Thursday, July 14, 2005

What is Art?

What is Art? That was the chosen topic for discussion at last night's Socrates Café. And I was the one that made the decision. You see, I was the last one to show up even though I wasn't late. Everyone was early. Go figure. So, set before me as the tie-breaker was this topic and "What is freedom". Since I've been visiting museums lately with more on the horizon, my response was immediate.

What sets the Socrates Café apart from Philosophy Café is that it is hard to do any homework before to prepare because you don't really know what the topic will be. Consequently, you have to think on your feet and articulate clearly enough to express and defend your view.

Anyway, between the 12 of us, we pretty much cover most of what is Art as described in Wikipedia.org:
Characteristics of art

1. Requires creative perception both by the artist and by the audience
2. Elusive
3. Communicates on many levels and is open to many interpretations
4. Connotes a sense of ability
5. Interplay between the conscious and unconscious part of our being, between what is real and what is an illusion
6. Any human creation which contains an idea other than its utilitarian purpose.
7. That which is created with intention to be experienced as art
My contribution to the discussion was the clarification of the types, i.e. forms of art, the judgments of value:
... Making judgments of value requires a basis for criticism: a way to determine whether the impact of the object on the senses meets the criteria to be considered art, whether it is perceived to be ugly or beautiful. Perception is always colored by experience, so a reaction to art as 'ugly' or 'beautiful' is necessarily subjective. Countless schools have proposed their own ways to define quality, yet they all seem to agree in at least one point: once their aesthetic choices are accepted, the value of the work of art is determined by its capacity to transcend the limits of its chosen medium in order to strike some universal chord (which, oddly enough, tends to be the most personal one).
and of skill:
A common view is that art requires a creative and unique perception of both the artist and audience. For example, a common contemporary criticism of some modern painting might be, "my five-year old could have painted that" — implying that the work is somehow less worthy of the title art, either because the viewer fails to find meaning in the work, or because the work doesn't appear to have required any skill to produce. This view is often described as a lay critique and derives from the fact that in Western culture at least, art has traditionally been pushed in the direction of representationalism, the literal presentation of reality through literal images.

Art can connote a sense of trained ability or mastery of a medium. It can also simply refer to the developed and efficient use of a language so as to convey meaning, with immediacy and or depth.
It is always interesting to learn how others perceive the world, especially in an open and collegial setting.

Again, it was a beautiful night in and around Harvard Square. I just regret that Christina and her friends didn't show up. The discussion would have been even better. Perhaps next time.