My singer friend C visited this past week and during one of our many long chats, we began discussing art, art-making and artists. (I say began because the conversation was long and winding and, I think we’d both agree, far from finished.)
We asked each other questions. You know, simple questions like:
What is art?
Is art the creative process in and of itself? Or is art the song/painting/music/play/dance, etc. created?
Is it art if no one but the person who creates it interacts with it?
And what does it mean to make art? For the artist and for the audience.
How do/will I make my own art? What does art mean to me?
Does art need to be understood? How is it understood? Does it instruct? Educate? Enliven? Enrage? Entertain?
Does it have a primary purpose? Is its primary purpose social or individual (or both)? And, does its primary purpose depend on your perpective? (i.e. artist vs. audience)
In our conversation, we eventually focused on two perspectives — one based on the meaning of art and artmaking to society and another based on the meaning of art and artmaking to the artist. For me, my individual experience of art as the creator or maker of art is different from art as a social idea or concept. (It’s interesting that in my mind, the first of these is art and the second is Art.)
Perhaps that’s because, for me, holding the idea that I’m making Art with which society must interact is a bit paralyzing. It invites a whole host of editors, critics, fans and others into my head and can crowd out my individual perspective or impulse for creating.
Worrying about if it’s good art or important art (or if it actually is art) inhibits my artmaking.
That’s not to say that interaction and witnessing aren’t extremely important to the art I make.
After all, I am a performer. An improvising performer. Presention and interaction are huge parts of what much of my art is all about.
But, I also feel I’m making art when I improvise in my house for no one but me, with no plans for anyone but me to ever hear what I sing. When I sing simply for the joy of feeling my voice in my body and for the freedom of self-expression.
So at the moment, my social definition of art/-making is pretty broad (kind of like art itself):
Art and art-making are an attempt to share/outline/identify/crystallize/catalyze/unearth/discover a unique and often individual perspective or experience and in doing so reflect on themes that are universal.
My personal definition is much simpler.
Art is what an artist makes.