What is art?

I’ve sometimes been pulled into conversations where a piece of art is questioned, which then leads to a discussion on what art is after all. In this day and age, technology enables everyone to be all they can be, produce any material and even make it go viral. Every day there’s a new meme or article or concept that screams for our attention and with billions of technology-enabled people and several million other trigger happy folk across the spectrum of receptivity on any given day, you do the math on the information and concept overload. Having to parse some of this stuff could build resentment in the viewer especially if they cannot relate to what is being presented. I get it.

This got me thinking about what art is really. Generally speaking, a message or a concept in the form of a presentation, whether it is  a painting or poetry or prose or photograph or performance or procedure or proposal is considered art. But really speaking, there is a subjective element to it i.e. it isn’t just what the artist or the conveyor is trying to say, but also what the conveyee is receiving. Literally 1/2 of the meaning lies in the reception. The light bulb goes off only when the circuit is complete. Therefore the question really ought to be, what is art *to you*?

To me, something that makes me stop in my tracks and pay attention is art. It could be the written word (anything from a couplet to a novel), a picture (anything from a doodle to a well engineered photographic capture), a piece of performance art…Something that represents a concept that I have either toyed with before but not cemented in my head yet or something that just blows my mind is art to me. It does not suffice if it merely just comes in any of the forms I mentioned above. It needs to (a) have an underlying meaning (b) induce a sensation in me which could be laughter, awe, discomfort, surprise, shock or something equally potent and lastly (c) be tastefully done from a purely technical standpoint. To me art is all about its potency in inducing emotion, in raising a question or delivering some intrigue, in sparking a conversation. This is one place where both the what *and* the how matter. Merely addressing the how doesn’t suffice. If the piece of art is technically superb, but is a revisited concept, sadly, that doesn’t move me. It doesn’t contain originality or true creativity. I might patronize the artist from an encouragement standpoint, but that’s about it. For e.g. a nice photograph of a revisited concept just doesn’t cut it, unless it is presenting a different perspective, or a photograph that is technically brilliant, but lacks depth wouldn’t move me. At the same time, if the picture is loaded with meaning, but if the technicality is so poor it distracts from the meaning, that would be a pity as well.

In a nutshell, art is about the message conveyor, the message receiver and the moment itself. If it makes me connect dots and push the boundaries of my imagination, it is art to me.

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