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Friday, June 29, 2012

Good Art

There are two common reactions to viewing a piece that one doesn't like:
  • it's crap
  • well, I don't like it, but art is in the eye of the beholder after all
both of which are cop-outs. In the first, the viewer sets himself up as the arbiter of what is and is not art, which trivializes the idea of art and is wildly arrogant. In the second, the viewer essentially denies that art exists at all, which is also fairly trivializing.

Good Art is obviously subjective, I think efforts to produce some sort of objective definition have failed utterly and for good reason. However, I think it's also an error to claim it's subjective on a personal level -- this isn't a personal thing at all. It's something to do with society as a whole. You could say that Good Art is simply stuff that most people in a society like, but that's simply saying that Art is the same thing as Popular, which is the waste of a perfectly good word.

Good Art is something more like a piece that successfully communicates with a large segment of a society, in an "arty" way. Whatever that means.

If you polled your society and asked "Do you like this piece?" you'd get a measure of popularity. If you asked "Is this piece Good Art?" you'd get some random jumble of responses reflecting more about the word Art than the piece. If you asked something like "Does this piece make you feel something?" you'd be getting closer to something useful. If you asked a series of questions like:
  • does this piece give you ideas?
  • does it make you feel something?
  • does it grab your attention and hold it for a little while?
you'd probably get something quite good.

Call it whatever you like, really, but the fact is that there are pieces that will grab the attention of "most" or "many" people, and that will then make those people feel or think something more than superficially. There are also many pieces that do none of these. If you think Art is something else, you may call the former GLAK and the latter BLOK if you like, but I call the former Good Art and the latter Not Good Art.

As an interesting side note, the professional art community does not deal exclusively in Good Art. There's a lot of interest in novelty, there's a lot of interest in serving personal connections. This is as it should be, we generally do not know whether a piece is Good Art until it has marinated in society for a while, and it is the job of the curators and artists to throw things into the soup to see what lasts and what does not.

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