What Is Art?

The Newsweek cover story for this week examines the issue of  “The Creativity Crisis.

If there is any truth to a decline in creativity in the U.S. it likely stems from a lack of value for the arts and a lack of healthy national discussion over the value of art itself in our society.

But the discussion almost always goes straight to:

I like to go through it backwards, because I’m weird.

Renaissance art is soft-core porno. Or … pornography is art. No cheap smut film can match a masterpiece, that’s not what I am saying. It is just a matter of prudish mentalities that separates one form of nudity from another.

The truly obscene becomes a form of art all on its own. Even without the creator ever holding such an intent. It’s really, really bad art. But what the SCOTUS defines “protected obscene speech” is bunk. The more obscene something becomes the more we should be taking cares not to expose young impressionable minds to this art, but I would defend it as free speech even when I find the expression itself downright immoral and disgusting.

I do draw some lines, however. The most recent example that helps to define my view of what art is would be the SCOTUS ruling on ‘crush‘ films as protected. This violates my standard of harm being caused to living creatures for the sake of art, therefore I must stand opposed to protecting ‘crush’ films for they are not fictional animals being slaughtered for entertainment. This standard of mine applies to all art forms, as long as no harm is done in course of making your art I have no desire to shut you down even if you produce a product I find more than merely questionable in nature.

One example of ‘questionable art’ finding its way into American Culture would be the appearance of anime featuring a naked young vampire girl slaying people on Hulu and YouTube with partial white blurring over the scene. I found that single scene not only offensive but outrageous. However, I would be upset to hear of people trying to get the videos pulled for the crime of poor taste.

Art of value is able to invoke any topic and any feeling without being merely obscene, but I have always argued that the only way we will ever be able to discover and reveal the great works of art to be found in our times is to loosen our neck-ties about what exactly we call “art” in the first place.

My medium is words, mostly written but spoken word as well. I used to be able to produce illustration that did not stink, most recent attempts looked like I was five years old. I have focused too much on my writing and any drawing talent I have has fully withered at this point. I’ve also always enjoyed pottery especially wheel pottery. I have never produced a painting I would want to show anyone, and having so little success with that medium I have never been privy to its joys.

This here is art, this post and this blog and this account. It’s a hybrid art, something like ‘HTML Art’ should apply here. Some of you might think I’m playing games or being annoying with something I post, but this is just a place to express for me. And the art I find most interesting is usually the art that pushes out our sensibilities and confronts the subject matter directly.

And that is essentially what I think art is: all creative expression under the limit of doing real harm. I wonder if anyone has a shorter definition and if anyone thinks the SCOTUS definition of “socially redeeming value” has any merit. I personally think that such an absurd and arcane definition of art in the United States and the absolute lack of focus on the importance of the arts in our mainstream culture is why the Torrance study cited in Newsweek showed a decrease in the creativity in our kids.

Until we out-grow our puritanical stage, we cannot grow as a larger society.

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