But Art's purpose doesn't have anything to do with money, really, so it gets ignored.

The purpose of Art, simply, is to provide a method of understanding that transcends or sidesteps our *normal* methods of thinking. This is invaluable to human development, you know; if there isn't a new way to discover things, there isn't much new to discover.

And the "what is Art?" question is totally unanswerable, by the way. It's a completely subjective thought. If something moves you to an understanding somehow unreachable for you by the common paths of words and reason, it's Art for you. The butterfly that landed on Patch Adams and made him realize that his dead girlfriend would never really die was, to him, Art. Art is, in short, the name we give to the carriers of divine revelation; an artist is one who--no matter how--produces things that (even in one person) induce this kind of quantum understanding. Something that tickles one's fancy is not Art. Something pretty is not necessarily Art, though extreme beauty has been known to shock people into understanding on occassion (re: The Mona Lisa, Sistine Chapel, etc.). But in order to determine if, say, Shakespeare's tenth sonnet is Art, I'd have to ask around indefinitely--if I found a person who'd been moved by it in the above ways, it's Art, at least once. If I don't find anybody thus impressed, well, maybe I haven't looked hard enough.

Does that make everything Art in potentia? Yeah, I think so. Art is a process, a dialog, not a cause-and-effect like many people seem to think. So maybe the can of dogshit perched on a yellow pedastal isn't going to be very widely effective Art; granted. But are you willing to bet that there isn't a single human being out there who has the right things in him to, combined with a can of crap on a yellow pedastal, produce revelation-style understanding? I'm not. I've gotten it from cheese.

ADDENDUM (a day later): I have no idea what to make of all your obsessions with Art-Science. I don't think of Art and Science as brothers fighting for rational recognition, or as Doozers building desperately towards the Ceiling of All Things...I think of them as two of the Endless Things; two concepts so old and so large to us that trying to find commonalities between them is like trying to get the Gods to take a personality test in Cozmo. So...as interesting as the rest of this argument became, I think I'm gonna step off and shut my mouth for once, and leave *this* node as it stands. Er...even though it pissed you off, Sarcasmo.

I pen this short note in response to the many misleading answers that I found when reading this node ; although, I have to say that at first several of your answers were impressive, but after reflecting on them a bit I saw that there were flaws. Several of you have allowed yourselves to be distracted and mislead by the obvious. As they say "you're on the right track."

As for the definition of art, I think that PureDoxyk gave an acceptable answer I would just like to elaborate a little. Yes...art is all that surrounds us and yes...it is all that we create and hang on walls, place on pedestals, and display in the corridors of museums. Art is subjective and can not, I repeat, can not be objective; the viewer defines art. I use the word viewer but I should use the word participant. This is a much more appropriate word. A piece of art's purpose is to inspire a person, to stir emotions, and to communicate with the viewer; thus, the piece and the person interact, there is a discussion. I feel that PureDoxyk's use of the word "dialogue" is very fitting for what happens inbetween a piece of art and the person examining it. A painting actually being "a piece of art" is dependent on each person that examines it.

A person sketching a child playing, painting a landscape, or sculpting...well anything, and a person examining a piece of art in museum; both the creative process and the finished product are both a process and a cause-and-effect. Art is both a process and a cause-and-effect. Art as a process has already been demonstrated I would like to discuss art as a cause-and-effect. Well, I guess I should say that art is an effect, it is a reaction. What is the stimulus that causes such an odd act to take place? This stimulus is a feeling, a sense that is...is found throughout humankind. This stimulus is the innate sense of self expression that is found in all men and women in all cultures around the world. We all see the world in different ways; we create our own reality; like a piece of art the world can only be seen subjectively. All of our views of the world are blurred and distorted by characteristics of the "self"; characteristics such as: male/female, white/black/asian/hispanic, American/German/Chinese, and even human. Our view of the world is personalized even further by personal beliefs and personal experiences. This being said, it is fair to say that it is difficult to be understood by others and to understand others. No one likes to be misunderstood. By painting, drawing, writing, playing music, sculpting, etc. we can help people understand; we can make it easier to be understood. As for self expression, art is only one way to do this; although art is a major one.

