Defining Art


On March 5th, just after the WarsawPack concert, Allister and I had an interesting discussion about what exactly one classifies as art. I, of course, cannot reproduce all points touched in that discussion here due to the sheer breadth of ideas that were highlighted, but I can outline some of its more striking points.

The subject was brought up when I remarked how the power of technology was bringing the ability to create more polished works into the hands of the ‘general public’. I expressed my wish to help create tools that would enable people to express themselves with as few frustuations as possible when dealing with the tools. ( I don’t think the conversational format will work, since it would attempt to put into words, what was essentially a back and forth ramble ). The salient points were as follows:


  • The frustruations of dealing with the tools, the trouble one has with them, is an essential part of art.
  • The easier a work is to create, the less value it has (to him) regardless of the quality of the final product.


  • The easier the tools are with which an artist has to work, the easier it is for them to express themselves. Therefore removing impediments to the artist should be the ultimate goal of the tool-maker.
  • The quality of the finished product is (to me) of greater importance than the amount of effort that is put into creating it.
  • I wondered what the ‘use’ of creating a work that was accessible to only a select few was.
  • Creating a digital work, (despite the improvement in the tools used) is just as much a piece of art as painting a picture.

There were of course, more points – but these are the ones I can remember at this time. I think the sticking point to me at least was the statement that a photograph was not as much of a work of art as a painting was (given the same scene). To me, this was…questionable. Just because I can take a photograph quicker doesn’t mean that the creativity was sucked out of the act of acquiring it. The idea that just because one is using technology to make it easier to accomplish something makes the act less worthwhile sticks in my craw.


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  • I can speak on behalf of my brother, cousin, and numerous friends who are entering into the realm of filmmaking, where technology is making filmmaking more accessible to the common person. For instance, someone can pick up a digital camera, and using Adobe Premiere (or some such tool like final cut pro) can splice together a “film” that can seem on par with the quality of a full-fledged professional filmmaker. But then I bring up this. Despite all these people who can put together these homemade movies, why are the successful ones only coming from people who make films for a living? And sometimes they don’t use technologies as the abovementioned ones. Coffee & Cigarettes has been hailed at film festivals all over, and it uses standard black & white film, and old school editing tools. I’ve seen some amateur films of high visual quality, but they lack the artistic ability that goes into other films.

    Sure the technology can facilitate easier artistic creations, but the person still has to have artistic talent to use the tools properly.

  • Maybe making the tools easier to use will enable more people to enter the artistic world and try their hand at creating something.

    What defines artistic ability anyways – is it something that one is intrisically born with, or can it be developed over time? If it can be developed, making the tools easier will give potential artists the leeway to create things and grow into their own personal style.

    After all, art is not meant to be a temple. Fling the doors wide open…

  • I think artistic ability can be honed, but I don’t think it can be created…. you need to already have the ability in some form to actually be able to use it.

  • Most artists I know have had someone ELSe recognise the talent before they did. A writer friend of mine entered some contest haphazardly, and won, and now is studying to be a writer. A film maker friend of mine was doing nothing related to film, and produced this one video as a class project which I remarked was incredible, and since then he has been all filmmakey. My brother was the same. Talent was seen in his films, and recognised by others.

    I don’t know many successful artists that became successful on recognising their own talents, but I’m sure it could be possible.