This is part 1 in a What Is Art series that explores contemporary art.
ART STUDENT: In ur experience, professor, what is art?
ART HISTORIAN: The definition of art, of course, is both time and place dependent, and always changing. In our time, the Postmodern period, art imagery has been abstract, nonrepresentational, expressive of an illusive, if not capricious, internal milieu using eclectic methods/materials within a process of staggeringly novel creativity.
ART STUDENT: Milieu indeed. More like Postmodern art is a proper noun for MacGuffin. Deconstructionism channels fragmentation and diffused meanings, reflected in such cultural banalities as the ‘breakdown analysis’ of pedantic sportscasters, the hocus-pocus of Lady Gaga, the pushed boundaries of the movie Humpday, and the odd-lot edifice of the Indiana State Museum.
ART HISTORIAN: Not untrue. Postmodernity may just be a placeholder for what’s to come. MetaModernism?
ART STUDENT: I see art becoming a verb. U know, urging on, insisting upon, pressing stories that must be heard; and being outraged at the treatment of beauty, yet reconciling sentience to environmental threat; and experimenting with planetary myths, yet maintaining diverse cultural perspectives; and erecting sustainable objectivity, yet respecting subjective boundaries; and reinventing the human with the higher order thought of a forgiving Hamlet.
ART HISTORIAN: Praiseworthy passion, my boy, yet naive! The professional collectors, gallery owners and museum curators shape both art and artists with the adjective ‘money-valued’. This cabal could care less about your ‘art as a verb’ concept.
ART STUDENT: Whatever happened to art-for-arts-sake?
ART HISTORIAN: It’s pretty to think idyllically, but artists exist as compound nouns, as in collector-gallery-museum-artist, last and least in this structured quaternary of industry. Because of the ungodly profits of 20th century art, Postmodernism thrives. Fatter and sassier than ever, artists will balk at becoming an impoverished verb.
ART STUDENT: He who pays the piper calls the tune. Art made to order. Houston, we have a problem!
ART HISTORIAN: Finally being appreciated? A problem? Postmodernism has much to recommend it, so let’s not relegate it to history just yet. BTW, its anti-absolutism tenet rejects any argument that seeks to explain grand schemes like a new epoch in art. Its aesthetic already incorporates the idea that the impact of art, its felt life, supersedes its meaning. That’s art as a verb, yes?
ART STUDENT: Yes, but…
Next week, part 2, The Artist’s Experience
Until then, breathe easy and orient your attention to the sky.