What is art?

This is not a research piece… just a straight from the heart piece on what I believe art is to me. Today, we took an after dinner stroll in the Tate Modern and thought about what art is and what it means. I believe that art, if a definition is required, is a medium in which society uses to test its boundaries.

What I mean in this is that art is where the unspeakable is spoken, where the banished is put on a pedestal, ultimately, where the misunderstood is given a second chance. It is the only platform in which creators (of any forms of art) are allowed a free reign to express themselves in their own way and the art community will try its best to understand, perhaps accept and even celebrate the creations.

Yes, some creations may be more disturbing whilst others may be sickly pretty, but as long as the making of the art did not harm anyone or anything, there is very little limit to what artists do.

As children, we were born with a clean slate, tabula rasa. Society slowly fills us with boundaries, rules… of appropriate behaviour, of what we are allowed or not allowed to do. This shapes us into the adults we are, imprinting priorities (job, money, family) chipping away bad characteristics (behaviour, education) and pushing us into conforming with what society wants us to be.

It is only in art that we are allowed to break away from this conformation. This movement is actually not as rebellious as it sounds. As humans, we are only able to act within the parameters in which we understand and that parameter is determined by our social, cultural and educational backgrounds. We can only recreate what we already know. What looks new to us is just a rearrangement of what we already know. The arrangement or performance may be new, but the substance, the material, the idea, none of it is new. We only feel that it is rebellious because as humans, we are not used to anything that is out of the ordinary. We need structure and familiarity.

Have you looked at photographs of people upside down? Do you realise that we can’t recognise people’s faces immediately when they are upside down? Is that radical art? In theory, no. They are just ordinary photographs of people, but placed upside down. Are we that narrow minded that we cannot even accept a slightly different point of view?

This, I believe is what art is, and why art is important to society. Regardless of whether I like certain pieces of art, or any artists’ ideas, I believe that it is important for society to have that opportunity to be questioned, to be made uncomfortable, even if it is just so that we may consider a new point of view.

Embrace art.


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