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Definition of art

The definition of art is elusive. It is difficult (or perhaps impossible) to come up with a single definition that will include all forms of art and please everybody. However, that shouldn't stop us from trying. This page will eventually contain an in-depth discussion on the nature and definition of art; please feel free to add your own thoughts here.

Art appeals to human emotions. It can arouse aesthetic or moral feelings, and can be understood as a way of communicating these feelings. The artist has to express himself so that his public is aroused, but he does not have to do it consciously. Art both explores human emotions and ways to arouse them - the good art brings something new and original in either of these two respects.

The word art also connotes a sense of ability, of the mastery of a medium, of the efficient use of a language so as to convey meaning, immediacy or depth. A thousand schools that have each proposed their own ways to define quality, yet all of them seem to agree in at least one point: once you have accepted their aesthetic choices, the value of your work is determined by its capacity to transcend the limits of its chosen medium in order to strike some universal chord (which, oddly enough, tends to be the most personal one).

Art is a craft, but not just any sort of craft. It is a craft of expression - of someone's feelings or thoughts, and it can take many forms depending on a chosen medium. The language of art - its symbols, meaning and form it can take are culturaly determined. Refferences are common and important in art. It is context dependent - to get a full insight one needs to know something about the culture the artwork comes from. Good art can work on many levels and is capable of many interpretations. Repetitiveness is important criterium for testing the value of an artwork - one can return many times to the same piece of art and discover variations of meaning over and over again. True art can communicate with people from different cultures and it stands the test of time - some people say that the test of time is the ultimate test for any true piece of art, as the true art always speaks of something universal and inherently human.

Art requires creative perception both by the artist and by the audience; a cliche comment about some modern art is that "my five-year old child could have painted that." This statment implies that the work is somehow less worthy of the title "art" because of either the perceived ease with which of was created, or because of the lack of perceived meaning on the part of the viewer. Consider photography: are photographs of un-posed, "real life" to be considered art? The common answer is overwhelmingly yes, even though many of these photographs simply seek to mechanically reproduce what people can see with their own eyes. This is also one of the goals of found art: to find the art in everyday objects. In the words of Frank Zappa:

Anything can be music, but it doesn't become music until someone wills it to be music, and the audience listening to it decides to percieve it as music. Most people can't deal with that abstraction--or don't want to.

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