What is Art? | La Poetica?

Art. Enigmatic word. Fleeting concept.

Art is creativity: YES.

Art is a mode of communication: YES.

Art is a function: YES.

Art is grossly misunderstood: YES.

Art is all of the above. At once, it’s mammalian, human, a coquetry, a display, gesture, cultural signifier, Darwinistic trait, Freudian complex, genetic disposition, a communication mode, universal, altruistic, culturally inflected, earnest.

Art deigns to speak, in all contexts, from the psychological, to the sociological, in power relations, in families, in abstract representation, with cultural, semiotic and biological referents. It purports a history, a behavioral code, an artistic license. It purports a weight: an argument. It often is an attitude, a social role of shapeshifting, an equivocation.

Art is in fact an amalgam of all art theories, working in concurrent digressions, in the spectrum of brain processing, social value coding, and language-meaning processing. It is higher level thinking, a possible ephiphenomenom, but probably not.

Art is assumed to be tangential, in the survival toolkit of the specie. It is not tangential, rather it is so primary to survival as to be ignored, like breathing. Art is an inflection of being alive de facto. It is a celebration of being alive, or aliveness. It’s the fun of being entertained, and thrilled, right up to the lesson, or admonishment. Art has Dasein. Art has Spirit, Soul, Vodun, Murti, Ma, Elan, Holy Spirit, Unity, Sublimity.  Art is signposts, graffito, wayfaring, space defining, mood changing. Art coolly transfers culture through the populace, every day, in different modes and intensities, often concurrently.

Art, with its pressure release and energy release in the body, its bonding and grooming efficacy, its human communication overlays, has saved the human tribe from destroying itself billions of times over. It is rarely given such tribute.

Art is natural, but practiced art is best. All art is informative, however, and an invitation to parsing, or deconstructing, in the context of human development, and cultural history. Art is not just the social film, the play, the book, the dance, the song, but a cultural contract, a lynchpin to thinking itself. It is a super-index, a word amongst words. It opens the brain to an experimenting context, and a facing of unknowns and unexploreds. Addressing art is addressing a specific messaging, in a grand context of humanism (or its rejection). Art is in fact a window. Most frames a local scene, but some frame a global scene, a universal motif. Some frame this universal motif through time, and across cultures, and hence is labeled timeless, even if just by experts.

Art can be collected, as rare items, luxury goods, cultural artifacts, or Veblen speculations. An Art World has always existed, in all times, as defined by patrons, commissions, marketing, promotion, sponsorship, and remuneration for the artist,  clearing the costs of materiel and labor. Art denotes quality, often. It connotates an elite undertaking, based on the requirement for available free time, revenue (or debt access) for materials, studio and survival support. Art must be subsidized, always, and is not therefore not a candidate for what economists call the Rational Economic Man. The Rational man never subsidizes anything that does not benefit himself immediately, and thus elevates base gratifications as pleasure (art) as they are often cheap, or free, especially under coercion. Beauty is self-selected out of the Rational man.

All of the above is in the current literature, and crosses neurology, ethnobiology, psychology, sociology, brain processing, language and memory acquisition, in addition to a general taxonomy of art within culture, and history. Tool making, case goods, architecture, advertising, design and propoganda are all subsets of art. Fine art might be at times codified as the best art, by social influencers in the dominant cultural complex. Art comes in and out of the public’s purview and thus consciousness, only to be rediscovered and reinterpreted, thus reborn. Art cannot be helped, but is often best when helped, and helped again. Art often rewards skill, and a high level of practice, and also (unfortunately) achievement (in excitability, monetization, recognition, cultural status, message velocity, market demand acceleration, and speculation).

Lastly, art is an identity, a calling, a craft, a direct and indirect vocation, and infers work, idea making, boundary defining, and bard-like exhaltations. Thus bravery.

 

Copyright © Michael James Hawk, all rights reserved.

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