What, if anything at all, qualifies one piece over another as ‘art’
By Alex Stanton, Staff Writer
Here’s how Oxford defines art: “The expression or application of human creative skill or imagination, typically in a visual form such as a painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.”
I know it’s the frickin’ Oxford Dictionary, but I can see a million reasons why that definition is problematic—perhaps even downright wrong—to a solid chunk of art-consuming individuals out there. That isn’t to say you’d be hard-pressed to find art that is universally loved. The one that comes to mind is inarguably the most famous classical sculpture of all time, David by Michelangelo. David, aside from being unfortunately endowed, is sculpted to perfection: the glare in his eyes, generally facing towards Rome, symbolizes the 1500s Republic of Florence and its unwavering defence of its freedoms despite it being surrounded by more powerful states. There’s so much work and so much thought put into David that it’s difficult to dispute that you’re looking at a worthwhile work of art.
Hard as I find it to believe, there are people out there who don’t think David is all that and a bag of chips, which is cool to me because of the objectivity of nearly all modern art forms. Take the motion picture for example; Stanley Kubrick, director of films such as Dr. Strangelove and The Shining is widely considered as one of the premier artists of the 20th century for his unhealthy perfection and attention to detail. John Waters, who filmed Pink Flamingos, made an entire career out of low-brow pictures with scenes such as—among many other things—a drag queen picking real live dog shit up off the ground and eating it. One of my favourite directors, Quentin Tarantino, is in between those two.
Despite its transgressive, exploitative, and objectively disgusting subject matter, Pink Flamingos is a serious cult hit, the kind of midnight movie shown after The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I don’t doubt for a second that everyone who watched Pink Flamingos and Divine eat dog shit considers it art, and you know what? I agree.
To me, all it takes for a piece of art to be worthwhile is for it to have an impact on someone, no matter how small or large it may be, it affected them. Therefore, by my definition, even something like Pink Flamingos is a worthwhile piece of art. What I enjoy is what I enjoy, and that sort of art affects me the most, but other people feel the same way about the likes of Porkys that I do about Reservoir Dogs, despite the fact that I personally would never be caught dead watching Porkys. I firmly believe art is entirely subjective, and just about anything can qualify…
…within reason, of course. I don’t want to meet the tortured, likely inhuman soul who lobbies for Adam Sandler’s filmography to be added to the Library of Congress. We have to draw the line somewhere.