What is art?

By Sasha Pust

What is art and when do we recognize something as art?

In today’s world, with all the media present, the word art is being manipulated and abused. We all know this, but still, the question remains – what is art, really?

The word art, as a translation from Latin, in the beginning meant purely the skill, the craft of being able to produce or perform a “piece”.

Later on, the meaning of the word art changed into the ability to express oneself through creativity. The audience would engage their aesthetic sensibilities and appreciation for the artist’s work. Today, with all the new and provocative art forms, it seems the meaning of art has changed again, or at least “upgraded”. People are asking again: what is art?

Well, try to think of the artists that we all know: Claude Monet, the founder of impressionism, Pablo Picasso – the cofounder of cubism, Salvador Dali – the surrealist. All of them, in their time, were quite a shock to the audience. People would call them names and make fun of them. For them, they were not Artists. At least not in the beginning…

What about Ballet Russes, when they came to Paris for the first time in 1909, directed by the great Sergei Diaghilev? It was quite a shock for the audience seeing them for the first time. Now, fast forward to almost present times and try to think of Robert Mapplethorpe (famous photographer of the 80’s), or Marina Abramović (controversial Performance Artist). When these two artists exhibited, the public was shocked again, to say the least! In case of Robert Mapplethorpe, the exhibition in Cincinnati was forcefully closed and the director of museum prosecuted. What can you gather out of these facts? Shock is the keyword, right? But it is not about the shock. It is all about the reaction. Not all art is that shocking.

All art should provoke a reaction

People are very different in their acceptance of new ideas, creations, performances, work. Some accept new very eagerly and with appreciation, some react to it with very strong hostility. And there are all nuances in between.But the important thing is reaction. A real physical reaction to a work of the artist; we can feel joy, amusement, we can be left speechless, breathless, we can feel rage and anger…

Artist’s work is a reflection and interpretation of real life.

And life can be beautiful, tempestuous, difficult, disturbing. Sometimes people pretend these bad, negative and disturbing things don’t happen and when they see those interpretations, they can react with hostility. Time is usually the best judge wether a certain work remains, or becomes Art. If after a period of time it still:

  • provokes you
  • transforms you
  • leaves you in awe
  • influences you
  • makes you forget about everything around you
  • makes you impossible to forget it
  • is still authentic and original

Than I guess, this must be art!

True art never leaves you untouched – unmoved

By now, I guess everybody has the same question on their minds – which category does ballroom dancing fall into? Is it art, or is it “something else”. If we look at the first description of the Latin word art – the skill, the craft of being able to produce or perform, I think everybody will agree – yes, it falls neatly under this description. Now, take a look at the second definition – a more developed one – the ability to express oneself through creativity. With the audience engaging their aesthetic sensibilities and appreciation in the performance. I would say yes here as well – maybe with just a bit of hesitation…What about the third, (upgraded) version – where does ballroom dancing fit here? Just for reference – I am talking about highest level in both art and ballroom dancing)

  • does it Provoke you?
  • does it transform you?
  • does it leave you in awe?
  • does it influence you?
  • does it make you forget about everything around you?
  • does it make it impossible to forget it?
  • is it authentic and original?
  • does it touch you and move you?

I would say we all know the answers to these questions, although some of them might be no. But some of the “no” answers come because we don’t even realize how “young” ballroom dancing really is. Take a look at painting, which has been around from prehistoric days. It had plenty of time to peacefully develop into a truly magnificent art form.

Classical Ballet already started as an art form

Even film, as one of the youngest art forms, has a bit longer history than ballroom dancing (and much more funding).
But ballroom dancing stared as a social activity and has undergone a metamorphosis…I would say we are right in the moment when we became self-aware and started to look at our identity – a bit like a teenager – standing at the crossroads, wondering which road to take (or maybe even take all of them???). My thought here is, if we are going to take the art road, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to contemplate a just bit more on creativity, authenticity, originality, and maybe spice it up with a bit of provocation in a sense of pushing the boundaries…

For people who are interested, here are the links:

Claude Monet http://www.claudemonetgallery.org/
Pablo Picasso 
Salvador Dali 
Ballet Russes 
Robert Mapplethorpe 
MarinaAbramović <ahref=”http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/965″>http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/965
And just to add a bit of taste and spice: 

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