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What Makes Art Art - Term Paper
Who am I to try to define artist's books? Just one person in a long succession. Perhaps I am not as qualified as the rest, being a creator of them instead of a librarian, curator, teacher or critic, but defining them seems to be a never ending task and somebody's got to do it. The only problem is, if you don't know what one is, and you keep on reading, chances are you will have to explain them to others.
As in anything, there are always exceptions to the rule. With artist's books, I would hesitate to establish rules, only tendencies. Essentially, artist's books are contemporary art. If they are art, then they must be made by artists. If they resemble books at times, then they might be defined as books, or publications, made by artists. But what if they are made by philosophers or writers? Like Laurence Sterne in Tristram Shandy (1760) or Jacques Derrida in Glas (1974) ? Stephen Bury, author of Artists' Books: The Book as a Work of Art, 1963-1995 argues that no matter how inspirational these works are, they cannot be artist's books because they were not made by artists. I assure you, the essays in his book are much better than mine. But since you've stumbled on to this essay, I'll continue. I may be a bit egalitarian or relativistic for some, but I would say that artist's books, indeed, may be made by anyone that is willing to try. That is one reason why "artist's books" is not necessarily the most apt terminology for the genre.
There are raging battles about this terminology, and many variants of the term itself. The silliest, but most prevalent disagreement, has to do with commas, or rather, possessive apostrophes, the ones up in the air. Many people would say it is Artist's Book in the singular and Artists' Books in the plural. But as I take an interest in this, and make a sort of mental tally, I have noticed "artist book", "artist books" and "artists books" often used. With the spoken word, the discrepancies disappear. Each version sounds the same out loud, and punctuation is not an issue. Punctuation is becoming even less of an issue regarding the written word due to electronic communication. Some people avoid the controversy altogether and call the art in question "book art" or "bookworks". That eliminates both the artist connection and the possessive argument. But it doesn't end here. There are all sorts of terms, for example "livre d'artiste" or "livre de peintre". They are used in english to define very special, often luxurious books with poems or literary works accompanied by original illustrations commissioned of artists by fine press publishers, often in limited editions. With artist's books, however, it is generally one individual making all the choices, without the involvement of an editor or publisher. In this sense, they may be likened to independent films. The final product reflects the artistic vision of one person, without imposed constraints connected to marketing or even censorship.
The groundwork for institutional definitions was laid by Arthur Danto,better known to non-philosophers as the long-time influential artcritic for the Nation. Danto coined the term“artworld”, by which he meant “an atmosphere of arttheory.” Danto’s definition has been glossed as follows:something is a work of art if and only if (i) it has a subject (ii)about which it projects some attitude or point of view (has a style)(iii) by means of rhetorical ellipsis (usually metaphorical) whichellipsis engages audience participation in filling in what is missing,and (iv) where the work in question and the interpretations thereofrequire an art historical context (Danto, Carroll). Clause (iv) iswhat makes the definition institutionalist. The view has beencriticized for entailing that art criticism written in a highlyrhetorical style is art, lacking but requiring an independent accountof what makes a context art historical, and for not applyingto music.
What Makes Art Art Essay - 612 Words - StudyMode
Public collections: libraries, museums and university special collections, which seek meaningful art regardless of its ability to adorn their walls. However, preconceptions and polemics abound within public collecting. There are debates within institutions about whether artist's books should be collected or not. Curators of museums in the U.S. and abroad have become upset that art librarians are spending money on artist's books, instead of solely on research books. Some are incensed that librarians function as curators; some resent that their own departments have no budget to collect art, so why should the library be able to? These complaints result at times in a mandate prohibiting the further purchase of artist's books.
Some institutions are permitted to purchase artist's books, but only collect books made by artists already represented in their collections of painting, sculpture or contemporary art. This reflects an often-stated bias that only artist's books made by artists established in other disciplines are worthy of attention. Perhaps this indicates that those of us who focus on artist's books should shun the title "book artist", and call ourselves photographers or painters. Few artists, or people, would choose to be pigeon-holed as to a style or category. Regardless, we are what we're labeled in the media or in history. While wonderful artists have certainly created some phenomenal artist's books, it is equally true that people dabbling occasionally in the genre sometimes fail to create effective works, because of problems with structure or concept due to unfamiliarity with the medium. And while it may be true at times that artist's books are purchased because they were created by a certain well-known artist, it is often the case instead that a work is purchased purely on the strength of its content, structure or message, regardless of who made it. This makes the field of artist's books a friendlier and more open subset of the contemporary art world.
