Friends, lately I’ve been thinking about Art.
I’ve been thinking about what art I like and don’t like, about the state of modern art and most significantly: what makes art “good”?
And I’ve come to the unexpectedly conclusion that right now, the only really “good” art consists of images transmitted over the Internet.
See, while thinking about what makes art “good” I ran into some problems. Since there is tremendous debate about what art even is, trying to decide what makes art good is almost impossible.
Are computer games art? Is religious art meaningful in an increasingly secular world? Is the assumption that an artist must be skillful just another way of enforcing elitism and exclusion?
These are hard questions.
Think about the question of level of skill for a second, and then look at this:
In terms of sheer skill this piece is off the frikking chain! But I doubt many galleries would be interested in it.
So, like I said, these questions are difficult. And the only way I can think of to resolve them is to say this:
The “value” of art is exactly equal to its level of meaningfulness.
So the more meaningful a work of art is the better it is.
This is in turn broken up into two levels: the personal and the social. No one can tell you what a work of art means for you. Only you can know that and whatever you think it means to you is what it means to you.
This includes the artist themselves. If their work is very meaningful to them then it is very meaningful to them, no one can take that away. But that doesn’t mean it will be meaningful to anyone else. That is the social level.
So the social level of meaning is basically the number of people who find a work particularly meaningful.
So if lots of people find a work very meaningful then it is “good” art.
This does not mean that art that is only meaningful for the artist is somehow pointless. All forms of expression have value from the greatest van Gogh painting to the angstiest teen poetry.
If something is meaningful to you then hold on to it, and don’t let anyone take it away.
That other people should find it meaningful should be neither expected nor required.
But by my definition the more people who find a work of art genuinely meaningful the “better” it is as art.
I’m sure many people will disagree with this, and that’s fine. If they can come up with a better measure that isn’t exclusionist or elitist I would be glad to hear it.
But this idea of a collectively determined level of value has some unexpected consequences.
For example I’m pretty sure that right now so-called “mainstream” art is of a very low value indeed.
The reason for this is already understood by almost everyone: mainstream art is completely meaningless to anyone who hasn’t studied art.