empathy

After my last blog someone asked which definition of art i related too. it took a bit for me to settle on one. At first I found myself not really liking any of the definitions. I think what is interesting about a definition of art is that it really is all about how an individual feels about it. I think the most pure function of art happens on a personal level. and trying to define something like that seemed almost impossible. after musing for a bit about that and rereading the definitions i came back to the first one.

The first definition, which i would say is the closest to what the majority of folks would agree on as being the most accurate,  actually highlights that there is nothing that can be considered “art” in a definitive way, except for by individuals.

“the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”

“aesthetic principles”, “beautiful”,  “appealing”, “significance”. all these terms hinge on an individual experience and will vary widely depending on who you talk to.

Within the parameters of this definition it seems to imply that looking from a universal point of view nothing can be considered art…but looking from a personal view anything can be considered art.

It is all about if it means something to you or if it means something to someone else. Really if it means something to anyone else…if it holds something more than ordinary significance for anyone…then it can be called art. What i particularly like about this is that it seems to unveil one of my favorite aspects of art which is that it can help us to understand each other.

When someone makes something that they care about, it is an indication of some aspect of how they feel about their experience here as a human being. Alternately when people respond to a given piece of art they are showing how they relate to that piece of art due to the way it illuminates something they find significant about their own experience.

In this way, art can prompt one to consider the minds of other folks, it gets me thinking about other peoples values which i may not have considered otherwise. Even in the case when i don’t actually like a piece of art or relate to it at all, it makes me think about why someone DID like it, what sort of a life would someone have had to have lived in order to find significance in that piece. Whether i agree or disagree, whether i’m correct or incorrect in my assumptions of what the artist meant , it inspires me thinking beyond my own world.

Having these thoughts helped me to realize why i’ve always gravitated towards the arts and why i’ve gravitated to small places. Surrounding myself with people who give value to their individual experience and the individual experiences of those around them is something that’s important to me. You get this in art. You get this in small towns. People are trying to build a community and it doesn’t come by everyone agreeing, it has to do with understanding one another and seeing other view points as valid even if you disagree. To me, art highlights this and reminds me pay to attention to the fact that we’re sharing this world.  Everyone has their own value…and no matter how different from my own it may be, it is no less important or profound.

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2 Responses to empathy

  1. Katie G. says:

    What a great post, Seth! I really like what you said about how the way people respond to art indicates parts of their life experiences:

    “Even in the case when i don’t actually like a piece of art or relate to it at all, it
    makes me think about why someone DID like it, what sort of a life would
    someone have had to have lived in order to find significance in that piece.”

    It seems so obvious that a certain taste in art can tell something about a person in the same way music does, but I had never thought about it that way. Usually my considerations of a particular work end once I’ve decided it doesn’t fit with my aesthetic values. I think after reading this post, I’ll probably spend a little more time thinking not only about why someone would make a particular piece, but why it might appeal to someone else.

  2. Pingback: Reaching Across a Divide | CreateTucker

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