I was musing today at lunch. Somehow, my mind wandered onto the topic of art and what its purpose is. It serves, I think, its best function when it acts as a cue. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a cue as, ‘A stimulus, either consciously or unconsciously perceived, that elicits or signals a type of behavior.’
The art community is always talking about how important art is to humanity, and how its neglect will cause a degration of the quality of our culture. It has sought valiantly and sometimes stupidly for a definition of art and has failed to achieve one. I think the reason for this is because art isn’t any one thing or technique. Art is something that prompts a person to understand something. Art is a Cue.
I am a photographer and consider myself an artist in that respect. As I was thinking about a certain photo I had taken, I was trying to figure out what that photo meant. I was walking, and as I walked I noted several things that the photo caused me to think and feel. But I realized that someone else could just as easily think and feel something very different when presented with the same photo. So what is Art? It isn’t the ability of a person to create something that provokes a specific response; it’s the ability of a person to create something that provokes any response. Thus, most things could be considered Art if a person points to it and says it is, because most things can and will provoke a response.
It seems to me then, that this understanding implies several conclusions. If Art is simply a cue, then Art as a term is neutral and implies neither good or bad. Thus Art must be judged against a standard. Also, just because a piece of Art is effective, one should not confuse it with Good. Any teacher can instruct a person how to make effective Art by teaching them principles or design and such. But a piece of Art can only be judged good if compared to a standard apart from itself.
Most people, when judging art, judge it to be effective or ineffective. They view, listen, touch, and taste to determine if it provokes a reaction. Yet more and more, in the fields of the more “pure” arts, that reaction is never judged to be good or bad. And the “pure” artists get angry with the rest for deserting their “art” because they cater to the masses. In my opinion, its all rubbish, because the artists who cater to the masses do so because what they produce is not only effective, that is proven by the continued consumption of the masses, but according to the masses, it is good else they would not continue to consume it.
I think I drifted a little from my original point. Next time you feel like embarking upon a project involving whatever art form you pursue, think about what you are creating in terms of a cue. Will your work be effective? Will its reaction be good?