Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Can You Define Art?

I bet you all have been waiting for this moment.. the guest post from my favourite bike nerd, Giles. To be honest, I'm not very good at introductions, so I'm just going to let what he's written speak for itself. But I do want to mention something very important. He is participating in the Tour de Cure this year, which obviously is a fantastic thing, and it would mean a lot if you considered sponsoring him for just ten or twenty dollars. All of the info is in those links, and also in his blog. As bribery, if you guys do this, I'll post a few new high-res scans of some drawings for you to download/print. And they'll be good ones, I promise. (You can also see my post in his blog right here.)

Remember that Ani Difranco bit, "You know, art is why I get up in the morning; but my definition ends there. It doesn't seem fair that I'm living for something I can't even define . . . ?"

I've been privy to alcohol-induced philosophical debates on the matter of the definition of art. Andy Warhol--art? or no? What is art, and what is not art? Does art have to have meaning? Can three pieces of random crap placed in an unusual fashion under the contrived pretense of having some sort of deeper meaning be art? does art need deeper meaning? If my niece makes me a water color of something that looks nothing like a sunflower, is that art? At what point does total crap become art? What about graffiti? What about really stupid graffiti? Is there a standard of quality for defining art? Can it be defined?

It's people that try to push questions like this that make me hate the art world. I guess that's 'modern art'--when you can take a dented rusted tuba and a wrinkled t-shirt and put them in a frame and sell them for five thousand dollars, because it is pushing the envelope on the definition of art. I don't know if this is art or not, but I don't play tuba and my shirts are already wrinkled, thank you very much.

I thought about it though, for a while . . . envelopes pushed firmly aside, I came up with this:

To me, art is something that exists for its own sake, for its own beauty, and for no other purpose. That's not to say that something that has a use or a function isn't art. I mean, everything has a function. A consumer buys art to collect, or to cover their walls, or to burn up some cash, or to impress their peers. An artist creates art to sell, to get attention, to express their feelings, to kill time, to amuse others -- or themselves, or to make a point.

And then when I thought about it, I mean, really thought about it, I guess the only real, true, pure art is to be human. If art is something that exists for primarily to serve itself, what could be a greater extension of that than the human being? The age-old question "what is the meaning of life?" certainly can't be answered--but not because life is meaningless. Life is meaning. It's its own meaning. And similarly, art is definition. Its own definition.

And where art and life intersect--that is where they are both at their finest. Art really is just the reflection of the artist--the artist is the true art.

For my high school art teacher Ms. Ryder.


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