Everything becomes nothing?

When describing art as having the potential of being anything, by defining it as an interaction between an observer and an observed, one is met with a statement:

“If everything can be art, then nothing is art.”

Funny enough this has its roots, well at least for today, in The Incredibles, the Pixar animated film, where the villian’s plan is to make everyone a superhero so that no one is. Well I do not take any belief in this. First, I believe that we can all be superheroes and when we all are, then the world will be a better place.

Second and more importantly, everything has the potential of becoming art; everything is not just simply art. Therefore I will state now loud and clear:

EVERYTHING CAN BE ART.

And still we will have art. Thoughts?

Huysmans

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2 Responses to Everything becomes nothing?

  1. Everett Scott says:

    I don’t think everything can be art, nor should everything be art. Art is a sensitivity to the world around us, and too much of that would leave us incapable of taking action. (I’m reminded of the scene from the movie Melvin Goes To Dinner, where he talks about how a schizophrenic’s brain recognizes every experience as new, and so it never loses its potency– which can lead to great ecstasy, but also crippling terror.) Entertainment is Art’s balance: it is that which dulls us to the world, allows us to escape the sensitivities of life with violence, explosions, hearty laughter, abstract theory. (For what is an abstract theory except an attempt to explain in broad strokes an otherwise inexplicable and complex thing, life?) It allows us to act, but too much dulls us to the nuances of life and the sensitivity of our fellow man.

    I wonder if there is a middle ground between Art and Entertainment, but I don’t know. I thought Vonnegut, but his works are not really Art– they have brilliant ideas, and are very entertaining– they are compelling in the way Swift or Twain are compelling– because of their theories, not because they make us feel more alive. Now, I don’t use the term entertainment in a derogatory sense, because obviously Vonnegut, Swift and Twain have made great cultural contributions– I think our current society has debased entertainment, turning it into something lacking the vitality it should have– but it is, in any event, an entirely different creature than Art. I don’t know that there’ isn’t a middle ground– how could there not be?– but nothing comes immediately to mind.

    I go on about this more in my comments to another one of your posts, but I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

  2. huysmans says:

    Well thank you, very interesting aspect, and I’ll be honest I haven’t considered entertainment as its own category, something that literally entertains yet does not challenge. It raises art to the level of challenging, makes it something that one cannot appreciate passively, but yet with that sort of statement is it possible that what challenged us once before can now become entertainment today, because the elements of it that challenged us no longer apply or have worn out? But perhaps that’s why we created art history as an area of study, to constantly remind us of the historical context in which a work of art was created, thus recreating that challenging element.

    Furthermore, you are also right in suggesting entertainment as a dulling element, so much of it is entertaining in its novelty rather than its intensity. Take this weekend’s blockbuster film, Beowulf, it is a testament to what animation can achieve. But even after all this I cannot let go of my original idea, because I do not want to suggest that everything IS art but rather that everything CAN be art. In taking the idea of a challenging relationship with an artistic work, I suggest that art is, rather than the work, the interaction one feels with it. Therefore something you see as just entertainment may rise to the level art when experienced by someone else. In this regard it would explain why the tools and objects of everyday life of yesteryear are now seen as artistic objects of today.

    But going back to your argument you are still right, it was Baudelaire who described what later became Modernism as art which shocked. Entertainment decidedly does not shock because it seeks to appease us. But again if entertainment developed the ability to shock then does it become art? Or does the ability to shock become part of entertainment, forcing art to reestablish itself?

    Regardless answers are not good in any respect because they limit conversation so I’ll just end with those questions, thanks for the comments.

    Huysmans

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