Publisher's Note: WHY ART? WHY NOT? 2009
This edition of Ecclectica is dedicated to the practice of art by the artists at Brandon University. There are many definitions of what constitutes art but let me be clear on this issue: art is NOT in the eye of the beholder. It has some definite characteristics and qualities.
Dennis Dutton has provided an illuminating definition of art in the form of a cluster-criteria, which in its entirety captures what the qualities of an artifact or performance should embody in order to be called art. It captures the usual items, such as sculpture, paintings and decorated objects like tools or the human body, texts, dances, music, composition, recitation of stories as well as fringe, avante garde or other newer entries. Needless to say, not every piece of art fulfills every criterion. The criteria are in brief:
1. Direct Pleasure
2. Skill and virtuosity
4. Novelty and creativity
7. Special focus
8. Expressive individuality
9. Emotional saturation
10. Intellectual challenge
11. Art traditions and institutions
12. Imaginative experience
Although they are not weighted there is an in depth discussion of each of Dutton’s criteria in "Art Instinct". For those of you who still believe art is in the eye of the beholder, give it a read. If you’re concerned whether the Monday Night football game or Sidney Crosby is an art form take a chance and inform yourself. At least you will make yourself understood at art openings or academic cocktail evenings. Do they still do that? Notwithstanding withstanding the two books I cite herein, read on through the Ecclectica 2009 edition on the Arts. What is here fits the core criteria and in most cases cover all 12.
Art is not schlock that is painted on velvet rugs nor is it ribald limericks uttered by some souse in a pub... and guess what? Art is not culturally specific. All cultures have art and humans who do art.
Art is important for cultures and for individuals within those cultures. It is what makes life worth living and it will define the future. Given the state of the world right now those are great questions. For those of you that haven’t noticed we have been passing through an economic upheaval that some have characterized as the end of the information age, one dominated by lawyers, accountants, computer programmers and a whole myriad of other "left brainers" into one called the "conceptual age" where the new MBA will be the MFA, where the future will be the dominion of "right brainers" who see the world as a work of art. They recognize the importance of design, narrative, synthesis, empathy and humor as a way of conveying meaning and a sense of value to this new homogenized world of abundance, wealth and conformity.
We will live through this shock of job losses, diminished markets and uncertainty into a world seeking difference and quality amid a culture of sharing. It will be a world where aesthetics are at the heart of making choices and ART is the sine qua non of production. In short, ART will matter, to materials, to homes to cities and life in general. So goes the argument in Daviel Pink’s widely praised book, "A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age", Riverhead, 2005. I quote it here because it is something I have believed for the last 30 years.
Art not only matters, we can’t live without it. It is in fact what makes us human. Modern humans are seen to have four core capabilities which distinguish us from other primates: abstract thinking in which we generate ideas and concepts; the ability to plan into the future; the ability to innovate or add value to products or processes; and the ability to engage in symbolic acts, i.e. to conceive and create art and artifact. How this occurred at the level of the brain is uncertain. Humans and chimpanzee genomes are 98.2 % alike yet there is a considerable difference in the mental and linguistic capabilities between the two species. Indeed, a form of neuropsin, a protein that plays a role in learning and memory, is expressed only in the central nervous systems of humans and it originated less than 5 million years ago. On the other hand there also appears to be a "time of awareness" or "art consciousness" that occurred sometime about 50,000 years ago when humans began to do art in caves, either as a ritual practice or story telling. Dennis Dutton captures the relevance of art and art criticism in his latest book "The Art Instinct". He voyages into the realm of anthropology and genetics arguing cogently that artistic creation, appreciation and apprehension are imbedded in our genome and are far more innate and biological than a minor adaptation. It takes no genius to surmise that sense, sensitivity and sensibility would be a valuable evolutionary advantage in mate selection. Visualization, imagination and symbolic manipulation make humans that posses such traits powerful survivors. Seeing the future consequence of actions taken is what survival is all about. Needless to say, a read of Dutton’s "Art Instinct" and it companion "A Whole New Mind" is relevant, current and should RESONATE with all the contributors to this issue of Ecclectica. Here is to ART in all it’s forms at Brandon University!!!!!! It is more than evolution here. It is excellent and alive.
I’d like to thank Kristen Fisher for her work in assembling the edition, coordinating the design, the pros and the design of the final structure. She has become a multimedia artist by doing so. Finally, she kept us on time and ensured the quality of all the submissions. We couldn’t have done this without her!