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What Is Art?

Updated: Feb 3, 2019

I originally thought this question would be one of the hardest questions I would ever have to answer. Although, it is a tough subject to discuss; as I thought about it, long and hard, for the past week I began to realize that it is actually not such a complex idea to grasp. I did see it as a problem to be solved, however, because understanding art is not the challenge but rather explaining it, in words. So I decided I would break it all down before I could put it all back together. This is how my thought process unfolds.

First, I thought about it very superficially. What things in the world do I conceder to be art? Well, I could go on for pages stating everything we, as a society, call art nowadays. Combining everything from panting to music, from words to food. Even though I do not agree with how the word art is used to express anything that is creative these days, I do feel that it can amalgamate many different disciplines or practices. For that, this simple yet amazing three-letter-word, is never alone. It is always accompanied by another word. There is Visual Art, Fine Art, Culinary Art, Liberal Art, and so on. Anyway, as this was going through my mind I started to realize that art, because it is such a broad and complex subject, people feel the need to narrow it down or limit its possibilities. It was then that I understood the power of art, and came to the conclusion that art is, in fact, power.

Now, if art is power, then it must come from somewhere. Power can be defined as the capability of doing or accomplishing something, which is essentially strength, or it can mean possession of control or command over others. However, power can also be described as a chemical reaction, like the atomic powers, which is essentially energy. In high school I learned about kinetic energy: the energy possessed by an object due to its motion, which means that the amount of work that takes to make an object move is the same that will make it stop. This seems like it has nothing to do with art, but I see art as being highly scientific. Since art is power, power is energy and energy is work, then art must be work.

Well, yes, this obvious answer did take me two days to figure out. But when I say work, I really meant motion. Art is motion. It is action, as well as reaction. Art can even be a chain of reactions. We all talk about the creative spirt as if it were an actual floating ghost that hums around looking for the next body to launch on. We think that because when we are in a room where a creative energy is flowing, we can physically feel it in our bodies. It might not have the same effect on everybody in the room but we all become aware when it is there. My point is that, creativity is a chemical reaction. Just as love is a chemical reaction. When you see someone you love something in you, let’s say, vibrates. That vibration reflects back to the person rather you want it to or not. We can all feel when someone is in love with us, and we know when we are in love with someone because when we see that person, our heart beats faster, our stomach gets tighter and even breathing can suddenly become a struggle. All in all, the fact of the matter is that just as we feel love, we can feel creativity. So we can all feel art, because it vibrates. After this thought, I went completely blank. I simply could not think of anything that would push this theory any further. So I decided to go back to the basics, and to me that means going back to my native language. Portuguese.

In Brazil, we use the expression “fazendo arte”, literally translated into “making art,” to refer to someone who is making a mess, rather they are making art or not. The thing to note here is, yes, when we make art we are making a mess, but the reason for us to use this expression is because making art is the act of making a mess. It made me laugh inside when I remembered that my mom would always call me “arteira”, which is different from “artista”, that simply means artist. “Arteira” is someone who is always making a mess wherever they go. I was never bothered by my mom calling me that because it is just an additive for someone who is unorganized, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I now start to see that no matter how I break it down, art always seems to be referred to as an act. Rather is the act of making a mess, or the act of feeling, or working, even cooking or playing. Art is an action, even a chain of reactions, as noted before.

My initial scientific approach may be a little exaggerated but it does explain the fact that art is something to be felt as much as it is to be seen or touched. So maybe they are not wrong when saying “art is everywhere”, but they are definitely not right in saying that “art is everything.” I suppose my personal view of what art is, can be described as anything that creates a certain motion, or emotion. Anything that moves me without touching me. Maybe the first person to use the word art, mistakenly switched the c for the r, and really meant to say act. Art is an act, but it is also an act that reacts.

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