When we call something art, is that something positive?
What about something a photographer friend of mine said, which I think may be a quote: "Art is what someone says is art."
Another quote I like: "Bad art is also art, just like a bad boy is still a boy."
Interesting. According to me, art can be determined as good or bad by oneself. It's completely subjective. One can interpret art in any way they like, it can be good or bad, but when we boil it down it's still art - a product of human skills, expression and creativity - which are not bounded by rules or principles.
When we call something art, we usually mean it to be aesthetically pleasing ergo I suppose that calling something art, makes that something positive - although this may vary from person to person as everyone has their own perspective about beauty.
Not all art is pretty or pleasing. Some would say that the best art embodies truth as much as or perhaps more than beauty. Some great art has come out of war, for example.
That lies in the eyes of the beholder.
That's functionally equivalent to "Art is what someone says is art."
Exactly. It all depends on one's perspective.
It seems to me that when one adds "rules or principles," the endeavor is reduced to a craft, not an art.
"Art" in some of its senses is synonymous with style or technique ("The art of [fill in the blank]"), which is what is most evident in craft work. Of course, the craft aspect is part of any art and in some sense craft is art, but of a diminished sort.
However, the kind of art we revere goes beyond competent or even exemplary technique or style. It can also creatively break the rules or principles, as you have pointed out.
What, in a very general way, separates craft from art is that craft has a practical intent whereas what we tend to think of as high art is more cerebral. Take Vermeer, for example. I use him often because he is my favorite classical painter. He was probably the first photo-realistic painter whose paintings looked exactly like what the human eye can see with proper perspective and accurate modeling of light and shadow as well as using light creatively to manipulate the viewer's attention (ciaroscuro).
But if that was all that his painting amounted to, he'd be a curiosity like Salvador Dali who could also paint photo-realistically when he wanted to. But what fascinates about Vermeer are these things: he painted everyday situations of real people rather than kings or nobles or generals. Even more than that, he painted everyday women doing everyday things, making him the first painter of note giving us a window into daily life. (In a sense, he was a Renaissance Norman Rockwell.)
Rockwell was underrated, imo.
'Art' is a word I find more useful than meaningful. At three pints of beer I can argue that everything is art. At five pints I can argue that nothing is art. (At four I had to duck out of the conversation to take a piss.)
Despite the fact that it's not that great, I tell this story with some frequency because it was a definitive moment in art appreciation for me.
I was in the most abstract section of the modern art collection in Canada's National Art Gallery, just sitting quietly with nothing to do. I always liked that room for how the pieces were arranged, but not most of the pieces themselves. There's a Mondrian, a Pollock, Newman's Voice of Fire amongst other works.
I can't remember the name or the exact image, but on one wall there was a painting very much like a solid black square with a single yellow line down the side. In front of the painting stood a man -- well dressed, mid-twenties -- and a lovely woman of similar age whom he seemed to be trying to impress. The man thoroughly and enthusiastically described the technique involved, the thought process of the period, the historical significance and the relevance to the development of art to the woman who listened patiently and evaluated the painting with her own eyes. At the end of the man's impassioned explanation, the woman turned to him and said quite sincerely and without malice, "I dunno; I think it's stupid." that was the entirety of her evaluation.
I thought the contrast between the two individuals was brilliant. Both way sof experiencing the piece seemed earnest, so I had no reason to try to invalidate either. What I walked away with at the end of the day was this:
Is it art?
Does it matter?
No, probably not, though sometimes it is fun to think about.
I do use the word 'art' in many contexts, but ultimately, a piece just is what it is and the term we apply to it doesn't change my experiences of feelings on the piece itself.
I will say that I don't care if art makes me feel good or bad; I only tend to write something off if it leaves me feeling entirely dispassionate, unmoved, or unprovoked.
You reminded me of a visit I made with relatives to the local art museum in Ann Arbor, MI. There was a special exhibit running there. It consisted of a gallery full of white canvases. Just plain white. The only difference was that each was a different size/shape rectangle.
So much modern art seems like a joke played by the artist on the public in general and the hoity-toity dilettantes in particular.
But like I said, "Art is what someone says is art." Art is just a noun and it can be good or bad just like a boy can be good or bad. We wouldn't say "But is it a boy?" if the boy is bad, would we?
Did you dislike the exhibit?
Some of art is either revealed to be, or is highly likely to be a sucker punch to the viewer; dark humour; a bit of a game. It's the art of making art. It's current dadaism. Every now and then I see work which looks like it is trying so hard not to be other things that it forgets to actually be something itself. I see pieces which are trying to be different for the sake of different and doing what other people won't, perhaps forgetting that there is a reason some things aren't typically done: largely because those things suck.
I found the exhibit very boring. When I found out how much the museum paid to house the exhibit for some weeks, I was dumbfounded at the waste. Dadaism is art, but it's also a joke on the art community. I don't take dada too seriously, I'd much rather look at a Vermeer than some dadaist's sense of humor. Vermeer had skills.