April 29, 2005

Zen and the Art of Art

Luke spit out one of his typically brilliant music reviews tonight. You know, the kind where I just may be enjoying the review more than I'll even enjoy the art in question.

But the comments section there touched on something near and dear to my heart: What makes art ART.

This is not intended to be a long drawn out thesis so I'll get right to the decidedly plain point. The act of creating art of any kind, be it music, sculpture, cartoons, performance, is an act only completed by the engagement. The viewer, listener, the victim, whomever, actually "engages" with the piece, even if just for an instant, and has a conversation.

That might sound too new-age-like. I'm not talking mind-meld here. I'm saying that the information offered by the piece is never the same for any two viewers, because the information is processed differently in each viewer. The conversation is completed by and within the viewer, and is unique.

I personally dig site-specific monumental sculpture or environmental pieces. It's just my thing, because there is such an immense variety of possible interactions with viewers. Whole corporate plazas are created by artists and architects to create interplay with thousands of individuals, families, groups; most have no idea of the artists' intentions any more acutely than, maybe, that rock over there looks like I want to sit on it, and that purple chain link fence over there changes color when shadows walk by on the other side.

But the issue of "who defines art as art" has always intrigued me. Is such a plaza art? What if photos of it hang in a museum? What if the stones were hand-picked and polished by an established sculptor, yet sit un-named outside the entrance of a bank? What if a porn afficionado grows a huge flowering shrubbery in the shape of a puppy at the front door of the Louvre?

What if a neighborhood guerrila group puts up a red watchtower outside a gated community to highlight their impression that such communities are divisive Gestapo trappings?

What if some guy named Banksy sneaks his own little drawings and paintings into world reknowned art museums and his pieces hang undetected on the walls for days?

Oddly, the actual sinister act itself is performance art at its best. Author, author.

We the real viewers see documentation, photos of people looking at the rogue pieces on the wall of the museum, so now the viewer becomes the viewed and is only interesting in that what they are viewing is unintentionally hosted and framed by an institution that by the fact that you entered its hallowed halls indicates to you that what you are viewing therein is art. Not only does each of the unknowing art subjects affect each of us differently when we see the story, but they too were all each engaged by the piece individually. While one perhaps could tell something was amiss, another may have wondered what would merit the piece hanging there, and a third found it to be the piece sublime.


You know why blogging is so huge? We all want to be artists.

And so, we are.


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