What is Art & Who is an Artist?

Ali Alışır – “Virtual Places” – 2011
What is art? Who is artist? These questions have been asked and discussed for centuries. This simply depends on the framework, within which one questions what art and artist are. From the perspectives of 14th century enlightenment and Marxism, it can be seen that modes of production are important. That is, if modes of production have social benefits, then that person is immediately entitled as artist. If that ideology does not entitle him as artist, then he is not valuable for that ideology at all.
Above all, it is of importance to state that art exists within a society; and, an artist depends on that society in terms of finding his sources. It is a wonder if through this popular opinion art and artist emerge as the society imposes?
In other words, if society wants to see an artist as a construction worker or a businessman, then, should an artist become as one of those? It is doubtful…
It is necessary to observe society in reference to the point that artists emerge from within society. How is society described? Which society is the one that art and artist are interested in?
First of all, society has the problem of system. In order to form a society it is necessary to determine the production system, bureaucratic system, and cultural structure. Art and artist emerge as two concepts moving within this system and gear wheel. Is it necessary or unnecessary for art and artist to free from this gear, to be opponent of it, or go out of this gear as a whole? If it is necessary, then how and for what reason will it be possible?
The fact that art moves within the society system unconditionally, will link it to an ideology in due course and the artist will become representative of an ideology or product of it (just like Marxist artist, artist advocating values of universal or traditional culture). How and according to whom will this be determined? If it is in a system, then will this system determine those?
The counter argument is that it will be indispensable for art to become a political entity. Another problem may occur within this political structure. If it is accepted that an artist exists within a political structure, then it is a question mark if this artist perform government’s art or the opposing party?
At this point the artist will be in the same system no matter if he performs according to the government or the opposing party. What is important here is art and artist stay out of the system if they have the power and will to criticize the social structure. Is this really possible?
If an artist (or a work of art) wants to dissociate himself from the government or structure of the opposing party, then a tension will arise between him and the structure of society. This has been experienced and it is still being experienced in each area of the history. That is, an artist, who will pursue a chaos, will slowly digress from that system.
What is the importance of all of these? Why should an artist digress from this structure after all?
First of all, we will see that the realities of life that we perceive as “reality” exist within that system. We live on these realities that were recommended, imposed by this social structure and system. We need to get up every morning and take certain transportation vehicles and reach our work places at certain times. If I refuse certain obligations that this system brought about, and claim that they are parts of the system, and I want to digress from the system; then, I need to throw myself into the complicated and chaotic form of human relations.
How come these human relations are that complicated?
Maybe there is no language. Maybe we do not use sentences, through which we can communicate, on purpose. We do not do the things that we have to do every morning. We try to determine our needs otherwise. If I start to deal with my needs individually, according to myself, remove language and succeed in applying this approach in each and every area of life; then, I can totally digress myself from this chain of relationships. In other words, I would throw myself into a chaos. Then only then, my realities start to differ from yours, and a problem of reality emerges. Your problem of reality can be solved more easily, because you had already given the solutions beforehand (as the government and opposing party you can figure these out in yourselves).
At this very point the reality of art and the reality of society start to differ from each other. Given the fact that the less an artist wants to be in government and opposing party; that is, the less he approves realities of system and operation of social system, the more artistic reality he has.
Artistic reality emerges as a form that goes beyond the society, looks down to the society, creates alternative forms to it, and suggests alternative communication styles. There is a utopia of artistic reality and it exists as an alternative of the social reality. It is important to ask why artistic reality exists as the alternative of social reality. Therefore, there is a certain point targeted for the sake of the salvation of humanity. This salvation is one of the points that modernism aimed. Essentially the main idea was to develop modernism within such an ideological framework that anything it advocated would be for the sake of the salvation of humanity. However, after a certain point those promises of modernism became futile. Projected concepts and their definitions were actualizing but people did not exactly experience the same way when they felt those concepts as utopia. The utopic emancipation of value judgments did not transform into a new value.
With reference to the original questions; how and in which context artists will be evaluated in terms of asking who is stronger and who is a bad? If they are spoken about within the same system and modes of production are determined by the government and opposing party within the same system, then what will be changed at all?
Modern societies are built upon dualities. If I say white, you would say black; and if I say woman you would say man. It would be similar when I say government and you refer to the opposing party, but everything will always be spoken within the same system. After the emergence of popular culture, when postmodernism started to question these dualities and this system, the concepts of art and artist started to transform into different forms. It is a wonder if after questioning all these values created by modernism, is there still a chance to develop utopias along with the critics of postmodernists?  If a work of art is deprived of its utopia and ability to produce an alternative social structure, then what can it present as new and different?
 Ali Alışır
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