Dominic J. Thoreau

What is Art?

What is art anyway?

Art is product. Art is inspiration made concrete. Art makes you think. Art helps illustrate alternative viewpoints. Art is technique.

But consider: if I paint an image on a t-shirt, is it art? Or does the t-shirt make it just commodity? If I hand paint a figurine in 28mm scale it may be art, but is it still art if it came from a kitset?

It gets more complicated still when you lose the ability, due to the media involved, to ensure uniqueness. If I create an image digitally, I can duplicate it an indeterminate number of times. Art is created, but if I work by manipulating existing images, where's the point of creation? The requirement for static, unchanging creations is gone also. I once wrote a computer program to create a webpage the imitated the geometric paintings of Mondrian, albeit randomly - no interaction. Alas, it's lost in the mists of time.

Does there need to be a physical embodiment? Many of today's musicians cannot read or write music, but no one denies them the status of artists. All their output is digital these days - but it's still somehow art. Even the mixers and the mashers.

One thing is for sure- the viewer is not required to understand the motivations behind the construction. Similies, metaphors, non-sequituers can be thrown in and stirred wildly - but it's still art, as long as someone important understands something.

Does there need to be personal skill? Many of those on the shortlist for this year's (2003) Turner Prize didn't create their works themselves, entrusting the drudge work to lesser assistants (for the record: the winner, Grayson Perry created his own work). Or was the art just the idea?

A discussion in the pub the other day threw up some interesting ideas, especially when looking at the work of the Drit artists (Hirst, Emin, The idea was raised that "I can do that, it isn't art". I considered this for a while, and followed it back with "I could do that, but it wouldn't have occured to me - it is art".

At the moment my work (read as employment, not creative) is mostly manual-centric. While there is sometimes time for deeper thought, pretension is generally frowned up. In moments of extreme boredom (workload is in flux, but I'm on salary) ad-hoc works of art can spring up.
Odd things, that by nature are temporary and transient: A pile of computers, like a wall - crenelated like a castle's; a pile of manual boxes, piled higher than I could reach, or formed into an arch, where the center is not overlapping the base (note: you can do this with just a single span, the other side isn't necessary, although it helps a little for stability); a series of identical (well, functionally identical) trolleys, stacked atop each other - completely impractical.

Perhaps the question is more when is art - the moment of the conception of the idea, the time of creation, or the time the artist decides that the image is finished?

If anyone has any conclusions or alternative ideas, Contact me

© 2004 Dominic J. Thoreau - this is
Updated and uploaded Fri Dec 29 11:45:07 2006