The Line Between Art

Yesterday, we were talking about the line between ‘Art’ and ‘Making’.

Over lunch today, I was talking with A & D, and they raised a couple of (unrelated) questions[1].

1. Yesterday, we had talked about the line between ‘Art’ and ‘Making’. But what about the line between ‘Art’ and ‘Destruction’? Auto-destructive art a reasonably recent example[2], but think about sculpture. In general, sculptures made from stone are just very (sometimes very very) finely controlled destruction.

Is it the intentionality? You could write an essay about the meaning of it, then hit a cube of concrete once with a sledgehammer and call it art. In the right context, that could be very provocative. So, where’s the line? Is it someone trying to make ‘Art’? Is it someone trying to create an emotional response? Because I would argue there are plenty of people who have destroyed things to create an emotional response[3], but that is not art. Is it destruction with the intent to help someone by creating an emotional response? Destroying a prized but hurtful possession can be helpful, but I would argue it is not art. So where’s the line?

2. On a more minor note, they also mentioned the line between graffiti and art. I would argue that a simple tag (especially tagging a mural) is not art. Often, it is vandalism. But when you draw an entire mural of your tag, with shading and curlicues, I would argue that that is art. It may be ‘pop-art’, it is likely still vandalism, but is still art.

So, where is the line here? Is it percentage art vs. percentage vandalism? Is it intentionality? Is it the amount of time spent? In the words of the immortal Duke Nukem, ‘Where is it?’

[1]I always really enjoy hanging out with sysadmins, and people who have been sysadmins in a previous life. They are endlessly fascinated by people and their design (or lack thereof) of complex systems. Complex systems which inevitably try to fly apart at the slightest provocation.

[2]And the first thing to appear when I searched for ‘destructive art’.

[3]I will not enumerate these here. This falls under the category of ‘memes I will not spread’.

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