Art Is Not Art Unless…

The phrase, "Art is not art unless it is shared" popped up in a submitter's bio, which started me thinking about definitions, positive and negative phrases, and naming. I was curious why someone would use this in a bio, as part of describing oneself.

We use language to communicate, so it is nice to have a dictionary filled with words we can share and understand. Beyond the standard definitions we have metaphors, similes, and poetry, which can invoke a feeling, set a mood, or confuse people. "What is a sandwich" is a question that matters because I can challenge it if I don't get my order. Art doesn't always have either bread or mustard. Often neither.

It's simple to use negative statements: people aren't potatoes, scissors aren't socks. We probably have millions of negative statements, some true, some false. The question really is: when does it matter? Over at least thirty years I've heard the question debated, "What is a book?" and probably heard "What is art?" batted around at least as long, maybe longer. A lot of people like to say what art is not.

Naming is often synonymous with power. If you name it, you control it. Or think you do. So a little bit of "art is not art unless" is about putting forth one's own power. I tried a typical trick and asked The Google as I typed "art is not art unless." These are the definitions I found. They are from a variety of books, blogs, historical, educational, or personal websites.

it is art.
it is propaganda.
the artist has gone all the way to the point where there is no room for improvement.
you outdo yourself.
it is appreciated and understood.
it enters the life of the people.
it pushes the limits of safety and accessibility.
it is institutionalized by the artist and society.
you know what it is.
it is spontaneous.
it invokes an emotional connection between individuals and unites them.
it is born out of living experience.
it is produced by an artist.
it threatens your very existence.
it is wrenching from the soul of man.
there is a receptor for the stimuli.
it moves the viewer.
it conforms to a strict definition of beauty.
there is freedom involved.
it is capable of being transposed.
it is challenging.
you can find a tangible structure and project your thoughts onto it.
you're fearless.
it contains a discovery.
it is a gift.
the right people say so.

The one word that is missing, and one that I find important is transformation. Have you (if you are the maker) transformed something (such as your experience) into something new? Or have you (the viewer) been changed by the experience of the piece? Do you see something differently? Something you hadn't seen or hadn't thought of previously? From the above, I would season this with "it moves the viewer."

Defining art doesn't seem possible, although judging it does, so I would say, in my judgment, "Art is not good art unless it transforms and creates a new point of view."