critics over the years have struggled to define it. From Hegel?¦?s ?¦sense of the divineto John Carey?¦?s argument that a work of art is ?¦anything that anyone has ever considered a work of artto Kant?¦?s notion of ?¦pure formthere are seemingly endless ways to think about it. However, before we go on to think about those things a little more closely we should perhaps take a quick step back and ask a slightly different question: ?¦Why does it matter?In many ways this is no less complicated a question than ?¦what is art?and of course the two issues are intimately connected. However, we?¦?ll keep it straightforward and consider just a handful of reasons that point to the importance of what we understand art to be. Firstly, nothing is more ubiquitous or all pervasive than the visual image. To paraphrase Herbert Marcuse, the image is everywhere and in all forms. Every moment of every day is saturated in imagery from newspapers to advertising, to the internet, to television, to the covers of the books we read, to the packages from which we pour our cereal in the morning and on and on and on. As a brief and non-scientific experiment, just consider how many images pass you by (and the limitless locations in which they are found) as you make your way to classes each day. If you?¦?ll excuse the mixed (and completely contradictory!) metaphors, the world of visual imageryis at once the water we swim in and the air that we breathe.This alone should make it worthwhile our close attention. As the art historian W. J. T. Mitchell talks about in his book What Do Pictures Want? visual imagery has always had and continues to have a fascinating (sometimes seemingly mystical) power attached to it. But the world of art has a more immediate and material relationship to power beyond the mystical or metaphysical. It is very very big business. It is perhaps the only global multi-billion dollar industry that successfully managed to negotiate the fiscal crisis from 2008 onwards. As we saw the collapse of housing prices, declining employment levels, and the bailing out of the auto industry, the world of high-end fine art remained utterly unaffected. Indeed, Paul Cezanne?¦?s The Card Players (1881) became the most expensive painting ever, when it sold for $259 million in 2011 at the very height of the financial crisis. Art is an absolutely solid gold investment (just like solid gold used to be.)But while gold prices fluctuate frequently in response to other global markets of exchange, the top-end of the fine art market seems to go on its merry way as one ofthe single most reliable forms of investment.Most of us will have no immediate experience of the fine art world of auctions and multi-million dollar sales but its power and presence nevertheless has a profound affect on the way that we think about art. So let?¦?s return to the issue of what art is. Since the emergence of what came to be categorized as ?¦modernism(more or less from the mid-19th century onwards) the possibilities of art have increasingly and unceasingly broadened. Curators, collectors, critics, art historians, and museum directors have all played their part in this process. More than this, however, it is those same curators, critics, and collectors who, in defining what art is, determine the nature and value of that art on the market. Deciding along the way that not only should the cubist canvases of Picasso and Braque be considered as art but so should the abstract sculptures of Barbara Hepworth, Carl Andre?¦?s ?¦Tate Bricks, and Marcel Duchamp?¦?s ?¦ready-mades(such as his Fountain of 1917), what curators and critics tell us is art frequently seems at odds with what we ourselves might consider art to be. It is this that might make us incredulous that Damien Hirst?¦?s infamous so-called ?¦stuffed sharkshould sell for $12 million. Considering things such as Hirst?¦?s shark, or Marc Quinn?¦?s bust made out of his own blood, or Tracy Emin?¦?s ?¦Unmade Bed, it?¦?s probably fair to say that few things generate such exercised and enlivening conversation and discussion as debates of whether a particular object is or is not art. We can probably reach a consensus on some objects as works of art so that it is unfathomable that someone would try to argue that a Rembrandt self-portrait is not art. We might think it dull, unimaginative, poorly executed, or even offensive but its status as an art object is not in question. Art is an unusual category of object in that it allows us to question its very definition in a way that, for instance, books and films do not. We might see a film that we think is really bad and though we then might criticize it for its poor acting, bad plot, shoddy editing, and ill thought out direction, we would not (could not?) argue that it isn?¦?t actually a film but some other category of object. It is the same for books. As poor as a book is, its ?¦booknessis never in question. But we do this with art all the time. When we look at Hirst?¦?s shark (it?¦?s proper title, incidentally, is The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living(1991))we are much more likely to argue that it is simply not art at all rather than arguing over the quality of the shark itself. But it is frequently these grey areas and margins where the most interesting conversations about art take place and for the very reason that they speak to all our other sets of values and belief systems. Our sense of art, its history, status, and function, is inseparable from wider cultural conversations to do with politics, ethics, morality, ideology, and history etc. Though we may have personal feelings and responses to an art object and we may even have individual disagreements about what constitutes art, we are all coming from certain shared cultural and historical contexts that inform and inflect our response to the arts. This has never not been the case. One of the reasons the visual world is so compelling to us is that we see it as a repository for values and beliefs. We understand the power of the visual image to ?¦speakto us in ways that we sometimes might even find objectionable. Frequent debates over censorship are testament to this. I suspect that this is as deeply rooted in us as human beings as anything else. As far as we know the drive and ability to make marks on the world to visually represent it predates writing and printmaking. It is a symptom of the earliest records of human community and, as such, one of our primal activities and needs. Taken together, we have touched on above any number of reasons as to why the question ?¦what is art?is much more important that a mere academic or aesthetic debating point. In view of the brief notes above and with reference to the readings in your coursepack combined with your own research please respond to the following questions: 1. How would you define art? What criteria would you use?


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