The current state is that a definition of art is not possible. Art is thought to be indistinguishable from other non art objects I have used a different approach and arrived at a definition: This was first proposed in The Philosophy Forum, on 20/01/2020 under what is art. My moniker is Pop .The original thread proposed a definition of art, and asked for opinion. No real challenges were made, and over time I warmed to the idea of developing the definition as a work of art.
What artist wouldn't want to change the definition of art? Given past artists who have changed the definition include:
Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Duchamp, Pollock, Lichtenstein, etc They did it with an art work and so do I , but my art work is a written document - it seems appropriate for our time.
The definition of art:
The following two sentences are a definition of art. This definition of art is also a work of art:
“Art is an expression of human consciousness. Art work is information about the artist’s consciousness.”
This is true for all of time.
This is true across all cultures.
This definition does not impinge upon the artist's freedom, but does predict the limits of art
This definition can be negated by producing one work of art from all of history, including mental art work from the future, which it does not contain. I believe this is not logically possible.
Proof of the definition:
1. Art is an ungrounded variable mental construct: Objects are arbitrarily deemed to be art. Art’s only necessary distinction from ordinary objects is the extra deemed art information. Art can be anything the artist thinks of, but this is limited by their consciousness.
2. Consciousness is not just awareness but all mind activity, interwoven with the subconscious. What art can be cannot exceed consciousness.
3. Everything is reducible to information, as it is only from information that we can create mental constructs. This is widely accepted in science, and a grounding for the definition.
4. If everything is reducible to information, then so is art. It is true to say: art work is information.
5. Art work information is imbued with the artist's consciousness: it arises out of their consciousness, and reflects their consciousness, and is limited in scope by their consciousness, in the past, present, and the future.
It follows: art work is information about the artist’s consciousness.
We can elaborate further: “Art is an expression of human consciousness. Art work is information about the artist’s consciousness" (Consciousness, as experienced, presents itself as a united singular entity interwoven with the subconscious.)
From the above, I believe, the definition is proven, however I add some thoughts below as explanation for my thinking for your consideration.
What is art? The word art derives from the Latin "ars" (stem art-), which, although literally defined means "skill method" or "technique", also conveys a connotation of beauty.
It originally was a narrow range of things, but because the concept of art is not grounded in anything concrete, it’s repertoire over time could arbitrarily be broadened. Eventually art’s meaning extended to anything deemed art. Groundless constructs only require consensus to exist – to become reality, so right from the beginning there is ambiguity as to what art is.
Then this indefinite notion of art is further imbued with the value and meaning system of the person, resulting in a slightly different interpretation for everybody. This interpretation becomes something close to our heart, and we are ready to stand to defend it as an important reflection of our personality and consciousness.
The result is a vague heartfelt idea of art as something of value that has skill, meaning and aesthetic interest, etc - which we feel the need to defend.
But this also varies between individuals.
This is the central difficulty of all art discourse; essentially we are talking about different things. We vaguely agree on a central concept, but we experience it differently When we understand how the notion of art is related to personality and consciousness, we can predict that two very different personalities, or cultures, must as a result of this difference, construct different conceptions of art. So the resultant discourse about art is immediately disagreeable, and if any progress is to be made, an agreement about art must first be made. We have all experienced this, and it is illustrated in the difference in the art of native cultures, subcultures, the art of the mainstream, and the elite.
Whilst the form of art diverges between individuals and cultures – what art conveys, in one important respect, does not. It always conveys the consciousness of the artist. At its simplest, consciousness is mind activity. Whatever form art work may take –it has always, and it will always reflect the mind activity of the artist. This makes a definition of art possible.
It is not yet possible to absolutely define consciousness, but quite a lot is known about it: mind activity is an element of it. Consciousness is the driver of human activity. Things do not exist until we become conscious of them. The focus of our consciousness against the backdrop of what is happening in the world tells others a lot about us.
Consciousness develops in a collective consciousness that we recognize as family, friends, and culture. We absorb the collective consciousness as well as contribute to it. The way we understand art is by querying the consciousness that led to the work in the context of the collective consciousness that exists at any given time. We ask what were the artist’s thoughts in making the work given the prevailing times. As Paul Gauguin famously put it; “Art is either plagiarism or revolution.” It either reinforces the collective consciousness or challenges it.
Understanding art in this way is applicable for all of time, across all cultures, and for all forms of art. But this fact is not generally recognized, it is thought, in some circles, that art cannot be defined, so a misconceived reality for art persists.
As an ungrounded variable mental construct art has developed through the ages and across cultures – growing broader and smarter, ever trying to outdo itself - reflecting humanities expanding and changing consciousness in its wake. So much so, that art has became something so varied and broad that it ultimately can only be described by the full possibility of human experience.
Human experience is a function of consciousness. I experience therefore I am, and I think therefore I am, are fundamental tenets of western thought. Together they add up to – I am conscious therefore I am. This confidence in our consciousness forms the foundation of our notions of reality.
Art needs to be free to explore our diverse and ever changing reality. But it needs to be recognized that reality is limited by consciousness, so art can never outstrip this – the best art can do to be progressive and relevant is to recognize how it is tethered to human consciousness.
Consciousness can be studied in the information art provides. The diversity of human consciousness is well illustrated whilst walking through an art fair. The intellectually disabled reveal a different consciousness in their art. If we follow an artist’s development from early child hood to adult maturity - it is the depth and breadth of their consciousness that we see changing, reflected in the form of their art. Like others, I used to think art’s major role is to reflect on reality and the meaning of life, but I now understand art reflects consciousness, whose role is to create reality in order to maintain life!
Art always presents information in the format of information of the artist’s culture, through the prism of the artists mind. This has a slightly distortive affect on the cultural information presented, as it is an interpretation by the artist. The interpretation is tainted by their understanding, beliefs, prejudices, and skill, etc. This illustrates how art works are first and foremost information about the artist’s consciousness, and from this we infer the artist's world view, culture, and make inferences about them, and their work.
Art work can be something simple, but is typically an example of the best one can do. We see this in all of recorded history, and there is no evidence that this would have been different in prehistory. This is invariable across cultures, though the form of what is valued does differ, its function as an exemplary item does not. If we accept that art is typically one’s best conscious effort we can infer that Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, the statue of David , the cave paintings in Lascaux, outsider art, music, drama, as well as all art ever made , has a common denominator as information about the artist's consciousness – held up for the world to see.
According to American philosopher John Searle: “Consciousness is that thing that presents itself as we wake up in the morning and lasts all day until we go back to sleep again at night.” It isn’t simply awareness or knowledge – I believe Carl Jung would agree that to every bit of consciousness is attached 100 bits of the subconscious, interwoven into a mental lattice presenting as a united front. It is fundamental to us. Consciousness is personality in action, yet we are hardly aware of it. Modern science has not been able to pin consciousness down, however Panpsychism and eastern philosophy agree that consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe - from this perspective consciousness takes on a much deeper meaning
The singular thing that life is concerned with is to maintain and continue itself, and consciousness facilitates this. It is the one thing we are always expressing. We express it when making art, and it seems art's function is to express our consciousness when we personally cannot - to express it at its best, express it to many, and into the future.
This, I believe, would unify and integrate what art is, under this definition.