I’m taking this art class from CalArts on Coursera called “Live!: A History of Art for Artists, Animators and Gamers” and the first assignment is to “sketch” what you think is art and what people think is art. This is always such a topic for debate because everyone has different conflicting opinions on the subject. When I was taking an art class last year on Coursera, offered by Penn State, there was a thread in the forums posing the question of whether or not crafts can be considered art. If you’re a craftsman are you also an artist? I remember many saying yes, that crafts is a form of art, but there were still a lot of people saying no. That something made decoratively to be sold in the mass market cannot and isn’t art. Then how do we distinguish what is art? It’s always such a difficult question to answer.
I think art is anything that has been created with thoughtfulness and love. It can be a work of fine art (painting, sculpture, etc) or of crafts (scrapbook page, embroidery, etc). It can be a practical utility like a chair or dining set. It can be music, film, or a work of literature. It can be you or me or my dinner. It can even be a thought or concept that was transposed into something visual. It is art as long as it was thoughtfully created (though I do like to believe things I find as art had some thought put into it), otherwise, why was it created?
Duchamp’s Fountain isn’t just a urinal with some words written on it. He simply used the urinal to express his conceptual idea of what he thought art was. Manda Townsend, a blogger I follow, made this mini art journal about making art. I find it to be a great example of what I think art is, as she’s playing with the idea that something like an art journal (or zine) can be a work of art and that she can be an artist, but not at the same time because art journals and zines aren’t typically considered “art.” The whole mini book is about these polar opposites that I think many artists struggle with when creating their own art. She uses black and white to emphasize this, but art isn’t simply black and white; it’s a bit more gray, don’t you think?
Below is a song by Girl Talk called Let It Out. You’ll notice while listening that it’s a mashup of various songs by well received artists in the music industry. Some would say that Girl Talk isn’t an artist because he didn’t create anything; he just took other people’s work and put them all together to make something else. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? He did create this. He put the work, love and thought into making this song, which is a song in its own right. I know there’s tons of controversy about the remix culture, from mashups to collages, and the whole “intellectual property” nonsense that goes along with it, but I personally think it’s a piece of art.
Let It Out – Girl Talk
I suppose this brings me to the point of what people think art is. People think art is a lot of things, but I feel that the majority feel art is something that’s in a museum. Fine art is something that should be held in high regard, because society says so. A lot of people believe that the more traditional a piece is, the more it’s worthy to be called art. For awhile, modern and contemporary art wasn’t seen as art. I mean, look at the Fountain. I’m sure people at that time thought Duchamp was out of his mind to consider a urinal to be a work of art. But as time went on, society and art history books made it so that his urinal is not only a work of art, but a great work of art. It’s all completely subjective to one’s own personal tastes, but as a whole, art is whatever society deems it to be.