What is Art?

This question punches me in the face, sticks me into a canon, and fires me back into my junior year of high school. I can't recall the precise name, but it was some sort of advanced literature class. I do remember the teacher.

We called him Skov.

A intimidating tall, graying man who could fail you with a single look. The kind freshman feared and seniors joked about. Truth was he was a nice guy, and an awesome teacher that would not tolerate lazy brains.

You may be wondering what a question like this is doing in a class like that. I can't exactly answer that, but I can tell you it does get weirder!

When Skov first presented the question on the board, we gave it a thought, and raised our hands to suggest a series of slightly varied definitions. Skov would take each one, without a hint of approval or disappointment on his face. We had no idea if we were right or wrong. I think he enjoyed holding that power over us, and now that I'm older, I understand it.

Once the hands ran out, and Skov couldn't stab another answer out of us with his eyes, he'd review.

"Art is something we create" said one of the students.

"Really?" replied Skov. "Okay. Everybody up. We're going on a field trip."

We threw each other precaution glances as we rose from out chairs. Like ducklings, we followed the teacher out of the room, across the pod, into the hall, and into...

The boy's bathroom.

I'll note that before we went in, Skov went in alone to make sure we weren't surprising any poor student. I'll confess, I was uncomfortable, and waited out in the hall, but my friends did go in, and told me what happened.

Skov gathered the class around a urinal, and asked the question: "Is this art?"

I mean... we did create it... so, by that definition... it was art.

We hurried to find a new definition, which got harder and harder the more we thought about it.

Art cannot be defined by the materials used - you can literally make art out of anything. Yes - even that. Art also cannot be defined by the intentions of the artists, because every artists has a different intention. This makes me think of a Tumbler post: someone had set their pair of glasses on the floor of an art gallery, and visitors gathered around, mistaking it for part of the museum.

Are the glasses art? Maybe not to the owner, but what about the people who stopped to look at it and decided it was art? Maybe they came up for a story or a meaning behind the glasses by themselves.

I'll always remember that class as opening my eyes to how relative reality and the world - and art - really was.

Ha det bra!

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