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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Is This Art? Crossing the Bridge From Art to Mass Production

Recently an artist in New Zealand began a project to create 1 million artworks in a year. He is doing so to raise awareness of mental health issues. The cause is a good one and its getting him some good press. But I couldn't help coming away from the article feeling very uneasy about the project.

The artists, by his own calculations, has 7.2 seconds to create one piece of art before he must move on to the next. But I had to ask myself, is this really art?

When a machine mass produces a million copies of a print which sells in Walmart for $10, I do not consider it art. While I want to support this artist in his goal, I can't quite make myself consider what he's doing to be art. Just because he placed his hand on every one of those million pieces of paper which he stamps paint on, doesn't necessarily make it art.

The true art and creativity is in the idea. Its a creative way to raise awareness on an important issue and for that I give him unending praise for the idea.

But again, is the material he is producing every 7.2 seconds really art?

What is our personal interpretation of art? Everyone's interpretation is different. I suppose that is what makes it art, we see it in our own way. But if i filled my mouth with food coloring and spit on 1 million pieces of paper, I am unsure I would want to call it art.

I can't help but think that if we call this art, we are cheapening whatever definition we personally give to the "concept" of art.

So here is my personal definition of what art is:

Art is the interpretation of the universe through one persons vision. 

There is no time limit to that definition. The artists vision may take moments or may take months or even years. This is not about the time it takes to create art. For me its about the vision, the idea and the final outcome and a unique vision of the world through your own eyes. Mass production does not seem to fit my personal definition or accomplish the goal of what art should be, unless the whole project is interpreted as being the art. 

Perhaps that is why I find this confusing because I sense the art of the project but not the art of the individual components of the project. 

So where do you draw the line? Is there a line? 

I do think its a healthy exercise to consider the question. I know it gives me perspective into my own work and helps me determine when I am personally crossing the line. 

When Ai Weiwei took his now infamous photo lying on the beach mimicking the dead body of the Syrian refugee child Alan Kurdi he was denounced by many. How dare he do such a thing. It was immoral. But for Ai his personal quest to bring awareness of the refugee crisis could best be achieved by that one simple photo. And it did. It brought more attention to the issue than most other things had to that date. For him, he did not cross that moral line because he was still creating art that made people aware. 

In the end its up to each of us to establish our own personal moral code. At no time did I feel in the article I read that the artist creating 1 million pieces of art was crossing his personal moral code just to gain publicity. So while I think the project represents the art more than the components, in the end only he can make the decision what is art and is not. 

What do you think? 

Read the original article here: One million artworks in a year - some would call it mad

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