What is Art? Finding a Definition

Introduction

To the question “What is art?” tens and hundreds of different answers can be given. In my view, there is no need to consider any specific definitions of art in detail since none of them can be satisfactory. However, I think that the concept of art is central to aesthetics and the philosophy of art, which does not allow to form a verbal definition. More precisely, it does not possess a real description that uniquely explains what art is and is at the same time true. In my mind, all the definitions of art are primarily nominal because they contain an obvious element of prescription and speak of what should be understood as art.

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There is no constant phenomenon that could be called “art,” and the identification of the essence of which would be one of the main tasks of aesthetics. Searches for “entities” of objects, denoted by the terms “arts,” “work of art,” “beautiful,” and “tragic,” were characteristic of the traditional philosophy of art. Modern philosophy of art got rid of essentialism, just as philosophical anthropology rejected the idea of finding once and for all a certain “human essence.” Art cannot be defined solely by artists because it demands equality, viewer’s perception, and experience diversity.

Art Form Equality

Every form of art is equally relevant and important, which means that one cannot be better or worse than another objectively. Historically, art arises when a person goes beyond the satisfaction of his immediate physical needs, practical-utilitarian interests and goals, and is given the opportunity to create. Thus, art is a special form of mastering the world by a person, in which the environment appears in art through the types of activity, communication, and self-realization of people. It gives instant reflections and detailed projections of human existence, its spatial and temporal unity with the world.

Each form of art should be equally represented and illustrated because it is up to the viewer to judge it. Art, understood as a kind of conditional whole, can be interpreted as a picture of the world or a sort of ontology focused on the dynamics of the subject-sensual existence of people. Being a special form of activity of people, art combines the objective, communication, individual aspects of the creativity in images (Tröndle, Martin, et al. 315).

Therefore, it remains in itself the motivating, transformative, and cognitive principles, as well as collective and personal representations. Accents in the ratio of these principles differ significantly in different epochs and directions of art. Nevertheless, they always coexist, and their rate remains a constant subject for discussion about the purpose of artistic work, its role in the development of society.

Consideration of the phenomenon of art involves a complex separation of types of human activity when each of them is quite clearly isolated and then established in the technical means. In addition, the specificity of art can be revealed against the background of other subjects: material and spiritual production, religion, morality, and science (Tröndle, Martin, et al. 329). However, the problem is that art retains the synthetic nature of human activity. At different stages of history and types of culture, there are differences in the dominant images of art, the ways of their creation, the schemes of their functioning, and translation.

Viewer and Art

The role of a viewer is as important as the artist’s opinion because they are essential components of art expression. The definition of art should be determined by both viewers and artists because the work can be truly appreciated if both parties are present. Without claiming to be an unambiguous definition, art can be characterized in a very general way as concentrated, allowing the transfer to others of expression of the aesthetic vision of the world.

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Artistic vision is a view of the world that changes from epoch to epoch and from civilization to civilization (Tröndle, Martin, et al. 321). The famous work of Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam, was perceived differently across the centuries (see fig. 1). Religious states are experienced as a vivid representation, whereas atheists of the current era refer to it as a metaphor. It also shifts from the perspective of the beautiful and the ugly, shocking and mediocre, sublime, low, and ordinary.

Art is the result of the activities of a particular community of people, or a group of artists, who evaluate the work of their colleagues and monitor the observance of accepted canons. They can also start to search for completely new art forms. Art also involves a certain audience or the viewer in order to be appreciated. Even in the case of the so-called “art for art,” works are created by artists, not for themselves, but the viewer. Thus, only the latter ultimately decides which of these works relate to art and which are artisan crafts.

Experiencing Art

Art is meant to be experienced, and it needs to cause a variety of feelings among people. The given diversity of experience distinguishes it from science, which is specific and factual. In my opinion, art should not have a solid definition, and everyone should be allowed to have his/her view on the subject. Artistic work always involves a certain aesthetic experience – a real sensual meeting of the viewer with the work. Sometimes such a meeting is contemplation or visual perception, but a physical encounter can also be listening, such as music. The listener is also a “spectator” in the broad sense of the word and who sensually perceives a work of art. It can be noted that the everyday experience of listening and seeing are mutually complementary.

In the dance figures, we observe that the rhythm of the music accompanying the dance is more evident. Sensual encounters with a work of art can be carried out not only by sight and hearing but also through touch, smell, and taste. The five senses of a person are the ways of his/her sensual encounter with a work of art, and often, they are very closely intertwined (Tröndle, Martin, et al. 319). Sometimes art is understood only as an aggregate of works of art, which needs to be accepted by the audience of the community of artists. A characteristic feature of these creations of the mind and hands of people is that they are directed not primarily to logic but to the feeling, not to the concept, but the image.

Conclusion

In conclusion, art remains one of the most important forms of translation and, therefore, the preservation of human experience. Art requires equal representation, viewer’s perception, and experience variation. It also acts as a form of renewal of this experience because each generation, in its special way, expresses the process of mastering being. The preservation of art, its specificity, and its social function are achieved in images that fix the constantly shifting balance between reproduction and renewal of human experience. Therefore, artistic work should not possess a precise definition because it will dictate how the viewer should experience it. In addition, there is no form of art that is better or worse than other ones. People should not attempt to define art but cherish and experience it.

The Creation of Adam.
Fig. 1. The Creation of Adam (Michelangelo 3).

Work Cited

Michelangelo. The Creation of Adam. 1512. The Sistine Chapel, Vatican. Art Pieces. Web.

Tröndle, Martin, et al. “Is This Art? An Experimental Study on Visitors’ Judgement of Contemporary Art.” Cultural Sociology, vol. 8, no. 3, 2014, pp. 310-332.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, June 4). What is Art? Finding a Definition. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/what-is-art-finding-a-definition/

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "What is Art? Finding a Definition." June 4, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/what-is-art-finding-a-definition/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'What is Art? Finding a Definition'. 4 June.

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