Art is as fundamental to human life as language, and as something so inextricable it seems we can barely express our understanding of it. Much like the human brain, we can recognize it and give general input regarding what we think is happening, but there's no real agreement about the inner workings and solid definitions within either field of study.
We see art as a subcategory of artifact, but in a way, any artifact can be considered art. In fact, naturally occurring objects (not artifacts) could be considered art. One would be hard-pressed to successfully argue that mountain ranges and complicated tree systems don't qualify. So if creator, intent, function, and content don't specifically define art, then what does? Art is maybe anything in the past, present, or future that could be viewed by any potential observer and qualified as art. Sneaky, here. We're not supposed to use the word in the definition of that word, but this is so hard-wired into us that we can't properly define it. Like love. What is love? It's what you have for something you love.
An art collection is just a series of objects tied together in the mind of the observer(s), much in the same way that speech only makes sense when you know the language, or love only makes sense when you know what it feels like. By this train of thought, we can view art as a fundamental urge that exists only within the observer and in the presence of some context. As a species that has this urge hard-wired, we partake in art very differently from person to person, often disagreeing on what qualifies as art.
A banana duct-taped to the wall of a museum or a Banksy piece freshly sold at auction being shredded immediately post-sale may seem like travesties of capitalism more than art-- but couldn't such a travesty also be considered art? The banana is an arrangement of items within context, and the Banksy shredding could prove a simple act of destruction to be art within appropriate context. So art can be a moment? Would it then follow that art can be a personal record of action providing context to an outstanding moment?
Yes I am leading up to something here, and that something is digital art. Is it "real" if I can't hold it? Does viewing it on a phone or TV screen or projector wall qualify as experiencing it, and does holding it in a blockchain wallet qualify as ownership? Digital art may just be the ultimate art form combined with an also ultimate form of ownership. Blockchain storage is by no means fool-proof, but its quite secure when secured properly. And while our first concern may lean toward thievery of expensive art pieces, the list of concerns is actually much, much longer.
When we store conventional art pieces, we have to worry about damage from light, sound, humidity, and vandals. To move pieces from one place to another requires tedious care and tremendous resources. To display them we need the perfect angle and color of lighting. To create them we need expensive materials that are potentially toxic and harmful to us and our surroundings, and in order to know the context properly we have to rely on long-standing lists run by people or businesses verifying that the art is what we think it is- and we all know how reliable humans tend to be.
Digital art is degradation free, instantly transferable anywhere in the world, displayable on any medium to match lighting conditions or purpose, only produces as much waste as the blockchain on which it exists, and proves its own provenance having been traced its whole life immutably by the software & hardware on which it is also stored. No, you can't technically hold digital art in your hands, but I would argue that very few pieces of art require such, and if they do, then i say continue on and do not convert to digital for these instances. This isn't an either-or situation, and I'm not trying to argue for the triumph or either. Physical and digital art can co-exist happily and absolutely ought to.
Art is not a thing, it's a viewpoint that we get to share with others. It seems we may gain clarity by recognizing that art is in our minds, not out in the world, and its inherent subjectivity is what makes it such a captivating topic. Could digital art be paving the way for a revolution in the way that we interact with this primal urge within us?
Thanks to Bankless DAO for the ongoing support.
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