What Is Art?
Two Types Of art
I subscribe to the view that there are two types of art: the one we like and the one we don’t. My favourite part of this simple statement is that it doesn’t deprive the works we don’t prefer of their nature as works of art. Often, we disregard and diminish what we aren’t keen on. We justify our dislike by claiming that what we look at doesn’t qualify as art. We deem it not good enough to be considered what it was intended to be. Of course, this is highly denigrating for the artist behind creative labour, and it reeks of insecurity on the observer’s part. It is similar to the unfortunately common practice of dehumanising our enemies so we can hate them easily and sleep at night.
With that out of the way, what is art? We can appreciate it when we see it and identify it as such, but defining it is an arduous task. When faced with a challenge of this magnitude, it is a good idea to refer to those better than us in the field, so I checked a couple of dictionaries to see how those master lexicographers fared. My favourite attempts include, ‘[…] the expression, […] according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance’ and, more briefly, ‘the conscious use of skill and creative imagination’.
The Essence Of Humanity
None of those definitions negates the idea of the main two types of art according to the beholder’s inclinations. For me, art is the conveying of emotion through an external vehicle. The artist feels something and expresses it, and the recipient feels something too, but they don’t feel the same thing. Art is what happens between those emotions. The one triggers the other, but the one isn’t the other. The connection is arcane, fleeting and volatile. We cannot know how the spectator, reader or listener will feel when exposed to our creative output. The nature of the connection between artist and art consumer is obscure and mysterious, almost divine. It is the bridge that connects us beyond our instincts, the tool that allows us to transcend our animality. In short, it is the essence of humanity.
When we accept the seemingly silly principle of the two main types of art, we broaden the scope of what constitutes creative work. How could we ever be sure of what moves anyone to emotion? Nothing excites me more than the prospect of a future with more and more different art.
Today’s level of pessimistic optimism: 70%.
Written while listening to: ‘Avec Laudenum’ by Stars Of The Lid.
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