1. Explain the differences between the two questions, “What is Art?” and “What is art for?”
Art is a vast phenomenon and its meaning varies from the viewer to the artist itself. To understand the notion between the difference between what is art and what it is for, it is first important to look into the insight of the descriptor (Theschooloflife.com). As art is taken into consideration, most people are daunted to ponder and ask directly that what exactly might the piece of art for. There is a misconception that art is everything, or art is anything, also art is what one perceives it to be; a personal opinion. This assumption is not true, art cannot be anything and it certainly is not everything. When a person views a photograph or a panting, in his subconscious mind there is a connection he feels with a memory that he can associate with that painting/photograph, and he declares that he likes it or relates to it. Also when a person claims to not like a painting or find is as a work of art there is a high degree chance that he is not able to make a psychological connection with it.
What is art can be best explained by its functionality, by the evaluation of an object according to a certain number of set standards. These standards can be personal as well as social or historical. Whether that piece of work depicts what it aimed to scrutinizes whether it is art or not. Thus art cannot be simply a portraying of nature, as nature is not art, art is man-made, and nature is God-made. The linguistic of art plays a role in explaining what is and is not art. The word art is derived from two words, art-ificial, and art-ifact. Whereas what is art for, depends on the self exploration and self expression. Art is aimed to serve the purpose of fulfilling the function of one expressing itself, but most importantly one exploring himself.
2. Choose as an example any ONE work of art seen in the video or slide gallery that you do not understand and, except for the biographical context, what are some of the questions of context you might ask yourself so you can better understand the work of art?
The work of art which was hard to absorb and accept as 'art' as per my understanding was Andy Warhol's 'Campbell Soup Cans' (1962). The questions that I might develop for the better understanding of this piece would be what social notion is the artist trying to portray? What are the historical factors that play a role in its development? How are the traditional factors playing a role in the making of this piece? How the artist thinks it contributes to the paradigm of art? Were there any cultural or religious context while constructing this piece, if so what they were precisely? How has the cultural factors contributed to the development of this work, and socially what is the possibility of its acceptance into the sphere of art itself. If these questions are answered with precision, the meaning outside the literal meaning of this piece might be evident and better understood.
3. What was the point of Marcel Duchamp’s sculpture The Fountain? To strengthen your response, give some background on the work, why Duchamp may have chosen this object to submit as a work of art; what is a "Ready Made," and who is R. Mutt?
People are often curious as to what is art and what is good art, and they make their claims on the basis of their own presumptions and beliefs. Marcel Duchamp was one artist who challenged these popular sentiments regarding the classification of art. According to him, art was depended on the artist as to what he wanted it to be and it was up to him to determine its validity. Duchamp was most famous for his sculptures, names the 'ready-mades' (Shea). Readymade's are ordinary household items, which are functional in nature, they are either joined by other items or stand alone and serve the purpose of a sculpture. Some examples of Duchamp's readymade's include a coat hanger, a hat rack, a type writer, and his first and most famous the urinal which was termed as 'the fountain'. Duchamp was of the opinion that an object was art because the artist chose it to be art, even if he did not physically manufacture it (Shea).
One of the most famous works of Duchamp was 'the fountain' which was basically a urinal, he presented it as a critique to the notions of the artists and critics of that time. It was the first readymade engineered by him as a scandal to be exact. Duchamp was a member of the board of the Art Society and Independent Artists'. Their exhibitions had no jury, but was one of the largest in America. He knew that by most people the work 'fountain;' would be considered as a prank and not accepted. Due to this notion and perception he submitted this work as an unknown 'Richard Mutt' from Philadelphia. The board voted against it and Duchamp and chief patron Walter Arensberg thus resigned to show their protest. Later it came to be known that R.Mutt was just a made up name by Duchamp to put forth his critique regarding what exactly is art (Camfield).
4. Why is defining 'art' or something as art more complicated than simply applying one’s personal opinion?
Art is not just a term which you can Google the definition of. It is a whole discourse, an entire subject, it is a world in itself. Art is not just defined by one's personal opinion as art is much vaster in nature. A personal opinion can be biased, base on memories and psychological imprints and associations’ one might feel regarding a work of art. Art's definition cannot be biased. As said in the video 'what is art, and what is it for' by Fred Sigman, art needs to fulfill certain standard, and it isn't just what appears to the eye. A closer look needs to be given and the 'purpose' which is initiated needs to be determined whether it was fulfilled or not. Also, it needs to be taken into account to study the Context of the piece of art, which has numerous factors like the autobiography of the author, his background plays a role,, the historical and social factors which aroused this work to be created. In the historical context the religious and philosophical as well as political aspirations also play a role. The traditional aspirations of the artist, and the medium also plays a role in that.
Thus explaining art is not just providing a definition to the piece of art under evaluation it is much more complicated than that, as many factors constitute the epidemic. Also one's personal opinion is not sufficient enough to determine what is art and what is not.
5. According to the Lesson Notes and the Video, what are some of the factors or criteria that determine whether some object is a work of art?
