If Cezanne paints a tree in a forest but no one is there to receive it, is it art?
TMD returns to its dialogue in letters, concerning the troubling subject of defining art. Alex returns in this installment with advocacy on behalf of the aesthetic receiver. When we contemplate the challenges of defining art, one surely concerns the role of the receiver. Aesthetic reception varies widely by personality, place and time. Alex speaks out on behalf of us as we encounter the work of art: Is it not our privilege to define what is and is not art?
Click here to read her answer in “Letter IV: Defining Art as a Personal Privilege.”
Heidegger, “The Work of Art”
Andrew and Alex continue their series on defining art with the third installment: “Enter Heidegger.” Andrew moves the conversation to the “thingness” of art, with a nod to Heidegger along the way.
“If art is a thing, it has its own nature. And if it has its own nature, then there must be something – some thing – out there for us to define. Our problem, however, is that we are trying to use language suited for other things in order to define the art-thing, and that approach does not work.”
Click here to read the full article, “Defining Art, Letter III: Enter Heidegger.”
Alexandra Holness offers her response on the question of defining art. For her, art has a special place in the human experiences, and we need a definition in order to identify something that is distinct. Defining it bestows on art the esteem that it deserves. As she writes, “It is something precious, something for which we strive, and something for which artists labor to achieve.” So in our pursuit of the unattainable, we offer up the never-ending process of definition as an act of reverence.
Join us for the continuing conversation with “Defining Art: Letter II. Alex Responds.” (click link to view full article)
Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing a Letter (Photo: National Gallery of Art)
We launch the second year of The Muse Dialogue with a dialogue, appropriately enough. A dialogue in letters specifically. We have been musing (yes, the other half of our name) on the subject of defining art. As we talked through how to approach it, we felt that the issue needed multiple points of view in conversation, working toward some resolution. So Andrew Swensen and Alexandra Holness have taken up the task, and the questions are many but may boil down to two: How do we define art? Do we need to define it at all? Perhaps we are taking our cue from some of the other letter-writers out there — Rilke writing his letters to a young poet or Schiller writing his letters on aesthetic education — and the notion of using letter-writing seemed somehow appropriate to the task. We look forward to taking this journey, and we hope that you will join us for Vol. 2, No. 1: Defining Art, A Dialogue in Letters.
Letter I: The Journey Begins (click here to view the first installment)