If you ever go to a modern art show of any kind, and I mean any show from about 1920 to the present, you can find at least one curmudgeon who declares "That's Not ART!" These people can be uneducated passers by and highly educated artists or run the gamut between the two. You'll find these people throughout the 20th century, hideously appalled at how far the art world has strayed from the path. The early result of this sort of criticism, this un-arting, was Dadaism, which lampooned modernists with urinals. And these days many of the people who critique art in this way are the ones calling for the removal of funding for those artists who they say are wasting the public's money.

The critique is flawed, however, because it doesn't clearly define art. Often these critics will say that art defies any sort of general definition. But I take issue with that, there is a good definition of art. However it includes all of the pieces that cause them so much consternation, so I will offer a compromise.

The general definition of art:

Art is anything which is made.

Simple, eh? It includes everything, from a computer monitor to a paper on galactic dynamics to a cartoon to a day calender to expressionist, impressionist, minimalist pieces and everything in between. From a mass produced spoon to the Arc d'Triomphe. All that is manufactured, all that is artificial is art. Every last little bit of it.

"But," you protest, "surely {such and such a thing} is not art." I reply that it is. The trick is, the concession to all those curmudgeons, that some art is bad. That mass produced spoon is useful, it may be pretty, but its commonality makes it banal. The paper on galactic dynamics is not trying hard to be art, it is trying to impart content and since it is written in LaTeX the layout of the paper itself is the work of another. The expressionist who madly splatters paint on canvas, the minimalist who draws a box on a piece of cloth and sells it for $10,000, they're all making art. But the effort that goes into the aesthetic design of it and the meaning behind each piece. A spoon means, 'give me money so you can shovel food into your mouth.' A minimalist painting says 'I wonder how little I can do and still create something that pleases the eye.' The difference between these two is the separation between bad art and good.

So don't say "That's not ART," because the moment someone steps back from it and says "finished" it becomes a work of art. If that someone is just a working stiff putting out the umpteen billionth toothpick, then it's not high art, or even good art, but it remains art. If the piece has meaning and content but the person making it isn't very good at presenting either, then the piece can be utter crap, but art it remains. So when you're presented with some Madonna al Manure, don't deny that it is art, simply point to it and call it what it is. "CRAP"

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