Definitions of Art / by Jeannine Cook

In June's issue of ARTNews, there is a long article about art which only happens once because you, the participant-viewer, happen to be experiencing it. Without you, there is no art.... In other words, countless artists today are challenging the definitions of art way beyond the video, performance, installation, happening... all the diverse art creations we have seen proliferate.

By these definitions, is the traditional "art-object" likely to go the way of the dodo? This whole issue has been wandering around in my head as I worked today on a silverpoint drawing. It is all a little ironic. I endeavour, like countless other artists, to create a piece of art that is not only predicated on concepts of art that have existed very nicely, thank you, for at least eight centuries, but I also try to be mindful of doing things in a way such that the archival qualities of the piece are assured to the maximum possible. I have read enough already about the expensive headaches that curators and conservators are having in many museums as they try to preserve the artwork done last century with all sorts of less than permanent materials. Today, too, we read of the technical problems museums and collectors are encountering when they purchase cutting edge videos and other technological marvels. Before too long, the ever-galloping changes in technology leave these pieces high and dry on the flood banks, out-of-date and unusable as the equipment not longer exists. Some collectors are getting careful about requiring the artist to guarantee that the lifespan of the art is ensured.

In our headlong world, I often feel that the actual quality of art has, in recent times, become of secondary importance to the new, the trendy, the cutting edge and thus the attractive flavour of the moment for those who have had lots of money to spend. Considerations of longevity of the art, let alone its potential "timelessness", have seemingly been cast aside on many occasions.

As one now reads of the continued strong market shown by blue chip Old Masters and work that has been done in the more traditional media, it makes one wonder : what next? The serious, educated collector will always exist for whatever definitions of art pertain. But what future lies ahead for those of us who quietly go on trying to create art that can, if deemed worthwhile, last for at least a hundred years? One has to hope there will always be enough diversity among the publics of the world to ensure support of all types of art. Always assuming that we are not all collectively shortening our viable time span on earth through climate change... If we are, it becomes pretty academic at some point as to what type of art each of us creates! Perhaps that is the very point of the art which only happens once, when one is lucky enough to exist to experience it. That is worth pondering.