I only have one thing to say to Alex.tan you do not understand art at all. To say "the purpose of art is a distraction" is like saying thatlove is nothing more than a chemical reaction.

Art does build on priori findings, discoveries, ideas, in a sense. You have to think of art as being organic. Art matures and it grows with new developments. In the realm of art the birth of the new idea erases/replaces the idea that gave birth to it. The previous idea can no longer be seen as it develops. One way to think of it is to picture art as a snake. As the snake grows it sheds its skin only when this snake sheds a completely different one is found. The snake may have shed its skin and look different but ofcourse it is the same snake.

Art and science. The juxtaposition of these two can, initially, seem a bit contrived but after a period of review and reflection you will find that it isn't. Before I offer up my meager arguement I would like to advise everyone who reads this node to take the time to read a book called Art and Physics by Leonard Schlain. This book will shed some very bright light onto the subject. Inverse Halo you're on the right track but you're missing something. It is not that art and science are the same thing it is that tey are a means to the same end. Physics, probably the most important and prominent field of science today, attempts to interpret our world. With the coming of Einstein and the new physics we have realized that we have to define and study our world subjectively, we can not escape our cell of subjectivity. Doesn't this sound a little familiar? This is also art's goal! Yes, art is first a form of self expression but by expressing ourselves we are providing a visual interpretation of reality, our interpretation! Art interprets the world through paintings, sculptures, and various other mediums while physics(science) interprets reality through mathematics and complicated scientific theories. Inverse Halo, you use the example of the right and left hemispheres of the human brain to demonstrate this unity of art and science. This dependency or unity that you speak of is not so. There have been experiments when the two hemispheres have been seperated and they both functioned. If they were one wouldn't they have problems functioning with the absence of the other? For this I site a book by the name of The Dancing Wu Li Masters as my source. This is another piece of literature that I would like to suggest everyone to read.

I thought that the purpose of art was as a distraction. Everybody in society needs nice things to do, see, hear or feel every now and then so as not to get too bogged down in work, family, friends, country, religion or whatever.

Art is not like science. It does not build on prior findings/discoveries (prior art?) very well. Nonetheless, art is probably vital to a healthy society.

Update (the day later) - I'll have to restate myself here. Art does not build on prior art very well. True, you have new trends in language, development of perspective and so on ... but seriously ...

It's not the same as in science. You build on previous knowledge. Computing came out of logic and maths and physics, genetics grew out of biology and maths ...

What do I see in art? Revolutions in what? Post-modernism? Abstract art? Cubism? The best things I see in development of art tend to be in language, otherwise it's just new ways of painting or making sculptures or displaying things. The medium has changed (thanks to scientific discoveries) but has it changed the nature of art? Artists are still trying to display the human spirit or human emotions or human bodies or the environment with whatever medium they have available. This has not changed in thousands of years. Science, on the other hand, advances differently because it takes prior knowledge and tries to extend it.

Design is a subset of art, but isn't exactly equal to art. Design tends to build on prior knowledge a lot more than plain art for art's sake. Building design is a whole different kettle of fish than paintings.

Finally, danlowlite - great art has a great capacity to distract. The Mona Lisa will distract people for many generations to come ...

I'm sorry friend, but art does build on prior discoveries and modes in much the same way science does, In fact paradigm shifts in art work very much the same way as they do in science. Of course it is usually a negative reaction to the old system that produces great art or science. For instance, a young group of artists or scientists will examine the work of a prior generation and base their own styles on what they feel is missing or no longer relevant. In much the same way the older generation of scientists or artists will accuse the younger generation of being wrong or frivolous or too extreme because their own world view is being threatened by the new discoveries.

