How do we define art — A lamentrantrave

As each person (or society) has his/her own perception and idea of what makes art, art is locally defined—from that viewpoint. But because there is the idea that not everything is art, art can’t be globally undefined. So that it’s only subjective on the surface; pseudo-subjective in reality.

The recognition of ‘artsy’ must be innate.

Calling something modern art doesn’t make it art in its essence; it might really just be a new and novel thing standing on arts’ pedestal. Entertainment isn’t art, but art can be entertaining.

Defining art in words that adequately frame it for all can be troublesome, because people have such different frames of reference, and preferences, that global agreement is unlikely. But there’s still the commonality: art appreciation. Or, perhaps better put, the innate recognition of the artsy. It’s a human thing. And it brings many of us together even if we might all disagree on certain specifics.

There are some ‘pieces’ that are just generally agreed to be beautiful, wonderful art—most notably, the sculptures called ‘mankind’. Is that art?

The possible discovery of some new kind of art is disruptive of characteristics-based descriptions of art. Other definitions of art that overemphasize the subjectivity of it simply say that anything can be art if you think it is, forgetting that one could develop confused emotions, be delusional or pride hungry. We innately objectively know that everything isn’t art or artsy.

Artsy here means possessing characteristics of art, and therefore art—whether or not it is appreciated. Kind of in the sense of ‘you’re beautiful’ but not everyone sees, recognises or appreciates your kind of beauty. Artistic only speaks of a semblance, real or imputed, of art.

Facts change depending on how the evidence changes or is manipulated, but truth is constant. The truth remains unchanged by perception.

Spock (of Star Trek) and some machines for identifying and judging art will have a problem where seemingly explicit principles do not appear to define a single domain with precise fixed borders. They’d rather deal with explicit characteristics. It’s similar to the issues we sometimes have with Biblical interpretation. You’ll find it in the principles —if you can identify them correctly.

The characteristics we know, defines borders that can’t really contain all that is art because we don’t have words for everything and we don’t know and haven’t seen everything. Hence, not having a precise description of the borders of art makes sense. You’re not boxed so your enjoyment and appreciation is not limited.

Certain concepts in mathematics, in sets and topology, can help  in clearly (or more clearly) understanding this reality. The set ‘A’ whose elements and subsets constitute everything that is art must derive from a higher level of abstraction, the same level at which we appreciate art—principle. Principles allow for dealing with open, nonconvex, and unconnected sets whose elements are wholly art, and for defining art topologies on the set ‘A.’

So a definition focused on the principle of true art would make sense. It would like to have the usually pseudo-subjective answers to two questions: what makes art art, and, what makes non-art not art. If the intersection of the two answers you get is an empty set, then you have a good definition.

Defining or describing art is in a sense like trying to say what a vehicle is, because almost anything that moves, or be made to move, can be a vehicle. However, we know pseudo-subjectively what we mean when we say vehicle, because the context usually answers the question we don’t need to ask.

In Nigeria, it isn’t uncommon to ‘back’ a baby (carry her on your back) for ‘long’ periods; the parent or guardian is a vehicle for the child. A baby drags a toy on the floor, hence, a vehicle for the toy. You sit a dog (Scooby-doo) on a skateboard and push it to the park where you see children on swings and seesaws. So what is a vehicle again? Anything that carries anything while moving? But we know what we generally mean when we use the word in common contexts.

Not everything that looks like, or can be used as a vehicle is a vehicle in common contexts. We thus rule out some novelties and all absurdities. They say, “don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out.” Moral: be open minded within reason, otherwise, you lose yourself. Art has borders within reason.

If everything can be cloaked as art, and displayed for all to see, art ceases to exist ‘definedly’, depriving man of its unique notion and substance. It would be unacceptable to have every ‘interesting’ piece taggable as art. Promotions of falsities as art, and any acceptance, are a corruption man’s judgment, hence of his conscience. ‘Anything goes’ would mean that art doesn’t really exist; anything could be that thing such that that thing is anything.

The purely absurd can’t be art even though it is disguised as art; it would be an impostor whose only merit is its novelty or absurdity. Art loves reason (in the two common senses of the word).

They say, “don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out.” Moral: be open minded within reason, otherwise, you might eat the proverbial apple thinking it was good to make one wise—missing the mark. Art has borders within reason.