What is art? [Was Re: Hello 2015]

Elias Sinderson elias@email.arc.nasa.gov
Mon, 04 Mar 2002 19:51:33 -0800

Well, so much for my earlier post re: keeping my email accounts and their
purposes distinct.  I guess I'm just all FoRKed up right now.

"The Berg" wrote:

> Yes, the patterns and little rocks are art, I agree completely, but the
> "hammer" is still just a tool - a tool with art on it. As a whole it is then
> a piece of art, on top of a hammer, which is a tool.

The distinction is much less clear than you think - perhaps due to my poor and
limited example. There are obviously cases in which the art cannot be separated
from the medium in/on which it is conveyed. (Echoes of McCluhan here...)

> > The same argument could be said of code: The simple PERL hack may just
> > be a tool, but when the author labors over the tool to increase it's
> > aesthetic appeal it becomes more art.
> Yes, PERL code app formatted to be a dolphin is art, but the FORMATTING is
> the art, not the code, the code is still jsut a tool.

Aesthetics can exist in a deeper sense than formatting...

> elegance != art, elegance = good engineering.

Uhm... right. So, what about the "elegant" presentation of a meal then? The
'elegant' bridge or building? The 'elegant'....?

Just out of curiosity I looked up 'art' on dictionary.com and the response had
too many entries to list here, but there seemed to be many applicable
definitions that would qualify code, a pretty hammer, buildings, et cetera as
art. I then looked up 'artist', and found the same sort of agreement:

art·ist   Pronunciation Key  (ärtst)

      1.One, such as a painter, sculptor, or writer, who is able by virtue of
imagination and talent or skill to create works of
        aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts.
      2.A person whose work shows exceptional creative ability or skill: You
are an artist in the kitchen.
      3.One, such as an actor or singer, who works in the performing arts.
      4.One who is adept at an activity, especially one involving trickery or
deceit: a con artist.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth
  Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
  Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


  \Art"ist\, n. [F. artiste, LL. artista, fr. L. ars. See Art, n., and cf.

1. One who practices some mechanic art or craft; an artisan. [Obs.]
2. One who professes and practices an art in which science and taste preside
over the manual execution.
  Note: The term is particularly applied to painters, sculptors, musicians,
engravers, and architects. --Elmes.
  3. One who shows trained skill or rare taste in any manual art or occupation.
  4. An artful person; a schemer. [Obs.]

  Syn: Artisan. See Artisan.
  Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.


  n : a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination [syn:
creative person]
  Source: WordNet ® 1.6, © 1997 Princeton University

Now don't go and give me the old semantic argument "Well, that doesn't fit *my*
definition of X...", otherwise I'll wrap that sorry old thing around you and
truss you up like a hog.

> > P.S. - You've been meeting the *wrong* kind of women.
> Well I am living in California. Midwestern women are another species
> entirely.

That's why I fled the midwest! Sorry to hear of your drought...    ;-)

In perpetuity,