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The Arts Room General A proposition for defining art.
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A proposition for defining art.
When holding a conversation with an artist, musician, or even philosopher, it seems inevitable that at some point in the dialog the question will arise, "well, what is art, anyways?" Or the inverse question, "what is NOT art?" It seems that both questions hold equal weight, and both look to receive the same answer; which would ideally be discriminatory between the "is" and "is not".  Clearly, that answer has not be satisfactorily found. That being said, I would like to pose a definition of my own making to the thinkqon community for feed back and critique:

Art is any form, created by a person, which seeks to express an emotion which can be equally expressed by some mathematical equation, or combination of equations. 

To apply this definition one must start by looking at the constituent parts of a piece of music, artwork, architecture, etc... I'll use music as an example because I'm most familiar with it, being a musician myself. The first step in learning a piece of music is to decide what emotion is trying to be conveyed by the composer. Once that is figured out, we figure out how exactly to express that emotion by manipulating an array of variables, e.g. tempo, articulation, and physical pressures applied to the instrument. Now, we must adjust the variables for every single note in the piece of music, or likewise, every brushstroke in a painting. If we knew the variables from the outset, we could simply plug them into a computer for each note and then a computer could play it. For example, each note would have its own separate equation for bow speed, with its own separate variables which will convey the ideal sound -making each note, or each brush stroke, its own piece of artwork in an of itself.  

However, we dont know what that equation is from the outset, and we only know how to use trial and error for the variables, so we experiment endlessly until we find something that is close to ideal. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the ideal, or the perfect linear or non-linear equation, is there before we started looking for it. Once we find the ideal form, we call it art.  

How the definition discriminates: Once the art form is found, any reproduction of it by a non-human is not art. Because the equations are simply being perfectly replicated by a computer there is no question of emotions, and no search for anything closer to the ideal line. It is simply a computer plugging in whatever equations we have found and mechanically reproducing it. 

This may raise the question of recordings and electronic art. To this I would answer: While the music/painting being produced by the CD/MP3 or printer is not art, it represents the art of the creator and we can simply appreciate the original work of the artist through non-art forms. 

I'm very interested in refining this definition, so any short comings or ways to augment it would be appreciated!
I enjoyed reading your post Christopher.
The problem with your definition, I would say, is that it shifts the question to that of what is an emotion and its connection to art, a direction which I'm not sure is so useful in thinking about defining art. Is the emotion of anger art? If not what makes of it art? That is, if we accept the part of your definition that emotions could be expressed mathematically, then are we left with all emotions?

A dot can be expressed mathematically, but is that an emotion?

I would say that the relationship between art and emotions s a complicated one. One that I can't think at the moment what to say about it, but, contradicting what I said before, perhaps it is a good direction to take:
What is the relationship between art and emotions?

In response to Chris Utterman

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Latest Post: August 19, 2011 at 2:37 AM
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