Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

What is Art?

September 3, 2009 · No Comments

Over the past year I found myself challenged with the question, “what is art?” I spent my entire time during my class, “The Politics of the Body: History & Improvisation” , last semester, arguing that very few of the performances we were observing were “art”*. However I have broadened my opinion on this subject matter and have recently opened my eyes to new definitions of “art”.

Last spring I categorized “art” into a few major categories: dance, music, theater, paintings, and sculptures.  However as I began viewing more variations of art and have further discussed this huge question with my professors and my peers my definition of art has varied greatly.  I would still consider the standard categories of art set, however looking into more performance art I find that definition to be much more shaky.

Thinking back at some of the things I have seen around London recently I began to think especially about performances and what is “art” in these terms.  The first thing that I saw that I considered a performance was a changing of the guards that I saw near Parliament.  The planned out speeches, the floor patterns, the intricate planning that comes with these ceremonies– it’s hard not to consider them a type of performance.  There are also all sorts of styles, plans, and different organizations that plan out these ceremonies.  A performance, yes. But is it art?

The following day I was in the same general area, over near Trafalagar Square, and someone pointed out the fourth ‘incomplete’ pillar.  I had not noticed that there was always one person replacing one of the statues.  The ‘performers’ do all sorts of varying things: dancing, singing, standing still dressed as Darth Vader, hitting small objects into the crowd, etc. Depending on what these people do can you consider them performers? And if we consider them performers are they artists? Is what they’re doing art?

So I still have no real definition of “art”.  I still don’t know what I would consider “art”.  But I’m working on it, and probably will continue to struggle with it for quite some time.

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*I am choosing to refer to art in quotes, beause this entire post is an arguement (with no real conclusion) about what one could consider “art”.

Categories: Amanda
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