In a number of opinion pieces over at ‘Not PC,’ Peter Cresswell has articulated a fairly outrageous position on what constitutes art, to the extent that I felt moved to respond at length.
In essence, he began by ridiculing Alan Gibbs for buying art that he claimed was a ‘con’ and entirely devoid of merit. As argument with several commenters on his arrogant position wore on, he appealed to his own intellectual authority in stating that he could discern real art as he was ‘someone with a mind’ who ‘knows what art looks like’.
The argument took a further twist when I challenged him on the subjectivity of art, and he announced that ‘subjective [taste] could be judged objectively’.
So, here follows an attempt at distilling the actual argument from the deluge of words that PC has poured out on the subject.
- Not all that is claimed to be art, is in fact art
- What is art can be determined by appeal to certain objective principles
- These objective principles can be known and defined
- The manner in which they relate to the ‘art object’ in positively defining it can be known and quantified
In order to make an objective value judgement of the kind PC claims to be able to make (ie “This is art” – “This is not art”) all of these predicates must hold true. My position is that this is ridiculous.
The ramifications of such a position are huge! We could quickly isolate what was art and what was not, biff a whole lot of newly-discovered non-art on to giant bonfires all around the world, and start retraining our aesthetic palates. It is, of course, a crock.
But what is my position? Quite simply that art is art because we ourselves make a personal judgement that it is – it speaks to us in some way. This will vary from person to person, culture to culture, and individually shift and migrate over time as our personal history and knowledge base changes and shifts. There is nothing within this schema that confers authority to state objectively that something definitely is or definitely isn’t ‘real’ art. This is a judgement we have to make for ourselves.
You can relax and let PC tell you what has artistic worth and what has none and for what particular reason, or you can undertake your own journey, form your own opinions, and enrich yourself with art that fulfils your own personal wants and needs.
The challenge to PC is to respond to my formulation of his argument, and defend it if he agrees, or explain which predicates I have miscontrued, and what he actually means, in as succinct a way as possible.