Redefining What Art Really Is

Updated: 7 days ago

When Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain was submitted to New York’s Society of Independent Artists, it was immediately rejected as the board members simply did not consider it to be art. How did the French-American painter, sculptor, and (now considered) trendsetter create one of the most widely recognized pieces in art history despite controversy in the public eye, which still exists to this day?

The porcelain urinal signed “R. Mutt”, a pun on the German word for poverty, led the art world to reconsider the definition of what is considered art. It stands as one of the countless examples in the ongoing debate of whether or not modern art is “real” art.

Perhaps answering the question, “What is art?” is as difficult as “To be or not to be?”

Now there exists another factor that proved to transform the world of creativity — technology. From digital painting to augmented reality, this perpetually evolving industry has further left us confounded over the definition of art.

Growing up immersed in both technology and art, I never really questioned the intersection between these two disciplines. After all, it’s what made my childhood favorite movie, The Lion King, come to life.

But one day as I mindlessly scroll through Instagram, I came across a comment under a post of a piece of artwork: “I thought this was good until I realized it was digital… that’s cheating.” Just like traditional painters, this artist created this with great care, countless hours, and dedicated efforts to learn the software and techniques. However, the critic (and the 700 others who liked the comment) didn’t seem to have the same reaction as I did.

This regard revolves mainly around the notion that digital tools make art too “easy.” After all, the preset brushes and the simple click of “undo” solves many inconveniences of traditional artists. Nevertheless, this doesn’t just make the process easy. Artists still must learn the same (if not more) methods and concepts, and doing so digitally is just learning in another medium.

However, there is one thing we can all agree upon and should recognize: the art world is evolving. Perhaps, the moving paintings in Harry Potterdon’t seem too impossible in the future. One of the most innovative and promising forms of art today are those that utilize augmented reality. It is where images, text, or even sounds overlays what you already see through a tablet or a phone. Much like VR headsets, you experience both the physical and digital world — at the same time.

It can be alarming to think about transitioning into a world where technology permeates every aspect of our lives. While there are unmistakably consequences that stem from such development, its effect on art opens a door for artists and consumers alike.

Great art makes us think: about the piece itself, about the world, about ourselves. Pablo Picasso’s political piece on the horrors of the Spanish War Guernica fits all those categories, and an AR piece can also achieve the same outcome.

The definition of art should not be limited by what it’s made from. Regardless of the medium or platform, it awaits to be created from infinite possibilities.

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