Art techniques also follow a very similar way of advancing along with technologies as scientific ones. When a wider range of pigments can be used, suddenly we move from life drawings to expressionism. When more powerful telescopes and mathematical techniques are developed we move from an earth centered cosmology to a sun centered one.

I'd like to disagree with alex.tan, that art does build itself upon prior knowledge of other art. At least the good stuff does. :-)

Let's take painting for example, because I've got nothing else to do. You see a Picasso painting there, it's abstract, kinda messed up, right? Do you think it would have the same importance if it were created now? No. Here's why:

The time in which art is created is often a reaction to whatever was the feelings of the "Masters" before it. We've got the progression from Pieter Brughel, DiVinci, Rembrandt, Monet . . . Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and, well, my roommate.

The development of perspective in art is just like the development of a new idea in physics or biology. A revolution of sorts. (Don't even get me talking about literature and the progression through Realism, Naturalism, Modernism, Postmodernism, Image-Fiction, etc.)

Also, an art which solely has a purpose to distract will be forgotten usually after it's fallen off the Bestseller list. I'm still looking at the Brueghel poster on my wall. People are still reading Chaucer and looking at Roman Architecture. I doubt we'll be saying the same thing about Jewel's poetry. {Wait, we've already forgotten it!}

Okay, an update re: alex.tan's update:

If the distraction is all there is to a work, then it deserves to be forgotten.

The building of the arts is really much more noticable to me since I study literature, probably. I'll node about it later. :-)

I think it's a little dangerous drawing straight comparisons between revolutions in Art and Science. However, here's my interpretation:

Both Art and Science consist of a system of concepts that have evolved over time. This community of ideas is always on the move. When it takes a sudden turn in some direction we call it a paradigm shift. The difference between Art and Science is the nature of the force that directs them. Both are inclined towards the aesthetically pleasing and the elegant.

In addition, Science must be real. It can be speculative, bizarre, mind-blowing. But if it's not consistent with itself and reality then it's science-fiction at best, wacko science at worst. It's generally possible to draw a line around what is Science.

Art has not such constraints. Anything goes. Contradictions and paradoxes are the norm rather than the exception. The only limit is human imagination. If I make a sculpture out of bogeys representing orgiastic consumerism and I think it's pretty cool -- then it's Art. Art is unbounded. Everything is Art.

Art is personal. Science is universal. Both are a developed taste. I like Science. I find it beautiful, fulfilling and inspiring. Thus I submit Science as a special subset of Art.

I just want to share one of the many functions of art, as it came flying out of my mouth quite unexpectedly the other day. Some of the ideas you have posted are exemplified by this.

I have been teaching a high school class in book-making--no, not gambling, silly! Now this particular class was in collectively bad mood, so when it was made clear to them that the contents of their books, (words and pictures), would refer to the books they'd read in class, there was the hum of dissent, grumbling, and general disapointment.

I assured them, "It is possible to find, or make, something interesting, no matter what the subject matter. Think back to a scene or character in one of the books that makes a strong impression on you."
No, nothing.
They say it's all boring.

Then I started to panic because, as I tell them urgently, "There are people who spend their whole lives with the attitude that everything is boring and nothing means anything to them. How sad! That is why we have art...to enhance our perceptions of life, and of other peoples' ideas and experiences and art. If you do not see anything interesting, you are not looking hard enough, (or you haven't learned how). You must find something that you care enough about to let it come through you. The more the better!" I had shown how much I cared, and it surprised them. I suddenly felt as though my zipper were open.

Later, thinking I may have made an impact with my words, I felt gratitude towards my old sculpture teacher, who urged me not to become one of those people who "walk around with a little piece of shit under their nose, wondering why everything stinks". And I felt some of that intense love, not for just lines, shapes, and colors, but for people, and for the people, like the feeling expressed by Van Gogh in his letters to his brother.

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