Things that are not art
Here is a list of things that, in and of themselves, are not art:
- Things that “need to be in some context” to be art. If it isn’t art until you hang it in an art museum, then it’s not art. The context is doing all the work; the piece, whatever it may be, is not doing any of the work. Leaning a shovel against a museum wall does not make the shovel any more art than when you lean it against the side of a shed. Art is art, wherever it goes. You could hang a Van Gogh on the wall of a men’s room, and it would still be art; it would probably much improve the “context” besides.
- Things where the art is an “idea” or “concept.” Ideas and concepts are in people’s minds, and they will only exist there through a short extension of time and space, in the cosmic sense. If you make an X, and then tell everyone it’s art because of the great idea you have “behind” it, then X is not a piece of art: your idea is. If you died without telling anyone your idea, X would be the same, but the art would be gone. There are better ways to make your idea into art. Instead of making X, you should try writing your idea down and publishing it.
- Things that you have to give a long argument about to justify it as an original work. I don’t mean an argument with art critics; I mean an argument with a normal, reasonable person that hasn’t been indoctrinated into the “art world.” If Mr. Z takes a picture of something, and displays it as artwork, and then I come and take a picture of Mr. Z’s artwork and display it as my own, a reasonable person has every right to say, “You just made a copy of Mr. Z’s picture. That’s not art.” I could say whatever I liked in reply–perhaps I made the picture enormous, so that makes it art, or perhaps I printed it on a new material, so that makes it art–but really, if I can’t convince the reasonable person in a few sentences that what I’ve made is art on its own, then it’s not.
- Things that are only art because they’re about other art. This is a tricky one; maybe some of these things could be art. But they’d have to be really, really good. There is so much beauty in the world to capture; why should an artist waste time capturing again what’s already been captured? Self-reference, or discipline-reference, make art into an aristocracy, so that the only people who can look at it and talk about it an “understand” it are people who have studied it. Not everyone has time to study art, but art should be for everyone. Therefore, an artwork should stand on its own.
So that’s what I think about that.