In 2015 the London collective Assemble won the Turner prize for renovating old buildings in Toxteth, Liverpool, to create new homes, a glass-roofed garden and setting up the Granby workshop, where locals are being trained to make handmade furniture. The question is: is it art?
Is it art? seems to be a question surrounding any artwork that isn’t visual like paintings or sculptures. In the modern day it seems desirable that art is engaged with society. This often results in paintings or other types of artworks telling about a certain problem in the world. My experience is that these types of artworks can make you think, but I haven’t experienced art changing behaviour once the physical engagement with the artwork is over.
For example people see the painting in a museum, think about it and think about the problem it describes. But they go home and slowly the topic fades from their minds, and they go back to their fixed behaviour. I wonder if has the ability to change behaviour at all: I personally haven’t seen it do so.
I find it interesting that the question Is it art? is asked so often. I think it is because there isn’t a definition that precisely describes what art is and what it isn’t. Yet there seems to be an overall conclusion that art is something that is not real, but a mirror of the real world or a representation of an imaginary one.
I think that artists of the twenty-first century are looking for a kind of art that ís real. Art that does not only make people think but goes beyond that in one way or another (thinking has never changed anything outside the mind. If the thinking results in an action, it can change something). But this is paradoxical. How can one make ‘real’ art is art is per definition something dat is not real?
In art history we see rising and falling of styles and trends in art. Often the next style goes against the previous, changing the definition of what art should be. It is in the nature of the artist to search for the possibilities. We build art up until it reached her highest point and then started to break her down again in the twentieth century, in search for essence. It seems as though the world is now looking for new definition of art yet again.
In a few decades time there will be a definition of what we are doing now. It will become clear in the framework of history what the developments were at this time. But we live today and the history of this time is not yet available to us. So until that time comes we find ourselves in a no man’s land of possibilities.
Art requires a new definition of itself. Maybe ‘art’ will become not the product but a mindset: maybe in the future art will be the mindset to search for possibilities, and execute those. Like Assemble did in Toxteth, Liverpool.