However, every new curator or librarian brings specialties, strengths and preferences to their job, and the quantity or variety of artist's books being collected during each tenure will vary. As collections may be broad, with many different kinds of holdings, each curator or librarian will build on their institution's collections as they see fit. Sometimes, the power of an individual to collect is transferred instead to a collections committee within the institutions. This can work against artist's books, as they often benefit from a personal demonstration by artist or dealer, because of their multi-layered, sometimes subtle, approach. A prospectus describing the work, perhaps in combination with a colophon within the book, is often used to explain the work in absence of its creator.
The various issues raised above, while attempting to illuminate the genre, also demonstrate why you may have never heard of artist's books. The awareness of artist's books is surely increasing, judging from the astounding number of courses, even university degrees, offered in the book arts around the world, and due to the great number of exhibitions in libraries and museums. Not to mention the numerous book arts organizations and resources on the internet. But the road is slow, and many an enthusiastic gallerist, dealer or venue dedicated to artist's books over the last 25 years closed its doors due to the difficulties of selling artist's books while maintaining overhead costs. To be fair, this is true of contemporary art venues in general and independent bookstores as well. Even the most famous artist's book venue in the world, Printed Matter in New York City, has struggled with chronic debt, unable at times to pay artists for works sold. One of Printed Matter's founding board members, the art critic Lucy Lippard, once confided in me that when they opened, they thought artist's books would soon be found in every corner drugstore. "Boy, were we wrong," she added. Susan Herter of Herter Studios, during her tenure as editor at Chonicle Books in San Francisco, tried very hard to promote trade editions, or mass-produced approximations, of artist's books. Apart from the Griffin and Sabine series, which in fact did a lot to expand the general public's perception of the possibilities of book formats, Herter told me her efforts were unsuccessful.
But artist's books and the unusual experiences they offer are as alive as ever, despite the difficulties of making them, selling them or physically handling and displaying them. Why? Because people can't help creating them and enjoying them. And if you still don't know what one is, the easiest thing to do is to see some examples, so find one near you. Details below.
Large public libraries; university special collections or art libraries; specialized dealers and bookstores; prints, photographs and drawings collections of museums, or museum libraries, or both.
A seventh argument against defining art, with a normative tinge thatis psychologistic rather than sociopolitical, takes the fact thatthere is no philosophical consensus about the definition of art asreason to hold that no unitary concept of art exists. Concepts ofart, like all concepts, after all, should be used for the purpose(s)they best serve. But not all concepts of art serve all purposesequally well. So not all art concepts should be used for the samepurposes. Art should be defined only if there is a unitary concept ofart that serves all of art’s various purposes—historical,conventional, aesthetic, appreciative, communicative, and so on. So,since there is no purpose-independent use of the concept of art, artshould not be defined (Mag Uidhir and Magnus 2011; cf. Meskin 2008).In response, it is noted that an account of what makes variousconcepts of art concepts of art is still required, whichleaves open the possibility of important commonalities. The fact (ifit is one) that different concepts of art are used for differentpurposes does not itself imply that they are not connected insystematic, ordered ways. The relation between (say) the historicalconcept of art and the appreciative concept of art is not anaccidental, unsystematic relation, like that between river banks andsavings banks, but is something like the relation between Socrates’healthiness and the healthiness of Socrates’ diet. That is, it is notevident that there exist a multiplicity of art concepts, constitutingan unsystematic patchwork. Perhaps there is a single concept of artwith different facets that interlock in an ordered way, or else amultiplicity of concepts that constitute a unity because one is at thecore, and the others depend on it, but not conversely. (The last is aninstance of core-dependent homonymy; see the entry on , section on Essentialismand Homonymy.) Multiplicity alone doesn’t entail pluralism.
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