Over the course of six months, I have on occasion discussed a broader definition of art than most are accustomed to — I have made the argument as well as I can that art is everything that is not nature. This jars with our feeling that art with little effort involved in its creation, such as a refurbished urinal or Pollock paint splatters can be considered art. Or perhaps that more “low-brow” examples such as a Wal-Mart center design, a fence, or a car design ought to be considered. We do not have to accept the boundaries on the domain of art imposed on it by people with specific agendas in delimiting it. Rather, I argue that we should push the boundaries as much as possible in order to appreciate human ingenuity, whatever the education level or vocation of the creator(s).
One especially difficult concept to appreciate, even if one does accept what I have written so far, is that politicians may be artists, too. We wouldn’t dare to accuse some of our most hated politicians (Truman, Bush Jr.) of being *artists* but sadly it is true.
Daniel Bell provided a sociological perspective on art’s domain that is useful here: “Art is the aesthetic ordering of experience to express meanings in symbolic terms, and the reordering of nature-the qualities of space and time-in new perceptual and material form. Art is an end in itself; its values are intrinsic.” I agree with Bell, but am mindful of the warning that historians may by the means of the particular form of abstraction we know as narrative, portray movement through time, something most others artists may only hint at (and yes, I love ending sentences with prepositions).
There’s always a balance to be struck, though, for the more time the narrative covers, the less detail it can provide. It’s like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, in which the precise measurement of one variable renders another one imprecise. (Almost like photograph vs. Impressionist painting, I’m thinking… ack, tangent….) Then, because our minds are networks of some curiously associative sort, every time we come across a representation of a referent, we reflexively alter the image and identity of the said being. In other words, we humans travel from one place to another, constantly refashioning ideas and meanings in our heads, compromising and comprising our individual aesthetics. In other words: are always judging.
And if advocates from sociobiology are right, that scenario-building, “the construction of alternative scenarios as plans, proposals, or contingencies… [as] social-intellectual practice for social interactions and competitions,” performs a key role in the aesthetic sense, then politicians dream high art indeed. So what aesthetics might inform a politician and derive from her or him? This is what I am fascinated by. One might, as I said before, decline to accept either George W. Bush or Harry S. Truman (blech) as artists. To what extent, after all, do our modern day Presidents and politicians really wield the paint brush?
Nevertheless, a look into politics may yet yield some interesting perspectives. In the next post, I will apply this artistic sensibility to Vaclav Havel, a beloved Czech playwright and politician, and then to a book review of Russian President Boris Yeltsin.