Will Heath wrote:
Walter made a few interesting observations and posed a couple of very good questions here (http://artofbonsai.org/forum/viewtopic. ... 0&start=30
) recently that led me to think about bonsai becoming an art form and how this would need to be accomplished.
Thinking about this led me to consider "found art" objects which are found, like viewing stones or discarded objects that became art only after they were displayed as such. Researching this idea led me to the following conclusion.
Art is essentially form and to study this form allows us to glimpse the artist's mind. However, what we perceive is based on our own preconceptions, prejudices, and are subject to the vagaries of the means of presentation, contextualizing and environment. This is how Art becomes Art.
If we think about Warhol's Campbell Soup cans or Duchamp's Bike Wheel on a stool, both which consist of what could be defined as found objects, the question arises as to what made them Art?
What made them art was their insertion into a fine art environment. The items that make up the two works mentioned above would not have caught a second glance from us during a visit to a dump, none of us would have stopped and said, "wow, look at the art" but once put into a fine art environment they were accepted as art, but why?
Part of the reason is the location within a controlled environment that articulates difference as well as confirming the intrinsic worth of the objects that are being displayed. Another reason is that the public is content to see the art environment confirmed and not questioned. The objects are also displayed in such a manner that makes it both intelligent and meaningful.
So how do we raise bonsai to the level of fine art then?
The answer is really quite simple, by treating it as such, by displaying it as such, and of course by presenting it as such.
I'm afraid I would have to disagree wholeheartedly with this explanation of how art becomes art. Perhaps an examination of the definition of art itself would be in order. This has been touched on only glancingly elsewhere in AoB, but I would think that this definition would be worthy of equal treatment with the definition of bonsai.
With regard to "found" art, inserting these things in an artistic environment did not make them art any more than inserting a pig into an opera house makes it a tenor. For example, a recent traveling exhibit of African-American handmade quilts was received to rave reviews around the country. Was it the display that made them art? I suggest that the minds and hands of the women who produced these beautiful and moving pieces made them art, long before they were removed from the family beds and inserted into an fine art environment.
I would also suggest that many found art objects, such as the bicycle wheel mentioned, and more famously, Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain
" (an unaltered and unadorned urinal) are not
art. How are we to define art? Will we use a completely subjective definition that art is art because some expert says it is? Or will it be because it's in a nice place, like a bowel movement in a jar or "Piss Christ?"
One of the reasons that the most outrageous and outlandish claims can be made for art is the lack of an objective, working definition of the subject. Wikipedia claims that the most common definition, which came into use after 1750, is "skill used to produce an aesthetic result." Would any of the "found" items I have cited meet those two criteria?
But is that a satisfactory definition of art? Kenneth M. Lansing, PhD., retired professor in art and education at the University of Illinois, Champagne, has offered a more specific working definition:
Visual art is the skillful presentation of concepts and/or emotions (ideas and feelings) in a form that is structurally (compositionally) satisfying and coherent.
Notice he did not say "pleasant," or "beautiful," but satifying and coherent. He holds on to the possibility that art can be ugly. Few people would call "Guernica" beautiful, but few would deny that it is art.
Relying on some "expert" to tell us what art is, or providing a completely subjective definition of art, is to dilute art to the point that anything can be called art simply because someone has the intention that it be art. One could even expect to see some nude artist on stage smearing themselves with chocolate, actually pretending that it is art! I think we need a more objective definition.