It's the question that leads most people who claim to want to understand art to their doom.
Is THAT art?
Let's break this down. First off, this is the most common question that I get from people who know that I love art. It doesn't even matter whether it's a painting or performance piece. Many people ask this question out of frustration and fear. They don't want to seem stupid or like they don't "get it" so they ask the question as a sly way of discrediting whatever they're seeing at the moment. It's also their way of taking a jab - as opposed to a stab - at art in general. It’s much easier to dismiss or mock something rather than actually take a few minutes to try to understand it. Pray tell, who has time for that these days?
To further support my case, people usually ask the question with a slightly snarky tone in their voice ...
"Is THAT art?" Can't you just hear the anger and indignation?
Of course, it doesn't help that the contemporary art world today seems to be obsessed with performance pieces and staged events. We KNOW these things are indeed art. However, many if not most people have a very narrow and traditional understanding of art and artistic expression. Educating close-minded people about art is exhausting, but if people ask the question - no matter what their intent - art lovers have a RESPONSIBILITY to answer it as responsibly as they can … even if it means we’ll get a headache. We’re all ambassadors for art, like it or not.
Let me add here that yes, the question is a very, "baby food" kind of question. It's like having your six-year-old ask you where babies come from. But ... because you're dealing with a "newbie" and you're talking about a difficult concept that they're sincerely trying to understand, you have to answer the question by giving them a baby food kind of answer ... small, digestible bits of nourishment that won't overwhelm them, yet addresses their curiosity and needs and helps them grow. Again, it comes with the gig.
Unfortunately, we're living during a time when people don't truly respect artistry or creativity. They don't understand that art is everywhere and all around them and that creativity can change, if not save your life.
Many if not most people don't see the artistry within their own creation and certainly not in their own lives, so why would they see it outside of themselves?
I think the most important thing to remind people is that art isn't only defined by the finished product. Art is also about the process and things that are, “works in progress.” This simple knowledge can set people free and on their way to transforming their own lives through art whether it's contemporary art or caveman drawings.
Despite whatever we may think of the question, it's probably best that people go ahead and ask it. Like nothing ventured, nothing asked is nothing gained. Everyone is searching for answers.
Enlightenment begins with a single question ... even a seemingly snarky one.
Is THAT art? Pardon me while I reach for a Tylenol.