Defining Space, Defining Experience

Lately I’ve been re-thinking my theory that décor/design “art” should not be called art, and that real, proper art is something alchemic. After going to the Denver Art Museum last week (a proper art museum) the shift in perception has been further solidified. The definition of art as visual concept rather than decorative power structure over the last 150 years represents an extremely short period — a nanosecond — in the scope of history. So I’ve decided I’m cool with accepting hipster bobos, craft nouveau, watercolor societies, pet portraits, pop surrealism entry-levelers, comic book fanboys, Dr. Sketchy’s, life drawing, black & white photography, Indian jewelry, people who make shit out of wood or wire, erotica*, etc. as art. And instead of calling décor/design art something else, I think conceptual art should be called something else, because it goes beyond shaping a physical form into creating a four-dimensional experience.

This is where the written word has the advantage over visual art. One can choose to revel in, explore, partially accept cafeteria-style, be indifferent to, ignorant of, or reject the parameters of the four-dimensional experience set by the artist, but short of putting down the book, or trying to read a book in a language one doesn’t understand, one cannot escape the immutable structure of words set forth by the writer. I use the term structure loosely, maybe I should say construct of words. Words written on a page provide a defined space for experience, a four-dimensional experience that takes place in the mind. Now, what one sees in the mind’s eye is open to the reader’s interpretation, but the paramaters are the same: the words provided by the writer, the rectangular shape of the page, reading from left to right, turning pages from left to right. Art does not come with inherent directions for interaction. And if there are, they are usually given in words in the form of statements, descriptions.

Conceptual art is an inadequate term because it emphasizes concept over response, and if one doesn’t understand or even see the concept, it’s not perceived as art, or it is somehow belitting on the behalf of the executor. Maybe it should be called experiential art (or situational art? sit-art?) because regardless of whether or not one “gets” it, one has undeniably still experienced it. The mode of entering the situation is therefore established, like the pages of a book; the point is not so much to understand, but to undergo.

* I spent late last year and early this year composing an essay in my head about why erotica is not art. It’s unpublished on here because as I started to write it out longhand, I could see all the holes in the argument. I knew then that I would be headed back towards this acceptance of a wider range of visual expression as art, I just wasn’t ready to take that position yet.

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