Friday, March 16, 2007

The Scope of What is Defined as Art

For the past few months I have been deliberating over this whole 'what is and is not art' discussion and Tuesday I came to a conclusion about the word art itself.

A broad definition of the word art would be the product of an artist and an artist being anybody who creates art. Further definitions include words like inspire and creativity. So analysing the definition of the word unlike with a lot of first line research in other areas doesn't result in any realisations or firm beliefs in what the word means as everything to do with the term is very broad. So then I had a look at the use of the word art in the wild (results in other languages may differ):
  • Paintings
    An artist painting of something real is considered art. An artist painting of something they have seen in their mind and is not real is also considered art.

  • Sculptures
    Much the same as paintings.

  • Poetry
    Poetry is considered emotionally expressive on the part of the poet so is considered art.

  • Stories
    Writers have to craft their creative ideas into single linear (no stories don't need to be linear, but this is how writing is taught) structures and the end result is considered art.

  • Cars
    Some cars are considered works of art.

  • Product Design
    Product design is also sometimes said to be an artform.

  • Architecture
    A lot of architects are inspired by art. And a lot of artists have been inspired by architecture. This inspiration factor and expression through design make buildings widely accepted as art.

  • Films
    Film is also considered art as the artists can express creativity through the medium.

  • Video Games
    Video games are still debated as to wither they are art or not. And this seems odd since other areas like Architecture are easily accepted as art.
From reading that you probably think I am going to just say that because all those other things are art then video games must also be art. Well I don't think that at all because the interactive nature of games means that the player is the artist and not the designer. The game is there for the player to express their own creative intent and the designer is just there to give the player the tools to do that. So although games contain art, they are not in-themselves art as they are not an artists finished product. If you where to video somebody playing a video game, you would have footage of someone expressing their intent and creativity through the game, this then means that that video of the play session could be considered art, but not the tool that allowed for that expression of art (the game).

So to look at this another way, a gun is not a weapon it is a piece of engineered metal. The metal gun could be considered as an expression of creativity and thus art, but it isn't. Instead in the hands of a Human this lump of machined metal can be used to inflict harm. This potential in the hands of the holder is what makes the metal a weapon, just as a video game which is just software is a games in the hands of the player. Without the player, the game is just software, just as the weapon is just metal and neither is art.

So then their is the question of all the art assets that are placed into a game, doesn't that make a game art?

Well earlier this week I was thinking about Hollywood films as products and I came to the conclusion that maybe our definition of art is too broad. In the early days I can see that an art film would be very much like a 'made for profit' film and the film makers who make films for profit would of course want their product to be considered art because art is a highly cultured thing. So although some film can be considered art, films made by Hollywood studios for the purpose of making money should not be considered art at all. I understand that a lot of people who contribute to a commercial film will be producing art for the product, but the objectives of the product is to make money, not for the product to be an expression of creativity. So because our definition of art is so broad people have mistakenly classed games as art.

So to clarify
Monopoly is not art, it is a tool for expressing play. And although Monopoly consists of art assets created by an artist, the game was created to be played by players, to make money and is not the result of a purely expressive process.
And the world needs to stop using art to describe everything because not everything is art.