What is art, exactly?
As I think about this, and begin to form my own answer, I wonder, does there really need to be a general, definitive answer to this question? Maybe everyone could have his or her own answer?
According to Wikipedia:
“Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, photography, sculpture, and paintings.”
I wonder how much this differs from how someone might have answered 100 years ago … or 500 years ago. I would imagine quite dramatically. The concept of art is constantly growing and changing; ideas and technology are continuously pushing the envelope, and breaking down parameters of what art “should” be. Which is magnificent.
What I like about the Wikipedia answer is that it focuses on the concept that art is a creation. To me, art is the tangible expression of the artist’s vision; it is the physical manifestation of an idea or feeling or concept, whether on canvas, in words, in movement, or in another form.
Elbert Watson and his company of dancers held a performance within the Daniel Rozin exhibit at Chrysler Hall last weekend. Daniel Rozin is an artist who works in interactive digital art. But he doesn’t only create art; he uses technology to create installations that allow the viewer to become the creator. These digital art pieces are ever changing and transforming; they require movement to come to life. Elbert Watson and company brought their movement to this installation, and the results were fantastic.
There were several solo dance pieces, including one by Elbert Watson who danced to an excerpt of the Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech. Elbert used the rhythm of the words for the timing of his steps. His choreography portrayed the subject of Dr. King’s statements. As the voice of Dr. King rang through the air saying, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” Elbert reached out as if he were holding a child’s hand. Elbert deliberately incorporated the Rozin installations into his movements as well (especially Mirror No. 10). It was evident that the piece was choreographed specifically for this space. This incredibly powerful solo was a compelling blend of emotion, dance, technology, and visual art.
In addition to other company pieces, two audience members had the opportunity to join the dance company in an improvisational study of negative space; the first person struck a pose of their choosing (arms up, leg to the side, leaning forward, for example). Then, the next person would pose in such a way that their arms or legs would fill a void left by the first person’s pose, but not necessarily touch the person (to continue the example, the second person might form a circle with their arms around the first person’s leg). And so on. The 14 people in this piece took turns starting the formation, and each one ended with a wonderful configuration, as well as cheerful laughter. All of which was reflected in the three Rozin pieces framing the scene.
This performance was more of an experience than a show. It was an experience of art forms mingling, layering, and melding together. The art influencing the dance, and in turn, the dance reflected in the art. One art form creating another.
Art in any form is inspiring; it helps expand our creativity, and open our minds to new ideas and concepts. This experience at Chrysler Hall was a key example of how art forms can combine and connect, and form something unique.
As long as we are willing to create and share our ideas, the world of the arts will continue to grow. Art truly is everywhere; it is in all of us.
This article was originally published on AltDaily in April of 2011.