Yesterday, I saw something that re-ignited an old art school debate in my mind, and one that should still be of public interest. It is a Youtube video called, “Self-Expressive Improvisation Part 1: No Wrong Notes“, featuring a very entertaining and animated cellist examining the creative freedoms possible in music. So I am revisiting the question: are there any wrong notes in art?
The term “self-expressive improvisation” really is the issue at hand. Where is the line drawn which separates art from fodder? Are we to agree that anything that ends up on a canvas or in a frame is called art? Many years ago I watched a program on television with my kids that featured an artist who set up giant canvases behind jet engines and simply hurled entire cans of paint into the blast of air, causing a crazy splatter pattern. Even my young kids thought it was ridiculous. But thinking back, was this ‘art’ consciously created? Was is directly created by the artist’s hand? Was it an original idea? What went into the conception and execution of such a feat?
What defines art?
In art school, my friend and I were tasked with creating an art project addressing “The Meaning Of Art”. We created a 20 minute long performance piece featuring a soundtrack of post-midnight philosophical debates and art ramblings, along with synthesizer sounds and, to cap it all off, the sound of a flushing toilet. During the performance, my friend and I silently played poker for oreo cookies, and chugged tall cans of O’Keefe’s Hi-Test (We obtained permission to drink beer for the sake of art.) There was a great debate after our performance, and we got an A.
That might sound funny, but I think we were on to something. Is art really about the process?- About the midnight collaborations and ‘thought bombs’ that can get regurgitated onto paper or canvas or become a carefully piled metal scrap heap on a gallery floor? Can an animal carcass nailed to a wall really be called art? Trust me, it’s been done.
Where do we draw the line? Is art defined entirely in the eye of the beholder?