What Makes Something Art? What is an Artist?
Recently, my friend and fellow Emergence Practitioner, Austin, asked me two very thought provoking questions: “What makes something art?”, and “What makes someone an artist?” My first thoughts? Holy cow! These are no small questions he’s asking here. Especially since he is one of the fastest rising graphics artists in New York City.
So what is “art,” and what is an “artist?” My first thoughts. “Art” is something which registers in the mind of the beholder as being exemplary of beauty, truth, and reality. Something which communicates some particular quality, or qualities, of “reality,” in the truest sense of the word “reality.”
By this definition, Monet’s impressions and Pollack’s dribblings both easily qualify, even though neither attempts to offer photo graphic realities. As do Twain’s description of Huck’s father in an alcoholic blackout, and Hemingway’s metaphor of the hill in war torn Spain shaped like a young girl’s breast.
Okay. Something which embodies a quality or qualities of reality. Yes. This, in part, defines art. Yet clearly, this definition is not enough. The psychologist’s diagnostic manual, the DSM4R, describes alcoholic blackouts pretty well. Yet it’s not art. Not even close. And web porn often describes young girl’s breasts, often in more graphic detail than anyone would ever wish for. Yet clearly, this does not qualify as art either.
My next thoughts lead me back to my three defining qualities, and specifically to the word, “beauty.” Real art captures some aspect of beauty, even when this aspect evokes horror. The photo of the Vietnamese man kneeling in the road being shot in the head. The May 6, 1937 news film, wherein a German dirigible explodes into flame and burns in 34 seconds while the news reporter cries, “Oh, the humanity!”
Horrific? Yes. Reality? Yes. Art? Almost more than we can bear to witness. Yet here, within a single photo, and a few brief moments of film, we are forced, almost brutally, to face life itself. Our world. Our life. Our painfully impotent humanity.
So yes. That something portrays a quality or qualities of reality is not enough to make it art. These qualities of reality must convey, in some way, the beauty in life. Even when this beauty shocks and saddens the heart.
With this in mind, then perhaps, we might add to our definition that art reaches into the heart and soul of the beholder. Which leads me to my next thought, that “art” is something which embodies living qualities within a non organic form. In other words, “art” creates in the beholder a literal bridge between Emergence Personality Theory’s, Layers 9 and 10. In doing so, art connects us, as human beings, to each other. It also connects us to the world in which we humans live. As well as connecting our world to us.
For example, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni’s David connects marble (Layer 10) to human beings (Layer 9), both within the sculpture, stone to man, and outside the sculpture, stone to witness. Thus, although we all are, as the Quantum physicists teach us, literally connected in the details, perhaps for us to feel this connection consciously, we need art as a bridge.
Finally I would add that true “art” is timeless in the deepest physical and spiritual senses of this word. Thus, to put this into one of Emergence Personality Theory’s, Formulas for Human Consciousness (M=IT), while the value of the M and I variables (meaning and information) in art may vary widely, the value of the T variable (time) would have to be at or close to a 10.
Thus, when the Tajikistani thirteenth century mystical poet, Rumi, writes, “the eye goes blind when it only wants to see why,” he manages to capture the essence of blamelessness and the core belief of Emergence all within eleven words. Moreover, he did this eight hundred years ago, and his words ring just as true today. Timelessness to be sure.
So now. Let me try to put what I’ve said together. “Art” is:
* Something which registers in the mind of the beholder as being exemplary of beauty, truth, and reality.
* Something which captures some aspect of beauty, even when this aspect evokes horror.
* Something which literally creates a bridge within us between the world in which we live and ourselves as humans; a Layer 10 to Layer 9 connection.
* Something which does all this timelessly, as in the value of T in M=I(T) is at or approaching 10.
All this said, I openly admit, these words, as meaningful as they may be to some, still fall dreadfully short of defining “art” itself. Why? Because “The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.” In other words, only “art” can describe “art.” Anything less is mere Layer 2, “from-a-distance,” words about art, and not art itself. This said, then perhaps I should add that “art” is:
* Something which cannot be put into words. It must be visible to be art. At least, in the mind of the beholder.
Oh, and one more thing. The other question. “What is an artist?” My answer? A human being who builds bridges between us and our world. Beautiful bridges. Timeless bridges. Real bridges. Beyond words bridges.
And for anyone not now recognizing what this means, it means that artists and shamans are brothers and sisters at heart. You see, shamans are also builders of bridges. In their case, of course, rather than focusing on bridging us to each other’s beauty, shamans build these bridges as the means to heal our relationships; between people and themselves, between people and people, between people and their world, and between people and God. Which means they focus on a special kind of beauty.
[to read the rest of this article, go to http://theEmergenceSite.com/QandA/QA061127-WhatMakesSomethingArt.htm]