A fun blog entry came to my attention recently that started me thinking. I was moved to post a comment. Never one to waste a good paragraph, and because, coincidentally, the ideas there were very much in tune with my post of a couple days ago about street art (see below), I append the comment here.
The only definition of "art" I have ever heard that seems complete--that is, that seems to work no matter where you apply it--is that art is "the making special of something." That may seem so vague as to be of only modest usefulness, but it's actually quite powerful. It can help to explain why we are moved by so many things--from a wet flower petal made transparent by rain or the slightly misaligned folds of an envelope to people spontaneously dancing in the street, a framed drawing, sound ringing in the air, or a lone voice crackling over a dramatically lit stage. All that is required is that our attention be called to something special, different, something worth noticing. It need not be intended as art--I would argue that much art is serendipity enshrined. All that is required is that someone has noticed it and pointed it out.
I love to look at the worn paint and re-painting of lines and symbols on the playground at my son's school. Not many people stand around looking at the patches of pigment or photographing them the way I do, but there they are. Art. I remember once in college sitting in the Fine Arts Library (appropriately enough), studying, watching raptly the girl sitting at the table next to me as she one-handedly braided her own hair without ever looking up from her book. Performance Art. Taxi drivers in New York City, stopped, doors open, half out of their cars (noses virtually touching), lunging at each other, gesturing, shouting. This is drama of the best kind. Gallery art, too, is art--often sublime--but we probably miss more art on our way to work every day than is in all the galleries of the world. Art is truly all around us. All that is required is to notice it and then to play a giddy game of show-and-tell. That game, too, is Art.
I made the photo posted here in Tokyo, in 2005. Just a wall, but worthy of a frame.