What is art?

sevag's picture

Dear All,

I'm a design student and today evening, while out with friends we had a discussion about fashion, graphic design, dance and whether this disciplines can be considered to be art and if so, then why? After all what is art? ¶A friend underlined that "everything around us is art"; while we are taught that a work of art not necessary has to have a function, nor it has to be understood. From another point of view can a gadget that was created for a specific task, without bearing aesthetics values be considered a work of art? Then again we have philosophers like David Hume who wrote that "beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them." ¶I'm in a dilemma and would like to know what are the attitudes of other creatives on this topic.


Nick Shinn's picture

hacks swallow influences… only geniuses can digest them…

dezcom's picture

"… only geniuses can digest them…"
and make something of their own out of it.

fredo's picture

You're referring to Piero Manzoni I gather?


Nick Shinn's picture

I heard that some of the shit cans were corroded and leaking over time.
The durability of art has always interested me.
I did wonder about the fly "painting" by Damien Hirst.
Now that I work directly in the digital medium, it seems that my work should last perfectly forever, but there's a different issue, which is the nature of the output/playback medium.

riccard0's picture

Now that I work directly in the digital medium, it seems that my work should last perfectly forever


Nick Shinn's picture

There was a soul-searching article in Wired a few years ago (around the time of the dotcom bust?) — imagining the ultimate challenge for an engineer: to build a clock that would last for aeons. The author's conclusion was that if that is the brief, then a social infrastructure to help maintain it should be considered part of the design.

For fonts, however, it would probably be best to carve the code in stone and bury it in a pyramid tomb.
Or engrave it on a metal plate and dispatch it to Alpha Centauri.

The point I'm making is that the shape of the letters (plus kerning and features), which is the pure the font (it's not a digitization of an analog artefact), exists independently of any particular output. It's code, like the "text" in books.

russellm's picture

good business is the best art. [andy warhol]

if you didn't get paid to do it, would you still do it?

Chris Dean's picture

if you didn’t get paid to do it, would you still do it?

See the Global Alliance of Artists.

I can safely say that more than half of the self identified artists I know wash dishes to support their art, seldom if ever exhibit, and rarely sell their work. They do it because they love it. Not for the money.

riccard0's picture

It's code, like the "text" in books.

Which requires someone or something able to read it.

Nick Shinn's picture

I'm assuming that the binary coding of a typeface would be more accurate and durable than output, which would become sandblasted by micrometeoroids, leading aliens to ponder how much distressing is inherent in Earth types.

Arno Enslin's picture

Digital media can also become sandblasted by micrometeoroids. By the way, as far as I remember in Germany “we” still store knowledge on micro film for the apocalypse. Yes, here you can see “our” memory of national culture.

riccard0's picture


William Berkson's picture

Chris, that's best definition of "Art" I've ever seen :)

quadibloc's picture

I was able to confirm Art Blakey, Arthur Fiedler, and recognized Art Carney with no need to check... but the first person is not someone I know of. A search on "Arthur" yielded an Arthur Erickson who sort of looks like him...

dezcom's picture

It is Arturo Toscanini, not Fiedler. Magical comedic actor Art Carney, pianist Artur Rubinstein, and the driving messenger Art Blakey

dezcom's picture

Thanks, Bill!

5star's picture

I have no idea what art is.

I've thought about this question for awhile now and tried to reply but every time I do I reach a point of no words. Crazy stuff considering I was raised up in a master's studio who's work is held in private and public collections around the world ...and was my father.

Possibly, I think that art is nothing more than an expression and the quality of that expression can be measured. Which is also perplexing, considering that there are many different measuring sticks.

I wanted to create a statement on modern day consumerism - so I created colored bacon. And after many millions of views later, many millions tweets, facebooks, interviews around the world - I still don't truly know what art is.

I still think art is just an expression.

I've played / designed in architecture, fashion, graphic design and nothing I've done can define 'art' as being nothing more than an expression. But having said that (whew) art has laws / rules / and regulations. No matter how 'natural' it may appear.

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