Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Philosofossilising- What is Palaeo Art (Jenn)

This is a reply to the question:
What is Palaeo-Art?

This is an individual opinion on this topic. To read a number of different peoples' answer to this question click this link here. If you have your own answer, read the last paragraph of this post for details on how to get yours posted.

A long time ago (in a galaxy far far away) I stopped trying answer the question, "What is art?" If you've ever really made a serious attempt at answering the question, then you'll know how tedious the process is; if you think you've come to a pretty good definition- maybe not perfect, but good- someone will eventually come along and show you something that will violently disrupt your understanding of what art is. And even though you might confidently look at said object (or performance... or musical composition... or whatever) and think, ".... that's not art... definitely not art...," there will always be that voice in the back of your head saying, " it? Maybe it is." At that point you have to begin redefining, and, eventually, your brain explodes.

All that given, you can imagine my hesitation to jump to the front of the line to answer the question, "What is palaeo art?" The writing and re-writing I've done so far in this post is just a sign of how eerily similar the questions "What is art?" and "What is palaeo art?" are. Maybe not because they're the the same thing (because I doubt they are), but because both are so difficult to define verbally. Incorporate the word "art" into any term, and you're heading into murky waters. Whatever one's personal definition of palaeo art is, I think they'd be surprised at how many artworks they never viewed as palaeo art might somehow fall under that definition. Once again, time to redefine.

Ultimately, I believe that art and palaeo art are NOT the same thing (in that not all art is palaeo art, although all palaeo art is art). But that doesn't mean we can define them (in the traditional way). I think that [palaeo] art can only be defined as "I know it when I see it." And how appropriate that we CAN see it! In fact, so many of the things that we spend time defining are things that have to be defined verbally because there is no other way to understand them, and they can be defined verbally because the scope of their form and function is so limited. For art, I think it's just the opposite. We don't make art and THEN define "art". We make art TO define "art." Every artist's creative career is the exploration of answering the the question "What is art?" just as the creative career of every artist who's interested in paleontology is the exploration of "What is palaeo art?"

So, what is palaeo art? It's this, or this, or this, or any host of others.

As a last note, does this mean that I believe asking the question "What is paleo art?" is futile? No, absolutely not. It challenges preconceived notions, and anything that does that is certainly not futile. Similarly, does this mean that I disagree with the other artists' definitions? No way. In fact, that we all have different views and definitions that are so equally valid and true just goes to show how dynamic this art form is, and while we all might read the responses to this question (my own included), we are never so sure as when we have a-punch-in-the-face, clear-as-day, why-didn't-I-think-of-that-before?, it's so obvious! reaction as we do when we LOOK at the work of artists who say, "I made this, and this is what I think paleo art is."

For me, for now, in response to the question "What is paleo art?" I have only one thing to say definitively:


Feel free to disagree :)