Why do I like art? Why does anyone like art? Its an interesting question. Hm. I think initially it appeals to me because I am a visual person, you know? Shapes, colors and forms are a language that really speak to me. There’s usually something else though, beyond just the idea of what something looks like, even though usually that’s what will get me first, that initial attraction. Its also interesting to think about where my aesthetic sensibilities come from, how where and what I think is beautiful comes from. This is an age old question of aesthetics, but I wonder how much I actually like, and how much is the aggregate of the things that I’ve seen that tells me how I like. When I take a class I’ll usually really get into the art of that class. But I think art is fascinating to me because as I learn more and more about contemporary art especially it seems that there isn’t that big of a difference between art and life you know?
I think to say that I like art first warrants a discussion of what I consider to be art.
I consider art to be the arrangement of circumstances, objects, materials in which a viewer is led to analyze, question and consider the effects, rhetorical or otherwise, of the making, reception, and/or intent of its existence. The questions I usually ask are, how does it exist, what does it do to me. Art is an exercise in questioning existence.
How does an object exist in the world. I think the most basic requirement of a piece of art is that it exists. Existence can take many forms, and most of the time, not physical. Existence does not mean visible, nor does it mean tangible. Rather, existence, constitutes that at its most basic level it has been tied to an artist of sorts. This reminds me of the adage, if a tree falls in the middle of the woods does it make a sound? If an object exists but no one knows it is it still art?
I think there are two things a piece of art requires: It must exist. It must have an author. Its existence must be tied to the intent of the author. There are some objects that fall squarely into these categories comfortably, so much so that we don’t question it. Painting, sculpture, films, songs, poems, novels…These have historically fallen under very comfortable conditions of both existence and having an author. As a viewer, both of these facts are clear. A painting exists in that it is physically present on earth. If you see it in person then that will confirm it for you. As we move into having technological simulacra, and copies and replicas, regardless, if something is visible, some form of that object most certainly exists. If not the object, an image of it exists, which is enough and independent on its own. Paintings always have an author or artist or several artists who willed it into existence. Whether or not a viewer is aware of who made it does not matter so much as the fact that someone made it. Anything that exists and has one or more authors has the potential to be art. Whether or not one chooses to call it art is dependent on the viewer.
What about industrial manufacturers? Say one manufactures a mirror. There is nothing saying that it can’t be art. We’ve had countless examples of artists who work through industrial production like Judd and Serra and Koons. Joe’s manufacturing company makes mirrors. One calls oneself an artist when they emphasize those two elements of an object, its existence – (there are scales of existence / visibility: an artist is traditionally thought to ramp up existence to the highest possible level, like level 10. After all, what is a gallery, a museum, if not an institution in which each of the objects proclaims loudly, with strident declarations, that “I exist!” They’re spot lit, and it echoes through the hardwood floors and white walls. Museum are easily seen as art because they are places that house objects that most saliently declare that they exist and that they have an author. Museums and galleries serve really as speakerphones, as amplifiers, to show you that these objects exist. In addition, they are usually attributed to an artist. Traditional art objects are easy to see as “art” because we have been engrained to believe in the mythical idea of the genius, lone artist. When the author part of an object is stressed, it is most easily seen as a piece of art.
Now that we have seen the characteristics of this definition that most saliently and quickly help one pick a piece of art, we shall explore the corners of it that are most difficult. What happens when a presumed art object does not follow the conventional requirements to exist? We many times will equate Exist with the visible, the tangible. However, that is existence under a shallow method. Rather I think that it existence means that it was conceived on this earth. One can sit and think thoughts and consider that his artistic practice. The fact that an object was thought of, that it was a flicker in someone’s eyes, that it exists as a series of electronic impulses in the head of someone means that it exists. This is not dependent on who sees it so much that it was thought of it.
How an object chooses to express its existence is related to how quickly one will recognize that it is a piece of art. The concept of a piece of art is expanding today. It is evolving to encompass nearly everything and anything. I think its important to define what art means to me in terms of my own artistic practice and amongst the western concept of art.