According to the Lesson notes and the video by Fred Sigman, there are certain functions and purposes that an object needs to fulfill for it to be termed as a work of art. There are three of those mentioned in the notes and the video, but there are numerous others as well. The first essential function of a perceived piece of art is a) Art reinforces personal and social values. By this it means that the already present values, be it social or personal, are reinforced by the art object, painting or sculpture or photograph etc. It needs to portray those values which a person can connect with. There needs to be drawn a string of association that the on lookers feel when their eyes meet that piece of art. The second is very simple as well, b) Art challenges social and personal mores. This can be well explained by Duchamp's idea of art, the 'fountain', he challenged the mores of the society, and their assumptions as to what they defined as art, and altered the discourse by proving that art is something which the artist defines. The third essential function which an object must fulfill to be considered art is c) Art promotes critical thinking. One has to think out of the box where art is concerned. There are not hard and fast rules and it is certainly not a math's equation. Art should have the ability to provoke critical thinking, for instance the work of instance the work of Jackson Pullock. It might appear to the naked eye as just drips of paint all over the place, some also term it as a 'mess', but it provokes and arouses critical thinking which classifies it as a work of art.
Thus these are some of the factors which determine whether an object is a piece of art or not. They have to be kept in mind while defining and classification of any object as a piece of art.
6. Why can it be said, as discussed in the video, that a painting of a landscape is a work of art but that nature itself is not?
In the video, there is a painting of an artist making a painting, now that painting is considered as art, where as the painting which the artist in the picture is doing is not considered as art though it is extremely beautiful and enchanting. Art as i previously mentioned is determined due to certain linguistics. Artifact or Artificial, when we look at nature, it is no doubt maleficent and breathe taxingly, beautiful, but it is not something made by human (artificial), it is the creation of God, thus it cannot be termed as art. Whereas the painting of a landscape on the other hand is considered as a marvelous creation of art itself. As it is made by a human, it is portraying beauty, it is fulfilling its purpose. Albert Bierstadt's painting of 'looking up Yosemite Valley' (1865-1867), is a wonderful depiction of art, but that place itself, the nature is not art.
7. What is the difference between the notions of “self-expression” and “self exploration?”
Self expression and self explorations are two notions which are proposed by 'art' as a fundamental essentiality. When an artist gives birth to a work of art, it should have an element of self expression but most importantly e=self exploration needs to be present. By self expression it means to assert what the artist already thinks and knows and express it in the form of music, dance, calligraphy, painting etc. However in a few societies where self can't be expressed is considered as a foreign view, and out of the paradigm of their notion of art. Arts basic function is not just expression, it is to mediate human experience, to guide individuals along the path of the unknown. Art means to explore ourselves in the world, and inside our own selves, rather than just expressing what the self is. Hence self exploration is a basic necessity of art and it differs from self expression as expression just portrays and asserts what one already knows and explorations sets one to the quest of the unknown, to deeper thinking and to finding answers which best elaborate the self. Caspar David Friedrich, painting of the 19th century is shown in the video, which explains the central function of man, that is self exploration not just expression.
8. How does the art of Jackson Pollock relate to the work of other cultures? Be specific.
Jackson's Pollock's Lavender Mist (1950) was one of his most famous works. His work could not be understood at first sight, and had to be explored by dwelling on it more closely. It was observed that there were drips of paints all over the canvas, and beneath one surface lay another, and another one beneath that, which went on and on. There was a sense of 'infinite' in Jackson's paintings, and there was also a sense of depression and confusion. The technique he used was action painting, which is a style that resembles performance art, where the artist is free to let go and let out emotions on the canvas. There is not set plot, or a pre conceived plan. It is just a spontaneous overflow of emotions (Jackson-pollock.com).
Pollock's work is compared to the works of other cultures as well which were trying to depict the same artistic sense. An example is the Australian Aborigine, where the artists are sitting on the ground, and looking at the sand and drawing circles in the sand as works of art, to show chaos, confusion and disruption just like Pollock tried to portray. Another example is that of a Japanese painting the 'Enso' paining. In which the artist, sits with eyes closed, and meditates, after he has let loose and set free he draws on the paper a mere circle with pain, which shows the hollowness one feels, or like a fish trying to jump out of a pond.
9. How does art promote critical thinking? And why is this important?
Art is itself a critique. When a person's eyes fall upon a piece of art, it is natural human instinct that he will classify it as beautiful or ugly, worthy or unworthy as per his notions of art. The essentiality of understanding art and for the classification of an object as art, is to first be able to answer the basic criteria whether that piece fulfills that criteria to be classified as art or not. If the standards are not fulfilled and if that piece is not up to the standard of the viewer, then it is disregarded. Thus when questioning and understanding of a piece of art comes, it gives rise to critical thinking, because you have to be precise, as to the context which the object you are deeming as art, to be exact or not. It is important because without criticizing it, anyone, and anything can be termed as art, which is inappropriate and the essence of art would be lost if everything and anything was termed as art. Hence for the beauty of art, critical thinking is essential.
10. Art objects are referred to as “material culture,” and are made to be used for something. So, what use is art, asks the anthropologist?
Art portrays culture, and religious beliefs, for instance, the picture of a sculpture shown in the video, the 'Laocoon Group 1st Century B.E.C), it is shown that a man is being brought down by a sea serpent and his son is standing by his side who is also likely to be brought down by that sea serpent as well. This sculpture portrays 'chaos' which is also a Greek term just like this Greek culture. Thus according to anthropologists art has one purpose and that is to portray culture and religious beliefs. The picture of the 'Crucifixion by Grunewald', for him art was not used for the hidden laws of beauty, it had just one aim; providing a sermon in the pictures, just like all of the art in the middle ages (Pioch). It can be classified as Dissanayake who states that, “art gives order to the chaos of the world,". Just like Greeks, and many other cultures of the world believed and portrayed through their pieces of art.
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