What Makes Art, Art?

What makes art, art? Is it how good the technique of the abstract is? The precisional formation of lines and colors? Or is it the intention of the artist? Is it the purpose? Is it what they intend to convey in the formation of those lines and colors? Some would say art requires no intention to be art, it simply is what one perceives to be art. Would then not the natural formation of a serene foggy mountain top be considered art? No, I think we must establish a base rule. Art is an intentional formation of elements to convey a certain expression. Whether it be the inukshuk of the Indigenous to help tribes navigate in cold winters, or the expressionist tactics of Jackson Pollock. Pollock is interesting, but I would still say purposeful. The representation of innate instinct still requires an intent to do so. I would also say stories are art, the formation of elements to give an insight into the minds of people whether they be fictional or not.


Now one must take it a step further and ask, does art need to say something about society in order for it to be considered art? I would like to propose that it is actually impossible to produce art without making some sort of political statement, even if there was no intention. Art is inherently a statement about society, and therefore political (if you consider the definition of politics to be the arrangement and idea of what society is). In romance, when one tells the tale of a relationship between a man and a woman, one represents how they understand the process of romance to proceed. That is an interpretation of society that is formed together through elements. Whether it be through music and the process of romancing, or in classical painting in the representation of a marriage.


But what about things that are not fictional? Photographs are moments captured in real time, so would that not be just a capture of reality? Not quite so. The moment of the photograph is the intention. One intends to capture a certain image of something so as to represent it in a certain way. Whether it be friends posing for a photo together to remember the moment of togetherness, or if it is a war journalist capturing the bombing of a city. One intends to represent a moment in a certain way in choosing when to take a picture. This naturally applies to portraits or scenic paintings as well, which photography is the technological evolution of. We can then say that direct translations of reality that are intentional, while also inherently having political meaning, but is it art?


Is it art if it is trying to influence you to do something not necessarily in service of yourself or society? What if it incites irrational anger, or fear? Would it still be considered art? Such as the propaganda of racism, which is designed to incite hate against a particular group through a representation. Or the war mongering tactics of certain governments, to incite support amongst a populous for a military endeavor (I.e. US invasion of Iraq and Hitler’s Nazi Germany)? Would videos of a man wearing a Kippah with an overly exaggerated nose size carrying a bucket load of money not be considered art, albeit offensive? What about advertising? A representation designed to influence your thought patterns to carry out a certain objective. Some would say it is impossible to discern intention merely through the representation, as one brings their own ideas about what said representation intends merely from what the lines and colors mean to them. However, I would like to assume for the purposes of this thoughtful exploration that if one was able to discern intention, you could generally determine a difference between what was outlined in this paragraph and art. Art merely represents a view, it does not force the view onto the one who engages with it. If a representation is trying actively to impose a view rather than simply express one, then it no longer can fall under the definition of art.



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